According to Africa Facts Zone, @AfricaFactsZone on twitter During Jay-Z’s 2006 trip to South Africa, kids in Illovo, Kwazulu Natal, showed him the long walk they had to take to get drinkable water, he spent $140,000 to build 10 playpumps in the village. He vowed to never say he grew up poor after that.
Below are Photos and a video of the incident:
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Playpumps International, which provides water pumps for African villages, sounds like a marketing dream. Children play on a merry-go-round, and as they do so water is pumped from the ground for storage in an elevated tank.
Smiling, playing children, solving Africa’s water problems. It is an appealing image and one that has attracted millions of dollars in American government aid, backing from the likes of the Co-op and high-profile celebrity endorsements. The only problem is it has also been criticised by one of the world’s leading water charities as being far too expensive, too complex for local maintenance, over-reliant on child labour and based on flawed water demand calculations. So, are we just buying into yet another feel-good marketing gimmick? And what does this say about the current state of the aid industry?
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 potential.
WaterAid, one of the world’s biggest water charities agrees. It recently issued a statement explaining why it does not support using Playpumps in its projects. It outlines concerns over the high costs ($14,000, excluding drilling), the complexity of the pumping mechanism (making local operation and maintenance difficult), the reliance on child labour and the risk of injury.