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  • What’s in a name?

    Sanjib Chaudhary
    December 18th, 2014

    As we left the narrow alleys of Cusco, the natural delights of country life awaited us. The extremely beautiful countryside kept me glued to the car window throughout the journey.

    Being new to the place, for me, the most notable things on the way to Pomacanchi from Cusco were graffiti and lakes. The houses and walls that were painted with election symbols and slogans for the recently held regional and municipal elections pose stark contrast to the surrounding – a sort of visual pollution.

    However, the lovely lakes dotting the stunning landscape never let me look away. The area is famous for lakes and springs – Pomacanchi, Pampamarca, Acopia and Mosoc Llacta being the biggest and most important lakes in the area.

    A beautiful lake on the way

    A beautiful lake on the way

    Crossing Pomacanchi, the picturesque and biggest lake in the district, we arrived at the Pomacanchi District Municipality after two hours. Facing the yellow municipality building with arches is a wide square housing restaurants, parking space, flag poles, statues, benches and a small garden. We took quick sips of coffee and few bites of bread in a restaurant at the square. The local products were refreshing!

    As we walked along the corridors of the building, we were led to the Civil Registration Office. The office registers the birth and other important dates for Pomacanchi residents.

    Pomacanchi Municipality Building

    Pomacanchi Municipality Building

    Antolin, the office Chief welcomed us and showed around his office. Amidst a rack of old registers were two computers, a scanner, photocopier and a printer. Novice to the modern technology, he learned to use computers with the help of Willay Programme and started keeping the correct birth dates.

    According to Antolin, earlier it was quite difficult to register the exact dates. People used to relate the dates with some major events happening around the date and the registration had to be done manually – noting down the details in thick registers.

    When the residents came to collect the certificates, it used to take hours to find their respective certificates among the stack of old files. Adding to the woe, the spittle applied to the index finger while rummaging through the pages dabbed the certificates. Sometimes, the certificates used to get ruined in the process.

    To tackle this, the programme has developed a reliable system. Now, the data can be easily searched in the system. With the system’s help, Antolin finds the details of a beneficiary in his computer within minutes and prints the certificate instantly. He has also started scanning old certificates and recording them in the system.

    In Pomacanchi, around 200 births take place in a year. According to the National Census of Population and Dwellings 2007, the population of Pomacanchi was 8,340.

    As the terrain is difficult and people reside in remote areas, they walk even for two days on foot to get to the registration office for registering births. Earlier, they had to wait for hours to get their work done. Now, Antolin takes no more than five minutes to register a birth date. And the beneficiaries no longer need to wait for hours.

    Showing us the system, Antolin said, “It is easier and efficient with the system on place.”

    The system feeds to the national data. The programme has also developed manuals to operate the system. The municipality has a support system in place to deal with system breakdowns and errors occurring during the process.

    Along with Pomacanchi, six municipalities in Acomayo and two municipalities in Cajamarca use the system.

    Antolin, Chief of the Civil Registration Office in Pomacanchi describes the importance of birth registration.

    Antolin, Chief of the Civil Registration Office in Pomacanchi describes the importance of birth registration. (c) Practical Action/Mehrab Ul Goni

    So, what’s in a name? And why do people flock to Antolin’s office to get the name, birth date and other details registered?

    Antolin says birth registration is children’s prime right as it provides them with legal identity opening doors to other rights ranging from health care and education to participation in polls and receiving protection from state.

    As we left his office, he was feeling proud of demonstrating the usefulness of the system to visitors from other parts of the world.

    (The team visiting the Civil Registration Office in Pomacanchi, Peru included Amanda Ross from the UK, Mehrab Ul Goni from Bangladesh, Sara Eltigani Elsharif from Sudan, and Upendra Shrestha and Sanjib Chaudhary from Nepal.)

    The Willay programme in Peru began in 2007 and until 2010 focussed on promoting ICT for governance, implementing demonstration projects in San Pablo (Cajamarca) and Acomayo (Cusco), deploying telecommunications network, improving information management systems and strengthening capacities of public officials in rural areas. The programme, implemented by Practical Action, is in its third phase and aimed towards the sustainability of the system.

    The programme has been funded by Ministry of External Affairs and Cooperation –Government of Spain, Municipality of Madrid and European Commission.

    To know more, read the brochure or visit the programme’s website.

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  • Robbed at COP? A novice’s view of the talks.

    Simon Trace
    December 18th, 2014

    Attending the second week of the UNFCCC COP meeting in Lima, Peru has been a challenging and a bewildering experience, for a first timer and non-specialist in international climate talks.

    First of all there is the terminology – the main text that is being developed at the moment, and which should form the basis of final negotiations for a new global climate convention in Paris next year, is known as a ‘non-paper’ for example. Not a very inspiring name for something that is absorbing the attention of so many people! Then there are the conversations that are sprinkled with acronyms to the extent that it sometimes feels like you are listening to a text message rather than a human being – COP, CMP, INDC, SBSTA, GCF, CIF, and so on.

    Then there is the content of the ‘non paper’ itself. I had a quick glance at a version on Wednesday. It was around 40 pages long and seemed, from a quick read, to be a jumble of contradictions. Almost every clause or commitment or resolution in the document contained 2,3,4 or more alternative options for text, sometimes variations on the same sentiment, but sometimes options that completely contradicted each other (for example in the final version published on the UNFCCC website the section on adaptation options for paragraph 25.2 include both “establish a global goal for adaptation” and “no global goal for adaptation”). The plan is that this text will gradually be honed down by working parties over the coming year to something that can form the basis for final negotiations in time for the Paris COP in 2015. All I can say is that I wish Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC Secretariat, and her staff all the best with that task!

    I was privileged to hear Ms Figueres speak at the COP. Practical Action is part of an alliance with the Zurich Insurance Company, and 3 other organisations working together on developing new ways to help poor people in the developing world reduce their vulnerability to floods. (as a side note – floods not only affect more people globally than any other type of natural hazard but the associated economic, social and humanitarian losses are expected to grow as the climate change leads to increase in extreme rainfall events and rising sea levels). The Alliance was lucky enough to win a UNFCC Momentum for Change award (or M4C – another acronym!) for its work and Ms Figueres (and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon) spoke at the awards ceremony on Wednesday. She spoke passionately and from her heart about the low point of the COP meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 from which everyone had come away depressed and downhearted, with a sense that progress towards a global climate agreement was impossible. She talked about the need after Copenhagen to create a momentum for change and a new positive picture of what could be achieved. The M4C awards were a (very modest) part of that process, showcasing examples of people and organisations taking concrete actions on mitigation or adaptation.

    She also talked about how far things had moved post Copenhagen and how different and more positive the atmosphere was at the Lima talks. Certainly the China / US agreement prior to the COP lifted the atmosphere and those who had attended previous COPs told me that the language was gradually changing for the better – one example was the use of the concept of national carbon budgets by many of the official delegations – something that would have been an anathema a couple of years ago.

    But there are still reasons for a good dose of pessimism though, many related to the US, despite Australia doing its best to be the ‘bad guy’ by winning more ‘fossil of the day’ awards (given by the NGO community to official delegations for outrageous behaviour) than any other country. In a nutshell ‘conventional wisdom’ says that a Republican Congress won’t ratify further significant financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund and won’t countenance the concept of reparation to developing countries for ‘loss and damage’ – another theme of the talks. Verification was also an ongoing issue. Countries have agreed to submit ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ in time for the Paris COP next year to explain their plans for cutting carbon. European nations have been pushing for the UN to provide independent verification of progress against these targets but others, China and the US included, have resisted any commitment to external verification, throwing doubt over the solidity of the commitments being made. Finally, although there was much talk about adaptation being mainstreamed in the talks much more than in the past, a presentation on existing climate finance in one side events I attended showed that finance for adaptation remains the poor cousin, accounting for less than 10% of current climate financing, with the remainder going to mitigation.

    Government delegations were not the only ones attracting negative press last week however. There were those amongst the NGOs that felt Greenpeace should have been given a ‘fossil of the day’ award for a publicity stunt that went badly wrong. A group of the NGO’s activists decided to use the Nasza lines as a backdrop for one of their protest events. The Nazca lines are a series of huge ancient patterns inscribed into the desert coastal plain of Peru that can only really be appreciated from the air. Created simply by clearing stones and debris away from fixed lines, the patterns have remained intact for hundreds of years in the arid conditions and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Greenpeace activists spelt out a slogan about solar power next to one of the most iconic patterns for Peru, a hummingbird. Although they were careful to avoid damaging the lines themselves (the letters were just made out of cloth laid on the ground) the tracks of their vehicles left a maze of marks on what until then had been the undisturbed ground around the pattern. The Peruvian press was incensed at the damage done to their site and there were reports from that the ministry of culture would be suing Greenpeace for damage.

    For me though, one of the abiding images from the various side events I attended was a graph from a Royal Society presentation on its new report “Resilience to extreme weather”. The graph (see below) shows an inexorable rise in the annual global economic loss, given as a % of global GDP, over the past 30 years. The graph was a salutary reminder of why the UNFCC process is so important, as climate change continues to drive growth in extreme weather events. But it also made me wonder how much it was an under representation of the true social cost to the poor and marginalised communities in developing countries, those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because they rely on land that is already marginal for farming or live in informal urban settlements most at risk from flooding and natural disasters. In % points of GDP their losses may not amount to so much, but in terms of human deprivation their losses are already immense.

    Reactions to the final outcome of the COP are varied, even amongst civil society actors at the event.  For example the World Resources Institute in the US concludes that  “delegates in Lima laid the groundwork for a successful international climate agreement in Paris next year” , whilst in the UK the International Institute for Environment and Development’s Saleemul Huq is quoted in the Guardian as saying “It sucks. It is taking us backwards”, whilst WWF claims “We are on a path to three or four degrees with this outcome”.

    Was a potential transformative agreement at COP20 stolen from under our noses at the last minute, despite the positive omens at the start of the conference? I have to confess, as a COP novice I have no bench mark to compare these talks to and so no idea. But, despite the challenges to progress there undoubtedly have been, I found it difficult to leave the COP20 meeting without being infected to some degree with the positivism being radiated by Christiana Figueres and Ban Ki Moon. The road ahead is still a long and difficult one, but I like to think there’s just a chance that we could look back at the Lima meeting in a few years’ time as the turning point when the world started to take climate change seriously and started to work together on finding a solution.Capture

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  • Simple technology – great results!

    Swarnima Shrestha
    December 16th, 2014

    Resident of Chitwan District of Nepal, 51 year old Ramlal Chaudary’s family has been dependent on agriculture for generations. But in the recent times, it was getting difficult to sustain his family of nine through agriculture alone. Recently, he had started driving tractor as a side business. But agriculture – is a part of his culture; paddy being the major harvest.

    Ramlal Chaudary at his paddy field. (Photo: Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

    Ramlal Chaudary at his paddy field. (Photo: Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

    This year too, Ramlal cultivated paddy like every other year. But this year, his field was greener and healthier than that of his neighbours. Even the other farmers observed his field curiously. Though most people assumed that he must have worked too hard to get this result, he actually had neither weeded nor used any pesticides or chemical fertilisers in his field.

    Ramlal shares happily, “The pests that were not controlled by strong pesticides are non-existent in my field now, even though I haven’t used any pesticide. Others weeded their fields numerous times and also used chemical fertilisers, but without doing any of that, the paddy in my field has flourished quite extraordinarily.”

    So what is the reason behind this drastic change in Ramlal’s paddy? What has he changed in his farming practice to get these great results?
    The answer actually is very simple.

    Ramlal has started raising ducks along with the rice in his field.
    He explains, “I decided to raise ducks in my rice field after attending an orientation programme about rice-duck farming organised by Practical Action. The organisation provided us with proper training to carry out this farming technique and also supported us with a day old ducklings. After the training, we formed a group and started rice-duck farming.”
    Rice-duck farming technology was found to be beneficial in terms of providing social, economic and environmental benefits in a pilot research carried out by Practical Action in 2013. Currently, Practical Action Consulting Pvt. Ltd. is implementing integrated rice-duck farming project in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts with the financial support of Grand Challenges Canada. The project is working to build the capacity of 1000 small holder farmers to adopt the rice-duck farming technology – Ramlal is one among them.

    Ducks at the rice field.

    Ducks at the rice field.

    Ramlal says, “I didn’t have any idea about the practice of rice-duck farming. But now, I am experiencing many benefits. The droplets of the ducks acts as manure so there is no need to use chemical fertilisers. The ducks gets the nutrition by feeding upon the pests and weeds. I feel that the ducks are a boon for the rice field.”
    Ramlal is the treasurer of the ‘Quality rice-duck farming’ group. There are altogether 15 members in this group – all practice rice-duck farming. The members of the group made a collective decision to practice rice-duck farming in their individual fields. They conduct monthly meetings where they share their agricultural progress and problems, most of which they solve with combined effort. Each member contributes NPR 50 (£0.32) for saving on a monthly basis. The amount is used among the members for agricultural inputs whenever required.

    Ducks coming out of the paddy field.

    Ducks coming out of the paddy field.

    The rice-duck farming technology has made an impact in Ramlal’s life in the first year of the practice itself. The yield in his field has increased. Previously, 0.03 hectares of field yielded hardly two quintals; this year it yielded 2.66 quintals of rice.
    He further adds, “I made rupees 52,700 (£337.82) more from the rice alone in comparison to last year. And the best part is that, the ducks become ready to be sold at the same time as rice harvesting. Among the total of 18 ducks I raised, we have kept few to be used at home and sold others at the price of rupees 800 (£5.12) each. This has made a significant impact on my income. People from neighbouring localities and villages also take interest when they see the ducks in the rice field. I try my best to share the knowledge with the ones who are unaware about it.”

    (The information for this story was collected by Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

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  • Women’s Everyday Struggle in Public Transport in Dhaka City

    Mokhlesur Rahman
    December 14th, 2014

    Experience of traveling in public transport in Dhaka city is bad for all, but for a woman it is no less than a nightmare.

    In any typical public transport, the maximum number of reserved seats for persons with a disability, children and women is 9 -while the total number of seats is around 60. Even though the rest of the seats are where anybody can sit,often male passengers think that women should not make use of the general seats as they have reserved seats for them. The way they talk it indicates that they have misunderstood the whole purpose of ‘reserved seats’.

    A couple of weeks back, I was returning home from my office after  a hectic day.  I was so tired that the moment I got a seat in the bus, I just fell asleep. However, my bumping dream soon broke with loud shouts from some of the passengers against a lady who was using ‘objectionable words’. Due to the noise I did not understand immediately what caused the fight.  However, it was clear that it was between a group of young boys and a young lady. When the situation become calmer, I found out that there was an empty seat in the ‘reserved seats’ where no woman was sitting, so one of the boys sat there. But the lady could not accept a boy sitting beside her and asked him to leave the seat.  The man did not want to, and a fight became inevitable! Most of the passengers was on the guy’s side and found her very ‘strange’.

    I was reminded of an incident 13 years back when I was a graduate student in the department of Women and Gender studies at the University of Dhaka. To be honest, this choice of subject was not out of any motivation to be gender sensitized, I just wanted to earn my master’s degree to get into the competitive job market. Anyway, having taken an undergraduate degree in Economics from India, I found the lessons on gender surprisingly different from what I learnt earlier. But surprises and new issues always attract me and I enjoyed it.

    After few months of gender lessons, me and some other fellows became so motivated that we protested wherever and whenever we saw any gender discrimination. Sometimes, it put us in a very difficult situation. I remember, one day I was on the way to my part-time job. I was travelling by a public transport.

    Absence of footpaths crowds the busy streets in Dhaka

    When I got on the bus it was relatively quiet but gradually became crowded. From Shahbag bus stop, a lady got on the bus and took one of the unreserved seats, even though some of the reserved seats were empty. From Farmgate bus stop, a huge number of passengers got on the bus, and many of them did not find a seat. While they noticed that a lady was not in the reserved seats, they started scolding her as if she committed crimes. They started humiliating her with statements like “you know what kind of a lady sits in a man’s seat”. The lady protested saying that she did not sit in a ‘man’s seat’ but in a ‘general seat’.  Then the passengers started laughing at her.

    I had to take her side and tried to clarify the issue of reserved and general seats by giving some examples. Listening to my examples, instead of being convinced, they became so angry that they started telling each other, “see, we got a wise man in the bus. As all of us are fools, we should not travel with a wise man”. They forced me to get off the bus. I took another bus and was not upset; rather, I felt I have the spirit to fight against a biased system.

    Women are often subjected to sexual abuse when travelling by public transport. Additionally, if women complain against such sexual abuse, they get offensive remarks, like “why does the daughter of a millionaire not use her own car?”, “if you feel bad, why do you travel by public transport?”. Many women feel embarrassed to complain. To avoid such situations bus conductors (who collect fares and assist the bus driver) discourage women from taking a public bus. They often say, “Oithen na, mohilader kono seat nai” (do not get on, there is no seat for a woman in the bus)”. They consider female passengers as a Jhamela (a hassle). Some also refer women to female bus services (which are very few in number and have limited bus stops).

    There are a few issues that require serious attention. First, is the number of reserved seats adequate? Second, what are the preventive measures that can be taken against sexual abuse in public transport? Third, how can awareness be built on the reserved seat confusion and debate? Many young people (including men) understand this struggle and many of them do fight against this kind of discrimination but this has failed to make a significant difference.

    We need to revisit our approach and engage more people to protest. After 13 years, when I look back on progress so far, I feel we could have done better!

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  • Snapshots of pastoralist life

    Rosalind Watson
    December 12th, 2014

    Practical Action has been working with communities in North Darfur to support 15,000 families across 30 villages with the tools and capacities they need to plan development and distribute both internal and external resources equitably through three interventions:

    1/ Conflict and natural resource management e.g. promotion of early maturing crop varieties that allow farmers to harvest before the incursion of animal herders on to their farms.

    2/ Livelihood and food security e.g. supporting community organisations which aim to increase production and productivity by reclaiming more wadi (clay) land.

    3/ strengthening farmers’ voices and influencing development polices.

    Of the 15,000 families and 30 villages covered by the programme, these recent photos capture just a snapshot of the various pastoralist families and communities who are being impacted by Practical Action’s work:


    Pastoralist CBO18.11.2014 (57) 

    Pastoralist CBO18.11.2014 (23)

    Pastoralist CBO18.11.2014 (123)

    community forest, consultant met the community to take their views in writing mannual

    Community forest (part of the ‘greening Darfur’ work)

    2014.07.26 Tarrace training Shagra A (56)

    Terrance training, Shagra

    Pastoralist CBO18.11.2014 (104)

    Pastoralist CBO18.11.2014 (42)

    Photo credit: all photos Awadalla Hamid Mohamed


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  • Building stronger communities in Cusco

    Amanda Ross
    December 10th, 2014

    During the last two weeks I’ve seen some amazing sights and met some extraordinary people in Peru,   Practical Action is using innovative ways of empowering women to raise their voices to improve their communities and to achieve economic independence. Here are some of examples from the Cusco region in the south of Peru.

    pomocanchiAmelia and Juana are local Councillors in Pomacanchi.  Their desire to improve the wellbeing of their community led them to undertake training in radio broadcasting. Despite initial shyness they are now both seasoned broadcasters.  This is the second stage of the project which brought internet connectivity to this remote community and is working to  to strengthen participation in local institutions. One of the areas they are focusing on is malnutrition which affects 28% of the population in this municipality.  The broadcasts give information on the preparation of food, childcare and the most nutritious local products such and quinoa.  The broadcasts are in both Quechua and Spanish.  Amelia proudly told us: “At the beginning I was very frightened to talk on the radio but now I have much more confidence.  I am happy to know that I am participating in improving the health of the community.”


    school in PomocanchiAs part of the same project, in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Peru, this class of 30 13 year olds are making radio programmes for young people, covering a wide range of subjects – general knowledge, history, geography, current affairs, health and rights as well as music of many different genres.  They broadcast every day – taking it in turns.  They prepare the subject matter with the teacher, using the internet to gather interesting material – such as ‘the elephant is the only animal with 4 knees!’  They have fun, they are learning, gaining confidence in speaking and passing on useful information to others.  When I asked if any of them wanted to be journalists when they grew up, hands shot up all over the room!


    hilandoFinally there is the knitting and weaving group working together to recreate the traditional crafts of the region.  They dye wool (both sheep and alpaca) with locally available natural dyes  and use traditional weaving and knitting techniques and patterns.  The group has a brand name (Canchi) and are taking the products to fashion outlets in Lima to try to build a market in these high quality products. A display of their product ‘El Arte Peruano Navidad’ is taking place at a smart store in Lima this week. Each Thursday the women (and one man who came in for a lot of teasing!) come to work together at the social centre and to learn new skills which they put into practice at home.  The products take a great deal of time and skill to produce – a scarf is around 3 days work, so it is important for the project to ensure that this is reflected in the price they receive for their work

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  • Agro-ecology: a powerful tool for Adaptation to Climate Change and the prosperity of Smallholder Farmers

    A couple of weeks ago in Eastern Peru, on the tropical side of the Andes, I saw agro-ecology working for remote and poor communities – for their livelihoods – their jobs and income. With the help of Practical Action, communities have developed skills and practices to manage multi-layer coffee farms. In many cases they are using those skills to rehabilitate farms devastated by coffee wilt.

    We often hear from academics and NGOs about the relevance of agro-ecology. The science and principles are well established and, in theory, agro-ecology is a win-win-win solution for climate change, food security and sustainable rural development.

    This Peru example illustrates exactly how smallholder farmers, who it is recognised are not easy to reach or assist, are using agro-ecology to prosper and adapt to the changing climate.

    Peruvian agro-ecological farmerBecause of the wilt, declining productivity and pressure to generate income from the land, many coffee farms have been abandoned, used for food crops or converted into rangeland for livestock. The lower hills are being deforested and the coffee is steadily ascending to higher forested areas. Coffee is sensitive to temperature and some blame the shift in its cultivation to higher altitudes on climate change, yet as more coffee farms and forest are lost, the lower areas become hotter and the climate in the hills changes. It is a chicken and egg situation.

    Most of the people in these communities have migrated to the area, from marginal lands in higher altitudes, in search of a better life. With minimal external assistance, mainly training and the introduction of scientific ideas to add to their local knowledge, they have gained agro-forestry and coffee crop husbandry skills that have enabled them to produce organic coffee under the protection the shade of forest trees. To improve yields and the sustainability of the farm they apply home-made compost and home-made foliar fertiliser.

    Last Monday I shared this case study in COP20 in one the first Civil Society Side events and I made a case for system change - for agro-ecological principles to be promoted across the agricultural sector. Especially for policy and agro-ecological programmes that support and involve smallholders. I argued for policies that enable private enterprise to invest in agro-ecological services, inputs and markets. And lastly that climate and development policy makers recognise that smallholder farmers should be major contributors to national food security, poverty reduction and sustainable rural economic growth.

    To find out more take a look at my presentation and a Practical Action agriculture brief prepared for COP20.

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  • Alpaca farming threatened by climate change

    Farmers are not renowned for their optimism.  Grumbling about the weather, crop or livestock prices is a recurrent theme.  So it was refreshing yesterday to meet Modesto Hunan, an alpaca farmer from the Puna region of Peru, who has so many positive things to say about his work.modesto family Modesto trained as a kamayoq – a  local agricultural extension worker and for the last three years has been part of the Melgar Alpacas project which is helping farmers in the high plains of the Andes to improve their livelihoods.  The work is addressing three main areas -pasture enrichment, better animal breeding and improved marketing of their main product, alpaca wool.

    Modesto lives with his wife Doris and three sons in a remote area about 3 hours drive from Puno.  His farm is a breathtaking 4,200 m above sea level and covers 116 hectares. Two of his sons are studying at university in Puno and return at weekends to help on the farm.  He owns just over 200 alpacas – half of the more expensive Suri breed and the rest the more common Huacaya.  The project has helped to strengthen the herd by providing a number of high quality male alpacas for breeding.

    irrigation systemTo provide better pasture for his animals, Modesto has installed an irrigation system fed from a small rain fed reservoir.  This enables him to cultivate small areas of land with improved grazing for animals at key stages of their life –  those in their first year as well as pregnant females and nursing mothers.  This has led to better survival rates, better quality wool and healthier animals.  He also cultivates grasses with higher nutritional content such as clover and alfalfa which would not grow here without irrigation.  He is also planning to grow potatoes and quinoa for the family.

    Before the project Modesto earned around 6 soles (£1.50) per pound for his wool,  but as a result of the improved quality of his product he now gets 10 soles (£2.50) per pound  and sometimes twice that for good Suri wool.  The community currently sell their wool in the local market, where the price is lower but the project is working to create a co-operative to sell the wool together to a bigger enterprise to obtain a better price.

    But  despite their current success there is a blot on the horizon which threatens all this family’s hard work – climate change.

    Modesto and his familyThe rainy season in this area usually lasts from November to March (summer) and it is not usually necessary to irrigate at this time.  But Modesto’s reservoir was barely a third full as there had been so little rain this year so far (in early December).  He is extremely concerned about the effect of climate change on his livelihood and told me;

    “As well as the lack of rain, the winters have become much colder with snow and hail and dramatic thunderstorms.  Only last week 3 people in the region were killed by lightening.”

    He recorded a message (in Spanish) for the UN COP20 meeting in Lima describing the problems he is facing to urge the international community to take action.

    Let’s hope that they listen otherwise the way of life of Modesto and the other alpaca farmers in this challenging environment may no longer be viable.

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  • The ‘COP’ is half full in Lima

    cop entrance photo

    I have been attending the COP20 talks in Lima all week. In the audio blog below I talk about what I have been doing specifically to try and make sure the work Practical Action does on the ground can impact on a much larger scale.

    I also talk about how positive I am about the energy surrounding the talks and the momentum here for a real binding agreement involving all parties.

    Finally, I describe what I want to achieve in the second half of the talks next week. Happy listening!

    Chris Henderson (left) presenting on a panel at COP 2014

    Chris Henderson (left) presenting on a panel at COP 2014


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  • Supporting local regeneration – moving from energy policy to energy economies

    Simon Trace
    December 4th, 2014

    Here’s a second blog on my learnings from attendance at Community Energy Scotland’s annual conference. In my last blog I talked about problems when community projects generate too much energy, drawing parallels between experiences from Scotland and Nepal.

    There were many more parallels I noted during the two days. These included very practical issues around educating communities over power requirements for different appliances so as to manage peak loads (as one lady put it, how do I stop everyone using their electric hair curling tongs at the same time – which trips the system!). There were also the expected common problems around limited access to finance for building new projects and also policy problems – for example the difficulty and lengthy procedures necessary to get a licence to be allowed to sell power to consumers in Scotland (a problem we have only just resolved for a micro hydro project we’re working on in Malawi).

    There were also interesting parallels between the Scottish experience and Practical Action’s around where community managed energy projects were being built (remote rural communities, often relatively poor, with few economic opportunities).

    What caught my attention most however was a really refreshing address from Chris Stark, Head of Electricity, Energy and Climate Change for the Scottish Government. Chris talked about decentralisation of electricity generation as something that was desirable, as opposed to just an approach to closing access gaps. He also talked about a systems approach that was more than just creating a good energy policy but was also about building energy economies. His argument was that a holistic approach to local energy systems, which looks at the potential inter-relationships between waste, heat, transport, the efficiency of building stock, consumers bills and local generation capacity, could form the basis for the renewal of local economies currently in decline. This idea of building local economies, retaining value in communities and doing things locally where possible rather than importing skills and services, was a recurrent theme throughout the conference and something that chimes closely with Practical Action’s Schumacherian roots.

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