A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sun, Moon and ... Water Pumps? Meet Nick Moon.

I had been looking forward to meeting the people behind Kickstart since I started out planning this project a few months back, and I finally got to catch up with Nick Moon, one of the co-founders, on Saturday night.

Kickstart’s starting point is tackling the root cause of poverty- a lack of money. Over the past 16 years they have developed low cost equipment which can be used to ‘kickstart’ new businesses. They have an oil press, which can be used to extract cooking oil from seed, a building block press, and the most successful product to date, a manual water irrigation pump- otherwise known as ‘The Money Maker’. In 2003, the pump was named one of Newsweek’s ‘Ten Inventions That Will Change The World’. The figures which capture their impact are very impressive;

43,000 new businesses have started.
700 new businesses start up each month.
Generating over $40 million per year in profits and wages.
Revenues from these businesses represent 0.5% of Kenya’s GDP and 0.2% of Tanzania’s.

Nick is firm believer in market-based solutions to poverty, and is convinced that simple technologies can lift people out of subsistence, day to day living. The profits generated by the families which use the pumps allow them to plan for the future, look after their health, educate their children, and encourages people back to the rural areas from the urban slums. One woman also reported a better relationship with her husband! The fact that the pump does not need fuel or electricity is yet another bonus.

For Nick though it has been a interesting road to get to where he is now, and one which he emphasised was riddled with PERSISTENCE. Growing up in Calcutta, Nick was aware of the ‘have’ and ‘have not’ divide that exists from a very early age. He then moved on to Singapore, and went to boarding school in the UK. It was there that he developed an interest in artisan crafts, and upon leaving school, decided to become a craftsman, specifically a wood carver. ‘But I was too impatient’, he joked, and so he moved into the building trade. He went on to set up a business in the UK, and following a few years of intense learning about how business operates, he got itchy feet. Seeing a chance advert in a paper for a ‘French speaking builder’, he responded, and ended up in Togo. That later led to a three year stint as a VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) volunteer in Western Kenya. It was there that he started to understand what life in rural Africa was really like- including the needs, the issues, and the solutions. Those years were the basis for his current work, and he greatly appreciates his years with VSO.

Jump ahead a few years and he ends up working with Action Aid Kenya. He had been designing some basic building block presses for Action Aid, when he fortuitously met Martin Fisher, a Stanford engineer, who frankly told Nick that the design of the press was terrible! There followed a most productive, honest partnership which resulted in the establishment up of Kickstart (originally called ApproTEC).. and the rest is indeed Making Poverty History!

But to Nick this is just the beginning. ‘What we have is not enough, you have to have the numbers, you can’t just have nice little stories. If it is going to have real significance difference, on a large scale, it has got to be hundreds of thousands’. And that is indeed their plan. Kickstart currently operates in Kenya, Tanzania and Mali and have an expansion plan in place to roll out over the next few years. The day after I met him, Nick was heading down to South Africa to investigate options there.

Nick and Marin recently featured in a documentary series called ‘The New Heroes’. Google their names and you will find a number of other awards and prizes in recognition of their contribution.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking great so far Clare ! Looking forwards to your next updates. Who else are you profiling in Kenya?

Safari njema,


12:12 p.m.

Blogger Lukas Wassberg og Sarah Roued Thomsen said...


Really interesting reading. I work as a volunteer in western kenya and it's a bugger you already left to uganda, otherwise I would have invited you to the village i stay:) And, I had never heard about Kickstart before - now i've emailed them and hopefully visit them on monday and get one of those pumps to my group.

Keep it up, I'll keep reading:)
Lukas Christensen

12:12 p.m.

Blogger maria said...

Dear Clare,

I just found out about
your blog and I am enjoying
reading it immensely.

Looking forward to your book
being published.



6:45 p.m.


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