20081227-the-goals3In a recent interview with Hippo Water founder Cynthia Koenig, we learned a bit more about the recent re-design of the Hippo Roller. It was a dream experience for this blog.


The challenge

Traditional water transport

  • In third-world countries, women and children must haul water over long distances in order to supply their communities with clean, safe water.
  • Alternative sources like wells are only functional 6-8 months of the year, and well pumps are unreliable or fuel to power them can be difficult to obtain
  • The first version of the Hippo Roller multiplied the hauling capacity of a single person but the cost of manufacturing and shipping them limits the number of people they can impact.
  • Hippos are currently manufactured in South Africa but are needed in other countries such as India and Siberia.

Enter Project H Design and Engineers Without Borders
Emily Pilloton took interest in the Hippo challenge and began with fundraising for a “Hippo drop” – the term for a distribution of Hippos to a community – as the founding project for Project H. During the Hippo drop the designers visited the Johannesburg manufacturing facility and identified an opportunity for design improvements.

Project H partnered with Engineers Without Borders’s Appropriate Technologies’ Design Team and split into two teams: one focused on reducing cost in any way, and one focused on playing with the inherent design of the device. We find the Flickr photos of the design process to be fascinating. Here are a few of our favorites:


One meeting asks, "What do men do?", considering the social cause for women and children needing to do the hauling.
One meeting asks, “What do men do?”, considering the social cause for women and children needing to do the hauling.

Presentation of concepts using current water containers for transport
Presentation of concepts using current water containers for transport

The most viable options progressed to 3-D modeling with design features called out.
The most viable options progressed to 3-D modeling with design features called out.

The compact nesting size of the final designThe final solution was to break the hippo in 2 for nesting.final hippo
The final design

The next step: India
These redesigned hippos need a new passport stamp! See below to learn how one click – your vote – can send Hippo Water to India. Today is the last day to vote!

We’ve had the fortune of interviewing Cynthia Koenig, founder of Hippo Water International, to learn more about their recent re-design and their latest plans to spread Hippo technology to more communities outside South Africa.

Before we dig in, Hippo most urgently needs your vote for a much-needed scouting trip in India to exchange ideas and advice with other social entrepreneurs and establish critical distribution partners. The contest is hosted by JustMeans, offering an India Social Entrepreneurship Journey with Journeys for Change, for which Hippo Water is currently in the Top 5 contenders. There are only a few more days left to vote, so please vote today!

More about the designs behind the new Hippo coming soon. For now, you can read about their founding principles in our original post about Hippo Rollers.

20081227-the-goals3The Hippo Roller team has just shared great news about their redesign project. With the Hippo Water Roller, an individual can transport 24 gallons (200 pounds) of water as if pushing a 22-pound weight. This is enough to provide water for a family of five people for a day, with a single trip. However, the biggest obstacle to distributing these life-changing devices broadly was its $100 price tag, including shipping the cumbersome Hippos.

hippo-roller-25x200-fundraiser1
Hippo Roller brought the challenge to Project H Design and Engineers Without Borders, resulting in a two-part, nesting, stackable version of the Hippo which cuts the required shipping volume to 1/3 the original space. Ikea would be proud!

The next challenge is to cast the mold that will enable the manufacture of the Hippo 2.0s. To raise the $5000 needed to create this mold, Hippo has launched a $25×200 campaign. For a $25 donation, 200 supporters can sponsor the original mold and bring more Hippos to more people in need of safe water globally.

hippo-roller-25x200-fundraiser2Here’s a beautifully captured video of their most recent Hippo Drop delivering 90 Hippos in South Africa. Great chance to see the Hippos in motion – looks like they’re fairly easy to push!

20081227-the-goals3Access to clean water is the key to many of the MDG’s, but we believe the primary impact of the Hippo Water Roller is its liberation of women from the daily struggle of transporting water.

A few facts:

  • Currently, women in rural Africa transport water in 5-gallon buckets on their heads.
  • It is common to walk five to ten miles every day transporting water.
  • The buckets are often re-used gasoline and paint containers, risking toxic residue if not properly cleaned.
  • After years of carrying water on their heads, women’s spines become severely damaged.

20090107-roller-girlsFor comparison: I complain even when it’s my turn to take the garbage out to the dumpster. I have never been known to travel more than one mile by foot – and that was only when PE teachers could force me to. My last encounter with a 5-gallon bucket was when we went cherry picking this fall, and it was too heavy for me when it was only 1/4 full.

With the Hippo Roller, an individual can transport 24 gallons (200 pounds) as if pushing a 22-pound weight. This is enough to provide water for a family of five people for a day, with a single trip. If there are less than five people or if more than one person has a Hippo Roller, excess water can be used to irrigate a home’s vegetable garden.

It also appears that the male fascination with gadgets is universal. Some men have taken over water fetching duties from their wives because they are proud to be seen using the Hippo Roller.

One major design flaw is the price point: $75, which puts it out of reach of those who need it. Hippo Roller has engaged Catapult Design to redesign the water roller to bring down its price point and even add water filtration capabilities so that nearby pathogen-filled streams can be used as water sources as well.

So far, over 30,000 Hippo Rollers have been distributed free of charge to sub-Saharan Africa, made possible by donations from people like you and support from programs like Google’s Project 10^100.

via Springwise