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.
“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.
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.2 Comments » | Add your comment
Enneta Kudumba is one of the many farmers in Mutasa district, Manicaland Province who have successfully employed new farming technologies and methods to enhance their harvests given the detrimental effects of climate change.
54 year old Enneta from Nyachibva Village explains.
“I have been growing maize on large pieces of land for years, but with limited satisfaction due to erratic rainfall patterns. However, I am happy that the zai pit technology has brought fortunes and my productivity has improved.”
Zimbabwe, like most Southern African countries, has experienced the worst ever El Nino induced drought that left a number of farmers in Mutasa and other parts of the country counting their losses after a poor harvest.
Located at the heart of the high veld region, Mutasa District has variable agroecological zones with maize farmers at the other end of the area experiencing rainfall shortages. This has affected the agro-based livelihoods both socially and economically. The area also boasts small to large dams that are utilised by the farmers for their horticultural activities.
The Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme (LFSP) introduced zai pit technology in a bid to arrest the problem of hunger in areas experiencing massive crop failure.
“Zai pit technology, introduced by the Zimbabwe Livelihoods and Food Security Programme, changed my life,” said Kudumba. “I am very happy with the results. This year, for instance, I managed to harvest a tonne of maize. Prior I would till acres of land and harvest less than a tonne of maize”
Kudumba said she dug 400 pits, with one pit accommodating six maize plants and managed to grew 2,700 plants on her one acre piece of land.
What is a zai pit?
Zai pits are infield conservation works which are being adopted as a climate smart way of farming in view of the threat of climate change induced drought. The zai pit is prepared well in advance starting in July soon after harvesting. The zai pit measure 60 cm x 60 cm by 30 cm deep. You can plant six to eight plants in the pit. You need to apply 5 litres of well decomposed manure and a cup of compound D in August-September to give the soil adequate time to react with the manure. When the effective rains come in November and December you then plant and maintains the plots. You can use the principle of mulching in Zai pits and herbicide usage is encouraged.
Despite the practice being labour intensive, it has proved to be an effective weapon against hunger. Zai Pit technology is one of the most popular ways of conservation farming that keeps moisture in the soil for a longer period and also helps prevent soil erosion.3 Comments » | Add your comment
The Livestock Epidemio Surveillance Programme (LESP-ES) aims to improve the livelihoods and resilience to food insecurity of about 427,000 vulnerable rural smallholders in the three Eastern Sudan states Kassala, Gedaref and Red Sea.
The planned interventions aim to strengthen the technical capacities of regional veterinary services through achieving three results:
- Technical capacities for coordinated epidemio-surveillance and control of trans-boundary animal diseases strengthened at state level
- Diagnostic capacity of veterinary laboratories and quarantine facilities at state and locality levels improved.
- Awareness and skills of rural livestock producers and other stakeholders concerning animal health, production and trade are improved.
One of the main concerns is the improvement of the diagnostic capacity of veterinary laboratories and quarantine facilities at state and local levels. Activities that will help achieve this are the improvement of the work environment through rehabilitation of the Gedarif Veterinary Regional laboratory, provision of furniture and increasing the capacity of cold chain facilities for storage of samples. The Regional Veterinary Research Laboratory plays a crucial role in livestock export through the diagnosis of trade relevant diseases such as Brucella.
Dr. Hatim Hamad, director of the laboratory, indicated that the support he had received from Practical Action through LESP project is unprecedented and could not be afforded by the Ministry of Finance. He indicated that the enhancement of the work environment had contributed positively to best practices and the support to the cold chain facilities enable the laboratory to accommodate the samples of more than 13 veterinary professionals pursuing their Masters degrees as well as the training of veterinarians and veterinary technicians/
He also noted that the support received enabled the laboratory to open a new tick identification and classification unit taking in consideration the importance of tick borne diseases. He added that the epidemio-surveillance field missions executed through the project will enable the collection of tick samples from different state localities and during this period he had successfully identified Hyaloma species for the first time in Gedarif State.
He indicated that the provision of better diagnostic tools and equipment will improve the diagnostic capacities of the lab tremendously and help in meeting the OIE requirement which is considered one of the major ways in which the programme has added value.
Dr Hamad expressed his appreciation for the efforts exerted by Practical Action towards the development of Eastern Sudan States and his wish to continue cooperation between Practical Action and Ministry of Livestock in the future.1 Comment » | Add your comment
People living in poverty in the conflict-stricken area of North Darfur face a severe shortage of money for household needs. They either endure the hardships or try to find someone to borrow money from. When it comes to women smallholders, they lack money for inputs and other cash needs in their household’s.
To address this problem, saving is a way forward. Those who can save then have funds for unexpected needs in the household and for timely investment in groups.
Practical Action Sudan, in partnership with the Women’s Development Association (WDAN) initiated training of horticulture smallholders using the Savings and Loan Association (SLA) approach.
SLA members save through the purchase of shares with a maximum purchase of five shares allowed per saving meeting. This allows for flexible saving depending on the surplus money members have. They meet weekly or monthly and continue saving for a period of nine to twelve months.
The project officer for the Community Initiative Sustained Development project within Practical Action Sudan, explained:
“The aim of SLA is to enable resource-poor households to access financial services in order to finance income generating activities that would increase their income and lift them permanently above the poverty line. It enables money to be available at the right time for purchase of inputs and other energy costs.”
SLA groups are providing smallholder women with the opportunity to save and borrow flexibly without having to go to the bank. With this savings methodology there are no problems of high minimum deposit requirements, hidden charges, complicated procedures, or difficulty in accessing loans.
The funds assist in building resilient communities and provide social safety nets, as they are used for inputs purchase, diversifying into other income generating activities, immediate household needs and provide room for assistance to members in case of death, disease or natural disasters. Such diverse services are not provided by local moneylenders, as they are not willing to provide for the poorest.
The process is very transparent as it involves each and every member within the sharing and lending processes. The fund is shared out at the end of each cycle which is normally nine months to a year.
This SLA methodology has proved to be a success. This year 20 SLA groups have been established in Elfashir in North Darfur. Shares accrued range from a minimum of 500SDG (£62) to 700SDG from monthly savings. In addition, the groups also pay towards a social fund, which can be used, when a member is having acute problems, such as unexpected medical expenses.
Villages using this method have been successful in helping women to learn about saving, to enhance social links within their communities and to make their first investments.
The project team conducted monthly field visits to monitor the progress of loans saving committees. Committee members contributed an average amount of 25-30 SDG (£8) each month. 345 women have benefited and saved a total amount of 74,101 SDG. At the end of a cycle the money is distributed back to the group members. It is very important that every member’s money is placed in their hand.
In total 879 households have accessed LPG through this savings program in Elfashir in different districts and 76 women have access to loans to establish income generation activities.
Women were thankful to Practical Action and the Women Development Association Network for empowering them and enabling them to finance themselves and their family in the face of extreme economic hardship.
“Now I can confidently grow for the market because I have access to finance for inputs from my savings group. I was about to give up due to lack of money.”
Access to clean sources of energy, livelihood and finance has led to the building of self-respect and self-reliance in the community.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Agriculture: everywhere, yet nowhere
As an agriculturalist following the climate change negotiations (the ‘Conference of Parties’ or annual COPs) I used to think that agriculture was the most ‘not talked about’ topic. It was implicit everywhere, but nowhere in the text. Until, with great relief, food security was highlighted in the Paris Agreement.
Recognizing the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change
However, after a rather frustrating week at COP22, it now looks like agriculture is the most ‘not acted on’ topic!
No action on agriculture
Last week the developing countries (the G77 group) introduced a promising draft ‘COP decision’ on agriculture. The proposed text had a focus on ‘adaptation’ as this is the area where action and investment is desperately needed for food security and sustainable development for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – where goal 2 is “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. It also recognised that ‘mitigation’ (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) is a ‘co-benefit’ and therefore the importance of agriculture in reducing emissions.
However, the EU (supported by the USA) proposed an alternative text that called for direct action on mitigation and adaptation, including the use of biofuels to replace fossil fuels. Unfortunately the differences in emphasis (and a lack of trust about underlying intent), led to the withdrawal of the decision. So, yet again, the vital topic of how the COP should treat agriculture was relegated to the body convening for ‘technical discussions’ – for further discussion and to provide ‘advice’ to the COP.
A lack of strategy from COP22
Having a decision at COP 22 would have ensured progress and guided planning, implementation and finance at all levels. The decentralised planning process, through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), would have ensured that the resulting actions are appropriate to individual nation’s needs and priorities. If agriculture doesn’t have a COP decision to guide planning, it risks being forgotten as countries, donors and bilateral actions follow their own priorities.
Watching from the side lines it is hard to not draw the conclusion that somehow the winners in this are those who make money from the status quo – the industries and markets linked to intensive agriculture. Or perhaps developed nations, content with their preferential place in this troubled world, fearful of the cost of adaptation. Can’t they see that addressing the issue from an ‘adaptation with mitigation co-benefits’ perspective, is better than no action! And, failure to act soon will lead to much greater cost in the long run.
A constructive way forward
The Paris Agreement and its rapid and widespread ratification this year is unprecedented and historic. Even the UK has now signed.
Since agriculture is central to climate change the discussions will continue. However, discussion is not enough! Through its various bodies, the COP has been discussing agriculture for years (at least 6). Now is the time to use the Paris Agreement to unlock the door on planning and financing climate actions in agriculture.
Tackling adaptation using co-benefits approach
Practical Action’s ongoing work in South Asia to facilitate organic matter value chains as a strategy for addressing the problem of very low soil organic matter is just one example of ‘adaptation with mitigation co-benefits’ transforming agriculture – a clear win-win! Such ecological approaches address both adaption and mitigation as they improve long-term productivity and protect or build soil fertility, thereby combating degradation and the need for farmers to develop new land.
For me the greatest missing argument for action on agriculture now, is that, if investment and action is based on ecological principles, it can be genuinely inclusive and sustainable. It can be a win-win-win – for food security, rural livelihoods and the environment.No Comments » | Add your comment
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.
It 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.
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.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Nasima Khatun lives in a village, very near the mighty Jamuna river of Sirajganj. River water comes to destroy their kitchen garden almost every year during the months of July, August and September, the harvesting season for summer vegetables. During the post flood period vegetable scarcity in homes and local markets becomes acute. Most poor families just eat boiled rice with salt during the floods. The health and nutrition of the household becomes fragile. They have no idea how to come out of this situation.
To improve this situation, Practical Action Bangladesh under it’s Vulnerability to Resilience project arranged hands on training for 200 flood vulnerable families on bag gardening. This is a simple technology that protects the plant from root suffocation and rotting and avoids water logging. With a smile on her face, Nasima Khatun told me.
“I have harvested about 60 pieces of green fruit of white gourd and they are still now fruiting. I kept a few fruits to be matured for seed. I have sold 20 pieces, consumed 30 pieces and gifted to neighbours 10 pieces. Total market value was about 1200tk where as it was cost 20tk only to set a single bag garden.”
She continued, “I had no stress regarding food during the recent flood period. Following this method and using local materials, different types of vegetables could be grown. My neighbours did also. When the water rises we can move or raise the bag to keep it out of water except if the water touches our roof. Really, it is a fantastic technology that will increase our strength to live with flood without scaring at for food and nutrition.”1 Comment » | Add your comment
The agrarian economy of Bangladesh contributes more than 18% of the country’s GDP through employing around 45% of the labour force. We can take the pride in its achievement towards ensuring food security though debates remain around food safety and nutritional aspect.
There’s a common practice among our farmers of using excessive amount of fertilizers without understanding the nature of soil. As a result of the overuse of chemical fertilizers, the soil texture is deteriorating and at the same time farmers are spending more on agricultural inputs. Good yield depends on nutrient status and organic matter contents of soils to a great extent. To explain it in simpler language, organic contents in soil strata hold the water, nutrient within it and facilitate plants to absorb the same. Due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers, the level of organic content in Bangladesh has reduced to less than 1.5% which the ideal content is support to be around 4-5%. The situation is approaching to an alarming stage.
Bangladesh is generating huge amount of solid waste everyday and major portion of solid waste is organic and could be easily converted into compost or organic fertiliser. Further, about 80,000 tons of human waste is generated every day in the country which is polluting the environment. Even if we could use a certain portion of this waste could be converted into compost/ organic fertiliser, it would be a huge gain for the country. The gain should not be seen only from monetary perspective, rather, use of this compost could save the environment, reduce the surface water pollution, improve the soil health and increase soil fertility. We are yet to think comprehensively and utilize the full potentials of available resources around us.
Government is providing extensive subsidy for chemical fertilisers creating a business enabling environment for it which in turn is adversely impacting promotion of organic fertilisers. Time has come to echo for promotion of balanced fertilizer and creating a conducive policy environment for promotion of organic fertilisers.2 Comments » | Add your comment
Recently, I was in Rangpur and met some of our colleagues and partners and had the opportunity to discuss the associations established by our pumpkin producers. This is based on information and insights from that discussion.
Since 2009 Practical Action’s Extreme Poverty Programme has been working with river eroded communities to support their livelihoods and empower them economically. Pumpkin production in sandy land is one of the solutions that has been helping them to move out of poverty. However, Shiree (Pathways from Poverty- Stimulating Household Improvements Resulting in Economic Empowerment) the leading project of the programme dreamed of enabling the thousands of extreme poor living in the river embankment of the Tista river to enhance their capacity, skills and knowledge, particularly in the areas of agricultural production and marketing of the goods they produce.
In 2013-14, 5000 households engaged in sandbar cropping developed producer groups and associations for better marketing of their product. Thus, 250 producer groups and 20 associations were formed by the project beneficiaries.
How it is formed?
The project supported beneficiaries through a group approach and in each producer group there were 30 farmers. From each producer group 3-4 members were selected for the association (qualities considered were vocal in negotiating, skill at organizing people and interest in marketing work). Representatives from each producer group are the general members of the association. The association is run by a 10 member committee including one president, two vice presidents, one general secretary and one marketing information secretary and five general members.
How project has helped?
The producer group members were oriented through
workshops about marketing, market chains, pumpkin post-harvest management, storage, group marketing, selling pumpkin in weight, and grading pumpkin before selling. Pumpkin grading is very important to add value of the product as well as to maintain a long lasting relationship with buyers. The workshops also made them aware about how to bargain with buyers to get a better price, the importance of keeping communication open with buyers and the benefits of selling to local agents.
How does it function?
The association projects their production amount. They organize meeting, seminars and workshops among themselves with relevant market promoters. Taking the advantage of project support, they established linkages with relevant government agencies and private companies. Association leaders also organized exposure visits to potential market players for better marketing their pumpkins. They collected mobile numbers of almost all wholesale market actors and maintain communication with them so that they can get some information proactively. They have been encouraging producers to set up storage space at their home and sell at the collection centre later to get a better price. They also collect and keep updated information from different level market players.
In ensuring a fair price, the pumpkin producer association has been playing an important role for poor farmers.
In the last production season, 41MT pumpkin were exported to Malaysia through the association. From this, 210 farmers household benefited. The producers got BDT 2.5/ per kg more in comparison with the local market price.
Like many farmers, Md. Bakiul Mia (Vice president) and Azizul Hoque (Member) are satisfied to see the previous group activities and their success. They are willingly to continue the old producer’s group activities to get a better price. Similarly, it is also observed that because of the association, now farmers are better united, and they are storing pumpkins using a grading system in order to sell to wholesalers in a group approach.
In the last production season, the farmers produced 4000 MT pumpkin. Thus, in compare with the production size, the exported amount is low. Therefore, alternative national or international markets need to be explored. Additionally, buyers prefer to buy only a particular size of pumpkin (2-6 kg of weight) but the farmers mostly produce large pumpkins. Hence, exploring suitable and alternative markets is the ultimate priority work of the group. Last but not least, the association is just crawling to move forward; thus, perhaps they need some technical support from the local authority or a development organization for few more seasons.
The author acknowledges contribution of Md. Abdus Salam and Mizanur Rahman, Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP project), Rangpur Regional Office.No Comments » | Add your comment
Practical Action has established associations for pastoralists in Gadarif to help improve livelihoods.
Financed by the banks, these associations offer vaccinations and other health care benefits from the Department of Livestock and control of epidemics in Gadarif. There are more than 70 such associations.
The project, working in collaboration with the livestock department, has intervened to raise women’s awareness of how to raise and care for animals. Three training courses have been completed in the region, each with 15 women attending.
These women have been trained on drugs, first aid, wound treatment, injections and optimised animal feed. They were also shown how to identify common diseases among humans and animals, and how to avoid them.
The advantages of this training will be reduced animal mortality, increased productivity, better animal welfare and women’s involvement in primary health care.
At the political level, the Legislative Council praised Practical Action on the training for the women pastoral association about the basics of primary veterinary care and reducing losses of animals.1 Comment » | Add your comment