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Posts by Elizabeth
Globally, 1.3 billion people have no access to energy and it’s this lack of access that is keeping people living in poverty. Energy has the power to transform lives, it enables clinics to offer 24 hour care, for school children to study at night and it enables farmers to irrigate their land with reliable water pumps.
Practical Action has been working with people across Malawi and Zimbabwe to bring clean and sustainable solar energy to their communities. This project is called Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities and I recently travelled to Zimbabwe to see how energy is changing lives.
I met Miss Mumpande, who works at the Mashaba Primary School in the Gwanda District. She has taught at the school for eight years and teaches 12-13 year olds. The school now has access to solar power, which means they have electricity for lighting.
Sadly, it hasn’t always been this way. For years, the school had no access to electricity and they struggled to attract teachers because of it. Teachers would also have to prepare lessons by candle light and the students couldn’t stay late to study because the school was in darkness.
“Before solar, it was difficult, I wouldn’t prepare the school work well. I had to light candles and prepare. It took two hours, now it only takes one. My eyes would hurt. I wouldn’t prepare my work well, sometimes I made mistakes and had to buy candles myself.”
Having no electricity also affected her student’s education, she explained how they couldn’t study outside of school, but now they are able to stay late and study in the light. Their grades have improved and they’re now excited to come to class. The school has even started offering night classes for older members of the community.
Having electricity has had a huge impact on Miss Mumpande, her students and the rest of the school. She said, “Some teachers left because of the problems but now many want to come here because of the electricity.”
Mashaba Primary school is proof that electricity really can change lives.
To find out more about the project, click here.No Comments » | Add your comment
The Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal has been a major success, raising an incredible £1 million from people just like you. This was then matched pound for pound by the UK Government.
Almost every year monsoon rains cause the three major rivers of Bangladesh to swell, resulting in devastating floods. They wash away fertile land and destroy homes and livelihoods. Families are forced to find a new place to live and a new means of earning a living without land to cultivate. Sandbars emerge as the rivers recede; the soil is barren but can be made productive by using the technique of pit cultivation for pumpkins and other crops. It’s a simple solution that is truly changing lives, thanks to your support.
Nazmul Islam Chowdhury is the Head of the Extreme Poverty Programme in Bangladesh and manages the Pumpkins Against Poverty project. Nazmul came up with the idea of using the barren land in this way many years ago and has gone on to develop and implement the solution in communities across Bangaldesh. Below he explains just why this project is so important.
“Firstly, I want to say thank you so much for everyone’s generous support of Practical Action and the Pumpkins Against Poverty project. You are helping to reach thousands of people.
“When I initially came up with the idea of sandbar cropping, I thought something is better than nothing, but we have been able to develop and improve the project. It now has a huge impact on the ground and there is potential to bring this innovation to other countries. The pumpkin is like a magic golden ball; it is a solution for food security, vitamin A deficiency, income and gender equality.
“I have many stories from the people the project helps but there is one that sticks in my mind. In 2009, When I was visiting a community in Rangpur, I was interviewing a farmer when I heard a girl crying. She was only around three years old. Her cries interrupted the interview and I asked her mother what was wrong. She said she was crying because she was hungry and she had no food to feed her. I was shocked and thought, how can I help? I still think about that girl now. We must do something to help these families.
“I always tell my children, imagine that you have no food at home and you are hungry. You should always try to help the people that need it.”
Thank you to everyone who has supported the Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal. You are helping thousands of people to lift themselves out of poverty, for good.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Bimala lives in a small village in the Makwanpur District of Nepal. She lives with 10 members of her family and cooks their meals on a three stone stove which is little more than a pile of bricks.
“It takes me up to three hours to cook a meal and I do this three times a day.”
The family knows just how dangerous the smoke from the stove is to their health, Bimala has suffered from breathing problems and eye complaints her whole life. “Everything was black, it was so smoky and we couldn’t sit in the house.” To try and stop the home filling with the thick, black smoke, Bimala has moved the stove outside the home but during the rainy season it becomes even harder to cook for her family.
“Sometimes I have to cook with an umbrella, it’s difficult but I have to prepare the meal. Sometimes the food is half cooked.”
Bimala has two young granddaughters who are now beginning to help their grandmother to prepare meals but she worries about their future. “I am worried about my grandchildren but what can I do.”
An improved stove and smoke hood would completely change Bimala and her family’s lives. They would spend less time cooking and would be able to spend this time earning an income, looking after cattle and studying. It’s a simple solution that has the power to transform lives forever.2 Comments » | Add your comment
Jack Owino is the Headteacher of a school in Nakuru, Kenya. He has worked there since 2012 and has worked with Practical Action and the Umande Trust to improve access to clean water, toilets and hygiene training for his 765 students.
The students come from the nearby slums and Jack explains their home life as ‘difficult’. Most have little or no access to clean water and decent sanitation at home so it is important to Jack and his staff that the children do not have to worry about going to the toilet and can drink clean, safe water when they’re at school.
Jack knows that having no access to water and sanitation at school affects attendance and he was determined to change this.
“In 2012, it was bad. We had one block of boys toilets and one block for girls. They were in a bad state. We now have two blocks each. Before, children had to run back home to go to the toilet, in the bush. They would run home and never come back.
“Bad sanitation at home meant that children were sick a lot. We now monitor their cleanliness. Water at home is contaminated but they are safe here. They are encouraged to go back to their communities and pass on their knowledge. They are agents of change.”
Water and sanitation is absolutely vital to keeping children in school and it has been amazing to see the change in the students at Jack’s school, they are happier, healthier and many are now going on to further education.8 Comments » | Add your comment
Bourton on Dunsmore, Warwickshire CV23 9, UK, Bourton on Dunsmore
May 26th, 2016
Saturday 28th May is Menstrual Hygiene Day, a really important day to raise awareness of good menstrual hygiene and to break some of the taboos that surround something that affects half the population of the world!
It’s sad that in 2016, women and girls are still made to feel ashamed by a natural bodily function. Girls are often held back from achieving their full potential as they are unable to attend school and it’s shocking to think that in some communities, girls are made to sleep in sheds, away from their home, when menstruating. It shouldn’t be this way.
In August last year, I travelled to Bangladesh to see some of our work and to meet people who Practical Action is supporting. In Bangladesh, menstrual hygiene remains a taboo topic, sanitary products are rarely available and young girls are often too afraid to ask.
I met 25 year old Danier who told me what it was like to be a woman in her community. She explained how women are considered ‘unclean’ during their periods, sanitary products are not available and girls are forced to hide away and use rags to soak up the blood. These rags are used over and over again. Washing and drying the rags is difficult, as they shouldn’t be seen by anyone. During this time, girls don’t attend school, because they are too afraid of blood leaking onto their clothes.
But this is beginning to change. Danier spends her mornings – along with other women from her village – making and selling biodegradable and good quality sanitary products. The women not only make the products, they also encourage other women and girls to use them and are starting to break the silence around the issue. The women earn a small income from making the pads, which they are able to use to help pay for their education.
Before this project, Danier explained that everyone was using rags but now, most of them are using the products she and her friends make!
“I’m happy, I even use the product. I am helping other girls. No longer do they have to feel shy.”
I was touched by how the project had empowered Danier. She felt she had a voice and was making a difference to the girls in her community. Menstruation should not be a taboo subject. Women and girls across the world should not feel ashamed by their periods. Hygiene education and sanitary products should be available to all wherever you live in the world.
Eva Nyamogo lives in Kitale in Kenya. She is a Community Mobiliser who works with her local community to improve their access to water and sanitation.
Three years ago, Eva received training from Practical Action on good hygiene practices, solid waste management and administration and management skills. This training has changed her life as she has the power and skills to work with her community to change their lives forever.
For the past three years, Eva has worked tirelessly to improve the conditions for her community. Before, they had no access to safe and clean drinking water. She said that people would have to walk 4 miles, every day; just to collect water from the stream, which was unclean and unsafe. People were often unwell and she explained that “they thought it was normal to be sick.”
The community now have access to a water kiosk, which provides clean water- for a small fee – every single day. Not only this, the time they spent collecting the water put immense strain on the women who would have to carry it back. The hours it took to collect water could have been spent getting an education or starting a business.
“I want women’s work to be easier. I want them to get a better education by reducing the time they take to collect water.”
Women, men and children would also be forced to defecate outside because there were no toilets, but Eva has managed to change this. Not only do the community now have access to clean water, they also have a toilet block, complete with showers. Eva has been instrumental in establishing the facility, which has grown to provide a laundry washing service to the local mechanics and it even has reliable energy.
Access to water and sanitation has completely changed life for people in Eva’s community, their health has dramatically improved because they are no longer drinking unclean water, they have a better understanding of good hygiene and they no longer have to defecate outside, which has brought dignity to the community members.
Thanks to your support, Practical Action has been able to work with Eva to empower her and help her to transform lives. She added “When you change people’s lives, you feel happy and because of Practical Action, we now talk to the county government.”
I’ve just come to the end of a 10 day visit to Bangladesh, it was my first time to the country and I feel privileged to have been able to go and visit such a beautiful place and meet such remarkable people. What I like about working for Practical Action is that it works in partnership with communities and organisations to drive change and improve lives. And this is exactly what I saw in Bangladesh.
As part of the visit, I went to slums in Faridpur and Jessore in the south. I’m lucky to have travelled and seen quite a lot of our projects but I’ve never seen any urban work before and was very unsure what to expect.
When people say the word slum, all the worst images come to mind, I had visions of cramped communities, sewage running between them, a complete lack of water and sanitation, not to mention the terrible smells. I could not have been more wrong.
I should tell you before I carry on that Practical Action has been working with these communities for a few years. The people living in the slums are considered to be the lowest caste, they are hindu and considered by many to be unclean and uneducated. This means that life is even harder for them as they do not have the same opportunities as others do. They have always carried out the most menial jobs such as street cleaning and pit emptying.
Before the project began, I was told that there was no drainage, so during monsoon season the water would rise and would wash dirty water into their small homes.
They also had no waste collection, so they had no other choice but to live amongst their own rubbish, or to dispose of it on the streets.
There were no schools and many people had no skills meaning they struggled to gain employment.
This project has worked with the women, children and men of these communities to truly lift themselves out of this poverty. They still live in cramped homes but the feeling of ‘community’ and unity amongst them was something rarely seen. They all work together to help each other and not only are their living conditions changing, the impact is much much bigger.
Training in useful and vital skills means that people can earn an income, people just like Rashida. Rashida explained “at the beginning I had nothing. From Practical Action I had training and I was able to start my business with these skills.” Rashida was trained in tailoring, she makes tops, dresses, shirts and just about anything! This training means so much to her, she said “I can send my children to school and invest in the future.”
I also met a lady called Sukia, she told me that “the environment of the slum is better than before,” they had less toilets and no water. They were forced to collect water from other sources but this water was often dirty. But now, they have their own pump, which means that they no longer have to risk their health just to have a drink.
I left feeling uplifted and inspired. These people were empowered and had the knowledge to continue improving their own lives. It was a true example of sustainability and I will be telling everyone about the great work that Practical Action and our partners are doing to support the amazing, strong and welcoming people that are living in the slums. Just like Sukia said, “you and me make a difference together.”
Five weeks into working at Practical Action and I’ve just returned from Malawi to see some of the areas that we will soon be starting a new project, which will introduce solar-power to remote and rural communities in the Chikwawa and Nsanje Districts. This energy will be used to power clinics and water pumps for irrigation systems and schools, enabling local people to access electricity for the first time.
The communities we are reaching out to are living in extreme poverty. Blighted by frequent flooding which devastates crops, coupled with extreme lack of access to water and electricity means that they are not able to lift themselves out of poverty. I visited a school and clinic which had no access to water or electricity. Horace Chimwaza, Health Surveillance Assistant at Kampata Health Post said ‘the challenge we face at this health post is when we have patients suffering from cholera or diarrhoea, we fail to assist them because we do not have lighting. Since cholera patients need to be given Intravenous therapy (IV), this is difficult to do if we have no light, especially at night.’
They currently rely on candles and kerosene lamps to light the clinic. The nearest water source is also 2km away which makes it difficult and time consuming to ensure they have enough water.
Agriculture is also severely affected due to the limited access to water. Deep underground water is readily available but currently remains out of reach to communities in Chikwawa and Nsanje. Solar-powered water pumps will be able to turn this situation around, ensuring that farmers will be able to irrigate more of their land and produce enough crops to feed their families and even earn an income from the production of more crops.
In contrast to this, I also had the opportunity to visit a project that is up and running in Mulanje. Mulanje is a beautiful place and is the home to Malawi’s tallest mountain. The micro-hydro project which was set up by volunteers in the local communities is having a huge impact on the lives of local people. Micro-hydro power is the small-scale harnessing of energy from falling water, such as steep mountain rivers. This project is generating electricity to nearby schools and clinics and more recently to power machinery such as maize mills, meaning that people can now run businesses and earn an income.
Electricity is empowering, it moves families beyond day to day survival. They are more prosperous, they are able to do more and earn a living and schools and clinics are able to run well. In Mulanje, people are even choosing to move to the area and build homes because they see a better future there.
I’m really excited to see the impact that the solar-powered project will have on the communities in Chikwawa and Nsanje, and look forward to sharing the news with you.No Comments » | Add your comment
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