Practical Answers | Blogs

  • From a kitchen worker to an evolving agriculture entrepreneur: an inspiring story of Rudra Chaulagain


    July 26th, 2017

    Rudra Prasad Chaulagain, a 40 year-old man is a skilled farmer, technician and an evolving entrepreneur.  Before 2009, his identity was different – he was a kitchen helper at one of the capital’s hotel casinos.

    Rudra grew up in a low income family of 7. Due to poverty, he was unable to complete his formal education and had to leave his family at 18 to earn a living. He worked in the Royal Casino as a kitchen helper for 13 years.  This due to the national conflict and insurgency and he was out of job and in a state of anxiety over what to do.

    “For 13 years, I only worked in kitchen. I had no other work skills besides kitchen experience. The country was in a state of insurgency and my family was worrying what to do next.”

    At the time, poultry farming was popular all over the country and he too was inspired to take up poultry farming as his new career. He purchased an old house in Godavari, a former VDC (Village Development Committee) of Lalitpur district. With his small savings, he leased one ropani (1 ropani = 508.72 sq m) land and started poultry farming with 1000 broiler and 1000 layer chickens. However, the things did not go as per his expectation.

    Rudra feeding chicken. Photo (c) RIRC/Archana Adhikari

    “We were unfortunate. We lost most of the chickens to unknown diseases. We could not recognise the actual cause of death on time and even local agro-vet could not help us. We incurred great loss…”

    Rudra and his wife realised that they lacked necessary knowledge and skills to effectively run the poultry business. They thought about switching to dairy . They already had good experience of keeping cows (they had kept one cow for household milk consumption), so they started a dairy farm by buying two additional cows. In the meantime, his wife got information about Practical Answers services being run through a community library from her neighbours. They visited community library- RIRC (READ Information and Resource Centre), Badikhel and shared their story seeking help.

    Rudra participated in the expert interaction on “Animal Health and Livestock Management”.  Under his leadership,  a ‘Professional Farmers Group’ was formed and registered at the local authority  as the local government prioritises registered farmers’ groups while providing services, subsidies and grants. With the help of the CLRC, Rudra was also selected for a two month long “Community Livestock Assistant (CLA) Training”, organised by the Council for Technical Education and Vocational Training (CTEVT) Nepal.

    Rudra in cow shade. Photo (c) RIRC/Archana Adhikari

    “I had passion to do whatever I needed to do but knowledge matters in all cases. If you do not have enough knowledge, you will never succeed. I had faced huge loss and economic crisis earlier. Thanks to RIRC Badikhel, without their help I would have never come to this stage. I am here only because of my dedication, family support and most importantly the continuous support and guidance of Practical Answers services run by the CLRC.”

    After being trained on poultry farming, he took it up again. Now, he has 800 layer and 2000 broiler chickens, all healthy. He has also added two more cows to his herd.

    Rudra and his wife collecting eggs. Photo (c) RIRC/Archana Adhikari

    Recently, after participating in three day training on “Dairy Product”, jointly organised by Practical Answers services of CLRC and VSO International on October 2016, Rudra has started a milk collection and chilling centre. In addition to 45 litres of milk produced in his own farm, he collects 200 litres milk on an average daily. He sells paneer, ghee and surplus milk from his chilling centre.

    Rudra participating in “Dairy Product” training. Photo (c) RIRC/Archana Adhikari

    “I feel very happy. Now I am making profit from my business. I am helping other small farmers as well. Now, they don’t need to worry about the market.”

    Now, his children (one son and one daughter) are studying in one of the reputed English medium schools. He has also bought 10 anna (1 ropani equals to 16 anna) land by the side of his house and started kitchen gardening.

    Rudra selling his farm produce to a costumer. Photo (c) RIRC/Archana Adhikari

    “We are very much hopeful and optimistic about the future. My family especially my wife supports in making decision and managing all the business. We both participate in each and every activity of the CLRC alternately. We also share our knowledge and experience to other community members through the library. In fact, we are indebted by the library and its knowledge works.”

    (Information and photographs collected by Archana Adhikari, RIRC Badikhel.)

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  • Knowledge transforming livelihood


    July 10th, 2017

    “My family needs were escalating every day and I used to wonder, what I need to do to fulfill my family needs,” says 35-year old Kamala Pandey, a resident of Kawasoti-15, Godar, Nawalparasi.

    Kamala Pandey by her cow shade Photo (c) Practical Action/Ananta Prasad

    Kamala Pandey, a mother of three, struggled a lot to meet her family’s basic needs while juggling personal struggles like debt, and other challenges. Her husband who used to support her by running small rice mill was unable to generate enough income to meet growing demands of family. She was frustrated as she didn’t have any opportunity to shape her life and make a right choice to change her livelihood.

    She also thought of migrating to urban areas hoping it will bring new opportunities. However, it was also not that much easy as it requires huge amount of money to migrate to a city and seek opportunities. Financial worries are not new to Kamala, who grew up in penury but she was much worried about her children’s future. She says, “I was not worried about my situation, I was used to living in poverty but I do feel guilty, thinking that whether or not we can raise our children in a better way than how we were raised.”

    She never gave up but continued to work hard and sought knowledge and information on various livelihood options. In the year 2014, she came in contact with a social mobiliser of Shivashakti Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC), Godar, Nawalparasi through her neighbours. Shivashakti CLRC used to run Practical Answers services to provide livelihood related technical solutions to rural marginal community.

    Kamala got training on commercial vegetable farming and off-season vegetable farming. This training was a boon to change her livelihood. She started vegetable farming in 4 kattha (1 kattha equals to 0.03 hectare) of her land and was able to earn NPR 30,000 (100 NPR equals to 1USD) by selling tomatoes and cauliflowers in 4 months’ time. She used to cultivate rice in 7 katthas of her land which used to submerge during the monsoon season. She participated in an expert interaction conducted by the CLRC and learned about suitable variety selection, seed treatment and modern rice cultivation practice. In the same year, her rice production increased by 120 kg per kattha.

    Gradually, her earning increased. She realised that if she had a cow then she would use the straw and other vegetable left-overs to feed the cow and in return get milk and manure. She consulted with the social mobiliser and got information on different improved cow breeds. She bought two Jersey cows. Now she sells 20 litres milk daily and earns NRS 1000 every day. Her monthly average income has soared to NPR 40,000.
    She says, “It seemed a dream few years ago but now it is a reality, like the popular adage bright day comes after dark day, is really true for me.” She adds, “Now I am optimist about the future. My children go to English medium boarding schools.”

    At present, she is the vice chairperson of Phoolbari Women Farmer Group. The group has been registered at the local government body (Local government prioritises registered farmers’ groups while providing services, subsidies and grants). Her husband supports her in making every decision. While she is away for training and other activities, her mother-in-law, though very old, supports her by looking after her children and cooking food for them. She says, “Now things have changed and without my family support we would not have been at this stage.”

    She concludes, “Knowledge really impacts us but it depends upon how we act accordingly.”

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  • Direct seeded rice – A promising resource efficient technology


    June 29th, 2017

    Arjun Bhattarai, a 51-year-old farmer living in Koshi Haraicha of Morang district, grows rice as a major crop in his land. Out of his three children, a daughter and a son are blind by birth. So, with the help of his only wife and some casual workers, he used to grow rice and vegetables in his own 8 kattha (1 Kattha = 333.33 sq. meter) and leased 10 kattha land. They were able to hardly meet their annual household needs. Moreover, technical issues like lack of knowledge concerning cultivation techniques, suitable seed variety, pest and diseases, irrigation facility and unavailability of labour in the time of need have made them more vulnerable.

    Arjun sowing rice seeds using a drum seeder. (c) Practical Action/Prabin Gurung

    He joined a Pilot Programme for Climate Resilient Agriculture (PPCR) -Rice training and demonstration plot activity in April 2014 with the hope of getting technical support to improve his farming practice and productivity while reducing the cost of cultivation.He showed keen interest in developing a demonstration plot in his own land. However, he was quiet hesitant to try the new technology of Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) in his land. He was afraid that whether or not the new technology would give the same production as the traditional transplanting technology.

    What is DSR?

    Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) is a resource efficient technology that can overcome constraints and limitations of traditional cultivation technology. Various constraints of traditional cultivation technology like higher water and labour demand, extra expenses during raising nursery, uprooting and transplanting, uncertain supply of irrigation water and increased frequency of drought has necessitated alternative techniques like DSR that not only reduces the cost of production but also assure its sustainability.

    DSR is not common in Nepal because of lack of technical knowhow, marginal and scattered land, low land holding capacity of Nepalese farmers and poor irrigation facilities. There are some basic requirements for successful direct seeding like, big plot of well leveled land, more than 0.25 ha (1 ha = 10000sq. meter), large enough to use a machine; and good irrigation facility so that the land can be irrigated and the water can be drained easily.

    Before the project intervention, he had also practiced SRI (System of Rice Intensification) with the help of District Agricultural Development Office (DADO) Morang, with a good productivity. However, as it required lot of skill and labourers, he was unable to continue the technology. In this regards he found DSR as a suitable option to conventional transplanting and modern SRI technology. He says, “Though I was confused on the performance of DSR, I found that this technology can reduce labour cost significantly and perform better in poor irrigation facility too.”

    Direct seeded rice seedlings 20 days after seeding

    Usually in DSR, first 20 days after seeding is the most important period and critical for successful establishment. If irrigation water is not under control then DSR plants cannot develop as per the expectation. During this initial phase of establishment of seedlings, irrigation should be done just to saturate the field. If irrigation water is above the saturation threshold, i.e., standing water in field then it affects emergence and early development of seedlings, and the seedlings can even die.

    More yield with less input

    Arjun used to produce 4 mann ( 1 mann =  40 kgs) per kattha but this time he was able to produce 5 mann rice per kattha, also his cost of production was reduced by 25% as he used only two labourers during his entire cropping period.  In DSR, the labour required for nursery raising, uprooting and transplanting of seedlings are saved to the extent of about 40% and up to 50% water is saved as nursery raising, puddling, seepage and percolation are eliminated. The fertiliser use efficiency is increased and early maturity (15-20 days) helps in timely sowing of succeeding crops. Likewise, up to 50% energy is saved because of elimination of field preparation for nursery raising, puddling and reduced water application for irrigation. Even the methane emission is reduced and the soil structure is not disturbed as in puddled transplanted system. And the elimination of transplanting means less drudgery to farm women labourers. Also the cost of cultivation is reduced due to the reduced labour and energy costs.

    Direct seeded rice 40 days after seeding

    Challenges in DSR cultivation

    However, while cultivating DSR, farmers in Nepal face challenges like land topography, irrigation and drainage facility, and availability of inputs like herbicides and lack of technical know-how.

    Weed is a major problem in DSR, and it can be only managed through proper time management, controlling and weed-free irrigation system. Most of the irrigation water in Nepal comes through irrigation canals that are fully contaminated with weed seeds and also this irrigation water is uncontrollable, periodic and not sufficient for good production.

    In this regards, we have identified possible consideration and modification that have to be applied while practising DSR method of rice production in Nepalese context. Based on our experiences, we have developed following intervention to achieve significant results, thereby reducing weed infestation.

    1. Use of Glyphosate: Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that kills all grasses and weed. It should be sprayed before land preparation. However, use of glyphosate should be limited only to those plots which have higher weed infestation and are lying fallow for a long period.

    2. Suitable land selection and Controlled irrigation: Usually DSR can be cultivated in all types of soil and land. However, due to difficulty in irrigation water management, upland lands are more suitable than flood-prone lowland.

    3. Use of post emergence herbicide (15-20days after seeding): Post emergence herbicides like 2-4 D and Nominee gold (Bispyribec) are being used to control weeds. Usually these herbicides are used alone or in combination to bring weed concentration below economic threshold.

    4. Irrigation Water Management: Care should be taken for first 20 days after seeding. After 15 days, seedling phase enters to tillering phase and irrigation management is not a big problem after that. As we select upland land for DSR, we do not have much flooding problem. For the first 15-20 days, irrigation is done just to saturate soil from irrigation canals or deep borings. After 20 days, irrigation and other management aspects are same as traditional/transplanting technology.

    Having learnt about the technical know-how of cultivating DSR, Arjun is happy to continue it over the traditional method. He says, “I was in a dilemma whether or not to try this technology, but now I am confident that I can adopt this technology without any difficulty and even my neighbours are planning to follow this technology.”

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  • Social media – a community of practice!!

    The 9th ICT4D (Information and Communications Technologies for Development) Conference kicked off in Hyderabad, India with more than 800 attendees from 40 plus countries representing private, public and civil society organisations from across the humanitarian and international development community. Hyderabad was the right spot to be picked for the conference as they lead the digital India initiative, a campaign launched by the Government of India. The state of Telangana (Hyderabad is the capital city of the state) also launched its Open Data Policy on the first day of the conference itself and this shows that they are pretty serious about being open on data. It was also particularly motivating to note that the Government of Telangana plans to connect every household with a broadband service in few years’ time. Considering the scale of development and investment it would be interesting to see what returns they are planning for and what impact it would on the lives of the under served.

    Every year, the conference focuses on a particular theme and this year the focus was on sustainable development goals (SDGs) and how we can harness the power of data to accelerate progress toward the SDGs and increase the impact of our programmes.

    For most of us who were representing non-profit sector (Practical Action, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services to name a few) the focus seemed to be in understanding interventions that have worked for others and the enabling environments that triggered success. It was overwhelming to see the number of inspiring ICT based technologies being used/piloted all around the world. Many of them succeeded but the general problem was scaling them up. As the concentration was mostly on data so, most of the sessions that I attended were on data based decision making and how it helped better planning and implementing interventions.

    One very interesting session that I attended and want to talk about was “Social media for agricultural extension and advisory services” which highlighted a case study of six people who started a Facebook group which in few years’ time went on to become a space for more than 99,000 farmers, practitioners and service providers to collaborate. This is a great example of how social media could help us disseminate right information to huge number of people in a short span of time. Just imagine if you want to make everyone aware of spreading swine flu in a particular area. In a traditional way you could only let the local authorities know about it and hope that they take the matter urgently to the farmers (which could take a day or more). With the use of groups like these, you can spread the word to almost all the stakeholders in a matter of minutes which might help them take preventive measures and save their livestock. The example also highlights the importance of locally relevant contents which are produced by local experts, farmers and other stakeholders.

    Pic: Dr. Saravanan Raj presenting the case study.

    You can imagine the complexity of managing the social group as there would be many irrelevant posts and the need to audit the posts continuously but it was reported that there have been very few posts that needed deleting and the ones that needed curation were done by multiple group admins and group members themselves. This is again a great example of how a community of practice group could operate with minimal investment and intervention.

    As the tagline suggests, most of the discussions were focused on how we can use Big Data to achieve SDGs but there were few notable discussions on other topics as well. Some worthy mentions are:

    • Responsible Data Practices
    • Data Security/Policy
    • Digital Principles (http://digitalprinciples.org/)
    • GIS
    • Weather Information systems
    • Data driven policies
    • Financial Inclusion
    • 3D printing
    • ICT and Gender

    At last, I was thrilled to see some representatives from donor agencies like USAID and DFID there in the event discussing various topics and trying to find a common understanding on how #ICT4D community can help everyone achieve our goals and objectives better and in a short span of time.

    Have a look at my other tweets during the 2017 ICT4D event here and follow me for more tweets related to #ICT4D and #digital.

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  • Connecting people to nature – 5 ways knowledge protects our planet


    June 5th, 2017

    World Environment Day is the largest global day for positive environmental action. Here at Practical Action we want to create a sustainable future for everyone on our planet. To achieve this sharing knowledge is key.

    To celebrate, here are 5 ways knowledge really can protect our planet:

    1. Krishi Call Centre – By simply dialing 16123 farmers across Bangladesh can call to receive the solutions, information and answers they need to solve their pressing challenges. Our call executives help farmers to farm in ways that will not cause harm, now and in the future, to our planet. Advice is given on a range of topics from pesticide use, organic farming , fisheries and many more!

     
     
     


    2. Podcasts in Zim
    babwe – Through the power of voice, our field staff work closely with communities to strengthen their knowledge so that they can farm in sustainable ways, use clean energy solutions and use natural resources appropriately. Podcasts are delivered in local dialects, so that even the most hard to reach communities can learn how to protect our planet, and use natural resources sustainably.

     

     

    3. Portals – Online communities really can create action – our infoportals, and more specifically our “info bosques” portal, are full of great resources, dialogue and learnings promoting the approaches, techniques and methodologies which are kind to our planet.

     

    4. Technical Information – Our e-library is a fantastic collection of technical document, briefs, guidelines and how to guides that are free of charge to use, download and share. It is a rare collection that can really teach field staff, technicians, community workers and even students the best practices and approaches to connect, and protect our earth.

     

     

    5. Join the community – this World Environment Day, why not get involved? Join the movement online, through Twitter, through Instagram and share why the environment is important to you! We certainly think it is important, tell us what you think!

    This World Environment Day why not use knowledge to connect with the environment? Have a read of one of our technical briefs, explore our app or join the online movement #WorldEnvironmentDay

     

     

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  • How to automate drip irrigation from a farm pond


    May 24th, 2017

    Watch the video DIY Solar Drip Irrigation Kit

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVkkQvdJa4g

    This video is for smallholders using gravity feed drip irrigation on a small plot of land. Using the kit, you can automate your drip irrigation system so that water is pumped automatically from your farm pond (or other water supply) to the header tank and all your plants are irrigated automatically. As well as watching the video, I recommend that you download the User Manual for the DIY Solar Drip Irrigation Kit from the Measured Irrigation website.

    http://www.measuredirrigation.com.au

    The DIY Solar Drip Irrigation Kit can be purchased online from the Measured Irrigation website. All the other parts required for the automation may be purchased locally (for example, a solar panel and a battery).

    By automating your drip irrigation system you can leave your plot unattended for weeks. This will allow you to become involved in other activities away from the plot; for example, travelling to the market to sell your produce.

    The DIY Solar Drip Irrigation Kit uses measured irrigation, a new method of irrigation scheduling that responds to the prevailing weather conditions. This means that you use much less water without affecting the yield.

    farm pond in Kenya

     

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  • Lights, Camera, Action: Reflections from the Access Agriculture video training in Bangladesh

    It is very easy to make videos with your mobile phone but when your aspirations are to share the film globally, and with a specific audience in mind, it is not

    Over the last two weeks colleagues from Bangladesh and Nepal participated in a video training workshop provided by Access Agriculture in the Northern part of Bangladesh. Access Agriculture are a key partner of Practical Answers, our technical information service, providing and sharing technical solutions to solve agricultural challenges!

    Practical Action staff learning how to use video

    The training took place over a 12 day period. Four trainers, from England, Belgium and Kenya, led the course- they were very friendly, and ensured an engaging and insightful experience for all involved!

    Prior to the training we selected, among our colleagues, three video topics: 1. Rearing sheep and goats on a raised platform, 2. Mango grafting and 3. Sorting and storing pumpkins. Before filming it is important to have a good script ; we discussed our prepared scripts so that we could receive feedback from the group.

    The video production process consists of:

    • Issue selection
    • Research desk work
    • Script writing 1st draft
    • Feedback from specialist or relevant persons
    • Recce (the process of visiting and quickly looking around a place in order to find out information)

    The recce process was  very new to me. After visiting the site we revised our scripts as we had gathered new information that would enhance the original drafts. In between this time we prepared some questions to take to interview: why should you store pumpkin, which pumpkins can be stored, how to protect pumpkins during storage etc. Then we went for filming.

    Around 280 clips of footage was collected in four days, ranging between 2-8 minutes in length. At this stage 70% of work is completed within the production process. The remaining 30% consists of:

    • Input footage-logging/selecting
    • Transcription
    • Translation of audio
    • Incorporating translations into the revised script
    • Record voice over
    • Final edit

    We used an editing software called Light Works, it is interesting as tasks are auto-saved. However, before editing we need to arrange the files into a specific computer drive. We learnt that for structured content it is important to consider using subtitle, voiceover and interview-translation using different voices. When using graphics you should consider cutaway pictures and moving shots. You should be aware of issues such as the height of the camera and ensuring there is action in the frame. You should also consider having music, title captions, name captions, background sound and edit credits.

    When taking footage it is important to understand the different types of shots, they are:

    • GV: General View
    • VLS = Very Long Shot
    • LS = Long Shot
    • MLS = Medium Long Shot, it also call 3/4 shot
    • MS = Mid Shot
    • MCU = Medium Close Up
    • CU = Close Up
    • BCU = Big Close Up

     

    When taking a shot we used a tripod to ensure the filming was smooth, and not shaky!

    Our video on pumpkin sorting and storing will soon be available online in French, Bangla and English. This training course was a fantastic learning opportunity, and I look forward to putting my learning into practice! These newly acquired skills will allow us to better share knowledge in video format! Videos produced will be shared through the Access Agriculture network meaning our technical knowledge and experience can be used by many more practitioners.

    Visit Access Agriculture to learn more about work, and future training opportunities.

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  • Story of Kopila Chaudhary — how knowledge transformed my life


    March 20th, 2017

    The gift of material goods makes people dependent, but the gift of knowledge makes them free”, these profound words of E.F.Schumacher still hold true today. In fact, they are the foundation of Practical Action’s last mile knowledge service, Practical Answers. Knowledge sharing, skills development and capacity building allows vulnerable communitieMushroom farmings across the globe to improve their own livelihoods and thrive in future years to come.

    Meet Mrs Chaudhary, a mother to five. She lives in the far west rural region of Nepal. This area has a past. The 17th July 2000 was a milestone in Nepalese history, the day the Government of Nepal abolished the Kamaiya systemthe abolishment of bonded labour. Kamaiyas were freed, Mrs Chaudhary was freed. Yet, life remained difficult. These families were sent to live in Mukta Kamaiya,­ communities of freed bonded labour set up by the government. Life remained difficult for Mrs Chaudhary, although she had been re-housed the promises of rehabilitation had not be fully fulfilled. Wage labour was essential if she was to support her family and change her livelihood for the better:

    “The government had provided us four Kathha (approx. 14,500 sq.ft) of land with some money to start our new life as a freed Kamaiya, but it was insufficient to fulfil the daily needs of the family. I along with my husband worked as daily wage labour for 15 years but still struggled to make ends meet for our family and fulfil our children’s basic needs. Many organisations came to us in past; they sympathised on our situation and showed us hopes and inspirations but almost to no effect.”

    Gyanodaya Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC), supported by Practical Answers, is located in the area. Owned by the local community, staff knew that the Kamaiya community must be supported through the gift of knowledge. Social mobilisers encouraged individuals, like Mrs Chaudhary, to join their training and learning sessions. These participatory trainings focus on income generation activities and diversification; key skills to improve the livelihoods of these vulnerable communities. Sceptical at first, participants of these sessions are now thriving commercial farmers specialising in agribusiness. Mrs Chaudhary is one of them. Social mobilisers from the CLRC Mushroom farminghad encouraged her to participate, sharing the benefits that neighbouring communities had gained since joining the training. During the training, she learnt how to write business proposals to apply for government grants:


    “Surprisingly, I got a grant of NPR 40,000 (£300) along with some machinery for mushroom farming and now I have started commercial mushroom farming. I was able to produce 50kg of mushroom. With the money, I am building another tunnel to grow 200 more bags… CLRC has built hope on us to change our lives”

    Knowledge sharing and skills development for individuals, like Mrs Chaudhary, enables vulnerable individuals to improve their own livelihoods by their selves, to grow and prosper without handouts. Knowledge empowers. Knowledge empowers women like Mrs Chaudhary to be business women supporting their family, community and growing their own confidence day after day after day.

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Mrs Chaudhary!

    Want to help women like Mrs Chaudhary this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here

     

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  • Talking shit at FSM4 Conference – Feedback on our sanitation work in Bangladesh

    Talking about shit for a week in India — a fascinating context to present our sanitation work! India, a country that has undertaken a huge and ambitious national scale clean-up campaign (Swachh Bharat/Clean India Mission), hosted the LOGO4th_faecal_sludge_management_conference4th Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) Conference in Chennai this February. In total, 1,100 practitioners, governments and private sector representatives from all over the world participated in the conference. This was a truly unique sharing and visibility opportunity for our organisation. As a result, we ran out of our latest Technology Justice paper on Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) on the second day of the conference!

    During the conference, we shared lessons from the preliminary operation of the business model we are implementing in Faridpur, Bangladesh, as part of the ‘Public Private Partnerships (PPP) for Sustainable Sludge Management Services’ project  (Gates Foundation – DFID funding). We also provided the community of practice with some key insights on the relevance of business modelling and market-based solutions in FSM, and received some excellent feedback from the participants, because we were addressing the following issues:

    Why work on FSM  The dreadful economic and health costs of poor sanitation

    The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program estimates the economic costs of poor sanitation in Bangladesh to be USD 4.2 billion each year. This was equivalent to 6.3 per cent of Bangladesh’s GNP in 2007! This shows that the health impacts dwarf the economic costs. In Bangladesh, open defecation has remarkably decreased to only 1 per cent (from 34 per cent in 1990). However, in most secondary towns, like Faridpur, there are no sewers. Residents rely on on-site sanitation, combined with unsafe FSM practices. In addition, 90 per cent of the sludge in Faridpur was not safely emptied or transported when we first assessed the situation in 2014. The absence of drainage or emptying facilities in the low-income settlements results in overflowing toilets, which simply leads to the problem of open defecation reoccurring! This is the main reason why we developed our programme in Bangladesh. This project now mixes hardware (e.g. treatment plant) and software solutions (e.g. private entrepreneurs and municipality partnership around FSM business).A national FSM framework to fill the legal vacuum in Bangladesh
    Bangladesh FSM NetworkThe health and economic risks presented above are what we call a “second-generation sanitation challenge”.  Bangladesh has achieved 99 per cent access to sanitation. However, the key challenge now is: how can both, public and private sector actors, safely manage all the sludge that is contained in these new on-site systems.  Practical Action and ITN-BUET (our partner University) work on developing viable business models for the problem. In addition, we have been developing a National Institutional and Regulatory Framework for FSM. This was inexistent in Bangladesh but is now being approved. This framework will significantly clarify roles for the municipalities in charge. It is now complemented by the strategic policy advocacy and knowledge dissemination; role played by the newly created National FSM Network, including I/NGOs, CSOs, government, private sector and industries. Practical Action was a key founder of this network.

    Lessons and highlights from the FSM4 Conference

    • Awareness raising and demand generation are the key to kick-start new FSM businesses.Street Drama, World Toilet Day
    • Early indications show, that pit-emptiers in Faridpur are now seeing an increase in demand. As a result, faecal waste is now safely disposed at the treatment plant. While some projects have tended to underestimate activities such as street drama, cycling events, cleanliness drives, quiz contests and cycle rallies. These have proven to be the central drivers of a progressive increase in revenue from pit-emptying. Further, they create a sense of ownership and environmental awareness. Increased demand for a trustworthy service demonstrates good potential for uptake of such models.

    • A cross-subsidised tariff system is required to attain a responsive service in these cities.

    Income that pit-emptiers get from fees cannot fully cover the cost of collecting, transporting, treating and disposing the sludge. This is why business models explore the possibilities to have other sources of revenues; such as a smart subsidy from the Municipality, and sales of co-compost from sludge in medium-long term.

    FSM Business ModelTaking a system’s approach helps seeing the bigger picture and to forsee interconnected issues.

      • Looking at FSM as a system (i.e. including all stakeholders, rules, norms beyond the mere service chain household-to-treatment plant) allowed the project team to see hidden strengths and blockages that would only have been uncovered later on. By doing so, the Faridpur project could:
        • Build on the informal sector as an existing and relatively efficient service provider and
        • Understand conflictive incentives in providing pit-emptying services.
        Practical Action is good at facilitating participatory and inclusive design of partnerships between Municipalities and the private sector,

    e.g. between FaridpurMunicipality, formalised pit-emptiers, and a treatment plant operator. Years of collaboration with municipalities have helped to build trust, and therefore, to facilitate the design of such business models that are flexible, modular and adaptable to how demand for pit-emptying evolves over time.

    Outstanding questions and food for thoughtPreliminary operation of the FSM business model, Faridpur, Bangladesh

    • The multi- stakeholder’s steering committee, set up in Faridpur Municipality to oversee the performance of the service, will play a key role in rolling out and scaling up the service – is it possible to use this model in other Water & Sanitation projects to ensure ownership and to take this approach to scale?
    • We should have a better understanding of pro-poor sanitation services in our projects. Our projects are focusing on scale and profitability, however the question of the affordability of emptying services for the poorest in Faridpur was raised by our peers.
    • Could we not complement our systems and business approach with a “Rights-Based Approach”? Human rights based approaches (HRBAs) are successfully used to build citizens’ capacity to claim this basic right to the Government.

    For more information about why our sanitation work matters, watch our Bangladesh Director Hasin Jahan’s TED Talk.

     

     

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  • Knowledge matters and it empowers


    March 13th, 2017

    Three female Muscovy ducks were splashing in greenish water kept in a small concrete tub when we reached Bhumisara Poudel’s house. The drake was tethered to a post near the coop and the area was covered with a mosquito net. Nearby, a manure yard measuring 6 ft x 4 ft made from cement blocks was also covered with a mosquito net.

    I wondered why they had mosquito nets everywhere around the manure yard.

    The net stops rats and moles from eating earthworms,” said Baburam Poudel, Bhumisara’s husband. “These are not ordinary earthworms, each one costs NRs 3. We bought half a kilo of earthworms for NRs 1,500 (Around 15 USD) and these creatures have been helping us produce vermicompost enough for our seven kattha (1 kattha = 338 sq. m) farm.”

    Demand-driven training to farmers

    Jyoti Ale Magar, a social mobiliser at the Sauraha Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC) told us how Bhumisara started raising the earthworms for vermicompost. “We trained 20 farmers from this area on vermicomposting,” she said. “We organise the trainings as per the demand from the community.

    With the support from Practical Answers Knowledge Services Programme, 22 CLRCs in 15 districts of Nepal have been organising trainings for farmers, interaction with agriculture experts and practical sessions at regular intervals.
    Linking farmers to government and non-government organisations

    During one of the interaction sessions, the CLRC connected Bhumisara with the Agriculture Service Centre in the area. The service centre provided a grant of NRs 25,000 to Bhumisara to construct a shed and a manure yard, and buy earthworms for vermicomposting.

    As we were talking about the benefits of organic fertiliser, Baburam dug out a handful of vermicompost from the pit. Two small earthworms wriggled out of the dark brown compost. Putting them back to the pit, Baburam showed us how to determine whether the fertiliser was ready to use.

    The ready-to-use compost is like a handful of dry CTC tea (black tea made by crush, tear, curl method),” he said. “It’s easy to carry and administer to the soil – not like the wet livestock manure.”

    All they needed to do was to add livestock manure, dried leaves to the pit, keep it cool by sprinkling water at regular intervals. The earthworms would do the rest of the work.

    Improving food security and livelihood

    Learning how to prepare and handle vermicompost, we went to the adjacent farm to see how the vegetables were faring. The couple had recently harvested a crop of potatoes and the newly planted bitter gourd saplings were climbing up the stakes, with their tendrils coiling around them.

    We harvested 10 quintals of potatoes in this three kattha plot,” said Baburam beaming with joy. “Earlier the plot yielded not more than 5-6 quintals. We sold some and have stored a quintal of potatoes in a cold store.”

    The manure pit produced vermicompost enough for the potato cultivation. In addition, they had applied the compost to the bitter gourd saplings and the flowers at the front of their house.

    Bhumisara Poudel is happy with her vermicompost venture. She happily shares her knowledge with others.

    Bhumisara Poudel is happy with her vermicompost venture. She happily shares her knowledge with others. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    Spreading the knowledge

    Close to the vegetable farm, I could see an outlet protruding from base of the manure pit and a reddish brown liquid dripping from the pipe. The water sprayed on the manure yard converts into a nutrient after getting in contact with the manure and earthworms. And according to Bhumisara and Baburam, it is more nutritious than the compost and can be collected in a bottle.

    Bhumisara quipped, “Earlier the fertiliser used to be carried in truckloads, then in sacks and now in bottles.”

    Appreciating his wife’s knowledge, Baburam said, “She learnt all this at the CLRC and I learnt from her.

    Many people come to see how we are raising the earthworms and producing vermicompost,” added Bhumisara. “We are happy to teach them all the tricks of the trade.”

    Now, they no more need to carry truckloads of wet livestock manure. It used to be a back-breaking chore before cultivation and lasted for 5-6 days at a stretch. The vermicompost can be stored and stacked in sacks and the liquid nutrient adds to the productivity of the crops.

    Practical answers to the farmers’ queries

    As we were having coffee after the snapshot of the manure yard and vegetable farm, Baburam let go the tethered drake. It started chasing the other three ducks and the place became lively with the ducks’ quacks.

    The social mobilisers at the CLRCs respond to the queries of the farmers. They provide the related knowledge materials and invite experts to interact with the farmers.  This gives the farmers a better idea on managing their land, cultivating crops and starting alternative income generating activities.

    I’m planning to dig a pond by the side of the coop,” told Baburam. “So that these ducks can swim and we can get fish to eat.”

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