On 25th March 2013 Practical Action Sudan launched a new report titled ‘Poor People’s Energy Outlook (PPEO) 2013’. The third edition of the publication of the PPEO series prioritises energy issues from the point of view of poor people to meet their needs and achieve universal energy for all by 2030.
On 3rd April I attended an energy programme review in our North Darfur office that involved numerous stakeholders participating in our Low smoke stoves project. The review was attended by members of community based organisations, government representatives, and the private sector. I feel that the E.F Schumacher’s phrase “Small Is Beautiful” is applied to its fullest in this project. The project started in 2008 with the main goal of ‘Contributing to poverty alleviation through improving the livelihoods of poor families by switching to a clean energy source, LPG, for cooking purposes. Recently the Low smoke stove project team has been awarded the gold standard and has been officially registered as the first greenhouse gas emission reduction project in Sudan.
In the Darfur region fuelwood (firewood and charcoal) is the main energy source used in the household, services and industrial (bricks, bakeries, oil) sectors. At the household level firewood and charcoal are burnt in traditional inefficient stoves, such as the three-stone stove and traditional metal stove which causes indoor air pollution and serious health and environmental problems.
The most enjoyable and useful part in the discussion was when Izdehar Ahmed Mohamed (Project Manager) asked the attendees what lessons they had learned and the positive impacts of the project? I found their answers impressive:
The Forest National Cooperation representative said that ‘less deforestation in the project areas compared with the past, and the culture of afforestation is increased which will have a positive environmental impact. We just need enthusiasm to continue what we have started together’.
The Women Development Association Network (WDAN) representative answered ‘there is less indoor pollution as the result of low smoke in the kitchen, which has led to a noticeable improvement in the health of women and children’.
The Civil Defense representative said that ‘community awareness has increased about the correct and safe use of LPG’.
The Nile Petroleum representative who supplies the LPG to WDAN added ‘the WDAN are a valued customer through which we apply the principle of Social Responsibility.’
I’m really proud of our team in North Darfur and the achievements they have made. We will continue to adhere to our principles to reach technological justice, a world free from poverty, and find a solution to climate change to reach a sustainable urban environment.1 Comment » | Add your comment
5pm on a Friday evening and before I go home and start ferrying my daughter and her friends for their weekend outings – she’s 16 and loving her slightly increased freedom – I thought I would glance at the Guardian online.
I started on their international development site reading an article about David Cameron’s visit to Liberia and the debate as to whether the Sustainable Development Goals (which will replace the Millennium Development Goals as a focus for global efforts on poverty reduction) should be simple or reflect the complexity of real life poverty.
Interesting I thought but as there were only 2 comments and the second of those was the first guy correcting his spelling I wondered where the debate was.
So I moved to the Guardian main news site and a very similar if less in depth article there.
This is not meant to be a step by step dissection of my reading the Guardian website – and I’m not going to tell you that I next moved onto Entertainment – Les Mis was brill!
But I read the comments on the more mainstream article – nearly 300 of them – they ranged from ‘Maggie Thatcher saved this country’/’Maggie Thatcher destroyed this country’ to ‘Cameron knows a lot about poverty he’s created it here’. The real issue was ignored.
This is a hugely important debate – I’m not even going to get into should we be investing 0.7% in international development as I think the consensus of the three major parties speaks for itself. Development spending has over the last decade delivered huge benefits mothers and babies lives saved, children educated, etc.
But it’s also a complex one – we need a systemic change in our world. We need to find systems that protect people, our planet and because without it I’m not sure we can pragmatically move forward without – profit. In the meantime until we have a fairer system and have seen the impacts of that system work though we need the best aid and development possible. But it isn’t about simplicity our world is one whole not compartmentalised.
So what do I personally want to see from the SDGs – I want to see us building on our continued success with education and child mortality, I want to see an increased focus on hunger, I want to address climate change, energy access, etc. But above all I want to talk – I want us all to think we can change the world and together to build a way to do it.
Technology will have a part to play – in helping us talk and in helping build a better future.
To continue with the journal of my reading I then went on to read about UK gambling businesses escaping £1 billion of tax through a known tax loop hole – that’s what people should get angry about -not helping the world’s poorest people
Now Im going home to chill! Have a good weekend and be happy!No Comments » | Add your comment
Some years ago Practical Action was called Intermediate Development Technology Group – am I pleased we changed it! Moving from ITDG wasn’t a universally popular decision but calling ourselves Practical Action better describes what we do.
Many of our projects also have titles which describe perfectly to an organisation, say like the European Commission, what the project is about, but do they tell you what a difference the work will make to someone’s life? Take, ‘Community Led Approaches Complementing Sustainable Service Delivery for WASH Action in Zimbabwe’, for example. Nothing wrong with the title, it describes exactly what the project is about, but does it tell you what the project will achieve? As a fundraiser, I want to give Trustees/Administrators of Trusts and Foundations, an immediate and human sense of what a difference the project will make to people’s lives. If you don’t engage very busy people, who receive hundreds of proposals a year, in the first few words, how can you expect them to read on to learn more about what an exciting project it is that you’re pitching to them. So what did we call ‘Community Led Approaches Complementing Sustainable Service Delivery for WASH Action in Zimbabwe’ – while pondering an alternative title, a staff member who happened to be passing, suggested ‘Now Wash Your Hands….’ – genius! Familiar, short and says exactly what one of the aims of the project is. Because that’s what the project hopes to achieve – providing clean water and good quality sanitation for communities in rural Zimbabwe, but as importantly, the water supply to wash their hands after using the toilet, and the knowledge that such an action significantly reduces diseases previously spread by poor hygiene habits.
Any suggestions for an alternative title for ‘Improving the Capacity of Sub National Risk Management Systems and Building the Resilience of Communities Vulnerable to Disaster in Peru’?No Comments » | Add your comment
It’s International Day of Peace today.
But I want you to think about a place synonymous with war – not peace.
It’s one of those places to which you just don’t go – “hell on earth” as someone once said to me.
Sudan has witnessed some of the most horrific acts committed by humankind. Images of genocide and famine are beamed into televisions around the world, and this is what we think of when think of Sudan.
Only last week, demonstrators in Khartoum protested fiercely and furiously outside the US, UK and German embassies in order to express their anger at an American You Tube film which allegedly mocks Islam. In August, a Sudanese police man was shot dead by an armed gang and various government buildings in Darfur were attacked. Such violence serves to underline the dangers of operating in one of the world’s most volatile places.
In June 2012, I spent two weeks there, primarily to visit Practical Action’s work in Darfur.
On Saturday 23 June, the day of my 25th birthday, I met 9 year old Idris Abdullah. He was tending to his herd of goats as they drank from the water trough, and he was not holding a gun. He was one of the few children without one. The water point was engulfed by herds of thirsty goats and cows and camels, but I could not stop staring at the innocent children gripping guns.
This is the reality of life in Darfur.
Although the conflict, which was primarily an ethnic clash, ended in 2006, the official peace is fragile. Spikes of intense fighting between rebel groups, warring tribes and military forces continue to wreak havoc on the people who make their homes here. I met and spoke with so many women, children and men who must live under the ominous shadow of violence.
One mother, Amel Mahmoud Osman, said to me “We always have the fear that something will happen, but in order to survive we have no choice but to overcome it. We pray to God for safety.” And then she recalled watching pregnant women “bleed their babies away” during the heights of the terror of war.
Another young woman, Sara Abubker Ahmed, remembered the day her friend was blown up by a government bomb: “I still smell the blood. For months afterwards I couldn’t eat or drink anything, I felt so sick all the time. The smell of the blood.”
The words of another young person, Yassir Oman Musa, will haunt me always. “It’s tragic, but everyone in Darfur has a story of loss to tell.”
Yassir’s acceptance of the futility of war is, of course, understandable, but it filled me with a sort of righteous rage. Why should anyone – even if you live in Darfur – have to accept a world dominated by violence?
Practical Action refuses to accept such a world. We have worked in Sudan, and in Darfur, for the last 25 years and continue to work there, employing a team of national staff to help vulnerable and marginalised communities to survive and thrive, against the odds. Working in partnership with local people, we endeavour to provide small-scale, sustainable and appropriate solutions to the daily problems caused by a rapidly changing climate and the chaos of war. We use simple techniques to help communities improve their own food security by planting community forests and improving access to and quality of water through harvesting rainwater.
But as sustainable development work is nearly impossible in the face of conflict, we are also striving to achieve a lasting local peace between traditionally warring neighbours. We use a host of approaches including facilitating mediation meetings, raising awareness about land ownership and demarcation of boundaries, and even producing educational community theatre.
Our efforts to build peace in these fragmented communities are innovative, unique, and most importantly, showing signs of success. Indeed, Yassir told me joyfully “for the first time ever we are hopeful of lasting peace.”
We have a chance to change the story of Darfur for good, to enable Amel, Sara, Yassir and so many others like them to move from war and suffering to peace and prosperity. But the work cannot be completed without further support.
By supporting Practical Action this International Day of Peace, you could give the people of Darfur a chance for a stable, peaceful and secure future, for the first time ever. Children like Idris Abdullah can look after their animals in peace, free of those weapons which are too adult, too ugly for their innocent hands.
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When I was in Sudan, I met a man called Mohamed Mohamed Musa. He was one of the people who had undertaken a seven hour bus journey to travel from Kassala to meet me at the Practical Action offices in Khartoum. I interviewed Mohamed at length, to learn about his life, and how he had worked with Practical Action.
My conversation with Mohamed was a fascinating one, and I wrote about it at the time on my blog Sprouting seeds for success and happiness. I remember being struck by his height. I’m quite small, and Mohamed towered over me. But he was very thin, and his collar bones protruded sharply. I remember noticing his clothes – he wore a ‘jalabya’, a simple long white gown, and an ‘eimma’, a turban – but he was also very proud of his very cool Ray Ban style sunglasses. But mostly I remember Mohamed’s face. It was fascinating, magnificent, the sort that has a whole life etched into it.
Today I received some really sad news from one my colleagues in Sudan.
Mohamed has passed away.
He died on 9 September after falling ill with a parasitic infection which is spread by contact with dirty water.
I am filled with sorrow. Mohamed was 64 – a good age – but at no point in our conversation did he seem weak, or frail, or ready to leave his life. He was passionate about Practical Action, and spoke enthusiastically about his hope that one day he would be able to help other poor people in Sudan in the way that Practical Action had helped him, and his community.
In my notes of our conversation, I scribbled “Mohamed is like hope embodied.” I feel so sad that his life and that hope have been snuffed out so soon.
I’d like to share Mohamed’s words with you, so you too can be inspired by the story of a very hard-working, determined and humble man.
“I was born in 1947. I’m 64. I’ve lived all my life in Tambi. I have two wives and 16 children – nine sons and seven daughters. Some of them are still in school.
My childhood was a happy time. I had six brothers and four daughters. My father was a farmer and he also did some teaching. I left school when I was about 12 and started working with my father, helping with our animals.
I was 26 years old when I married my first wife Mariam, who is now 50. And then I was 44 when I married my second wife, Fatima, who is 37. My marriage to Mariam was arranged. Fatima is a relative, the daughter of my cousin. Her parents died when she was young and so I married her to look after her.
I live with my wife Mariam in Tambi, in a small mud house with four rooms. Fatima doesn’t live with me; she lives in Kassala because I want the children to go to school there.
Every day I wake up at 4am and prepare to go to the mosque to pray. After that I drink some tea and then will travel to the farm to work on the land all day. After I get back to my house at 5pm and we pray again and maybe have some food. In the evening times, I will go to the community centre which has been built by Practical Action. As a community we’ll discuss any issues or concerns, or problems we might have with our farming, or the latest news.
Mariam searches for the firewood for cooking. We cook on an open fire outside in the open, not inside our house. Otherwise it gets too smoky.
It’s our children’s duty to go and collect the water for drinking. We have water that is pumped from Kassala, but we rely on the rainwater to water our crops. We know that climate change is making life more difficult. We now need to plant seeds that don’t require as much rain because the rains don’t come as frequently these days.
Practical Action told me about these new seeds. They actually yield more, and I am able to get more money for my crops at market! I decided to bring these to share with you because I know you are meeting other farmers in Darfur. We can all see the difference between the old and the new seeds.
Before Practical Action came to Tambi, I was always worrying about the future, fighting for tomorrow. Mostly I was worried about food. We never had enough to eat. But I never gave up. We were just farmers, we had no skills, no other jobs. We had no choice, but to continue trying to make a living from farming.
I volunteered to be a ‘lead farmer’ in my village and am part of a network of lead farmers across Kassala called ‘Elgandhl’ (it means ‘sprouting seed’ in English). This means it’s my duty to share farming skills with other farmers in my community. This could be how to build a terrace or how to hoe the soil. I know how to do a small germination test to check the quality of the seeds – you simply put one in a saucepan of water, and watch to see if it will grow. I now know about weeds and pests and how to control them using local techniques (that have been forgotten over the generations) about scaring birds away. Practical Action has informed us of our rights, what we can expect from our government, how we can make ourselves heard.
Practical Action has helped some of the women in my village to set up a women’s farm. Mariam, my wife, is one of these women. If she has time she also comes and helps me with the animals. We now think of the women as equal – we are the same. I know my wife can think as well as I do.
There is not enough time to talk about all that Practical Action does in my village. Practical Action is like a mother to us – we see ourselves as the children of Practical Action. Before I was a poor man, but now I am rich – not with money but with knowledge. Knowledge makes me richer than anything.
We will know what to do long after Practical Action leaves. I am very happy and proud. I am hoping that one day we will be able to do for other poor people in Sudan what Practical Action has done for us.”
Mohamed will stay in my heart forever. My thoughts are with his family and community in Kassala.4 Comments » | Add your comment
Over the last 48 hours I have listened in horror to the tragic news of the shootings of the British family in the French Alps. The detail that makes me shudder most, that fills me with the deepest distress, is the fact that the youngest child, a four year old girl, was so scared that she sheltered under the legs of her murdered mother for eight hours. I cannot imagine the fear and utter trauma that must now envelop her, and her critically ill seven year old sister.
That sense of terror, of shell shock, reminded me of a story I heard in Sudan. I interviewed a woman called Sara, who aged 21, is only a few years younger than me. She told me how when she was only five, government soldiers stormed into her village and shot everyone they could see. She was so frightened she could not move.
Sara’s story is one of dignity and of hope and of survival against all odds. But above all, it is a story of one woman’s strength. I think you will find it an inspirational and a moving one. I hope so anyway.
“I was born in Al Llafa, near Fato, in Kassala, in the east of Sudan.
I remember the first day the war came to Al Llafa. It was in 1996. It was early morning, the first day of Eid and my best friend and I were holding hands and walking through our village, going to the celebrations. At that moment, we heard gun shots. We couldn’t make it back to our families in time, because of the fighting. I was separated from my mother and was so scared. Most of the villagers fled, they ran into the desert and hid. But I could not move. My friend and I stayed together, cowering under a bush, and then under the cover of the night we found our families. I still have nightmares about the sound of the guns. A school friend was hit by a shell. We had to travel to a safe place in the same truck as her dead body. I still remember the smell of the blood. For months afterwards I couldn’t eat or drink anything, I felt so sick all the time. The smell of the blood.
Organisations like the Red Crescent came to provide shelter and build a camp for the people who were fleeing the war. We stayed in this camp, in little tents. My whole family in one tent – my parents and my three brothers and my four sisters. We lived in that tent for two years, until I was seven.
Then another NGO came and helped us to build some new houses in Fato. Slowly, very slowly, we have rebuilt our lives.
I didn’t go to school for two years. I was just in a constant state of shock and also my parents had no way of earning money for the school fees. They had been farmers in Al Llafa but when we fled, we left the land. It was an impossible time. We used to get food from some of the kind people in the village, and from the World Food Programme. My parents used to sell the food from WFP so they could earn enough money for my school fees. We were hungry but at least I was getting an education.
Sometimes I can’t believe my childhood was like that. I can’t believe I got through it.
I left school when I was 15. I didn’t pass my Maths and English exams. Since then I have stayed at home helping the family.
Every day I get up at 6am, pray, and I clean the house. I cook our breakfast. It’s my job because I have siblings younger than me. The duties are divided between me and my sisters. The boys don’t do very much.
We buy water from the water tank in the village and my father goes to get the firewood. We cook on an open fire which means that there is lots of smoke inside the house. It can be difficult for our chest and our eyes.
We get electricity in our home by using our neighbour’s generator. This means we have can have light. The main reason for getting electricity though is so my siblings can read in the evenings. We’ve had it for one year and it has changed our lives, although we can’t afford it all the time, and we can’t afford our own generator.
During the afternoon I’ll make coffee for the family and then I cook dinner. In the evenings I help my brothers with their homework. Then we pray. Then we sleep. My days are very busy.
I am a member of the Village Development Committee which Practical Action helped us to set up. I was nominated by my village to be in the VDC because I am strong-minded and have my own opinions. The men worry about women like me. The fact that I completed my school education was also a good thing. No-one had a bad word to say about me.
One of the things our VDC has done, with Practical Action’s guidance, is set up a social fund. Everyone pays in a small fee to a central pot each month and then if someone gets sick there is money to help the ill person and their family. All the villagers will also come together and help that sick person with the farming work – planting seeds or harvesting, or whatever needs doing.
Practical Action has also trained me on food processing. I was one of 30 women who participated in the training. We learned how to make jams, spaghetti, cakes, biscuits, juices, and chutneys – all of this from the produce we grow on the land. Food processing is a wonderful thing for us because it helps us to make our food last longer and also get more value from what we sell at market. Instead of selling a pumpkin, we can sell the pumpkin chutney we make, which enables us to earn more money.
I’m proud of myself because food processing helps me to make a living and also take care of my family. For example, I am paying for my brother to go to school so he can have a chance at life.
I am so happy that now I have skills because I can earn money to have control over my own life. My Dad cannot tell me what to do. I have freedom. Thank God for this.
As a child I had no hope. I never thought I would be strong enough to live again. I am happy Practical Action has changed my life in a way that brings our community together. Before everyone was isolated, as if we were all existing in our own separate shells. But now we are connected. And the men in my village respect my contribution to the development of our community. I never ever thought I’d have the chance to come to Khartoum. I didn’t even have to ask my Dad’s permission. I could just come, because I wanted to. Because now I am free.”
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The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) estimates that over 1.6 million people will be food insecure between January and March 2013, the peak hunger months in Zimbabwe. This is a 60 percent increase from the one million people who needed assistance at the beginning of this year.
This year most of my seeds didn’t grow – drowned by the torrential rain and then baked during the one exceptionally hot week (and I was only away for 2 days!)
To me it didn’t really matter I could buy vegetables elsewhere and having a lush green garden rather than flowers has been different but equally beautiful.
For some farmers in Zimbabwe getting the right seeds can be the difference between having enough food and families facing hunger.
In Matabeleland Zimbabwe farmers had used up, during the years of drought, their local seed reserves and no longer had the expertise needed for successful seed multiplication. They were forced to buy hybrid seeds – not ideally suited for local conditions, expensive and only available through agricultural dealers whose business premises were far away.
Getting seeds to grow crops was a huge problem one that was reducing harvests and thus food.
Practical Action worked with the farmers and Matabeleland South Province to Matopos Research Institute so as to make sure there was enough seed available at the right time so that farmers had control over their cropping season and were able to plant quickly when the rains started. We also worked building seed banks made up of open pollinated varieties which can be replicated locally.
As a result
• Famers now have access to seeds when they need them and are able to benefit fully from the cropping season by early planting
• Seed prices are cheaper
• There’s a new way for people to earn a living – through appropriate seed multiplication – most seed multipliers are women!
• 3000 smaller holder farmers have improved their seed security, and as a result have greater self-reliance.
Practical action in Zimbabwe.
The world is in the grip of multiple crises – financial, political, food and energy systems, and faces the threat of climate change with no agreement to limit warming likely. It can seem that change is impossible. In the face of these huge crisis I wanted to share this story of small change – but then we believe in Small is Beautiful and the power of millions of small actions to leverage big results.No Comments » | Add your comment
I’ve been very short-sighted since I was 8 years old. An optician seeking somebody to blame told me it was my own fault – I’d read too many books when I was younger. As my mum is also very short-sighted, I think it was more a case of bad genes.
So for the last 17 years, I have worn contact lenses and glasses. There is nothing more excruciating than losing a contact lense behind your eyeball, and nothing more infuriating than losing your glasses in the middle of the Indian Ocean when you’re on holiday. My short-sightedness has meant a lifetime of horrible eye infections, irritated eyes after long days of writing, and innumerable pairs of lost lenses and glasses.
Six months ago, after a particularly severe eye infection, I was told by an eye specialist that I would never be able to wear contact lenses again. I have spent the first half of 2012 wearing very big glasses. They were cool glasses, but mostly they felt like a huge barrier: between me and the rest of the world. So I decided to do something about it.
12 days ago my life was utterly transformed by laser eye surgery.
Waking in the morning and being able to see – actually see – the world in all its magnificence feels miraculous. Everything is more beautiful, more colourful, more perfect than before. I have had 12 whole days of 20/20 vision but it still seems unreal, as if tomorrow when I wake, my world might be a sleepy blur once more. I feel so overjoyed – and very lucky – that modern day technology has fixed my broken eyes.
When I was in Sudan I met a woman, Randa, who also couldn’t see. But her poor vision was nothing to do with short-sightedness. She was going blind because of the smoke caused by cooking on an open fire in her kitchen.
Randa is from a small village in North Darfur called Kafut, and has cooked with wood for her whole life. This means walking for maybe three or four hours to collect firewood, which she then carries on her head.
Cooking with firewood means that Randa’s whole house is constantly polluted by toxic smoke. Her house is made of hay, and the inside is burnt black. Randa’s lungs are also blackened by smoke, and like all the other women in her village she has suffered from countless chest problems.
But the cruelty of the smoke is that it is stealing her sight, and Randa is beginning to go blind.
Since working with Practical Action, Randa has been introduced to a new kind of cooking, using a stove which uses a clean energy source: liquid petroleum gas. The benefits of this are multifarious: not only is it cheaper for families, it also reduces the pressure on the dwindling supply of trees in North Darfur.
But for Randa, the most wonderful thing about her new stove is that it does not aggravate her eye problems:
“The LPG stove has totally eliminated the smoke… I think it has saved my sight. Before my eyes would stream constantly but now this has stopped. And I can breathe easily.”
Randa belongs to the Women’s Development Association in her village, and she is now educating other women about the benefits of cooking on an LPG stove, and also helping to distribute 19 stoves to families across her village, and 61 to other communities nearby.
Meeting the beautiful, determined Randa , and listening to her story, confirmed to me that simple technologies – such as a new stove – really can be life-changing. I know Randa was thrilled that the stove had saved her sight.
But how I wish that she’d never had to lose it in the first place. And that like me, she could benefit from wonderful new eyes.
What fills me with fury is the injustice of it. Because Randa’s near-blindness wasn’t inevitable. It need not have happened. I know that Practical Action’s work is helping her now, but for thousands of other people, it’s already too late.
Nelson Mandela once said “overcoming poverty is not an act of charity, it is an act of justice”. I think he is right.
We are not being charitable by helping. We are helping to restore some sense of justice to this world of ours that is so unbalanced and just so unfair.5 Comments » | Add your comment
I’ve just opened my copy of our magazine Small World which has an article about smoke reducing stoves. Agnes Ngari from Kenya tells her story – she starts
“My husband died 5 years ago of pneumonia, It was so hard for me to be on my own with the children. I have been a labourer all my life, working on the rice plantations next to my home. I don’t know how I survived before because I hardly made any money….
I didn’t realise how bad the smoke was. Our eyes would stream constantly and there were so many problems with our lungs….”
This is a positive story of how Agnes has turned her life around making and selling fuel efficient, lower smoke stoves as part of a women’s cooperative helped by Practical Action.
But as I read the story I found myself shouting at the page (I do talk to books and computers!) ’Smoke killed your husband and you don’t know it!’
I may be wrong but Smoke – officially known as indoor air pollution – increases the susceptibility to pneumonia. Most often that’s in children –pneumonia kills more children under 5 than any other disease – killing a child every 20 seconds. In adults it causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which puts people at greater risk of developing pneumonia creating a downward spiral of repeated lung infections and further decline in lung function – sometimes until people die.
Writing this I’m reminder of an argument I’ve had for years with a more academic colleague who says that smoke doesn’t kill anyone – pneumonia, COPD, lung cancer, etc. kills people, smoke just makes it much more likely you will die as a result of one of these diseases. I always counter with ‘then tobacco smoke doesn’t kill you’ – which she agrees it doesn’t – it’s the lung cancer that gets you every time.
Thankfully I’m not an academic – smoke in the kitchen has been estimated as the equivalent of smoking 2 packets of cigarettes a day – very bad for adults, appalling for children. Smoke is the killer in the kitchen. And sad to say I suspect it claimed Agnes’s husband.
Let’s help protect Agnes’s children.No Comments » | Add your comment
It has been 12 months since Northern Kenya, and Mandera County in particular, saw one of the worst droughts in 60 years.
Thanks to your support, Practical Action was able to help thousands of poor people cope with the drought. But we need your help more than ever to ensure that the region doesn’t slip back into crisis when the next drought occurs.
Mandera County has an area of over 25,000 square kilometres of dry land and a population of 1,025,000 people. Most of these people are pastoralists who depend on their livestock to survive.
As we were already working in this area we expanded our services to help those most at risk.
Impact of the 2011 drought
Due to the failure of the rains from October to December 2010, water sources dried up and pastures diminished. Many livestock died as a result and their owners were unable to sustain their livelihoods and feed their families.
Inadequate and inappropriate economic, social and political preparedness strategies and ineffective early warning systems left pastoralists more vulnerable to the effects of drought. Interventions only begin when the drought impacts have reached emergency levels and the biggest casualty is usually the livestock and their poor owners.
What Practical Action did and how we did it
With the onset of the drought, Practical Action, with support from The Brooke and The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad (SPANA) launched an emergency programme of work to minimize the losses of pastoralist livestock and donkeys.
We set up a feeding and vaccination programme for sheep and goats.
Donkey health service drives were provided to reduce worm infestations and treat opportunistic diseases that would have weakened donkeys or led them to early deaths.
We trained donkey owners and handlers to take care of their working animals to ensure no donkey died from thirst and overworking and distributed hay and feed to over 5,000 donkeys.
9,000 litres of diesel was provided to seven boreholes to support extension work on animal welfare at watering points. Crucially, water was also provided for villages located far away from water points. Four water troughs were rehabilitated, cracks repaired and piping done to connect it to a permanent water source.
Together with SPANA, we launched a media campaign to highlight the plight of livestock and their poor owners at the time when governments, aid agencies and international communities were concentrating their efforts on refugees. You can see the coverage here. Following this coverage, the UK government pledged an additional £4 million to support livestock in the region.
Without our urgent intervention and the intervention by others, the drought ravaging the region at that time could have got a lot worse.
What is the situation now?
Mandera County received some good short rains between October and December 2011. However, the long rains expected between March and May this year were below the normal level. A total of 54.4 mm of rainfall was recorded at Mandera meteorological station, compared to the normal rains of 100 to 150 mm. The pasture condition is normal but dry.
The condition of livestock is fair to good. However, this is expected to deteriorate as pastures dry up and water sources diminish over the summer, which will increase stress on the animals before the onset of the short rains in October to November 2012.
There is also low calving among cattle and camel due to the low conception rate during the last year’s drought. As a result, there is not much milk from camels and cattle.
What do we need to do as we look ahead?
Droughts are cyclical – they will return to the region. During every drought nearly 80% of Mandera’s population slide into an emergency situation – losing livestock which lead to hunger, malnutrition and even death. That is why we need your help to support our work, so we can:
- Provide fuel subsidy for motorized water pumps running boreholes so these pumps can run 24/7 while poor pastoralists are unable to contribute to its running costs as a result of their animals losing value or dying. Support should also come in form of fast moving spare parts and expertise for water pump repairs.
- Introduce water/pasture saving, treatment and conservation technologies
- Maintain livestock food aid and animal health services to cushion the poor livestock owners from shocks that would diminish their livestock during drought.
- Initiate long term recovery activities such as de-silting and repairing strategic water sources, vaccinating and de-worming livestock to make them better able to stand adverse conditions, and supporting fodder producers with fuel subsidy and irrigation technologies.
- Advise pastoral communities to use reserve grazing land if available or to sell their livestock well before the water and pasture situation becomes critical.
- Rehabilitate degraded rangeland to eventually improve pasture availability.
- Facilitate animal health services and emergency livestock feed services along the livestock routes running between common border areas with Ethiopia and Somalia. This will help reduce economically important trans-boundary livestock diseases during the period of huge livestock influx between porous borders.
- Lobby for the suspension of taxes and service fees levied on livestock sellers during the emergency period to help in emergency off-take.