Conversation with a Rainwater Harvesting Guru

November 3rd,  he writes: “I too have mused over the role of the ‘social entrepreneur’ and experienced the usual frustration of not converting inventions or Asian practices into African products and employment. Historically ‘appropriate technology’ has been promoted more by NGOs and academics than by entrepreneurs and has frequently not only lacked the right skills but also been swimming idealogically against the global tide (of mass production). iIhave probably been typical in pursuing products (like building materials) and applications (like Rain Water Harvesting and micro-hydro) that through their low value:weight ratio or geographical specificity have some lingering defence against foreign competition.

I am a bit sceptical about your assumption that greater governmental involvement (in for example the supply chain preceding or following local manufacture) will make much difference – if only because (as you comment) such involvement carries with it the parasite of corruption and fraud. Escaping that parasite seems to be one of the keys to successful bottom-up industrialisation (the multinational top-downers have their own methods and defences).”

November 3rd, I write:   KickStart appears to want a large storage system that can catch water on its own and be able to supply the money-maker pump with enough water so that farmers are able to get a return on investment within about 6 months.

They would prefer to offer an all-in-one-system; only if necessary would they want to offer gutters to attach to the consumer’s house.

Could you please comment on which of the storage systems you would recommend?

November 4th, he writes:   “Dear Adam, There’s a lot I could say, not all of it wise or useful, but time passes too fast.

The Kick-start Treadle Pump is OK but not a brilliant design. The fact that you have to cut it open to get at one of the valves to repair it – isn’t good, though it was no doubt a conscious design choice / trade-off.

Incidentally I did a little experiment once in Zimbabwe long ago in which a pitched a treadle pump (classic 2-cylinder) against a man-with-bucket. The duty, if I remember, was lift about 6m, transfer about 40m. The men alternated between pump and bucket for an hour. The pump lifted per minute about 3 times the bucket. If Kick-Start haven’t done a similar test, I’d recommend it for marketing purposes as its cheap and easy to do: capital cost versus running cost to get a simple payback time. It would be interesting to compare the payback of high lift (say 10m) but steep slope (20% hence 50m pipe) and low lift (say 2m) and shallow slope (4% hence 50m pipe). We have played around with ‘home-made’ pipes, e.g. sewn cotton cloth or tarp around polythene tube – cheaper but bulky.

You enquire about water storage “able to supply the money-maker pump with enough water so that farmers are able to get a return on investment within about 6 months.” and also mention storage fed by rainfall on its own ‘roof’. I have various comments.

1. Beware the tail wagging the dog – is the arbiter to be farmer prosperity or pump sales? Of course there is an overlap.



About walkadm

I am an MS candidate is Science and Technology Policy. I have founded two startups in emerging markets; the first was in clean generation; the second is in smarter meter - the second has raised its first round of investment. My research focuses on agriculture and energy technology in emerging markets; inclusive business models; and entrepreneurship theory - my thesis concerns the dichotomy in survival rates between B2B and B2C startup copmanies
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