KickStart’s mission is to lift millions of people in Africa out of poverty, quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably. KickStart succeeds by designing, promoting and mass-marketing simple money-making tools that small-holder farmers buy and use to start highly profitable family enterprises. These new businesses create a sustainable solution to the rural poor’s most important need —a way to make more money—and enable the farmers to lift their families out of poverty.
KickStart believes that self-motivated private entrepreneurs managing small-scale enterprises can play a dynamic role in the economies of developing countries.
These entrepreneurs can raise small amounts of capital ($100-$1,000 US) to start a new enterprise. KickStart then helps them to identify viable business opportunities and access the technologies required to launch the new enterprises.
In addition to promoting small enterprise development, KickStart’s technologies, expertise, and methods are widely applied throughout Africa to support programs in agriculture, shelter, water, sanitation, health, and relief.
IN 1991, Martin Fisher and Nick Moon founded ApproTEC, which in 2005 became KickStart. Their model was based on a five-step process to develop, launch and promote simple money-making tools that poor entrepreneurs could use to create their own profitable businesses.
KickStart’s early efforts focused on building and food processing technologies. But in Africa, 80% of the poor are small-scale farmers. They depend on unreliable rain to grow their crops and have, at most, two harvests per year. With two valuable assets, a small plot of land and basic farming skills, KickStart realized that irrigation would allow people to move from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture.
In 1998, KickStart developed a line of manually operated MoneyMaker Irrigation Pumps that allow farmers to easily pull water from a river, pond or shallow well (as deep as 25 feet deep), pressurize it through a hose pipe (even up a hill) and irrigate up to two acres of land. Our pumps are easy to transport and install and retail between $35 and $95. They are easy to operate and, because they are pressurized, they allow farmers to direct water where it is needed. It is a very efficient use of water, and unlike flood irrigation, does not lead to the build up of salts in the soil.
With irrigation , farmers can grow crops year-round. They can grow higher value crops like fruits and vegetables, get higher yields (The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that irrigation increases crop yield by 100-400%) and most importantly, they can produce crops in the dry seasons when food supplies dwindle and the market prices are high. Because of the long dry seasons and growing population, there is potential for many thousands of farmers to start irrigating without flooding the market. There are local, urban and even export markets for the new crops.
Since 1991, 170,000 successful new businesses have been started in Africa using our tools. Today more than 800 new businesses are being created each month. Since each of these enterprises supports a family, we conservatively estimate that these businesses have already lifted 850,000 people out of poverty. Each year these businesses generate over $140 million in new profits and wages and have created 70,000 new waged jobs. In Kenya alone, the users of our tools are generating new revenues equivalent to 0.6% of the GDP.
KickStart continued to expand across Kenya, proving that our model was scalable. In 2000, KickStart expanded into Tanzania, and in 2004, we expanded into Mali. Both countries were significantly different from Kenya, yet our programs in both countries have flourished and grown, proving that our model is replicable. Other organizations have distributed our pumps across Africa and today, thousands are in use in Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, Sudan and Rwanda.
Nick, born and raised in the far corners of the British empire, first came to Africa after answering an ad in a London paper looking for a French-speaking carpenter to build a music studio in Togo. He went to Kenya as part of the VSO, the British Peace Corps. After many years of wandering the globe, in Kenya he found his home.
Martin, born in London and raised in Ithaca, NY, went to Kenya on a Fulbright Fellowship to study the Appropriate Technology Movement. His friendships with fellow graduate students from developing countries and his own experience traveling in the remote Andes, starting him thinking about the role technology plays in increasing wealth. He was supposed to stay in Kenya for 10 months. He stayed for 17 years.
The two met while working for a large British aid organization and over a period of five years, they worked on just about every kind of development "intervention," from building rural water systems, to building schools, and creating job training programs.
At first glance, all of these efforts seemed like a success. Eventually the funding would end and they would be sent off to the next project. But when they would revisit their former projects, not a single one was still operational.
It would have been easy to be discouraged, but instead, they took a look at their projects (and the sector as a whole) with dispassionate, scholarly eyes. They knew that you can learn more from failure than success.