Category: Environment -

6 April 2015 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Noelle’s Red Dirt Brings in the Green



Imagine standing on Noelle’s farm with her at your side.  She starts her day before sunrise.  She is ready to face another long, sweltering day working on her farm.  Her crops depend on the water she brings them to survive; her family depends on her.

You look down at your feet you notice a thin layer of red dust on your shoes.  As your gaze moves to the horizon you see a dry field of red dirt and Noelle’s clay covered house in the distance.  And you see her most prized possession – rows of precisely ordered zucchini plants.  Looking closer, you see a drip irrigation system that is delivering to her crop just the right amount of water.

Speaking in French, Noelle says she first saw drip irrigation at an iDE demonstration farm over 18 months ago.  It was in that moment she decided to buy a system for herself. She started working with one of iDE’s local Farm Business Advisors who helped her to set up her drip irrigation system, plant and harvest her zucchini crop, and find a buyer in the local market.  As one of the only farmers growing zucchini during the dry season, she is thrilled to receive the highest price possible for her crops. In just one harvest Noelle’s income went up more than $500, three times as much as she was making before using drip irrigation and growing such a valuable crop!

What is next for Noelle you ask?

Like every good business owner, Noelle has her mind on expansion.  She wants more farmable land and to purchase a larger drip irrigation system.  She is also looking to grow moringa, a nutritional supplement high in protein, vitamins A, B, and C, and calcium.  There is a burgeoning demand for moringa so she can anticipate even more income in the future.

It is only because of donor support that iDE is able to have an office in Burkina Faso and assist farmers like Noelle in becoming successful entrepreneurs. To date, we have served 3,000 farmers in Burkina Faso alone, who have collectively earned over $180,000 in the last two years.

Continued donor support means more income for farmers in Burkina Faso and other iDE countries around the world. Every $1 donated to iDE equals $10 in additional income for farmers.

Thank you for investing in entrepreneurs.


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.


27 June 2013 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

The Future of Farming by Tim Prewitt, CEO

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.


15 June 2011 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Swiss Parliament Gets Irrigated

Swiss parliament building

Drip Irrigation in Front of Swiss Parliament

by Urs Heierli

SDC – the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and is using the occasion to launch an initiative to educate the public about its work. As the Global Water Initiatives Division of SDC has launched a major cooperation program with iDE, SDC has included information about more efficient irrigation systems targeted to reach the poor. As part of a rotating exhibition in major Swiss cities, an iDE Family Nutrition Kit was shown as a model and attracted quite some interest. In late May, the exhibition was in Berne on the Federal Plaza, just in front of the Swiss Parliament. The Swiss parliament has recently increased the development aid budget from 0.4 to 0.5% of GDP and a major focus of the increased resources will be targeted to water projects. There is an increasing awareness that global water scarcity will severely affect all societies if “business as usual” policies are pursued. iDE has a lot to offer in this domain: affordable drip and sprinkler irrigation systems and other productive water technologies for small farmers provide really interesting solutions.

iDE’s SDC-supported program “Scaling up productive water technologies” will develop dissemination programs in several regions, including Central America (Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and later Mexico), West Africa (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad) and Asia (Kirgizstan, Vietnam). Together with the Gates Foundation, It also supports the global dissemination of productive water technologies.

In addition, iDE is launching a “Fair Trade Water project” funded by the Sustainability initiative of the Swiss retail chain COOP aimed at increasing the water efficiency of Fair Trade Cooperatives in Central America. COOP is the second largest retail chain in Switzerland and was selected as the world’s most sustainable retail chain, especially for the chain’s attention to the farmers who supply them. This project will be operating in Central America and will deliver affordable irrigation to small farmers belonging to Fair Trade cooperatives, with a special focus on diversification.

Drip irrigation system


18 October 2010 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

The Water Malthusians

From IDE CEO Al Doerksen’s blog:

I grew up in a family with eight kids. We never had a lot of money but I don’t recall thinking we were poor. We did have water restrictions however. We bathed once a week in 3 to 4 inches of shared water, and just urinating in the single toilet was not sufficient rationale to flush. The driver for some of these family rules were not water scarcity – it was a captive sewage system that had grossly inadequate absorptive capacity especially in our frozen Alberta winters. Water consumption, however, was never an articulated concern in my growing up years; we added ice cubes and tea bags and instant coffee as often as we wished, and the hoses ran freely when flooding the community hockey rink. In our local Mennonite church, water was a symbol of everlasting life and the medium of baptism.

Well, that was fifty years ago; now I enjoy my daily showers; I have graduated to double espressos and I no longer play ice hockey but I must confess that concerns about excessive flushing are still in my psyche. In terms of its psycho-metaphorical value, water thoughts seem to generate more feelings of guilt than grace.

The water messages these days are not encouraging. So many dire predictions from the water Malthusians. Water tables are dropping. The world is running out of fresh water. We’ve got a time bomb. Our water is getting more and more polluted with agricultural pesticide and herbicide run off, and industrial complexes still flush without abandon. The next wars will allegedly be fought over access to water, and every double espresso I consume uses up 140 litres of water. Eating beef is even worse – one kilo is like consuming 16,000 litres of water – enough water to fill the pool we no longer own. I am part of the fortunate middle class world which owns a completely unsustainable water footprint – 2500 cubic meters per person per year. One could drown in the statistics (and in the empty water bottles), and to change metaphors, all of this gives me a headache; I wish it was just the consequence of dehydration on a hot day.

My first water career was with Trojan Technologies, winner of the 2009 World Water Week Industry Award for its global leadership in the development of large scale ultraviolet water disinfection systems. Our concerns were about safe (chlorine-free) drinking water, about safe discharges of waste water back into the environment, the removal and destruction of industrial contaminants in the ground water and river systems. I was based in Europe; the EU Water Frameworks look at water from a river basis perspective. The Rhine is used for agriculture, fisheries, industry, transportation, recreation and tourism and using its water must accommodate the interests of all.

My second water career is with IDE. We encourage the productive use of water; in our experience irrigation is one of the best leverage opportunities available for smallplot dollar-a-day farmers. We offer affordable technologies to pump/lift water, store water and distribute water. The trouble with irrigation, however, is that is uses water – on average 6 litres per sq meter per day in irrigation season. Some days this feels perverse; in a water stressed world, we are promoting the use of more of it. We are not likely to be able to wean ourselves off food and water, however, so our focus, especially in agriculture, which uses 70% of available fresh water supplies will increasing promote the more careful stewardship of this resource.

Some 200 years ago, Malthus predicted that exponential increases in population would outstrip arithmetic increases in food supply, and that dire consequences would occur. So far, he has been wrong, and to some extent, our ability with technology and innovation to grow more food has been a big part of the solution. To some extent, these problem solving successes cause us to want to underestimate the challenges emerging.

For some water organizations, this emerging water stress is the imperative and rationale for fundraising. “One billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. 2.6 billion people lack adequate sanitation, specifically a toilet. But there is good news – by giving $20 you can provide one person with clean water for 20 years.”

A less trite approach is found in the recently published IWMI report “Water for Food, Water for Life.” While acknowledging the challenge faced, the report argues “The hope lies in closing the gap in agricultural productivity in many parts of the world … and in realizing the unexplored potential that lies in better water management along with non-miraculous changes in policy and production techniques. The world has enough freshwater to produce food for all its people over the next half century. But world leaders must take action now—before the opportunities to do so are lost.”

At IDE we will continue to pursue innovative approaches to more responsible use of productive water. We want to use statistics responsibly. So far it is not yet easily possible to destroy matter as so many of the water Malthusians seem to imply. On the other hand, we will deepen our inquiries about falling water tables.

And I will continue to be conscious of my flushing habits.

20 July 2010 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Poverty and Climate Change

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

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

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

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

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