Category: Affordable Technology -

8 August 2014 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

iDE and American Standard: See big business in toilets at the bottom of the pyramid

By KC Koch

SaTo-1This is the story of a successful partnership between two organizations that share a passion for toilets: an NGO with 30+ years of making markets work for the poor and the largest toilet manufacturer in North America. Eventually, they made more impact together than either organization could make alone.

Combining diverse expertise

The idea of a partnership started back in 2011 at a water and sanitation conference in Delhi. Cordell Jacks, the co-director of iDE’s Global WASH Initiative, and Jim McHale, VP, Research, Development, & Engineering for American Standard, met for coffee. It didn’t take long before Cordell and Jim realized that they had the makings of a perfect partnership.

iDE would bring local expertise of rural supply chains and last-mile distribution in Bangladesh, as well as a host of sanitation market development experience gained from projects in other countries.  American Standard would bring 140 years of state-of-the-art product design, computerized fluid dynamic engineering & modeling, as well as global sourcing, manufacturing and state-of-the-art product testing.

Together they had the right combination of skills and knowledge to make a difference for the 2.5 billion people who live without improved sanitation in developing countries.

Cordell remembers the potential of the partnership: “American Standard and iDE are two organizations with complimentary skill sets. Both are dedicated to increasing and improving sanitation globally. Together, we demonstrated that there is a sustainable and profitable business model in the heart of one of the most challenging market conditions in the world. It is an amazing example of impact that can be had with innovative public private partnerships.”

Accepting the challenge

American Standard saw a whole new market in the 2.5 billion people who are typically overlooked by big business. Too many corporations assume the poor have no purchasing power. But the most forward-thinking brands, like American Standard, are starting to take notice of the enormous potential in the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) customers. With a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, American Standard accepted the challenge to create a new latrine product for poor people in Bangladesh.

A local understanding from iDE

As far back as 1982, Paul Polak, iDE’s founder, walked and talked with small farmers in their one-acre fields. He spoke with them about their challenges and their dreams. iDE is still inspired by Paul’s approach of asking questions first. Today, iDE practices human-centered design (HCD), a methodology that identifies solutions to various challenges by placing users at the center of the design process.

In 2012, iDE led American Standard through the human-centered design process in Bangladesh. iDE was working under a grant from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank (WSP) to implement the “SanMark Pilot project in Bangladesh.”

Tamara Baker, co-director of iDE’s Global WASH Initiative, recalled, “We opened new doors and ways of thinking for each other.” Together they spoke with small producers, salespeople, customers, and merchants. They field-tested prototypes, gathered customer feedback and ideated on product design. They also understood the potential market dynamics that could be strengthened to form a sustainable business model.

Product expertise from American Standard

American Standard joined iDE in Bangladesh for a deep dive to ensure their solutions would be feasible, desirable and affordable. The designer from American Standard, Daigo Ishiyama, provided the big “a-ha.” He noticed something only a fluid-dynamic engineer would notice. Previous latrine products use too much water. Meanwhile, Bangladeshi are accustomed to carrying a very small amount of water into the latrine. When you have less water, you need a smaller trap. The confined space creates a whirlpool effect and provides the needed flush power.

Then, American Standard created an ingenious counterweight trapdoor solution that effectively sealed off the feces from the open air. And, of equal importance, the trap hid the feces from view of the user. Customer feedback revealed that people didn’t know it was possible to not have to see feces when inside a latrine. They were thrilled! The resulting product was named the SaTo pan (pronounced SAH-toh, derived from “Safe Toilet”).

The American Standard team also provided plastics knowledge, the ability to rapidly prototype in plastic, as well as the financial resources and influence to support iDE’s longer-term engagement with domestic plastics manufacturer RFL Plastics Ltd. “Thanks to our partnership, we suddenly saw plastic as a very interesting material for scalable, sustainable products for improved sanitation,” said Conor Riggs, Technical Director – Programs at iDE Bangladesh. “It was the spark that led to other innovations in our program, particularly the development of a fully upgradeable, mass-producible latrine system that includes the SaTo Pan that will go to market in the fall of 2014.”

The case for the BoP

BoP business models can and do work. iDE staff see it daily. iDE operates programs in 11 countries across Africa, Asia, and Central America, that are laying the groundwork for corporations to enter this new frontier. iDE asks private enterprises to think beyond charity. A sustainable business model benefits both the private corporation and the people they serve. Armed with the right insights, private corporations can make an impact and make a profit. These are some of the foundational principles of iDE, which emanate from its founder, Paul Polak.

Paul recently expressed his approval of the collaboration that led to the SaTo pan: “Since poor sanitation is a key source of illness in developing countries, I am delighted to hear that iDE has collaborated with American Standard, the biggest toilet manufacturer in North America, to produce and start to distribute a radically affordable product to prevent the spread of diarrheal disease.  I am particularly impressed with the price of $1.50, which could make it accessible to millions of people.  It is simple, affordable devices like this that make the biggest impact.”

There is still a lot of convincing to do out there. American Standard is a pioneer. Their next horizon? Zambia—where they know it’s not a question of “if” the markets will be profitable, it’s only a question of “who” and “when.”

 

iDEorg.org

AmericanStandard-US.com

30 May 2014 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

La Lay Ha: Smiles Grow with the Rice in Vietnam

La Lay Ha_VietnamShe slides down the muddy hill, constantly pointing things out and saying them in her native Paco language.  At the bottom of the valley she hops the bamboo fence in her black silk skirt, turns, and smiles.  This is her rice field and she is proud that she alone can feed her family.

La Lay Ha is a 34 year old widow with three children.  They live near the Vietnam border in a hamlet called Ang Cong.  Years ago, she was unable to grow enough rice to feed her family and would buy it to prevent a shortage.  She says that rice is very important and it must be guaranteed for her family.  She cannot focus on anything else until it is secured.

In 2010, she learned about a more effective strategy to fertilize her rice crop called fertilizer deep placement (FDP) and decided to try it because of the training accompanying the product provided by iDE. Nervous at first, she applied the product to a portion of her rice land.  After the first crop was a success she applied FDP to all of her land and doubled her rice yield.  Today, the same land produces enough rice to last an entire year for her family and the excess is given to neighbors.  Since she no longer has to purchase rice, the money is spent on her children to supply them with clothes and books for school.

Ms. La encourages other families to follow her and use FDP.  She says to buy a product you believe in, and this fertilizer is very easy.  Her advice is “Transplant correctly, use FDP and wait until the end of the crop.  Simple.”  Her neighbor Mr. Ho laughed when he first saw her planting rows and fertilizing.  Now he uses FDP through the iDE program and is also a success.

Spending less time worrying about rice gives Ms. La time for other things.  She is head of the Women’s Union in the village, teaches family planning, and volunteers for another organization.  “Now many people want to work with me,” she says, and her smile broadens.

28 April 2014 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Focused on the Human Element

Why does one product work in one country, but an exact replica doesn’t sell in another? What aspects of your toilet do you care about? Is it culturally appropriate? Why or why not?

To answer these questions and many more, iDE uses the Human Centered Design (HCD) methodology to develop products and business models, explore new markets, and solve problems. By placing the users at the core, HCD helps us to create solutions that are truly designed for people, so they have a higher probability of success. Funders and users of HCD find it is the most cost effective methodology to find a working solution that will have the potential for growth and sustainability.

Why does it matter?

Each HCD process is specific to the context in which it is applied so that, regardless of the size or duration of a project, iDE can be sure that the most appropriate solutions are being offered to the rural poor. Dedicating the time to complete HCD research ensures that all actors on the supply and demand side are being heard, their issues addressed, and that only technologically feasible and economically viable solutions are carried forward. This saves iDE and our donors time and money. Being an HCD innovator has allowed iDE to improve the lives of millions of people around the world, offering them desirable and affordable products to address their unmet water and sanitation needs.

How does it work?

IDEO HCD chat

 

Each HCD process is specific to the context in which it is applied so that, regardless of the size or duration of a project, iDE can be sure that the most appropriate solutions are being offered to the rural poor. Dedicating the time to complete HCD research ensures that all actors on the supply and demand side are being heard, their issues addressed, and that only technologically feasible and economically viable solutions are carried forward. This saves iDE and our donors time and money. Being an HCD innovator has allowed iDE to improve the lives of millions of people around the world, offering them desirable and affordable products to address their unmet water and sanitation needs.

 

Hear: Through in-depth interviews with the target market, potential influencers, and decision makers, the hearing phase helps gather stories and conduct field research. Interviewers lead conversations without judgment or predetermined answers to uncover the context in which individuals operate.  This ‘Deep Dive’ produces user insights and design principles that guide the project. Create: The design team works together in a series of interactive idea generation and rapid prototyping rounds to translate what was heard from people into useable solutions. The process moves between concrete data to more abstract thinking for identifying themes and solutions. This fosters efficient designing as the team is able to test all solutions but only feasible solutions are carried beyond the ‘product and business model prototyping’ phase. Deliver: Through feasibility and viability assessments, a model for financial sustainability and an innovation pipeline are developed. These help to develop pilots, measure impact, and create a learning plan. The Deliver phase complements existing implementation processes, but results in a tailored implementation plan. This ‘sales test/pilot’ phase ensures an appropriate solution is created.

 

iDE is both an leader and innovator in applying the HCD methodology to water and sanitation initiatives. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2009, iDE collaborated with design firm IDEO, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), and Heifer International to create the HCD toolkit for individuals and organizations working to find sustainable solutions to community problems. The toolkit won the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and BusinessWeek Magazine’s 2009 IDEA Gold Award.

textHCD diagram

| Posted By: Ilana Martin

Drill Deeper: Finding Income in a Well

2.2014 Manual Well Drilling Ethiopia (28)For most smallholder farmers, access to water can be challenging. The dry season usually lasts for nine months, leaving only three months for the rain. Therefore, many subsistence farmers grow a year’s worth of their staple crops, like rice or wheat, during the three-month rainy season. They are so focused on making sure they have enough of their staple crops to last a year that they don’t use much of their farmable land to grow fruits or vegetables. However, if farmers can access water to grow crops during the dry season, they can grow high-nutrient crops to eat at home or sell in the local market. In order to do this, farmers need to be able to access water from the ground to irrigate their crops. Our solution to accessing underground water is through manual well drilling. This system uses human strength to pound hollow iron rods into the ground until the drillers find a reliable water source. Once the well is dug, a pipe is installed with a treadle pump fixed on the top. See the process for yourself.

Through manual well drilling, farmers have the ability to increase incomes, improve food security, and access water for livestock and domestic needs. This technique is widely used throughout Asia and Central and South America but is less common in Africa. The success of this technique largely depends on the geological features of the region, which limits the area where it can be used. The ground must be suitable and have shallow aquifers to ensure water levels can be sustained.  Well depths can vary depending on each location’s geographical structure, affecting the ease with which a pump can be installed to access the water underground.

2.2014 Manual Well Drilling Eithiopia Rapid shot (35)Not only does manual well drilling help farmers to access much needed water from the ground; it also creates local businesses and jobs. iDE helps to train village-based entrepreneurs to drill a well and how to access the proper depth (depending on the soil composition), install a pump, and provide the farmer with future well-related services. Drillers become certified through iDE and employ two helpers each time a well is needed. More than 100 drillers have been trained, certified, and established as independent contractors. This approach to manual well drilling is beneficial to the local economy because it helps to provide life-enhancing services to local farmers and creates local jobs. In just a few years, iDE’s manual well drilling activities in Ethiopia have created over 400 jobs in rural communities.

28 March 2014 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

How can Rural African Farmers Grow more Food?

Fabian_edited

Meet Fabian Amili, one of our farming heroes in Zambia. By partnering with iDE, Fabian increased his own family’s income and worked his way out of poverty; today as a Farm Business Advisor he inspires everyone in his village to do the same.

Farm Business Advisors help their neighbors access seeds, fertilizer, water pumps, and other critical farming tools. Donations from RLG, the Rudy and Alice Ramsey Foundation, and many others have supported the training of more than 130 Farm Business Advisors in Zambia.

On Fabian’s farm you can see cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and other high value crops, which he sells on the local market. With the extra income, he has paid school fees for his children and bought medicine for his family.

Today Fabian is helping others by training them to use the same seeds and farming techniques he continues to use. With enormous passion he said, “if more farmers are doing well like me, we can grow together…” Fabian makes the world a better place.

Join us in training the next group of Farm Business Advisors! Donations to our agricultural work help lift families out of poverty not from a handout, but from their own hard work. With your donation of $110, we can bring another set of tools to an African farm.

26 March 2014 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Demu Bikila: A Proud Landowner and Empowered Business Women

TuluBolo, Ethiopia Demu Bikila

Meet Demu Bikila from Tulubolo, Ethiopia. She is a proud mother of five, and with a smile on her face she says, “I am a successful businesswomen.”

Before iDE, Demu could only grow food during the rainy season and harvest once a year. She tells you that she had “no previous knowledge of farming” and didn’t have any connections to the local market. To make matters even worse, Demu had no savings. This means she would have a hard time getting a loan from a local bank.

With a little help from iDE, Demu turned her life around, she:

  • Connected with a local rural bank, with a program specifically for farmers
  • Bought a treadle pump, good seeds, and dug a shallow well
  • Received training in good agricultural practices
  • Was linked to a buyer who would move her crops from her farm to the market at a good price

With a treadle pump and access to ground water Demu can harvest four times a year. With this, she now has a consistent income and her family can eat nutritious food throughout the year.

2.2014 TulluBollo, Ethiopia Demu Bikila (24)_edited

 

What will she do next?

Demu knows she has a hard road ahead of her as a single mother. Her husband died some years back and all she has left is the land that was once his and her kids. Had s

he been younger she would have lost the land completely because traditionally it would have gone to his brother. Being a female landowner, she is now a minority in Ethiopia, BUT she is empowered and knowledgeable.

She has plans to continue to work with iDE so she can continue to learn and pass the knowledge onto her children. Demu wants to make even more money so she can send all of her children to school.

Demu is thankful for what she has and is ready to work hard so her children can have a better future.

 

 

 

30 September 2013 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Sustainability and Cost-effectiveness in Private Sector and Producer Organ­izations

 

Michael Roberts from iDE Cambodia will be attending and presenting at Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) 4th Annual Meeting, 2013.

The conference theme for this year is the Role of Private Sector and Producer Organizations in Rural Advisory Services and will be held September 24-26 in Berlin, Germany

Monday 23rd September 13:30 – 15:45 (CEST)

Swiss Forum on Rural Advisory Services (SFRAS) Side Event: Embedded services as modality for sustainable RAS

Case studies based on the experience of SFRAS members are presented that demonstrate the diversity of Rural Advisory Services provision in the form of embedded services as an approach for sustainability. Key themes addressed include:

  • Embedding advisory services with input sales, processing and marketing
  • Financial and ecological sustainability
  • Comparative importance of embedded services in a pluralistic advisory services

Michael Roberts from iDE Cambodia will present the case study of the Farm Business Advisor model that embeds sales of quality agricultural inputs with professional training and support through ethical, relationship-based sales.

Peter Schmidt from Helvetas Swiss Interco-operation will moderate the session that will also feature case studies from CABI, Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and Helvetas’ experiences in Bangladesh and Tanzania.

 

Tuesday 24th September 12:00 – 12:50 (CEST)

Parallel Session: Sustainability and cost-effectiveness in private sector and producer organ­izations

Michael Roberts will share lessons learnt from the Farm Business Advisor model developed by iDE in Cambodia and currently being rolled out by iDE programs in Ethiopia, Zambia, Mozambique and Nepal.  Michael will be joined in the session by Stefan Kachelriess-Matthess from GIZ-Compaci and Souvanthong Namvong from the Department of Agriculture Extension and Cooperatives. The aim of this session is to identify sustainable and cost-effective approaches to providing rural advisory services, identify opportunities for transferability and garner lessons from existing public-private partnerships.

See photos on our Facebook page.

 

More details at, the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services.

 

6 September 2013 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

iDE Burkina Faso and Ecobank: Making Microfinance Work for Smallholder Famers

iDE_burkina_logo

Horticultural production is the main activity during dry season in Burkina Faso (October to June), a country where agriculture is the main sector of the economy, it employs 80% of the population. In the context of water scarcity that faces the Sahelian region, drip irrigation technology is one of the best alternatives to develop horticulture and enhance rural population income. iDE Burkina is developing the market of drip irrigation technology with a social entrepreneurial model to increase smallholder farmers’ income. One main constraints in developing iDE’s activities is access to finance for the poorest farmers and particularly women small-scale farmers. Smallholder farmers interested in purchasing drip irrigation kits do not have the access to financial means to secure loans from local banks.

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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.

 

 

2 July 2012 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Burkina Faso Tech Center Celebrates First Anniversary

Ms. Aida Ganaba, head of iDE’s Technology Center, talks about drip irrigation innovations at the first anniversary celebration.

On June 12, iDE’s newest country program celebrated an important milestone. iDE’s Burkina Faso team was joined by esteemed delegates from the Burkina Faso Ministry of Agriculture at a ceremony to observe the first harvest at the Center of Technology at Yamtenga. Speakers included several key iDE Burkina Faso staff, as well as Abdoulaye Compari from the Ministry of Agriculture, and Paul Bayili, who spoke on behalf of SDC on the importance of the partnership to advancing drip irrigation in the country. The event was attended by representatives of key partners including SDC, AFD, CIDA, GIZ, JICA, UNICEF, Swedish Corporation, FAO, WFP and IFAD. Various NGOs including Self-Help Africa, ACDI/VOCA, SNV, PlanetFinance, and HKI helped us to mark the occasion.

iDE Burkina Country Director Laurent Stravato discussed the organization’s efforts to implement low-cost drip irrigation technologies in a region with severely limited water resources, setting forth three issues which iDE has been working on in Burkina Faso: scaling up drip irrigation in the region, developing innovations to make it more affordable to Burkinabé farmers, and iDE Burkina’s distribution model and the advisory role of twelve farm business advisors currently working in four provinces of the country: Boulkiemdé, Kadiogo, Sanguié, and Yatenga.

Ms. Aida Ganaba, head of iDE’s Technology Center, explained in detail the work being done with drip irrigation kits of varying sizes as well various innovative prototypes being tested at the Center, such as a 1000-liter, ferro-cement reservoir, a 150 liter clay jar constructed by local masons, and a wood support system housing a 1,000 liter tank, created by an iDE farm business advisor.

iDE Burkina’s Center of Technology was created to serve as a facility where affordable water technologies could be developed, tested, and demonstrated to local farmers. The team faced many challenges in getting the center underway, including poor soil quality, the 400 meter distance from the nearest water source, abundance of plant disease, and a need for system uniformity. Addressing these problems, which are shared by many of the farmers iDE serves, has helped validate the effectiveness of drip irrigation in the local context.

iDE Burkina Faso’s business model builds upon the successful Farm Business Advisor program, originally piloted by iDE Cambodia. iDE Burkina employs twelve farm business advisors who act as liaisons between iDE and the small producer. Located throughout each of the 4 current project areas, they provide demonstration sites for technologies, after-sales assistance, and a focal point for the smallholder farmer customers. They also direct potential customers to distributors and dealers who specialize in iDE drip irrigation kit sales.

The Center also functions as a base for development of rural marketing strategies, including publicity panels, t-shirts, and informational documents. Other activities, such as engaging local theater to promote the use of drip irrigation technologies, are planned and implemented here. “Why is it that products such as soft drinks and telephones are so well advertised in rural markets, while products used to better the lives of smallholder farmers, such as drip irrigation, are not as well advertised?” asked Program Officer Sean McKinlay.

Perhaps most importantly, the Center of Technology is a functioning farm. Mr. Désiré Yerbanga, Business Development Manager, presented economic results of the Technology Center’s inaugural harvest. In a single 3-month production cycle, 378 kilograms of okra were harvested from a 200 square meter plot, netting 36,000 F CFA with one month in the harvest still remaining. A similar return for the two remaining cycles in the year is expected, for a total return of 108,000 F CFA on an initial investment of 50,000 F CFA. That same 3-month production cycle also yielded a 90 kilogram peanut harvest netting another 36,000 F CFA. In addition, iDE has found that substantial farm income can be earned from the sale of peanut leaves, thus shedding light on the need to look more closely at potential markets for agricultural by-products.

As iDE’s first francophone country program, Burkina Faso has achieved important initial success in reducing market prices for technology, reducing producer labor, and achieving substantial gains in time and revenue for smallholder farmers in its first year.

iDE Burkina Faso has experienced challenges in creating partnerships with micro-credit institutions and finding local partners to assist with product transformation. iDE Burkina Faso continues to adapt and grow accordingly, and as such the June 12 ceremony represents an important opening for drip irrigation in the country. The presence of the government, donors, and all major media outlets there presented an especially strong case to the public.

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