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Martin Fisher

With simple but effective means to pull water from a well to irrigate crops year-round, the families that invest in KickStart's pumps are able to effectively and sustainably draw profits for the first time. Cofounder Martin Fisher seeks to educate and empower, and ultimately eliminate poverty.

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Martin Fisher
“This is the real challenge — solving the last 10 kms between the end of the paved road and the rural farming customers.”

​Among all the issues that plague developing nations, Martin Fisher believes empowering laborers holds the key to rooting out poverty. He states, “Enabling a family to make a lot more money lets them properly feed and educate their children, it empowers mothers and daughters, affords them clean water and better health care, and the confidence to have fewer children; and makes them less likely to sell their votes to corrupt political leaders.” To this end, Martin founded KickStart with ActionAid co-worker, Nick Moon in 1991 (then ApproTEC) to provide workers with the tools they need.

Martin and Nick applied the local technology to address other needs, designing an oil seed press and a press for making stabilized soil blocks — before realizing that most of the work in the area was agricultural in nature. A water pump to help irrigate crops, dubbed the MoneyMaker Pump, soon followed. While Martin isn’t it for the money, he says, “Many people used to be surprised that we sell the pumps instead of giving them away.” However, he feels that the act of purchasing itself makes for better “sustainability, fairness and dignity.” Even so, the exchange doesn’t come without reservations. Martin admits that, “the biggest challenge is behavior change. Convincing the world’s very poorest, most-risk-adverse and hardest-to-reach customers, living with very limited communication and transport infrastructure to buy a brand-new, never-before-seen, big-ticket product is a very difficult job.”

Although Martin’s passions lie in “innovating new products and business models to solve poverty,” to make a real impact, the company has “had to transform from aspiring to be a great product design company to being a great educational, marketing and sales organization.” He admits, “Today we know that the biggest challenge is behavior change.” KickStart has sold over 200,000 pumps in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mali.