Climate change | Blogs

  • Volunteerism, Community Services and Story of Abdul Khaleque

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    October 4th, 2015


    Volunteerism has a long history in Bangladesh. It was mostly local led and initiated by local youths. It was very much context, time and location specific. Different local youth clubs took different initiatives like building bamboo bridges, road construction in remote areas, providing non-formal education teaching in a school, organizing drama and sports competition etc. However, since the emergence of development organizations in Bangladesh, volunteerism had been practiced widely for addressing different local and national problems. Even there are some cases of success (like in disaster management), but mostly NGOs facilitated volunteerism is a failure attempt. This write up is focused on narratives of an individual volunteer- Abdul Khaleque who has been providing volunteer services to his community and can be considered to be a successful volunteer.


    Khaleque measuring the water level

    Khaleque measuring the water level

    Mohammad Abdul Khaleque (38) lives in Belkuchi Upazila of Sirajganj District. He is from a poor but large (8) family. In 1997, when his father died, he left only 10 decimal of land and a hut for all the family members. In the following year, his mother also died. Therefore, they were in a very miserable situation. As in the meantime, his only one sister got married and other four brothers started living separately. Therefore, after death of his parents, he started living with one his brother’s family. Due to poverty, he could not continue his schooling after grade seven. When he was 21, his brother and other relatives arranged for his marriage and he got married and started living with his wife separately (not with his brother’s family). He used to earn his livelihood by selling manual labour but it was not easy for people like him who always get affected erosion of Jamuna river. There was no adequate job round the year. Thus, his family suffered from a shortage of food.

    Skilled Volunteerism:

    After starting the V2R (Vulnerability to Resilience) project in Sirajganj District in 2009, he was selected as a Skill Volunteer (Livestock) to provide support for building resilient community. To provide appropriate support, he got 18-day training (15-days-long basic technical training on livestock health services and 3-day training on disaster preparedness and response) in 2010. As input support, the project also provided basic equipment to perform the duties of a Skill Volunteer (Livestock). Similarly, under TAM TAM project, he has also been selected and trained up as a ‘Gauge Reader’ (water level measuring) on August 2014 by Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) of Bangladesh Water Development Board. He also got equipment support for disseminating the Flood Early Warning. Therefore, as a volunteer, he collects water level reading 5 times daily and send to the FFWC. FFWC gives message to all enlisted community.   Still today, he continues with these activities.


    Khaleque is providing livestock services as paravet

    Family livelihood:

    For his livelihood, he provides livestock treatment services to community people. In the meantime, because of good services, people started calling him from 7-8 neighboring villagers. Providing services on livestock, every day on an average he earns BDT400-500 (approximately USD 5-6). Through this income and confidence gained working for community, he managed to save some money and make assets. As of today, he built a ten shed house spending BDT 1,75,000 and has taken mortgage of 66 decimal land by BDT 75,000. He also purchased 2 cattle by BDT47, 000 for fatting. For safe drinking water, he installed a Tube Well and set up a latrine for sanitation.

    He told me:


    Khaleque is at his medicine shop

    “I am grateful to V2R Project that enlightens my life. Now, my children are going to school regularly. I have built linkage/networking with Government and Non-government agencies and departments to improve quality of services. I have established a medicine pharmacy in my house.”      

    In future, he plans to continue and expand the livestock treatment activities and medicine pharmacy. He will buy motor cycle for providing services to more people. Even he started working as volunteer but now people know him as livestock Paravet. He feels so proud for it and happy with present life.


    Once upon a time when volunteerism was community led and it had its own mechanism for existence. However, while NGOs started applying customized volunteerism (like driving their priorities, paying certain portion of the expenditure and asking contribution for others from community) has polluted the spirit of volunteerism. However, there are still some good examples where NGOs support for developing skills of the community volunteer and linking with income earning opportunity. Abdul Khaleque is one such volunteer who received training and supports for developing his skills to earn his bread. Till today, it has been working!

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Knowledge systems, chains and grids

    Rob Cartridge

    September 28th, 2015

    Last week I was pleased to attend the launch of the Climate Knowledge Brokers (CKB) manifesto at DFID. It’s a really handy guide to the role of knowledge brokers, how they should go about their tasks and why they are so important. Whilst the launch of the manifesto has conveniently arrived ahead of COP21 (the 2015 Paris Climate Conference), I think the models and lessons from this document have wider importance for knowledge brokers across all sectors.

    In particular, the necessity to understand the needs of the audience is one of the main items highlighted by the CKB. This seems a straightforward observation, but it’s easily forgotten because the links between knowledge ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ are rarely as simple as they appear on paper. I found this recognition particularly relevant to our work: the ‘chain’ between the creators of knowledge and those that will find it useful is complex. It’s also full of gaps, with actors often possessing neither the will nor the way to pass knowledge on.

    courtesy of Jerry Manas

    courtesy of Jerry Manas

    For knowledge brokers like Practical Answers, we must act effectively in both directions: communicating the needs of our consumers to our suppliers whilst formatting, contextualising and organising information to make knowledge accessible and appropriate for our users. A great point raised during the meeting, and an approach that we strive for in Practical Answers, was that constantly asking questions is the key to success in knowledge brokering!

    The CKB have also previously talked about a ‘Climate Grid’: a network of brokers, working in a co-ordinated way (digitally and offline) to make sure marginalised communities get access to the knowledge they need.  But I wonder if it’s better to see the whole process as a knowledge system, albeit a complex and ever-changing one. It was clear at the meeting, for example, that people who are running large programmes for DFID are both knowledge creators and knowledge users. A chain, focussed on brokers, tends to underestimate the other influencing factors in the whole knowledge system. When it comes to climate change, everyone is exposed to messages from a whole host of actors beyond formal knowledge brokers, including the media, the private sector, scientific organisations, governments and their community: not to mention special interest groups and lobbyists. In such a complex system, it’s vital to understand these gaps, dynamics and needs to provide knowledge that those on the front line of a changing climate can use.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Dams to fight poverty in North Darfur

    Awadalla Hamid Mohamed

    September 9th, 2015

    Sail Gedaim Water Harvesting Dam: An integrated approach to water resource management in North Darfur

    Over the past six months, Practical Action and its local partners have been busy designing and constructing a new water-harvesting dam in El Fashir  North Darfur. This is one of three dams to be constructed as part of the Wadi El Ku Catchment Management Project, a three-year project implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Practical Action, with funding from the European Union.

    Sail Gedaim damThe primary purpose of the 775 metre long earth dam is to divert water from gullies and to spread it across as wide an area of agricultural land as possible upstream, while ensuring water is also diverted and spread downstream. By thus slowing and spreading the flow of water, a greater area of land will be irrigated increasing the level of water retention which will increase agricultural productivity while also ensuring higher levels of ground water recharge.

    A range of potential sites for the dam were identified and an area named Sail Gedaim, north-west of Zamzam village and 7km south of El Fashir town, the capital of North Darfur state, was selected. A technical study and design of the dam was carried out by technical specialists from the Water Harvesting Centre at the University of Nyala, South Darfur.

    The selection of the final dam site and the design of the dam were made in accordance with the key principles of an integrated water resource management (IWRM) approach. Three of the most important IWRM principles used were as follows.

    1. Widespread consultations with all key stakeholders were held. The needs and usage patterns of different water users upstream and downstream of the proposed site were taken in to consideration. At the same time, key technical, government and policy bodies were also consulted, namely the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Physical Planning and the Ground Water and Wadis department. These diverse consultations ensure all relevant voices and needs are integrated into the design and function of the dam.
    2. The dam is designed to ensure equitable access to water. The dam is designed to improve access to water for agricultural purposes for more than 20 villages upstream and downstream of the dam. As part of the planning process, it was agreed with local leaders that land irrigated by the dam would be fairly divided up between all members of the community.
    3. The long-term impact and sustainability of the dam has been taken into consideration. It was through community consultations, in the form of Practical Action’s Participatory Action Plan Development (PAPD) approach, that the idea of constructing a dam was identified as a priority by all of the nearby 20 communities. As it reflects their own development priorities, the community willingly contributed financial resources, unskilled labour and locally-available raw materials to the construction of the dam. A community dam committee was established that is responsible for dam management and maintenance. This committee includes members from upstream and downstream communities and is gender balanced. Over the coming months the committee will receive managerial and technical training.  In terms of environmental sustainability, a social and environmental impact assessment was carried out prior to construction of the dam to study and document the positive impacts of the dam, such as, increasing soil moisture contain, improving soil features such as soil aeration and to promote greater biodiversity. In addition, the study identified solutions to address potential negative impacts of the dam.

    Darfur opening ceremonyConstruction of the dam was completed in July 2015. The total cost of the dam was a little under US $300,000. Given the dam is expected to irrigate more than 4,000 feddans of land (1,680 hectares) which is farmed by approximately 11,000 households (66,000 people), it represents exceptionally good value for money, especially given an expected lifetime of more than ten years if well managed, operated and maintained. It is also anticipated that the dam will provide seasonal agricultural employment opportunities for IDPs living in the nearby IDP camp in Zamzam, while also providing crops and vegetables for thousands of inhabitants of El Fashir town. To ensure further value for money, locally available raw materials (sand, soil, rocks) were used wherever possible. (Large quantities of soil were extracted for the construction of the earth embankment from a nearby village called Umroawaba, which suffers from acute seasonal water shortages, which in turn presented the opportunity to dig a new hafir (reservoir) for the village.)

    Following the first rains this year, many farmers reported that water had reached areas that have not been irrigated for over 20 years.

    From my point of view, dam technology applied above will change the life of thousands of Darfurians who are seriously affected by ongoing conflict. That is the reason behind the promotion of Technology Justice in Practical Action’s programs.

    4 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Today’s Earth Overshoot Day

    Margaret Gardner

    August 13th, 2015

    Today 13 August is Earth’s Overshoot Day – the day when we have used up all of the ecological resources available for the year. From now on we – as a planet – are in ecological deficit –using up resources we don’t have. And what’s worse according to The Guardian the pace at which we gobble up resources is getting quicker – with this year’s Earth Overshoot day 6 days earlier than last.

    And our response?

    I worry we’ve turned to the ecological equivalent of a payday loan – continuing to squander resources irrespective of the cost, long term implications, and hugely high impact inflation. Fracking, oil exploration and drilling in the Artic, food waste – in the UK retailers and consumers throwing away between 30 and 40% of all food, etc.

    We experience ourselves not as part of nature but somehow separate from it – or at worst dominant, scarily in control of our ecology with the faith that technology will somehow bail us out.

    Why does this matter?

    Climate change is already hitting the poorest people hardest. They live in the main on some of the most marginal and therefore vulnerable land.

    In April I was in Zimbabwe talking with farmers struggling with increasingly erratic rainfall. Crops yields were poor as the rain came late after the crops had already ripened and wilted. John Siambare Practical Actions Field Officer explained ‘this year crops planted using conventional farming techniques died before they did anything’

    We at Practical Action can work with farmers to help them cope – through

    Irrigation scheme Zimbabwe 2015

    Irrigation scheme Zimbabwe 2015

    agroecological farming techniques that maintain moisture in the soil, crop diversification, food preservation, solar irrigation etc. And to help build peoples resilience – if you don’t know what environmental change is going to throw at you – and one of the biggest impacts of climate change is increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather – how can you plan – you just need to get as good as you can at responding to change.

    But ultimately climate change is catastrophic and we will get to a stage where adaptation is impossible and land where people now live no longer viable.

    If the increases in consumption continues as now – in 2 to 3 years Earth Overshoot day will be in July, 5 years after that in June.

    Time to change our ways?

    Fritz Schumacher, Practical Action’s founder, in his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ , talked about moving to a world where we look to maximise wellbeing with minimum consumption. Small is Beautiful was published in 1973. The time for change is now.



    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • A Progressive Approach to Climate Compatible Development

    co-author Francis Muchiri

    Sustainable development will increasingly be judged on emerging metrics such as climate compatibility and gender-sensitive approaches.

    Climate change is a collective challenge facing the world today, and any effective solutions to slow down or mitigate its effects will need collaboration at all levels. It continues to manifest itself through natural shocks that are increasing in intensity and frequency: raging floods, extended and unpredictable droughts, compromised eco-systems and so on. The effects of climate change have a direct bearing on industry, industrialisation, food security, human migration trends, production systems, availability of water, and overall poverty levels, with the greatest negative impacts being felt by the most vulnerable groups.

    Because of the diffuse nature of its effects, conversations around climate-compatible development should take into account the diversity of efforts required: from the broader policy level, right down to the communal level, that will lead to greater impact. Kenyan women selling charcoal in Bondo market

    Women in both rural and urban areas face barriers (social, economic and political) that limit their ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. However, there is a danger in singling them out as passive victims or recipients to the benefits of adaptation or mitigation activities. Any collective efforts need to engage women alongside men and any other groups, as potential actors or agents for change. Information on the effectiveness of gender-sensitive approaches has not been quantified and analysed to produce clear evidence on the need for engendered approaches in climate compatible development. The lack of segregated data makes it difficult to demonstrate the link between gender, adaption and mitigation activities. Indeed, the impacts of climate change are experienced differently according to age, sex, location, and economic activity. It further has a composite effect on education, employment and the health sector, among others. We need to ask ourselves whether ongoing interventions incorporate strategies that ensure equal participation of both women and men.

    This presents a unique opportunity; to provide the required benchmarks on the effectiveness of gender-sensitive climate compatible development to create frameworks for future planning, investment and resourcing. Successful implementation of these interventions will require a demonstration of equity, where everyone benefits from, and is able to contribute to these measures regardless of their social status, locations, gender, occupation and so on.

    Evidence produced from Practical Action’s program implementation over the past 50 years has shown that community initiatives and interventions will neither be effective nor sustainable unless there is equitable buy-in and contribution from both men and women. Based on complete projects that integrated gender-sensitive approaches, there exist prospects to demonstrate how and to what extent engagement of both women and men in adaptation and mitigation efforts has contributed to the achievement of specific objectives, while improving their livelihoods.

    Susan Asiko lives in Kibera. She found herself in an unfortunate position when her only source of livelihood as a domestic worker came to an abrupt halt. After months of living from hand to mouth, and many times sleeping on an empty stomach, a neighbour introduced Susan to the briquette making business. With minimal education, Practical Action provided both business and technology support that has empowered her to manage her enterprise and make business decisions effectively. From an initial investment of Kshs. 200, she has been able to grow her business, producing an environmentally-friendly fuel for household use, and see her children through school. Her enterprise is meeting a number of varied goals: it is making use of available waste material, reducing reliance on ineffective biomass at the household level within her locale, and limiting the pollution generated from unclean fuels here. It might seem like a drop in the ocean, but because she was able to access relevant training, she can now make her individual contribution towards mitigating against the effects of climate change. How much more can be done to build an army of Susans?

    Practical Action through its consulting arm, Practical Action Consulting, is collaborating with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) across three regions (Latin America, Eastern Africa and Southern Asia) to manage Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)’s learning study dubbed “Gender Equality and Climate Compatible Development: Drivers and challenges to people’s empowerment”.

    The study will manage the production and dissemination of high quality evidence on gender-sensitive approaches to Climate Compatible Development (CCD) including how and to what extent they can contribute to increasing women’s ability to engage in adaptation and mitigation efforts in ways that affect the long-term impacts. The findings from the three sub-national studies will be used to substantiate the benefits of gender equality within the development and adoption of policy decisions and the subsequent design and implementation of appropriate development programmes in the case study countries and beyond.

    The one-year study will look at the adoption and meaning of ‘gender-sensitive’ approaches to Climate Compatible Development in different urban contexts, and also build understanding of the roles both men and women play in climate change related initiatives. It will also explore the socio-economic, political and cultural factors and conditions which either support or constrain gender responsive policies; strategies, approaches and actions; and the existing barriers in effective participation of women in decision making for activities around disaster risk reduction, post-disaster recovery, adaptation and mitigation in varied settings.

    In Kenya the CDKN Project will evaluate, through a gendered lens to CCD, the five-year Comic Relief Funded project titled People’s Plans in to Practice: Building Productive and Liveable Settlements with slum dwellers in Kisumu and Kitalewith part of its strategic focus on ‘People Living in Slums’. The project was implemented jointly by three partners; Practical Action, Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP) and Shelter Forum in collaboration with the defunct Municipal Councils of Kisumu and Kitale, commencing in 2008 and closing in December 2013.

    The overall aim of the project was to improve the well-being, productivity and living conditions of poor people living in informal settlements in Kenya and the East African region, 80% of who were women and children. It aimed at ensuring their inclusion in the planning and development processes of the Local Authorities; and by improving access to clean water, better sanitation, waste management, drainage, supporting secure land tenure and affordable housing.

    The CDKN study will document efforts made by development agencies to integrate gender into climate compatible development whilst identifying gaps that exist both in programming and policy at national and county levels. This will inform subsequent design and implementation of appropriate urban development strategies in cities and towns experiencing similar challenges.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Learning from 2014 Karnali River Floods in West Nepal

    Sumit Dugar

    August 5th, 2015

    As part of Zurich’s flood resilience program, the post event review capability (PERC) provides research and independent reviews of large flood events. It seeks to answer questions related to aspects of flood resilience, flood risk management and catastrophe intervention. It looks at what has worked well (identifying best practices) and opportunities for further improvements.

    The Karnali region in Nepal experienced major flooding in August 2014, causing 222 deaths and severely affecting more than 120,000 people. The challenge now is to recover, build resilience and to prevent similar damages and loss during future disasters.

    Urgent Case for Recovery: What we can learn from the August 2014 Karnali River Floods in Nepal is a post event review evaluating flood events, impacts, response and recovery to understand what happened, what could have been done differently, and opportunities for building flood resilience in Nepal. The post event review conducted by ISET International, ISET-Nepal, Practical Action Nepal and Zurich examines two rivers and two districts in the area affected by the floods -the Karnali and Babai Rivers in Kailali and Bardiya districts in West Nepal.

    While the early warning systems saved many lives, these lives have been irrevocably changed with the widespread loss of livelihoods, property, and critical infrastructure. The challenge now is to prevent such damages and loss from future disasters and develop local resilience. A common misconception is that building resilience is an expensive, resource heavy process. However, critical gaps in the disaster management system can be fixed with inexpensive and simple solutions.

    Problems seen in the 2014 floods – such as unwieldy response procedures and lack of information – hamper response to all disasters, including the recent earthquakes. Decision-making processes should be improved, more reliable data gathered, and aid needs to get to those people who need it most. In the end, it comes down to finding ways to become ‘resilient’ to disasters. Resiliency means risk mitigation and preparation, not just picking up the pieces and starting again after every new catastrophe. This is also the focus of Zurich’s flood resilience alliance program.

    Schematic of Karnali and Babai Basin

    Schematic of Karnali and Babai Basin

    Focusing on the disaster management landscape as a whole, including disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery, this post event review evaluates the flood events, impacts, response and recovery to understand what happened, what could have been done differently, opportunities for action, and identify opportunities for improving flood risk and disaster management as a whole in Nepal.

    The bigger picture that emerges from the 2014 floods in Nepal can be applied more universally: long-term thinking and addressing chronic problems that increase hazards should be part of the picture to get beyond relief efforts. Much work is still needed to save individuals, families and entire communities from the devastation of floods.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Climate Smart Agriculture: why avoiding ambiguity is vital to success

    Jack Spoor

    June 25th, 2015

    Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) is a phrase that has been gaining increasing prominence in both the sphere of international development and in mainstream media. But despite some powerful backers, CSA has not been without criticism. There are growing calls for clear guidelines in order to distinguish between what is ‘climate-smart’ and what is just business as usual under a different name.


    Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes

    Adapting and building resilience to climate change

    Reducing and/or removing greenhouse gases emissions, where possible”

    (FAO, 2015)

    These are what the FAO considers the three main pillars of CSA. If you were to ask most development practitioners what they thought of such goals, you would probably get a variation of same answer: “wonderful, but how do we achieve this?”. This is the question asked by Practical Action’s second Technology Justice briefing paper: “Climate Smart Agriculture and smallholder farmers: the critical role of Technology Justice in effective adaptation”.

    More specifically, how do we ensure that CSA is actually achieving its aims?

    This question is an important one because it is underpins many objections to CSA. In October 2014, the Guardian published an article that criticised the involvement of certain large multinationals in the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture. It warned against “false solutions under vague “climate-smart” rhetoric”, and noted that the “looseness of the term” opened up the CSA label to exploitation. This article echoed the September 2014 paper by the same author from Actionaid International: Clever name, Losing game?, which was also highly critical of the ambiguity of CSA.


    farmer adaptation climate change

    Agricultural farmers in Jequetepeque, Peru


    These criticisms are legitimate and expose serious flaws in a large-scale international initiative. As such, it is imperative that these flaws are addressed as soon as possible. Without clear definitions, CSA is vulnerable to being reduced to a buzzword, to be used to boost green credentials without making vitally important changes to food production systems.

    The risks are twofold: firstly, if CSA initiatives are seen as risky, participation and commitment will wane. Secondly, if the claims of Actionaid International, La Via Campesina and other critics become reality, then massive damage could be done to both the environment and the reputation of future projects.

    Practical Action’s policy brief sets out how the three pillars of Technology Justice – access, innovation, and sustainable use – can be used as a lens for analysing whether CSA initiatives are really ‘climate-smart’. It explores whether these initiatives support smallholders, or simply ‘greenwash’ business as usual.

    For CSA initiatives to achieve equitable and sustainable agricultural development, initiatives must, at a minimum:

    • Improve and support access to agricultural production for marginalized smallholder farmers in a way that minimizes risk
    • Promote user-centred innovation that improves the adaptive capacity of smallholder agricultural systems
    • Facilitate sustainable use of the natural resource base to ensure the viability of continued production and adaptation

    The paper shows how practices that could currently be labelled CSA would be excluded if Technology Justice criteria were applied. For example, the use of inorganic fertilizer for quick returns on investment is cited as something which can be both harmful to the environment and fall under the banner of CSA. However, if Technology Justice criteria are applied, inorganic fertilizer can no longer be classed as climate-smart, as it supports neither accessibility nor sustainability. These principles can be used to assess all agricultural and CSA practices to ensure their long term impact is sustainable and positive for smallholder farmers.


    adaptation climate change farmer agriculture

    Woman farmer showing successful salt-tolerant rice crop, Bangladesh


    The criticisms of CSA in its current form have been effective in highlighting the risk of its exploitation and misuse. However, it is possible to distinguish between the concept’s flaws and its potential. CSA is here to stay; as such, it is vitally important that it is as effective and equitable as possible. Working towards Technology Justice in agricultural adaptation is truly climate-smart.

    Practical Action’s Technology Justice Policy Briefing Series can be found here.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Will agroecology, smallholder farmers and technology justice be adequately considered in Bonn?

    Colin McQuistan

    June 5th, 2015

    Climate Change is a recognised threat to global agriculture and places in jeopardy the wellbeing of the poorest people whose fragile livelihoods are primarily dependent on agricultural production. Millions of farmers own less than one hectare of land, live on less than $1 a day and struggle to produce enough to feed their families, these are the people on the frontline when famine strikes. The fragility of their livelihoods will increase if serious climate action isn’t taken.


    Pramila Bote age 28 making organic pesticide

    At the Bonn climate change talks the UNFCCC secretariat must be congratulated for dedicating time to discuss the climate change threat to global agriculture. The secretariat organised a series of workshops at which parties were asked to present on a number of critical agricultural issues, this blog reports on the first of these workshops, which explored forecasting and early warning systems highlighting progress and outstanding challenges.

    Overall the workshop reflected the current state of play, with developed countries presenting fairly coherent approaches that linked meteorological services, with extension advisors, policymakers and most importantly farmers and others whose livelihoods are dependent on primary production.  Unfortunately the developing countries struggled to report on more than a few isolated pilot projects[1].

    The workshop clearly recognised the immense benefits that forecasting and early warning systems can deliver, unfortunately very few farmers in the developing world are receiving these benefits and their productivity is therefore compromised. These countries recognised a number of almost universally barriers to these systems, which included issues of compatibility of existing software and hardware designed for a developed country context and the need for technology transfer and supportive financing.  They recognised their huge limitations in technical capacity, especially human capacities to install, maintain and manage these systems. They also highlighted the need for systems that deliver useful and meaningful information for local farmers. This will require an interface that can support local languages and indigenous knowledge, linking science to local systems and making forecast and early warning information usable for local people.

    Interestingly at the same time on the other side of the world the ICT for Agriculture community (#ICTforAg and #ICT4Ag) were discussing the role of technology.  It was reported that agricultural yields can be boosted by access to up to date information, about markets price, short term weather information and longer term seasonal forecasts, with a 11% increase reported for text messaging[2], however when this information was provided as recorded messages the productivity benefits jumped to 26%[3].  This clearly demonstrates the need not only for information but for information in a form that can be acted upon.

    So let’s hope the Paris Climate agreement to be signed at COP21 recognises the potential of forecasting and early warning systems and puts in place effective mechanisms for technology transfer, not just handing out bespoke systems, but also how to work with developing country partners to develop appropriate systems that meet local needs. Technology transfer will also require financing, it’s not fair to only hand out technology, it is vital to support countries to develop and adapt systems which meet their particular needs.  In the spirit of technology justice, sharing knowledge and finance will empower developing countries to design systems that build on their existing skills and knowledge to produce sustainable and practical solutions that reduce the fragility of the poorest and most vulnerable, those on the frontline when natural hazards strike.




    The text of the agreement on how the world will tackle climate change and set targets that will keep global temperatures from rising more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels is being negotiated in Bonn this week.

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Controversial report on financing energy access from the UNSE4ALL

    Simon Trace

    May 20th, 2015

    I’m writing this blog while sitting in the very impressive surrounds of the UN General Assembly Hall in New York on the 3rd day of this year’s UN Sustainable Energy for All (UNSE4ALL) annual forum. It’s great to see so many people gathered in one place to discuss the goals of universal access to energy, a doubling of the amount of renewable energy in the global energy mix and a doubling of the rate of improvement in energy efficiency. Although there is a long way to go, the UNSE4ALL initiative has genuinely accelerated interest in these issues in the last couple of years and has galvanised investment and developed really innovative ways of transparently tracking progress against these goals through what’s known as the Global Tracking Framework.

    energy enablesPractical Action has lent its full support to UNSE4ALL and continues to believe ensuring its success will be a critical contribution to both fighting poverty and achieving a sustainable future for everyone on the planet. But sitting here today, listening to a debate on how we find the necessary finance to achieve the goals, something worries me about the assumptions behind some of the calculations for funding needs for universal energy access. In 2011 the International Energy Agency (IEA) annual World Energy Outlook produced a detailed analysis of the funding needs to achieve universal access by 2030. Critical to that analysis were the assumptions about how far extensions to central electricity grids would be the answer to providing energy for those who do not have it at the moment and how much off grid solutions (such as solar powered lights, solar home systems, independent mini grids powered by renewable energy or diesel generators etc) would play a part. The IEA analysis concluded that total investment in energy access would need to range between around $30 billion a year over the period 2010 to 2015 to around $55 billion a year over the period 2026 to 2030. During that period the proportion of that investment that would need to be made in off grid technologies would need to rise from around 25% at the start to over 50% by the end. That is a really important conclusion as it says that we need a transformation of the energy sector with a huge emphasis on building capacity for an investment in off grid solutions such as solar power, micro hydro electricity, biogas etc. That is very different from where we are today, with the vast amount of investment just going into the grid.

    So why am I worried? Because, the UNSE4ALL’s Finance Committee has just published a report that contradicts this analysis (without providing any information on why different assumptions were used to the IEA). According to this new report off grid technology will only need to account for 15% of total annual investment (as opposed to the IES’s estimate of between 25% and 50%). Why does this matter? Because it takes the pressure off governments and the development banks to redirect finance to where it’s needed – to deliver off grid solutions for those who have no access to electricity now. It’s effectively a green light for business as usual – more money is needed yes, but just for the traditional energy sector. It’s a huge disappointment to see UNSE4ALL publishing a report that so dramatically contradicts the IEA’s earlier analysis without either recognising that contradiction or explaining the rationale behind it.




    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Relief supplies arrive in Dhading, Nepal

    Amanda Ross

    May 15th, 2015

    Following the earthquake on 25th April, Practical Action’s Nepal team  has been working hard to help some of the devastated communities in Gorkha and Dhading.

    Distributing relief in DhadingWe’re focusing on:

    • Water treatment (to reduce deaths by disease, especially in infants)
    • Emergency shelters (for homes, and public facilities e.g. toilets)
    • Energy generation (lighting and heating, including for medical centres)
    • Solar communication technology (for mobile phone charging)

    Please help us deliver this help by donating to our appeal.


    No Comments » | Add your comment