Climate change | Blogs

  • Coffee farmers adapt to climate change

    Roberto Montero

    April 23rd, 2015

    Los productores de café a adaptarse al cambio climático

    (English translation below)

    La novena Conferencia de Adaptación Basada en la Comunidad (CBA9) se llevará a cabo del 26 al 30 de abril de 2015. En Perú, Soluciones Prácticas ha estado trabajando con las comunidades productoras de café para apoyar sus procesos de adaptación.

    treesEn la amazonía Peruana,  el ecosistema tropical forestal lluvioso o selva alta aloja a más de medio millón de familias vinculadas a pequeñas fincas productoras de café. Ellos viven y trabajan en condiciones de fragilidad y cada vez mayores signos y efectos del cambio climático con sequías o frecuencias y picos de intensidad de lluvias y enfermedades como la roya haciendo que, a nivel del país, en toda la franja tropical lluviosa se pierda más del 40% de la producción de café.

    En efecto, el cambio climático ya está presente en la vida de las comunidades de nuestra selva alta o llamados bosques de neblina. Por ello, Soluciones Practicas el año 2012-2013 hizo una investigación  de escenarios de Cambio Climático en la Región San Martín. Determinó que el año 2050 la temperatura se incrementará entre 1.0-1.2 oC y, como consecuencia de ello, las áreas de producción de café seguirá subiendo a zonas más altas de las montañas. Lo que implica más agricultura migratoria, quema, deforestación y desequilibrios hidrológicos y de servicios ambientales de estos bosques, si no se proponen medidas de adaptación y otras apropiadas para la gestión del territorio.

    farmComo una propuesta para adaptación a estos cambios climáticos, el 2013 Soluciones Practicas ha impulsado con más fuerza un proyecto con enfoque agroecológico que venía desarrollando en años previos. Este esta basado en un trabajo desde los saberes locales y la adaptación de tecnologías sencillas con participación de productores organizados en comités o comunidades, promotores agroforestales líderes formados, técnicos del proyecto y  del gobierno local. Ellos han implementado fincas cafetaleras con 8 tecnologías integradas y sinérgicas que comprende el modelo agroecológico-agroforestal multiestrato.

    Las ventajas de este modelo de adaptación basada en comunidades se ven reflejadas en tangibles beneficios económicos, ambientales y sociales. Incremento de la productividad e ingresos de los productores en más del 100%, alta calidad de taza del café,  reforestación de áreas degradadas y aguas limpias además de mejora en el empleo y autoempleo familiar consiguiendo bosques productivos y sostenibles en las comunidades tropicales. No menor interés es el despertado mediante un proceso de diálogo y vinculación con actores del mercado usando el Participatory Market Systems Development’, con lo cual,  se ha logrado más interés de compra y mejores precios del café por las empresas.

    grainEstas ventajas, con los respectivos documentos e informes de las evidencias son discutidos y difundidos en los diferentes eventos y escenarios del desarrollo, la propuesta tiene una buena acogida y es motivo de visita de productores, gobiernos de otras regiones, empresas privadas, cooperación, etc. Todo ello,  trabajado en la perspectiva de su replicación y niveles de escalamiento del modelo agroecológico.

    Más información sobre Soluciones Prácticas en CBA9

    Coffee farmers adapt to climate change

    The 9th Conference on Community Based Adaptation (CBA9) will take place from 26th to 30th April 2015. In Peru, Soluciones Practicas (Practical Action Latin America) has been working with coffee communities to support their adaptation processes.

    In the Peruvian Amazon, the rain forest or tropical high forest ecosystem is home to over half a million families linked to small coffee farms. They live and work in conditions of fragility and increasing signs and effects of climate change, with droughts, intense rainfall, and diseases such as rust, so that at the country level, the wet tropical belt experiences a 40% loss of coffee production.

    Indeed, climate change is already present in the life of the communities in our high or ‘cloud forest’ areas. Therefore, from 2012 to 2013, Soluciones Practicas conducted an investigation of climate change scenarios in the San Martin region. It found that by 2050, the temperature will increase by 1.0-1.2 oC and as a result, areas of coffee production will continue to shift to higher mountain areas. This implies more shifting cultivation, burning, deforestation, and loss of the hydrological and environmental services these forests provide, if adaptation measures are not proposed and other appropriate land management techniques are not implemented.

    As a proposal for adaptation to this climate change, Soluciones Practicas has promoted an agroecological approach that has been developed over several years. This is based on local knowledge and adaptation of simple technologies, involving producers organized in committees or communities, agroforestry promoters, trained leaders, project technicians and local government. They have implemented coffee farms with 8 integrated and synergistic technologies, which together comprise a multilayer agro-agroforestry model.

    coffeeThe advantages of this model of community-based adaptation are reflected in tangible economic, environmental and social benefits. Productivity and income of farmers has increased by more than 100%; coffee quality is higher; degraded areas have been reforested, and water quality has improved. Employment and self-employment prospects have improved, and communities are using the forest in a productive and sustainable way. No less interesting is the process of dialogue between market players which has been facilitated using a Participatory Market Systems Development approach, leading to better access to coffee export markets.

    Reports documenting evidence generated by this project have been discussed and disseminated at various different events. The project has been well received, stimulating visits from producers, governments in other regions, private companies, and cooperatives. This model therefore offers an excellent starting point for taking agro-ecological adaptation to scale.

    More information about Practical Action at CBA9

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  • The 9th Community-Based Adaptation Conference: ensuring adaptation works for smallholder farmers

    Jodi Sugden

    April 17th, 2015

    The 9th Community-Based Adaptation conference (CBA9) will take place in Nairobi, Kenya from 24-30 April, 2015. Organized by the International Institute of Environment and Development, and co-sponsored by Practical Action, the conference will bring together development practitioners to discuss current challenges and opportunities facing community-based adaptation to climate change.

    The challenge of climate change adaptation

    Climate change will exacerbate the global challenges we face: delivery of basic services, providing enough food for a growing and urbanizing population, and responding to increasing natural disasters. The impacts of climate change will be difficult to predict; however, it is clear they will be unequally distributed. The poor and the marginalized, particularly women and girls, will bear the greatest burdens.

    Women smallholder farmers community-based adaptation

    Women and girls are often more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and will bear the greatest burdens from climate change. Credit: Samuel Rendon/ Manuel Seoane

    It is vital that adaptation funding is targeted to benefit those who will find it hardest to respond. Adaptation must move beyond vulnerability reduction to building long-term adaptive capacity, empowering communities to make livelihood decisions in the face of unpredictable climate change.

    To take adaptation to scale, we must re-vision the role of the private sector. Development practitioners must facilitate equitable market access for those living in poverty, and inclusive, pro-poor technological innovation that benefits both smallholders and private investors.

    Technology choices affect communities’ adaptive capacity

    Technology choices made by farmers, planners, policy makers, research and the private sector to enable or promote agricultural adaptation to climate change are not neutral. Choices between different technologies and systems of governing these technologies have consequences for access (inclusivity), sustainable use (choices available for future generations), and resilience.

    As a sector, agriculture is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events and climatic change, and in developing countries it employs over 50% of the population. Therefore, agricultural technology choices will have a huge impact on food security and economic development. If agricultural adaptation is to be beneficial for smallholder farmers in developing countries, technology choices must improve adaptive capacity and maintain the natural resource base upon which livelihoods depend.

    Key messages for CBA9

    • All actors – government, civil society, private sector – must recognise that technology choices are not neutral and have consequences for adaptive capacity, inclusivity, and sustainability
    • Communities must be re-engaged in analysis, planning and innovation in response to climate change
    • If community-based adaptation is to be effective, it must utilise both indigenous knowledge and experience and climate information and forecasts, with acknowledgement of what we do not know about the future
    • The gendered impacts of climate change and the additional burdens it will place on women and girls must be placed centre stage
    • We need to re-vision private sector involvement in community-based adaptation to take it to scale – this will require access to markets for products and inputs, and mutually beneficial relationships
    Market Bangladesh private sector community-based adaptation

    Taking community-based adaptation to scale will require access to markets for products and services. Credit: Mehrab ul Goni

    Practical Action at CBA9

    Practical Action will be sending representatives from Bangladesh, Nepal, Peru, the UK, Sudan and Zimbabwe to CBA9, who will present  a selection of Practical Action’s community-based adaptation projects from around the world (posters here, under ‘Key Publications‘). They will also facilitate several interactive learning sessions on a range of key issues, including the use of climatic information, the role of the private sector, and Climate Smart Agriculture.

    Find Practical Action at CBA9 here, and remember to follow us on Twitter! #cba9 @Jodi_Sugden @Chris_P_Hen @ColinMcQuistan

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  • Turning cow poo into electricity

    Sanjib Chaudhary

    April 6th, 2015

    It was drizzling when we drove to the biogas electrification project site. Going through the maze of roads, it took us 45 minutes from Narayanghat, the main market in the Chitwan district, to reach there.

    Chitwan, in the southern plains in Nepal, is home not only to the magnificent royal Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinoceroses but also a happening trade hub. Regarded as the country’s poultry capital, with the establishment of Nepal’s largest milk industry, Chitwan is seeing a wave of innovation in agriculture sector.

    Adding to the list of innovations is the biogas electrification project being run at the Livestock Development Resource Centre of the Annapurna Dairy Producers’ Cooperative (ADPC). The project, supported by Practical Action, boasts of being the first in Nepal to generate electricity for commercial use from biogas.

    A small scale study on bio-electrification through agricultural and livestock waste was carried out by students of Kathmandu University earlier, producing electricity to light 9 LED lights, each of 5 W.

    When I reached the site, Bodh Raj Pathak, the vice-president of the cooperative, drenched in the rain, was waiting for me to show the centre.

    The first thing he did was to switch on the system. He then one by one switched on the bulbs and fans. For a technology loving person like me, it was a real pleasure – all were working as if they were running from regular electricity.

    The gas generated from the dung of 85 cows is enough to generate electricity that can run a generator of 5kW load continuously for 8-9 hours, according to Pathak. Few months ago the centre had more than 100 cows. Some of the cows were sold to the community people on demand.

    The cows at the Dairy produce a trailer of cow dung daily that goes into the digester for biogas generation. There are two inlets and two outlets.

    “Currently, only one inlet is being used and it works for 8-9 hours,” said Pathak. “If both the inlets operate, it will produce electricity for 16 hours.”

    The process is simple – the dung, urine and water are mixed into a concoction. The mixture is then fed through the inlet to the chamber. The gas generated is passed through a filter to get rid of the precipitates and then to the generator that produces electricity.

    Right now the Dairy is using the electricity for light bulbs, fans, water pump and a chaff cutter. The gas is also being used to cook food for six staff at the Dairy.

    The Dairy has plans to utilise the biogas for pasteurisation of milk. Right now it is saving Rs. 30,000 – 35,000 rupees per month in fuelwood. After the full utilisation, the Dairy will save around Rs 100,000 (USD 1000) per month.

    However, the slurry, a precious fertiliser has not been well managed. It was left to dry in the open. Pathak told me that they have plans to dry the slurry and package it as organic fertiliser.

    Looking at the outputs of the pilot project, the prospects are promising in spite of the dismal data of electricity contributing to the total energy consumption and use of biogas in Nepal.

    According to the Water Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) Energy Sector Report 2010, electricity contributes only 2% to the total energy consumption by fuel types in Nepal. As per Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, the government apex body for the development and promotion of renewable energy, there are more than 300,000 biogas plants in Nepal.

    In Nepal, cooking and lighting are the main purposes biogas has been mainly used for, amounting to 80% and 20% respectively. The successful biogas electrification in Chitwan has opened doors for using biogas to produce electricity and scaling up the technology at the cooperatives throughout Nepal.

    While 1.3 billion people are still living in darkness with no access to electricity and 2.7 billion still cook over open fires, replication of innovations like biogas electrification will help us move from a state of technology injustice, to find a way to remove the barriers that now prevent poor people from using the technologies they need for the most basic of services.

    With technical details from Ganesh R Sinkemana

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  • Solar Home System

    S M Alauddin

    February 6th, 2015

    A small technology that brought light to Hasina Begum 

    Ms. Hasina Begum, aged 30, is from Kalikapur village of Atulia Union Council (UP) under Shyamnagar Upazila of the South-western coastal Satkhira district.  This is an area prone to climate change and climatic extreme events such as increased salinity, sea level rise and cyclones. She is a widow and very poor, with no one earning in her family. She lost her husband two years back and has two children- one girl studying in class VI and one son studying in class III in local school.

    Hasina BegumBecause of her poverty, she was selected for the support of Solar Home System (SHS) at her house by the climate change adaptation project of Practical Action Bangladesh with support from Asian Development Bank, along with 19 others in four local villages.

    Kalikapur is known as ‘poultry village’, and the use of SHS is common. In the last two years (mid-2010 to 2012), there has been a tremendous increase of coverage of SHS in the village with support from different NGOs, which, can be considered as Technology Justice, since SHS is becoming popular in the off-grid area, where there is no grid electricity. However, the people of the grid area have been accessing electricity services with high government subsidy. So, SHS, comparatively, with its high cost for the extreme poor is obviously not right from a Technology Justice point of view.

    After the problem of ‘bird flu’ in the last year, poultry raising significantly decreased in the area. The only entrepreneur of the village gives work of karchupi (hand knitting on dresses- salwar, kamij and orna, mainly) to the village women. Hasina also receives some work but not sufficient. However, it helps her in earning to maintain her family to certain extent.

    Hasina received a solar home system in April 2012. The system included one 12 volt battery, one solar panel, two bulbs and a control meter along with wire, switch board and other relevant equipment. Her children’s interest in studying has greatley increased, since the SHS provides more light and is more convenient than traditional kerosene kupi. They now study even after dinner. Hasina herself also has been able to increase her work capacity by carrying on working up to midnight, when there remains pressure of work that she could not perform in the day time because of household work. Earlier, she could work only in the day time.

    So, the SHS has created opportunity of work for longer hours, specially, at night in solar light and scope of earning higher income to maintain her livelihood. Hasina receives wages for karchupi work on each set of dress amounting Tk.200-400. The wage varies based on the amount of work on the dress. SHS has increased her work speed and almost doubled her working hours. She informed us that she can perform her work in six days now, which would have required 12 days earlier prior to the installation of SHS. She is happy with the SHS. Beside longer working scope and income earning aspects, the SHS has increased her security also, since the solar lights lighten the entire room and around and encourage her children to study as well. Earlier, she would feel insecure in the dark of the night. She is a pretty woman and lives alone with her two young children. Having a SHS at home is considered to be the matter of social status as well, in the rural context.

    The SHS has brought multiple benefits to Hasina and her family – she has the opportunity to work for longer, she can earn a higher income, her children can study and her security and social status have improved.

     

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  • Mobile Data Collection System in Low Smoke Stoves Project

    Sara Eltigani Elsharif

    February 5th, 2015

     Using Mogli MRV+

    Over the years our Low Smoke Project in North Darfur has proven successes as well as meeting beneficiaries’ expectations. This project illustrates the fruitful partnership between Practical Action, Women Development Association Network (WDAN), and Carbon Clear Company to facilitate access to LPG for  poor households .We are using a revolving fund system to encourage using a clean energy source and reduce the consumption of fuel wood in urban Al-Fashir. This partnership has achieved great outcomes worth mentioning whenever the opportunity arises.

    22862

    • 7000,+ stoves in use in El-Fashir
    • First carbon credit project in Sudan
    • First Gold Standard project to use LPG
    • Improved access to modern energy
    • Reduced indoor air pollution
    • Strengthened local delivery infrastructure
    • Strengthened communities
    • Reduced regional deforestation of approx 80 kg wood/ 30 kg charcoal per household each month
    • Cuts in carbon emissions of approx 4t/CO2e per stove-yr

    A key factor of success is good planning to monitor project activities and proper distribution of roles and responsibilities among partners. The following flow chart summarizes monitoring activities:

    Low smoke stoves (2)

    As seen above local networks are responsible for completing surveys for example (Kitchen Survey Questionnaire about 4\A4 papers for 40 households every 3 months – Usage Survey Questionnaire 1\A4 paper – Leakage Assessment Questionnaire 2\A4 papers for 100 households). Practical Action staff in Al-Fashir collect all the questionnaires, translating them from Arabic to English, scanning all hard copies, and using SPSS for analysis to prepare first draft report. Then the draft report is shared with Practical Action head office in Khartoum for comments. Finally, after Carbon Clear in UK performs its role as mentioned in flow chart, the report will be sent to the Gold Standard Foundation who will issue carbon credits.

    This monitoring mechanism is effective in a small project but it’s time consuming.  Our project now seems to be expanding to rural areas in North Darfur. That’s why it’s time for a technological platform through which monitoring activities can be done faster.

    Mobile Data Collection solution (MDC) works effectively in this case. In end of 2014 MOGLI MRV+ has been used by our staff in Darfur as system runs on Android mobile devices and tablets and functions Online or Offline. Allows our staff to collect, share, and visualize geographically tagged data in real-time “GPS CAPTURE”. It can be linked with Flicker and upload pictures at the moment captured. Moreover, it provides Mobile Signature and Multi-language function.

    To know more see this video on YouTube :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyVfKFstJWQ

    MOGLI MRV+ SAVES TIME, BRINGS TRANSPARENCY & INSTANT ACCESS TO DATA.

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  • Energy Access – Why the current financing model will fail

    Simon Trace

    January 22nd, 2015

    This is my second post from Abu Dhabi, where I have been attending the World Future Energy Summit as a guest of the Zayed Future Energy Prize. For the second year running Practical Action was shortlisted for this prestigious $1m prize in recognition of our work on helping poor people in the developing work access clean energy (we finished runners up again in case you didn’t see my last blog!).

    DSC00206 (1)One of the recurrent themes of the conference sessions I have attended over the past week on energy access has been finance. I have written in this blog before about the general lack of funding for energy access, particularly off grid technology. The International Energy Agency (IEA)[i] has estimated that, if we are to achieve universal access to energy services by 2030, around 64% of the additional finance required will have to be invested in off grid systems, for example solar home systems or local mini grids powered by generators or renewables such as solar, wind or micro hydro. But there’s little evidence that much investment is going anywhere except into the traditional areas of big power stations and extensions to the grid, neither of which is expected to provide much benefit to those in remote rural areas who lack electricity at the moment. The Sierra Club, a US based environmental NGO, carried out an analysis of the major development banks energy lending portfolios for example[ii], which showed that the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank did best, with 25% of their lending on off-grid infrastructure (but still way off the 64% figure needed according to the IEA). At the other end of the scale, the Asian Development Bank had only 7% of its portfolio invested in off grid and the African Development Bank 0%!

    But there is another type of finance gap now appearing. In addition to the general lack of availability of funding it’s also becoming apparent that there is a real affordability gap in the model currently being promoted by the development banks, donor agencies and sector specialists.

    What this year’s Zayed Future Energy Prize winners MKOPA and runners up SELCO have been doing brilliantly in Kenya and India has been developing viable businesses to make solar lighting available at a cost which is increasingly affordable to those on low income – solar lanterns for households on US$ 1 -3 per day income and small solar home systems that can run 3 or 4 lights, charge a phone and maybe even run a small TV or radio for those with an income of as little as US $3 -5 a day.

    But this is not yet energy access in the real sense. If we start layering in the energy services people really need to make a difference to their livelihoods – maybe refrigeration to preserve food or mechanical power for productive use (grinding, milling, pressing, drying or storing crops, pumping water etc), the power requirements go up dramatically, way beyond the capacity of current affordable solar home systems to supply.

    This is where larger capacity communal mini grids come in, and there was much talk about these at the World Future Energy Summit. But the recurring motif in those discussions was the need for a business model that would bring in private investment to finance mini grids because “public subsidy was never going to be sufficient”. The problem is there are two enormous holes in that argument:

    Hole 1: The idea that mini grids are financially attractive investments in their own right. The reality is that there is a massive gap between what would need to be charged as a tariff to recover costs and what poor people have at their disposal to spend on energy services. A recent report from the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, University of California[iii] covers this ground nicely. It estimates the basic electricity needs of rural household for full energy access at around 80 kilowatt hours per month (based on using a fan, 4 LED lights, a small TV, a small refrigerator and the equivalent of 4 hours a day of power for a mechanic device such as a small irrigation pump or equivalent). Using an assumed cost of around $0.24/kwh (which is quite optimistic for small mini grid type supplies) that comes to a monthly cost of at least $20 per household if full cost recovery is required. Typically low income households spend around 10% of their income on energy (50% of which is on cooking fuel). This translates to budgets available for electricity of around $7.50 per month for households on $3 – 5 per day and less than $1.5 per month for the extreme poor on $1 a day or less. These figures from the University of California are very rough, but they serve to make an important point. The costs of mini grids would have to reduce by at least 60 to 90% to make the tariffs affordable for the poor but still keep the systems as viable investments for private capital.

    Is it any wonder the banks can’t find investors to take out loans for mini grids?

    Hole 2: The idea that there simply isn’t enough money in the world to make public subsidy viable. We are told that there is no possibility that public finance could be used to close the gap because there simply isn’t enough to go around. But at the same time, the IEA tells us that currently more than $500 billion[iv] is being put into public subsidies for fossil fuels every year (with others such as IRENA putting the figure much higher at as much as $1900 billion in 2011[v]). So the fossil fuel industry is being kept on a massive publicly funded life support system while the poor are told that the off grid systems they need to access a basic level of energy services can only ever be provided through private investment.

    Conventional wisdom abhors subsidy, but in Bangladesh, where the most successful solar home system programme to date exists with around 4 million households supplied, provides a great example of how subsidy can work, making technology affordable and getting markets moving and costs down. According to a World Bank study[vi], the Bangladesh programme started off with an average subsidy of around 25% per unit in 2004, reducing to less than 10% by 2013. The interesting thing there was that the cost to the consumer for a system was less in 2013 than it was in 2004, despite the reduction in subsidy. Why? Because technology got cheaper and the scale of the programme drove innovation and cost reductions that, together, exceeded the reduction in subsidy over the same period.

    It seems time for the development banks, donors and the energy sector as a whole to take a long and really honest look at the financial models being proposed to ensure universal access to energy. Its time to face up to the reality. Private capital and good business models are definitely needed. But universal access to energy (not just for light but energy for the productive uses that will help people work themselves out of poverty) will not be achieved without public finance playing a very significant role to close the affordability gap as well.

     

    [i] IEA 2011, Energy For All, Financing access for the poor, page 25

    [ii] Sierra Club / Oil Change International 2014, Failing to Solve Energy Poverty: How Much International Public Investment is Going to Distributed Clean Energy Access?

    [iii] LIGTT, Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, University of California, 2015, 50 Critical scientific and technical breakthroughs required for sustainable development – Energy Access pp 26 – 29.

    [iv] Bloomberg, Nov 112, 2014 Fossil Fuels With $550 Billion Subsidies Hurt Renewables

    [v] IRENA sourced from: LEVELLING THE PLAYING FIELD AND SAVING MONEY WITH

    RENEWABLE ENERGY

    [vi] World Bank (2013)  The Benefits of Solar Home Systems – An Analysis from Bangladesh Policy Research Working Paper 6724, page 10

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  • Competition finalists show way forward for renewable energy

    Simon Trace

    January 19th, 2015

    I am writing this in Abu Dhabi, where I am attending the World Future Energy Summit as a guest of the Zayed Future Energy Prize. For the second year running Practical Action was shortlisted for this $1m prize in recognition of our work on helping poor people in the developing work access clean energy.

    Zayeed2

    Receiving finalist certificate from Chair of judging committee and former President of the Republic of Iceland, HE Olafur Ragnar Grimsson

    Today was the day for announcing the winners and, unfortunately, I have to report that it was also the second year in a row that we didn’t win the prize! However, given out of nearly 600 organisations considered for the award this year, only 30 made it as finalists (and only 5 in our category of non-profits) I think we can all be very proud of getting so far and the deep respect for our work that these 2 nominations in a row implies. Coming on top of Practical Action winning UNFCCC Momentum for Change awards in both 2013 and 2014 for its work on climate change, these nominations show just how much attention our work is getting internationally at the moment.

    The very worthy winner of the Zayed Future Energy Prize for non-profits  this year was an organisation from the Philippines called “Litre of Light” that converts plastic bottles into sky lights and solar lanterns and I’d like to offer my sincere congratulations to them. Congratulations also to MKOPA, the innovative Kenyan solar home system providers that use credit payments via mobile phones to help people afford solar lighting and who won the SME category. Panasonic won the large company category whilst ex US Vice President Al Gore was also recognised with a life time achievement award for his work raising awareness of climate change. You can see information on all the winners here and the other finalists (Practical Action included) here.

    As was the case last year, the finalists represented 30 really positive stories about people demonstrating how things could be different and how renewable energy is the future in many different contexts. It was also interesting to hear this message repeated over and over again in the opening ceremony for the World Future Energy Summit itself. Solar photovoltaics are, it seems, increasingly becoming cost competitive with conventional sources for power generation. One example given was a very recent contract let for a 200 MW solar park in Dubai at a cost of just under 6 US cents per kwh – one of the cheapest renewable projects ever and around 3 cents per kwh cheaper than gas! What was also interesting, particularly given this conference is taking place a major oil producing region, was that there seemed to be consensus amongst today’s speakers that renewable energy was a technology whose time had come and that even the current falling oil prices were unlikely to make a difference to that position.

    I will be the conference for the rest of the week, speaking at a couple of side events, and will report back on anything else of interest I see.

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  • Fascinated by the Incas

    Amanda Ross

    January 15th, 2015

    I had the good fortune to study ancient history – a subject that fascinates me.  However, my studies only covered classical civilisations so my knowledge of the Incas is minimal.  So when I was in Peru in December and visited some Inca sites, I was enthralled and keen to learn more.  I’m delighted that the BBC has just begun a new series ‘Masters of the Clouds’ which will enable me to do this and especially to consider how technologies of the past can help to deal with modern problems such as climate change and disaster resilience.

    "Pisac006" by Alexson Scheppa Peisino

    “Pisac006″ by Alexson Scheppa Peisino

    From the first episode it became clear that the Incas knew a thing or two about climate smart agriculture. They developed complex water harvesting and terracing systems which enabled them to produce enough food to store surpluses in their vast granaries against hard times.  As a result of having a secure food supply the population increased and the Inca empire was able to expand to cover nearly 690,000 square miles – from modern Colombia to Chile.  Practical Action is using similar techniques in the high Andes to support farmers who face low rainfall today as a result of climate change.

    Alpaca farmer stands by his irrigation reservoir

    Alpaca farmer stands by his irrigation reservoir

    Earthquakes are a regular hazard in this region is earthquakes and the Incas developed building techniques to minimise the effects.  Leaning their walls slighting inward, excellent masonry skills and rounded corners have ensured that Macchu Picchu’s stone walls still stand despite 500 years of shaking.

    Once again Practical Action looked to the past when helping with the reconstruction efforts after major earthquake, using traditional quincha techniques for greater stability.

    Technology also proved to be their downfall.  Inca soldiers armed with spears and bow and arrows were up against the Spanish forces equipped with horses, cannon and firearms.  Smallpox and measles also brought by the invaders devastated the population and the Inca Empire folded. I’m looking forward to finding out more this week.

     

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  • Robbed at COP? A novice’s view of the talks.

    Simon Trace

    December 18th, 2014

    Attending the second week of the UNFCCC COP meeting in Lima, Peru has been a challenging and a bewildering experience, for a first timer and non-specialist in international climate talks.

    First of all there is the terminology – the main text that is being developed at the moment, and which should form the basis of final negotiations for a new global climate convention in Paris next year, is known as a ‘non-paper’ for example. Not a very inspiring name for something that is absorbing the attention of so many people! Then there are the conversations that are sprinkled with acronyms to the extent that it sometimes feels like you are listening to a text message rather than a human being – COP, CMP, INDC, SBSTA, GCF, CIF, and so on.

    Then there is the content of the ‘non paper’ itself. I had a quick glance at a version on Wednesday. It was around 40 pages long and seemed, from a quick read, to be a jumble of contradictions. Almost every clause or commitment or resolution in the document contained 2,3,4 or more alternative options for text, sometimes variations on the same sentiment, but sometimes options that completely contradicted each other (for example in the final version published on the UNFCCC website the section on adaptation options for paragraph 25.2 include both “establish a global goal for adaptation” and “no global goal for adaptation”). The plan is that this text will gradually be honed down by working parties over the coming year to something that can form the basis for final negotiations in time for the Paris COP in 2015. All I can say is that I wish Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Secretariat, and her staff all the best with that task!

    I was privileged to hear Ms Figueres speak at the COP. Practical Action is part of an alliance with the Zurich Insurance Company, and 3 other organisations working together on developing new ways to help poor people in the developing world reduce their vulnerability to floods. (as a side note – floods not only affect more people globally than any other type of natural hazard but the associated economic, social and humanitarian losses are expected to grow as the climate change leads to increase in extreme rainfall events and rising sea levels). The Alliance was lucky enough to win a UNFCC Momentum for Change award (or M4C – another acronym!) for its work and Ms Figueres (and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon) spoke at the awards ceremony on Wednesday. She spoke passionately and from her heart about the low point of the COP meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 from which everyone had come away depressed and downhearted, with a sense that progress towards a global climate agreement was impossible. She talked about the need after Copenhagen to create a momentum for change and a new positive picture of what could be achieved. The M4C awards were a (very modest) part of that process, showcasing examples of people and organisations taking concrete actions on mitigation or adaptation.

    She also talked about how far things had moved post Copenhagen and how different and more positive the atmosphere was at the Lima talks. Certainly the China / US agreement prior to the COP lifted the atmosphere and those who had attended previous COPs told me that the language was gradually changing for the better – one example was the use of the concept of national carbon budgets by many of the official delegations – something that would have been an anathema a couple of years ago.

    But there are still reasons for a good dose of pessimism though, many related to the US, despite Australia doing its best to be the ‘bad guy’ by winning more ‘fossil of the day’ awards (given by the NGO community to official delegations for outrageous behaviour) than any other country. In a nutshell ‘conventional wisdom’ says that a Republican Congress won’t ratify further significant financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund and won’t countenance the concept of reparation to developing countries for ‘loss and damage’ – another theme of the talks. Verification was also an ongoing issue. Countries have agreed to submit ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ in time for the Paris COP next year to explain their plans for cutting carbon. European nations have been pushing for the UN to provide independent verification of progress against these targets but others, China and the US included, have resisted any commitment to external verification, throwing doubt over the solidity of the commitments being made. Finally, although there was much talk about adaptation being mainstreamed in the talks much more than in the past, a presentation on existing climate finance in one side events I attended showed that finance for adaptation remains the poor cousin, accounting for less than 10% of current climate financing, with the remainder going to mitigation.

    Government delegations were not the only ones attracting negative press last week however. There were those amongst the NGOs that felt Greenpeace should have been given a ‘fossil of the day’ award for a publicity stunt that went badly wrong. A group of the NGO’s activists decided to use the Nasza lines as a backdrop for one of their protest events. The Nazca lines are a series of huge ancient patterns inscribed into the desert coastal plain of Peru that can only really be appreciated from the air. Created simply by clearing stones and debris away from fixed lines, the patterns have remained intact for hundreds of years in the arid conditions and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Greenpeace activists spelt out a slogan about solar power next to one of the most iconic patterns for Peru, a hummingbird. Although they were careful to avoid damaging the lines themselves (the letters were just made out of cloth laid on the ground) the tracks of their vehicles left a maze of marks on what until then had been the undisturbed ground around the pattern. The Peruvian press was incensed at the damage done to their site and there were reports from that the ministry of culture would be suing Greenpeace for damage.

    For me though, one of the abiding images from the various side events I attended was a graph from a Royal Society presentation on its new report “Resilience to extreme weather”. The graph (see below) shows an inexorable rise in the annual global economic loss, given as a % of global GDP, over the past 30 years. The graph was a salutary reminder of why the UNFCC process is so important, as climate change continues to drive growth in extreme weather events. But it also made me wonder how much it was an under representation of the true social cost to the poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because they rely on land that is already marginal for farming or live in informal urban settlements most at risk from flooding and natural disasters. In % points of GDP their losses may not amount to so much, but in terms of human deprivation their losses are already immense.

    Reactions to the final outcome of the COP are varied, even amongst civil society actors at the event.  For example the World Resources Institute in the US concludes that  “delegates in Lima laid the groundwork for a successful international climate agreement in Paris next year” , whilst in the UK the International Institute for Environment and Development’s Saleemul Huq is quoted in the Guardian as saying “It sucks. It is taking us backwards”, whilst WWF claims “We are on a path to three or four degrees with this outcome”.

    CaptureWas a potential transformative agreement at COP20 stolen from under our noses at the last minute, despite the positive omens at the start of the conference? I have to confess, as a COP novice I have no bench mark to compare these talks to and so no idea. But, despite the challenges to progress there undoubtedly have been, I found it difficult to leave the COP20 meeting without being infected to some degree with the positivism being radiated by Christiana Figueres and Ban Ki Moon. The road ahead is still a long and difficult one, but I like to think there’s just a chance that we could look back at the Lima meeting in a few years’ time as the turning point when the world started to take climate change seriously and started to work together on finding a solution.

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  • Hope for better life through micro hydro and PMSD initiatives in the Koraput district of Odisha

    Arun Kumar Hial

    December 15th, 2014

    Our day started at 6am and we headed towards Badamanjari (a project field site) over 60km from the district headquarter Koraput. We took about 3 hours to travel through good roads, bad roads, rough and rocky roads in the hilly terrains and passing by the highest peak of Eastern Ghats (Deomali). There was intermittent mobile coverage on our way and we could see very less vehicles usually over-packed with people. All of us traveling had a WOW feeling inside, that Practical Action is working in such interior pockets and delivering technology solutions and services to the poor where the poor benefit to the fullest. The closer we go to the village the more excited we were and a sense of belonging was mounting in our minds and hearts which outburst during the overwhelming welcome and response of the villagers.

    High Hills of Eastern Ghat

    High Hills of Eastern Ghat

    Badamanjari is one of the project sites of the Sustainable Micro-hydro through Energizing Rural Enterprises and Livelihood (SMRE) Project in Koraput district of Odisha. The village inhabits 93 households and is surrounded by nature and its greatest gifts, one of which is in the shape of a perennial water source which is used by the villagers for a Micro Hydro Project with a capacity of producing 30 KW of electricity. This project was supported by various donors and implemented by a well-known NGO from the district. The Project was initiated in 2003 and was commissioned to the people in 2006. The people got uninterrupted electricity up to the year 2013 and somehow there was problem with the machine and it did not work from then. The SMRE Project initiated by Practical Action in partnership with Koraput Farmer’s Association (KFA) aims to rehabilitate and renovate the Micro Hydro Project to function to its fullest potential and help people increase their income with the use of the PMSD approach.

    Badamanjari Village

    Badamanjari Village

    Suresh Tadingi (23) lives with his wife, daughter (2 years), brother, mother and grandmother in Badamanjari village. His ancestral property of over 6 Acres of agricultural land is being used by four families with a total of 21 members. He is busy in the agriculture and allied works throughout the year except January and February (during these months he goes to nearby town to work on contract). Even though they do farming of Zinger, Beans, Vegetables, Raggi, Millets (varieties) and Paddy, they live in a subsistence economy and it is not enough for everyone. It is the SMRE Project which has brought a light of hope for him, his family and the community at large.

     

     

    Suresh Tadingi, Badamanjari

    Suresh Tadingi, Badamanjari

    Suresh along with four other youth members are interested to take up Turmeric Processing Unit as one of their income generating endeavors through the SMRE Project. They will be responsible to collect raw turmeric from 9 nearby villages, process, package and market the products to gain profits. These five young men will get the agreed share of the earning and will share part of their earnings to the community fund from where it will then be used for benefits of the community and its members. If everything works well, then Suresh and others like him need not go outside of the village to work as daily wage laborers, but in the contrary they will get a dignified earning through the business of their own and multiply their income as per their efforts to live a better life in their own village itself.

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