Affordable, High-Performance Solar Irrigation for Smallholder Farmers

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KickStart International 

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Affordable, High-Performance Solar Irrigation for Smallholder Farmers


Angaza Design (United States)
Encap Technologies (United States)

Location Applied


In Kenya, solar-powered irrigation technology remains prohibitively expensive, far beyond the means of poor smallholder farmers. There is also limited demand due to lack of awareness of clean energy technology and the prohibitive cost. KickStart’s clean energy solution will not only greatly reduce the cost of the irrigation hardware, but, through the introduction of a PAYG mechanism, will provide farmers with flexible financing options that will further promote affordability and, therefore, demand.[1]

Clean Energy Solution

KickStart and its partners will focus on designing a clean energy solution with the farmer in mind—a high-performance yet easy to assemble, highly mobile, robust and durable unit that requires minimal maintenance. KickStart will design a foldable, flat pack solar irrigation pump that is easy for farmers to install. As Encap’s pumps are both low cost and highly efficient, they only require small solar panels. The addition of an innovative, flexible and reliable PAYG system will provide the farmer with affordable, alternative modes of payment and, by substantially de-risking the provision of credit, will attract investment from traditional lenders such as banks and microfinance institutions.[1]


KickStart aims to transform the food and income security of smallholder farmers by enabling them to transition from rain-fed subsistence farming to year-round commercial irrigated agriculture. Over the next six years, KickStart plans to sell approximately 270,000 pumps across 16 countries in Sub Saharan Africa and estimates that 30 percent of these could be solar powered.[1]


KickStart was established in Kenya in 1991 with the mission to lift millions of people in Africa out of poverty quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably. KickStart designs, promotes, and mass-markets simple irrigation pumps that smallholder farmers buy and use to start highly profitable family enterprises. KickStart has partnered with Encap Technologies to provide motors for affordable, solar-powered irrigation pumps and with Angaza Designs to incorporate a ‘pay as you go’ (PAYG) mechanism.[1]

Progress Update

KickStart and its partners are conducting two parallel R&D processes on the first generation prototypes of both a low-cost solar PV irrigation pump and an optional pay-as-you-go (PAYG) financing platform. Kickstart’s Product Innovation Development and Field Market teams have completed the lab and field testing of the first solar pump and PAYG system prototypes. Field testing included deployment of 21 Prototype 1 solar pumps, 10 of which were equipped with PAYG Prototype 1. Across demonstration sites and private farms, 43 adults are benefitting from the CES, 17 of whom are women. Kickstart is currently testing three payment models using their first generation PAYG system based on time passed, time-used and a hybrid model combining both options.

Building upon the lessons learned during the field and lab tests conducted, the design for their second solar pump prototype has been completed, manufacturing is underway, and the pump will be field tested in the coming fiscal year. PAYG prototypes will be ready for deployment in the coming months.[1]

Further Information