When someone in the developed world wants to water their garden, they connect a hose or sprinkler system to a faucet and spray away. But when one of the small farmers who make up the world’s poor needs to water their crops, it often means trekking miles to the nearest water source, getting whatever water can be carried, and heading all the way back to their plot of land. They might only be able to water a fraction of an acre of land to produce crops that will sell for $100.
The only way these small farmers can rise out of poverty is buy selling more crops, which they can only produce with water pumps. However, current pumping methods are either ineffective or unaffordable or both. Foot pumps are often available for $25, but they are hard work and often unreliable. Diesel pumps are available for $350, but cost $450 in fuel every year, a price that small poor farmers cannot afford. Solar pumps are also available and the most desirable of the three types as they require no work or fuel, but they cost around $7,000, an obscenely high price for the world’s poor. But what if the price of these systems could somehow be reduced to $2,500?
The SunWater project could make this way a reality. It uses a systems based approach to design a solar powered pump that is affordable for the small farmer. The pumps use mirrors to intensify sunlight in order to cut down on expensive solar panels. This would normally cause the devices to overheat, but the pumps use the very water that they are pumping to cool themselves down. All of this allows farmers to purchase these solar pumps for only $2,500, a price that can be managed with a loan that can be paid back in less than three years.
Not only would the SunWater project lift small farmers out of poverty, but it will allow them to produce at a level where they can hire their neighbors to plant and harvest their crops, potentially benefiting whole communities. With these pumps farmers could grow high value crops out of season, and thereby sell them for much larger incomes. The SunWater project is providing the kind of technological innovation that is necessary to effectively combat global poverty.
– Martin Drake
Source: Christian Science Monitor, Design Observer Group
Photo: Activist Awake