The Value of a Hippo Roller


Simple devices are often so well suited to solve complex problems. The Hippo Roller is such a device. For as practical as it is, it is highly unlikely that anyone reading this blog will ever need its functionality. This simple device is just not compatible with the daily needs of complex societies. Simple in design, it is most beneficial for simple lifestyles – with an important caveat. Those most likely to need the Hippo Roller are those in developing countries whose daily task of survival is most problematic.

As a Peace Corps Volunteer digging well in West Africa, I was introduced to too many issues related to survival than I thought were possible. Villages were under a seemingly endless assault from:

  • mosquitoes infected with malaria; to
  • bodies of surface water contaminated by larvae causing river blindness; to
  • wells that were infected from falling surface debris; to
  • seasonal, dusty, Harmattan winds that blew daily across the Western Sahara Desert – lasting from November through mid-March – raising the incidence of eye and nose infections; to
  • organisms that caused dysentery, guinea worm, tapeworm; to
  • death from measles

These were the most common threats that made life in a village so challenging and that made life expectancies so short. In a village, everyone had a role from youngest to eldest. The role of women was the most difficult because in addition to all of the other daily responsibilities, they were also required to prepare grain to be used for meals and care for all family members. But there were two tasks that took the most time and were the most physically demanding:

  • retrieving firewood to be used as fuel for all fires; and
  • retrieving water from distant wells to be used for laundry, cooking and drinking.

These two tasks alone could consume as many as 8 to 10 hours per day. Never fully appreciated was the physical demands that these had on women. Imagine carrying a clay pot filled with well water (these have evolved to plastic containers in some regions) for nearly 6 to 8 miles once or twice a day! These pots could weigh as much as 15 or 20 pounds.

Then comes the Hippo Roller. This simple device introduces an innovative option to the traditional task of water retrieval. To really understand just how important a device like this can be, I refer you to their website:

  • a Hippo Water Roller, designed in 1991, is a South African conceived water carrying device made purposely with rural conditions in mind;
  • the Hippo Water Roller is an innovative design allows 350% more water (90 litres / 24 gallons) to be placed inside a ‘rolling wheel’. The barrel-shaped container with its steel handle alleviates the suffering caused by carrying heavy buckets of water (20 litres / 5 gallons) on the head;
  • the effective weight on level ground is just 10kg (22 pounds)

But what I really like most is a campaign that has been created to find creative ways to distribute these throughout the regions of greatest need and also enhance other sustainable projects! In cooperation with the Wildlands Conservation Trust Tree-preneur program:

“The Wildlands Conservation Trust ( uses a bartering model with their communities, whereby members have the opportunity to grow tree seedlings, and in exchange for trees, they can barter for products they want, such as Hippo Rollers.”

This is something I fully support and hope you will now begin to appreciate just how important simple devices can be to the health and development of traditional lifestyles in developing countries. Using something as simple as the Hippo Roller can transform the daily task of water retrieval from this:

to this:

I courage readers to contribute to the 67.67 Hippo Water Roller Challenge.

The need is real and the results are real.

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