Skoll Foundation



Skoll Awardee(s): Martin Fisher and Nick Moon
Award Year: 2005
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Economic Opportunity

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“As people move from poverty to a middle class, they leave despair behind as well. They feel as if they can create a better world for their children. They have hope for their futures, and they invest their energies in building those futures.”

Sub-Issues: Livelihoods; Smallholder Productivity More than half the labor force of southeastern Africa lives on subsistence agriculture, making less than $2.00 per day.

The Skoll Awardees: 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 since joining the portfolio in 2005:

  • 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.


© 2015 Skoll Foundation.