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The Playpump – innovation and inspiration conspire to solve myriad problems


January 27, 2009

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January 28, 2009 The Playpump is a playground merry-go-round that uses the boundless energy of children to pump water out of the ground. More than 1000 such pumps have been installed in schools in South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia and apart from bringing joy to children, and providing easy access to clean drinking water for the local community, the simple installation of the playpump has catalyzed improvements in health, education, economic development and even gender equality. The PlayPump system also provides one of the only ways to reach rural and peri-urban communities with potentially life saving public health messages.

We've previously covered the problems associated with getting clean drinking water for one billion of the world's inhabitants here and here, and some of the ingenious inventions which are mitigating the problem here, here, and here. We'll be doing a lot more on this subject in the near future, but if you'd like to understand just how dire the problem is, might we suggest you attempt to take in this film.

The playpump is essentially a windmill on its side, driven by children, not wind. It is capable of producing up to 1,400 liters of water per hour at 16 rpm from a depth of 40 meters, and it is effective up to a depth of 100 meters.

PlayPumps International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and their families by providing access to clean drinking water, enhancing public health, and offering play equipment to millions across Africa.

The organization’s goal is to provide the benefits of clean drinking water to up to 10 million people by 2010. If this enterprise is appealing to you, you can donate here, but even better, you can organise for the distribution and sale of One Water in your community – One Water is a product of London-based not-for-profit organization Global Ethics, that donates ALL of its profits to Playpump International.

A separate story on Global Ethics and One Water is coming.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon Mike grew up thinking he would become a mathematician, accidentally started motorcycle racing, got a job writing road tests for a motorcycle magazine while at university, and became a writer. As a travelling photojournalist during his early career, his work was published in a dozen languages across 20+ countries. He went on to edit or manage over 50 print publications, with target audiences ranging from pensioners to plumbers, many different sports, many car and motorcycle magazines, with many more in the fields of communication - narrow subject magazines on topics such as advertising, marketing, visual communications, design, presentation and direct marketing. Then came the internet and Mike managed internet projects for Australia's largest multimedia company, Telstra.com.au (Australia's largest Telco), Seek.com.au (Australia's largest employment site), top100.com.au, hitwise.com, and a dozen other internet start-ups before founding Gizmag in 2002. Now he writes and thinks. All articles by Mike Hanlon

Will be keen to keep in touch with your innovations. Very good work.

Chitra Vishwanath www.inika.com/chitra www.rainwaterclub.org

Chitra Vishwanath

Awesome... so, let me get this straight, it's NOT child labor if you paint the machinery in bright colors and put it on a playground? AND you don't even have to pay the pitiful wages child labor earns around the world?

Since most playground merry-go-round toys are mostly idle, only rarely being used for a few minutes at a time during recess periods or after school hours for a public playground, this device will require "encouragement" for it to be used enough to serve a purpose besides public relations. So, basically, you're going to have school officials telling children to go turn a wheel to pump water during their breaks from school.

Dress it up all you want, it is what it is.

Eddie Sarphie

To get a more realistic appraisal of the worth of this project you may go to http://mb-soft.com/public2/pumptw1.html and look up play pump (use browser Find function on a long rambling page). You will get a different perspective on this toy. For $7,000 this play pump toy solves precious little. It secures income for its manufacturers and distributors while it is priced out of reach of anybody it allegedly serves.

(It is a bit like American health care: if you do not die because of your illness you will pain because of medical bankruptcy due to the remuneration of care providers (and their legal liability insurances))

You do not want to get this toy for yourself for $7,000 upwards (recently innovated price of $15,000)!!! Now imagine selling it to villagers who live on $1 a day. OUTRAGEOUS. OUTRAGEOUS and once more OUTRAGEOUS.

For a more detailed discussion why it is also useless you may visit the link. Just imagine yourself a kid yoked and laboring as an ass/ox. In the heat. You love it.



Yes, $7000 is a lot. I designed a $2,000 system where 32 gallons/minute could be pumped and filtered to drinkable clean standards using \"manpower\" with off the shelf stuff, but do you think anyone wants to save lives that much that they would be interested?

Erwin Lapschies
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