Category: Cambodia -

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.

 

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.

 

 

31 May 2012 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

iDE Wins 2012 Ashden Award

Michael Roberts and Prince Charles

iDE Cambodia Director, Michael Roberts meets HRH Prince Charles prior to receiving Ashden Award on behalf of iDE/Hydrologic. (Photo: Andrew Aitchison/Ashden Awards)

 

We are very proud to announce that iDE’s social enterprise spinoff Hydrologic has been named winner at the 2012 Ashden Awards.

The Ashden Awards, given by The Ashden Trust, recognize and reward pioneering enterprises that share the Ashden vision of promoting “sustainable energy for all”.

Created in 2001, the event aims to raise awareness of the huge potential of sustainable energy to both tackle climate change and improve the quality of people’s lives.

The annual awards ceremony was held on May 30th at the Royal Geographical Society in London. iDE Cambodia Director Michael Roberts accepted the award on behalf of Hydrologic. Shortlisted in January, Hydrologic was announced as one of seven finalists for its energy saving ceramic water purifier.

Michael Roberts and Kandeh Yumkella

Dr. Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of UNIDO and Chair of UN-ENERGY presents iDE Cambodia Director, Michael Roberts with 2012 Ashden Award. (Photo: Andrew Aitchison/Ashden Awards)

Roberts said: “In Establishing Hydrologic, iDE set out to deliver clean water solutions to base-of-the-pyramid customers, creating social and environmental benefits while at the same time being financially self-sustaining. Our aim is not only that Hydrologic reaches this goal, but also to prove a concept that entices other market players to replicate and improve on what we have done.

“Winning this Ashden Award gives us a significant boost toward ensuring Hydrologic’s success and a magnificent platform for sharing our experience more broadly.”

Since its inception in 2001, iDE’s ceramic water filter project in Cambodia has manufactured and sold more than 230,000 filters, transforming the lives of thousands of poor rural households.  The project has been supported by US$ 1.9M in grants from numerous donors.  Half of that amount was from WaterSHED, a USAID program that facilitated the project’s transition to an independent social enterprise.

More on the 2012 Ashden Awards:

Read more about iDE and Hydrologic’s nomination at Ashden.org >

Download the full Ashden case study on the project >

16 April 2012 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

iDE Wins Wharton’s Inaugural Lipman Prize

Lipman prize acceptance

On Friday April 13, iDE was selected as the winner of the Wharton School’s inaugural Barry and Marie Lipman Family Prize for our innovative, market based water, sanitation & hygiene projects. We’re extremely honored to be the first recipient of this prestigious award!

Here’s a short video produced for the award ceremony:

Lipman Prize Winner: iDE

And here’s the official press release:

Philadelphia, PA, April 13, 2012 – The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania announced today the winner of its inaugural Barry & Marie Lipman Family Prize – iDE, a social enterprise that has pioneered innovative, market-based approaches to safe water and sanitation access. Chosen from hundreds of organizations worldwide devoted to social impact and building sustainable solutions for social and economic challenges, iDE received $100,000 and bragging rights at a gala marking the event’s culmination last night at the Wharton School. iDE and the two other finalist organizations, KOMAZA, a pioneering forestry social enterprise, and MedShare, a distributor of surplus medical supplies, will all profit from unprecedented, synergistic opportunities with Penn and Wharton.

“The $100,000 is one thing but the partnership with Penn and Wharton is just absolutely outstanding,” said Cordell Jacks, the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH) Program Co-Director at iDE. “We really believe that we’re going to change the world with toilets and we think that a partnership here is going to bring together great people, creative ideas and really solve a global public health challenge, something that is very finite and can be achieved in our lifetime. So it’s just really exciting to do this together with the University.”

About the 2012 Lipman Family Prize Winner:
iDE is an international nonprofit organization helping poor rural households in the developing world to access the tools and knowledge they need to increase their income. iDE’s productive water solutions create and increase both food production and incomes, and with innovative drinking water and sanitation technologies, iDE gives rural households the basis for healthier and more dignified livelihoods.

iDE’s involvement with improved sanitation began in Cambodia, which has 16 percent sanitation coverage. Cambodia has the second to worst rural sanitation coverage outside of Africa, at only eight percent. Furthermore, Cambodia loses approximately seven percent of its GDP, USD $448 million per year, due to poor sanitation. iDE Cambodia’s Sanitation Marketing Program (SanMark) recently reached the milestone of 10,000 latrines sold and, in 2011, the organization was awarded a major grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Stone Family Foundation and the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) to scale the SanMark approach nationally in Cambodia, targeting an additional 160,000 households. Building further on these successes in Cambodia, iDE has recently secured funding for WaSH activities in Bangladesh and Nepal with a $400,000 UNICEF-funded scoping and piloting project utilizing the model and support of iDE Cambodia to promote both water filters and low cost, sanitary latrines.

About the Lipman Family Prize:
Currently in its inaugural year, the annual Lipman Family Prize has been made possible by a $6.5 million gift from Wharton alumnus Barry R. Lipman and his wife, Marie.

“For more than ten years, I have had a strong desire to impact the non-profit/social responsibility sector,” said Barry R. Lipman, co-founder of California law firm Goldfarb Lipman. “Through a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania and the Wharton School, my dream has been realized with the awarding of the first Lipman Family Prize. Penn and I eagerly look forward to annually honoring an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of those less fortunate.”

Administered by the University of Pennsylvania through the Wharton School, the Lipman Family Prize is governed by an interdisciplinary Steering Committee comprised of faculty, and staff from across the University of Pennsylvania, drawing upon the expertise of such entities as the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, and the School of Social Policy and Practice.

The selection of Prize finalists involved a Student Selection Committee that reviewed initial submissions and conducted the due diligence process under staff guidance, and a Prize Committee that selected the finalists and chose the winner.

“This is the beginning of a long partnership with iDE, KOMAZA and MedShare as new members of the Wharton and Penn community,” said Thomas S. Robertson, the dean of the Wharton School. “The possibilities of these cross-sector collaborations are powerful and we look forward to our ongoing role in fostering sustainable new solutions for the advancement of society as a whole.”

For more information on the 2012 Lipman Family Prize and to view videos from the March 2012 site visits to the three finalist organizations, visit www.wharton.upenn.edu/lipmanfamilyprize.

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.

21 November 2011 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Give Me A Place to Squat

World Toilet Day 2011

From iDE CEO Al Doerksen, on World Toilet Day 2011

In one of my former lives, I (and my family) spent three years in India. Our work took us all over the country, both urban and rural areas. I still remember driving the country roads in the dusk of early evenings, and seeing sari-clad women walking along the road with brass containers in their hands. They were headed out to the fields to the privacy afforded by the darkness so they could finally, at the end of the day, perform their daily ablutions, as they were called. Somehow they had waited the entire day before they could finally seek relief.

Talk about defecation, taking a crap, or taking a shit is not polite dinner-time conversation. It may not even be polite for a blog seeking readers who appreciate a measure of respectability. But that is part of the problem. Even though most of us hope for the regularity which allows for a daily movement of our bowels, it is not usual to discuss it. And the fact that we don’t talk about or even acknowledge that we did or didn’t crap today has contributed to not addressing the problem of one billion people who still defecate in the open every day! We are going to have to start talking about this so we can get on to addressing the issue.

iDE has been involved in sanitation marketing in Vietnam and Cambodia for several years, and successfully so, but I wasn’t always been convinced that iDE with its income creation mission should be involved in water & sanitation programs. I have changed my mind. I’ll tell you why.

It’s a health issue. Open defecation and unsanitary latrines are a huge source of fecal matter in food which then leads to diarrheal disease. Never mind the inconvenience this causes adults, diarrheal disease kills more than 1.5 million children a year! It’s incredibly sad to lose a little person in this way! The grandfather in me can easily identify with this pain.

It’s a women’s issue. Women should not have to suffer the indignity, the inconvenience and the personal safety risks associated with open (field) defecation. They should also not have to wait until nightfall to deal with their daily physical routines.

It’s a children’s issue. Chronic diarrhea can hinder child development by impeding the uptake of essential nutrients that are critical to the development of children’s minds, bodies, and immune systems. Reduced incidence of diarrhea has the effect of increasing school attendance, especially for girls.

It’s an economic issue. In a recent policy statement, the Gates Foundation estimated that the economic benefits of improved sanitation can reach $9 for every dollar invested by increasing people’s productivity, reducing healthcare costs, and preventing illness, disability, and early death. For an organization like iDE with a focus on creating income opportunities, this is huge.

It’s a market opportunity. Several years ago, iDE Vietnam engaged in a project to help local suppliers construct and supply low cost latrines through the local market place. A post-project evaluation conducted 3 years after the close of the project showed that high latrine sales rates continued even though the project was long over. More recently, iDE Cambodia working with an IDEO product designer developed a simple, award winning “easy latrine.” In the first year after this was introduced to local producers and marketers, more than 10,000 units were sold and installed (and are now in daily use). These units sell because they align with the value structure of our customers.

iDE is gratified to report that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Stone Family Foundation, and the World Bank Water and Sanitation Program have recognized iDE’s leadership and proficiency in sanitation marketing with $6 million in grant funding to expand our work in Southeast Asia. We are poised to also move into Nepal, Bangladesh, and several African markets.

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.

29 March 2011 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Phnom-enal

Here is the latest newsletter from iDE Senior Advisor Andrew Romanoff:

What do you get when you cross a shower and a latrine? If you answered “an episode of Seinfeld,” you’ve been watching too many reruns. (That was my guess, too.)

In Cambodia, relieving yourself is no laughing matter. Sanitation-related illnesses claim more than 1,000 lives every month. And at $300, the price of a typical toilet exceeds most Cambodians’ annual income.

That’s why, as I reported in January, our team in Phnom Penh has been promoting a low-cost alternative: the $35 Easy Latrine. The device is manufactured locally and can be installed in a single day; 11,500 have already been sold.

Now the same crew is testing another vital innovation: a combination latrine/shower/drip-irrigation system. Click on the video below to learn how the Easy Shower may make thousands of Cambodians better off (and George Costanza awfully jealous).

Easy Shower video

MANHATTAN AND MARS

In my last newsletter, I suggested some reasons Americans should take an interest in the rest of the world. Our economy and our national security, I contended, are inextricably linked to our neighbors’ fortunes. Most respondents agreed.

“Prosperous nations tend to start fewer wars,” wrote Larry Kaufman, a “semi-retired journalist” and former railroad executive from Genesee. “They also make better customers than do poor nations.”

My friend and former colleague, Col. Joe Rice, reflected on his five tours of duty in Iraq. “Poverty, lack of education, and lack of opportunity are the main drivers of instability and terrorism,” he wrote. “A little money spent on international relief and development is in our own national interest.”

Then he added, “Oh, it probably is morally right as well.”

George Schumm, a professor of logic in Ohio, underlined that point: “A suffering human being is a suffering human being, and it matters not, from a moral perspective, whether it’s your suffering, that of your child, or neighbor, or fellow citizen, or someone living on Mars.”

None of these arguments, however, swayed a reader on the East Coast. “I don’t care about this,” a man named Aaron declared. “I live in New York.”

I’ll give another New Yorker the last word. In an article published in Outside Magazine in 2009, Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author, explained why some causes (the plight of a homeless hawk on the Upper East Side of Manhattan) attract more attention than others (the genocide in Darfur).

“We intervene,” Mr. Kristof wrote, “not because of stories of desperate circumstances but when we can be cheered up with positive stories of success and transformation.… The irony: Altruism creates its own selfish reward. Or, to put it another way, nobody gains more selfish pleasure than those who act selflessly.”

(You can read Mr. Kristof’s article by clicking here.)

UPCOMING EVENTS

I’ll be sharing other stories of IDE’s success in the weeks ahead. Please join me to learn more about our work and how you can get involved:

  • Denver Mile High Rotary Club, Wednesday, April 6, 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., University Club, 1673 Sherman St., Denver.
  • Castle Rock High Noon Rotary Club, Thursday, April 7, 12 p.m., Philip S. Miller Library, 100 S. Wilcox St., Castle Rock.
  • Brown-Bag Lunch, Monday, April 11, 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., at IDE, 3rd floor conference room, 10403 W. Colfax Ave, Lakewood. (Please note new date.) This month’s discussion will focus on Latin America.
  • Denver West Rotary Club, Tuesday, April 12, 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., Rolling Hills Country Club, 15707 W. 26th Ave., Golden.
  • Denver Cherry Creek Rotary Club, Tuesday, April 19, 7 a.m., Inn at Cherry Creek, 233 Clayton St., Denver.

To schedule a presentation, contact Michelle Warner at mwarner@ideorg.org. To volunteer, contact Dana Cousteau at volunteers@ideorg.org.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Andrew Romanoff

20 January 2011 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Success: It’s in the toilet

10,000 of them, actually. Congratulations to IDE Cambodia, for facilitating sales of 10,000 IDE EZ Latrines in just over a year.

10,000 Easy Latrines sold

IDE Cambodia staff celebrate the 10,000 Easy Latrine milestone

Here’s the full story from IDE Cambodia:

Phnom Penh, Cambodia – January 14, 2011 – In only a little over a year, IDE’s Sanitation Marketing Project in Cambodia has reached a landmark of 10,000 latrines sold. This marks more latrines sold in the project areas in the past year than in the last four years combined, a tremendous step forward in public health for a country where only 18 percent of the rural population has access to a toilet.

What is even more remarkable about the Sanitation Marketing Project’s success is that all the latrines were sold without any price subsidy. Instead, the Sanitation Marketing Project has applied market principles and world-class product design to the challenge of rural sanitation in Cambodia.

A common local latrine, which could run up to $150, was well beyond the means of the average rural Cambodian, whose average annual income is a mere $135. With help from IDEO designer Jeff Chapin, IDE redesigned the latrine to make it more user-friendly—easy to buy, easy to build, and easy to use. The resulting “Easy Latrine” costs only about $35 and can be assembled by the families themselves in a day.

“The project began by treating people as customers rather than beneficiaries of charity,” said Michael Roberts, Country Director for IDE Cambodia, “and we have seen that many rural Cambodians are able and willing to pay for something that delivers real value.”

The latrine redesign is integrated with a social marketing campaign to stimulate demand. By marketing the latrine as a status product instead of lecturing people about the health woes of defecating in the fields, the Sanitation Marketing Project triggered people’s universal desire for “keeping up with the Joneses.”

Previously an unsexy product, the rapid growth in demand is now being met by local entrepreneurs in the latrine supply chain who have been trained by IDE in efficient production methods, business skills, and proactive methods for generating sales. There are now 22 Easy Latrine producers, who have inspired ambitious competitors to also join in the booming latrine market.

Not only has the Sanitation Marketing Project made tremendous strides in improving rural sanitation in Cambodia, it has done so by leveraging the market and improving the livelihoods of local entrepreneurs. The program has been recognized internationally for its success, winning the International Design Excellence Award and recently being inducted to the World Toilet Organization’s Hall of Fame.

14 October 2010 | Posted By: Michael Roberts

Women: The Engines of Rural Markets

By Michael Roberts, Director, IDE Cambodia

“You cannot ignore the importance of women in rural markets”

World Food Day, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s annual campaign to raise awareness of hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition, takes place on Saturday 16 October. The theme, ‘United against Hunger’, focuses on the pressing need to increase food production by 70 percent by 2050, and identifies farmers and farming as major contributors to this goal. Coinciding appropriately with the UN event is World Rural Women’s Day on 15 October, which aims to highlight rural women’s crucial, yet largely unrecognised role in agriculture.

If you are serious about addressing rural poverty, you cannot ignore the role of women in rural markets. In Cambodia, women make up the majority of the agricultural labour force but they tend to have less access to resources and assets that would increase their productivity. Cambodian women also play significant roles in trade, entrepreneurship, and business management although they often face more obstacles than men in these roles.

In IDE’s Nestlé-supported project, for instance, women make up only about one in ten of the Farm Business Advisors (FBAs) that have been recruited and trained, due largely to the requirement for mobility. FBAs need to travel frequently between villages to promote their business and provide service to existing customers.  Concerns about safety make many women hesitant to travel, while responsibilities for cooking and childcare make it difficult to be absent from home for more than a few hours.

Despite greater barriers, the women who have taken up the FBA role are among the highest performers, averaging 45 percent higher sales than the male FBAs.

Interestingly, we also find that the FBA role is nearly always run as a family business with active involvement of the spouse and other family members. So even when a man is listed as the FBA, women are active participants in the business, usually taking on essential home-based tasks like caring for the vegetable demonstration plot and selling products to clients that come to the house.

More important than the number of female FBAs, perhaps, is the impact that FBAs are having on women farmers. Follow-up surveys indicate that FBA clients earn an average additional income of about US$150 per year. The surveys also indicate that about 35 percent of vegetable crop management and 79 percent of crop marketing is done by women. Thus, in most cases, income from vegetable production goes into the women’s hands first.

I recently talked with Mom Samol, a woman farmer in Prey Veng province. She described a typical day marketing the long beans from her vegetable plot. She can harvest about 10 kg of beans once every two or three days for about a month. She picks the ripe beans, ties them in bundles, and then takes them on her bike to sell to small road-side vendors near her village. It takes her about an hour and she receives USD 0.50 per kg, which amounts to about $5 each time she harvests. She uses part of the money to pay for daily expenses and puts away some money for larger purchases in the future. The daily expenses she handles on her own; the larger expenses she discusses with her husband. She expects him to discuss large expenses with her also.

We believe that the FBA project is having a positive impact on gender equity by improving women’s ability to access and benefit from the products and information provided by FBAs.

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