Resident of Chitwan District of Nepal, 51 year old Ramlal Chaudary’s family has been dependent on agriculture for generations. But in the recent times, it was getting difficult to sustain his family of nine through agriculture alone. Recently, he had started driving tractor as a side business. But agriculture – is a part of his culture; paddy being the major harvest.
This year too, Ramlal cultivated paddy like every other year. But this year, his field was greener and healthier than that of his neighbours. Even the other farmers observed his field curiously. Though most people assumed that he must have worked too hard to get this result, he actually had neither weeded nor used any pesticides or chemical fertilisers in his field.
Ramlal shares happily, “The pests that were not controlled by strong pesticides are non-existent in my field now, even though I haven’t used any pesticide. Others weeded their fields numerous times and also used chemical fertilisers, but without doing any of that, the paddy in my field has flourished quite extraordinarily.”
So what is the reason behind this drastic change in Ramlal’s paddy? What has he changed in his farming practice to get these great results?
The answer actually is very simple.
Ramlal has started raising ducks along with the rice in his field.
He explains, “I decided to raise ducks in my rice field after attending an orientation programme about rice-duck farming organised by Practical Action. The organisation provided us with proper training to carry out this farming technique and also supported us with a day old ducklings. After the training, we formed a group and started rice-duck farming.”
Rice-duck farming technology was found to be beneficial in terms of providing social, economic and environmental benefits in a pilot research carried out by Practical Action in 2013. Currently, Practical Action Consulting Pvt. Ltd. is implementing integrated rice-duck farming project in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts with the financial support of Grand Challenges Canada. The project is working to build the capacity of 1000 small holder farmers to adopt the rice-duck farming technology – Ramlal is one among them.
Ramlal says, “I didn’t have any idea about the practice of rice-duck farming. But now, I am experiencing many benefits. The droplets of the ducks acts as manure so there is no need to use chemical fertilisers. The ducks gets the nutrition by feeding upon the pests and weeds. I feel that the ducks are a boon for the rice field.”
Ramlal is the treasurer of the ‘Quality rice-duck farming’ group. There are altogether 15 members in this group – all practice rice-duck farming. The members of the group made a collective decision to practice rice-duck farming in their individual fields. They conduct monthly meetings where they share their agricultural progress and problems, most of which they solve with combined effort. Each member contributes NPR 50 (£0.32) for saving on a monthly basis. The amount is used among the members for agricultural inputs whenever required.
The rice-duck farming technology has made an impact in Ramlal’s life in the first year of the practice itself. The yield in his field has increased. Previously, 0.03 hectares of field yielded hardly two quintals; this year it yielded 2.66 quintals of rice.
He further adds, “I made rupees 52,700 (£337.82) more from the rice alone in comparison to last year. And the best part is that, the ducks become ready to be sold at the same time as rice harvesting. Among the total of 18 ducks I raised, we have kept few to be used at home and sold others at the price of rupees 800 (£5.12) each. This has made a significant impact on my income. People from neighbouring localities and villages also take interest when they see the ducks in the rice field. I try my best to share the knowledge with the ones who are unaware about it.”
(The information for this story was collected by Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)1 Comment » | Add your comment
Our day started at 6am and we headed towards Badamanjari (a project field site) over 60km from the district headquarter Koraput. We took about 3 hours to travel through good roads, bad roads, rough and rocky roads in the hilly terrains and passing by the highest peak of Eastern Ghats (Deomali). There was intermittent mobile coverage on our way and we could see very less vehicles usually over-packed with people. All of us traveling had a WOW feeling inside, that Practical Action is working in such interior pockets and delivering technology solutions and services to the poor where the poor benefit to the fullest. The closer we go to the village the more excited we were and a sense of belonging was mounting in our minds and hearts which outburst during the overwhelming welcome and response of the villagers.
Badamanjari is one of the project sites of the Sustainable Micro-hydro through Energizing Rural Enterprises and Livelihood (SMRE) Project in Koraput district of Odisha. The village inhabits 93 households and is surrounded by nature and its greatest gifts, one of which is in the shape of a perennial water source which is used by the villagers for a Micro Hydro Project with a capacity of producing 30 KW of electricity. This project was supported by various donors and implemented by a well-known NGO from the district. The Project was initiated in 2003 and was commissioned to the people in 2006. The people got uninterrupted electricity up to the year 2013 and somehow there was problem with the machine and it did not work from then. The SMRE Project initiated by Practical Action in partnership with Koraput Farmer’s Association (KFA) aims to rehabilitate and renovate the Micro Hydro Project to function to its fullest potential and help people increase their income with the use of the PMSD approach.
Suresh Tadingi (23) lives with his wife, daughter (2 years), brother, mother and grandmother in Badamanjari village. His ancestral property of over 6 Acres of agricultural land is being used by four families with a total of 21 members. He is busy in the agriculture and allied works throughout the year except January and February (during these months he goes to nearby town to work on contract). Even though they do farming of Zinger, Beans, Vegetables, Raggi, Millets (varieties) and Paddy, they live in a subsistence economy and it is not enough for everyone. It is the SMRE Project which has brought a light of hope for him, his family and the community at large.
Suresh along with four other youth members are interested to take up Turmeric Processing Unit as one of their income generating endeavors through the SMRE Project. They will be responsible to collect raw turmeric from 9 nearby villages, process, package and market the products to gain profits. These five young men will get the agreed share of the earning and will share part of their earnings to the community fund from where it will then be used for benefits of the community and its members. If everything works well, then Suresh and others like him need not go outside of the village to work as daily wage laborers, but in the contrary they will get a dignified earning through the business of their own and multiply their income as per their efforts to live a better life in their own village itself.7 Comments » | Add your comment
Farmers are not renowned for their optimism. Grumbling about the weather, crop or livestock prices is a recurrent theme. So it was refreshing yesterday to meet Modesto Hunan, an alpaca farmer from the Puna region of Peru, who has so many positive things to say about his work. Modesto trained as a kamayoq – a local agricultural extension worker and for the last three years has been part of the Melgar Alpacas project which is helping farmers in the high plains of the Andes to improve their livelihoods. The work is addressing three main areas -pasture enrichment, better animal breeding and improved marketing of their main product, alpaca wool.
Modesto lives with his wife Doris and three sons in a remote area about 3 hours drive from Puno. His farm is a breathtaking 4,200 m above sea level and covers 116 hectares. Two of his sons are studying at university in Puno and return at weekends to help on the farm. He owns just over 200 alpacas – half of the more expensive Suri breed and the rest the more common Huacaya. The project has helped to strengthen the herd by providing a number of high quality male alpacas for breeding.
To provide better pasture for his animals, Modesto has installed an irrigation system fed from a small rain fed reservoir. This enables him to cultivate small areas of land with improved grazing for animals at key stages of their life – those in their first year as well as pregnant females and nursing mothers. This has led to better survival rates, better quality wool and healthier animals. He also cultivates grasses with higher nutritional content such as clover and alfalfa which would not grow here without irrigation. He is also planning to grow potatoes and quinoa for the family.
Before the project Modesto earned around 6 soles (£1.50) per pound for his wool, but as a result of the improved quality of his product he now gets 10 soles (£2.50) per pound and sometimes twice that for good Suri wool. The community currently sell their wool in the local market, where the price is lower but the project is working to create a co-operative to sell the wool together to a bigger enterprise to obtain a better price.
But despite their current success there is a blot on the horizon which threatens all this family’s hard work – climate change.
The rainy season in this area usually lasts from November to March (summer) and it is not usually necessary to irrigate at this time. But Modesto’s reservoir was barely a third full as there had been so little rain this year so far (in early December). He is extremely concerned about the effect of climate change on his livelihood and told me;
“As well as the lack of rain, the winters have become much colder with snow and hail and dramatic thunderstorms. Only last week 3 people in the region were killed by lightening.”
He recorded a message (in Spanish) for the UN COP20 meeting in Lima describing the problems he is facing to urge the international community to take action.
Let’s hope that they listen otherwise the way of life of Modesto and the other alpaca farmers in this challenging environment may no longer be viable.No Comments » | Add your comment
The Gyan Bikas community library, in Panauti – Nepal is a remarkable achievement. It is built entirely with the financial support of the people of Nepal. There were no corporate donations and no government funding – but people across Nepal each gave as much as they could afford. Children from across the country were encouraged to collect 1 rupee at a time in their piggy banks.
And now it is built and it could well soon become the only library in a world heritage site – if the local town’s application is approved.
The library is supported by our wonderful partners – READ Nepal, and now, in addition to a children’s library, a music room, a meeting room and an audio visual room, it also has a Practical Answers room.
The new Practical Answers service is already proving popular with more than 1500 enquiries in its first 3 months of operation. They mainly focus on insect control in crops, potato farming. The team there also organise outreach “interactions” out at local community gatherings., The most successful one so far has been about how to make your own fertiliser and pesticide.
People pay 25 rupees (about 15p) to be a member of the library, and up to 100 a day use the library. Overall there are 30,000 people in the community.
In anticipation of gaining world heritage status the old library has been turned into a souvenir shop – selling handmade crafts to tourists. The profits pay the running costs of the library. This is one of the most recent libraries to join the Practical Answers programme – but I get the sense that it will soon be one of the most successful.1 Comment » | Add your comment
My recent visit to Manapalli (a small village in Odisha) brought about a story of traditional business families and their knowledge requirements.
It is not always necessary that, if a person is engaged in some business traditionally for years, she/he might be proficient in the business or its trends. I found that these people are doing traditional business because it was their family forte or is a social status or an identity. Whether they lose or win they continue with the same sector of business (may be in small-scale), they normally don’t change like other communities living by doing business. The attitude that they have with these business sectors is that it was their ancestors who used to do this and that they HAVE TO DO, no matter how well they do it. One such case is about A Mangulu Patra and his Golla community.
Manapalli is a village in the Practical Answers Project area in Khallikote Block of Ganjam District. Golla Community is the primary inhabitants of this village and they have their original inheritance from some part of Andhra Pradesh in India. The Golla community or caste is a cattle-rearing caste in Andhra Pradesh in India, are predominantly sheep, goat and cattle herders. The village has 397 households with population of over 1600. Almost every household does goat rearing as their primary or secondary income source.
A Mangulu Patra is one among the others who do goat rearing for a living. Mangulu lives with his mother, grandfather, wife and two kids. He has about one acre of non-irrigated agriculture land from where he earns roughly about 16 bags (100 Killo a bag) of paddy a year after putting enormous efforts. The rice is tightly enough for his dependents to survive throughout the year. He depends on the income of the goat rearing business for all other expenses starting from health, festivals, food items etc. He owns about 120 Goats at present. He is able to sell about 30 heads every year cost ranges from INR 4500 to 5000. He has appointed one person to take care of the goats and pays about INR 35,000/- per annum + one meal a day. Like many others Mangulu has been rearing these goats and getting whatever profit from this since years. He has never calculated minutely about his profits and losses. However, the problem with the traditional business people is that, they just accept the loss very easily. One such case he explains us is about the diarrhea among the goats which normally comes with other diseases too, “such diseases happen each year to these goats, we try our best to treat them, if they are not cured, we sell them or we are at loss if they die” he said.
When there was a diarrhea in goats last month, he requested the govt. vet service provider, after giving the medicine, it did not work. The Knowledge Facilitator under Practical Answers came to know about it, he then connected an expert to get the solutions. Mangulu did exactly as directed by the expert and few days later his goats were treated well. Now, he is happy and assured from Practical Answers to get any sort of information and knowledge support that he needs.
There are others in his village that are having questions on goat rearing even though they have been doing goat rearing for years. It is planned to have an expert session on ‘Goat Rearing, its issues, problems and solutions’ in this village which would help other people like Mangulu to get their questions answered.
Practical Answers program has been initiated from July 2014 to extend knowledge services to 1000 households in 10 villages under Khallikote Block of Ganjam District in Odisha.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Technical education an alternative of local level adaptation for breaking the vicious cycle of poverty
Child labour is a big concern in Bangladesh. The situation is worse in the northern region when natural disasters like riverbank erosion, tornado and hailstorms cause their poor parents loss of their crops, shelter and employment. It has been revealed that in recent years frequency of climatic disasters increased with unpredictable effects and these environmental victims take shelter on the embankment after losing their home and livelihoods.
Both qualitative data and quantitative tools were used in this study, which was conducted during September and October 2013 under “Pathways From Poverty” project of Shiree and Practical Action Bangladesh .
Time trend analysis and other qualitative data shows that parents of child labourers were often also child labourers themselves. Children of illiterate parents are also more likely to become child labourers. Children of parents with the skills of reading, writing and using different scale are less susceptible to be child labourers as they had higher earnings . They have the scope to be enrolled in different crafts and artisan work where minimum reading and measuring skills are required Existing studies also found that child labourers with no literacy are more likely to work in agricultural and labour intensive work and they are lower paid whereas current child labour with five or more years schooling are found in technical based employment like workshops, carpentry, motor repair and driving. Children working in technical areas earn more compared to child workers in agricultural and other daily wage sectors.
Gender parity is an issue among the extreme poor living in embankments. Girls are more likely to work as low paid domestic workers often with experience of physically torture. Domestic workers and agriculture labourers have similar experiences as this work does not bring long term economic resilience. Some positive changes have been revealed among the poor parents. If there are more more children in the household parents send the elder one to work and invest money in education for the younger children. Therefore younger children have better opportunity to work in a job with higher earnings and scope of to be small entrepreneurs.
Therefore the study recommended that policy implementation needs to be reinforced in the Primary Education so that poor parents can understand the importance of completion at least Primary Education both for girls and boys. Also some social protection measures need to be taken in the climatic hot spot areas particularly for the children of extreme poor households where they will have scope to learn vocational skills along with formal basic education so that they can compete better in the changing situation.No Comments » | Add your comment
The Amazon. Its big. Very green. Amazing. And scary.
After 11 attempts that’s the best I can do as a description. Sorry!
My first attempts were poetic in a bad poetry kind of way. Reading them back I hit delete each time. Fortunately though one of the reasons I’m here in Bolivia is that Sam Jones, The Guardian Global Development Correspondent, is also here to see Practical Actions work – and Sam from what I’ve seen so far is brilliant with words.
But let me tell you a little about our work and the people we are working with.
As a result, probably of climate change, the Amazon region is experiencing more, and more severe, weather events. The communities we spoke with yesterday talked of once in a generation floods happening twice in the last 3 years. The rivers rise by 4 or 5 metres and everything is washed away. People are trapped. Everything is lost.
Practical Action started working with these communities before the last and most severe flood improving nutrition through diversifying and enhancing farming practices but when the floods came the emphasis had to shift firstly to help re-building with new and more resistant seeds, re-stocking animals and helping communities put plans in place so they were as ready as possible –for example so that everyone knows what to do the next time a flood comes. We are working on this now. We are also exploring other support the communities are desperate for like access to a decent, clean water supply – getting technical drawings in place so together we can work to get permission to build (in the Bolivian Amazon building is now tightly regulated) and starting to look for funding.
However I do want to share 5 things that have stuck in my mind
- It might have been harder to believe what people were saying about the extreme river level rise if I couldn’t still see the marks of the flooding in the trees.
- People talked about how they were stuck without help for 27 days and the children – who wear flip flop type shoes – got ill and their feet affected by water.
- Animals can swim and are desperate too.
- The communities we visited were some of those closest to the towns – for example 100 minutes by boat and a 35 minute walk through the jungle. Others were more than 10 hours away.
- The Bolivian met office is forecasting heavy rains again this year – although hopefully not as bad as last (desperately hope they are right).
And finally I want to talk about dogs. As we walked through the jungle and got closer to the village first one man and then another joined us each had dogs with them. The first dog I saw was a mid-sized terrier type wagging its tail and sticking close to its master. When I looked more closely, just below its neck, at the top of its shoulder the dog had a very nasty raised pink wound – when I looked again it had obviously been caused by teeth – too big for any of the other dogs I saw. A few minutes later I saw another dog with a whole series of bite scars down its back. Sam who is fluent in Spanish asked about the cause – and we learnt that the dogs protect their people and the domesticated animals from pumas.
The Amazon is immensely beautiful but a very difficult place to live. Living with the threat of floods made worse by climate change is scary.No Comments » | Add your comment
Last year, I presented a paper in ICT4Ag conference, Kigali, Rwanda. One of the most interesting presentations I saw was ‘Counterfeit Products Make the Poor Poorer’ by Kisitu Bruce, Consultant, International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC).
According to Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), fake agro chemicals account for about 30% of the total agrochemical market. Research reveals that our farmers are using 10-15 times more pesticide for fruit production and 10 times for vegetable production, which really are very bad for environment and peoples’ health. This also increases production costs and decreases the crop production.
A farmer goes to an agro dealer shop to purchase herbicide to spray on weeds in his garden. After 7-14 days of spraying, he goes to the garden again and realizes that the weeds have instead grown further. This is possibly because he used fake herbicide.
Fake products not only affect the farmers but lead to unfair trade, undesirable effects to the environment, loss to the economy, loss of employment and people become poorer.
The International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) developed a simple mobile tool, which, works with both smart and standard phones. It was piloted by IFDC with collaboration from Croplife Africa Middle East (CLAME), Croplife Uganda (CLU) and Government of Uganda by using a technology similar to that used by telecoms for airtime top-up. This technology is widely used even in rural areas and on standard mobile phones. This technology was developed by Sproxil and was first used to protect Nigerian consumers from fake diabetes medication.
Croplife Africa Middle East (CLAME) developed a sticker with three levels of authentication. These included a holospot (ideal for inspectors), barcode and scratch off label. The stickers were placed on three product categories and distributed in the market. A farmer visited an agro dealer shop, paid for the agro chemical and was encouraged to scratch and authenticate immediately after purchase. After scratching, a 12 digit number is displayed which you send via SMS to a short code and within 20 seconds receive a message notifying them whether the product is genuine or fake.
The results were captured using a very simple mobile inventory tracking application developed by the IFDC team. The tool was used by the agro dealers to track as well as report the movement of their stock. The partners concluded that the methodology – a combination of e-verification, retailer training and outreach to farmers – represents a viable means of substantially reducing, and eventually eliminating, counterfeit inputs.
The key issue here is to get all telecoms and governments agree that this type of intervention is of potential economic benefit. So, everyone should collaborate to enable cross-carrier toll free numbers or drastically reduce the SMS costs for such interventions.
One of the things, I have learnt, is you cannot implement such a project on your own. You need to capitalize on existing expertise, knowledge and resources.
The pilot presents and promotes an intelligent and well-designed strategy for the elimination of counterfeit inputs, informed by past experience and this strategy can easily be adopted in other sectors like health and consumer products, which are equally affected by counterfeit.No Comments » | Add your comment
This morning I arrived in La Paz, Bolivia after a 30 hour journey from the UK. For the next four weeks I will be blogging from Latin America as I meet up with journalists, film crews, vicuñas, alpacas and the hurly-burly of the COP 20 talks in Lima at the start of next month. The trip is by far the longest I have done since starting work at Practical Action, and, for me, it will present me with some major challenges.
1) Altitude – At the moment, my main concern is not getting, or at least coping with, altitude sickness in La Paz – the highest capital city in the world at 3,500 metres above sea level. I’ve felt light headed and breathless throughout the day here, but tomorrow I go up a further 1,500 metres to Apolobamba to see Vicuña farmers herding and shearing their animals against a stunning backdrop. Either that, or I turn green, vomit and spend a humiliating two days next to an oxygen tank.
2) Language – I aware of how annoying us Brits can be with our refusal to learn other languages using the age old tactic of bellowing loudly until we make ourselves understood, so I have been diligently trying to brush up on my Spanish in the weeks leading up to this trip so that I can interview the people we work with and interact with my colleagues properly. Trouble is, when confronted by some machine-gun fast Español, any confidence rapidly drains and the blank look on my face gives the game away…
3) Getting heard at the COP talks - I´ve managed to get entry into the COP20 talks later this month, so that I can help our policy team get their messages across to the politicians who hold the purse strings and the power. This represents a fantastic opportunity for me to do all those things I´ve been asking my colleagues to do all this time. On the other hand, it is also a huge intimidating event, the likes of which I´ve never experienced before. Achieving what we want will undoubtedly be a challenge.
4) Speaking at the University in Bolivia - in a moment of unparalleled weakness I agreed to speak to up to 200 Bolivian students about my work & the British media in a sort of a Q&A session, alongside Guardian journalist Sam Jones. The scale of the task, not to mention the weakness of my Spanish, is now dawning on me. I am truly terrified.
5) Filming in Peru - BBC World are putting together a new series of their Horizons programme in 2015, which looks at the use of technology to overcome problems we face in the world today. Naturally, Practical Action´s work is a great fit for them, so they approached us to see if we had any ideas. Recklessly, I told them I would be in Peru looking at how we use mobile phone technology to help predict landslides and guard against them in future. The result? This section of the programme will now consist of a fly-on-the-wall style documentary looking at my visit and interviews with the people involved in the project. Cue more terror.
So that´s that…keep up to date with whether they come to pass here!4 Comments » | Add your comment
In September, I spent a few days in Chikwawa, in Malawi’s lower Shire region. My mission was to collect case studies on the current situation facing farmers before the implementation of the Sustainable Energy for Rural Communities (SE4RC) project.
During this process, I got to hear and witness some of the difficult situations women in the area face. Indeed women can do anything to ensure that there is food on the table to sustain their families.
Thats the story of Edith Willison, a smallholder farmer in Chikwawa. She is a single mother and she is responsible for fending for her family. Life has not been easy for her and her children. She wakes up very early every day and walks up to four kilometres to fetch water for her family’s domestic use before she goes to the fields. She grows maize, cassava and vegetables which she sells to get money to buy food and to pay for her children’s school fees and upkeep.
For the crops to grow well she uses a treadle pump to irrigate the crops. This is no easy job especially on an empty stomach given there are times when there will be nothing to eat in her house. She spends about five to six hours pedalling the treadle pump in order to water her plot.
This system of pumping water which Edith and other farmers in the area are using is not reliable. As a result, Edith had low harvests and is struggling to provide food for her children. During these hard times, she resorts to borrowing from colleagues who also do not have enough so at the end of the day the family can retire to bed with empty stomachs.
Practical Action will be introducing solar powered irrigation to farming areas in Zimbabwe and Malawi. The areas which the project will be implemented from are so poor and remote. They are not connected from the national electricity grid and unlikely to ever be connected because of their remoteness. Even if they were, the cost of the electricity would be exorbitant. However, using the abundant, free resource of the sun for solar voltaic panels to power pumps, water can be drawn from significantly deeper depths than a treadle pump. Instead of spending up to six to seven hours incessant pumping to irrigate their farms per day, Edith and other women can be using this valuable time to do other things like household chores, start small businesses, and attend to their children. Furthermore children can also attend school. With this technology the farmers can be sure of a viable and consistent supply of water for their crops.2 Comments » | Add your comment