For many NGOs, the creation of local jobs is a prerequisite for doing business. Therefore, when discussing the possible use of the Simple Pump in the developing world, we are frequently asked if we license manufacturing in developing countries. To date, we do not. That’s not to say it could never happen. But if it ever does, it won’t be in the near future. Here are the reasons why:
First — we already tried, and it didn’t work. At the time, it was not technologically viable, because of very poor generation and distribution of electricity. Precision machining is simply not possible under those conditions. Recently, the quality of electricity delivered in a couple of African countries has approached the quality required, but this is still not so in most locations.
Further, even if Simple Pump was licensed for local manufacturing in a country with a quality power grid, very few jobs would be added to the local economy. The idea of creating local jobs has no substance, in the case of this type of product.
This is heresy in much of the NGO world, where the idea of “local manufacture” is sacrosanct. But “local manufacture” of well water pumps has had a run of several decades. Billions of dollars worth of pumps produced in the name of this concept are in place, throughout Africa and India, and THE MODEL IS NOT WORKING.
There are many people who are employed making very unreliable hand-operated well pumps. The shockingly high percentage of non-functioning hand pumps has been well documented, in several studies. The Rural Water Supply Network’s Work Plan (January 2009 – December 2011) includes the results of a 2007 pump survey spanning twenty-one African nations. At any given time, THIRTY-SIX PERCENT OF INSTALLED PUMPS WERE NOT FUNCTIONING! In other words, after all the hard work and expenses, there was, on average, more than a 1 in 3 chance that the well would sit unused, because of a broken pump. And almost all of those pumps are of the India Mark II/III – Afridev – VLOM family.
Now, is it more important to make highly unreliable pumps whose technology of manufacture calls for the employment of a number of people? Or, is it more important that the poorest villages on earth have the opportunity to catapult themselves out of poverty, solely by virtue of a reliable supply of water?
And, sorry to say, at this point in history, and with what is currently available in developing nations, it is an either/or choice.