By Watmore Makokoba
A start up entrepreneur in the renewable energy sector, Kurera Technologies, has developed a solar powered hand pump which is set to ease the problem of access to clean and safe water in rural areas partly due to lack of development but also as a result of changing climatic conditions.
The simple solar powered borehole branded Roko (a loose reference to the hand) is aimed at reducing the burden of fetching water from a manual hand pump, through automating the linear up and down through a mechanical motion system.
Integrated with a 25W solar power unit and a power back up duration of up to 4 hours, the Roko mechanism operates on both manual and automatic mode, such that during a cloudy period, the user can easily detach the machine and operate the pump manually.
The Kurera research team designed a programmable computer box which allows for easy configuration for scheduled irrigation activities.
The green innovation is set to boost communal farming activities, automating hand pumps, thus creating a ready supply of water for communal farming projects.
“Since September we have been running the prototype model of the innovation and I am glad to say the results have been successful. Kurera Technologies is reaching out to interested partners who are engaged in communal farming projects that could benefit from the technology. A hand pump has an approximate water discharge rate of 21 litres per minute, with a capacity to supply up to 300 people per community”, said Bongani Masuku, the Kurera Product Designer.
Roko has the potential to improve rural water and sanitation through connecting the households directly to the Roko pump, making water accessible in homesteads through a pipeline network linked to the borehole.
Bongani added that the innovation targets to boost farming activities in communal areas which frequently experience consecutive droughts in the dry regions of the country, thereby reducing poverty.
“Our Water For All campaign will allow rural communities to enjoy ready access to water for just $1 per month per homestead,” said Ratanang Noko, the Kurera Marketing Officer.
“Our research team is now working on a smart water meter for hand pumps that will allow remote monitoring of underground aquifers. Integrated with SMS notifications, for the first time rural communities will be able to benefit through alerts concerning underground reservoirs, thus creating awareness in conserving underground water,” said Bongani Masuku.
The package comes with smart water meter installed alongside an innovative water tap that will ration daily water usage as per homestead, thereby reserving underground aquifers
With the current unreliability of rains for farming activities, most Zimbabwean communal areas depend on underground water for the irrigation purposes and as well as for livestock watering. To irrigate half a hectare of land, at least 500 litres of water is required depending on the type of crop.
Hand pumps create an immediate source of water for these communal farming activities, however manually pumping water every day for irrigation purposes is labour intensive and not sustainable in the long run.
Research scientists have since found out that in Africa the total volume of water from underground aquifers is 100 times the amount of surface water.
According to the Rural Water Supply, a total of 345 000 hand pumps are reported to have been installed in Sub-Saharan Africa as a way of curbing water woes.
There is growing global drive toward improving water shortages especially in the Sub Sahara rural communities which are the most affected by climate change, which has prompted several international institutions such as the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to mobilise support for greater use of Africa’s under-used aquifers.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number six talks of ensuring clean water and sanitation and these initiatives are developed in the wake of targets set at the UN Sustainable Development Summit and the Paris climate talks last year under the Groundwater Solutions Initiative for Policy and Practice (GRIPP).
GRIPP targets leveraging $1bn (£770m) of investments in sub-Saharan Africa for sustainable groundwater irrigation and improving groundwater access in the region for four million rural households.