The St Andrews Prize for the Environment

University of St Andrews


2005 Winner

Elephant Pump

Elephant Pump

More than a billion people are living without access to clean drinking water making this one of the biggest environmental problems facing mankind today

Founded by three teachers in Zimbabwe, Pump Aid developed the Elephant Pump from a 2000 year old Chinese technique for lifting water.

The Elephant Pump is already being used to provide over quarter of a million people in Africa with clean water for drinking and enough water to irrigate their crops during the long dry seasons and when rains fail.

Requests for seeding of Pump Aid’s Elephant Pump programme in 21 African countries have already been received. One of the main reasons why the pump has been so successful is that the materials needed to repair and maintain a pump can be found or made at almost any African homestead. In annual surveys more than 95% of all Elephant Pumps have been found to be functioning compared to an average of just 50% for the widely used piston pumps.

Furthermore, the Elephant Pump is around ten times cheaper than a piston pump and produces a higher yield from the same depth. It is suitable and safe for children and the elderly to use and when combined with a self-cleaning deep well system it yields water of extremely high quality. The beneficiaries are involved in construction of the pump and contribute sand and bricks, which they make themselves, resulting in a greater sense of ownership. The pump is powered by hand or a double crank ‘bicycle’ system and can also be adapted to use wind or solar power.

Pump Aid has provided Africa with a pump that will eventually help millions to escape the stranglehold of poverty and disease through securing access to that most basic human need: clean water.

The website for Pump Aid is

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