Practical Action recently completed PRISM project funded by the European Union that aimed to enhance social protection of the informal workers and vulnerable groups dependent on solid waste for their livelihoods. The target beneficiaries are poorest of the poor in Nepal, they make make a living by selling materials they collect from dumpsites, bins and from along roadsides. The 36 month project was implemented in Kathmandu Valley and worked with 8,047 Informal Waste Workers (IWWs). The PRISM facilitated to achieve social protection and recognition to IWWs in Solid Waste Management (SWM) sector and helped to strengthen capacities of groups within informal waste workers for collective bargaining for better price; enhance their technical and entrepreneurial skills and introduced nine different social protection schemes for their better income and secured livelihood.
As one of the schemes was to improve health care, PRISM collaborated with various local health service providing institutions for better access to the health services for IWWs. During the project period 2,775 IWWs benefited from improved health care services. This proved to be a successful model to provide enhanced health services to the IWWs which is one of the very important social protection schemes.
This good practice is now being replicated in other municipalities in Nepal. Recently, in Chitwan, Practical Action facilitated to sign an agreement between Nagar Sarsafai, a private organisation and Narayani Community Hospital, Bharatpur to provide health access to 59 IWWS affiliated with Nagar Sarsafai. The IWWs will receive 50 per cent discount up to NPR. 50,000(1GBP = NPR 165) on all services offered by the hospital. Moreover, the hospital will also provide 15 per cent discount on the services to the family members of the IWWs. Similarly, IWWs of Sauraha, Chitwan are also receiving 50 per cent discount on health services available at a clinic run by Raj Medical and Clinic.
Sustainability of the initiatives taken by the project and scaling up of good practices is a major focus of Practical Action in its project. PRISM has left a mark in the five municipalities of the Kathmandu Valley and has set an example for other municipalities to follow the good work.No Comments » | Add your comment
Around this time last year I had the privilege of spending time in the remote villages of Lorengippi and Lobei in Turkana, northern Kenya.
It was a time for celebration. Practical Action had recently installed a solar powered water pump in Lobei capable of pumping out thousands of litres. The community was clearly flourishing thanks to new school toilets (which had dramatically increased attendance amongst girls), a newly restored market garden where crops were being grown and easy access to clean water for all families.
Meanwhile the village of Lorengippi rang out with song as I witnessed the first gallon or so of water being pumped out of the newly installed solar-powered pump. This community still faced all the problems Lobei had recently overcome, but the overwhelming feeling was one of optimism that a reliable supply of water would bring greater health, wealth and happiness.
Fast forward a year, and the situation isn’t so positive. Since my visit barely a drop of rain has fallen, meaning pastures have failed and the pastoralists who live and work in the region face disaster. In response, (thanks to an agreement Practical Action staff helped broker), most of the men have taken the cattle over the border to Uganda where the pastures will keep their cattle – the only source of income & wealth in the region – alive.
However, although the communities we work in have been left with clean water, sources of food have been harder to come by. The departure of the men-folk has left thousands of women and children with nothing. Our work means that in the communities in which we have installed pumps, people will no longer die from dehydration, but goats and chickens have perished and and left those who are left almost entirely dependent on food aid. Fortunately, a well-co-ordinated response from the regional government has meant that disaster has been avoided.
In years gone by, severe droughts like this year’s were once in a lifetime events. Now they are happening once every decade. The situation in Turkana underlines how we need to confront the causes of climate change and proves that no one solution can ever solve a global phenomena.
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This weekend I heard the ‘Tandem Turners’ talk about their round the world ride to raise money and awareness for Practical Action, I reflected on how today, bicycles play a big role in the lives of poor communities.
Hearing the ‘Tandem Turners’ talk about their round the world ride to raise money and awareness for Practical Action, I reflected on how today, bicycles play a big role in the lives of poor communities. I’ve recently returned from Southern Bangladesh and having visited, there are two jobs I’ve identified as being my version of hell:
1. Pit latrine emptier
2. Rickshaw driver
It’s obvious how a bicycle plays a role in Rickshaws, but what do bicycles have to do with pit latrine emptying? …and it’s obvious that emptying pit latrines as a living would be a nightmare, but what’s wrong with being a rickshaw driver?
Well rickshaws are definitely at the bottom of the road transport pecking order. Imagine… its rush hour, the roads are jam packed with tuc-tucs, cars, buses and lorries, you have no gears, there’s a passenger or two sitting passively in the back…oh and then there is their luggage…. Now this can be a small briefcase or hand bag, or it can be about 200 kilos of reinforced steel cabling (15 foot long), 100 kilos of mangoes, jack fruit or several 20 kilo sacks of rice… the temperature is in the mid thirties Celsius and the humidity is over 70 percent. Everyone else on the road has priority over you, everyone is hooting their horn at you and the pay you receive is not in line with the effort you exert.
So pit latrine emptying…bicycles, really? Well yes. In order to empty a pit latrine situated deep in the warren of narrow pathways in a slum, you need something to transport the waste that’s small enough to get between the houses but strong enough to cope with loads up to 200 kilos. Practical Action is working with communities of Bengali and Harijan ‘sweepers’ whose lot in life it is to clean the streets and empty pit latrines. With no safety equipment, just their bare hands and a bucket, these men and women remove foul smelling liquid sludge from these latrines and take it away – to be dumped into a canal or a ditch somewhere in the city. Our Safer Cities appeal last Christmas means that now, with Practical Action’s help, they are receiving training and safety equipment, and new sludge transporting bicycle carts. The next step is to work with the municipalities to help them deal with the sludge safely, and to invest in machinery that can be fitted to bicycle carts so that the sludge can be pumped from the pit without needing someone to climb inside.
Bicycle carts play an important role in other ways in this project. Specially adapted carts are used to collect kitchen waste from homes, that is used to create compost for farming, or digested to generate gas for cooking, piped to homes close by.
In communities where safe drinking water is still a dream, bicycle carts bring clean water to be sold for drinking and cooking. So whether its bringing clean water, removing waste or sludge, the bicycle still has the power to transform poor communities. Helping poor communities access appropriate technologies is still a key part of our work, and a key part of the puzzle in achieving a state of technology justice – where technology is used to for the benefit of all.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Safer Cities – How Practical Action is bringing safe drinking water, free from Iron and Arsenic contamination, to slum communities in Bangladesh
Satkhira is one of Bangladesh’s oldest municipalities, created in 1869. Bordering the world famous Sunderbans, home to Royal Bengal Tigers and a globally important mangrove ecosystem, it’s a town that tourists pass by, but plays a hugely important role for the people living in the region.
Climate change is beginning to wreak havoc here. Erratic monsoon rainfall, and flooding (which never used to affect this part of Bangladesh) have combined to make subsistence farming incredibly difficult. In recent years more and more farming families have given up their traditional way of life to make a living and find security in Satkhira. This steady flow of climate migrants was beginning to put the town’s resources under pressure. When cyclone Aila smashed the region in 2009 the sudden influx of many thousands of refugees meant that the existing infrastructure failed. Satkhira is still trying to overcome this problem five years later, and every day, the steady influx of economic and climate migrants continues. With very little cash, and only able to find poorly paid jobs, many of these migrants end up living in the informal settlements dotted around the town.
Access to drinking water is a real problem. The natural geology of the region means that shallow wells are contaminated with arsenic and iron. The contamination causes serious health issues including some cancers as well as kidney and liver failure. Coupled with this is the increasing salinity of groundwater caused by the tidal surges of cyclones, the reduction of river flow as water is diverted upstream for irrigation and the switch from traditional rice and jute farming to raising lucrative salt water shrimps. Farmers are allowing the seawater to inundate their land as shrimp farming generates more income than rice paddy can. We passed many of these shrimp farms on the road into Satkhira.
Practical Action is working with the slum communities and the municipality of Satkhira to help find solutions to their joint problems. I was here to better understand the work that has been funded by our record breaking ‘Safer Cities’ appeal, match funded by the Department for International Development, that ran over Christmas 2013. In Satkhira the funding means communities like the one I visited today, called Missionpara, can have access to clean, safe water and sanitation too. Missionpara is a relatively small settlement of around 30 households, with about 180 people squeezed into tiny homes in what would be a long access road between two properties here in the UK.
In Missionpara the community has been dependent on shallow tube wells that supply iron and arsenic contaminated water. With Practical Action’s help, the community now has a brand new sand filter that removes the contamination and pipes clean water to every house in the community (to find out how this simple technology works click here).
The community has organised its own water supply committee and every family pays a small sum (about 50p a month) that contributes to a maintenance fund to ensure the filter, pump, pipes and taps will still be working years into the future. As we arrived to meet the water supply committee chair, a lovely lady called Aklima, the heavens opened. The monsoon is due to start on the 10th June (very precise!) I was told and these showers were the precursor.
As we huddled together under the filter superstructure, I was shown a traditional test that proved the filter was indeed working. Two identical glasses of water were place on the pump housing and guava leaves crushed into them. In a matter of moments, the glass filled with water from the old tube well began to discolour as a black compound began to precipitate out of the water. The glass filled with water from the filtered, piped water system remained clear.
Missionpara is just one slum community that has been helped in this way by our safer cities appeal. I’ll be visiting other communities over the next few days and exploring how our work is changing lives, and you can follow the story here as I blog about my experiences.No Comments » | Add your comment
Acts of violence against women continue to shock the Indian national consciousness. While open defecation remains the scourge of India and has ratcheted gender and social inequalities to breaking point, one state is putting the wheels of change into motion.
Gauging commitment to the rights of women and girls
India has one NGO for every 600 people. Uttar Pradesh contains more NGOs than any other Indian state. Five organisations explicitly dealing with women and girls appear in the A-C categories alone of an NGO state directory. These were merely the English results; the majority of organisations are titled in Hindi or Urdu.
At the end of May in Uttar Pradesh two girls from impoverished Dalit families without a toilet in their home were gang raped and murdered while they were in the fields looking for a safe place to relieve themselves. Only yesterday another girl was murdered in the same state, in the same circumstances. In light of the relentless brutalities Ratna Kapur writes in The Hindu: ‘India is a country that is at war with no one — and yet, the levels of violence that are inflicted on women and that have come to be tolerated seem comparable to levels seen in conflict zones.’
Last month Odisha released its final draft State Policy on Women and Girls, calling for action to address safety and empowerment issues for women and girls in sectors as wide ranging as special needs and transportation.
Uttar Pradesh has no such policy, at least no updated version, illustrating the disparity and incoherence that exists between states regarding actions of NGOs (who may or may not be registered and active), other actors implementing change on the ground, and the policies formulated at state level.
Therefore, in some areas the existence of state policy papers, rather than NGO presence, is more effective in gauging the extent to which initiatives will be implemented locally, such documents pertaining to a will at strategic level to change lives.
Our Communications Director has voiced the wider issues surrounding violence against women here.
Pinky Das is 8 years old and goes to school in Odisha. Like many women and girls across India who lack access to proper sanitation facilities she faced the dilemma of waiting for a safe time to go to the toilet, a habit which practiced over extended periods of time can lead to urinary tract infections. The alternative was to go into the fields to practice open defecation, leaving her vulnerable.
As there were no sanitation facilities accessible to Pinky in school (except a ‘teachers only’ toilet), she was forced to go to the fields on a regular basis, and eventually decided to stop because of unwanted attention from male students. Holding her bladder led to infection, and she eventually dropped out of school.
Practical Action began interventions in Odisha in a number of thematic areas including urban services and Pinky was able to benefit from the changes. She heard news about the sanitation upgrades while at home. When she recovered was able to come back to school and now attains full attendance.
Pinky’s story illustrates that women and girls across the social spectrum face a common dilemma when it comes to open defecation. While she had no amenities at school, many lack a toilet at home.
Extending protection to women and girls from Dalit families
The girls from Uttar Pradesh had no toilet in their home. Ban Ki-Moon called it ‘appalling‘. They were from Dalit families who are even more vulnerable because hardly any social protection measures are extended to them. Crimes against Dalits often go unreported, investigations fall through and there is a vast backlog of cases. Conviction rates are low for the few crimes that are followed up and police collusion with perpetrators to cover up crime from dominant castes is rife. Amnesty International have called for police personnel found to have refused to register or investigate complaints to be held accountable, aiming to address not only explicit attacks but the deeply ingrained crimes of omission when it comes to women and girls from Dalit backgrounds.
The draft Odisha policy contains a section on provisions for ‘Women and Girls with Special Needs,’ which includes marginal groups (19 other vulnerable types of girls and women have been identified under this category including HIV/AIDS affected women, abandoned, divorced and deserted women, the elderly, the disabled, prison inmates, unmarried women, bonded labourers and more have been referred to). The draft goes a long way in reaching out to women who find themselves vulnerable for all kinds of reasons. Women and girls from Dalit backgrounds would be provided for under this section.
There is also a ‘Safety, Security and Protection’ section which includes strategies to:
- Establish specialised units in the police department to guide, monitor and support investigations pertaining to violence against girls and women.
- Fix timeframes for completion of investigation and trial in matters of crime against girls and women.
- Establish specialised and designated courts for rapid trial of sexual offences.
The draft policy on Women and Girls was released on 8th May, days before the series of Uttar Pradesh murders. Its lament speaks not just for Odisha but the whole of India when it reads: ‘There is a disturbing trend of brutal incidences of violence which has shaken the collective conscience.’
If shared, built on and integrated with other services and targeted NGO work, initiatives like this will pave the way for the collective conscience to effectively turn outrage into action.
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Listening to the news this morning I realised that the two young girls in India, aged 14 and 16, who had been gang raped and murdered died as they had gone into the fields looking for a discreet place to go to the loo. Somehow it made it even sadder. Sanitation is a pretty easy fix given money and will to provide latrines, sludge management and hygiene education. It’s truly do-able.
The girls remain nameless as it’s illegal under Indian law for the media to identify the victims. The fact that we don’t know their names seems somehow wrong – but that may just reflect our news norms in the UK – we want to sympathise personally and share in grief and support. It also makes them representative of the millions of young girls who each day risk attack just by looking for somewhere to go to the toilet, walking to fetch water or firewood for their families, or carry maize to a mill for grinding.
Women are frequently at risk – you only have to look at some of the other stories from India.
But the stories from India are not alone. Also on the Today Programme this morning were reports of a woman in Sudan convicted of changing her religion from Muslim to Christian, who has been sentenced to death (commuted for 2 years – and hopefully for life!). She was forced to give birth in a prison cell (rumoured to have been shackled throughout). And a third which told the story of a pregnant woman in Pakistan stoned to death in public by her own family for marrying the wrong man. The man she married had already murdered his first wife by strangling but was let off prison as his son forgave him.
The school girls kidnapped in Nigeria are no longer in the news.
What draws these stories together is a view of women and girls that somehow says we are lesser – viewed as unimportant, as processions or to be controlled. We have no voice.
At Practical Action we work on the practical things in life – like loos. We also work with people trying to help them – women and men – gain voice. We call this material and relational well-being – material well-being is about having the things you need for a decent life, relational well-being is about having a say in your society and how things are shaped. Both are needed for sustainable development.
I was horrified by each of these stories.
But strange attitudes to women, women somehow invisible are not just something that happens in countries far away from those of us who live in the UK.
Not on the same scale but a story closer to home had me shouting at my Twitter feed the evening before. It was an image of the UK Prime Minister David Cameron meeting Jimmy Carter to talk about how we remember those people who died in the holocaust – the meeting consisted of lots of men in suits. Not one woman. 2 million women died.
(I do know there are women on the Holocaust Commission – my question s why when there are 7 people visible around the table are all of them men?)
And finally – on my catch up weekend – I came across the just released list of the 100 most powerful women in the world. Angela Merkel is ranked number 1 – probably politically not completely aligned with me but even so as a woman taking centre stage she made me smile! And it felt very good to read a news story about women, women with power and influence, that could make me smile.
Let’s remember the girls in India. Let’s work to make women more visible, let’s work to make women around the world less afraid, let’s aim for an equitable view of women and men.
I want to hear great stories of women doing brilliant things as I listen to my radio in the morning – not stories of oppression that just make me so sad. And I want those great stories to be because we have a world in which women are free to flourish.5 Comments » | Add your comment
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I am visiting Zimbabwe for the first time and the initial project on our schedule was the EU funded community-led water and sanitation project in Gwanda in the south of Zimbabwe.
Accompanied by representatives of our local partner in this work, Moriti, we visited the district government office to be welcomed by the CEO Mr Ronnie Sibanda. We were joined by a member of the district water and sanitation department during the day.
At Magaya village we were met by a crowd of people gathered at their newly installed borehole. We were greeted warmly by village leaders there, then introduced to 6 members of the water management committee, who each proudly described their role in the project – from writing the minutes of their meetings to collecting the $1 per month each household contributes to maintaining the facility.
Next came the mechanics, trained to install the pumping machinery, carry out routine maintenance and any necessary repairs. This is just one of the 10 boreholes so far drilled or rehabilitated by the project. The borehole is protected from animal contamination by a study fence and there is a trough next to it to water livestock.
The pride of this community in their new borehole was displayed in the joyous song they sang for us. One the older ladies, Sarah Siziba, who lives about 200 m from the new borehole looks after her 9 grandchildren. She said that now they no longer have to collect their water from unprotected sources. Previously the children would often contract bilharzia or diarrhoea from drinking the water. Each family collects between 5 and 6 of the 25 litre containers each day. The shorter distance this has to be carried makes a big difference to their lives, saving them hours of hard work and improving their health.
All of these people that have played their part in the installation of this new facility. And because they are working closely together they will ensure that their community will have access to clean, safe water for many years to come.No Comments » | Add your comment
I’ve never been one to drink much water, I don’t really like it, tea’s my poison and failing that a nice diet coke goes down well. During my week doing live below the line however, my relationship with water really changed. It became my crutch. It became my best friend – the one thing that I could have that kept me feeling full and sweetened the horrible taste that was permanently hanging around my mouth from the poor diet I was enduring.
About half way through the week I went to the tap to fill my bottle up, on the way through the office, my eye was drawn to a photo on the wall of a woman collecting water from a dirty pool.
As I stood at the tap letting it run until it was cold enough, I started to think. It’s all very well living on £1 a day, it was really making me empathise with the tedious lack of choice and eating to survive rather than eating for pleasure, but the very people I was doing it for had another problem…they couldn’t just go to a tap and keep hunger at bay with a glass of clean water.
It might shock you to hear that 758 million people are without clean safe water. We live in 2014 and yet millions of people have no access to something as simple as clean water. It really made me think. Without water I would have been more hungry, felt weaker and without doubt would have felt worse. It almost felt like cheating!
The good news is that my efforts living on £1 a day have helped solve just a teeny weeny bit of the problem. Last year Practical Action helped 68,000 improve their access to drinking water and sanitation. The money that I raised might be a drop in the ocean (pardon the pun!) but every little helps and until all 758 million people have access to clean water, living on £1 a day suddenly feels like a walk in the park!No Comments » | Add your comment
On making the SDGs meaningful: Practical Action’s views on the state of play of the post-2015 development agenda
UN negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda represent the follow-up process of two globally significant policy regimes: the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Rio+20 conference of 2012. No small shoes to fill. On 21 February 2014, the co-Chairs of one of the key bodies in this process, the Open Working Group (OWG), released a preliminary sketch of the status of discussions on a variety of topics in their “Focus Areas Document.” Practical Action welcomes the strong and clear messages it contains. But while the document does encapsulate dozens of aspects crucial to the post-2015 development agenda, many areas key to its long terms success are incomplete or altogether lacking.
Focus area 7 on ENERGY, and particularly points on alleviating energy poverty, are at the core of progress in all other focal areas. We stress that the evidence on energy poverty is clear: neither energy poverty nor the litany of energy nexus issues (food security, education, health, water, gender equality, etc.) can be meaningfully addressed without emphasising deployment of decentralized (off-grid) provision of modern energy services, combined with robust indicators and monitoring systems. We strongly urge inclusion of these issues in discussions of any energy-related SDG goals to prevent energy, seen by many as the “missing MDG” from becoming a “meaningless SDG.”
On focus area 6 on WATER AND SANITATION, we welcome recognition of the need for safe drinking water and sanitation for all households, and urge that this ambition eventually be reflected in the indicators. However, we note that the bulk of issues raised in this focal area concern water and deeply lament that there is no mention of hygiene here or in focus area 3 on HEALTH.
Considering focal area 13 on SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND HUMAN SETTLEMENTS, we note that this area must have a strong emphasis not only on poverty eradication, but critically, on promoting equality. If we cannot find a way of disaggregating indicators on the rich and poor of urban areas, the urban poor will remain among the un-counted and unreached.
CLIMATE CHANGE is recognised throughout the document (including in the focal areas on energy, food security, infrastructure, sustainable cities) and with its own focal area 15, but it is conspicuously absent from focus area 9 on INDUSTRIALIZATION, a major contributor of continuing greenhouse gas emissions. Also absent from the document is mention of reducing risk from human-induced and natural hazards. We must ask whether the provision of social protection alone is able to reduce vulnerability and enable those currently living in poverty to fully participate in sustainable development.
The mention of ‘inclusive’ growth in a number of focus areas is excellent but we feel strong and explicit linkages must be made between Focus Areas 8, 11, and 12 on ECONOMIC GROWTH, EMPLOYMENT AND DECENT WORK FOR ALL, and PROMOTING EQUALITY. In addition, care must be given when referring to ‘sustained’ growth as in focus area 8 and 12, which in a closed physical system such as our planet, is not a realistic or sustainable aim.
The focus area 18 on MEANS OF IMPLEMENTATION is particularly welcome. Prioritising what will be measured in this enormous list of important issues will be hugely challenging. To transform systems most important to those living in poverty, such as agriculture, energy, water and sanitation, and the science, technology and innovation systems that support them, the ‘broad stakeholder engagement’ noted must promote the active, meaningful involvement of small and marginalised players.
Although technology and access to technology is well represented throughout the document, globally we must look beyond transfer of technology from North to South, and recognise the potential of indigenous knowledge and local innovation to ensure a form of sustainable development that leaves no one behind. Missing from the document is reference to the desperate need to shift technology development towards those who need it rather than those who can afford it. This will require concerted investments in fostering grassroots and frugal innovation (i.e. innovation focusing on reducing the cost and complexity of goods and services), and the use and regulation of technologies that aim to deliver on sustainable development goals.
Practical Action very much looks forward to continuing to engage with the post-2015 development process, and welcomes feedback on these issues.
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