Little Ideas Create Big Impacts through IDE’s Social Innovation

If you’re looking for more social entrepreneur inspiration, check out International Development Enterprise (IDE), another unique organization working to harness social innovation to solve some of the biggest problems for the rural poor around the world. Their approach centers around water as an entry point, given that water is at the core of some of the poorest communities problems. Their method has resulted in some creative ideas for helping people get the water they need.


Social Innovation = Low-Cost Ceramic Water Purification in Cambodia

In Cambodia where nearly 66% of the rural population is without safe drinking water, IDE has worked to develop a “Rabbit” brand ceramic water purifier (CWP). This low-cost household filter is produced using local clay and rice husks formed into a pot. When fired, the rice husks burn away leaving a porous filter element that is later infused with a colloidal silver solution as a bactericide.

This simple water filter provides 30 litres (7.93 gallons) of clean water for a family every day with three fillings. It is distributed through a local pottery cooperative and marketed nationwide via social marketing.

Social Innovation = Drip Irrigation for Valuable Produce Crops

Drip irrigation is a water-efficient way for growing produce where water is scarce, but the systems can be expensive. IDE has developed a design in conjunction with commercial drip irrigation manufacturers that is low-cost, lowers water needs by 30% and 70%, and is customizable to fit in small plots of land like those of small farmers worldwide. The $5 household drip irrigation garden kit provide water for about 20 square meters (215 square feet), though they can be adapted for up to one acre of land. So far, IDE has sold about 8,500 of these drip systems in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Social Innovation = Rope Pump for Easy Water Access

Manually-powered water pumps help people gain access to underground water resources which saves time and travel for those who would otherwise have to walk to get what they need each day. The rope pump uses washers knotted along a rope to push water up and out of a tube from depths of up to 120 feet (36 metres). They’re great for kitchen gardens and small farmers and are affordable, too.

This post was written by:

Maryruth Belsey Priebe

Maryruth has been seeking the keys to environmental justice - both at home and at work - for over a decade. Growing up adjacent to wild spaces, Maryruth developed a healthy respect (and whimsical appreciation) for things non-human, but her practical mind constantly draws her down to earth to ponder tangible solutions to complex eco-problems.

With interests that range from green living to green business, sustainable building designs to organic gardening practices, ecosystem restoration to environmental health, Maryruth has been exploring and writing about earth-matters for most of her life. Of special interest is the subject of ecopsychology and the role the natural world plays in the long-term health and well-being of humanity. You can learn more about Maryruth's work at

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  1. what a lovely informative blog, i was surprised to read that only 66 % of cambodia has water, and we take ours for granted.

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