In many communities irrigation is not part of a farmer’s “toolbox.” Traditional agriculture relies on regular precipitation during the one or two rainy seasons in a given agricultural area. Growing crops seasonally not only restricts the agricultural productivity of many traditional farmers who leave their fields fallow during dry seasons, but it forces all of the farmers in a given area to grow their crops on the same schedule. When all of the farmers pick their crops at once, the market becomes flooded with produce during certain months and prices drop. Seasonal farmers therefore sell their goods when prices are at their yearly lows. Irrigation removes the natural limits imposed by seasonal rains, but electrical pumps can be prohibitively expensive. KickStart introduced human powered pumps for irrigation in 1997 to address this problem. The pumps are sold for between US$35 and US$100. KickStart estimates that farmers using irrigation during dry seasons increase their annual incomes by over US$1000.
The KickStart irrigation pump or “MoneyMaker” draws water through a hose from a nearby water source such as a pond, creek or shallow well. Either using a hip level thrust pump similar to a bicycle pump or a foot pump that works like a stair-stepper exercise machine, water is pumped from the source through a nozzle attached to an output hose. Using the MoneyMaker pump is a two person job. One person pumps the water while the second waters the crops. The KickStart pump produces a stream of water comparable to a standard garden hose in the West.
Since 1997 KickStart has sold over 150,000 pumps in 41 countries worldwide, and 1500 farmers presently purchase KickStart pumps every month. Use of the MoneyMaker pump requires limited training and it can be transported almost anywhere. Repairs can usually be made in local workshops by local technicians, allowing individual farmers to purchase and maintain their pumps completely free of government or donor programs. KickStart estimates that its irrigation pumps have brought over US$100 million to rural communities throughout the developing world.