Smallholder farmers can now pump water for free from water sources such as wells thanks to an improved bicycle that can pump 20 to 30 liters per minute without use of fuel or electricity.
On average, smallholder farmers spend up to Sh106 per day running water pumps that operate on fuel. This means farmers can save Sh3,180 a month on fuel costs with the adoption of the modified bicycle that can be used to irrigate farms all year round.
Anthony Kabui, a Biomedical and Processing Engineering graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is the man behind the innovation. It would help farmers save on money and channel it to other farming sectors such as purchasing seeds.
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To operate the modified bicycle, one has to be physically fit .Cycling at between 50 and 70 cascades per minute pumps 20 liters to 30 liters of water from a well, depending on the depth.
In sub-Saharan Africa, one round trip to collect water is 33 minutes on average in rural areas and 25 minutes in urban areas according to a 2016 report released by UNICEF.
Kabui uses a centrifugal water pump, which is run by rotating the pedal of a bicycle. The power generated through the pedaling is used to lift the water and push it through a pipe to where it is needed.
The pump’s shaft is connected to the auxiliary rim of the back wheel, which has a V-shaped belt. During cycling, power is transmitted between the front gear wheel and the back sprocket. The power generated is also exchanged through the bicycle chain, the auxiliary rim and the pump shaft with the V-belt.
“The rate of lifting depends on the gradient from the source of water. Drawing water from a well, or reservoir will not be the same as doing it from a river or pond. Similarly, the diameter and length size of the connecting pipe influences the speed of getting the water from one point to the other,” said Kabui.
Pipes with smaller diameters would allow for more water to pass per minute.
Apart from the technical knowledge required in fixing the belts and pulleys the equipment needs no expertise, he said.
“Pumps are expensive to maintain. Making profits starts with minimizing production costs. That is why I thought of coming up with a one-time cost device that eliminates the unnecessary bills after the initial purchase,” said Kabui.
“Water from wells, tanks and other reservoirs required expensive labor to move it to the farm for irrigation. As farmers strive to bring down the costs of production to maximize profits, I believe alternative cheap sources of energy are required,”
With a population of 46m, 41 per cent of Kenyans still rely on unimproved water sources, such as ponds, shallow wells and rivers according to water.org, an organization that seeks promotes access to safe water and sanitation.
Kenya also experiences cycles of long droughts, and these dry spells have increased over time. According to the International Livestock Research Institute, rainfall in Kenya has significantly decreased in the past five years as desertification stretches over the country’s semi-arid landscape.
The country has 5.5m hectares of arable land, but only 17 per cent is suitable for rain-fed agriculture with only three per cent under irrigation. In this, farmers can take adopt the technology to push more water to their farms to cultivate crops season in, season out without worries.
The Kenya 2030 Water Resources Group report of 2016 reveals that the largest total users of water in crops are maize, pulses, fruit, tea, roots and tubers which are mostly rain fed. With drip irrigation however, farmers can increase the crop yields sevenfold.
Having tested, identified and corrected most of the shortcomings, the Kiambu County’s Kahawa-sukari-based innovator looks forward to commercializing the equipment, which he will be making upon order from any client.