The Blair VIP (ventilated improved pit) latrine was first designed in 1973 by Peter Morgan, who worked for the Blair Research laboratory (now known as the National Institute of Health Research), the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare's research laboratory.The Blair VIP, named after Dr Dyson Blair (who inspired the research which led to the development) is now used widely throughout Africa and many other developing countries, where it is known simply as the VIP. A large number of variants have been designed over the years including toilets that use ecological principles, those that use tanks rather than pits and a low cost and an upgradeable series which can be improved over time. Double and multi-compartment units have also been designed. The multi-compartment unit is used throught rural and many peri-urban settlements of Zimbabwe in schools The Blair VIP uses natural principles to control odour and flies common to normal pit toilets. 500 000 units have been built in Zimbabwe alone, although many of these are now full (the pit fills up in 10 - 15 years). A new lower cost approach is now being used in Zimbabwe, called an Upgradeable BVIP, where the system is built in stages (start simple and upgrade). Blair VIPs or "Blairs" as they are commonly known are frequently used as bathrooms. The Blair VIP and its variants have been promoted by Government since 1975. It is a wholly Zimbabwean creation.
The Zimbabwe Bush Pump. This hand pump has been used in Zimbabwe since 1933, when it was first designed by Tommy Murgatroyd in Plumtree. It was restyled in the 1960's by Cecil Anderson and again by Peter Morgan, of the Blair Research Laboratory in 1987, when it became known as the Zimbabwe Bush Pump ("B" type). It underwent vigorous trials between 1987 and 1989, and was accepted by the Government as the new National Standard in 1989. It has remained the National Standard since that time. It gained international status in 1999 when it entered the public domain and international specifications were drawn up by SKAT (Switzerland). The Standards Association of Zimbabwe also house the Zimbabwean Standard Specifications. The Bush Pump is characterised by the use of a hardwood block made of teak, which acts as a bearing and a lever mechanisms. This has long lasting qualities. The pump stand is sturdy, the handle being made of standard steel water pipe. The pump, when properly made and installed is sturdy and forgiving. It can operate down to great depths, a few reaching down to a depth of 100m. Most operate between 30 and 40m depth on boreholes. The standard version uses a combination of a 600mm long brass cylinder with 50mm steel galvanised pipes and 16mm mild steel rods. The two piston seals are made of leather. A "user friendly" model has also been designed with an "open top" 63.5mm brass cylinder which is used in combination with 65mm galvanised steel pipes and 16mm mild steel rods. The piston seals are made with nitrile rubber. This "open top cylinder version" makes piston seals replacement easier. Piston seal replacement is the most frequently maintenance operation carried out with the Bush Pump. About 50 000 Bush Pumps have been installed in Zimbabwe, although large numbers of them require rehabilitation. An effective maintenance system needs to be re-established. The "B" type Bush Pump is also used in Namibia. Zimbabwe is the only country in Africa which has standardised on a hand pump which originates in its own country. It is the longest surviving hand pump on the continent. It is regarded in Zimbabwe as a National Treasure
The Upgraded Family Well. The family well, owned and maintained by the family itself is a very well established method of supplying domestic water in Zimbabwe. It is estimated that at least 200 thousand units may be operating in the country. It is a type of water supply, known in the sector as "self supply" as the families themselves have been responsible for digging the wells and maintaining them. Family wells have been common in Zimbabwe for over half a century. The Ministry of Health encouraged their construction decades ago. They are used in the rural and peri-urban areas where the ground water is relatively shallow. This covers many areas in the country. In the 1980's, the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare's Blair Research Laboratory conducted experiments to established that well safety and water quality could be improved by improving the "headworks" (the concrete surrounding apron and water run-off fitted with a windlass system) of a family well, without the use of a hand pump. This concept was tested country wide and gained acceptance by Government and became known as the "Upgraded Family Well." In development programs undertaken in the 1980's and 1990's tens of thousands of family wells were upgraded on a cost sharimng basis. This program is now much reduced in activity, although it deserves to be revived again, because millions of Zimbaweans depend on water taken from shallow wells. It is becoming an ever more important source of domestic water. Huge numbers of family vegetable gardens also depend on water taken from the family well. More recently a series of experiments undertaken by Aquamor has established that even the "Upgraded Family Well" can be upgraded through a series of steps, much like the Blair VIP. Start simple and upgrade is the motto. Family based rainwater collection schemes also fall under the banner of "self Supply." Making things work at the family level may be one of the best ways of making things sustainable over time
The Blair pump was first designed by Peter Morgan of the Blair Research Laboratory in 1976 whilst on a tour of the communal lands in Madziwa. It was further developed and tested at the laboratory and put on trial in many areas of Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). At the time no other known hand pump used the same principles of pumping water through the pushrod to emerge through the handle under pressure or to use a reciprocating hand pump which did not use seals to make a water tight link between the piston and cylinder. The water itself formed a fluid seal as it passed between the narrow gap between piston and cylinder. The first Blair Pumps (named after Dr. Dyson Blair) were heavy duty and used a 90mm PVC pipe as a cylinder/rising main and a 25mm steel pipe as a push rod. They had a maximum lift of 6m. Later lighter duty Blair Pumps, designed for family use, used 40mm PVC as a cylinder/rising main and 25mm PVC as a pushrod. Marbles and rubber balls were used as valves in the light duty model. The Blair Pump was also mass produced in the early 1980’s using a 50mm PVC pipe as a cylinder/rising main and 25mm PVC pipe as a pushrod. The valves were made of rubber balls. Above ground components were made of steel. Many thousands of commercial Blair Pumps were sold. Light duty and mass produced Blair Pumps had a maximum length of 12m. The spout delivers water under pressure and therefore a hose pipe can be fitted to the spout and used to water gardens. The concept has since been used widely in many countries throughout the developing world. The same principle can be used to pump other fluids.
Spiral Tube Water Wheel Pump 1979 The spiral tube water wheel pump was conceived and designed in 1979 by Peter Morgan of the Blair Research Laboratory, without reference to other work. In fact the same concept (of using air locks in spirally arranged pipes to produce water pressure and thus raise water above its standing level) had been conceived in an earlier era. The first spiral pump (“Wirtz Pump”) had been created by a pewterer in Zurich in the year 1746 and an account of it had been published by Thomas Ewbank in 1849 in America. But the concept had largely been lost to science and forgotten and its independent discovery in Rhodesia, was probably the first pump of its type to be built in more than a century. Its re-discovery led to further developments elsewhere. At first smaller one metre diameter spiral tube water wheel pumps were made at the Henderson Research Station north of Harare. Later, two four metre diameter pumps were constructed, one at Henderson and one on the water supply canal at the Mazowe Citrus Estates, in Mazowe (shown in the photo). This pump was placed in the water supply canal and could raise 3697 litres of water per hour to a height of 8 metres above the water level. The canal water flow rate was 1m/sec, the canal width 1.93metres, the wheel diameter - 4 metres, number of wheel paddles - 16. The paddle size was 600mm X 600mm, number of spiral coils was 2 with 3 spirals on each side. The diameter of the pipe in the coils was 50mm and made of low pressure polyethylene pipe. The wheel turned at 4.2 revolutions per minute when water was delivered at axle level and 3.21 revs/min when water was pumped to 8m. These units worked for several years with almost no maintenance. Since this early work, many more spiral tube water wheel pumps have been built.
The concept of using a tubular bucket to raise water in narrow diameter tube wells, was used extensively in Zimbabwe during the early 1980’s and introduced by Peter Morgan of the Blair Research Laboratory. The buckets were fitted with a non-return valve at the bottom to allow water to pass from the tube-well into the bucket. The earliest designs used a tubular bucket lowered and raised by hand on a rope, without a windlass. Later models used a windlass system to raise and lower the bucket. These developed into a commercial product using the same principle. The most interesting feature of the bucket pump is its ability to raise improved quality water in a system which is not sealed off at the surface (as in hand pump installations). Bacteriological studies were undertaken by laboratory staff and these revealed that the quality of the water delivered from a bucket pump was almost as good as that delivered from a hand pump. This was due to the high rate of change of water passing from the aquifer though the narrow underground well chamber into the bucket and then to final discharge at the surface. The flushing effect was important, much as the eye flushes away impurities in the tears – producing a dilution effect of any impurities present. The word pump was used in this connection on the grounds that any device that can lift water could usefully be described as a pump. The bucket pump is by far the simplest of all water lifting devices that can be used to raise water from wells and tube wells. The only simpler device is the bucket itself, which has been in use since ancient times. The bucket and rope concept has great merit, and is used widely in Zimbabwe on Family Wells. Tubular bucket pumps can be made in a wide range of diameters – 110mm, 90mm, 75mm and 63mm, the most commonly used material being PVC (outside the manufactured units which are made on tin plate). The simplest valve to use on a home-made unit is a brass non return valve which can be inserted in a plug of high strength concrete bonded to the lower end of the bucket. Handles can be made of thick wire. Where simplicity of design counts, this model must come near the top of the list.
The Arborloo (tree toilet) was researched by Peter Morgan of Aquamor and introduced in his book “Ecological Sanitation in Zimbabwe – A compilation of manuals and experiences (Volume 1. 1999). It represents the simplest toilet system in which recycling of human excreta is possible. It consists of a small shallow pit toilet which is filled with a mix of soil, ash, leaves and excreta. Sometimes only ash or soil is added. These ingredients convert into a type of compost underground and out of sight. The structure is simple and portable and mainly provides privacy. The additions of soil and ash also reduce odour and fly breeding. In this model there is no handling of excreta. Once the shallow pit is nearly full the structure is moved to another site where another shallow pit has been dug. The original site is covered with a thick layer of soil and a seedling tree is planted in this soil. At first the roots of the young tree grow in the soil, whilst the combination of soil, excreta ash and leaves are converting beneath. Eventually the roots penetrate the organically rich layer below. Whilst the young tree can be planted at any time, it is best planted at the onset of the rainy season, and is therefore assured of a more reliable supply of water. The idea of planting trees on old used pits is not new. The Pilgrim Fathers are thought to have used the concept when they arrived in the New World, and sometimes trees can grow out of abandoned pits naturally. The Arborloo concept has been used quite widely in countries like Malawi and Ethiopia, but has also been used elsewhere in Africa.
The Fossa alterna (alternating ecological pit toilet) was researched by Peter Morgan of Aquamor and introduced in his book “Ecological Sanitation in Zimbabwe – A compilation of manuals and experiences (Volume 1. 1999). It evolved from a study made of the conversion of human faecal matter into a form of compost simply by the addition of an equal volume of soil. The end product was improved by the addition of ash and leaves. The Fossa alterna differs from other alternating pit systems in that soil, ash and leaves are added regularly to hasten the conversion of excreta in to a medium which can be handled. Two version of the Fossa alterna were developed, the short cycle version, in which the use of the two pits alternates at yearly intervals and a long cycle version with larger pits, where the use of pits alternates at about 5 years. In Zimbabwe, light weight portable superstructures have been used, whilst in countries like Malawi and Mozambique the two pits were enclosed in a single, more permanent superstructure. The technique involved, using one pit at a time, and adding soil and other ingredients regularly whilst in use. When nearly full the used pit is closed off and the second pit is brought into use. The contents of the first pit are filled with soil and closed off. After a year, the contents of the composting pit are dug out, and this empty pit is used again. The excavated material can be placed in the base of tree pits (pits filled with soil and compost to which trees will be planted) or mixed with top soil which can be dug into maize fields or vegetable beds. The method has been used in Malawi, Mozambique, Kenya, Zimbabwe and several other countries. The concept mimics the use of soil as an addition to human excreta in the Earth Closet, the forerunner of the Flush Toilet. The change in the form of excreta when combined with soil is a process found widely in Nature.
The “C” type Bush Pump was designed by Peter Morgan in 2006, as a lower cost alternative to the “B” type Bush Pump. The reduction in cost was mainly linked to the use of smaller diameter pipes in the rising main, since unlike the “B” type, the rods move up and down vertically without any lateral movement. The “B” type Bush Pump was rightly retained by the Government of Zimbabwe, as the National Standard Hand Pump, partly because of its long history of development, robustness and its position in the internationally accredited list of Public Domain pumps with international and Zimbabwean specifications. However, the “C” type Bush Pump has some interesting specifications of its own. It retains the hard wood bearing, strong pump frame and a single robust pivot pin. The link between the rod and the handle is made through a steel drum within which the wooden bearing block and handle are mounted. The link between the drum and the rod is made through a rope (flexible link) attached to a shackle at the top of the rod. The rope is the weak link in the system. This was an accepted part of the design. However the rope can be replaced easily by other ropes, chains, cables or other materials if the original ropes break, wears or goes missing. The pump can be used with standard “B” type down the hole equipment (50mm rising main and 75mm cylinder) or with 32mm rising main and 75mm or 63.5mm cylinders. It can also be adapted to use India Mk II “down the hole” components, or even Afridev “down the hole” components, although these options were never tested in Zimbabwe. Some of the 50 pumps placed on trial are still operational. The pump shown in the photo has been in use at the Chisungu Primary School, in Epworth, serving over 2000 pupils, since 2008, and has given reliable service. This type of design is suitable in protected environments, like schools, where the “weak link” – the rope – will be cared for. In more rugged, remote and vulnerable environments, the “B” type is the nationally chosen option.
The “Mukombe,” a hand washing device using the traditional plant known as the Mukombe, a “bottle gourd” of the family Lagenaria, was conceived and developed by Dr Jim Watt, of the Salvation Army, whilst serving at the district hospital in southern Chiweshe in Zimbabwe, in the late 1970’s. This excellent design was the first of a series of hand washing devices known as “tippy taps.” Later versions used plastic bottles and containers. This remarkable concept has now been used throughout the developing world. Water is introduced into the mukombe through a hole made in the top of the bulb. When the mukombe is tipped, water passes from bulb into the neck, which has a small hole at its tip. When the mukombe is released, most of the water runs back into the bulb, leaving a small amount at the far end of the neck, which then flows out of the hole and can be used for hand washing. In the early 1980’s the Blair Research Laboratory made a fiberglass replica of the “Mukombe” partly because the idealized shape of the natural plant could not commonly be found. This replica, with its 2litre capacity and 50ml delivery was field tested long ago, but went into storage in the archives of Peter Morgan. In 2012, it came out of the archives and was shown to Prodorite, a plastics manufacturer in Harare, who then set up a mass production process. The product is now available on the market.