South Africa: The Play Pump

Turning water into child's play

In rural villages across South Africa, some 5 million people don't have access to clean drinking water.

Trevor Field, a retired advertising executive, had done well in life and wanted to give back to his community. He noticed that in many rural villages around the eastern Cape, the burden of collecting water fell mainly to the women and girls of the household. Each morning, he'd see them set off to the nearest borehole to collect water. They used leaky and often contaminated hand-pumps to collect the water, then they carried it back through the bush in buckets weighing 40 pounds. It was exhausting and time-consuming work.

Field then teamed up with an inventor and came up with the "play pump" -- a children's merry-go-round that pumps clean, safe drinking water from a deep borehole every time the children start to spin. Soup to nuts, the whole operation takes a few hours to install and costs around $7,000. Field's idea proved so inventive, so cost-efficient and so much fun for the kids that World Bank recognized it as one of the best new grassroots ideas.

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Comments and Ratings

Average: 5 (1 vote)

While this project failed, I


While this project failed, I think it introduces an interesting idea about changing audience behavior for the better by creating a fun alternative. Definitely some great take-aways from this project. Engineers Without Borders also created an aggregate of organizational failures so that others may better understand what works/doesn't. The site generally serves to inspire visitors by the bold ideas of the involved practitioners. Check it out:

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new." Albert Einstein