The rain-fed agriculture that is practiced in this region does not produce sufficient crops to address food and income poverty. In Malawi, Chikwawa district is no exception. Despite being ranked one of the worst disaster prone districts due to floods, rainfall is scarce and variable from season to season hence impacted by both floods, prolonged dry spells and droughts.
These conditions necessitate a low cost hand pump technology which has been professionally designed by incorporating the ideas from the performance of an EMAS pump, treadle pump and a borehole.
The technology can pump water from a minimum depth of 1m to a maximum depth of 20m. Moreover it is very simple to operate and can even be operated by kids.
The benefit of this technology is that it can easily eliminate the use of watering cans by connecting a hosepipe directly to the backyard garden hence reducing labour demand. This makes it user friendly for the elderly, children and even the sick. Moreover water can be pumped under pressure to a tank on the roof top, hence can easily be used to supplement harvested rainwater where drip kits are used.
With regards to maintenance, the associated costs are very low and very affordable by organised rural communities. They do not require advance technical expertise to repair or maintain.
Communities will have installed low-cost hand pump designed to provide water for irrigation and domestic use. Where it would prove practically impossible for excavate wells using simple tools, underground rainwater harvesting concrete tanks will be constructed and the same type of hand pumps will be used to lift water to the surface. The pipes will be connected to permaculture gardens.
To ensure maximum adoption of the practice by the target communities, the beneficiaries will undergo special trainings in permaculture design and farming, low-cost hand pump operation and maintenance and organic manure making.
Objectives and beneficiaries
It is expected that the project will benefit at least 1,000 villagers in many ways.
On one hand, the available irrigation water will improve food security as well as increasing income generation through the sale of high value crops. Furthermore, irrigated farming will offer unemployed youths the opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills (e.g., by earning income through horticulture). Immediate access to water for domestic purposes has also lessened the women’s burden, as it is the women who are responsible for fetching water.
Discontinuity of water supply during droughts can halt economic development. Low cost hand pump provides stabilised agriculture production and diversification into other local capacities of the local population and better deal with uncertainties associated with climate change. The hand pump increases access to water for irrigation and consequently enhances food and income at household level.
The direct beneficiaries of the project are the disadvantaged groups with a special focus on female and child headed households, elderly, disabled and the sick.
Strong points of the practice
Sourcing all the materials locally and partnering with small organised farmers, the low cost hand pumps are likely to provide stabilised agricultural production with higher resilience to the impacts of climate change.
The low cost hand pumps will provide water for both irrigation and domestic use. The pumps will offer reduced vulnerability to flooding by reducing contamination of drinking water and preventing physical access to flood water.
For the community to have a sense of ownership for the project, every male headed household will be asked to excavate their own wells while female headed households will contribute sand and water for the construction of the slab.<
The low cost hand pumps will provide both long and short-term solutions for the affected communities in the sense that the low-cost hand pump will provide portable water sources for the affected communities. This will improve heathy standard of the communities which will increase their participation in other developmental activities.
Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation
Hand operated pump means no green gas emission, hence a good mitigation measure to changing climate. Rainwater harvesting structures means a back-up mechanism during climatic shocks, thus it provides a good adaptation strategy to climate change.
The provision of reliable quantities of quality irrigation and domestic water for crop production and human health is also a key adaptation to uncertain future climate variability. In addition, agricultural best management training is essential for protecting soils and water quality, especially under the likelihood of heavier rainfall events in the future that could increase the transport of soils and contaminants.
The other advantage of this pump is that it does not use any lubricant, hence water quality is maintained making it environmental friendly. Water contamination is reduced to a minimum as the well is completely sealed, making it a good source of water for domestic use especially in areas without rural piped water supply systems, as is the case in many areas in Malawi, moreover ground water is considered the safest water because it is filtered naturally by sand (slow filter).
Replicability potential of the practice
The practice can easily be replicated to other areas within the country and other countries experiencing similar challenges. The hand pump under consideration is not affected by any other climatic condition other than water freezing and the position of the water table, as such it can be used anywhere in the world with water tables or underground tanks at the depth range of 0.5m-20m. Where houses with iron sheets are common, rainwater harvesting from roof top would be an alternative for the run-off harvesting as the harvested water can alternatively be used for domestic purposes.
Because of its success, the project has already been replicated in other adjacent communities facing similar problems, with the support of central Government and church organizations.
[Editor's Note: All information published as submitted by the author(s). Minor edits may have been made to increase readability and understanding.]