Archive for August, 2010

Have stove, will travel …

Friday, August 27th, 2010 by

When I was a young girl, I used to watch ‘Challenge Anneka’ avidly.

The idea of travelling around the country embarking on mad-cap adventures massively appealed to me.

So perhaps it is no surprise that 20 years later I find myself hurtling around London dressed in a bright orange Practical Action ensemble, bursting into national newspaper offices.

It’s all for a good cause though. As part of our work to raise awareness about smoke inhalation (and how it kills more people each year than malaria) we are targeting some key journalists to help spread the word.

And so, I find myself delivering improved cook stoves – hand-made by groups trained by Practical Action in Kenya, Sudan and Sri Lanka – to food writers at the Guardian, Independent and the Times.

Simple stoves that not only save firewood but save lives.

Let’s hope that the stoves (if not the bright orange t-shirt) open the journalists’ eyes to the hidden ‘killer in the kitchen’. 

Helen                                                                                                                                                                                  Campaigner

Practical Action Invited to Set Up Camp in Prince Charles’ Garden

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by

The Practical Action team will be packing up and heading to Clarence House in a few weeks to set up camp in the royal estate’s otherwise private gardens as part of HRH the Prince of Wales’ ‘Start’ initiative.


The Prince is opening his garden for the first time ever, and he has kindly invited the Practical Action team to join him. Running from 8th – 19th September, the event introduced as ‘A Garden Party to Make a Difference’ will bring together some of Britain’s best loved musicians, comedians, environmental experts and blue chip companies. All with the aim of providing adults and children with an entertaining, unique and educational experience surrounded by the beautiful gardens at Clarence House.

However the importance of the day is to demonstrate the small steps that can and are being taken to build a more sustainable future. Practical Action will be showing how we are working with some of the world’s poorest women, men and children to achieve our vision of ‘modern energy for all’ by 2030.

The 12-day garden party is set to be an intriguing blend of exhibitions, interactive displays, fun activities and live music performances, all with the support of top celebrities such as musical genius Jools Holland, political and current affairs presenter Jonathan Dimbleby, eco guru Kevin McCloud, green-fingered Alan Titchmarsh, and the wonderfully eccentric fashion-ista Vivienne Westwood; among other interesting personalities.

 This celebrity filled event looks set to be the garden party of the year, with so many educational and interesting areas, exhibits and experiences, the Practical Action team are extremely proud to be invited to be a part of it.

Small is… Festival

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by

Promising to be bigger and better than last year’s first ever Small is… Festival, 2010’s event looks set to encompass something for everyone and we’re looking forward to welcoming even more visitors than previously. Like last year, the Festival will be held in the picturesque grounds of the Practical Action offices in Bourton-on-Dunsmore, featuring hands-on workshops, stalls and information sharing spaces, kids activities and world music.

Taking place on the 4th and 5th September, the Small is… Festival is based around four themes; Economic, Political, Practical and Personal. This year’s festival aims to inspire visitors through questions and debate, as well as hands on workshops and technology displays.

 There will be an open mic session for any budding musicians to showcase their talent and to possibly provide a backdrop of music for the relaxing yoga sessions. For the foodies in attendance, they will find an array of stands proffering local organic food, fair trade teas and cakes and Magic Pan pancakes, which should keep the hungrier visitors happy for the weekend.

 Any campers fond of an early morning stroll can join in on the dawn guided walks before taking in the array of displays, listening to the inspiring speakers such as Andrew Simms and Adam Hart-Davis, or joining in on debates.

 With a programme packed full of entertaining and informative activities, tickets are selling at a rate of knots so get in quick to avoid missing out! Tickets cost £7.50 for the day and £5 for concessions, or £25 (£15 concessions) for full weekend camping tickets. 


For a list of workshops, speakers and for registration and ticketing, please go to or call 0800 389 1624 to purchase a ticket or to find out more about costs for camping or volunteering over the weekend.

99 Mile Cycle Ride to Rugby Marks Launch of Schumacher’s Centenary Year

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 by

Members of the Schumacher family kicked off E.F Schumacher’s centenary year earlier this month on what would have been his birthday, with a 99 mile bike ride from the family home in Shrewsbury to the beautiful Practical Action offices near Rugby.


Travelling through Telford, Birmingham and Warwick, the team negotiated hills, rain and sore bottoms! With the aim of raising funds for Practical Action alongside creating awareness for their esteemed relative’s landmark year of celebrations, grandchildren James, Nicola and Christina led other family members and Practical Action staff to success as they triumphantly crossed the finish line just after 1pm, following their strenuous journey.

Met by eager applause, the team of cyclists humbly received words of congratulations from the Mayor of Rugby, kitted out in his full glorious regalia, as well as other Schumacher children, grandchildren and great grandchildren and an excited crowd of Practical Action staff!

The worn out cyclists were subsequently rewarded with a ’99’ themed lunch before planting a … tree to commemorate the 99th anniversary of E.F Schumacher’s birth. His centenary year runs until August 2011 and will be commemorated with a variety of initiatives as well as a centenary website to spread the word about Schumacher’s work and encourage those who were inspired by him to share their memories and stories.

For more information please visit or

Don’t panic

Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by

The stories of Noah’s Ark and the lost city of Atlantis reflect the long memories societies hold of disasters in their distant past. Today, with modern technology we see the evidence of catastrophes in faraway places and view the suffering of communities in our living rooms. We feel their pain and rightly help by giving money to appeals.
At Practical Action we aspire to change our world for the better. One of the ways we do this is by helping poor communities become more resilient to disaster, so that they can be in a position to say, like Corporal Jones, “Don’t panic!”, when disaster strikes.

Practical Action projects feature a whole range of activities, from building flood proof or earthquake resilient housing, raising the height of wells so they are not polluted by flood water, to reinforcing the banks of rivers with stone gabions to reduce erosion.

But one of the most important aspects of this work is education. Just as regular fire drills in the workplace have reduced the number of fire related deaths in the UK, preparation for the moment disaster strikes can make a huge difference. Early warning sirens and tall watch towers give precious time to evacuate, with life jackets and boats to prevent drowning. Shelters on high ground provide safety for valuable livestock. Community meetings, drills at school, radio programmes and posters all raise awareness of the risks and give practical advice about how to react.

And finally, when the flood waters recede or the rubble is cleared, training in alternative livelihoods helps to ensure that poor families can generate the income they need to rebuild their lives.

Sustainable engineering- resources for the new diploma

Friday, August 20th, 2010 by

I am really pleased to tell you that we have just  launched  a new set of resources to support the 14-19 engineering diploma, developed in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Engineering  (RAEng).

Matthew Harrison, head of Education at RAEng saysMatthew Harrison and Julie Pollard

”Practical Action has a great track record for raising students’ awareness of sustainability.  The Royal Academy of Engineering is very pleased to have worked closely with them to develop these excellent resources that will help tutors to give their learners an understanding of the impact of engineering on the environment ….The activities are ideal for provoking discussion and thought about the future role of the engineer and the strategies they will need to use to create a sustainable future.

Please do take a look at these resources and see what else we have to offer by going to our website


Sustainable energy in action

Thursday, August 19th, 2010 by

Practical Action is participating at the Vidulka exhibition organized by the Sustainable Energy Authority and the Ministry of Power and Energy of Sri Lanka.

The Vidulka exhibition was part of the energy week programme declared by the Ministry of Power and Energy from 3rd to 8th of August 2010.

Practical Action’s stall had many exciting features that attracted VIPs such as the Minister of Power & Energy, many key government department heads, academics and many others from the renewable energy sector.

Some of the interesting features in our stall include:

  • actual models of renewable energy technologies such as the Bio Mass Cook Stove
  • human-powered bicycle and exercise machine that can generate power
  • domestic water pump & bio diesel processing
  • mini book store on renewable energy
  • renewable energy information from the net

The official media sponsor of the programme Sri Lanka Rupvahaini Corporation team featured the Practical Action stall today at 11 am.

More about Practical Action South Asia.

Pakistan floods: so who is there to help?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010 by

As of today more than 20 million people are reported to be displaced by the floods in Pakistan. International and national efforts are reaching no more than 2 million people of those who were displaced. So, how are the remaining 18 million people being looked after?

Practical Action, in our climate adaptation advocacy work, emphasise Community Based Adaptation (CBA). Since most natural disasters hit without much warning, their scale is large and the damage is serious – you can only address the problem to a limit. Many principles of good development – participation, accountability etc, may not work in such a situation.

The physical infrastructure required to stop such floods is clearly beyond the reach of Pakistan government. So, the best approach to reduce the impact of disaster is to build people’s resilience, support their organisation and appreciate their efforts to help themselves and others. This is very evident in case of Pakistan floods where 90% of those who were displaced are being looked after by their relatives, friends and others. This is also strong evidence of the presence of a core economy or co-production, which some of the high income countries are trying to promote. So, why don’t international development programmes to address climate impact build on such a strong capital – the capital of people to help each other?

Flood victims are evacuated with their children as they rescued by naval boats in a village in Sukkur in Pakistan's Sindh province August 8, 2010.

Flood evacuation in Sukkur. Photo: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro, courtesy

Schumacher’s birthday – a man of many PhDs!

Monday, August 16th, 2010 by

Monday 16th August 2010 would have been the 99th birthday of Practical Action’s founder, Fritz Schumacher.

Practical Action staff and the Schumacher family celebrate the 99th birthday of EF "Fritz" SchumacherAs the start of the build-up to his centenary next year, we celebrated his birthday here at Bourton Hall (Practical Action’s UK head office) and all are very impressed the way all the planned activities took place. The cyclists arrived, the Mayor of Rugby spoke, the food was nice and plentiful, the group photo was taken, the tree was planted and now with some energy still left, a few of our colleagues are planning to cycle back as a group. Our office and lawns were full of orange shirts with the Practical Action logo. This is a true start of Schumacher’s celebration and let me explain to you why I think this event was a true reflection.

Christian Schumacher plants a tree at Practical Action's UK head office to mark his father's 99th birthdayFor those who do things, understand them, analyse and write about them it is not always easy that they cover all the topics with same depth and breadth. Schumacher’s insight on the range of topics he covered was remarkable. Whether Schumacher is writing on intermediate technology, energy, urbanization, work, economics and natural resources the depth of his analysis, coverage of issues and building connections between those is remarkable. Very few people could do this in my opinion. I call all this many PhDs!

Therefore bringing together so many actions together in Bourton Hall, without a slightest weakness, is a true way of remembering Schumacher. This is a very important time in history to understand and promote Schumacher’s philosophy and put all this in action.

Some very special visitors…

Monday, August 16th, 2010 by

The Practical Action offices are buzzing this morning as we finalise preparations for the launch of our founder E.F. Schumacher’s centenary year. Today would have been Schumacher’s 100th Birthday and we have lots of exciting things happening at Bourton Hall to mark the occasion…

 I can’t say too much yet but we have a number of very special visitors arriving at the offices throughout the day and some exciting activities taking place.

 Watch this space for more information and keep an eye on our twitter and facebook pages for pictures!