The Dissemination of the Nicaraguan Rope Windpump to Latin American Countries


The present document describes the results of a project to evaluate and transfer the Nicaraguan rope windpump to Latin America. The project was financed by the Royal Embassy of the Netherlands in Managua and executed by RED vof (the Netherlands) and CESADE (Nicaragua) as main contractors. Other collaborators were Gamos Ltd (UK); ERA (Costa Rica); CICUTEC; the Universidad Nacional de Ingeniería; and workshop AMEC (Nicaragua). The project consisted of: an evaluation on technical, social and economic aspects; a presentation of the results; and a transfer of the technology to Latin America.

The evaluation was based upon a mission to Nicaragua; an end-use survey and a technical measuring programme. The main objective was to draw conclusions on the current status of the windpump in Nicaragua and give recommendations regarding technical improvements and transfer. The results were presented during a national workshop in Managua for farmers and institutions involved in rural development, and an international workshop for potential manufacturers and development organisations in Latin America. From September 1998 to February 1999, the rope windpump was transferred to four countries: Peru, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cuba.

The concept of the rope windpump avoids a number of typical, technical problems encountered in classical windpumps. The resulting lightweight windpump has a high water output, but also needs daily attention for operation and maintenance. However, the evaluation shows that this is easily done by most users. The production of the windpump during the transfers involved several modifications to cope with locally available materials, but this never caused a significant delay. Apparently, the rope windpump can be adapted quickly to local conditions, which is an important asset for dissemination and sustainability outside Nicaragua.

The initial investment of about US$ 800,- (in Nicaragua) may be up to 6 times lower compared to a classical windpump. With its low recurrent costs, it is an attractive alternative to other technologies. A first analysis of the economy reveals a unit water cost of approx. US$ 0.14,- per m3 (pumping head 20 m). About half of all rope windpumps are used for cattle water supply on a commercial basis. Moreover, the low costs open the perspective of profitable small-scale irrigation for the sector of small farmers in Nicaragua and abroad, for whom the high initial investment of other pumping technologies is usually prohibitive. A preliminary cost-and-benefit analysis reveals a possible income increase of about 30%. As commercial small-scale irrigation is under development in Nicaragua, more detailed data should become available in the future.

The current standard model has been designed specifically for the trade wind regime prevailing in Nicaragua. The applied transmission system limits the functionality in regions with a variable wind direction. AMEC's multigiratorio is a first step towards a more versatile system, but is still under development.

The Nicaraguan rope windpump deserves further promotion and support. In fact it is the flexibility of the rope pump concept that allows combination with a range of traction methods, which makes it likely to devise a system that will match with a local need for water among some group of users. In this view, the rope windpump is a valuable system that may be applied for pumping larger water volumes. If more people become involved in the development and promotion of the rope pump technology, it is expected that adequate pumping solutions are found more quickly and the existing rope windpump models will further mature.

  Diesel-electric Pump Classical Windpump Chicago Aermotor Rope Windpump H-12 Model
Supply of capital equipment      
Manufactured in Nicaragua     ·
Produced with local materials     ·
Produced using basic machinery     ·
System "off the shelf" available within Nicaragua     ·
Lifetime (years) 6 20 12
Water Tank required (lifetime 30 yrs) · · ·
Installation and maintenance      
Installed by supplier (if required) · · ·
Pump maintenance possible by user     ·
Repairs possible by local craftsman     ·
Spares readily available in Nicaragua     ·
Not vulnerable to import restrictions     ·
Able to pump up to….m 80 + 80 50
Includes back-up system   · ·
Difficult to steal   · ·
Possible other uses (eg battery charging) ·   ·
Runs unsupervised   ·  
Example economics in Nicaragua      
Type of application Cattle watering Cattle watering Cattle watering
No of cattle 200 200 200
Water requirement/day 8 m3 8 m3 8 m3
Assumed head 20 m 20 m 20 m
Capital cost US$ 2,400,- US$ 5,000,- US$ 800,-
Water tank US$ 150,- (8 m3) US$ 500,- (34 m3) US$ 500,- (34 m3)
Installation, transport, civil works US$ 450,- US$ 450,- US$ 110,-
Maintenance costs US$ 150,- US$ 300,- US$ 50,-
Fuel costs US$ 60,- - -
Operator costs US$ 90,- - US$ 180,-
Annualised Life-Cycle Costs (20 years) US$/m4 0.0150 US$/m4 0.0171 US$/m4 0.0073
Cost per m3 US$ 0.30 US$ 0.34 US$ 0.14

Comparison of alternative pumping technologies for cattle watering in Nicaragua


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