As part of a worldwide project to help subsistence farmers overcome poverty, International Development Enterprises will expand to Mexico in 2012.
Since its founding in 1982, the Lakewood nonprofit has helped over 20 million people on all continents except Australia, said Andrew Romanoff, adviser to IDE.
The goal is to help a billion people, he said.
In Latin America, as in parts of Asia and Africa, the main obstacle to overcoming poverty for subsistence farmers is access to loans or credits which can be invested in equipment to improve a farmer's facilities, Romanoff said.
IDE, which offers farmers access to advanced technology via those small, or microcredit, loans for small businesses, helps farmers in rural areas who are often neglected by government agencies, Romanoff said.
It is estimated that 75 percent of the world's poor families live in rural areas, however only 4 percent of international aid goes to those areas, according to Romanoff.
IDE's gaoal is for low-income farmers to have the minimum technology required to provide enough water for their fields and their families. The technology, though low-cost, is sold. Some farmers become resellers and others learn to maintain the tools they bought.
"Our projects have a large market opportu-nity in Latin America. Farmers in these countries face problems of climate change makes the rains are irregular. With our technologies, farmers are no longer depend on rainfall for crop insurance," said Romanoff. "Our technologies are less expensive than traditional systems and are designed to meet the needs of small- and medium-sized farmers."
IDE is already operating in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Kelvin Cantarero, the owner of a small farm in Talgua Lempira, Honduras, credits IDE with helping boost his family's income.
Cantarero's farm produces basic grains and coffee on a small scale. To expand production and to improve his economic situation, Cantarero recently decided to cultivate watermelons.
"The traditional watering system used to be enough to provide water for the farm.
However, ... the amount of rain has been significantly reduced and is not even enough for a half-inch watering system," Cantarero said in a statement.
IDE installed a new drip irrigation system and a water tank with capacity to hold enough water for the Canterero's farm. He was then able to plant 2,000 watermelon plants and to harvest 10,000 melons, generating an additional $15,000 in income for his family.
"This experience has contributed to improving the financial situation of my family and has motivated other local producers to also install the same system," Cantarero said.
Since the project began, the fields in which IDE is working have increased their production by 60 percent, allowing even the farmers with fewer resources who are devoted to growing specialty crops like coffee on a small scale to generate income up to $600 per acre.
"For us, Latin America represents a great challenge because it is a market segment that cannot access credit that would buy our technologies and services," said Romanoff. "So we are developing a strategy to reach these markets through the help of sponsors and donors who are interested in promoting the growing social impact of our aid."
These technologies include solar-energy water pumps, solar-thermal pumps, irrigation technologies, rope pumps, water storage systems, latrines and water purifiers.
To find out more about IDE, to donate or to volunteer, visit ideorg.org or call 303-232-4336.