KickStart, a non-profit based out of Kenya and San Francisco, is taking an innovative approach to fighting poverty by inventing tools optimized for delivering productivity for the world’s poor.
I met KickStart’s CEO and Co-Founder, Martin Fisher, a few months back at an education event sponsored by Seattle Social Venture Partners. Martin has spent most of his career living in Africa working with various different NGOs focused on development initiatives with Africa’s poor. He became very frustrated that despite working very hard and trying to be creative, he just didn’t see any material results in their efforts helping the poor out of poverty. He came to the conclusion that the development community was missing out on the basic fact that for the poor to become independently and sustainably non-poor that they needed to be able to earn income. No income = continued poverty. Handouts, while often life-saving in the short-term, aren’t a long-term solution. And development agencies are addicted to handouts.
KickStart’s first invention was a very efficient, low-maintenance, low-cost manual water pump which they named the MoneyMaker. This pump was designed for micro-farmers (the majority of farms in Kenya are less than 2 acres) at a low enough price point (a couple of hundred dollars) and an incredible return-on-investment … up to US$5,400 profit in the first year! How is this possible? Basically, the manual pump enabled micro-farmers to feasibly irrigate their fields resulting in a transformation from a single, subsistence crop per year to 3-4 “cash” crops per year. They have since introduced improved versions of the pump which enables farmers to reach deeper wells and to irrigate larger fields.
They claim that your donation of $200 will help one family out of poverty permanently.
I challenged their assumption that they needed to subsidize their products so much. If there really is such an amazing (only 1-2 crop) payback, why don’t they finance the full cost of the pumps with microfinance. Martin said they are looking into this possibility.
I think this is a very interesting social venture enterprise. I’m impressed with their focus on building (and selling) helpful products to some of the world’s poorest in order to help them help themselves out of poverty.