Category: Gender -

6 July 2015 | Posted By: iDE

Ready for business.


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.

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.




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.


7 November 2011 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

The Poor Pay More, Work Harder

oil for sale in Burkina

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.]

Drawing water from a well

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.

Tilling soil with a pick ax

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.

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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