Creator of Low-cost Pumps for African Farmers Wins MIT Prize

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A San Francisco man who is credited with changing the lives of thousands of farmers in Africa with his irrigation pumps has won the $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability.

Martin Fisher is co-founder and chief executive of the San Francisco-based non-profit KickStart, which has developed and marketed low-cost, human-powered pumps that allow farmers to boost the productivity of their land — and increase their earnings.

Rather than simply giving the pumps away, KickStart has worked with wholesalers and retailers to market the pumps, with the idea of someday creating a self-sustaining market for them.

“Our goal is to ensure that local farmers can buy moneymaking irrigation pumps on the local market,” said Fisher.

“By learning and understanding African societal needs and cultures firsthand, Fisher has harnessed the entrepreneurial drive of many Africans and empowered them with sustainable technological inventions,” Joshua Schuler, executive director of the Lemelson-MIT Program, said in a statement.

The program is funded by the Lemelson Foundation, a philanthropy that supports inventors and entrepreneurs. Jerome H.Lemelson, one of US history’s most prolific inventors, and his wife founded the program in 1994.

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Source: The Boston Globe (link opens in a new window)