International Development Enterprises India (IDEI) is a unique non-profit social enterprise that seeks to combat poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.
Founded by Amitabha Sadangi, the son of marginal farmers from the Ganjam district of India, the IDEI takes a particularly practical approach to its mission. Sadangi is firm and outspoken in his conviction that charity is not the best way to help India’s poor subsistence farmers improve their lives. Instead, IDEI develops and sells environmentally sustainable and affordable technologies to farmers, allowing them to work more efficiently and raise themselves from poverty.
What IDEI Does
Operating as a non-profit social enterprise allows IDEI to combine the best of both the business and philanthropic worlds. It can sell products to cover operating expenses like a business, but unlike a business, it can sell products for little more than the cost of manufacturing them because its mission is more important than its bottom line.
IDEI uses primarily donated funds to support research and development of technologies such as the KB (Krishak Bandu, or “Farmer’s Friend”) drip irrigation system, which allows farmers to grow crops during the dry season, as much as doubling their income, while reducing water use by 70%. The simple design of the KB drip system is easy to install and maintain, and costs $20-30, about one month’s income in many rural regions of India but only about 1/5 the price of IDEI’s main competitors.
Another successful product is the treadle pump, which enables farmers in regions with high water tables to tap into groundwater resources instead of relying entirely on rainfall, as more than 60% of India’s farmers do. In this way, farmers can increase their yearly harvests from one to three. Like the KB drip irrigations system, the treadle pump is simple and cheap to maintain, and it is operated by walking, similar to exercise equipment such as the Stairmaster.
Sadangi says he strives to keep the cost of all of his products under 10% of the average annual income for the region. This is inexpensive enough to be affordable, but substantial enough to cover production costs for the company and ensure that families will purchase the system for their own betterment, rather than trying to resell the product for a quick but unsustainable profit.
IDEI tracks customer satisfaction and other results to ensure the success of its products. 20% of farmers using IDEI products report spending some or all of their extra income on education for their children, and 15% report using it to improve their family’s health. Being able to plant and earn income year round also reduces seasonal migration in rural regions, when fields are left fallow and farmers travel to the city in search of jobs during the dry season. Among other benefits, allowing family’s to remain on their own land year round improves educational opportunities for the children.
IDEI’s products have already helped improve the lives of 1,000,000 customers in India, and Sadangi hopes to reach 10 million more farmers within the next ten years. IDEI has also expanded its program to Africa and Southeast Asia.
To learn more, check out this video by Alvin Hall about IDEI’s work, or visit IDE-India.org.