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A Great Success in Zambia

Treadle Pumping Tirelessly

When iDE began working in Zambia in 1997 recurring droughts and economic decline were causing dramatically increased poverty and hunger throughout the country. At that time, Robert and Andrew Mwanza were hard working rural farmers struggling to stay afloat, but they had no reliable access to water.

Robert Mwanza purchased his first treadle pump in 1999 when iDE had been working in Zambia for just a year and a half. After his first two growing seasons, he was able to purchase a second treadle pump, and double the amount of land he could irrigate by enlisting his brother Andrew to operate it. Over the next three years, the brothers worked tirelessly. They spent seven hours a day treadle pumping to irrigate a selection of Chinese cabbage, sweet potatoes, amaranth, green peppers, lemongrass, and tomatoes, using organic fertilizers from manure and compost to minimize costs. Then, with the help of iDE field staff, the Mwanza brothers found appropriate markets for their prodigious harvests, which provided them a consistent, year-round income, and gave them enough profit to purchase a motorized petrol pump for $750. This pump drastically lowered the amount of labor necessary for irrigation, and allowed the brothers to focus their energies toward more crop diversification and planning.

Fruits of Their Labor

Today, the Mwanza brothers irrigate seven limas (4.5 acres) of land, and grow a large variety of crops. They now produce oranges, mangos, and bananas in addition to their vegetables, and can take full advantage of seasonal market demand across that entire range of produce.

It's clear that the brothers have moved themselves out of poverty permanently, and now serve as an inspiration to their neighbors throughout the region. Robert and Andrew Mwanza attribute much of their success to the assistance they received from iDE. We think the brothers are an example of what hard work combined with the appropriate technology can do for a poor farmer, even in a drought-prone country like Zambia.


Do you want to be at the forefront of the affordable technology revolution? Your contribution to this initiative will help us develop and market the next wave of affordable, low impact, income enhancing technologies, like low pressure crop sprinklers that can work with drip irrigation systems, and a low-cost water storage bag that can hold 10,000 liters (2,642 gallons) of monsoon rainwater for use during the dry season.