“Sustainable…Participatory…Resilience”…I have to admit that I hate buzzwords – they get thrown about so much that they can often lose their real meaning and ability to do any good. That is why to me the work of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is so important. The Alliance works not only to increase the resilience of communities to floods but also to determine once and for all what makes a community resilient?
Resilience is complicated; there are hundreds of papers, discussions and frameworks floating around the development space. Yet there are no empirically verified frameworks that lay out the contributing factors to resilience. If we don’t know this how can we tell if we are successfully building resilience?
To address this, the Alliance has developed the Flood Resilience Measurement Tool. Working jointly, the Alliance has identified 88 different sources that contribute to flood resilience and is currently halfway through a two year testing phase.
Here is the most exciting part, the Flood Resilience Measurement Tool has been developed into a web based tool and an App. The web tool allows the user to design a study that can be sent directly to the designated field worker’s Android App in their local language. Working offline the field worker fills in responses directly to the app just like a regular survey. The data is easily synchronised to the web tool which generates a summary and collates relevant data together for simple comparison. A simple A, B, C, D grading exercise is then carried out across all 88 sources by team members before a summary is then automatically produced.
Why is this good for the community?
The App: Saves our beneficiaries time during data collection so they can get back to doing what matters to them. Automatic uploading of data saves our teams time so they can spend more time working on things that really matter.
The Grading: Generates informed discussion and gives our teams a greater knowledge of where they work, allowing them to make more informed decisions.
The Web Tool: Simply presented results that can be looked at under a variety of lenses allowing us to make links which may have previously been missed.
The Big Data Set: Data is entered into the tool from a variety of different contexts and countries by several different organisations. Through testing pre and post-flood events researchers hope to identify global trends in community resilience and determine once and for all where to focus disaster risk reduction interventions for maximum community impact.
 Thomas Winderl, “Disaster Resilience Measurements: Stocktaking of Ongoing Efforts in Developing Systems for Measuring Resilience,” United Nations Development Programme, February 2014,1 Comment » | Add your comment
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a number of Practical Action’s projects across Latin America. Not only was I overwhelmed by the colours, culture and pure grit of people living in some really challenging environments, but by the generosity and open friendship they showed when welcoming us into their homes.
At an altitude of almost 4000m, high in the mountains of western Bolivia is the Jesús de Machaca municipality. With a population of roughly 400 people, a tough four hour car ride from any major town along rough dirt roads, this is a remote and arguably hostile landscape to live in. There are few ways to make a living up here, and apart from growing limited crops such as quinoa, the environment means agriculture is largely restricted to farming camelids.
Llamas and alpacas are hardy animals, which when cared for properly; provide a vital income for farmers. However; challenges of weather, uncontrolled breeding, inadequate knowledge of rearing livestock, along with often unfair access to markets means that farmers in the upland areas of Peru and Bolivia are struggling to earn a living to support their families.
But, with the help of our kind supporters, Practical Action is changing this. Below you can read about five simple, sustainable solutions that are helping to transform the livelihoods of camelid farmers in Latin America.
1. Covered shelters:
The relentless push of climate change is causing the weather to be unpredictable in high altitude areas, and farmers in Bolivia are often caught out by sudden bites of frost, or prolonged rainfall. Martin Queso and his family showed us the open fronted shelter that Practical Action have helped him to build, he told us:
“Before, my animals would just range freely. When the weather suddenly changed, with cold winds, ice or rain, they would get sick, often they would die, and I would have no way of making any income. I couldn’t afford to replace a lost llama, and my flock got smaller and smaller.”
With the shelter, now the family can easily bring the herd inside for protection from the elements when needed.
2. Rainwater storage, irrigation and water pumps and troughs:
With erratic and unreliable rainfall, mountainous areas in Peru and Bolivia often go for periods of time where water is scarce. With the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems like this one is Nunõa, Peru, water can be collected and stored. Irrigation pipes are connected to the reservoirs, ensuring the surrounding ground remains green for grazing. In Jesús de Machaca, the installation of photovoltaic water pumps and troughs means that livestock have access to fresh water all year round.
“We didn’t believe it would work at first” Dalia Condori, a member of the local council told us, “but now it has brought water and a better life for so many”
3. Breeding pens:
We’ve seen them patch-worked into the countryside of the United Kingdom for centuries:
Dry-stone wall enclosures that hem-in herds, divide open grassland and mark boundary lines; but this simple method of livestock separation has only been introduced fairly recently to communities in the Nunõa district, near Sicuani in southern Peru. Enabling farmers to isolate certain alpacas from the rest of the herd allows for selective and planned breeding of the healthiest animals, in turn producing the highest quality wool fleece, returning a better price at market. It also means that young alpacas can be nurtured and protected for longer periods of time before being released to roam freely with the herd, thus boosting their fitness and increasing their chances of survival.
4. Market access and product diversification:
In the remote villages of upland Bolivia, getting a fair price for llama wool is tough – individual farmers can only sell for whatever the going price in the local area is, even though this may be much lower than what the fleece is actually worth. Practical Action is working with farming communities to create co-operative groups that can work together to access bigger markets for their products, and demand a higher, fairer price. Llama farmers like Andrés are also encouraged to diversify their products in order to make a better income. Andrés, who has won multiple awards for his spinning and wool-product work, also makes and paints traditional Bolivian clay figures to sell at the tourist markets.
5. Training and knowledge:
Practical Action helps to provide training on basic animal husbandry and wellbeing. Farmers in Jesús de Machaca learn about the right type and quantities of nutritious food, how to administer medication for their llamas when they are sick, and how to maintain the grazing pasture land. The knowledge is then shared between farming communities by Practical Action ‘Promotors’ who help to teach others how to breed and care for their livestock effectively.
It is vitally important to the families in these areas that the great work that Practical Action is able to do continues. Llamas and alpacas are strong and intelligent and are crucial for the farming communities in Latin America. Access to the tools and knowledge for breeding and looking after their animals provide families with a secure source of income. With just £47 you can help to support a llama farmer in Bolivia by buying a ‘llama lifeline’ Practical Present today.1 Comment » | Add your comment
In India, for every woman, cooking is a primary job. In villages and the countryside, women take care of the household work including cooking, collecting firewood and preparation of food. Using the traditional cook stoves causes respiratory diseases for women and children. In addition women collect firewood from the local forest and which is life threatening and lots of physical toil for them. It also creates a threat for the forest and its conservation. Though in short run, nobody talks about such issues, these have a greater impact in the long run.
A study in 2014 supported by Practical Action, ‘Gender and Livelihoods Impacts of Clean Cook stoves in South Asia’ states that, “women largely shoulder the majority of the burden they naturally become exposed to allied hazards while cooking. They also additionally get exposed to hazards collecting fuel.”
All these questions and problems have a solution now with the efforts of a group of tribal women in Koraput district in Odisha. K Madhabi, the leader of the group has earned accolades for their honest efforts. A low smoke project, prepared by K Madhabi and her group, ‘Access Grameen Mahila Udyog’ won a prestigious Youth Innovation Fund Award from the Chief Minister of Odisha.
12 women from 5 blocks gathered together and formed this women group under the able leadership of Madhabi. At 26 years old Madhabi is now a successful entrepreneur and able to show a path to many like her in the community.
The cook stove prepared by the group is an energy efficient one which has reduced the smoke to zero level and the cooking time by up to 50%, according to many users. It also consumes less firewood in comparison to other traditional cook stoves.
“The journey was full of challenges. All the women first time learned the mason work and now can manufacture cook stoves of their own. They have divided the work for marketing and Madhabi is leading them.”
As well as manufacturing, Madhabi is also instrumental in knitting together women from different villages and disseminating knowledge about using low smoke cook stoves. She advocates for a better living for all women and is pretty much dedicated for that. This cook stove has already been tested by the experts from Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology and the group has been registered under the department which deals with small and medium scale business units.
“Life is not the same as before. We have been treated with much respect in our community,” says Madhabi. The group has been getting regular orders and they are working hard to meet the demands.
Practical Action’s India office provided technical and financial support for this group through a project called ACCESS (Access to Clean Cook-stoves for Economic Sustainability and Social Wellbeing) funded by the Johnson Matthey.No Comments » | Add your comment
To talk about the future is useful only if it leads to action now ~ EF Schumacher
Despite all efforts to provide basic amenities of life to tribals in the state, there are still a large number of places deprived of daily needs such as electricity and adequate transport. Similar is the case for many Konds residing in hilly terrains of eastern ghat of hills. Such is a village Badamanjari, in the valleys, surrounded by sky touching mountains. Though it’s just 20km away from the Semiliguda in the koraput district, but it will take more than hours to reach the village because of the uneven and hilly roads.
18 years old Sunil Taring of Badamanjari is able to speak in English and now is a successful entrepreneur and continues education in Semiliguda College. Despite the odds he is able to mark this achievement as his village is now electrified; not with the state grid but by building a self-sustained micro hydro power generating unit. Badamanjari has set example in the district by generating 30KW electricity to provide light to all the villagers and in addition they are able to watch TV and few households have fans as well.
Sunil is running a rice and flour mill and earning handsome amount of money, as more thhan 15 villages are dependent on the rice mill. Same is with Suresh Tadingi who has also set up a unit for turmeric processing. Other agricultural products are also processed here. Both of these youth have set up example in the village. Both these units however is sharing 30 per cent of its profit every month to the Micro Hydro development fund which is being created for the regular maintenance of the unit. Life in this village is now more ease after the installation of the micro hydro units.
A total of 110 household in the village are now electrified and leading a better life. In addition to self-sustain the micro hydro units, every individual household is contributing a token amount every month which is being used for the operation and maintenance of the unit. This village is using the natural water source to generate electricity. The water from the natural springs are the new source of generating electricity.
It is worth mentioning here that in 2006first time this micro hydro unit was set up by the WIDA (Integrated Rural Development of Weaker-Sections in India). However the same became defunct and stopped producing electricity in 2011. But now it has been scaled up and made more sustainable by Practical Action, a UK based NGO with local support from Koraput Farmers Association. Practical Action also linked and supported the livelihood option alongside the electricity generation which is a new and innovating angle.
Though efforts are being made to provide electricity to everyone in the country but these hilly terrains may need some more years to be lighted from the grid sources. However, micro hydro-electricity is the new solution to such needs to provide better life and solve the livelihood issue of people like Badamanjari. Decentralised distribution of electricity is something which the government should take it up in large scale.3 Comments » | Add your comment
These women from Koraput are trend setters
The magnificent, green natural landscape with elegant tribal culture and life style of Koraput district also has gender inequality and acute poverty. According to a Practical Action study, most women in these hilly terrains depend on firewood for cooking though they suffer from eye itching, respiratory issues and shortage of firewood leads them to walk far away.
In an experimental innovation with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, local women from Sailabala have emerged as the manufacturers of low smoke ‘Access cook stoves’ which use up to 50% less firewood than traditional stoves plus save a lot of time.
Jambati Jani of Cherengaguda village of Padmapur GP is very satisfied with the new cook-stove which she got from the Paraba (a local festival). Now her single thatched house is not getting blackened by smoke nor is the cooking time so long. She is able to finish cooking sooner than before after using the ACCESS cook stove. It has also reduced the regular eye itching and respiratory issues along with giving more time for productive work.
Sailabala SHG from Puruna Dumuriput village has sold almost 30 such stoves and, along with 11 other entrepreneur groups, they are marketing and selling cook stoves. These groups came together to form ACCESS Grameen Mahila Udyog (AGMU), which they have registered as a small scale industry to care of climate change and nature. They have started keeping a log book to assess the impact of the cook stove. Informally they claim that cooking time has been reduced to up to 50% as has the use of firewood. Their efforts have opened a window on rethinking development. To serve the needs of different lifestyles, solutions can be found that keep nature and climate issues in mind and restore the natural balance. Project Access is exhibiting this at this moment in Koraput and these women are the flag bearers.No Comments » | Add your comment
At the COP21 Paris climate talks the issue of Loss and Damage was firmly cemented in the global agreement under Article 8. This agreement sets the agenda for climate action and the inclusion of a separate article on loss and damage recognises that for many people climate change is already a reality. Climate change is impacting people’s lives and livelihoods and for some adaptation is already too late.
Climate change exacerbates existing hazards
Climate change hits the poorest hardest, those who are least responsible for the problem in the first place. In Practical Action projects across Africa, South Asia and Latin America we are hearing stories about the heightened uncertainty as changing climates exacerbate existing hazards. Poor people do not differentiate climate change from climate variability, for them the consequences are the same: crops are failing, water supplies becoming less reliable, ecosystems are changing and lives and livelihoods are under threat.
The impacts of climate change are well documented, global and affect small island states, Africa, South Asia and the Arctic the most.
In May 2016, Practical Action attended the climate change talks in Bonn. The first global gathering since 177 countries signed the Paris Agreement in New York one month ago. The urgency to sign the agreement is a clear demonstration of its importance. Climate agreements have previously taken months if not years to get the signatures necessary to start talking about their implementation. At last political will for action is growing but for loss and damage there is still a lot to do.
Critical to progress on loss and damage is the recognition that this is a rights issue. The climate agreement must integrate the rights package in its entirety; this means: human rights, the rights of indigenous people, gender equality, food security, ecosystem integrity and intergenerational equity. To protect these rights means we need to stay below 1.5oC. If we can reduce emissions drastically with ambitious mitigation action; then the challenge of adaptation will be lessened and the loss and damage burden will be reduced.
Poor people around the world are facing climate impacts everyday.
In Bonn Practical Action along with partners in the loss and damage network highlighted this challenge in a well-attended side event. We started the session with a presentation of the collective impacts of climate change on the poorest, highlighting that for many these impacts are irreversible. Many of our Pumpkin communities in Bangladesh are families that have lost their land to accelerated erosion. Compensation and pumpkins will help, but it will not restore their fields, their houses and the numerous cultural sites that have been washed away. Many poor people are dependent on ecosystem services for their livelihoods, but what do you do when the ecosystem faces irreversible impacts? For many coastal communities sea water acidification is destroying once productive coastal fisheries, and sea level rise is converting coastal fields into areas only suitable for aquaculture due to rising salinity.
Loss and Damage side event organised by the @lossdamage Network held at Bonn Climate Change talks
Recognising irreversible environmental change
Loss and Damage is an opportunity to raise the profile of our collective inadequacy to mitigate emissions. Our addiction to fossil fuels, to easy solutions and to profit over the environment or human society, and our inability to prioritise long term, social and environmental benefits in favour of purely economic returns. This goes to the heart of what Fritz Schumacher wrote so eloquently in 1973 in “Small is Beautiful” and it is vital today that we heed this message, before it is too late for everyone.
“Man talks of a battle with Nature, forgetting that if he won that battle, he would find himself on the losing side” E.F Schumacher
 http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/images/uploads/WG2AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdfNo Comments » | Add your comment
Weather Forecasting Display Board:
This Weather Forecasting Display Board (WFDB) is both attractive and useful to the local community, especially to those who are vulnerable to flooding and other climatic disruptions.
The results of the first pilot study show that rural people working in agriculture and shrimp farming found it very helpful. Coastal areas like Atulia of Shyamnagar, Satkhira district and Zhilonga Union in Cox’s Bazar District are highly susceptible to cyclone and water surges, so found it very useful for their daily livelihoods. It was scaled up at Sirajganj Sadar Upazila, a disaster prone area where flood and river bank erosion occur frequently.
Shyamnagar Upazila, is a climatic hotspot and the majority of the people are manage their livelihood by shrimp farming. This Weather Board was first demonstrated at the Atulia Union Council of Shyamnagar Upazila in 2011.
How does it work?
- Construction: A wooden frame with CI sheet and covered by transparent either glass or white plastic where clear, concise daily weather messages are interpreted with well-known symbols
- Function: If somebody doesn’t understand the messages on the board, they ask the Gyaner Haat people (Entrepreneur of Knowledge node at community level, Union Digital Centre) for an interpretation. This helps them to understand about the implications of the messages of the board and what action they should take.
- Content: Weather and climatic information are displayed like daily temperature, rainfall, humidity and sunlight hour along in attractive and relevant ways.
- Scientific Information is carried at local level: Information is collected from the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) on current weather issues on a regular basis and interpreted on the Weather Forecasting Board for three weeks. It also provides agricultural information for farmers proactively like suitable crops variety during that time for planting, whether farmers should go for raising a seed bed, or releasing fries in the gher etc. in the current week.
- Link with extension agents: The board includes necessary mobile phone numbers/contact persons of relevant government departments, so that farmers and fishers can make phone calls to Gyaner Haat and concerned government professionals for necessary information and advice.
Digital display of weather forecasting and flood early warning
Practical Action trialled this manual display board for access to weather and early warning information for reducing loss and better farming preparedness. This was a very low cost solution but effective. Now a day’s supply of electricity and internet connectivity has been expanded through a government Access to Information program (a2i) that is called Union Digital Centre.
Practical Action in partnership with a2i project has installed a knowledge service branded as Gyaner Haat. In each Gyaner Haat there is an entrepreneur who has a computer, printer and internet connection. We get national weather and flood forecasting information from government authorized sources (Bangladesh Meteorological Department and Flood Forecasting Centre) and these are translated into local dialects along with descriptive information for the farmers. Information such as what they will do if the vapor level is high, what would be the effect of higher humidity enables farmers to make better preparation. The digital board allows easy and rapid information delivery at community level and thus contributes to saving poor people’s assets and resources.
We are implementing this in the Sirajganj and Bogra districts, two of the most flood prone areas , which are recurrently attacked from flood during the monsoon season from July to September. This has been empowering knowledge poor people to benefit from forecasting and disaster preparedness. It is one of the knowledge intervention activities of the Zurich Flood Resilience Project in Bangladesh.
 Coordinator Knowledge Service ( Operations), Practical Action, Bangladesh
 Senior Knowledge Officer ( M&E), Practical Action, BangladeshNo Comments » | Add your comment
This is a story of a youth Assistant Badghar Ashish Kumar Chaudhary (Badghar is an elected leader in Tharu community) from Tighara, Rajapur. He explains how the Zurich Foundation funded Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP) weather board is helping his family and the villagers to take farming decisions.
“Weather information board is very helpful, I check the board every day and particularly before planning for any agriculture farming and harvesting activity. Earlier my family used to harvest the paddy looking at the sky and making prediction about the weather. I still remember we lost paddy after the harvest many times due to rainfall since our prediction was wrong. But now I check the weather board and convey the message to the community so that they plan the farming and harvesting activity in an appropriate time when weather pattern is suitable. Due to the weather information we have been able to save our harvest which earlier used to be destroyed due to bad weather conditions. This has made the community more resilient to the floods and other hazards as good harvest means they can save the grain for difficult period.”
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Being world famous for its spiritual importance and religious tourism Puri is not an unknown city for all. However, the issues in the city are being ignored continuously. The city witnesses a flow of more than 50 lakh people in a year. This number is huge and so as the issues that are close to the factors that affect the climate of this small historic city in eastern India.
This is further to the global action towards changing climate pattern and philanthropic efforts, Vasudha Foundation initiated a workshop among the city based thinkers, environmentalists, practitioners in partnership with Practical Action Foundation. The workshop “Sustainable and Climate Resilient Puri-Resources and Actions” witness a good number of diverse audiences working in Puri from different domains.
Concerns related to water, sanitation, health and hygiene was major as shared by the participants. Issues related to proper drainage system, treatment of waste water, rain water harvesting was the suggestion which most of the experts focused on. A major concern was also raised regarding the ground water depletion of the city and its preparedness for tackling such crysis in future have emerged as a challenge now.
Similarly making the city with proper green cover was raised by many thinkers during workshop. Valuable suggestions like road side and beach side plantation, enough mangrove plantation were suggested to tackle the scorching heat at this east coastal city. It is noted, the city used to be alternate capital once upon a time during summer because of its weather which is just history now.
In order to reduce the carbon emission and pollution, few concrete suggestion came which was doable and available government officials also appreciated the same. Promoting cycling, restrictions on diesel and petrol run rickshaws and to introduce electronic auto rickshaws was among few suggestions. To have a check on the unwanted death of sea fishes and tortoise, some thinkers also suggested on battery or solar run fishing boats inside the sea which was highly appreciated by many.
But while discussing all these, the governance and civic engagement was something which seem hurdle for every possible development and actions. Hence, the workshop concluded with key action points so as to have a proper enforcement of existing laws and have a proper coordination of all line departments.
This workshop was jointly organised by GermanWatch, Vasudha Foundation and Practical Action with support from Commonwealth Development Knowledge Network with an objective assess the finance needs for Climate Compatible Development (CCD) in second-tier cities like Puri and analyse the extent to which existing sources can meet those needs and what innovative local, national and international sources, including direct access modalities for cities under the Green Climate Fund.
The workshop was attended by people from the hotel industry, fishermen community, different key government departments and civil society members of Puri City.No Comments » | Add your comment
Lessons from the southern coastal area of Bangladesh
The people of the southern coastal part of Bangladesh are experiencing the severe impacts of climate change on their lives and livelihood. In 2009 the devastating cyclone Aila killed many people and devastated the livelihoods of million in the coastal community of Bangladesh. The severe cyclone and saline water intrusion made their life more vulnerable. It directly affected the natural ecosystems, natural resources and has had a negative impact on the poverty situation and livelihoods, agriculture and food security.
In 2011-2013 Practical Action Bangladesh piloted a community based adaptation project in the Satkhira district and demonstrated a number of adaptive technologies. I recently visited the project area and captured the people’s adaptation and the changes in their lives.
History says once the coastal districts Satkhira, Khulna and Bagerhat was rich in livestock like buffaloes, cow and goats. Two recent extreme weather events, cyclones Aila and Sidr, hit this habitat and destroyed it. The intrusion of saline water changed the soil properties for agricultural activities. Due to increased salinity, absence of agricultural practices, lack of grazing land and acute fodder problems, livestock resources were reduced seriously in the coastal area.
Cultivating saline tolerant native grass
In 2011-2013 Practical Action Bangladesh demonstrated saline tolerant native grass cultivation and improved management technologies for sheep rearing. Sheep rearing is an important and potentially adaptive livestock option in the context of increased salinity. Sheep are stress tolerant and fond of a local grass named ‘Samna’ grass (scientific name is Parapholis strigosa Sea Hard-Grass in English) is highly saline tolerant (>18ds/m) and adaptive.
Rearing sheep is increasing gradually in the coastal area as a household based adaptation and alternative income option. It requires a small house (5 x8 feet)for 5/6 sheep. Sheep eat almost everything. Samna; a local grass is the major feed for sheep and grows well in saline soil. The grass can be cultivated on land adjacent to the homestead.
In April the grass has to be transplanted with no tillage. Some urea fertilizer and irrigation may be required for rapid growth. Besides this grass, sheep eat a wide range of feeds like kura (waste from rice husking), and other grasses – whatever is available in the locality or the leaves of trees.
Vaccination and deworming should follow to avoid diseases and unexpected death. A sheep of 5/6 months could be sold for Tk.1500-2000 (£15-£18). Sheep-dung is used as saar (compost) for vegetable production and as fuel. One can get fuel of Tk.450/monthly from 5/6 sheep for cooking.
This community has adapted sheep rearing to become an important and potential adaptive livelihood option in the increased salinity context. Sheep rearing can contribute to employment creation and eradication of poverty of the poor and marginal, specially, as household based income generation option, where, employment scope is a major problem.
Improved breeding and market linkages could also help these farmers to earn more to increase their resilience.3 Comments » | Add your comment