MENU menu
  • Awarded: 2005
  • Issue Areas: Economic Opportunity · Livelihoods · Smallholder Productivity · Water Management
  • Countries Served: Kenya · Mali
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    KickStart’s mission is to get millions of people out of poverty quickly, cost effectively and sustainably. KickStart creates opportunities for poor, rural, entrepreneurial farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to make money and offers a permanent solution to address the deepest root of poverty; lack of income.

    KickStart designs and mass markets simple, money-making tools that open up business opportunities for poor smallholder farmers. MoneyMaker brand, human powered, irrigation pumps are the most widely used of these products and provide an ideal and environmentally friendly solution that will quickly enable poor farming families to access water and grow crops.

    These low-cost ($35 and $100 USD) pumps are sold in local retail shops (KickStart works with factories, shippers, distributors and dealers to ensure that our pumps are made widely available and accessible to poor communities and in rural areas), and once purchased, enable farmers to move from rain-fed farming to irrigated agriculture at which point they can grow crops year-round and sell their crops at a profit during the dry season when prices are high.

    With increased income, they lift themselves out of poverty and improve their quality of life by being able to access: plentiful food, clean water, education for their children and healthcare for their families.

    More than half the labor force of southeastern Africa lives on subsistence agriculture, making less than $2 per day.

    Small-farm entrepreneurs use KickStart’s pumps to increase yields, produce higher value crops, and sell when prices are higher.

    KickStart has sold 250,000 pumps, moving families out of poverty at a cost of $65 per person.

    Ambition for Change

    Subsistence farmers convert their farms into enterprises providing income sufficient to escape poverty.

    Path to Scale

    Grow a Business
    Manufacture and sales of tools, such as irrigation pumps, accomplished through a private sector supply chain.

    Business Model

    Philanthropic support for development of products and markets, which become self sustaining.

    As a Fulbright Scholar in Kenya, Martin Fisher explored an insight about technology and poverty that had come to him during a hiking trip in the Peruvian Andes. He ended up staying in Kenya for 17 years, first studying the “appropriate technology” movement, then working for Action Aid, where he met Nick Moon. They worked together on projects such as schoolhouses and water systems, which often seemed to succeed at first, but then fell into disuse and disrepair. Martin and Nick founded ApproTEC in 1991, convinced that there was a better way. They sought to bring together the power of technology with the sustainability of the marketplace. They knew that economic growth from agriculture was a powerful way to reduce poverty and hunger, and that irrigation was one of the best ways to increase agricultural yields and incomes. But farmers often couldn’t afford to buy and maintain pumps. Their organization, renamed KickStart in 2005, developed low-cost, human-powered irrigation pumps to fill that need. Small-scale farm entrepreneurs can use KickStart’s pumps to increase their yields, produce higher value crops, and sell produce at off-peak times, when prices are higher. Their income can increase enough to escape subsistence. At the time of the Award, KickStart had sold about 36,000 pumps, calculated the cumulative income increase attributable to those pumps at $38 million, and was beginning to expand beyond Kenya. Nick has left KickStart but Martin continues as chief executive officer.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • 250,000 pumps sold since inception.
    • 160,000 enterprises created.
    • 820,000 people moved out of poverty.
    • New profits and wages generated annually: $130 million.
    • Cost to KickStart to move a family out of poverty: $330. Cost per person: $65.


    Angela MasonDirector of Strategic Partnerships, KickStart-International
    David EstradaDirector of External Relations, KickStart-International

    Related Content

    Zachary Slobig - Skoll Foundation, December 7, 2017
    In Sub-Saharan Africa, 12 million people who rely on smallholder agriculture have improved their yields and income with the help of a single, simple piece of technology: a human-powered water…

    See All Awardees →