For most Africans, the best water they can get comes from the sky. But, perhaps surprisingly, gathering fresh rainwater when it falls turns out to be more difficult than it sounds – especially for Africa’s rural and impoverished millions.
Now a South African inventor, inspired by the need to collect rainwater in a cheap, lightweight and easily assembled catcher, has come up with what he calls – surprise, surprise – the Rain Catcher.
Cary NC engineer Marthinus Bekker believes the device could change the lives of huge numbers of rural poor – and not just in Africa, but anywhere where there is rain but no easy way to catch it. Bekker regularly visits rural parts of Africa as the owner of lnvented SA, a private research, and development company.
He invented his Rain Catcher, a sort of collapsible bag on three legs – the only one of its kind in the world which can collect hundreds of liters of drinking water while standing out in the rain – to deal with his dog’s propensity to knock over the bucket that he set out in the rain to catch water for his houseplants.
He started dreaming up a rain catcher that can fold up, is lightweight and user-friendly. He realized that this could be used to alleviate the water problem in many poor African countries where he has seen this desperate need.
The Rain Catcher was developed in South Africa (2010) and has been tested in various situations since the final prototype was assembled. One specific test included a 2-year exposure to the elements which delivered promising results regarding durability and reliability.
According to Bekker, it’s very simple durable, weighs just 1kg and inexpensive. The rainwater streams down the funnel into a 9l container, which can be emptied through a tap. It’s convenient and can be set up anywhere in minutes.
Bekker says he collected about 650l of rainwater in a few weeks during the rainy season in Bloemfontein South Africa. In poor African countries like Malawi, where drinking water is a scarcity and the shortage of which leads to the spread of cholera and other water-borne diseases, it could be a major life-saver.
Also, it could reduce the amount of time and energy the rural poor expend daily on fetching and carrying fresh water. He thinks if more people in rural areas rely on the Rain Catcher for their water, a lot of their water-based problems may soon be a thing of the past.
The Rain Catcher consists of a tripod, three extension legs and an inverted waterproof canvas with a funnel at the tip (bottom end), which directs collected rain into a collapsible water container via a flexible tube.
It is easy to erect and can be anchored to the surface in order to withstand moderate winds. The Rain Catcher can be used on boats as an emergency kit and can also be placed on top of a large water tank in rural areas.
It could also be a life-saver in times of natural disasters. For example, following Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, many affected people did not have access to drinking water. And when it rained, people had no safe and easy way to catch the drinkable water. The Rain Catcher could have solved such a problem,’ he says.
The Rain Catcher is also suitable for post Hurricane and post Tornado water collection, especially with a damaged infrastructure. The Rain Catcher was tested in France, Japan, USA, Malawi, South African townships, Germany and Canada.