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KickStart (2007-2008)

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Please note: This content is not actively maintained. It was published as part of our 2007-2008 report on international aid. For up-to-date content, see our page on organizations focused on selling/providing income-raising goods.


In a nutshell

KickStart develops and markets products aimed at improving production and reducing poverty in the developing world. These products include irrigation pumps that can provide water for crops during dry season; the aim is to improve farm production, improving farmers' incomes as well as increasing the supply of food locally. Unfortunately, we do not have enough detail and empirical evidence to be confident in KickStart's effectiveness.

The Details

What do they do?

KickStart produces, markets, and (at subsidized prices) sells technology aimed at improving people's lives in sub-Saharan Africa (Attachment A-1 Pg 1). Their application focuses on human-powered irrigation pumps, which we believe to constitute the majority of their operations (Attachment A-2 Pgs 4-6).

The "MoneyMaker Irrigation Pump" a human-powered pump capable of irrigating up to two acres of land with water gathered from existing sources such as ponds, rivers, and wells (Attachment A-1 Pgs 2-3). The aim is to give farmers year-round irrigation, allowing them to grow water-intensive high-value crops like fruits and vegetables, optimize watering volumes for any crop, and produce output during the dry season (Attachment A-1 Pg 2). Increased production then hopefully leads to higher and more stable farm revenues, as well as lower and more stable food prices.

Note that three of the countries in which KickStart markets this product have dry seasons lasting for about half the year (according to NOAA's seasonal rainfall analysis - see rainfall analysis for Tanzania, Kenya, and
Mali).

While the most of production, distribution, and marketing costs for KickStart's irrigation systems are subsidized by donors, clients pay a significant portion of the total cost (between $35 and $95) for each system (Attachment A-1 Pg 3). So far, 82,000 pumps have been sold, 40,000 of those in Kenya (Attachment A-1 Pg 3).

Does it work?

We have relatively little hard evidence on KickStart products' impacts on life outcomes.

Attachment B-1 includes a summary of a client survey KickStart conducted, finding major improvements over time in income, ownership of land and livestock, and social status (Pgs 40-41); however, KickStart notes that the set of people surveyed was quite small and not geographically representative (Pg 5).

KickStart states elsewhere (Attachment A-1 Pg 3) that "The average net farm income of the farmers in Kenya using our pumps increases by ten fold – from about $100 per year to over $1,000 per year, while total family incomes more than double (Virtually all families have some other income source: 1 in 3 adults is also involved in some kind of informal sector employment)." However, we have been unable to get more documentation of the data behind this statement, aside from a general description (Attachment A-2 Pg 6) of how data is collected.

Much as with microfinance, we find KickStart's products to be fairly logical and intuitive ways of helping people, if and when they are marketed to the people most likely to benefit from them (in the case of the MoneyMaker pump, farmers who cannot irrigate during the dry season, could do so with better technology, and would benefit significantly from year-round irrigation). However, without strong empirical evidence about life outcomes - or clear information about where (and to whom) different products are sold - we have only limited confidence.

Conclusion

As with microfinance, we believe that KickStart's activities logically have enormous potential to help improve people's lives, but we lack the detail and empirical evidence to have high confidence. Knowing what we know, we are very slightly more confident in the approach of microfinance programs, which take a more general and flexible approach (providing financial services to help people manage their own lives, rather than supporting a specific activity) and have slightly more empirical evidence behind them.

Attachments

A. Application materials

D. Financials