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  • Ensuring evidence for impact

    Adele Murphy

    August 27th, 2015

    Delivering aid programs that effectively enhance the lives of the poor is the central goal of development organisations, donors and the public who support them. Since its inception development aid has saved countless lives and lifted millions of families out of extreme poverty, but are we learning effectively from what works and what doesn’t? How can we as NGOs be sure that the interventions we choose are the most appropriate and the most cost effective use of our funds? Building a well in the centre of a village and claiming that thousands of people were helped is not enough. We need to know how improved access to water has changed people’s lives. Are they healthier? Has school attendance increased because of healthier children? Is water access available to all that it was intended for? We need to ensure that we go beyond reporting of activities and critically reflect on the change that was leveraged.

    Women water TurkanaThis can be difficult; it can be easier to focus on our successes rather than our challenges, yet it is learning from our challenges that make us stronger.

    Development agencies must above all else be learning organisations and this is central to Practical Action’s ethos. With hundreds of projects across several countries we need to make sure that we can learn from each other’s experiences. Ultimately it allows us to target the areas where gaps exist and where we can have the greatest impact.

    A plan of action

    Practical Action has learned the importance of developing coherent monitoring, evaluation and learning plans during the development stage of a project. Taking such an approach will allow us to clearly measure success and learn from our challenges in a more efficient way. We are working hard to understand our data needs and find ways to effectively use our evidence for future projects. Creating an open forum for dialogue across our country offices has been central to creating an organisational learning environment. The forum allows for experience sharing where country offices benefit from similar challenges faced by others.

    Evidence based approaches are not the end all solution, no matter how reflective an organization, interventions do not always go as planned. However, it does offer the opportunity to test our approach, to use the findings to inform decisions as best we can and where necessary, change our direction.

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  • Pumpkin production was a breakthrough for Samsunnahar

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    August 27th, 2015

    In my recent blog, I narrated some of the factors that contribute success and failure of any individual’s efforts to tackle poverty. In this post, I am going to detail an individual’s success and future aspiration that was fuelled by development intervention.

    Samsunnahar (50) like many other poor people lives in the flood protection embankment (village of Moddhyo Belka), Sundergonj Upazilla of Gaibandha district. Due to river erosion, her family had to move home six times, lost all their homestead resources and arable land. They became extremely poor after losing all their assets. Her husband, day labourer Nobbas Ali earned an insignificant amount for their living. Their only child, a son of school age, also required some education expenses. Therefore, they had a very hard time and often suffered from having inadequate food.


    In 2012, along with 500 other households, Shamsunnahar was enrolled as a beneficiary in 2012 in the Shiree project (with the support of local NGO AKOTA). Afterwards, she received 3 days training on sandbar cropping and inputs such as seed, fertilizer, equipment and irrigation and storage support (worth US$64). As a result of this support, she harvested 420 pumpkins from 100 pits, and earned BDT 19,450.00 (US$253) from the sale of 340 pumpkins (the rest t they used for own consumption). In 2013, the project also supported her with equipment worth BDT 4229 and she had a similar size harvest. To build alternative earning sources and generate some assets, she also invested the income. For example, she purchased a heifer at price of BDT 12000.00, and leased 25 decimal lands with BDT4000.00 for crop production.


    Now she longer has project support but has been continuing sandbar cropping on her own initiative, beside production of high valued crop from leased land (which she has taken by BDT40, 000). Additionally, she owns four cows, worth BDT 80,000.00. In monetary terms, she owns assets worth of BDT 120,000 (US$1558). Moreover, one year ago, she also bought a solar panel with BDT 22,000 in instalments over 3 years. She pays BDT 750 every month. They have been using 2 ceiling fans and 4 lights with the power of solar panel- which makes a great difference to them!


    Samsunnahar and her family received the following support from the project: 

    Project Investment Amount in BDT
    Investment Year 2012 4896
    Investment Year 2013 4229
    Total 9125
    Total in USD 118.00

    Over the last three years, she and her family generated then following assets:

    Type of asset generated   Amount in BDT
    Leased land 40,000.00
    Livestock 80,000.00
    Solar Panel 22,000.00
    Total 142,000
    Total in USD 1844.00
    Project investment versus assets generation 16 Times

    They are relatively better off compared with 2012. Their son, Sujan Mia happily studies at home as they have lights at their home. To Samsunnahar,

    “Solar panel shudhu barite alo dichche tai na, ata amar cheler vobishshat keo alokito korche”

    “This solar panel not only gives light to our home but it has also lightened my son’s future”.


    Recently, her husband has been selected as member of local mosque management committee (which portrays as dignified member of the community). She believes that these multiple endeavors will help them to get out of poverty and secure food and nutrition for her family members. They are dreaming Sujan Mia will get access to higher education and manage a good job in future.

    In conclusion, it is worthwhile to note that poor people struggles against poverty, development intervention accelerates their efforts and brings some impacts. However, sustainability of the impacts and impacts at a scale require broad structural changes. Over the last 44 years, very insignificant efforts were seen from Government of Bangladesh to address the root cause of the vulnerability of the river eroded people.

    [The author acknowledges the contribution of Mr. Salam, Coordinator, M&E of Practical Action’s Extreme Poverty programme for providing information and images]

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  • What the increasing use of desalination means for the world

    Jonny Casey

    August 25th, 2015

    Hundreds of new desalination plants are cropping up across the globe to meet the growing needs for water – estimated to be increasing by an astonishing 640bn liters per year. But as the world looks towards technology to solve the growing crisis of fresh water access, what does this mean for people and our planet? (more…)

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  • Factors make a case successful or failure

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    August 22nd, 2015

    Whenever we pay any field visit to see the intervention at the ground or understand how our beneficiaries are being helped, we always get stuck to one point ‘what works and what does not’. We realize that it is not a generalizable issue. It works very individual level. It also shaped by power structure of the community. As poverty is a multi-dimensional aspect, therefore, the factors that may help one person to get out of poverty may not work others.

    In a recent field visit to our largest project Shiree in Gangachora Upazila of Rangpur division, I personally observed some interlinked psycho-social parameters that contribute beneficiary to become successful or failure to get out of poverty. Even process of intervention supports are similar to everyone, but results and impacts have significant variations.


    The author is interacting with project beneficiary


    During the visit, I talked with number of project beneficiaries in the said location.  Based on the observation, in this post, I would like to focus dynamism of the problem and psycho-social parameters that contribute beneficiary to be successful (or even failure) in his or her livelihood endeavor.

    Some of the factors contribute to failure:

    As I observed, in brief, following are the elements for which the beneficiary could not secure expected progress as follows;

    • Dowry
    • Intra-household gender relation
    • Sickness ( physical unfitness)
    • Gendered exploitation in the society

    The first case we found is a divorcee mid-aged woman, who has been living with her mother in a river embankment in the said area. Her husband was working as guard in a cinema hall. He demanded BDT 30 Thousand as dowry which her family could not met. Thus, he divorced her but it was done through a cheating process. Her husband took her signature in a paper which he mentioned was for taking loan from a micro finance agency. But later she realized that it was divorce paper, in conspiracy with local marriage registry office, he cheated her and got married with another woman. She did not go to police station or any local elites as she believes nobody thinks for poor people rather it may welcome further problem. As in her words,

    Ki hoibo matbor ba thanay gele? Goriber jonno kei nai (nothing will happen if I go to local leaders or police station. Nobody is there to help poor people.


    The beneficiary is sharing her life struggles including how her husband divorced her


    Since then Yesmin has been living with her mother in maternal house with her 4 years old son. She has another sister who has some sort of mental disorder, and only brother lives in Dhaka and works in readymade garments. He hardly helps them. In his word; “how can I help three people by one’s earning? ” Thus, she leads a traumatized life because of cheating by her husband, got affected by some diseases like asthma and found no hope to regain her life spirit.

    However, Practical Action, Bangladesh through local NGO (UDPS) has selected her as beneficiary in 2012 and decided to provide supports so that she could uplift herself. She was given supports for pumpkin cultivation (in 100 pits) like many other female farmers. Initially, the pumpkin plant was good but after few days of work she became sick as her asthmatic problem was increased. Therefore, she contracted (on 50-50 crop sharing condition) another male farmer who could provide physical labour, but unfortunately he also cheated her while sharing the crops. Therefore, when she received supports from the project second time and she tried to do the cultivation by herself and her mother. Most of the works at field were done by her mother. It was not easy job for them. However, they were happy as at the end, they got good harvest of pumpkin, and sold them by 3000 Taka. By the income, she circumcised her son and maintained some other family expenses.

    Later when GMS (Graduate Monitoring Survey) identified her as less progressed beneficiary, project came up with further support. In April 2015, she was given a heifer (worth of BDT 13700; 13000 from the project and 700 was own contribution). Now, they are rearing it and hoping for good return from it.


    Factors contribute to success:

    Through interaction and observation, I found some factors that play significant role in uplifting beneficiaries’ economic status (including overall living standard).  Besides the support selection process, there are some socio-cultural and health issues that determined final outcome of the intervention at individual level. Some of such socio-cultural and health issues are mentioned below;

    • Relationship with family members and relatives
    • Supports from family members (son and daughter in law)
    • Alternative option for earning even for some times
    • Not consuming capital assets at any circumstance/ earning from sources to meeting daily expenditure
    • Physical fitness
    • Aggressive attempts to help own self

    How the above issues work at a individual level can be discussed by case studies description. Masuma Begum (60 +) is a beneficiary of the same project who has received a heifer support (worth of 1331o) in March 2013. Since then she has been rearing it. In the meantime, it gave birth a heifer and will give another one soon. The cow gave milk around five months. They sold the milk to the market and earned around BDT 5000. She bought a goat by 2500 Taka and some hens by Taka 600 and spent rest of the amount to build a cowshed. Now she has the following livestock;

    Cattle Present market value
    1. Cow 35000.00
    2. Heifer 20,000.00
    3. She goat 5,000.00
    4. Hen 1800
    Total 78,000.00


    Her only one son and wife of her son help her for maintaining and nurturing the livestock. When she goes to work or relatives’ house, they look after the livestock. This is not very common practices in normal circumstances. Therefore, I met her son and asked him what motivate him to extend such help. What I got as response was really surprising. He mentioned that

    dekhen, ami to ekmatro sontan! Uni to ar asob kobore niye jabena. Sob kichu to Amari thakbe. (look, I am her only son. She will not take these to grave. Everything will be mine.)

    Similarly, we met another beneficiary who has 19 goats who used to get cordial support from her neighbor and relatives. She never married and use to consider her goats as children. She loves rearing goats a lot, the goats also listen her call; which we found very inspiring!   


    The author is listening to struggles of a beneficiary


      Concluding reflection:

    As a development professional, we need to understand how things operate at the community level. Our better understanding would help design or redesign appropriate intervention modalities, and can potentially enhance positive impacts on beneficiaries.

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  • The Right to Seed: Picking apart ARIPO’s Arusha Draft Protocol on plant varieties

    Jack Spoor

    August 21st, 2015

    Co-authors Jack Spoor and Gigi Davies

    The Draft Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Seed (Arusha PVP Protocol) is hardly the most accessible of documents. Even to those used to wading through the humourless syntax of IGO resolutions, the document is rather dense. But, while the resolution itself may be a challenge to digest, its implications are wide ranging and troubling.


    Ironically, these implications are likely to be greatest for those that have never heard of the Protocol, namely smallholder subsistence farmers with limited access to external inputs and even more limited options when it comes to adaptation.

    Around the world it is common farming practice to save some of the seeds you have grown for use next year. This provides the farmer of a guarantee of a crop next year that can be relied upon to produce consistent results. Better still there is no requirement to buy in seed at a time when prices are likely to be high. But what if the rights to that seed were owned by someone else? And what if the ‘owner’ of these rights refuses to let you use them, or charges a prohibitively high amount? Smallholder farmers who would be unable to meet the costs of buying in seed would lose their business and livelihood to a set of regulations they had no way to influence.

    Of course, the argument goes that the rights will only be awarded to those that can prove their seeds are of a novel and distinct variety and therefore would not have been in the position of smallholder farmers anyway. The issue with this is that Article 8, distinct is defined as something that is distinct from another variety that is common knowledge. On the surface of it, this all sounds fairly reasonable, and so it would be if we were talking about the interconnected industrial sale farms in developed nations. Instead, we are talking about smallholder farmers with limited access to innovation and communications. What is common knowledge in their small community could be something entirely alien to an ARIPO board deciding who gets rights to which seeds. This could lead to a situation in which indigenous knowledge is patented, marketed and sold, putting those who previously relied on that knowledge in a difficult position.

    20741But according to Article 16, the smallholders whose indigenous knowledge has been sold can object, right? So what’s the issue? The Protocol does indeed contain provisions for objection, which is good. The downside is the little clause that is section 2 of Article 16 which states that “The objection shall be subject to a prescribed fee”. Now this is actually a fairly reasonable method to prevent the process becoming clogged up with frivolous objections and test cases, however it has the notable disadvantage of excluding the poor from the objections process. The people most vulnerable to having their indigenous knowledge commercialised are also the ones who have the fewest resources to do anything about it.

    The Protocol is not all bad news for smallholders though. Credit to those who wrote it, there are parts designed to protect non-commercial, subsistence farmers from having to abide by these regulations. Article 22 (1) (1) explicitly states that “The breeder’s right shall not extend to acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes”. While this is a step in the right direction, it goes nowhere near far enough. Yes, subsistence farmers are exempt in the food is for their own use, but in effect this creates a barrier for those seeking to leave subsistence farming and enter the market environment. The step from subsistence to commercial farming would involve an investment and risk of changing varieties of crop, something which is highly risky when your own food supply also depends on what you grow.

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  • This slum was nothing like I expected

    Elizabeth Dunn

    August 21st, 2015

    I’ve just come to the end of a 10 day visit to Bangladesh, it was my first time to the country and I feel privileged to have been able to go and visit such a beautiful place and meet such remarkable people. What I like about working for Practical Action is that it works in partnership with communities and organisations to drive change and improve lives. And this is exactly what I saw in Bangladesh.

    putulAs part of the visit, I went to slums in Faridpur and Jessore in the south. I’m lucky to have travelled and seen quite a lot of our projects but I’ve never seen any urban work before and was very unsure what to expect.

    When people say the word slum, all the worst images come to mind, I had visions of cramped communities, sewage running between them, a complete lack of water and sanitation, not to mention the terrible smells. I could not have been more wrong.

    I should tell you before I carry on that Practical Action has been working with these communities for a few years. The people living in the slums are considered to be the lowest caste, they are hindu and considered by many to be unclean and uneducated. This means that life is even harder for them as they do not have the same opportunities as others do. They have always carried out the most menial jobs such as street cleaning and pit emptying.

    Before the project began, I was told that there was no drainage, so during monsoon season the water would rise and would wash dirty water into their small homes.

     They also had no waste collection, so they had no other choice but to live amongst their own rubbish, or to dispose of it on the streets.

    There were no schools and many people had no skills meaning they struggled to gain employment.

    This project has worked with the women, children and men of these communities to truly lift themselves out of this poverty. They still live in cramped homes but the feeling of ‘community’ and unity amongst them was something rarely seen. They all work together to help each other and not only are their living conditions changing, the impact is much much bigger.

    Training in useful and vital skills means that people can earn an income, people just like Rashida. Rashida explained “at the beginning I had nothing. From Practical Action I had training and I was able to start my business with these skills.” Rashida was trained in tailoring, she makes tops, dresses, shirts and just about anything! This training means so much to her, she said “I can send my children to school and invest in the future.”

    I also met a lady called Sukia, she told me that “the environment of the slum is better than before,” they had less toilets and no water. They were forced to collect water from other sources but this water was often dirty. But now, they have their own pump, which means that they no longer have to risk their health just to have a drink.

    I left feeling uplifted and inspired. These people were empowered and had the knowledge to continue improving their own lives. It was a true example of sustainability and I will be telling everyone about the great work that Practical Action and our partners are doing to support the amazing, strong and welcoming people that are living in the slums. Just like Sukia said, “you and me make a difference together.”











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  • Dalit communities plan their own future

    Amanda Ross

    August 20th, 2015

    Would attending your local council budget setting meeting be high on your wish list? Certainly not on mine!  But the Dalit community of Jessore in Bangladesh, consider the right to attend these meetings one of their proudest achievements. The minority Dalit community who live in slum areas previously faced exclusion because of their caste from all political, social and economic activity and traditionally work in very low paid jobs as road sweepers, pit latrine emptiers and cleaners.

    IMG_0316Last week I visited some of these communities along with partner organisation DHARA who are working with Practical Action to improve the living conditions of these minorities. This is the second phase of the pro-poor urban development project, IUD2, which has been running since 2012 and is funded by the European Commission and DFID.  The project is also operating in Faridpur in Bangladesh, Butwal and Bharatpur in Nepal and Kurunegala and Akkaraipattu in Sri Lanka

    The first step was to develop a Community Improvement Plan to prioritise the work they wanted to see done in each area and to select community leaders to voice their demands to the municipality.

    Sukia (above in the green sari), a widow in her late thirties, was chosen as a leader of her area, Old Pourashava, a dalit area for about 200 years. It is a small community of in a dense cluster, accessed from an alley off the main road.  The streets are narrow – suitable only for pedestrians and bicycles.

    Sukia is enthusiastic about the project’s achievements:

    “Previously the ground here was covered in waste, water, mud and urine, now we have a paved walkway with drainage.  Our environment is better than ever before.  Before we collected water from a dirty source, now we have clean water from our deep tube well and a wall to give some privacy from the main road when we are washing.”

    She speaks with the confidence of a woman proud to represent her community. She goes on to tell us that while before there were only 2 toilets for the 30 household in Pourashava, they now have 1 for every 10 families, with a member of the community given the job of keeping them clean and in working order.  When it rains heavily (as it does frequently in the monsoon season) the water now flows down holes in the pathway into the drains instead of flooding houses as in the past.

    Tube well Old Pourashava JessoreSukia showed us their community action plan and explained that they still have work to do on improving housing and creating an area boundary but she is confident that now they will be able to access municipality funding, something they would not have dreamed of five years ago.

    The partner organisation DHARA, led by the highly charismatic Lipika Das Gupta (above behind Sukia in the pink sari) are helping to deliver similar improvements in 5 other dalit communities in Jessore, working with 1,824 beneficiaries, half of whom are women.

    IUD2 project achievements in Jessore

    • 6 Settlement Improvement Committees formed and given leadership and governance training
    • Training on tailoring, handicraft, mechanics and mobile servicing to 1,836 beneficiaries for income generation and 28 sewing machines
    • Budget allocation from the municipality for Dalit communities for the first time
    • Infrastructure development – protected water pumps, toilets, drainage, road surfacing and a community centre in each area

    But the main achievement has been to give a voice to this Dalit minority. Women especially have been empowered to talk to people in authority and to request improvements in their living conditions.  As a result have boosted their status, their environment and their incomes.

    Sukia spoke enthusiastically about the future: “With your support we will be able to complete our plan. I am so proud that I can now do something for my family.”

    This is a demonstration of local democracy in action and a truly uplifting experience.

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  • Barsha – the perpetual water propelled pump

    Ganesh Ram Sinkemana

    August 14th, 2015

    Nepal, a predominantly agricultural country, has thousands of hectares of land located next to rivers and canals. Currently, few land plots are irrigated by diesel pumps that emit carbon dioxide polluting the environment. Looking at the current scenario, Practical Action is promoting Barsha pumps throughout Nepal. The irrigation pump, developed by aQysta B.V. based in the Netherlands, requires no operation costs and is environment-friendly.

    Barsha pump, also popularly known as a spiral pump, coil pump, manometric pump, or hydrostatic pump, is simply a water wheel with flexible hosepipe spiralling on it. As water enters through one end of the hosepipe, the rotating wheel imparts kinetic energy to it – enabling the water to force out of the other end and reach to a distance of two kilometres without use of fuel.

    Barsha pump installed in Kankai canal, Jhapa, Eastern Nepal.

    Barsha pump installed in Kankai canal, Jhapa, Eastern Nepal.

    Having installed four Barsha pumps in four development regions of Nepal, the fifth pump was installed in the eastern Nepal on 6 August 2015. A demonstration event, organised at Sundarpur in Shivasatakshi Municipality of Jhapa district, saw the presence of government officials, media persons and locals including the Deputy Director General of Department of Irrigation Mr Bashu Dev Lohani.

    The demonstration was organised in collaboration between Practical Action and aQysta as a part of the Securing Water for Food (SWFF): A Grand Challenge for Development Program supported by USAID, Sida and Ministry of foreign affairs of the Netherlands. The demonstration event, conducted with an aim to create demand for the Barsha pump by making organisations and people aware about the benefits and working of the pump, is expected to support the scaling up and wide use of the pump in Nepal.

    “Irrigation is of utmost importance for the rapidly growing sector of commercial farming in Nepal,” said Mr Lohani, praising the innovation. “Barsha pump can serve as a milestone innovation in providing adequate irrigation service to farmers.” The technology has the potential of irrigating the elevated fields nearby canals throughout the Nepal. Practical Action and aQysta are working towards localising the manufacturing and distribution value chain, and selling thousands of Barsha pumps across Nepal.

    The Barsha pump, installed in the Sundarpur site, is serving around 1.5 bighas (1 hectare) of vegetable farm. The water from the pump travels a distance of 800 metres from the canal where the Barsha pump is installed, before it reaches the site to be irrigated. Two micro-sprinkler heads are directly connected to the Barsha pump, which run continuously 24/7 without any fuel, electricity or operating costs.

    A sprinkler, 800 metres away from the water source and connected to the Barsha pump, irrigates the  vegetable crop.

    A sprinkler, 800 metres away from the water source and connected to the Barsha pump, irrigates the vegetable crop.

    All the people working in the farm need to do is to shift the sprinkler heads to different areas which need to be irrigated from time to time. For the Sundarpur farmers, who had used and abandoned electric pumps because of low voltage and also invested in diesel generators, the Barsha pump is an exciting solution to keep their irrigation costs low and help expand their cultivating area.

    Barsha pump, inspired by a similar technology from Morton Reimer implemented by Practical Action (ITDG at that time) to pump water from the Nile River to irrigate the vegetable farm in South Sudan during the 1980s, is based on the stream driven coil pump principle developed in 1746 AD.

    The output from a Barsha pump is suitable for irrigating anywhere between 1 to 4 hectares of land depending upon different variables such as type of crops, type of soil, season of irrigation and of course depends upon drip, sprinkler or furrow facility. The pump performs optimally in a river or a canal flowing at a flow rate greater than 0.3 cubic metres per second or a flow speed greater than 1 metre per second. Nepal, a country with more than 6,000 rivers flowing all the year round, is set to benefit largely from the use of these pumps.

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  • Today’s Earth Overshoot Day

    Margaret Gardner

    August 13th, 2015

    Today 13 August is Earth’s Overshoot Day – the day when we have used up all of the ecological resources available for the year. From now on we – as a planet – are in ecological deficit –using up resources we don’t have. And what’s worse according to The Guardian the pace at which we gobble up resources is getting quicker – with this year’s Earth Overshoot day 6 days earlier than last.

    And our response?

    I worry we’ve turned to the ecological equivalent of a payday loan – continuing to squander resources irrespective of the cost, long term implications, and hugely high impact inflation. Fracking, oil exploration and drilling in the Artic, food waste – in the UK retailers and consumers throwing away between 30 and 40% of all food, etc.

    We experience ourselves not as part of nature but somehow separate from it – or at worst dominant, scarily in control of our ecology with the faith that technology will somehow bail us out.

    Why does this matter?

    Climate change is already hitting the poorest people hardest. They live in the main on some of the most marginal and therefore vulnerable land.

    In April I was in Zimbabwe talking with farmers struggling with increasingly erratic rainfall. Crops yields were poor as the rain came late after the crops had already ripened and wilted. John Siambare Practical Actions Field Officer explained ‘this year crops planted using conventional farming techniques died before they did anything’

    We at Practical Action can work with farmers to help them cope – through

    Irrigation scheme Zimbabwe 2015

    Irrigation scheme Zimbabwe 2015

    agroecological farming techniques that maintain moisture in the soil, crop diversification, food preservation, solar irrigation etc. And to help build peoples resilience – if you don’t know what environmental change is going to throw at you – and one of the biggest impacts of climate change is increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather – how can you plan – you just need to get as good as you can at responding to change.

    But ultimately climate change is catastrophic and we will get to a stage where adaptation is impossible and land where people now live no longer viable.

    If the increases in consumption continues as now – in 2 to 3 years Earth Overshoot day will be in July, 5 years after that in June.

    Time to change our ways?

    Fritz Schumacher, Practical Action’s founder, in his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ , talked about moving to a world where we look to maximise wellbeing with minimum consumption. Small is Beautiful was published in 1973. The time for change is now.



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  • A Progressive Approach to Climate Compatible Development

    co-author Francis Muchiri

    Sustainable development will increasingly be judged on emerging metrics such as climate compatibility and gender-sensitive approaches.

    Climate change is a collective challenge facing the world today, and any effective solutions to slow down or mitigate its effects will need collaboration at all levels. It continues to manifest itself through natural shocks that are increasing in intensity and frequency: raging floods, extended and unpredictable droughts, compromised eco-systems and so on. The effects of climate change have a direct bearing on industry, industrialisation, food security, human migration trends, production systems, availability of water, and overall poverty levels, with the greatest negative impacts being felt by the most vulnerable groups.

    Because of the diffuse nature of its effects, conversations around climate-compatible development should take into account the diversity of efforts required: from the broader policy level, right down to the communal level, that will lead to greater impact. Kenyan women selling charcoal in Bondo market

    Women in both rural and urban areas face barriers (social, economic and political) that limit their ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. However, there is a danger in singling them out as passive victims or recipients to the benefits of adaptation or mitigation activities. Any collective efforts need to engage women alongside men and any other groups, as potential actors or agents for change. Information on the effectiveness of gender-sensitive approaches has not been quantified and analysed to produce clear evidence on the need for engendered approaches in climate compatible development. The lack of segregated data makes it difficult to demonstrate the link between gender, adaption and mitigation activities. Indeed, the impacts of climate change are experienced differently according to age, sex, location, and economic activity. It further has a composite effect on education, employment and the health sector, among others. We need to ask ourselves whether ongoing interventions incorporate strategies that ensure equal participation of both women and men.

    This presents a unique opportunity; to provide the required benchmarks on the effectiveness of gender-sensitive climate compatible development to create frameworks for future planning, investment and resourcing. Successful implementation of these interventions will require a demonstration of equity, where everyone benefits from, and is able to contribute to these measures regardless of their social status, locations, gender, occupation and so on.

    Evidence produced from Practical Action’s program implementation over the past 50 years has shown that community initiatives and interventions will neither be effective nor sustainable unless there is equitable buy-in and contribution from both men and women. Based on complete projects that integrated gender-sensitive approaches, there exist prospects to demonstrate how and to what extent engagement of both women and men in adaptation and mitigation efforts has contributed to the achievement of specific objectives, while improving their livelihoods.

    Susan Asiko lives in Kibera. She found herself in an unfortunate position when her only source of livelihood as a domestic worker came to an abrupt halt. After months of living from hand to mouth, and many times sleeping on an empty stomach, a neighbour introduced Susan to the briquette making business. With minimal education, Practical Action provided both business and technology support that has empowered her to manage her enterprise and make business decisions effectively. From an initial investment of Kshs. 200, she has been able to grow her business, producing an environmentally-friendly fuel for household use, and see her children through school. Her enterprise is meeting a number of varied goals: it is making use of available waste material, reducing reliance on ineffective biomass at the household level within her locale, and limiting the pollution generated from unclean fuels here. It might seem like a drop in the ocean, but because she was able to access relevant training, she can now make her individual contribution towards mitigating against the effects of climate change. How much more can be done to build an army of Susans?

    Practical Action through its consulting arm, Practical Action Consulting, is collaborating with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) across three regions (Latin America, Eastern Africa and Southern Asia) to manage Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)’s learning study dubbed “Gender Equality and Climate Compatible Development: Drivers and challenges to people’s empowerment”.

    The study will manage the production and dissemination of high quality evidence on gender-sensitive approaches to Climate Compatible Development (CCD) including how and to what extent they can contribute to increasing women’s ability to engage in adaptation and mitigation efforts in ways that affect the long-term impacts. The findings from the three sub-national studies will be used to substantiate the benefits of gender equality within the development and adoption of policy decisions and the subsequent design and implementation of appropriate development programmes in the case study countries and beyond.

    The one-year study will look at the adoption and meaning of ‘gender-sensitive’ approaches to Climate Compatible Development in different urban contexts, and also build understanding of the roles both men and women play in climate change related initiatives. It will also explore the socio-economic, political and cultural factors and conditions which either support or constrain gender responsive policies; strategies, approaches and actions; and the existing barriers in effective participation of women in decision making for activities around disaster risk reduction, post-disaster recovery, adaptation and mitigation in varied settings.

    In Kenya the CDKN Project will evaluate, through a gendered lens to CCD, the five-year Comic Relief Funded project titled People’s Plans in to Practice: Building Productive and Liveable Settlements with slum dwellers in Kisumu and Kitalewith part of its strategic focus on ‘People Living in Slums’. The project was implemented jointly by three partners; Practical Action, Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP) and Shelter Forum in collaboration with the defunct Municipal Councils of Kisumu and Kitale, commencing in 2008 and closing in December 2013.

    The overall aim of the project was to improve the well-being, productivity and living conditions of poor people living in informal settlements in Kenya and the East African region, 80% of who were women and children. It aimed at ensuring their inclusion in the planning and development processes of the Local Authorities; and by improving access to clean water, better sanitation, waste management, drainage, supporting secure land tenure and affordable housing.

    The CDKN study will document efforts made by development agencies to integrate gender into climate compatible development whilst identifying gaps that exist both in programming and policy at national and county levels. This will inform subsequent design and implementation of appropriate urban development strategies in cities and towns experiencing similar challenges.

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