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


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).


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

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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.


For a summary of Agrilinks Twitter chat on serving the poorest smallhold farmers:

For a video on iDE’s agricultural programs:

For more on our work in Bangladesh:

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.

Bangladesh photographs from David Graham

As promised, here are some more wonderful photographs taken by iDE UK ambassador and professional photographer David Graham when he was out visiting iDE UK projects in Bangladesh.

To see more of David Graham’s photographs taken when visiting iDE UK projects visit our Tumblr and Pinterest pages!

The two David’s supporting entrepreneurs in Bangladesh for iDE UK!

The two David’s – David Graham (L) and David Jackson (R) in Bangladesh

The two David’s in Nepal and Bangladesh for iDE UK

ImageOur programmes manager David Jackson is currently out in Nepal with our very gifted supporter and photographer David Graham, to check up on the projects over there. They will be reporting back with information and photographs as they go along to keep us all up to date with what is happening on the ground. Here is one of the first photos David Graham has sent to us from Nepal of one of the many women in Nepal that iDE UK is helping with sustainable business solutions.

Keep posted for more photos and information about their trip!

Photos will also be shown on the iDE UK Pinterest and Tumblr pages so why not take a look?



Nurturing Enterprise in Challenging Times: iDE Bangladesh Update

iDE UK volunteer Phoebe Hayes reports from Bangladesh on the impact of political unrest and the latest  iDE projects. 

Characterizing a politically charged situation in Bangladesh, the all too frequent hartals have consistently bought the country to a standstill over the last month.  As a strike imposed by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in reaction to the apparent abduction of a member of the BNP, these hartals are not only day long protests by opposition supporters but rather, they demand a country wide cessation of public transport and business and render personal mobility strictly off limits for fear for violent repercussion.  On the other hand, it does mean an extended weekend for all!

This unspoken sense of satisfaction however quickly subsides and turns into frustration as the additional day off becomes a week long disruption and cancellation to pretty much everything, including the launch of iDE’s new ANEP project! Interestingly, the sense of frustration is not only directed at the BNP; the general consensus seems to be that both parties are as bad as each other.

It is against such a backdrop that the significance of building the capacity of the private sector to deliver products and services to poor rural households becomes so particularly pertinent. Using a market systems approach, iDE is not only enabling some of the poorest and most vulnerable households to participate as effective economic actors but is also nurturing existing enterprise which acts as a catalyst for broader sector growth.

Certainly, private sector led development is not a standalone agenda for success:  Politics and development will always be intertwined. Yet, commitment to market development can enable the rural poor to make long-term improvements in their lives in spite of the challenges, political or otherwise, that they face.

Currently working in the coastal char regions of Bangladesh, iDEs market systems approach is being employed to counter extremely high levels of chronic poverty as part of the Chars Livelihood Programme (CLP). Informing iDEs work is an in-depth analysis of the entire meat and fodder value chains, currently being undertaken, which will enable the field team to identify key constraints and areas of opportunity in the current market system. It is on this basis that iDE will be improve rural households’ access to input and output markets, promote private sector led service provision and enable households to develop profitable micro-enterprises.

Have you ever volunteered under challenging conditions? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

Find out more about iDE UK and our volunteering opportunities.

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.