A treadle pump is a human-powered pump designed to lift water from a depth of seven meters or less. A treadle is a lever device pressed by the foot to drive a machine, in this case a pump. The treadle pump can do most of the work of a motorized pump, but costs considerably less (75%) to purchase. Because it needs no fossil fuel (it is driven by the operator's body weight and leg muscles), it can also cost less (50%) to operate than a motorized pump. It can lift five to seven cubic meters of water per hour from wells and boreholes up to seven meters deep and can also be used to draw water from lakes and rivers. Many treadle pumps are manufactured locally, but they can be challenging to produce consistently without highly skilled welders and production hardware.
Compared to bucket irrigation, the treadle pump can greatly increase the income that farmers generate from their land by increasing the number of growing seasons, by expanding the types of crops that can be cultivated, and improving on the quality of grown crops.
Standard treadle pumps are suction pumps, and were first developed in the early 1980s in Bangladesh and made popular by IDE. Since then pressure pumps, a modification to the original design that means water is forced out of the pump under pressure, have also been developed and are widely in use in East Africa though KickStart. Pressure treadle pumps allow farmers to spray water and run sprinklers - saving the need for an elevated water storage tank and suction pump system.
Many Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) (IDE, KickStart, Practical Action (formally ITDG)) have been active in developing treadle pumps, as have student and researcher teams at universities.
- Ashden Award, 2006 winner - award given to International Development Enterprises (IDEI), India, for their work in developing treadle pump technology.
- Treadle pumps in Africa report from FAO
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