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  • Why Urban Resilience Matters

    April 17th, 2015

    One of my colleagues here at Practical Action was recently prodded to talk about the work he does on WASH (short for water, sanitation, and hygiene), and he began to talk about the importance of urban resilience. Instead of letting this discussion float in my inbox, I thought I might add it here.

    Just over half the world’s population (3.6 billion people) live in urban centres, and by 2030 numbers are expected to rise to 5 billion. “Virtually all of the expected growth in the world population will be concentrated in the urban areas of the less developed regions” (UN DESA 2012:3-4). Most of the world’s children of the world will be born into low-income urban contexts in the 21st century

    Rapid urbanisation means that ensuring a equitable start for the future generations is becoming predominantly a challenge of eliminating the “urban penalty” brought about by this urbanisation. Furthermore, as climate change continues to grow, these communities will need to be prepared for its impacts, including longer periods without rainfall – and thus water scarcity, while at the same time also potentially dealing with heavier, more sudden, unexpected rains – and thus flash floods.

    Practical Action focuses our technical expertise on issues of Urban WASH both for poor women and men, their organisations and their partners in the public and private sector environmental sanitation. Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management all combine to become a leading contributor to ill-health and stunting of under-fives leading to a life-long disadvantage.

    The urban penalty is a predominant, generational challenge. We realise that eradicating this penalty requires systems change and Practical Action’s efforts are focused on:

    Totality: If some people have toilets, water, and good hygiene practices, but people next door don’t, then health issues aren’t resolved. We need to work on total coverage.

    End-to-end (From access to safe disposal): Even if people are not defecating in the open, when waste is not safely disposed this is the equivalent of “institutional open defecation”. This requires a focus on the whole value chain, from toilets, to the conveyance of waste, to treatment, until the final, safe disposal.

    City Scale: the political, institutional, and economic factors that determine whether a system is sustainable depends on city-level processes (public agencies and private companies work citywide), so sustainable WASH in slums almost always need to be part of a city-wide approach

    Integrated: we can’t deal just with water, sanitation, or solid waste to get health benefits. They all need to be addressed in an integrated manner.

    Multiple, diverse actors: Household sanitation is seen as a private good, and people are willing to pay for this on their plot, and get the waste off their plot. But after that it’s seen as a public good, and the responsibility of the public sector. There are some ways of making money, so the private sector can play a role, but there’s typically not enough money from what people are willing to pay to get waste off their plot, and from value you can get from recycling and reuse, to make a fully free market of private actors to maintain a fully effective, scaled system. So the city government will need to take a lead and budget for it

    This focus prepares communities for shocks that come from growing climate change, addresses health issues that lead to child stunting, and establishes sustainable networks that can be run on a city wide level, and scaled if necessary.

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  • The 9th Community-Based Adaptation Conference: ensuring adaptation works for smallholder farmers

    Jodi Sugden

    April 17th, 2015


    The 9th Community-Based Adaptation conference (CBA9) will take place in Nairobi, Kenya from 24-30 April, 2015. Organized by the International Institute of Environment and Development, and co-sponsored by Practical Action, the conference will bring together development practitioners to discuss current challenges and opportunities facing community-based adaptation to climate change.


    The challenge of climate change adaptation

    Climate change will exacerbate the global challenges we face: delivery of basic services, providing enough food for a growing and urbanizing population, and responding to increasing natural disasters. The impacts of climate change will be difficult to predict; however, it is clear they will be unequally distributed. The poor and the marginalized, particularly women and girls, will bear the greatest burdens.


    Women smallholder farmers community-based adaptation

    Women and girls are often more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and will bear the greatest burdens from climate change. Credit: Samuel Rendon/ Manuel Seoane


    It is vital that adaptation funding is targeted to benefit those who will find it hardest to respond. Adaptation must move beyond vulnerability reduction to building long-term adaptive capacity, empowering communities to make livelihood decisions in the face of unpredictable climate change.

    To take adaptation to scale, we must re-vision the role of the private sector. Development practitioners must facilitate equitable market access for those living in poverty, and inclusive, pro-poor technological innovation that benefits both smallholders and private investors.


    Technology choices affect communities’ adaptive capacity

    Technology choices made by farmers, planners, policy makers, research and the private sector to enable or promote agricultural adaptation to climate change are not neutral. Choices between different technologies and systems of governing these technologies have consequences for access (inclusivity), sustainable use (choices available for future generations), and resilience.

    As a sector, agriculture is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events and climatic change, and in developing countries it employs over 50% of the population. Therefore, agricultural technology choices will have a huge impact on food security and economic development. If agricultural adaptation is to be beneficial for smallholder farmers in developing countries, technology choices must improve adaptive capacity and maintain the natural resource base upon which livelihoods depend.


    Key messages for CBA9

    • All actors – government, civil society, private sector – must recognise that technology choices are not neutral and have consequences for adaptive capacity, inclusivity, and sustainability
    • Communities must be re-engaged in analysis, planning and innovation in response to climate change
    • If community-based adaptation is to be effective, it must utilise both indigenous knowledge and experience and climate information and forecasts, with acknowledgement of what we do not know about the future
    • The gendered impacts of climate change and the additional burdens it will place on women and girls must be placed centre stage
    • We need to re-vision private sector involvement in community-based adaptation to take it to scale – this will require access to markets for products and inputs, and mutually beneficial relationships


    Market Bangladesh private sector community-based adaptation

    Taking community-based adaptation to scale will require access to markets for products and services. Credit: Mehrab ul Goni


    Practical Action at CBA9

    Practical Action will be sending representatives from Bangladesh, Nepal, Peru, the UK, Sudan and Zimbabwe to CBA9, who will present  a selection of Practical Action’s community-based adaptation projects from around the world (posters here, under ‘Key Publications’). They will also facilitate several interactive learning sessions on a range of key issues, including the use of climatic information, the role of the private sector, and Climate Smart Agriculture.


    Find Practical Action at CBA9 here, and remember to follow us on Twitter! #cba9 @Jodi_Sugden @Chris_P_Hen @ColinMcQuistan



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  • Talking about shit

    Margaret Gardner

    April 14th, 2015

    Shit – It’s a problem:

    I love my toilet and on days when I have a bad tummy I love it even more!

    But imagine…..

    You live in a slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh and you pay someone to empty your latrine – where do you think the faecal sludge matter (shit) goes? I’ve just read a survey that says

    • 2.3% is dumped ‘here and there’
    • 43.5% is dumped in an open drain
    • 30.6% dumped in a particular place (undesignated)
    • 8.3% is put in a mud hole and covered with mud
    • 15.3% is dumped in open water

    That is not good!

    Worldwide, according to the UN, diarrhoea largely caused by contaminated water kills more than a 1,000 children under 5 every day.

    So living in your slum in Dhaka with few resources and many demands on your money do you care? Well yes! The same survey shows that most of the people living in the slums are concerned about where shit goes and the problems caused by it being directly dumped in water course or seeping back, for example, through drains that empty into rivers. They don’t have much money but they are prepared to pay more for latrine emptying that is safe and takes the shit away and treats it properly.  They recognise the problem and want to be part of the solution – but in Dhaka there is only one sewage treatment facility and it doesn’t service the slums (its also the only sewage plant in the country – population 156 million)

    Shit matters!

    It’s also a great resource:

    Pilot sludge treatment plant in Faridpur

    Treated correctly faecal sludge can be a source of energy – biogas – and compost. Practical Action in Bangladesh has an award winning project on faecal sludge management – latrine pit emptying techniques, faecal sludge treatment and the promotion of safe compost. We also have a huge amount of work on ecosan loos, bio digesters and biogas for cooking.

    There are still however lots of problem with shit – there’s so much of the stuff, issues of land tenure, the cost of treatment plants, competing priorities, even unfounded worries about whether compost made out of human poo is safe, etc.

    While shit is a resource and one we should use – there are lots of things you can do with it – I in no way want to suggest that solutions at scale are easy.

    One surprisingly big problem is that often people don’t like thinking and talking about it. One small example – I recall a conversation with a marketing agency about fundraising for toilets and faecal sludge management projects – their advice was ‘don’t do it no one will give you any money –don’t talk about it,  it’s just too difficult a topic’. So we did the fundraising ourselves.

    I’m proud to say that at Practical Action we have great ideas and projects on faecal sludge management, we like talking about shit, I’m also proud that our supporters ‘get it’ and are prepared to support our projects. But we still need to do much more.

    Treating shit makes a real difference in peoples lives.

    Help us take practical action on shit!


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  • So what exactly is Technology Justice?

    Rebecca Morgan

    April 10th, 2015

    If you work in the development sector, the term may be familiar and you may well know the answer. But as an outsider, joining the Practical Action team in Kathmandu for three weeks in January, I had no idea.

    Tuin river crossing nepalHere’s the first thing I found: It does not mean giving everyone an iPhone. Joking aside, it is something more conceptual, best explained through examples:

    Practical Action uses simple technologies to help improve the lives of poor people. For villagers in remote parts of the Himalayas, something as simple as a rope and pulley system to a neighbouring village across the valley, can mean the difference between isolation and access to market.

    For the inhabitants of the Karnali basin, a flood early warning system further upstream warns them when the water level starts to rise. This means the difference between watching their belongings, their hut, their livestock and possibly their family members wash away and getting to higher ground, out of harm’s way in time.

    waste pickers kathmanduFor Sarab Maharjan, in Kritipur, in the suburbs of Kathmandu, a composting machine means that the organic waste he collects from 580 local households can be treated and resold as fertilizer. This machine means the difference between being marginalised and being a recognised, respected member in the community. Sarab is just one of the 4,000 waste workers that Practical Action worked with in Kathmandu.

    Worldwide, 1.3 billion people do not have access to water and 1.2 billion have no access to electricity yet the bulk of global investment in technology research and development continues to cater to the advancement of the world’s wealthiest. Practical Action is trying to close that gap and bring justice in technology to those people whose lives depend on it. That is what Technology Justice  is about.

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  • Experiencing humanity beyond boundary

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    April 10th, 2015

    Travelling is my hobby and every year I travel number of countries for different reasons. During March 18-21, 2015, for attending and presenting a paper in the conference on “M & E for Responsible Innovation,” I travelled to Wageningen, Netherlands. The Netherlands was not a new place for me. I spent 1.5 years in the Hauge for my Masters study that, someway, made me overconfident. Therefore, I did not take proper preparation what I usually do. As a result, the situation pushed me to experience a special incident and gain some practical knowledge (even adequate materials to write a blog post). So, here I am!


    Having limited travel grant from the conference, I had to pick a cheap ticket which took me to Amsterdam in the late evening. It took an hour to reach Wageningen railway station from Schiphol Airport. Afterwards, waiting (another hour) in the Wageningen Railway Station, I got a bus which could take me to my hotel. It was already 10 pm. Therefore, when I got into the bus, there were only two passengers. I started talking to the person next to me. He was good enough in English. Therefore, we continued discussion on different issues, until he got off to his stop. Before, he got off, I asked him about my stop, looking at the screen, he replied, “your one would be the last one.” In the screen, it was ‘something Benecom’. When the Benecom stop came, I showed the address to the driver and asked whether that was the right stop for me. He said, yes! After getting off the bus (around 10:30pm), I realized that I was in the middle of a country side. There was nobody even to ask the address. Then, I noticed in far distance (in front of a small bar) two young couple were dating and enjoying their romantic time. The boy was with a motorbike and the girl was with bicycle. I was little bit embarrassed to go and ask them, but I had no choice. I disturbed them asking my address. The girl did not know English but the boy knew a bit. What he told me was my hotel “Hof Van Wageningen” is in Wageningen, which was far away from Benecom. It made me like the sky has broken down on my head. By giving thanks, I left the place and came to the bus stop again- trying to get a bus or taxi. After half an hour waiting, I got nothing and become very scared. The boy on his return found me standing at the bus stop. He then stopped his motorbike and asked me, “haven’t got anything?” Looking at his watch, he again said it would be tough to get anything to go Wageningen from here now. Listening to that prediction, I became more scared. Watching my scared face, he said, “don’t worry, I will take you there. I know the hotel. It is near my home.” I replied and brought my luggage to his attention. Surprisingly, he laughed and managed to put my big luggage under his legs (his motorbike was vespa kind of bike) and told me to sit on the back of the bike with hand luggage. Having this unexpected offer, in on hand I was happy, but in the other I was worried because already I was feeling too cold. All my warm clothes were in the main luggage and I did not want to open those in the middle of the country side. Therefore, I was worried to travel by motorbike. Another reason of being scared is skepticism against this kind proactive help from an unknown western young guy in late evening. Western people are not portrayed to us in such way to take this cordial behavior as normal. We have got a general perception that the westerners are not the kind of people to offer help to strangers, proactively.


    We are taught since very begging of our life that Western society is very much individualistic (busy with own concerns only). Therefore, I was in a strong dilemma. However, having no alternative and as I like to consider myself as risk taker, I happily sat on the back of the motorbike. He drove so fast and while he stopped in front my hotel, I felt I cannot move my legs and hands for a while. But looking at the name of the hotel I forgot everything. I thanked him very much. While I was heading to hotel reception, I just realized ‘humanity exists everywhere’. Yes, it works beyond boundary.

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  • Swift action when disaster strikes

    April 7th, 2015

    Landslides are unfortunately a common phenomenon in Peru. On the eastern slope of the Andes, they cause serious damage to people, but when they occur on the western slope of the Pacific Ocean, where the largest cities are, they are turned into real disasters. They consist of rock slides, sand and water streams moving downwards, destroying everything in their path.

    2015 03 30 Obra Maria Parado de Bellido 2 (7)On March 23rd, the eastern part of Lima experienced nearly four hours of rain, which is not frequent since Lima is a desert. These rains generated a mudslide, the water gathering loose rocks and dust, heading at an incredible speed to the towns of Chosica and Santa Eulalia.  This avalanche of sand stones and water buried houses, trucks, and the main road and killed 8 people. An emergency was declared.

    Practical Action had been working in communities near the landslides through the Flood Resilience Alliance program, funded by the Z Zurich Foundation. The project started last year and aims at improving community response to the floods, when they originate from the Rimac river down the valley, or from a mudslide coming from the top of the mountains.

    On the day of the disaster, Monday 23rd March, the Practical Action team was heading to one of the communities of the Flood Resilience Alliance program, Maria Parado de Bellido, to help them deepen preparedness against a disaster, which was quite likely to happen because of the worrying weather forecast. They witnessed the mudslide and quickly reached  Maria Parado de Bellido. The main road had been blocked by the mudslide, and they had no choice but to reaching community on foot. This community was not as affected as others thanks to its location, near the river but far from the mountains. Impacts were also mitigated through adequate community preparedness, resulting “only” in the partial flooding of the streets and some houses. In the neighboring communities, houses have been destroyed by falling rocks and sand.

    2015 03 30 Obra Maria Parado de Bellido 2 (2)As a response to the event, Practical Action assisted in damage assessment and preparation of the list of affected communities, taking advantage of an extensive knowledge of the area. The lists were given to the Emergency Operations Center Chosica, a public organization for Disaster Response, so that humanitarian relief could reach the neediest communities.

    In addition, the team provided direct support to the community of Maria Parado de Bellido, which had suffered the loss of its main water pipe and a broken sewer pipe.  We supported the community with technical knowlege to repair the pipelines.

    Next steps include reconstruction and bringing psycho-emotional care, especially for children and teenagers, in coordination with public and private actors.


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  • Human Sludge: National Framework where to focus

    April 4th, 2015

    Bangladesh has achieved tremendous successes to achieve Open Defecation Free (ODF) status. The WHO/UNICEF-JMP, 2012 joint report says currently only 4% of the population openly defecate. The most important factors of this success were the development and implementation of a National Sanitation Strategy and WASH Sector Development Plan with shared coordinated and functional partnership of all State and Non State agencies including Government, Investor, Civil Society Organization, Research and Academic institutes.  Media and community lead approaches to design, deliver projects and programmes.

    However the environmental sustainability of this achievement is at stake because of promotion of single onsite sanitation technology, mostly pit latrines which now extremely require frequent de-sludging services. In the past large scale sanitation projects hardly considered the safe management aspects of human sludge. Very recently a few attempts have been initiated but there is a need to form an institutional and regulatory framework for coordinated development. The Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative of Government of Bangladesh has recently formed a national committee to draft this framework which has already started the process. It recently organized a national consultation workshop and drafted guidelines for the facilitation of district/city/local level workshops.

    Clearing out faecal sludgeKey issues for a faecal sludge management (FSM) framework

    • Integrated and Coordinated Approach: Sustainable Sludge Management Systems need to consider whole service and value chains including containment for temporary storage, collection, transportation and treatment of sludge. The system need to consider stakeholders including utility company, municipalities, private sector, NGOs, research institutes, community organisations of service users and media. Different aspects i.e environmental, social, technical, financial and institutional are also very important. For this the framework should pay attention to integrated and inclusive approach.
    • Technology Choices:  Equipment, vehicles and civil infrastructures are required for the development of safe management of sludge. Currently a very select range of mechanical equipment (different versions of Vacutag) are manufactured locally but important accessories (i.e pumps/motors) are imported and support services are not locally available. Similarly, desludging trucks for transportation of sludge are mostly imported items and these need good investment which is beyond the affordability of the utility companies and cities. A wide range of treatment technologies are available to treat the sludge and produce gas, electricity, compost and others.
      We appeal to the committee to pay policy attention to the invention/patronization of local technology in consideration of local context which needs less energy, protects the environment and can generate green employment.
    • Pro poor business approach for protection of informal groups: Hundreds of pit emptiers are currently involved in the business of faecal sludge. When any users need this service, pit emptiers with their limited and traditional equipment and facilities provide this important service with a minimal service fee and lead their lives with this tiny income. The proposed FSM framework should design a pro poor business approach to protect and formalise the participation of these groups as formal private groups with city authorities and utility companies to deliver improved FSM services.
    • Concessional tariff for disadvantaged service users: FSM services are required for a wide range of users including individuals and institutional with different socio economic conditions. Emptying services are frequently needed for the urban poor who use shared/community/public toilets who can less afford to buy improved services. For this the proposed service tariff should take care of the concessional/discounted service fee for slum dwellers.
    • Standardization and quality control: The framework should strongly set the standard for containment, equipment for sludge collection and transportation and technologies for sludge treatment and should highlight the necessity of monitoring and supervision capacity of the State Agencies to ensure the standard for customers satisfaction and environmental sustainability.
    • Advance action research: The framework should keep space for continuous research and development by State Agencies and their Development partners  to explore appropriate technology packages, community participation, national awareness raising and market led business modelling.
    • Knowledge management: The framework should encourage the creation of new or strengthening of existing networks (i.e Sanitation Secretariat and/or National Forum for Water and Sanitation/Urban Knowledge Hub) for knowledge and learning exchanges from good practices and failures to build on.

    Last but not least, the framework should recommend the design of national action plans and guidelines for different contexts (mega cities with utility companies/WASA, big and small cities and small towns without WASA, urban/growth centers and rural areas) with milestones and a follow up mechanism to deliver faecal sludge management projects and programmes for the sustainable sanitation.

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  • Action needed in Bangladesh urban slums

    April 2nd, 2015

    Bangladesh has been facing the fastest urbanisation in South Asia. Currently, around 30% of 160 million people live in urban centers and contribute 60% of the GDP of our country. The Urban Authorities (11 city corporations and 324 municipalities) are responsible for providing a wide range of basic infrastructural (e.g. water supply, sanitation, waste management) and social services for a livable and healthy environment for all urban dwellers. Slum dwellers and low income communities (around 20-25% of total urban population), essential and important stakeholders who are contributing USD 5.5 billion annually to GDP), remain deprived and excluded from formal services. Slums are characterised by high population density, limited sanitation and hygiene facilities, poor housing, a very low socio-economic status for a majority of residents, a lack of security of tenure and poor governance. Where those services do exist, quality is low and costly to afford. Despite their significant contribution to the urban economy, unplanned growth leads to polluting environment and adverse impact on public health and poverty reduction.

    kitchen waste bicycle collectorMunicipalities in Bangladesh face financial constraints to provide services and are heavily (around 75%) dependent on national allocation which comes from different channels including an insignificant annual block grant (4,000,000 taka per municipality in FY2014-15) to each of the 324 municipalities and a special allocation (more than 200% of the Block Allocation) for selected municipalities by Local Government Division under the Ministry of Local Government Rural Development & Cooperatives) and national urban projects/programmes by different national departments such as the Local Government Engineering Department.

    Political choices and the influencing capacity of the mayor are always important issues to access this special allocation which is mostly used for the development of selected hardware (i.e. civil construction) mainly for influential people and there is little allocation for social and environmental development, poverty reduction and governance improvement. The current national allocation to different municipalities is not equitable, performance based or demand led, restricting the ability of municipalities to meet the needs of the poor and this is a policy issue that requires civil society engagement.

    A few national projects, such as urban governance and infrastructure improvement (UGIIP) managed by the Local Government Engineering Department and supported by a consortium of development banks and donors facilitated selected municipalities to develop the Pourashava Development Plan, where the Poverty Reduction and Governance Improvement Action Plan were important chapters and demonstrated performance-based demand-led and targeted allocation.

    These practices were highly appreciated by urban sector stakeholders and urban dwellers in project towns. This experience could be scaled up by the revenue but this is not happening although the Government has identified the key ingredient to realising the goal of sustainable urban development is good governance.  Policies (Draft Urban Sector Policy) and strategies (Vision 2021) and National Investment Plan (7th Five Year Plan 2015-20) focused on institutional reforms and decentralisation of responsibilities and resources to local governments; participation of civil society including women in the design, implementation and monitoring of local priorities; building capacity of all actors (institutions, groups and individuals).

    Time is running out to design and implement actions to catch up with the declarations and commitment

    Some donor-supported projects, such as UGIIP have demonstrated good practice with a few municipalities. They have shown that it is possible to allocate budgets in ways which actually benefit slum dwellers, through developing and funding Poverty Reduction Action Plans.  These practices should be scaled up across all municipalities, but this is not happening despite the good intentions of policies, strategies and the national investment plan.

    Now is the time to make these good intentions and nice words a reality for the protection of the interest for urban poor.

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  • Communities live with dignity after ODF declaration

    Dev Bhatta

    March 26th, 2015

    It sounds simple to people who have access to basic sanitation facilities. But a technology as simple as a pit latrine is a subject of luxury for a lot of people. It is an alarming fact that even today, more than half of Nepal’s population defecate in open. The trends are changing gradually and the people living in urban areas have fancy bathrooms in their homes, but there still are a huge number of people who do not have access to this very basic facility.

    Only six months ago, people from 197 households in Balapur in Gulariya Municipality-6, Bardiya District of Nepal defecated in open. In a community comprising of total 274 households, only 50 had biogas toilets. Kali Prasad Chaudhary, the Chair of Ward Citizen Forum, recalls the situation caused by regular floods sweeping away limited temporary toilets, lack of awareness and habit of open defecation.

    There were a number of organisations implementing different projects in this community but sanitation was given the least priority. Chaudhary shares, “When a guest would arrive in the community, it used to be an embarrassing situation if they were not used to defecating in open. Various water borne diseases were common mainly among children and elderly people. Instead of getting to know the actual reason behind people would blame God if somebody died.”

    But things have changed for better for this community. At this stage, five communities of Balapur have become Open Defecation Free (ODF) as 247 households have broken off from the traditional practice of defecating in the open after constructing toilets at their homes.

    Indira Chaudhary (34) one of the community member says, “I learned about the negative effects of open defecation, and I did not want to be the one contributing to the pollution of environment and exposing other people to risks. I find it very convenient to use a toilet instead of going to the bush. This gives me privacy to do my business with dignity.” Her five member family is very happy to have a bio-gas toilet installed at their home.

    This change became possible in the community after, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) launched SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project in August 2014 for two years in collaboration with Gulariya municipality including other INGOs with an objective to declare an Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015. The project operates with an innovative community mobilisation approaches through HCES (Household Centered Environmental Sanitation), CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) and SLTS (School Led Total Sanitation) for activating communities to progressively work towards stopping open defecation in the entire municipality.

    Indira Chaudhary  cleaning up her toilet

    Indira Chaudhary cleaning up her toilet

    According to Kali Prasad Chaudhary, “Among all these initiatives, the video documentary and street drama shows on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) were found to be effective in touching the hearts of community people.”

    Likewise, Ram Prasad Chaudhary from Gulariya Municipality opines, “In accordance with the national target on sanitation, Gulariya Municipality has committed to achieve ODF in the municipality by 2015. To make this mission a success, we have started provision of sanitation card.” He claimed that the success of ODF declaration in Balapur was due to the sanitation card.

    The understanding of Sabitra Gautam, President of W WASH CC (Ward WASH Coordination Committee) is different than that others. She claimed that bal hath and stri hath (recurring pressure from children and female respectively) played crucial role to success the mission. From her statement, it is clear that there was repeated effort of children and female to construct toilets.

    “Now, we are living with pride and dignity due to improved sanitation facilities in the community,” said Kali Prasad Chaudhary. “It is not easy for poor families from indigenous groups to spare money required to build their individual toilets when it can be done for free in the fields. Balapur people thank Gulariya Municipality, Practical Action, UN Habitat, ENPHO, W WASH CC and all involved TLOs for their tireless effort to make this happen and succeeding in declaring entire Balapur community Open Defecation Free (ODF).”

    It was not possible from a little effort to construct all the toilets (197) within a short period of time. The joint effort of community people, local institutions and district level stakeholders coming together, working towards ODF target made the mission possible and thus, the people from Balapur could have access to this basic sanitation facility. The importance of such thing a lot of times gets overlooked, but access to technologies like a simple toilet helps people to build a life pride and dignity.

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  • Cultural barriers to the use of improved cookstoves

    Dipendra Bhattarai

    March 25th, 2015

    We get plenty of opportunities to explore Nepal working in the local development sector. This is one of the interesting aspects of our job. I have visited around 56 out of 75 districts of Nepal during the course of my professional career, but as yet not been to the upper mountainous districts.

    A woman cooking over a traditional stove in NepalA project team from Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) asked me to join a training programme going to be held at Diktel, the administrative headquarters of Khotang district which is one of the remote rural areas in eastern Nepal. I was really excited having got the opportunity to add one more district to my list and see how people perceived improved cookstoves. I was looking forward to know how important culture is in using a cookstove and what impact the price and availability of firewood have on cookstove use.

    These questions were striking in my head while travelling along the newly constructed Banepa-Bardibas highway, which is considered as an example of a well-constructed road. After almost two hours of driving, we stopped at Bhakundey Besi Valley for a tea break. Suddenly my eyes went to a LPG stove being used to cook vegetables in the hotel. Then a boy came to serve tea that wasn’t cooked in LPG stove. I figured out that their kitchen was somewhere outside and went to have a look. I was surprised to see an old lady boiling milk in a single pot, portable, rice-husk stove without a chimney. She was using firewood instead of rice husks though. When I asked her why they weren’t using LPG to boil milk, she answered that they boil milk on a low heat for a longer time to make even more delicious yogurt. She further added that a single log of firewood was enough to boil the milk for a longer time so they avoided using LPG for it. I explained her about improved cookstove (ICS) technology and showed her some pictures. She was excited and asked me if I could deliver her an ICS that I showed her. I said, “I will try,” and bidding farewell, continued my journey to Diktel.

    After a long and tiring drive we reached Diktel at around 9 pm after travelling for almost 13 hours. We all were extremely tired so we directly went for dinner and were off to bed.

    Next morning, I along with Mr. Subarna Kapali from the Centre for Rural Technology, Nepal went for a short walk around the market in Diktel. I normally walk around new places, not to reduce my belly but to explore new things. While walking, we saw two women carrying firewood so I asked them what was the price for a bhari (equivalent to around 30-35 kgs) of firewood. They replied, “800 rupees (£5).”

    “Eight hundred!” I exclaimed, shocked, this seemed too expensive.

    Then we entered into a tea shop and ordered tea. There I saw one LPG stove and also a traditional cookstove. We ordered two cups of tea. Subarna, like me, was also curious and asked the shop owner how much a bhari of firewood cost. The owner replied, “Sometime it’s NRs. 500 but most of the time it’s NRs. 600-700.” I added, if it was that costly why they were using firewood. Instead, it would be more beneficial to use LPG. He agreed on the cost effectiveness but replied that water, milk and animal feed remain hot for a longer time if cooked on a traditional cookstove therefore they don’t use LPG for this purpose.

    Before starting the training session I met a stove master, who had built hundreds of improved cookstoves. I was more interested to know about stove and cultural influence on cookstove use. The stove master shared with me that the local indigenous community worship cookstove. They don’t let anyone enter to their kitchen until and unless they finish worshiping. They only use three-stone stoves and it is placed in the middle of the home at the ground floor.  Due to this cultural practice, the stove master could not install a single ICS in that community. The ICS needs to be placed in one of the corners of the kitchen which is well ventilated and easy to release smoke out of the kitchen.

    As the training started, stove masters were asked what they thought about cookstoves. An individual was asked to give only one example. Their answers were amazing. From the responses it was figured out that a cookstove is not only for cooking food but it is a place to gather around and chat, to heat the body, share happiness and sorrow, and also to talk about private matters between husbands and wives. It was interesting to know these facts.

    This field visit helped me a lot in figuring out and understanding how people interact with cookstoves. Although the use is same their importance and preferences are different. I observed that a household owns more than one cookstove and the use depends upon various factors. Cost can be one factor but culture and some other things also play a vital role in adopting and using improved cookstoves. It was a very useful learning experience for me.

    While 2.4 billion cook over open fires around the world, improved cookstoves reduce the deaths by smoke inhalation. I am glad that the observations made during the visit will help us find a way to remove the barriers that now prevent poor people from using the ICS technology. That will be the first step towards moving away from a state of technology injustice.

    Thanks to the WEE project team for giving me this opportunity to explore Khotang and most importantly, the people living there!

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