Archive for February, 2015

Market mapping and analysis of horticultural market systems in Manicaland Province

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by

Practical Action Consulting Southern Africa is carrying out a detailed market systems analysis for the Horticultural Sector in Manicaland Province of Zimbabwe. The analysis will investigate the market blockages and identify opportunities for upgrading the horticultural market systems in Manicaland Province. To facilitate this process Practical Action is using a Participatory Market Systems Development approach to develop the horticultural market systems in Manicaland which creates good conditions for a wide range of key market actors (both public and private) to create solutions and changes that make sense to them and that contribute to making their market systems more inclusive, productive and efficient.

24598To get an understanding of the issues affecting the horticultural sub-sector, a market mapping and analysis exercise was facilitated in Manicaland Province (Mutare District) from 27 to 30 January 2015. This exercise was instrumental in establishing the potential blockages or bottlenecks, identifying the current market actors in the sub-sector, also getting their views on how they can play a part in addressing the identified blockages available for transforming the horticultural market systems in Manicaland Province.

The interest from various stakeholders included the following; better prices through good relationships amongst all market actors, improved market linkages hence increased incomes, providing smallholder farmers with the required inputs, stakeholder coordination and interactions, market systems transformations, farming practiced as a business, provision of market led agricultural extension services, value added horticultural products and buying commodities from smallholder farmers.

The market mapping and analysis attracted participation from stakeholders which included smallholder farmers from irrigation schemes around Manicaland, Sakubva market vegetable traders, CAIRNS Foods, local agro-dealers (Windmill, Shalom Agro chemicals, Seed Ridge), Standard Association of Zimbabwe, Non-Governmental Organizations representatives (Netherlands Development Organisation, Practical Action, Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe), Micro Finance Institutions (Zambuko Trust) and government representatives (AGRITEX, Mutare Rural District Council and Ministry of Small to Medium Enterprises and Cooperatives Development).

‘Team Building’ exercises are important for a Team as is nurturing a growing child

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by

All the staff of Practical Action’s Odisha office geared up for a two day team building program on 6th February.  Ram Krishna Surdeo (best known as RK) was the facilitator for the program. It is the perspectives one has, that matter the most and plays a vital role in understanding people and situations. Therefore, it is important that our perspective or ‘How I see it’ should be brushed up and tuned in for better performance with regard to building relationships with team members and achieving the team tasks. In a nutshell, our personal and professional values should drive us to be motivated and put our efforts towards contributing the task of the group while developing individually as well as a team.

IMG_1129Early on Friday, 6th February we headed towards Puri, a 60 Km drive from Bhubaneswar, to a small hotel. I am sure everyone had some expectations about the program, some might have thought it would be one of the best outing along with others and for some it would have also been an opportunity for learning and getting closer to the team members. However, here is what happened.

The program started on the dot of 10 am with a traditional lighting of lamp and after a short introduction, the facilitator straight away started interactions.

Perspective Building:

What do you mean by a Team? The answer was Grow, Bondage, Output, Achieve, Results, Strength, Coordination, Unity, Understanding and Goal. Things will be as we see it. By showing different pictures and asking the participants to share what they see, RK brought about the following facets of ‘The way I see …

  1. Myself
  2. Co-workers
  3. Organization
  4. Partners
  5. Community
  6. Various other stakeholders / organizations / government / media etc etc.

Learning: Individually we see things differently from how we see them as a team. There is always a constant need of renewal of perceptions. We need to understand things in the perspective of the context. An efficient team can share perspectives of similar kind in each individual members.

Task and People Orientation

All the staff of Practical Action Odisha responded to a scientific scoring technique called TP Scoring which reflected the individual’s priority to relationships and tasks.  Some were good and some needed improvement. It was such an interesting scoring which started off with an exercise of writing a story from where the facilitator could make out where the individual focus was. This was a time of self-reflection for most team members, everyone was stunned with the results and so was I. Sometimes it is uncomfortable to know your own weaknesses, but eventually these weaknesses tell you to become better than you are. A sort of new zeal and spirit emerges from within, ‘I will do good’ and even we tend to compare what others have and how others are seen.

IMG_1078Learning: Each member of the team has a specific level of relational and task orientation and everyone should strive to reach to the ‘high in relation high in task’ category.

Tower building was one exercise in communication and strength building exercises which reflected how we behave in team tasks and how we should be. My team built a tower with 12 wooden cubes, another team was highest with 13 cubes. In the end of this exercise, our team thought we could have done more.. but we avoided taking risks.

Tower Building Exercise

Tower Building Exercise

We saw many motivating videos and learnt that we need to set practical goals for ourselves and work to achieve these. There is always a need to push ourselves individually and as team for achieving newer heights.

Overall: It was a time to explore individual and team strength which ultimately led us for self-reflections and triggered our motivation to bring the best out of us as individuals as well as groups to achieve the organizational goal.

Solar Home System

Friday, February 6th, 2015 by

A small technology that brought light to Hasina Begum 

Ms. Hasina Begum, aged 30, is from Kalikapur village of Atulia Union Council (UP) under Shyamnagar Upazila of the South-western coastal Satkhira district.  This is an area prone to climate change and climatic extreme events such as increased salinity, sea level rise and cyclones. She is a widow and very poor, with no one earning in her family. She lost her husband two years back and has two children- one girl studying in class VI and one son studying in class III in local school.

Hasina BegumBecause of her poverty, she was selected for the support of Solar Home System (SHS) at her house by the climate change adaptation project of Practical Action Bangladesh with support from Asian Development Bank, along with 19 others in four local villages.

Kalikapur is known as ‘poultry village’, and the use of SHS is common. In the last two years (mid-2010 to 2012), there has been a tremendous increase of coverage of SHS in the village with support from different NGOs, which, can be considered as Technology Justice, since SHS is becoming popular in the off-grid area, where there is no grid electricity. However, the people of the grid area have been accessing electricity services with high government subsidy. So, SHS, comparatively, with its high cost for the extreme poor is obviously not right from a Technology Justice point of view.

After the problem of ‘bird flu’ in the last year, poultry raising significantly decreased in the area. The only entrepreneur of the village gives work of karchupi (hand knitting on dresses- salwar, kamij and orna, mainly) to the village women. Hasina also receives some work but not sufficient. However, it helps her in earning to maintain her family to certain extent.

Hasina received a solar home system in April 2012. The system included one 12 volt battery, one solar panel, two bulbs and a control meter along with wire, switch board and other relevant equipment. Her children’s interest in studying has greatley increased, since the SHS provides more light and is more convenient than traditional kerosene kupi. They now study even after dinner. Hasina herself also has been able to increase her work capacity by carrying on working up to midnight, when there remains pressure of work that she could not perform in the day time because of household work. Earlier, she could work only in the day time.

So, the SHS has created opportunity of work for longer hours, specially, at night in solar light and scope of earning higher income to maintain her livelihood. Hasina receives wages for karchupi work on each set of dress amounting Tk.200-400. The wage varies based on the amount of work on the dress. SHS has increased her work speed and almost doubled her working hours. She informed us that she can perform her work in six days now, which would have required 12 days earlier prior to the installation of SHS. She is happy with the SHS. Beside longer working scope and income earning aspects, the SHS has increased her security also, since the solar lights lighten the entire room and around and encourage her children to study as well. Earlier, she would feel insecure in the dark of the night. She is a pretty woman and lives alone with her two young children. Having a SHS at home is considered to be the matter of social status as well, in the rural context.

The SHS has brought multiple benefits to Hasina and her family – she has the opportunity to work for longer, she can earn a higher income, her children can study and her security and social status have improved.


Mobile Data Collection System in Low Smoke Stoves Project

Thursday, February 5th, 2015 by

 Using Mogli MRV+

Over the years our Low Smoke Project in North Darfur has proven successes as well as meeting beneficiaries’ expectations. This project illustrates the fruitful partnership between Practical Action, Women Development Association Network (WDAN), and Carbon Clear Company to facilitate access to LPG for  poor households .We are using a revolving fund system to encourage using a clean energy source and reduce the consumption of fuel wood in urban Al-Fashir. This partnership has achieved great outcomes worth mentioning whenever the opportunity arises.


  • 7000,+ stoves in use in El-Fashir
  • First carbon credit project in Sudan
  • First Gold Standard project to use LPG
  • Improved access to modern energy
  • Reduced indoor air pollution
  • Strengthened local delivery infrastructure
  • Strengthened communities
  • Reduced regional deforestation of approx 80 kg wood/ 30 kg charcoal per household each month
  • Cuts in carbon emissions of approx 4t/CO2e per stove-yr

A key factor of success is good planning to monitor project activities and proper distribution of roles and responsibilities among partners. The following flow chart summarizes monitoring activities:

Low smoke stoves (2)

As seen above local networks are responsible for completing surveys for example (Kitchen Survey Questionnaire about 4\A4 papers for 40 households every 3 months – Usage Survey Questionnaire 1\A4 paper – Leakage Assessment Questionnaire 2\A4 papers for 100 households). Practical Action staff in Al-Fashir collect all the questionnaires, translating them from Arabic to English, scanning all hard copies, and using SPSS for analysis to prepare first draft report. Then the draft report is shared with Practical Action head office in Khartoum for comments. Finally, after Carbon Clear in UK performs its role as mentioned in flow chart, the report will be sent to the Gold Standard Foundation who will issue carbon credits.

This monitoring mechanism is effective in a small project but it’s time consuming.  Our project now seems to be expanding to rural areas in North Darfur. That’s why it’s time for a technological platform through which monitoring activities can be done faster.

Mobile Data Collection solution (MDC) works effectively in this case. In end of 2014 MOGLI MRV+ has been used by our staff in Darfur as system runs on Android mobile devices and tablets and functions Online or Offline. Allows our staff to collect, share, and visualize geographically tagged data in real-time “GPS CAPTURE”. It can be linked with Flicker and upload pictures at the moment captured. Moreover, it provides Mobile Signature and Multi-language function.

To know more see this video on YouTube :