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6 April 2015 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Noelle’s Red Dirt Brings in the Green



Imagine standing on Noelle’s farm with her at your side.  She starts her day before sunrise.  She is ready to face another long, sweltering day working on her farm.  Her crops depend on the water she brings them to survive; her family depends on her.

You look down at your feet you notice a thin layer of red dust on your shoes.  As your gaze moves to the horizon you see a dry field of red dirt and Noelle’s clay covered house in the distance.  And you see her most prized possession – rows of precisely ordered zucchini plants.  Looking closer, you see a drip irrigation system that is delivering to her crop just the right amount of water.

Speaking in French, Noelle says she first saw drip irrigation at an iDE demonstration farm over 18 months ago.  It was in that moment she decided to buy a system for herself. She started working with one of iDE’s local Farm Business Advisors who helped her to set up her drip irrigation system, plant and harvest her zucchini crop, and find a buyer in the local market.  As one of the only farmers growing zucchini during the dry season, she is thrilled to receive the highest price possible for her crops. In just one harvest Noelle’s income went up more than $500, three times as much as she was making before using drip irrigation and growing such a valuable crop!

What is next for Noelle you ask?

Like every good business owner, Noelle has her mind on expansion.  She wants more farmable land and to purchase a larger drip irrigation system.  She is also looking to grow moringa, a nutritional supplement high in protein, vitamins A, B, and C, and calcium.  There is a burgeoning demand for moringa so she can anticipate even more income in the future.

It is only because of donor support that iDE is able to have an office in Burkina Faso and assist farmers like Noelle in becoming successful entrepreneurs. To date, we have served 3,000 farmers in Burkina Faso alone, who have collectively earned over $180,000 in the last two years.

Continued donor support means more income for farmers in Burkina Faso and other iDE countries around the world. Every $1 donated to iDE equals $10 in additional income for farmers.

Thank you for investing in entrepreneurs.


6 March 2015 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

A Small Loan Makes All the Difference in Bangladesh

Mitali Mondol-21, w/o Bipul Mondal live in Natherkandi village under Harta union of Wazirpur Upazila. They have not kid. Before involvement with ide-B Mitali worked as a house wife and occasionally worked as a day labor. With the support IDE she has established as shop selling grocery items and tea. Full time she works in the shop. Her husband is a day labor. Mitali is very happy now as she is earning money and household members acknowledge her as she is a earning member of the HH and use to meal 3 times a day that was 2 times before involvement with IDE.


Men are decision makers, women are a burden.

This is just one of the sentiments that was seen as culturally appropriate in Bangladesh only 40 years ago. Today, women are making their voices heard and taking lead roles within the Bangladeshi government.

Unfortunately, these strides have not trickled down to the poorest and most marginalized women, specifically in the southern region of Bangladesh. Women here serve as day laborers, or are involved in unpaid domestic work and small scale homestead vegetable production. This means they are dependent on seasonal work, and on their husband’s incomes. Even when earning an income themselves, women have little say as to how it is spent. This is where iDE is making a difference.

A few years ago, iDE started a project in Bangladesh to target poor and marginalized women in southern Bangladesh. We established small groups of women, who received training and a loan to start their own small farming business. The goal was to support them in earning a higher income and give them more confidence to voice their opinion.


iDE trained these women in business planning, and money management.  They were also supported in choosing the best technologies to invest in, in orderto make their business profitable. These technologies included jute sacks, pond dikes and “floating” farm techniques which provided them with more space to grow vegetables . When you grow more, you earn more.


Hasina Begum was part of a women’s group. She expanded her homestead gardening using techniques learned from the iDE training sessions. She used the loan to lease land and started cultivating vegetables on a larger scale, which she then sold to nearby markets. The profits she earned were used to repair her house. Most importantly, she can now afford three meals a day, instead of struggling to even provide one. Now that’s life changing!

Mitali Mondol also received iDE support. She set up a small shop in her neighborhood. Another woman, Gita, used her profits and bought a cart which she now rents to a puller, which gives her a regular, sustainable source of income.

When the most marginalized women significantly raise their income, it leads to many material and social benefits. The women reported greater decision making power within their household over expenditures. With their new income, they can now afford to buy three meals a day, medicine and educational materials for their children. We are grateful for the support from donors, which gave us the opportunity to make a difference for these women.

5 March 2015 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Determination and Success in Ethiopia – Demu Bikila

2.2014 TulluBollo, Ethiopia Demu Bikila (24)_edited

In Ethiopia much of the land is owned by men. In fact, it is out of the ordinary to meet a female farmer who owns the land where she lives and works. This is only one of the reasons why Demu Bikila so exceptional.

From Addis Ababa, head southwest and you will intersect with a small town called Tulu Bolo. Turning from the highway down a dirt road, through an empty field, and over a dried up irrigation ditch, finally coming to the lush field and home of Demu.

Demu confidently starts to explain that she has been growing cabbage for four harvests and that she keeps only 50% for consumption and sells the other 50% to a nearby market via her farmer group. Demu says the iDE Farm Business Advisors (FBA) connected her to a local bank where she received a micro-loan so she could purchase a treadle pump and good seeds. The FBAs also helped her to find the best spot to set up her treadle pump and build out her field. She uses the proceeds from selling half of her harvest at the market to pay back her loan and for other expenses.

She says she uses the other funds to send two of her 5 children to school. She hopes that one day she will have enough money to send all of her children to school.

When asked what she used to do before farming, she says she took care of the home and children and that her husband was the farmer. Demu’s husband passed away a few years ago.

It was not long after Demu was introduced to iDE that she decided to join her local farmer group. She says, “Before iDE, I had no knowledge of agriculture and bought all of my food at the market.” You can imagine what a shock it was to her to have to learn a new trade and be the sole breadwinner for her family. Demu took it all in stride.

Her determined spirit and children kept her going. She is a minority as a woman and a land owner in Ethiopia, and now she has the knowledge and the tools for success. She can now say with a smile that she is a successful businesswoman and community leader.

2.2014 TulluBollo, Ethiopia Demu Bikila (21)
| Posted By: Ilana Martin

Florence and the machines!


Gardening with iDE technology generates income for Florence. She has improved her families lives and her husband is much closer to her.

Economic opportunities are extremely limited for rural women in Zambia. Women generally have fewer assets than men and limited opportunities to make money. They have difficulty gaining access to the money and credit they need to buy products and technologies and set up small businesses that generate income. And when it comes to economic decision making and agency to influence their husbands’ choices over the use of resources women have restricted power.

iDE’s Rural Prosperity Initiative (RPI) aims to empower women small-scale farmers to improve their incomes and positions in society using an innovative market orientated approach that focuses on improving access to productive water. iDE does not do giveaways. The only thing that is offered to women is training and advise on business, entrepreneurship and agronomy to give them the means to grow vegetables in the dry-season. To succeed women must invest their own money in the products and technologies that enable them to use their improved skills and knowledge in a meaningful way. iDE helps women small-scale farmers who cannot afford these products with loans facilitated through CETZAM MFI on a commercial basis. Ownership of technologies enables them to generate the revenue to repay the loans within six months, with a 97% repayment rate, to date.

Florence’s Story: Florence Mapulanga is a typical farmer from Kapini village, Chibombo in Zambia. She spends her life gardening whilst her husband is away in town during the week working as a bus driver. In 2006 she was struggling to sustain her large extended family. Her five children, mother in law, step son and his wife, brother and her brother in law all lived in a small, cramped traditional mud hut with thatched roof and even with their combined income they often went hungry

Despite their difficulties, Florence was determined to do all she could to make a better future for her family so she joined an iDE farm group later that year, under RPI, iDE’s flagship programme. She attended specialised workshops where she learnt about efficient water usage and a range of micro-irrigation technologies which can be used to access water in the dry season. With her husband’s wage and her efforts they saved enough to buy a small motor pump. Armed with her pump and improved knowledge about crop production (beans, cabbage, Irish potato, tomatoes, eggplant and courgette) from an iDE training session she was able to produce better quality and quantities of vegetables to sell at the market.

After working with iDE over a five year period, using iDE’s approach over consecutive growing seasons, in addition to her own exceptional management (including good agronomic practices and careful pest and disease control) her annual income has increased ten-fold from $200 a year (less than $1 a day) to $2000. She has lavished her money on her family. Today they all have three meals a day and a variety of nutritious foods. A larger solid brick house with a tin roof provides them with more comfort and space. And a solar panel powers new amenities such as a TV, phone and radio which has improved their quality of life and provided light so her children can do their schoolwork in the evening, giving them the best chance to succeed in life.

Florence says that her success has bought her closer to her husband: “He respects me more because I am not a sleeping housewife”. This respect, gained through her hard effort and entrepreneurship has enabled her to make important economic and managerial decisions that affect her and her family’s lives. For example she makes all the day to day decisions on her farm when her husband is away in town. He says, “she is the one who knows everything about gardening! She is the boss!” Her husband even trusts her with purchasing new products and technologies to further improve their lives, however most of the time they discuss all their options and make major decisions together as a unit. Unlike many other women in her community Florence’s voice is heard.

Her commitment to iDE’s philosophy resulted in her decision to invest heavily in widening her water application technology base (facilitated through iDE staff) with a variety of water saving and efficiency benefits. She bought:

  • A treadle pump in 2009 which she uses when she can’t afford petrol for her pump,
  • Two water storage tanks for convenience and efficiency as well as water quantification and regulation
  • A brand new drip irrigation system facilitated by iDE’s latest innovation the community Farm Business Advisor (FBA) – a local farmer and entrepreneur who gains commission from the sale of irrigation and other technologies, products and services.


A quiet, shy woman, Florence comes to life when she talks about how she will use her existing and new micro-irrigation technologies to support her new farm plan. She is currently clearing land to expand by 0.2 ha and set up the drip and tank set to grow watermelons for the first time. Once it is set up it can be left to irrigate in a self sustaining system. She also plans on distributing fertilizer through her pump and drip system (fertigation) ensuring each plant gets the right amount of nutrients directly to their roots.

Florence smiles happily at her prospects; “watermelon is something different from most farmers which means more money in my pocket!”

Florence is an inspirational woman, working on the farm full time, paying for her children to be in school and supporting her extended family.

With iDE’s help she has the confidence to focus on gardening as a lucrative business opportunity and alongside an improved quality of life has gained greater respect from her husband and the community. More women in rural Zambia can follow Florence’s path by working with iDE, even with limited means and an environment that is far from conducive to do so.

iDE’s has been investing in water technology for the rural poor and the economic empowerment of women for over 15 years in Zambia. It is from this experience that the importance of recognising and promoting women as agents of their own change has come to bear increased pertinence. iDE understand that approaching gender related issues is not a tick box exercise that merely requires inclusion of women but rather, involves appreciating and understanding women as decision makers with needs and aspirations.

Women’s invaluable contribution to rural development should be recognized!


3 March 2015 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Kim Sreng is growing a farm—and a family— in Siem Reap, Cambodia.



With a little training and a lot of hard work, entrepreneur Kim Sreng has turned a plot of land into a tomato empire.

She inherited land, but was not sure what to do with it until she visited a demonstration farm run by iDE. She had previously been growing cucumbers and selling them for a low price, but after seeing the income potential of a tomato farm she decided to start training with iDE.  Seven harvests later, she has grown over 6.5 tons (or 13,000 pounds) of tomatoes with a net profit of over $12,000.  In a country where the average yearly income is only $1,000 USD, her farm is a testament to the power of her entrepreneurship.

Her successful business has allowed her to invest where it matters most – her family.

The most important change in her life was the birth of her first child.  Cambodia has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, but Kim was able to afford to have her baby in a hospital rather than at home.  She is proud to say her baby is happy and healthy.

As a working mother of a young baby, she is grateful to have her husband spend more time at home.  Because she is so successful, he doesn’t have to travel for work anymore and can work on the farm instead.

She has transformed her life over last three years for the better and there are many more changes to come.  In  fact, next year Kim and her husband plan to build a new house for their growing family. Until then, they are looking forward to having electricity in their home for the first time.

Kim has worked hard to make her farm so profitable. She plans to further her training with iDE and invest in more agricultural technology so her farm, and her family, can continue to thrive.




16 January 2015 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Postcard Earnings bring Privacy and Heath in a New Latrine


Many people visit the temples in Cambodia’s Siem Reap Province for holiday; but for Mrs. Teou Lang, daily visits to the temple are her living. She sells postcards at the Phrea Khan temple each day to help her husband, a gardener, support their four children. When she is home with her children, Teou is constantly thinking about her family’s health. Their wellbeing and happiness is important to her, and it is for this reason that she bought a latrine in 2012 for 170,000 KHR (USD$42.50).

After a few Sanitation Teachers coordinated with her village chief and held a meeting for many families in the Leang Daiy Commune, Teou and her husband became interested in the idea of a latrine. She explains that iDE’s representatives gave her more information than anyone else has about the benefits of a latrine, and much of this information was in the form of easy-to-understand illustrations.

Prior to owning a latrine, Teou and her family would walk to open areas in the field and defecate in a hole they dug each time. She says her family’s health is now “completely different,” and hypothesizes that this is due to the latrine being more sanitary than open defecation, particularly because it is an enclosed hut and all waste is far underground, ensuring diseases do not spread as easily to her home and her food supply. The latrine shelter also prevents the family from spending excess time in cold or rainy weather, which has decreased how often they get the flu.

Today, it is easier than ever for Teou and her family to stay healthy. She says she has never had to fix the sturdy latrine, she finds it very easy to clean, and she only has to refill the water basin twice each week. She is proud that her family owns a latrine, and now finds it easier to comfortably have guests and relatives at her home.

In the future, Teou only hopes that more families will be able to afford latrines as well. She acknowledges how difficult it is for poorer Cambodian homes to purchase a latrine but she hopes that this changes in the future as iDE continues to help in the Siem Reap Province. She feels particularly passionate about the positive effects to be had from village talks sponsored by iDE or Sanitation Teachers.



17 November 2014 | Posted By: iDE

“Cambodia: Growing Momentum for Sanitation”

Video-Blog-piciDE congratulates the people of Cambodia in a new video:

“Cambodia: Growing Momentum for Sanitation”

The great progress in rural sanitation is something for Cambodia to be proud of.”
—Chreay Pom, Director, Department of Rural Health at Ministry of Rural Development

The rate at which sanitary toilets are being installed in rural Cambodia has increased dramatically since the Government of Cambodia made rural sanitation a priority in 2008. In the past six years, hundreds of thousands of rural families are experiencing the benefits of improved sanitation for the first time. This video celebrates Cambodia’s progress in sanitation and highlights the people who have made it possible—government officials, local business people and rural families.

“In 2008, the government set sanitation as a priority in order to improve people’s standard of living. Since then, we’ve noticed a huge change in rural communities. People have latrines at home and they understand what good sanitation is, and actually practice it within their families.” —Dr. Chea Samnang, WSSCC National Coordinator

Many national and international organizations have also contributed to the sanitation movement happening in Cambodia. One of these organizations is iDE. iDE is dedicated to outsmarting diarrheal disease by making sure that quality toilets are accessible through local markets at an affordable price.

“…We are helping the private sector learn what people want and helping them produce and sell it at an affordable price. The last few years have been a turning point across the country, with annual toilet sales increasing four-fold since 2008.” —iDE

iDE’s three-year Sanitation Marketing Scale-Up (SMSU) project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Stone Family Foundation, and technically supported by the Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) of the World Bank. The project is supported by the Ministry of Rural Development.

iDE is an international non-profit organization dedicated to creating income and livelihood opportunities for the rural poor. In addition to worldwide programs in agriculture, iDE implements programs in Africa and Asia in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector. iDE’s WASH programs focus on creating markets around aspirational and effective WASH products and services that reduce diarrheal disease among poor households. iDE has impacted more than 23 million people globally to date through its WASH and agriculture interventions. Watch the video.

15 October 2014 | Posted By: Ilana Martin

Global Harvest Brings Success for Smallholder Farmers


September 27, 2014

iDE’s annual fundraiser was held on September 27, 2014 with a focus on smallholder farmers. Guests heard from our fabulous emcee from the evening, Anne Trujillo, on what is means to be a mom and the importance of being able to feed her family. Guests also heard from two of iDE’s Country Directors, Carlos Urmenta (Honduras) and Kebede Ayele (Ethiopia). Each told stories of farmers who have benefited from partnering with iDE.

iDE was so thrilled to continue our partnership with Toro Irrigation and recently received a grant from the Toro Foundation to continue our work in Honduras, working with smallholder farmers. See more from Toro.

Finally, iDE would like to thank all of our event vendors, supporters, and donors who made the night possible. Your donations raised over $30,000 to support smallholders farmers throughout the developing world. Because of you, our work is possible.

See photos from iDE’s Global Harvest.


8 August 2014 | Posted By: iDE

iDE and American Standard: See big business in toilets at the bottom of the pyramid

By KC Koch

SaTo-1This is the story of a successful partnership between two organizations that share a passion for toilets: an NGO with 30+ years of making markets work for the poor and the largest toilet manufacturer in North America. Eventually, they made more impact together than either organization could make alone.

Combining diverse expertise

The idea of a partnership started back in 2011 at a water and sanitation conference in Delhi. Cordell Jacks, the co-director of iDE’s Global WASH Initiative, and Jim McHale, VP, Research, Development, & Engineering for American Standard, met for coffee. It didn’t take long before Cordell and Jim realized that they had the makings of a perfect partnership.

iDE would bring local expertise of rural supply chains and last-mile distribution in Bangladesh, as well as a host of sanitation market development experience gained from projects in other countries.  American Standard would bring 140 years of state-of-the-art product design, computerized fluid dynamic engineering & modeling, as well as global sourcing, manufacturing and state-of-the-art product testing.

Together they had the right combination of skills and knowledge to make a difference for the 2.5 billion people who live without improved sanitation in developing countries.

Cordell remembers the potential of the partnership: “American Standard and iDE are two organizations with complimentary skill sets. Both are dedicated to increasing and improving sanitation globally. Together, we demonstrated that there is a sustainable and profitable business model in the heart of one of the most challenging market conditions in the world. It is an amazing example of impact that can be had with innovative public private partnerships.”

Accepting the challenge

American Standard saw a whole new market in the 2.5 billion people who are typically overlooked by big business. Too many corporations assume the poor have no purchasing power. But the most forward-thinking brands, like American Standard, are starting to take notice of the enormous potential in the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) customers. With a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, American Standard accepted the challenge to create a new latrine product for poor people in Bangladesh.

A local understanding from iDE

As far back as 1982, Paul Polak, iDE’s founder, walked and talked with small farmers in their one-acre fields. He spoke with them about their challenges and their dreams. iDE is still inspired by Paul’s approach of asking questions first. Today, iDE practices human-centered design (HCD), a methodology that identifies solutions to various challenges by placing users at the center of the design process.

In 2012, iDE led American Standard through the human-centered design process in Bangladesh. iDE was working under a grant from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Water and Sanitation Program of the World Bank (WSP) to implement the “SanMark Pilot project in Bangladesh.”

Tamara Baker, co-director of iDE’s Global WASH Initiative, recalled, “We opened new doors and ways of thinking for each other.” Together they spoke with small producers, salespeople, customers, and merchants. They field-tested prototypes, gathered customer feedback and ideated on product design. They also understood the potential market dynamics that could be strengthened to form a sustainable business model.

Product expertise from American Standard

American Standard joined iDE in Bangladesh for a deep dive to ensure their solutions would be feasible, desirable and affordable. The designer from American Standard, Daigo Ishiyama, provided the big “a-ha.” He noticed something only a fluid-dynamic engineer would notice. Previous latrine products use too much water. Meanwhile, Bangladeshi are accustomed to carrying a very small amount of water into the latrine. When you have less water, you need a smaller trap. The confined space creates a whirlpool effect and provides the needed flush power.

Then, American Standard created an ingenious counterweight trapdoor solution that effectively sealed off the feces from the open air. And, of equal importance, the trap hid the feces from view of the user. Customer feedback revealed that people didn’t know it was possible to not have to see feces when inside a latrine. They were thrilled! The resulting product was named the SaTo pan (pronounced SAH-toh, derived from “Safe Toilet”).

The American Standard team also provided plastics knowledge, the ability to rapidly prototype in plastic, as well as the financial resources and influence to support iDE’s longer-term engagement with domestic plastics manufacturer RFL Plastics Ltd. “Thanks to our partnership, we suddenly saw plastic as a very interesting material for scalable, sustainable products for improved sanitation,” said Conor Riggs, Technical Director – Programs at iDE Bangladesh. “It was the spark that led to other innovations in our program, particularly the development of a fully upgradeable, mass-producible latrine system that includes the SaTo Pan that will go to market in the fall of 2014.”

The case for the BoP

BoP business models can and do work. iDE staff see it daily. iDE operates programs in 11 countries across Africa, Asia, and Central America, that are laying the groundwork for corporations to enter this new frontier. iDE asks private enterprises to think beyond charity. A sustainable business model benefits both the private corporation and the people they serve. Armed with the right insights, private corporations can make an impact and make a profit. These are some of the foundational principles of iDE, which emanate from its founder, Paul Polak.

Paul recently expressed his approval of the collaboration that led to the SaTo pan: “Since poor sanitation is a key source of illness in developing countries, I am delighted to hear that iDE has collaborated with American Standard, the biggest toilet manufacturer in North America, to produce and start to distribute a radically affordable product to prevent the spread of diarrheal disease.  I am particularly impressed with the price of $1.50, which could make it accessible to millions of people.  It is simple, affordable devices like this that make the biggest impact.”

There is still a lot of convincing to do out there. American Standard is a pioneer. Their next horizon? Zambia—where they know it’s not a question of “if” the markets will be profitable, it’s only a question of “who” and “when.”

10 June 2014 | Posted By: iDE

Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014

3. Design Expo Website, E-Newsletter, Blog Banner 1


iDE is excited to announce that we will be taking part in the world’s first online Design Expo – a one-week, online celebration of product, service and business model design that transforms the lives of the world’s poor. The Expo is being hosted by Business Fights Poverty, in partnership with International Development Enterprises from 9 to 13 June 2014.

The week will include a vibrant mix of Google Hangouts with topic pioneers, online discussions with subject experts, blogs on the latest design thinking, a Twitter Jam, and an online exhibition zone showcasing the best product and service designs.

Each day of the week will focus on one of 5 sectors: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June). The online exhibition will also be structured around these 5 sectors.


iDE will be presenting on Delivering Water and Sanitation on June 13 (Friday).


This is fantastic recognition of the social impact iDEis achieving on a massive scale.


We would love for you to join the Design Expo, spread the word and invite your friends!

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