When the idea of play pump was invented, it was believed that the idea was going to help a number of African families living below the poverty line solve their water scarcity problems. The concept proved so ingenious and cost-resourceful that the World Bank acknowledged it as an economically viable idea. According to the inventor of the play pump, the pump and storage tank was to be connected to a merry-go-round.
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Each time the children played with the merry-go-around, the water could be pumped to a storage tank using the children’s energy. It is unfortunate to note that the project failed to meet its objectives even after multinational aid organizations pledge support for the project. In this memo, lessons from the Green Empowerment approach on how play pump could have been designed to better meet their customers’ needs are highlighted.
The play pump project failed to meet its objective because its proponents believed that children’s input was the only thing needed to keep the system in operations. After the system was installed in several centers in southern Africa, it was realized that the children’s effort was not sufficient to supply the whole community with adequate water. Owing to this, adults specifically women were forced to rotate the merry-go-round using their hands.
Therefore, Play Pumps International should have designed other alternative sources of energy to pump the water when the children are not engaged in the merry-go-round. As such, the organizations could have installed hand pumps and solar pumps to be used simultaneously with the merry go round. The two alternatives could come in handy when the merry-go-round are not in operation ensuring a steady supply of water.
Similarly, the play pump failed because maintenance of the pumps was substandard. In some regions, it took more than six months for the system to be repaired leaving the immediate community without water. Therefore, Play Pumps International should have first engaged the host communities on how the system functions and how to repair it. Thereafter, they should have designed a simple system that could be easily repaired by the community members when it breaks down.
Correspondingly, the play pump project failed because it was very expensive to implement compared with the available alternatives. It was found that the cost of installing one play pump was equal to the cost of installing four hand pumps. Based on this, Play Pumps International should have designed a system that is cost effective compared to other alternatives. Play pump was expected not only to be efficient, but also to be economical. The cost of installation and maintenance increased gradually leading to international aid donors doubting its effectiveness in achieving the desired goals.
If Play Pumps International could have factored in the above design features when they were coming up with their services, they could not have failed to meet their objectives. The above features could have enabled them to come up with a play pump tailored for Africa. In some parts of Africa, families live far apart from one another. As such, to meet the water needs of such families requires ingenious solutions. Therefore, the company should learn from their failures and work with other relevant agencies in coming up with sustainable solutions in the affected areas.