HUMAN & ANIMAL
DEVICES FOR IRRIGATION
This technical brief outlines the
main types of human and animal
water-lifting devices used for
irrigation. A separate technical brief
is available on human powered water
lifting for domestic and community
Human and animal powered water
lifting devices have been
traditionally used in irrigation in a
number of places around the world.
Many of the technologies applied
today have been used for thousands
of years. Recent developments have
concentrated on increasing the
efficiency of water lifting by
combining ease of use with higher
Figure 1: Traditional surface water lifter in Bangladesh
Photo: Practical Action.
Human physical power output is between 0.08 – 0.10 horsepower (hp) or 0.06 - 0.075 kW
whereas traction animals have a physical power output of between five and ten times this
amount. For example, a pair of bullocks has a physical power output of around 0.8 hp or 0.6
kW and can lift water from depths of 30 metres or more. Hence, animals can pump more
water in a shorter time, making irrigation more efficient and more productive.
This technical brief provides guidance on the key criteria that needs to be taken into account
when selecting a human or animal powered water lifter and discusses the applicability of the
different types of water lifter to specific local conditions.
Selection Criteria for Human- or Animal- Powered Water Lifters for Irrigation
Table 1 provides a summary of the technical, financial, economic, institutional and social
questions that need to be answered when selecting a human or animal powered lifting device
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