Design Expo 2014: Online Discussion - Building Livelihoods

This online panel discussion at 3.30 UK time on Thursday 12 June will explore the following questions:

  1. What are some of the most innovative models that are having a real impact on the livelihoods of people at the BoP?
  2. What are the some of the key challenges facing innovators when designing products, services and business models for the rural and urban poor?
  3. How important is gender in the success or otherwise of some of the marketing and distribution models?

Panelists include: Stephanie Hanson, One Acre Fund; Sampath Selvan, MKrishi; Keith Teichmann, Xylem; KC Mishra, eKutir; Alexa Roscoe, CARE International; Deborah Tien, AISE; Morgane Danielou, Farming First; Vincent Gainey, DFID.

Editor's Note:

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This event is part of the Business Fights Poverty Design Expo 2014. Running from 9 to 13 June,  the Design Expo is an online celebration of products, services and business models transforming the lives of poor people.  The Design Expo is a collaboration with iDE UK and is being supported by the UK's Department for International Development.

The Expo will include a vibrant mix of blogs, Google Hangouts, online panel discussions, a Twitter Jam and a virtual exhibition zone. Each day we will focus on a different sector: Energy (9 June), Health (10 June), Communications (11 June), Livelihoods (including enterprise, finance and agriculture) (12 June) and Water & Sanitation (13 June).

From Monday 9 June, you will be able to access all the activities via the Design Expo landing page,  Participation in the Design Expo is free.  You will simply need to sign in (or sign up for free) to Business Fights Poverty.


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Hi everyone!  My name is Keith Teichmann and I am the Director of Innovative Networks and Marketing at Xylem Inc.   Xylem is one of the world’s largest pure play water companies with offices in 150 countries and one of the broadest portfolios across, transport, treatment and test.  We’re excited to participate today with our distinguished colleagues and Business Fights Poverty and describe our rural enterprise building strategy, “Essence of Life.”  More about our EOL strategy and portfolio may be found at

When it comes to agriculture and rural livelihoods, I think the most impactful innovative models have to do with extension and best practice dissemination. They are essential to closing the yield gap. By increasing production smallholder farmers can increase their profits, have more disposable income, and invest in better inputs and technologies. This trickle-down effect can significantly improve livelihoods for families and especially for women and children. Once smallholders become more productive, women farmers can spend less time working the fields or bringing water and have more time to diversify their activities.

ICT is a good vehicle for fast information dissemination. Through the use of smartphones farmers can have access to market information, pricing as well as gain the tools to better manage inputs (seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, crop protection).

In many LDCs and developing countries, this access depends on new distribution models. One innovation that facilitates distribution to farmers in remote areas is Deep Rural Distribution.

In addition to market access, and crop insurance, farmers also need price guarantees. Commodity exchanges play an important part in making farmers’ livelihoods more resilient to price shocks as they foster price guarantees. Farmers can better plan and organize themselves when they know they can count on a fair price for their crops.

In addition,  microcredit may be overhyped, but that there is still a lot of innovation going on in the field of microfinance more broadly, for example in microinsurance.   Right now it’s mostly life insurance as this is easiest to manage; however, health insurance, disaster insurance, weather-index insurance, pensions and more are all being developed.  One of CARE’s key findings on scaling insurance is that financial literacy is absolutely crucial.  Our research shows that women who have received personalized financial literacy training are three times as likely to buy or renew products as those who have not. As profits in microinsurance are dependent on long-term enrolments, this is a really important finding. 

The majority of the world's poor are farmers, so the business models that have the largest impact on people at the BoP are agriculture businesses. In Kenya, there is a great company called Juhudi Kilimo that offers asset loans to smallholder farmers. Instead of lending cash, they lend farmers productive assets like livestock. The organization that I work, One Acre Fund, also offers asset-based loans to farmers (seed and fertilizer loans). 

I would suggest those models which aggregates people to form goal specific groups such as PRIDE in case of Agriculture. So that it becomes easy for that group to operate on the field to connect various organizations like Agri-input industries, Food processing industries, Government organizations, Financial institutions and Agricultural machinery industry.  Also powered with technology platform enables PRIDE to scale up easily and to become economically viable and self-sustaining entity.

Agreed taht cooperative models need to be handled with care (no pun intended!). DFID has been supporting (through our Food and Retail Industry Challeneg Fund FRICH) variosu suppliers cooperatives in Africa. One good example is of smallholder tea farmers in Kericho in Western Kenya where women have been particulalry empowered as suppliers but also in cooperative management

I agree that microinsurance is hugely important for the BoP. In agriculture, Kilimo Salama is an innovative weather-indexed crop insurance product that is available for farmers in Kenya and Rwanda. 

Is effective extension any more just a job for Governments or is it increasingly a private sector fucntion. tied to supply contracts? Governments seem to have failed disnally at providing viable extension services over the years.

We’ve found that sustainable impact, from a business perspective, is based upon our targeted customers achieving a measurable ROI. This ROI provides a definable capability to both re-invest and drive livelihood increases.  In understanding a first point of entry, relative to an asset generating profit, small-holder agriculture provides an focusable strategy.

As you rightly mentioned, ICT is a good vehicle for information dissemination but there is to be farmer owned entity which would enable them with technology not in few area of crop production but throughout.  For example, In India, Farmer Producer Organization uses mKRISHI as technology tool to help farmers starting from crop selection to selling their produces

We are working on a model that turns extension services into a service farmers can pay for

less than 20% of African adults have access to Financial services so access to loans, insurance, credit is fundamental as noted by Alexa and Stéphanie.

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