iDE UK at the Ashden Awards

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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. 

(hawardsheri@gmail.com)

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iDE and the EU – Creative Cooperation Delivering Results for Rural Farmers

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Today is Europe day which is about celebrating peace and unity across Europe and marking the anniversary of the historic speech made by Robert Schuman in which he declared: “World peace cannot be safeguarded without the making of creative efforts proportionate to the dangers which threaten it.”

This spirit of creative cooperation is one which iDE shares. Whilst the EU was founded on the idea that European cooperation in the coal and steel markets could bring much needed security to Europe, iDE knows that harnessing the power of the market can bring real change and income security to the rural poor.

iDE has a tradition of creative cooperation and partnership with the EU on many of our projects.  Whilst the EU is opening its doors to visitors in Brussels (4th May) and Strasbourg (19th May) to celebrate Europe day, recently iDE opened its doors to an EU delegation to one of the projects that they support in Bangladesh.

Visiting a production and sales planning meeting (PSPM) in Hizla Upazilla

EU delegates at a production and sales planning meeting in Hizla

During their visit to our Agriculture and Nutrition Extension Project (ANEP), Mr Phillippe Jacques and other EU delegates were given a taste of life as a Bangladeshi smallholder farmer. The ANEP team put on demonstrations of the treadle pump (pedal powered irrigation technology), the Sex Pheromone Trap (a natural way to avoid pests) and other resource saving vegetable technologies. The officials were then invited to a nutrition education session for mothers and carers. In the peri-urban area of Barisal City, they attended a farmers’ market to see how ANEP has helped develop existing institution’s rural-urban linkage capacities. The second day of the visit involved fish harvesting at the aquaculture demonstration pond, followed by a production and sales planning meeting, catching the attention of The Daily Sattya Sangbad (pictured).

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EU visit press release in The Daily Sattya Sangbad

With the help of the EU, the success of ANEP has exceeded our expectations.  Through creativity, cooperation and a commitment to harnessing the market to achieve food security, iDE has enabled farmers to adopt new techniques, such as integrated pest management, so they can produce off-season vegetables with high nutritional value, such as okra and sweet gourd. We also have introduced carp-poly culture, so fishermen can stock multiple carp species safely because they feed at different depths.

We have further grouped 16,000 vulnerable households with children at crucial stages of development, pregnant and lactating women and those of reproductive age. These families discuss appropriate feeding practices and learn how to counsel other mothers about nutrition. This encourages community leadership and ownership of food security solutions.

The ANEP team also host fun events to initiate the supply of quality food to these vulnerable groups. Urban consumers are entertained at farmers’ markets through songs and cartoons for children around the theme of nutrition.

We are striving to increase the annual income of 51,000 households by 75 Euros by December 2014. The program should then continue to grow via sustainable market linkages. There will be a follow up event to discuss technology transfer and nutrition this summer. This will continue our successful partnership with the EU into the future, with a view to enhancing our strong strategic partnerships within Europe.

For more on our work in Asia click here

For more on our technologies and innovations click here 

For more on Europe Day (including Open Doors events) click here

What next? Please let us know what you would like to hear about in our blog. Click on the speech bubble icon at the top of this post to comment.

iDE UK’s New Climate Change Innovation Powered by the Nepali Sunshine!

Last week was ‘Climate Week’. Half a million people attended 3400 events making it Britain’s biggest ever climate change campaign. So, what are iDE UK doing about climate change I hear you ask?

At iDE UK we share Climate Week’s vision of inspiring action to create a sustainable future. We understand the devastating and complex challenges climate change represents to people and the planet and respond to these challenges by:

  • Designing sustainable market-based interventions that promote economic development in an environmentally sound way.
  • Designing technologies and solutions which use renewable energy.
  • Ensuring the farmers and aspiring entrepreneurs we work with are equipped to deal the consequences of changes to the climate.

Take the case of Nepal for example: Recent climatic change has shifted monsoon patterns in Nepal, restricting access to water in the dry season. Many poor, rural communities live at an altitude way above their nearest water source. Traditional pumps do not provide enough water for the community throughout the day. Women and girls are forced to battle increasingly extreme weather for their daily walk to fetch water, often a 3 hour trek. One of our Nepalese farmer clients told us, “Through carrying water many women got sick and had problems.”

Nepalese farmers carrying water

Walking to collect water can take over 3 hours

As many who have visited this beautiful country can tell you, living in these conditions is avoidable because there is abundant renewable energy available which can be used to pump water – sunshine!

Our latest innovation, Solar powered ‘multiple-use’ water pumps are designed to help entire communities in Nepal adapt to climate change and provide access to both clean domestic water and productive water for irrigation.

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One happy villager stands by the newly installed ‘Solar MUS’

Each system can lift water up to remote communities from 100 meters below to serve 50 households (about 250 people) with water for both agriculture and as a safe drinking source.

This brings many benefits for rural communities: Farmers have been able to grow high value crops meaning each household is able to earn around £134 per year in additional income. Access to water for domestic use (worth £6,700 per year, per system) is revolutionising sanitation and hygiene. The system also greatly reduces the time women and children spend carrying water. When asked what she will do with the time she used to spend fetching water, one client said, “I’ll give more time to my children, get training for a skilled job and motivate the community”.

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High value crop production as a result of efficient water irrigation

USAID’s Shanker Khagi visited our Multiple Use Water System (MUS) site in Kaski, Nepal last week, recalling; “I very much benefited from the interaction with field staff in learning about the Integrated Climate Change Adaptation activities that are being implemented.”

Scaling Up? iDE UK expect to reach 100,000 rural poor people with this new innovation. In order to do this iDE is currently looking at institutional and financial models which can be replicated throughout Nepal. While a system to reach 250 people costs £10,700, it has a 5 year payback and a 20 year lifespan making the investment highly worthwhile for poor rural communities.

iDE UK is at the forefront of developing new products and solutions that help poor rural communities respond to climate change. For more on our work in Nepal, click on the links:

Our new video on the MUS

iDE Nepal website

BBC documentary on similar systems in Nepal

What next? Please let us know what you would like to hear about in our blog. Click on the speech bubble icon at the top of this post to comment.

iDE UK Laying the Path to Entrepreneurship for Bangladeshi Farmers

How iDE Bangladesh’s Agriculture and Nutrition Extension Project (ANEP) links farmers to new agricultural technologies and retailers.

Richard Rose with participants in Bangladesh

Richard Rose came to visit us at iDE UK in a whirlwind of news and progress from Bangladesh. He described the Agriculture and Nutrition Extension Project (ANEP) with well-founded pride and enthusiasm.  His team have been improving agriculture technology transfer systems for poor smallholder entrepreneurs, which has increased the production and marketing of nutritious foods.

The EU funded the project in partnership with iDE, three international centres from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) – World Fish, CIMMYT, IRRI, Save the Children International and national partners in Bangladesh – CODEC – and Nepal  – BES and CEAPRED. ANEP seeks to sustainably raise agricultural productivity and promote effective market linkages to improve the nutrition of poor rural and urban households in the south of Bangladesh and the Nepal plains.

Food insecurity and malnourishment are major issues in Bangladesh and iDE are targeting the most vulnerable groups: pregnant and lactating women and adolescent girls. ANEP works with Save the Children to provide nutritional education about which foods to buy and how this impacts on the cognitive development of children. It then forges relationships between rural famers, the urban poor and agricultural industries.

To support the commercialization of small-holder agriculture ANEP hosts pre-season production planning meetings (PSPMs).  These bring buyers (output traders) and sellers of key agro-inputs such as seeds and fertilizers (inputs traders) together to plan production volumes, quality standards, schedule harvests, and aggregate produce.  The ANEP also invites market intermediaries to bring along new technologies and explain the benefits for farmers.  For example, a demonstration of how packaged maize seeds can provide a better yield than recycling seeds from last year’s crop.  Responding directly to the market’s needs in this way generates a much more reliable income, boosts business for agricultural technologies and the farmers get free training on how to increase production without using GM crops or harmful pesticides.  This enables farmers and the local private sector to benefit from greater security of sales and builds greater trust to work collaboratively together in the future.

After a good harvest it’s time for the ANEP food festivals.  These bring farmers to the slums to sell fresh produce to urban consumers with poor access to nutritious foods.  The ANEP always team think creatively about how to support local traders and strategies remain flexible in order to achieve the best outcomes.  This often involves learning quickly in the field.  In the case of the food festivals, the first of these was a traditional affair, with formal readings and attendance lists.  But this didn’t get the results the team wanted.  The festival needed to be more fun.   So the following day the ANEP team recruited entertainers to sing about health foods for urban consumers – a great success!  Women farmers came to sell their Indian Spinach, which was not sold locally, and each made the equivalent of $20 in just two hours.  For the next big event the team are considering live cooking classes and tasty food samples.

ANEP is benefitting 60,000 people in Bangladesh and Nepal.  After three years iDE will have completed their role in the project and will have facilitated relationships between the farmers, traders, and consumers which will continue in the future.

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For a summary of Agrilinks Twitter chat on serving the poorest smallhold farmers: http://agrilinks.org/blog/links-links-and-more-links-recap-askag-twitter-chat-serving-poorest-smallholder-farmers

For a video on iDE’s agricultural programs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgB65oMz3JM

For more on our work in Bangladesh: http://www.ide-bangladesh.org/

What next? Please let us know what you would like to hear about in our blog. Click on the speech bubble icon at the top of this post to comment.

iDE Cambodia Celebrates Another Successful Year!

iDE Cambodia

Last month, Rachel Pringle stopped by our London office to tell us about the latest news and successes of iDE Cambodia.

Rachel joined iDE Cambodia in March 2012, and is thoroughly enjoying her time out there! Fortunately for us, she was able to drop by our London office during her time back in the UK for Christmas to give us a fascinating update on some of the amazing work happening out in Phnom Penh.

iDE Cambodia have had a wonderfully successful year, the big success story of the year was iDE Cambodia’s ceramic water filter enterprise Hydrologic winning an Ashden Award www.ashden.org – a huge achievement which has benefited the project in numerous ways. As well as bringing in a variety of opportunities, support, networks and connections, Rachel and the team can now use their knowledge from Cambodia to work with partners to develop similar commercial operations around the world, helping with product development, commercial opportunities, technical support and sales models. In 2013, Hydrologic will also branch out to develop new products and services to improve safe water access in rural Cambodian schools.

We were delighted to hear that Hydrologic with support from Nexus Carbon for Development have had their first Voluntary Gold Standard carbon credits issued in December http://www.cdmgoldstandard.org/bringing-clean-water-to-cambodia. Two thirds of rural households in Cambodia use wood or charcoal to boil water before drinking. Although helpful for purifying water, this has a high environmental cost. Hydrologic ceramic water filters reduce the amount of wood burnt and bolster rural economic development. By displacing water boiling practices, Hydrologic helps households avoid burning over 18,000 tons of wood each year, saving more than 40,000 tons of CO2 emissions yearly.

Hydrologic was also a winner of an Impact Business Award in 2011, meaning Rachel was able to attend an Impact Business Forum event in Pretoria, South Africa where she was able to gather ideas and learn from other entrepreneurs.

Another aspect we were particularly interested in here at iDE UK was the Hydrologic microfinance scheme carried out in partnership with microfinance institution Visionfund, whereby customers purchasing ceramic water filters are given the opportunity to take out a loan to pay for the installation of the filter. This has proven extremely successful as the vast majority of customers opt to take the loan when available and to date 100% have repaid the loan within the given repayment period. Visionfund also partner with iDE Cambodia’s sanitation team to provide microloans to rural customers for latrines. In 2012, Rachel has been working to develop financing options, including partnerships with microfinance institutions and web-based microfinance platform KIVA for iDE Cambodia’s Farm Business Advisor (FBA) enterprise to enable farmers and FBA entrepreneurs to purchase agricultural inputs and equipment that will improve their yields and income.

iDE Cambodia’s innovation team i-Lab have also had a busy year –  the i-Lab facility develops products and services that challenge key issues for the rural poor in Cambodia. The i-Lab designs radically affordable, market-based solutions for the poor to help them take steps out of poverty on their own. They also work to build the capacities of other organisations so that they can more effectively innovate pro-poor solutions. The i-Lab has now secured a number of innovation projects in 2013 including in the areas of hand hygiene, and clean drinking water access.

 

We can’t wait to see what is in store for Cambodia in 2013!

Thanks for stopping by Rachel!

 

Rachel (left) accepting our Impact Business Forum award

Rachel (left) accepting our Impact Business Forum award

‘Access to Finance’ announced as strategic theme for 2013

iDE UK Access to credit

After a fantastic year focusing on gender, iDE UK will concentrate on smallholder farmer’s access to finance in 2013.

iDE UK’s focus for 2012 was on gender, ensuring both men and women benefit equally from iDE UK’s work. We welcomed Sarah Mills as iDE UK’s first Gender Programme Officer to develop our learning and expertise in gender and agriculture and to ensure all projects are gender sensitive at all stages. Through this strategic focus, we have substantially improved our projects to ensure gender issues are addressed at all stages, and we will continue to prioritise gender in all of our future projects.

In 2013, we will shift our strategic learning focus to improving access to finance, helping smallholder farmer’s access credit to buy the technology and materials necessary to expand their farm businesses. The micro-finance revolution of recent years has largely failed to address the financial needs of smallholder farmers, who can only repay their loans after they have harvested their crops, and need financial products which are suited to their specific cashflow needs.

During 2013 we will review all our previous experience and learning around helping smallholder farmers access financial services and document this learning. We also have exciting plans to launch our own iDE UK micro-finance fund that will invest in seed funding micro-finance initiatives across our country programmes, helping to demonstrate the viability and potential of micro-finance for family farmers.

iDE has facilitated micro-finance initiatives for many years. An example of our work helping smallholder farmer’s access finance can be seen through our projects in Zambia. In 2008 iDE partnered with CETZAM Financial Services PLC, a microfinance institution operating in Zambia, to develop an agricultural loan suitable for iDE client smallholder farmers, which would allow them to purchase micro-irrigation technologies and other agricultural assets to improve their incomes and livelihoods. More than three years later, the iDE-CETZAM model serves as a best practice example of an effective and sustainable approach to agricultural microfinance that is stimulating growth and income generation in rural Zambia. In 2011, 2,820 loans were provided with an astounding loan recovery rate of 97.2%. To tap into this potential CETZAM has expanded operations and opened 13 satellite offices in Southern, Lusaka, Central and Copperbelt Provinces, with plans to extend its outreach further this year.

Access to finance also means we can continue prioritising gender in our work, as micro-finance initiatives enable women, as well as men, to empower themselves and work their way out of poverty. This can be seen through Florence Mapulanga’s journey as a smallholder farmer from Chibombo in Zambia. Florence was able to increase her annual income from $200 a year to $2000 over a five year period after adopting iDE’s approach, which included access to credit. Through this increase in income she was able to provide more nutritious foods for herself and her family, build a spacious and comfortable solid brick house and purchase new amenities such as a TV, phone and radio, improving the quality of her and her families’ lives substantially.

We understand that in order to be successful, loan products must meet the cashflow and business development needs of smallholder farmers, who don’t realise any profits until harvesting is complete. Loans can be tied to specific items of equipment or inputs and paid directly to local retailers from whom farmers receive their goods.

At iDE UK we understand that improving smallholder farmer’s access to finance means they are given the best chance of empowering themselves and working their way out of poverty.

In 2013 we will focus on realising this potential with all of our smallholder farm customers.

Season’s Greetings from iDE UK!

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As the end of the year approaches, iDE UK would like to thank all of our supporters and reflect on the fantastic progress we have made over the last year.

What a great year it has been for iDE UK, we have welcomed new volunteers, interns and staff, continued our brilliant work and started on some exciting new projects for 2013. On top of this, we have just ended the year with the fantastic news that we have raised over £30,000 in just three days thanks to our generous supporters, The Waterloo Foundation and The Big Give Christmas Challenge!

In terms of our projects, we have had yet another successful year, and we continue to expand into new areas and countries.

We are still working hard on the Nepal and Bangladesh Agriculture and Nutrition Extension (ANE) project, which is funded by the EU and involves us managing a diverse group of partners including Save the Children, CIMMYT and WorldFish. The project is supporting 51,000 households to improve their food security and is increasing child nutrition in 16,000 households in Nepal and Bangladesh. The project ensures cutting edge agricultural technology, which vastly improves productivity, is getting into local shops for smallholder farmers to buy. This means that highly efficient and affordable irrigation machinery like the Axial Flow Pump become available to the poorest farmers.

Cambodia has also enjoyed a fantastic year, with successes in sanitation with the Sanmark project, as well as winning a prestigious Ashden Award with Hydrologic, gaining a gold standard with Carbon Offset Funding and continuing to help smallholder farmers through Farm Business Advisor programmes.

We are also going strong on our Ethiopia Smallholder Markets and Agriculture Resilience Transformation (SMART) Project in Ethiopia, helping 36,500 smallholder farming households, consisting of approximately 219,000 individuals out of poverty. So far, 4,419 smallholders have received a total of approximately 15.47 tonnes of certified seeds through our micro-finance institutions and new technologies!

We have also had a great year in Vietnam, through our Fertiliser Deep Placement Technologies (FDP) project funded by the innocent foundation. In this project we have successfully reached many of our targets and by the summer of 2012 2,726 farmers had adopted FDP technologies. Through applying FDP to their rice crops, the farmers have seen their fertilizer costs fall and their quantity of rice produced rise, leading to a 71.8% increase in income.

We are also now working to expand our farm Business Advisor programme into Mozambique, with the help of SIDA’s Innovations Against Poverty funding. SIDA’s support has allowed us to develop a comprehensive business plan; with many interested private investors we are presently hunting for the right social investor to implement the plan and match this exciting prospect to provide technical agricultural knowledge to smallholder farmers.

Next year we will start a project in Zambia, which will match local farmers to mining companies in order to create a market providing fresh fruit and vegetables to the mining workers. Through this project we aim to help 3,500 households raise their incomes by $350, utilising the markets created by new mines opening up in the area (with up to 36,000 hungry miners to feed each day) and supporting farmers to grow their way out of poverty in the long-term.

This year we have helped thousands of smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia realise their entrepreneurial potential and work their way out of poverty. Next year we aim to continue this success and help thousands more!

iDE UK 2012 Review