Dutch pump nominated for British innovation prize

Photo: Auke Idzenga
Photo: Auke Idzenga

Dutchman Auke Idzenga has been nominated for the World Challenge 2010 for an ingenious water pump. He developed the idea in the Philippines where he lives. The machine pumps clean water high up into the mountains.

The pump is made of iron and uses parts that can be bought anywhere, like a door hinge or a car tyre. This makes it easy to maintain. It works on hydro power, so all it needs to generate electricity is a slope and a fast running stream.

Great heights

A large proportion of the water which passes through the pump can be transported to great heights.

“For every metre downwards, the pump can transport the water 20 to 30 times further, 24-hours-a-day. That is a lot of water.’

The World Challenge is an international competition for projects and companies which help local communities all over the world. Auke Idzenga feels deeply honoured. After being presented with the prestigious Ashden Award by Al Gore in 2007, he has now been nominated for the World Challenge by the BBC.

Clean drinking water
The invention has enabled Mr Idzenga’s organisation AIDFI to supply clean drinking water to 150,000 people. People living high in the mountains used to have to make difficult trips every day to fetch water.

Mr Idzenga went to the Philippines to live more than 20 years ago. He came from a family of social activists. When he travelled to the far east as a radio operator on a ship, and saw the terrible poverty there, he decided to dedicate his life to the poor.

Hydraulic ram pump
He first became active in a trade union in the Philippines. The union set up the organisation AIDFI, Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc, initially to support organic agriculture by applying simple technology which can be used anywhere.

“At technical college, I once worked on a hydraulic ram pump and it made a deep impression on me. When we set up AIDFI, I immediately remembered the pump. Back then the pumps were made of concrete, but I tinkered around with it until it was perfect and could be used anywhere.”


Meanwhile the pumps are being introduced in more and more countries. Laos and China have also joined the list. The most dangerous but also the most successful project was in Afghanistan.

“We built three installations there, under constant guard. Part of the job entails training local people to pass the technology on to others, so three Afghanis came to the Philippines for very intensive training.”

The Afghanis then set up a shop and now they install pumps all over Afghanistan. The pumps enormously improve the quality of people’s lives. People living in remote areas are able to wash themselves more frequently, which improves the hygiene. Cows and other livestock are healthier because they have access to water and people can grow their own vegetables. Some even sell their produce at markets. Mr Idzenga, “It is so rewarding!”

You can vote for Mr Idzenga’s hydraulic ram pump project: The World Challenge 2010. The closing date for votes is 11 November. The award ceremony is on 4 December.

Dit artikel verscheen oorspronkelijk op de Engelstalige website van de Wereldomroep. Vertaling RNW.