Skip Navigation


Global Projects


Development of an Economical and Sustainable Irrigation Ram Pump for Community Gardening in South Africa

Durban, South Africa


The Johns Hopkins Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-JHU) is working with local partners in KZN to improve and promote a locally designed (“Alcock”) ram pump as an appropriate and sustainable solution to problems of irrigation in much needed community vegetable gardens in HIV/AIDs stricken areas of rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. These pumps have been proven highly applicable in these hilly regions, where droughts are common but base flow in streams is abundant. The pumps use only the hydraulic energy of flowing water, are built from locally available materials, and are constructed in a robust manner, ensuring long operation with minimal maintenance and threat of vandalism or theft. The pump systems allow for increased crop yield that will improve the health and welfare of these communities, especially for children and individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, possible revenues from the sale of excess vegetables can supplement the limited income of community gardeners. Objective: To provide better understanding of these pumps’ capabilities, optimize their efficiency for wider applications, and explore design modifications toward improving their performance and manufacturability. Approach: By varying critical design parameters and configurations in a controlled testing environment, the project team will directly assess possible increases in delivery flow (for given supply head) and quantitatively measure reductions in construction cost or production time. Field evaluations and modifications will be conducted within KZN, where a group of local preparatory students from the Zakhe Agricultural College (ZAC) called Agriculturalists Without Borders (AgWB) will be trained to build and maintain the pump systems. Expected Results: The research is expected to lead toward better means of quickly tailoring a "most optimum" pump design to a given design problem while also reducing the amount of time spent in building appropriate pump designs for each application. The knowledge gained from this research will be communicated through seminars and publications and will be made available to anyone interested in the technology, both within country (through ZAC) and world-wide (through EWB-USA).


  • Start Date: 
  • End Date: