Archive: A.G. Vermouth -

6 December 2012 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

Bill Clinton Speaks for iDE

iDE’s Second Annual Leaders in Their Fields Luncheon, held on December 4 in downtown Denver, was a great success. More than 700 attendees gathered to celebrate iDE’s 30 years of sustainable solutions to poverty, honor our customers, and launch a new initiative that will bring 26 organizations together in a unique collaborative center for international development.

The assembled guests got a big surprise when President Bill Clinton, who was in Denver for a speaking engagement, made a special appearance to express his support for iDE’s work. Clinton spoke about his own experiences working in Africa to improve agricultural practices, and emphasized that seemingly insurmountable global problems can be solved with the right efforts. “All of these things are before you. “This is stuff I’ve seen with my own eyes,” he said, “These are the kinds of things you can do, and that’s why I wanted to be here,” he said.


Bill Clinton

Clinton stressed that collaborative market-based approaches hold the key to solving the world’s most pressing challenges. “I think the idea that you should work together, pool your resources, reinforce each other and not fall all over each other is very important,” he said. He concluded his address by noting that the problems faced by the poor in developing countries ultimately affect the entire world. “I just want to encourage you. We are not going to like the world we live in if we continue to allow climate change, instability, and income inequality to dominate the 21st century.”iDE’s new CEO, Timothy Prewitt said, “President Clinton’s commitment to African agriculture is directly in line with iDE’s. His central message—that African nations can most effectively grow food themselves, lifting smallholders out of poverty and increasing production across the continent—gives iDE’s model a ringing endorsement, and inspires us to do even more.”


Tim Prewitt speaking

The centerpiece of the event was the presentation of the Leaders in Their Fields Award to Doña Linda Manueles, a farmer and entrepreneur from Marcala, Honduras. On her farm, Manueles uses an iDE treadle pump and drip irrigation kit to grow 14 different types of vegetables, which she sells for a profit. She has invested her extra income in other micro enterprises including raising geese and rabbits, and starting her own seed bank from her home. After receiving the award, Manueles explained how iDE practices help local Honduran families invest in their own communities, and thanked the organization for its continued efforts in her area.


Linda Manueles

Other featured speakers included Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper who spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship, and Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks, who welcomed iDE and its partners in the D90 Network to their future home in a restored 19th century horse barn in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Denver.


Governor Hickenlooper

After the event, Prewitt noted, “Today was a terrific day for us, a chance for some of our supporters to learn more about our contribution to poverty. Denver is increasingly concerned with global poverty and the challenge of meeting food resource needs in the coming decades.”

Read about the event in the Denver Post here. Or, in The San Francisco Chronicle (AP) here.

Or watch a clip of the event on Denver’s CBS 4 News site here.

Photos by Galen Clarke


Leaders in Their Fields Luncheon
17 October 2012 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

Carbon Finance Boosts iDE’s Clean Water Business in Cambodia

photo by David Graham

For the first time in Asia, a sustainable and market-based water filtration business has been registered under the voluntary Gold Standard scheme, and will benefit from carbon offset funding, illustrating that carbon markets can support sustainable technologies that improve the lives of poor populations. iDE’s Cambodian social enterprise, Hydrologic, manufactures ceramic water purifiers which provide clean water to rural households, reduce the amount of wood burned to boil water, create local jobs, and bolster economic development. Hydrologic was recently named winner of a 2012 Ashden Award. Start-up resources for Hydrologic came from several sources including the USAID WaterSHED project in form of grants and technical assistance.

Nearly 40% of rural Cambodians still have no access to safe drinking water. Untreated water and poor sanitation result in about 10 million cases of diarrhea and 10,000 deaths per year in Cambodia, mainly affecting children in rural areas. iDE’s Hydrologic produces and sells ceramic water filters that provide safe drinking water to rural households of Cambodia. By displacing water boiling practices, the filters allow Cambodian households to avoid the unsustainable burning of 18,000 tons of wood per year, saving 41,000 tons of CO2 emissions annually. Thanks to this impressive environmental impact, the project has completed its registration under the voluntary Gold Standard scheme, an award winning certification standard for carbon mitigation projects.

The project has two major features:
• It uses a market based approach: Hydrologic Social Enterprise believes that sustainable business is a powerful way to provide clean water for as many people as possible. It created a market for water purifiers in Cambodia by selling affordable filters to NGO programs, and via shops and rural sales agents. Households benefit from a low cost water filtration technology, and the local economy is bolstered by the establishment of production and distribution facilities.
• Carbon offsets ensure a sustainable business model, as the carbon revenue is directly re-invested into further scaling up project activities.

Hydrologic joined Nexus, a nonprofit cooperative of NGOs and social enterprises that scale up development solutions by leveraging sustainable funding from the sale of high-quality carbon offsets, a concept referred to as “Carbon for Development.” Nexus provided financial and technical assistance with the carbon certification process, and is supporting the commercialization of carbon credits by engaging companies and public institutions on a fair approach to offsetting.

Hydrologic’s sustainable business model and its numerous benefits for the environment have also attracted private sector support. An impact investor, Impact Finance, provided a loan to support the development of the project, and a multinational company, Deutsche Post DHL, has committed to purchase carbon credits originating from the project.



12 January 2012 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

iDE Honored as Top “WaSH” Org

iDE has just been named one of the top ten international organizations working in the field of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) based on a survey of experts in the field. The list was compiled by Philanthropedia/GuideStar, an information service specializing in reporting on U.S. non-profit companies.

Philanthropedia asked 116 WASH experts (funders, researchers, nonprofit senior staff, consultants, and others) from 90 organizations to identify nonprofit orgs that were making the biggest positive impact in the field. A total of 106 organizations were reviewed.

In their anonymous reviews, the experts cited iDE’s focus on “systemic change through market development of pro-poor technology as foundational to its widespread impact”. One expert wrote that “iDE doesn’t want to be a long-term service provider. In its best work, it refines a pro-poor technology, develops a market for that technology, supports business development to provide the technology, and then backs out to let the market drive the availability of the technology.”

For more than 15 years, iDE has pioneered innovative, market-based approaches to safe water and sanitation access. These approaches exploit the comparative advantage of private-sector, NGO, and government stakeholders to reach large numbers of poor households cost effectively and in short timeframes. iDE has successfully applied these approaches in promoting water filters, latrines, hand pumps, and behavior change in rural Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh. In Cambodia, for instance, iDE’s sanitation marketing program recently enabled local enterprises to sell 17,400 latrines without subsidy in a one-year period, won the International Design Excellence Award, and was inducted into the World Toilet Organization Hall of Fame.

To read more about what experts in the field have to say about us, click on the Expert Reviews section on our organization profile here.

Learn more about iDE Cambodia’s WaSH program here.

More here on the history of WaSH at iDE.

19 November 2011 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

iDE Launches New Toilet Project

Happy Cambodian Family with New Latrine

Lack of access to sanitation is a major problem affecting the developing world. Poor sanitation is a major cause of diarrheal disease, lost labor productivity for adults, missed school days for children, and additional financial burdens for families requiring medical treatment. In Cambodia alone, diarrheal diseases account for 17 percent of deaths in children under five. The World Bank recently estimated the annual economic loss due to poor sanitation there to be $448 million a year, which is equivalent to 7.2 percent of GDP.

Existing markets for rural sanitation in the developing world are woefully underdeveloped. Low demand and weak supply chains hinder the availability of sanitation products and services. Publicly funded sanitation projects often make extensive use of hardware subsidies with disappointing results; typically, only a fraction of the subsidy reaches the intended target group, and recipients often do not use or maintain their latrines over time.

For a number of years now in Asia, iDE has been at the forefront of Sanitation Marketing developments to address these challenges. iDE recently completed a pilot project in Cambodia that exceeded expectations by enabling 9.6 percent of the rural population to purchase sanitary latrines in eleven target districts over a 16-month period.

Now, a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made it possible to expand these achievements on a national scale, improving the sanitation conditions of tens of thousands of rural households while stimulating vibrant and sustainable sanitation markets. Over a three-year period, the Cambodia Sanitation Marketing Scale-Up Project will build on the original pilot project by working directly with some 90 local enterprises, encouraging them to invest their own resources into addressing the demand for sanitary latrines.

The project will enable 115,000 households in 60 districts of Cambodia to purchase affordable sanitary latrines. Other outcomes include:

• Improved latrine designs for two “challenging environments”

• Sanitation financing mechanisms for consumer households and supply chain enterprises

• A research and training center to become a global dissemination platform for Sanitation Marketing experience

The total cost of the project is estimated at $6,942,199. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded iDE a grant of $3,987,717. Other key partners in the project include the Stone Family Foundation, the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program, PATH, and the Royal Government of Cambodia.

Sanitation Marketing has emerged as a highly effective approach for rapidly and sustainably improving rural sanitation at scale by connecting consumers with products that they want and can afford. Evidence from a number of recent projects demonstrates that stimulating private enterprises to address the untapped rural sanitation market can have a revolutionary impact on the uptake of sanitary latrines—with associated health and financial gains for rural households.

The Sanitation Marketing model leverages the advantages of private sector entities, civil society, and government to reach large numbers of rural households in short time frames. Donor funds are not used to provide direct subsidies for hardware or installation. Instead they are invested in laying the foundations for demand-driven, self-financing market systems.

Broadly, Sanitation Marketing applies iDE’s market-based poverty alleviation approach to the related problem of inadequate sanitation. First, we develop a deep understanding of the target group’s needs and aspirations, and adapt or design affordable technology options to meet those needs. We strengthen the capacity of local enterprises to manufacture and deliver the technologies, conduct social marketing campaigns to encourage the purchase and proper use of the technologies, and coordinate with NGOs, microfinance institutions, and government agencies to extend scale and to reach poorer households.

23 August 2010 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

Triple Bottom Line Progress

In the ‘good news’ department: more companies are incorporating social good into their business model. The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) sector is comprised of purpose-driven companies whose business practices positively affect People and the Planet as well as the company’s Profitability. TBL companies provide greater impact than traditional businesses—through social, environmental, and economic means. However, at present only 1 in 11 TBL companies receive enough funding. That’s a real disconnect with consumers, 79 percent of whom want to support more purpose-driven companies. However, the TBL model does seem to be catching on; 68 percent of the top 250 global Fortune 500 companies have embraced TBL public reporting, alternately termed corporate social responsibility or sustainability reporting.

Fortunately, the TBL sector is known for collaborative partnerships. IDE is working with The [i4c] Campaign, which capitalizes on these partnerships to raise funds and awareness for TBL companies. By supporting The [i4c] Campaign and their partners, consumers help support the success of businesses that are deeply committed to their communities. The [i4c] Campaign is partnering with Alter Eco, Better World Books, and To-Go Ware, three enterprises—like IDE—that hold unique commitments to improving the world.

20 July 2010 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

Poverty and Climate Change

IDE’s founder, Paul Polak has just launched a new blog where he will be writing regularly on poverty and development issues from his visionary point of view. His first post discusses poverty from the angle of climate change and biodiversity, and I thought the excerpt below captured a lot when read from the perspective of IDE’s work in food security and small farm food production.

In 2006, the World Food Program distributed 4 million metric tons of food to 87.8 million poor people in 78 countries. Consider the carbon footprint of growing 4 million tons of food, transporting it to 78 countries, and transporting, housing and feeding the army of experts who supervise its distribution. Now add the carbon footprint required to regularly distribute food and water to regions in chronic deficit, like China’s Yellow River Basin and India’s Deccan Plateau. In Mumbai alone, 79 water tankers made 222 trips daily this year to deliver water to poor people during the dry season. Add to this the carbon footprint of the $100 billion we spend each year in futile massive development projects, and a picture begins to emerge on the impact of poverty on carbon emissions and climate change.

But the impact of poverty on the environment goes far beyond climate change.

Continue reading here for further interesting, and perhaps contentious, connections Paul makes between poverty and “green.”

27 May 2010 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

IDE Wins First Nestlé CSV Prize

IDE Cambodia was awarded the first Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value for its Farm Business Advisors program today at an awards ceremony in London. Since its inception in 2005, the FBA program has enabled 60 rural Cambodian entrepreneurs to start small farm advisory businesses, which in turn have helped 4,500 small-scale farm households increase their net income by 27 percent or US $150.

The prize of 500,000 Swiss Francs (about $433,050) will improve the project by recruiting and training an additional 36 advisors, generating approximately US $1.9 million in new income to positively impact 20,000 people in more than 4,000 rural households across Cambodia.

Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who presented the award to the IDE, said: “We congratulate IDE Cambodia on being the first to be awarded the Prize. The work they do is inspirational. The support and training from IDE ensures that all involved work together to create sustainable farming enterprises.”

Accepting the award, IDE Cambodia Country Director Michael Roberts said, “It is an honor to receive this recognition from Nestlé. The prize will help us further IDE’s mission to create income opportunities for poor rural households. We hope to leverage the Prize to reach more than 75,000 rural Cambodian households in the next few years. On a global scale this is still very small but we think there are big implications in what we are learning.”

The CSV Prize – which received more than 500 applications from 79 countries – was awarded during Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value Forum, an international gathering of leading experts in water, nutrition, rural development, and the role of business in society which took place in London on 27 May. The Prize was created to provide financial support of up to 500,000 Swiss Francs to individuals, NGOs, or small enterprises who offer innovative solutions to nutritional deficiencies, access to clean water, or progress in rural development. The prize money will be disbursed over a three-year period to assist in the scaling-up of the project.

Learn more about IDE’s Farm Business Advisor Program.

Watch Nestlé’s video on the award below.

16 April 2010 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

A New Growing Season

At the beginning of growing season 2009, we hosted a program called “Drip Kits for Donors” in which interested donors to IDE received, as a thank you gift, a version of our family nutrition kit which retails for $3-5 in the Asian countries where we work, and is designed to irrigate “kitchen gardens” of around 20 square meters in size. We had a lot of interest in the program here in Colorado and other states, but also from as far away as Mongolia where a Peace Corps volunteer wanted to test drip irrigation on tomatoes at a friend’s greenhouse in Muron, Khovsgul Aimag where she serves as a business advisor. In fact, our Mongolian Peace Corps Volunteer got the last kit we had in stock here in Denver.

It’s clear that we received so much interest in this initiative as a result of what can be fairly termed a snowball effect occurring in vegetable gardening and small-scale urban farming over the last couple seasons here in the developed world.

On a project level, this year we’re hearing from even more individuals and orgs interested in collaborations with us, whether they be small NGOs in African villages working on entrepreneurship education, foundations in Asia promoting best practices in “Bottom of the Pyramid” BOP design, or larger agricultural concerns looking to give back to the developing countries they source from by supporting more sustainable income generation models we at IDE specialize in.

From this desk, I can definitely say that awareness of, and interest in, our work and model has grown exponentially from last year. The emails and phone calls are streaming in.

So, as a small inspiration for the fast-approaching gardening season here in the US, see below for a few photos from last season showing the grassroots nature of the support for our model of development — from the mountains of Colorado to the Mongolian steppe.

IDE donors at Willow Creek Church in suburban Chicago set up an annual exhibit highlighting agricultural work in Africa.

Tim and Mary Taylor's elk proof, IDE drip-irrigated vegetable beds in the Colorado Mountains

Nick Gruber of Produce Denver packs up some harvested crops grown with IDE drip irrigation for his urban CSA.

Produce Denver's James Hale fills an IDE header bag

Produce Denver's James Hale fills an IDE header bag in the front yard of a client who has given over land to their urban CSA.

11 January 2010 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

Securing the Prosperity of Nations

To start IDE’s blog on an inspirational note for 2010, we give you an excerpt below from an analytic essay written by IDE’s founder, Paul Polak along with Peggy Reid and Amy Schefer for the forthcoming special edition of Innovations Journal, “Tech4Society: A Celebration of Ashoka-Lemelson Fellows” to accompany a live conference in Hyderabad, India next month.

It seems self-evident that we should care about helping 2.4 billion people raise themselves out of poverty. But really, why should we? Most of us working in the field of development fall into that fortunate few: the richest 10 percent of people in the world. Is it altruism alone that motivates us to care about the fates of billions of individuals whose lives we know relatively little about? For some of us, perhaps. But for most, recent history has made it painfully evident that the fates of all nations are connected. As economic institutions and markets have become ever more globally linked, the peace and security of our nation and of all nations are inextricably interwoven. And the widening gaps between the “haves”and the “have nots” are not simply morally questionable—they also lead to greater violence and instability and further economic stagnation. As President Barack Obama cautioned the world in his Nobel Peace Prize speech in Oslo, Norway,“Security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive.”

As we slowly recover from the worst economic downturn in nearly a century, we would be wise not to ignore the spectacular opportunities to create jobs and profits and to spur more rapid economic growth by giving birth to dozens of Henry Ford sized new markets that serve 90 percent of the world’s customers. By investing in income-generating enterprises that provide access to basic human needs, we are investing not only in prosperity but also in education, health, and greater global security.

The strategies to get there are surprisingly simple. We need to start by recognizing the enormous market opportunity to create products and services that 90 percent of the world will pay for instead of limiting ourselves to 10 percent of the world’s customers. We need to start treating the poorest of the poor as customers, not as charity cases. We need to listen to those customers to understand their biggest, most pressing needs and build simple, affordable solutions; ones that can be easily maintained and which create profitable businesses for local entrepreneurs. And we need to do so by relying on business models that offer attractive profits to companies and commercial rates of return to investors. Most importantly, we need to galvanize and embrace the self-interest and enterprising spirit inherent in all of us—companies, investors, and poor people.

The most effective way to reach the world’s poorest people and to give them the chance to generate wealth and lift themselves out of poverty is to energize market forces, those same forces that have fueled enormous wealth creation in developed nations for generations.

The time to begin is now.

– Paul Polak, Peggy Reid, and Amy Schefer

22 December 2009 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

IDE’s “Invisible Hand” a Success

Chuck Plunkett of the Denver Post writes in the Paper’s 20 Dec 09 edition…

“Without doubt, it has been a bad year for capitalism.

In the smoldering ashes of last fall’s Wall Street meltdown, the free-market system that has been as much a part of America’s foundation as our concept of democracy itself has looked to large segments of the population like a perpetual 1928-era crash waiting to happen.

Those who seek to enrich themselves are seen as greedy and destructive.

Government assistance is the new cool.

But in this holiday season, when many Americans are adding charitable organizations to their gift lists, a newly strengthening movement aimed at reducing world poverty ought to challenge the doubters and the haters.”

IDE is the key originator of that movement, and Plunkett judges our method a success amid the gloom.

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