A smart handpump in use in Kenya. Photo by Tim Foster

  A smart handpump in use in Kenya. Photo by Tim Foster

Providing rural communities in Africa with more reliable access to water

Across Africa, many rural communities rely on handpumps for their daily water needs. At any one time, however, one in four pumps is broken and can take weeks or even months to fix. This places a great burden on individuals, often children, who are forced to find water from alternative sources which can be much further away or unsafe to drink.


Technology developed by the Smart Handpumps project at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) has been deployed at two study sites in Eastern Kenya to help tackle this problem. This technology informs mechanics when pumps are not working, and 98% of repairs are now completed within three days.

A crowdfunding campaign launched earlier this year raised over £50,000 from more than 200 donors to extend the use of this technology to other communities in Kenya, and beyond. As a result, more people can benefit from sustainable water supplies. Donations are enabling the project to transition from a research trial to a more scalable system. The team is now developing a new database that can capture more complex information from the pumps using mobile data networks, and share this data with local maintenance partners, NGOs and local government working to improve rural water sustainability.

Patrick Thomson, project leader at the SSEE and inventor of the smart handpump, says: ‘Thanks to the support secured through this crowdfunding campaign we will be able to scale this beyond research, keeping more pumps working and ensuring more rural households can get on with their lives without having to worry about their water supply.’

Gifts to this appeal were matched by the Global Challenges Research Fund.

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