Skoll World Forum
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Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) is one of the poorest countries on earth – a nation of 60 million people, most of whom are hard-working, enterprising small-plot farmers. Most still live in poverty, and lack electricity, access to financial services, and the technology to be more productive. It is a land of immense need and tremendous opportunity.
Proximity Designs creates and delivers the products and services used by thousands of low-income families in rural Myanmar to dramatically improve their lives.
Their foot-operated irrigation pumps, water storage tanks, drip irrigation systems, and farm advisory services significantly increase farm productivity. Users generate substantially more income for food, health care, farm re-investment, and education.
All of Proximity’s products are designed for affordability and they use the power and reach of markets to get them to families who need them most. Since 2004, they have helped more than 100,000 rural households increase their income by over US$276 million.
Smallholder farmers are often trapped in a life of subsistence, weathering crop failure and other setbacks on their own.
PD designs and delivers products, services, and policy solutions to increase productivity and incomes.
James Taylor and Debbie Aung Din Taylor are committed to treating people as customers, not as aid beneficiaries.
Nearly half a million pepole have benefited to date.
Smallholder farmers achieve food security and economic self-sufficiency.
Market Innovations and Policy Reform
Increase scope and scale of access to affordable and effective products and supporting services; demonstrate the value of the model to governments and development agencies who will expand and replicate.
Social enterprise meets think tank: products that are economically viable in bottom-of-the pyramid markets; demonstration and advocacy to influence policy that impacts poor people’s lives.
Jim and Debbie Aung Din Taylor met as 20-year-old community activists working to fight poverty in the Mississippi Delta, where they learned that before anyone can help people, they must live with them, and truly understand them. They took this philosophy with them when they moved to Burma in 2004 to found an organization they could scale up quickly to help the 4 million rice farmers struggling to lift themselves out of subsistence and poverty. That organization, which became Proximity Designs, designs and delivers products, services, and policy solutions to increase productivity and improve incomes. Its $13 plastic water pump, the “baby elephant,” doesn’t just replace sprinkler cans or provide an affordable alternative to metal pumps, it increases yields and enhances food security even in a debilitating political environment. PD designs and sells affordable foot pumps, drip irrigation sets, and water storage containers; offers financing services for those unable to afford upfront costs of products or seeds, and provides advisory services focused on helping farmers improve productivity, incomes, and resilience. At the time of the Award, PD had transformed the lives of more than 400,000 Burmese people.