|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.”
Or watch a clip of the event on Denver’s CBS 4 News site here.
Photos by Galen Clarke
Category: Local Food -
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.]
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.
Watch Nestlé’s video on the award below.
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.
Since April, we’ve been offering a “Family Nutrition Kit” as a thank you to anyone who has donated $40 or more in support of our Affordable Technologies Initiative. These gravity-fed drip irrigation kits cover 20 square meters (the size of a typical kitchen garden), and their header bags are made from recycled sacking material. In Asia they retail for around $5 USD, and can be easily adapted to various intensive row and mound produce growing techniques.
So, with the upsurge in the Northern Hemisphere’s interest in sustainable, urban, and other small-scale agriculture, we thought we’d get a little spillover curiosity in a kind of reverse technology transfer. That turned out to be an understatement. We have just sold out of our kit supply here in Denver, and there are now 44 new small-scale farmers in our network using drip irrigation. Most are here in the US, but we’ve sent kits as far as France and even to a Peace Corps volunteer who will be doing experimental drip with farmer friends in the grassland steppe of Northern Mongolia.
Among several individuals here in Denver, an urban farming company, Produce Denver, is now using our systems in various restaurant rooftop gardens, greenhouses, and front yards given over to vegetable crops for an urban CSA they offer. So, if you happen to find yourself at a Denver restaurant famed for its commitment to using fresh, local ingredients this season, there’s a chance you’ll be dining on local produce grown with IDE drip irrigation.
Needless to say, this response—this connection from local to global, back to local again—has me very excited for the growing season. Aside from the obvious benefit to people’s gardens in our industrialized part of the world, I’m hoping the recipients of these donor kits will also gain a better understanding of what it takes to make a living off the land. Even with drip irrigation, it’s a lot of consistent hard work and determination.
We’ll be checking in with our local farmers throughout the season, posting photos and reports here. And, stay tuned for tasting reports on heirloom melons, squash blossoms, Roman radicchios and other “high value” crops from my own IDE drip-irrigated garden.
— A.G. Vermouth, IDE Director of Communications