How iDE and the Pressure Pump Empowers Female Farmer’s in Zambia

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The Pump that Thunders courtesy of Celsias.com

The Pump that Thunders courtesy of Celsias.com

Who does it help? Women, in particular those whose survival depends on agriculture as a source of sustenance and livelihood. Zambia has been experiencing deficits in food production lately due to droughts that have been affecting small-scale farms that rely on the rains to water their fields. Due to increasing populations the pressure is on these farmers who make up 80% of food production in Zambia to meet their nation’s growing demand. Without the ability to continue farming through times of drought and or substantial increases production, in the near future Zambia will become reliant on food aid and international imports.

What? A treadle pump, made in Zambia. When originally introduced, the pumps were being imported, and weren’t affordable for small-scale Zambian farmers. iDE (Interntional Development Enterprises) created the “Mosi-oTunya” Pressure Pump, a Zambian-made treadle pump that is of higher quality, greater output, and at a much lower price. The pump is able to produce 1.2-1.5 liters of irrigation water per second. The pump is easy to use for both individual men and women and is lightweight, allowing for transport by foot or bicycle. With the use of the pump, farmers are able to produce products of higher quality and variety than before.

Small-scale farmer's water their field, from Engineering for Change.org

Small-scale farmer’s water their field, from Engineering for Change.org

The pump also reduces the labour required to collect water and the frequency of watering. Before the introduction of treadle pumps, farmers needed to fill buckets from streams and water the fields by hand, which was an incredibly laborious method. When done with buckets, the fields needed to be watered every other day, but with the pump watering only needs to be done every five days. The use of treadle pumps give the women who are generally responsible for water collection increased independence and spare time to work on other activities such as taking care of their children, and house maintenance.

The pumps require little maintenance, which can be easily done by the average user. The pump head is said to last up to seven years, and the rubber cups need to be replaced every 3-24 months depending on usage.

A fear when the pump was first introduced, as was the case in Asia, was that women would not want to be seen using the pumps due to traditional or religious restrictions. At first, there was a belief that use of the pumps would make it difficult if not impossible to conceive, but these beliefs have been effectively dispelled.

An iDE pump being used in Ethiopia

An iDE pump being used in Ethiopia

iDE’s policies: Recognizes that women are performing the majority of farm labour yet lack the resources that are often available to men. Women, then, should be the focus of agricultural development projects. Women are also more likely than men to use extra income for the education and health care of their children. Thus, not only does iDE help grow local economies and empower livelihoods, but the after-effects benefit education rates and healthcare. iDE attempts to hire female program staff whenever possible to help overcome barriers that could arise when working with female clients, which also helps demonstrate how education can lead to productive opportunities. iDE tailors their positions so that women will feel comfortable applying.

Sources:

Nourishing the Planet blog and the iDE website, Google Books excerpt by Melvyn Kay and T.E. Brabben.

 

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Calondra Mainhart

Calondra Mainhart

Calondra is a writer, artist, and English teacher living in Turrialba, Costa Rica.

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