Archive for October, 2010

South Asia Disaster Report

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by

I am Ramona from Practical Action South Asia, and I want to share some news that we are excited about.

The South Asia Disaster Report 2010 – Changing Climates, Impeding Risks, Emerging Perspectives was launched today at the Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction being held in South Korea.  Vishaka and Buddika are there representing both Practical Action and Duryog Nivaran.

Since the conference began on Tuesday, we have been making three presentations each day and are very much visible there, which is a great achievement for us.  The schedule gives an idea of our presence.

From the conference, Buddika says:sadr document

SADR 2010 was successfully launched today at the High Level Round Table 03 of the 4th Asian Ministerial Conference.  First copy was handed over to the Home Minister of Government of India by Vishaka.  Well done everyone.

Vishaka says:

We launced SADR at the beginning of High Level.  We felt that it went well.  The Indian Minister who chaired the session introduced it.  At least twenty Ministers if not more, including Fowzie from Sri Lanka was present.  I only spoke a few words and highlighted the practical framework and tools in it.

I know our work is not complete yet, but it felt good.  Thanks a lot for all those who worked hard to make this happen.  I was hoping some of you were watching the webcast.  When I showed it to Jerry (the UNISDR Senior Regional Coordinator for the Asia-Pacific), he said “you do beautiful covers” to which I said that “we do good inside too”.  He then requested that we include ALF (Adaptive Livelihoods Framework that SADR introduces) to the road map that is being launched by the Ministerial meeting and its action plan.  We did that.

Buddika showed me Minister Fowzie’s statement at the High level which mentions Practical Actions work with the government.  Mr Chandradasa at the SAARC session also mentioned us.  In many sessions we were highlighted as a key author of APDR (Asia Pacific Disaster Report) which was launched yesterday evening.  So although our team here is small (compared to others like IFRC, ADPC, Plan etc) we seem to have managed to be seen in many places.

One more day to to and two presentations to prepare!!

ELLA – Evidence and Lessons from Latin America

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 by

My name is Carla Giannina Acosta Navarro and I am currently working in Practical Action Consulting Latin America as a researcher on the new ELLA Programme.

As a researcher, my main goal is not simply to collect information.  Rather, I am focusing on organising and interpreting information in a way that allows me to understand better lessons from Latin America and how they can best be applied in different continents.  Moreover, I believe that information is a tool that can really help to improve the lives of people living in poverty.

An important aspect of the ELLA programme is that it will help fill the gap that exists in knowledge relating to evidence and lessons from development policy that is emerging from Latin America.  I believe that this programme could encourage researchers to make contact and interact around common themes and interest.  The incomes and livelihoods of poor people will only improve when policy-makers think and read more about real life experiences.  Furthermore, most think-tanks would probably agree that reading and thinking about evidence helps to generate new ideas to improve quality life and solve problems.

A solar lamp ends the history of the world

Monday, October 25th, 2010 by

solar powered lamp & chargerIf you haven’t already heard the final episode in Radio 4’s ‘A history of the World in 100 Objects’, I’d urge you to listen right now.   The final object selected was a solar powered lamp and charger, an object not unfamiliar to any of you aware of the energy related work of Practical Action.

The programme’s description of the benefits of energy for communities not connected to the grid, strongly echoes the message we have been emphasising for some time – that energy drives development. Lack of energy severely curtails people’s ability a to communicate, to earn a living and to study after nightfall. The health and economic drawbacks of kerosene are also clearly articulated. This example of a successful technology shows  what a difference scaling up Practical Action’s renewable energy work could make to the world.

I don’t know if Neil Macgregor, the presenter, is aware of Practical Action’s work, but we couldn’t ask for a better advocate judging by this series. His dulcet tones draw you into the fascinating stories woven around the 100 objects, which has covered 2 million years of human history and spanned the globe. The variety was breathtaking and each 15 minute broadcast skilfully gave you a glimpse into the lives of the people associated with the object. This series has been an outstanding collaboration between for Radio 4 and the British Museum and I, for one, am pinning my hopes on at least 100, if not 1,000 more objects.

The housewives of Sudan

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by

Women in Sudan cook food to sustain their families using inefficient open fires which produce potentially deadly smoke. These fires require fuel which must be gathered and collected daily. To add to the already existing dangers, women must risk physical harm every day in order to complete this task.

The truth of it is horrifying. Women are being attacked, raped and even killed by local militia, whilst out on their dutiful daily trips for fire wood to feed their families. Plus, children accompany their mothers on this dangerous journey, not only being put at serious risk but also missing out on time at school and gaining a valuable education.

Practical Action has the answer. We are contending with this issue by means of more fuel efficient, simple to produce and less problematic to use woodstoves. By the nature of the design, the high sides assist in heat transfer and subsequently the stoves need less fuel to function.

For these women, this not only cuts down the amount of potentially life threatening trips for firewood but it subsequently provides them with more free time to devote to their loved ones, allowing their children to attend lessons. Having the opportunity to fulfil a role as mother and carer is something every woman deserves.

Therefore, women in Sudan are paying it forward by teaching other members of their communities how to create these more fuel effective wood.

Remember remember the 5th of November

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by

Remember remember the 5th of November, but also remember the people around the world that are forced to cook on open fires every day thanks to a lack of modern energy.

Cooking on open fires can sound romantic and fun but the reality is a daily drudgery where food takes hours to cook and homes are filled with toxic smoke which causes severe respiratory diseases and eye infections.

Practical Action works to develop stoves for cooking which reduce all of these problems around the world and we have some exciting news to share this month which shows that this critical issue is finally being taken seriously.

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, headed up by Hilary Clinton has pledged to provide 100 million clean-burning stoves by 2020, and with half of the world’s population still cooking on open fires this news is very welcome.

For people in developing countries, a simple clay stove means improved health and education and changes their lives for the better enabling them to at last challenge their poverty.

Perhaps next year you will hold a ‘stove’ night instead of a bonfire night and celebrate the fact that open fires might just be on the way out in the developing world!

A good year for Nepal

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by

Climate change has become a global issue now and coping with it is one of the major challenges the world faces today. Though Nepal contributes very little to the overall change in terms of carbon emission, the effects faced here are no less. In fact with more people under the poverty line and less equipped to deal with the changing scenario, people here end up being exposed to more adverse conditions. The lack of information and awareness tends to make the whole scenario even worse.

Practical Action in Nepal is demonstrating various approaches to strengthen community’s coping capacities with impacts of climate change. The community based adaptation approach implemented by Practical Action along with the local authorities is mainly focusing interventions in – a) natural resource management for reducing climate change effects; b) adaptation to changing farming systems and practices; c) strengthening coping strategies of the communities and enhancing complementary livelihood options; and d) establishing the monitoring systems of climate change at the community level considering the social, economic and natural resource parameters.

Practical Action in recent years well integrated Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and climate change adaptation activities in its projects. Integrated DRR approaches have proved to be appropriate for sustainable coping of multiple stresses which require linking different sectors and stakeholders for devising and addressing development priorities along with early warning system and DRR. During 2009 -10 more than 2,500 households benefited from small scale infrastructure, adaptive farming practices, alternative livelihoods and increased awareness.

Adaptation against the odds

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by

Our photo exhibition kicked off in the Upper Waiting Hall in Parliament in October with the backing of Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas MP to challenge traditional perceptions of climate change.

The launch was a huge success with a number of MPs in attendance to find out more about how Practical Action is empowering families in developing countries on the front line of climate change.

The photos show a more positive side of climate change against the backdrop of failed negotiations, depicting communities that have not contributed to carbon emissions but have had to adapt their lives dramatically, just to survive.

Water is a theme that runs throughout the exhibition in countries where there’s too much of it, and too little. The images show simple adaptation solutions from floating gardens on the floodwaters of Bangladesh to mud dams in drought-prone Sudan.

The exhibition moves on to the Department for International Development (DfID) before hitting the road and travelling to Belgium and Sweden to spread the message Europe-wide that climate change is happening and we must take action now!

Have you signed up to our ‘face up to four degrees‘ campaign urging David Cameron to take action on climate change before it’s too late?

Inspired by Sustainability?

Friday, October 22nd, 2010 by

Daniel Sambell is!  Daniel is a 14 year old boy from Harris High School in the UK.  He reInspired by Sustainabiltiy awardcently achieved first place in our Inspired by sustainability? award. One of Primary Engineer’s Special Awards it is given to students who, like Daniel, can demonstrate a commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths)and an in depth understanding of sustainability.

As part of his application Daniel interviewed two employees from his local county council.  He gave them quite a grilling on what they were doing to improve their level of recycling;  how they were encouraging he community to reduce waste, and what systems were in place to support companies in designing  more sustainable products.

Daniel was clearly thrilled with his certificate and his prize,  a solar powered MP4 Player. 

For more details of the award go to our website

Flood resistant incomes in Bangladesh

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 by

In Bangladesh, flooding is an annual event, not something that happens occasionally, as it does in many parts of the world.  In a normal year almost 20% of the country will be underwater.  In a bad year, more than half the country might be flooded.

Many people live in places which will definitely flood in the next year, or two.  They simply don’t have the choice to move somewhere else, and if they own no land, they usually have to rely on income as a daily labourer on someone else’s farm.  Wages can be extremely low, and during some parts of the year, there may be no work at all.  This can leave people in a trap of extreme poverty, which it’s almost impossible to break out of. 

Working with groups of extremely poor people, Practical Action, have helped to identify a number of ways in which, with a small amount of training, and initial investment, even people with no access to land, can earn a living

Some of them, like rearing cattle, are not new but we are helping producer groups, for example a group of women in Sirajgong, to learn best practice in animal husbandry; build low cost cattle shelters; and negotiate better prices to help them maximize income.  Others are new ideas, or clever adaptations of existing ideas, like rearing fish in cages which can be kept in common waters; or growing pumpkins on the sandy flood plains, or growing vegetables on floating gardens, built out of water hyacinth & bamboo.

There isn’t one simple answer to give everyone living in the flood plains a flood resistant income, but in each of these stories, Practical Action is proving that there are viable options.  We just need to spend time thinking about what people do have, and what they can do, rather than what they don’t, and can’t.

Water and Biofuels

Friday, October 15th, 2010 by

One of the big questions we’re looking at at the moment, as part of the PISCES project, is how the water requirements for basic food crops are balanced with the increasing demand for fuel crops. This demand is for both household energy for the very poor, such as for ethanol stoves, as well as blending with petrol in rich countries.

The issue is a very complex one, but is becoming increasingly important while populations continue to increase and the effects of climate change are being increasingly felt around the world, particularly in very poor countries where people live with very fragile environments such as northern Kenya.

We’re currently working on a report which we hope will start to look at the scale of the problem and decide on sustainable solutions for the future.