Things were bleak for Govinda Khadka (47) of Gajra village in Achham District a few years back. After being a primary school teacher for over a decade until 2014, Khadka quit his job due to low remuneration and instability. Before being a school teacher, he was a migrant worker alike most of his fellow villagers. He lived and worked as a labour in India for many years. His meagre income never paid enough for his family of five including his wife and three sons. With mere three ropani (1 Ropani = 508.83771 m²) of land and Indian labour job, there was no way that his children could be educated and well brought up. Hence, just like most of the youths in Achham, two of his sons were off to India to manage two square meals. At his mid-forty’s, Khadka had no job and just a small plot of land. All his sons had to take care of their own families. He and his wife barely had a source of income.
Alternative? Taking an Indian labour job!
Still healthy and fit, taking an Indian labour job crossed Khadka’s mind many times. But it was not an easy decision to leave his wife Rajyaswari Khadka (45) all by herself. Just like Khadka, many of the Achham dwellers opt for Indian labour jobs. Every year, 28,323 men and boys of Achham District leave to neighbouring India aspiring for a better living. In absence of better livelihood options back home, India seems most palatable platter in their plate. However, migrant labourer is not a great choice of life given the hardships and consequences that come along. Khadka, despite bearing a School Leaving Certificate (SLC) level education had such a thought; we can imagine the livelihood choice of more than half of Achham population who are not literate.
Transformative Barefoot Agro-vet Career
Khadka might have to leave as an aging migrant worker but thanks to POSAN, he was offered 35 days agro-vet training when things were at edge for him. After the training, he was able to pass test to receive an official agro-vet license. He was also supported by the project to establish an agro-vet shop with financial assistance of NPR 25,000 (£ 193). His fellow villagers came to a great sigh after his agro-vet was established to cater them veterinary and agriculture related services. Since many villagers residing uphill and away from his agro-vet shop also started demanding his service, his wife started looking at the shop while Khadka started providing a barefoot agro-vet service whenever he is called. Khadka shared with us, as a barefoot agro-vet, he found more satisfaction than any other profession. It has not just been a source of income for him but he gets to socialise with fellow villagers. He also thinks the profession has given him more happiness than ever as he loves to interact with people.
“Being a barefoot agro-vet, I am able to make above NPR 40,000 (£ 310) annually. This is a lot of money for me. I have been saving most of the income for my retirement and possible medical expenses for me and my wife in future. However, it is not just about money, I get to socialise in every nook and cranny of this village and sometimes even beyond. People regard me for my service which means a lot to me. I imagine, only if I was not given this opportunity, I would not be leading such a respectful life.”
A Sigh that POSAN Brings….
Khadka is also supported by the project in vegetable farming techniques. While the Khadkas never grew enough vegetables for their own consumption due to lack of knowledge, now they barely spend any money in buying food. This also in a way has helped them make more saving. In fact, they sell the surplus once or twice every week in nearby Bayelpata market through which they make enough for their day to day expenditure. All in all, Khadka’s plans to save the income made through barefoot agro-vet service for his retirement explains how a small contribution from POSAN has helped ensure social security for him and his wife. His service is not just a business for him but is also associated to his wellbeing.
The Khadka couple today leads a happy life with least things to be worried about. They have food growing abundantly at their backyard and an agro-vet shop as a small scale enterprise. Above all, Khadka has his barefoot agro-vet profession which gives him pleasure and decent pay at the same time.No Comments » | Add your comment
Next week in Cape Town the African climate and weather forecasting community will gather for the fifth global conference on Climate Information Services (CIS). A conference organised to share knowledge between climatologists, meteorologists and practitioners in key sectors such as agriculture, water, and health etc., sectors that can be better planned and managed if access to up to the minute climate information is available. Over the last decade there has been considerable investment in improving the technology, equipment and capacity of meteorology and forecasting departments across Africa. This is in recognition that accurate weather and climate information can deliver tangible benefits. However, despite these investment the benefits have largely been recovered at scale with less impact on the ground. The poor and marginalised communities, those with the most to gain from this information have largely failed to see these benefits. Therefore, Practical Action has been invited to attend the conference and present our innovative approach to CIS systems mapping that aims to respond to recognised deficiencies in existing CIS systems;
- Firstly, coming up with a simple system mapping process that is understood, owned and works for actors and for beneficiaries;
- Making sure that the system map can adapt CIS delivery in such a way that complements (and not replaces) existing local, indigenous knowledge systems; and
- That the CIS reaches those who would benefit the most, those facing famine if crops fail, those on the frontline of climate disaster.
Practical Action has spent many years developing and perfecting the Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD) approach, one of the central components of PMSD is co-producing a map of the value chain for the selected commodity. For mapping climate information, we have refined the methodology replacing the value chain with the information services chain. In discussion with partners we have focussed the CIS system map on the network that connects CIS producers with CIS users. CIS producers are the operators of weather stations, satellites etc. with CIS users being rain fed farmers. Existing challenges include;
- Mapping how information moves across this system;
- What are the boundaries to this system;
- What are the nodes in the information service network, and;
- What are the flows of information that take place.
The value of a systems map is that it not only identifies existing blockages and barriers, but also allows different users to interrogate the system to identify alternative pathways which might deliver improvements. Finally, the systems map is inclusive allowing non-traditional and informal components of the system to be included.
We recognise that CIS on its own may not be practical or valuable, so we will be looking at information carriers, alternative systems such as information on markets prices that could be linked to CIS information to enhance their delivery. In all cases we will use the CIS system maps as a planning and learning tool. Therefore the map once produced will not remain static but it will live and be owned by the systems actors and be refined as we learn more about how they system behaves and adapts over time. We recognise that we are working in a space where there is already a lot going on, so we need to ensure that our systems approach is open and inclusive of these other initiative so that they are complementary and we can learn and share between them.
What are we aiming for? We are looking at making improvements to the CIS system. Making sure that information reaches rain fed smallholder farmers in drought prone areas and enables them to make the right short and long term choices about their farming practices. It is not enough to just supply the information, they also need to be able to act on it. Therefore if we make the existing system operate more efficiently or faster, but the farmers do not benefit then we will have failed. This is a unique focus for this project and challenges us not to think of what changes can we make to improve the system, but what are the systemic changes that need to take place to benefit rain fed farmers (CIS information users).
For more information on the conference follow @ColinMcQuistan, #ICCS5 and @maryallenballoNo Comments » | Add your comment
“This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather”. Groundhog day 1993
Practical Action has been approached by a consortia of partners to explore the issue of Climate Information Services in West Africa. We have been posed the question “Is it possible to map the Climate Information Services system in the region and would mapping help to make the system work better for rain fed marginalised farmers?” This is partly to respond to the challenge of why despite investment in rolling out modern forecasting systems on the continent, farmers especially small holder farmers fail to benefit from these investments? Why is crop productivity still lagging behind other regions and why is food and nutritional security still highly susceptible to seasonal and shorter term weather events?
We are interested in mapping the CIS system for both long range forecasts of the season ahead as well as shorter duration forecast of the week or day ahead. These forecasts must consider and accurately reflect weather, climate variability and must also anticipate the uncertainty surrounding the consequences of climate change for the region.
Accurate seasonal forecasts can help farmers make the right crop choice for the subsequent growing season, for example if the predictions are for a wetter or dryer season then the farmer can adjust the seed they purchase to grow crops best suited to the expected conditions. By contrast accurate weekly and daily weather forecasts can enable farmers to choose the right husbandry activities for the crop at that particular moment in time. For example advance warning of heavy rain may prompt a farmer to speed up harvest to prevent storm damage to a standing crop or perhaps for a herder to find safe high ground prior to heavy rains leading to flash flooding.
However in both cases there are a number of issues that need to be considered to make the forecast practical. These include;
Believable, currently many farmers have zero or limited access to climate information services and have for generations relied on traditional knowledge systems. These include observational information on the behaviour of species, timing of events or observation of atmospheric conditions. It is vital that modern climate information services respect these indigenous approaches and compliment or reinforce these messages. Over time as reliability increases farmers can make a shift in trust and belief, but even in the developed world many farmers still look to local signs to interpret the outcome or as back up to the information provided by the climate information service for their locality.
Actionable, the farmer needs to be able to make a change based on the information they receive. For a farmer to switch crops based on a seasonal forecast they will need access to those alternative crops, not just access to seeds but also the activities that support these crops, such as technical knowledge, extension services and other supporting services. If the information cannot be acted upon by the farmer with the resources they have to hand it is next to useless.
Understandable, providing blanket forecasts will not be useful if they cannot relate the forecast information to their individual situation. As we move down to finer scales weather forecasts become less reliable and it is therefore vital that CIS delivery is tailored to what we know about local conditions. We are all aware of the anomalies in the landscape and these are usually best known by local people. So tailoring the forecast to the local conditions will be vital. Related to this is the need to make forecasts practicable to the diversity of users in the area. Forecasts need to explain the application of what the information means for different farming systems. The forecast may predict favourable condition for certain crops or livestock species but may herald warnings for others, so tailoring the advice to specific cropping recommendations will make the climate service more user friendly.
We have started to elaborate a participatory mapping approach which builds on the success of our Participatory Markets Systems Development (PMSD) approach. This has been adapted to map not a value chain but to focus on the transmission of climate services from information sources to information recipients. We will aim to map the transmission of information across the system as it is converted from one form of information to another and turned into action through different service providers. Crucial to the success of this approach will be the need to make it bottom up and as participatory as possible.
There are plenty of other issues that we will consider as this project develops. For example the use of SMS messaging and other types of Information Communication Technologies to disseminate climate information. However, one of the most important aspects that we are hoping the system approach will help us understand is the role and potential for feedback loops. Established Climate Information Service systems work because they are reliable and trustworthy. This is only possible if regular experiential learning and feedback takes place between the end users and the CIS system components. We are excited to be a part of this project, but recognise that there is a lot still to learn about climate information services and what makes them tick.
- Find out more about Practical Action’s inclusive markets approach, Participatory Market Systems Development
I remember when I used to go to my maternal uncle’s ancestral home in Nepalgunj as a kid, my grandmother asked us not to step inside the kitchen while she was cooking. She wanted to prevent us from the tough smoke from the burning fire. Few years later, she started using LPG stove and things got better for her. But even at her 70’s, she is somehow paying the expense of cooking in smoke filled kitchen for half her life. After about twenty years my granny bid farewell to smoke, the traditional cooking is still persists in Nepali kitchens.
Lately, I saw reflection of my granny again in this adorable elderly named Sona Gurung from Khalte of Dhading. Years and years have passed, Nepal got facelift in many different ways but Nepalese kitchens are still reeling under the cloud of smoke. This smoke is a silent killer, every year it claims lives of as many people as TB, Malaria and Aids combined across the world and specially women of poor communities and children under the age of 5. The primitive way of cooking is undoubtedly an outcome of poverty and lack of awareness. There are many approaches underway to address this issue and is yet insufficient. Let’s try from each of our side to speak of it and act on it.3 Comments » | Add your comment
Today, the UK ratified the Paris climate agreement. This means that we join a group of over 110 countries that have so far ratified a global agreement in record time, less than one year since its inception.
Last week on the 14th November, the Prime Minister, made a call. She said “Britain has ‘historic chance’ to give leadership to world” Today, in Marrakesh, the climate change negotiations enter their final day, with the negotiations having been laboured unlike in Paris and Lima before them. In Marrakesh there has been a lack of urgency, leadership and as a result the negotiations have stalled in lengthy discussion around protocol and rules. Bogged down around difficult issues such as Loss and Damage, or how to respond to the immense challenge of climate change particularly for those who are least able to respond themselves. This is an issue that chimes well with the PMs words last week, “To be the true global champion of free trade in this new modern world, we also need to do something to help those families and communities who can actually lose out from it”. I know she wasn’t specifically referring to climate change, but we have long recognised the link between climate change and the economy and how our collective failure to act on climate impacts the global economy.
Loss and Damage was added as a third pillar under Article 8 of the Paris Agreement. In responding to the Prime Minister’s call for leadership, in the climate arena there is no better issue where our collective skills could deliver real progress. This is something we have done before. In 2006 the government of the day published the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. For the UK government to take leadership – climate leadership – we could be instrumental in breaking the log jam on Loss and Damage. Currently Loss and Damage is stuck in a blame game between developed countries seen as responsible for causing the problem and developing countries seen as suffering from the problem – we must move away from this polarisation, but how?
Currently the UK provides 5.8 Billion pounds in global assistance to tackle climate change. According to policy, half of this is for mitigation. Investment in developing countries to deliver renewable energy, energy efficiency and transform the power sector. This leaves 2.9 billion to respond to the very real threat of climate change, half should be invested in adaptation to changing climates and the remainder dedicated to support the most vulnerable people for who climate change adaptation is already too late.
For many people in small island states losing their land to sea level rise is a real problem; or to the multitude of small holder farmers forced to give up on agriculture due to seasonal shifts in climatic conditions, and we must not forget the voiceless the species, habitats and the ecosystem services they provide, upon which our daily lives depend; for food, freshwater, clean air and recreational space. The poorest and most vulnerable are running out of choices, these people are driving political and social change around the world and as we see reported in the news daily they form the climate migrants threatening to imbalance global systems as they seek refuge around the globe.
This situation could be reversed if we could progress with the Loss and Damage debate. This is where the UK could take decisive action and be recognised for our bold commitment to not only act on climate change but also to provide a long term resilient solution to a global problem, one our close economic and political partners are struggling with too. Here at the negotiations we hear on an almost daily basis the challenge of how to unlock the missing trillions of global investments and how can they be diverted to drive climate smart investment?
First demonstrate UK commitment to the Loss and Damage debate by taking forward the proposal for a centre of excellence in the City of London on climate insurance, but broaden this away from purely insurance based solutions to more holistic investments. Insurance we know is unaffordable to the people that Loss and Damage needs to help. Now is the time for leadership, come up with some innovative suggestions on how to finance Loss and Damage with the deadline for submissions the 27th February 2017. We know if it’s not led, the process will move slowly and could be framed under a context we are not comfortable with.
Secondly – this is why a clear distinction between Loss and Damage and Adaptation and Mitigation is urgently needed. The UK has significant leadership in the thought debate related to climate change, so we are well placed to influence. A definition of a clear space for Loss and Damage would halt the waste of time spent arguing about “what it is” and “what it is not”. This would focus efforts on developing solutions. Defining the space for Loss and Damage brings together what are currently different perspectives. Different perspectives imply different priorities so coherence on Loss and Damage would help consolidate action.
And finally, the missing piece of the jigsaw the missing trillions. Current UK investment exposure is considerable, especially in respect to retirement and insurance funds exposed to increasing climate, social and political risk. These funds well directed could be catalytic in transforming the role of private sector investment in driving climate smart development. Exploring innovative finance by eradicating outdated fossil fuel subsidies or from new sources from the aviation or shipping industries. We need a global finance system that works for the planet. The UK could contribute to develop pro poor and climate smart investment principles, which deliver for the planet and for the poorest, therefore building the ecological and social stability we all need.
The UK Is well placed to contribute to moving forward the Loss and Damage debate as we have the technical and thought leadership necessary to explore the debate in detail. This was something that Practical Action along with the MET Office, Oxford University, Lund University and IIASA did in Marrakesh last week in our side event titled “Loss and Damage; Perspectives and options”. We have the global skills in innovative financing, insurance and investment necessary to unlock the missing trillions, and finally whatever we recommend, Loss and Damage has got to be about more than just insurance.
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Practical Action is committed to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment through all its work; through programmes, knowledge sharing, advocacy, external communications and organisational development. It ensures gender considerations in all of its four programme areas –agriculture, food security and markets; urban water, sanitation and waste; energy access and disaster risk reduction.
To stress the importance of gender analysis and develop gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) related project activities and indicators, Practical Action organised a gender sensitisation workshop on 14-15 September 2016 in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The workshop was facilitated by Kamla Bhasin, a feminist activist and social scientist. Her work focuses on gender, education, human development and media. She is an advocate for equality between genders.
The first part of the workshop focused on the concept of gender and inclusion, masculinity and patriarchy, power relations, gender roles and work burdens, gender division of labour and gender relations on social inclusions.
The second part was concerned with gender integration in project management cycle, the role of managers including monitoring and evaluation . The workshop aimed at sensitising the concept of gender and social inclusion on contemporary issues at global, regional and local levels and enhancing the capacity of the Practical Action’s managers to mainstream GESI during the project management cycle.
More specifically, the workshop focused on lecture method. Some short movies related to gender based violence and One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign were shown.
The workshop included different types of brainstorming sessions. Male and female participants were divided into different groups and participants were asked to share their painful experience as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.
The entire group shared their experiences about gender when they were children. The women’s group found their life privileged before getting married and expressed that life after marriage somehow changed due to the expectation of domestic work from women. The group came up with the outcome that the family is the basic unit of society and it is probably the most patriarchal. A man (father, grandfather, brother and so on) is considered the head of the household within the family and they control women’s sexuality, production, reproduction and mobility. The family where one learns the first lessons on hierarchy, discrimination, etc., continues these patriarchal values and so does the next generation.
Changed forms of violence
There are different types of violence and the forms of violence are changing based on time, regions and countries, for example female genital mutilations are high in African countries. Similarly gender based violence, sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices are also forms of violence. These days cybercrime and child pornography are also types of violence. Agricultural and crafts profession are on a decline and this might be the cause of new kinds of violence and engaging women in prostitution.
Masculinity and patriarchy
Masculinity is all about power and femininity is exactly the opposite of masculinity. Masculinity is social definition given to boys and men by societies. Nature makes male or female, and it gives the biological definition but society makes masculine or feminine. Patriarchy means the rule of father or the ‘patriarch’ and originally it was used to describe a specific type of ‘male dominated society’. In Asian context, it is used more generally to refer to male domination and the power relationship by which men dominate the women. As a result women are kept subordinate in a number of ways. In the context of South Asia, so called ‘Patriarchy’.
Gender is all about ideology and mindset!
Origin of patriarchy
The origin of patriarchy dates from the beginning of human history – the barbarian age, pre-civilisation. Patriarchy, a concept that we experience in our lives, explains women’s subordinate position. During that period men developed weapons and women developed tools. Then women got involved in agriculture, crafts, social relationships and their mobility became limited to the domestic sphere. Gradually, the importance of women in the hunter gatherer economy was enhanced by the significance attached to the reproductive role of women. Female sexuality was not a threat and did not have to be managed since the community depended upon it. Female reproductive power was highly valued and female power was confined to motherhood. And the male was involved in public spheres.
Gender and gender relations and the gender division of labour are also not the same everywhere. It is specific to culture, location and time.
Gender division of labour
Gender division of labour also leads to hierarchy and inequality because men and women are not valued or rewarded equally. Even these days in some countries feminists are fighting for ‘equal pay for equal work’. The allocation of certain tasks to men and women in productive processes also leads to issue of command and control over resources. Generally, women have three types of work in our societies.
1. Reproductive work (Biological reproduction and social reproduction)
2. Productive work
3. Community and social work
Even in this work there are certain roles divided between men and women. Gender division of labour leads to gender division of types of work and standard gendered labour.
“A highly effective workshop, I have ever attended”- Vishwa B. Amatya – Head of Programme, Energy
“Last two days gave us an enlightening experience. This has been an eye opener.” Archana Gurung- Communications Officer
Definitely a very fruitful time with Kamla Bhasin over the two days period. An amazing person we all fell in love with. ‘Man of quality is not afraid of equality’. We need more men to change now! “Strike, Dance and Rise Ladies”. Khommaya Thapa Pun – HR Manager
The workshop was found to be a productive way to communicate the importance of gender analysis. Overall it supported the GESI planning process while developing the GESI related project activities and indicators.No Comments » | Add your comment
So many global days are commemorated and at times you ask for what? After understanding the background, you will learn to appreciate why.
On Saturday it was Global Handwashing Day – a campaign to motivate and mobilize people around the world to improve their handwashing habits by washing their hands with soap at critical moments throughout each day.
This simple action of handwashing, when practiced religiously can reduce the risk of illness and death from diarrhoeal diseases. With 1.7 million children dying from these causes each year, I certainly think that is a great reason to celebrate the day!
In Zimbabwe we have continued to experience recurrent water and sanitation related diseases outbreaks despite efforts by various governments and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to educate the community. In Bindura, Practical Action Southern Africa has used podcasting technology to raise water and sanitation hygiene awareness (WASH) and reduce diarrheal diseases.
Through Practical Action’s WASH work, students and community members have been taught the importance of handwashing. Some were with the excuse that handwashing needs soap, but they were taught to use ash as it produces the same results as soap.
Health clubs were also formed to help spread the messages using podcasting, dramas or word of mouth, which have improved hygiene practices at individual, school and home level.
Huge successes have been recorded on handwashing. Health club members together with family members now wash their hands before engaging in any activity; for example, before eating and after visiting the toilet. Washing hands using soap has now become a habit to many. People are no longer using the traditional method of washing hands in one dish. The use of jugs, soap and running water is now the order of the day.
Water is poured over each person’s hands in turn and is then thrown away to avoid cross infection. Many of the participants from health clubs now know the correct handwashing practices.
Most children used to miss school due to sickness like diarrhoea and Malaria, but after some teachings from school health masters on the importance of handwashing, this is now history.1 Comment » | Add your comment
This week the world passed a benchmark when the 56th country submitted documents of ratification for the global climate change agreement that was signed in Paris in December 2015. This was a significant step and raises the likelihood that the Paris agreement will be ratified in advance of the next global climate gathering in Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2016.
One of the significant achievements (aside from it actually being passed!) was the inclusion of Article 8 on Loss and Damage. Loss and Damage recognises that for many, action on climate change is already too late. That for the poorest and most vulnerable climate change has exceeded the point at which adaptation might help, they are already facing the irreversible consequences of climate change. Climate conditions have already made traditional cropping practices redundant, the rate of sea water acidification has reduced fisheries upon which their livelihoods depend and for many living in coastal areas and especially small island states, sea level rise is already making their homes uninhabitable.
For these people our fixation with fossil fuels meant the loss of their homes and livelihoods, our efforts to decarbonise the global energy systems took too long. So the Loss and Damage article in the Paris agreement goes a little way to start to decide what to do for those people where climate action has been too little, too late. Unfortunately, negotiations to take forward action on Loss and Damage are progressing too slowly, as I found out in Bonn this week.
The fourth meeting of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) met in Bonn, Germany to discuss progress on their two year work plan. It’s clear that a political dance is underway in which everyone recognises the challenge but nobody is willing to step forward with the bold political agenda necessary to deliver climate justice. The developed countries are fearful of any notion of compensation, afraid of mega-lawsuits for Loss and Damages already incurred. Developing countries are trying to build on progress but cannot find the necessary levers to unlock the political impasse.
One of the first challenges is getting Loss and Damage recognised as a priority issue. Global temperatures have already risen 0.85oC from 1880 to 2012. So immediate action to limit warming further is a priority. There are no scientific nor technological barriers to keep global warming within a 1.5oC envelope and therefore minimise Loss and Damage due to climate change. The only obstacles are social and political, an unwillingness to recognise reality and an unwillingness to accept responsibility.
The hurdle we have to overcome is not a difficult one. Best estimates for current climate change based on national commitments has warming in excess of 2.7oC. Switching to a 1.5oC trajectory will deliver numerous social and economic benefits in addition to reducing the potential impacts of Loss and Damage, although this should be sufficient in itself to drive action now. Renewable energy technologies already exists and are not being exploited to their full potential. A switch to renewables would have stabilising effects on national economies as fuel prices spikes would be eradicated, with demand for fossil fuels falling and more energy being supplied for free. A switch to renewables would boost energy security. Already many counties especially small island states with the most too loose are well on the way to 100% renewable power generation. For example Costa Rica made headlines earlier in the year when it emerged that the country had been running on only renewable energy for 100 days of 2015. A switch to non-polluting energy production would improve air quality considerably with reduced health burdens on national budgets, a win-win with reduced expenditure on health with increased productivity as health levels improve.
I’ll explore the impacts of Climate Change and the consequences of Loss and Damage in our work next week.No Comments » | Add your comment
Do you remember the movie Sliding Doors? The one that asks the question ‘what if she never caught that train?’
A colleague and I were exchanging ‘what if’ questions recently and I told her my favourite ‘what if’ was ‘what if Coca Cola was never invented?’ I started outlining my current theory which includes a lot of yoghurt-based drinks like India’s Lassi or Turkey’s Ayran.
My colleague told me her dad’s favourite ‘what if’ was ‘what if there was no Google?’ We both rolled our eyes of course, laughing at what a typical dad-type question that was. Amidst the sarcastic giggling, there was something about this question that struck a chord. Being the life-hack addict I am, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to once again experiment on myself and I decided then and there to abstain from Google and all other search engines for a month.
I started excitedly buzzing about my plan to ‘go Google-less’ and a friend suggested that I fundraise off the back of my crazy experiment and donate to Practical Action’s Technology Justice work. Given my tendency to give up on things halfway, I figured fundraising for a worthy cause would spur me on to achieve my goal so I set up a Just Giving page and the rest is history.
Actually, I only wish it was history – my experiment started just a few days ago, at the beginning of September…
If I’m honest, I had very little idea what it would be like without instant access to information apart from the obvious: London would be tough to navigate without Google Maps, my poor memory of song/band names would be exposed once and for all and (the most scary perhaps) I would never know when to take my umbrella with me. Less than a week into my ‘Life before Google’ experiment, I am already on quite a different type of adventure.
If I could name one thing that has truly impacted me so far it would be the simple act of asking for help. Instead of feeling ‘help-less’, asking friends and family for information has made me feel much more warmth and connection with other people in my life. Today I asked my Colombian friend to translate the word ‘Chévere’ which I had seen being used online. His answer was: ‘it’s a very Colombian word. It means “cool” or pleasant, nice, fun… yeh, more like cool and fun’. I couldn’t help but bask in the warmth of his wonderful, personalised answer and the subtle shades of meaning he conveyed – a far more enjoyable experience than frantically using Google Translate in the cab en route to an Airbnb.
Asking for help is sometimes a bit scary too, especially when you think you already know the answer. For example, I am forever getting confused between sea bass and sea bream. Last night I was convinced that I’d finally remembered the long skinny one (my favourite) was called sea bream. Unfortunately my boyfriend was of the opinion that this was actually sea bass. After several minutes of debate, I habitually reached for my phone but then remembered: no Google during September. There I was in the kitchen, the realisation slowly dawning on me that I might have no other option than to trust my boyfriend (at least for September). A scary thought for someone like me who is always right!
I remember my dad saying to me once that when people can help you, it makes them feel really special. I have a feeling that over the next few weeks I’m about to make a lot of people feel special. Either that or they will stop answering the phone when they see who’s calling them to ask for help… again.2 Comments » | Add your comment
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