iDE UK at the Ashden Awards



The iDE UK team attended the Ashden Awards last week. Here are some of the thoughts of one of our volunteers, Sheri Haward:

“I was pleased to attend the Ashden awards last week. There are some highlights  to interning at iDE, not least to be able to participate in a conference that promotes what is happening at the cutting edge of sustainable energy in the UK and abroad.

Yet sustainability is a bit of a buzz word nowadays, isn’t it? Is it really making a difference to people’s lives or effecting changes around the world or even in the United Kingdom? When you look at the news, it doesn’t seem so, there is just the perpetual doom and gloom about extreme weather events or new weather records or failed or failing political summits. Adding to this is the realisation that resources are being used up at an alarming rate and the alternatives are confusing or seem unpopular.

Thankfully, the Ashden awards  provide the  perfect antidote, showing us how the answers are not just with the big shot politicians or EU, UN or G8 agendas, but with ordinary people like you and me. It’s people like us who have come up with a  variety of inspirational,  innovative approaches and technologies, which are the key to getting sustainable energy solutions to reach scale, not just in the developing world, but in the UK too. As the Director of the Wadebridge Renewal Energy Network, a UK finalist, said, “People with no resources & no influence CAN do something about the energy crisis.”

iDE is a keen supporter of Ashden and won the award for ‘Avoided deforestation’ last year for ‘Hydrologic’, an enterprise manufacturing low-cost ceramic water filters, which it developed in Cambodia. Two thirds of the population of Cambodia didn’t have access to safe water when iDE started with Hydrologic. Most had to resort to boiling it, a process which involved chopping down Cambodia’s precious rainforest.

Mrs. Chey and her Hydrologic

A Cambodian home with the Hydrologic water filter in pride of place next to the TV. Photo: iDE UK- David Graham

Following last year’s award, Hydrologic has attracted investment from a number of new partners and Hydrologic carbon credits have been sold for the first time on the voluntary market. It has flourished over this year, sales have increased significantly –  with over 250,000 sold in the last ten years. These water filters are becoming a fixture in many Cambodian homes (see photo above). You can learn more from the video about Hydrologic in Cambodia from last year’s Ashden Award here.

The 2013 finalists had all come up with energy solutions, which are being adopted by communities and some which were being pioneered by whole communities too, like in Wadebridge in Cornwall, a town that has collectively decided to generate 100% of its electricity by 2020. This year’s International awards featured organisations that are investing in both energy efficiency and renewable energy to boost economic growth by creating new livelihoods, jobs and skills.

iDE as a whole (not just me) congratulates the International Gold winners, Solar Aid, a charity that pioneers solar powered lamps, as the alternative to smoky kerosene lamps. Most families want a lamp, not just to improve the quality of life in their homes, but so children can study and get ahead. This creates an enormous market for solar-powered lamps, in the last 8 weeks alone, Steve Andrews, the Solar Aid CEO commented that a 100,000 lamps were sold.  By switching to solar powered lamps, families in Africa save around £77 per year, which is a substantial amount for poor families.

I also liked another finalist, Azuri.  Azuri offers pay-as-you-go scratch cards for a domestic, small solar energy scheme, so they don’t have to take loans or microfinance for sustainable electrification of their homes. As Simon Bransfield-Garth of Azuri stated: “Stop viewing rural Africa as victims, but as customers.”

iDE has always had the same approach to its small-holder, farming clients. They are not beneficiaries of charity, but pro-active, entrepreneurial men and women who are looking for long-term sustainable ways to get out of poverty. iDE facilitates these solutions, with the aim  that they can be set up and remain in place because they are commercially viable.

Attending the Ashden conference was an inspiring event that actually filled me with hope. Hope for the future of this planet, this country and people in general. The participants were all passionate in their commitment to sustainability and the many different energy solutions offered not only made sense from a climate change perspective, but were significantly more economical in the long run. You can read more about The Ashden awards  here. 



iDE UK welcomes new gender programme officer!

Sarah will be working on improving gender equality throughout our development programmes.


Sarah: I’m delighted to re-join the iDE team after my stint as a Programmes Intern this summer, and to contribute to iDE UK’s learning and expertise in women in agriculture. This project ties in with our 2012 theme of gender, and will see iDE UK develop tools to identify and address women’s needs and constraints, and measure the impacts of our activities in the most effective and appropriate ways. This will ensure that women, as well as men, reap the maximum benefits from iDE’s activities and that we are able to document and monitor our outcomes for women, improving our overall learning.

I graduated with a BA in Sociology from the University of Sussex in 2004, and have since worked and volunteered for a range of organisations both in the UK and abroad, leading to a broad interest in exploitation and human rights. While volunteering in Nepal in 2007, I became particularly interested in human trafficking and when I returned to the UK, joined the POPPY project as a volunteer research assistant and went on to several paid positions. On a slight tangent, I then moved to Rwanda for a year to work for the Ministry of Infrastructure, which was a great challenge. Upon my return in 2010, I started a Masters in Education, Gender and International development, while working part-time for a small charity focusing on human trafficking in India. Over the years, while retaining a primary focus on women, I have become increasingly interested in more practical, sustainable approaches to development and I am very much looking forward to putting these principles into practice!

Welcome to the team Sarah!

Women, Water and iDE – taking stock

March 2012 has been a headline month for women, water and iDE.  With major international meetings having taken place this month on both topics, and IDE involved in major contributions to those discussions, iDE UK trustee Ingrid Stellmacher blogs on why women and water are at the top of agendas globally.

Investing in water technology for the rural poor and the economic empowerment of women for over 30 years, gives iDE the experience, expertise and authority to contribute to the major debates that have taken place around the world this month. iDE is also one of the organisations tackling what is now top of the global agenda for discussions under the heading of ‘Food & Water Security’, and within which the role of women is now considered an important positive factor.

iDE’s track record of lifting 19 million people out of poverty during those 30 years and creating £682 million pounds worth of income for their customers, not as an agent of aid but as an agent of change through its social enterprise model, earned iDE the right to be represented at this year’s United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CWS); attending earlier this month at UN headquarters in New York, iDE contributed to debate during sessions on empowering rural women – the theme of this years 56th CSW event.

One UN session on ‘Rural Women: from Vulnerability to Sustainability’, looked at the achievements of women farmers in Senegal, while acknowledging that if women farmers around the world were simply given access to the same resources as men farmers, then 12 – 17% more of the world’s population could be fed. Supported with the right agricultural education and business advice of the type that makes iDE a world leader in its field, this figure could probably be higher still.

Examples of exclusion range from simple lack of farm implements to bigger things like access to markets themselves, and the ultimate killer of commerce for women – lack of land rights.

Not having land ownership limits women’s access to credit and without credit, investment is impossible to the poorest, and the longed for virtuous circle becomes a vicious downward spiral. Excluding women farmers then puts our food security at risk making inequality no longer just culturally undesirable, but an economically unsustainable argument. Education and collaboration at grass roots and policy-making level is required with sound communications strategies as a key component to aid behaviour change.

From UN Consultations on the Status of Women to International Women’s Day, to  the World Water Forum in Marseille, where iDE was represented, followed by World Water Day last week, this entire month it seems has been dedicated to the importance of what is now recognised as two previously much wasted resources – water and women.

The world’s next big water event, World Water Week (August 26-31) takes place in Stockholm and is being organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute. Its theme of course is Water and Food Security.

I won’t be attending, but coming from a peace building perspective and taking stock of all the knowledge and practical understanding out there and simply from what I have seen this month alone, I sincerely hope that someone somewhere, is pulling all the threads of key influencing factors together to create a really rounded strategy to tackle our food and water security issues, because what is crystal clear from this month discussions, is that playing catch up with our essential resources simply isn’t an option.

Volunteering for iDE Bangladesh: A Female Perspective

Phoebe Hayes reports on volunteering for iDE and an inspirational encounter that spotlights the resilience and entrepreneurial potential of women living and working in the developing world.

Phoebe: Were I back in the UK I am certain that the globally recognised ‘International Women’s Day’ would have passed me by with little thought and certainly no recognition; however I am not, I am one month in to living and working on the other side of the world in Bangladesh and as such this day came to bear a new found importance to me.

“Where are all the women?!” I remember asking a colleague at work- I have hardly seen any at the market, certainly none working as traders; entering shops there is certainly an abundance of faces kindly offering assistance – but few of these faces are female; and eating in a local hotel at night- not another women in sight! Women’s visual presence in Bangladesh just seems to be lacking.

I do however find some lovely ladies at the iDE office. On my many trips to make tea during the office day I have built a nice rapport with the office cook, although my non-existent Bangla makes a fluid conversation difficult! After a few weeks we broach the topic of family and I explain I have a sister, mother and father all living in the UK. She understands – this is going well! I naturally inquire about her family and get a response I was not expecting. She has no siblings, no mother or father and no husband after he left her five years ago, but she has a son, now eight years old.

I was immediately struck by the hardship of such a situation, not to mention the emotional isolation, with no government assistance or obligatory childcare provisions from her husband – in Bangladesh, if you have no family, there really is no support network for you. And yet, I also took from this insight an indication of how utterly resilient and inspirational this woman and others like her must be; working a full time job, paying for her son to be in school and supporting her family, even with such limited means and in an environment that is far from conducive to do so. Women’s visibility may be lacking but their contribution certainly is not.

It is from this experience that the importance of iDE’s recognition and promotion of women as entrepreneurs and agents of their own change comes to bear increased pertinence to me. 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.

iDE-Bangladesh’s new project, SanMark, is about to commence with a specific focus on enhancing women’s presence in the sanitation market; working to engage the market in ways that mean women will be viewed as consumers in their own right and develop products and services that effectively consider their specific requirements. Understanding the confines of the cultural context in Bangladesh, such an approach is what is needed; appreciative of the realities on the ground whilst gently pushing the expected norms and laying the foundations for a gradual process of change.

I eagerly await to see how this plays out in practice.

Volunteering for iDE Zambia in the land of the Chipolopolo!

iDE UK volunteer Sam Harvey swaps getting on the crowded London tube every morning for volunteering with iDE Zambia and waking up to the African sun. He is in no way feeling smug about it!

Sam: Well it has taken me just under a month to write my first blog – so no prizes for speed, but then again I have been pretty busy so I’m not apologising! Seeing as it’s the first one, I thought I would bring you up to scratch with who I am and what exactly I’m doing in Zambia for iDE.

I’m a 23-year-old Sussex Uni graduate who has been volunteering with the World Food Programme (U.N) in Rome and NGOs in the U.K and Nepal, and more recently with iDE UK in the London office for the past 4 months.

Since I started volunteering at iDE I have been highly impressed with iDE’s thinking and positioning, especially in relation to connecting farmers to markets and providing inputs such as micro-irrigation technologies, quality seed and advice through the local private sector, to guarantee inputs are available all year round, every year, not just for the duration of this or that project.

When the opportunity arose to put everything I’d learnt into practice on a short volunteer placement to Zambia, I jumped at the chance (just look at the picture!).

And here I am living and volunteering in Lusaka. It is a great time to be in Zambia with Zambia’s Copper Bullets winning the prestigious African Cup of Nations and the outpouring of emotion and optimism for the future that accompanied the win.

I’m out here to observe and collect data on the many anecdotal examples of how iDE’s efforts have resulted in significant and sustainable changes for the better in the lives of client farmers.

This means that I will be spending most of my time bumping up and down dirt roads (what I like to call an African massage) visiting iDE assisted farming entrepreneurs and documenting what I find through pictures, video and writing.

After hitting the road on arrival and undertaking a two-week immersion field trip, to gain an insight into the various project activities and areas, I found out that I love doing this!

Tune in next time for the highlights of volunteering and my first impressions on how iDE’s Rural Prosperity Initiative is assisting smallholder farming entrepreneurs in Zambia.

Do you have volunteering experiences like Sam’s to share?

What are your thoughts on volunteering in support of social enterprise initiatives?