She slides down the muddy hill, constantly pointing things out and saying them in her native Paco language. At the bottom of the valley she hops the bamboo fence in her black silk skirt, turns, and smiles. This is her rice field and she is proud that she alone can feed her family.
La Lay Ha is a 34 year old widow with three children. They live near the Vietnam border in a hamlet called Ang Cong. Years ago, she was unable to grow enough rice to feed her family and would buy it to prevent a shortage. She says that rice is very important and it must be guaranteed for her family. She cannot focus on anything else until it is secured.
In 2010, she learned about a more effective strategy to fertilize her rice crop called fertilizer deep placement (FDP) and decided to try it because of the training accompanying the product provided by iDE. Nervous at first, she applied the product to a portion of her rice land. After the first crop was a success she applied FDP to all of her land and doubled her rice yield. Today, the same land produces enough rice to last an entire year for her family and the excess is given to neighbors. Since she no longer has to purchase rice, the money is spent on her children to supply them with clothes and books for school.
Ms. La encourages other families to follow her and use FDP. She says to buy a product you believe in, and this fertilizer is very easy. Her advice is “Transplant correctly, use FDP and wait until the end of the crop. Simple.” Her neighbor Mr. Ho laughed when he first saw her planting rows and fertilizing. Now he uses FDP through the iDE program and is also a success.
Spending less time worrying about rice gives Ms. La time for other things. She is head of the Women’s Union in the village, teaches family planning, and volunteers for another organization. “Now many people want to work with me,” she says, and her smile broadens.
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.
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.
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.
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.
iDE’s Second Annual Leaders in Their Fields Luncheon, held on December 4 in downtown Denver, was a great success. More than 700 attendees gathered to celebrate iDE’s 30 years of sustainable solutions to poverty, honor our customers, and launch a new initiative that will bring 26 organizations together in a unique collaborative center for international development.
The assembled guests got a big surprise when President Bill Clinton, who was in Denver for a speaking engagement, made a special appearance to express his support for iDE’s work. Clinton spoke about his own experiences working in Africa to improve agricultural practices, and emphasized that seemingly insurmountable global problems can be solved with the right efforts. “All of these things are before you. “This is stuff I’ve seen with my own eyes,” he said, “These are the kinds of things you can do, and that’s why I wanted to be here,” he said.
Clinton stressed that collaborative market-based approaches hold the key to solving the world’s most pressing challenges. “I think the idea that you should work together, pool your resources, reinforce each other and not fall all over each other is very important,” he said. He concluded his address by noting that the problems faced by the poor in developing countries ultimately affect the entire world. “I just want to encourage you. We are not going to like the world we live in if we continue to allow climate change, instability, and income inequality to dominate the 21st century.”iDE’s new CEO, Timothy Prewitt said, “President Clinton’s commitment to African agriculture is directly in line with iDE’s. His central message—that African nations can most effectively grow food themselves, lifting smallholders out of poverty and increasing production across the continent—gives iDE’s model a ringing endorsement, and inspires us to do even more.”
The centerpiece of the event was the presentation of the Leaders in Their Fields Award to Doña Linda Manueles, a farmer and entrepreneur from Marcala, Honduras. On her farm, Manueles uses an iDE treadle pump and drip irrigation kit to grow 14 different types of vegetables, which she sells for a profit. She has invested her extra income in other micro enterprises including raising geese and rabbits, and starting her own seed bank from her home. After receiving the award, Manueles explained how iDE practices help local Honduran families invest in their own communities, and thanked the organization for its continued efforts in her area.
Other featured speakers included Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper who spoke about the importance of entrepreneurship, and Denver City Councilman Albus Brooks, who welcomed iDE and its partners in the D90 Network to their future home in a restored 19th century horse barn in the Curtis Park neighborhood of Denver.
After the event, Prewitt noted, “Today was a terrific day for us, a chance for some of our supporters to learn more about our contribution to poverty. Denver is increasingly concerned with global poverty and the challenge of meeting food resource needs in the coming decades.”
Read about the event in the Denver Post here. Or, in The San Francisco Chronicle (AP) here.
Or watch a clip of the event on Denver’s CBS 4 News site here.
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.]
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.
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.
Ed. note: World Water Day is Tuesday, March 22. Here’s a post on the subject from iDE CEO Al Doerksen’s blog:
Tuesday is World Water Day. iDE is planning to launch a new program to turn water into wine; a replication of the famous miracle at the marriage celebration feast at Cana several centuries ago. To explain how we will do this, and actually, how we are doing this already, I have to start with this last week’s visit to the state of Orissa in India.
It is many months past the monsoon season in India, and the season for rain fed agriculture is also long past. By far, the majority of fields are laying fallow waiting for the next monsoon, still some time away. In Phulbani, however, there are more than a few enterprising smallplot farmers who have dug open wells on their own one acre farm sites. The next thing is to add a surface treadle pump, a simple and inexpensive device which lifts the water out of the well – water which is a key ingredient for irrigation, and also the miraculous transformation to wine.
The results are dramatic: aubergines, potatoes, beans, chilies, cabbages, cauliflour, tomatoes, okra – we saw them all. No grapes (but we will get to that). These horticultural crops are carefully tended with local organic fertilizer applied. Weeding is manual. The result is three crops annually in place of the usual single rain fed crop. Annual farm income goes from $200 per family member to $600 per person; for the family of five approaching $4000 from one acre of land. In nominal terms, that makes these farmer almost $2/day; still poor but no longer at the subsistence level. Children are going to school. Family nutrition has become a lot more adequate. There is no longer the need to migrate in search of day labor opportunities in the dry season. There is even a little money left over for jewelry and cosmetics – witness the feet of the female farmer on her treadle pump. These are great indicators.
Now to the wine dimension. Also cultivated to a small extent around the edges of the field is a small fruit which is ideal for a local fermentation process. The result is somewhat akin to wine. iDE is not promoting home brewing per se, but we do realize that people around the world like to celebrate their farm successes, and doing so with a little wine, homebrew or local hooch is rather common.
It starts with water. In so many parts of the world, providing access to irrigation water and accompanying technologies for lifting and distribution is the single greatest point of income leverage for small plot farmers. iDE develops these technologies, and arranges for their distribution through local market channels. Local farmers assess the opportunities, invest and harvest the results. Worth celebrating?
May I offer you a glass of wine to celebrate World Water Day?
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.”
IDE Cambodia was awarded the first Nestlé Prize in Creating Shared Value for its Farm Business Advisors program today at an awards ceremony in London. Since its inception in 2005, the FBA program has enabled 60 rural Cambodian entrepreneurs to start small farm advisory businesses, which in turn have helped 4,500 small-scale farm households increase their net income by 27 percent or US $150.
The prize of 500,000 Swiss Francs (about $433,050) will improve the project by recruiting and training an additional 36 advisors, generating approximately US $1.9 million in new income to positively impact 20,000 people in more than 4,000 rural households across Cambodia.
Nestlé Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who presented the award to the IDE, said: “We congratulate IDE Cambodia on being the first to be awarded the Prize. The work they do is inspirational. The support and training from IDE ensures that all involved work together to create sustainable farming enterprises.”
Accepting the award, IDE Cambodia Country Director Michael Roberts said, “It is an honor to receive this recognition from Nestlé. The prize will help us further IDE’s mission to create income opportunities for poor rural households. We hope to leverage the Prize to reach more than 75,000 rural Cambodian households in the next few years. On a global scale this is still very small but we think there are big implications in what we are learning.”
The CSV Prize – which received more than 500 applications from 79 countries – was awarded during Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value Forum, an international gathering of leading experts in water, nutrition, rural development, and the role of business in society which took place in London on 27 May. The Prize was created to provide financial support of up to 500,000 Swiss Francs to individuals, NGOs, or small enterprises who offer innovative solutions to nutritional deficiencies, access to clean water, or progress in rural development. The prize money will be disbursed over a three-year period to assist in the scaling-up of the project.
Learn more about IDE’s Farm Business Advisor Program.
At the beginning of growing season 2009, we hosted a program called “Drip Kits for Donors” in which interested donors to IDE received, as a thank you gift, a version of our family nutrition kit which retails for $3-5 in the Asian countries where we work, and is designed to irrigate “kitchen gardens” of around 20 square meters in size. We had a lot of interest in the program here in Colorado and other states, but also from as far away as Mongolia where a Peace Corps volunteer wanted to test drip irrigation on tomatoes at a friend’s greenhouse in Muron, Khovsgul Aimag where she serves as a business advisor. In fact, our Mongolian Peace Corps Volunteer got the last kit we had in stock here in Denver.
It’s clear that we received so much interest in this initiative as a result of what can be fairly termed a snowball effect occurring in vegetable gardening and small-scale urban farming over the last couple seasons here in the developed world.
On a project level, this year we’re hearing from even more individuals and orgs interested in collaborations with us, whether they be small NGOs in African villages working on entrepreneurship education, foundations in Asia promoting best practices in “Bottom of the Pyramid” BOP design, or larger agricultural concerns looking to give back to the developing countries they source from by supporting more sustainable income generation models we at IDE specialize in.
From this desk, I can definitely say that awareness of, and interest in, our work and model has grown exponentially from last year. The emails and phone calls are streaming in.
So, as a small inspiration for the fast-approaching gardening season here in the US, see below for a few photos from last season showing the grassroots nature of the support for our model of development — from the mountains of Colorado to the Mongolian steppe.
IDE donors at Willow Creek Church in suburban Chicago set up an annual exhibit highlighting agricultural work in Africa.
Tim and Mary Taylor's elk proof, IDE drip-irrigated vegetable beds in the Colorado Mountains
Nick Gruber of Produce Denver packs up some harvested crops grown with IDE drip irrigation for his urban CSA.
Produce Denver's James Hale fills an IDE header bag in the front yard of a client who has given over land to their urban CSA.