Category: Africa -
6 July 2015
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.
28 April 2014
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.
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
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
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.
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.
6 September 2013
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.
27 June 2013
As Obama sets off to enjoy his Africa tour, let’s hope he enjoys locally grown food. There are some 500 million smallholder farms worldwide. More than 2 billion people depend on them for their livelihoods. These small farms produce about 80 per cent of the food consumed in sub-Saharan Africa.
These African farmers are essential to feed a growing continent.
When I think of African farmers, I think of those families we work with in Ghana, many gaining access to a water pump for the first time in their lives. I think of our farmers in Mozambique, growing hot peppers for international markets, and earning as much as $4,000, an amount they could only dream of previously. Or the farmers in Ethiopia, using one of our pumps and no longer walking a mile or more to collect water in buckets. As these hard working people invest in their farms, you can see the change. They grow more crops, and the grow a greater variety. It’s an investment. And with the right technology, they can grow their future.
In my many years of working in agriculture and rural development, two things have become increasingly evident. The first is that farming is a business – no matter how small the farm. Secondly, farmers need tools and incentives to expand their farms. They need access to water, seeds, and fertilizer. And they need access to markets. When we understand these farm families as businesses and not charity – as we at iDE have for millions of families – wonderful things start to happen. And more food is on the table.
6 December 2012
|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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
2 July 2012
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.
22 March 2012
I’m sitting here at Green Spaces Denver, campaign headquarters for our Water4Food 2012 day of service in honor of United Nations World Water Day, which this year is focused on food security. As our readers know, that’s iDE’s main focus.
There’s a lot of excitement and momentum from volunteers showing up to help spread the word in our local community. We’re going out and hitting the streets with postcards, stickers, tee shirts to share facts like these:
Did you know that it takes 635 gallons of water to produce one hamburger? Or that 397 gallons of water are needed to produce 35 oz of cane sugar? The truth is, without water there is no food. Water scarcity already affects every continent and more than 40 percent of the people on our planet. This year’s International World Water Day focuses on the critical relationship between water access and food security.
iDE, along with Card Gnome, Green Spaces, and our event sponsors, brings Water4Food 2012 to the Denver area to raise awareness for this issue and money to prevent famine for families in West Africa.
What can individuals do?
- follow a healthier, sustainable diet;
- consume less water-intensive products;
- reduce the scandalous food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water used to produce it is definitively lost!
- produce more food, of better quality, with less water.
There’s still time to volunteer! If you can spend a couple of hours taking stickers and information sheets to Denver area businesses, sign up at volunteer.water4food.com. All volunteers are invited to join us at the Water4Food 2012 party tonight at 5:30pm at Green Spaces.
Purchase a Water4Food 2012 greeting card plan at Card Gnome, and 50% of the proceeds will provide families in the Sahel region of West Africa with the tools and knowledge needed to create and sustain a sustainable income from small plot farming, enabling them to increase food security and lift themselves out of poverty.
Your plan allows you to send 25 cards throughout one year. You choose the perfect card from Card Gnome’s selection of thousands of cards for all occasions; write your personal message and Card Gnome mails it for you. You can even schedule cards for delivery a year in advance.
With the purchase of a card plan, you gain a ticket with a guest to the party at Green Spaces tonight. Just show up and we’ll have your name on a list along with others.
If you would like to donate directly to iDE, please click here.
There are many ways to get involved in this issue, no matter where you are!
Visit the U.N.’s World Water Day site (www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/) to find World Water Day events all over the world, downloadable informational materials and more.
Twitter: Join the conversation using #Water4Food and #WorldWaterDay and give a shout to @CardGnome and @ideorg or any of the other great sponsors listed below.
Facebook: We love sharing water4food information and you can visit our pages to access videos, pictures, blog posts and other items we’ve been sharing recently:
Green Spaces greenspaceshome.com
Silver Bullet Water Treatment, LLC silverbulletcorp.com
Colorado Water 2012 water2012.org
Colorado Public Television 12 cpt12.org
Elephant Energy elephantenergy.org
Inspire Commerce inspirecommerce.com
Edge of Seven edgeofseven.org
Ellen Bruss Design ebd.com
Conscious Coffees consciouscoffees.com
Sticker Giant stickergiant.com
Rage Unlimited rageunlimited.com
Runa Tea Company runa.org
I’m incredibly inspired by all of these volunteers who are taking time out of their busy days to help us tackle this issue. Thank you to our sponsors, partners staff, volunteers, and news media who are working hard to spread the word on this very important day.
7 November 2011
From iDE CEO Al Doerksen:
Hunger in Africa has been on my mind recently. FAO has been reporting that food prices have spiked to record levels. Worse, reports of famine in Somalia have been circulating – real true famine with people not just hungry, but starving. Starving means that the body starts to feed on itself just to survive.
I am a big believer in Amartya Sen’s analysis (in his essay “Poverty and Famines”) that by far the largest cause of hunger and starvation in a famine event is not because of inadequate food supply – people become hungry and starve when they cannot access the food which is available. Sen analyzed food supplies in some of most famous famines including the Irish potato famine in 1845/51, or the Bengal famine in India in 1942, or Bangladesh in 1973. Each of these famines had different underlying causes, but most importantly, in all cases, there was enough food to supply everyone. No one had to starve.
What then are the factors which deny access to food to hungry people? Well, in the first case, there are nasty civil conflicts as is the case in Somalia – starvation of people is being used as a weapon. Hoarding by merchants or by wealthier households is a factor too.
By far and away, however, the biggest reason people cannot access the food they need is because they are too poor. In plain English, they do not have enough money to buy the food they need.
This last week I was in Burkina Faso. I had the chance to “get lost” in a village community with my camera, and when this happens, I look for examples of market activity, i.e., local buying and selling. Simple stands where someone is selling few vegetables, or salt, or litre bottles of cooking oil are common. Oil is daily necessity – I was quoted 1000 Cfa (just over $2 USD) for a one litre bottle.
This is probably a fair price for palm oil, but if you are a $1-2/day household, you simply may not have the free cash (working capital) to buy an entire litre at a time. Local traders’ response to this situation to repackage oil (and many other commodities) into smaller, affordable quantities. You can buy a small packet for just today. This is useful.
But here’s the rub. If you buy oil in smaller packets (out of necessity), you end up paying 20% more for your cooking oil as compared to the 1 litre bottle. So not only are you poor, but now your food bill for oil is 20% more expensive. Ouch. This is the pain of food insecurity.
[On the other hand, middle class North American consumers without real cash constraints, can secure 10% case discounts at Costco or Whole Foods.]
What I also saw in Burkina Faso last week, was a woman with an infant strapped to her back drawing water with a rope and bucket from an open well to fill sprinkler cans with water, then walk two cans at a time to irrigate her vegetables. This is hard work.
I saw another woman tilling her garden with a pick axe – try cultivating even a quarter acre in this way. I also saw a lot of women bent over weeding their gardens. These are women working incredibly hard to grow a little food and earn a little income. What they really need are opportunities to be more productive – to farm larger areas with less effort and with better yields.
Drip systems, suction pumps, diesel pumps, two wheeled tractors, animal traction, better seeds, affordable fertilizers, better agronomic practice – all of these can help subsistence farmers become more productive. iDE is committed to making all of these available. iDE believes that the way the subsistence households can escape this penalty of higher food prices is to put more income into the pockets of these consumers through opportunities for improved productivity – so they don’t need to pay 20% more for their cooking oil than you and I.