Treadle pump

A simple irrigation system brings life to barren land

The foot-driven treadle pump is an incredibly simple and effective irrigation system.

The treadle pump can greatly increase the income that farmers generate from their land, both by extending the traditional growing season and by expanding the types of crops that can be cultivated.

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Able to be operated by one or two adults, the treadle pump uses pedal power to suck water up from wells up to 7.5m deep at a rate of up to 18m3 per hour – that’s six times more water than from a traditional hand pump. What’s more, because leg muscles tire less than arm muscles, it can also be used by the farmers for longer. And because most of the parts are manufactured locally, it also brings much needed income to the local economy.

A new home for Phool

Phool Kumari lives in the Banke district of Nepal, with her husband, two children and a sister in law. Phool and her husband were barely able to provide two meals a day for their family. Earning to provide enough nutritious food, proper clothing and adequate shelter seemed more like a distant reality. But today things have changed after help from Practical Action's ILISSCON project: Phool has a regular source of income from selling vegetables produced in her leased land.

“The project provided us training on nursery management, seasonal and off seasonal commercial vegetable production and group management. We also received seeds, fertilisers, water cane and other supporting materials. They even installed a treadle pump in my farm” she explains.

This is one of the many successful cases of the ILISSCON project. For Phool and her husband the leasehold farming has proved to be fruitful in many ways.

“With vegetable farming we earn around NPR. 20,000 (£156) per season. With this income I am paying tuition fee for my children and sister in law. We are able to buy enough food and clothes. We even bought an ox,” she claims.

The project has installed a treadle pump in Phool’s farm; with the regular irrigation facility it has boosted the vegetable production. The treadle pump is an appropriate option for irrigation as it pumps more water than a hand pump. The project also provided treadle pump operation and maintenance training to the farmers.

“The leased land has given us a lot. Before we used to sell wooden logs and earned very less. But now we have made so much profit that we have leased another piece of land where we have planted paddy. The treadle pump is exactly what we needed to boost our production, she affirms.”

Phool is now building a new house for her family: “I am relieved because of the sustainable income. We cannot wait to move into our new home.”

How Mahima Gharti rescued her community through farming

Forced to flee from conflict in her native village, Mrs Mahima Gharti migrated to the Shanti-tole settlement in Kathmandu with her family to start afresh. But soon their dreams lay in tatters. Saline had rendered the 1/6th hectare of land they had bought barren. Faced with a heartbreaking choice, Mahima’s husband was forced to leave his family behind and migrate to India to find work. Mahima was left to work as a labourer – and bring up their five children – alone.

But after hearing Practical Action staff talk at a village meeting, Mahima was determined to turn things around. After forming a women’s farming group in Shanti-tole with five of the poorest families in the settlement, they found a suitable plot and set to work.

With the help of Practical Action, the women are now skilled in vegetable and seed cultivation. As Mahima told us, “We used to scatter seeds but, after training, I now know how to make nurseries and transplant into the main field.” To her and her children’s delight, this meant her husband could return home, where he now works the land using a treadle pump. Mahima’s farming group have now set up a savings plan and are able to produce at least three crops a year. Mahima expects to earn around NPRs 10,000 a year (around £75) from her hard work – money that means her family will be able to stay together.

£10 could buy 100g of cauliflower seeds

£20 could pay for 200 polybags to help farmer germinate their seeds

£50 could buy five kid goats, which will provide nutritious milk for a family

£62 could pay for a treadle pump – pumping vital water at a rate of 18m3 an hour

£100 could fund a pedal water pump to irrigate a large plot of land up to 1000m2

donate online via secure serverIf you would like support projects like this that lift families out of poverty, please donate online now. With your help, another family could begin to beat starvation.

You can download further information on irrigation from Practical Answers, the technical information service of Practical Action, or you can ask a technical enquiry to the Practical Action staff via the online form.

Treadle Pumps

A treadle pump is a human-powered low-cost pump designed to lift shallow water sources for irrigation.


Book: How to Make and Use the Treadle Irrigation Pump by Carl Bielenberg and Hugh Allen, ISBN 9781853393129

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