It was drizzling when we drove to the biogas electrification project site. Going through the maze of roads, it took us 45 minutes from Narayanghat, the main market in the Chitwan district, to reach there.
Chitwan, in the southern plains in Nepal, is home not only to the magnificent royal Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinoceroses but also a happening trade hub. Regarded as the country’s poultry capital, with the establishment of Nepal’s largest milk industry, Chitwan is seeing a wave of innovation in agriculture sector.
Adding to the list of innovations is the biogas electrification project being run at the Livestock Development Resource Centre of the Annapurna Dairy Producers’ Cooperative (ADPC). The project, supported by Practical Action, boasts of being the first in Nepal to generate electricity for commercial use from biogas.
— Achyut Luitel (@achyutluitel) October 10, 2014
A small scale study on bio-electrification through agricultural and livestock waste was carried out by students of Kathmandu University earlier, producing electricity to light 9 LED lights, each of 5 W.
When I reached the site, Bodh Raj Pathak, the vice-president of the cooperative, drenched in the rain, was waiting for me to show the centre.
— Sanjib Chaudhary (@sankuchy) February 27, 2015
The first thing he did was to switch on the system. He then one by one switched on the bulbs and fans. For a technology loving person like me, it was a real pleasure – all were working as if they were running from regular electricity.
The gas generated from the dung of 85 cows is enough to generate electricity that can run a generator of 5kW load continuously for 8-9 hours, according to Pathak. Few months ago the centre had more than 100 cows. Some of the cows were sold to the community people on demand.
The cows at the Dairy produce a trailer of cow dung daily that goes into the digester for biogas generation. There are two inlets and two outlets.
“Currently, only one inlet is being used and it works for 8-9 hours,” said Pathak. “If both the inlets operate, it will produce electricity for 16 hours.”
The process is simple – the dung, urine and water are mixed into a concoction. The mixture is then fed through the inlet to the chamber. The gas generated is passed through a filter to get rid of the precipitates and then to the generator that produces electricity.
Right now the Dairy is using the electricity for light bulbs, fans, water pump and a chaff cutter. The gas is also being used to cook food for six staff at the Dairy.
The Dairy has plans to utilise the biogas for pasteurisation of milk. Right now it is saving Rs. 30,000 – 35,000 rupees per month in fuelwood. After the full utilisation, the Dairy will save around Rs 100,000 (USD 1000) per month.
However, the slurry, a precious fertiliser has not been well managed. It was left to dry in the open. Pathak told me that they have plans to dry the slurry and package it as organic fertiliser.
Looking at the outputs of the pilot project, the prospects are promising in spite of the dismal data of electricity contributing to the total energy consumption and use of biogas in Nepal.
According to the Water Energy Commission Secretariat (WECS) Energy Sector Report 2010, electricity contributes only 2% to the total energy consumption by fuel types in Nepal. As per Alternative Energy Promotion Centre, the government apex body for the development and promotion of renewable energy, there are more than 300,000 biogas plants in Nepal.
— Manjeet (@manjeetdhakal) July 3, 2014
In Nepal, cooking and lighting are the main purposes biogas has been mainly used for, amounting to 80% and 20% respectively. The successful biogas electrification in Chitwan has opened doors for using biogas to produce electricity and scaling up the technology at the cooperatives throughout Nepal.
While 1.3 billion people are still living in darkness with no access to electricity and 2.7 billion still cook over open fires, replication of innovations like biogas electrification will help us move from a state of technology injustice, to find a way to remove the barriers that now prevent poor people from using the technologies they need for the most basic of services.
With technical details from Ganesh R Sinkemana
Bhakta Bahadhur Saud, a resident of Kuldevmandu VDC of Bajura District, earned his living by selling agricultural inputs to local farmers which he bought from the agro-vets of other districts. He was carrying out this work in a very basic way but changed his working modality after participating in a training workshop. He was one of the participants of the market mapping workshop organised by Rural Access Programme (RAP) – 3 in the Bajura District. During the workshop, he was identified as a potential market player who could do input business formally and provide services to many farmers in the community.
Rural Access Programme (RAP) – 3 is a four years project being implemented by Practical Action through IMC Worldwide with the financial support from DFID in 22 Village Development Committees (VDCs) Doti, Achham, Bajura and Humla Districts.
In all these districts, market system analysis was carried out through participatory market mapping (PMM). In the working VDCs of Bajura District, it was found that, there were no agro-vets accessible to the local community. Farmers had to purchase inputs either from adjoining districts or from the regional market at Dhangadhi which was arduous requiring a long day travel. Thus, there existed limited opportunity for farmers to go beyond the subsistence farming.
Further analysis indicated that small and fragmented markets in rural areas with higher transaction costs for carrying out business is a root cause of the poor functioning of input markets in rural areas.
RAP project initiated a deal to motivate Bhakta Bahadhur Saud to establish himself as an agro-vet. He participated in entrepreneurship training and pesticide training which is a pre-requisite for getting license to sell pesticides. He also developed a business plan after being a part of the training. As the initial market size was small enough to discourage any potential entrepreneurs to start a business, the project facilitated him to engage in multiple businesses like poultry hatchery and vegetable collection along with his agro-vet business to generate enough income. A linkage between with regional level agro-vet and input suppliers was also developed.
Bhakta Bahadur established himself as an agro-vet at Bamka Bazar of Kuldevmandu VDC of Bajura, which is now functioning as a major agro-vet service in the district. This agro-vet is currently serving about 6,500 households of seven VDCs of the district. Daily sales exceed NPR 4,000 on an average. Veterinary service is another major service provided by the agro-vet as Bhakta Bahadur is also a trained Vet JTA.
On top of all these, Bhakta Bahadur has currently initiated poultry business to sell live chicks not only in the corridor VDCs but also beyond them. After diversifying his business, he has started making transactions of NPR 8,000 (£27) per day. He is planning to integrate collection and marketing of vegetables and other agriculture produce in near future.
As a result of the establishment of agro-vet and barefoot services, local communities now have easy, affordable and timely access to input services and micro-irrigation equipment. There are number of farmers who have up-scaled their farming from subsistence to commercial in a short time. The services provided by Bhakta Bahadur not only help him to increase his own income but also help other farmers to gain access to necessary services.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Arriving at Badikhel, we were confronted with a group of ladies, queuing patiently, and brandishing small bags. Inside each bag was a shovel worth of soil. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Badikhel is an information and resource centre, used by the local community to gain knowledge of agricultural practices and technologies which can help them to improve productivity and incomes on their small farms. (Favourite technologies include the cow lollipop – a cheap, locally appropriate, easy to make, mineral block that helps to keep cattle healthy. )
But, today a very practical activity was taking place – soil testing. The soil pH determines the availability of almost all essential plant nutrients. And if the pH is not right, plants won’t be able to access the nutrients they need for growth and ultimately a healthy yield for the farmer.
pH testing is a very simple procedure, as you might remember from school chemistry lessons. Today, instead of the litmus paper I used at school, a gadget with an electronic reading was dipped into the soil and water solution. This simple test, which took seconds to complete, provided information that could transform the outcome of year’s harvest.
That one piece of data is absolutely central to a series of decisions and actions that a farmer can take to ensure healthy soil and a healthy crop. And yet, despite the work of Practical Answers here at Badikhel and other centres around Nepal, far from all farmers have access to this basic, but essential information.
In the UK meanwhile, new precision-farming techniques are now commonplace in family as well as commercial farms. Sampling is carried out across the field– to a level of detail of mere centimetres. This data is fed into a geographical information system that interprets the structure and content of the soil and calculates the inputs required to achieve optimum conditions for growth. With this information, a GPS-guided tractor and equipment can vary the quantity of the input applied (let’s say fertiliser) automatically as it moves across the field. Apart from turning corners the farmers no longer even need to drive the tractor (did you notice tramlines are a lot more straight these days?). There’s no denying this brings efficiency savings that are good for the farmer and good for the environment, as excess chemical applications are kept to a minimum.
Surely making a pH test available to the millions of smallholder farmers who produce the bulk of the world’s food, is at least as good an investment.No Comments » | Add your comment
“The price of cultivation increases at every steps like hiring more labourers, purchasing different inputs like chemical fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation equipment. Even more for chemical fertilizer farmers have to depend on agriculture office and government selected dealers where we stand behind a long queue during planting season. ”
So recounted Alauddin Khan, a Bangladeshi small holder, who cultivates some land of his own and some shared with others (New Age, October, 16, 2008). This is the reality for every small holder in Bangladesh.
Around 90% farmers are small holders owning less than 0.2 hectares of land or are landless but feel proud to say they are farmers as they hire land from richer farmers. Production has tripled and cropping intensity increased from 145% in 1970 to 175% in the year 2000. Vegetable production has increased five times and Bangladesh holds third position in increasing vegetables production. However increases over all country’s crops production yet farmers do not get return even their production cost sometimes. In a round table discussion organized by the Prothom Alo, a renowned Bangladeshi Daily News Paper raised the issue of crop pricing for Bangladeshi farmers ( The Daily Prothom Alo, 7 December 2014).
Why do farmers not get prices based on the cost of their labour and input?
Different studies revealed that cultivation of a high yield variety is one of the major areas which ultimately increases production costs as its input intensity is higher than traditional varieties. Over use of land, mono cultivation, farmers’ ignorance about land and input ratios like fertilizer, pesticides and water use and lack of understanding what a minimum requirements of ingredients of soil should have are some reasons according to soil and agricultural scientists.
Standard soil should have a minimum of 3.5% organic matters but in most areas of Bangladesh this is between 1- 1.7% (4.14 mh) and in some areas (1.09 mc) less than 1%. Therefore 5.23 mc of the total land area has a lower level of organic matters than the minimum requirement.
What are the challenges of promoting organic fertilizer?
In 2014 the Food and Agriculture Program of Practical Action Bangladesh conducted a study of organic fertilizer promotion in Bangladesh. One of the objectives of that multidisciplinary research was to identify the status of knowledge in the area. It revealed major challenges from different stakeholders’ perspectives. There was a lack of understanding of the requirements of soil and soil fertility testing. Organic fertilizer works slowly on soil and its productive efficiency is lower than chemical fertilizer, which is costly. Organic fertilizer production costs are higher, very few companies produce organic fertilizer and some of its quality is questionable. The government provides a higher subsidy for chemical fertilizer that makes more vested interest so that disparity exists regarding the political economy of fertilizer policy and promotion. Entrepreneurs and investors lack knowledge and understanding about the market promotion and assessment of market demands, and policy barriers and policy support are major issues.(See table:1)
Table: 1 Farmers comparative narrative between two types of fertilizers
|Serial||Narrative of fertilizer||Organic||Chemical|
|1||Keeps soil soft||More||Rather Negative effect ( Hard)|
|2||Water preservation||More||Negative ( Dried )|
|4||Food value||Keep intrinsic taste||Taste reduce|
|8||Market availability and price||Non available||Low price and available|
Prospects of organic fertilizer
Gradually urbanization is increasing in Bangladesh, around 30% of people live in urban areas. Approximately 16,380 tons per day of waste is generated in the urban areas of Bangladesh. If we can reuse some of this as an ingredient of organic fertilizer production, this may reduce the cost of raw materials on one side and on the other hand relieve the burden of improper waste dumping.
According to organic fertilizer entrepreneurs, vegetable growers are major clients of organic fertilizer users. Vegetable production has been increasing in Bangladesh along with exports of vegetables to gulf areas. Vegetable consumption has increased from 42 grams per head in 1994 to 70 grams per head in 2013. According to WHO, the per day per person vegetable consumption should be 225 gram. Income, literacy and health and nutrition awareness and the overall living standard of people has been improving. Besides, the choices of affluent people have widened. Some upper income groups both in rural and urban areas are becoming interested in organic foods and Bangladeshi vegetable growers can export their crops and fine rice to European and North American markets if they can produce organic vegetables and get a favorable policy enabling environment from the government.
National Extension Policy, Bio diversity policy, Bangladesh Bank CSR policy and even UN Sustainable Development Goals are expected to endorse a development target for all nations in favor of organic fertilizer from September 2015. Adequate knowledge, policy and incentives for promotion are needed to produce, market and use of organic fertilizer in Bangladesh.No Comments » | Add your comment
We have all heard that saving, ‘give a man a fish and he will have food for a day, teach him to fish and he will have food for a lifetime’. At Practical Action we take this a step further, we would teach a man to fish and provide all the equipment he needs to do that as well!
In my recent visit to Bangladesh it was this expression that came to mind when I met a lovely family were keen to tell me how their lives had been made much better as a result of their involvement in a Practical Action project.
Hagera is a lady who had been given training and equipment from Practical Action as part of the Shiree project about 3 years before. She had learnt how to make a range of different snacks to sell to local shops and door to door. She was proudly wearing the Practical Action apron she had been given at the time. What made this story a bit special however was that recently she had trained her 19 year old son Allakba to also get involved in the business. He told me that if he didn’t make snacks he would have to be a labourer. As a labourer he would make 100 Taka a day ( about 90p) , but by making snacks he could make 300-500 Taka. He was a very happy and in fact he didn’t stop smiling the whole time I was there!
Hagera and her son showed me how they made the snacks and then with typical Bangladeshi hospitality invited my colleague and myself to taste them…and they were delicious. My favourite was a snack called jhuri, it is similar to a hard chip that tasted both salty and sweet at the same time, not like anything I had ever had before but really yummy.
In terms of the difference Practical Action’ had made to their lives Hagera told me that in the three years they had managed to buy a cow and the materials to build a house, which was obviously a huge thing. She clearly felt very blessed and grateful for both what she and her son had managed to achieve so far and that as a result of our input they had a bright future to look forward to.
Another ‘proud to work for Practical Action’ moment for me, and a family I will never forget.No Comments » | Add your comment
The work of women in Kassala state is mostly confined to the home due to cultural, religious and social restrictions. However, with the decline in their socio-economic situation, women are breaking through the traditional norms and coming forward to participate in development activities outside the home. Currently some rural women in Kassala state have an anchoring role in the management of their families as well as participation in different income generating activities like food processing, tailoring, small animal and poultry rearing.
For the last 10 years Practical Action has been working with women in Kassala State by providing them with necessary knowledge and training coupled with credit both in cash and kind in a revolving fund cycle to enhance their income earning opportunities, social empowerment and hence an overall improvement in their individual and family living conditions.
During my recent visit to Kassala I visited the women group in Tarawa village. The women of the village said they had to depend on others for even small personal expenses. Now they are capable of earning enough money not only for their personal expenses but also to contribute to household expenses. Many women are now even able to send their children to primary, secondary schools and colleges. I got these answers direct from them during my visit.
Kuther Edris Yeagoub, 39 years old, married with 8 children (4 boys and 4 girls). Her husband is a casual labour. Currently he is sick and staying at home. Previously Kuther worked in collecting fabric remnants from tailors’ shops and stitching them into baby clothes. She received training in marketing, book keeping and business management. With a loan of SDG 1,500 (£180) she started her business; she bought baby clothes for SDG 1,500 and sold them for 2,000. She started selling her produce in neighboring villages and paid back the loan in 6 months. Now she is planning to buy a sewing machine and expand her business.
“I feel proud that I have my own work/income resource that helps me to feed my family and participate to support other women in the group and the rest of the women in the village. Even though, tradition continues to be an ever-present constraint that impedes women’s development. But I know the future holds better news for us,” said Kuther.
Another of the women received training in agro-processing. As soon as she completed her training she started to practice the skills she had gained, making jam and local beverages for home consumption and selling them to her neighbours. Then she contacted some shops in her vicinity to help her sell her produce. As her produce is of good quality and her price is less than the market price the demand increased, she received good revenue and profit. Now her income has reached SDG 250/ day. Another woman managed to make a lot of money through selling perfumes. She has managed to buy new bed sheets and new clothes for her children for the occasion of “Aid El Fitr” which she could not afford previously. There are now so many successful stories from women that I cannot tell them all.1 Comment » | Add your comment
When I started working at Practical Action on a project improving women’s status in the east of Sudan it was the first time I was introduced to this type of work with organizations and was wondering how organizations could manage societies with such limited funds? What was their role in developing and securing poor women’s livelihoods?
The answers to my questions came during one of my visits to a displacement camp called Waw Naar, the location of one of the women’s development association branches. The camp was unplanned and was notorious for selling wine and housing criminals. The surprise came at my second visit as it had changed completely starting from changing its name from Waw Naar to Waw Nour as well as the life style which was changed to a modern life.
I found many women’s associations working on revolving funds, health, education and construction. I was certain that development could be achieved with limited funds such as group sharing when it becomes a registered association and Waw Nour Women’s Association is an example.
Two remarkable women from Waw Nour
Sabella worked as midwife. I visited her house and found a wooden bedroom and she told me her story that I will tell you in brief. Sabella told me that she was trained in carpentry which was a very tough work and men were mocking me because she was a woman.
“Practical Action did me a favor as I became a carpenter and made my own room with my bare hands as well as a carpenter shop that afford job opportunities for many people. If a woman has the willpower she can do wonders.”
Another woman called Amna Alhaj Sapoon was a displaced person from the Nuba mountains and was living in Waw Nour, with her five children. She was jobless with no social position before she came to Practical Action. She joined the women’s development association and trained in food processing. The change at her life started from that point. She created her own business processing food and selling vegetables and was trained on managing her business properly. Her life style changed as she bought and built a house as well as supporting her husband and educating her children at school. She became the chairwoman of Waw Nour women’s development association. She tells us proudly that her second son came first in the Intermediate school exams and she was selected as the ideal mother. Amna’s motto is “Women are an effective tool for change”.No Comments » | Add your comment
Practical Action – Sri Lanka was tasked to ensure sustainability of 18 lagoons and livelihoods in a 5 year program that began in 2012. The task was twofold; firstly, to establish and introduce an appropriate system of lagoon fisheries co-governance in selected lagoons; a model for community-led lagoon governance strengthening fishery, and secondly, to build the capacity of communities, partners and state agencies to scale up the programme to reach the estimated 75,000 small-scale lagoon fisher families who make their living from the lagoons around the island of Sri Lanka. With the completion of phase 1 of this Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods (SLL) program significant success has been achieved in reaching the initial goal of creating awareness of the co-governance system among all stakeholders as well as changing their mindsets, developing co-governance models in six lagoons in addition to conducting a series of Training of Trainers (TOT) training workshops consisting of 22 modules. The task was indeed formidable, because problems and conditions in each lagoon differed from one another, requiring site specific interventions that would be sustainable. One common factor that was noted in all the selected lagoons was that previous human interventions and lack of proper governance of these lagoons had resulted in loss of livelihoods of lagoon fisher communities and created conflicts among them. The SLL program posed many challenges that required the adoption of effective methodologies to overcome them.
The stakeholders included the local lagoon communities, the local and provincial government officials, and national government administrators/policy makers, all of whom had to be made aware of as well as convinced of the importance and reliability of the proposed lagoon co-governance concept. Lagoon co-governance or collaborative governance is distinct from lagoon management. The next challenge was to build the capacity of extension officers of the Fisheries and Wild Life departments to be capable of training others in the second phase of the program to replicate the fisheries co-governance in 12 more lagoons as well as after the SLL program ends. The success of this initiative can be measured by the ceremony held on 16th of February, 2015 to award certificates to the Fisheries and Wild Life Departments’ extension officers who completed the Training of Trainers training series on Fisheries Co-Governance conducted by Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods project of Practical Action Sri Lanka.
The ceremony was presided over by the Secretary to the Fisheries Ministry Mr. Nimal Hettiarachchi. Practical Action’s Regional Director, South Asia; Mr. Achyut Luitel and Head of Quality Assurance; Mr.PremThapa were the chief guests on this occasion. Of the 31 trainees who were awarded certificates, six qualified to be nominated as Master Trainers for the training unit of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Noteworthy was the observation made by the Secretary to the Fisheries Ministry who said that prior to his Ministry’s collaboration with Practical Action in the Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods program, he had a negative view of NGOs. However, he had ample reasons to reverse his view having observed the outcomes of dedicated efforts of Practical Action’s staff and its partner Palm Foundation in achieving set goals during the first phase of the program. The 22 module training program was conducted in the Sinhala and Tamil languages as well as English during the 2 ½ year period of the program’s first phase. The purpose of the training was to equip the Fisheries Extension arm of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to replicate the fisheries co-governance model in the lagoon ecosystems in Sri Lanka. This event coincided with signing an amendment to the existing memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Practical Action-Sri Lanka and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, as well as the launch of two handbooks; one on Fisheries co-governance and the other on Tools for participatory methodologies for lagoon co-governance. Both publications are in the Sinhala language. The staff of Practical Action and its partner organization; Palm Foundation has every reason to feel that their dedicated initiatives and actions have resulted in a measure of success midway in the SLL program.
Written by Vasant Pullenayegem & Erwin RathnaweeraNo Comments » | Add your comment
Did you know that this Saturday is open data day? How can you have missed it???
Seriously it’s a good idea. It’s a chance to highlight the need for governments, donors and other institutions to open up their data and make it freely available. This is really important in international development. Sharing data is crucial if we are going to share knowledge and learning.
Open data is not to be confused with Big Data. I’m just on my way back from a conference addressing the question of whether Big Data might be the next revolution for agriculture in Africa. (The short answer is “no”). We heard about a new NASA satellite which can map soil moisture across the globe – and make the data available (That is big, open data). We heard about precision farming, where European and North American farmers use GPS to optimise their fertiliser and pesticide inputs (big data, not necessarily open). And we heard about an initiative to improve cashew markets in Africa, by gathering data on quality and sharing it back to the farmers (open data but not that big!).
Overall there is a sense that growth of big data whilst potentially very exciting, could very easily leave Africa behind and contribute to an expansion of the digital divide, rather than a closing of it. In recent years several African countries have seriously adjusted their national income when it became clear that existing statistics were not robust. Very few countries have anything like adequate agricultural surveys on a regular basis.
So pumping more and more data into the internet is unlikely to make things better, data alone is of little value. What would be much better is some effort put into repurposing data – giving it context, and getting it off the internet, into the right language and the right format, and into the hands of the farmers that need it. That could make a really significant contribution to tackling poverty.
So yes, I’ll be supporting open data day, but I’m looking forwards to days which focus on translating data into wisdom, and making it really worthwhile.
No Comments » | Add your comment
Practical Action Consulting Southern Africa is carrying out a detailed market systems analysis for the Horticultural Sector in Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe. The analysis will investigate the market blockages and identify opportunities for upgrading the horticultural market systems in Manicaland Province. To facilitate this process Practical Action is using a Participatory Market Systems Development approach to develop the horticultural market systems in Manicaland which creates good conditions for a wide range of key market actors (both public and private) to create solutions and changes that make sense to them and that contribute to making their market systems more inclusive, productive and efficient.
To get an understanding of the issues affecting the horticultural sub-sector, a market mapping and analysis exercise was facilitated in Manicaland Province (Mutare District) from 27 to 30 January 2015. This exercise was instrumental in establishing the potential blockages or bottlenecks, identifying the current market actors in the sub-sector, also getting their views on how they can play a part in addressing the identified blockages available for transforming the horticultural market systems in Manicaland Province.
The interest from various stakeholders included the following; better prices through good relationships amongst all market actors, improved market linkages hence increased incomes, providing smallholder farmers with the required inputs, stakeholder coordination and interactions, market systems transformations, farming practiced as a business, provision of market led agricultural extension services, value added horticultural products and buying commodities from smallholder farmers.
The market mapping and analysis attracted participation from stakeholders which included smallholder farmers from irrigation schemes around Manicaland, Sakubva market vegetable traders, CAIRNS Foods, local agro-dealers (Windmill, Shalom Agro chemicals, Seed Ridge), Standard Association of Zimbabwe, Non-Governmental Organizations representatives (Netherlands Development Organisation, Practical Action, Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe), Micro Finance Institutions (Zambuko Trust) and government representatives (AGRITEX, Mutare Rural District Council and Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises and Cooperatives Development).1 Comment » | Add your comment