Category: Bangladesh -

8 August 2014 | Posted By: iDE

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.”

12 June 2012 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

iDE Project Impacts Food Security for 60,000 Households

harvesting chamomile in Nepal

iDE has been selected to lead a coalition of organizations in a project that aims to make a major impact on the problem of food insecurity in Nepal and Bangladesh. Funded by the European Union, the Agriculture and Nutrition Extension project will improve food security and incomes for a total of 60,000 poor households over the next 30 months.

The project will strike at the root causes of food insecurity to create sustainable improvements in income and nutrition. Together with partner organizations CIMMYT, WorldFish, IRRI, Save The Children, CEAPRED, BES and CODEC, iDE will train poor farm families in new and emerging agricultural technologies, helping them to step up productivity and increase their annual incomes. The project will expose them to new agriculture technologies based on market development approaches and the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA). The project also aims at conducting nutrition education, monitoring and counselling for the poor households to increase consumption of nutritious foods.

One of the other main goals of the project is to develop market linkages between rural and urban areas and promote exchange of expertise and technologies between agricultural and research institutions in Nepal and Bangladesh, both at the national and grassroots levels. The project will work in two terai districts of Rupandehi and Nawalparsi and two hill districts Rukum and Surkhet, which were selected for their suitability to develop export linkages for vegetable seeds between Nepal and Bangladesh.

Women and children in both countries, who are often the hardest hit by nutritional problems, will be the target beneficiaries of the project. Throughout our history, iDE has observed that the best route to food security is to facilitate sustainable income increases. The project seeks to help 60,000 households to increase their annual income by at least $93 from production and sales of high value agricultural commodities. Another 1000 households are expected to increase their annual income by $124 from seed sales. The project will have a national impact extending innovations and building capacities of grassroots institutions, eventually impacting as many as 140,000 other households in action areas.

29 March 2011 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

A School of iDEas

From Raisa Chowdhury, here’s a report from iDE Bangladesh’s annual staff retreat.

iDE Bangladesh recently hosted its Annual Retreat for 2011 for all 76 staff from different field offices around the country. The 3 day workshop, from 14th to 16th March, was hugely successful in bringing about organizational integration and, it is hoped, will lead to significant performance improvements in the future.

The theme of the workshop was “A school of iDEas”. This sought to promote iDE Bangladesh as an organization which nurtures and creates innovation and new ideas. To make the learning and the team development process more effective, all staff including directors, officers, specialists, coordinators, administrators, interns, guards, drivers and friends, were divided into four different teams of Green, Blue, Red and Black to undertake group presentations, workshops, tasks and competitive sporting events.

The retreat harnessed the talent, experience, wisdom and logic of all members of the iDE Bangladesh family. This enabled staff to successfully complete team building activities including making presentations to generate intra-IDE knowledge exchange, designing posters representing staff expectations for the retreat, and also cultural events including singing, poetry recitals and mime! The cultural events were for many the highlight of the retreat.

iDE Bangladesh always seeks to continually improve its performance, and staffs were asked to provide feedback and recommendations regarding any aspects of their work. These comments will be addressed in four project management team meetings over the course of the year. The retreat proved to be an excellent opportunity for everyone to meet and tackle existing issues, address queries, perceive future challenges and to think about ways of improving how the organization performance. iDE is a collective of distinctive minds, and by joining together under the umbrella curriculum of poverty alleviation, we found we could establish a solid foundation for future successes.

Bangladesh staff retreat

4 January 2011 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Pied Pipers and IDE

Al and children

From IDE CEO Al Doerksen’s blog:

On a recent trip to Ethiopia, one of my colleagues collected a couple of photos of himself with a larger group of the local kids. I was ragging him a little about that saying that IDE doesn’t need any more images of “white men saving the world’s poor children.” I had to partially eat my words when I came across my own Pied Piper pose from a trip to Bangladesh in September. We were visiting project areas in northern Bangladesh; as visitors we may have been curious about irrigation applications, but for the kids in the village, the sight of a somewhat larger, white mustached foreigner with a black cap was also somewhat curious. It was not long before there was a procession of 20 or more following me. They were cute and they were interested in what this was all about. They happily agreed to pose for a photo; believe me, when I showed them the photo, they were more interested in seeing themselves than the “ferenghi”.

I have always enjoyed little kids, and somewhere along the way, people started to call me “Uncle Al, the kiddies’ pal.” Now, I’m not so big on my nephews and nieces (and I have about 30 of these) calling me “uncle”, but I do like the warmth and friendship dimension of this. (I’m glad that a bunch of them are now my Facebook friends).

These days I have two little grandsons who mean the world to me, and I am proud to be called their “grandpa”. I love their curiosity, their lack of pretension, their love of running, their hugs and smiles, and their enjoyment of good books. On my bucket list was the desire to take a grandchild to the zoo; they have allowed me to realize the fulfillment of this dream. Although they are challenging at times, fundamentally I do not see Matias and Lucas as problem cases which their great white grandfather needs to solve. What I resonate with is their own potential, hopes, dreams, energies & curiosities. Good health, literacy, a secure & peaceful environment and enough of the right food to eat would certainly be helpful.

Fundamentally, these are the same thoughts I have about the “gang” to whom I became an unwitting Pied Piper in Bangladesh. Their standard of living was basic to be sure, but it was not hard to see that they were also interested in books, in having enough to eat, in being able to run and in being safe & secure. In other words, their interests (whether explicitly addressed or not) were essentially the same as those of my little Canadian grandsons. Neither my colleague nor I are interested in a paternalistic view of development. Both of us enjoy kids, however, and if IDE’s income generating programs create opportunities for regular delicious meals, for reading, for running, for fun and for friendship, that turns us on. It’s not about being uncles or grandfathers or Pied Pipers – it is just about friendship and generosity.

Al with his grandsons

3 September 2010 | Posted By: Michael Roberts

IDE at World Water Week

From Mike Roberts, Country Director of  IDE Cambodia…

Next week I will be joining the Nestlé CSV team on their stand at World Water Week 2010 in Stockholm, on Monday 6 September (11:30 – 13:00 CET) and Tuesday 7 September (09:30 -11:00 CET).

As Country Director of IDE Cambodia, I will be talking about the essential role of water in agriculture and in rural communities. This is from our experience of setting up the Farm Business Advisors Project, for which we won the first ever Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value this year.

In Cambodia, where scarce water resources and poor water quality are a pervasive constraint to rural development, we have been using water as a strategic entry point in our programs addressing poverty.

If you are attending World Water Week, please stop by the Nestlé booth to say hello.

17 August 2009 | Posted By: Ilana Martin


An IDE treadle pump in use in Myanmar

An IDE treadle pump in use in Myanmar

Voice of America reported on IDE’s success promoting the treadle pump in a recent development report.  Karen Leggett’s story “The Importance of a Simple Water Pump,” written in simplified English for audiences less familiar with the language, was broadcast August 16. You can read a transcript or listen to the story here.

21 June 2009 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

CEO Al Doerksen on “Food Security”

“More people than ever are victims of hunger” was the title of a just released FAO report. “For the first time in human history, more than one billion people are undernourished worldwide.”

Having worked in the food aid “industry” for some years, and having written extensively on “food security,” I am interested in what is really being said.

The report did not say one billion people are malnourished, although undernourishment can certainly lead to that. The report also did not say one billion people are starving — in technical terms, an acute form of hunger in which the body begins to actually feed on itself for nourishment. Thankfully, the report did not suggest that lack of food production or availability was the issue, although it was observed that “domestic staple foods still cost on average 24 percent more in real terms than two years back. The report did speak to a spike in food insecurity.

My favorite definition for food security is “access at all times to enough food to live an active healthy life.” FAO gets it right when they observe that the poor are less able to purchase (ie, access) food especially where domestic markets are still stubbornly high….”the incidence of both lower incomes due to the economic crisis and persisting higher food prices has proved to be a devastating combination.

So fundamentally IDE is a food security enterprise. Why is this true? Because of our focus on incomes (which provide access to food supplies/markets) and on agricultural production (which either increases direct access to food for consumption, or which increases local supply, which on a larger scale brings down prices).

In the report, several factors contributing to the widespread decrease in food security are listed, in particular those related to the global economic crisis:

• A 32 percent decline in foreign direct investment in developing countries
• A 5–8 percent decline in foreign remittances by foreign migrant workers
• A reduction of about 25 percent in official development assistance (ODA)
• Increases in risk premiums for lending money to developing countries
• Decrease of 5–9 percent in international trade (depending on whether you ask IMF or WTO)

Some of the countries mentioned in the report include Bangladesh, Ghana, Nicaragua, and Zambia, all countries in which IDE has a presence. See the full news bulletin here.

— Al Doerksen, CEO of IDE

19 June 2009 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

FAO: Increase in World’s Hungry

Some thoughts from Bruce McCrae, IDE VP/Asia:

Today the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) announced that, for the first time in human history, more than one billion people worldwide are suffering from hunger. This is a sobering, even frightening statistic. It’s also a dramatic reminder of why IDE’s mission is so important.

IDE’s PRISM methodology confronts the very structural basis of hunger by enabling poor rural households to increase their income through micro-irrigation, high-value crops and better access to the value chain. The increased income allows families to purchase food and to acquire improved inputs for their farm production. The hunger cycle is broken.

Today’s FAO press release has a table listing the main effects of the current economic crises and household responses in five sample countries. Four of the five are places where IDE has programs: Bangladesh, Ghana, Nicaragua and Zambia.

What are the FAO’s recommendations for solving the present crisis? Here is an excerpt:

“In the short term, small‐scale farmers must be given access to indispensable means of production and technologies ‐ such as high‐quality seeds, fertilizers, feed and farming tools and equipments ‐ that will allow them to boost production. … In the medium and long terms, the structural solution to the problem of hunger lies in increasing production particularly in low‐income food deficit countries.”

This is PRISM. This is exactly what IDE does. Let’s get on with it.

— Bruce McCrae, IDE VP/Asia

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