Across the communities where we work, visitors will see the centrepiece of our legacy: the Elephant Pump. A squat block made of cement or bricks with a large spigot, it may not look like much from the outside, but inside a simple system of PVC pipes, ropes, washers and a single wheel are hard at work drawing protected water up from several metres below the surface.
The same pump that launched Pump Aid’s work back in 1998 continues to serve as a core part of our programmes, but today the scope of our services has expanded to meet the broader, related needs of the rural and remote communities where we work.
Our work today increasingly seeks to bring clean safe water to ever more remote and rural communities. In order to provide an appropriate and sustainable intervention for some of the poorest and most remote communities we have developed a range of programmes including a self supply approach using rope and washer pumps which can deliver water at the household level or our urban development work that is looking at waste disposal as well as water in the wider hygiene environment that impacts on health and life prospects. You can read about all of our programmes here.
Water pumps do not exist in a vacuum — providing safe water changes the ecosystem of an entire village. To maximise the impact of safe and reliable water sources, a host of related needs including adequate sanitation, repair and maintenance training, hygiene facilitation, and ongoing assessments, data collection and research are all critical to the effectiveness of our work.
Technically superior technologies may seem like the best solution but success depends heavily, if not completely, on community acceptance, use and scalability. Understanding and integrating the consideration of complex social factors such as culture and gender, as well as economic and environmental factors, are critical to achieving maximum impact. Our ongoing research and data collection will help ensure the right solutions and approaches are being implemented throughout our programmes.
Community involvement across Pump Aid projects is simply not enough to achieve success and sustainability. Projects must be community driven and owned, and that means engaging community members in decision making at all levels. As our work expands in Malawi and beyond, Pump Aid’s facilitators will play an increasingly critical role in supporting community empowerment and decision making — with particular emphasis on women, people living with illness including HIV/AIDS, and the disabled.
The delivery and installation of a pump is just the beginning of what we do. We stand alongside communities for the long term, troubleshooting issues when they arise, providing skills training to community members for local, sustainable support, and expanding economic and social opportunities associated with water and sanitation solutions.
Pump Aid understands the fundamental need for all people to be self-sustaining and, as a result, we prioritise opportunities to nurture small business owners and equip them with new or additional skills. We provide training to local artisans including builders, mechanics, masons, metal workers, pump installers and manufacturers to boost their businesses and, as a result, their income generation opportunities. Our hope is that communities will be able to afford and maintain their pumps as more income is generated as a result of access to safe water.
We know that supplying improved water points and sanitation is simply not enough to ensure that public health is safeguarded. Pump Aid’s community facilitators play a pivotal role supporting households to adopt better hygiene practises. Our work has direct and positive impacts on school attendance for both boys and girls, increased learning retention and performance, and increased productivity and improved health for the entire community.
Pump Aid is committed to continuous and evidence-based improvement of all aspects of our work through a range of tools—including research, data collection, and surveys. Our findings are shared with peers in the WASH sector to expand learning and build upon best practises. Pump Aid field staff are on the ground using mobile and internet technology to facilitate more accurate digital data collection and engaging in meaningful dialogue with community members, all of which enhances our work.