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Jalgoy was designed as a system that lowers the barriers to entry into solar irrigation for small plot farmers and builds them a pathway to financial stability and energy independence.

The work I conducted for this project focused on:

  • Ecosystem mapping for solar powered irrigation products, focusing but not limited to small plot farmers in East Africa.

  • Identifying barriers to the adoption of solar-powered irrigation technologies by current KickStart clients and beyond.

Role - User Research
Year - 2022

Client - Kickstart International

Boda Boda drivers - a new customer and partner in the Jalgoy Irrigation system

Functional prototype


Once again, I found myself immersed in a brand new topic, in a brand new context. This time working with farmers in Kenya partnering with KickStart International and PAX pumps to push the envelope of solar-powered irrigation in restricted resource settings.

KickStart International is an NGO that designs and promotes climate-smart irrigation technologies as a means to end poverty. They are primarily known for their hip-powered pump; nicknamed the Money Maker, which has over 300,000 units sold around the world. PAX is an engineering firm that leverages biomimicry to create simple yet highly effective water turbines and pumps.


Solar-powered technology is not a novel concept, but recently, prices have finally dropped enough to make it an exciting option for low-cost products. KickStart dove into this new space but, despite their well-established customer base, their solar pump was not gaining traction.

Vegetable farm visited during on-the-ground research in Kenya


Most farmers did not have the initial capital to invest in upgrading their pumps and, even those who did saw it as too big of a risk, despite the proven quick payback.


We explored solutions that ranged from community-sharing to leasing and pay-as-go options, ultimately landing on the mechanical upgrade option.  

Our solution focused on making the purchase of a solar-powered water pump a component in a streamlined and gradual process instead of an independent investment. 

Another key component of this solution was involving boda-boda drivers as service providers as well as clients in this eco-system. 


This project ran over the course of a year. Most of the research was to take place remotely, with an in-person period half way through. With that, we organized our approach into three modules:

1. Understanding - deep dive into the context based on secondary research (Kickstart partners) and different online resources. In this phase we also connected with other companies in the space, both for benchmarking as analogous users and competitive analysis. 


2. Mapping - drawing diagrams and crafting documents such as journey maps, personas, stakeholder maps, etc that would enable us to identify design opportunities, biases and hypothesis to be tested. In turn, these documents helped us plan the field research to take place at the end of this phase. 


3. Refinement - with 2-weeks worth of on-the-ground research data, we were able to close in on the opportunity space we would like to address, converge our design efforts and quickly iterate on different prototypes. A significant part of this sprint was also looking into the business aspect of our solution. 

During this process, we connected with and learned from:

  • 15 small-plot farmers in Kenya, ranging from no-irrigation to automated systems

  • 10 boda-boda drivers in Kenya

  •  12 experts in different fields, from mechanical design to last-mile delivery in low-resource settings


The challenge was not on building a better product, but on improving the transition between products
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