By Damali Mukhaye
Makerere University Department of Agriculture and Bio- systems Engineering yesterday unveiled an automated hands-free borehole that is expected to prevent Covid-19 transmission since it does not require human hands to pump out the water.Dr Nicholas Kiggundu, the principal investigator, said coronavirus can be transmitted by coming into contact with an infected surface. He said boreholes and shallow wells account for 67.6 per cent of water sources in rural areas in Uganda and supply water to an estimated 18.5m persons.Each well or borehole supplies about 300 persons during the rainy season and more than 1,000 persons in dry spells. Dr Kiggundu said this, therefore, means the process of drawing water from these sources involves repeated cranking of the borehole metallic handle by hand, which is a potential hotspot for the spread of the Covid-19 virus. As such, he said there is need to amplify the precaution of limiting surface contact by automating the “up and down movement” of hand-cranked water pumps with electric power.He said it is against that background that they developed an automated borehole codenamed “MakNai” to automate cranking of a hand pump to eliminate transmission from one person to another.“The new automated borehole will reduce chances of subjecting users to high risks of Covid-19 transmission by the hand pump borehole to less risky semi-automated units powered by solar or AC power,” he added. Advertisement
The automated borehole sample that was tested by Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, yesterday requires a PV panel, battery, solar charge controller, inverter, motor, pulleys, belt, reciprocating arm, and a foot switch to replace use of hands as is the traditional practice in drawing water.During the demonstration exercise, Prof Nawangwe stepped on the foot switch and water jetted from the borehole. He said the new system will not only eliminate Covid-19 transmissions but help residents, especially women, children and the elderly to easily pump water.Dr Nawangwe asked the research team that invented the MakNai to expedite the registration of the project for patent rights. He said they can then form a company at Makerere University to manufacture the device or sell the licence to private investors for mass production. The head of Department of Agriculture and Bio-systems Engineering, Prof Noble Banadda blamed limited funding as the reason to why African countries have failed to find Covid-19 vaccines quickly. “Developed countries have invested heavily in research development and technology. It is the only reason they are having vaccines while we don’t,” Prof Banadda said.He challenged African universities to carry out research for innovations to save their countries. He said a vaccine developed by Oxford University has been approved but there is no university in Africa doing the same.Research fundingProf Nawangwe said they are negotiating with government to increase research funding from Shs30b they received this financial year to at least Shs50b next financial year to increase on the university’s research capacity.