"For villages unconnected to national networks of any kind—roads,
education and health systems–the project had to create everything from
scratch, building oases of technology and resources in the middle of
nowhere. Costs rose. Clinics failed for want of supplies, generators
failed for want of parts and fuel, new crops like cardamom could not be
sold, and many villagers could not be socialized into new ways of
thinking in a few short years. In fact the villagers who resisted are
perhaps the smartest people in the story, knowing how risky it might be
to abandon the tried and true in favour of fanciful promises from
outsiders. For the outsiders it was an experiment; for the villagers it
was about survival."
"In 2006 the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar)
announced a $60m public-private partnership with Playpumps
International, with $10m to directly come from the US government. As
well as personal endorsements from both George and Laura Bush, the
charity has the celebrity X-factor. Jay-Z raised $250,000 and DJ Mark Ronson pledged $1 per album sale to the charity. Large organisations have also been active in their support. The Co-op pledged
that for every purchase of Fairbourne Springs mineral water, the
company would make a charitable donation to go towards Playpumps.
Millions of dollars are flowing, but is it just money down the drain?
In various press releases, interviews and on its website the charity has repeatedly referred to its ambition to build 4,000 Playpumps by 2010 to bring the "benefit of clean drinking water to up to 10 million people". The concept is simple:
a merry-go-round is connected to a bore-hole. As children play, the
spinning motion pumps underground water into a raised tank.
However, the Sphere Project states that the recommended minimum
daily water requirement is 15 litres per person which – based on the
pump's capabilities – would require children to be "playing" non-stop
for 27 hours in every day to meet the 10 million figure. Under more
reasonable assumptions, a Playpump could theoretically provide the bare
minimum water requirements for about 200 people a day based on two
hours' constant "play" every day – considerably less than its claimed
I don't know. This seems to be one of those times when we should step back and consider whether the locals might actually know more of what is needed than the outsiders with grand ideas. Crowdsourcing anyone?