Thursday, November 3, 2011

AWP Manual/Pedal Water Pump

This is Post No. 1 in a series of 5; each post deals with the particulars of our projects. These posts are designed to give more information about the technologies and techniques AWP is promoting.

1. AWP Manual/Pedal Water Pump
2. AWP Windmill Water Pump
3. Basin Irrigation
4. Conservation Techniques
5. Solar Water Heater
1. AWP Manual/Pedal Water Pump

Africa Windmill Project has the goal to bring sustainable irrigation systems to the hands of smallholders, farmers who wish to irrigate 1.0Ha (2.5 acres) or less.

The first development towards this goal is moving from watering cans to a positive displacement pump. The water pump that AWP promotes is a rope-and-washer pump operated by hand or foot. 

As the user rotates the crank (hand crank in the first two photos or bicycle crank in the third photo above), the tyre-pulley spins. The rope is pulled by the tyre-pulley, through the pipe (40mm diameter), down into the water, and back up the pipe. As the washers tied along the rope pass through the water, they lift water up and out of the pipe. This happens many times per second, and a large volume of water flows through the pump. Water flowing from the pipe falls into a 25 liter plastic container, which funnels the water into a larger diameter (50mm to 63mm). Finally, the water exits the pump into a stilling basin at the top of the irrigated garden.

The manual/pedal pump is very effective and can irrigation a substantial garden. Compared to a treadle pump, the manual/pedal pump is superior by every measure.

The cost of the pump is within range of most smallholders and can be earned back in one growing season. Farmers can be trained to build and maintain the pumps themselves, so there is little need for skilled technicians to install or repair pumps. Materials for the pump can be found and purchased in any district of Malawi.

For more information contact Africa Windmill Project through our website: CONTACT US.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Africa Windmill Project 2011 year in review

This short video shows a portion of the work completed this year in two villages by AWP Malawi staff and village farmers.  Please take a minute and watch the video to see the amazing work done by the village farmers this past dry season.  Go here ( to the Africa Windmill Project website to donate.  All donations go to enabling rural farmers to provide food for their families.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Farmer Without the Use of His Legs Impresses Africa Windmill Project

When you read this story, you will find yourself wanting to visit Paul Ng’ondola of Mchera village, traditional authority Kaluma, in Ntchisi district. This man has a great garden to look at, a good house to admire in his village, and an amazing story to hear. Mr. Ng’ondola was born,48 years ago, without the use of his legs.

But how did AWP came to know Mr. Ng’ondola? Blessings Malamba (AWP Employee) had read an article some time ago about a farmer who was crippled in the newspaper. He recognized the water pump he works with for irrigation could be operated by a person with these physical challenges. Blessings had been working on a new design, which places the controls close to the ground. Fortunately, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation – MBC – offered AWP the details of how to locate the farmer that had been profiled on television and in newspapers as one of the few 2010 Malawian achievers in agriculture.

On 30th September, the AWP team visited Mr. Ng’ondola. They found him working alone in the field under the heavy heat of the sun. Our first view of his garden made our jaws drop. We were impressed by what we saw.
Mr. Ng’ondola received a primary school education, but due to his physical condition he could not continue in school. He can read only Chichewa, the local language. He is welcoming and always smiling to his occasional visitors, who often include Social Welfare representatives and more recently television crews and their newsmen.

Mr. Ng’ondola was excited to share about the history of his garden.
“I started farming on my own in 2002. I wanted to prove to the surrounding community that disability is not inability. Like others who have the same physical disability, I would have been in town or other locations begging for money. But I wanted to do something for myself. Luckily enough, in 2004 European Union brought an Income Generating Activity in our area that involved small scale farmers.” As he was explaining, I was moved with this story. A man who cannot walk or run is able to do what able-bodied people are failing to do. I was wondering who taught him how to make basins for irrigation and he explained. “European Union taught us how to make the basins. As you can see, the beds are uniform and they run parallel to the feeder canal”

When I looked at the field, I was surprised. How did he manage to channel water into his garden? The garden is far from the valley: it is established at higher elevation than typical, bucket-irrigated gardens.

Pointing to the horizon, he explains: “The water you see running in the canal comes all the way from that area. Participants dug the river diversion which passed through every garden. Unfortunately, EU discontinued the project, but I have continued growing maize up to date”.

But Mr. Ng’ondola does have challenges, he explained further.
“Look, my garden is at the far end, and I can’t access enough water. I have to wait or come early in the morning to irrigate my crop. Secondly, I can’t afford to purchase enough fertilizer. I buy what I can afford after selling maize. … I can’t stop farming. Where will I get food and money if I cease coming to the field?” I agree by nodding my head.

Mr. Ng’ondola married in May, 2010 and he has a son. Unfortunately the time we were at his garden, his wife was not around for us to meet. But he told me that his wife has been so helpful in his life and helps him in the field.

When we explained that AWP would like to install the rope and washer pump so he could irrigate his garden anytime, he was trembling with excitement. “Honestly speaking I can say I’m a lucky man. I will make use of every piece of information that you will pass on to me. Tell me what should I do?” Mr. Ng’ondola asked. AWP staff explained that his relatives could dig a well at the edge of his garden and that AWP would come back to install the water pump made specifically so that he can operate it with his hands while sitting down.

Within 3 days, Mr. Ng’ondola had called us. He had dug the well with the help of his brother and was ready for the pump to be installed. Again, excitement poured through his voice. We can only imagine what this pump means to him. Keep checking in for updates on Mr. Paul Ng’ondola as he begins using his new water pump

Written By Chaswezi Z. Simwela

Friday, September 16, 2011

Meet Khumbidze Kandodo A 63 Year old Widow from Mziza Village

When AWP formed an agriculture club in the Village of Mziza to introduce sustainable irrigation farming, few women joined, but among the few was Khumbidze Kandodo.

Khumbidze was born in 1948 in Mziza. She never had a chance to go to school in the colonial days. She used to wake up every day to help her parents do household chores and farming in the upland. She says, "back then, people did not cultivate in the dambo areas, for they had plenty food to feed themselves throughout the year." Ways of farming changed when the population started increasing, and there was continuous environmental and natural resource degradation affecting farm yields each and every year. As a result, people started cultivating in dambo areas. However, throughout the years that she has been in the dambo farming, she has had problems on how to improve soil nutrients and water holding capacity and, how to increase yield each growing season.

She said that with the coming of AWP in Malawi there has been a change in terms of farming systems in the village but especially to her life. "When I was joining the club in March, 2011, I thought, I’ll not be able to grasp the concept by looking at my literacy level,” she narrates in Chichewa. “But thanks to AWP facilitators for making the technologies understandable for me. Look at me! I am an old woman but I have done it and am determined to do better than this next year.”

To AWP staff in Malawi, Khumbidze has made a difference. Though she walks a long distance from her house to her garden, she has proved to the world that age is not a limit in development. She promises to do extraordinarily in her garden and meet some of her life needs she has never had in her life. She wants to errect a brick-fired house with iron sheets through farming with AWP.

"I have never slept in good house with iron sheets. I believe, this will be my dream come true. I will be following every theory that AWP is requiring me to implement,” she foretells. I had time to go through her small garden and managed to take a picture of what she has done with her aging potential energy. The few months that she has been with AWP, the 63 year old widow, has managed to grow cauliflower, tomato, onions and green peas.

As for Khumbidze, she does not care where to sit in the garden. She says, “soil is the foundation of life: I came from soil; soil provides me with food, water, firewood and materials for building my shelter. With AWP, I will continuously have food and have some money after selling some crops to purchase other life needs like clothes.”

--by Chawezi Simwela

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Water Delivery Structure: Canal Construction Training

A lot has changed in this farmer's garden. He is doing so well that we decided to call a training session to demonstrate the method of constructing a good delivery canal. This method involves a concrete-like soil that forms a very hard surface. With this soil the canal withstands some abuse, and infiltration is greatly reduced over mud or sand canals.

Project coordinator Blessings Malamba teaches farmers how to compact soil at the base of the canal

Mustard greens grow in the foreground, broccoli in the background, an irrigation canal at right
Plastic linings for the canals have been used in the past, but it is costly. This plastic canal lining is a good example so-called "inappropriate" technology. What makes it inappropriate is that the type of plastic that is readily available and affordable is no more effective than the alternative (concrete-like soil), which is cheaper and more readily available. Of course, high grade plastic would be more effective than the soil method, but it is not appropriate to our farmers.
Peas, green beans, tomato, and mustard greens are irrigated from the trench in this photo

A view of a bean field from the water pump
Appropriateness, in the technical sense, is one of the most critical measures of a technology when it comes to predicting the success or adoption rate of the technology. That goes even for the West, where expensive options may still be appropriate. A good example in the West is that all Humvees are outfitted with automatic transmissions. In spite of the loss in performance and increased maintenance costs, the automatic transmission is more appropriate to unskilled drivers.
Lovely tomato

So here we are, deciding how best to get water to the crops. We must take into account more than the crop water requirements and the flow rate of our pump. We must consider the skill, fitness, time availability, and experience of the farmer as well.

After the training on canal construction, the group rides back to the village in the AWP vehicle

Monday, September 12, 2011


Club members were rewarded with new working shoes, a gift to appreciate their efforts and to commend their achievements. These farmers were not bad farmers before we came along; no, they were bad believers in themselves. They lacked confidence that they could bring something to market that is new, valuable, or rare.

They have done that. And they'll do it again, in style!

Thanks to Light Feet Project from Grove church in Chandler, AZ, for their generous donation of new shoes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Windmill

Today we turned on the windmill to begin filling the reservoir. We are very pleased with the performance we saw today. We'll return on Monday to get the results of from the weekend.

It's a beautiful structure rising out of nowhere on the edge of a dambo. Quite the sight to see!

The tank is fitted with an inflow pipe just above and overflow pipe. The overflow is directed back into the well to prevent excessive groundwater losses in the event that the tank is full and the farmer is not prepared to use any water.

Ideally, the farmer would begin irrigating before the tank overflows so as not to waste any wind energy cycling water through the tank.
Water flowing into the tank
Club members were all smiles seeing the pump fully operational. It isn't difficult to see its potential from this point, delighting even the skeptics in the group. The club intends to begin using the land around the tank as a community garden so that each farmer has an opportunity to learn how to irrigate from the tank.

Keep checking in next week to see the results!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Harvesting Broccoli

Petros and Mr. Storo harvest broccoli for the first time.
Just call me Mr. Broccoli
AWP project coordinators discuss harvesting methods with a farmer
Lunch in the field consisted of a carrot wrapped with lettuce, a.k.a. "vegetarian hotdog" or "rabbit's delight"

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Windmill Reservoir

With successful tests under our belts, we have stepped up our work on the windmill irrigation scheme at Mziza. We have come up with a reservoir system that will act as a buffer between the pumping and delivery structures.
Expected benefits are:

  1. Water is available on demand

  2. Water will be under pressure at the top of the delivery system (and at the bottom if we use pipes instead of canals)

  3. The volume of water pumped into the tank can be easily recorded

  4. Farmers will know exactly how much water they are applying to the field (with the exception of evaporation)
Downsides to this system are: the capital cost of the reservoir (i.e. cement ain't cheap); evaporation will be greater in the reservoir than in the well; standing water attracts mosquitoes (and watering at dusk may put farmers at risk of malaria). There is not much that can be done to reduce capital costs because structural integrity should not be compromised. A crack in the floor of a house does not affect the utility of the house; whereas a crack in the reservoir floor is catastrophic. Every insurance must be made that the concrete will not crack. As for evaporation and mosquitoes, a simple covering over the reservoir will reduce these problems significantly.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Domestic Well II

Another domestic well fitted with a pump. This time, we were asked to provide this pump to a woman at Mgwayi village. She is doing some permaculture around her house, growing plants with waste water from the home.
The well is a bit deeper this time at approximately 7.2 meters. We faced no major challenges in getting this pump in there, and it delivers a flow of nearly 2,000 l/hr.
The location of the pump is visible to many people from communities near and far; it sits close to a major foot path leading between Njewa and Chisapho townships.

It has garnered admiration from nearby families and organizations working in the area.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Domestic Well

Last week on Friday we installed a water pump into a domestic well. This is the second pump we have installed for domestic use, and the first that will be shared and used by a village community. (The other domestic pump is used by an individual in a village setting).

Almost 3 weeks ago, the chief at Mziza approached the AWP coordinator in his village asking if the it is possible to use the pump to draw water from their domestic well. We knew it was possible, and had plans to install one in some village at some time. What better time than now, when we have been invited to do so by the chief?

We had a crowd around as we began the installation. The usual suspects where there: club chairman, club members, village chiefs, and a whole bunch of interested kids. There was little need to do in-depth training, since some of these guys have installed their own pumps before. The club members have agreed to help the community get used to the new pump and keep an eye on any maintenance issues.
The pump will help keep the well clean. But the responsibility still falls to the community to make sure that their drinking water is safe. It doesn't matter how hard you try, if cows are drinking this close to the well, it will be contaminated.