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    Entries in irrigation (7)


    Daw Win Thein is not a Proximity Customer, here’s why


    Daw Win Thein, 54, and her husband, U Sein Thaung, have some of the greenest thumbs we’ve come across. From a chili bush hidden amid the rows of betel plants, to the majestic pineapple plants that line the edge of their 1.5-acre plot, there’s something growing in every nook and cranny. The bounty of it is impressive, especially when Daw Win Thein explains that the long gourds, betel nuts and fruits are all for household consumption. For income, the pair grows chrysanthemums and betel leaves, which they irrigate with the help of an engine pump. 

    Daw Win looks apologetic as she explains that she has nothing against Proximity’s products; her husband first purchased a pump in 2004, and both their daughters use treadle pumps that have been working since 2006. But now that the family has a diesel engine, she only needs her treadle pump as a safe guard in case the engine is broken or to draw water for household use.

    Daw Win has nothing to apologize for. The fact that she’s been able to upgrade is a sign that Proximity’s products are working. Before the family first purchased the pump in 2006, they barely found enough time to tend to the betel plants, and the hand pump she was using made Daw Win’s chest hurt. Over the years, Daw Win doubled the number of betel plants that her family harvested, and she started growing chrysanthemums to supplement their income. It was this additional income that allowed the family to purchase a diesel engine. 

    In essence, what Daw Win’s story tells us is that Proximity’s products are helping households throughout Myanmar save, improve their farms, and access machinery that was previously out of reach. But what does her story mean for our business model? After all, as a social enterprise we rely on business principles to generate social impact, so what happens now that Daw Win has outgrown our treadle pumps?

    It means we go back to the drawing board. It means we look at recent growth in the diesel engine market as a design challenge. We learn everything we can about these engines and their benefits, to see how we can help smallholder farmers in Myanmar access solutions that are even more affordable and sustainable. Proximity’s design team is nearing the end of a two-year project to create a solar-powered irrigation product that will help farmers like Daw Win upgrade once again, from a diesel engine that relies on costly fossil fuels to a clean energy solution that’s durable and cost-saving. Looking back on the past decade, this upcoming product is the natural continuation of a process that began with Daw Win's first treadle pump back in 2004.  


    Myanmar is Changing

    Everywhere you hear these words. Since the beginning of political reforms in 2011, the world has had its eye on Myanmar with the expectation of change. Indeed, as the price of SIM cards drops from $200 to $2, as the rate of construction in Yangon renders whole blocks unrecognizable, everywhere people remark that, “Myanmar is changing.” But what does this mean? What does it mean for millions of rural inhabitants? Hours by boat or motorbike from the nearest town, do villagers in hard to reach regions of Myanmar feel that change?

    The answer is multilayered and complex. On the one hand, there’s an increase in wages that makes it harder for farmers to hire labor and more attractive for landless families to separate and seek jobs in the cities. On the other, there’s the promise of increased mobile penetration and the hope for better infrastructure; there’s so much in fact, that we’ll be focusing on each of these separately in future posts.

    To give you a taste of how change is affecting rural farmers and is in turn shifting our focus at Proximity, imagine yourself taking a seat among 150 Irrigation Sales Representatives who traveled from all over Myanmar to Yangon for the launch of our 11th sales season. The first thing on the agenda is the market disruption caused by increased access to cheap diesel engines. Product Designer Taiei Harimoto remarks that, “imported diesel engines are becoming more popular with farmers.” The big question in this environment, he continues, is whether there is still room for treadle pumps amidst the flood of imports. If not, what new needs are emerging among rural farmers?

    Well, diesel engines can be difficult to operate, and require farmers to rely on costly fossil fuels to irrigate their crops. Which is why, Taiei Harimoto continues, Proximity is launching a new irrigation product that the Design Team has been working on for over a year. Scheduled for a formal launch early 2015 (keep an eye out for more details) this product will be more cost-effective than diesel engines, and will make use of renewable technologies to help our customers engage in sustainable farming practices. The excitement in the room was palpable, as many farmers have already expressed interest in the product during preliminary field tests. 

    Looking to season 11, we’re investing heavily in skills training for our sales force. Looking beyond next season to a changing Myanmar, we look forward to working in an evolving landscape even while our approach remains the same; be proximate, empathize, constantly re-think solutions, and design for quality, affordability, and impact. 



    Digging it...

    During the dry season, we fund community managed rural infrastructure projects across the country. These take the shape of bridges, jetties and footpath in the often-flooded rural delta areas, and rainwater harvesting reservoirs in the central dry zone of the country. Here are some images of our ponds in the digging stage and, after the long monsoon, full of life-giving water…


    Hello New Logo!



    When we started back in 2004, we were just selling pumps. Yetagon is the Myanmar word for waterfall, and it has strong connotations of prosperity. As our products are designed to make our customers more prosperous, and pumps pump water, we called the brand Yetagon, and we gave it a logo that looked industrial, strong, and kind of like a waterfall.

    Then, as the years went by, we added more and more services - farm advisory services, solar lights and product financing - but the logo really only made it's way on to products, and the name stuck there too. That was no good. Our new services weren't benefiting from the trusted brand associated with our products, and our different teams were seen to be operating as separate entities. We wanted a way of unifying everything under the Yetagon name, while still maintaining each team's individuality.

    So, we turned to our friends at Tomorrow Partners advertising agency and asked them to help us come up with a strategy. We showed different versions of the design ideas to real customers for feedback and we eventually made a choice. The final version is shown above. It still looks industrial. It's still quite strong. It's still kind of like a waterfall, if you're artistically inclined. There's a green logo for our irrigation products (as crops are mostly green. If you irrigate them right), there's a red one for rural energy (as the sun's red. it is. don't look, you'll blind yourself), there's a purple one for product financing (as purple is typically associated with wealth and opulence), and a gold one for farm advisory services (like the color of a healthy, well-ripened rice field). They make sense. And they look cool too.

    We revealed the logo change at our season launch meeting and, although no one fell off their chair in exhilaration, there was an excited whisper in the hall and one of the demos from the Ayeyarwady region said "I can't wait for this year’s t-shirts”. We’ll take it.


    Here's to Season 9!

    As promised, on Friday we launched our ninth season!

    Here's a shot of some of our sales staff getting prepped for a group photo, a couple minutes after we officially launched to the bangs of 150 party poppers.

    In the next few days we'll share with you the designs and stories behind our new pressure pump (the Baby Buffalo), our new water tank (the Pyit Taing Taung - or Roly-Poly Toy Tank), and our improved drip irrigation system, as well as reveal the new marketing campaign we've developed for this year. Innovation is the key to success in a market as tough as our one and our design teams have out done themselves this year. Stay tuned to find out more.