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Playpumps: Child powered merry-go-rounds bring drinking water to South Africa
Detail: Playpumps are a simple invention that uses the energy generated by children playing on a merry-go-round to pump groundwater from boreholes. The playpump is a zero-energy water pump made from easily available windmill components attached to a merry-go-round. Playpumps pump as much as 1,400 litres of water an hour into an overhead storage tank accessible by community members.

The storage tanks are placed on high stilts, just a few meters away from where the children play on the pump, and are easily visible from a distance. These tanks carry colorful HIV/AIDS prevention messages aimed especially at young women, who are frequently responsible for collecting water for their households.

The idea for the Playpump was developed by social entrepreneur Trevor Field from a local invention, exhibited in an agricultural fair outside Johannesburg in 1989, through his company Roundabout Outdoors. The prestigious World Bank Development Marketplace Award for Roundabout Outdoor in 2000, for delivering both water and powerful HIV/AIDS prevention messages, brought in funds and visibility that enabled scaling up PlayPumpô system at a much faster rate. Today, more than a million South Africans have safe drinking water thanks to Playpumps.

Roundabout Outdoor created a South African NGO, PlayPumps International, to facilitate partnerships with corporations, foundations, governments and individuals. In the coming years, PlayPumps International and Roundabout Outdoor will expand operations in Southern Africa. More countries in East Africa will follow. In total, 4000 PlayPumpô systems will bring the benefits of clean drinking water to up to 10 million people in 10 countries by 2010, enabling improvements in health, education, gender equality and economic development.
Date: June 24 2007