Category Archives: Hand pump technicians

The example of Saidu, hand pump technician

Saidu Fofanah is one of the hand pump technician. Saidu is 45 years old, he contracted poliomyelitis at the age of 10. The fact he needs crutches to move does not prevent him to support his community by repairing their pumps.

P1090174He has been identified by Inter Aide to work as a hand pump technician in Safroko Limba chiefdom in 2014. 86 hand pumps have been inventoried by the team in Saidu’s catchment, he has been able to intervened in 18 of them so far (despite the Ebola crisis, and the restriction of movements as well as suspicion by the villagers of visitors it entailed).

He was until now under observation and on-the-job training by Inter Aide but he will be soon confirmed at this position and will get his own toolbox in September.

He was initially in competition with Mr. Pa Tamba for this position of pump technician for Safroko Limba chiefdom. Both of them had already good knowledge on pumps repairs but as Pa Tamba was known in more communities than Saidu, and maybe the worry concerning the ability of Saidu to move easily from one community to another to promote his services or just to access the needing water committees by himself made the first choice of Inter Aide to collaborate with Pa Tamba.

Unfortunately Pa Tamba was not serious enough as he was overcharging the villagers for interventions and because some repairs were not good enough to last long. Therefore, Inter Aide decided to promote Saidu. Despite the fact that he doesn’t know how to read and write and his handicap, the choice of nominating him as pump technician was not so difficult knowing his involvement in the community: in parallel of his activity in a growth centre since 1988 to train young people on insertion business such as carpentry or welding, Saidu was already doing hand pump repairs on his own during the five past years. Indeed, after being volunteer for a three weeks training at the district council, he was operating on demand of the communities – approximately already 11 communities in 2010. He was paid at that time 20 000 Le per repair but he was managing with local tools which made it difficult. This promotion made it official and professional…

After one year and a half (Ebola put on stand-by the activities and slow-down the process), Saidu has been officialised and get his tool box in September 2015. The Inter Aide team noticed during this period that he has strong technical knowledge especially on India Mark II and PB2 hand pumps but less on Kardia – this has been corrected with the training of September ! He has always been motivated and serious and is relevant in the messages delivered during community meetings, although the training was necessary to clarify the difference between repair – for sudden breakdown – and maintenance – regular preventive checkup and diagnosis to clean the whole system of the pump, to identify parts that need to be changed before it breaks and causes more damage…

Saidu is dynamic but we could also say that he can be a bit tough while operating and has to work on his patience to explain to pump caretaker !

Despite his handicap, Saidu intervened in 18 communities since a year and a half (and despite Ebola) . It doesn’t seem a problem as he organised himself to make his job easier, like installing pipes and tools, tool box on two benches so that his hands can reach everything easily, and he received support from the water committee (as it supposed to be for all pump technicians anyway). He is also very agile and strong as he can screw cylinder on pipes with his leg on his crutch ! see pictures below.



For now, he is busy intervening on hand pump approximately 3 times per month, but he is expecting supervising around 60 hand pumps in the near future.

His elder son (he has five children) is helping him by transporting him to the sites with his motorbike (or okada in Kryo).

When we asked Saidu how the people perceived his handicap, he said they were curious at the beginning, but what we observed is that Saidu is well known by the communities and is someone who was already involved in lot of activities to support and help his community.

During Ebola, which started around May 2014, people were confined and movements were reduced to the strict minimum to avoid the spray of the virus. Almost all activities were on standby, including Inter Aide programs. The constructions of new water points or rehabilitation especially were on hold as it was not relevant to move to new communities – although the team did a lot of sensitization and prevention related to hygiene and measures to follow in case of suspicion of sickness – washing hands and consulting treatment centre – in the communities where we used to work, in particular in the north of Bombali around Kamakwie.

It has been the same for the hand pump technicians: the follow-up they used to do inside their catchment was reduced to the neighbouring communities as some villagers perceived Ebola as a poison and they had a big fear of outsiders. Although the villages who experienced breakdowns of their hand pump have been obliged to contact their hand pump technician.

For example, for Saidu, during this almost one year period – activities restarted in May 2015 – he received only one call in February 2015 from a desperate village: one Ebola spot community contacted the authorities and send security guards and the police to collect Saidu for a repair. He came to diagnose and fortunately the community had the required connecting rods that were to be changed. For this particular intervention he used gloves and long leaves and used the chlorine available at the community.


The communities increased the protection of their well or hand pump during Ebola crisis: it was perceived as a poison that could infect water, therefore they increased the height of the fencing (left picture) or compartmented the pump in a wood box (right pictures).

Radio discussions for promotion of hand pump technicians and preventive maintenance

The team has been invited by the local radio (radio Okentu) to explain the strategy of maintenance, its objectives, why it is important for the communities to adopt such strategy. It was also the opportunity for some representatives of the hand pump technicians to talk about their job, explaining to the audience that they can intervene for repairs but also for regular visits to control the pumps and proceed to the routine maintenance.

They answered to some questions of the listeners.

Listen to the records here (a bit of notions of Kryo should be required though).

The team also talked about household water treatment and chlorination.


The methodology for developing a Hand Pump Technicians network + related tools

The development of a network of skilled Pump Officers aims at providing an immediate and local response to the unforeseen pump breakdowns faced by communities among the district. But it is also a way to allow the communities to enter in a cycle of yearly preventive maintenance of their water supply systems through yearly preventive maintenance campaigns, when they operate a complete diagnosis and a basic maintenance of the systems (cleaning pipes and parts, changing wearing parts…).

These yearly campaigns of maintenance are organised and grouped during one quarter (October, November and December), the best timing for the communities since they get some funds from cropping at this period, increasing their capacity to finance the maintenance. Some weeks before, the assigned Pump Officer visits his communities, with the support of the project at the beginning, to remind them that it is time to do their preventive maintenance and to collect the necessary contributions. This preliminary campaign can be considered as a “promotion tour” while the Pump Officers can make an appointment with the communities for their preventive maintenance. Then, according to the date picked by the community, they operate the yearly maintenance, equipped with the adequate tools and wear parts that are directly purchased by them, in shops pre-identified by Inter Aide.

1/ Identification

The Pump Technicians are selected based on their technical and pedagogical skills as well as how they are perceived by the communities and the Local Authorities (Paramount Chief). Depending on the number of pumps and the accessibility, there are between 1 and 3 Pump Officers per chiefdom.

Other criteria appears essential as well: ability to read and write (mainly for the reporting), behaviour and team spirit, seriousness, conflict management, ability to convince and to sensitize communities, ability for self-promotion, etc.

They are involved throughout all processes of the project in order to familiarise with their job and to progressively become autonomous.

2/ Training & authorities’ certification

HP while traning PCT

HPT under training a woman pump caretaker – evaluation of his pedagogical skills

During 6 months to 1 year, the potential Pump Technicians are involved on all the diagnosis, repairs and maintenances done in their chiefdom under the supervision of Inter Aide. The team plays an active role while developing the skills of the Pump Technicians by gradually involving them in the conduct of the operations, so that they can be ready to do the future preventive maintenances and reparations. It’s a good way to assess their existing knowledge, to train them on the strategy and to reinforce their technical and social skills.

Depending on the number of candidates, the size of the chiefdom and the number of hand pumps to cover, between one and three Pump Officers are finally selected per chiefdom and will attend the training of the Water Supply Division.

For the final selection it is important to not focus only on the technical skills of each candidate. Indeed some others are as much important and more difficult to improve. For instance, the social skills like the way to sensitize, advise and convince a community or the ability to manage a conflict are very useful to develop and run this kind of activity. The behaviour and the team spirit are also some important qualities that must be taken into account.

Once the potential Pump Officers has been identified, another 3 to 4 days training is organised in partnership with the Water Supply Division of Bombali District with representatives of the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources from Freetown.

This training session tackles different aspects of the work as Pump Officers and alternates with theoretical, technical and practical training:

  • Presentation of the Pump Officers’ strategyHPT certificate
  • Technical training on the different types of hand pumps (based on manuals and guidelines)
  • Practical training on hand pumps: presentation of the different spare parts, dismantling/reassembling of a full set of hand pumps with engineers from Freetown, cylinder setting, etc.
  • Theoretical and practical training on hand dug well chlorination (guidelines and training on site)
  • Theoretical training on social and pedagogical aspects: business management, self promotion, reporting, etc.
ID card HPT

Pump Technician ID card

At the end of this training session each Pump Officer receives his “hand pump technical training certificate” and his ID card. These documents are the proof that the technician is entitled by the government and Inter Aide to work on hand pumps for the well-being of communities. Indeed, it is very important for the Pump Officers to get this certificate, since some communities are quite mistrustful of fake technicians that could steal their pump or replace original parts by fake ones.

The letter in link here is also a document kept by the hand pump technician and has been signed by the Water Directorate and proved his certification : Letter for PO certification by WD

The Pump Officer receives his tool box at the end of the certification training. A money contribution of 25% of the total cost of the box is asked to each Pump Officer (100,000 Le[1] in one shot, balance deducted from the following workmanship). The contract includes a clause to get the tool box back from the Pump Officer in case of breaking-off for any relevant reason.

[1] Approximately 22 USD (1 USD = 4,500 Le)

Agreement for bicycle: to support the Pump Officers for their Promotion tour and the follow up of their communities, Inter Aide proposes to provide a bicycle for a contribution of Le 100,000 (real cost = Le 350,000) in one shot.

3/ Tools used by the HPTs during their actvities

After each interventions, the pump technician is filling a report:intervention report


This report, called “Pump Officer declaration of intervention” exists in two different versions depending on the type of pump repaired or maintained: IM2, PB2 and Japanese below or Kardia 65/2000. At the end of each job, the Pump Officers have to fill this report with the secretary of the Water Committee, in the presence of the other members. Two copies have to be filled: one for the community and one for Inter Aide (then photocopied for the WSD and each Pump Officer).

This report has two main purposes. On one hand, it allows the community to keep an update of what has been done on their pump (type of intervention), which part has been replaced and the total cost of the intervention (including chlorination if hand dug well[1]). It also serves as a receipt and a proof of payment, compulsory condition for transparency.

On the other hand, this report is submitted by the Pump Officer to Inter Aide and then to the WSD. The information is immediately recorded in an database. This allows analysing the maintenance activities: status of each pump, number, type and frequency of replaced parts, total cost of each intervention, coverage and respect of preventive maintenance, etc. It is also a good tool to follow the evolution and the progress of each Pump Officer’s activities: potential number of pumps, number of pumps repaired/maintained, generated incomes, etc.

[1] Boreholes are not chlorinated to avoid the corrosion of their casing (most of them have been built with galvanized casing). Moreover, the risk of contamination from outside is reduced with this type of construction.

To help them in their job, Inter Aide developped simplified hand pump maintenance guidelines that they can keep as a reminder (a summary of the complete ones) + guidelines for well chlorination:

They have, as water committees, hand-pump price lists that enable them to quote their intervention :

4/ Promotion of their services

In order to increase their visibility among the communities, apart from the sensitization Inter Aide is doing toward water committees, some promotional means are used such as:

  • stickers that are displayed near the water pointstickers HPT
  • promotional flyersHPT flyers





HPT Tshirts