Pumping away poverty in Kenya

Government-funded global agriculture programs are making a world of difference for many small farmers in rural Africa. Don’t believe it? Read the living proof:

The saying goes give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. One teacher-turned-farmer in Kenya has rewritten the centuries-old adage: “Don’t give me a fish, teach me to fish. This pump is our fishing net, our future.”

After retiring from teaching, James Inguza Malondo had no savings, pension or income with which to support his 13 children, many grandchildren and elderly mother. Seeing little future in their impoverished village in western Kenya, he and his wife Loretta moved their family northeast to the more prosperous town of Matunda in 2006, hoping to make a go of farming and create a better life for their family.

While setting up the farm, James learned from a friend about the KickStart MoneyMaker water pump. Costing only about US$30, the pump is operated by hand, can push water up more than 50 feet from a well or reservoir, weighs 10 lbs and can irrigate an acre of land. This would allow James to grow more crops without expensive and complicated machinery. So he bought it.

One year on, James and his family are thriving in a new mud brick house and are ready to expand their farm, which is growing tomatoes, sukuma (kale), kunde (cow peas), maize and sorghum almost all year round. He now has enough food to feed his family and sells the surplus to a vegetable broker to supplement his income.

“Our neighbors are very surprised that in just one year we are growing all this, as if the plot came with the vegetables,” James recounts. “I’ve decided when my next child marries, I will give a MoneyMaker pump and some spare change for seeds. I will have given them all they need.”

James’ success story has been repeated hundreds of thousands of times throughout Africa. Since 1998, Kickstart has sold 175,000 pumps, lifting more than half a million people out of poverty. The pumps are distributed through local vendors to maximize their reach, and marketing events, such as pumping competitions, are used to demonstrate their effectiveness. An average Kenyan farmer such as James can make more than US$120 per month – several times the average rural wage – selling crops produced using the MoneyMaker pump. The pumps are priced to allow farmers to pay for them within 3-6 months, the duration of one planting season

Kickstart’s pumps were identified by Newsweek magazine as one of “10 innovations that will change your world.” Just ask James.

Kickstart was founded in the USA in 1991 and operates in Kenya, Tanzania, Mali, Zambia and Burkina Faso. Its mission is to get millions of people out of poverty quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably. The organization aims to be fully self-sufficient in Kenya by 2014, when it hopes that the product will be widespread enough that economies of scale will lower production costs and less money will need to be spent on marketing.

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