Archive for March, 2015

Soil testing for better crop yields

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by

Arriving at Badikhel, we were confronted with a group of ladies, queuing patiently, and brandishing small bags. Inside each bag was a shovel worth of soil. It wasn’t what I was expecting. Badikhel is an information and resource centre, used by the local community to gain knowledge of agricultural practices and technologies which can help them to improve productivity and incomes on their small farms.  (Favourite technologies include the cow lollipop – a cheap, locally appropriate, easy to make, mineral block that helps to keep cattle healthy. )

planting in NepalBut, today a very practical activity was taking place – soil testing. The soil pH determines the availability of almost all essential plant nutrients. And if the pH is not right, plants won’t be able to access the nutrients they need for growth and ultimately a healthy yield for the farmer.

pH testing is  a very simple procedure, as you might remember from school chemistry lessons. Today, instead of the litmus paper I used at school, a gadget with an electronic reading was dipped into the soil and water solution. This simple test, which took seconds to complete, provided information that could transform the outcome of year’s harvest.

That one piece of data is absolutely central to a series of decisions and actions that a farmer can take to ensure healthy soil and a healthy crop. And yet, despite the work of Practical Answers here at Badikhel and other centres around Nepal, far from all farmers have access to this basic, but essential information.

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In the UK meanwhile, new precision-farming techniques are now commonplace in family as well as commercial farms. Sampling is carried out across the field– to a level of detail of mere centimetres. This data is fed into a geographical information system that interprets the structure and content of the soil and calculates the inputs required to achieve optimum conditions for growth.  With this information, a GPS-guided tractor and equipment can vary the quantity of the input applied (let’s say fertiliser) automatically as it moves across the field.  Apart from turning corners the farmers no longer even need to drive the tractor (did you notice tramlines are a lot more straight these days?).   There’s no denying this brings efficiency savings that are good for the farmer and good for the environment, as excess chemical applications are kept to a minimum.

Surely making a pH test available to the millions of smallholder farmers who produce the bulk of the world’s food, is at least as good an investment.

Communities live with dignity after ODF declaration

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 by

It sounds simple to people who have access to basic sanitation facilities. But a technology as simple as a pit latrine is a subject of luxury for a lot of people. It is an alarming fact that even today, more than half of Nepal’s population defecate in open. The trends are changing gradually and the people living in urban areas have fancy bathrooms in their homes, but there still are a huge number of people who do not have access to this very basic facility.

Only six months ago, people from 197 households in Balapur in Gulariya Municipality-6, Bardiya District of Nepal defecated in open. In a community comprising of total 274 households, only 50 had biogas toilets. Kali Prasad Chaudhary, the Chair of Ward Citizen Forum, recalls the situation caused by regular floods sweeping away limited temporary toilets, lack of awareness and habit of open defecation.

There were a number of organisations implementing different projects in this community but sanitation was given the least priority. Chaudhary shares, “When a guest would arrive in the community, it used to be an embarrassing situation if they were not used to defecating in open. Various water borne diseases were common mainly among children and elderly people. Instead of getting to know the actual reason behind people would blame God if somebody died.”

But things have changed for better for this community. At this stage, five communities of Balapur have become Open Defecation Free (ODF) as 247 households have broken off from the traditional practice of defecating in the open after constructing toilets at their homes.

Indira Chaudhary (34) one of the community member says, “I learned about the negative effects of open defecation, and I did not want to be the one contributing to the pollution of environment and exposing other people to risks. I find it very convenient to use a toilet instead of going to the bush. This gives me privacy to do my business with dignity.” Her five member family is very happy to have a bio-gas toilet installed at their home.

This change became possible in the community after, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organization (ENPHO) launched SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya project in August 2014 for two years in collaboration with Gulariya municipality including other INGOs with an objective to declare an Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015. The project operates with an innovative community mobilisation approaches through HCES (Household Centered Environmental Sanitation), CLTS (Community Led Total Sanitation) and SLTS (School Led Total Sanitation) for activating communities to progressively work towards stopping open defecation in the entire municipality.

Indira Chaudhary  cleaning up her toilet

Indira Chaudhary cleaning up her toilet

According to Kali Prasad Chaudhary, “Among all these initiatives, the video documentary and street drama shows on WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) were found to be effective in touching the hearts of community people.”

Likewise, Ram Prasad Chaudhary from Gulariya Municipality opines, “In accordance with the national target on sanitation, Gulariya Municipality has committed to achieve ODF in the municipality by 2015. To make this mission a success, we have started provision of sanitation card.” He claimed that the success of ODF declaration in Balapur was due to the sanitation card.

The understanding of Sabitra Gautam, President of W WASH CC (Ward WASH Coordination Committee) is different than that others. She claimed that bal hath and stri hath (recurring pressure from children and female respectively) played crucial role to success the mission. From her statement, it is clear that there was repeated effort of children and female to construct toilets.

“Now, we are living with pride and dignity due to improved sanitation facilities in the community,” said Kali Prasad Chaudhary. “It is not easy for poor families from indigenous groups to spare money required to build their individual toilets when it can be done for free in the fields. Balapur people thank Gulariya Municipality, Practical Action, UN Habitat, ENPHO, W WASH CC and all involved TLOs for their tireless effort to make this happen and succeeding in declaring entire Balapur community Open Defecation Free (ODF).”

UK AIDIt was not possible from a little effort to construct all the toilets (197) within a short period of time. The joint effort of community people, local institutions and district level stakeholders coming together, working towards ODF target made the mission possible and thus, the people from Balapur could have access to this basic sanitation facility. The importance of such thing a lot of times gets overlooked, but access to technologies like a simple toilet helps people to build a life pride and dignity.

Cultural barriers to the use of improved cookstoves

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 by

We get plenty of opportunities to explore Nepal working in the local development sector. This is one of the interesting aspects of our job. I have visited around 56 out of 75 districts of Nepal during the course of my professional career, but as yet not been to the upper mountainous districts.

A woman cooking over a traditional stove in NepalA project team from Women Economic Empowerment (WEE) asked me to join a training programme going to be held at Diktel, the administrative headquarters of Khotang district which is one of the remote rural areas in eastern Nepal. I was really excited having got the opportunity to add one more district to my list and see how people perceived improved cookstoves. I was looking forward to know how important culture is in using a cookstove and what impact the price and availability of firewood have on cookstove use.

These questions were striking in my head while travelling along the newly constructed Banepa-Bardibas highway, which is considered as an example of a well-constructed road. After almost two hours of driving, we stopped at Bhakundey Besi Valley for a tea break. Suddenly my eyes went to a LPG stove being used to cook vegetables in the hotel. Then a boy came to serve tea that wasn’t cooked in LPG stove. I figured out that their kitchen was somewhere outside and went to have a look. I was surprised to see an old lady boiling milk in a single pot, portable, rice-husk stove without a chimney. She was using firewood instead of rice husks though. When I asked her why they weren’t using LPG to boil milk, she answered that they boil milk on a low heat for a longer time to make even more delicious yogurt. She further added that a single log of firewood was enough to boil the milk for a longer time so they avoided using LPG for it. I explained her about improved cookstove (ICS) technology and showed her some pictures. She was excited and asked me if I could deliver her an ICS that I showed her. I said, “I will try,” and bidding farewell, continued my journey to Diktel.

After a long and tiring drive we reached Diktel at around 9 pm after travelling for almost 13 hours. We all were extremely tired so we directly went for dinner and were off to bed.

Next morning, I along with Mr. Subarna Kapali from the Centre for Rural Technology, Nepal went for a short walk around the market in Diktel. I normally walk around new places, not to reduce my belly but to explore new things. While walking, we saw two women carrying firewood so I asked them what was the price for a bhari (equivalent to around 30-35 kgs) of firewood. They replied, “800 rupees (£5).”

“Eight hundred!” I exclaimed, shocked, this seemed too expensive.

Then we entered into a tea shop and ordered tea. There I saw one LPG stove and also a traditional cookstove. We ordered two cups of tea. Subarna, like me, was also curious and asked the shop owner how much a bhari of firewood cost. The owner replied, “Sometime it’s NRs. 500 but most of the time it’s NRs. 600-700.” I added, if it was that costly why they were using firewood. Instead, it would be more beneficial to use LPG. He agreed on the cost effectiveness but replied that water, milk and animal feed remain hot for a longer time if cooked on a traditional cookstove therefore they don’t use LPG for this purpose.

Before starting the training session I met a stove master, who had built hundreds of improved cookstoves. I was more interested to know about stove and cultural influence on cookstove use. The stove master shared with me that the local indigenous community worship cookstove. They don’t let anyone enter to their kitchen until and unless they finish worshiping. They only use three-stone stoves and it is placed in the middle of the home at the ground floor.  Due to this cultural practice, the stove master could not install a single ICS in that community. The ICS needs to be placed in one of the corners of the kitchen which is well ventilated and easy to release smoke out of the kitchen.

As the training started, stove masters were asked what they thought about cookstoves. An individual was asked to give only one example. Their answers were amazing. From the responses it was figured out that a cookstove is not only for cooking food but it is a place to gather around and chat, to heat the body, share happiness and sorrow, and also to talk about private matters between husbands and wives. It was interesting to know these facts.

This field visit helped me a lot in figuring out and understanding how people interact with cookstoves. Although the use is same their importance and preferences are different. I observed that a household owns more than one cookstove and the use depends upon various factors. Cost can be one factor but culture and some other things also play a vital role in adopting and using improved cookstoves. It was a very useful learning experience for me.

While 2.4 billion cook over open fires around the world, improved cookstoves reduce the deaths by smoke inhalation. I am glad that the observations made during the visit will help us find a way to remove the barriers that now prevent poor people from using the ICS technology. That will be the first step towards moving away from a state of technology injustice.

Thanks to the WEE project team for giving me this opportunity to explore Khotang and most importantly, the people living there!

A step towards a JUST world

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 by

A proper toilet, water supply and electricity – these are some basic necessities of our lives. What can be more inconvenient than not having a toilet around when you need it? Imagine waking up every day not knowing how you would manage to collect the water required for the day! It might be hard for us to even imagine, but it is a reality that too many people are living every day. While the technologies have advanced to the level where we have self-cleaning high-tech toilets; it is estimated that worldwide 2.6 billion have no access to sanitation and 1.3 billion to safe water. The world sure in an unjust place.

Compost-toilet-in-NepalThe people of Shreeramnagar, a slum settlement at Butwal – 4, Rupendehi district of Nepal are a part of that 1.3 Billion. Water crisis is a part of their lives. They have to go to the neighbouring localities to collect water, which is a time consuming and tiring work. The settlement is not recognised by the government which does not support any development of infrastructures in the community so the people have nowhere to turn to seek help. But the people of the community – had had enough of this injustice and took charge to solve their own problem.

“We didn’t know how to tackle this problem,” says Narayan Lal Ghimere, a local resident. “But now, we are able to come up with a solution after we got training from ‘Delivering Decentralisation’ project. After the training, we have formed a committee to address different kinds of problems existing in our community. With the involvement of community people, we decided that we need to construct a water tank with a huge storage capacity for the equal and uninterrupted water supply in our locality,” he further adds.

They have formed a committee for the construction of the water tank to carry forward the work effectively and make the whole process participatory. The initiation was led by the community themselves with little support from the project. Everything from the planning stage was discussed and decided by the community.

A member of the working committee, Sabitra Devi Panthi says, “We were able to learn a lot of things and got inspired to take the initiatives ourselves, after the training provided by the project. So, we made a collective decision to construct the water tank. We were motivated because we received 75 per cent of the construction cost from the project and the rest we collected amongst ourselves. Those who couldn’t pay the required amount, volunteered for the labour work to make up for it.”

Now, the construction is complete, and people of this community have for the first time in their lives, access to clean water. “We did a grand inauguration of the water tank and water supply lines. It was such a proud movement for the whole community. The regular water supply has made our lives so much easier and our locality is cleaner now. It more beneficial to housewives like us, who had to spend a lot of time fetching water, now we are able to use the saved time in other productive activities,” adds Sabitra.

She further says, “I did not know that having a water supply could change our lives so much. It has improved our health as well as economic activities. It feels like a privilege to have water supply in our own homes; construction of the water tank is such a huge achievement for us!”

It sure is a happy moment for the people of Shreeramnagar community; but having a water supply should not be a matter of privilege and so much of hard work – it should be available and accessible to all; irrespective of their location and economic background. But of course, it is not so. Hence, when we talk about these simple basic technologies, it never is as simple as it sounds. A simple thing as a water supply can change people’s lives in too many ways. It saves time for the women who can invest it in income generating activities or in taking proper care of their children. It helps to stay cleaner and healthier. It helps to make human life dignified. It helps to fill the gap of technology injustice and make this world a bit more just place.

So a water tank is not JUST a water tank but a step ahead towards a JUST world.


“Make it Happens- translating into actions”- reflection of IWD celebration

Friday, March 20th, 2015 by

[The author believes late is better than never]

International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on 8th March every year across the globe. In Bangladesh, particularly in development organizations, it is very old practiced event. But it was new in Practical Action, Bangladesh while we (Gender working Group Bangladesh) started taking preparation for this. But the event was able to convey some common messages to all staff (irrespective age, position and religion). At the end of the event, one of our drivers said,
“First time an event happened in Practical Action, Bangladesh which connected us, and we felt that we also have something to do.”

Theme of the event
There were careful efforts to make event inclusive- to celebrate it with all colleagues (staff, drivers, and support staff including cleaners). Therefore, raising gender awareness and sensitivity were included in all messages of the event. The following elements of the event made the day special and colorful.

Wall Magazine:
The Wall Magazine was comprised of short story, poem, statement, short narratives and photos. Colleagues (all levels) of Practical Action, Bangladesh wrote about the day and women’s rights. The contributions were highly reflexive.
Wall Magazine

Inauguration of Wall Magazine by Acting CD
Screening Video on Gender and Open discussion:
Three short videos were screened. One was on International Women’s Day- which takes us through brief history of the day with an emphasis on Bangladesh. Second video screening was famous and well accepted Bengali liberal feminist Begum Rokeya (1880-1932). She was an literary person, educationist, social reformer and literary person as well. The video stressed on girls rights for education. During open discussion, Dr Faruk Ul Islam (Acting Country Director) appreciated the video selection as it reflects not only the consequences but also the causes of the women struggles and movement. He also specifically mentioned that the selection of video was appropriate as it takes us back to the roots of unequal society. Final video was on inauguration of minimum standard documents and gender policy.

Sharing minimum standard documents and gender Policy
Gender Focal Person shared the contents of the minimum standard documents. He also shared how these documents will be used in our works (developing project proposal to impact assessment). He also cited some examples how all staff and partners can contribute in towards a just society.
GFP Bangladesh_ How to implement Minm Stnds Docs  and Gender Policy
Singing Song on Gender Equality
Conveying message through music has remained a strong communication tool, particularly when message deals with cultural sensitive issue. Keeping this in mind and to make the day more joyful, to communicate main theme of the day to different levels of staff, one of the songs written by Rabindranath Tagore was sung by the colleagues of the office. It was useful to communicate with colleagues who are in support services and get less chance to participate in any event like this.
Wearing purple dress and cutting cake:
Believing in gender equality and agreeing with the theme of the event, colleague wore purple color/touched dress. This made the event very colorful.

Senior Management’s commitment
For applying any policy or establishing any (good) practices in any organization requires political will or commitment of the senior management. The day took the opportunity to engage senior colleagues and to share their commitments in front of all staff. During inauguration of the wall magazine and opening speech of the day, Acting Country Director Dr. Faruk Ul Islam has mentioned that senior management will provide all required support to mainstream gender into all our policy to practice and ensures colleagues and partners take it seriously.
Cake Cutting
GWG Bangladesh
The event did not mean simply an event to staff, rather it was a breakthrough. More light and efforts will be put on this issue. Thus, in brief, even it was late but it was gorgeous and successful event.

Promoting organic fertilizer in Bangladesh: Challenges and Prospects

Saturday, March 14th, 2015 by

The price of cultivation increases at every steps like hiring more labourers, purchasing different inputs like chemical fertilizer, pesticides and irrigation equipment. Even more for chemical fertilizer farmers have to depend on agriculture office and government selected dealers where we stand behind a long queue during planting season. 

soilSo recounted Alauddin Khan, a Bangladeshi small holder, who cultivates some land of his own and some shared with others (New Age, October, 16, 2008). This is the reality for every small holder in Bangladesh.

Around 90% farmers are small holders owning less than 0.2 hectares of land or are landless but feel proud to say they are farmers as they hire land from richer  farmers. Production has tripled and cropping intensity increased from 145% in 1970 to 175% in the year 2000.  Vegetable production has increased five times and Bangladesh holds third position in increasing vegetables  production. However increases over all country’s crops production yet farmers do not get return even their production cost sometimes. In a round table discussion organized by the Prothom Alo, a renowned Bangladeshi Daily News Paper raised the issue of crop pricing for Bangladeshi farmers ( The Daily Prothom Alo, 7 December 2014).

Why do farmers not get prices based on the cost of their labour and input?

Different studies revealed that cultivation of a high yield variety is one of the major areas which ultimately increases production costs as its input intensity is higher than traditional varieties.  Over use of land,  mono cultivation, farmers’ ignorance about land and input ratios like  fertilizer, pesticides and water use and lack of understanding what a minimum requirements of ingredients of soil should have are some reasons according to soil and agricultural scientists.

Standard soil should have a minimum of 3.5% organic matters but in most areas of Bangladesh this is  between 1- 1.7% (4.14 mh) and in some areas (1.09 mc) less than 1%. Therefore 5.23 mc of the total land area has a lower level of organic matters than the minimum requirement.

What are the challenges of promoting organic fertilizer?

In 2014 the Food and Agriculture Program of Practical Action Bangladesh conducted a study of organic fertilizer promotion in Bangladesh.  One of the objectives of that multidisciplinary research was to identify the status of knowledge in the area. It revealed major challenges from different stakeholders’ perspectives. There was a lack of understanding of the requirements of soil and soil fertility testing.  Organic fertilizer works slowly on soil and its productive efficiency is lower than chemical fertilizer, which is costly.  Organic fertilizer production costs are higher, very few companies produce organic fertilizer and some of its quality is questionable. The government provides a higher subsidy for chemical fertilizer that makes more vested interest so that disparity exists regarding the political economy of fertilizer policy and  promotion. Entrepreneurs and investors lack knowledge and understanding about the market promotion and assessment of market demands, and policy barriers and policy support are major issues.(See table:1)

Table: 1 Farmers comparative narrative between two types of fertilizers

Serial Narrative of fertilizer Organic Chemical
1 Keeps soil soft More Rather Negative effect ( Hard)
2 Water preservation More Negative ( Dried )
3  Paste control More Less
4 Food value Keep intrinsic taste Taste reduce
6 Crops preference Vegetables Paddy
7 Required amount More Less
8 Market availability and price Non available Low price and available

Prospects of organic fertilizer

Gradually urbanization is increasing in Bangladesh, around 30% of people live in urban areas. Approximately 16,380 tons per day of waste is generated in the urban areas of Bangladesh. If we can reuse some of this as an ingredient of organic fertilizer production, this may reduce the cost of raw materials on one side and on the other hand relieve the burden of improper waste dumping.

According to organic fertilizer entrepreneurs, vegetable growers are major clients of organic fertilizer users. Vegetable production has been increasing in Bangladesh along with exports of vegetables to gulf areas. Vegetable consumption has increased from 42 grams per head in 1994 to 70 grams per head in 2013. According to WHO, the per day per person vegetable consumption should be 225 gram. Income, literacy and health and nutrition awareness and the overall living standard of people has been improving. Besides, the choices of affluent people have widened. Some upper income groups both in rural and urban areas are becoming interested in organic foods and Bangladeshi vegetable growers can export their crops and fine rice to European and North American markets if they can produce organic vegetables and get a favorable policy enabling environment from the government.

National Extension Policy, Bio diversity policy, Bangladesh Bank CSR policy and even UN Sustainable Development Goals are expected to endorse a development target for all nations in favor of organic fertilizer from September 2015. Adequate knowledge, policy and incentives for promotion are needed to produce, market and use of organic fertilizer in Bangladesh.

A false sense of security? What Sendai 2015 needs to achieve

Friday, March 13th, 2015 by

Sendai in Japan today welcomes the international community to negotiate a successor agreement to the Hyogo Framework of Action which ten years ago created a global agreement over the governance of disaster risk reduction (DRR).

Sendai is well placed to know the importance of preparing for disaster. Four years ago it witnessed the triple whammy of an earthquake that triggered a tsunami that led to a technological disaster.

Hopefully the successor agreement will reinforce the growing emphasis on risk reduction and provide a wakeup call of the likelihood that a future disaster will exceed the resources of many states to adequately respond, thus requiring coordinated global action.

A lot has changed since 2005 when many governments lacked even the basics of a suitable policy and lacked national agencies responsible for disaster risk management. Now many governments have delivered on national level implementation, but sadly delivery at the bottom of the poverty ladder where disasters hit hardest hasn’t caught up.

However, as we learned from Hurricane Katrine, even in the developed world no person can be 100% safe from a disaster, so having adequate measures in place to respond when disaster strike will always be needed. Yet, when risk prevention is far more cost effective than spending on relief and recovery, why are we not doing more of it?

Local people participating in bio dykes construction

Local people participating in bio dykes construction

The human and socioeconomic costs of natural disasters are growing at an accelerating rate. This is because natural hazards are intensifying and becoming less predictable. Worse still, as urban growth drives economic development, more people and assets are located in areas that climate change is making increasingly vulnerable. Now is the time to act in a concerted way and not to argue over the details of an agreement.

Yet as I write, there are still arguments over the following contentious issues:

• how much financial support wealthy nations should give vulnerable states
• how to develop targets that measure progress
• what role non state actors should play in rolling out the plan

What we need from Sendai 2015

Now is the time for governments to respond to demands from around the world for a practical framework. Sendai must deliver a new agreement. And the agreement must stop the creation of risk via development. This only transfers the problem to future generations to deal with. What we need now is an agreement, forged around a new consensus by all actors. This agreement must create a precedent for development driven by investment that prioritises long term DRR and not more of the same with an inherent false sense of security.

Small things make a big difference

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 by

Women’s economic empowerment is essential for poverty reduction and improves the quality of life for women, men and their families.  Small things can be great for making a difference and bringing happiness to a family.

nawal with decorated basketsPractical Action’s team in Blue Nile state realized the importance and the meaning of women empowerment by implementing a project in 2014 that focuses on empowering youths, women and men to help them to learn a specialty that will enable them to become an expert in a specific field.  This will help them to generate an income and become economically independent in a sustainable way.

Nawal Idrees Daoud, a 37 year old woman from Alkurmuck lives in Elnasr Sharg one of Aldamazine’s poor districts and was trained in handicraft skills. She has managed to bring happiness to her three daughters. Nawal, who married early, learned to make designs on decorative waste baskets.  Before the training she was challenged by to provide university fees for her two elder daughters and high secondary school final exams for her youngest daughter. nawal1 During the school holidays she trained her daughters so that they could increase their production and sold 20 baskets for 30 SDG (£3.50) and earned 600SDG (£70) in the two weeks before Eid .

Nawal said that “she can’t express her happiness at earning her own money for the first time” she also mentioned that “simple skills can help families to overcome problems. I feel so happy and so strong and self-confident when I have my own money. I feel like I have the whole world specially when I got my own sustainable income it’s the first time I have new sandals not borrowed ones.”

Nawal believes it is possible for women to make it happen.

Flood-proof school …flood-proof community

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 by

All around the UK are villages and towns with community centres, but just imagine how valued that community centre would be if it was not just a community centre but also a school, and a place of safety. The Multi-purpose Community Centre and School in Saghata, Giabandha, is one such place.

IMG_2677Most of the time the building is used as a school and this is what it was being used for when I visited it.  The place was full of incredibly well-behaved, delightful children from 5-18 years old.  When I walked into a classroom they all got up to say good morning to me, and were clearly very proud of their ability to speak English, and to recite traditional English rhymes.‘Early to bed , early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise’ was a firm favourite.  Several of the children were able to tell me a little bit about their lives.  Playing football is obviously a popular pastime in Bangladesh!

IMG_2668BUT…this is a school with a difference, if you look closely at the buildings you will see they are all raised from the ground on plinths and made of brick.  This is a flood-proof school.  When the floods do arrive however it stops becoming a school and is a place of safety for the local community.  The classrooms become places where people and animals can stay until the flood subsides. This Centre was clearly the hub of the community and is making a big difference to the lives of the people who live there irrespective of flooding.

School2I will always have fond memories of the children who greeted me so warmly and the staff who were clearly very dedicated.

Give a man a fish…

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 by

We have all heard that saving, ‘give a man a fish and he will have food for a day, teach him to fish and he will have food for a lifetime’. At Practical Action we take this a step further, we would teach a man to fish and provide all the equipment he needs to do that as well!


In my recent visit to Bangladesh it was this expression that came to mind when I met a lovely family were keen to tell me how their lives had been made much better as a result of their involvement in a Practical Action project.

Hagera is a lady who had been given training and equipment from Practical Action as part of the Shiree project about 3 years before.  She had learnt how to make a range of different snacks to sell to local shops and door to door. She was proudly wearing the Practical Action apron she had been given at the time.  What made this story a bit special however was that recently she had trained her 19 year old son Allakba  to also get involved in the business.  He told me that if he didn’t make snacks he would have to be a labourer.  As a labourer he would make 100 Taka a day ( about 90p) , but by making snacks he could make 300-500 Taka. He was a very happy and in fact he didn’t stop smiling the whole time I was there!

Hagera and her son showed me how they made the snacks and then with typical Bangladeshi hospitality invited my colleague and myself to taste them…and they were delicious. My favourite was a snack called jhuri, it is similar to a hard chip that tasted both salty and sweet at the same time, not like anything I had ever had before but really yummy.

In terms of the difference  Practical Action’ had made to their lives Hagera told me that in the three years they had managed to buy a cow and  the materials to build a house, which was obviously a huge thing.  She clearly felt very blessed and grateful for both what she and her son had managed to achieve so far and that as a result of our input they had a bright future to look forward to.

Another ‘proud to work for Practical Action’ moment for me, and a family I will never forget.