The 19th of June is Father’s Day, so I thought what better time to share some stories of some amazing fathers that Practical Action has worked with around the world, only made possible because of our kind and generous supporters.
5. Anthony Ndugu, Kenya
Before Practical Action began working with Anthony, a pit latrine emptier in Nakuru, Kenya, he was shy and felt ashamed of the job he did. He didn’t feel respected by his community and would often come home covered in waste. He even felt too ashamed to tell his son what his job was. Now, Practical Action has provided him with protective clothing and the tools to carry out his vital role safely, he is proud of his job and feels that the community finally recognises how important it is.
“The family are so happy, they are fed and my children can get an education.”
By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers just like Anthony. A Sweeper Safety Kit could help sweepers like Anthony, from a similar project in Bangladesh, to stay safe from disease whilst they carry out the important task of protecting their community.
4. Richard Tlou, Zimbabwe
Richard is 46 years old and lives in Mphaya village in the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. He has been blind for 5 years. Life is tough for Richard and his wife. They have three of their own children and also care for his brother’s children. For as long as he can remember, he hasn’t had access to clean and safe toilet facilities. This means that they have no other choice but to relieve themselves in nearby bushes causing health risks for the community and a lack of dignity for all. For Richard, this was especially hard. Having lost his sight, he had to rely on someone to take him and he could not see if there were people passing by. But Richard now has regained his dignity. Through Practical Action’s support, he is the proud owner of his own clean and safe toilet and his family are now protected from the risk of disease.
“It has given me my dignity and will improve the health of my family.”
By buying a Practical Present today, you could help fathers just like Richard. A gift of Marve-loos training from you could help train toilet builders, enabling families in Zimbabwe to earn a living to provide for their children as well as ensuring they and their communities are safe from disease.
3. Winnie Sebata, Zimbabwe
Winnie is 67 years old and lives in Mashaba, a rural village in the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. All of his children are grown up but he is now caring for his 3 nieces who are orphans. Up until his retirement, Winnie was a primary school teacher, but now he works in his wife’s shop in the business centre of Mashaba. This shop is now benefitting from being connected to Zimbabwe’s largest off-grid solar plant, built by Practical Action, in an area that previously had no access to electricity. Not only does the shop now provide local members of the community with an opportunity to access electricity, Winnie and his wife have now also been able to expand their business, providing employment to local people and generating additional income with which he can care for his orphaned nieces.
“We really hope this project will change the lives of this community and change the lives of people of Zimbabwe.”
By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers like Winnie. Energising Education could help provide energy to a school in Zimbabwe, giving children a brighter future.
2. Adam Ibrahim Mohamed, Sudan
Adam is a farmer in North Darfur, Sudan. He is 52 years old and married with children. He lives in Zam Zam village, an arid area of Darfur where farmers struggle to grow their crops because of the lack of water. But that has all changed. Practical Action has helped Adam and others like him by constructing a dam, which provides vital water to enable him to grow his crops. He can now grow enough to feed his family and even has enough to sell, so he can generate an income and send his children to school.
“As fathers, we have responsibilities; feeding our families, sending our children to school. Our life has improved and our children will continue to get an education.”
By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers just like Adam. A Super Sapling could help farmers in this drought-prone area to re-build their communities and plan a brighter future for their children.
1. Your Dad!
Order a Practical Present from Practical Action today and tell your Dad why you think he is number 1! When you order a Practical Present, you will be making a real difference and changing the lives of people around the world and at the same time, you can let your Dad know how special he is to you.2 Comments » | Add your comment
Saturday 28th May is Menstrual Hygiene Day, a really important day to raise awareness of good menstrual hygiene and to break some of the taboos that surround something that affects half the population of the world!
It’s sad that in 2016, women and girls are still made to feel ashamed by a natural bodily function. Girls are often held back from achieving their full potential as they are unable to attend school and it’s shocking to think that in some communities, girls are made to sleep in sheds, away from their home, when menstruating. It shouldn’t be this way.
In August last year, I travelled to Bangladesh to see some of our work and to meet people who Practical Action is supporting. In Bangladesh, menstrual hygiene remains a taboo topic, sanitary products are rarely available and young girls are often too afraid to ask.
I met 25 year old Danier who told me what it was like to be a woman in her community. She explained how women are considered ‘unclean’ during their periods, sanitary products are not available and girls are forced to hide away and use rags to soak up the blood. These rags are used over and over again. Washing and drying the rags is difficult, as they shouldn’t be seen by anyone. During this time, girls don’t attend school, because they are too afraid of blood leaking onto their clothes.
But this is beginning to change. Danier spends her mornings – along with other women from her village – making and selling biodegradable and good quality sanitary products. The women not only make the products, they also encourage other women and girls to use them and are starting to break the silence around the issue. The women earn a small income from making the pads, which they are able to use to help pay for their education.
Before this project, Danier explained that everyone was using rags but now, most of them are using the products she and her friends make!
“I’m happy, I even use the product. I am helping other girls. No longer do they have to feel shy.”
I was touched by how the project had empowered Danier. She felt she had a voice and was making a difference to the girls in her community. Menstruation should not be a taboo subject. Women and girls across the world should not feel ashamed by their periods. Hygiene education and sanitary products should be available to all wherever you live in the world.
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I have just returned from Nepal. It’s a country I have visited many times before. I first travelled there in my early twenties, an experience that shaped my future. The people I met touched my heart, they were kind, proud, hard working people. After that trip I decided I wanted to work in international development and joined Practical Action’s fundraising team. I have since returned to Nepal four further times. My last trip was in March where I visited communities in Gorkha, which was at the epicentre of the April 2015 earthquake to see how Practical Action was helping families to “build back better”.
I had tried to prepare myself beforehand for what I might see but the enormity of the devastation was overwhelming. The country I loved so much had been brought to it’s knees.
The Gorkha area I visited was severely affected and suffered 449 fatalities (310 adults and 139 children) and a further 20 people were never found including 2 children. Villages were completely flattened, communities ripped apart. A year on families were still living in temporary shelters, terrified for the future.
I listened to families stories of the day the earthquake hit, of where they were, of their houses collapsing around them, of injuries and their terror. Grown men wept as they recalled what their families had been through. Because of their remote, rural location emergency aid couldn’t reach them for days. They had no food, too terrified to return to their homes which were now just piles of rubble. For a further three months they experienced relentless aftershocks.
Many of the adults I spoke to found it difficult to think about the future. There was real sense of hopelessness. But the children were different. My son had written a letter for me to give to the children when I visited, he had raised nearly £50 for Practical Action’s Nepal appeal after the earthquake by selling some of his toys and I had took some papers, pens and paper aeroplanes from him as gifts.
The local children had drawn me some pictures with those pens and paper. The pictures were beautiful; vibrant, colourful and full of hope. They’d drawn strong, robust houses, latrines and water taps; everything they’d lost in the earthquake.
I have since written to our supporters about these stories. There is still such great need in Nepal; 900,000 people lost their homes. Practical Action has started helping families to ‘build back better’; training local masons to build earthquake resistant houses, repairing broken water points to villages, building emergency earthquake shelters, helping families to improve their livelihoods, through better agricultural techniques and improving access to markets so they can earn money. These are all important elements to help families get back on their feet again.
I am immensely proud to work for Practical Action, for the collaborative work we do with communities, for our hands up approach. The people in Nepal are very proud but they need our help now more than ever, they need a starting point. By supporting our Nepal ‘build back better’ appeal you can help us do just that. Thank you, your support will make such a difference.
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Some rural areas of Zimbabwe are currently in a state of disaster after being hit by a severe drought. But there is hope that a new Practical Action project in the country using solar power to irrigate land could help overcome the problems that climate change is causing.
A couple of hours’ drive from Gwanda in the south west of Zimbabwe, close to the border with Botswana, you come across an extraordinary sight. A bank of solar panels – 400 in total – make for a dazzling spectacle under Mashaba’s blazing midday sun.
They constitute Zimbabwe’s largest off-grid solar farm and are heralding a new era in solar power for some of Africa’s most marginalised communities.
For Winnie Sebata, 67, retired school teacher turned budding entrepreneur, energy access has come at a perfect time. “We really hope this project will change the lives of this community and the lives of people of Zimbabwe. So we are lucky to have been chosen. We are 8km from the border, so hopefully cross-border traffic will open up more business opportunities”.
Electrification has given Mr & Mrs Sebata the chance to diversify their retail business, selling meat from local farmers, opening a hairdressers and providing a range of solar powered products to meet growing local demand.
Practical Action is leading a consortium of public and private partners both to deploy the technology in Mashaba and develop a sound business model to establish viable mini grids. With the majority of up-front investment for the 99kW project being met by the European Union, the four year project to install and bed down the scheme is well under way.
Apart from the Sebata’s business, the other early beneficiaries include the health clinic, the primary school, local smallholder farmers and several energy kiosks. By 2019, the grid will be serving more than 10,000 people in the surrounding area.
According to Shepherd Masuka, Practical Action’s project technician (pictured above), the imminent arrival of pre-payment meters to aid the collection of fees will enable users to be charged for their electricity usage, with subsidised rates for the school and the clinic. Reliable revenue will allow for on-going maintenance of the grid with an estimated payback period of between 8-10 years.
The Mashaba scheme is just one of a growing number of such developments. A recent Economist article (Follow The Sun, April 16th 2016), highlighted the growth of solar power across the developing world with growing demand for energy, the falling price of solar panels (80% in the past five years) and technological improvements in generation and storage contributing to that growth.
Lessons are still being learned about improving the policy environment, providing access to finance across the value chain and protecting consumer’s rights. But certainly for Mr and Mrs Sebata, their new business venture looks to have a very bright future indeed.
For more information on Practical Action’s work towards universal access to modern energy services for all, visit us at http://practicalaction.org/energy3 Comments » | Add your comment
Today marks the year anniversary since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated my country. I have just returned from Ashrang – a village in Nepal that was near the epicentre of the earthquake. One year on, houses still lie in ruins and children are terrified – too scared to sleep.
I still remember the last time I visited Ashrang in Gorkha back in 2014. I was up on the roof of one of the schools overseeing the entire village. The view was just amazing. I could not get enough of it.
It was early morning and the sun was just peeking over the horizon. Kids were playing with a ball, dogs were barking and men were singing and laughing as they walked down the hill with a shovel and a plough. I sat there for a while gazing at the scene.
Fast forward two years and I was at the same place but this time things had changed dramatically. Life here was at a complete halt. After the massive earthquake in April 2015, Ashrang was completely shattered.
As I walked down the streets, I could see ruined houses left unattended and piles of rubble at every turn, as if it just happened yesterday.
I spotted an elderly man sitting alone in front of a small transitional shelter (t-shelter). His clothes were shabby, eyes were blood-flecked and face was timeworn.
Mr Khadananda Bhatta, aged 79, has been living under the t-shelter since his house collapsed in the earthquake.
“One of my sons is in Canada and the other one is in Malaysia,” he said. I am waiting for their arrival. Until then I am taking refuge under this shelter.” His voice was weak and fragile.
“Sometimes I go to bed on an empty stomach…Lately it’s too cold to even sleep at night.”
“Sometimes I go to bed on an empty stomach because it is too much work for me to cook. If I feel like eating, I cook; if not then I just ignore it. Lately, it’s too cold to even sleep at night; I can’t wait for the sun to come out.”
I can see the feeling of despair and loneliness in his eyes. He is counting days until he is reunited with his sons but it seems to be a battle for him to keep going.
I came across another small t-shelter where a family of eight people was taking refuge. I asked a mum who was holding a small baby about the earthquake.
Mrs Sajida Khatun, aged 27, was eight months pregnant when the first earthquake struck. She was feeding her four-year-old son when suddenly everything started to shake. “I thought this was the end and I was going to die. The thing that bothered me the most was the baby inside me who hadn’t seen the outside world yet,” she said.
The roof of the house started to crumble and the walls fell apart. Sajida grabbed her son and rushed towards the exit. Her in-laws and brothers in-laws were already out. They ran to the nearby open space and sat there as they watched their house turn into rubble. “It was very surreal,” she said.
“The only thing that that kept me alive was hope.”
There were many aftershocks that followed. Sajida recalls the following months to be the worst of her life. “The nights were long and cold and we had barely anything to eat. The only thing that that kept me alive was hope.”
On 17 May she gave birth to a baby boy. There were continual aftershocks and they were still living under a tarpaulin. She was more worried about the baby than herself. “I tried to keep the baby warm by covering him up with whatever I could find, from bed sheets to rugs but I was not able to prevent him from getting jaundice,” she sobbed.
For almost a week, she did not even get medicine for her little one. The village health post ran out of supplies. “We would wait inside the tarpaulin hoping for someone to appear with food and medicine supplies, it was like building a castle in the air,” she said. She was embittered against the odds of nature but was thankful to the relief effort shown by Practical Action and our partner Goreto-Gorkha.
“If it was not for Practical Action, who knows, I wouldn’t be chatting with you at this very moment,” she said.
Practical Action’s emergency relief and recovery work
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, we were able to provide life-saving food, repair drinking water systems and footpaths and construct temporary shelters and toilets for more than 7,000 households at the earthquake’s epicenter. We also trained people in activities to improve their livelihoods.
But what has worried me is people’s lives after we completed this recovery work. What will happen to Sajida and Khadananda? Will their lives be normal again? I am sure there are many people who have been having sleepless nights in extreme weather conditions, hoping for a better shelter and basic living standard.
All they need is a simple house
It is time for us to place ourselves in the shoes of the vulnerable ones and help them achieve what they deserve. I do not want to see their basic rights of human survival being denied nor do I want to see their hopes being washed away. We are not talking big here; all they need is a simple house with a basic living standard where one can enjoy a good night’s sleep.
The monsoon season is not far away. The thought of children having to shelter from its deluge under just a few windblown tarpaulins fills me with sadness.
People like Sajida and Khadananda have suffered so much, which is why it is vital to build earthquake-proof houses now. This is a once in a generation chance for people to build safer, stronger homes like the ones we had already built in the Kaski district, which withstood last April’s earthquake.
Practical Action’s long-term work to rebuild lives in Nepal
We’re embarking on the next phase of our earthquake work in Nepal – helping families Build Back Better. This not only means building homes that will withstand future earthquakes, but also stopping families from inhaling smoke from open fires in their homes that slowly kills them, by installing smoke hoods into the new homes.
We will improve agriculture productivity and rural income, food and nutritional security. We also intend to rebuild and improve drinking water supplies and provide energy services.
How you can help people Build Back Better in Nepal
You can find out more on what we’re doing here. But we can only do this with your help. Please support our Build Back Better programme and give families like Sajida’s hope for the future.
I hope to see the same smiling faces of those innocent kids, the never ending humours of those hardworking men, and the village that once was the beauty of Ashrang Gorkha. Amen!1 Comment » | Add your comment
“Sunalo Sakhi” is a small demonstration project started under the banner of Practical Answers at the beginning of 2016. The local partner CCWD happily agreed to partner with us for 3 months to implement the program in 15 slums of Bhubaneswar. This Bhubaneswar based NGO has strong grass root level presence and as this project was for a small period. We decided to use the already existed groups formed by the local NGO for the successful running of the project.
The project focussed on educating adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene. Many development organizations have comprehensive programmes on and around this issue. But what made us different from others is the multi faceted campaigning through radio shows, podcasting, individual counselling, focused group discussion, and film screenings in slums and in nearby high-schools.
We are happy to share that in Bhubaneswar we broadcast the first ever radio show exclusively on menstrual hygiene.
Some of the notable achievements of this three month project are;
1. Through radio we are reaching out to directly around 2000 young girls and women in 15 slums
2. Through our community outreach programme we are reaching out to more than 3000 girls and women.
3. Through film screening we are reaching out to more than 500 school going girls
4. 15 Kishori Clubs have been revived with 386 members and many change agents have been identified to keep on sharing the knowledge with their peers
As the radio has a 25 KM radius cover of Bhubaneswar it is reaching even more adolescent girls of the city than those in our project area. During the radio shows our community workers are ensuring their presence in the field where the adolescent girls are able to ask their questions through telephone calls and our resource person is immediately answering the questions.
It was really nice to hear the experiences of Usharani, Babita and Auropriya in the sharing workshop. Auropriya said that these shows helped her to prepare herself as she was about to attain puberty. Now she knows how to maintain hygiene during her periods. Usharani and Babita said that this has really helped many young girls as they were not able to ask anyone their concerns and the radio shows have addressed many of the issues of their fellow girls.
The project has successfully identified many blind beliefs associated with menstruation and developed knowledge products to address those. There are 436 slums in the city and many girls are deprived of such knowledge. I must accept we need further resources to expand the programmes. Hence, we are exploring partnership with some of the like minded organizations. But there are a few key things that I hope the project team will work on:
1. Sharing our recordings with other community radio stations managed by non-profits and requesting that they broadcast these in their operational areas
2. Sharing the knowledge products with other organizations
3. Ensuring Kishori club members keep sharing their knowledge with their peers.
The sharing meeting opened up new windows to educate more girls in different regions. Using community radio across the state, this kind of programme can now reach out to thousands of other girls in need of resources. Technology has now forward a step in witnessing a change in the hygiene practice of young girls and we wish to spread this knowledge with more communities.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Eva Nyamogo lives in Kitale in Kenya. She is a Community Mobiliser who works with her local community to improve their access to water and sanitation.
Three years ago, Eva received training from Practical Action on good hygiene practices, solid waste management and administration and management skills. This training has changed her life as she has the power and skills to work with her community to change their lives forever.
For the past three years, Eva has worked tirelessly to improve the conditions for her community. Before, they had no access to safe and clean drinking water. She said that people would have to walk 4 miles, every day; just to collect water from the stream, which was unclean and unsafe. People were often unwell and she explained that “they thought it was normal to be sick.”
The community now have access to a water kiosk, which provides clean water- for a small fee – every single day. Not only this, the time they spent collecting the water put immense strain on the women who would have to carry it back. The hours it took to collect water could have been spent getting an education or starting a business.
“I want women’s work to be easier. I want them to get a better education by reducing the time they take to collect water.”
Women, men and children would also be forced to defecate outside because there were no toilets, but Eva has managed to change this. Not only do the community now have access to clean water, they also have a toilet block, complete with showers. Eva has been instrumental in establishing the facility, which has grown to provide a laundry washing service to the local mechanics and it even has reliable energy.
Access to water and sanitation has completely changed life for people in Eva’s community, their health has dramatically improved because they are no longer drinking unclean water, they have a better understanding of good hygiene and they no longer have to defecate outside, which has brought dignity to the community members.
Thanks to your support, Practical Action has been able to work with Eva to empower her and help her to transform lives. She added “When you change people’s lives, you feel happy and because of Practical Action, we now talk to the county government.”
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Breaking news guys…fundraising can be tough. We get it. Your potential donors are bombarded with demands for their hard earned cash from breakfast to bedtime, so making your fundraising request cut through the noise can seem impossible. We’ve put our heads together and come up with some donation-driving schemes which are a little bit different, to keep your potential donors interested and stop you from losing your mind.
If you’re burnt out by bake sales and run down by races, why not try one of our unique fundraising ideas?
Used book sale.
Basically, it’s easier to make people give money if they’re getting something in return, so try dipping your toe into the world of second hand book-selling. Have an epic clear out of all your old books, and encourage your colleagues, friends and classmates to the same. There are few things more liberating than finally getting rid of that book on French philosophy you bought to impress the cute guy on your commute (just us?).
Once you’ve gathered your spoils, set up a stall in your workplace, or outside your house, and be prepared to haggle. You could even leave out some Practical Action literature alongside the books, so everyone knows that the proceeds are going to a great cause.
Karaoke evenings are the cheesy chips of social occasions – you either love them, hate them, or you won’t go near them until you’ve had a few drinks. Whichever camp you fall into, getting your friends together for a night of caterwauling and showing-off is a great way to raise money.
If you’re based in London, we’d recommend booking your event with Karaoke Network, a comprehensive compendium of karaoke venues, including bars, clubs and restaurants. The song list has everything from Gangnam Style to Gangsta’s Paradise (though we’d probably choose to belt out some Britney).
Prices on Karaoke Network start from £4 per person, so charge slightly more than that for tickets and your event has the potential to raise a lot of money. It’s worth a try, as how often do you get to embarrass yourself on a night out and feel good about it the next day?
If you work in any kind of office environment, you’ve probably been subjected to corporate slang at one time or another, whether it’s someone wanting to “touch base” or someone else suggesting you “blue sky this”. In order to end this sickening behaviour forever, and raise some money for charity in the process, introduce fines for particularly egregious jargon use. Hey, it’s worth running this idea up the flagpole and grabbing some low hanging fruit (sorry).
Put on a festival.
Fancy yourself a bit of an Emily Eavis? Hosting your own music festival involves a heavy dose of mud, sweat and tears, but it will probably be an experience you’ll never forget.
We spoke to Emily at the Nozstock festival who gave us their top tips on putting on a festival, to help you throw a charity event to rival Live Aid.
‘Festivals are all about balancing many plates at once. The biggest challenge is keeping true to your vision, when there are so many amazing different directions you could go in. At Nozstock The Hidden Valley, we have always been devoted to being a festival that anyone can come to. We’ve had 4 generations of one family at the festival and we want to keep it that way.
Apparently, event organisation is in the top 5 most stressful jobs. To keep your head is key. Do whatever it takes to get perspective when things get stressful – take the dog for a walk, sit in a quiet place for a minute, make a nice comprehensive list, remember that it’s not life or death – it’s about having fun. Manage all that and you’ll probably be fine!’
For a fundraising opportunity that’s super relevant to Practical Action, get your friends and family to sponsor you for every “clean mile” you travel. That’s basically a mile in which you use no energy to get from a to b – sounds doable right?
Cycling is one of the best ways to do this, and we’d recommend using an app to keep track of your progress. Strava is popular, and with good reason. The streamlined, clean interface lets you know how many miles you’ve cycled or run, as well as your speed and how many calories you’ve burned. You can even share the results of your rides on social media so you can humblebrag about how much energy you’re saving. Practical Action are committed to ending energy poverty so you’ll be raising awareness too.
Whatever route you decide to take with fundraising, good luck! If you have any more unique fundraising ideas, why not share them with us on Twitter?1 Comment » | Add your comment
Sponsored runs are one of the easiest ways to fundraise – all you really need is a good pair of trainers and the tenacity to hound friends, family and colleagues for money. However, if you’re only used to tackling the distance between the fridge and the sofa, a long run can seem pretty daunting.
We’d suggest trying a 5k run to begin with. Short enough to be achievable yet still challenging enough to be rewarding, a 5k charity run is perfect for beginners and is guaranteed to make you feel great about yourself. Raising money for charity and getting fit?! I’m sorry, your halo is blinding me.
We’ve scoured the country to bring you our favourite 5k runs, which combine stunning scenery with a friendly, fun atmosphere. All you need to do is sign up and get fundraising!
- Where: Windsor
- When: 19th March
Located in the hallowed grounds of Eton College, the Windsor and Eton Fun Run is a family friendly dash just fifteen minutes from London. Eton College hosted the rowing and canoeing events in the London 2012 Games, so whether you’re an Olympian or just limping along you’ll be racing in iconic surroundings.
- Where: Bournemouth
- When: 1st October
A run with the visual aesthetic of a rave, the Bournemouth Supernova 5k is a pretty unforgettable experience. Runners are supplied with LED wristbands and encouraged to wear fluorescent clothing, and the run takes place at dusk, creating a moving spectacle of light.
- Where: Hertfordshire
- When: 3rd July
Winding through and around the charming town of Bushey , the Spire Bushey 5k is a relaxed run through leafy (or should that be Bushey?) scenery. The best thing about this run is that it’s part of the annual Bushey Festival, so once you’ve cooled off you can enjoy local music, art and food.
- Where: Liverpool
- When: 30th April
Probably the only race to have samba band entertainment partway round the course, the John West 5k takes the concept of the “fun run” seriously. After you’ve slogged through beautiful Sefton Park, you can unwind with face painting and a free massage – one of which will probably be exactly what you need.
- Where: Newcastle
- When: 10th September
Don’t feel quite ready for the Great North Run, but fancy soaking up the atmosphere anyway? Try the Great North 5k. The UK’s leading half marathon is preceded by a 5k run which gives you the scenic drama of running over the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in a starter pack distance. It also means you won’t be all sweaty when you go celeb-spotting at the main event later in the weekend. (Mo Farah’s been known to make an appearance).
Are there any great 5ks near you? Let us know and we can include them!No Comments » | Add your comment
In Bangladesh, the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers are both vital and threatening to nearby inhabitants. Monsoon rains cause these great rivers to swell, often flooding villages and fields.
However, during the other months, drought leaves crops, livestock and communities praying for water. Land is scarce, population density is high and poverty and food security are major concerns, especially in the face of this seasonal feast and famine.
It is in this environment that Practical Action’s Pathways From Poverty project was launched in 2009 in the north west part of Bangladesh to lift 31,850 households out of poverty.
The project goal is to reduce the vulnerability of men, women and children to the physical, social and economic effects of river erosion, flooding and other natural disasters in the five districts in northwest Bangladesh. It aims to help those whose villages and farms have been lost through river erosion and are forced to live illegally on flood protection embankments. We offer these communities a wide range of technological support programmes in agriculture, fisheries, livestock, food processing, light-engineering, disability, education, health and nutrition to improve their ability to manage productive livelihoods, including our sandbar cropping project.
A life changing innovation to eradicate extreme poverty
The sandbar cropping project started with the objective “something is better than nothing” but today it has transformed the lives of the landless poor through access to barren transitional sandy land.
Sandbar cropping is a ground-breaking approach to ensuring these harsh landscapes provide for their inhabitants. After each rainy season, large islands of sand appear in the main rivers of Bangladesh. These ‘lands’ are common property resources that generally tend to disappear during the following wet season and, until now, have not been used for any productive purpose. However, this project has successfully used this ever-changing landscape to demonstrate that the growing of pumpkins in small compost pits dug into the sand is both possible and profitable. Large-scale irrigation is not necessary as the land is close to the river channel.
From 2005 to 2014, a total of 15,000 farmers, many of who were women, produced over 80,000 tonnes of pumpkins worth £5.5million at farm gate price by utilising 7,973 acres of sandbar land…and the technology is now spreading to new areas, with a further 15,000 individuals benefiting from it in north west Bangladesh.
Transforming barren landscapes
The pumpkins produced on these sandbars can be stored in people’s houses for over a year. They help poor households both in terms of income generation and year-round food security and lean season management. Sandbar cropping has transformed a barren landscape, and these ‘mini deserts’ have now been turned into productive, green fields.
This innovative cropping technology opens up otherwise unproductive lands and is ideally suited to adoption by displaced and landless households. The technology appears to be low risk, yet shows an impressive financial return. Sandbar cropping is so simple and yet, to our knowledge, no one had thought of this application until the project was first experimented with in 2005. The technology would seem to have a much wider application in other dry areas and could even become an important coping strategy in some areas both at home and abroad adversely affected by climate change.
Revolutionary socio-economic changes for millions
An earmarked policy for the erosion-affected communities to use transitional sandy land for 5-6 months of a year can bring revolutionary socio-economic changes for millions on production, processing and marketing chain on the ground.
Barren land management will enable food production to meet the demand of local, regional and national markets. It will support families by ensuring year-round food security and nutrition, income and employment. It will reduce dependency on external relief and migration to urban areas in search of employment.
The tested innovation can be disseminated in a number of erosion prone districts in Bangladesh to benefit hundreds of thousands of the poor embankment dwellers, affected by river erosion.
Want to help? You can donate to Practical Action’s Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal. This is matched pound for pound by the UK government until 31st December, doubling the impact of your donation.No Comments » | Add your comment