Ok, so the title of this post should really be something more like “News you really like”, or “News people in rural Kenya or other poverty-stricken parts of Africa can use”, but those seemed not as catchy as my current title.
Via the MIT website and the MIT-Lemelson awards program, I discovered a great program called KickStart that is one of those great places where innovation, business, and development combine. The ‘company’ (the organization itself is a nonprofit, but it works on a business model such that after initial development, publicity, and distribution, the system runs itself) develops and implements a variety of simple, handheld, or manpowered machines to increase productivity and income. Current machines include a variety used for turning available materials (sand, dirt, cement, clay) into building materials like bricks or roof tiles, an oil seed press, and several forms of manual irrigation pump, ranging in size from portable by one man to permanent.
While initial funding for research and advertising comes from donations and grants, KickStart is really about developing a process, not just a technology. For example, with the development of the oilseed press, KickStart first looked at what was in demand in the area. With government price controls being lifted on cooking oil, prices were skyrocketing and tehre just wasn’t enough oil to go around. KickStart developed a more sophisticated oilseed press from models in other countries, then trained four local engineering firms to build it. Using advertising to market the press and its advantages over other models, everyone benefits. The engineering firms sell more machines that have high quality and hence increase customer satisfaction. The cooking oil presser is able to process more cooking oil at a higher quality, therefore turning a higher profit. The consumer of the oil, which was previously in shortage, now has an assurance of enough product.
If you were as excited as me, you will be disappointed to note they have no internships or
volunteer positions available at this time. There are some job openings, but nothing that really agrees with my current skill set. Alas. My dreams of following my sisters to Kenya and learning Ki Swahili will just have to wait a little longer.