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  • Global Challenge Research Fund matchfunded £25,000

Smart Handpumps

A project by: Patrick Thomson


WE RAISED £50,231

from 209 donors

This project received pledges on Mon 01 Jul 2019
Sustainable Water Supplies for Rural Communities

In Africa around 275 million people don't have access to a decent reliable water supply.  

Many rural communities rely on handpumps for their daily water needs. Yet in Africa, 1 in 4 handpumps are broken at any one time. This can have a devastating effect on people's lives. Long delays to repair out-of-action handpumps often force households to collect water from alternative distant or dirty water sources.

By supporting Smart Handpumps, you can ensure that mechanics have access to the latest technology to identify broken handpumps and fix them within three days rather than 30 days.   

The Smart Handpump Journey 

Smart Handpumps started as a research project at the University of Oxford aiming to improve the sustainability of water supplies in rural Africa. Many handpumps in the region were frequently left broken simply because the mechanics were not aware that repairs were needed. Converting existing handpumps into 'Smart' handpumps, using innovations based on mobile phone technology, has allowed a team of mechanics to act quickly to repair them. 

A trial of Smart Handpumps across two counties in Kenya reduced the average downtime of a handpump to less than three days, a huge improvement on the 30 days that pumps had previously been out of order. We’ve been able to help 70,000 people have access to reliable water sources, so they can get on with their daily routine rather than collecting water from alternative sources further away. 

We now need your help to transition to a more scalable system which will benefit even more people. 

How does a Smart handpump work?

We make existing handpumps 'smart' by fitting them with a transmitter. This contains an accelerometer like the one found in most mobile phones to detect which way up the screen is. This monitors the movement of the pump handle and then transmits this data via SMS over the local mobile phone network.

How will my help make a difference?

As well as plans to expand the service in Kenya, we have had interest from Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar, Uganda, Malawi, Angola and Mozambique. To meet that demand, the team need to develop an improved IT infrastructure that can capture more complex information from the pumps using 4G mobile data networks. That data can then be shared with local maintenance partners, governments, NGOs and charities working to improve rural water sustainability. The improved data flow will also provide increased transparency for governments to regulate rural water services more effectively. In turn, funders will have more confidence to provide further financial support to these services.

But until we get there, it is difficult to secure funding for this development from traditional funding sources.

This is why we need your help. Your donation will help fund the transition from a research setting to a more scalable system that can be deployed in other countries.

What will my donation do?

Your kind donations will achieve the following once our minimum target of £50,000 is reached:

  • Increase our capacity to store and share more complex information from the pumps by investing in our IT infrastructure.
  • We will help to start using 4G mobile data networks instead of SMS, so we can reach wider communities.

If we raise over £50,000 we can work with FundiFix to reach even more people.

As a Thank you

We are exceptionally grateful for any donation that you are able to make, we hope that our rewards reflect this. 

£25 - A badge with an image of one of our Smart handpumps.

£50 - A handwritten thank you postcard from the team.

£250 - Your name will be put on the "Smart" part of a handpump in Kenya.

£500 - Meet the team in Oxford, and a signed photo with the Smart handpump installed outside the Department of Geography in Oxford. To see the pump being installed click here: https://www.geog.ox.ac.uk/news/articles/160526-smart-handpump.html

Help us succeed

If you think this project is a great idea, help us by sharing the project with your friends, family, and colleagues! The more people who hear about this crowdfunding campaign, the more chance we have to succeed!

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About the Team

Patrick Thomson is Lead Researcher for the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment’s Water Programme. Patrick invented the Smart Handpump and leads its continuing technical development and operational implementation, working with partners in Oxford and Kenya to bring more reliable water services to rural communities. 

Jacob Katuva is one of the Directors of FundiFix Limited. Fundifix is a social enterprise in Kenya that was created during the research project, to support local communities to keep their water running. Their mechanics complete 98% of pump repairs within three days, serving more than 70,000 people and 20,000 school going children in Kitui and Kwale Counties.

Our Partners

A huge thank you to the Global Challenges Research Fund which has pledged to match the first £25,000 donated to this campaign!

We are also grateful to be supported by: