... MARTIN FISHER, co-founder, KickStart International: It is cheap. It is extremely robust. It won't break down. It's very lightweight. You can carry it to the field. You can take the whole thing apart with your hands, put it back together, because a farmer doesn't even have a screwdriver in rural Africa.
SPENCER MICHELS: Even cheaper is a hip pump that KickStart also sells. Fisher, a mechanical engineer by training and a former Fulbright Scholar, co- founded KickStart 10 years ago, after discovering that large-scale rural water projects and programs to give farm equipment to poor Africans, projects he worked on, failed after a few years.
MARTIN FISHER: It's not very cheap, because you have to set up a whole distribution network to give things away. It completely kills local initiative. It kills the local private sector. And people don't really appreciate things that they get given. They don't use them fully.
SPENCER MICHELS: Instead KickStart sells its pumps to very poor farmers, with the promise that they can make money with it.
MARTIN FISHER: Their number-one need is a way to make more money. And, so, if you're going to sell them a tool or piece of equipment, it has to be a moneymaking device. If we buy something, we're going to make sure we use that thing, and especially when you're very poor.
SPENCER MICHELS: When Fisher began to sell, rather than give away, pumps, he was flying in the face of most social theory. He was treated as a heretic by some in the aid community. But he understood that quite well.
MARTIN FISHER: I went over to Africa as a socialist and came -- after about five or six years of hitting my head against the wall, became a small-C capitalist. And the thing is that it actually worked. ...