Innovation: This simple solution rolls a long way in ensuring water access –

hippo roller food garden

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Sindy Peters is the Managing Editor of and interviewed Grant Gibbs, Executive Director of Hippo Roller, to find out more about the inspiration behind the innovation, what sort of reach it has, and the extent of its social impact.

More than 20 years since its inception, the low-tech Hippo Roller continues to have a profound impact on communities facing water insecurity. The award-winning innovation entails a 90-litre, durable barrel-shaped container that can be pushed or pulled by a steel handle, enabling rural communities to transport water more easily, saving time, and ensuring access to water.

Below are abstracts from the interview:

What inspired the idea to launch the Hippo Roller?

  • The Hippo Roller was conceptualised in 1991 by Pettie Petzer and Johan Jonker, two South Africans who grew up on farms, experiencing the national water crisis first-hand and witnessing local communities carrying heavy buckets of water on their heads for kilometres every day.

How has the Hippo Roller evolved over the last 20 years?

  • Whilst a few solutions were proffered, none really improved on the original design, which is still in use today, 25 years after its inception. Still, we have introduced some minor improvements and have added some optional extras including the “Utility/Irrigation Cap” for small-scale farmers and the “Hippo Spaza” for the more entrepreneurial informal traders.

What sort of reach does the Hippo Roller have?

  • More than ​55,000 Hippo Rollers have been distributed in more than 29 ​countries to date, changing the lives of millions of people. But this is just the beginning. Projects supporting small-scale farmers across the continent would impact millions more, with hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers participating in initiatives aimed at moving them from subsistence to sustainable commercial “agripreneurs”.

What is the broader social impact of the Hippo Roller?

  • With hundreds of millions of women and children struggling daily for access to water, the Hippo Roller innovation makes an immediate, and profound impact, significantly improving their ability to collect more water, more efficiently, and empowering them to spend more time on education and other important tasks in the home, and community.


Why do you believe the Hippo Roller makes for good CSI?

  • On September 25th 2015, the world adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all as part of a new sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. And for the goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part: governments, the private sector, civil society. Water is one of these specific goals (access to water and sanitation for all) and the Hippo Roller is an effective and appropriate solution to achieving it.

Are there any expansion plans for the social enterprise you’d like to share with us?

“Leveraging its relationships with sponsors, corporate partners, and NGOs, the Hippo Water Roller Project has established itself as a sustainable initiative that provides African communities with an immediate and winning water and sanitation solution.”

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Hippo Roller: A Story of Impact

In the remote corners of our rural communities, there are many whose daily lives are marked by challenges most of us could scarcely imagine. Brenda,