Agricultural Livelihoods Employment & Entrepreneurship

Pumping up the income for women in Zambia

Anyone who has bought furniture from IKEA knows that a simple tool—the Allen/Hex key—can help produce big results. That’s why the IKEA Foundation is investing in another simple tool—an irrigation pump—to help women and families in southern Africa lift themselves out of poverty.

Long droughts and the lack of irrigation tools mean that small-scale farmers in Zambia struggle to grow enough crops to eat and make a profit. With the right tools, farmers can produce food year-round and grow higher value crops. This means they have more food to eat and sell.

Melody Macha is a farmer, and her family of nine relies on her income. Without it, they would struggle to survive. But making a living from a small farm in Zambia is incredibly difficult when farmers have to depend on unpredictable rains to water their crops.

Melody is one of a growing number of women taking control of their own futures by using a simple, high-quality irrigation pump developed by KickStart International, one of the IKEA Foundation’s new partners.

KickStart’s mission is to help millions of people out of poverty quickly, cost-effectively and sustainably. For years, they have designed and promoted irrigation tools for poor families across sub-Saharan Africa, and now a grant from the IKEA Foundation is helping them expand their programme to reach as many as 280,000 people in southern Africa, too.

More crops mean more food and more income

The IKEA Foundation’s partnership with KickStart is helping poor, rural families in Zambia and Southern Africa to adopt irrigation pumps and start their own businesses to increase their family incomes. The project especially encourages rural women to earn an income and play a bigger role in their family’s decision-making.

Thanks to KickStart’s easy-to-use irrigation pumps, families like Melody’s can run successful small-scale farms, increase their incomes and take a major step out of poverty. The pumps substantially increase farmers’ crop production by enabling them to harvest crops throughout the year, especially during the dry, “hungry” seasons. Farmers can then sell their surplus crops and invest their new income, giving them better long-term food and income security.

KickStart’s impact monitoring shows that farmers increase their annual income by an average of nearly 500% when they use the pumps, and KickStart is developing an “agropreneurship” training package to show farmers how best to plant, grow, harvest and sell the crops to maximize their profit.

Increased food production also means that communities have better access to food. In fact, the partnership aims to improve food security for at least 3.8 million people in Southern Africa.

More income means more children in school

The IKEA Foundation is funding KickStart’s programme because they believe women are the most important catalysts for change in their children’s lives. By empowering women, the Foundation can help improve children’s health, education and future opportunities.

Melody has seen a huge difference already. She now grows and harvests her French green beans three times a year instead of once, providing enough income to pay school fees for her family and giving them hope for a poverty-free future. Melody’s family is breaking out of the cycle of poverty and stepping into a circle of prosperity, where they will have enough money for better educations, homes and health.

The Masopos are another family benefitting from having the right tools to irrigate their crops. Vivian Masopo says: “We can do much more for the kids now. We don’t worry about our own food anymore. I can pay school fees for the children, and I can buy seeds and fertilizer every year. I´ve got an income I can rely on.”

Her husband Herbert laughs as he looks proudly at their 1.5 hectares of watermelons. “My friends all ask how I can farm so much land, and all year long. But my wife wants even more! With another pump, we can finish [expanding] the whole farm sooner.”

Watch a short film here about KickStart’s work empowering women

Visit KickStart’s website