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  • Participatory market systems development

    Fatima Mahmoud A/Aziz

    January 6th, 2017

    Kassala Talkok village is a place where many people produce and innovate. But there is one big problem – they do not know how to market their products.

    To address this Practical Action Sudan organised a workshop centered on the concepts and application methods of Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD), as part of the Aqua 4 East project.

    The rationale behind this training is the need to expand the understanding of project participants about their own obstacles and constraints in order to enable them to engage in community development with extensive perspective and knowledge.

    PMSD workshop Talkot

    Unlike other approaches PMSD  suits such situations where community capability and readiness is restricted by a variety of factors that hindering their applications.  Almost all the participants were new to this approach and were excited by its features.

    The facilitation of the training was done by an expert who has previous working experiences in the same field with Practical Action, which helped the workshop reach its objective

    The objective of this training was to enable representatives of local communities and Aqua 4 East project partners  to participate in their communities and institutions to contribute to the achievement of project goals through the application of market development systems.

    PMSD workshop Talkok

    Specific training objectives

    To enable participants to understand the approach to market development systems through identifying:

    • Tools used in the participatory market system development
    • Guidelines steps involved in development of markets systems
    • How to use the application method on the ground

    As a result of the training participant acquired the skills and knowledge of practical and scientific PMSD and its application on the ground.  They learned the basic steps of the road map approach to market development systems and how to apply them along with a knowledge of the markets systems partners of the market at various levels and roles of each partner’s specific market.

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  • Keeping the hope alive

    Menila Kharel

    December 27th, 2016

    In my more than a decade long development journey, I have travelled a lot. I have reached to remote corners of the country and have listened to the voices of marginalised people. No place compares to Karnali region in remoteness and marginalisation. I had heard about it but got the opportunity to experience it only in the last October.

    I started my journey of Karnali from Kalikot district.  Kalikot is often referred as   ‘youngest district’ in Nepal as it was separated from adjoining Jumla district only few decades ago. It is also the district where the likelihood of people dying younger is higher than other districts in Nepal as the life expectancy is just 47 years.  Majority of people in the district make their living from subsistence agriculture.

    Galje is one of the many places I visited in Kalikot. It at is about 3 hours’ drive from district headquarter, Manma. Practical Action has been supporting a farmers group in Galje to embrace the commercial vegetable framing through its BICAS project.

    The topography of Galje was challenging and climate was hostile. However, people were very welcoming. I was particularly impressed with the gender composition of the group.

    After the observation of the commercial vegetable plots, collection centre and agro-vets, we held a discussion with the farmer’s groups to know more about their new initiatives. The vegetable farming was indeed a new endeavour for them as there is the monopoly of the cereal based farming in Kalikot district as in other districts of Karnali. There was good participation of females in the meeting. They were little bit shy at the beginning however as the discussion progressed they became more active. I believe my presence in the meeting also helped them to open up.

    I encouraged them to share their stories and experiences, which they did turn by turn. Each had different and encouraging story to share. I was particularly impressed by the story of Radhika Shahi, a young and energetic girl of 21 years.

    Radhika is a plus two graduate. Unlike many youths in rural areas who find little hope in their villages, she is determined to make a difference in her own village. She has chosen agriculture to make the difference.

    Radhika Shahi working in her vegetable farm.

    Radhika Shahi working in her vegetable farm

    “Though all the households in our village make their living from agriculture, it is often looked down as something for old and uneducated people. I wanted to break the stereotype,” she shared.

    “Like other families in the village, we were only producing cereal crops in our land. We had little knowledge about the vegetable farming. Though we used to receive some vegetable seeds from the Agriculture Service Centre (ASC) sometimes, we never took it seriously as we didn’t have skill and technologies required for vegetable farming. Neither, we knew that the vegetable farming is more profitable than cereal crops,” Radhika continued.

    “BICAS project convinced us about the benefits of the vegetable farming and provided technical trainings on the improved farming practices. It also introduced us to new technologies like poly house for off-season production. An agro-vet and collection centre has been established at the nearby market with the help of the project. As a result, we have easy access to seeds, fertilisers and pesticides from agro-vet. Likewise, collection centre has made the marketing of vegetable easier,” Radhika added.

    Growing vegetable in poly-house

    Growing vegetable in poly-house

    Last season, she made a profit of NPR. 48,000 (1USD = NPR 107) from selling bean, cucumber, cabbage and tomato.

    “I think if we have better technologies and the access to market, we can prosper from the vegetable farming.  Gradually, other people in the village are realising it.” She looked more determined and hopeful when she said it.

    Listening to Radhika’s story, I felt like Karnali is not without hope as it is often portrayed. Young and energetic people like Radhika are keeping the hope alive in Karnali.

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  • Knowledge is Power; #LetsdoPeriodTalk

    Ananta Prasad

    December 22nd, 2016

    Written by Pratikshya Priyadarshini

    A hot, sunny afternoon in the Sikharchandi slum of Bhubaneswar does not evoke the imagery of a drab, lazy life that it typically must. One can hear the din from a distance, hard rubber balls hitting against wooden bats, followed closely by the voices of young boys appealing instinctively to an invisible umpire. As we walk along the dusty paths, the roads wider than the adjacent houses, a number of young girls flock to us, greeting us with coy smiles. Young and old women, sitting on verandas, welcome us with pleasantries and call out to their daughters, “The Sakhi Club Didis are here!” We stop in front of a small pakka house, the purple paint shining brightly in the slanting afternoon sun while the rice lights from Diwali night hanging down the roof wait for the evening to be lit. 15 year old Sailaja comes out of the little door, wiping her hands and wearing an infectious smile on her face as she briskly lays down the mats for us to sit down. She then speaks to us about the Sunalo Sakhi program and her participation in it.

    Sailaja

    K. Sailaja Reddy, 15years old, Sikharchandi Cluster 2 Slum, Bhubaneswar

    Sailaja was 13 years old when she first got her periods. Anxious and fearful, she informed her mother about it. She knew very little about menstruation before the onset of her menarche. In fact, even after she got her periods, she had very little knowledge about the process and had harbored a number of misconceptions that she had begotten from her previous generations. She recalls that when she got her periods for the first time, she was isolated from everyone and kept inside her house owing to the customary practices of her culture. Moreover, she was placed under a number of restrictions by her family in terms of moving and playing, interacting with boys and men and speaking openly about periods. Sailaja had been using cloth to prevent staining back then. She was facing a number of difficulties in keeping herself clean since she had to wash the cloth on her own and dry it. It used to be inconvenient during the monsoons and winter as there would be no sunlight and the cloth wouldn’t dry up. Add to that, she was not even aware of the health repercussions that using unhygienic methods like cloth instead of sanitary napkins might bring about. Sailaja tells us that when the CCWD and Practical Action program ‘Sunalo Sakhi’ started in her community, a lot of young girls and women were reluctant to go and join the meetings. With the constant efforts of the community mobilizers, the Sakhi Club was created in the area as a forum for dissemination of knowledge and discussion regarding menstrual hygiene and related issues. A number of women and girls started actively participating in the programme. The community mobilizers used a number of strategies like audio visual screening, radio podcasts, visual charts, action learning, songs and dance in order to educate the participants about the various facts related to menstruation. They discussed the scientific reasons behind menstruation and busted many myths regarding periods. They also discussed various health issues pertaining to menstruation, ways to maintain hygiene during periods and practices to be followed for proper healthcare during adolescence. Gradually, the girls who were initially reluctant began to open up and started discussing their own menstrual problems with the community mobilizers who tried their best to clarify their queries. Sailaja herself was facing problems with her menstrual cycle. Her menstrual blood was thick and clotted which caused her severe abdominal pain and nausea. She spoke about it to the expert doctor on the radio programme ‘Sunalo Sakhi’ and the doctor advised her to drink 4-5 liters of water every day. She followed the doctor’s advice and noticed changes within a few days.

    Exif_JPEG_420

    Sakhi Club Meetings in the Slums by ‘Sunolo Sakhi’

    Today the Sikharchandi Sakhi Club has 32 members. All of them, including Sailaja have switched to sanitary pads instead of cloth. Sailaja now changes her pads 3-4 times per day and disposes the used pads by either burning or burying them. She monitors her periods using a calendar. She uses the methods suggested by the community mobilizers like hot water press and ajwain water consumption to handle her abdominal aches during periods. Her problem with blood clot has also been completely resolved. She tells us that the conversation regarding menstruation has changed a lot at her home and in her community with most women now speaking openly about it and discarding the taboos and myths in favour of factual understanding. All the girls in the area now go to school during their periods while they were earlier stopped by their families. Sailaja now exercises regularly, eats a healthy diet and takes care of her health. She promises that she will keep spreading the message of the club among her younger friends and urge them to not be fearful or reluctant, to take care of their health and hygiene as well as to listen to the Sunalo Sakhi programme by Practical Answers on Radio Choklate so that their issues can be addressed.

    (Ms Pratikshya Priyadarshini, Student of TISS, Mumbai interned with Practical Answers and was engaged in Sunolo Sakhi project)

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  • What I took home from the 2016 SEEP Conference

    Hopewell Zheke

    November 17th, 2016

    The 2016 SEEP conference was my second.  At my first. in 2012 I was one of the presenters on Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD)  this time I was a full participant. Thus I had time to follow proceedings as well as network.  I would like to share with you the learning I took home with me.

    Small business in MozambiqueThe theme of this year’s conference was ‘Expanding market frontiers’ and indeed we expanded the boundaries.

    As I prepared for the conference two tracks caught my mind ‘Enhancing Food Security through Market-oriented Interventions’ and ‘Getting and Using the Right Kinds of Evidence’. I liked these two tracks mainly because at Practical Action we have several projects on livelihoods and food security where we are using a participatory markets systems development approach to transform markets to become more inclusive and to benefit all market actors including the small-scale farmers. The second reason is that I have been working in the sector for some time now and one area I need to explore further is getting and using the ‘right evidence’. How do we measure, report and share systemic changes in the market system?

    However my most interesting learning was about how to integrate gender into market systems work. This is not a totally new concept, we have tried doing this for many years. But, quite honestly,we have not been getting the results we want.  This probably won’t happen overnight as some of the factors are so dynamic and cultural so much that they are difficult to change.

    One session was on Using ex-ante evidence to promote gender responsive market system change’. Ex-ante means ‘before the event’ so this focussed on using evidence that we collect to inform our program design. More often we rush to do a quick feasibility study and go on to design a program,  racing against deadlines. In such circumstances our design misses some of the critical data that we might need and we sometimes end up disaggregating data to men and women to tick the box on gender mainstreaming.

    Significantly this session focused on the need to centre attention on the skills women have and to come up with business models that either take advantage of these skills or build on them. That way, women take part meaningfully and are integral to the project design.

    Common business cases we discussed included women as an important market segment, capturing underutilised female skills/talent, improved reliability, improved productivity, improved quality, improved reputation, social impact and diversified distribution channels.

    In our recent projects we have had women taking negotiating roles with buyers and other market actors because they are regarded as the best negotiators. Have you ever wondered why most women are involved at the fresh vegetable markets? It is simple.Women  have the best negotiating skills. They are also involved in grading not because of their ‘patience’ but because they have the skill and eye for good quality. So a program built around women’s skills and capacities is better placed to address gender issues and enhance women empowerment.

    Moving forward we are going to use such thinking when designing our programs and also see how we can incorporate such lessons in our existing projects.

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  • Providing food security through appropriate technology

    Francis Muchiri

    October 4th, 2016

    Technological advances have increased the quality of life expectancy, productivity and income. However, as technology advances, developing countries have consistently missed out on the opportunities to increase their production potential in the varied development fields. Appropriate technological solutions are not easily accessible to poor people who need them most. Food production, for example, offers a clear distinction between technology justice and injustice. The lack of appropriate technology to improve systems denies vulnerable populations off sustainable food production. There is technology available for enhanced food security when appropriate resource management systems are employed.

    IMG_1894It therefore behoves development practitioners to review access rights and supply needs with a bias to safeguarding human rights. Practical Action is leading in maintaining the challenge to the world to see technology ‘as the bringer of consumer gain’ and its potential as a world changer – ‘a lever out of poverty.’

    Practical Action Eastern Africa focuses on areas that impact the poor through an integrated – approach, taking into consideration the unique demands in society realizing that each individual requires solutions customized  to their needs. The overall aim is to ensure that communities gain sustainable livelihoods that create a food secure society and we shall illustrate how.

    Sustainable food production technologies

    Access to adequate and nutritious diet is a major challenge among pastoralists’ communities in the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL’s) in East Africa. The region remains highly dependent on food aid. The persistence for this is not a lack of potential but rather a misconception of policies and reluctance to invest in sound agricultural technologies that are responsive to the changing climatic patterns. The persistence of this challenge requires urgent attention and adoption of more practical options to secure sustainable food production.

    Practical Action’s work in Northern Kenya (Mandera and Turkana) is geared towards ensuring food security (increased availability, access and utilization) to the most vulnerable groups; women and children through increasing their access to appropriate technology, knowledge and skills for equitable and sustainable use of natural resources. Through participatory processes, Practical Action engages with the communities to undertake activities and approaches that touch on all aspects of their livelihoods from agriculture, environment, governance and social equity.

    In order to achieve this, Practical Action has adopted the vulnerability to resilience (V2R) framework. This holistic approach assesses the needs of the resource poor communities and identifies skills and opportunities for them to build more secure and resilient livelihoods. This is to empower the communities to meet their food security and nutritional needs. It also enhances their capacity to cope with the recurrent hazards; drought, floods, livestock disease outbreaks and resource conflicts that are endemic in Northern Kenya.

    Improvements to pastoralist production systems

    Practical Action through the Food Security, Agriculture and Disaster Risk Reduction programme makes sustainable improvements in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist production systems through providing simple technology solutions and promoting ecological utilization of the natural resources.

    This has been achieved through direct and people centered technical assistance on rain water harvesting (sand dams, earth pans, rock catchments) and water lifting technologies (foot pumps, hand pumps and solar water pumping systems),micro-irrigation systems for food cropping (Drought Tolerant Crops) and environmental conservation measures (agro-forestry, contour bands and trapezoidal bands). Practical Action also empowers the pastoralists with skills needed to increase the productivity of their livestock assets through improved animal health and husbandry practices, through the Pastoralists Field Schools (PFS). We use our unique approach; Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD) to improve the marketing of livestock and livestock products and generate profit and incomes for the pastoralists.

    SAMSUNG CSC

    FrancisMuchiri@Practicalaction

    Over the years Practical Action has undertaken to promote equitable use of natural resources through interventions such as; Land Use Planning and Management, Pasture Management/Grazing Patterns, Soil and Forest conservation. This has enabled the creation of wet and dry season grazing zones to cushion pastoralists against climatic shocks and provide opportunities for diversification of livelihoods into other dry land production systems; aloe vera cultivation, beekeeping, poultry rearing, and agro-pastoralism as alternative options for pastoralists.

    In order to reach impact at scale Practical Action is working with partners and policy makers in developing policies that promote, sustain and create an enabling environment for pastoralism and dry land production systems. Specifically, Trans-Boundary Animal Mobility and Trans Boundary Animal Disease surveillance policies are key for ensuring enhanced productivity of pastoralist systems and have been Practical Action’s priority areas of influence. Due to the changing land use needs, expansion of extractive industries and the demographic surge, Practical Action is leading in influencing adoption of favorable Land Use and Natural Resource Management policy aimed at responding to the threats to pastoralism and their livelihoods by the emerging land use demands.

    The overall goal of Practical Action’s intervention in Northern Kenya is to establish productive and disaster resilient systems for food production and improved livelihood security for the well-being of the communities. This will be measured through increase in food availability, access and utilization, strengthened marketing systems and improved management and governance of natural resources.

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  • Governing interactions lead to partnerships

    Partnership building is a key aspect in development. Much literature is available on how to build partnerships in development. However, partnership building has not been an easy task, because most effective partnerships operate consciously or unconsciously according to three core principles; equity, transparency and mutual benefit. Partnership has been defined as; “an ongoing working relationship where risks and benefits are shared.” Therefore, partnerships collapse if the said principals are violated either by both or one party. Thus, it is imperative that we look at how successful partnerships can be built in development processes. One may argue that brokering is the key to partnership building. However, in a multi-disciplinary scenario where multi-stakeholders come together for a common objective poses many challenges to brokering partnerships. The questions that arise out of this situation are: “What are the strategies to build partnerships in multi-stakeholder set-up, and what are the lessons that can be learned from doing so.” The following case-study attempts to discuss the lessons of building partnerships in a natural resource governance process by means of facilitating interactions among a wide range of stakeholders.

    Urani is a lagoon situated in the eastern province of Sri Lanka, where two ethic communities; Muslim and Tamil fishers are engaged in fishing. Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods Project (SLLP), jointly implemented by Practical Action and Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) developed an institutional framework for fisheries governance. This institutional set-up comprised of all stakeholders from all decision-makings levels is called a Co-coordination (Co-governance) committee, which decentralizes decision making to manage the Urani lagoon’s social-ecological system to ensure sustainability of the lagoon’s resources as well as livelihoods of lagoon-dependent communities. Lagoon fishers are an integral part of this institutional structure, being represented by way of Lagoon Fisheries Management Committees (LFMCs), with two LFMCs representing 147 lagoon fishers in Urani. The whole process is backed by 2013 No.35 Amendment to the1996 No.02 Fisheries Act. Thus, this may be described as a law making process because, the instructional framework is legally decentralized in which the stakeholders can develop their own rules and regulations to govern the whole lagoon ecosystem, which finally, becomes the law in Sri Lanka. The LFMCs are also legally backed by the same Act, in order to be equipped with better barging power in the co-governance process.

    Multi-stakeholder facilitation has been the key strategy in co-coordination meetings, which facilitated interactions and communications among different stakeholders in Urani lagoon. Because this is a legally decentralized platform, stakeholders are represented from top to bottom and vice versa. The initial multi-stakeholder facilitation process was a very challenging exercise, due to bureaucracies, power, politics etc. Therefore, the facilitation process was slow at the beginning. At the initial meetings, the dominant groups; often the top level government stakeholders, wanted to play a leading role in decision making. Therefore, at initial meetings the multi-stakeholder process focused on developing values/principles; a common frame-work for this process while reaching consensus on its purpose which is “to bring about policy change, share risks, and find innovative and synergistic ways to pool resources and talents, based on each participant’s strengths”. This was the most challenging aspect of the process, but the legal Amendment (2013 No.35 Amendment) proved to be very helpful. Next, developing a steering committee was a temporary strategy used to ensure that the top level stakeholders feel valued and respected in the process. Working groups were formed to perform detailed work on objectives of the co-coordination committee. Working groups are effective in developing detailed action plans, carrying out studies and collecting information or data etc. However, throughout the facilitation process, inclusiveness was ensured to accommodate all necessary stakeholders. There were two other aspects that the project ensured in facilitating; the requirement to be conflict sensitive and the need to be cognizant of power structures among multi-ethnic stakeholders were vital. Finally, monitoring and reviewing was a key component in the process which was at beginning the task of the steering committee, but after the rules, regulations and actions plans were agreed upon for the social ecological system of Urani, these became the basis for the operation of the co-governance committee, and all stakeholders began reviewing the plans accordingly.

    Initially, the SLL project led the facilitation process and this was incrementally handed over to DFAR which is at present operating the process. One of the key results is the strengthened service delivery for lagoon development due to partnerships and joint work apart from the law making process. One good example is the alternative livelihood development actions, which was a requirement identified by the lagoon fishers. They included this action in their lagoon development plans and proposed eco-tourism, which were discussed in the co-coordination committee meetings. The decision was made when the IFAD (International Fund for Agriculture Development) and CCD (Coast Conservation Department of Sri Lanka) led project “Participatory Coastal Rehabilitation and Development Project” started working with LFMCs to develop eco-tourism. Before this intervention, lagoon fishers had been operating eco-tourism with limited facilities and had proposals to improve it, but lacked the capacity to do so. The IFAD-CCD project provided infrastructure and capacity building for the fisher communities. The infrastructure development actions included building two multi-purpose community centers for the two LFMCs which are used to greet the foreign visitors as well as to hold their LFMC monthly meetings, while capacity building provided necessary training and exposure to running eco-tourism as a group enterprise. This outcome did not result from brokering. Noteworthy too, is that the adoption of an appropriate facilitation process to promote interactions among stakeholders resulted in a governance system that is based on core principles of equity, transparency and mutual benefit.

    Currently, both LFMCs run the eco-tourism business very successfully. During the last year, one committee was able to run 600 tours in the lagoon and charged 2,500 LKR (17 USD) per tour. The fishing crafts (only non-mechanized are allowed in the lagoon) belong to the LFMC. Out of Rupees 2,500, 1200 Rupees goes to the tour operator, and 600 Rupees goes to the LFMC, while Rupees 500 is allocated to the craft for repairs etc. The money that goes to each LFMC is used to run a micro finance program for the fisher community and one LFMC claims that they saved 800,000 LKR (5,500 USD) last year.

    One community & Information center, being built by IFAD-CCD project

    One community & Information center, being built by IFAD-CCD project

    The operation of this system is driven by each committee’s own set of values, which are discussed and agreed upon by majority vote in the LFMC meetings. However, tours are operated on rotation basis and priority has been given to the young people who might otherwise be resource abusers who are liable to exert excess pressure on lagoon fishing. It turns out that this system operates as a means to reduce excessive fishing pressure on the lagoon as well.

    Many lessons have been learned by the Urani lagoon work. The foremost lesson is that multi-stakeholder facilitation leads to building successful partnerships. The experience gained by the Urani project confirmed that multi-stakeholder partnerships promote the development of focused and holistic action plans which foster the sharing of skills and innovation. Also, multi-stakeholder partnerships promote ownership and commitment for action. They enable participants to gain a better understanding of the need for change, feel ownership for a proposed plan of action and create a platform for peer pressure to ensure delivery of outcomes. It is also evident that when implementing this process, measurable goals and objectives are difficult to enforce but are essential for a successful multi-stakeholder process.

    Another lesson is that intentional brokering is not necessary to build partnerships. Also, when partnerships are facilitated in a multi-stakeholder process, such partnerships better match the needs and context or prevailing system. Furthermore, multi-stakeholder processes require monitoring and evaluation, which results are shared widely by all stakeholders. Yet another lesson is that when partnerships are correctly facilitated, successes and failures are discussed, and alternatives are proposed from multi-disciplinary points of view. This factor contributes significantly to sustaining lagoon resources and livelihoods of lagoon-dependent communities on a long term. This model promotes trust and encourages further partnerships outside the core partners. Finally, it is clear that the adoption of a right facilitation process builds interactions among stakeholder which lead to collaborative actions vital for collaborative governance of natural resources and livelihood development.

    A tour ...

    A tour …

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  • K Madhabi : An Entrepreneur in the making

    Ananta Prasad

    June 28th, 2016

    IMG_2085 (Cópia)In India, for every woman, cooking is a primary job. In villages and the countryside, women take care of the household work including cooking, collecting firewood and preparation of food. Using the traditional cook stoves causes respiratory diseases for women and children. In addition women collect firewood from the local forest and which is life threatening and lots of physical toil for them. It also creates a threat for the forest and its conservation. Though in short run, nobody talks about such issues, these have a greater impact in the long run.

    A study in 2014 supported by Practical Action, ‘Gender and Livelihoods Impacts of Clean Cook stoves in South Asia’ states that, “women largely shoulder the majority of the burden they naturally become exposed to allied hazards while cooking. They also additionally get exposed to hazards collecting fuel.”

    IMG_2035 (Cópia)

    K Madhabi receiving Youth Innovation Fund award from Mr Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister, Odisha.

    All these questions and problems have a solution now with the efforts of a group of tribal women in Koraput district in Odisha. K Madhabi, the leader of the group has earned accolades for their honest efforts. A low smoke project, prepared by K Madhabi and her group, ‘Access Grameen Mahila Udyog’ won a prestigious Youth Innovation Fund Award from the Chief Minister of Odisha.

    12 women from 5 blocks gathered together and formed this women group under the able leadership of Madhabi. At 26 years old Madhabi is now a successful entrepreneur and able to show a path to many like her in the community.

    The cook stove prepared by the group is an energy efficient one which has reduced the smoke to zero level and the cooking time by up to 50%, according to many users. It also consumes less firewood in comparison to other traditional cook stoves.

    “The journey was full of challenges. All the women first time learned the mason work and now can manufacture cook stoves of their own. They have divided the work for marketing and Madhabi is leading them.”

    IMG_2073 (Cópia)

    K Madhabi, among other awardees

    As well as manufacturing, Madhabi is also instrumental in knitting together women from different villages and disseminating knowledge about using low smoke cook stoves. She advocates for a better living for all women and is pretty much dedicated for that. This cook stove has already been tested by the experts from Odisha University of Agriculture and Technology and the group has been registered under the department which deals with small and medium scale business units.

    “Life is not the same as before. We have been treated with much respect in our community,” says Madhabi. The group has been getting regular orders and they are working hard to meet the demands.

    Practical Action’s India office provided technical and financial support for this group through a project called ACCESS (Access to Clean Cook-stoves for Economic Sustainability and Social Wellbeing) funded by the Johnson Matthey.

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  • Many Happy Returns

    Alison Griffith

    June 8th, 2016

    Lusaka in Zambia was the venue for a recent global gathering of 200 practitioners, researchers and donors for the BEAM Exchange’s  inaugural conference “Shining a light on the use of systems approaches to build inclusive markets and reduce poverty”. BEAM is a knowledge hub supported by DFID and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and we gathered to take stock of learning on three illuminating tracks: Evidence; Results and Innovative Practices.

    The ACRE team joined forces with Adam Smith International to lead a session in the Innovative Practices track called ‘Many Happy Returns – systems approaches and impact investment’. It was hugely popular, with a packed room of systems-thinkers questioning whether and how impact investment can lead to better social outcomes in systems programmes and vice versa. Both of these lenses (what systems approaches have to offer impact investors; and/or what impact investment can offer those running market development programmes) were relevant to the key questions of the session:

    • Can market systems programs help improve pipeline?
    • Does participation in programs using a systems approach help those businesses get access to capital?
    • Does pre-investment support lower barriers for businesses so they can graduate from grants to investment?
    • Expected social impacts – directly attributed to the enterprise receiving investment, and from the ‘catalytic’ effect?

    MaryAnne Nguyo, ACRE

    MaryAnne Nguyo, ACRE’s Business Development Manager based in Africa, described how a consortium of INGOs developed an innovative syndicate model to offer investors opportunities to make ‘impact first’ investments.  MaryAnn explained how Acre works and the role of INGOs using their knowledge of market systems to identify pipeline enterprises with networks, knowledge of local context and footprint being our unique strengths from an investor perspective.

    Patience Samhutsa from Practical Action Zimbabwe delved deeper into how market system development work had helped their team identify businesses. Their work in the horticultural system using Participatory Market Systems Development   identified key constraints and opportunities with market players, including marginalised smallholder producers. The participatory process led to a partnership with a company to design an innovative grassroots-based e-commerce platform. This was piloted with some subsidy from Practical Action. When the company were ready to commercialise the service, ACRE facilitated access to technical assistance to produce a business plan for investors.

    ACRE’s has learned that pre-investment support is vital. As MaryAnne said

    “Many SMEs lack appropriate growth strategies, operations plans and capacity to produce investable business plans. We draw up the needs of enterprises and provide tailored support by match-making with appropriate service providers”.

    Small holder farmers in DomborutinhiriI found the discussion amongst the session participants about the potential drawbacks of subsidising technical assistance for would-be investee businesses particularly thought-provoking. PWC’s director of international development Jack Newnham and others were clear that developing a local eco-system for business development services is critical.

    My reflection is we need to learn from the past. Earlier keynote speaker Jim Tanburn of DCED  gave a history lesson, reminding us of the Business Development Services (BDS) era in the late 1990’s.  A key principle was “the expectation that with appropriate product design, delivery and payment mechanisms, BDS can be provided on a commercial basis even for the lowest-income segment of the entrepreneurial SE sector”. In reality most practitioners discovered that creating commercial services in these challenging markets was hard to achieve and BDS provision needed to be part of a broader strategy that used other levers in the system to bring about change.

    I think Acre is trying to navigate these tensions carefully: on the one hand creating opportunity by offering support (sometimes subsidised to some degree) to businesses that need it in order to access finance to grow; whilst on the other promoting and strengthening local service providers in ways that are sustainable. Practical Action finds that this balancing act makes more sense if we’re operating within a systems approach rather than “hot housing” a select business.

    Adam Smith International  advisor on inclusive economic growth Alexis Morcrette brought another perspective to the session. Their experience in market systems development projects in Malawi, Kenya, Sierra Leone and DRC has shown that challenges persist in making the connection between impact investors and market system projects. In Kenya’s port city of Mombasa they found businesses keen to grow and try new business models but a dearth of interested investors.  Affordable working capital and patient investment for growth were in short supply.

    In general though the majority in the session were keen to unpack how we can develop pipeline and increase the number of investment-ready businesses. Questions around the risks and costs of technical assistance and critically the ‘who pays?’ issue were priorities. In the short term market systems programmes may pick up the subsidy but longer term strategies need to be designed. One key area for investment is to develop the skills of facilitators and providers.

    Frankie Whitwell, Windward Commodities Development Director brought home to us that currently only a handful of businesses meet impact investment criteria, and they get inundated with initiatives. I heard general amusement in the room as it became obvious that one progressive business owner in Zimbabwe was known to (i.e. ‘working’) several different programs!  This chimes with what we know in ACRE – increasing the supply of investment-ready businesses is critical – and this is particularly true for an ‘impact first’ approach.  With more finance and funding going into investment pots it will be important to balance that with stronger efforts to support pre-investment businesses, and strengthen the systems they are a part of, to achieve greater social impacts.

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  • Nature-Climate-Life-Livelihood

    Ananta Prasad

    June 2nd, 2016

    These women from Koraput are trend setters

    The magnificent, green natural landscape with elegant tribal culture and life style of Koraput district also has gender inequality and acute poverty. According to a Practical Action study, most women in these hilly terrains depend on firewood for cooking though they suffer from eye itching, respiratory issues and shortage of firewood leads them to walk far away.

    In an experimental innovation with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, local women from Sailabala have emerged as the manufacturers of low smoke ‘Access cook stoves’ which use up to 50% less firewood than traditional stoves plus save a lot of time.

    Access stove india - CopyJambati Jani of Cherengaguda village of Padmapur GP is very satisfied with the new cook-stove which she got from the Paraba (a local festival). Now her single thatched house is not getting blackened by smoke nor is the cooking time so long. She is able to finish cooking sooner than before after using the ACCESS cook stove. It has also reduced the regular eye itching and respiratory issues along with giving more time for productive work.

    Sailabala SHG from Puruna Dumuriput village has sold almost 30 such stoves and, along with 11 other entrepreneur groups, they are marketing and selling cook stoves. These groups came together to form ACCESS Grameen Mahila Udyog (AGMU), which they have registered as a small scale industry to care of climate change and nature. They have started keeping a log book to assess the impact of the cook stove. Informally they claim that cooking time has been reduced to up to 50% as has the use of firewood. Their efforts have opened a window on rethinking development. To serve the needs of different lifestyles, solutions can be found that keep nature and climate issues in mind and restore the natural balance. Project Access is exhibiting this at this moment in Koraput and these women are the flag bearers.

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  • Mobilization is vital to sustainable governance

    Erwin Rathnaweera

    January 20th, 2016

    Mobilization plays a critical role in every development project. This is the strategy used to ensure that beneficiaries actively participate in development planning, implementing and monitoring. One may say that mobilization brings beneficiaries from a state of non participation or passive participation to a stage of active participation. However, this is an immensely challenging process.

    Sherry R. Arnstein, the author of “A Ladder of Citizen Participation,” (1969), explains eight rungs of participation. Understanding the eight rungs is of vital importance in building sustainable governance. The highest rung in the ladder of participation is ideally “Citizen Control” in which good governance comes into action. In practice, there are a whole range of tools used to mobilize people. The argument is “too much of mobilization activities lead to passive or no participation of fisher communities”. In other words, too many mobilization activities lead the participation process to move downward in the ladder of participation. Because issues and constraints related to governance of fisheries resources are the key incentives for the participation of the communities, unless they are addressed within reasonable time duration, communities tend to lose their faith in the process.

    The Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods (SLL) project experience is that levels of participation of fisher communities vary and that needs to be understood before devising mobilization activities. Failure to do so, only leads to either passive participation or no participation. It has been found that with some fisher communities a whole lot of mobilization activities need to be carried out for them to be motivated, whereas others need only one or two activities. Blog post 5

    “Urgency” is a prominent characteristic among fisher communities. Their sense of urgency is clearly manifested in the activity of fishing. However, this characteristic can be found in most of their routine actions daily. Fishers are quick in every aspect of life when compared to most other communities.  The argument is if the mobilization activities do not match the essential nature of fishers, less participation or even insubordination will result. The baseline studies or initial mobilization actions help to understand the level of participation of fisher communities that fits in the ladder of participation. Therefore, mobilization strategies need to be chosen and implemented accordingly.

    The project plans or proposal contain time-frames with a flow of mobilization strategies. However, the implementers need to understand the community first and adapt and adopt strategies to match the communities and motivate them to do better.  Experience indicates, with one community, a transect walk will trigger stewardship in the fishers whereas in other fisher communities, this will happen at the end of the project.

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