Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a number of Practical Action’s projects across Latin America. Not only was I overwhelmed by the colours, culture and pure grit of people living in some really challenging environments, but by the generosity and open friendship they showed when welcoming us into their homes.
At an altitude of almost 4000m, high in the mountains of western Bolivia is the Jesús de Machaca municipality. With a population of roughly 400 people, a tough four hour car ride from any major town along rough dirt roads, this is a remote and arguably hostile landscape to live in. There are few ways to make a living up here, and apart from growing limited crops such as quinoa, the environment means agriculture is largely restricted to farming camelids.
Llamas and alpacas are hardy animals, which when cared for properly; provide a vital income for farmers. However; challenges of weather, uncontrolled breeding, inadequate knowledge of rearing livestock, along with often unfair access to markets means that farmers in the upland areas of Peru and Bolivia are struggling to earn a living to support their families.
But, with the help of our kind supporters, Practical Action is changing this. Below you can read about five simple, sustainable solutions that are helping to transform the livelihoods of camelid farmers in Latin America.
1. Covered shelters:
The relentless push of climate change is causing the weather to be unpredictable in high altitude areas, and farmers in Bolivia are often caught out by sudden bites of frost, or prolonged rainfall. Martin Queso and his family showed us the open fronted shelter that Practical Action have helped him to build, he told us:
“Before, my animals would just range freely. When the weather suddenly changed, with cold winds, ice or rain, they would get sick, often they would die, and I would have no way of making any income. I couldn’t afford to replace a lost llama, and my flock got smaller and smaller.”
With the shelter, now the family can easily bring the herd inside for protection from the elements when needed.
2. Rainwater storage, irrigation and water pumps and troughs:
With erratic and unreliable rainfall, mountainous areas in Peru and Bolivia often go for periods of time where water is scarce. With the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems like this one is Nunõa, Peru, water can be collected and stored. Irrigation pipes are connected to the reservoirs, ensuring the surrounding ground remains green for grazing. In Jesús de Machaca, the installation of photovoltaic water pumps and troughs means that livestock have access to fresh water all year round.
“We didn’t believe it would work at first” Dalia Condori, a member of the local council told us, “but now it has brought water and a better life for so many”
3. Breeding pens:
We’ve seen them patch-worked into the countryside of the United Kingdom for centuries:
Dry-stone wall enclosures that hem-in herds, divide open grassland and mark boundary lines; but this simple method of livestock separation has only been introduced fairly recently to communities in the Nunõa district, near Sicuani in southern Peru. Enabling farmers to isolate certain alpacas from the rest of the herd allows for selective and planned breeding of the healthiest animals, in turn producing the highest quality wool fleece, returning a better price at market. It also means that young alpacas can be nurtured and protected for longer periods of time before being released to roam freely with the herd, thus boosting their fitness and increasing their chances of survival.
4. Market access and product diversification:
In the remote villages of upland Bolivia, getting a fair price for llama wool is tough – individual farmers can only sell for whatever the going price in the local area is, even though this may be much lower than what the fleece is actually worth. Practical Action is working with farming communities to create co-operative groups that can work together to access bigger markets for their products, and demand a higher, fairer price. Llama farmers like Andrés are also encouraged to diversify their products in order to make a better income. Andrés, who has won multiple awards for his spinning and wool-product work, also makes and paints traditional Bolivian clay figures to sell at the tourist markets.
5. Training and knowledge:
Practical Action helps to provide training on basic animal husbandry and wellbeing. Farmers in Jesús de Machaca learn about the right type and quantities of nutritious food, how to administer medication for their llamas when they are sick, and how to maintain the grazing pasture land. The knowledge is then shared between farming communities by Practical Action ‘Promotors’ who help to teach others how to breed and care for their livestock effectively.
It is vitally important to the families in these areas that the great work that Practical Action is able to do continues. Llamas and alpacas are strong and intelligent and are crucial for the farming communities in Latin America. Access to the tools and knowledge for breeding and looking after their animals provide families with a secure source of income. With just £47 you can help to support a llama farmer in Bolivia by buying a ‘llama lifeline’ Practical Present today.1 Comment » | Add your comment
The growth of 3D printing has been rapid in the last decade, with the creation of low cost printers and the availability of easy to use software.
The growth and use of this technology is evident across many developed economies. 3D printers are now a common tool for prototyping and used by many design agencies, engineering firms and research institutions. However, there is now a real opportunity to use 3D printing in developing economies and help to leapfrog highly capital intensive manufacturing.
The premise of 3D printing is simple, in that firstly 3D geometry is created using specialist 3D modelling software. This geometry is then virtually sliced into layers and outputted as numeric code. This code is read by the 3D printer which prints layer by layer to create the final part. The print material could be metals, plastics or ceramics and typically come in one of the following forms:
- Liquids – often cured using a laser
- Filament – typically extruded from a nozzle
- Powder – typically cured using a laser or form of adhesive
These 3D printers are available in various sizes and have respective build qualities. Although traditionally very expensive, growth in the 3D printing industry has led to the development of desktop printers which are easy to use, affordable and have relatively good part quality.
Future of 3D printing
Some predict that this rapid development of 3D printing has started a new industrial revolution which will ultimately influence and affect almost every aspect of life. However, it is already evident that the advantages of 3D printing have opened the way for novel product development and innovations which can provide a range of logistical and technological advantages. The core advantages include:
- Ability for low volume production
- Faster and more responsive production than traditional methods
- Simplification and shortening of manufacturing supply chains
- Democratisation of production
- Ability to optimise and personalise a design
These advantages represent a potential paradigm shift in the manufacture of products which will have a direct effect on the design and distribution process. The market and application for this technology is clear in the developed economies. However, there is now an opportunity to investigate the application of 3D printing in developing economies as a way to alleviate poverty and help bridge the vast technological divide.
3D printing in developing economies
Although developing countries may not be the most obvious place to adopt 3D printing technology, the rapid uptake of mobile phones shows how new technologies can be used to leapfrog developed nations.
Over the last 30 years the cost of mobile phones has significantly decreased and the rate of adoption has reached 3.4bn (50% of the population). Uptake in developing countries has far exceeded expectations, with usage in sub-Saharan Africa now at 60% of the population.
Before the mobile phone, developed economies had invested large amounts of money in land-line infrastructure. However, developing economies are able to effectively skip the landline, which, after all, would have been prohibitively expensive in poor communities due to vast distances and low population density. The popularity of mobile technology, its ability to increase levels of income, and the rapid adoption demonstrates the real opportunity for 3D printing as the technology development curve is not dissimilar to that of mobile communication. Furthermore, this lack of infrastructure and limited logistics provides a huge opportunity for 3D printers as it could mean rural villages would be able to print their own products or agriculture tools and not have to rely on unreliable supply chains. The advancement in mobile communication and the internet continues to support this technology allowing for the rapid transfer of data between sites.
For engineers, this development could enable greater access to these markets through online communities (which are already beginning to form) and enable end users to join the design process, creating more effective [product] solutions to meet their needs.
3D printing pilot study in a developing country
As an academic, it is interesting to see how this technology can be integrated into the development sector. In order to begin to understand this De Montfort University has partnered with Practical Action to carry out a pilot study with the charity’s office in Lima, Peru.
The primary aim of the project is to see if 3D printing can be used to enhance the design of existing solutions, and if some of their current products can be more effectively developed across multiple site offices. The secondary aim is to understand if the possession of a 3D printer enables new and innovative design ideas to be created, which were previously not possible. The hope is that this pilot will lead to a larger study exploring the potential of this technology in the development sector.
Initial findings from a visit to Lima highlighted that one of the first things Practical Action wanted to do was to print a 3D topographical map of the areas of poverty in Lima. This showed, in clear detail, how landslides were a real danger and what would happen in their inevitable event. These 3D maps will be used to explain, across a language barrier, to people living there why we needed to make changes, to have safety measures put in place. Without 3D printing it would not have been possible to produce these. These insights are really useful and demonstrate just one potential benefit of 3D printing technology.
The study is being carried out with Practical Action using an Ultimaker 2 Desktop printer. For further information please visit the project website www.bridgingthedivide.org or contact email@example.comNo Comments » | Add your comment
One of the most important outcomes of the COP20 in Peru last year was the development of the Lima Work Program on Gender and Climate Change which establishes a plan of activities to promote gender sensitivity in climate change policy and practice. Inspired by diverse discussions around gender at the 2014 COP, the Government of Peru took the ambitious decision to develop a National Plan of Action on Gender and Climate Change (PAGCC); a unique effort among South American countries.
Over recent years, Peru has laid some solid legal foundations that should facilitate the integration of gender dimensions into the country’s development initiatives. These include passing the National Law for Equal Opportunities between Men and Women in 2007 (Ley de Igualdad de Oportunidades Entre Mujeres y Hombres), and the development of the National Plan for Gender Equality 2012-2017 (Plan Nacional de Igualdad deGénero – PLANIG) and the 2014 National Climate Change Strategy (Estrategía Nacional ante el Cambio Climático), among others.
It is acknowledged that in the development of public policies, strategies and national plans in Peru and beyond, gender equality is often overlooked and the objectives rarely respond to the specific needs of women, men, children and elderly people.  It is therefore a key objective of the PAGCC to mainstream gender across national policies and initiatives related to climate change mitigation and adaptation in Peru. Specifically, the plan focuses on the following eights areas:
- Water Resources
- Food Safety
- Solid Waste
- Disaster Risk Management.
The development of the PAGCC began in December 2014 and involves numerous government agencies and civil society groups from across the country, led by the Department of Climate Change, Desertification and Water Resources in the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations. Representatives from several of these agencies and groups were invited by Practical Action Consulting to a workshop to kick-off the CDKN-funded research project ‘Gender Equality and Climate Compatible Development: Drivers and challenges to people’s empowerment’ in April 2015.
Peru is one of the three countries, along with Kenya and India, which has been selected for the research project coordinated by Practical Action Consulting with the support of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS). This research seeks to establish a deeper understanding of how and to what extent gender approaches can contribute to climate compatible development (CCD) with a special focus on urban contexts. It is hoped that the lessons and recommendations from the research will contribute to the design and implementation of CCD actions and policies on in the countries studied and beyond.
The case study in Peru provides an opportunity to explore the role of the gender approach in disaster risk reduction by examining the experiences of two Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Networks (Redes de Gestión de Riesgos, Desastres y Cambio Climático, known as GRIDES) in the Andean cities of Cajamarca and Ancash. The GRIDES provide a space where civil society representatives can engage and influence decision-makers to incorporate the issues of risk management and climate change into regional development plans
Throughout this year PAC has been invited to contribute to the development of the National Plan on several occasions, in particular by helping to strengthen understanding around the benefits of gender approaches to disaster risk reduction. As a result, the draft PAGCC cites the work of the GRIDES as an example of how gender approaches can be integrated into DRR efforts.
On 13thOctober 2015, the Ministry of Environment organised an expert workshop in Lima designed to collect expert contributions for the final draft text of the PAGCC. Among 30 participants, with the majority representing government agencies, Lili Illeva was one of only five representatives from civil society invited to attend the workshop.
Her contributions centred on gender and DRR and a key priority was to share some of the initial lessons coming out of the CDKN research. These included:
- Women living in urban and rural areas of Peru experience different socio-economic impacts as a result of climate change, especially in terms of food security. For example, women in Cajamarca told us that in rural areas they have the opportunity to grow their own food, however when they migrate to cities, if they do not find a way of generating income for just one day (which often happens as a result of disaster events), they are quickly exposed to food insecurity.
- Urban women demonstrate different strategies for adaptation and disaster response compared to urban men and rural women, especially women who have migrated to urban areas. Often the traditional knowledge they have is not relevant for urban challenges and many capacity building initiatives fail to respond to their specific needs.
- In the urban context, women are perceived to be more vulnerable than men to climate change, disasters and emergencies in particular because they are responsible for preparing food, providing water to their families and protecting children from increasing health risks.
- At the same time, urban women could be perceived as more resilient than men to disasters. For example, urban women seek out new knowledge and take into account future risks, such as potential food and water scarcity or how to protect children from new diseases.
- While recognising that in the urban context both men and women play an important role in DRR, women are particularly pro-active in the transmission of new knowledge (such as disaster evacuation plans) to family members.
- Urban women also demonstrate high levels of participation in community DRR initiatives, such as disaster simulations and post-disaster recovery.
- There is a need to develop understanding and awareness around the relationships between gender and climate compatible development (including DRR) in urban contexts, especially amongst urban populations, civil society and decision makers.
It is hoped that the outcomes of this research will continue to inform the design and implementation of the PAGCC, as well as strengthen the mainstreaming of gender in development initiatives in Peru and beyond.
The final results and recommendations from the research will be presented in a country report and policy brief to be published early 2016.
Lili Ilieva is a researcher in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction at Practical Action Consulting Latin America and member of the technical team in the CDKN-supported research project ‘Gender Equality and Climate Compatible Development: Drivers and Challenges to people’s empowerment’.
 Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, presentation at the 3rd expert workshop for the preparation of PAGCCNo Comments » | Add your comment
There is no such thing as a ‘natural’ disaster. Whether an extreme weather event or hazard results in a disaster depends on the degree of resilience a community enjoys. And what begins as one disaster can soon cascade into multiple, household level catastrophes.
In March 2015, the Rimac river valley, east of Lima, Peru, experienced it’s heaviest rainfall in 80 years. This contributed to a mudslide that devastated the town, killing at least nine people and destroying homes and places of business.
Daniela Zügel spoke with those who lost their businesses to the mudslide (reported in her blog), including Señora Victoria, who owned a tire repair business. Victoria lost her business registration documents in the landslide; because was unable to report the loss within 48 hours of the landslide occurring – due to road blockages and the pressing need to support her family in the immediate aftermath – she will receive no support from the state to rebuild her business or replace her lost assets. This institutionalised vulnerability is a major contributing factor to the disaster that has struck Victoria, her family, and the families of the three people previously employed by the tire repair shop.
The earthquakes in Nepal in late April and May 2015 revealed a similarly devastating level of institutionalised vulnerability. The Kathmandu valley has seen rapid urbanization in recent years, while emergency services have remained woefully insufficient; critical infrastructure and essential services were considered extremely vulnerable even before the earthquake struck (British Red Cross, 2014).
Re-development is haphazard; building codes exist, but they are insufficient to protect from earthquakes such as those experienced this year, and only a fraction of new builds comply with them anyway. To make matters worse, new settlements on the edges of Kathmandu are being built in areas that have already experienced landslides, increasing the risk of further slope failure during the heavy monsoon rains.
The situation in Nepal pushed humanitarian agencies to respond with emergency supplies and temporary shelter. However, this is not a long term solution. If we are to stop natural hazards from becoming human disasters, it is essential that we understand and deconstruct institutionalised vulnerability, and build community resilience in a sustainable way. In Peru, this may mean working with government institutions to re-design the laws that govern emergency response. In Nepal, this might mean working with the public and private sector to ensure that building regulations are appropriate and enforced.
Practical Action is leading the way in measuring and strengthening community resilience through it’s work on the ground and it’s innovative partnerships, most notably with the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, which brings together Zurich Insurance, Practical Action, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Making Centre, and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis to develop tools and strategies for measuring and strengthening community resilience to extreme flood events. The methodology is still under development, but the valuable lessons being generated will certainly enhance the quality and impact of our Disaster Risk Reduction projects in the future.
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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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.No Comments » | Add your comment
As we left the narrow alleys of Cusco, the natural delights of country life awaited us. The extremely beautiful countryside kept me glued to the car window throughout the journey.
Being new to the place, for me, the most notable things on the way to Pomacanchi from Cusco were graffiti and lakes. The houses and walls that were painted with election symbols and slogans for the recently held regional and municipal elections pose stark contrast to the surrounding – a sort of visual pollution.
However, the lovely lakes dotting the stunning landscape never let me look away. The area is famous for lakes and springs – Pomacanchi, Pampamarca, Acopia and Mosoc Llacta being the biggest and most important lakes in the area.
Crossing Pomacanchi, the picturesque and biggest lake in the district, we arrived at the Pomacanchi District Municipality after two hours. Facing the yellow municipality building with arches is a wide square housing restaurants, parking space, flag poles, statues, benches and a small garden. We took quick sips of coffee and few bites of bread in a restaurant at the square. The local products were refreshing!
As we walked along the corridors of the building, we were led to the Civil Registration Office. The office registers the birth and other important dates for Pomacanchi residents.
Antolin, the office Chief welcomed us and showed around his office. Amidst a rack of old registers were two computers, a scanner, photocopier and a printer. Novice to the modern technology, he learned to use computers with the help of Willay Programme and started keeping the correct birth dates.
According to Antolin, earlier it was quite difficult to register the exact dates. People used to relate the dates with some major events happening around the date and the registration had to be done manually – noting down the details in thick registers.
When the residents came to collect the certificates, it used to take hours to find their respective certificates among the stack of old files. Adding to the woe, the spittle applied to the index finger while rummaging through the pages dabbed the certificates. Sometimes, the certificates used to get ruined in the process.
To tackle this, the programme has developed a reliable system. Now, the data can be easily searched in the system. With the system’s help, Antolin finds the details of a beneficiary in his computer within minutes and prints the certificate instantly. He has also started scanning old certificates and recording them in the system.
In Pomacanchi, around 200 births take place in a year. According to the National Census of Population and Dwellings 2007, the population of Pomacanchi was 8,340.
As the terrain is difficult and people reside in remote areas, they walk even for two days on foot to get to the registration office for registering births. Earlier, they had to wait for hours to get their work done. Now, Antolin takes no more than five minutes to register a birth date. And the beneficiaries no longer need to wait for hours.
Showing us the system, Antolin said, “It is easier and efficient with the system on place.”
The system feeds to the national data. The programme has also developed manuals to operate the system. The municipality has a support system in place to deal with system breakdowns and errors occurring during the process.
Along with Pomacanchi, six municipalities in Acomayo and two municipalities in Cajamarca use the system.
So, what’s in a name? And why do people flock to Antolin’s office to get the name, birth date and other details registered?
Antolin says birth registration is children’s prime right as it provides them with legal identity opening doors to other rights ranging from health care and education to participation in polls and receiving protection from state.
As we left his office, he was feeling proud of demonstrating the usefulness of the system to visitors from other parts of the world.
(The team visiting the Civil Registration Office in Pomacanchi, Peru included Amanda Ross from the UK, Mehrab Ul Goni from Bangladesh, Sara Eltigani Elsharif from Sudan, and Upendra Shrestha and Sanjib Chaudhary from Nepal.)
The Willay programme in Peru began in 2007 and until 2010 focussed on promoting ICT for governance, implementing demonstration projects in San Pablo (Cajamarca) and Acomayo (Cusco), deploying telecommunications network, improving information management systems and strengthening capacities of public officials in rural areas. The programme, implemented by Practical Action, is in its third phase and aimed towards the sustainability of the system.
The programme has been funded by Ministry of External Affairs and Cooperation –Government of Spain, Municipality of Madrid and European Commission.Comments Off on What’s in a name? | Comments Off on What’s in a name?
I’ve just sent the final report to the innocent foundation on Practical Action’s cloud forest project, ‘New Life to the Forests, New Life for the Amazonian People in Peru and Bolivia’. Really hope they like the report, but more importantly I’m sure they will be as proud as we are of the incredible impact that the partnership between Practical Action and the innocent foundation, together with fellow funders of the project, the Waterloo Foundation and Z Zurich Foundation, has achieved over the last three years for communities living the tropical forests of the Amazon.
If you watched, ‘I bought a rainforest’ on the UK’s BBC tv over the last three weeks, by the film director, Gavin Searle, which follows the journey of Charlie Hamilton James when he bought 100 acres of Peruvian rainforest, you will have seen the kind of challenges he experienced if he was to preserve his purchase from being felled. By living and working with the local people he begins to realise that the way to help protect the forest is not just to buy it, but to engage with the people living in it, and to work with them rather than against them. Just the way that Practical Action has been working with the indigenous Awajun and settler families in Bolivia and Peru – working with them to better manage the cloud forests sustainably so that they, and generations to come, can make a living without removing majestic trees such as the mahogany, without growing crops and then leaving the land degraded and without having to resort to livelihoods such as illegal logging and mining, which destroy not preserve one of the riches ecosystems in the world, home to amazing flora and fauna and to more than 3.5million native and migrant people.
We set out to work directly with almost 1,500 people living and working in the forest, and to indirectly help a further 20,000 people, through sharing lessons and good practice. At the end of the three years, we have improved the livelihoods and lives of not only the families we worked directly with, but have improved the quality of life for at least a further 63,000 men, women and children. Equally importantly, the communities, with the Foundations’ and Practical Action’s support, have begun to rebuild the forest, and to build a better future for their children, by planting over 105,000 indigenous trees, trees that will bring shade to their crops and will capture over 630,000mt of CO2 . With skills and knowledge now in place, with the Government supporting the work being carried out, this not the end of the project, but the beginning of a new life for the forests, a new life for the Amazonian people in Peru and Bolivia.
Practical Action is keen to talk to Trusts and Foundations who would like to support our work in energy, access to markets, disaster risk reduction and urban water and sanitation. Visit our dedicated Trusts and Foundations site for more information: http://practicalaction.org/trusts-and-foundations1 Comment » | Add your comment
To a large extent, many of us rumble through life with little thought to the what if’s of any given situation, but every now and then a curve ball comes our way which makes us stop and think. This is certainly true in my case, when I recently had the opportunity to visit Practical Action’s work in Peru and Bolivia. I saw for myself the difference financial support can and does make to the communities living in the high Andes. Practical Action can only fulfill the commitments we have made to the communities who continue to live in extreme poverty, with the generosity of like-minded individuals, organisations, trusts and foundations.
If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I could never have imagined the enormity of the Peruvian landscape and the difficulties communities face on a daily basis. If it is not the distance, or the altitude or the state of the roads, it is the extreme heat of the day or the cold of the night. Nothing is easy for these communities – they are the innocent bystanders in a far from innocent world and I know I was guilty of being blinkered to their plight.
I suspect there are a lot of people like me, guilty through no fault of our own, just innocent actions and a touch of ignorance which is why the innocent foundation’s support of our work is so incredibly special; not only to all of us here at Practical Action, but to the communities who they have so generously supported for several years.
Living in a one room hut is the reality for communities, but the implementation of basic services – simple amenities that we all take for granted can and does make a difference to them. The difference is plain to see, and I was lucky enough to meet and talk to the community involved in this project during my own visit and who feature in the innocent Chain of Good video being aired on television.
To have a chain of facilities such as power, water and appropriate sanitation is life changing and will break the chain of poverty for good. It means they can afford the essentials in life such as food, clothing and education. However, one thing that has stayed in my mind was the lady who when asked how the new facilities had made a difference to her, replied, ‘it allows me to take the truck down to the town to buy a few essentials.’ Not a bus with a comfy seat, air conditioning and a bag of sweets, but the back of a truck, and a five hour drive down the rough mountain track on a Saturday, to return on the Sunday with a few basics and a bad back!
We are all innocent until proven guilty – what we do here in our everyday lives is in complete innocence, but it makes us all guilty of being inflexible to the implications of our actions in the wider world. The Chain of Good video portrays a powerful message and I hope it will stop us in our tracks and make us all think – not for me or for any of us here at Practical Action, but for the communities that will benefit from the real and lasting difference individuals, organisations, trusts and foundations can and do make.
It is two months on since my return from Peru and Bolivia and not a day goes by I don’t think about the communities – the families that I met or the images I saw – the innocent foundation inspires; on behalf of those communities, thank you.
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I love going to meetings at the innocent drinks’ offices. Apart the from the funky surroundings (hanging basket chairs, fake grass, table tennis tables in the kitchen) where else do you get given a nice little brown bag at the end of a meeting and told to help yourself to the drinks cabinet. The temptation is great – all those lovely smoothies, peaches and apricots, mango and passion fruit, and my personal favourite – pineapples, bananas and coconut.
But I’m not writing this to plug the deliciousness of innocent’s drinks or the virtues of innocent’s office, many though they are (and by the way, as it says on the side of their drinks’ cartons, anyone can visit their offices if they make an appointment), but to also describe the amazing support they give to organisations like Practical Action.
innocent’s project support in Peru
So this is about innocent abroad – actually innocent foundation abroad – which has supported Practical Action’s work in Peru since 2007 when they funded our project providing water, sanitation and energy to communities in the high Andes, 5,000m above sea level. These are families living, cooking and sleeping in simple mud walled homes, thatched with straw. Being so few they are largely forgotten or ignored by local government when it comes to providing basic services. Water was collected from streams, often contaminated by animal waste and human faeces, (open defecation was the norm) and their only power sources were using kerosene or burning dry dung, their remoteness making it unlikely that the national grid will ever reach them. With innocent foundation’s support this has all changed.
Water, sanitation and energy
Practical Action, together with the communities, has built eco-san toilets, and as importantly, communities are now aware of the dangers to their health that open defecation brings. Piped water is available, filtered at household level to reduce the risk of diarrhoea.
And they have power, harnessing the renewable energies of the sun with small solar panels provided by Practical Action. This simple technology is enabling these alpaca farmers to increase their alpaca wool production with small electric spinning machines, bringing them increased incomes, enabling them to better support their children’s education and health needs.
Who would have thought that drinking an innocent strawberry and banana smoothie could make such a difference?
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I’ve never been able to knit or crochet – my mum, my gran, my long-suffering Home Economics teacher Mrs Wootton – they all tried, and failed, to pass on the basics, so I could only stare in envy and admiration as Rabelina, an alpaca farmer I met in Peru, effortlessly turned a ball of the softest wool I’d ever felt into a hat while we chatted.
Before her involvement with Practical Action, she lived in a one-room hut with her youngest children. There was no toilet, electricity, kitchen or shower, her children were constantly sick, and she got hacking lung infections from inhaling cooking smoke. She made her living from hand-spinning alpaca wool into thread, and in those days, the hardest part was washing the wool as it was a struggle to heat enough water.
Practical Action chose her for training in basic animal care, and also helped her to build a stove, solar panel and shower. She said the biggest benefit was that she could clean and spin better quality wool, which sells for a higher price. If you want to know more about the project, see http://practicalaction.org/basic-services-for-life.
I’m sorry, Mrs Wootton. I was a total waste of space in your classroom. But maybe meeting Rabelina will inspire me to have just one more go.No Comments » | Add your comment