Established in 2021, the Paul Polak Innovation Fund helps nurture and grow iDE’s proud culture of innovation, providing grants to test and implement our locally-led solutions.
“At first, I thought iDE might purchase products from me like other NGOs,” says Mubeen, “But after participating in the training, I understood. They were here to show me how to grow my business.”
A 2015 report by Hystra, a global consulting firm that works with business and social sector pioneers to design and implement inclusive business approaches that are profitable and scalable, says it is important that development organizations identify the right farmers and “over-invest” in their farms through tailored and intensive support.
Shei is one of 146 farmers powered by the successful project known as Accelerating Impact of Food Security (AIFS) – which is part of iDE’s broader Korsung agricultural initiative, which translates as “good farming practices” in local language, Dagbani – which ran between April 2021 and March 2022.
Working as a cashew farmer in central Cambodia, In Laihout, 40, was uncomfortable with the fact that most of her crop was being exported to Vietnam where it was being processed and then on-sold by traders to bulk buyers at a significant profit.
Because there weren’t many processing centers in her low-income region, farmers like her were selling their cashews for small margins, only to see these foreign traders capitalize on their hard work and lack of local value chains.
But instead of accepting the situation, Laihout decided to start her own cashew collecting and processing business, initially working through a farmers’ association and community processing center in her village in Kampong Thom province, paying local farmers a fair price for their product and processing it herself.
This Sylhet market ecosystem map shows the location of more than 2,360 iDE-powered touchpoints – local business advisors, livestock service providers, agricultural collection points, sales agents, entrepreneurs and latrine producers – all engaging with market actors, communities, and individuals – spread across Sylhet.
Tryness Nsofwa, 57, proudly inspects her field of groundnuts. She uproots a clump of pods from the damp, red earth and is pleased with what she sees. Cracking open a husk to reveal edible fruit inside, Tryness notes the nuts are well formed and plentiful. “It’s looking very nice,” she says of her crop. “I will keep some for my family and I will sell some.”
Farm Business Advisor (FBA) Flora Mostiço is a change agent in her Mozambican community. At her market store in Nhamatanda, in the Beira Corridor, the mother of six sells affordable agricultural inputs including high quality seeds, fertilizer, and water pumps. Despite repeated cyclones in the region, she runs a successful small scale farm and provides business support to other farmers. “I started with something small and now I am growing,” Flora says of her business. iDE has trained some 332 (117 women) FBAs like Flora across Mozambique’s Maputo, Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia provinces.
While both men and women in the lowlands of Ethiopia have increased their engagement in local markets, they often lack access, agency, and commercial scale.
Pastoralist communities can no longer rely on traditional livestock and agriculture for high-quality, nutritious food production and consistent income generation.
Farhana Yeasmin, 24, remembers what it was like when her husband was the family’s sole earner. Because he was a day laborer and made little money, they struggled to even pay for basics. And if he couldn’t find work, the family sometimes skipped meals.
Kamala Magar’s day began before dawn. The Nepalese farmer would get up and walk miles in the cold to fetch water for her family. It would take her most of the morning to retrieve just one jar, which she’d use to make breakfast before setting out for more.
Reviewing this longitudinal data is an opportunity to reflect on the contexts we’re working in, the kind of funding we need, and the models and interventions we’re implementing.
By improving access to technical assistance, market information, quality inputs, and new technologies, iDE increases value-chain efficiency and competitiveness to benefit small-scale farmers.
Together, iDE and Queen City are creating a more equitable value chain that respects coffee farmersssss
iDE first addresses rural Cambodians concerns about COVID-19, combating misinformation about the vaccine and the spread of the disease, before we talk about the importance of latrines to their village's sanitation.
Expanding high-value bamboo production across Ethiopia
Power imbalances and harmful social norms prevent women—as well as men and socially excluded groups—from going about their lives freely, preventing them from taking full and equal advantage of opportunity.
iDE works to develop a supportive environment for communities to have availability of nutritious foods, maximized incomes for increased access, and information to support families to make healthy choices around food consumption.
We measure our progress, monitor our impact and evaluate when we need to change our approach. Using a core set of performance indicators and information management tools, we track the number of households we reach, look for increases in household income and savings, and calculate the ratio of what we spend on programs compared to the incomes generated by our customers.
We operate under the ethos of actually talking to the people we work with. Only then can we work to co-design solutions that meet their particular challenges. Using an approach called human-centered design (HCD), we create products, services and processes that fill gaps in market systems and help solve everyday problems.
By managing our natural resources more effectively, through training on best practices, we are able to run projects sustainably and stay within environmental limits.
As the climate changes, these resource-smart technologies have become increasingly important.
The Market System Resilience Index (MSRI) enables us to track the resilience of the wider market system, specifically in rural contexts, helping us better understand and adapt our market creation approach to local contexts.
Powering farmers to become resilient to climate change is one of the main strategies at the heart of iDE’s work. Two key tactics are promoting climate-smart products, and training on best practices for managing natural resources. iDE designed the Market System Resilience Index (MSRI) to track the resilience of the wider market system, because the market system itself needs to be able to withstand, react, and transform in the face of climate change.
When we told people that we planned to sell latrines, water filters, and handwashing devices to poor customers rather than just give them away, they didn’t believe it would work. But we’ve proven that it does work, and that it works better than charity, because when people invest their own money, they’re more likely to embrace the change necessary to improve their lives.
iDE helps producers understand and react to the needs of buyers, creating business plans that help suppliers meet demand and increase incomes for everyone.
Input Trade and Technology Fairs support smallholder farmers with access to private suppliers of certified agricultural products.
FBAs provide an essential last-mile link between agricultural input suppliers and farmers located in remote areas far from commercial centers.
Any farm can move from subsistence farming to farming as a business with the right support. Farm Business Advisors provide an essential link between farmers and suppliers in remote areas. Our work in nutrition-sensitive agriculture promotes a supportive business environment for producers to deliver more, better, and safer nutritious foods.
Our Infinite Model provides a roadmap for how individuals who seek to participate in the market can move through a process of growth, promoting profitable livelihoods and ultimately, as our tagline says, ending poverty.
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Learn how your company can partner with iDE to join the global effort that's ending poverty.
Our tagline will ensure that everyone we meet knows we see the problem and are confident that our sustainable market approach—and the entrepreneurs all over the world challenging the status quo—can solve it.
Using profit to build a sustainable business that meets people’s needs, social enterprises flourish while doing good.
How iDE is helping smallholder farmers increase their resilience following both Cyclone Idai and the COVID-19 pandemic.
iDE teams up with Bext360 to create a pilot program connecting Honduran coffee farmers to every aspect of the value chain through blockchain.
This health crisis will lead to a hunger crisis unless we ensure working people have the necessary information and supplies to avoid illness, allowing them to earn an income and put food on the table.
The systemic discrimination of black Americans is shameful and corrupt—and must be stopped.
Utilizing the ENBAITA networks is a proven and cost effective way to help Nepal agriculture to recover from COVID-19 and to re-invigorate trading and exchange between Nepal and India to support food security in Nepal.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, millions of people are at risk to experience hunger in the coming months.
Because FBAs are entrepreneurs who connect urban suppliers and buyers to rural smallholder farmers, they can be a powerful force in a time of crisis.
In the birthplace of coffee, Ethiopian farmers are adopting new practices to enhance a way of life that’s been passed down for generations. With the support of the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, iDE is working with farmers in Jimma, Ethiopia to practice sustainable coffee production.
Research suggests that matching sales agent gender to different target households can increase sanitation uptake
iDE works with university partners to explore technologies that promise to increase market options for fruit and vegetable farmers.
A serial entrepreneur and humanitarian, Paul Polak inspired generations to adopt the market-based approach to assist those living on less than $2 a day to earn an income through business.
Involve the entire family in order to achieve gender equality
To build Nepalese farmers’ resilience, iDE engages in what we’ve termed the “Commercial Pocket Approach.”
Watersheds are crucial to the sustainability of businesses, communities, and ecosystems. In Honduras, we’re working with people all along the watershed to protect water at its source, ensuring it continues flowing for generations to come.
Mariana now has a business connecting farms directly to restaurants, ensuring that everyone benefits from increased service that ensures profit and better food.
This model economically empowers women as they invest and save money for the future, but also addresses aspects of social empowerment through new relationships and increased agency.
Tropical greenhouse technology incorporates drip irrigation and ultraviolet plastic filtration cover that both protects the plants from heavy rainfall but also accelerates photosynthesis, resulting in healthier, larger produce.
iDE’s Sama Sama social enterprise is implementing a Ghana-specific psychometric survey to increase the pool of eligible applicants for sanitation finance.
Why WASH organizations need to hire and grow business-savvy leaders
Tailoring existing HCD curriculum to current in-country, contextual challenges the immersion course will provide participants with real-life applications to the Human-Centered Design methodology.
Ali Gregory, Program Officer of The Geisse Foundation, shares her beliefs on philanthropy with us, explaining why she invests in sustainable development.
Why iDE believes the future is bright for people in the poorest locations.
iDE is using state-of-the-art business analytics tools to flexibly adapt to the market to drive increasing sanitation coverage.
There wasn't a disaster in Ethiopia in 2016, although they had one of their worst famine years ever. What changed from the 1980s and what can we learn from that for the future?
In order to jump start businesses in developing economies, a special type of investor is required.
Lors Thmey operates as a business unit within iDE Cambodia with a mission to improve the economic resilience of poor rural households.
STAFF PROFILE: Chiara Ambrosino is dedicated to finding sustainable ways for people to grow food in difficult climates. As iDE’s Senior Advisor on Climate and Resilience, she leads our country teams in strategies to build farmers’ resilience to climate change.
The Eblings joined iDE and 11 other guests on a trip to Nepal and Bhutan where they saw how their support has enabled iDE to deliver transformative programming in Nepal.
Understanding that small-scale farming families have severe resource limitations, iDE works to help minimize the pressure on labor, income, water, and energy by identifying and re-designing technologies existing at the intersection of these four resources, which can have a life-changing impact on struggling farmers.
Llionel Simbarashe Zisengwe is in pursuit of the entrepreneurial spirit. He’s the project manager for a Farm Business Advisor program in Mozambique. He recruits Farm Business Advisors that are motivated, knowledgeable, personable, mobile, and successful farmers themselves.
A partnership between American Standard, iDE and RFL Plastics resulted in the SaTo pan: a mass-produced hygienic latrine solution for Bangladesh.
Microentrepreneurs have sold 200,000 toilets in just 18 months. This is a major milestone—for iDE’s WASH team and for our partners, who dedicated two years to lay the foundation for this market system, and then a year and a half to catalyze sales.
Intelligent use of subsidies can make a real difference for the lives of the very poor without distorting the market. But it takes an understanding of the context to get it right.
The migration of young people from small villages and farms to the city opens up additional options for improving the lives of those who remain behind. Making improved toilets affordable can spur increasing sanitation coverage by marketing to this newly affluent group.
Better outputs require better inputs, which is why iDE's Farm Business Advisors sell high-quality seeds to their clients.
“The solar pump is very interesting to me. So far, all of the pumps I have seen and known have been powered by man, animal, wind, diesel, or electricity, and they rely on many fast-moving parts. This pump is different because it has no moving parts, and the source of energy is the sun.”
Farm Business Advisors are called on to perform many tasks. One of David Mbwita’s is to recommend his clients for small loans based on his understanding of their ability to repay.
In recent years, iDE’s work has been recognized by the global community for its excellence and commitment to innovation in building markets for poor, rural households.
Juddy has been working with John Muta, a Farm Business Advisor (FBA), for the past few years, and through talking with her we came to understand how the FBA program is affecting women’s empowerment in the household. Using the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), which measures empowerment across domains ranging from decision-making power to control over income, we asked Juddy about her roles.
Two farmers participate in a quantitative assessment by our iQ team, which will be paired with results from a qualitative deep dive administered by our Human-Centered Design team. We interviewed them to understand the successes and barriers to growing and selling a very specific kind of sweet potato: an orange-fleshed sweet potato, high in Vitamin A.
Nicaragua is known for its lakes and rivers—water scarcity has not been a problem until now. The rains are coming less frequently, and weather patterns are less predictable. Farmers like Candelario are having to pivot their practices—making such changes as switching from traditional flood irrigation to water-saving drip irrigation.
Gita Pariyar lives in Lahachok village, within the Kaski district of central Nepal. She is raising 2 daughters and a son while her husband works as a laborer in the Middle East. A member of the disadvantaged Dalit community, she helps supplement her family’s income through agriculture. But she’s noticed a change in the rainfall in Nepal.
Doña Julia lives in a region of Honduras called Marcala, known for its high-quality coffee production. Undernourishment is a widespread problem among coffee farmers in this region. Normally, farmers only earn an income during the four months of coffee harvesting—leaving farmers eight months each year, known as the “thin months,” to survive on their coffee earnings.
Building markets for sanitation always has challenges, but the conditions in Vietnam provide particular barriers. From the top levels of Vietnam’s communist leadership to local government employees, iDE needed to overcome negative perceptions of sales and marketing in order to drive latrine adoption and behavior change.
iDE provides farmers access to improved seeds and training in proven agricultural practices to increase crop yields that enable small-scale households to have food year-round.
iDE is expanding sanitation coverage to everyone in Cambodia through an innovative program that makes toilets attractive and affordable to all people, including the rural poor.
In 2009, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded a collaboration that combined experience and wisdom of designers and field staff that eventually coalesced into the HCD Toolkit, a methodology specifically for organizations working with poor communities to create products that are feasible, desirable, and viable.
A mother of five, Ho Thi Hiu used to supplement her household’s meager income by growing rice. She would also make a small profit by buying piglets in a nearby town, raising them, and selling them fully-grown. But raising pigs is no easy task.
The use of demonstration plots helps convince skeptical farmers that agricultural technology, like drip irrigation, can make a difference in crop yields and boost their incomes.
Part of iDE's Human-Centered Design process is called a Deep Dive, wherein team members gather insights from stakeholders on their current behaviors, needs, and opportunities.
Farm business advisors are change agents who dispense information about best practices in technology, fertilizers, pest management, and post-harvest storage through training sessions and demonstrations, as well as sell direct services, such as crop spraying.
Market-based approaches are new to the sanitation and hygiene sector in Ethiopia. Through pilot and scale-up projects, iDE brings applicable and relevant strategies to build sustainable delivery of these services to Ethiopian households.
Refugees are making new lives with the assistance of agricultural extension agents who provide training, advice, products, and services so that they can build businesses around vegetable production.
Compared to mainstream fertilizers and air-borne applications, Fertilizer Deep Placement produces 40% less chemical runoff and 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It also increases yields, leading to a win-win for the farmer and for the environment.
Mr. Nhai, whose village lies in Tuyen Quang, is a happy recipient of iDE sanitation information. “I wish I had known that it was this cheap to have a clean latrine long ago,” he said with a smile.
Irrigation systems aren't off-the-shelf kinds of purchases. They require proper design, good installation, and operator training. iDE's social enterprise iDEal Tecnologias provides these services to farmers in Nicaragua.
To overcome disasters such as crop disease, iDE works with farmers to diversify their crops and connect to markets, helping them have enough food and money to survive year-round.
In addition to dramatically decreasing the workload of women and girls, Multiple-Use Water Systems provide benefits in health and sanitation, enabling communities to improve their decisions on the allocation of water resources.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in South Asia and still has large gaps in sanitation coverage. Despite gradual improvements, only about 43 percent of the population has access to toilets, while more than half the population continues to defecate openly.
By using a portfolio approach, iDE demonstrates and delivers effective solutions that meet the goals of multiple partners and stakeholders, such as improved sanitary latrine coverage in populous Bangladesh.
What if one million farmers could grow more food with less water?
Axial flow pumps, power-tiller operated seeders, and mechanical reapers have the potential to transform farming practices by increasing precision and conserving resources. iDE works with local entrepreneurs who can ensure farmers have access to these machines.
In Zambia, the major food crop and staple grown by small-scale farmers is maize. But maize doesn’t return enough profit for farmers to earn an adequate income. Zambia was a market in need of intervention.
Honduras is the leading producer and exporter of coffee in Central America. Doña Julia Rivera is a coffee farmer in Marcala—a region of Honduras known for its high-quality, organic, and sustainably produced coffee beans. Working with iDE, Doña Julia has been able to expand her farm business with the help of drip irrigation and farmer training. Her farm is now an example in her community.
In rural Bangladesh, about 40 million people live without access to adequate toilets. But RFL Plastics Ltd., a regional plastics manufacturer, hadn’t identified these households as a potential customer base until they formed a partnership with iDE.
A farmer acting alone will often have to settle for less money in the small window of opportunity she has for selling. But what if this farmer can join with her neighbors, pooling their crops together to share storage and transportation costs, and provide a more attractive package for large buyers?
There wasn’t an app to help us sell sanitation to poor customers, so we built one. And we’re using it to make open defecation a thing of the past.
Open defecation is a major problem in Cambodia, leading to waterborne diseases that claim the lives of nearly 10,000 children yearly. In 2008, the Cambodian government set sanitation as a priority in order to improve people’s standard of living.
The biggest barrier to handwashing is not always the availability of water or soap, but rather knowledge. Making the connection between dirty hands and disease is the first step.
Having safe water improves the situation of women and children, who are often responsible for fetching and boiling water.
For the 40 percent of the people on the planet who do not have a toilet, acquiring one would mean keeping your one-year-old child from developing diarrhea and possibly dying from it.
Most people think that the business of businesses is making money. And while profit is at the heart of entrepreneurship, in many cases a business can be about so much more.
If you want to solve the world’s problems, you have to be where the action is—and every location is different.
iDE has been building markets for over 30 years. One thing we know for sure is that every market is different. Replication of what works in one context is not a guarantee of success in another. We replicate our approach, but each context dictates a unique solution.
Farmers are more likely to invest their money in a solution that comes from their own ideas, and from their true aspirations. iDE uses Human Centered Design to engage with the market to reveal those needs and desires to design solutions that people want to buy and entrepreneurs want to sell. Those solutions are more likely to be sustainable and cost-effective, too.
Getting to most of the world’s population isn’t easy. The road that takes you there isn’t paved, but a dirt path, overgrown with vegetation, barely big enough to get your bicycle or motor bike down. In some seasons, the path becomes mud, sucking at your tires and shoes, making each yard a chore. But if we are going to solve poverty, this is the most important distance to travel: the Last Mile.
Join the Activators Circle, iDE’s monthly sustaining donor program, to activate entrepreneurs around the world to increase their incomes and improve the lives of their families.
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