28 January 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Give Me The Scoop


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I was never convinced I had her name right. Her English was as polished as my Nepali, which is to say, nonexistent, but she smiled when I said Moira, so I figured ‘Moira’ was close enough. She lived in Mahja Badahare, a remote village in the middle hills of Nepal. Moira and her people are Gurungs, one of more than forty tribes located throughout the tiny country that’s home to the tallest mountains in the world.

Moira and I met in 2010, the year I traveled to Mahja Badahare with a group of folks from Denver. We were there to work on the installation of a MUS – a Multiple Use System that brings water from a natural spring to a village via PVC pipe. The water is collected in a cistern and routed to tap stands for household use. It’s also used to irrigate plots of tomatoes, cauliflower and other vegetables, making it possible to grow crops year-round, and to sell those crops for income. On the most basic level, a MUS eliminates the need to haul water up and down the hills every day, a task relegated to women and girls.

Every morning after breakfast, we Americans would put on our sturdy work boots, grab our hats and gloves, and head to the ridge above the campsite to scoop dirt and deepen the trench. We worked alongside men and women from the village. Someone commented that the women put in longer days, and no wonder. Ever balance a water jug on your head for two hours while walking barefooted on a steep slope? No question, these women were motivated.

We worked in groups of five or six, passing the few scoops we had back and forth among us. After ten minutes of scooping, a village woman would tap me on the shoulder, extend her hand, and take the tool. She’d sit on her haunches over the trench, her body perfectly balanced, her weight evenly distributed, her hands and feet bare or in flip flops, and dig without breaking a sweat.

Moira loved to ask questions while we worked—did I have kids, how many, was I married. Like her name, I wasn’t quite sure what she was asking, but answered anyway. We did a lot of smiling, and nodding our heads. Mostly I remember how intently she’d study my face, the movements of my mouth, all the while scrunching her forehead, trying to make sense out of what had to sound like gibberish.

On the last day of the work trip, the villagers gathered around a tap stand and watched as one of their leaders turned the knob. Cheers went up at the sight of water flowing from the metal spigot. A goat was slaughtered and roasted, local officials gave speeches, a dedication plaque was mounted on the side of the cistern. The entire village, young and old, feasted that day in celebration of the arrival of the element we in the States take for granted every time we wash our hands, rinse a dish or take a shower. They had water.

A friend and I returned to Nepal two years after the MUS was installed, and spent an afternoon at Mahja Badahare. We were visiting other MUS projects in the area and had photo books from 2010 to deliver, along with a duffel filled with Colorado Rockies baseballs, mitts and caps. I spotted Moira from the road as we got out of the Jeep. She was sitting on a stone wall at the edge of a terrace high above us, watching as we climbed the hill.

She was smiling when we reached her, although not the big smile I had remembered. She was obviously uncomfortable. Her foot was wrapped in several layers of thick cloth. A walking stick fashioned from a bamboo limb rested at her side, her toes were dusty and swollen. I sat down next to her and slowly picked up that she had broken her ankle a few days before. I put my arm around her shoulders and looked into those brown eyes, still filled with curiosity. We didn’t understand one another’s language any better than we had the first time we met, but it almost didn’t matter. We understood something more important than words: I had come back, she was still there, and the world, at that moment, could not have been smaller.




About the Story Collector:  Rebecca Lee aspires to write heartfelt, honest, inspiring stories. “Strip away the nonessentials,” she says, “and story is what’s left. It’s the thing that connects us to one another.” From her base in Denver, Colorado, Rebecca writes professionally for businesses and nonprofit clients. She loves outdoor adventure, and travels whenever she can. In 2010, she and a group of volunteers partnered with iDE to bring water to the village of Mahja Badahare in Nepal. She fell in love with the people and the geography, and has returned three times to volunteer and to trek, one of her passions. Rebecca publishes her stories on rebeccalou.com, and posts at rebeccaloulee on Instagram.

5 January 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Craving Chocolate? Just add water.

Sustainable solutions to boost cacao production in Honduras

San Pedro Sula, Honduras. On November 5th, 2015, Raphael Ayestas from the iDE Honduras team gave a presentation on the current state of supplementary irrigation on cacao at the National Committee of Cacao Chain (Comité Nacional de Cadena de Cacao). The event, hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (Secretaría de Agricultura y Ganadería, SAG), is held every three months and serves as a platform for introducing new technologies and sharing best practices.

Mr. Ayestas explained to the audience how iDE’s innovative technologies, including low-pressure drip irrigation as well as the solar pump, have helped cacao farmers rescue their harvests in spite of the devastating drought brought on by climate change. The biggest advantage of iDE´s low-pressure drip system is that it is custom designed for each individual crop—one can install the emitters only where needed and therefore increase the net income per drop of water. A second feature worth highlighting is the fact that no expensive fuel pumps or filtration systems are required to make it function, since it is a low-pressure system.

Dr. Santiago Cerna is one cacao grower who has greatly benefitted from iDE’s technological strategies.

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“I started growing cacao in 1986 on an old plot of land where coffee had been previously harvested—I planted 8,000 trees that year. By 2009 we had begun toasting, peeling, crushing, and mixing the seeds to obtain small chocolate taps for selling in Tegucigalpa’s biggest farmers’ market.”

However, Dr. Cerna began having issues with Choco-Cha, his cacao business, with an unexpected drought in 2012. “We were trying to save our little trees by irrigating with a backpack sprayer but even so, we lost about 30% of our crops.”

The following year, Dr. Cerna visited several institutions for guidance on how to deal with that year’s dry season, when he finally met iDE’s Productivity Manager Roque Almendares. “Mr. Almendares proved to be very resourceful and sent an engineer to our farm right away. He evaluated our plot and quickly came up with a solution—low-pressure drip irrigation. Thanks to iDE, we overcame the dry season and my dream of becoming a cacao farmer became a reality once again.”

Recently, iDE has conducted several successful interventions in other regions of Honduras including Diamante de Sión, Atlántida. These farmers have witnessed the immediate positive impact of supplementary drip. Unfortunately, these farmers, who have been working with FHIA (Honduran Foundation for Agricultural Research) and the Canadian Development Agency (now DFATD), have not had access to credit to invest in irrigation systems. Nonetheless, iDE, together with SDC funded PROCACAHO, led by FUNDER,  facilitates credit services along with technical assistance on rainwater harvesting and irrigation. Hopefully these farmers in Atlántida will soon be as happy with their harvests as Dr. Cerna is with his.

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Below: iDE Honduras Country Director, Carlos V. Urmeneta in Atlántida

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24 November 2015 | Posted By: iDE

Double Your Impact, Then Multiply by 10.

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This is our best campaign ever. It’s inspired by entrepreneurs like Gita, who are ready for a new opportunity, more security, and better ways to use the resources they already have. You can read about what life is like for Gita here. But this campaign is also inspired by people like you who want to be involved in working with entrepreneurs. People who let their heart, and their brain, guide their giving. Welcome to the Ready For Business campaign. Here are the details.



When you give to iDE before December 31, 2015, your gift will be doubled. An anonymous donor will match, dollar for dollar, each donation we receive, up to $20,000. There’s never been a better time to give.



Not only do we believe in the power of the entrepreneur, we also believe in data. We measure how we empower women through our work and how we improve household nutrition. But our most important measurement is household income. In Cambodia, every $1 invested generates $18 in income for a household. In Ethiopia, every donor dollar generates $6 in income. Your average return on investment across all eleven iDE countries is 1:10.

These numbers are important for our donors to know, but they are more important for our program teams to analyze. We are driven to see where the challenges are if the ratios are lower than we want. We generally see higher ROI in Asia than we do in Africa because markets are generally stronger in Asian countries. Many African countries require a significantly higher investment to get a market moving. We also know that when we first start in a country and we are in the first few years of operation, we will see low ROI as we build the program.

We are constantly pushing ourselves to achieve the highest efficiency possible as this is an indicator that we are making an impact on global poverty AND that our market based approach works.

We’re ready for business. Click here if you would like to join us in our best campaign ever.

24 September 2015 | Posted By: iDE

Building Partnerships at World Water Week

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Each year, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) organizes World Water Week, and this year’s theme related directly to iDE and our work with the rural poor. The theme this year: ‘Water for Development’.

The challenges we face in providing access to water for all, and sustaining the water resources on our planet, were topics of conversation throughout the week. Sustainable Development Goals will set a standard for universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, which – along with productive water for agriculture use – will deeply impact poverty.

iDE was proud to be a unique voice during the week, conveying firsthand the effectiveness in tapping the power of business to fight poverty.

Our panel discussion on drip irrigation brought together, for the first time, three of the largest irrigation companies in the world: Jain, Netafim, and Toro. All three are focused on bringing the next generation of drip irrigation technology to the rural poor. And our new market data – research on why consumers would purchase such a product, and what conditions are required for adoption – stands out as an important contribution to industry knowledge.

Our panel on sanitation included representation from iDE, Kohler and Grand Challenges Canada – a unique partnership that is addressing the need for clean water in Nepal. The panel candidly discussed the opportunities and the challenges they’re facing and as they learn how to leverage each other’s strengths to make impact.

Our message – that business is an effective tool to fight poverty – resonates well. All around the conference, the private sector is a critical and coveted partner. While the conversation continues, we are back at work, helping design better products, bridging the last mile to reach more customers, and ultimately bringing opportunities to the world’s rural poor. 

It’s a 32-year journey we are proud to continue, and it’s exciting to make this part of the journey with new partners.

6 July 2015 | Posted By: iDE

Ready for business.


The woman commandeering this tractor is Vinória Melição Racho. She is a role model in her village of Posto Campo, located in central Mozambique, near the southeastern coast of Africa. She is one woman within a generation that is changing the traditional African view that “women don’t plow, so they are not farmers.”

Vinória earns her income as a Farm Business Advisor providing expertise to local vegetable producers on planting techniques, seed selection, fertilization, pest control, and now, mechanized plowing.

iDE is training Vinória to operate a new multi-purpose tractor as part of a pilot project aimed at improving the design of the tractor with a focus on use by women. The tractor’s small size and flexible features makes it an ideal solution for female farmers. iDE hopes to reach at least 25% female heads of household, which is an ambitious target in a region where only 2% of smallholder farms are run by women.

The project also aims to establish a business model for the tractor that will function sustainably within the challenges of rural Africa. What makes this project innovative is that it is built upon a network of rural outlets for demonstration, training and after sale service and parts. Tractor demonstrations are conducted by women, and for women. Many attempts at commercializing mechanized farm equipment fail because they lack these critical features.

This is what we call the “last mile” and it’s iDE’s area of focus. We design business models that deliver sustained access to transformative technologies for individuals who are trying to earn a living within the most challenging economic environments. Over our 32 years of growing the incomes of rural people, we have learned that what works in one area won’t necessarily work in another. Each solution we create is as unique as the people it serves. Which is why it’s so important that we understand everything we can about Vinória, and how her generation is changing traditional viewpoints on gender and farming.

19 May 2015 | Posted By: iDE

iDE Nepal’s Agriculture Rehabilitation Project

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iDE has designed a program that both addresses the immediate needs of our partner communities, while also developing mechanisms to begin the medium and long-term recovery process. iDE has been working with these communities for 20+ years, and we intend to be here long after many of the bigger relief operations have left.

Since the initial earthquake on April 25th, iDE has been distributing urgent relief materials to communities in Lalitpur and Kavre districts in the Central region and facilitating local assessment work in Kaski in the Western region. Our priority has been and continues to be working to minimize the suffering and economic shocks in our partner communities. To date we have reached over 450 households, totaling more than 2,300 people. iDE has provided these communities with durable shelter materials and non-perishable foodstuffs.

On May 12th, iDE began our Agriculture Rehabilitation project. We are working now to provide an initial 2,000 households in Lalitpur and Kavre districts with access to seeds and seedlings in order to prevent significant disruption to the current planting season. As the rainy season approaches, it is imperative that seeds be planted immediately to prevent a poor harvest, food insecurity, and potential economic catastrophe.

iDE is providing material and technical assistance to farmers, enabling them to grow high-value vegetables to minimize disruption to their farms and livelihoods. We are identifying smallholder farmers in affected areas with the capacity to rapidly develop vegetable nurseries. By centralizing the production of seedlings within each community, we can provide farmers with an additional two to four weeks of time for planting.

The seedlings produced by these nurseries will be provided at low or no cost to farmers who have suffered property damage, thereby freeing up resources allowing them to begin the recovery process. iDE will also work to expand our network of community sales agents with strong technical knowledge of sustainable agriculture. After the first growing season, iDE will work with these local entrepreneurs to follow up with farmers and provide them access to supply chains for improved technologies such as drip irrigation and integrated pest management (IPM) to further grow their productivity and income.

Longer term, the focus on high-value vegetable production will ensure that the target smallholders earn higher returns on their crops, giving them greater economic and social mobility and food security. Nepal has long suffered from patterns of out-migration as able-bodied men have left in droves to seek work primarily in India and the Middle East. The development of sustainable economic systems focusing on agriculture will help prevent the acceleration of these trends as a result of the earthquake by providing strong, reliable income opportunities here at home. The establishment of nurseries at the local level will also provide a long-term business opportunity for a number of farmers and should help serve as a disaster resiliency strategy for the future.

The situation in Nepal is rapidly evolving. iDE is committed to providing urgent relief to our partner communities and helping ensure people are able to begin the work of rebuilding not just their homes, but resilient economic systems, allowing them to recover from this tragedy with dignity.

We’ve begun to assemble funds from private parties and foundations, but our program is designed to scale and can rapidly implement additional funding. For our Agricultural Rehabilitation project every $25,000 allows us to reach a new community.

To make a tax-deductible contribution to iDE’s urgent relief effort, click here.

12 May 2015 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Update from Nepal


Nepal was still in a state of fear and disorganization as the government works to distribute aid and mend when an additional earthquake shook the country on May 12, 2015. iDE is thankful to report, once again, that no staff members were hurt during this most recent event.

“People are really terrorized, it was just starting to feel a little normal, now people are again afraid to go in their homes, offices, most people are sleeping and staying outside,”  said Luke Colavito, iDE Nepal Country Director.

Colavito was driving to pick up his son when he felt the ground shake and saw the new damage. “This aftershock was very bad, many damaged buildings have collapsed and new buildings are damaged.” As his mind shifts to those outside of Kathmandu, he says, “I’m afraid that in the rural areas it will have brought down many more of the already damaged mud brick homes that poor farmers live in. These farmers will have lost their possessions and stored food. It’s a tremendous setback.”

Even before the second earthquake, Colavito was thinking ahead and planning an agricultural recovery support program and rapid latrine installation to prevent cholera and other waterborne diseases.

“Right now people are in shock and aren’t able to focus on the need to begin planting,” says Luke. The iDE Nepal team is establishing nurseries to grow seedlings so in a month, after people start to recover, they will not have missed out on a prime growing season.

The iDE Nepal team remains dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest of the poor who live in remote corners of the country. In the coming months, as Nepal looks to rebuild and regain some normalcy, iDE’s work will be of paramount importance and influence.

Join us in helping more families get back on their feet with agricultural recovery support.




30 April 2015 | Posted By: iDE

A Bad Luck/Good Luck Story


By Bob Nanes
Tanke Village, Nepal

Saturday, April 25th started in Tanke village in the hills of Central Nepal  just like any other day. The sounds of barnyard animals, people stirring, clearing their throats. The sunlight reflected off the irrigated rice paddies on the valley floor. Some people began to move out to some of the nearby fields to do some casual weeding and other field tasks. But Saturday was often a day with little activity.  For those families who were lucky enough to have a TV, they would often sit with several families inside and watch their favorite TV dramas or variety shows.

But on this Saturday, the electricity went off some time in the morning. Bad luck, there would be no family TV time today. So people went about other tasks. The women of the village headed off together to the nearby forest to gather fodder and firewood. The men gathered in the village center for a group meeting. And the children played with their friends around the houses and in the fields.

But just before noon, the largest earthquake in the last 80 years struck Nepal and shook the village violently. Most of the mud houses in the village collapsed completely. Bad luck. In the aftermath, as people rushed back to their houses and to find their family members, there was chaos and tragedy. A four year old child was dead, crushed inside a house. Some of the livestock was also dead, crushed by tumbling walls. But the bad luck electricity cut of earlier in the day turned out to be amazing good luck. What could have caused dozens, or even hundreds of deaths, caused only the one, as tragic as it is.

IDE Nepal has been working in Tanke village for several years. In collaboration with the community and local government, they supported the building of a solar powered multiple use water system that lifts water from the valley floor, and distributes it for household use and also feeds into drip irrigation systems to produce vegetables for sale. IDE staff had been in contact with the villagers after the quake and been informed about the scope of the tragedy. With the support of offices and private donors in the US, Canada and the UK, IDE had mobilized to deliver food and plastic shelter material to Tanke village.

When we entered the village, the destruction was unbelievable. What had been a lively collection of houses along a scenic ridge in central Nepal, was now a scene of utter devastation. Most of the houses had collapsed, and everyone was living in slapdash tents made of small pieces of plastic stuck together as well as possible. Nobody, even those whose houses had not collapsed, were sleeping inside because of the frequent aftershocks.

But surprisingly, the mood was not morose. People were going about their tasks as if this was just another day. We were greeted in the normal friendly manner of Nepali farm folk. People were happy to talk to us and tell us their stories. There was no trace of self-pity.  Perhaps their normally difficult life had prepared them for the current and future hardships. Would we be so adaptable in the same situation?  I think not.

So now the long slow process of bringing life back to normal begins. The villagers are not short on food, but were in desperate need of safe and dry shelter. The plastic tarps that we brought were the most important thing to them. But how will they move forward in re-building their lives? I imagine that living in tents will become the new norm for months, or possibly years to come.

Life is so precious. It is hard to believe sometimes that the difference between life and death can be determined by something as random as a power outage, or where you stand while viewing the Boston Marathon, or which flight you decide to take while flying from Spain to Germany. But that is the case, and sometimes no matter how we plan or watch or protect, life can stay or go through a simple twist of fate.


Help iDE Nepal reach more remote villages with food and shelter. Donate here.

Bob Nanes was formerly the head of the Technology and Innovation Group in the Denver Headquarters of iDE. He was in charge of supporting the iDE country programs in technology development, agriculture program development, global equipment supply, agriculture knowledge management and micro finance. In his 24 years with iDE he also worked as Country Director in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Ghana and as the Director of Training. He also started and ran an irrigation contracting business and a food processing business. He is currently a consultant to iDE. He has his degree in Agricultural Engineering from Cornell University.


28 April 2015 | Posted By: iDE

A Message From Day 4


Photo: Adam Salberg, iDE
Written by Bob Nanes

It is now more than 72 hours after the initial powerful earthquake. 72 hours is the number given by many relief agencies during which significant aftershocks are likely to occur. There was one small aftershock yesterday (Monday) at around 5pm, but nothing since then. People are starting to re-enter houses that are not damaged. Those with damaged or destroyed houses are in a different situation. We are lucky that it is not raining today so far, but it has been raining on and off for the last few days. People sleeping outside need tarps or tents in order to stay dry, and it is likely that many are still not having a good night’s sleep. As one person said to me yesterday, sleep deprivation is the most effective form of torture.

It is difficult for me to imagine what will happen to those whose houses are destroyed. For most people, building a house is the investment of a lifetime, often borrowing money to do so. Very few people have insurance, so what will they do now? Will the government help those people? Can anyone even afford to help those people? Nobody knows. People will have to rent in the mean time, but with many houses in the valley damaged or destroyed, it is likely that it will also be difficult to find reasonable accommodation.

It is estimated by the New York Times that the average person knows about 600 people. In a valley of about 2 million with perhaps 3-4,000 people dead, and many more injured, everyone knows someone who was killed, and certainly knows many who were injured. Everyone knows many people who have lost their homes. The initial period of just surviving is now over for most, and the shock will soon set in about the scope of this tragedy. As with most things in life, seeing it on television is not even in the same realm as those who are experiencing it first hand. This is not the first tragedy of this kind, but it is the first that I have experienced personally, and it will leave a mark forever.

Beyond the human dimension, there is another tragic aspect to this earthquake. To the many who have visited or lived in the Kathmandu valley, the cultural landmarks are something very special. This valley, made up of the three ancient cities of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur, have a unique cultural heritage reflected in the many Hindu temples and Bhuddist stupas, the unique architecture, and the fine tradition of handicrafts. One person once remarked to me that it is said that Kathmandu has more temples than houses, and more gods than people. This may be a slight exaggeration, but it is not far from true. For those of us who have been awed by walking through the old city of Bhaktapur, seeing the fine details of the temples in Patan Durbar Square, or watching Tibetans and Newars circumambulating the thousand year old stupas at Shwayambunath, the loss of many of these treasures is also a great tragedy. It is impossible to describe in words even one of these world heritage sites, much less imagine how they will be re-built.

On the positive side, these tragedies can bring out the best in people, and can even bring people together. I myself got to know very well the formerly anonymous co-habiters at the hotels in which I have holed up. Yesterday one of my colleagues mentioned how his neighbors have been gathering together each evening, telling stories and jokes. The pictures from the first days show ordinary citizens doing the impossible by removing tons of bricks from collapsed buildings.

Jai Nepal!


Help iDE Nepal reach more remote villages with food and shelter. Donate here.

Bob Nanes was formerly the head of the Technology and Innovation Group in the Denver Headquarters of iDE. He was in charge of supporting the iDE country programs in technology development, agriculture program development, global equipment supply, agriculture knowledge management and micro finance. In his 24 years with iDE he also worked as Country Director in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Ghana and as the Director of Training. He also started and ran an irrigation contracting business and a food processing business. He is currently a consultant to iDE. He has his degree in Agricultural Engineering from Cornell University.

| Posted By: iDE

The First to Reach Ranagaun

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Photo: Bimala Colavito, iDE

On Tuesday, volunteer Bimala Colavito accompanied the iDE Nepal team members to the village of Ranagaun, about at 45-minute drive up slippery mountainous roads. Three days after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit, she found these roads to be unusually quiet. On the way, she noticed collapsed houses that had washed away down muddy hillsides. She saw deep cracks in roads and buildings, plenty of destruction, but mostly the sad faces of people who are trying to figure out what to do next.

She had visited this USAID Innovation Lab site many times before to interview farmers in the agriculture program. On this day, she saw familiar faces, friends with whom iDE Nepal has worked with over the years who had just lost their homes over the weekend.

The purpose of the visit was to provide a week of food for this community of 38 households, chlorine for clean water, and plastic sheeting for temporary shelter. The iDE Nepal team delivered noodles, rice and dalmut, a spicy mixture of dried peas and beans. Thankfully, water now flows from their tap after being dry for the past couple days.

Despite being situated fairly close to Kathmandu, this was the first assistance this village had received. Many families are sleeping outside in cold temperatures. The next village on the team’s list is Kavre, where there are even more people and the need is even greater.

There are many villages like these that are in need of food, water and shelter. The iDE Nepal team is hoping to reach more of them, if funds are available to do so.

iDE Nepal is dedicated to improving agriculture and providing water and sanitation systems to poor rural farmers. iDE has deep roots in Nepal, where it has worked for 23 years. The organization has particularly strong connections with the poorest of the poor who live in remote corners of the country, where life is normally difficult, and now even harder.

If you would like to help the iDE Nepal team reach more villages in need, please visit ideorg.org to donate.

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