The sustainability of the Rope & Washer Pump

Field Trip to Makoni District by CEO

6th December 2018

SKAT is supporting the introduction of locally fabricated Rope & Washer pumps in Makoni District and Africa AHEAD has been working with the communities to install around 60 of these new pumps, replacing the conventional upgraded family well which for the past 30 years has been accessing water using a rope and windlass. The objective of the field trip was to inspect the work of local pump suppliers in Makoni district that had received training as a result of the SKAT project;  and to then see how these local pumps were operating in the field.

Three pump manufacturers were visited and six of their locally made pumps were inspected in the field.  It soon became apparent that the quality of the locally manufactured pumps was a challenge as most of them were already needing repairs within the first year of operation, indicated the  usual challenges of poor maintenance and sustainability. In short the Rope & Washer pump is not a great success and advocating this technology needs more thought.

We stopped unannounced at a rural home to inspect an upgraded family well where the owner had replaced the usual Bucket & Windlass (fitted  some 15-20 years ago), with a new, locally fabricated ‘rope & washer pump’ that was now being produced nearby.   Unfortunately, the local rope  was of poor quality and had stretched, with the result that the washers were slipping.  Within the past year since the new pump had been installed it has had four serious breakages and the owner said that although she loved the new rope & washer pump when it was working (as it delivered a good volume of water from about 9 m depth)  she did in fact prefer the old bucket and windlass because it seldom broke down. The old system was more therefore sustainable, being very easy and  cheap to repair. By contrast to repair a rope & washer pump the concrete slab had to be broken before parts could be replaced and this needs technical assistance from a fundi.

The CEO consluded that if  AA is to continue promoting  this new rope & washer pump on behalf of SKAT, local manufacturers must  produce a far more robust product if they want  to attract more buyers of their pumps.

Alternative new technologies should be considered. For example: there was evidence of solar PV panels on the roof of many homes (for lighting and TVs and Smart-phone charging) and so it is probably not too farfetched to expect the appearance of increasing numbers of electric submersible pumps connected to header tanks in order to provide far more convenience together with in-house water connections.

AA-Zim is being encouraged by the CEO to demonstrate this technology option within the context of the ongoing SKAT project in order to demonstrate the viability of a leap in technology from the Bucket and Windlass (around 3,000 BC) to PV pumps of today.