In this series, we feature technological solutions to problems in underserved regions that our members have proposed. If you or someone you know has developed a device, software, or a project that you think we should publicise, please write to solutions@engineeringforchange.org.

Riding a bicycle to pump water might be an irrigation method that catches on among young people in Kenya, Alex Odundo tells E4C. He developed a pump powered by a stationary bike that irrigates land and could also entice the country’s youth to work in agriculture, he says.The pump averages 20 liters per minute and costs KES 15,000 (US $175). The price could drop with higher production, Odundo says.For farmers who water their crops bucket by bucket, even simple irrigation pumps can dramatically increase their yields. Compared to rain-fed farms, irrigation roughly doubles production.Worldwide, 20 percent of the farmland is irrigated, and that land produces 40% of the food, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

As a group, farmers who work small plots of land rank among the world’s poorest people, but they feed about 70 percent of the global population, the International Food Policy Research Institute says.

With so little money, investing in irrigation machinery is difficult, but it’s likely the only way out of poverty. The bicycle pump might fill a niche with young farmers, Odundo says.

“I had learned that the water pumps that were available, like the manual hand pumps and foot pumps, were not fashionable for the young people to use. This, therefore, made it difficult for the young people to practice agriculture. I believed when one uses the pump, it is more comfortable and fashionable to work on, this could encourage many youths to go into the agricultural business, which will ultimately produce food and jobs for them,” Odundo told E4C by email (we made minor edits for clarity).This bicycle pump joins a small fold of technologies that Odundo is developing. We reported earlier on a unique set of machines he invented that manufacture twine and rope from sisal leaves. For more information, please visit Odundo’s Web site sifamachinery.com.

Related resources

Ten low-tech ways to irrigate crops
Drips, furrows, pots and pumps, these are 10 low-cost devices that grow more crops.

Is a low-priced solar irrigation pump on the horizon?
Paul Polak and the SunWater project have a plan to cut the cost of solar irrigation pumps by 80 percent.

From the Solutions Library

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