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27 May 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Growing Bigger, Better Plantains in Nicaragua with Drip Irrigation

Nicaragua_Candelario Bojorge_plantain farmer, iDeal retailer

Walking through groves of plantain trees, Candelario Bojorge and iDEal technicians discuss the various lines of black tubing that are running along the base of the tree line. If you look close, you can see small amounts of water leaking out from the tubes, quickly absorbed by the dark, moist dirt.

Candelario is a plantain farmer and a drip irrigation retailer. Working with iDEal, an iDE social enterprise focused on increasing farmers’ productivity through technology such as drip irrigation, Candelario sells drip irrigation kits to farmers in his community.

Candelario can speak firsthand to the benefits of iDEal’s drip irrigation system – earning him nearly 40% more income. Before, he was using traditional flood irrigation – pumping 25,000 liters of water into his grove for eight hours each week. Doing that four times per month totaled 800,000 liters of water monthly.

Today, with the iDEal drip irrigation system, Candelario only uses 400,000 liters per month with the same pump. The low pressure system also saves Candelario on fuel costs.

“It is very easy to operate – I just open and close the valves. While I am irrigating I can do other things like working on the farm or helping my wife with the kiosk sales we have at the house,” said Candelario.

It has also allowed him to expand his farm – he is now able to irrigate double the amount of land using the same amount of water as before.

He has also noticed that the quality of the plantains has gotten better – his trees are growing more and bigger plantains.

Today, iDEal and Candelario are working together to test the efficiency of the system and find ways to improve upon it. Candelario and iDEal technicians lean in close to check the meter readings on a pump valve. Jotting down the reading, the technician adds the results to a roster of dates and locations. Collecting the data over the next few weeks, iDEal technicians will pull together a strategy to create an even more efficient system – saving Candelario and other farmers even more time and money.

5 May 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Don David Marquez – A Success Story for Coffee Farmers in Overcoming the “Thin Months”

H2_Don David Marquez

Don David Marquez holds out a giant zucchini – cut right then from a lush, green row of vegetation. Cabbage, radish, and tomato plants stretch all around him as he walks the rows lined with narrow tubes supplying water directly to the plants.

Don David is a coffee farmer. He has been his whole life. But, the “thin months” forced him to start thinking outside of the box.

Honduras is one of the leading producers and exporters of coffee world-wide. One particular region of Honduras, Marcala, is known for its high-quality coffee production, but many farmers in this region are struggling to combat drought and disease.

After the coffee harvest, farmers experience 8 months – known as the “thin months” – in which they must survive on the earnings from their coffee harvest. These months are particularly difficult due to prolonged dry seasons, and a fungus called “coffee rust” that cripples crops and harvests by nearly 50%.

Don David’s crop was not spared by the coffee rust. However, the “thin months” for Don David were not so thin. Working with iDE, Don David was able to diversify his crops – and his income. This diversification shielded him from severe business pains when coffee rust hit his crop.

When the dry season lasted longer than expected, Don David was able to effectively manage water scarcity by using drip irrigation – a system of tubes that supply small amounts of water directly to the plant. This technology, sold through iDeal – a social enterprise of iDE, is a key strategy is managing water and minimizing crop loss.

Don David proudly shows off his farm and its bounty to visitors and neighbors. His farm has become a model in the community – teaching others sustainable and efficient ways of getting through the “thin months.”

25 April 2016 | Posted By: iDE

10 years later, the water keeps flowing.


Nepali farmers use water for many reasons: drinking, caring for livestock, washing clothes, growing vegetables. But traditional water delivery systems are designed for a single use: either domestic or agriculture—if they are available at all. The government offices that support these two uses exist in separate silos with little or no communication between them.

Multiple-Use Water Systems (MUS) are designed to overcome that problem. MUS are managed by a local community leader and are designed from day one to provide water for multiple uses. MUS are a proven approach to reducing poverty by ensuring that water is distributed equitably in remote villages.

The MUS Workshop in Nepal

iDE Nepal and several co-organizers convened a workshop earlier this year to share best practices on this approach. The workshop took place in Kathmandu and included a wide swath of over 180 people—a mix of government, academia, practitioners and local farmers.

A highlight of the workshop: 85% of MUS implemented by iDE Nepal ten years ago are still functioning today, according to recent research by IWMI (International Water Management Institute).

When MUS are combined with drip irrigation, they enable small farmers to use a fraction of the water used by traditional flood techniques. This means that farmers adapt more easily when rainfall is erratic. Clearly, MUS are an important climate change adaptation approach, enabling communities to efficiently manage and allocate scarce water resources.

Inspired by the long-term success of MUS, workshop attendees are hoping to include it in mainstream conversations on water management.

It was clear at the workshop that MUS advocates would like to elevate the profile of MUS. The new Nepal MUS Network, which launched from the workshop, has plans to inspire an ongoing dialogue about MUS across the water sector.

Learn more about the Nepal MUS Network by visiting the MUS Group website.

iDE Nepal thanks the co-organizers who shared research, methodologies, and technologies, and together advanced the body of knowledge around this unique and proven approach: IWMI, FMIST, MUS Group, and the Ministry of Population and Environment. These organizations and MUS Workshop attendees made the workshop a successful event.

Learn more about iDE Nepal’s work in MUS.

14 April 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Improving Toilets for the Disabled

Horn Family_Disabled Shelter_WP 1500CAMBODIA – Safety is on the top of Mr. Horn Vuthy’s parents’ minds. Without a toilet, their son, a 30-year-old disabled man, is forced to leave his wheelchair and crawl to a private, safe place to defecate. During the rainy season and with exposure to venomous animals and insects, his safety is uncertain.

Today, Mr. Horn’s parents don’t have to worry anymore – their home has a toilet designed to meet their son’s needs. After hearing about iDE’s program in their village, the family volunteered to receive a prototype of iDE’s first toilet designed for disabled people.

Mr. Horn was able to provide invaluable information on the successes and challenges of this first prototype, including access to a water basin, a door big enough for a wheelchair, and a sitting toilet (instead of the more common squat toilet).

Listening to the challenges users like Mr. Horn faced, iDE went back to the drawing board. Now, iDE’s WASH staff is working on a new design that will address some of the shortcomings of the first prototype as well as incorporate new and improved building methods. For example, the design team is exploring interlocking bricks that resemble Legos. The bricks enable more flexibility and efficiency – saving time, money, and materials.

Read more on this design effort.

iDE continues to develop and expand its WASH efforts and partnerships in Cambodia. This program is supported by the Australian Government and the Stone Family Foundation.

Also, in just a few months, iDE will join other WASH practitioners at the East Asia Regional Learning Event (EARLE) to discuss market-based approaches to sanitation, including the considerations of disabled users.

Follow iDE’s WASH programs in Cambodia and globally on Twitter @ideorg and on Facebook/ideorg

1 April 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Canadian Ambassador Visits iDE Programs in Cambodia

By Michael Roberts, Country Director, iDE Cambodia
March 28, 2016

PHNOM PENH—His Excellency Philip Calvert, Canadian Ambassador to Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos, got a break from the usual round of high-level meetings during his recent visit to Cambodia. The Ambassador accompanied iDE on a field visit to agriculture and sanitation project areas in Kandal Province, about an hour and a half outside of Phnom Penh. He was eager to see the results of Canadian development assistance on the ground.

Global Affairs Canada is funding iDE’s Farm Business Advisor (FBA) program with a grant that started in 2012 and ends in 2017. The Ambassador met with one of the FBAs, Mr. Chiv Hy and his wife Somret, whom iDE recruited and trained three years ago. Acting as an independent entrepreneur, Chiv sells agricultural inputs like seeds and irrigation equipment to customers in the surrounding villages. He also provides advice to his customers throughout the growing season. Chiv receives a commission on the products he sells and also earns income from his own vegetable crop, which doubles as a demonstration plot.

Chiv noted that, out of the 30 clients that he is serving this year, most are using drip irrigation and rotating their vegetable crops each season according to the advice that he gives them. Chiv also showed off a new net house, currently under construction, that will protect future crops from insects without using pesticides. But Somret does not expect any of their customers to buy one in the immediate future. “People will need to see it work for a several seasons before they are confident enough to make such a big investment,” she said.

A short distance down the road, one of Chiv’s customers had recently harvested a rice crop that yielded twice as much as she used to get from the same land. She credited the productivity jump to the advice and pest-control products that she purchased from Chiv. Results like this are common among FBA clients. Most farmers use basic, low-yielding farming methods and so a little additional knowledge and simple technologies can show big returns in a short time.

A network of 167 FBAs across five Cambodian provinces are supported by Lors Thmey, a social enterprise established by iDE. Lors Thmey is currently funded partly by grants—including the Canadian Government funding—and partly by revenues generated through the products and services sold to farmers. The proportion of grant funding is expected to decrease over time and the enterprise aims to be financially sustainable in three to four years.

From the FBA’s farm, the Ambassador and his iDE entourage crossed the Bassac River on a pedestrian ferry comprised of a wooden platform strapped onto two fishing boats. On the other side he visited the open-air workshop of Mr. Ream Ny, a small-scale manufacturer of concrete products who is collaborating with iDE’s Sanitation Marketing program.

In the surrounding communities, iDE has trained sanitation sales agents to conduct group meetings and door-to-door presentations that help rural households to weigh the costs of buying a latrine versus doing nothing. Orders for the C$65 latrines are directed to Ny, who manufacturers the components, delivers them in one of his four trucks, and installs them for the customer. Ny employs 20 workers and is able to build and install 15 latrines per day. Asked what he will do once everyone in his area has a latrine, Ny smiled and said “then I will start selling them concrete latrine shelters and upgrades.”

To date, iDE’s program has delivered more than 200,000 latrines through rural market channels—a fourfold increase over the rate of latrine installations before the program began. The Sanitation Marketing program received partial funding from Grand Challenges Canada and the methodology developed in Cambodia is currently being applied in six other countries around the globe.

18 March 2016 | Posted By: iDE

Stories from the field: Sopheak’s Smile

Sopheak Smile

“She tells me that if she was not doing this, she would be in a garment factory in the capital, working six days a week in busy cramped conditions. She smiles triumphantly and declares that here, in her field, she has no boss, she is independent and she is the one in control of her life.”

(from “Tim Bergman: The Story Behind Sopheak’s Smile” Business Fights Poverty

Since 2005, iDE has been working with small farmers in Cambodia to scale-up their productivity, increase their income and improve their livelihood opportunities. The Farm Business Advisor (FBA) program provides farmers with the knowledge, connections and tools they need to grow their business. Tim Bergman, Technical Advisor in Cambodia, has been working with one female farmer in Cambodia named Sopheak, a 25-year-old from the Kandal province in Cambodia. Tim recently told her story on Business Fights Poverty.

Nearly 85% of Cambodians live in rural areas and depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood. Cambodia’s FBA program was the 2010 Winner of the Nestlé Prize for Creating Shared Value. The program creates a value chain where all people involved are invested in the success of the farm business, from the Farm Business Advisor who provides knowledge and connections as well as sells farmers seeds, fertilizer, and equipment, to the farmer who gains from the support of new knowledge and an expanded network.

Beyond the success of the farm business, the FBA program is also breaking down social and cultural barriers in the community around the role of females. The program empowers women to engage in enterprises that were once seen as off-limits. Tim explains this shift in Sopheak’s community:

“She acts as a role model for the local young women and girls, inspiring them to think big and look beyond traditional notions about what roles women can play.”

For the latest updates, follow @iDEorg on Twitter and “Like us” on Facebook 


24 November 2015 | Posted By: iDE

Double Your Impact, Then Multiply by 10.

ideorg Blog Photo


This is our best campaign ever. It’s inspired by entrepreneurs like Gita, who are ready for a new opportunity, more security, and better ways to use the resources they already have. You can read about what life is like for Gita here. But this campaign is also inspired by people like you who want to be involved in working with entrepreneurs. People who let their heart, and their brain, guide their giving. Welcome to the Ready For Business campaign. Here are the details.



When you give to iDE before December 31, 2015, your gift will be doubled. An anonymous donor will match, dollar for dollar, each donation we receive, up to $20,000. There’s never been a better time to give.



Not only do we believe in the power of the entrepreneur, we also believe in data. We measure how we empower women through our work and how we improve household nutrition. But our most important measurement is household income. In Cambodia, every $1 invested generates $18 in income for a household. In Ethiopia, every donor dollar generates $6 in income. Your average return on investment across all eleven iDE countries is 1:10.

These numbers are important for our donors to know, but they are more important for our program teams to analyze. We are driven to see where the challenges are if the ratios are lower than we want. We generally see higher ROI in Asia than we do in Africa because markets are generally stronger in Asian countries. Many African countries require a significantly higher investment to get a market moving. We also know that when we first start in a country and we are in the first few years of operation, we will see low ROI as we build the program.

We are constantly pushing ourselves to achieve the highest efficiency possible as this is an indicator that we are making an impact on global poverty AND that our market based approach works.

We’re ready for business. Click here if you would like to join us in our best campaign ever.

24 September 2015 | Posted By: iDE

Building Partnerships at World Water Week

WWW drip event 800

Each year, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) organizes World Water Week, and this year’s theme related directly to iDE and our work with the rural poor. The theme this year: ‘Water for Development’.

The challenges we face in providing access to water for all, and sustaining the water resources on our planet, were topics of conversation throughout the week. Sustainable Development Goals will set a standard for universal access to water and sanitation by 2030, which – along with productive water for agriculture use – will deeply impact poverty.

iDE was proud to be a unique voice during the week, conveying firsthand the effectiveness in tapping the power of business to fight poverty.

Our panel discussion on drip irrigation brought together, for the first time, three of the largest irrigation companies in the world: Jain, Netafim, and Toro. All three are focused on bringing the next generation of drip irrigation technology to the rural poor. And our new market data – research on why consumers would purchase such a product, and what conditions are required for adoption – stands out as an important contribution to industry knowledge.

Our panel on sanitation included representation from iDE, Kohler and Grand Challenges Canada – a unique partnership that is addressing the need for clean water in Nepal. The panel candidly discussed the opportunities and the challenges they’re facing and as they learn how to leverage each other’s strengths to make impact.

Our message – that business is an effective tool to fight poverty – resonates well. All around the conference, the private sector is a critical and coveted partner. While the conversation continues, we are back at work, helping design better products, bridging the last mile to reach more customers, and ultimately bringing opportunities to the world’s rural poor. 

It’s a 32-year journey we are proud to continue, and it’s exciting to make this part of the journey with new partners.

12 May 2015 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Update from Nepal


Nepal was still in a state of fear and disorganization as the government works to distribute aid and mend when an additional earthquake shook the country on May 12, 2015. iDE is thankful to report, once again, that no staff members were hurt during this most recent event.

“People are really terrorized, it was just starting to feel a little normal, now people are again afraid to go in their homes, offices, most people are sleeping and staying outside,”  said Luke Colavito, iDE Nepal Country Director.

Colavito was driving to pick up his son when he felt the ground shake and saw the new damage. “This aftershock was very bad, many damaged buildings have collapsed and new buildings are damaged.” As his mind shifts to those outside of Kathmandu, he says, “I’m afraid that in the rural areas it will have brought down many more of the already damaged mud brick homes that poor farmers live in. These farmers will have lost their possessions and stored food. It’s a tremendous setback.”

Even before the second earthquake, Colavito was thinking ahead and planning an agricultural recovery support program and rapid latrine installation to prevent cholera and other waterborne diseases.

“Right now people are in shock and aren’t able to focus on the need to begin planting,” says Luke. The iDE Nepal team is establishing nurseries to grow seedlings so in a month, after people start to recover, they will not have missed out on a prime growing season.

The iDE Nepal team remains dedicated to improving the lives of the poorest of the poor who live in remote corners of the country. In the coming months, as Nepal looks to rebuild and regain some normalcy, iDE’s work will be of paramount importance and influence.

Join us in helping more families get back on their feet with agricultural recovery support.




30 April 2015 | Posted By: iDE

A Bad Luck/Good Luck Story


By Bob Nanes
Tanke Village, Nepal

Saturday, April 25th started in Tanke village in the hills of Central Nepal  just like any other day. The sounds of barnyard animals, people stirring, clearing their throats. The sunlight reflected off the irrigated rice paddies on the valley floor. Some people began to move out to some of the nearby fields to do some casual weeding and other field tasks. But Saturday was often a day with little activity.  For those families who were lucky enough to have a TV, they would often sit with several families inside and watch their favorite TV dramas or variety shows.

But on this Saturday, the electricity went off some time in the morning. Bad luck, there would be no family TV time today. So people went about other tasks. The women of the village headed off together to the nearby forest to gather fodder and firewood. The men gathered in the village center for a group meeting. And the children played with their friends around the houses and in the fields.

But just before noon, the largest earthquake in the last 80 years struck Nepal and shook the village violently. Most of the mud houses in the village collapsed completely. Bad luck. In the aftermath, as people rushed back to their houses and to find their family members, there was chaos and tragedy. A four year old child was dead, crushed inside a house. Some of the livestock was also dead, crushed by tumbling walls. But the bad luck electricity cut of earlier in the day turned out to be amazing good luck. What could have caused dozens, or even hundreds of deaths, caused only the one, as tragic as it is.

IDE Nepal has been working in Tanke village for several years. In collaboration with the community and local government, they supported the building of a solar powered multiple use water system that lifts water from the valley floor, and distributes it for household use and also feeds into drip irrigation systems to produce vegetables for sale. IDE staff had been in contact with the villagers after the quake and been informed about the scope of the tragedy. With the support of offices and private donors in the US, Canada and the UK, IDE had mobilized to deliver food and plastic shelter material to Tanke village.

When we entered the village, the destruction was unbelievable. What had been a lively collection of houses along a scenic ridge in central Nepal, was now a scene of utter devastation. Most of the houses had collapsed, and everyone was living in slapdash tents made of small pieces of plastic stuck together as well as possible. Nobody, even those whose houses had not collapsed, were sleeping inside because of the frequent aftershocks.

But surprisingly, the mood was not morose. People were going about their tasks as if this was just another day. We were greeted in the normal friendly manner of Nepali farm folk. People were happy to talk to us and tell us their stories. There was no trace of self-pity.  Perhaps their normally difficult life had prepared them for the current and future hardships. Would we be so adaptable in the same situation?  I think not.

So now the long slow process of bringing life back to normal begins. The villagers are not short on food, but were in desperate need of safe and dry shelter. The plastic tarps that we brought were the most important thing to them. But how will they move forward in re-building their lives? I imagine that living in tents will become the new norm for months, or possibly years to come.

Life is so precious. It is hard to believe sometimes that the difference between life and death can be determined by something as random as a power outage, or where you stand while viewing the Boston Marathon, or which flight you decide to take while flying from Spain to Germany. But that is the case, and sometimes no matter how we plan or watch or protect, life can stay or go through a simple twist of fate.


Help iDE Nepal reach more remote villages with food and shelter. Donate here.

Bob Nanes was formerly the head of the Technology and Innovation Group in the Denver Headquarters of iDE. He was in charge of supporting the iDE country programs in technology development, agriculture program development, global equipment supply, agriculture knowledge management and micro finance. In his 24 years with iDE he also worked as Country Director in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Ghana and as the Director of Training. He also started and ran an irrigation contracting business and a food processing business. He is currently a consultant to iDE. He has his degree in Agricultural Engineering from Cornell University.


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