Q Drum: Reinventing the Wheel

Photo courtesy of Q Drum.

Photo courtesy of Q Drum.

I’ve mentioned previously that women in developing countries fetch water, carrying heavy loads on their head. Whenever I’ve seen women carry such weighty parcels, I’ve wondered how they do it. If I put that much weight on my head, I am sure several things would happen:

  • My neck would break
  • I’d sustain a back injury
  • I’d fall over

My traveling companions think that if you start out as a small child carrying such loads, that you get used to it. Used to it or not, who wants to spend a good part of their day just to fetch water, and the water might not even be clean! I’ve done my fair share of fetching water when I’ve gone backpacking. It’s charming for about a week or two. Then it gets tiresome.

Piet Hendriske thought there had to be a better way to carry water. So much so, that he took time off from his career as an architect to design a new water-fetching container called Q Drum. You’ve got to check out the Q Drum website. It’s amazing!

The Q Drum is a drum with a longitudinal shaft through it. You thread a rope through the shaft and start pulling. The drum rolls behind you. No more neck strain! What a great idea.

Now the bad news. Each Q Drum costs $30 to produce, which makes is unaffordable for the people who need this the most. How can we get this marvelous invention to those who need it? Make a donation to Blue Planet Run Foundation.

Hear Piet Hendriske talk about Q Drum. See it in action by watching this video produced by Tri-Film Productions.

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7 Responses to Q Drum: Reinventing the Wheel

  1. Greg Laden says:

    I have actually lived for years in Africa in a setting where we had to carry the water. But I personally did not have to do this because I am not a woman and therefore I am not really able to do it. Nor could I chop or carry firewood.

    But one day all the women were gone (just for one day, though) and I had to get the water myself. OMG that was quite an experience. We almost died of thirst

    This is not an either/or situation I absolutely guarantee you that the Q-drum would have been of no use whatsoever at our research camp (to which I refer above) in the Ituri. The water was down a bath too steep and rugged to lug a barrel up. But, the people living in another project site of mine, in the southern Kalahari, have solar powered water points that are often actually uphill from the village, and there are rugged but quite usable roads passing by the water point and the village. The Q-drum would be brilliant there.

    I’m skeptical about the head-carrying damage thing as being special. In other words, given the alternatives of carrying the same stuff but using either a) head-top carrying and/or tumplines or b) not, I’d assume without major proof the contrary that “a” is less harmful.

    Having said that, carrying several hundred pounds of material (water, charcoal, firewood, produce) and babies around all day is a lot of work. Something like the Q-Drum, assuming it works (and it does look like it does) is a great idea for certain circumstances.

  2. Bunny says:

    Q Drum claims there is evidence that carrying heavy loads on the head is harmful. I’ll try to find some statistics for you in the upcoming weeks. I think the real issue is that people have to lug water each day. You and I in the US might do this while camping, but can you imagine having to walk to your local river or mud hole each day to get enough water. Q Drum or not, this is some chore. Everyone in the world deserves to have accessible, clean, drinking water.

  3. Greg Laden says:

    We may be overestimating the severity of carrying something on the head. Is this a Western concept being imposed on non-Western lifeways? (Just checking)

    (This question does not mean I don’t like the Q-drum. I think it has a place.)

  4. Q Drum says:

    The Q Drum was designed in response to alleviating the physical burden associated with carrying water from a reliable source in rural areas. As mentioned many people in such places carry water in containers on their heads which, as you can imagine can cause debilitating injuries over time. To roll or drag water, up and down hills is far easier. LLDPE from which the drums are made is also extremely durable and able to withstand knocks and scrapes. It also contributes to the expense. A cart may seem like a fine idea, however in most cases that requires the keeping and caring of an animal which over time, may be more expensive. At present, the Q Drum is rotational moulded because of the central shaft. It is a lengthy and costly process and unfortunately makes the drums expensive to those in need. The drum is compatible to most edible liquids or dry foodstuffs and therefore can be used for AID and re-used by recipients for its intended purpose of transporting water.

  5. The Wanderer says:

    I bet that even if you could find a cart for $30 dollars they still couldn’t afford it. What I have mostly seen is discarded containers used for water. Maybe companies shipping non-toxic liquids could use these containers so that they could be recycled as water containers. It seems to be a given that they will only be used in relatively smooth terrain.

  6. Abraxas says:

    Looks more like an “O Drum” than a “Q Drum”.

    I agree with Greg above. Last time I checked, South Africa wasn’t so flat. No doubt this container could be useful to some, but I don’t see it having the impact implied by the website.

    The skeptic in me thinks there is a bit of profiteering in here somewhere. These are selling for R470/drum, which is $61 USD. That seems a bit steep. Bet you could buy a fine cart for half the price. This would solve the problem, with similar terrain limitations, with the added benefit of transporting other things, too. . .

  7. Greg Laden says:

    Having lived for quite some time in regions where people (mainly women) fetch water by carrying jugs/containers on their heads, I’m sure it is much easier for them than it would be for you or I. However, this wheel thingie does make a lot of sense. One needs a water container anyway, and this can be just the thing.

    For the places I’ve worked in the Congo it is unusable as the water is actually carried up a steep hill of uneven ground with roots and stuff. But where there is a central supply that is reached over more or less flat ground this would work.

    In fact, may I suggest: When developing central water access points NGO’s should consider using solar to get the water a bit up hill from surrounding use points, so this plastic container can be carried easily up to the water, and rolled down to the house.

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