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Broken Hand Pumps Hinder Access to Water in Developing World

In much of the developing world, hand pumps are not scarce. Hand pumps can be found every few miles in some areas. These hand pumps were designed to reach down a well and carry fresh water up to the person with strength to pump the water up. When functioning correctly, hand pumps are a valuable safe water tool.

Hand pump repair in Kenya

However, in some areas it is estimated that 70% of these hand pumps are broken, according to WaterStep Hand Pump Repair Volunteer Rick Jenner. Because of this, many people must walk miles every day, often passing previously functioning hand pumps to reach safe water sources. Access to water is already an issue to many of these people, and a broken hand pump only adds to the daily burden of reaching a water source.

WaterStep developed a hand pump repair program after spending time in these areas and recognizing the need for skills to repair these pumps. Jenner was among those who worked to develop the training program. “I thought instead of building new pumps, why not just repair the old ones at a cheaper cost?” he said.

Not only is the solution more practical, but it is vastly more cost efficient. While drilling a new well for a hand pump can cost $17,000, repairing a broken hand pump can cost as little as $20. With the skills, knowledge and tools required, any ordinary person can improve access to water for an entire community.

Hundreds have been trained at WaterStep’s indoor training facility, one of only two in the world. Those skills are then carried to locals in areas of need. Hand pump repair training provides essential skills and knowledge that can propel sustainable change and improved drinking water for decades. With individuals trained in hand pump repair, access to water becomes mush more reliable.

Hand pump repair in Kenya

Steve Sikkema recently led a team in Nicaragua to repair broken hand pumps with our partner Water Ambassadors Canada. Sikkema leas training at the WaterStep headquarters, as well. He said, “Training is as realistic and hands-on as we can make it.”

WaterStep is taking this month to tell our stories of hand pump repair. With this simple, effective solution to safe water in the developing world, more people are taking ownership of their own access to safe water.

Stay tuned this month to learn more about the technology of hand pump repair, the stories, photos, and videos that inspire us, and how you can get involved. Follow @WaterStep on Twitter and @waterstepintl on Instagram to keep an eye on #handpumprepair, and be sure to follow us on Pinterest and ‘Like’ our Facebook page.

Check out our Hand Pump Repair Page for more!

Building a Training Platform

WaterStep’s hand pump repair training team started building a training platform that will simulate a hand pump in the real world, this week.


Rick Jenner, who leads the hand pump repair trainings, said that the platform will simulate the situations students will encounter in areas where pumps have been broken. “The pump would be on the ground, and the water below ground, like a well. We pull it up onto the platform to simulate the ground,” Jenner said.

WaterStep has been holding hand pump repair training classes for five years, led by Jenner, along with his Assistant Trainers, Lynn Smith and Steve Sikkema.

Before WaterStep moved locations from Arlington Avenue to Myrtle  Street, the training team used a platform that was built in the warehouse, but with trainings approaching at WaterStep’s new facility, a new platform had to be built.

The next hand pump repair training will be June 9-11, led by Sikkema. “We are trying to build this one as close to the old platform as possible,” Sikkema said. Sikkema took the training, himself, two and a half years ago. Since then, he has helped lead multiple trainings and traveled to Haiti and Nicaragua to do hand pump repair with WaterStep.


Jenner has worked in many places over the last year as well, including Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Haiti multiple times.

He initially began hand pump repair training after learning that 70% of hand pumps in the world were broken. “As an airplane mechanic, I know how to fix things. So when I learned this, I thought instead of building new pumps, why not just repair the old ones at a cheaper cost?”

Trainings with WaterStep are now a three day process that includes realistic, hands-on training. Training begins with a power point teaching the background of water, and hand pumps. After getting to take apart and reassemble a pump several times, the instructors will break the pump, and the next day, the students must figure out how to fix it.

“We’ll act like chiefs, or villagers and the students have to ask us questions to figure out what the problem is,” Sikkema said. “But we never tell them. They have to be able to figure it out on their own.”

Sikkema said in his training, he took apart and reassembled a hand pump three times. “It gets frustrating, but that is what you will realistically be encountering,” he said. “We make trainings as realistic as possible.” This helps students better understand hand pump repair so they can apply their knowledge in the field.

“We want to train trainers,” Jenner said, and he has already begun to by training both Smith and Sikkema, as well as people who actually live in the countries where hand pump repair is needed. “I want to have a lot of people who are trained to do what I do. We need to multiply.” He said.

With the new training platform, future students will be able to continue to learn how to repair broken hand pumps in an effective, and impactful way.

The platform will be completed by the next training on June 9th.

To find out how you can get involved with Hand Pump Repair Training, or to register for one, check out our Hand Pump Repair Training page.