2014 Honoree: KickStart International

KickStart International is a non-profit social enterprise with a mission to lift millions of people out of poverty quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably, and in doing so, to fundamentally change the way the world fights poverty. They see the untapped entrepreneurial drive in the world’s poorest people and they harness this potential for massive change. They find profitable business opportunities open to many thousands of poor people and then, design, manufacture, market, and sell simple technologies that unlock these opportunities.

Primary Area of Impact: Poverty Alleviation

Geographic Areas (Continents): Africa

Geographic Areas (Countries): Angola, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe

Organizational Type: Non-Profit

Year Founded: 1991

Mission: KickStart International is a non-profit social enterprise with a mission to lift millions of people out of poverty quickly, cost-effectively, and sustainably.

Website: www.kickstart.org

Providing poor farmers with appropriately designed irrigation technologies is essential to their survival and offers a sustainable path out of poverty for millions of families.

Social Challenge

KickStart is working to alleviate poverty and build a vibrant entrepreneurial middle class in Africa. Smallholder farmers use the MoneyMaker pumps to move from subsistence rain-fed agriculture to commercial irrigated farming to establish highly profitable family farms. More than 150,000 families have used KickStart’s unique MoneyMaker pumps to irrigate their land and establish dynamic farming businesses. KickStart conservatively estimates that 15 to 20 million households in sub-Saharan Africa could benefit from their MoneyMaker pumps. There is an incredible untapped potential for KickStart’s pumps across sub-Saharan African, where less than 4% of the farmland is irrigated. KickStart’s market-based model is focused on long-term sustainability and designed to be easily scaled and replicated across Africa to meet this market demand. Providing poor farmers with appropriately designed irrigation technologies is essential to their survival and offers a sustainable path out of poverty for millions of families.


As they transitioned to a partnership-centered strategic approach, they went through an examination process, reviewing how they train and select their employees, what their needs were and how they needed to function to support the new workload. They had extensive conversations with HR representatives and made effort to find an HR specialist based in Kenya, knowing that localizing said experts would influence who and how they hire. Along with the new responsibilities, their new country managers, found it imperative that as leaders of their programs on the ground, that their staff should be native to the region. KickStart’s Board of Directors also evolved over time going  from it being a Kenyan-based Board to expanding their board to United States to assist with fundraising to eventually becoming a business oriented board. Currently, the Board plays a critical leadership and strategic role, and members have leadership experience in legal, banking, manufacturing, administration, irrigation, design software, INGOs and consulting. They have strived for gender parity and are working to further diversify the representation.


They pivoted from a ‘direct-to-farmer model’, to a ‘partnership based model’. Instead of KickStart staff meeting farmers, they partner with other organizations, NGOs, UN, government agencies, cooperatives, corporations and microfinance institutions (MFIs) and have their field staff introduce irrigation to their beneficiary farmers. Leveraging their relationships with farmers greatly reduces the marginal cost of convincing a farmer to irrigate. Additionally, with its multiple impacts, introducing irrigation helps the partners to meet their development goals, while KickStart ensures that the pumps/spares are locally available through distributors. With less staff, KickStart now meets heads of partner organizations and trains their field staff and ‘lead farmers’ about irrigation.


Starting in 1991 with a mission, ‘to enable millions to climb out of poverty by making a lot more money’ KickStart proved that selling affordable money-making equipment enabled the poor to invest and start highly profitable businesses. It pioneered the use of internal impact studies, and after 10 years of learning, pivoted its program to concentrate exclusively on irrigation—its highest impact intervention. It scaled its model in 4 countries and by mid-2015 reached 1 million people out of poverty (POP).


Starting in 2001, KickStart has widely shared its learnings, including through; a HBS case study; lecturing at business schools; publishing articles; a TED talk; sharing with philanthropists; speaking at academic and development forums like World Economic Forum; hosting stakeholder field trips to see the impacts; and advising and mentoring upcoming social enterprises. In mid-2015 after reaching 1 million POP, KickStart developed and launched a new Strategic Plan that is fully based on scaling through partnerships and collaboration to innovate, distribute and advocate.


  • KickStart has sold over 220,000 pumps and monitoring shows that over 150,000 farmers have used pumps to start small businesses and increase their incomes.
  • $120 million in new annual farmer profits and wages and lifted over 750,000 people out of poverty.
  • Food grown with pumps is feeding some 11 million people and has enabled 230,000 children to go to school for the first time or attend improved schools.
  • Within 36 months of ownership, on average farmers increase their family net farm income by nearly 500%.
  • KickStart’s largest and most mature programs in Kenya and Tanzania work with 400 agro-vet dealers to stock and sell MoneyMaker pumps and spare parts.
  • KickStart also works through business-to-business partnerships in 15 other African countries.
  • Since becoming a Lipman Honoree in April 2014, they have sold 102,000 more pumps enabling 380,000 more people to escape poverty.
  • They are on track to reach our second million people out of poverty (POP) by 2024, in half the time and fraction of the cost of the first million.
  • By mid-2015 KickStart had sold 267,000 pumps, enabling one million People (pumps x 75% x 5 people/family) to take a major step out of poverty.
  • The farmers created
    • 180,000 new jobs,
    • $170 million/year in profits and wages
    • Grew fruits/vegetables to feed 10 million.
  • They expanded from 5 to 17 countries, did studies to prove the continued impacts and dramatically reduced our donor-cost-per-pump-sold.
  • 2015 Skoll Foundation Award for Social Entrepreneurship

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