Archive for November, 2014

The only library in a World Heritage site?

Friday, November 28th, 2014 by

Gyan Bikas Knowledge node - Nepal

The Gyan Bikas community library, in Panauti – Nepal is a remarkable achievement. It is built entirely with the financial support of the people of Nepal. There were no corporate donations and no government funding – but people across Nepal each gave as much as they could afford. Children from across the country were encouraged to collect 1 rupee at a time in their piggy banks.

And now it is built and it could well soon become the only library in a world heritage site – if the local town’s application is approved.

The library is supported by our wonderful partners – READ Nepal, and now, in addition to a children’s library, a music room, a meeting room and an audio visual room, it also has a Practical Answers room.Practical Answers Room in Gyan Bikas

The new Practical Answers service is already proving popular with more than 1500 enquiries in its first 3 months of operation. They mainly focus on insect control in crops, potato farming. The team there also organise outreach “interactions” out at local community gatherings., The most successful one so far has been about how to make your own fertiliser and pesticide.

People pay 25 rupees (about 15p) to be a member of the library, and up to 100 a day use the library. Overall there are 30,000 people in the community.

In anticipation of gaining world heritage status the old library has been turned into a souvenir shop – selling handmade crafts to tourists. The profits pay the running costs of the library. This is one of the most recent libraries to join the Practical Answers programme – but I get the sense that it will soon be one of the most successful.

Climate change is real!

Friday, November 28th, 2014 by

Climate change and variability is a very worrying subject for me and I hope for many others as well who understand its negative impacts on human and animal life. We have observed this through the changes in rainfall, temperature and wind patterns among the major climate indicators. On average daily temperatures have risen significantly and our rainfall comes late and often inadequate.

Climate change does not take effect overnight; it is a long-term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. This may vary from one region to another. Some call Climate Change global warming. The questions that come to my mind are; Who or what is the cause? Who or what can stop this development and how? Currently, most pointers are pointing to the continued rise in carbon dioxide levels from our fossil fuel burning as the main driver of global warming. What does this mean to you and me? Scientists point to the emergence of industrialisation as the major cause of this climate challenge and among the main actor is MAN. Within our context in Southern Africa we are an agro dependent population where our livelihoods and source of income comes from. Women are in the majority of this population and they are responsible for the agriculture output of the economy.

For me it means that I have a role to play, it means I can contribute even in small way in the way and manner that I live starting by taking care of the environment around me. Some of the thoughtless actions of our daily choices results in suffering of other if we are not careful and this will cause a huge gulf of inequality between the benefactors and those sidelined. If we can all start by changing our life-styles and contribute in small ways the aggregate effort will result in amazing results and lessen the gap of inequality. It’s these small actions that may seem unimportant now that will make a huge difference and impact in the future as we do them, we adapt easily to Climate Change. When we anticipate Climate Change’s adverse effects, we are in a better position to take appropriate action in order to minimize the damage it can bring about hence we can take advantage of opportunities that may arise where ever we are. This is likely to save money and lives in the long run while eradicating the issue of who suffers most – inequality!

Planting tomatoes in Himalaya, ZimbabweGlobalization of the industrial system has also contributed to global warming causing extensive fragmentation and degradation of ecosystems which in turn resulted in the destruction of vast habitats of indigenous plants and animals across the planet. This has brought about mass global extinction of species.

Some of the adaptation measures that we can take advantage of include using scarce water resources more efficiently, developing drought-tolerant crops, engaging or assisting in re-afforestation initiatives, ensuring that our immediate environment is clean and taking care to practice proper recommended waste disposal methods as well as using less of plastic whenever we can among other things. The list is in exhaustive but with these few pointers, we can go a long way in not only adapting but also in terms of resilience. If we can start somewhere now, we have potential to serve ourselves and generations to come a lot of heartache. We have to act quickly to help those around us adapt now!

It is increasingly realized that mitigation and adaptation should not be pursued independent of each other but as complementary. This has resulted in the recent calls for the integration of adaptation into mitigation strategies. This together with other initiatives then becomes a building block to resilience which is our capacity to mitigate or diminish impacts of Climate Change or adapt/respond to change. The differences in our capacities to adapt of respond if ignored may cause a hug gap of inequality especially between developed and non-developed communities. Resilience signifies the capacity of a system to absorb disturbances and surprises. It can mean the ability to reorganise so as to retain the same essential function, structure and identity. Resilience is an inherent quality of all healthy living systems. It is a state of dynamic equilibrium which enables systems to grow and evolve while keeping their coherence. Achieving resilience means learning to understand the natural laws of our living systems so that we work with Nature rather than against her.

Energy access is not just a problem for the developing world

Thursday, November 27th, 2014 by

ZepplinBack in July I attended the European launch of the UN Decade for Sustainable Energy at an event hosted by the Scottish Government in Glasgow. I blogged about it at the time, noting some parallels between the challenge of providing electricity to some of Scotland’s more remote communities in the Highlands and Islands and the challenges poor rural communities in the developing world face.

I was delighted to be invited back to Scotland, this time to Edinburgh, by the NGO Community Energy Scotland, to talk at a conference attended mostly by representatives of community energy projects in rural Scotland. It was a great opportunity to explore some of the parallels I noted back in July further. I thought I’d write a couple of blogs on these, so this is the first:

Surprisingly (for me) I found myself hearing several examples of problems with communities generating too much energy in Scotland! The examples I heard about were mostly wind, but could have been from any source. The problem is that wind speed obviously varies and periods of strong wind don’t necessarily coincide with peak demands (the same problem exists with solar energy which peaks during the day although peak need is at night). This is not a huge problem when communities have a good connection to the grid as they can export the excess power to the grid (and get income in return), drawing power from the grid when there is no wind. The problem arises when the grid connection has limitations on it (often the case in remoter areas) and cannot accept the excess power, or when there is no grid connection at all. In Scotland the challenge is being looked at in terms of developing storage – either pumped storage (you use energy to pump water up to a reservoir and then let it run down again through a turbine later when you need the energy) or the production of hydrogen that can be stored and then used either in fuel cells or just as a replacement fuel for gas in heating or nixed 80/20 with diesel to run vehicles (with minor adaptations).

There is a similar issue in some of the paces we work. In Nepal, for example, several thousand micro hydro projects have been constructed but many are struggling financially because they can’t sell enough power. People are using for fairly low domestic loads, mostly at night, and plants lie relatively idle for much of the day, not being run to their optimum potential . We are trying to put together a project at the moment that would look at developing small model enterprises that could utilise the excess power, increasing income from sales and allowing them to better cover operating costs. A different solution to a similar problem.

An interesting (non-development) factoid: During a session on hydrogen, someone asked whether it was not dangerous to store and use as a fuel, citing the famous Hindenburg airship that blew up as it docked due to a discharge of static electricity. The answer was that hydrogen has the 2nd fastest escape velocity of all gases and was not what killed the passengers on the Hindenburg. The hydrogen explosion occurred around 30 m above the airship (visible in the photo above ) because the gas escaped upwards so quickly. The reason the disaster was so deadly was that the dope that was used to treat the fabric that covered the airships frame was highly flammable and quickly engulfed the entire structure in flames.


Traditional goat rearing in Odisha

Thursday, November 27th, 2014 by

My recent visit to Manapalli (a small village in Odisha) brought about a story of traditional business families and their knowledge requirements.

It is not always necessary that, if a person is engaged in some business traditionally for years, she/he might be proficient in the business or its trends. I found that these people are doing traditional business because it was their family forte or is a social status or an identity. Whether they lose or win they continue with the same sector of business (may be in small-scale), they normally don’t change like other communities living by doing business. The attitude that they have with these business sectors is that it was their ancestors who used to do this and that they HAVE TO DO, no matter how well they do it. One such case is about A Mangulu Patra and his Golla community.

DSCN1672Manapalli is a village in the Practical Answers Project area in Khallikote Block of Ganjam District. Golla Community is the primary inhabitants of this village and they have their original inheritance from some part of Andhra Pradesh in India. The Golla community or caste is a cattle-rearing caste in Andhra Pradesh in India, are predominantly sheep, goat and cattle herders. The village has 397 households with population of over 1600. Almost every household does goat rearing as their primary or secondary income source.

A Mangulu Patra is one among the others who do goat rearing for a living. Mangulu lives with his mother, grandfather, wife and two kids. He has about one acre of non-irrigated agriculture land from where he earns roughly about 16 bags (100 Killo a bag) of paddy a year after putting enormous efforts. The rice is tightly enough for his dependents to survive throughout the year. He depends on the income of the goat rearing business for all other expenses starting from health, festivals, food items etc. He owns about 120 Goats at present. He is able to sell about 30 heads every year cost ranges from INR 4500 to 5000. He has appointed one person to take care of the goats and pays about INR 35,000/- per annum + one meal a day. Like many others Mangulu has been rearing these goats and getting whatever profit from this since years. He has never calculated minutely about his profits and losses. However, the problem with the traditional business people is that, they just accept the loss very easily. One such case he explains us is about the diarrhea among the goats which normally comes with other diseases too, “such diseases happen each year to these goats, we try our best to treat them, if they are not cured, we sell them or we are at loss if they die” he said.

When there was a diarrhea in goats last month, he requested the govt. vet service provider, after giving the medicine, it did not work. The Knowledge Facilitator under Practical Answers came to know about it, he then connected an expert to get the solutions. Mangulu did exactly as directed by the expert and few days later his goats were treated well. Now, he is happy and assured from Practical Answers to get any sort of information and knowledge support that he needs.

There are others in his village that are having questions on goat rearing even though they have been doing goat rearing for years. It is planned to have an expert session on ‘Goat Rearing, its issues, problems and solutions’ in this village which would help other people like Mangulu to get their questions answered.

Practical Answers program has been initiated from July 2014 to extend knowledge services to 1000 households in 10 villages under Khallikote Block of Ganjam District in Odisha.

Pride (In the name of love)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 by

It was 1985 and aged 11, I was on a boat from Larne to Stranraer, off on my summer holidays. I sneaked into the on-board bar in order to watch the television and was immediately captivated and compelled as I watched Queen change music and Bob Geldof’s army try change the world. Enthralled by the atmosphere of ‘love thy neighbour’, I was inspired to both cry and rage at the injustice of poverty and in those few moments of Live Aid, the seeds of a 21 year (and counting) career in international development and social justice were sown.

Thirty years later, the #differentdev agenda is saying that the big event has had its day and that there needs to be a longer term, more systemic strategy. It would be wrong, however, to see the big event only as a firework glowing brightly for a moment before bursting and disappearing. For me and for so many others, big events never disappear. The impact of a vinyl single released thirty years ago cannot be limited to statistics about the money raised and what was achieved with it. It is impossible to quantify the impact of Band Aid.

Zero 2010Critics attack the ‘Band Aid’ title arguing that it’s only a sticking plaster solution to deep, structural problems, as if Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Bono weren’t aware of that irony – of course they were…that’s part of their message! Throughout their careers, Geldof and Bono have always raised the issue of and challenged the unjust global structures, arguably in a more effective way than most. They’ve raised money for sticking plaster projects as well. I can personally testify to the transformational impacts of Band Aid funded projects – sometimes sticking plasters help wounds to heal. I’m proud of what my generation and I and have achieved.

Music isn’t going to save the world. Its impact is negligible in the face of the multi-nationals, the neo-liberals, the banking order, and growing social apathy. But occasionally music can cement an idea or force through a notion. #BandAid30 is a pretty rubbish record, made by a bunch of manufactured wannabees with less combined talent than the drummer on the original, but I support the idea of it. For me, the current controversy isn’t that the single has been re-released, but rather that there are so many who would rather be critics who do nothing than champions who do something.

So many of my generation can pin point the first Band Aid vinyl single and concerts as a moment for paradigm shift. So, if all the new Band Aid 30 single does is enable a few hundred thousand One Direction fans to find a cause, it might have done more than enough to change the world in small and seismic ways.

Technical education an alternative of local level adaptation for breaking the vicious cycle of poverty

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 by

Child labour is a big concern in Bangladesh.  The situation is worse in the northern region when natural disasters like riverbank erosion, tornado and hailstorms cause their poor parents loss of their crops, shelter and employment. It has been revealed that  in recent years frequency of climatic disasters increased with unpredictable effects and these environmental victims take shelter on the embankment after losing their home and livelihoods.

Both qualitative data and quantitative tools were used in this study, which was conducted during September and October 2013 under “Pathways From Poverty”  project of Shiree and Practical Action Bangladesh .

Time trend analysis and other qualitative data shows that parents of child labourers were often also child labourers themselves.  Children of illiterate parents are also more likely to become child labourers. Children of parents with the skills of reading, writing and using different scale are less susceptible to be child labourers as they had higher earnings . They have the scope to be enrolled in different crafts and artisan work where minimum reading and measuring skills are required  Existing studies also found that child labourers with no literacy are more likely to work in agricultural and labour intensive work and they are lower paid whereas current child labour with five or more years schooling are found in technical based employment like workshops, carpentry, motor repair and driving. Children working in technical areas earn more compared to child workers in agricultural and other daily wage sectors.

11311Gender parity is an issue among the extreme poor living in embankments. Girls are more likely to work as low paid domestic workers often with experience of physically torture.  Domestic workers and agriculture labourers have similar experiences as this work does not bring long term economic resilience.   Some positive changes have been revealed among the poor parents. If there are more more children in the household parents send the elder one to work and invest money in education for the younger children. Therefore younger children have better opportunity to work in a job with higher earnings and scope of to be small entrepreneurs.

Therefore the study recommended that policy implementation needs to be reinforced in the Primary Education so that poor parents can understand the importance of completion at least Primary Education both for girls and boys. Also some social protection measures need to be taken in the climatic  hot spot areas particularly for the children of extreme poor households where they will have scope to learn vocational skills along with formal basic education so that they can compete better in the changing situation.

SMALL is BEAUTIFUL- A Wind Energy System in Odisha Witnesses!!

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 by

A Small Wind Energy System electrifying a pocket of few tribal households, who had not even dreamt of having their houses lighted, is justifiably answering “Why Small is Beautiful”?  I have returned completely overwhelmed from my recent visit to an energy project site in Odisha, which is first of its kind in the state.

Ms. Chanchala Majhi (7), with her younger brother

Ms. Chanchala Majhi (7), with her younger brother


“I feel happier now as my parents can finish their work in the evening or even early morning and I can study late night and help my family in the house chores and look after my younger brother…..says Chanchala Majhi, 7 years from Kamlagauda Village in Kalahandi District of Odisha State, India.  I met Chanchala and many others in this small village after travelling 14 hours in a train and 3 hours in a four-wheel drive, approximately 500 KM from Bhubaneshwor. I could easily measure the happiness in people’s faces and the enthusiasm they have towards receiving continuous electricity from an energy system recently installed in their village. This is a specially designed wind-solar hybrid system of 1 KW capacity installed in her village with 35 households. This intervention is a part of the project “Small Wind Energy System for Rural Energy Access in Odisha, India” through the funding support from Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy (WISIONS Programme-


Small wind-solar hybrid energy system installed in Kamlagauda village, Odisha

Small wind-solar hybrid energy system installed in Kamlagauda village, Odisha




As part of the project, another tribal pocket with 25 households will receive a similar wind energy system, for which the fabrication work is in process. It was so pleasing to see that people in Chanchala’s village were extremely excited about the other village receiving electricity, and were looking forward for providing necessary support to them. Mr. Ghanashyam B.C (35) explains, “Because we exactly know how it feels to have light in our homes. We had to walk 2 hours just to charge our mobiles, and had to wait until the morning to finish our works. We have now saved 10-12 days of work in a month; meaning an increased earning of INR 1200 per month. We want that our fellow neighbors enjoy the same. We will support in forming the management committee, collecting the monthly tariffs and training local technicians”. In close coordination with the project team, the villagers formed a management committee of 14 people, in which 6 are female.  Although the members had a major role during construction, the female members are now responsible to collect monthly user’s fee amounting to INR 60 from each household. Until date, they have collected INR 20,540.

Mr. Ghanashyam B.C (35), Kalagauda Village

Mr. Ghanashyam B.C (35), Kalagauda Village


Tikmai Majhi (58) is one of the members of this committee. She had never had chance to represent one of such committee and gain so much respect from the villagers. She says -” If the monthly fee is not paid in time, we charge them a fine. Therefore, everyone is so conscious that keep on asking the deadline of payment and pay just in time. I am strict with the fine too, and no one opposes for this. After all, this amount will be used for the benefit of all”.Apart from the management committee, 5 male members of the village are also trained on managing various technical aspects of the system including tower erection, connecting turbine to the system, balancing with tightening and loosening if the guy wire, breaking turbine during repair and maintenance, and maintaining supply/distribution of electricity as indicated by the load controller. Moreover, a technical representative from Orissa Tribal Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme (OTELP) has been trained on the layout, fabrication and installation of the system. This will definitely support the government of Orissa to replicate similar projects in other parts of Orissa. The villagers are also hopeful in receiving the technical support from the government in future, should they have any technical problems after the project phases out.




Disaster Risk Reduction: Needs translation from Theory to Practice

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 by

I recently visited the communities in Banke and Bardiya districts of Nepal who were affected by flood in last August (2014). While we look into the theories and definition of the Disaster Risk Reduction in paired reviewed literatures and sometimes debate a lot on words, for the communities it was very straight forward, why they were affected by flood and how their risk to flood can be reduced.

Lower terrace of flood plain where poor people liveLower terrace of flood plain where poor people live

Most of the communities who were affected by flood were living along the lower terrace of flood plain where the river flew in the past. So when there is a rainfall in upstream and river gets swell up, they are the ones who are affected first. Their number one demand was simple – relocation /resettlement to a higher ground can save their lives and properties from flood. For the government, relocation is one time cost to save the losses and compensations that occur on the annual recurrent disasters. However, resettlement is linked with livelihoods of these vulnerable communities which need to be assured wherever they are relocated.

Some of these communities were freed bonded labourers who were resettled by the government in such flood vulnerable locations. The government could have settled them in a safer place. But unfortunately during the resettlement process, they were located in such vulnerable locations.

Local houses with mud-plastered wall, plinth level at ground levelLocal houses with mud-plastered wall, plinth level at ground level

Secondly their houses were constructed by mud plastered grass or twig mats. The plinth level was almost at ground 0 level. When there is a flood of even some inches high, the water gets into the house and the mud plastered walls easily dissolve into the water and collapse. Since they were poor, that type of house is the best they could construct. They are very aware of, that if they could raise the plinth level of the houses to certain level which are safe from flood and if they could use bricks or stones or concrete with cement mortar, their houses would be able to resist the flood. But such houses were beyond their financial capacity. The rebuilt houses after the flood were even weaker than they had before.

A house collapsed by the floodA house collapsed by the flood

Health was a problem after the flood. It was mainly due to unsafe drinking water as they did not have source of clean drinking water after the flood event. The hand pumps were inundated and they could not reach safe drinking water. Raised hand pumps were the need for the communities. It is not necessary that such hand pumps should be in each household for the emergency use during the time of disaster, but at least if there were adequate number of hand water pumps for the sufficient safe drinking water, they will not suffer from health problems originating from unsafe drinking water.

The community people opined for having simple raised structures in the communities or in individual houses which can resist the flood where they can assemble for some hours before the rescue teams come and take them to temporary shelters.

A raised wooden structure innovated by local people where the family members can assemble during the flood timeA raised wooden structure innovated by local people where the family members can assemble during the flood time

They also indicated the needs of rubber tubes or rings in each house which help save their lives during the time of flood.

In the past early warning through mobile telephones was very effective. But in this monsoon, the mobile telephone did not work effectively as they were unable to recharge the batteries for several days. The electricity line went off for 2 to 3 days before the flood event. They suggested for solar mobile battery chargers which can work when the main line electricity gets cutoff and such charger should work even in a very poor sunlight as the sun radiation becomes very week during the monsoon due to cloudy weather.

New house after the previous was collapsed by flood. The new one is weaker as the people have no resource to invest in raising new housesNew house after the previous was collapsed by flood. The new one is weaker as the people have no resource to invest in raising new houses

They were very clear that they cannot reduce the flood level, but there are several ways that they can reduce live and property losses to flood. But it is almost not possible on their own as their financial resources is very poor to invest on the interventions that they know of.

Flood mark inside the houseFlood mark inside the house

We think that these are very simple things and technologies, and why the people are not using, but the poor people still do not have access to these simple technologies and they have lack of resources in their hands. Because of which they are losing their properties every year and flood is actually suppressing them from coming out of vicious cycle. And to reduce the disaster risk of these poor communities, there is no need of high academic education and sophisticated technologies, it needs to support their ideas that comes out of their struggling with flood every year; it is a matter of helping them access to technologies and resources, and assisting to improve their livelihoods.

‘Community-Based Adaptation’ and ‘Technology Justice’

Monday, November 24th, 2014 by

Adaptation helps species to survive and evolve. Just imagine a polar bear strolling on a floating ice sheet or a humming bird sipping nectar from a flower while hovering or a dormant desert plant waiting for one quick shower to complete its life-cycle. After getting quite significantly evolved over the last couple of million years, human’s adaptation continues: to bad traffic, to economic meltdown or to changing climate!

Artificial aquifer tubewell, Shyamnagar

Artificial aquifer tubewell, Shyamnagar

Climate change challenges our effort to sustain and develop. So we can say adaptation to climate change basically comprises measures or actions that “keep development ‘on-track’”. If it is so, then what is community-based adaptation? Let me try to explain it by reflecting on four issues.

First, who are the actors? Is community-based adaptation made up of actions taken ‘only’ by a vulnerable community, without any outside help? Or actions ‘for’ a vulnerable community, but by the outsiders? Or measures taken ‘with’ the vulnerable community? I believe all three are correct depending on the situations. I explain this in the next points.

Second, community-based adaptation also has space and time dimensions. It basically argues that, under changing climate, a specific location is facing and will face specific problems – causing vulnerability of its people. So, it needs specific solutions with those people to build their resilience. And, these actions are not only for now, but also for the future.

Third, community-based adaptation is about direction as well – top-down or bottom-up. While strategies, policies and programmes for adaptation are mostly top-down, community-based adaptation is essentially bottom-up in nature. But, top-down elements are also needed. For example, for channeling resources, technology transfer, sophisticated  information (e.g. on weather or on flood), or understanding the long-term impacts of the adaptation actions.

The fourth issue is perception. Different people perceive community-based adaptation differently. Some may say it is a celebration of vulnerable communities’ experience. Others may call it a demonstration of community empowerment. Some may still see it an opportunity to showcase a mix of traditional/local and modern knowledge. Nevertheless, ‘community-based adaptation’ is a relatively new concept. Some may call it an approach. (I, however, find philosophy in it.) Whatever you call it, it is still evolving, so are its definition and image before us. Community-based adaptation cannot be found in the first four IPCC assessment reports. It has, however, made very strong presence in the 5th IPCC Assessment Report (Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability) published earlier this year.

But, how can simple, low-cost technological innovations help community-based adaptation? To answer this question, I will give you three examples from Bangladesh that I followed closely.

Salt tolerant rice cultivation (BINA 8) in Atulia union Shyamnagar Satkhira by Md  Asadujjaman Practical ActionResearches of Bangladesh in recent years have invented several rice and other crop varieties that survive up to certain salinity levels. It is therefore important to keep the salinity of irrigation water as low as possible to maintain soil salinity tolerable. In a recently tried model on the coast, monsoon rain is caught in small ponds to irrigate nearby rice fields in the winter. The pond owners not only get benefited from the rice farmers for their service, but also from farming low-salinity-tolerant fish almost all-the-year-round.

On the saline coast, several options already exist to tackle sever drinking water problem, such as, rain-water harvesting, Pond-Sand Filter, piped supply of uncontaminated groundwater, and conserved rain-fed ponds. But, in the last option, over-harvesting causes severe pollution of these ponds. Innovative ‘artificial aquifer tube-wells’ installed by contaminated ponds help villagers to get clean drinking water, especially in winter months.

My final example comes with sea-going boats. Due to climate variability, sea now gets rough more frequently than before. As a result, bottom planks of wooden fishing boats weaken quickly as they hit submerged sand dunes more frequently than before. Simple, low-cost modifications in the existing boat design, like steel frames, reinforce the boats and save lives of the fishermen from drowning.

These examples highlight the characteristics of community-based adaptation I indicated above: the actors, space specificity, time dimension, process direction, and the perception. Although innovation helps community-based adaptation, it is a never ending process. It is needed for new areas, at new times, to face new challenges. Floating gardening, a traditional agricultural practice of Bangladesh, offers a good example to explain this.

There are issues beyond technological innovation. Governance structure needs to be adaptive to changing situation. The existing ‘Union/Upazila Disaster Management Committees’ of Bangladesh, for example, may need to be transformed into ‘Union/Upazila Disaster Risk Reduction-Climate Change Adaptation Committees’ to handle new actions under the climate change regime. Prevailing concepts and approaches need to respond to changes too. Resilience, for instance, has been emerging in a big way demanding integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation. Financial mechanism needs to be adaptive as well for, for example, channeling national funds to the local level. Similar changes are needed in the monitoring and evaluation system to follow and measure adaptation actions.

Community-based adaptation and technology − do they have anything to do with ‘justice’? A new concept called ‘Technology Justice’ is slowly emerging as a rallying cry. Technology justice can be defined as the right of people to decide, choose and use technologies that assist them in leading the kind of life they value without compromising the ability of others and future generations to do the same.

If we analyse the key elements of ‘community-based adaptation’ and ‘technology justice’, we can find a few commonalities. Both put people in the centre, focus on technology, allow people to make own choice, give them freedom to have a safe life, appreciate collective strength of people, and consider both the present & the future. These connections can help these philosophies – ‘community-based adaptation’ and ‘technology justice’ − to help each other and to help the poor communities vulnerable to climate change.

Adaptation appears to be adjusting to a ‘challenge’. A challenge may come from ourselves or outside, but is generally considered negative. But, does climate change as a challenge have anything positive to offer? I believe it has. It gives us the opportunity to improvise, to innovate and to maximize our collective efforts, not only to survive, but also to evolve as a better species.

Just one foot in front of the other

Friday, November 21st, 2014 by

Walking, a simple task most of us take for granted, you just put one foot in front of the other. It’s easy for most of us, something we don’t really think about, but for me it’s different. I think about walking every day and have done since my son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and I was told he would lose the ability to walk.

I’m lucky my son has access to services in the UK and I’m hopeful he will lead a happy and fulfilled life but the families I met in Ghyachock in Nepal last week aren’t so lucky.  Their lives are hard, so very hard.  I spent a lot of time walking with them and I will never forget the walk to school I took with the children. It took about an hour, and was steep. I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath. I had never seen scenery so beautiful. It was quiet and tranquil and was only interrupted by the children’s chatter and constant coughing. Two little girls held my hand the whole way.  


The walk to school



Families living in remote mountainous areas struggle to survive. Food security, access to health care and education are all priorities and in many cases families just can’t afford all of them. Practical Action has been working with these communities to help save lives. Families rely on indoor fires to cook and keep warm in the bitter cold, but these fires are toxic and make families so ill. The thick smoke in their homes hit you like a stone wall when you enter, your eyes immediately stream and its so difficult to catch your breath. Prolonged exposure to this smoke causes pneumonia, bronchitis, heart disease and cancer but families have no choice. They need the fires to survive day by day.  It is the women and children who are most vulnerable.

There is a simple solution though.

Practical Action is working with these communities to install smoke hoods. They draw smoke from the fire through a chimney reducing the amount of smoke emitted in the home by up to 80%. A life saver. Community members are trained to make and fit these. They cost just £50.



The emotions I felt on that walk will always stay with me. I was so angry the children were ill, that their illnesses could have been prevented but I knew this would change. I knew the smoke hoods would make a difference.  Their health would improve. I also felt relief that my son didn’t live in Ghyachock. He wouldn’t have been able to make the walk to school.