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  • Less is more when building a resilient community


    December 1st, 2016

    To improve the resilience of flood vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, Practical Action has been working in the north-west of the country on a Vulnerability to Resilience (V2R) project under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation programme.

    This project, funded by the Zurich Insurance Group, has piloted new practices such as developing Local Resilience Agents (LRA) to sustain the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable flood prone communities by providing an early warning system voice SMS service and delivering vaccination campaigns.

    V2R has trained 181 LRA in 15 flood-prone areas of Sirajgonj and Bogra on services requested by the communities: crop management, livestock service, fisheries and paramedical services. These agents combine entrepreneurship and volunteerism to serve their community with skills that supplement other extension agents. By providing these services they are also earning, which is improving their livelihoods.

    resilience agent Mohamed KhalequeOne LRA is 38 year old Mohammad Abdul Khaleque from Thakurpara village in Sirajgonj. After starting the V2R project in Sirajganj District in 2009, he was selected as a volunteer to provide support for community resilience by minimizing the loss and damage of livestock from flooding. He received 18 days training which included 15 days technical training on livestock health services and three on disaster preparedness and response in 2010. The project provided equipment to help him perform his duties. In 2015 he was selected to a LRA and had refresher training to give more comprehensive support to the community. He has extended his livestock treatment service to eight neighbouring villages and earns 400-500 TK a day by providing treatment to cattle.

    He was also selected for training for the Bangladesh Water Development Board’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) and received equipment to disseminate the Flood Early Warning System (EWS) as a Gauge Reader. He collects water level readings five times a day and sends them to the FFWC.

    “Now I am well known as “Doctor Khaleque” in the surrounding community of Takhurpara village and different people, officials and service providers come to me and contact me which makes me proud and feel that I am doing good for my community”

    He now has a well-built, tin house, some savings and sufficient food for his family. He has also purchased cows, installed a tube well for safe drinking water and set up a latrine to ensure a healthy life for himself and his family. While he was unable to finish his studies, he is making sure that his children are going to school regularly. Asked about his future plans, he replied, “continuing and expanding my livestock services to more communities.”

    For faster communications, he is thinking of buying a motor bike and for quick response he also provides emergency information via his mobile phone.

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  • Smoky Homes offers an inspiring real-life context for the primary STEM curriculum

    Bren Hellier

    November 30th, 2016

    If you were to ask a class of pupils ‘What takes more lives every year than malaria, AIDS and TB added together?’

    What do you think their answer would be? I’m guessing it’s unlikely to be household smoke. Yet every year this hidden killer takes the lives of over 4 million people, mainly children and women.

    Globally, more than three billion people burn wood, coal and other biomass as their only way to cook, boil water and heat their homes on basic stoves or three stone fires. The lethal fumes that are produced from these methods is the same as burning 400 cigarettes an hour.

    Through the Smoky Homes education materials pupils can learn about this global problem and attempt to address the question – How can we reduce the smoke produced and get it out of people’s home?

    Smoky Homes

    Find out more about us in Smoky Homes

    The Smoky Home starter activity introduces through the lives of two sisters living in Nepal whose family cook on an open fire. They have their own ideas on how they would like something better to stop them becoming poorly and their house dirty from the smoke.

    Through a set of science and technology investigation and research activities, young people can start to develop their own ideas and model solutions to address the problem. Some pupils might develop models of fuel-efficient stoves while others develop chimneys or stove hoods. Either way Smoky Homes offers a real-life problem and genuine opportunities for pupils to explore how simple solution can transform lives.

    At the end of their project, pupils have the chance to see some of the inspirational solutions that Practical Action are working on in Nepal.

    All the materials and activities for Smoky Homes are free to download.

    Enjoy!

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  • Cooking on a pile of bricks

    Elizabeth Dunn

    November 28th, 2016

    Bimala lives in a small village in the Makwanpur District of Nepal. She lives with 10 members of her family and cooks their meals on a three stone stove which is little more than a pile of bricks.

    “It takes me up to three hours to cook a meal and I do this three times a day.”

    The family knows just how dangerous the smoke from the stove is to their health, Bimala has suffered from breathing problems and eye complaints her whole life. “Everything was black, it was so smoky and we couldn’t sit in the house.” To try and stop the home filling with tBimala Pariyarhe thick, black smoke, Bimala has moved the stove outside the home but during the rainy season it becomes even harder to cook for her family.

    “Sometimes I have to cook with an umbrella, it’s difficult but I have to prepare the meal. Sometimes the food is half cooked.”

    Bimala has two young granddaughters who are now beginning to help their grandmother to prepare meals but she worries about their future. “I am worried about my grandchildren but what can I do.”

    An improved stove and smoke hood would completely change Bimala and her family’s lives. They would spend less time cooking and would be able to spend this time earning an income, looking after cattle and studying. It’s a simple solution that has the power to transform lives forever.

    Find out more about our Killer in the Kitchen appeal here.

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  • Empowering women economically

    Howida Ahmed

    November 27th, 2016

    As one of the activities of the low smoke stove project we established twenty saving and loan committees in El Fasher town to spread the concept of saving among women’s groups. The hope is to empower women and also to contribute to improving women’s lives.

    Economic empowermentMost of our beneficiaries are poor women, the majority did not complete their education and have little or no income. Most of women are small traders in vegetables or handcrafts.  However for those making local perfume, and food processing, their capital is too small to expand their trade to increase their profit.

    We introduced the idea of savings and loans to help women to overcome these economic barriers.  These committees are not new but we are trying to introduce a model of savings and loans that help the women to be more organized, to have a good understanding of the concept and the ability to take on and manage the loan.

    Many women now are very happy following their involvement in savings and loan committees, Some started income generating activities that help to pay school fees for their children.  In addition they are making social relationships among women’s groups which will help them exchange ideas and share knowledge.

    Furthermore women groups have been able to provide equipment based on women’s needs. They pay in advance to acquire LPG stoves and thereafter in monthly installments.  In some cases some women cannot afford to pay the advance, so the saving committee lend them money to pay this.

    We found among the saving and loan committees’ women headed the household and took all home responsibilities.  This group of women needs support to build their capacity in managing a revolving fund and to build managerial skills. This will help encourage the women to start investing and to take a loan from the committees and as well as giving them access to financial institutions.  As the saving model has been successful, other women have been persuaded to copy the idea.

     

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  • Win a Nepalese cooking class at the BBC Good Food Show

    Gemma Hume

    November 26th, 2016

    We’re giving people a taste of Nepal on the Practical Action stand at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham this weekend, with samples of Sel Roti and a prize draw to win a Nepalese cooking class for two.

    We teamed up with Momo Cooking to bring the Nepalese delicacy, Sel Roti to the BBC Good Food Show.

    I try Sel Roti made by Momo Cooking's Philippa Magar

    I try Sel Roti made by Momo Cooking’s Philippa Magar

    It’s a sweet rice bread, distinct from any other breads of the world. It resembles a large thin puffed-up doughnut and is prepared by grinding soaked rice to create a thick batter.  It is then mixed with sugar, clarified butter, mashed banana, water, poured into bubbling oil and deep-fried.

    Sel Roti being sold at a market in Nepal

    Sel Roti being sold at a market in Nepal

    The Killer in the Kitchen

    Many people in Nepal cook this in their home over an open fire. The smoke inhaled from cooking over open fires kills 4 million lives a year – more than AIDS, TB and malaria combined. So we’re at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham from 24-27 November to raise awareness of this silent killer and inspire people to help STOP the Killer in the Kitchen.

    The solution is improved stoves and smokehoods (what we know as chimneys), which Practical Action have developed to carry the harmful smoke out of the home.

     

    Philippa's mother-in-law cooking Sel Roti over an open fire.

    Philippa’s mother-in-law cooking Sel Roti over an open fire.

    Philippa said her mother-in-law cooks over an open fire so she is very aware of the effects cooking on wood in unventilated homes.

    “My husband’s family live and cook this way and in the house we can see how the smoke and soot cover everything.  The smooth, pale bamboo beams across the ceiling are turned black and cruddy and the smoke stings our eyes and makes us cough. It’s such a simple idea to put ventilation into Nepalese homes and we are delighted to learn that Practical Action are tackling this.

    “We’re excited to be a small part of their efforts and look forward to a time when kitchens in Nepal are smoke free!”

     

     

     

     

    Win a Nepalese cooking class for two!

    At the BBC Good Food Show, we’re giving people a chance to win a Nepalese cooking class for two with Momo Cooking. You can learn how to make momos (Nepalese dumplings) and other Nepalese street food.

    All you need to do is come to our stand – J151, Hall 20 – fill in a card with your details and pop it in our special prize draw. The winner will be picked at random and notified on Wednesday 30th November.

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  • A new dawn for livestock health in Eastern Sudan

    Manal Hamid

    November 24th, 2016

    The Livestock Epidemio Surveillance Programme (LESP-ES) aims to improve the livelihoods and resilience to food insecurity of about 427,000 vulnerable rural smallholders in the three Eastern Sudan states Kassala, Gedaref and Red Sea.

    The planned interventions aim to strengthen the technical capacities of regional veterinary services through achieving three results:

    1. Technical capacities for coordinated epidemio-surveillance and control of trans-boundary animal diseases strengthened at state level
    2. Diagnostic capacity of veterinary laboratories and quarantine facilities at state and locality levels improved.
    3. Awareness and skills of rural livestock producers and other stakeholders concerning animal health, production and trade are improved.

    LESP meetingOne of the main concerns is the improvement of the diagnostic capacity of veterinary laboratories and quarantine facilities at state and local levels. Activities that will help achieve this are the improvement of  the work environment through rehabilitation of the Gedarif Veterinary Regional laboratory, provision of  furniture and  increasing the capacity of cold chain facilities for storage of samples.  The Regional Veterinary Research Laboratory plays a crucial role in livestock export through the diagnosis of trade relevant diseases such as Brucella.

    Dr HamadDr. Hatim Hamad, director of the laboratory, indicated that the support he had received from Practical Action through LESP project is unprecedented and could not be afforded by the Ministry of Finance. He indicated that the enhancement of the work environment had contributed positively to best practices and the support to the cold chain facilities enable the laboratory to accommodate the samples of more than 13 veterinary professionals pursuing their Masters degrees as well as the training of veterinarians and veterinary technicians/

    He also noted that the support  received enabled the laboratory to open a new tick identification and classification unit taking in consideration the importance of tick borne diseases. He added that the epidemio-surveillance field missions executed through  the project will enable the collection of tick samples from different state localities and during this period he had successfully  identified Hyaloma species for the first time in Gedarif State.

    LESP activityHe indicated that the provision of better diagnostic tools and equipment will improve the diagnostic capacities of the lab tremendously and help in meeting the OIE requirement which is considered one of the major ways in which the programme has added value.

    Dr Hamad expressed his appreciation for the efforts exerted by Practical Action towards the development of Eastern Sudan States and his wish to continue cooperation between Practical Action and Ministry of Livestock in the future.

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  • Success for savings and loan associations in North Darfur

    Izdehar Ahmed Mohamed

    November 20th, 2016

    People living in poverty in the conflict-stricken area of North Darfur face a severe shortage of money for household needs. They either endure the hardships or try to find someone to borrow money from. When it comes to women smallholders, they lack money for inputs and other cash needs in their household’s.

    To address this problem, saving is a way forward. Those who can save then have funds for unexpected needs in the household and for timely investment in groups.

    Fatima stoves SudanPractical Action Sudan, in partnership with the Women’s Development Association (WDAN) initiated training of horticulture smallholders using the Savings and Loan Association (SLA) approach.

    SLA members save through the purchase of shares with a maximum purchase of five shares allowed per saving meeting. This allows for flexible saving depending on the surplus money members have. They meet weekly or monthly and continue saving for a period of nine to twelve months.

    The project officer for the Community Initiative Sustained Development project within Practical Action Sudan, explained:

    “The aim of SLA is to enable resource-poor households to access financial services in order to finance income generating activities that would increase their income and lift them permanently above the poverty line. It enables money to be available at the right time for purchase of inputs and other energy costs.”

    SLA groups are providing smallholder women with the opportunity to save and borrow flexibly without having to go to the bank. With this savings methodology there are no problems of high minimum deposit requirements, hidden charges, complicated procedures, or difficulty in accessing loans.

    The funds assist in building resilient communities and provide social safety nets, as they are used for inputs purchase, diversifying into other income generating activities, immediate household needs and provide room for assistance to members in case of death, disease or natural disasters. Such diverse services are not provided by local moneylenders, as they are not willing to provide for the poorest.

    The process is very transparent as it involves each and every member within the sharing and lending processes. The fund is shared out at the end of each cycle which is normally nine months to a year.

    This SLA methodology has proved to be a success.  This year 20 SLA groups have been established in Elfashir in North Darfur. Shares accrued range from a minimum of 500SDG (£62) to 700SDG from monthly savings. In addition, the groups also pay towards a social fund, which can be used, when a member is having acute problems, such as unexpected medical expenses.

    Villages using this method have been successful in helping women to learn about saving, to enhance social links within their communities and to make their first investments.

    The project team conducted monthly field visits to monitor the progress of loans saving committees. Committee members contributed an average amount of 25-30 SDG (£8) each month. 345 women have benefited and saved a total amount of 74,101 SDG. At the end of a cycle the money is distributed back to the group members. It is very important that every member’s money is placed in their hand.

    In total  879 households have accessed LPG through this savings program in Elfashir in different districts and 76 women have access to loans to establish income generation activities.

    Women were thankful to Practical Action and the Women Development Association Network for empowering them and enabling them to finance themselves and their family in the face of extreme economic hardship.

    Now I can confidently grow for the market because I have access to finance for inputs from my savings group. I was about to give up due to lack of money.”

    Access to clean sources of energy, livelihood and finance has led to the building of self-respect and self-reliance in the community.

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  • Why I am writing this for World Toilet Day

    Gemma Hume

    November 19th, 2016

    Yesterday I told one of my friends that I was writing a blog for World Toilet Day and he laughed at me! “You’re kidding? There is actually a World Toilet Day? What will they think of next?”

    I was left speechless and offended by his response. But I guess he doesn’t understand the significance. He’s never had to worry about having nowhere to go (except being caught short in a traffic jam on a motorway). Decent toilets are just there…they are part of everyday life.

    World Toilet Day is an international day to draw global attention to the sanitation crisis. It’s about taking action to reach the 2.4 billion people living without a toilet. Toilets save lives, increase productivity, create jobs and grow economies.

    Devastating impact

    I’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact of not having a access to a decent toilet. Many of you will have seen it on TV when watching Comic Relief but nothing can prepare you for what it is really like.  The poverty and terrible conditions I witnessed during my visit to a slum called Nyalenda in Kisumu, Kenya, shocked me to the core. It’s hard to describe how utterly terrible the few toilets I saw were, or the stench that lingered in the air. Open sewage ran through the slum and waste lined small paths. The children played near the open sewage and walked around with bare feet.  I found it really difficult to deal with and battled with feelings of guilt, sadness and helplessness.

    In this slum, only 32% of the population have access to improved toilets; 25% use shared pit latrines and 30% defecate outside.

     

    Karen Bolo

    This is Karen Bolo. Her house has no toilet or running water. Her neighbourhood was hit by an outbreak of cholera and a ten-year-old girl from a neighbouring plot died. Karen says she was terrified that the same thing would happen to her children.

    “I have nowhere to go to the toilet at all here because we don’t have the capacity and I can’t afford to buy a new one. I have to ask for help from the neighbouring plots. For our children we have to put down a newspaper and ask the neighbours [who have pit latrines] if we can get rid of it there. It makes me feel awful because it is demeaning to have to ask for this.”

     

    Patrick

    Her neighbour, 65-year-old Patrick Odliambo, said land near to his home is covered in waste and flying toilets.

    “Around March/April, the rains come and wash the waste down the paths. Faeces flow with the storm water. During that time there are lots of cases of illness such as diarrhoea and malaria. Help does not come quickly; there are bad cases, especially for small children. Even now, my daughter is sick. She is vomiting and has a headache. This is from the environment. There are shallow wells which people drink from; they are not clean and people get sick.”

     

     

    Transforming lives with toilets

    But it is here that we have just launched a £1 million, six-year project funded by Comic Relief to transform the lives of 95,000 people by improving sanitation facilities in Nyalenda and another slum in Kisumu.

    This project will work with communities to provide 1,125 improved toilets. 2,500 new water pumps will also be installed through the pipe network.

    I’m really excited to see how the project progresses.

    Three years later following another project in Kenya…

    We have recently completed another sanitation project in Kenya – this time in Nakuru – to improve the quality of life for 190,000 slum residents by providing access to safe, hygenic toilets and hand washing facilities. And we worked with Anthony and other pit emptiers to improve their health, enable them to provide an essential service to their community and raise their status.

    Nakuru Kenya urban slum sanitation toilet

    I wrote a blog about Anthony Ndugu for World Toilet Day three years ago and I felt I needed to include him in this one, not only because the theme for this year’s World Toilet Day is ‘toilets and jobs’ because we caught up with him recently to find out how life has changed for him.

    Anthony would have to empty toilets with his bare hands. He suffered abuse and discrimination as a result of doing his job. People in his community would shun him and woouldn’t go anywhere near him. The pay was so terrible that it wasn’t enough to take care of school fees, household needs, rent and all his other needs.

    As part of the project, his team received a gulper so they no longer have to manually empty the latrines. They were also given protective clothing.

    “They are unique to us. We look professional – like a team. The local government has given us a certificate. We get more business and we are not harassed like we were before. My family are so happy; they are fed and my children can get an education.”

    I’m really proud about the work we do and I was thrilled last year when a Sustainable Development Goal was agreed to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030 and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

    This goal is ambitious. We have a long way to go in achieving even basic sanitation for all, and only 14 years to achieve it. So that’s why we need your help.

    I am counting my blessings that I have a nice toilet to use and if you are too please consider helping people like Karen and Patrick get access to better sanitation, improve their health and restore their dignity. You could give a gift that transforms lives – like a life-saving loo!

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  • Hand washing Day in Kassala communities

    Fatima Mahmoud A/Aziz

    November 19th, 2016

    On 15th October each year, Global Hand Washing Day is celebrated to motivate and mobilise people around the world to improve their hygiene habits by washing their hands with soap at critical times throughout each day. Washing your hands with soap is the most effective and inexpensive way to prevent diarrheal and acute respiratory infections, which take the lives of millions of children in developing countries every year. In addition to using soap, proper sanitation awareness and drinking clean water are key to preventing disease.

    Handwashing day KassalaThe aims of Global Hand Washing Day are to: promote and support a general culture of hand washing with soap in all societies and raise awareness of the benefits of the simple practice of washing your hands with soap.

    There are many health problems in Kassala state due to the recurring floods. Sewage has contaminated drinking water and hence a large proportion of the state’s population has suffered from illnesses such as cholera and diarrhea. Many people, the majority being children, have died from these diseases.

    The most important solution to these problems is personal hygiene – a solution that has been marked as one of the outputs for the Water 4 East Project.

    Practical Action and the Sudanese Red Crescent  organised the celebrations for this year’s Global Hand Washing Day, with the slogan of ‘make hand-washing a habit’ being championed.  The celebrations took place in a village that had been affected by the floods, with over 50 houses damaged. However, the village is now benefitting from the Water 4 East Project.

    Handwashing day KassalaDuring Global Hand Washing Day, students and communities are taught the importance of washing their hands with soap and water at critical times. With support from the Ministry of Health, people now know and understand the proper way to wash their hands using both soap and water. Validating the awareness day, Ohaj Ahmed explained “we have washed our hands for many years but for the first time, we will follow these steps” and student Hassan Ibrahim told us “we used to not wash our hands with soap for months and did not know the importance of it, but this celebration is clarifying that.”

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  • Killer in the kitchen at the BBC Good Food Show

    Gemma Hume

    November 18th, 2016

    If I was to tell you that there is a global killer that takes more lives every year than AIDS, Malaria and TB combined, would you know what it was?

    That killer is smoke inhaled from cooking over open fires, taking 4 million lives a year…yet not many people have heard about it.

    Rajan Killer in the Kitchen

    So we’re at the Good Food Show in Birmingham from 24-27 November to raise awareness of this silent killer and inspire people to help STOP the Killer in the Kitchen.

    Virtual reality film launch

    At the show we’re launching our first ever virtual reality film – giving visitors the opportunity to experience, through virtual reality headsets, what it is like for people in Nepal who are forced to cook on open fires in their homes.

    Cooking in these conditions is the equivalent of inhaling secondary smoke from 400 cigarettes an hour! But women need to feed their families and keep warm – and they can’t get cleaner fuels like electricity or gas. It is their only choice…so they are left trapped in a cycle they can’t escape.

    22,000 people die of household smoke related diseases every year in Nepal . That’s over twice as many people who died in the 2015 earthquake. But these deaths are utterly preventable.

    The solution is improved stoves and smokehoods (what we know as chimneys), which carry the harmful smoke out of the home.

    Saraswoti Bal with an improved stove and smokehood in her kitchen. “We are now free from smoke related illness,” she said. “We don’t have to worry any more.”

    When people at the Good Food Show watch our virtual reality film they will see – in astonishing 360⁰ detail – how critical our work in Nepal is, as they join us in training local tradesmen to build and install these stoves and smokehoods.

    A smart solution to a devastating problem

    We are working urgently to get these installed in 36,000 homes across Nepal.

    “I received training from Practical Action and learnt how to make smokehoods,” said Shambhu Adhikari.

    Visitors to the show will get to see one of these smokehoods on our stand (J151 in Hall 20), which has been built for us by Engineers Without Borders.

    They will be able to buy a smokehood for a family in Nepal. It one of a range of Practical Presents that we have available on our stand to buy as Christmas present for someone. Not only will they be giving a special and thoughtful gift but they will be transforming the lives of poor people in Nepal.

    Win a cooking class!

    By buying a Practical Present at the Good Food Show will put people in a draw to win a Nepalese cooking class with Momo Cooking, who has provided a special Nepalese dish called Sel Roti for people to try on our stand.

    Pick up your free virtual reality headset!

    We will also be giving away special virtual reality headsets on our stand so people will be able to experience the groundbreaking world of virtual reality for themselves.

    So come and find us at the Good Food Show in Birmingham and find out how you can help us stop the Killer in the Kitchen. We’re here:

    Good Food Show stand plan

     

     

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