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  • How a view tower is helping to save lives?

    Swarnima Shrestha
    September 18th, 2014
    The view of Fewa Lake.

    The view of Fewa Lake.

    Pokhara is one of the most popular tourist destinations of Nepal and my favourite place of all times. It is a kind of place that makes you forget all your troubles and mesmerizes you with its unparalleled natural beauty. And no visit to Pokhara is complete without a boating trip on the amazing Fewa Lake. Most of the people visiting Pokhara definitely take the wooden boat and enjoy the beauty of this fresh water lake – the second largest in Nepal. Though not highly risky activity in itself, quite a number of people have lost their lives by drowning while boating in Fewa – an occurrence which could have been easily avoided.

    The weather in Pokhara is unpredictable and changes drastically during afternoon. Powerful wind starts blowing, making the boats unstable and filling it up with water. People who have gone to the farther corners of the lake find it hard to come back to the shore in time; at times causing them their lives. The lake stretching into the corners of the hills makes it hard for the rescue team to reach the needful on time.

    Sub-inspector Padam Pandey at the view tower.

    Sub-inspector Padam Pandey at the view tower.

    But according to sub-inspector Padam Pandey, things have changed for better now. “Going for rescue has been much easier after the establishment of the danger alert system and the construction of the view tower. We blow the danger siren as soon as we feel like the weather patterns are getting dangerous. The boats rush back to the shore when they hear the siren,” he says. Sub-inspector Pandey is a part of the rescue team under the Armed Police Force’s disaster risk reduction unit, currently posted at Pokhara.

    The view tower constructed on the shore of the Fewa Lake is a part of the Building Disaster Resilient Communities in Pokhara Sub-Metropolitan (BDRC) project. It is a DFID Nepal funded consortium project of Practical Action and Action Aid with local partners Siddhartha Club and Community Support Group. The project has been conducting various activities to build the capacity of communities to respond and prepare for disasters – the view tower is just a small part of it all.

    Sub-inspector Pandey seemed very enthusiastic to be able to work from the view tower.

    “We can have a wide range of view from the tower. We also use binoculars to spot appropriately. As soon as we see that someone is in danger, we rush out for rescue. In the past, it was difficult to locate where exactly the people were. Sometimes, we used to reach the place a bit too late. Now, it has become easier to save lives.”

    He further adds, “I never thought that a tower could make so much difference! It has made our work so much easier and effective.”

    I will definitely feel safer while boating around the Fewa Lake next time I visit Pokhara, all thanks to BDRC and brave life savers such as sub-inspector Pandey.


    The view tower constructed with support from BDRC

    The view tower constructed with support from BDRC project


    (Find a news about the life saving rescue work in this link –

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  • A brighter future for the Himalaya community

    Martha Munyoro
    September 16th, 2014

    Cornelius MayengamhuruThe children in Himalaya community in Zimbabwe’s Mutare were all smiles after witnessing the hard work their parents went through during the construction of the Himalaya micro-hydro and irrigation schemes coming to fruition.

    “At first I thought this was a joke but now I can see that it is real. I was so happy to see the lights being switched on for the first time at the powerhouse when the engineers were testing the scheme”, said Cornelius Mayengamhuru, a 13 year old form 1 student at Himalaya Secondary School.

    He added, “I used to think that my parents were wasting their time and energy coming to work at the project site almost every day. It was so much hard work but they soldiered on. I am so happy because I am seeing the results of my parent’s efforts with my own eyes”

    Since 2011, his parents, along with other community members from Himalaya have been working on the construction of the Himalaya micro-hydro scheme and two irrigation schemes in the area. This work was done under the Rural Sustainable Energy Development project being implemented by Practical Action in partnership with Oxfam with funding from the European Union. The four year project, aims to increase access to modern, affordable and sustainable renewable energy services for the rural irrigation communities in Gutu (Masvingo province) and Mutare (Manicaland) districts of Zimbabwe.

    children from Himalaya with irrigationEven though the children were not participating in the project activities, they know about the project and the benefits it will bring to the community. They witnessed all the effort their parents went through to get the project to where it is today. The terrain in Himalaya is so hilly and this makes it even difficult to do any sort of construction work. Women had to carry sand, cement; stones on their heads up to the top of the mountain where the weir was being constructed. Men worked on the more labour intensive tasks such as lifting and laying of  heavy penstock pipes , hauling electric cables to erect the electricity supply grid and digging trenches to lay irrigation pipes amongst other tasks.

    Despite this hard work, the community was driven by the spirit to develop their area and also secure a future for their children  Even in doubt as been said by Cornelius above, they still had hope.

    “I am so happy with the project because it will also help generations to come including myself. I wake up every day and walk to school 5 kilometres from my house. It is far but the fact that I want to be educated and become someone in life keeps me going. Before I go to school I eat sadza and any relish available that day. I hope my parents will start to grow potatoes now that there is plenty of water being powered by electricity, so that I will be able to eat healthily before I leave for school in the morning. I study agriculture at school so when I grow up I want to be a farmer, own a piece of land here and develop my community. This project just came at the right time”.

    micro hydro turbineThe project is promoting the use of micro-hydro in Manicaland and solar energy in Gutu by rural people around the irrigation schemes. By promoting the use of micro-hydro and solar energy in the targeted remote communities, this project will enhance the accessibility of rural communities to modern renewable energy for productive use.  Energy plays an invaluable role in social and economic development as it is a critical factor of production, whose cost impacts directly on other services and the competitiveness of various enterprises. Every productive sector in the economy relies on the provision of energy, and agriculture being the back-borne of the economy in Zimbabwe, is no exception.

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  • Hiking in the Shivapuri

    September 15th, 2014

    Hiking in the Shivapuri – memorable moments with the office colleagues!!


    Rain didn’t stop the whole night. I couldn’t sleep well with a fear whether the hiking scheduled for the next day would get cancelled. Of course, I didn’t want to miss reaching the second highest hill around Kathmandu Valley with its peak 2,730 meters above the sea level.  Not only for this, I always loved the company of nature and Shivapuri is special, being the youngest national park of Nepal.

    Woke up with full excitement – I could still hear the rain outside. Am I really doing this? Yes, I am. I geared up myself and rushed; the vehicle was supposed to pick us up from the office. I saw very few people, less than the plan but each one with full enthusiasm and excitement!!

    Around 9 AM, our group of 11 started the journey hoping that the rain won’t accompany us during the day. We chose the wilder route, could easily see leeches on the wet vegetation and damp paths – my blood being sucked by them was the biggest fear. And indeed, I was the first one to have leeches gnawing into my lower ankle. I shouted as if I was attacked by a dangerous wild animal – finally brushed it off. Thereafter, others started checking and found them inside their shocks too!! Despite this, we continued climbing up – the higher we went, the lower was our energy level and speed.

    Dinanath shouted every 15 minutes – “Are we together”?  As long as the answer was “Yes” – we continued, otherwise we would have stopped to be in the group. The lunch pack arranged by Rubina was sort of a surprise pack; it had so many things in it and was enough for several bites that kept us fueled throughout the day.

    The sounds of insects and distant birds were just perfect for that jungle environment and our team to keep moving. At times, we kept quiet and suddenly somebody makes a joke – “Sankuchy, did you tweet that we have crossed 2.5 miles?”

    We sort of bonded ourselves with the nature, the vegetation and the landscape with a feel of a walking meditation. It was a group of office colleagues, but we didn’t talk about work, pressures, tensions, deadlines and so on. We enjoyed fogs at places, the frequent showers, the insect noisescape, and views of forest as if it just came from the dark.

    At around 3 PM, we celebrated reaching the peak. We missed the view from Shivapuri peak due to gloomy weather, but we had the adventure! “How long will it take us to get back?” I asked our trip guide, Saurav. “Around three hours,” he replied. We looked at each other’s tired faces, they seemed as if they were seeking sympathy from each other.

    We had no option; we started our journey back from the peak. Our joke topic then was “TODKE BABA”, a religious person from India staying in this forest since long. Some of us were even thinking of staying with him for sometime and meditating. We took pictures at his place of meditation and moved on.

    Among our group, we talked about things which we never did at our office that not only brought us closer but helped us understand our real personalities. Our hero of the trip, Gehendra, who didn’t look tired at all throughout the journey, provided us energy to move on. As Shivapuri is the major watershed for water supply in the Kathmandu Valley, we dropped by the source of Bagmati River, the famous religious river of Nepal. We regretted – we have made it polluted as it crosses the urban centres.

    Our speed was higher on our way back – with the excitement of celebrating the victory. And surprisingly, we completed our journey just in 2.5 hours. I looked up to the peak I reached and congratulated myself, “Yes you did it – a complete journey of around 25 KM!” The journey was just the means, I made many friends out of my colleagues with whom I can now easily work, argue, and deliver!

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  • As the costs of renewables plummet, are we about to see Technology Justice in the energy sector?

    Simon Trace
    September 12th, 2014


    IRENA (the International Renewable Energy Agency) has just published a really fascinating report – REthinking energy 2014. It’s the first of a series exploring the changes that are transforming the way we produce and use energy and should be on the reading list of anyone interested in renewables.

    The report kicks off by reconfirming that business as usual in the energy sector will not keep us below the CO2 levels necessary to avoid severe climate change, but that doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix (one of the 3 UN Sustainable Energy for All targets for 2030) would.

    That’s not exactly news, but the report then goes on to provide some fairly extraordinary statistics concerning just how rapidly advances are taking place right now in renewable energy. For this blog I thought I’d just pick three really interesting facts, although there are plenty more on offer in the report.

    FACT 1: The cost of renewable energy is plummeting

    Solar photovoltaic (PV) prices have fallen by 80% since 2008. Moreover they are expected to keep dropping, as the diagram below (from p 35 of the report) shows:

    IRENA (2014) Rethinking Energy: Towards a new power system, p 35













    In a number of countries, including Italy, Germany and Spain commercial solar power has already reached grid parity – the point at which the price of electricity from renewables equals the price of power from the traditional grid.

    The cost of onshore wind electricity has also fallen – 18% since 2009, making it the cheapest source of new electricity in “a wide range of markets”.

    The pace of technology development revealed by the IRENA report is staggering. The efficiency of solar PV modules in converting sunlight into electricity has improved by around 3%-4.5% per year for every one of the last 10 years. But that statistic is dwarfed by the one concerning energy storage – in some senses the holy grail of the renewable energy sector. Better storage would allow us to smooth out the peaks and troughs of electricity generated from wind or sunlight and better match supply with demand. Until recently pumped storage (a method where water is pumped up to a reservoir when excess electricity is available and then sent back down through turbines to generate electricity at times of peak demand) has been the only viable large scale energy storage solution. But large scale battery technology is developing rapidly and IRENA expects this to transform the market for energy storage from approximately USD 200 million last year to USD 19 billion by 2017 (a nearly 100 fold increase in just 4 years!).

    FACT 2: Financing renewables is getting cheaper, and easier

    The report notes that “government financial support has traditionally been critical for promoting renewables” (a comment that chimes with my blog last week). But it seems that private finance is increasingly ready to play a part with “early-mover private developers” attracting USD 11 billion in 2013, up 200% in 12 months.

    Total investment in renewable energy rose more than 5 fold from US$ 40 billion in 2004 to US$ 214 billion in 2013 (excluding large hydropower – which accounted for a further US$35 billion in 2013). This is still less than half of the estimated annual investment of US$550 billion needed to achieve the 2030 goal of doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix however.

    IRENA highlights the important role governments have to play here. In the more developed markets they need to be sending clear signals that energy will be a larger part of their national energy mix, so reducing uncertainty and attracting more investors, whilst in emerging markets, according to IRENA, they will still need to provide public finance to develop domestic structures to support the deployment of renewables.

    FACT 3: New renewables now outpace new fossils and nuclear.

    IRENA (2014) Rethinking energy: Towards a new power system, p 25












    Falling costs and rising availability of finance means, as the diagram here shows (from page 25 of the report) , renewables now add more new generating capacity each year than do fossil fuel and nuclear power, combined. 

    Are we about to see Technology Justice in the energy sector?

    To be fair, with 1.3 billion still without electricity and 2.6 billion still cooking on open fires the prospect of technology justice in the energy sector still looks a good way off. But there are some really interesting positive trends developing that are starting to move us in the right direction.

    Renewables are beginning to be the technology of choice for new generating capacity, which has to be good news, albeit the rate of increase in renewables still needs to accelerate to avoid catastrophic climate change goals.

    But renewables are also showing how technology could be democratised. IRENA notes that “as the share of renewable energy grows… the nature and role of power producers are undergoing change. A sector once dominated by large utilities is becoming more decentralised, diverse and distributed. In Germany, almost half of all renewable energy is now in the hands of households and farmers, and only 12% of renewable assets are owned directly by utilities”.

    It also notes that “in many emerging markets, renewables are already the most economic power source for off-grid and mini-grid systems” and, conveniently, that “decentralised mini-grids are seen as a way to improve grid reliability, by localising generation and reducing the risk of transmission faults – particularly during natural calamities.” IRENA compares the opportunity for developing countries to sidestep national grids and move to a flexible system of interconnected mini grids to the opportunity those same countries have already taken to leapfrog fixed line telephone technology in favour of mobiles.

    Innovation is not confined to technology alone though. The report cites examples from Denmark and elsewhere to show how crowdfunding is growing quickly as a source of finance for renewable power infrastructure. “Specifically, in conjunction with decentralised technology, crowdfunding allows individuals and local communities to be the driving force behind the global energy transformation and to simultaneously benefit from the change.”

    IRENA concludes that “these and other trends require a different way of thinking about energy, shifting from a system dominated by a few centralised utilities, to a diverse, distributed system, where consumers are also producers, with far more control over how and when they use energy”.

    Sounds an awful lot like Technology Justice to me!





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  • “A dam and an apple both use water to bring us energy” I like the statement, Do you?

    Faruk Ul Islam
    September 11th, 2014

    From Stockholm World Water Week

    I can take you to Stockholm World Water Week saying “water does not come from tap” nicely sketched in a poster there. water tap posterThen where does it comes from and where does it go? From the top of mountain, from the ocean, under the ground, from lakes, rivers and also from your tears and used for drinking, irrigation, production of energy  and industry.

    It is expected that 47% of the world’s population will be living in high water stress areas by 2030 (OECD). Can you imagine the planet with high water stress? One of my fellow award nominees for Securing Water for Food was telling that the problem of our food security is having less freshwater as we are living in a salty planet. Therefore, obtaining more freshwater for us is a great task. I never thought our beautiful planet was so salty and agriculture is the biggest consumer of freshwater – 70% of total freshwater withdrawal.

    We know we need freshwater for human, other animals and nature. Therefore, what should be the model of our new agriculture? New water solutions? How can we apply nano, bio or solar technology to purifying polluted or saline water? Another interesting poster from IFAD strikes me that tells “a dam and an apple both use water to bring us energy”. I loved this statement. I have eaten many apples in life, seen many dams but never thought of this kind of simple relation. This was fantastic to explain food, energy and water nexus. By 2050, we will need 550% more energy and 330% more water to produce it (WorldBank). Among various sources 62% of hydroelectric potential remains untapped.

    There is information here about increasing water efficiency and reuse, reducing food waste, accelerating access, protecting and restoring ecosystems, reducing pollution, increasing affordability, supply, recycling and managing cross border cooperation, combating  salinity intrusion in the entire coast. How can we grow more food with less water is a big question. Moreover there is a crisis of safe drinking water and concern for 2.4 billion people lacking adequate sanitation.

    water pumpkinOn the subject of the USAID Water for Food Award event in the Conference, our innovation was a way to irrigate riverbeds for pumpkin and other crop farming in Bangladesh, transforming flooded unused sand bar to a golden pumpkin land and  testing this business model with the extreme poor. During the rehearsal round in the Conference Centre, one of the evaluators praised the seasonal dimension of land; they liked strong evidence in the field and the proven case of pumpkin growing and its low cost simple irrigation technique.

    Abdur Rahim- a sand bar farmer and irrigation entrepreneur from Gaibandha, Bangladesh invested around 116 US$ per crop cycle and got a return on 410 US$ per cycle, irrigation cost was around 13 US$, has been continuing last 4-5 years. He harvested 1500 pumpkins from 320 pits. One journalist here did an interview on the case. I told them, similar contexts exist in Asia and other parts of the world. They may use the same technology with a different crop. In Bangladesh we also can grow other vegetables in the sand bar. We welcome processors to make diverse pumpkin food products such as egg pumpkin noodles and invite distributors and buyers to buy it and take it to regional markets, calling investors for commercial finance to the poor farmers to produce in a large scale utilizing those seasonal cheap /free lands.

    The topics of other award winners were – drip irrigation in India, salt tolerant potatoes, salinity and rain water harvesting, water purification using simple solar technology, reel gardening, using water pad technology in planting, powering  irrigation with river current energy in Nepal, use of logged water in Sudan etc. – all innovative  ideas.

    apple damMy presentation at world water week as an award nominee  went well. The applause in the room was enough to make me brave. But there’s a long way to go.  Here are 17 innovative ideas of water for food. Not only USAID, SIDA, DFID etc. but many corporates are also working on water issues. Did you know the Coca-Cola Company works to conserve and protect freshwater resources? Do you know Nestle works for access to clean water and nutrition?

    I learnt many things about sanitation too. Perhaps we need to combine our business, technical, leadership and environmental perspective together to make change happen. For example, flush toilet technology is a very old sanitation technology. ……. in 1596, a flush toilet was invented and built for Queen Elizabeth I by her Godson, Sir John Harrington. We are still using that in modern life (quoted from a learned speaker).

    Do we think about how much water we are flushing away every day in the globe? Can we not find a more water saving technology? On one hand we need to give access to toilet to millions of people but that is not enough we also need to rethink our technological advances. Can you imagine a small sunlight activated lily pad can clean huge waste water from lakes and ponds for us? Not very big …but small technical changes can bring big difference to the world. From all these I can imagine yes poverty (such as income, water, food, energy) can be eradicated but we must be prepared as it has many different faces.

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  • Flooding in Sudan – part 1

    Yassir Abdelmutalab
    September 10th, 2014

    This morning, 9th September 2014, some droplets fell from the sky announcing the end of a heavy storm that showered Khartoum the whole of last night (20 mm). I drove from home to the office, taking my little child to his kindergarten, a few meters from the gate, the car got mired down in  heavy mud, I struggled to pull it out, for almost 10 minutes, using all the stunts and tricks, move forward, backward, while steering and turning in all directions; tossing on my seat to lift some weight or put some of it, my wife, please go to the back seat, the child enjoyed the experience; the windshield completely covered with the mud sheets, the wipers and wiping water finished; at last we succeeded to escape away from this place. A poor infrastructure, in addition to lack of knowledge on what to expect and what will happen in the future (forecasting); and I say this because two days ago I heard in the radio, meteorology announcing light rains, opposite to the reality. My other two kids waiting for their school bus, the driver phoned us, informing us that the school principal told him there is no school today due to the heavy rains (we accustomed to that).

    As in previous years,  in Sudan in 2014 we have witnessed a lot of rains and floods, so I thought to shed some light on the topic and discuss flood disasters in Sudan and see how we can deal with them.

    There are many different types of floods; the most important ones are classified into:

    • Regional Flood: normally occur on a seasonal basis when rain water overfill river basins and flood the banks. They also occur during periods of excessive rain when the rain saturates the soil and the runoff overflows streams and rivers.
    • Flash flood: A flash flood is a rapid flooding of geomorphic low-lying areas – washes, rivers and streams. Caused by the heavy rainfall associated with a thunderstorm, hurricane, or tropical storm, etc.
    • Land Slide- Debris Flood: A type of a movement of rocks, regolith, soil and debris mixed with water, similar to some extent to an avalanche.
    • Dam and Levee Failure Flood: The huge release of impounded waters due to structure failure or uncontrolled breach failure.

    Flooding in KhartoumIn recent times Sudan has experienced a series of these disasters, though the flood disaster in Sudan ironically comes in the second place after drought.  We either have too much water or no water!

    The natural conditions together with the geographical location positioned the Sudan in a corner, where its people are vulnerable and have low resilient capacity towards facing disasters and its consequences.

    Floods vary in their magnitude and the worst effects happened in 1946, 1988, 2007, and 2013.  This year 2014  has still not yet unfolded.

    The 1988 Flood of Sudan is considered a reference point, to the extent that today, the staff of the meteorology if they wanted to produce a forecast model (i.e. based on previous years data) they exclude the readings of 1988.  This reminded me of when Mr. Al Gore in his Global warming presentation mounted on the ladder as the line-graph is beyond the screen boundaries.

    It is worth mentioning that, the total annual average of rainfall in Khartoum area is 162mm.

    Over a couple of days in 1988 – more exactly the 4th- 5th August 1988, there was an exceptionally intense storm covered Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The cloud responsible for that heavy torrent, was measured at almost 500 km till east Sudan, 200km north to Atbara river, resulted in the 80km cross Khartoum. The rainfall commenced at GMT 20:18. In the first hour, the rain gauge read 50mm; toward the end of that night and early morning, exactly at GMT 06:00, the reading reached 210mm. Two more storms took place on  12th and 14th which took the August reading to 301.4mm. It is worth mentioning that in previous years, August rainfall gauges readings were around 12mm.

    The total annual rainfall in 1988 reached 785.5mm. This was a new record compared to the 1946 flood which was 223.9mm.

    With that huge amount of water, Khartoum was inundated. The immediate result of that flood was 1.5 million homeless in Khartoum; houses were damaged and destroyed. Other parts of the country went through a similar experience, and the effects were massive all over the country.

    To some extent, or usually, every year we have floods, but they are minor, except for those took place in 2007, 2013, 2014.

    In 2014 the rainy season is now at its end and rains are above average.  Accordingly a state of emergency was declared in Khartoum, schools were closed till the floodwater recedes and now we are living with the impact.

    SUDAN-WEATHER-FLOODThe measuring tool this year is not how many mm of rains reached, but how many people died, injured, were displaced and suffered? Where are they now? How do they live? When are they getting a permanent shelter? A lot of questions need answers.

    I am quite sure, the readers are well aware about the miserable situations and conditions that affected people live in and most of us, directly or indirectly witnessed these disasters; such as recent floods in Kashmir, Srinagar (India & Pakistan) where over 175 persons lost their lives not to mention the other damage.

    But the question that always emanating is: Why do people always go through this pain? We are living in the 21st century, indeed and by now we ought and must have a lot of  technologies under our disposal, we have a large amount of wealth of knowledge, advanced science, research, huge man-power, tools, equipment, capacity to plan, to implement and to provide solutions. I am looking for convenient small scale solutions to a single family or a neighbourhood, or a village, and then scaling up, a solution that expects what is coming and get prepared against disaster to achieve a minimum loss or damage.

    In spite of the many frequent trials of governments, INGOs, UN bodies to manage floods disasters in Sudan, still the vast majority of people suffered, entrapped in a viscous circle. One example is that some of our people live and build their homes and buildings right in the middle of a seasonal rain stream, why? Why do people do that?

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  • Effects of strikes on the livelihoods of poor farmers in Bangladesh

    S M Alauddin
    September 9th, 2014

    Bangladesh experienced severe political unrest and prolonged blockades/strikes between September 2013 and mid-January 2014 by opposition political parties that traumatized the country, affected its social, economic and other aspects of life, created negative effects on country’s economic growth and development including GDP growth.

    More than 500 people were killed in political violence by clashes between opposition protesters and security forces.  The blockade largely affected activities of NGOs/INGOs also that work for the extreme poor/small farmers/producers, who mostly depend on farm/off-farm based livelihoods activities, rickshaw/van pulling, day laboring. INGOs could reach only 52% of their beneficiaries during the period, which reveals how program implementation was hampered by blockade/strikes.

    Practical Action, Bangladesh commissioned an assessment (February-May 2014)  to assess the effects of the blockade on the livelihoods of its poor beneficiaries and to take learnings to use for future precaution measures for programme and service delivery in such a situation and to support the livelihoods of poor men and women. Beside affected poor farmers/producers and NGOs/INGOs, this learning might also be useful to donors, development practitioners/researchers/ planners, etc.

    The study covered 118 households in October-December, 2013 in 3 northern districts:

    • Negative effects on income opportunities of non-agricultural wage labourers were higher than agricultural
    • Non-agricultural wage labourers, rickshaw/van pullers/mechanics lost their employment
    • Urban labourers were most affected than rural areas

    Market in Jamuna charThe blockade affected production, harvesting, processing and marketing levels of both options as marketing and supply chain systems was almost broken down.  Farmers failed in marketing products in districts/divisional cities. Supply of the essentials (rice, flour, onion, garlic, chili, oil, pulse, etc.) and agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizer, fuel/diesel, etc.) were also extremely inadequate at local markets, leading to a price hike in essentials from Tk.4-75/Kg (13%-182% increase/Kg) and higher prices for agricultural inputs.

    Due to break down of supply chain systems, absence of wholesalers/paikers and huge supply in local markets, farmers/producers compelled to sell their products at severely decreased prices (Tk.1-2/Kg), mostly, perishable vegetables, potato, tomato, poultry/egg/milk, etc. But, they had to purchase inputs at higher prices. Farmers even discarded their vegetables on roads. Milk producers/small poultry firm/rearers made loss. Poultry vaccinators made 100% loss.

    Because of fuel problems, farmers in Sirajganj District could neither plough, nor irrigate land , which, delayed cultivation and resulted in to failure of next crop cultivation.

    The overall economic losses occurred for 58% (off-farm 60.78%, farm based options 50.33%). The average loss in taka was 3,760/household against their expected production/gross income Tk.6,495/- for the period. Sirajganj experienced higher loss for both options. Day laborers lost over 52% of their working days/income.

    The prolonged blockade left poor farmer and producers in long term economic hardship, which they were coping by receiving credit from NGOs or neighbours or borrowing money from relatives and friends, selling household assets/property; even, consuming less food. Out of 14, 13 members attended in a group discussion received credit/loan from Tk. 2,000-20,000/each in Sirajganj.

    The blockade prevented achieving 6% GDP growth rate, which was steady for over the last 7/8 years. Political parties should rethink of their strategy of political actions and Government and NGOs/INGOs need to plan alternative livelihoods supports for the poor/extreme poor people in such a situation.


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  • World Water Week: the good, the bad, the unexpected

    20140903_093446Before I came to World Water Week I asked whether there would be enough focus on smallholder farmers and on the contribution that decentralised energy can make to water, energy and food security. I was also interested to discover how far the needs of the urban poor are being discussed.

    What are my reflections after the 4½ days of intense debate, discussion and the inevitable and useful networking that these kinds of conferences entail? Inevitably there’s a huge variety. It’s a smorgasbord of different styles, pace and quality. There are both frustrations and unexpected delights.

    The good

    • At least some recognition of the needs of smallholder farmers, irrigation practices they can benefit from, and how energy can contribute. There were even (a few) smallholder farmers and their representatives there. I’m encouraged, but clearly there is a lot more that agricultural, water resources and energy colleagues can learn from each other.


      Kamal Kar at the lauch of ‘Promising Pathways: Innovations and Best Practices in CLTS at scale in Madagascar’

    • A good number of sessions on faecal sludge management in urban contexts. As it was noted “it’s no good storing up the shit and dumping it in the street. We might as well have just dumped it in the street in the first place and saved ourselves the trouble”. The momentum is clearly building but there is an urgent need to move from pilots and clever technologies to systems that work at scale and for the urban poor.
    • Hearing from great speakers (Kamal Kar in full flow is always an inspiration), and getting answers directly from the people involved. There were eminent experts at every turn.

    The challenging

    • Although there are good ideas, it seems that we are a way from turning around ‘business as usual’ models and investment in either energy or agricultural investments that are focused on large-scale energy supply and commercial agriculture.
    • The figures are still poorly disaggregated to demonstrate the scale of inequalities in access between urban slums and the rest of the city. The Joint Monitoring Programme said they feel it’s too hard to do in a representative way – so the problem remains under-reported and under-recognised at global levels. While faecal sludge management and community led total sanitation are on the agenda, I still haven’t heard or seen any examples of densely settled urban areas which have been declared open defecation free. Just because it’s challenging, we can’t leave the urban poor behind.
    • Equity. Some of the images that will stay with me for a long time are about the truly terrible time disabled and elderly people have crawling through fields of human excrement in rural areas where open defecation is still the norm. If we are aiming for universal access we must involve everyone and make sure that really everyone is able to use the facilities.

    The unexpected

    • The appearance of a walking, talking piece of shit – part of UNICEF’s Make a Stink campaign to raise awareness of the problem of open defecation in India
    • Winning Sandec’s dart board challenge on my first throw (a fluke or a sign of a misspent youth – you choose), with the privilege of taking away a copy of their compendium of sanitation technologies


    World Water Week in numbers:

    6 billion                 The number of people who will live in areas of water scarcity by 2050 (2/3 of a predicted global population of 9 billion)

    1.8 billion             The number of people whose water supply, on the day of survey, was contaminated with faeces (e-coli) – so those whose water is unsafe for at least some of the year is easily over 2 billion. This despite the world congratulating itself on being ‘on track’ to reach our water millennium development goal.

    10,000   The number of villages declared open defecation free in Madagascar in just 3 years.

                 The number of functional waste water treatment and faecal sludge treatment plants operational in Ghana out of a total of 70+ in the whole country.

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  • Mobile phones in the rice fields

    Dawn McGahey
    September 4th, 2014

    ???????????????????????????????What an introduction to Asia.  My first visit to the continent and here I am in bustling, busy, steamy Dhaka.

    On my first day I have been warmly welcomed and well briefed by our Practical Action staff.  I discovered 31% of Bangladeshis live below the poverty line with 20% in extreme proverty.  Furthermore 1 million have lost their land through river bank erosion. It was a great to hear what great work the local Practical Action tream are doing here.

    This afternoon I was very excited to see our Krishi Call Centre.  I have heard so much about this from the Dkaka Practical Answers Team but seeing how busy and effective it is in action was fantastic.


    We saw three impressively educated young agricultural experts handle technical enquiries coming in thick and fast. Did you know that if fish are suffocating through lack of oxygen in the water sending your children in for a good splashy swim is a great way of re-oxygenating it?

    At this time of year with Eid celebrations coming up advice on the best way to fatten cattle in time is popular too.  It was lovely to hear one of our team how happy and proud she is to be able to help these farmers, and to explain that as mobile phones are so common in Bangladesh, often she is talking to them as they work with their crops and livestock, in the fields.

    Anyone who knows Practical Action staff member Kate Mulkern will want to know that she looks fabulous in her new sky blue Shalmar Kamiz, photo soon!

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  • DIFD launches new #IntDev Funding Finder

    Rosalind Watson
    September 3rd, 2014

    DFID have launched a new #IntDev ‘Funding Finder’ tool:


    Photo credit: DFID


    This tool will be extremely helpful for Practical Action and other organisations in many ways, not in the least that it increases transparency and access to information about DFID funding through its clear layout, up to date information on funding and well considered filters; enabling users to get to the details straight away and clarify the next steps needed to follow up on the application process. The tool has been well thought out in this respect, including the contact details of focal organisations/persons and attaching form templates and links to more information if these have not been directly provided by DFID.

    The signposting aspects included by DFID have gone a step further than simply listing funds; they help organisations in navigating the funding application process. This extra step will help both the organisations applying for funding and DFID itself. Organisations will know sooner whether a fund is suitable for them or not, and enables identification of funding they might not have been aware of without the tool. This is important for organisations who have less networking capacity than ourselves and other medium-large INGOs. The Funding Finder is fostering a level playing field, important in getting funds to the most suitable and best placed organisations to deliver it.

    A blog by Frances Sibbet (Digital Service Lead at DFID) explains more about the thinking behind the tool. Some of the key priority areas to address before the launch of the Funding Finder included:

    • Getting all information about DFID funds up to date
    • Getting the layout and information consistent
    • The need for plain English and not ‘development speak’
    • A notification at the top of some of the fund pages to alert people to key dates (such as deadlines) to help them in their planning

    Frances adds: ‘One feature we would like to add is an email notification so people can sign up to receive an email when new funds are added, or new funding windows are open.’

    The Funding Finder provides a practical tool for navigating the changes of the ever evolving funding landscape. Most importantly it facilitates an environment where funding will more efficiently be delivered to those who need it most.

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