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Manchester-made pump will change lives in Africa

27 Aug 2011

A young engineer at The University of Manchester has turned a few bits of pipe, metal and bolts into a water pumping system that has the potential to change the lives of entire villages in Sierra Leone.

Dale Barnes during his placement in Sierra Leone
Dale Barnes during his placement in Sierra Leone

But the fiendishly simple but highly effective system, built by Mechanical Engineering graduate Dale Barnes, may never make it to Africa, due to a lack of funding for the project.

Dale – who has just graduated with first class honours in Mechanical Engineering – wants to manufacture and install a water transport system for the rural village of Bunumbu in Sierra Leone.

He has been spending long hours over the summer building a working prototype system in the Hydro Laboratories at the University.

And now he’s proved the technology works, he’s appealing for businesses in Manchester and the Northwest to get behind the project by providing sponsorship.

The hydraulic ram pump system is a simple but highly effective mechanical device that allows water to be transported uphill from a river.

The design has been around hundreds of years and can essentially be made from sheets of scrap metal and some bolts – meaning that all the materials to make the pump can be sourced locally with relative ease.

It has only two moving parts and uses the force of the water to keep it pumping, meaning it is highly reliable, needs little maintenance and has a long life.

Providing a constant and reliable water supply to Bunumbu will improve sanitation and health in the village, positively changing the lives of hundreds of people.

It will allow people to spend less time collecting water by hand – giving them more time to pursue education or earn a living – and also bring benefits for local agriculture.

Working with fellow engineering graduate Greg Quinn and Rainer Gonzalez Palau, a postgraduate student in the Institute for Development Policy and Management, Dale is ultimately aiming to start a business in the country that offers the local community fairly-paid jobs and training opportunities based around the manufacture and maintenance of the water pumping system.

But the bottom line is that he needs to raise £35,000 in sponsorship to build the first water transportation system and get the business up and running.

Businesses interested in sponsoring the project should contact Dale on 07840 470444 or email

Dale said: “There are so many villages near to rivers in Sierra Leone that could benefit hugely from this technology.

“Once the first pump system is installed, we hope to start a business in the country to oversee the manufacture and implementation of this technology, where local workers will be paid a reasonable wage.

“Our aim is to bring something good to Sierra Leone, instead of taking all the good things out, which is what all the big companies operating there seem to be doing.

“We have put together a detailed project brief, cost analysis, technical overview and risk analysis and would love to talk to any companies which think they might be able to support us.”

The project came about after Dale did a three-month placement at a titanium oxide mine in Sierra Leone in 2008 under the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience programme.

He had earlier worked on a project to build and test ram pumps – and quickly recognised the potential benefits the water system could offer rural communities in developing countries such as Sierra Leone.

The project is being backed financially by the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, with staff working in all parts of the University providing expertise and guidance.

Notes for editors

Photo and filming opportunities are available with Dale and the working prototype in the labs at The University of Manchester.

For more information please contact Alex Waddington, Tel 0161 275 8387 or 07717 881569.