Use Bamboo To Move Water

Water management


A good way to move water is through a long trough or pipe. The big problem with metal or plastic pipe is that it costs quite a lot of money.

Many farmers make their own pipes or troughs out of bamboo poles. To do this you must first select suitable poles. It is best to use straight, freshly-cut bamboo poles. Dry bamboo is more likely to split, and the nodes inside the bamboo are not as easy to remove.

Making a bamboo pipe
Let us think now about making a bamboo pipe. To begin with, try to find bamboo poles that are at least 7 or 8 centimetres (3 inches) across, at the small end. You will need a special tool to remove those little walls at every node inside the bamboo.

For many years, Dr. Allan T. Knight was a technical advisor in Angola and Zaire. He has made many bamboo pipes and used them to save labour, time and energy in irrigating crops. Dr. Knight says that you can remove those nodes inside the bamboo by cutting

through each of them with a piece of iron pipe. The best way is to use three or four lengths of iron pipe. They must have different diameters, one with a small diameter, another a little larger and another larger yet. The smallest should be 1 1/2 centimetres ( 1/2 inch) in diameter. Perhaps you can borrow them.

If you can find iron pipes 3 metres (10 feet) long, for example, the bamboo poles you make into water pipes can be twice as long as that. But remember, both pipes and bamboo must be straight.

Dr. Knight says you must first sharpen one end of each of the iron pipes. There are various ways of doing this, perhaps with a hacksaw, cutting the pipe at a sharp angle, or doing it on a grinding wheel. It is also a good idea to sharpen the pipe from the inside too, if you have a round file. After all of your iron pipe tools have been sharpened, shove the sharpened end of the smallest one into one end of the bamboo. You may have to hammer on the unsharpened end of the tool to break or cut through each node as the sharpened end reaches it. When the tool can reach no farther into the bamboo pull it out and do the same from the other end. You should now have cut through all of the nodes in that bamboo pole. Next, repeat the operation with each successively larger tool you have made. You now have opened up all the nodes in the bamboo pole and made it into a useful water pipe.

Joining bamboo pipes together
It is likely that you will need to join several of these pipes together in order to move water the distance you want to move it. If you are able to select bamboo poles that are small enough at one end to fit nicely into the large end of another, joining them tightly together is quite easy. If the ends to be joined are the same size, perhaps you can cut a short piece of larger bamboo without nodes that will fit nicely over the ends of both bamboo pipes, or you might possibly use a piece a little smaller in

diameter than the pipes to be joined. It could be fitted inside the ends of both of them. Or the ends can just be cut off perfectly straight and can be butted together. In all of these cases, you will need to bind the joint tightly together so it will not leak. Dr. Knight has used old bicycle inner tubes that were split lengthwise. The rubber is wound tightly over the joint like a bandage and tied in place with twine, rope or wire. Another good way is to use some pitch or tar and a bandage made from strips of old sacking, bound tightly around the joint.

George Vandi in Sierra Leone tells us that if the pipes do not naturally fit together well he often uses his cutlass or machete to taper the end of one bamboo so it will fit into the next. He does not cut it; he carefully scrapes it with his sharp blade to make it thinner so it will fit well.

Getting water from the source into the pipe
If you are going to connect your bamboo water pipe to a hillside spring, you should have no problem arranging for water from the spring to go into one end of the pipe. However let us suppose that you want to transfer water from the edge of a river, stream or small pond, or even from a well to the middle of your garden. You may be able to pump water from the source into your bamboo pipeline. Some pumps cost quite a lot of money though, so you may want to use a bucket or some other arrangement to dip water up out of your water source and get it into your bamboo pipe. To do this you need to have some kind of a big funnel attached to the end of the bamboo pipe, close to your water source.

Dr. Knight uses an old oil drum as his funnel. He cuts the drum lengthwise and sets it securely in place like a tub. Before cutting it, however, he makes sure that the opening that is already in one end of the drum will be at the bottom of the end of the tub. This way, nearly all water that is put into the tub will flow out of the opening. It is important to make sure that this oil drum funnel is at a higher level than the area where the
water is to be used.

Dr. Knight has a simple way to connect the bamboo pipe to the opening in the end of the tub. To do this, you will need a short piece of threaded iron pipe of the right size, screwed into the threaded opening that was already in the tub when you cut it out of the old oil drum. When the short iron pipe is in place, the bamboo pipe can then be slipped over it and you can make the joint water-tight by using the same method you used to connect the different sections of bamboo pipes together.

Making a bamboo trough
Some people move water in bamboo troughs instead of pipes. To do this, split the bamboo lengthwise in half. Then remove the little wall at every node. Water can then move freely from one end of the trough to the other. You can cut out the nodes with your machete, a good strong sharp knife, a saw, a hammer and chisel — whatever tools you have. A number of troughs can be joined together, but of course they can only be used on a continuous downward slope. When you set them on the ground or up on short posts, they must be firmly fixed in place so they cannot possibly tip sideways.

Now you can move the water quite easily from one place to another through your bamboo water pipeline or trough.



1.DCFRN Consultant, Dr. Allen T. Knight, CM, FAIC, is an agriculturalist who worked for 34 years in Angola and Zaire. He is now living in Canada. His address is 77 Lakeside Drive, Grimsby, Ontario, L3N 2L4, Canada

2.DCFRN Participant George L. Vandi of Sierra Leone.

3.Graphics are reprinted or adapted from graphics originally published in the following publications:

A.”Encanamento de bambu” in Cada cabeca e um mundo,
No. 9, published (in Portuguese) by the Ministry of Education and Culture, MOBRAL (Brazilian Literacy Movement Foundation), SCRLN 704/5 – BL. H. Ljs. 33/43 Brasilia D.F., Brazil.

B.Approvisionnement en eau, transport de l’eau,
canalization en bambou, C.D.U. 628.14, G.R.E.T. T17, published by the Groupe de Recherche et d’Echanges Technologiques, 34, Rue Dumont d’Urville, 75116, Paris, France.

C.The book of bamboo, (1983, 332 pages), by David Farelly,