What we do

By sharing their specialist expertise in Agriculture, Energy and Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, our team of over 1,000 professionals from different nationalities works to solve some of the most urgent development challenges facing the world today. By focusing on three key roles, in combination with our local presence, we guarantee maximum effectiveness, scale and sustainability of our work.

SNV's advisory services focus on creating effective solutions with local impact. They form the core of our work and provide us with an in-depth knowledge of the local context and the agendas of local actors, rooted in a long-standing presence in over 30 countries. Our services are geared towards the development of organisational and leadership capacities, catalysing market-based solutions and supporting enabling environments.


Advisory services

Advisory services are core to SNV’s programmes. SNV delivers capacity building advisory services to clients and addresses the systemic constraints they confront. We play a supporting role in market systems, bringing parties together, promoting innovation and developing capacities in new expertise areas. We also work in grant management which is closely linked to our engagement in advisory services. Access to finance will increase the possibilities for clients to experiment and boost pilot initiatives into mainstream activities at scale.

Cooperation is key

An inclusive approach to rice in Lao PDR

Recognising the potential of the rice sector, and its ability to contribute to poverty reduction and national development, SNV and Swiss development organisation Helvetas initiated the Enhanced Milled Rice Production EMRIP project. Combining SNV's expertise in value chain development and Helvetas' networks in the rice sector, the project sought to shift from subsistence farming to commercial rice production, and to improve the governance structure of the value chain.

Key achievements: 

  • Private sector inclusion in development of the National Rice Strategy (2012); 
  • Incorporation of inclusive business in government policy; 
  • ​Designation of Khamouanne province as key rice producing area; 
  • 14 miller groups (261 members) and 360 farmer groups (21,000 members) formed; 
  • 10% increase in rice recovery rate during milling, and a 30% increase in rice crop yields; 
  • Income gains of 60% for over 21,000 households; 
  • Quality rice price increases of 9-14%.

Change in local hands

Inclusive livestock markets in Kenya

200 pastoralists led by SIDEP (Samburu Integrated Development Programme, an umbrella civil society organisation representing local women's groups) requested SNV's support to revive the collapsed livestock market in Lolkuniani, Samburu District. SNV convened stakeholder fora consisting of Samburu County Council, two civil society organisations (Kenya Livestock Marketing Council (KLMC) and SIDEP), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock and local leaders from Samburu to solicit their buy-in for developing a strategy to solve their problems.

Key achievements: 

  • Increased market access for over 100,000 livestock traders and producers; 
  • Increased producer incomes of 20% (average); 
  • Inclusion of the Co-managed Market Model (CMM) in the draft National Livestock Policy; 
  • Application of the CMM model in 40 markets across 10 districts; 
  • Enhanced community capacity in lobbying and advocacy, leadership, governance and market management; 
  • Increased civil society capacity in advocacy, marketing and resource mobilisation.

From biomass to biogas

Reducing climate change and resource depletion while improving lives of women and children

SNV has long advocated for concerted action to realise access to clean energy technologies, contribute to sustaining biodiversity, reduce CO2 emissions, decrease health problems and improve the quality of life. It has chosen to deliberately include articulated advocacy dimensions and agendas in its programs. More specifically, SNV designed pilots and replicated them in large-scale, market-based (national) household biodigester programmes. SNV's programme interventions have spread across Africa, Asia and Latin America. They address the lack of capabilities to advocate for or contribute to an enabling environment for the development of a sustainable clean energy sector.

Key achievements: 

  • Over 600,000 biodigesters installed worldwide;
  • Reduced carbon emissions of up to 3 million tonnes per annum; 
  • Operational national biogas programmes in 16 countries across three continents; 
  • Platforms for dialogue between government, civil society, private sector in 18 countries; 
  • Technical capacity building for local organisations resulting in 3,000 trained and active masons; 
  • Female biogas users express great satisfaction on the health benefits from cooking on biogas.

From practice to policy

Sustainable Sanitation & Hygiene for All in Nepal

In the wake of the cholera outbreak in 2008, SNV and its (inter)national partners started the Sustainable Sanitation & Hygiene for All (SSH4A) programme in 2009, ensuring sanitation was high on the government agenda, creating space for a new policy approach to sanitation, adapting rules and regulations accordingly, and, finally, changing the practices of government officials, as well as the behaviour of the rural population. The SSH4A programme started in Nepal's Mid-Western Development Region (MWDR), one of the areas with the lowest levels of sanitation coverage nationwide. SNV decided to work with local NGOs to develop and implement an effective approach that would provide the practical evidence for an advocacy effort to ultimately change the national policies.

Key achievements: 

  • Inclusion of key elements of the SSH4A approach in the National Sanitation Master Plan; 
  • Establishment multi-stakeholder forums to develop action plans and processes for WASH interventions at the district and village level; 
  • 52 VDCs (Village Development Committees) declared open-defecation free; 164,184 additional people with access to improved sanitation; 145,000 students provided with sanitation facilities in schools, reducing drop-out rate; 
  • Increased civic participation (and hence greater integration) of low-caste, poor and other excluded residents in their communities; 
  • Private sector established supply chains accessing remote areas.

Evidence-based advocacys

Based on our advisory experience and understanding of socio-economic and political contexts, we collaborate with knowledge institutes, governments, private sector and civil society to provide evidence and arguments to enrich policy debates. SNV guides decision-makers who adopt recommendations resulting from proven interventions and helps translate these recommendations into effective policies, rules and regulations that support scaling up.

Value Chain Development

Value chains are systems of people, organisations and activities needed to create, process and deliver a product or service from supplier to customer. Actors in value chains include primary producers, processors, traders and service providers. They transform natural resources, raw materials and components into a finished product that is delivered to the end customer. The value chain concept is rooted in the organisation of different actors and how they interact in their institutional environment. 

SNV assumes key roles in value chain development - as a mediator between stakeholders, as a knowledge broker, an advisor, and most often, as a facilitator. Our goal is to strengthen links in value chains, so the systems can sustain themselves. The SNV approach seeks to include the maximum number of actors on all levels of value chains. Driven by the potential of growth, we seek market-based solutions. In all our interventions, we try to make change that is both systemic and sustainable. Our approach includes multi-stakeholder processes, effective public policy management, group strengthening, value chain financing, strengthening value chain service providers and market intelligence.

SNV's well thought-out results logic and tools allow our advisors and clients to adapt programmes to different market realities. Careful analysis and selection of value chains helps us identify opportunities for inclusive growth. SNV promotes effective dialogue between the various actors in the value chain to help identify constraints and opportunities, broker pro-poor deals between actors, and facilitate partnerships between the private sector and government institutions. 

SNV engages the private sector in innovative ways to work towards sustainable development. Among other mechanisms, we encourage Impact Investments as an effective way to finance value chains. Our advisors and partners build the capacities of small enterprises to make them investment ready. SNV also links private investors to rural enterprises, creating win-win partnerships. SNV's Inclusive Business model links Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with leading companies, enabling all parties to increase profits. SNV sets up deals where buying from and supporting small producers becomes part of the core business of a company, and leads to economic benefits for both parties.

Inclusive Business

SNV advances economic development and socio-economic inclusion through the Inclusive Business model. This innovative approach seeks to increase the income, production and well-being of low-income groups, while at the same time, generating benefits for participating companies. Through developing inclusive business commercial models that involve low-income groups in the value chain of a medium or large company as producers, distributors or consumers, SNV helps companies improve their supply chains, strengthen their human resources and access new markets. Low-income participants benefit by gaining reliable buyers and fair prices for their products, from new jobs and from access to affordable, quality goods and services. 

SNV has developed over 140 inclusive business projects across Latin America, Asia and Africa, ranging from developing and implementing specific inclusive business plans for national and multinational companies, to regional initiatives, to inclusive business funds, and inclusive business studies. We work with companies and Base of the Pyramid communities (involved as suppliers, employees, distributors and consumers) in sectors ranging from agribusiness to energy, to food products, tourism, commerce, and to construction.

Impact Investment

Impact investment is an effective way of addressing social or environmental challenges while generating financial returns. It is a win-win proposition for investors and society. The objective of impact investors is to invest in entrepreneurs and social enterprises that will provide a return on investment, while also alleviating poverty, creating employment, building infrastructure or conserving natural resources. This philosophy represents a nexus of traditional investing and social philanthropy. Impact investing differs from socially responsible investing and negative screening, which is used to avoid investment in businesses that cause social or environmental harm, by actively seeking market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges. Impact investing use the tools of finance to create social change.  

SNV's Impact Investment services have been established to target the 'missing middle' - those entrepreneurs in the developing world who fall squarely between microfinance and conventional financing. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the developing world can serve as catalysts for sustainable growth by driving employment and supporting social inclusion. However, the potential of these companies often remains untapped because they lack access to capital. SNV targets the 'missing middle' by assisting partner funds and SMEs in raising investment capital and technical assistance funding, in addition to providing pre-, post- and turnaround investment advisory services. We address the challenges of enterprises at the Base of the Pyramid, by helping impact investors build quality investment portfolios and providing investment-readiness services to SMEs.

SNV champions the combination of inclusive business and impact investing. Leaning on our pioneering expertise in inclusive business, we build local ownership and sustainable partnerships that benefit international buyers and local producers. In order to reduce the risk for investors and build sustainable business models, we make use of innovative layered capital structures. SNV follows the triple-bottom-line principles and facilitates investments in socially, environmentally, and financially responsible organisations.

Local Capacity Development

Through our research, SVN has found that people and organisations in rural areas of developing countries have substantial needs for business and professional services that are not being met. They struggle to pay for services, as well as to access service providers based in national or regional centres. Local Capacity Development Facilities (LCDF) connect local actors in developing countries to national service providers and join with them to co-fund the services they need. Local actors pay a minimum of 20% of the total cost of the services. Tendering is conducted according to accountable open market processes, with an emphasis on transparency. 

SNV assists rural organisations in transforming their aspirations into concrete demands and helps them to communicate these demands to service providers. We listen to their needs and help them look for solutions. We involve them in competitive selection of service providers in order to improve their understanding of competitive market processes. LCDF support organisations that want to build their skills or knowledge, grow their business or innovate, access markets, commission a feasibility study for their business idea, receive training and more.

Any rural-based organisations including local governments, businesses or NGOs can come to a local LCDF for support. We work with them to find suitable service providers through transparent competitive tendering. As the service providers compete for tenders on a national level, they need to offer competitive prices and the best services. Customers’ choices therefore expand, prices decrease, and quality of services improves. We believe that for organisations to operate in a sustainable manner they must be able to operate independently with revenue from a number of different sources. For us sustainability means the ability to attract external funding and investments, and generate revenue from operations. SNV supports the start-up of local LCDFs. This means that local rural federations, associations, and local government representatives have the time to form their organisation, start operating, and look for sustainable sources of revenue.

Local actors can communicate their demands for services to service providers nation-wide through the LCDF platform. They can apply for LCDF funding and support throughout the year. The local LCDF assesses their application and evaluates it based on a set of transparent locally-established criteria. LCDF makes sure that both the rural organisation and the winning service provider sign a contract and deliver on their promises. This enables us to keep track of the quality of services, ensure transparency and improve services in the long run. 

Implementation at scale

We use our long-term, in-country presence and international knowledge network to develop new and adapt proven approaches to local contexts, using the impact of former investments to achieve results at scale. We strengthen our skills in designing, rolling out, managing and monitoring multi-country development initiatives, and commit ourselves to sharing results globally. By focusing on governments, the private sector and civil society, and by linking their mandates and resources, we go beyond mere individual projects and instead deliver development at scale. In our work, we focus on four essential factors for sustained results of SNV initiatives:

Inclusive development

Inclusive development means actively listening to and engaging people living in poverty, as producers, workers or consumers. Not by creating special niches but by linking them structurally to sustainable development processes that are both fair and just.

Systemic change

Systemic change is required to ground inclusive and sustained development in a conducive legal and policy environment and to guarantee progress beyond strengthened capacities of individual players.

Local ownership

Local ownership allows local actors to shape and drive their agendas and assume responsibility for leading development processes.

Contextualised solutions

Contextualised solutions are key to the effectiveness and sustainability of approaches; they may be inspired by experiences elsewhere but always need to be tailored to the specific political, administrative, financial and socio-cultural conditions.

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