Food and agriculture | Blogs

  • Pumpkin producers association – a marketing platform of the extreme poor

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    September 19th, 2016

    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.

    DSC_0018

    Pumpkin storage at beneficiary household

    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.

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    Pumpkin stored for selling later

    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

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    Group discussion on formation of the Association

    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.

    Early impact
    In ensuring a fair price, the pumpkin producer association has been playing an important role for poor farmers.

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    Selling pumpkin through the Association

    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.

    Challenges
    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.

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  • Empowering women in pastoral communities in Sudan

    Fatima Mahmoud A/Aziz

    September 18th, 2016

    Practical Action has established associations for pastoralists in Gadarif to help improve livelihoods.

    LESP livestock training GadarifFinanced 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.

    LESP livestock training GadarifThese 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.

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  • Livestock Epidemio-Surveillance project in East Sudan

    Bahga Galal

    September 8th, 2016

    The three states of eastern Sudan – Kassala, Gadarif and Red Sea – are among the poorest in Sudan.  Chronic poverty and food insecurity are widespread. More than two thirds of the region’s population live in rural areas and just over a third of poor households in these states keep livestock.map sudan

    Despite Sudan raising more than 15 million livestock in 2012, this sector remains severely under-developed. Once of the main problems in the sector in Sudan, and Eastern Sudan in particular, is the high prevalence of animal diseases, including trans-boundary diseases. These have the potential to seriously affect the health, productivity and trade of livestock and therefore constitute a real threat to rural and pastoral livelihoods.

    Practical Action is implementing a €3.5 million European Commission funded  project to reduce hunger and poverty by improving the health of livestock.  It will focus on training women in rural communities, who traditionally spend more time in their homes and on basic animal husbandry.

    A lack of knowledge and infrastructure means that many animal diseases cross borders to and from Eritrea and Ethiopia via huge trading markets in which livestock is bought and sold. The resulting problems undermine the entire region’s ability to trade and export cattle to the rest of the world through the traditional gateway of Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

    Veterinary authorities lack the resources and capacity to detect, monitor and control trans-boundary animal diseases. This is compounded by the weakness of veterinary services and poor infrastructural facilities across the region. Nevertheless, there is considerable potential to increase the level of protection of livestock keepers from threatening animal diseases by strengthening institutional capacities for epidemio-surveillance and coordination of trans-boundary animal disease control at the state level.

    Overall objective

    IMG-20160906-WA0087The overall objective of the Livestock Epidemio-Surveillance Project (LESP-ES) is to reduce poverty and increase food security in Sudan by strengthening the livelihoods and resilience of rural smallholders through livestock productivity. The project will implement animal disease surveillance and control is in the three eastern states of Gadarif, Kassala and Red Sea in Sudan.

    Enhancing animal health, production and trade

    The protection and enhancement of livestock health, in particular for small ruminants, is the entry point for the project because most of the vulnerable rural households keep animals to support home consumption of milk, eggs and meat.  It also provides a coping mechanism to earn income from the sale of animals and their products to domestic and export markets.

    There is huge potential for increasing the level of protection of livestock keepers from threatening animal diseases and subsequent improvement of food security and income generation of a large number of smallholders and agro-pastoralists including women,  by

    1. Strengthening technical capacities for epidemio-surveillance and coordination of trans-boundary animal diseases control at states levels and in the sub-region
    2. Improving diagnostic capacities for recognition of priority livestock diseases to comply with OIE and WTO standards required for trade of livestock commodities
    3. Enhancing the access of smallholders and pastoralist communities to livestock husbandry extension services focusing on awareness creation on improved animal health and resilience against epidemics with the aim to improve household food security and income generating livestock activities in rural areas.
    4. Capacity building of veterinary personnel and community animal health workers with regard to epidemio-surveillance and the control of trade-relevant livestock diseases.

    LESP SudanIt is expected that the ongoing  implementation of the proposed interventions strengthen the technical capacities for coordinated epidemio-surveillance and control of trade-relevant animal diseases to enhance animal health, livestock production and trade in the Eastern Sudan region bringing tangible benefits to a large number of agro-pastoralists and smallholders in Kassala, Red Sea and Gedaref states.

    How this project will help

    These interventions meet the basic demands of the target groups for increased income generation from livestock raising, supporting increase of food security and improvement of livelihood for a large number of smallholders, agro-pastoralists, including women in Kassala, Red Sea and Gedaref states.

    Also their knowledge and understanding concerning enhancement of livestock productivity, improvement of disease control and resilience building against environmental hazards will rise through tailored training and dissemination of extension packages.

    Target groups were involved in the design of the programme and development of main interventions. Stakeholders were encouraged to implement feasible activities which certainly improve animal health and protection of their livestock against the devastating impact of trans-boundary animal diseases.  As a result they willso that they will benefit from improved productivity of their animals, and from the economic benefits of the trade and exportation of livestock towards improvement of their rural livelihoods.

    Beneficiaries

    This project aims to improve livelihoods and resilience against food insecurity of about 427,000 vulnerable rural smallholders in the region, through reinforcement of technical capacities for epidemio-surveillance and control of trade-sensitive & trans-boundary animal diseases.

    The technical capacities of regional veterinary services will be strengthened through the training of key technical personnel and community animal health workers, who will be identified by local state veterinary authorities.

    LESP aims to improve

    • The technical capacity for coordinated epidemio-surveillance and control of trans-boundary animal diseases at state level
    • The diagnostic capacity of veterinary laboratories and quarantine facilities at state and local levels
    • The awareness and skills of rural livestock producers and other stakeholders concerning animal health, production and trade

    This project should enable the very people who need this most to take control of their livestock and their lives.  The scale of the work means that we can deliver real change to the region over the three years it is running.

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  • Determination leads to success


    August 1st, 2016

    Sushil Chaudhary, a 22 years old young farmer, is a model farmer for the youth who are migrating towards the cities and Gulf countries in search of jobs and better earnings, instead of generating self-employment using own resources.

    Sushil lives along with his seven-member family in Hikmatpur Village Development Committee (VDC) of Kailali district in Far-Western Nepal with a small land holding, i.e. 0.1 ha (10914.60 square feet). The family source of income was only wage labouring and subsistence farming that only partly fulfilled family needs. Sushil was forced to seek employment in the Gulf. But his family was unable to sponsor him for the cost required for employment in the Gulf.

    Sushil Chaudhary and his poultry and pig farms.

    Sushil Chaudhary in front of his poultry and pig farms.

    Because of this, he had no option other than wage labouring until he heard about the community library in his locality, which was helping community people improve their earnings and livelihoods.

    In 2015, he visited Tikapur Community Library to seek information for self-employment and a better livelihood. Sushil was advised on an integrated farming system for sustainable income which was suitable for people with small land holdings.

    With the guidance of a community worker and information from the library, Sushil began vegetable and pig farming. He participated in vegetable farming and animal husbandry training provided by the library. In the first year itself he was able to earn Nepali Rupees (NPR) 43,000 by selling vegetables and NPR 39,050 by selling two pigs (1 USD = 100 NPR). He expects more income this year as one of his piga gave birth to 10 piglets and all of them are healthy. Besides farming, Sushil is also pursuing his Bachelor’s degree and is in his second year of college.

    Sushil says,

    “Until I visited the library, I was unable to decide what to do for better earnings… The guidance and technical information in the library helped me make up my mind…”

    He adds, “On account of what I learned, I have adopted commercial pig farming along with vegetable farming as a method of income generation. I initiated with four pigs in the pigpen constructed by myself. Two of the pigs I had been raising were recently sold for meat at the rate of NPR 170- NPR 200 per kg for the net price of NPR. 39,050. Furthermore, one of my pigs recently gave birth to ten piglets. Not very long ago, I used to be unemployed but now I have a reliable source of income. Tikapur Community Library’s Technical Knowledge Service section has not only helped me but also a number of other villagers who didn’t use to have much knowledge about agriculture or animal husbandry.”

    Embolden by his success he is planning to expand his farming by leasing more land and rearing more pigs. With a smile on his face, he says,

    “I am helping other youths in the community by advising them that one can achieve a goal if he has determination and zest to seek the right help.”

    Practical Answers Service in Tikapur Community Library, Kailali, is supported by Nepal Flood Resilient Project (NFRP) funded by Zurich Foundation.

     

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  • Governing interactions lead to partnerships

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    A tour ...

    A tour …

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  • Practical Action’s top Dads!

    Annie Halliman

    June 6th, 2016

    The 19th of June is Father’s Day, so I thought what better time to share some stories of some amazing fathers that Practical Action has worked with around the world, only made possible because of our kind and generous supporters.

    5. Anthony Ndugu, Kenya

    IMG_1606Before Practical Action began working with Anthony, a pit latrine emptier in Nakuru, Kenya, he was shy and felt ashamed of the job he did. He didn’t feel respected by his community and would often come home covered in waste. He even felt too ashamed to tell his son what his job was. Now, Practical Action has provided him with protective clothing and the tools to carry out his vital role safely, he is proud of his job and feels that the community finally recognises how important it is.

    “The family are so happy, they are fed and my children can get an education.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers just like Anthony.  Sweeper Safety Kit could help sweepers like Anthony, from a similar project in Bangladesh, to stay safe from disease whilst they carry out the important task of protecting their community.

     

    4. Richard Tlou, Zimbabwe

    Richard is 46 years old and lives in Mphaya village in the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. He has been blind for 5 years. Life is tough for Richard and his wife. They have three of their own children and also care for his brother’s children. For as long as he can remember, he hasn’t had access to clean and safe toilet facilities. This means that they have no other choice but to relieve themselves in nearby bushes causing health risks for the community and a lack of dignity for all. For Richard, this was especially hard.  Having lost his sight, he had to rely on someone to take him and he could not see if there were people passing by. But Richard now has regained his dignity. Through Practical Action’s support, he is the proud owner of his own clean and safe toilet and his family are now protected from the risk of disease.

    “It has given me my dignity and will improve the health of my family.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help fathers just like Richard. A gift of Marve-loos training from you could help train toilet builders, enabling families in Zimbabwe to earn a living to provide for their children as well as ensuring they and their communities are safe from disease.

     

    3. Winnie Sebata, Zimbabwe

    Winnie is 67 years old and lives in Mashaba, a rural village in the Gwanda district of Zimbabwe. All of his children are grown up but he is now caring for his 3 nieces who are orphans. Up until his retirement, Winnie was a primary school teacher, but now he works in his wife’s shop in the business centre of Mashaba. This shop is now benefitting from being connected to Zimbabwe’s largest off-grid solar plant, built by Practical Action, in an area that previously had no access to electricity. Not only does the shop now provide local members of the community with an opportunity to access electricity, Winnie and his wife have now also been able to expand their business, providing employment to local people and generating additional income with which he can care for his orphaned nieces.

    “We really hope this project will change the lives of this community and change the lives of people of Zimbabwe.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers like Winnie. Energising Education could help provide energy to a school in Zimbabwe, giving children a brighter future.

     

    2. Adam Ibrahim Mohamed, Sudan

    IMG_2832Adam is a farmer in North Darfur, Sudan. He is 52 years old and married with children. He lives in Zam Zam village, an arid area of Darfur  where farmers struggle to grow their crops because of the lack of water. But that has all changed. Practical Action has helped Adam and others like him by constructing a dam, which provides vital water to enable him to grow his crops. He can now grow enough to feed his family and even has enough to sell, so he can generate an income and send his children to school.

    As fathers, we have responsibilities; feeding our families, sending our children to school. Our life has improved and our children will continue to get an education.”

    By buying a Practical Present today, you could help Fathers just like Adam. A Super Sapling could help farmers in this drought-prone area to re-build their communities and plan a brighter future for their children.

    1. Your Dad!

    untitledOrder a Practical Present from Practical Action today and tell your Dad why you think he is number 1! When you order a Practical Present, you will be making a real difference and changing the lives of people around the world and at the same time, you can let your Dad know how special he is to you.

    www.presents.practicalaction.org

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  • Learnings from a food security project in far-western Nepal

    Sanjib Chaudhary

    May 17th, 2016

    When I look back, it still gives me a reason to visit the place again and again. The trip to far-western Nepal, our project sites, was a whirlwind – with all sorts of emotions jumbled up – getting me excited at each turn of the road.

    Though harsh life in the rugged terrain is a daily affair for people living in abject penury, it is a moment of revelation if you are a first-time traveller to those areas.

    The Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security (POSAN-FS) project being implemented in four remote districts of far-western Nepal – Achham, Bajhang, Bajura and Doti with an overall objective to contribute to enhance regional food and nutritional security.

    Out of the four, we visited three districts and had chance to hear the real stories from the horse’s mouth.

    Here are few nuggets of knowledge I gleaned from the tour.

    If people find opportunities at home, they would never migrate.

    Achham and other neighouring districts in the Far-Western Nepal suffer from a chronic disease of seasonal migration. No wonder, the district has the highest number of HIV cases in Nepal. People, from here, leave for India to earn a living every year.

    Man Bahadur BK recently returned from Gujarat, India after spending 35 years there. Along with him was his wife, Chandra Devi BK, who had been with him in India for the last 10 years. Man Bahadur worked in a Bajaj motorcycles showroom for many years and later started a small business of his own.

    Rearing chicken provides extra income to road-side shopkeepers.

    Raising chickens provides extra income to rural shopkeepers.

    After returning to his home in Achham, Man Bahadur has opened a shop – a mom and pop store selling items of daily need. To augment his earnings, he has kept three goats along with chickens provided by the POSAN-FS project. The project has also provided corrugated galvanised iron sheets for roofing the coop.

    Man Bahadur also showed us a small patch of tomato farm by the side of his shop. The couple is affiliated with the Punyagiri group of farmers who cultivate vegetables and spices and use kitchen waste water for irrigation.

    Though traditional crops are neglected, they are nutritious.

    Talking with local people, we came to know that they had left cultivating traditional crops that are nutritious. With the awareness raised by the project and its support, they have been encouraged to grow neglected crops like yams, millet and buck-wheat among others.

    Though yams are neglected, they are nutritious. Image by Flickr user Wendell Smith. CC BY 2.0

    Though yams are neglected, they are nutritious. Image by Flickr user Wendell Smith. CC BY 2.0

    Climbing down a hillock, we could see newly grown yam saplings on the erstwhile barren slopes. When asked, Project Manager Puspa Poudel explained, “Yams have been introduced as nutritious but neglected crops.”

    Kitchen gardens are essential for food security.

    Among the piles of problems, water scarcity is another ubiquitous problem here. People need to walk miles to fetch a pail of water. In these conditions, thinking of growing vegetables in kitchen garden is a far-fetched idea.

    Reaching the Janalikot Village, we met with Saraswati Karmi, a young farmer in her early twenties working in her vegetable plot.

    Saraswati proudly showed us the brinjals and chillies in her kitchen garden. Standing next to the vegetables was a healthy crop of turmeric. Nearby was a small ditch for waste-water collection from the kitchen. Though the area is parched with water scarcity, the small puddle stored enough water to grow vegetables, enough to eat and sell in the market.

    Kitchen garden not only provides vegetables for family consumption, but is also a source of income to rural farmers.

    Kitchen garden not only provides vegetables for family consumption, but is also a source of income to rural farmers.

    Introduced to kitchen garden concept few months ago, Saraswati is self-sufficient, at least for vegetables. She doesn’t need to buy them from market any more. She now saves nearly NRs 1200 (around USD 12) per month, which else, would be used in buying vegetables.

    Besides kitchen gardening, she has been raising chickens provided by the project. Out of the 19 chickens given to her by the project,10 were ready to be sold in the market. They looked like local chickens and would sell at least at NRs 800 per chicken.

    The kitchen garden produce and chickens are taking care of the family’s food security. Now, instead of spending, they are saving!

    Know more about the POSAN-FS project.

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  • Krishi call centre helps fisheries sector in Bangladesh

    Halim Miah

    April 8th, 2016

    Krishi Call Centre, a low cost solution to the extension challenges of the fisheries sector in Bangladesh

    “Hello, I am Ahsan Habib from Kishoreganj, my fishes are dying due to skin ulcer. What are the treatment measures for carp ulcerative syndrome? “

    Ahsan Habib is a small scale farmer. He has a pond with an area of 60 decimal (800 sq m approx). He farms carp, tilapia and local catfish in his pond. This season he stocked his pond with carp and tilapia fish. But, during first week of January he discovered his fish were dying with red ulcers on their bodies.

    He knew about the Krishi Call Centre from one of his neighbours, so he called 16123 for suggestions. The fisheries executive suggested he use lime and salt to disinfect the pond water and KMnO4 (potassium permanganate) to help the fish recover. After two days he called back to say that his fish were better now and wanted some suggestions for a proper feeding scheme. After few months, we learned that Mr. Shahidul saved his fishes and expected a 60 to 70,000 (£6,000-7,000) taka net profit. Every day Krishi Call Centre gets this type of call from local farmers about their problems.

    Fisheries for poverty reduction

    fishery BangladeshAttaining higher fisheries growth is a key factor in poverty alleviation in rural areas. Bangladesh has extensive aquatic resources and fish and fisheries are an indispensable part of the lives and livelihood of the people of this country.

    Bangladesh is a south Asian country, situated between latitude 20°34′ and 26°39′ north and longitude 80°00′ and 92°41′ east.  Hundreds of river crisscross the country. The river water is the soul of our country and provides fertility for our motherland. The climate of Bangladesh is congenial to fisheries and the country is endowed with many inland bodies of water. Our country has productive freshwater fisheries comprising 6,27,731 hectares of enclosed water and 40,24,934 of open water. The Bay of Bengal marine resources covers a huge area of 46,99,345 hectares. Bangladesh has 710 km of coastline and 25,000 sq. km of coastal area with a huge population, supporting a variety of land uses.

    The deltaic country is rich in fishery resources including 260 freshwater fish species, 475 marine fish species, 24 freshwater shrimp species, 36 marine shrimp species and other important species. In 2013-2014  Bangladesh produced 34,10,254 tons of fishery products and fish provides about 60% of our daily animal protein intake. In Bangladesh, fisheries sector plays a vital role in our national economy regarding employment generation, animal protein supply, foreign currency earning and poverty alleviation. More than 11% of the total population depends directly and indirectly on the fisheries sector for their livelihood.  The fisheries sector contributes 4.37% to GDP, 23.37% to agricultural GDP and 2.01% of the country’s export earnings. Fish is one of the most familiar, popular, tasty and nutritionally enriched food items of the world including Bangladesh. As a result of the global market economy along with so many food items, garments, and pharmaceutical products,  fish and fishery products also get the opportunity to enter the global market. Thus the fisheries play a crucial role in the national economy of Bangladesh.

    Challenges and opportunities in extension services

    krishiSmall scale pond farming has great potential for contributing to the increase in aquaculture production in coastal regions. These fishery resources are facing a severe threat of depletion because of lack of proper guidelines. The latest communication facilities like newspapers, radio, television and internet are used for disseminating knowledge to farmers.  There is no doubt that ICTs can play a vital role in giving better access to information in a cost effective way to the millions of poor, smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs. Mobile phone based call centers play a role in agribusiness in many countries. In Bangladesh, the total number of mobile phone subscriptions reached 131.085 million at the end of February, 2016.

    It is therefore timely for farmers that the Krishi Call Centre offers real-time advice on farming issues in Bangladesh. The Centre was launched in June 2014 by the Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury by dialing to the number, 16123, whilst addressing the National Digital Fair at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the city. This is an initiative between Practical Action and the Agricultural Information Services (AIS), of the Ministry of Agriculture.

    Farmers can call 16123, the number of the centre from any mobile operator to seek advice on any problem related to livestock, fisheries and agriculture production. A farmer from any part of the country can contact to the Krishi Call Centre by dialing mobile number 16123 at the nominal cost  of 0.25 taka for a minute and share their problems/queries related to farming in local dialect. The specialists at the Krishi Call Centre provide suggestions to the farmers immediately. If the call centre operator is unable to address the farmer’s query, they consult with other specialists and then provide feedback.

    The southern part of the country is endowed with vast aquatic resources where aquaculture is a promising sector. But aquaculture is beset with numerous problems, especially disease. Fish farmers face immense problems when their farms are affected by diseases. Very few support centres are available in Bangladesh where they can get crucial information. Sometimes they go to their fisheries officer but fisheries officers are busy most of the time due to lack of enough manpower. It is also almost impossible for officers to visit farms and solve their problems in a single day. Hence, a large number of fish die and farmers lose faith in fish production.

    Another promising sector in aquaculture is shrimp farming.  The government earn a huge amount of foreign currency from this, but its is not free from problems. A viral disease can wipe out a farmer’s whole stock of shrimp and many fish farmers have lost everything. If farmers had enough guidelines regarding shrimp farming, they could easily avoid this horrendous loss.

    DRR and climate change risks solutions in the fisheries sector

    Climate change is an emerging challenge for the fisheries sector. The erratic weather makes our farming and fishing communities more vulnerable. Bangladesh is a low lying country which makes it extremely vulnerable to sea level rise.  It is ranked first in countries affected by the adverse effects of climate change. Every year farmers face massive losses due to heavy rain or flooding. Flooding happens recurrently in some regions in Bangladesh but climate change has made this seasonal phenomenon more unpredictable. Earlier the rainy season lasted from mid of June to September but now it rains even in late of March and carries on until October.

    Practical Answers in Bangladesh have uploaded 500 questions and answers related to DRR and Climate Change adaptation solutions for better farming. These 500 questions and answers have been collected from farmers who are most at risk of flood and other environmental disaster. Zurich Flood Resilience Program has been supporting this. Those questions and answers are validated by the national experts from the Agricultural Information Services and uploaded in the repository of the Krishi Call Centre for answering the questions of farmers throughout the country.

    There are other problems small fish farmers face which hinder them from profiting from their farming, such as feed prices and the adulteration of fish feed. Feed industries do not maintain the appropriate composition of the feed according to their specification. But farmers can prepare their own on farm fish feed with proper guidelines.

    Fish farmers are often exploited by middlemen when they sell their fish to consumers through middlemen. If farmers are regularly updated with price information about their products, they can secure their expected price.

    The government does have some support programs for fisheries and fisher community.  But, due to lack of literacy many farmers cannot attain those services. By asking the Krishi Call Centre a small farmer or new entrepreneur can benefit without intermediaries.

    incoming call rate pie chartAt present of the total incoming calls to Krishi Call Centre, about 71% are agricultural calls, 17% livestock calls and 12% fisheries related. The call rate in case of fisheries is comparatively lower than others. Among the total calls in fisheries, about 43% are disease related, 27% management related, 26% culture related and 4% have other aquaculture related queries. Most of the calls on fisheries come from the northern part but fisheries dominate the middle and southern part of the country. It is necessary to disseminate information about the call centre and its importance to every corner of the country to ensure a golden revolution in our agricultural sectors. Different media workers, newspaper agencies, government offices and NGOs should come forward to publicize Krishi Call Centre services among the grass root level farmers.

    Other contributors: Md. Aminul Islam and Mohammad Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan

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  • Impact of low cost irrigation technologies on livelihoods and women’s empowerment

    Rabindra Bahadur Singh

    March 28th, 2016

    ICIMOD held an international workshop on water, livelihood and gender nexus recently in Kathmandu. We were also invited to share our experience.  The following is the full script of the presentation I made on the impact of low cost irrigation technologies (micro irrigation technologies) on livelihood and women empowerment.


     

    The impact of irrigation on livelihoods is obvious. However, the impact of conventional irrigation schemes on the livelihoods of poor and marginalised households is not that obvious.  Marginalised households often live at the edges of the settlements, mostly in small numbers, making it difficult for the conventional schemes to reach them.

    Google map

    This Google map shows a typical village in western Nepal. The main settlement constitutes about 60 houses. Five houses are below the main settlement, at about 20 minutes’ walking distance. These houses belong to the poor, most likely to Dalits. Conventional irrigation would target the main settlement as there is often  pressure to reach the larger population as better value for money.

    Extending the reach of the irrigation scheme to marginalized households is costly. The per unit cost would be very high and economically unjustifiable. Even if economic viability is discounted and the budget is not a constraint, the water is less likely to reach them, because there is not enough water, even for the main settlement.  Hence, some households will be left out.

    There are thousands of similar villages across the country. You won’t find any village, even in the remotest part of the country, where there is no irrigation scheme of some sort; however, you will find such left out households in almost every village. Hence, large numbers of marginalised households are deprived of irrigation facilities. We promote the low cost irrigation technologies to cater the irrigation needs of such marginalised households.

    The following are some of the  low cost irrigation technologies we have been promoting:


    So, how do the micro irrigation technologies improve the access of poor and marginalised households to irrigation?

    1. Low cost irrigation technologies fill the void left out by conventional schemes.
    2. They increase water efficiency. Our mountains and hills are dry.  Limited resources we have are also shrinking gradually.  Hence, it is very important that we use our water resources wisely and efficiently. These low cost technologies help achieve this.
    3. Studies and our own experience have shown that low cost technologies are more sustainable. They have small and homogenous users. Hence, all the users have equal say in decision making and the distribution of water is more or less equitable. This ensures more ownership towards the technologies which help to improve their sustainability.
    4. Low cost technologies are affordable and simple to operate and maintain. This improves access of marginalized households to the technology.
    5. Low cost irrigation technologies also help in women empowerment.

    IMG_0241

    This is Tula Devi Saud from Bajura. She literally had to beg to her husband to let her to grow vegetables on some of their land. In the rural areas, women rarely own land. Hence, they have little say in deciding how to use the land.  After much pleading, however, her husband agreed to let her cultivate vegetable in 0.5 Ropani (1 Ropani = 508.72 sq. m) of their land. But, there was no irrigation facility in their village.
    She had to fetch water from a well about 20 minutes walking distance from the village. It would cost her 2-3 hours daily. Hence, she would produce only about 50-60 Kg of vegetable in a season which would earn her merely about five thousand rupees in a year. Thus, she was solely dependent on her husband for all kind of expenses.

    Two year ago, they constructed an irrigation pond in the village. She actively participated in the construction. Now, she grows vegetables on 2.5 ropani of land. It takes her only about an hour to irrigate her plots. Now she sells 1200 kgs of vegetables a year. Last year, she made Rs 45000 from selling vegetable. Now, she supports her husband financially.  In fact, she gets her husband to porter the vegetable to the market whenever he needs pocket money.  This story pretty much explains the significance of micro-irrigation to women’s empowerment.

    We can summarize as follows:

    • While the conventional irrigation schemes are more concerned with cereal crops, the low cost technologies are often used for cash crops, mainly vegetable farming. Often, vegetable farming is the only prospect for rural women, who are mostly illiterate, to earn money. So, the low cost irrigation technologies help.
    • Rural households have multiple water needs. And women are responsible for meeting the needs. Statistics tells us that 80% of the water needed in rural Nepal are met by women. The micro-irrigation technologies help to meet the multiple water needs. For example,  water in the jar or the irrigation pond can be used for irrigation, for cattle and maintaining household sanitation.
    • The low cost irrigation technologies bring the water closer to the house, which reduce their drudgery and save time and energy. It also allows them to attend other household chores alongside irrigating their plot.
    • Finally, the technologies are affordable and simple to operate. Hence, women can own and operate them on their own.

    The 21st century is defined by technological revolution. However, its benefit is lopsided. The rich have greater access to technologies. The technological innovations are inclined to meet the desires of the rich than the needs of poor. However, it is invariably the poor who bear brunt of the negative consequences of indiscriminate use of technologies. In Practical Action we call this technology injustice, and seek to reduce it by promoting the low cost appropriate technologies. Micro-irrigation technologies are among the technologies which hold much promise for improving the livelihoods of the poor and supporting women’s empowerment.

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  • A role model for women in Kassala

    Bahga Galal

    March 7th, 2016

    ‘To be a woman in Eastern Sudan community means you should act superior.’ Those are the words I heard when I interviewed  Aliat Altoum Mohamed Taha the general secretary of Kassala Women Development Associations Networks (KWDAN) one of Practical Action partners.

    Aliat from KassalaAliat didn’t attend university after high school but developed her career through voluntary work with local women’s associations as a trainee in food processing.  It was her dreams and ambitions that led her to her notable success.  Her strong desire to make a better  life for herself and for those women who did not have the chance to complete their education – the home makers, poor mothers and illiterate girls.  She was determined to fight against those that look at women merely as creatures to obey and respond to the orders of men.

    To make a difference in society Aliat has started to build her own capacity in the field of women’s development.  She began by reading about gender equity and gender main streaming until the establishment of KWDAN with Practical Action Kassala’s support. Through KWDAN Aliat found great opportunities to exercise her leadership skills and found career success. She started to build  good relations with other NGOs which are focusing on women development and gender issues and reaching many women in rural areas to deliver training in areas such as food processing and income generating activities for women.

    Aliat has made a great impact as a trainer, fundraiser and strategic planner. In the KWDAN management team she is known for her ability at team working, her leadership abilities and facilitation skills.  These encouraged women’s organisations to nominate her to represent them in  projects including  women participation advocacy campaign for north and south Sudan.

    Since 1997 Aliat has achieved a great deal. A shy girl has become one of Kassala NGO’s most active members.  She doesn’t forget her role as mother to a 6 year old child. She has succeeded to balance her job and duties as a wife and mother in addition to her role in leading women development activities in Kassala state.

    Aliat gave special thanks to  Practical Action for support for building her capacity and encouraging her to make an impact as an activist on women issues. She added; “When I look back at my life I would not hesitate to choose women development interventions.  I believe that women’s participation is so important to challenge bad practices and  behaviours. At a personal level she has gained a lot. She is independent, can generate her own income, participate decision making for here life and with her husband  in the management of home affairs.

    She is a hero with a real willingness to continue with Practical Action through her role in KAWDAN and other stakeholders. Success came by accident or luck, she has fought to change her future and achieve her goals. She is able to write her name as activist in Kassala’s history.

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