Category: Markets -

6 September 2013 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

iDE Burkina Faso and Ecobank: Making Microfinance Work for Smallholder Famers

iDE_burkina_logo

Horticultural production is the main activity during dry season in Burkina Faso (October to June), a country where agriculture is the main sector of the economy, it employs 80% of the population. In the context of water scarcity that faces the Sahelian region, drip irrigation technology is one of the best alternatives to develop horticulture and enhance rural population income. iDE Burkina is developing the market of drip irrigation technology with a social entrepreneurial model to increase smallholder farmers’ income. One main constraints in developing iDE’s activities is access to finance for the poorest farmers and particularly women small-scale farmers. Smallholder farmers interested in purchasing drip irrigation kits do not have the access to financial means to secure loans from local banks.

Picture1

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.

 

6 December 2012 | Posted By: A.G. Vermouth

Bill Clinton Speaks for iDE

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.

 

Bill Clinton
 

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.”

 

Tim Prewitt speaking
 

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.

 

Linda Manueles
 

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.

 

Governor Hickenlooper
 

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.

Photos by Galen Clarke

 

Leaders in Their Fields Luncheon
12 June 2012 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

iDE Project Impacts Food Security for 60,000 Households

harvesting chamomile in Nepal

iDE has been selected to lead a coalition of organizations in a project that aims to make a major impact on the problem of food insecurity in Nepal and Bangladesh. Funded by the European Union, the Agriculture and Nutrition Extension project will improve food security and incomes for a total of 60,000 poor households over the next 30 months.

The project will strike at the root causes of food insecurity to create sustainable improvements in income and nutrition. Together with partner organizations CIMMYT, WorldFish, IRRI, Save The Children, CEAPRED, BES and CODEC, iDE will train poor farm families in new and emerging agricultural technologies, helping them to step up productivity and increase their annual incomes. The project will expose them to new agriculture technologies based on market development approaches and the Participatory Market Chain Approach (PMCA). The project also aims at conducting nutrition education, monitoring and counselling for the poor households to increase consumption of nutritious foods.

One of the other main goals of the project is to develop market linkages between rural and urban areas and promote exchange of expertise and technologies between agricultural and research institutions in Nepal and Bangladesh, both at the national and grassroots levels. The project will work in two terai districts of Rupandehi and Nawalparsi and two hill districts Rukum and Surkhet, which were selected for their suitability to develop export linkages for vegetable seeds between Nepal and Bangladesh.

Women and children in both countries, who are often the hardest hit by nutritional problems, will be the target beneficiaries of the project. Throughout our history, iDE has observed that the best route to food security is to facilitate sustainable income increases. The project seeks to help 60,000 households to increase their annual income by at least $93 from production and sales of high value agricultural commodities. Another 1000 households are expected to increase their annual income by $124 from seed sales. The project will have a national impact extending innovations and building capacities of grassroots institutions, eventually impacting as many as 140,000 other households in action areas.

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.

28 January 2011 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

No Fortune at the Base of the Pyramid

From IDE CEO Al Doerksen’s blog:

Sorry to break it to you. There is no Santa Claus. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. And there is no fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. There is only grinding poverty.

It was the late C.K. Prahalad who first popularized the notion of a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. For him it was a business proposition. His key observation was that there were a lot of poor of customers who had not been served by major corporations with goods for sale. His contention was that if businesses were to develop products and sales methods targeted for the poor, they (the corporations) could reap major fortunes. Conceptually interesting, but not much evidence so far.

According to that inscrutable source, Wikipedia , “the phrase “bottom of the pyramid” was used by U.S. president Roosevelt in his April 7, 1932 radio address, The Forgotten Man, in which he said ‘These unhappy times call for the building of plans that rest upon the forgotten, the unorganized but the indispensable units of economic power…that build from the bottom up and not from the top down, that put their faith once more in the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid.’ ”

For those tending to hold negative view of capitalism, the space of the bottom of the pyramid has always been crowded, with the weight of all those above truly crushing in terms of impact. In this illustration from the “Industrial Worker”, it is those at the bottom who “work for all” and who “feed all”.

The more current usage refers to those people living on less than $1 – 2 per day. An estimated 1 billion (plus or minus) occupy this space at the base of the pyramid. Yes, it is crowded, and more than a little discouraging. At less than $1 per day life is mostly about subsistence poverty. It is about barely having enough food to eat. It is about inadequate health care. It is about inadequate shelter for one’s family. It was about not being able to educate some or all of the children in the household. It is about having no savings. It is about no fallback or cushion if crops fail. It is about having no contingency funds for emergencies. It is about having almost no ability for any kind of discretionary spending. There are no fortunes down at the bottom of the pyramid. It is hand to mouth.

IDE works with households and individuals who are poorest of the economically active segments of rural society in developing countries. IDE does work at the bottom of the pyramid. For farmers, it is about transforming the economics from scarcity to opportunity; and the mindset from object of charity to producer of value. We do agree with Pralahad on the point that we should treat the people at the base as customers. As customers, our intent is to offer them affordable income opportunities which allow them to sustainably move beyond the subsistence space to that first level of prosperity. An annual income increase of $300 to $500 makes a world of difference. No, they are not rich yet and they are not amassing fortunes, but now there is ability to get ahead a little and gain a measure of economic security.

IDE’s low cost irrigation technologies – low cost pumps, drip systems, water storage systems – have dramatic impacts on agricultural productivity hence household income. If we include other value stream opportunities relating to better or lower cost inputs (eg. seeds) and/or improved market access for horticultural produce, the results get even better.

IDE’s goal is move these base of the pyramid producers / consumers sustainably up to at least that first level of prosperity in the economic pyramid. In a perfect world, we would end up with an empty space in that $1/day space at the bottom of the pyramid.

Economic pyramid diagram

A phrase we often use to describe our work is “Enabling Rural Prosperity.” We do not mean exactly that these poor rural households have become rich. What we mean is that our farmer investor friends are moving away from subsistence grinding poverty in the direction of the entry levels of economic security.

And why do we insist on treating very poor people as customers? It is not to generate any fortune for ourselves. When we treat poor people as customers, we commit ourselves to listening and responding to what they need to become more productive and earn more income. Anybody can give stuff away free. It is when we can create investment opportunities with quick returns that we can take the first steps to creating those illusive fortunes at the base of the pyramid. Once we achieve that, we will move to rainbows.

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.

20 September 2010 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Homeless Artists

From IDE CEO Al Doerksen’s blog:

Somali Refugee weavingThe first time I recall buying art from a homeless person was in Kenya some years ago.  The artist was a Somali woman seeking safety in a UNHCR operated refugee camp.  Her surroundings were incredibly basic; her studio was her UNHCR tent, and her materials were found objects and local grasses and remnants of food aid bags. The weaving she constructed was made by hand; there was no loom. Today I wish I had asked her more questions. Had she always been a weaver, an artist?  Why did she make these?  Did she really think there was a market for anything so crude? Still, I bought the weaving, and have admired its underlying creativity and determination ever since, and had it hung between two plexiglass plates to give it due honor.

Homeless artistMy second homeless artist lives on the street too, East Colfax – one the longest and most fascinating streets spanning Denver and surrounding cities. Some might not call her an artist, just a crafts person since her medium is wool and her skill is knitting.  She claimed she had lived on the street for several years, I think partly by choice.  Any other place was too confining.  Once again, I bought a work of art – a red and black blanket perfect for that emergency blizzard storm.  I made the purchase less for the aesthetic value of the art than out of admiration for her entrepreneurial energy.

Sculpture by street artistMy most recent purchase was from a homeless (or so he claimed) person in Boulder just last Monday.  I spotted this thing on the sidewalk.  It looked like a mini semi-trailer at first.  Then it looked like it had morphed into a grasshopper. It was definitely composed of all found materials – mostly aluminum cans cut apart and the edges serated.  Wires, some wrapped, and some stripped are used for the guts and the sensor aerials.  A faucet for some anterior feature. A set of wheels which look like they come from a skate board.  My new artist friend had several other works on display too, but the one I saw first was the one I liked best.  He said he wanted $855 thousand and change for this work.  I said I didn’t have $800k. He said, “you didn’t listen, I said $855,000″.  He explained that this was a fair price because of all the creative input, the technical knowledge, the proprietary insights, etc.  I offered a $50 downpayment.  He put his hand out and accepted, and then he gave me a calling card – a squashed and squared tin can.  His name was not on it but it was his sign.

Why did I make the purchase?  Why throw away $50 on a collection of twisted indescribable metal and other found objects? Several reasons actually.  In the first case, I admired the creativity and drive of these homeless artists. Secondly, what good is it to believe in the power of markets to create opportunities if one refuses to get involved? Artists need customers, and homeless customers need them more than anyone.  And finally, I thought they were good art pieces, and that is my choice to make.

10 September 2010 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

A Sucker for Markets

From IDE CEO Al Doerksen’s blog:

People who have travelled with me know that I am a sucker for markets.  I find it painful to drive past one and not stop. We’re not talking about supermarkets, shopping centres, outlet malls and Walmarts.  We are certainly not talking about vending machines – product dispensers without human interaction.  Flea markets and garage sales might count, but the ones I find the most fascinating are the rural markets found in the countries in which IDE works; those places where food stuffs, grains, spices, cooking oil and kerosene, livestock, chickens, jewelry, clothing, essential hardware and local hooch change hands.

I can think of no place to learn more about what is going on locally:  what is being produced, what people are consuming, how much purchasing power exists, what is the quality of things available for sale, what local diets consist of, what tools people need, local modes of transportation, what is a commodity and what is a treasure, what people value and how much they will pay for it.   One learns a lot about the local gender dynamics – who’s doing the trading and who is making the decisions and who has the cash and who is shrewd.  In times of stress, desperate or vulnerable households sell livestock or jewelry or tools and productive assets.  This also happens in the marketplace, and astute observers can also spot these indicators of livelihoods under pressure.

Robust markets need both producers and consumers, and ideally, a lot of people who are both.  It is discouraging to smallholder farmers to bring their produce to market to find out that there are no customers for their products and/or that these customers are only prepared to pay low prices.  It is equally discouraging for consumers to come the market to find out that what they want isn’t there and/or that prices of the staples they need are higher than last week.  It is common to rue higher food prices, but surely higher prices are good for smallholder farmers.  More than that, pricing is a critical measure of what is going on, in particular, the balance between supply and demand, and the seasonality of tomatoes and the impact of local festival celebrations.

For sure, markets are places of opportunity.  It is fine to grow food (for family consumption) or to sew clothing or manufacture some other product; it is only in the marketplace that one converts these to cash.  It is the marketplace which is the source of revenues which create other options – better health, education, housing and so on..  It is the marketplace in which the “sweat of one’s brow” converts to tangible value.  It is in the market place in which hopes convert to reality – rewards are best but sometimes there are disappointments.

Some of our talk about markets is nonsense.  The notion of a creating sustainable market is probably in that category, unless one means that the space for producing and consuming will sustainably exist.  The reality is that the demand and prices for commodities is not constant; it is dependent on purchasing power and supply and other income sources and populations and seasonal factors.  The notion of “pro-poor markets” is probably oxymoronic, unless we mean that markets are places where the poor may finally realize the opportunity to get ahead by selling what they have produced.  For sure, market access for both producers and consumers is key.

Markets are dynamic community places; it is easy to see, and fun to observe, the breadth and pleasure of human interaction, the conversations and laughter and conviviality – neighbours visiting with neighbours – negotiations underway and deals being made, often rather quickly but sometimes more protracted and measured.  Markets are places where you find men, women and children, mostly all carrying something to the market in the morning, and carrying back something else late afternoon.  And at the end of the day, it is the human dynamic about markets which I find personally so energizing.   I am looking forward to my next stop.

People who have travelled with me know that I am a sucker for markets.  I find it painful to drive past one and not stop.  We’re not talking about supermarkets, shopping centres, outlet malls and Walmarts.  We are certainly not talking about vending machines – product dispensers without human interaction.  Flea markets and garage sales might count, but the ones I find the most fascinating are the rural markets found in the countries in which IDE works; those places where food stuffs, grains, spices, cooking oil and kerosene, livestock, chickens, jewelry, clothing, essential hardware and local hooch change hands.
I can think of no place to learn more about what is going on locally:  what is being produced, what people are consuming, how much purchasing power exists, what is the quality of things available for sale, what local diets consist of, what tools people need, local modes of transportation, what is a commodity and what is a treasure, what people value and how much they will pay for it.   One learns a lot about the local gender dynamics – who’s doing the trading and who is making the decisions and who has the cash and who is shrewd. In times of stress, desperate or vulnerable households sell livestock or jewelry or tools and productive assets. This also happens in the marketplace, and astute observers can also spot these indicators of livelihoods under pressure.

Robust markets need both producers and consumers, and ideally, a lot of people who are both.  It is discouraging to smallholder farmers to bring their produce to market to find out that there are no customers for their products and/or that these customers are only prepared to pay low prices.  It is equally discouraging for consumers to come the market to find out that what they want isn’t there and/or that prices of the staples they need are higher than last week.  It is common to rue higher food prices, but surely higher prices are good for smallholder farmers.  More than that, pricing is a critical measure of what is going on, in particular, the balance between supply and demand, and the seasonality of tomatoes and the impact of local festival celebrations.

For sure, markets are places of opportunity.  It is fine to grow food (for family consumption) or to sew clothing or manufacture some other product; it is only in the marketplace that one converts these to cash.  It is the marketplace which is the source of revenues which create other options – better health, education, housing and so on..  It is the marketplace in which the “sweat of one’s brow” converts to tangible value.  It is in the market place in which hopes convert to reality – rewards are best but sometimes there are disappointments.

Some of our talk about markets is nonsense.  The notion of a creating sustainable market is probably in that category, unless one means that the space for producing and consuming will sustainably exist.  The reality is that the demand and prices for commodities is not constant; it is dependent on purchasing power and supply and other income sources and populations and seasonal factors.  The notion of “pro-poor markets” is probably oxymoronic, unless we mean that markets are places where the poor may finally realize the opportunity to get ahead by selling what they have produced.  For sure, market access for both producers and consumers is key.

Markets are dynamic community places; it is easy to see, and fun to observe, the breadth and pleasure of human interaction, the conversations and laughter and conviviality – neighbours visiting with neighbours – negotiations underway and deals being made, often rather quickly but sometimes more protracted and measured.  Markets are places where you find men, women and children, mostly all carrying something to the market in the morning, and carrying back something else late afternoon.  And at the end of the day, it is the human dynamic about markets which I find personally so energizing.   I am looking forward to my next stop.

Welcome to iDE

© iDE. All Rights Reserved.