25 April 2016 | Posted By: iDE

10 years later, the water keeps flowing.


Nepali farmers use water for many reasons: drinking, caring for livestock, washing clothes, growing vegetables. But traditional water delivery systems are designed for a single use: either domestic or agriculture—if they are available at all. The government offices that support these two uses exist in separate silos with little or no communication between them.

Multiple-Use Water Systems (MUS) are designed to overcome that problem. MUS are managed by a local community leader and are designed from day one to provide water for multiple uses. MUS are a proven approach to reducing poverty by ensuring that water is distributed equitably in remote villages.

The MUS Workshop in Nepal

iDE Nepal and several co-organizers convened a workshop earlier this year to share best practices on this approach. The workshop took place in Kathmandu and included a wide swath of over 180 people—a mix of government, academia, practitioners and local farmers.

A highlight of the workshop: 85% of MUS implemented by iDE Nepal ten years ago are still functioning today, according to recent research by IWMI (International Water Management Institute).

When MUS are combined with drip irrigation, they enable small farmers to use a fraction of the water used by traditional flood techniques. This means that farmers adapt more easily when rainfall is erratic. Clearly, MUS are an important climate change adaptation approach, enabling communities to efficiently manage and allocate scarce water resources.

Inspired by the long-term success of MUS, workshop attendees are hoping to include it in mainstream conversations on water management.

It was clear at the workshop that MUS advocates would like to elevate the profile of MUS. The new Nepal MUS Network, which launched from the workshop, has plans to inspire an ongoing dialogue about MUS across the water sector.

Learn more about the Nepal MUS Network by visiting the MUS Group website.

iDE Nepal thanks the co-organizers who shared research, methodologies, and technologies, and together advanced the body of knowledge around this unique and proven approach: IWMI, FMIST, MUS Group, and the Ministry of Population and Environment. These organizations and MUS Workshop attendees made the workshop a successful event.

Learn more about iDE Nepal’s work in MUS.

14 April 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Improving Toilets for the Disabled

Horn Family_Disabled Shelter_WP 1500CAMBODIA – Safety is on the top of Mr. Horn Vuthy’s parents’ minds. Without a toilet, their son, a 30-year-old disabled man, is forced to leave his wheelchair and crawl to a private, safe place to defecate. During the rainy season and with exposure to venomous animals and insects, his safety is uncertain.

Today, Mr. Horn’s parents don’t have to worry anymore – their home has a toilet designed to meet their son’s needs. After hearing about iDE’s program in their village, the family volunteered to receive a prototype of iDE’s first toilet designed for disabled people.

Mr. Horn was able to provide invaluable information on the successes and challenges of this first prototype, including access to a water basin, a door big enough for a wheelchair, and a sitting toilet (instead of the more common squat toilet).

Listening to the challenges users like Mr. Horn faced, iDE went back to the drawing board. Now, iDE’s WASH staff is working on a new design that will address some of the shortcomings of the first prototype as well as incorporate new and improved building methods. For example, the design team is exploring interlocking bricks that resemble Legos. The bricks enable more flexibility and efficiency – saving time, money, and materials.

Read more on this design effort.

iDE continues to develop and expand its WASH efforts and partnerships in Cambodia. This program is supported by the Australian Government and the Stone Family Foundation.

Also, in just a few months, iDE will join other WASH practitioners at the East Asia Regional Learning Event (EARLE) to discuss market-based approaches to sanitation, including the considerations of disabled users.

Follow iDE’s WASH programs in Cambodia and globally on Twitter @ideorg and on Facebook/ideorg

1 April 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Canadian Ambassador Visits iDE Programs in Cambodia

By Michael Roberts, Country Director, iDE Cambodia
March 28, 2016

PHNOM PENH—His Excellency Philip Calvert, Canadian Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, got a break from the usual round of high-level meetings during his recent visit to Cambodia. The Ambassador accompanied iDE on a field visit to agriculture and sanitation project areas in Kandal Province, about an hour and a half outside of Phnom Penh. He was eager to see the results of Canadian development assistance on the ground.

Global Affairs Canada is funding iDE’s Farm Business Advisor (FBA) program with a grant that started in 2012 and ends in 2017. The Ambassador met with one of the FBAs, Mr. Chiv Hy and his wife Somret, whom iDE recruited and trained three years ago. Acting as an independent entrepreneur, Chiv sells agricultural inputs like seeds and irrigation equipment to customers in the surrounding villages. He also provides advice to his customers throughout the growing season. Chiv receives a commission on the products he sells and also earns income from his own vegetable crop, which doubles as a demonstration plot.

Chiv noted that, out of the 30 clients that he is serving this year, most are using drip irrigation and rotating their vegetable crops each season according to the advice that he gives them. Chiv also showed off a new net house, currently under construction, that will protect future crops from insects without using pesticides. But Somret does not expect any of their customers to buy one in the immediate future. “People will need to see it work for a several seasons before they are confident enough to make such a big investment,” she said.

A short distance down the road, one of Chiv’s customers had recently harvested a rice crop that yielded twice as much as she used to get from the same land. She credited the productivity jump to the advice and pest-control products that she purchased from Chiv. Results like this are common among FBA clients. Most farmers use basic, low-yielding farming methods and so a little additional knowledge and simple technologies can show big returns in a short time.

A network of 167 FBAs across five Cambodian provinces are supported by Lors Thmey, a social enterprise established by iDE. Lors Thmey is currently funded partly by grants—including the Canadian Government funding—and partly by revenues generated through the products and services sold to farmers. The proportion of grant funding is expected to decrease over time and the enterprise aims to be financially sustainable in three to four years.

From the FBA’s farm, the Ambassador and his iDE entourage crossed the Bassac River on a pedestrian ferry comprised of a wooden platform strapped onto two fishing boats. On the other side he visited the open-air workshop of Mr. Ream Ny, a small-scale manufacturer of concrete products who is collaborating with iDE’s Sanitation Marketing program.

In the surrounding communities, iDE has trained sanitation sales agents to conduct group meetings and door-to-door presentations that help rural households to weigh the costs of buying a latrine versus doing nothing. Orders for the C$65 latrines are directed to Ny, who manufacturers the components, delivers them in one of his four trucks, and installs them for the customer. Ny employs 20 workers and is able to build and install 15 latrines per day. Asked what he will do once everyone in his area has a latrine, Ny smiled and said “then I will start selling them concrete latrine shelters and upgrades.”

To date, iDE’s program has delivered more than 200,000 latrines through rural market channels—a fourfold increase over the rate of latrine installations before the program began. The Sanitation Marketing program received partial funding from Grand Challenges Canada and the methodology developed in Cambodia is currently being applied in six other countries around the globe.

18 March 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Stories from the field: Sopheak’s Smile

Sopheak Smile

“She tells me that if she was not doing this, she would be in a garment factory in the capital, working six days a week in busy cramped conditions. She smiles triumphantly and declares that here, in her field, she has no boss, she is independent and she is the one in control of her life.”

(from “Tim Bergman: The Story Behind Sopheak’s Smile” Business Fights Poverty

Since 2005, iDE has been working with small farmers in Cambodia to scale-up their productivity, increase their income and improve their livelihood opportunities. The Farm Business Advisor (FBA) program provides farmers with the knowledge, connections and tools they need to grow their business. Tim Bergman, Technical Advisor in Cambodia, has been working with one female farmer in Cambodia named Sopheak, a 25-year-old from the Kandal province in Cambodia. Tim recently told her story on Business Fights Poverty.

Nearly 85% of Cambodians live in rural areas and depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood. Cambodia’s FBA program was the 2010 Winner of the Nestlé Prize for Creating Shared Value. The program creates a value chain where all people involved are invested in the success of the farm business, from the Farm Business Advisor who provides knowledge and connections as well as sells farmers seeds, fertilizer, and equipment, to the farmer who gains from the support of new knowledge and an expanded network.

Beyond the success of the farm business, the FBA program is also breaking down social and cultural barriers in the community around the role of females. The program empowers women to engage in enterprises that were once seen as off-limits. Tim explains this shift in Sopheak’s community:

“She acts as a role model for the local young women and girls, inspiring them to think big and look beyond traditional notions about what roles women can play.”

For the latest updates, follow @iDEorg on Twitter and “Like us” on Facebook 


28 January 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Give Me The Scoop


20121003_Nepal_4737 crop

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.

ideorg Blog Photo


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.

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