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KickStart-Tools To End Poverty, A New Approach

Part of of Rotary Internationals goal of increasing their capacity to provide service to others is to undertake international projects for the benefit of the less fortunate. Through the Rotary Foundation and its Future Vision Plan, they are developing new models that emphasize simplification and the sustainability of their work through global service projects and their worldwide organization. One such project that is being started through the Rotary Club of Estes Park is helping small scale farmers out of poverty in Kenya. On Thursday August 14th at noon at the Other Side there will be a rotary presentation by the international committee discussing this new exciting project in Africa.

Woman in Mali watering her cabbage the traditional way, the a rope and bucket

Woman in Mali watering her cabbage the traditional way, the a rope and bucket

There is a simple question that goes to the core of the matter of all charitable giving. It needs to be asked because of the services rendered, time and efforts expended, monies given and spent, in order for a aid project to be successful anoccurredThe question is – “What do the people who are going to be receiving the aid really need?”

Within less than a generation poor families where social / economic change has happened, from the Russian States to Vietnam to many countries in Africa, have been thrown from essentially a subsistence lifestyle into a primarily cash -base economy. The ability to earn an income is suddenly a paramount skill. Yet approaches to encouraging development and aid continue to be based upon the assumption that the primary need of people in poor places in these new cash based economic systems is something other than a way to make money – better healthcare, education, water, housing and so forth. That is not necessary so. Providing these will not end poverty. In a cash economy money is the primary means to securing other vital resources. If you ask a person in a poor place what they need most, they will tell you that it is a way to make money. The poorest people in the world are also amoung the most entrepreneurial-they have to be just to survive. They do not want hand-outs; they want opportunities.

It is felt that a way to address the challenge of persistent poverty is to create sustainable income-earning opportunities using the appropriate technologies for millions of people. Appropriate Technologies means not only designing technologies appropriate to the poor but also designing technologies that people in poor places can themselves appropriate and use to advance their own ends.

That is what the KickStart organization is undertaing and the Rotary Club of Estes Park is going to assist. KickStart is a none governmental organization (NGO) and it is taking a new approach to developmental aid for perples in the emerging cash based economies of Africa. Most importantly, they wanted to establish a private-sector supply chain to manufacture, distribute and sell the new tools and equipment to the entrepreneurs.

KickStart’s mission is “to promote sustainable economic growth and employment creation in Africa by developing and promoting technologies that can be bought and used by the rural poor and entrepreneurs to establish and run profitable small scale enterprises.”

Today KickStart designs and markets low-cost pumps and other capital equipment that have been used by farmers to establish highly profitable commercial enterprises. This market-based approach to development “kick-starts” a sustainable cycle of wealth creation, brings poor people into the middle class and eradicates the effects of poverty from the ground up.

A original design pump for micro irrigation was developed in 1985 in Bangladesh by an American engineer of the International Development Enterprise (IDE) a U.S. non profit. They too followed a market -based approach to manufacture and sell treadle pumps. It was incredible successful, and in less than twenty years over 2 million pumps were sold.  This treadle-operated micro-irrigation pump allowed Bangladeshis who live on a flat flood plains to have a second harvest of rice or wheat during their dry season.

KickStart built upon the basic design of this treadle pump but had to make some major modifications to the design. The pump had to be modified hilly farm lands of Kenya. And it could not be safely left in the fields so they had to design the pumps to be portable. Additionally, KickStart had to take the African culture into account. The foot pedals of the Bangladeshi pumps were positioned high for maximum lift, but in Africa most of the pump operators would be women- Africa’s traditional water carriers- and that the hip swaying required to operate the pump would be too provocative. Thus the pumps were designed with lower and shorter treadles .

KickStart ended up designing a portable pump that could pull water from a stream or shallow well and pressurize it through a hose pipe to push it up hill or through a sprinkler system. Today the company markets three version of the pump. The largest pump, the one that has the most drawing power, is a small portable “stair -master like” machine. It can pull water from a hand-dug well as deep as 25 feet, or from a pond lake or stream. It can pressurize it to a total height of 50 above the water inlet. It can draw water through a hose pipe as far as 400 meters, spay water through a hand-held nozzle or sprinklers.

Increasing crop yields 10 fold by using the KickStart Pump

Increasing crop yields 10 fold by using the KickStart Pump

It can irrigate as much as two acres of land. In Kenya the pump sells for $95. The second pump is a single-cylinder version and retails for $55 and irrigates one acre of land. KickStart just started marketing its third pump called a hip pump and it can handle watering 3/4th of a acre of crops a day. This simple, foot-operated water pump is marketed through agricultural equipment shops in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali. The pumps cost about $250 dollars to produce and market.

The economic and social impacts of this technology have been remarkable. The average net farm income of farmers using this piump has increased ten-fold from US$110 per year before buying the pump to US$1,100 per year after buying the KickStart pump. To date every dollar that KickStart has spent on developing and promoting their irrigation pumps has resulted in $17 in new profits and wages being generated by new farming business in their first 3.5 years of operation. This is a ratio of 17 to 1 “Bang for the Donor’s Buck” . That is to say that for every dollar of donation taken in by KickStarts their programs will generate 17 dollars of return! That figure can not be matched by many aid organizations.

The pump literally lifts farmers from poverty into the middle class. For example, Janet Ondiek was widowed in 1999 and left completely destitute on a two -acre plot of land in Western Kenya with her 6 young children. With no income, she was forced to take her children out of school and beg from her relativaes just to survive. But she grew a small plot of cabbages using a bucket to draw water from the stream running through her property.

One day, while selling her cabbages in town, she saw the KickStart being demonstrated in a local shop. After working six months to save money, and taking a small loan from her sister, she bought the pump. Within the first year, she repaid her loan, employed two young men to help irrigate, planted a full two acres with cabbages, Kales, and tomatoes, and opened a small shop to sell her produce in the local town. She lmade $3,200 in profit within her first year ans was able to send her kids to a private school! When visiting her a few years later she had rented additional land and employed four young men to help her in the fields.

For a nonprofit, this for-profit supply chain is unusual, but it accounts for much of the organization’s success. KickStart has broken a real barrier by establishing a mass market for irrigation pumps in Africa. They have combined the marketing and the design. The model that KickStart uses is based on the power of the market. They use the private sector supply chains to help poor farmers acquire technologies that allow them to begin highly profitable businesses and escape poverty. Yet KickStart is itself nonprofit.

Please join with us to learn more about this innovative NOG on Thursday the 14th. of August. And if you too would like to participate in assisting with the KickStart program through the purchase of micro-irrigation pumps and help pull the rural poor in Kenya out of poverty donations are being accepted.

Please send your donations to The Rotary Club Of Estes Park, Gary G. Lister 453 E. Wonderview Ave. #412, Estes Park, CO 80517.

© 2014 Estes Park News, Inc

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