Jane Eason was Practical Action's press officer until 2010. Although she no longer works for Practical Action, her blog posts are retained for archive information.
Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org
Posts by Jane
Today we at Practical Action are talking about quite an unusual anniversary, as today marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Thomas Crapper - the man who revolutionised the flushing lavatory.
Yes, we at Practical Action enjoy talking toilets. So the man who invented the ballcock and promoted sanitary plumbing is very exciting to us… and while we all take ‘the toilet’ for granted not everyone around the world is quite so fortunate.
A few years ago I was in Kenya and visited Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. With more than a quarter of a million people living there, it was not unusual to find more than 200 people sharing a pit latrine, which was then often emptied into a river where children played.
The only other alterntive was the beautifully named ‘flying toilet’. Basically this is where people ‘go’ in a bag or on a piece of paper and then throw it out of the home.
When I visted Kibera I was offered their ‘best toilet’ by community leaders, honestly, it made festival toilets seem – and smell – very sophisticated.
The reality though is diseases such as typhoid and cholera thrive in these conditions – children are especially vulnerable with a child dying every 15 seconds from such diseases.
Practical Action has however been working on sanitation for a number of years, and one project which has proved really successful is our shower and toilet block. Basically the waste goes into a thick, concrete chamber, producing methane, which is connected to a water heating system for the showers.
After seeing the ‘toilets’ people were previously using, this was just amazing to see. And one fantastic side effect is because the area is surrounded by a concrete path, the area has become a hive of social activity as women and mothers meet, while giving children somewhere to play.
Ant and Dec visited these toilets when they were in Kenya, you can really see the difference projects such as this make.2 Comments » | Add your comment
As Christmas Day came and went five years ago, the world look on in shock as on Boxing Day one of the biggest diasters the world had ever seen struck.
No one could imagine the devastation the 2004 tsunami would leave in its wake; news coverage showed horrific images in the hours following it, then hours rolled into days.
Leaving more than half a million people dead it was almost impossible to imagine what could be done to help communities who lost their homes, families and livelihoods.
Yet work carried out by Practical Action has had a major positive impact on the lives of thousands and thousands of people in Sri Lanka.
While the statistics painted a grim picture; in Sri Lanka alone more than half a million people were displaced, 31,000 people died and thousands more were missing. In addition 150,000 people lost their livelihoods, 25,000 acres of farm land lost due to salinity and 120,000 houses had to be rebuilt.
However through working with more than 120,000 people, people’s lives were transformed in the months following the devastation, by using a mix of traditional and innovative ways to rehabilitate communities, homes and businesses.
We worked with farmers such as Ranjith, with a toddler and a young baby, struggling to grow rice as land became more saline. He told us how his plants stopped yielding rice as his land was too salty. By working with him – and others like him – to grow traditional rice varieties which were saline reisistant, people like Ranjith were able to earn more money. The rice was easier to sell at market and also meant he could pay off loans. And as the rice didn’t need fertisiler or pesticides, he had more money to invest.
Hardest hit was the fishing industry with a third of Sri Lankan fishermen killed and more than 80 per cent of their boats destroyed – which equated to 30,000. By introducing boat building yards to produce high quality canoes, based on these fishermen’s needs, people were able to earn a living. Many boats donated by other organisations after the disaster were often unsuitable and discarded.
By helping to rebuild and repair boats, it meant people could regain their independence, not having to rely on food aid but starting up successful and vital businesses.
One of the charity’s biggest successes was house rebuilding. By using technologies developed by Practical Action and locally available materials, people were trained in how to rebuild their homes. This work led to the charity becoming a finalist in the World Habitat Awards, which recognises practical and innovative solutions to housing needs and problems.
As Vishaka Hidellage, Director, Practical Action Sri Lanka, said: “The 2004 tsunami devastated so many lives, yet people wanted to know what they could do move on to rebuild their lives with pride and dignity. Five years later we are still working with communities; whether it is supporting lagoons and fisheries, paddy farming, or working with people on new enterprises such as dairy or growing new crops, the people of Sri Lanka refused to let this devastating event beat them. While we will all remember what happened with tremendous sadness we will continue to look forward to a brighter future.”
While no one will ever forget the tragic events which unfolded five years ago, Practical Action’s ‘small is beautiful’ approach – so appropriate to an organiation founded by Schumacher – along with people’s determination, hope and independence, shows what can be achieved in the face of what may have seemed hopeless to the rest of the world.
We should celebrate what people have achieved in such desperate circumstances, while hoping communities will never have to face such losses ever again. This work still goes on and we regularly hear inspiring stories of how people continue to thrive. Let’s hope this festive period brings joy to people in Sri Lanka and the rest of the world.No Comments » | Add your comment
RATHER than starting a new decade full of hope, developing countries have been failed by the outcome of the United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen.
In the run up to the summit, hopes were high for a fair and just deal for those most vulnerable to climate change, yet no legally binding deal was agreed.
At the last minute a ‘deal’ was agreed by world leaders, but the ‘Copenhagen Accord’ leaves much to be desired.
The main points include:
â€¢ No emission reduction targets for industrialised counties
â€¢ No plan for how to implement adaptation support for developing counties
â€¢ No timeframe for resolving these issues
It is felt the Copenhagen Cop has put talks back by two years, leaving developing countries not further forward than they were following the Bali talks in 2007, where it was decided 2009 would be the final deadline for a post Kyoto successor.
And while NGOs and key members of country delegations were effectively locked out of the talks or forced to queue for hours, celebrity and rock stars seemingly had easy access to the conference.
This meant experts were unable to scrutinise text coming out of the conference and raise important questions regarding the detail.
This year’s indecision and lack of leadership means millions of people across the world will continue to suffer as climate injustice adversely affects the lives of those who have done little to contribute to the problem.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Just two weeks before Christmas every year, Human Rights Day is recognised and celebrated across the globe. This is nothing new; it has been happening every year since 1950.
This year the focus is ‘non discrimination’, specifically ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights’.
For the last few days I have been taking in as much news as I can from the climate change talks, from the internet, radio, TV or just listening to other people talking about it, it has made me think just how global warming is taking away people’s dignity and rights.
I look at Practical Action’s work and the devastating news we have heard from Kenya as a cruel drought continues to steal livelihoods, livestock and ultimately people’s dignity.
While Practical Action’s team in out in Copenhagen, fighting for a just deal for the world’s poor, it made me wonder how many of the delegates are actually thinking what a deal actually means for people living in extreme poverty, which is worsening as climate change ravages the environment and destroys lives.
We are already hearing media stories of ‘leaked text’ and ‘splits between countries over obligations’. The harsh reality is we do not have time for the talks to become more fractious and countries ultimately acting out of self interest.
Let’s make this years Human Rights Day mean something, let’s make sure that we start the new decade giving people the dignity they so rightly deserve.No Comments » | Add your comment
As the UN climate change talks open in Copenhagen, Veena Khaleque, director of Practical Action Bangladesh, explains why the developing world needs a fair, ambitious and effective deal that will end climate injustice and avert the worst impacts of climate change.No Comments » | Add your comment
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New approaches in tune with people and the planet must be adopted if we are to support a new climate deal in Copenhagen.
With less than a week to go before world leaders are due to meet at this year’s UNFCCC meeting, charities – including Practical Action – and Nobel Prize winners are calling for a new economic model to ensure a deal for the world’s poor.
The report Other Worlds are Possible - Human Progress in an Age of Climate Change; is the sixth ‘up in Smoke’ report to be published by the Working Group on Climate Change and Development, alerting the world to huge threat from global warming to human progress.
Success or failure at Copenhagen rests on whether governments will embrace new ways or working, encompassing our changed economic and environmental circumstances or continue to support old, failed economic approaches.
With a foreward from Dr Dr Rajendra Pachauri, Chairman of the Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Other Worlds are Possible includes radical economic proposals from leading economists based in developing countries – already beginning to bear the human and economic costs of climate change. Their points are often overlooked by commentators in rich countries. More info on contributions can be found here
With Copenhagen only days away it is essential a legally binding agreement on climate change is reached. Droughts have devastated Kenya in recent months and hesitation will only see the situation escalate as world leaders argue from their perspective of national interest. This report highlights just how important it is and how a new economic model will benefit those already suffering, yet contributing the least.No Comments » | Add your comment
Every year World Food Day takes place October 16th. The aim of this day is to heighten awareness of food issues across the globe.
And with more than one billion people – a sixth of the world’s population – undernourished, it is not difficult to see the scale of the problem we currently.
Only a few days ago, the United Nations warned more international effort is needed to cut the number of hungry people across the world.
This year World Food Day is focusing on ‘food security at times of crisis’ and it is not difficult to see why. Devastating droughts are sweeping through Kenya, food prices are rocketing, world markets and climate change are all contributing to uncertainty about the future of food.
Our Food Security Policy Adviser, Patrick Mulvany, is gearing up to attend the World Summit on Food Security next month. This will look at how we can make sure there is enough food to feed a growing population – estimated to be 9 billion by 2050.
Yet while these important high level discussions are taking place, there are so many exciting projects on the ground, run by communities and providing real solutions to food production and hunger.
In Kenya, Practical Action is working with drought-stricken Maasai communities on adapting their livelihoods to ensure they survive the harsh conditions, currently sweeping through the country.
While pumpkin cultivation, floating gardens and ‘growing fish’ in Bangladesh are giving people not only food, but a livelihood and a more certain future.
We are also encouraging people in the UK to ‘do their bit’ with our new ‘Food for Good’ initiative. From formal dinner parties, informal coffee mornings, to barbeques and picnics, friends and family are asked to make a donation which can help us carry on our vital work.
Food security continues to hit the world’s poorest communities first – and more than 30 countries are already experiencing food emergencies. We will continue to work directly with people who are being hit the hardest, to come up with solutions which will offer long term and dignified solutions.1 Comment » | Add your comment
We have all seen the news headlines from Kenya; animal carcasses strewn across the landscape and ten million facing extreme food shortages.
This is one of the worst droughts in recent years; as well as little rain; maize production is down by almost 30 percent, compounding the problem further.
Practical Action works with Maasai communities, both in the Rift Valley and Turkana. We are working with communities, creating a nucleus herd of the healthiest animals, reconditioning and putting in more boreholes and working with people on alternative livelihoods.
Just three years ago the UNFCCC took place in Nairobi; Maasai communities – many travelling for three days – took to the streets of Nairobi asking for world leaders to take action.
One Maasai woman told world leaders: “Africa is sometimes called the forgotten continent. And it looks like you’ve forgotten us againâ€¦. I wonder if you are just like all the other tourists who come here to see some wild animals and some poor Africans; take some pictures and then go home and forget about us.”
I was lucky enough to talk to Maasai elder Julius Lekurra, both in Nairobi and also at his home, deep in the Rift Valley. In the three hours it took to get to Magadi from Nairobi, the landscape quickly changed. No longer was it a vibrant green, but sparse, dusty backdrop, while temperatures. He told me ‘how the clouds were changing and no longer came’.
Julius lost 80 per cent of his herd in 2005, and while he told me how Maasai people were used to hardship. ”Thirty years ago we used to have enough grass but now the atmosphere has changed. We are no longer sure that the rains will come. There must be politics in heaven.”
This current drought is no less devastating. Catherine Senja, now relies on selling the famous Maasai red shukas to feed her family: “My husband and I had 500 goats and 490 cattle. The drying up of water points and wilting of the once green grass means I now only have 49 goats and 5 cows.”
Maasai communities are proud, independent people; eloquent and vibrant. The people I met did not want money or handouts, or to point the finger of blame. Yet they are being pushed to the edge and many will struggle to survive.
Without urgent action in Copenhagen fear for the future of the Maasai elder and his community I was lucky enough to spend time with. Many may not have known what the phrase climate change meant, but they knew changing weather patterns were having major impacts on their lives.
People from all over the world are taking part in Blog Action Day to talk about climate change – it’s not too late to have your say.No Comments » | Add your comment
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