David Hope-Jones: A Scottish innovation that is changing lives in Malawi

Rising out of Scotland's historic friendship with Malawi, a Scottish engineering student has designed a revolutionary new water pump add-on which has the potential to transform the lives of millions across Malawi, Africa and the developing world. Benjamin McIntosh-Michealis and his colleagues at the University of Strathclyde are now in the process of testing this new technology, and the results are very promising. This Scottish innovation, supported by the Scottish Government, could help bring piped water to millions of the most vulnerable in the developing world.

A revolutionary new water pump add-on which has the potential to transform the lives of millions across Malawi, Africa and the developing world.
A revolutionary new water pump add-on which has the potential to transform the lives of millions across Malawi, Africa and the developing world.

Scotland’s long friendship with Malawi dates back more than 150 years to the travels of Dr David Livingstone. Universities across both nations have been working in active collaboration for many decades.

The University of Strathclyde has many different active projects and partnerships with Malawi, one of the most innovative and exciting of which is harnessing expertise to help widen access to safe drinking water. As part of the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund: Water Futures Programme, students at the university were challenged by Professor Robert Kalin to design an add-on module that could be retro-fitted to the AfriDev hand pump.

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This hand pump is ubiquitous across Malawi and Africa, with almost every village using this same basic pump to deliver safe drinking water. It’s robust, reliable and easy to use, but it has one significant short-coming: it can’t push water beyond the pump itself. As a result, hundreds of millions of people across Africa are forced to carry water in buckets to where it’s needed every day. It is, disproportionately, women and children who bear this burden.

David Hope-Jones OBE, Scotland Malawi Partnership

The University of Strathclyde has developed a bolt-on addition to this pump, called the Afridev Hi Lift, which is able to push water hundreds of metres away and at least 30 meters above the ground with the same ease of use as a normal Afridev.

Between 2014 and 2016, project staff and students worked closely with EssEss Ltd, a Malawi subsidiary of the Indian-based manufacturer of the Afridev Pump, to refine and test the functionality of this new technology. Earlier this year it faced its first real field test in Malawi when it was installed in a rural health clinic serving nearly 23,000 people. When the clinic was built 15 years ago, a piped network was installed to bring water from an overhead tank to the maternity ward, but the hand pump failed to work. It was replaced with an Afridev pump which has been providing water since, but only in buckets hand carried into the clinic. When a mother gave birth, there was no running water, and only a bucket to wash the baby. With the new Afridev Hi Lift, water is pumped to a header tank, supplying running water to sinks, taps and a shower.

The Afridev Hi Lift won the 2016 Vibes Hydro Nation Challenge Award. The beauty of this Strathclyde innovation is its simplicity. It uses many of the same materials as the original pump, so it can be easily manufactured locally and lasts as long as the rest of the pump. It requires the same energy input as the original pump – just one person raising and lowering a simple lever. And it uses the existing infrastructure, requiring very little extra knowledge to install and maintain. Like all the best things, it’s cheap, simple and easy to use.

Since graduating in June with an MEng from the University of Strathclyde, Benjamin McIntosh-Michealis has been working with the Government of Malawi to install and test the Afridev Hi Lift pump for 20 high-need communities, in order to gain formal certification for widespread use across Africa.

David Hope-Jones OBE, Scotland Malawi Partnership

He is excited that it has such potential, saying: “After working on the project as a student, it’s amazing to have the chance to take it into the field. Hopefully the results of the current pilot demonstrate that the technology meets its potential. The conditions that existed to bring this project about were of great need and in this case we were able to find a solution to a problem found across the international development sector”.

The Scottish Government’s innovative Climate Justice Fund: Water Futures Programme is also supporting the Government of Malawi to establish an app-based national database of water and sanitation infrastructure, to help transform the management of water resources. The data will allow the Malawian Government to develop detailed maintenance and investment plans, and help new technology such as the Afridev Hi Lift pump to be rolled out nationwide.

This is just one of thousands of different active collaborations between Scotland and Malawi, bringing together governments, universities, businesses, charities and community groups. Like all these collaborations, it is driven by a sense of dignified two-way partnership and innovation, rather than simply one-way charity.

David Hope-Jones OBE, Scotland Malawi Partnership, www.scotland-malawipartnership.org @ScotlandMalawi

Details of the programme: Prof Robert M Kalin [email protected] More Information : https://youtu.be/ThDs6A0Dkg8