Last week Carlos, of Bici-Tec, drove me out to some farms in the hills outside Itzapa to check out some BiciBombas (or pedal-powered water pumps) he designed and built a few years ago. As someone who has lived in places where I’ve had to pull up my own well water, I can understand what a huge difference a pedal powered water pump can make in a home. Water is integral for all sorts of domestic labor, and having an easier way to gather water can free up time for other activities. Although the pump is demonstrated by the father of the house in this video, the machine is intended for women to use (as demonstrated by the step-through frame) because women are the ones who normally get the water for domestic chores.
The pump is pretty simple. As the person pedals, they power a long rope knotted with wooden or plastic beads to go down into the well and back up in a big oval pattern. As the rope comes up, it comes up through a narrow tube just wider than the beads, and the beads carry the water up the tube. It’s easy to pedal, and draws a lot of water really quickly.
Here are some photos to help give a better sense of how it works.