Category: Ethiopia -

28 April 2014 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Drill Deeper: Finding Income in a Well

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

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

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

26 March 2014 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Demu Bikila: A Proud Landowner and Empowered Business Women

TuluBolo, Ethiopia Demu Bikila

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

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

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

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

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

2.2014 TulluBollo, Ethiopia Demu Bikila (24)_edited


What will she do next?

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

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

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

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




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.


10 August 2010 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Billboards and Food Security

From IDE CEO Al Doerksen:

It might be the closet sociologist in me, but I have always enjoyed billboards.  I figure that you can learn a lot about a society’s values by what people post on billboards.  I still remember Coca Cola billboards from thirty years back with only a logo and four words, “It’s the real thing”.  More recently, the City Bank billboard in Dhaka: “Money never starts an idea.  It is always the idea with starts the money”.  Or the Airtel India ad: “Go wherever.  Do whatever”.  Or the LG (Life’s Good) ad promoting their LCD TV as “The ultimate seduction.”  Or the Kenya ad promoting a well known whiskey with just two words, “Keep walking.”

Billboards are not always stationary.  The outer walls of buses and trucks make great rolling buses.  “India is great”.  “Horn please”.  “Is prosperity the will of God?”  I liked the truck in South Dakota, “Delivering supply chain solutions to the food industry.”  Nobody has time to read a book on a billboard, whether rolling or not, so the phrases go to be short.

Graffiti on a wallMy interest in these writings on the wall has also morphed into a quite a collection of graffiti – sometimes defacing in net impact, sometimes amazingly artistic but mostly always, an expression of something.  Wish I read could these wall art expressions better.

So whether I am on Facebook or roaming rural areas of Africa, I am always on the lookout for what the wall messages are.  Driving by a Ethiopian farmsite, I see a large area of red chili peppers drying for further processing, and on the house, some amazing folk art – a flower, the “lion of Judah”, a coffee pot, a horse and a covered house.  I am pretty sure that hungry people do not have time for art work on their houses, and to me it was a little indication that the occupants at least had the resources to adequately feed themselves.  Food secure, in other words.Chili peppers

When I am invited, I also like to visit the interiors of people’s homes because what they post internally also has clues of their aspirations, celebrations and values.  On a wall inside another Ethiopian home, extremely sparse in terms of possessions, utensils and furniture, the chalked words in Amharic (which I couldn’t read) and some in English which I could, “Without God and life” – almost certainly an expression of basic desires.

In another rural Ethiopian home, a larger drawing of a school child – partially colored in.  Family members dressed in a more modern style.  The “lion of Judah” as the symbol of faith.  A corn stalk with leaves and developing cobs, and carefully colored in, the important wicker basket with the characteristic lid designed to host the daily bread – the enjera.  Give us our daily bread.Children's artwork

So I see lots of stuff on billboards and on wall postings and on signboards and on rolling vehicles.  People are not one-dimensional in terms of their values and expressions and things to say.  Still, I am struck by how often, especially in less well to do communities, I see expressions of hope and desire to be food secure – to daily have the means to access the food we need to survive and prosper.  So it feels good to be working for IDE, an organization dedicated to providing income opportunities for the poor – income opportunities which provide access to the food desired and required.

Al Doerksen
August 2010

27 July 2009 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Income-generating Smoothies

Ebebe, a farmer participating in the apple growing project

Ebebe, a farmer participating in the apple growing project

British fruit drink company innocent drinks (through its innocent foundation) works with organizations in the countries where its fruit is sourced in order to create sustainable futures for impoverished rural families. IDE-UK and innocent have partnered on a project that helps small farmers in Ethiopia start to grow apples which can be sold at market to generate additional income.  So far, the project has helped 226 farmers get started in the apple business; it’s a great example of IDE’s method in action. Read more about it at innocent drinks’ blog.

10 June 2009 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Guardian: IDE-UK Chief on Ethiopia

IDE UK’s Chief Executive, Lewis Temple wrote a response article in the Guardian today. Here’s the link, and text copied below.

Entrepreneurial aid schemes should focus on rural businesses as much as urban ones, says Lewis Temple

The Guardian, Wednesday 10 June 2009

Alex Duval Smith describes a “new trend” sweeping the aid scene in Africa to “put money on the continent’s entrepreneurs” (Is trade, not aid, the answer for Africa?, 25 May). I work for a non-profit organisation called International Development Enterprises, which, over the last 28 years, has enabled 17 million rural people in Africa and Asia to work their way out of poverty. IDE designs affordable irrigation tools such as treadle pumps, mass markets these to small farmers through the local private sector, and helps the farmers diversify into cash crops and get their produce to market. So while our approach is getting more attention now, it is not a “new trend” – it has been tried and tested over many years, with measurable results.

The article reports that critics of the Africa Commission’s new $3bn guarantee facility – “an initiative of the Danish government … to mobilise loans for small businesses” – say it will ignore the majority of the Africa’s entrepreneurs, the small farmers, as its “focus on entrepreneurs implies that it will help urban businesses”. I, too, am concerned, not only because 65% of Africa’s population is rural, but because the great majority of extremely poor people depend on agriculture for their income.

Yet the Danish development minister, Ulla Tornaes, is quoted as saying that “farmers need to become businesslike … we cannot dictate to African countries on agriculture”. Why is enabling small farmers to benefit from access to appropriate technology, credit and support “dictating” on agriculture? IDE’s work over nearly three decades demonstrates that even dollar-a-day farmers scraping a living on tiny plots can be entrepreneurial, and should not be ignored by schemes such as this.

I am writing in Ziway, a small Rift valley community three hours’ drive south of the Ethiopian capital. I am here to visit projects and meet small farmers, the people usually worst hit by Ethiopia’s frequent droughts and famines.

Among them is Tadesse Mekuria, a small farmer who has made the journey from poverty to prosperity. He demonstrates the entrepreneurial drive exhibited by many African farmers. A year ago he scraped a living, earning 50p a day as a tailor. He could only grow a little grain on the small plot surrounding his house. When trade was bad he had to accept food handouts from aid agencies.

In December last year, he bought a rope-and-washer pump with a micro-finance loan for £40 through an IDE project. He is now growing onions, pepper, kale and carrot on his 1,000 square metre plot. This has already enabled him to generate £320 in new income, which paid for the loan for the pump many times over. He is planning to buy more land and does not expect to ever have to become a “beneficiary” of charity again.

The “charity” approach to aid is disempowering and disrespectful. Treating people as passive “beneficiaries” has not had a sustainable impact on poverty. Rather, listening to poor people, learning about their lives and investing in viable businesses that respond to their needs has potential in urban and rural Africa.

• Lewis Temple is chief executive of IDE-UK

18 February 2009 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Appropriate Technology Update

An essential component of IDE’s Rural Prosperity Initiative (RPI)  is design and development of several low cost technologies which have the potential to dramatically improve the incomes of poor rural households. Here are some updates of work in progress at our Technology Development Facility in Ethiopia from the end of the project’s second year:

Treadle pumps

Work continues in the development of a lightweight, low cost pump for use in Africa. Twenty test units were recently distributed to farmers in Zambia for field testing, and a systematic review of pump components is underway to select the best features for cost and performance to incorporate into a new design.

Rope pumps

IDE’s standard model of hand-cranked pump has been redesigned, resulting in very satisfactory performance. We are also continuing development of a pedal-driven model. The results so far are very promising, and prototype testing will be complete early this year.

Solar powered pumps

We have two solar powered steam engine pumps running successfully in the laboratory that are now ready for testing under field conditions. We’re working on modifications which will further reduce the cost and achieve higher overall solar input-to-water delivery efficiency.

Wind powered pumps

A study of available designs did not identify any off-the-shelf windmill designs for small plot irrigation, but several design options could potentially modified for irrigation pumping. A prototype windmill-driven pump will be tested in Ethiopia in early 2009.

Water storage

We recently began trial production of 3,000 200-liter hanging header bags to feed drip irrigation systems, and are currently testing them for durability. Later this year, we will begin testing them on farms and getting farmer feedback. A 10,000 liter water storage bag made of high density polyethylene material costing $125 has been successfully tested. In Myanmar, bamboo-supported plastic tanks are being tested on more than 150 small farms. In the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, protoype versions of these tanks proved essential to relief efforts.

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