United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Changing lives by pumping water uphill

Non-governmental organization (NGO)

    This practice is about pumping water uphill to waterless villages and farms with the AIDFI ram pump, a device which pumps water from lower to higher elevation without the use of fuel or electricity 24/7 and without emission of GHG’s. The water volume delivered by the AIDFI ram pump increases changes the lives of the villagers, especially the women who need water for most of their activities. Upland farms which were in the past rainfed, can survive their first crop, add a second crop or diversify their farm. The upland beneficiaries we reach with the AIDFI ram pump can be considered poorest of the poor and mostly engaged in agriculture. The ram technology covers most of the SDG’s.

    Implementation of the Project/Activity

    AIDFI has been involved in technologies for basic needs for the poor since 1992. These technologies covered water through different pumps fabricated by AIDFI, sanitation (ferro cement latrines), energy (biogas, hydro power, wind) and machines for agricultural production and processing. The technologies had to be in harmony with nature and people. Most of them related to Renewable Energy. The AIDFI model ram pump became the flagship technology. First this crossbreed model was perfected and tested in actual projects in the field and then promotional activities launched with the working miniature set AIDFI had developed. The ram pump technology was unknown. The ram projects are implemented in waterless communities and farms where there are free flowing sources below. In several ways our office gets to know about such communities and then carries out a survey and if the site is found feasible for a ram pump system, a technical study is prepared (which includes estimated output and itemized costing). The study can be used by the client for fund sourcing or by AIDFI if it has a funder. Once funding is secured, the community (social) preparation starts as well as the manufacturing of ram pump(s) and other components. A water association is formed, registered, and trained. Legal issues around right to use and right of way are arranged. The members of the association are involved in the actual construction to create sense of ownership. Two villagers are trained as local technicians for operation, repair, and maintenance. An official turnover is organized. Then AIDFI (or funder) monitors the projects through a by AIDFI developed monitoring App on a mobile phone which supplies water volume pumped up, collection of fees and repairs and maintenance carried out.


    It is common knowledge that most SDG’s involve water. The SDG’s which the ram pump manufacturing and installation directly addresses are SDG 1). No Poverty, 2). Zero Hunger, 3). Good Health and Well-being, 4) Quality Education, 5). Gender Equality, 6). Clean Water and Sanitation, 8). Decent Work and Economic Growth, 9). Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, 13). Climate Action, 15). Life on Land. For drinking and household ram pump systems, the volume of water is increased at an average of ten times and is delivered near the houses 24/7, resulting in less time and money spent on fetching, improved health and nutrition, sanitation, laundry near houses, kids no longer skip classes, possibility for laundry near houses and water related livelihood. The formation of a water association empowers the beneficiaries, increases cooperation and triggers further development. For irrigation, the water delivered can help a crop survive dry periods, add a crop, or help diversify the farms.

    Enabling factors and constraints

    Enabling conditions are presence of tens of thousands of waterless villages and farms in need of ram pumps, that the technology is becoming more known and that it is locally manufactured based on local available materials and spare parts, can be technically, organizationally, and financially placed under control of the beneficiaries through water associations and trained technicians. Then AIDFI is for 85% focused on the technology with trained staff, its own building and 650 m2 workshop with precision machines and trucks for transport of personnel and materials. New innovations like the monitoring App help to pro-actively intervene if necessary and wanted and fairer distribution of water through kiosks which also result in higher collection of fees.

    Sustainability and replicability

    The formation and training of water associations and the training of local village technicians are crucial in the sustainability of the systems. The key is sense and reality of ownership over the systems. The lately developed water kiosks provide 20 liters of water for a one-peso coin. The collection of the coins stays with the associations and is used for operation, repair, maintenance, and expansion of system of even diversification in activities. For the Philippines, AIDFI can produce enough ram pumps for its own 20-25 installations on a year basis and at the same time provide other installers with pumps. AIDFI also can supply ram pumps or even install those to and in other countries. AIDFI pumps can be found in 15 countries already. Then (outside the Philippines) AIDFI offers the technology for transfer, including manufacturing of its AIDFI ram pump model and did so already to Afghanistan, Nepal, Colombia and Mexico.

    Other sources of information

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SBtsuvEn28&t=63s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TE5nip-xBtU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BoAM1ODArQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqK6VR_u3R8&t=463s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTWLwj1MoTk&t=63s https://www.facebook.com/351448724937603/videos/845463255982590 https://taa.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/T4DSummer2008-1.pdf https://www.mercycorps.org/blog/afghanistan-running-water-uphill https://www.rmaward.asia/awardees/alternative-indigenous-development-foundation-inc-aidfi/ https://www.adb.org/features/auke-idzenga-water-pumps-rural-poor

    COVID-19 Impact

    The work of AIDFI is in far flung areas and on different islands of the Philippines. The Covid-19 made the work extremely difficult since towns, provinces and islands had constantly changing and different restrictions and requirements in place. We did not however want to abandon the upland villagers who became also isolated, so as much as possible we carried out our work. Another challenge was that our main funder decided to shift funds to urban and pre-urban areas related WASH activities. AIDFI had to be very resourceful in diversified fund sourcing. The group had to be reduced with 6 staff to the present 33 staff. Then time was used for the development of a mechanical coin operated water kiosk. In the post Covid-19 period there is even a bigger need importance for our work.

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    This initiative does not yet fulfil the SMART criteria.
    14 July 1992 (start date)
    01 January 2050 (date of completion)
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    Other beneficiaries

    Our beneficiaries are uplanders who do not have easy access to water and mostly engaged in subsistence agriculture. Around 10% are Indigenous People. The stakeholders of AIDFI are the members of the General Assembly. For the projects it is the water associations and local government units. AIDFI has partnerships for project implementation with NGO’s, associations, cooperatives, Local Government Units. For funding of projects AIDFI partners since 2012 with the Coca-Cola Foundation and the Department of Agriculture.

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    Auke, Changing lives by pumping water uphill