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  • Sheep Rearing – A livelihood option in salinity affected coastal areas


    August 30th, 2014

    Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Because of increased salinity, the absence of agricultural practices (other than shrimp culture), a lack of grazing land and acute fodder problems cattle resources have been reduced seriously in the coastal areas of Bangladesh. However, there is much scope of rearing small domestic animals like sheep, goats and pigeons there instead of big animals (cows, buffalo etc.). Further, the area lacks sufficient employment opportunities since shrimp cultivation in gher is the major and dominant livelihoods option in the coastal area. But, most poor and marginal people don’t own land for shrimp cultivation.

    sheepSalinity, being the major dominant feature, crops and vegetables, other than saline tolerant variety, don’t grow in this area. However, people are not well aware of saline tolerant crops and vegetable varieties. So, sheep rearing, considering the salinity and climatic variability context has been considered to be an important adaptive livelihood option in the area, although, there is lack of grazing land and fodder. Sheep is highly salinity and temperature tolerant.

    The rearing of sheep has been increasing gradually in coastal areas as a household based adaptation and alternative income option. A 5´x 8´ house is required for 5/6 sheep. Sama a local grass is the major feed for sheep and this grass grows well in saline soil.  Cultivation of this grass is often done on land adjacent to the homestead.

    Monsoon is the best season for producing this grass since there is sufficient rain and no need for irrigation. Besides sama grass, kura (waste from rice husking), different other grasses whatever available in the locality and leaves from trees are also fed to the sheep. Sheep eat almost everything.

    Sheep require regular vaccination and de-worming to avoid diseases and unexpected death. A sheep of 5/6 months can be sold for Tk.1500-2000. Besides this the income from sheep-dung can’t be understated. Sheep-dung is used as saar (compost) for vegetable production and as fuel. One can get fuel of Tk.450/monthly from 5/6 sheep for cooking.

    This clearly shows that sheep rearing is an important adaptive livelihood option in the increased salinity context for poor, marginal and small farmers. Sheep rearing can contribute to employment creation and eradication of poverty of the poor and marginal, specially, as household based income generation option, where, employment scope is a major problem.

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  • Remembering the power of off-grid at World Water Week

    Lucy Stevens
    August 29th, 2014

    World Water Week is a key global event for political, social and scientific discussions about one of our most precious resources. The theme of this year’s week, running from 31st August – 5th September, is Energy and Water.

    The conference and its organisers have rightly identified the relationship between the two as being at the heart of sustainable development. Water is used in power generation not only in the form of hydropower but also in terms of cooling coal and nuclear power plants (with a lack of water often leading to power cuts). And in turn, reliable energy sources can deliver access to clean water. For example, in drought-affected areas of Kenya, solar pumps that can draw water from deep underground are proving critical in ensuring irrigation for crops and fighting disease.

    However, I haven’t seen much evidence that the World Water Week has enough focus on the technologies or policies that are most likely to meet the needs of those who are currently living without access. The majority of the abstracts for the conference and indeed the 2014 World Water Week report Energy and Water: The Vital Link for a Sustainable Future pay little or no attention to de-centralised energy solutions, despite the fact that according to International Energy Agency, 55% of all new electricity supply will need to be in decentralised systems if we are to reach the goal of universal energy access by 2030.

    This is particularly worrying in terms of delivering on food security. Currently around 75% of the global population is fed with food provided locally by small-scale farmers, fishers or herders. Most of these farmers live in rural areas, far beyond the reach of large scale infrastructure projects. They farm with little or no access to reliable energy sources that could enable them to power agriculture (e.g. through irrigation, food processing and storage) and ensure reliable crops and food production.

    Farmers in Himalaya community in Manicaland District of Zimbabwe irrigating their farms using power from the Himalaya Micro hydro Scheme constructed by Practical Action with funding from EU.

    Farmers in Himalaya community in Manicaland District of Zimbabwe irrigating their farms using power from the Himalaya Micro hydro Scheme.

    This is why I will use the conference as an opportunity to look back at some of the lessons Practical Action has learnt from our 25 years of experience in community-led decentralised energy solutions, such as micro-hydro projects in Nepal, Peru and Zimbabwe. I will continue to press for a ‘Total Energy Access’ approach, defined as when households, enterprises and community services have sufficient access to the full range of energy supplies and services that are required to support human, social and economic development.

    If you want to hear more I will be presenting ‘Potential for Off-grid Community Micro-hydro Schemes to Deliver for Energy, Water and Food Security: Lessons from 25 years of Practical Experience’ in Stockholm at 11.25 on Tuesday and I’ll be tweeting throughout the week from @lucykstevens .

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  • Urgent message for Student Adventurers

    Matt Wenham
    August 28th, 2014

    Practical Action has just received the shocking news that Student Adventures t/a GBCE Ltd has ceased to trade today. We understand that you, your families and friends will have lots of questions. Whilst details are unclear, we understand that students currently overseas with Student Adventures will continue their trips as scheduled, with no changes to their planned itinerary. We have requested that this is confirmed in writing.

    If you are concerned about someone who is currently overseas on a fundraising trip with Student Adventures, please call a member of our Practical Action team directly on +44  07880 671 315 If you are expecting to fly out on a challenge tonight, or in the next few days, we have been informed that outbound flights have not been cancelled, however there will be no one to meet you at the airport, no accommodation bookings have been made and your Kilimanjaro Trek has not been arranged. Any travel would be undertaken at your own risk, therefore Practical Action strongly advises that you do not travel.

    We have this evening received this information via Student Adventures’ Accountants, Smith Cooper, who advised Practical Action that they are making attempts to contact all participants. We have been informed that if you have any questions you can contact Louis Good at Smith Cooper on his direct line; +44 (0) 115 945 4300. Our staff are currently telephoning all students due to travel tonight, Thursday 28th August and tomorrow, Friday 29th August. Practical Action will endeavour to speak with all of our student fundraisers in the next 24 hours but if you want to talk to us please get in touch on 07880 671 315.

    We are extremely sorry about this, but have been as shocked as all our students about this news.  We also appreciate all of the hard work put into fundraising over the past year, and that many of those who have worked so hard will be desperate to travel, but our primary concern is your safety. We promise to be in touch with an update as soon as we have any further details.

    Please continue to check Practical Action’s social media sites and our website over the next few days for further updates.

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  • Dyke Cropping: A Successful Case of Md. Zillur Rahman


    August 28th, 2014

    Cultivation of crops is almost absent in the South Western coastal region of Bangladesh, where shrimp farming has been dominant since the mid-eighties. Salinity intrusion into agricultural land is increasing because of sea level rise due to climate change. Thus the practice of agriculture has been almost stopped in the coastal areas except for shrimp farming.

    The introduction of cropping on the dyke of shrimp gher has been an important innovation by Practical Action, although it was practiced a while back. However, dyke cropping was neither very common, nor systematic. Practical Action, Bangladesh, under its Climate Change Programme in the South Western Coastal District Satkhira demonstrated some livelihoods technologies including Dyke Cropping following an improved method.

    Mr. Zillur Rahman (35) of Kalikapur village, a small holder demonstrated vegetable cultivation on the dyke of his shrimp farm. He had prior experiences of dyke cropping. In October-December 2011, he did ‘dyke cropping’ with Practical Action’s technical support on 4 dykes of different lengths (25-30 to 130 feet). The dyke’s width was 3 feet and height above the flood water level.

    dyke cultivationRahman cultivated vegetables on the dykes in winter (October-December 2011) and during the monsoon (May-September 2012). The vegetables he grew included pumpkin, water gourd, chalkumra, cumcumber and carrala in the winter season and pumpkin, water gourd, chalkumra, cumcumber, carrala along with jhinge, chichinga, dhundal, papaw, ladies fingers, brinjal and puishak in the monsoon. Monsoon cropping required no irrigation as there was sufficient rain, while, drip irrigation technology was used for winter cropping in the pits made on dykes. The size of pit differed for each vegetable (50x50x50 to 80x80x80 centimeter). Both organic and inorganic fertilizer in appropriate doses was used in the pits for vegetable cultivation. The dyke cropping helps to maximise land use, promoting food security and reducing dependency on shrimp farming.

    Technological differences were significant between the earlier and later project. Better dyke design was introduced with adequate height and width than earlier. In the improved system, organic fertilizer use was predominant, however, in-organic fertilizer use was also used  in appropriate doses; machan on dyke prepared with branches of trees earlier, but, bamboo/wooden pole and net were used in the improved system. The cost of machan more than doubled and survived 4 years instead of 1 year for the conventional one.  

    Rahman harvested a total of 182kgs of vegetables in winter and sold at an average market price Tk.15/kg. He harvested a good amount of vegetables (181 Kgs.) by mid-September 2012 and sold at a market price of Tk.16/kg in the monsoon. He expected further 111kgs (approx) up to December 2012 and could sell thse at Tk.15/kg.

    In the improved system, he harvested 2.5 times more compared to earlier practice. The dyke cropping could suitably be expanded and replicated, where vegetable production is almost absent or very poor due to salinity increase, which, could benefit the shrimp farmers by bringing extra income along with household consumption.

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  • MEGA Malawi update

    Drew Corbyn
    August 27th, 2014

    MEGA micro hydro: Lower Bondo

    The Lower Bondo micro hydro has now been operational for one month. It has performed well, producing a steady 36kW with no instances of unscheduled power outages. The repaired generator and ancillary equipment are performing well.

    Improvements have been made to improve performance and safety including raising the wall along sections of the power canal, installing a v-notch weir and pressure gauge for measuring flow, raising the ballast tank off the ground and strengthening pipe work, replacing 25mm2 cable with 50mm2 cable from the powerhouse to transformer. The system was offline for a few days whilst these improvements were ongoing.

    The Lower Bondo power canal with raised sides for increased flow.

    The Lower Bondo power canal with raised sides for increased flow.

    A 25kVA transformer has proved faulty despite repair efforts.  One of the transformers assigned for Upper Bondo is in its place whilst we attempt to repair it or decide whether to purchase a new one.

    We have been working with an electrical engineering consultant to review the design and increase the capacity of the system towards the design output of 88kW. We believe the turbine and power transmission are the most inefficient components and are seeking to make modifications soon.

    The meter system has been installed and is operating well. Many houses have already consumed the free 10 units loaded on the meter and have applied for and been issued tokens to top-up.

    Demand for household connections has increased markedly. We are reviewing applications using new criteria to ensure the efficient use of materials -to merit connection an individual house needs to be within close range of the existing grid, or in proximity to other connecting households. GPS data is enabling this way of working.

    MEGA micro hydro: Upper Bondo

    With Lower Bondo operational, attention has turned to Upper Bondo construction making September an extremely busy month. The work plan below sets out the construction timetable for completion by the end of September. It is a demanding schedule, but achievable if all goes well.

    The 6m, 400mm diameter PVC pipes in storage before being carried to site.

    The 6m, 400mm diameter PVC pipes in storage before being carried to site.

    The turbine/generator /ELC manufacture is complete and ready for inspection.  The manufacturer is struggling to obtain a Certificate of Origin to enable export, but hopes to receive in coming days. A cargo company has been engaged to freight to Dar es Salaam (expected 1-2 weeks), and a freight forward company will import to Malawi. The manufacturer has not met the dispatch date agreed in the procurement contract, and communication has been a challenge.

    600m of conveyance PVC pipe has been delivered to the site. Teams of 10 people have been carrying each 6m length from the road head 2-3km to the conveyance channel. Connecting the pipes is scheduled for first two weeks of Sept.  The de-silting basin is under construction, and will be finished this week or next.

    The de-silting basin with foundation / flooring and form work for the sides.

    The de-silting basin with foundation / flooring and form work for the sides.

    A penstock supplier has been identified, a South Africa company that will provide 100m of steel pipe in 3m sections, 12mm thickness as soon as funds are available in Malawi.

    A rental jackhammer (pneumatic hand drill) has been sourced (after much searching!) for breaking rocks at the intake and in the conveyance channel. The company engineer is visiting the site on Tuesday to verify the suitability of equipment and accessibility of site. The plan is to have the equipment on site from 1st Sept for about 8 days. The weir construction will run concurrently and take 3 days. Heavy rains last Sunday swelled the river, although have now subsided. A good spell of dry weather is required to complete the weir.

    The medium voltage transmission line has been completed from the powerhouse to the village. The distribution network to customers remains. Remaining construction activities include: intake and weir construction, pipe conveyance connection, penstock laying, powerhouse construction with electro-mechanical placement, distribution grid.

    The conveyance pipeline with PVC pipes in place.

    The conveyance pipeline with PVC pipes in place.

    There are many groups of labourers from the community (and surrounding communities) that are working on the construction; doing building works, ferrying sand, cement, breaking rocks for gravel, and carrying components. Huge amounts of aggregate is required and proving difficult to supply with manual carrying alone. A trailer has been designed and purchased for the project but unfortunately cannot be used until completion of the access road.

    The MEGA Board will meet next Friday.  At this event Lower Bondo assets and operational responsibility will be formally handed over from Practical Action to MEGA.

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  • Webinar: Push-Pull Strategies in Bangladesh market development


    August 22nd, 2014

    Marketing and logistics types in the private sector will often refer to how they get concepts or products through a supply chain as a push or pull strategy. In Practical Action’s space, when we are trying do develop market systems to move people out of poverty, this is often used to refer to how we engage actors in that market system. A push strategy is building capacity for growth, perhaps through access to finance and pull is facilitating access to opportunitities, such as developing demand for a product. Usually, projects favor one strategy over another, but we have found there are times where they both can be useful in an intervention.

    Abdur Rob, from our Bangladesh office, recently presented on one such case during a webinar for the SEEP Network and USAID. He presented with Andy Medlicott from Fintrac, who also has some interesting insights (though his audio failed at times).

    If you would like to see the recorded presentation, click here.

    This market map shows flows inside the beef market in Bangladesh. Push engagement was predominantly facilitated through input supply and services, and Pabna meat served as the main lead firm on the pull side.

    This market map shows flows inside the beef market in Bangladesh. Push engagement was predominantly facilitated through input supply and services, and Pabna meat served as the main lead firm on the pull side.

     

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  • Photo opportunity

    Rosalind Watson
    August 21st, 2014

    A development worker called Sam was tasked with writing a report on a project that had recently begun in a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photos of the people who would be impacted by the project were needed for the report. Sam reached one of the villages that would be benefitting from the project and while talking to the local people started scanning the faces for potential photo opportunities. Spotting a mother and child in ragged clothing stood in a doorway, Sam went over to ask their names. The mother was called Irene and her daughter was called Patience. Sam asked if it would be ok to name them in the report as examples of people who would be impacted by the project and take their photo so that people who were interested in the project would be able to put faces to names. Sam explained how the photograph would be used in the report, and that it would be seen by many people in the UK and potentially elsewhere as they had supporters all over the world, and would ultimately raise awareness about the project. Immediately Irene said she had to go but would return in an hour for the photo.

    After more than one hour she returned with Patience, they were both wearing brand new clothes. She had been to the market to buy the clothes because she and Patience needed to look their best for the photo. She had been saving for a new dress anyway and now was the perfect time to buy one. Her wraparound skirt, plain t-shirt with a hole and flip flops had been replaced with a dress and shoes. Her little girl wore a bow in her hair. This wasn’t the photo Sam wanted…..

    Last month the Irish Association of Non-governmental Development Organisations (Dochas) released an Illustrative Guide to its ‘Code of Conduct on Images and Messages.’ The Code is based on 7 guiding principles:

     

    Principle 1: Choose images and related messages based on values of respect, equality, solidarity and justice.

    For Irene, the clothes she and her daughter were wearing were important in communicating respect and dignity. Did Sam respect the fact that for Irene, the clothes she wore presented her as either a dignified or undignified person?

    Principle 2: Truthfully represent any image or depicted situation both in its immediate and in its wider context, so as to improve public understanding of the realities and complexities of development.

    Irene wanted to be photographed in a different state to the one Sam found her and Patience in. Although this wasn’t communicating the ‘truth’ as Sam saw it, Irene had the capacity to buy luxury items at the time, and wanted to communicate another truth. Was it wrong for her to change Sam’s ‘truth?’ Or was it wrong for Sam to assume there was one single truth to be communicated?

    Principle 3: Avoid images and messages that potentially stereotype sensationalise, or discriminate against people, situations or places.

    Would the photo Sam wanted to take sensationalise Irene and Patience’ situation? Would the photo make them look more vulnerable and suffering from ‘a life of drudgery’ than was true?

    Principle 4: Use images, messages, and case studies with the full understanding, participation and permission of the subjects (or the subjects’ parents/guardians)

    If Sam explained the reasons behind why the ragged clothes would look best, would Irene still agree to be photographed; knowing that it was Irene and Patience’s ‘indignity’ that Sam wanted to communicate most of all?

    Principle 5: Ensure those whose situation is being represented have the opportunity to communicate their stories themselves

    Irene had a different story to communicate about her life and the life of her daughter to the one that Sam wanted to communicate. She wanted to take the opportunity to communicate it.

    Principle 6: Establish and record whether the subjects wish to be named or identified and always act accordingly

    Irene wanted to be identified, but would she feel the same knowing that what she most wanted to change about the photograph was what Sam most wanted to communicate to the world?

    Principle 7: Conform to the highest standards in relation to human rights and the protection of vulnerable people

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. For Irene, the clothes she and her daughter wear communicate dignity and respect. If Irene is ‘born free in dignity’ she should also be free to have control over the things she associates with dignity, like clothing.

    ……..Does what happens next matter?

     

     

    dochas

    Photo credit: Dochas Network

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  • Insects for food – Yuk or maybe not?

    Margaret Gardner
    August 19th, 2014

    Last week I read an article in the Guardian which argued that as we head for 9 million people on our planet we need to find a new approach to food. One of the ideas mooted alongside reducing waste and 3D printed food, was the widespread consumption of insects. My immediate reaction was ‘hurray for waste reduction’,  deep distrust of printed foods (why distance ourselves even further from nature) and ‘yuk!’ to insects.

    While I’ve been offered Mopane Worms in South Africa and a much recommended snack of fried Locusts in The Philippines, I’ve never been tempted – I don’t even like prawns. But maybe on reflection I’m just not open-minded enough in my choice of food.

    Food chainThe latest edition of Practical Action Publishing’s journal ‘Food Chain’  focuses on insects for food and feed. It points out that

    • Insects are traditionally consumed by more than 2 billion people worldwide;
    • There’s great diversity – about 2,000 species known to be edible;
    • Environmentally there are significant benefits over eating meat (lower emissions of greenhouse gases, low requirement for land and water etc.);
    • There is a huge opportunity for insects as animal and poultry feed (In the EU this is currently hindered by legislation);
    • They are good for you – termites for example are particularly rich in oleic acids, the same type of fat found in olive oil
    • The ‘Yuk’ factor is possible to overcome – think of worms’ lava in Tequila and Beer.

    Turns out Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN, is a big fan! “When you consider the imprint of cattle and other stock on the environment you are better off with insects. Insects have a very good conversion rate from feed to meat. There is no way that we can sustain conventional livestock production environmentally if we want to meet the needs of the growing human population”.

    Today is Earth Overshoot Day – we’ve used up all of the resources available on our planet for this year and are now on overdraft.   As our population grows to 9 billion and as demand for protein goes up we will have to think about things including food differently. Rather than encouraging the unsustainable growth of a Western type diet shouldnt we be looking at more traditional foods. If 2 billion people around the world eat insects – and appear to like them – they are good for our planet, and can be good for us – Surely the question is why wouldnt we try them?

    So if you have a taste for insects I recommend ‘The Insect Cookbook – Food for a Sustainable Planet’ published by Columbia. Great recipes including Bitterbug Bites, Bugitos and Buffalo Worm Chocolate Cupcakes.

    I don’t think I’m ready for a cricket lollipop yet but if the rather indistinct protein in say my occasional ready meal was made of insect – maybe I wouldn’t mind (or more likely I wouldn’t think about it). Good for people and the environment – what is there to dislike?     insect lolipop

    Insects could be the food of the future.

    PS In Zimbabwe Practical Action are working on insects as food as part of our work on non-timber forestry production. Watch this space for more news.

     

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  • Journey of Krishi Call Centre: Hello……16123


    August 19th, 2014

    The toll free Krishi Call centre in Bangladesh has received 2496 calls over the last 2 months and per day 52 calls after it formally launched this free number 16123.

    fruitThis is the monsoon period and average temperature 36°C. Many fruits grow so this month is called ‘Modhu mas (month of honey)”. People have access to many varieties of indigenous fruits, a major source of low cost vitamins for the majority of poor and extreme poor.  As well as seasonal fruits  the good news for the Bangladeshi people is they have got toll free number to call from any mobile without payment to get advice and information related to agriculture from the Krishi Call Centre, a joint initiative of Practical Action Bangladesh and Ministry of Agriculture, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.  Therefore we see very rapidly it has become popular and people’s are asking questions about their real needs.

    Chart in Microsoft Word copyAnalyzing the last two months of calls to this centre, we have found most of the enquiries were from crop sub-sectors and rice related questions are more frequent than others. They were about rice pests, diseases, fertilizer dosage and high yielding varieties. Besides there were also some enquiries about how to control disease and pests of vegetables. It is interesting that pattern of questions were mostly based on seasonal characteristics, related crops intensity and problems faced by the farmers. Currently it is summer in Bangladesh and average humidity is (82-86%) therefore growth of the insect population is high.

    Summer is called as “Modhu mas” (month of honey) as there is a lot of fruit produced in this seasonlike guava, jack fruit, mango, pineapple, papaya and banana. So peoples also asked frequently how to protect those fruits from rotting.

    Diseases of cows, ducks, goats, sheep and some birds like pigeons and farming related questions were the major part of livestock queries. Specially, fish drying and, growth problems are the most common for fishery related questions to the call centre.

    Examples of enquiries

    Tarikul Islam, a farmer from Sirajganj wanted to get advice on how to protect his paddy field from Majra puka (Tryporyza incertulas – yellow stem borer).  This  insect is a common paddy pest in Bangladesh. Niharika Das Gupta who holds a Master’s in Agriculture, from Banga Bandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agriculture University is one of the call centre executives. She suggested, “You can use a hand net to catch and kill those insects. Besides you can use light trap or duck rearing in rice field are also helpful to control this insect.”  These are all organic ways to control pests. One of the extension policies of the Department of Agriculture in Bangladesh is to promote Integrated Pest Management. Therefore our trained call executive took the opportunity to promote this method as well as reduce the misuse of chemical pest control. We know that chemical pest control in early stage of growing rice also destroys beneficial insects like ladybird beetles and insect predator frogs which is not good for environment.

    Md Jahedul Islam from Rangpur posted a question to our veterinary expert Rasha Farzana, who is a Doctor of Veterinary and Medicine (DVM), a fresh University graduate.  Jahedul enquired, “My cow urine is reddish”. The expert answered him to test urine in nearby upazila livestock office so that he would be confirmed whether it was Babesiosis disease of cow. She added after diagnosis of urine he should consult with nearest Upazila Livestock Officer.

    advertAt present we do not have  a massive media campaign like advertisements in daily newspapers, television and radio because these may increase the already large call volume per day and it would be impossible to tackle these with only three call executives.  Long waiting times may mean that people are not keen to call again which would create a negative impression of the call centre. However the Bangladesh Government has already allocated  budget to recruit more staff for the Krishni Call Centre.

    Since it is a specialized area, in many cases call executives may not be able to provide instant answer of those technical enquiries. So Practical Action Bangladesh has developed a Call Centre Content Management System (CMS), wherea  huge number of agriculture, livestock and fisheries-related technical questions and answers are uploaded. Besides the call centre has a collection of relevant books, booklet, brochure, journal, magazines, multimedia contents and different agricultural websites.  The call centre maintains an expert pool who are connected with call executives to transfer the relevant enquirer to the respective expert.

    Agriculture is a major employment sector in Bangladesh and positioned second in contribution to the country’s total GDP.  Bangladesh’s rice production tripled from 1970s and crop intensity has increased from 153% to 179% in three decades yet there is much scope to improve along with challenges like reducing cultivable land per annum, increasing risks of climate change and frequencies of natural disasters where farmers need real time agricultural advice.

    Krishi Call centre is the, timely initiative in the country’s existing extension services as this has created diversity, reduce dependency on extension agents and created access to poor and marginalized farmers in the extension services.

    Authors: Md. Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan, Sr. Knowledge Officer (M&E), Practical Action, Bangladesh and Md. A. Halim Miah, Coordinator- Operations, Knowledge Management, Practical Action, Bangladesh.  

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  • The media mechanics behind a record-breaking fundraising campaign

    Andy Heath
    August 18th, 2014

    It is now seven months since we finished fundraising for our successful Department for International Development (DFID) backed ‘Safer Cities’ campaign for our urban work Southern Asia.

    Buckingham5

    Some time ago I promised to give an overview of what we did, what went well and tips for a happy future appeal and (because I’m someone who always keeps his promises), below is an outline of last December’s somewhat breathless efforts.

    The fundraising campaign was match funded by DFID and had a number of communications requirements which we were expected to fulfil:

    • We should identify a media partner who could enable us to reach a guaranteed minimum of 400,000 UK residents with the appeal messages, and (most importantly for DFID) the message that DFID were matching every pound we raised.
    • We ensure the voices of the people who would benefit from the projects would be heard directly by our supporters
    • There would be feedback to those who did donate about how much they raised and where the money would be spent.
    • All the campaign material should contain the DFID logo and messaging.In addition, we also made some pledges to DFID ourselves – promising the appeal would be complemented by a media stunt, to increase the reach of the appeal and also to promote in the local media in Warwickshire.

    It was a stressful time, not just because we had a (much appreciated) Christmas appeal with the Guardian awarded to us at short notice, which ran alongside the DFID appeal, but because neither we, nor Premier Christian Radio, our media partner, had ever done anything like this before.

    As it turned out, we needn’t have worried. DFID’s communications department were helpful and gave advice on what the Secretary of State would and wouldn’t say, and, where possible, what they were looking for.

    IMG_9998The build-up to the appeal also coincided with a trip with a Guardian journalist to Nepal which allowed me and my colleague Hayley Lloyd to visit Nepal, promote a BBC Radio 4 appeal we were doing for the same project and collect lots of material and stories for the Safer Cities appeal. This gave us the opportunity to engage the local BBC radio stations and local press by suggesting they talk to me & Hayley about our experiences at the project.

    Perhaps most importantly, it also allowed us to catch up with our colleagues in Kathmandu and explain to them fully what the appeal was about and the extent to which there would be demands placed upon them for pictures, interviews and case studies. From that point of view alone, the trip was worth every penny, because the communications and project team in Kathmandu rose to the challenge brilliantly, producing a succession of fantastic pictures and case studies, often at horribly short notice for use on social media around Christmas and New Year. The fact the appeal was a success was largely down to the hard work and flexibility of my colleagues Prabin and Swarnima.

    20130718_091902

    Finally, we worked with a creative agency to develop some images of slums laid out on top of well-known British landmarks – Brighton Pier, Buckingham Palace, Edinburgh Castle and the Bullring in Birmingham to try and localise the idea of how slums would affect the UK.

     

    The results were beyond our expectations, with coverage in British and Scottish national newspapers, leading regional papers and a range of websites, which brought our opportunities to view to well over the 40 million mark.

    Of course, most importantly, the fundraising was an overwhelming success. The appeal brought in more than £900,000, of which more than £800,000 was matched by DFID, meaning we smashed all previous Practical Action fundraising appeal records and have now been able to start work in slums in Bangladesh and Nepal to help tens of thousands of people living in slums get themselves out of poverty, for good.

    3 tips for a positive DFID match funding appeal experience:

    1. Get your local teams on board in a big way and set their expectations. Offer them plenty of support and make sure everyone is aware of just how much of a transformational impact the appeal can have on the organisation.
    2. Talk to DFID regularly. Like most of us in the communications game, they need to report successes to their bosses so keep them up-to-date with all your successes. Our relationship with DFID was so positive that after the appeal ended, Minister Lynne Featherstone visited our headquarters to celebrate the success.
    3. Make sure both you and the communications partner are on the same page (some sort of written agreement may be a good idea in which both parties state what they are committed to). They need to be aware of the minimum expectations that DFID has in terms of both reach and their messaging and that not living up to them could have a seriously negative impact on the organisation. Equally, it is important to identify interesting stories and editorial opportunities to ensure that the media partner fully benefits from the relationship as well.
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