Smart handpumps one of the Guardian’s 12 global development innovations of 2012

Featured alongside disease-eating prawns and solar-powered lamp-posts, Oxford University’s Smart Handpumps are recognised by the Guardian newspaper as one of twelve innovations for global development that caught the eye in 2012.

The so-called ‘smart’ handpumps use a mobile technology device designed by Oxford University which generates information on handpump use and can quickly detect a breakdown. The project is being trialled in 60 villages in the Kyuso district in Kenya where water is scarce during the dry season and functioning handpumps are critical for people’s survival.

The mobile data transmitter monitors movement of the handpump handle and estimates the volume of water being pumped. It sends periodic text messages to relay information on handpump performance to research teams in Nairobi and Oxford. Early detection of a problem means someone can be quickly dispatched to resolve it.

The project is funded by the UK Department for International Development and led by Dr Rob Hope, Senior Research Fellow at the School of Geography and the Environment.

“There are a lot of gadgets and gizmos and devices out there, but those alone don’t really resolve the enduring problem of rural water supply sustainability,” Rob Hope is quoted in the Guardian article. “It’s really the institutional reforms that emerge from using the information in a more effective manner. That’s where our research is really focused.”

Read the full article online

Dryland agriculture a major issue for climate change

People living in rural communities in the world’s driest areas are hit hardest by climate change impacts, according to the report from an International Conference on Food Security in the Drylands. Many of the most effective climate change interventions will be rooted in agriculture, which these communities depend on for their livelihoods.

Oxford University’s Professor Mike Edmunds and Dr Rachael McDonnell were among the invited speakers at the Qatar National Food Security Program conference which was held in Doha, Qatar on 14-15 November 2012, under the auspices of the Heir Apparent, His Highness, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

Mike Edmunds’ paper addressed water security in low rainfall areas, emphasising the need to base sustainable development policy on renewable water resources (especially groundwater). He urged people to consider the advantages of locally sourced water as a basis for sustainable rural development. Rachael McDonnell examined the many new science and policy advances being made in using saline and treated wastewater to meet food security challenges in drylands.

The report calls for action to help rural communities produce food and secure their livelihoods while faced with land degradation, water scarcity and unpreditable weather patterns. Many solutions are available now, such as crop diversification, efficient water management, ‘climate smart’ technologies and conservation agriculture. Targeted investment backed up with sound policies are urgently needed to ensure that these opportunities are seized.

The conference brought together over 400 people to discuss the challenges and opportunities for building food security and mitigating climate change in drylands. These included ministers and senior government officials, policymakers, researchers, development practitioners and representatives of international and regional organisations, farmers’ unions, private and public financial institutions, and private agri-business enterprises.

Read the full conference report.