Claire Corlett

Fish Food, Fish Tanks, and More
Dr. Martin Fisher, PhD ’85: Engineering a path out of poverty

Dr. Martin Fisher, PhD ’85: Engineering a path out of poverty


[MUSIC] Good evening. Good evening. Louder? Okay, good evening and welcome. It’s exciting to see everyone here today. You may want to take a seat. I have more than a moment of remarks,
Martin. But I’m Stacy Bent,
Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs at
Stanford School of Engineering. Thank you very much for
joining us tonight. Not only do we have a full house here in
Nvidia Auditorium, but we are webcasting live on Facebook to thousands of alumni,
students and friends around the world. We are here tonight to
honor Martin Fisher, cofounder of KickStart International, a nonprofit that has lifted more than
a million Africans out of poverty. The Stanford Engineering Heros program,
now in its fifth year, recognizes the achievements of Stanford
engineers who have profoundly advanced the course of human, social, and
economic progress through engineering. Our heros represent
the best of the very best. They personify the Stanford engineering
mission to seek solutions to important global problems, and enrich humanity by
using engineering principles, techniques, and systems. Their life’s work demonstrates
a commitment to not only advancing technology, but
also changing the world for the better. And they embody leadership qualities
that inspire future generations of engineers to apply their education
to have a positive global impact. Along with Martin, this year’s
inductees include Netflix co-founder, Reed Hastings, and
Perry McCarty, the Silas H. Palmer Professor Emeritus in Stanford
Engineering’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and
one of the world’s foremost authorities on microbial processes used
in the treatment of water, waste and hazardous chemicals in the environment and we’re very pleased to have Professor
McCarty here with us today, as well. They join a distinguished group that
includes such luminaries as physicist and astronaut, Sally Ride,
former US secretary of defense and Stanford faculty member, William J. Perry. And Nobel Prize winning economist,
Kenneth Arrow. Martin Fisher is co-founder of
KickStart International and given the scale of impact that he and
his organization have had, it is no surprise that he
joins this distinguished list. Martin got his PhD here at Stanford in
theoretical and applied mechanics in 1985. His advisor was the late George Hermann from
the Mechanical Engineering department. While completing his degree, he traveled to Peru where he first
encountered extreme poverty. As an engineer,
he wondered how technology could help. And in 1985 he went to Kenya on
a Fulbright scholarship to find out. He stayed for 17 years. He built low cost schools, established
a large water program, trained youth and designed pit latrines for refugee camps. He also met Nick Moon,
a carpenter and builder. And together they realized that the
biggest way they could help Africa’s poor, was to provide tools that would enable
them to earn money on their own. In 1991 they co-founded a pioneering
social enterprise to design and market low cost tools that can be used by the poor to
establish highly profitable businesses. They also recognise that millions
of African farmers would be financially better off if they made
the transition from rain fed farming to year around irrigated agriculture. So KickStart designed and started mass
marketing, low cost irrigation pumps. KickStart is an example of engineering
singular ability to solve social ills through technology and innovation. I can’t think of no better way
to recognize this than to quote two of Martin’s friends and
former Stanford classmates. Craig Milroy, a senior lecturer in
the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford, was a classmate of Martin’s, and
recalls his extraordinary ability to see things that others don’t, to explore
things from a unique perspective. I get creative, Martin once told him,
by looking at things upside down. Steve Eglash, executive director of a number of programs
here at Stanford, once lived with Martin in Menlo Park while they were both
working on their Stanford degrees. He calls Martin remarkable and admirable because he is one of the most
passionate humanitarians I know. And he is also one of the most
pragmatic realists I know. Tonight, we celebrate Martin as one
of Stanford’s engineering heroes and honor him with this token
of our appreciation. We’ll let you come get it later [LAUGH]. It is a duplicate of a plaque that’s going
to hang on our heroes’ wall just down the hall. Congratulations Martin. I’m pleased to introduce
Martin up to the podium.>>[APPLAUSE]>>Great.
Well thank you for that very kind introduction Stacey.>>And thank you and welcome everybody for
being here, including family and friends. It’s great to be back at Stanford. And certainly honored to
be considered a hero. Not sure I deserve that,
but honored anyway. And, [LAUGH],
I want to tell you a bit about my journey. The many learnings that
we’ve had along the way. And a little bit about how
engineering really can help millions of people get out of poverty. I grew up in an academic family,
with my father and my brother sitting here in the front row. And you almost needed a PhD in
physics to qualify for the family. [LAUGH]
And so being a dutiful son I graduated from Cornell and
came out to Standford to get my PhD. And I did get it in a physics lab although
actually I was a mechanical engineer, theoretical and applied mechanics,
but in many ways I realized the more education I got
the less I was actually qualified to do. And so
two-thirds of the way through my PhD, I realized I was very qualified
to try to teach somewhere. Or I could have gone to work for
a big oil doing exploration or I could have done military research. And none of that was very exciting to me, and so I was kinda wondering
what else I can do with my life. And then my brother Daniel
invited me to go down to Peru with some friends
of his to go trekking. And I told my advisor I was gonna write
my thesis that summer, but in fact, I went down to Peru. [COUGH] I later told him I was gonna write
my thesis in the winter and went skiing, but [COUGH] that’s another story.>>[LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH] But anyway, going down to Peru was really for me the first time that I sorta of
came face to face with real poverty. And started wondering is there anything
that can be done with poverty and the engineering skills that,
what little I may have had. And I decide, well let me go back to
Peru and take a break from academics, probably for 10 months, a year, and
then probably go back to an academic job. And so I thought I’d apply for
a Fulbright Fellowship. And so I got ready to apply and I was going through my
interviews here on campus. And they told me, this was two days
before the final applications were due. You’re not going to Peru. I’m like, why? And they said, you don’t speak Spanish. I’m like, shoot, you’re right. [LAUGH]
>>And I literally then looked through the catalog, this was in
the days before the Internet, and I realized that they
speak English in Kenya. And I flipped my application
to go to Kenya [LAUGH] and got lucky enough to get a Fulbright. And went down to Kenya, this was back
in 1985 and yes, I was young and good looking once too, so. [LAUGH] And I went to Kenya. Which is, of course,
in sub-Saharan Africa. And really which is one of the world’s
very, very poorest places. You’ve got a population of about
1.1 billion people living there. Almost half of them live
below the poverty line. On any given day 30% of them don’t
have enough to eat, are hungry. 35% of those under-5s are stunted and
we know what happens. If you’re stunted under-5,
you never really mature into a full, capable human being. And the population is growing very,
very rapidly. The best demographers say that we’re gonna
have 2.2 billion people in Africa by 2050, and we gonna have a 4 billion
people in Africa by 2100. Now this is assuming, this assumptions
are assuming that every woman and girl alive today only has two children. And the reason for this is, cuz you’ve
got a huge number of youngsters, and very few old people. So you got a population
that looks like this now. You can imagine, if that fills in. So you got 3 billion people
extra in Africa by 2100. Only one billion more people
in the rest of the world. But clearly, the challenge in
Africa is absolutely huge. I always say that, we’ll be able to walk
across the Mediterranean Sea on rubber dinghys at that time. You won’t need to actually
get your own boat. There’ll be so
many people coming to Europe. So already you’ve got a continent
that can’t feed itself, and is growing very rapidly. So something has to be done. So then I didn’t really know what, but I went down on my Fulbright fellowship
to look at poverty and technology. I thought that I’d jump right into
the appropriate technology movement, which is a movement that
started in the 80s or 70s when Schumacher wrote
a book Small Is Beautiful. Everybody got very excited about local
small scale technology to help the poor. And I thought I’d jump right into that,
but in 1985, it turned out, that was old news. Nobody cared about that anymore, and nobody was working on technology for
poverty alleviation. Many lessons that had not been
learned about why it didn’t work. But nonetheless, that’s what happened. And so I did find a small group
at a place called ActionAid, which is a nonprofit similar
to Save the Children. And I met a man there called Nick Moon. And Nick was a carpenter and
an entrepreneur, who was now building low
cost primary schools. And I joined him as a volunteer to
begin with for a couple years and then later as a job, and
an ActionAid I did a number of things. As you’ve heard little bit about, but
I established one became one of the very largest world water programs in Kenya,
where we’re going to rural communities, we dig wells, put in pumps,
we build a water catchments. And that was a very big
program that I ran there. I helped youth groups and women’s group to
get into employment, working as groups. I set up a couple rural workshops where
we mass produced farm equipment into specially ox drawn plows, and arrows and
ox carts and we gave them away to farmers. But so often with my academic training,
I look back on it and I realize, very often we were
actually not having much impact? And sometimes actually doing
more damage than good. Putting a nice clean
water point in a village. It turns out, doesn’t actually do
a whole lot for health by itself. Because by the time the water gets home,
it’s dirty. But much more than that
is we would come in, we would put this in place, we would
train the community look after them, but by the time it broke down of course
all that training had been forgotten. And africa is leaded with about 200,000, 300,000 broken down
community border points, we continue to put them in over one side
put in back in the 80s, 90s are gone. So giving farm equipment away sounds
like a nice idea, but of course, the farmers maybe don’t appreciate it that
much cuz it might not have been what they wanted in the beginning. But much worse than that, there’s a guy
down the road producing farm equipment and of course, we put him out of business. And then, when the project runs out,
there’s no farm equipment locally. Building low cost schools is nice,
but it’s not actually the highest priority to get the building,
you don’t have any teachers. And youth groups and women’s groups,
great to set them up in businesses, but the truth is, it’s very difficult
to run a business as a group. Even running a business with
two people is difficult. And so we would hold their hands and
everything and it would work, but the minute we let go it would fall apart. And meanwhile there’s an entrepreneur down
the road, who would like to have started a business and
we were keeping him out of the business. So learn a lot about what doesn’t work and a few things about what do work, but
individual family owned is best. Sell products, don’t give them away
because it’s fairer, it’s cheaper and it’s more sustainable. I became, when I went over probably
a socialist thinking I’m gonna go and help and I became sort of a small
fee capitalist, realizing that is actually the job and other things
that that are gonna help more. But the other thing you learned in
development, is nothing scaled with sorts of islands of success,
small things that work on small scale. But nothing is really having an impact
on a large scale in development. So, the biggest lesson I learned though,
was something when I really asked the question is,
what did the poor want and need? What do they actually want and need? Well it was a long list. Not that long, but they need food
obviously, staples and processed. They need farm inputs, and tools. They need clothing and shelter, education,
healthcare, cooking fuel, lighting, transport, communication, things like
soap and cosmetics, water and sanitation. It’s not a very long list but
these are the things that people want, just living their lives. But the number one need, if anyone is
poor anywhere in the world is really only one thing and
that is a way to make more money. Because all of these things
on the list above cost money. Bottom line is, if you have
a way to make money, guess what? You can get all these things. If you don’t, you never will and
you’ll never get out of poverty. So that’s great. In fact, the world’s most urgent problem is the fact that something like
2.5 billion people in the world, 500 million families,
need a way to make a lot more money. And it’s not that they’re making no many,
they’re making some money, but they’re just not making it enough. And so people think that the formal
private sector is gonna help solve this problem, by creating big
companies that create jobs. And it’s a nice idea. But if you look in Kenya, 7% of the labor
force works in the formal private sector. Tanzania at 3.5%. Sudan is 1.5%. But even in India, which we think of
as a developed country, is only 10%. We’re working in
the formal private sector. So it’s great that we
start big businesses, but that’s not actually solving
the problem for unemployment. So what is solving the problem. Well, it’s actually the people who
are solving the problem themselves. They need money, they’re entrepreneurial. They have to be just to survive. And they’re hardworking. So what do they do? Well, they grow crops if they’re farmers. And they sell the crops, because they need
the money more than they need the food. And then later on of course
they have to buy back food. And they all plant at the same time,
they all grow at the same time. They sell into the same market. Of course, they don’t make a lot
of money when they do that. But they make a little bit. Or they join the informal sector. Now the informal sector, which is where most people work, is made
up primarily of people doing petty trade. People sitting on the side of the road
buying and selling the same things. I’m doing the same, you’re doing the same,
we’re all doing the same. Our margins are tiny,
we’re making a little bit of money, but we’re not making a lot. Or if it’s not petty trade, there’s a list
of about ten other businesses that people do, metal work, carpentry,
tailoring, food preparation. There’s a list of about ten and that’s 99%
of the informal sector, everybody doing the same thing, competing with each other,
making very small margins and staying in poverty, surviving, yes, because they make
a little bit, but not escaping poverty. So if you look at that from
a business point of view. What’s the problem? Well, the problem is that they’re
all in the wrong business. Right, because they’re
all doing the same thing. And kind of not suprising,
hey it’s even hard for us, the best educated people in the world
to come up with a new business idea. Obviously much harder for the target
audience that we’re talking about here. And even if they can come up
with a new business idea, they can’t access the tools and equipment
they need to make that business viable. That is what we realize. Those tools and
equipment are not available, certainly not where they are, and
very often, not anywhere in the world. So, they need help identifying
those businesses and accessing the right technologies for
those businesses. So Nick and I at ActionAid we told our
bosses this is what had to happen and that we needed to do this kind of work,
designing technology for people to start businesses. Now, they didn’t like that idea very
much and they asked us to leave. In fact they kinda charged me
with gross insubordination. I had to look at up in the dictionary. [LAUGH] And I had to leave ActionAid,
as did Nick. But we managed to convince them to
let us stay for about six months. And in that time, we established
a what was back then a nonprofit. Nowadays you might call
it a social enterprise. In 1991 we called it ApproTec, Appropriate
Technologies for Enterprise Creation. In 2003,
we changed the name to KickStart, and yes Kickstarter did steal
their name from us. Literally, I knew their founders and
I didn’t do anything about it at the time because they
never thought they would go very far. That’s why I’m not an investor [LAUGH]. But anyway, that’s what we were called. And our mission is very simple. Lift millions of people out of poverty by
enabling them to make a lot more money. And do it quickly,
cost-effectively, sustainably. And s, o we set off and we got a bit
of a grant from the British government. And that was a grant to, basically it was
a matching grant they gave us some money to get going and we matched it with
our salaries basically by volunteering in the beginning so at least we had
a little bit of money to spend. And we rented a space in a slum
just outside Nairobi and built a workshop there, set up a workshop,
a very primitive workshop. Which even today is a pretty
primitive workshop. And we said, we’re gonna go out and we’re
gonna do technologies for development. And just to quickly review, but
what kind of technologies and tools can life people out of poverty? Right?
What are they? Well, for us,
labor saving technologies and time saving technologies
are pretty nice things. We pay a lot of money for them, right? But for a purpose, and
they’re not gonna pay much or a labor or time saving technology,
because it’s a low opportunity cost. They have a lot of time and labor, so they
might not be interested in our time and labor saving technologies. A money saving device is nice,
if you have any money to save. Well if you’re poor you don’t have
a lot of money to save, right? So, you’re not gonna spend much
on a money saving technology, but you might spent a bit on it. So something like a solar lantern,
which saves money from kerosene, yeah, if it’s cheap enough, you’ll buy it, and
sure enough, the prices are now keeping enough people from buying them, but
you’re not gonna spend a lot on it, but a money making technology,
you’re gonna spend a lot on, right? Because that’s your number one need,
but still, it’s gotta be affordable. And it has to have a very profitable
business model because you have access to credit and you won’t have a lot of money
and we always talk about farm time. That it should be able to recover
the investment in three to nine months, because people are used to putting their
money in the ground in the farm for that kind of length of time and
then getting their investment back. But much longer than that and
it’s unlikely people are gonna invest. So, that sounds good and
why is technology so critical for pairing businesses why has
it been throughout history? Well, only with technology of course can
you get lower cost better quality and brand new products and services, right? And it’s something which is obvious but easily forgotten and so
this is why technology is so important. And you need high quality technology,
right? So, you need quality design and
engineering. So, often when people design for developing countries, they think poor
people are okay with something which kind of has to be hacked together and
made in some very small little workshop. Which is going to fall apart because
they’re going to do all the maintenance. But that’s not the case. If it’s a business tool, which these are
It has to be high quality engineering and design, and spare parts have to
be locally available, right? So you have to use the private sector to
sell these spare parts and your products. So that’s great, so here we are. And we’re saying we’re gonna set
up businesses that millions of people can start with a very small
investment, and be very profitable. What kind of businesses could they be? Well, the first question
with any business is simple. It’s who are your customers, right? Because if you don’t have customers,
you don’t have a business. So, if you’re poor. Well, you don’t know many wealthy people. You certainly don’t know any Americans. So, who are your customers? Your customers are gonna be
other poor people, right? So, you better be selling to
your other poor people, right? So, what do poor people buy? Well, we just made a list before of what
poor people buy, what they spend money on. So, we have that same list, so you better
be selling them one of those things or you don’t have a business, all right? So that’s what you’ve got to be doing. And so, that’s great, but
it shouldn’t be that difficult, why? Because the poor, everywhere in the world,
pay the highest price per unit for the worst quality goods and services. The poor in Africa buy cooking
oil by the tablespoon. It’s all they can afford, it’s the most
expensive cooking oil in the world, right? They buy electricity by
the dry cell battery, the most expensive per unit in the world,
right? They buy water by the geri can,
the most expensive in the world, and poor quality too [LAUGH]. Even the rent in the slums in Nairobi, right, is the most expensive
rent in Nairobi per square foot. They only rent 10 square feet to sleep in. Right, but it’s the most expensive. And on top of that, the poor get paid
very little for their own product and services and
they’re very cash flow constrained. So, if you think about businesses with
these kind of conditions, what do we have? We have businesses that seriously,
seriously need disrupting. If we think about the new
disruptive businesses nowadays, this is precisely the kind of
situation they’re looking for, right. Where people get bad service. Lets take Uber, people are getting
bad service with taxis, so you invent Uber to allow
millions of people. And there goes my microphone. Okay, so that’s great, so
that what we needed to do, very nice but
we didn’t have any money [LAUGH]. That’s was a bit of a problem and this was
92, 93 now just about happen, the one of the things weve been working on actually
receive very low cost pedaltrain design. It’s a pitlatrine slab,
usually which has to have a lot of reinforcing in it to go
over a hole in the ground. But here, we managed to make one with
no reinforcing, a domed concrete slab. And it just so happened, at that time,
there were about 350,000 Somali refugees pouring over the border
into northern Kenya, into what are now the huge refugee camps that we hear
about and read about all over the news. Right, and
that’s why in that comes with first built. But when you go to the refugee
camps you need a lot of things. You need to feed people you need to get
wonderful people you need shelter and you need toilets. As much as we are unique
in that they refuse to use communal toilets usually when you have a
refugee camp you put communal toilets and you don’t need that many for the people. Right, but the Somalis many of them
being pastoralists had a very good, basic law that you don’t go to the toilet
where someone else has been to the toilet, so they couldn’t get away
with communal toilets. They weren’t gonna use them and the whole desert was now turning
into a sewage and a sewer. And so, our technology suddenly became
something that sounded pretty interesting. And we went out in the desert and
this is what it looked like up there. And we setup production units,
training Somali refugees, to mass produce individual family
toilets that look like this. Basically, these dome slabs,
you put them on the side there And we mass produced these things. We ended up doing over a 100,000 pit
latrines, probably the world’s biggest pit latrine project ever in refugee
camps in Northern Kenya and trained all the other camps to
do these pit latrines as well. And for us, of course, we needed to make
the money from this because it was a UN contract and we managed to skim a bit off
the top to match our British funding. Which enabled us to do what
we actually wanted to do, which was develop technologies,
not for relief, but for development. So, back to what kind of
businesses can the poor start. Well, the first one we started with
this machine here, which is for making very strong building
blocks out of soil and cement. Take soil, put a little bit of
cement in it, and compress. Otherwise your choices for building
are mud and wattle walls with sticks and mud or you can go to a concrete block or
stone blocks which are very expensive. This made a very nice intermediate,
very low cost block. This particular entrepreneur here,
he started making these blocks. Today he owns a bunch of shopping malls. And, turns out it’s
a very good technology. I created with a couple of friends, a private company called Makiga
to mass produce these machines. They have sold tens of
thousands of these machines, millions of buildings across
Africa made with these blocks now. And so that’s the first thing we did. Another technology, I mentioned a very
high price people pay for cooking oil, was a machine for making cooking oil,
low cost cooking oil, in the rural area. Now if you’re a farmer and you grow sunflower seed,
you can’t process it yourself. So you sell it to a middle man, who sells
it to the factory, who processes it, who brands it, who packages it,
who sells it back to a middle man, who sells it back to you,
at a very high price. And this needs disrupting. If you, on the other hand, could process
your sunflower seed in the rural area, you could buy it from your neighbors, give them a higher price than
the middle man is giving them. Cuz you don’t have all those markups,
and sell them oil cheaper. And so we had a machine for
making cooking oil out of sunflower seed. A very profitable business too. We sold thousands of those. You also get the animal
feed as a nice byproduct. And then a machine for bailing hay. It turns out that bailing hay is
a great business in East Africa. Because if you have a farm, you wanna
keep a cow so you can milk your cow. If you let that cow graze, guess what,
it eats all your crops in the crop season. So you have to keep it in a cage and
then you have to buy fodder to feed it. And in the dry season,
you have to buy hay. And hay has to be baled, otherwise
it rots in order to transport it. And I just got back from Kenya last week,
and right now in the dry season, one bale of hay is selling for
$5 on the side of the road. Because only people who can bale
it are the big companies that have the huge balers. So again, if you have
a human-powered baling machine, you can do 80 bales a day,
well 80 times 5 is not a bad income, and this machine is retailing for
about $1,500. But you make it back pretty
quickly in just a few days. Anyway, so
that sold hundreds of those machines too. And we said great, so we can create
tens of thousands of businesses, but we need to create millions. What business can millions
of people in Africa start that’s gonna be very profitable? What is that business, right? Well, it turns out that 40% of
the people in the world and 80% of the poor in Africa are one thing,
and that is small holder rural farmers. And they’re struggling on small plots of
land with very primitive tools just to make a living, with their machete and
their handheld hoe. And so what business can they start,
right, to make a lot of money? Well it turns out that in Sub-Saharan
Africa, by far the best way for millions of farmers to start a business and
make a lot more money is one simple thing. And that is to move from rain fed
farming to irrigated farming. And the reason for this is right now, they all plant at
the same time when the rains come. They all harvest at the same time. They can’t sell to their neighbors. That’s their market,
they’re other poor people. They can’t sell to them,
cuz they have a crop too. So they’re stuck selling to middle men,
get very low prices, because everybody’s trying
to sell at the same time. And in fact, not only that,
flooded markets, low prices, but 45% of the produce they grow in the rainy
season rots before it’s eaten at all. Which is a tragedy in a place where
people are hungry, because three, four, five months later, there’s no food. And they call it the hunger season,
the dry season. With irrigation on the other hand,
year-round high prices at the farm gate. Because you’re the only
person in the game. And just to show this a little bit more
clearly, if this is a typical place in Zambia where you have one rainy
season on many places in Africa. You got the months going out across there. You got the rains shown there. It’s starting to rain. So you plant your rainfed
crops sometime there. And then we got your rainfed harvest. Well you start by harvesting
the vegetables and legumes right after the rains. You make a bit of money there. And then you go into a hungry
season with no food. And then you get your maize harvest. And again you got some money. You got some food, but there’s
a hungry season there, and guess what? There’s another hungry season
now coming up to the next rains. Right?
If you irrigate, you can fill in those hungry seasons right there, get the high
prices growth throughout the year and multiple harvest, many buyers,
highest prices, no waste. And nowadays, of course, with climate
change, and Africa’s getting hit very hard with climate change, it’s even more
important even to save your rainfed crops. Irrigation is critical. So with irrigation, you get two and half
times your yield because you grow multiple cycles per year compared to rainfed. But you get about four times your income,
compared to rainfed. Now if you combine that with
better season fertilizer as well, you can actually get ten times the income
compared to what you were doing with poor season fertilizer or
no season fertilizer. Just the normal traditional way
of farming without irrigation. So irrigation is hugely profitable,
like I say multiple harvests, higher prices, higher value. So 20% of farmland globally is irrigated,
producing 40% of our food, okay? 35% is already irrigated in India. 40% is already irrigated across Asia. But in Sub-Saharan Africa,
only 4% of the farmland is irrigated. And this is precisely why it’s so
profitable. Right?
Because nobody else is growing any food. And of that, 65% of that is in Sudan,
South Africa and Madagascar, and 40% of it is large farms. So the amount done by small
holders is tiny, right? So how do we tackle this problem? Well, if a farmer wants to irrigate,
what do they need? They need a pump in order to get the food,
sorry, in order to get the water out
of a well and to the field. And they have a choice, they can use
a bucket to pull it up and walk and do that or they could try to get
a petrol pump, which is a bit expensive. But very expensive to maintain and
use cuz you gotta buy petrol every day. And in the rural areas, there isn’t any
petrol, you can’t store it when you get it, and then when it breaks down,
you don’t have spare parts. So this is why we designed
these human powered pumps. This is a pump I’ll show you in a second,
we originally, starting in 1999 called the Super MoneyMaker Max,
a little StairMaster machine. And our brand is MoneyMaker. Why?
Because people cared about making money, so that’s our brand. It was either that or sex.>>[LAUGH]
>>[LAUGH] So, it’s efficient hose pipe irrigation, where you actually take a hose pipe to the
field and put it right onto the plants. Just like you would with
a garden hose pipe. So you have very efficient use of water,
right? And it’s now more often to this pump here,
which is the MoneyMaker Max, little StairMaster machine,
just walk back and forth like this. You have a hose pipe here
going down into the well, a hose pipe there going
off into the field. You can put sprinklers on it,
but you don’t need it. It’s just to pressurize
hose pipe irrigation. So this nice little pump here
gives you some good exercise, but it can irrigate two acres of land. If you work a couple of hours in the
morning, a couple of hours in the evening, which is when you wanna irrigate And
with the hosepipes, it retails at $160. That’s with all the mark ups and the hose
pipes, and everything for a farmer. So that’s a lot of money,
but we sold a lot of those. But it’s a little bit too much money,
so we said let’s design a cheaper pump. So, we designed this pump here. So this looks like a bicycle pump. And sure enough,
if you get on it here and you do this. Your arms get tired very, very quickly. Maybe they’re already tired. But if you operate like this, because it’s
got a pivot, you can do this all day. So just by simply changing the ergonomics,
you can make a pump that operates all day. Again, it sucks water from as deep,
both these pumps, from as deep as seven meters deep,
almost 30 feet deep. And then pressurizes another seven or
eight meters vertically. So you’ve got 200 meters along
flat ground, or up a hill. And so with that rocking motion there, this pump retails including the host
pipes so expensive for about $90. Irrigate about one and a quarter acres. So I’m just gonna tell you one
story about a woman who bought, got one of these pumps over here. So this is the woman who is telling me,
she lives in Western Kenya. She lived on a two acre plot. She told me this story. She told me eight years
ago my husband died. He was living in Nairobi. He was sending us a bit
of money every month. And I was left with these
two young teenage kids, and I had absolutely no income. And I was on this two acre plot. And I went to my father-in-law and
I begged him to help me. And he said, look I’d like to help you,
I’m also a poor farmer. Really not much I can do to help you. But I’ve seen this money maker pub,
let me see if I can try to save for one. And the father did, he saved up,
sold a goat, managed to get her a pump. Gave her a pump, and immediately she had
the two kids working on the pump and then she quickly realized, she could
actually send the kids back to school. She hired a young man to
work on the pump with her. She irrigated the full two acres, was
growing kales, and cabbages, and tomatoes. And then she told me 2 years later, she had enough money to buy a couple
dairy cows and open a dairy. After another 2 years, she had
enough money to open a poultry farm. In the fifth year, she had enough money
to buy another plot of land next door and start irrigating that. And then she told me today,
my daughter is at University in Denmark. My son is in a top private school
in Nairobi and all of the fees, come from my farm here. So, there’s a lot of money
to be made if you can grow. [APPLAUSE]
>>And so very stringent design criteria of course. By the way that woman on the right
there with me is Krista Donaldson, who is also a Stanford PhD. Came out worked with us for a while, and
then started, now he’s the head of D-Rev, another social enterprise. So design criteria, these things have
to be extremely strong and durable, they’re miles off the road,
they have to be really easy to repair, you don’t need any tools, a farmer doesn’t
own a screwdriver, doesn’t own a hammer. You don’t need any tools to take these
apart and put them back together. And no training. Training is expensive and hard to do. It has to be intuitive to use. Easy to transport and store. And it’s manually operated. A human can put out about 80 watts. Continuous, not very much. And if you go down to the gym, you can maybe do a few hundred
if you’re a top athlete. But, about 80 Watts. So you have to be really ergonomically and hydrodynamically efficient
when you design these pumps. So they look simple, but there’s a lot of
engineering that goes into these things. And then there’s cultural issues. You might ask why are these
pumps step down here? Isn’t that very expensive to
make it’s step down here? Well, the original pumps,
of course, weren’t step down there. But then we found that
women refused to use them. And why was that? Because now their hips
are dancing at eye level. And we discovered that,
had to lower down pumps. And now every pump made in Africa by us,
and all the copycats have that
same step down there. We train large manufacturers
to produce these pumps. Initially, we did that in Kenya,
but now we actually do it in China. Turns out it’s cheaper and
cheaper to ship from China to Africa, then from Africa to Africa. Depressing news, but true. So we manufacture in China, we establish
a private sector supply chain. We contract the manufacturers. We do the warehousing, the bundle,
and distribute the pumps, and we sell to local retail shops. Everybody makes a margin. So at least in theory it’s sustainable. We had about 300 agri-vet retail shops
in Kenya, Tanzania, and then Mali. We went to West Africa,
every city, town, and village. And it sounds good. You even got a great product. You got a good distribution. How come it’s not just taking off and
jumping off the shelf. This is a great product. People buy it.
They’re gonna make a lot of money. But it turns out that this really is
the most challenging marketing and sales job in the world. And even Coca-Cola, which is
selling an addictive, sweet drink. Took probably over ten years, it seems, to start making any
kind of profits in Africa. And they spent hundreds of
millions in marketing to get that. And why is this? Well, because we’re taking the poorest,
the most risk averse, and the hardest to reach
customers in the world. Who live miles and miles off the road,
and we’re selling them a brand new, big ticket item,
they’ve never seen before. And much more than that, we’re asking them
to change generations of farming practice. It’s a huge change from rain fed farming
where you wait for the rain and you plant, you wait for the harvest, you harvest. To get up every day and irrigate,
it’s a huge behavior change. And on top of that it turns out
it’s a limited word of mouth. You’d think word of mouth would be
very quick about making money but it’s not, because if you live
in a very poor community and you make some money, guess what,
all your relatives, all your friends come. Hey, you made some money. I’ve got a sick kid. Hey. So, if you talk about how much money
you made that money disappears. So there’s very little word of
mouth about making a lot of money. And that was one of
the lessons we had there. So we use our donor funds, cuz we’re a non-profit to major
educational promotional campaigns. We have branded stores, we have, at that
time we had hundreds of commission sales staff out there training the farmers,
tip talking to them, radio, mobile, motions, billboards,
and a lot of demos, on farm training,
people have to see it to believe it. We had a lot of partnerships with
the government, with NGO’s with business. And because we’re using donor funds,
we had to measure the impacts. We did a lot of internal studies to
measure them and also external studies. So how do you measure
the impact of something, which you’ve sold to somebody at a retail
shop, and they’ve taken it away? So we have to solve that, we have a guarantee form, everyone of
these pumps came with a guarantee. The farmer filled out the guarantee form. Now we had the detailed
information about that farmer, we could track that farmer down, we could
visit them within the first month of when they bought, after 18 months,
after 36 months. And really track the progress of how much
money they made with randomized surveys. What was the result of that? Well, on average, these farmers in East
Africa when they used this pump, within the first year increased their net farm
income by $700, which is a huge increase. But, even more significantly than
the amount of increase is that, it is now spread out into that dry season,
where otherwise they fall into poverty. Because if you’re a rain fed farmer,
you get your harvest, you make a little bit of money,
and then you fall into poverty. And somewhere here, the rains come again,
you don’t have any money for seeds and fertilizer [LAUGH], so your next
harvest isn’t gonna be too good either. But now with irrigation, as we saw,
you’re making your money there, and you no longer fall into poverty,
you make other investments. So we talk about taking
families out of poverty. How do we think about that? They have food security and
income security throughout the year. They’re never worried about
how to feed their kids. They’ve enough money for the basics. They can send their kids to school. Got a few hundred thousand kids
in school for the first time. But more importantly, on top of all that they have some money
left over to plan for the future. If we think about that,
you’re no longer worried about survival, you can plan for your future. That’s really amazing, they never thought about how to be
out of poverty, so what do they do? They make other investments. They build houses. They start new businesses,
more education, better life. With a 400% increase in net farm income. We’re really trying to build this
entrepreneurial middle class of successful businesses. And of course,
successful family farms is, in many ways, what America was built on too, but
they’re not successful in Africa. So we worked hard at all of this, and
by 2015, we looked at what we’d done. We’d sold 270,000 pumps. Not every pump creates a business, but
200,000 families were doing very well. 180,000 local jobs, paid jobs, $170
million a year in new profits and wages. A million people taken out of poverty. And 10 million people fed with all
the fruits and vegetables they need. So that was in 2015, and just to
illustrate that with some real people, there’s a million people out of poverty. But one person every seven
minutes taken out of poverty, and a new person getting fed with fruits
and vegetables as a result, every minute. So that sounds good. But it’s really just a drop in the bucket. There’s huge potential
impacts from small-scale irrigation across Africa, right? Like I said,
only 4% of the farmland is irrigated. You’ve got these different
climate zones here. You’ve got the rain pattern here. And of course, you don’t want to
irrigate where it rains all the time. And this is showing the places
where you get seasonal rain. And obviously, if it never rains,
you probably can’t irrigate. This is rural poverty. This is the ground water availability. There’s a huge amount of untapped
groundwater in Sub-Saharan Africa. We’re using less than 10% of our
renewable groundwater, water sources, as opposed to California,
where we’ve probably used 150%. And that’s the sort of areas of high
potential for irrigation on rural poverty. But for Africa to feed itself, we have to get close to the global average
of 20% of the land irrigated, okay? So we need to massively scale. So I’ve just been told I have
very little time left but I might stretch that a little bit. [LAUGH] So we put together
a new strategic plan to scale. And we wanna enable another million
people to climb out of poverty by 2021. But to do that,
we have to work differently. What we realized is that
doing retail sales, our staff getting out there, meeting
farmers, convincing them to buy a pump, was extremely expensive
way to sell a pump. And that’s why we could never
be anywhere close to profitable. Why we had to use donor funds
to do all that education. Because we’re looking for
a huge behavior change. So instead, we’ve gone to a leveraged
partnership model, where we now work with organizations that are already working
with thousands of farmers on the ground. We convinced them that they should
introduce pumps into their programs, to their farmers. And it’s highly leveraged. And in that way, we spend our effort now
working with the partners who then talk to the farmers, instead of us spending a lot
of effort down working with the farmers. To do this, we had to completely
swap out our sales team. Those distributors, by the way,
will also sell to retail shops. And we had to teach a whole new way
of selling to sales team, because you’re no longer doing one on one retail
sales, convincing a farmer to buy a pump. You’re now going and talking to an organization about how you
can help them solve their problems by having them introduce the right pumps and
irrigation to their farmers. We said, let’s work in the 16 highest
potential countries across Africa. So we’re working out of three hubs
in West Africa, East Africa, and Southern Africa with these 16 countries. And like I said, we partner now
with every type of NGO, with government organizations, with private
sector organizations in these countries. We teach them about irrigation,
we train them, we do training of trainers, we do training of their farmers. And it’s very high leverage
with a very low marginal cost. And then at the same time, we need to
have a private sector supply chain. So we work with the biggest importers and
distributors in these countries, so that the pumps and the spare parts are
locally available where we sell the parts. So we’re gonna take another million
people out of poverty by 2021. That sounds good, but guess what? How many new people do you think
Africa is going to have by 2021? Any guesses? How many?>>About 150.>>At least, 200 million. [LAUGH] Right? So we could take a million out of poverty, Africa’s growing by 200 million,
we’re not really moving forward. So actually we need to get beyond
just being a social enterprise, doing our own selling and selling. We need to think much bigger, okay? And so
we need to develop the right solutions. We asked ourselves, what would it
take to get Africa to 20% irrigated? What would it take to get there, right? And it’s really three
things it’s gonna take. Yes, we need the right set
of technologies, okay? W e need the right set of tools and
equipment. And we’ve got part of that solution but
there’s other ones we need in terms of accessing and storing water, pumping
water, distributing water to the crops. We need that. We also need the right methods
of doing that behavior change. The right ways of enabling farmers to
finance and purchase their products. So behavior change, financing,
distribution, and training. We need those right methodologies. And finally, we need the participation
of all the other players, of all the major stakeholders. We need to get the UN,
we need to get the major donors. We need to get the African government,
we need to get the African Union. We need to get all the NGOs understand
that irrigation can have a big potential. It turns out that irrigation is completely
off the agenda of these organizations. I got to major agricultural
conferences for agriculture in Africa, not a single session,
not a single mention of irrigation. Irrigation’s got a very bad reputation
with environmentalists because, in California, rightly so, we’re using a
lot of water, and it does a lot of damage. But if we can leapfrog
the bad part of irrigation, we can leapfrog flood irrigation and
channel irrigation directly to pressurized drip and sprinkler irrigation,
we can get beyond those things. But we need to have a campaign
to irrigate Africa. So this is what we’re
doing with our new plan. We need to change the system. We’re setting up an innovations hub. And we need massive collaboration and
participation. So we’re really doing some interesting
things here with financing, with partnering, with a whole bunch
of microfinance organizations, developing new methods and
new products for financing irrigation. We’re doing agro-preneurship,
training, targeting the youth with organizations that work with youth,
organizations that work with women. We’re doing a very interesting
study with UCSF Medical School, targeting families that are HIV
positive out in western Kenya. Seeing what impact an irrigation
pump has on those families. And in the initial trial, amazing impact,
drop in viral load of 45%. Increase in CT4 counts, about 35%. Because these families now have enough
food so that the drugs start to work, and have enough money and
huge mental health impacts. But we need to partner, and we are. And, new products. Let’s just get, I just wanna finish
this back on engineering, even though, as you can see, as a social entrepreneur, you spend a lot of time doing
stuff which is not engineering. But I do just wanna jump back
into engineering at the end here. New products, we need a lower cost pump. $90, too much money. Can we make a $45 pump that has
pretty much half the price, three quarters of the water output,
something we call a starter pump Well, obviously you have to save material,
and you need lower cost manufacturing. We have to move from metal to plastic for
our valve box, smaller hose pipes. But smaller hose pipes mean more friction, therefore you need much more
pump efficiency in your design. So you have to design a valve
box which is very efficient. So we use fused CFD analysis using
Autodesk’s Fusion 360 Inventor. Thanks to Autodesk who
has donated that to us. Of course like any design you
come up with your concepts. Down at the bottom you can see we’re here
looking at what is the fluid dynamic friction out of these models? And we can see that it’s going down
over time as we get better, and better at designing these things,
until we get it down to 1.75 atmopshere. Which it still sounds like a lot but
these are done at very high velocity. So we now can design
the lowest friction hip pump. And have a final design that meets all
our design criteria that we wanted. So that’s great. Certainly human power pumping is going to
be a big part of the solution still going forward, because so many places,
like I say, petrol is still hard to get. Maintenance is hard to get. And this little pump, I just gotta tell you one more
quick story about this little pump. The one I just showed you, this one here. One of things you do when you
are designing a new product, is you do field testing. Of course, you do the design first. Then you do field testing. Then you do market testing. So about a year ago, we decided to
field test this new little pump. And we went out, and met this guy, James. And James had been working
in a coffee factory. He lives just about 20
miles north of Nairobi. He’d been working in a coffee
factory making $50 a month. Could barely feed his kids. He quit that, he rented a little tiny
plot of land about the size of this room next to a little stream. And him and
his wife got out there with buckets, and started irrigating that,
growing a few kales, and spinach on there. And he got his income up to about $80,
$90 a month. We gave him one of these pumps. I went out to visit him, six months later,
he’d rented an acre of land. At that time he was irrigating
three quarters of the the acre. He was growing kales,
he was growing spinach. He employed two people full time. He was making $10 profit per day. I went back to see him on
my last trip just now, a year later from when he started. He’d taken that other quarter acre,
he’s growing tomatoes. He’s making $20 profit per day. He employs four people full time. He’s just rented another
acre of land downstream. And his kids are all in school for
the first time. His wife has now started another business. Because she’s no longer holding
buckets of water with him. And the transformation continues. But like I say, human powered
pumps aren’t the only solution. What about a solar pump? Obviously, that’s gonna
be part of the solution. Can we design the world’s most efficient,
lowest cost solar irrigation pump? So we set ourselves some
tough design criteria. Flat pack, portable, plug and play. Flexible design,
has to fit into a tube well. It also has to fit into a muddy puddle, and work just as well, because you
don’t where they’re irrigating from. Has to have a maximum efficiency at seven
meters head, with only a 90 watt panel. So it’s portable, so you can carry it. Irrigate half an acre of land,
and retail about $150 in Africa,
including the hose pipes, alright? Is that possible? And also have extra features so you can
charge your cell phone and other things. Is it possible?>>[LAUGH]
>>So, first of all we looked on the market,
we tested a lot of pumps on the market. We saw, tested their efficiency,
tested their flow rates. And really there was nothing
close to this in the price range, nothing close to it in
the performance range. So we said, okay, so
how are we going to design this pump? Now we’re sitting in Africa. We’re pretty good at mechanical pumps,
human powered pumps. How are we gonna design the world’s
lowest cost solar pump? So we said, okay, we have to partner. Who are we gonna partner with? So, find the best collaborators. So we identified a company called Encap. So Encap are basically the inventors
of the encapsulated pumps, and brushless DC encapsulated motors. There the world’s biggest manufacture
of brushless DC motors for the automobile industry, and encapsulated
pumps for the automobile industry. Every car that we drive today has about
10 or 15 brushless DC motors, and 3 or 4 pumps. And what Encap has done,
Tesla uses their technology, everybody uses their technology
who’s making brushless DC motors. Is they have found a way to encapsulate
a pump with a motor in a single molding process. So you can get a pump which is
$5 to $10 for the pump itself. So radically reducing the cost. So we’re working with them to design this
pump, and you put 90 watts of panels on there, and you start to understand how you
can get down to that kind of price range. So we’re confident we can do that,
we’ve made good progress. And then we said okay, also $150 which is about the price
of this, is still expensive. Can you do a pay as you go system,
so that people only pay for the pump when they use it? So this is being used
a lot in lighting systems, solar lighting systems
in developing countries. You give somebody a lighting system for
their house, but it doesn’t work. They then have to pay you, usually using
their cell phone to transfer the money to you, if they want to turn
on the lights for one week. So they pay you for a week. You send them a code for the text. They punch that text code into a little
panel on their lighting system. And the lights go on for a week. Then the lights go off. Then they have to pay for the next week. So it’s pay as you go. After a year,
they own the lighting system. Can you do the same thing
with an irrigation pump? Because with lighting systems,
that’s really taking off. So anyway, that’s what we’re looking at. So to that,
we’re gonna develop and test that. We’re working with
a company called Angaza, who have this kind of system
with an embedded PAYG system. And we’re the back end. So this is a company working
in eight countries, but it’s a startup out of San Francisco. And so we’re working with them. And that’s great. We can develop this, but
then how are we gonna scale it? Is Kickstart gonna build a big company
to scale pay as you go solar pumps? No, we’re gonna work with organizations,
companies that are already out there scaling pay as you go lighting, they can
add pumps on as an additional product. So, some of the biggest
companies are these. We’re already in discussions with them. So, again,
massive collaboration in order to scale. So, the other thing we had to do to get a
really low cost pump is we had to come up with a new patent. We’ve developed quite a number of patents,
but this particular patent is for a modular pump concept. It turns out that if you’re
trying to pump water, and you have a pump that pumps at seven
meters, and you wanna pump to 14 meters, if you put two in series,
they can pump to 14 meters. If you put three in a series,
they can pump to 21 meters, okay? But what we did, is we patented that
concept with a snap together pump. So, double the head,
you snap two of the basic units together. Double the volume,
you snap them together sideways. Triple, or if you wanna get double
the head, double the volume, you snap four together. So you have a very cheap, basic unit, which is then produced in
much larger quantities, of course. So this is what we’re
gonna have with this. Of course you want a very lightweight
folding, tracking solar panel. You wanna have a concept for carrying it to the field cuz a farmer
can’t leave a solar panel in the field. They gotta carry it to the field
with them everyday, backpack. We’ve already made some great
progress with this team, with the design team now,
on this new solar pump. And we’re hoping to have prototypes out in
July, and a year from now, launch this. So, that was getting back
to why engineering is so important to make this all possible. But like I said, it’s actually much,
much more, Then just engineering, and that’s all I’m gonna say. But engineering, partnering,
innovating to irrigate Africa. Lift millions more out of poverty,
and thanks a lot, guys. [APPLAUSE]>>Thank you for a great,
inspiring presentation. I think we have time for
maybe a few questions, yeah?>>So, Martin, I’ve followed
KickStart from the early days and supported you from the early days. I think it’s a fantastic operation,
and I recommend it to everybody. But I know it’s looking for a nonprofit
that’s going to really have an effect. One question I have for you is,
in the model that you propose, the new model for marketing and sales, it seems like you had a lot of
nonprofits that you’re working with. And my question is, I don’t think that nonprofits typically
understand entrepreneurship or business. Is it going to be a problem getting
them to understand this and also eliminating bureaucracy that
a lot of those organizations have?>>First of all,
thank you very much for your support. Yeah, so this was a difficult decision for
me to make. Because, of course,
we worked in one of those big nonprofits. We saw all the things that don’t work so
well. And we jumped off and said, no,
we have to be a social enterprise. No, we have to work independently
doing direct sales to farmers. And we did that, and
we got a million people out of poverty. But looking back at what we had done,
it was very expensive. Our cost of getting to these
customers was very high. And the truth is that since we did this
work way back in the 80s to today, even many of the very biggest nonprofits
have really moved the needle in terms of turning away from direct handouts. Turning more to at least having
the farmers have some skin in the game, whether it’s a full loan or
a partial loan. And as an example of that,
if you look at World Vision, which is famous for handouts. They spun off Vision Fund,
which is a for-profit microfinance bank. And now Vision Fund is
working with World Vision. Any time they have a product
they want to hand out, they are now giving credit for it instead. So it is a bit of a dilemma because
you’re trying to go massive scale. But to get to massive scale,
you do have to make some compromises. Because I think otherwise we could be
heads down, plowing your own furrow. And sticking too much
to our commitments and actually missing a big
opportunity to scale. And the truth is, when it comes to farming
and irrigation anywhere around the world, there have been and
are today large subsidies involved. And you just have to make those
subsidies very, very smart. And what we’re being able to do now
is having really detailed discussions with these nonprofit, with the leaders, and have them understand a lot of this
as we work with them, but thanks.>>All of this technology relates
to moving water from a source. What about the technology of sourcing? Drilling the wells,
stream efficiencies, and all that. I mean, is there infinite water? What are the problems there? [COUGH]
>>Now, so obviously, that’s a very good question. How do people actually get the water? Now, there’s not even good maps of
water availability across Africa. And certainly,
aquifers change one location to another. You can have a shallow aquifer here,
and literally go 30, 40 meters, it can be a deep aquifer. So that is an issue,
how do you map the water, how do farmers actually get the water? But our guesstimates are that somewhere
between 30 and 40% of all farmers in Africa actually have access to shallow
groundwater right on their farms. And that’s not because 30 or 40% of the
land has access to shallow groundwater. Why it is, is because people
throughout history have always settled in concentration in those areas where
there is access to shallow water. So those farmers, that 30%, can literally dig a hole in their
own plot and get water right there. And usually if it’s only 10 or
15 feet deep, they dig it themselves. If it’s deeper than that,
they get a local well digger. And every one of these
communities has well diggers. And those guys will go down even 100 feet,
150 feet with just hand digging tools. And the nice thing about digging a well is
you don’t have to pay for it all at once. You can pay for it over time. You can have somebody dig ten feet today,
come back a year later, dig another ten feet. So it’s a layaway product,
which makes it more affordable. But certainly, drilling for water is
also something that has to be done. We’ve developed a very,
very low-cost hand auger. The lowest-cost well drilling technology
in the world literally is a hand auger. And as long as you don’t hit any
hard rock, you can go down 30, 40 feet in about an hour. And then it’s only one and
a half inches in diameter. You can put a hose pipe down there. You can clean out the aquifer
with a suction pump, and now start pumping from that. But it only works in places
where you don’t have hard rock. Other people are working on hand augers
that go through even harder rock. But it is still a challenge, and
we need more technology on it, yeah.>>Have you considered, obviously,
those are all manufactured. But have you considered local products or
recycled products in building things? Like instead of those things,
coffee cans or something that they have there that’s
gonna be recycled or [COUGH] locally.>>Yeah, so
we started off manufacturing locally. We started off manufacturing in
very small workshops locally. And then we realized that you couldn’t
get any economies of scale, so we went to bigger workshops. And then as the sales picked up, we realized you couldn’t
get the quality you needed. We went to the biggest factories. We taught the biggest factories in Kenya
to do high-quality mass production. The first time they’d ever done it. We had to develop whole new
methods of production because the raw materials were so bad. So you get a standard two inch by one inch
hollow section like this material here. And what you get in Africa is plus or
minus 4 or 5 or 6% in each dimension. So you can’t do mass production
very easily with it. We figured out how to do that. I probably spent 15 years of my life
proving you could do high-quality mass production locally in Africa. But we still could not compete
with doing it in China. And there’s a number of reasons for that. Partly that skilled labor in China
is unlimited, while in Africa, we had to train it. And then you train labor, and then they’re
the best, and then they want more money. And that’s understandable, but
then we have to train more. And then shipping also is a big issue. Shipping from Africa to Africa,
like I said, is more expensive than
from China to Africa. But I think this really, your question
also gets a little back to me, to my first point there. Is that if you want a business tool,
you don’t want something that in Kenya we would call which is
made under the hot sun. Which is a little bit what you’re
suggesting here, is that we take local materials and we recycle them,
and sort of piece things together. You want something which is going to be
a really, really reliable business tool. You can’t have this pump breaking down. That woman I described to you,
she invests in this pump. It can’t be something that she
has to then learn to repair, or that breaks down in the field. Like any tool we use,
it has to be 100% reliable, even more so because they are taking
a big risk with it. I really moved away from this local made,
local, piece together your own thing Coffee
cans and rubber bands to high quality mass production I really think has
to happen if we’re talking about business tools, and just cuz they happen to be
the poorest people of the world, they need the better business tools than we do,
precisely because they are the poorest.>>Let’s take just one more question.>>Did you say anything about lean,
and I’m from. Which pumps there,
what is the problem with that?>>Yes windmills are certainly
part of the solution. They’re expensive,
you have to build a structure. You have to have long pipes
coming down from them. You have to have long rods coming down. So they’re expensive. But there is certainly a place for
windmills. Mainly for communal water. And so people use them in Africa for
watering herds of animals, for example cows. But for an individual farmer, I think it’s generally too expensive
a solution for individuals. Let me take the other question in back.>>I’m curious about how you decided to
patent your technology instead of making it open source.>>Yeah, so that’s a very good question. And there’s a big dilemma. Because we can patent stuff. Sorry, the question is, why did we decide
to patent our technologies instead of making them open source? And it’s a good question. I think it’s a big dilemma about
what you do with patents or not patents,
especially with physical technologies. If you wanna have a business model
where you’re actually making money, you don’t want everybody
copying your product. On the other hand of course people are
gonna copy them even if we do patent them, when we do patent them. So for example this machine
is patented in a few places, we actually let the patent drop in India. And now there’s a company in
India that’s photocopied this and basically making the almost identical
pump but it doesn’t work as well. A lot of other people have copied
our earlier products and made pumps, which are cheaper, but don’t work at all.>>[LAUGH]
>>And so they have actually killed the market. And what they have done is they
have sorta followed us around. And they’ll go and apply for
tenders and they’ll pay a kickback, a bribe, in order to win the tender. And they’ll sell also at a lower price. They’re putting a lot of product out
there on the field, which doesn’t work. And to me that’s extremely irresponsible. You’re risking taking the lives of
extremely poor people who are investing in this product or even if they get it for
free they’re investing their time and energy into planting, and then they end
up with bad, poor quality products. So the primary reason we patent is
to ensure that in the early stages of a new product introduced
to the new market, that there’s some way we can
try to maintain that quality. But the truth is, these patents
are almost impossible to enforce, and especially in Africa, but
even in many parts of the world. So we’ve never actually
tried to enforce a patent. But at least we’re in a position where if
there’s, for example, a large nonprofit which is thinking about buying a knockoff
product which we know isn’t gonna work, we can go to them and we can say look,
get the thing that works. And if you’re worried about that, we can actually show you that
these guys broke a patent. So that’s the main reason
that we want to do it.>>All right, well, please join me in
thanking Martin for a great presentation.>>[APPLAUSE]>>[APPLAUSE]>>Thank you.>>Thank you again for
being an inspirational hero and I’d like to thank all of you for
attending. And we are going to invite
you to join us in a reception right outside this auditorium
in the lobby, thank you.>>Great and
I’m happy to talk to anybody there. Thanks so much everyone. [MUSIC]

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