This project started back in 2013 and is based on a six year partnership between Butterfly and Engineers without Borders Sheffield. In the first year two EWB-Sheffield volunteers came to Butterfly and built the first prototype of a pedal-powered water pump. The design is based on a successful design used by Maya Pedal -in Guatemala. The basic idea is to use a broken electric water pump and modify it so that it can be powered by a common bicycle. Not only is it off-grid but its portable.

Now that we have proved that the machine can be manufactured locally we are spending time testing the pump with local farmers and conducting research to make the design as appropriate to their needs as possible. The ultimate aim is to empower local metalworkers to build the pumps and sell them to local farmers. The pump will provide farmers with the capability to cultivate more land and a broader variety of crops during the dry season.

The next set of students saw them link with Mzuzu University and introduce the concept and gain more feedback from people in the field.   A link was set up with Nkhata Bay Agriculture Office and research carried out with small scale farmers.  They concluded that there was potential for this type of pump as no other one in the field of appropriate technology was doing the same job and that also the best way forward would be to work with an entrepreneur on the ground to develop the idea as a business.

Unfortunately last year EWB pulled out of this link as they decided as an organisation to streamline their projects, so while the team are still in touch with Mzuzu University and the research is still relevant we no longer have a way to move the bicycle water pump forward at present, though volunteers with the relevant knowledge or passion could do.



  • BRINGING A PUMP TO MALAWI – This is obviously crucial to make this project work. If you can bring out an old electrical pump, either broken or in good condition, this will help Butterfly produce more and more Water Pumps for sustainable living.
  • RESEARCHING sources of broken pumps to assist the long term sustainability potential of the project.  these could come from within Malawi or abroad.
  • CONSTRUCTING a pump with a local farmer or entrepreneur  using the construction manuel based at Butterfly Space
  • ADVERTISING – Generally getting the work out there and demonstrating the benefits of the project and proving the demand that will encourage a local metal worker to start making the pumps.


If you are interested in volunteering, please see our Volunteer Package page. If you would like to contribute to this project but you are unable to make it over to Malawi, please see our Make A Donation page.

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