Food and agriculture | Blogs

  • Give a man a fish…

    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.


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  • Dreaming of a better day

    Siham Osman

    March 9th, 2015

    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.

    457During 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.

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  • Women’s group lifts displaced families out of poverty

    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.

    Sabella Waw Nour SudanI 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.”

    Amna Waw Nour SudanAnother 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”.

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  • Lagoon sustainability in Sri Lanka – measuring success

    Erwin Rathnaweera

    February 25th, 2015

    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. Lagoon fishing Sri LankaThe 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.

    Exchange of an amendment to MOU

    Exchange of an amendment to MOU

    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 Rathnaweera

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  • Open Data

    Rob Cartridge

    February 19th, 2015

    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.

    NepalOpen 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.


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  • Market mapping and analysis of horticultural market systems in Manicaland Province

    Patience Samhutsa

    February 11th, 2015

    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.

    24598To 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).

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  • Clay pot cooler in Burkina Faso

    Peter Rinker

    January 29th, 2015

    This is a guest blog by Peter Rinker, who works for Geman NGO Movement e.V.

    It began with an internship during my studies with the German NGO Movement e.V. in April 2009. Together with the young Burkinabés Faical and Hamed Ouédraogo I started to test the potential of clay pot coolers in Burkina Faso. Up until then, we had just heard some stories about the successful dissemination of pot-in-pot refrigerators in Northern Nigeria by Mohammed Bah Abba. Even our first tests with quite improvised clay pot cooler prototypes showed that there is a really big cooling potential, thanks to the hot and dry air in Ouahigouya in Northern Burkina Faso. So it became our main goal to work on the dissemination of clay pot coolers in Burkina Faso. During the following months, we researched for adequate designs and collaborated with female pottery makers to produce the desired clay pots. In the final phase of the three month internship we made efforts to spread the popularity of the clay pot cooler among the local population through presentations with women groups, a lottery at a vegetable market and the creation of flyers and construction manuals.

    Two vendors of vegetables with a clay pot cooler at the market in Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso

    Two vendors of vegetables with a clay pot cooler at the market in Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso

    In 2012, Lisa Buehrer studied and evaluated the impact of our efforts of 2009. She discovered that some people who got a clay pot cooler for free in 2009 were still using it. Others used it till it broke due to playing kids or fallen tree branches. But in general people were very satisfied with the cooling function, the prolonged life of fruit and vegetables and the flexibility they gained, due to the possibility to cool and store their food. Regarding the target group, Lisa Buehrer discovered that all users can benefit from using clay pot coolers. The highest potential benefit however, was for women selling vegetables in the city of Ouahigouya (the results would probably be different in a rural area, where self-sufficient farmers profited highly from the technique, as the example of Abba in Nigeria showed. But due to the very limited resources of Movement e.V., the zone of direct intervention is focused on the city of Ouahigouya and the surrounding villages). The female vegetable sellers normally buy vegetables at a village or a big market in the city and sell the produce again for a slightly higher price in front of their houses in the different parts of the cities. The prolonged lifetime of produce stored in the clay pot cooler made them profit from multiple effects. The method of storage means their goods are of a better quality for longer, which limits the degree to which they have to sell their goods for a diminished price. Thus, they have more flexibility in buying and selling the goods, which enables them to follow other activities, while securing their income through less food losses. Besides the elaboration of the target group Lisa Buehrer continued also the promotional work at local markets and headquarters of NGOs to increase the level of awareness of clay pot coolers.

    All the work of Movement e.V. so far showed that the clay pot cooler works very well in the hot and dry conditions of Burkina Faso and that there are millions of people who could potentially benefit from it. The problem we identified after these two three month internships (which is very short and on a very low financial level in comparison to other development projects) was, that there was nearly no independent dissemination of clay pot coolers after our departure. Obviously there were different causes, which had prevented such an independent development. During my studies of sustainable development, I came across the concept of social entrepreneurship, namely understood to be made up of business-driven solutions for social or ecological problems. This concept seemed to be highly promising because it comes with several positive aspects. Firstly, the incentive for local people contributing to the project in a poor country like Burkina Faso would be higher if they can increase their small and irregular income. Secondly, a self-sustaining business model would be the best condition for a project that can become independent from external support in the long run. Thirdly, if this social business model works in Ouahigouya, there would be potential for replication in other regions and contexts, which would serve our overarching goal of bringing clay pot coolers to millions of beneficiaries around the world.

    As I was still very convinced of the major benefit of clay pot coolers and the promising model of a social business in mind, I decided to work for Movement e.V. a second time as a voluntary project manager after finishing my studies. Implementing and testing the idea of a social business model for the clay pot cooler in Burkina Faso became the mission of this project stay. We worked a lot on the production side. Around twenty people were trained in producing the customised pots for clay pot coolers. While we thought in the beginning, that it would be an option to produce clay pots in the city, we had to dismiss this option after our first clay pot cooler workshop. It became clear that pottery, given the very hard work it is, is generally not profitable enough to be attractive for people of a bigger city like Ouahigouya. Pottery seems to be one of the worst paid metiers in Burkina Faso. It is a dry season activity of woman in rural areas, who start it after the big harvest at the beginning of the dry season.

    Therefore, we decided to leave the production to groups of female potters of the surrounding villages. This comes with more efforts for logistics but has positive side-effects on the situation of these women and their families.

    In the city of Ouahigouya we formed a team of four young and intelligent guys, aged between 20 and 30, who had no formal jobs. They earn a bit here and there and support their families with their income. The clay pot cooler project gives them the opportunity to be trained in the various skills needed to be a self-employed entrepreneur. Selling clay pot coolers is not their main job but it adds something to their revenues. Another aspect is the positive reputation in the local community due to their engagement in the clay pot cooler initiative.

    We elaborated quite a flexible social business model. Every team member is paid according to the amount of time and work he contributed to selling the clay pot coolers. This makes allowance for unforeseen circumstances in the availability to work on the project. The team orders clay pots for the clay pot cooler from the women groups in the villages. After the delivery of the clay pots to the city there is still some work to do. The outer clay pots receive a logo and phone number, to increase the popularity and the French name of the clay pot cooler: ‘Canari Frigo’. Additionally, they have to apply a layer of cement to the small clay pot and sieve sand (all details on the construction and use of the clay pot coolers can be found in this technical brief: see link at the bottom). Following these steps, the clay pot and the sand can be brought to customers and be installed directly around their houses. It is important that the installation comes with brief and clear explanations about how to use the clay pot cooler. You can have the best technology but you will only enjoy the full potential benefit, if you are using it in the right way. This is one reason, why we still prefer to do the installation ourselves at the customer’s homes and not to sell the customised clay pots at the market.  However, selling on markets could work well in the future, when clay pot coolers are more established and everybody knows how to use them.

    Fresh vegetables stored in a clay pot cooler

    Fresh vegetables stored in a clay pot cooler

    This social business model is still an experiment, but we think it goes in the right direction.

    The main challenge at the moment is to drum up enough demand for clay pot coolers. While the demand was quite good during my last project stay it slowed down afterwards. The reason is probably that we were present at many events and occasions during my stay, as it was my main job to work full-time on this clay pot cooler project. The calculation of the price of a clay pot cooler was made very tightly and did not include a share for promotional work to keep a payable price for a big share of the population. We obviously underestimated the need for additional marketing, promotion or subsidies for such a new product. That is why we sent Joris Depouillon from Belgium to Burkina Faso in April 2014, to regroup the local team and elaborate a strategy and measures with them to increase the demand for the clay pot coolers.

    In autumn 2014, Michael Bührer, the founder and president of Movement e.V., is in Burkina Faso to work on various projects conducted by Movement e.V., as well as on capacity building for the newly founded local partner NGO, Movement BF. Regarding the clay pot cooler project, it became clear that this social business-based approach still needs support; financial support for subsidising the sold clay pots and institutional partners to strengthen the promotional work. Several measures can contribute to a higher popularity of clay pot coolers. When more and more people get to know this innovative technology and its benefits a turning point can be reached, where clay pot coolers become a standard product on markets and promotional work can be reduced almost entirely.

    Besides all the efforts to disseminate clay pot coolers in Burkina Faso, we try to spread our detailed knowledge on clay pot coolers through the publication of multilingual construction manuals via different channels like Wikipedia, social media and various networks. We are willing to share our knowledge and experience with all interested persons or organisations to inspire them to build or spread the use of clay pot coolers and prevent that everyone has to reinvent the wheel themselves.

    Please let us know when you are starting some kind of clay pot cooler project. This allows us to get an idea about the impact of our efforts for know-how transfer.

    Click on the links to read the Technical Briefs – English and French.

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  • Fascinated by the Incas

    Amanda Ross

    January 15th, 2015

    I had the good fortune to study ancient history – a subject that fascinates me.  However, my studies only covered classical civilisations so my knowledge of the Incas is minimal.  So when I was in Peru in December and visited some Inca sites, I was enthralled and keen to learn more.  I’m delighted that the BBC has just begun a new series ‘Masters of the Clouds’ which will enable me to do this and especially to consider how technologies of the past can help to deal with modern problems such as climate change and disaster resilience.

    "Pisac006" by Alexson Scheppa Peisino

    “Pisac006″ by Alexson Scheppa Peisino

    From the first episode it became clear that the Incas knew a thing or two about climate smart agriculture. They developed complex water harvesting and terracing systems which enabled them to produce enough food to store surpluses in their vast granaries against hard times.  As a result of having a secure food supply the population increased and the Inca empire was able to expand to cover nearly 690,000 square miles – from modern Colombia to Chile.  Practical Action is using similar techniques in the high Andes to support farmers who face low rainfall today as a result of climate change.

    Alpaca farmer stands by his irrigation reservoir

    Alpaca farmer stands by his irrigation reservoir

    Earthquakes are a regular hazard in this region is earthquakes and the Incas developed building techniques to minimise the effects.  Leaning their walls slighting inward, excellent masonry skills and rounded corners have ensured that Macchu Picchu’s stone walls still stand despite 500 years of shaking.

    Once again Practical Action looked to the past when helping with the reconstruction efforts after major earthquake, using traditional quincha techniques for greater stability.

    Technology also proved to be their downfall.  Inca soldiers armed with spears and bow and arrows were up against the Spanish forces equipped with horses, cannon and firearms.  Smallpox and measles also brought by the invaders devastated the population and the Inca Empire folded. I’m looking forward to finding out more this week.


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  • Comparing conservation ponds in Nepal and Peru

    Sanjib Chaudhary

    December 24th, 2014

    We were at a height of 4,200m with no trees in the horizon, only patches of grass. At this height in Nepal, you will see lots of pine trees in the surrounding as the treeline in Khumbu, Himalayas in Nepal is at 4,200m but it is at 3,900m in Andes, Peru.

    Alpacas, Peru

    Alpacas grazing on chillihua grass

    The view of the Andes above the treeline is enchanting and the sight of alpacas grazing on chillihua grass on the mountain slopes is soul-stirring. However, apart from the amazing alpacas, the most interesting thing for me in the trip to the Alpacas Melgar project in Peru was a reservoir constructed by the project to harvest rainwater and collect water from natural sources.

    Water reservoir, Melgar

    A water reservoir at the Alpacas Melgar project site

    Comparing the 6m long and 4m wide reservoir having holding capacity of 36,000 litres of water with the conservation ponds in Nepal, I found small but significant improvements that can be applied to our ponds in Nepal.

    In Nepal, conservation ponds are not new. Most of the villages in the plains have ponds, mostly rain-fed. The ponds, big in size, are used for fish farming, irrigation, water for cattle, washing and bathing. In the mid-hills too, people had used the ponds, though small in size, to store water for dry period. However, due to introduction of piped water supply, the practice of digging conservation ponds was discontinued.

    With the help of government bodies and non-governmental organisations, the practice of having conservation ponds has been revived.
    The ponds, about 3m long, 2m wide and 1.5m deep, are dug out and the walls are lined with high density polyethylene sheet or silpaulin (multi-layered, cross laminated, UV stabilised) heavy duty plastic sheeting. They generally have holding capacity of 8,000-10,000 litres of water. The ponds are constructed in shady area to minimise losses from evaporation and the plastic lining prevents water seepage.

    Coming back to the reservoir at the Alpacas Melgar project site, it is located at a place higher than the pastureland. As the area is above the treeline, there is no chance of finding a place with shade to dig a pond. However, to save the plastic lining from being damaged by the sun’s rays, a layer of dry chillihua grass is stacked on the borders throughout the perimeter of the reservoir. A simple application but an innovative one!

    Water canal

    A canal bringing water to the reservoir. (c) Practical Action/ Mehrab Ul Goni

    Likewise, the canal bringing in water to the reservoir is connected to a filter – a square block with simple arrangement of inlet and outlets for water and effluent at different heights. The effluent outlet is at the lowest end and plugged in by a pipe that can be taken out to discharge the mud, dirt and other wastes gathered in the filter from the inlet. Modesto, one of the kamayoqs (locally trained farmers in the Peruvian Andes) trained by Practical Action, displayed the technique, lifting the pipe. There’s not much technical improvement but the intervention is impressive.

    Water filter

    A water filter connected to the reservoir. (c) Practical Action/ Mehrab Ul Goni

    The outlet of the reservoir is connected to a distribution point. It is a block of inlet and outlet pipes. The use of check valve and detachable pipes makes the whole arrangement worth replicating. The point, located at a lower height, has an inlet coming from the reservoir with a check valve which controls the flow of water downstream. As and when the detachable pipe is inserted in the point, the valve opens up and water starts flowing through the pipe connected to two sprinklers. The pipes and sprinklers are detachable. They are removed and stored in a safe place during the rainy season to avoid the wear and tear.

    Water distribution point

    Modesto displays the water distribution technique. (c) Practical Action/ Mehrab Ul Goni

    The rainy season starts from November and lasts till March every year. However, it hadn’t rained this year although it was already mid-December. So the pipes were still in place and the water level in the reservoir was depleting rapidly.

    In spite of no rains this year, we could clearly see the changes in the landscape brought by the reservoir and the irrigation scheme. The irrigated land is green. With the project’s support new varieties of grass like alfalfa and clover have been introduced. The baby alpacas like these soft varieties of grass. Because of the irrigation scheme, Modesto is planning to grow potatoes and quinoa in his land along with raising healthier alpacas.

    Irrigated land

    Modesto points to the green irrigated piece of land with new varieties of grass. (c) Practical Action/ Mehrab Ul Goni

    According to Project Manager Duverly, the project has supported to dig 61 reservoirs in the area. Each reservoir is owned by a family and they are responsible for managing the reservoir and changing the plastic lining every five years. Seeing the benefits of the reservoir, the mayor of the district is planning to support more families in other parts of the district to build and manage such improved ponds.

    The small but innovative improvements in the reservoir management at the Alpacas Melgar project are worth replicating. A large population in the mid-hills of Nepal will benefit if some of the improvements are adapted in the conservation ponds.

    The Alpacas Melgar project is being implemented by Practical Action in Nuñoa, Macari, Santa Rosa and Ayaviri districts in Melgar Province of Puno, Peru. Eighty kamayoqs and 800 highland families in the province are benefitting from the project on the efficient management of integrated activities related to raising alpacas. 

    For more information, read the brochure or visit the project website.

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  • Simple technology – great results!

    Swarnima Shrestha

    December 16th, 2014

    Resident of Chitwan District of Nepal, 51 year old Ramlal Chaudary’s family has been dependent on agriculture for generations. But in the recent times, it was getting difficult to sustain his family of nine through agriculture alone. Recently, he had started driving tractor as a side business. But agriculture – is a part of his culture; paddy being the major harvest.

    Ramlal Chaudary at his paddy field. (Photo: Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

    Ramlal Chaudary at his paddy field. (Photo: Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

    This year too, Ramlal cultivated paddy like every other year. But this year, his field was greener and healthier than that of his neighbours. Even the other farmers observed his field curiously. Though most people assumed that he must have worked too hard to get this result, he actually had neither weeded nor used any pesticides or chemical fertilisers in his field.

    Ramlal shares happily, “The pests that were not controlled by strong pesticides are non-existent in my field now, even though I haven’t used any pesticide. Others weeded their fields numerous times and also used chemical fertilisers, but without doing any of that, the paddy in my field has flourished quite extraordinarily.”

    So what is the reason behind this drastic change in Ramlal’s paddy? What has he changed in his farming practice to get these great results?
    The answer actually is very simple.

    Ramlal has started raising ducks along with the rice in his field.
    He explains, “I decided to raise ducks in my rice field after attending an orientation programme about rice-duck farming organised by Practical Action. The organisation provided us with proper training to carry out this farming technique and also supported us with a day old ducklings. After the training, we formed a group and started rice-duck farming.”
    Rice-duck farming technology was found to be beneficial in terms of providing social, economic and environmental benefits in a pilot research carried out by Practical Action in 2013. Currently, Practical Action Consulting Pvt. Ltd. is implementing integrated rice-duck farming project in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts with the financial support of Grand Challenges Canada. The project is working to build the capacity of 1000 small holder farmers to adopt the rice-duck farming technology – Ramlal is one among them.

    Ducks at the rice field.

    Ducks at the rice field.

    Ramlal says, “I didn’t have any idea about the practice of rice-duck farming. But now, I am experiencing many benefits. The droplets of the ducks acts as manure so there is no need to use chemical fertilisers. The ducks gets the nutrition by feeding upon the pests and weeds. I feel that the ducks are a boon for the rice field.”
    Ramlal is the treasurer of the ‘Quality rice-duck farming’ group. There are altogether 15 members in this group – all practice rice-duck farming. The members of the group made a collective decision to practice rice-duck farming in their individual fields. They conduct monthly meetings where they share their agricultural progress and problems, most of which they solve with combined effort. Each member contributes NPR 50 (£0.32) for saving on a monthly basis. The amount is used among the members for agricultural inputs whenever required.

    Ducks coming out of the paddy field.

    Ducks coming out of the paddy field.

    The rice-duck farming technology has made an impact in Ramlal’s life in the first year of the practice itself. The yield in his field has increased. Previously, 0.03 hectares of field yielded hardly two quintals; this year it yielded 2.66 quintals of rice.
    He further adds, “I made rupees 52,700 (£337.82) more from the rice alone in comparison to last year. And the best part is that, the ducks become ready to be sold at the same time as rice harvesting. Among the total of 18 ducks I raised, we have kept few to be used at home and sold others at the price of rupees 800 (£5.12) each. This has made a significant impact on my income. People from neighbouring localities and villages also take interest when they see the ducks in the rice field. I try my best to share the knowledge with the ones who are unaware about it.”

    (The information for this story was collected by Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

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