Wiebke Volkmann, HMI Certified Educator from Namibia, shared her story about being involved in a community project to build “tippy taps” or simple washing stations to increase hand washing in informal settlements outside Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia where economic migrants from Namibia’s Northern communal lands take refuge. As Wiebke notes: “Besides precarious food security, these underserviced informal settlements had suffered from Hepatitis E, as there are no toilets and pre-paid water collection points only. Washing hands under running fresh water, rather than everyone sharing the same bowl of water over and over again was needed way before COVID-19 started.” Wiebke learned of the “tippy tap” from her brother.
Inspired by a YouTube instruction of how to assemble a tippy tap, she built one for my own home, asking everyone to wash their hands before entering. I wanted to help bring this technology to the informal settlements. Could we possibly collaborate and use the team from farm Okukuna and the youth members of the Shack Dweller’s Federation to build tippy taps all over?
With help from donors, the 2020 Tippy Tap Challenge was born. In these weeks, people, mostly women who lost all their income opportunity from selling food by the road side, earned money for each new tippy tap of which they sent in a photo and location pin. Below are Wiebke’s tips for making or adapting a “tippy tap” for your needs.
Tips for Adaptations of Tippy Taps
You can let the Tippy Tap tilt from any horizontally fixed round stick.
This stick can be fixed to two upright posts planted into the ground and on the internet there are examples of using a forked stick cut from bushes or trees. We want to prevent that too many trees are cut for this purpose and that is why we show you other examples.
For the uprights you can use:
- Any wooden pole or “dropper” fence posts.
To anchor a post in the ground, make sure that the hole is at least 30 cm deep. If possible, drill holes into the post where it goes into the ground and push in cross sticks or wire. Make sure the soil is tamped down firmly under and above these cross sticks.
- You can also use pieces of plastic or metal pipe – these can be dug into the ground or they can be placed over a metal peg which you hit into the ground. Use other thinner sticks to fill out the space between the peg and the pipe so that it is more sturdy.
- At the top of the uprights you cut a “valley” for the horizontal stick to lie in. The best is to tie this stick to the upright post with string or wire.
- The height of the horizontal stick and at which the bottle will hang depends on if you want children or adults to use the Tippy Tap. For children you can make lower Tippy Taps. Experiment with the height and observe what works best when people use it.
- The horizontal stick for Tippy Taps on upright posts should be at least at least 50 cm, depending on how much space there is to dig the holes.
Hanging the Tippy Tap from a branch or roof:
- Look for existing places where you can hang the round stick – a roof beam standing out from a house or a branch in a tree.
- The horizontal stick on which the bottle tilts should be as long as your fore arm (30 to 40 cm). Make notches close to the end so that the string going to the branch or roof beam does not slip off easily. Make a sturdy loop in one of the strings so that the stick can be taken out when one wants to re-fill the bottle.
- Tie the two strings to the branch or roof beam in such a way that the stick hangs horizontally.
Preparing the bottle:
- Push a long nail through a cork so that you don’t burn your fingers when you heat up the nail.
- Heat up the nail over a candle and with this push holes through the plastic.
- The bottle must have two small holes: one near the handle so let air in and the other on the opposite site of the handle or in the middle of the screw on lid for the water to come out.
- With some bottle shapes the holes can be placed at the side, rather than at the middle so that the water stream does not go directly on the pedal string and so that people don’t have to touch the string with their hands.
- The pedal string can be tied around the neck of the bottle close to the lid
- Or it can be pushed through a hole in the lid of the bottle, with a knot on the inside of the lid preventing it from slipping out.
- If the bottle does not have a screw lid but a cork you can tied the pedal string around the cork.
- The Pedal stick should be between 50 and 80 cm long.
- Using a flat piece of wood or strong metal strip is the best. On a round stick the foot easily slips off.
- Cut notches in the side on one end of the stick and tie the string tightly so it will not slip out.
Fixing and protecting the soap against sun and rain:
- Look for a plastic container that is big enough to hold a piece of soap.
- Make a hole in the middle of the bottom of the container with a hot nail.
- Also make a hole in the middle of a piece of soap with a hot nail.
- Push the string through the soap and the container so that the soap can be inside the container.
- Make a big knot at the one end of the string so that it does not slip out of the soap.
- Let the soap hang and make another knot above the soap, about 3 fingers wide – so that the container does not fall right down onto the soap. This makes it easy to lift the container with the top of the hand when one wants to reach for the soap.
- Tie the soap string to one of the strings hanging from the roofbeam or branch.
Covering the ground with stones or course sand:
- To prevent the water from splashing onto people’s feet and making a puddle, cover the soil under the Tippy Tap with small stones, gravel or course sand.
- Encourage people to plant a tree or shrub nearby the Tippy Tap.
Well done Wiebke!!
You made a big difference to your community with this initiative.
HMI, thanks for sharing.