Elephant Pumps: Pump Aid's Business Solution to a Social Problem

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Please note:

This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

Case Details:


Case Code : LDEN072 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 500;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 500 + Rs. 25 for Shipping & Handling Charges


Social Entrepreneurship / Sustainability

Case Length : 17 Pages
Period : 1998-2010
Pub Date : 2010
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Pump Aid.
Industry : Social / Safe Water
Countries : Africa


This case study is about Pump Aid, an organization that developed and installed a low-cost pump called the Elephant Pump to tackle the problem of water scarcity in African countries. Established in 1998, Pump Aid adopted an innovative approach to providing water and sanitation solutions to communities in rural Africa by installing these cost-effective water pumps and toilet systems. The Elephant Pumps were built using local materials and were based on the rope and washer pump technology. As the pump handle was turned, water was drawn up by plastic washers attached to a rope. The pump could lift water from up to 50 meters deep and produced one liter of water every second. The pedal powered mechanism also made pumping water fun as children played on the pumps.

The Elephant Pump, initially developed and tested in Zimbabwe, was mainly installed in Malawi and Zimbabwe where the incidence of water-borne diseases was common. According to some analysts, the installation of the community-centered Elephant Pumps improved the socio-economic life of the people in the rural villages in Africa. The pumps contributed to community development and created a positive impact on the livelihood of villagers in terms of gender equality, health, and time-savings. They felt that the pumps were innovative, cost effective, and could be maintained by the rural communities without any outside assistance. However, there were others who were doubtful about their sustainability.


Understand the issues and challenges faced by organizations in providing a business solution to a social problem.

Analyze the Elephant Pump and the business model adopted by Pump Aid, and discuss and debate whether it was sustainable.

Explore strategies that Pump Aid could adopt in the future to scale up its activities.


  Page No.
A Social Innovation? 1
How It Began 2
Delivery Model 5
Results 6
Social Impact 7
Growing Through Collaboration 8
Sustainability 10
The Road Ahead 11
Exhibits 13


Business solution for social problem, Social innovation, Sustainability, Appropriate technology, Elephant Pump technology, Sustainable design, Social entrepreneurship, Business model, collaboration, Developing and emerging markets, Bottom of the Pyramid, Monitoring , Social impact

A Social Innovation? - Next Page >>


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