Martin Fisher has been awarded the 2008 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability <http://mit.edu/invent/a-award.html> , for his efforts to transform the lives of poor African farmers through technological invention and business development.
Created in 1994 by Jerome H. Lemelson, one of America’s most prolific inventors, and his wife Dorothy, the Lemelson-MIT Program recognizes outstanding inventors; encourages sustainable new solutions to real-world problems; and inspires young people to pursue invention.
As co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit social enterprise KickStart <http://www.kickstart.org/> , Fisher develops and markets moneymaking tools such as low-cost, human-powered irrigation pumps.
”Most development agencies see the poor as victims needing help,” Fisher explained. “At KickStart, we see them as hardworking entrepreneurs seeking the opportunity to get out of poverty.”
At present, nearly 62,000 small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali are running profitable businesses by using MoneyMaker pumps. On average, farmers double or triple their annual net household incomes. Current pump users generate total new revenues equivalent to 0.6 percent of Kenya’s GDP, and 0.25 percent of Tanzania’s GDP.
”The MoneyMaker pumps Martin designed are inspirational on many levels,” said David M. Kelley, IDEO chairman. “They are an exceedingly simple solution to a very complex problem.”
KickStart is an award winning non-profit, social enterprise that has already taken over 300,000 people in Africa out of poverty. KickStart does this by designing and mass-marketing very low cost tools and equipment that are bought by poor families and used to establish highly profitable small businesses.
Establish in July 1991 by Nick Moon and Martin Fisher, KickStart was founded in Kenya as an international social enterprise.
KickStart has offices in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mali. We have engineers and technicians that design and develop our award winning products. We also employ trainers and promoters to explain the benefits of our products to our customers.
KickStart's unique model developed in Kenya is now being replicated in other African countries. We established an ambitious goal to expand our program in East Africa and open new programs in Southern and West Africa to help millions more people out of poverty.
KickStart's market and private-sector oriented approach ensures that the impacts of its program become fully self-sustaining in local economies. Technologies are installed in the private sector and continue to be produced, marketed, and used by entrepreneurs to create thousands of vibrant new businesses and jobs, long after KickStart's interventions have ceased.
KickStart’s best selling tools are its human powered, “MoneyMaker” irrigation pumps that enable poor farmers to move from subsistence farming – where they wait for the rain to grow one or two crop cycles per year – to irrigated agriculture, where they grow and sell high value fruits and vegetables all year long. KickStart’s $98 and $35 pumps are operated like small stair-master machines and can pull water from wells as deep as 28 feet, and spray it through a hose pipe to irrigate as much as 2 acres of land. Farmers who use these easy to maintain pumps, on average increase their family incomes by a factor of 3 to 4. For the first time, they can properly feed, clothe and educate their children, build new houses, invest in new businesses opportunities and plan for a better future.
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Martin Fisher, Ph.D.
Martin is the co-founder of KickStart, an award-winning organization which has helped over 315,000 people escape poverty permanently. He and Nick Moon created an innovative approach to fighting poverty that brings together the power of technology and the entrepreneurial spirit of the worlds poor.
After receiving his Ph.D. in engineering from Stanford, he won a Fulbright Fellowship to study the Appropriate Technology Movement in Kenya. A ten-month fellowship turned into seventeen years of fighting poverty in Africa. The lessons about what works—and what does not—formed the foundation of KickStart.
Martin led a team of designers and engineers to create a number of money-making tools. The most successful have been KickStart’s MoneyMaker irrigation pumps, with almost 100,000 sold to date. Individually, users of KickStart’s pumps see an average ten-fold increase in farm income. Combined, users of KickStart tools are generating over $74 million in new profits and wages each year.
Martin is frequent conference presenter on topics of social entrepreneurship, design, poverty, water, and related issues.
He serves on the Board of BuildChange, and the advisory boards of the XPrize and the Global Social Benefit Incubator at Santa Clara University.
Martin was awarded the 2008 Lemelson MIT Award for Sustainability. He is also a Skoll Social Entrepreneur, Schwab Outstanding Social Entrepreneur, a Beacon Fellow (UK), and one of TIME magazine’s “European Heroes.”