This site is all about Engineers Without Borders (EWB) Sheffield’s first international partnership. Over the past few years, EWB Sheffield has been doing fantastic research work with great benefits in the Sheffield community. Our areas of expertise include pedal powered machines, wind powered generators and many more appropriate technology areas. As a result of years of good work and built up experience, the national board EWB-UK have awarded us a long term partnership with Butterfly Space, a volunteer centre in Malawi, to try and spread our knowledge into the developing world and develop the skills there to solve problems with appropriate technology. We will be posting updates about the work done for the partnership as we go.


The first stage of EWB Sheffield’s partnership with Butterfly Space is to develop a pedal powered water pump to enable better irrigation of the lands for growth of food. Throughout the academic year 2012-13 we have been developing a prototype of a portable pedal powered centrifugal pump capable of raising the water from Lake Malawi to Butterfly Space. This was to develop our own knowledge and experience, ahead of replicating the technology at a demonstration centre to educate and spread the idea of pedal power as a solution to pumping water from Lake Malawi to irrigate crops. Having produced a working design in Malawi, the main objective will be to carry out tests on the pump and carry out consultation with all local stakeholders. This will help to gain knowledge of how well the initial design works practically, and in terms of its social application in what is a totally foreign culture

Why Pedal-Powered Pumps?

Pedal Powered water pumps have been identified in a report by a Sheffield PhD student as an appropriate technology relevant to Butterfly Space, in co-ordination with the head of the charity. The area around Butterfly Space is about 15m above the level of Lake Malawi, as it is prone to changing levels so communities developed at a safe distance. The climate is split into a wet season, where food can be grown easily, and a dry season where rainfall is insufficient. Pedal powered water pumps would allow the locals to use the large natural source of water provided by Lake Malawi year round. For this reason the initial design we will use will centre around a pedal-powered centrifugal pump as a cost-effective, easy to use option. Parallel to building a prototype, we will be working to assess the potential for it to be built and used long term by members of the community and how EWB Sheffield can assist through the partnership.

Our pump design is simple and portable, so we hope it catches on. It is based on a design created in Sheffield, which has proved popular in Guatemala. This interesting website (mayapedal.org) shows the pump in action, among many other uses of pedal power. Here’s our first prototype, being tested in Crookes Valley Park, Sheffield –

The next stage is to visit Butterfly Space and see if this is the right thing for Lake Malawi! Keep checking the blog posts for long anecdotes about frictional heads, hacksaws, hose diameters, soil types, maybe some blockages…


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