Inception as iDE
Jim Taylor & Debbie Aung Din moved to Myanmar to start up a country office of International Development Enterprises.
Established by Jim Taylor and Debbie Aung Din, Proximity began life, in 2004, as a country office of iDE. Back then, we entered the Myanmar rural market with two treadle pumps, 13 staff and a distribution reach of just 600 villages. Now, eight years on, we’re accessible to nearly 80% of the rural population, employing a nationwide staff of over 350, and offering a complete range of services that address many of the most pressing needs of rural families. That's no mean feat in a country like Myanmar.
Over the years our environment has changed, and we've had to adapt quickly to respond to our customer's needs. For the first few years, we focused on creating affordable irrigation products tailored to the Myanmar farmer. We worked on building a distribution network to help us reach scale, and perfecting quality, and service. We also began building a team of field staff across our project regions. At Proximity, we've always maintained that our staff are our most valuable asset, and this couldn't have been more true in the days immediately after Cyclone Nargis hit the Ayarwady Delta in 2008. Although our team aren't relief workers by title, they know and understand Delta farming families, and were able to identify their needs and employ our established distribution network to deliver over $16 million in aid to 1.2 million people.
After the cyclone we began diversifying our line of services, and created our farm recovery services in direct response to the crop failings and pest infestations that Delta farmers were suffering from. We also formed our infrastructure service, rebuilding and building footpaths, embankments, bridges and canals to help with connectivity and water control. As relief became less critical, we grew and adapted these services to the changing situations; cash-for-work labour opportunities were provided on infrastructure projects, and Farm Advisory Services staff began teaching smart but simple farming techniques to farmers, for longer lasting impact.
All the while, we've been continuing to design and manufacture a range of irrigation products. To make these technologies accessible to thousands more rural families, we developed a product financing service. More recently, we began offering a crop loan service, that provides credit for critical inputs, to help farmers set themselves up for a successful season. Each of these services increases incomes by an average of $250 per season.
This last year, our ninth, has been our most successful one to date. We sold our 100,000th product, launched a successful range of solar lighting, and we're beginning to spin off our crop loans into a larger entity called Proximity Finance. We were also honoured to be recipients of both the Skoll Foundation's and the Schwab Foundation's Award for social entrepreneurship.
Not a bad nine years! Most importantly, they've resulted in increased incomes and improved lifestyles for over 486,500 people across Myanmar. Get to know some of these customers here.
Affordable solar options are helping improve productivity and grades
Colorful Shan State is famed for its cool weather and fresh fruits. Come explore.
We're fortunate to have the support of some great people
Meet U Myo Myint, our nature loving agronomist
Your kind of place? Check out our current opportunities.
A distribution network that reaches even the remotest areas