A water pump for remote farmers

A new foot-operated irrigation device is capable of tripling the revenue of smallholder farmers, says its manufacturer.

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A new design for irrigation aimed at smallholder farmers in remote rural areas could soon make their lives much easier. The Saajhi Stepping Pump can produce three times the average revenue and reduces labour time by 25 percent.

Fuelled by the belief that irrigation is at the core of any successful farming operation, Xylem, a global water technology provider, set out to design an irrigation system that leverages human weight and gravity to irrigate crops.

As many smallholder farmers are located in rural areas with rugged terrain, the Saajhi Stepping Pump was designed to withstand drops, kicks, severe weather, high-salinity water and other extreme environmental factors. The device is built using low-carbon steel and glass reinforced polypropylene. Inside, a diaphragm pump minimises friction and water loss, while ensuring that mud and debris do not damage the equipment. The water extracted by the pump is transported to farm areas via a thick pipe similar to that of a hosepipe.

Smallholder farmers need proper irrigation equipment, including water pumps, to maximise their yield-to-land ratios and elevate their farming operations to realise greater prosperity and establish sustainable enterprise, says Keith Teichmann, director of innovative networks and marketing for Xylem.

Features of the pump – winner of a 2014 Core77 Design Award – include compact dimensions for easy moving and storage, tilt functions that allow for movement across rough terrain, handle height adjustment for a variety of users and easy repairs that require no special tools. 

Xylem partnered with rural marketing experts and major non-governmental organisations to work with smallholder farmers in India, Africa, Pan-Asia and South America to ensure the product would work for the desired consumers. Together they conducted over 750 interviews with subsistence farmers in these areas to identify what features and attributes farmers typically value in a water pump. They found the farmers wanted a high-quality, well-designed product that could increase revenue, reduce labour and time, and maximise output.

Xylem tested the product extensively with more than three million steps, which equated to over five years of use. Teichmann says: “The Saajhi Stepping Pump will remain economically and operationally sustainable."

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