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Agriculture for Entrepreneurs

Transforming small farms into small businesses

People think that small farmers aren’t worth investing in because they’re too poor and hard to reach. But we’re proving that theory wrong. We are showing that any farm—no matter how small—can move from subsistence farming to commercial farming, if it has the right support.

On average, the farmers we work with see an annual income gain of $386. To our donors, we promise a minimum cost-effectiveness ratio of 10:1. That means that every dollar invested in iDE results in at least an additional $10 of annual income for a farmer. We are able to do this through innovative programs that create cadres of microentrepreneurs, support small businesses, and build resilient markets that support their sales.

Our agriculture strategy

It’s not just about dropping off a water pump or an irrigation system. Technology won’t work in a vacuum. Farmers need a combination of technology with the services that complement it: knowledge, credit, inputs, and markets where they can find steady paying customers.

We strive for a continuous positive feedback loop by combining user insights, product innovation, and business model design all in one intervention model that’s not supported separately, but all at once. This gives us the ability to spot business opportunities at different layers of the value chain. It takes this kind of holistic approach, and a business mindset, to establish a self-sustaining market for poor farmers.

Our bottom line is to make substantial increases in people’s quality of life by effectively increasing their incomes. But agriculture is also a pathway to making strides in gender equity, climate resilience, food security, and nutrition. Every solution we design delivers a different balance of all these goals, as we maximize our impact and cost-effectiveness.

A market approach means that we focus more on market feedback than on predetermined targets or “farmers reached.” Early adopters are the low hanging fruit. Others look to them as community leaders and follow their lead. This approach requires market feedback through M&E design that collects and analyzes sales data and business performance, trends, mapping, customer segmentation. All are information needed to spot an opportunity and adapt to it.

Collective Action

Collection centers like this one in Nepal provide a central hub for small-scale farmers to aggregate their produce and attract large-scale buyers. 

iDE PC Np Collection Center 20120930

How to feed a growing, hungry planet

First, we start with listening to the farmer to learn what his or her challenges are, and then we develop solutions to overcome these barriers.

Technology is one part of the solution. We design resource-smart technology that customers can afford. While iDE has promoted several technologies in the past and has a portfolio of current technologies, we realize that no single solution is appropriate for all places or for all farmers. We use our innovation centers to evaluate and modify current technologies and investigate new ones to meet each new environmental and climate challenge.

We work closely with local entrepreneurs, or help locals establish new businesses if there are none present, to manufacture, supply, and service the equipment farmers need.

Through networks of these local businesses, we reach remote farmers and provide them access to the things they want: better seeds, effective pest control, fertilizers, improved soil, and labor- and money-saving technologies such as solar pumps and micro-irrigation. They also learn about efficient agricultural practices as well as business skills such as crop diversity, planting tactics, water storage, post-harvest storage, and market strategies. We teach farmers to form collectives that increase their purchasing power and attract buyers.

We have a long-term presence in each country we have selected to deliver Agriculture solutions, but we plan our solutions to be self-sustainable so that we can exit when our goals are met. This ensures that our clients continue to receive the market support they require long after we are gone.

iDE is making a significant impact with our market-oriented approach in eleven countries. We implement agriculture programs in the following countries: Bangladesh,Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Honduras, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Vietnam, and Zambia.

Agriculture Publications

Check out these publications from our Agriculture team.

Drip+ Alliance

iDE is forming the Drip+ Alliance to encourage new thinking and collaboration on ways to break through the critical bottlenecks that have prevented drip technology from achieving its potential for small-scale farmers.

Affordable drip irrigation plus a comprehensive set of tools.

iDE PC Drip Plus 3x2

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