Innovation That Matters

Playing for water

Nonprofit & Social Cause

A PlayPump is a children’s merry-go-round/roundabout attached to a water pump and water storage tank, that provides clean drinking water to children and families in rural Africa. PlayPumps aren’t new (the non-profit venture was founded in 1994), but considering that more than 300 million people in sub-Saharan Africa lack adequate access to safe drinking water, and more than 4.5 million children worldwide will die of diarrhea and water-related diseases this year, this is one smart business idea that can’t get enough coverage. The idea is brilliantly simple. Children spin on a merry-go-round, water pumps from below the ground, up into a storage tank just a few feet away, creating a safe, plentiful supply of water. Each installation pumps up to 1,400 liters per hour with less effort than any other manually operated pump. For an initial investment of USD 9,000, PlayPumps are installed near communities and schools. Maintenance is carried out by a local entrepreneur trained for the purpose. Maintenance costs are covered by advertising: billboards on two sides of the 2,500 liter storage tank are reserved for commercial advertising, while other two carry social and public health messages. Beyond the immediate health benefits provided by access to clean water, PlayPumps also significantly improve the situation of girls and women, who would otherwise spend hours each day fetching water instead of going to school. PlayPumps are manufactured and installed by South-African Roundabout Outdoor Ltd., with funding coming from an international coalition of governments, NGOs, companies, foundations and individual donors. Last September, Roundabout started expanding its operations to Mozambique, and Swaziland is next in line. Now what bottler, beverage brand, and/or toy manufacturer is going to jump on the opportunity to sponsor, even brand these things?



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