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AGRICULTURE REPORT – November 13, 2001: Low-Cost Water Pump - 2001-11-12

This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

Farmers often need to get water to their crops. They may have the necessary water nearby. However, they may lack an effective way to pump it.

Pumps powered by fuel can move a lot of water. Yet they cost a lot of money to buy and operate. So, many farmers move the water themselves. They put a container on a rope into the water. They pull the container out by hand. Then they carry it to their fields or vegetable gardens. The work is slow and difficult.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has an answer. The device is called a treadle pump. The pump costs about sixty dollars. It operates by foot power.

F-A-O officials say treadle pumps are popular among farmers with small areas of land. They say increased use of the pumps could help food production, especially in Africa.

A pump operated by foot power does not produce as much water as a motor-powered pump. Yet the treadle pump is a big improvement over lifting water by hand. The time it saves could be used to grow more crops on bigger pieces of land. Use of the pump could improve the quality of crops. It could greatly increase a farmer’s earnings. The pumps also could create employment and help the economy if they are produced locally.

One or two people work the pump by stepping up and down on a wooden treadle. This forces a device to move up and down inside the pump. Two plastic pipes are connected to the pump. One pipe is placed about six meters underground into the water supply. The other pipe is placed in a field of crops. The up and down motion on the treadle pulls water into the pipe and up to the surface, where it flows out. The treadle pump can water fields up to one hectare. The pump can easily be taken apart and moved from one area to another.

The F-A-O reports that treadle pumps are being used in several African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Niger. It says non-governmental organizations have provided many of the devices.

In Burkina Faso, local metal workers produce and sell treadle pumps. One business in Burkina’s capital has sold more than two-hundred pumps in the past year.

This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow.