A study by UNICEF in 2007 indicated that about 40% (about 150.000 of the 350.000 installed) of the handpumps in Africa is not working anymore. It also became clear that most handpump have a limited functional life of 3 to 5 years.
Therefore is is estimated that by the end of this year over 50% is broken down and that within 10 years most handpumps in Africa will be abandoned.
In areas with deep groundwater handpump failure rates are often over 80%. This is especially problematic because alternative water points are far away and often polluted. Most handpumps are VLOM pumps from India, rather cheap, but not reliable enough for Africa and last only a few years.
The situation in Africa becomes more critical every day; the water pumps still working are those recently installed. If water projects do not change for the better, Africa will turn into a handpump graveyard while people are again without water.
What went wrong?
Basically, it's very simple: In the first place it is important to define the key problem. Rural communities in Africa are often very poor and have little or no financial and technical means for maintenance. This is very obvious, but amazingly enough after 20 years, still not well understood by many policy makers. They assume that rural people will maintain handpumps all by themselves, which is called the VLOM approach, using VLOM type handpumps. However, these VLOM handpumps are fragile and break down all the time. Repairs are in the beginning relatively easy, but become more and more complicated after a few years and also need more and more expensive spare parts. Obviously, this was not what the communities expected and can maintain for many years, so these VLOM handpump are abandoned within 3 to 5 years.
How long can this go on?
Good question. The answer to this is surprisingly: "very long!" The reason for this is rather simple. NGOs and water projects are not accountable for what they do with the funding. In fact, they can do whatever as long as they show in the end some nice pictures with kids pumping from the VLOM pump. But they do not show you the results some 3 to 5 years later. Of course not. In the rare cases that VLOM pumps still work after some years, this is mainly due to the fact that the NGOs are still working in these areas and continue to repair these pumps for free. Of course, that is not sustainable.
A clear example of this is an Oxfam water project in Angola some years ago. They maintained over 500 handpumps in central Angola, but when the USAID funding suddenly stopped (because USAID funding was diverted to Iraq), all these water points were left alone and broke down, one after the other. Africa is full with stories like these.
Environmental aspects and CO2 compensation
Non-sustainable handpumps also represent a large environmental problem. The never ending project activities, cars & lorries going up and down, wasted energy, wasted materials, endless meetings, travels, piles of useless reports, etc. etc. .... it all adds up to the huge CO2 footprint of abandoned handpump and pressure on the environment. To compensate one abandoned handpump in terms of CO2 emisions, we have to plant at least 1 football field with trees in Africa. That equals about 6.000 football fields in each African country.
In fact, if you sponsor to rehab an abandoned handpump with a durable BluePump, not only you give water to a community for at least 10 years, but you also re-compensate the equivalent of 1 football field in CO2 as well.
It's time for a transparent & environmental friendly approach with durable results: the FairWater BluePump.
Lubango in south Angola today: Happy families due to rehabilitation with the durable FairWater BluePump, easy to use!