Archive for October, 2015

GPS technology halts lagoon encroachment

Saturday, October 31st, 2015 by

In the natural resource management arena common pool resources and open access are two aspects that are discussed at length. These topics continue to be challenging to researchers, practitioners, scientists and governments across the world. Sri Lanka is no exception.

These challenges are clearly manifested in the small-scale lagoon fisheries sub-sector in Sri Lanka. About 116 lagoons and estuaries can be found around the island. Around 200,000 people are dependent on these intricate ecosystems for livelihoods. These lagoons and estuaries are very complex social ecological systems, posing different challenges in governing them. Sustainable Lagoons and Livelihoods Project (SLLP) has been jointly working with the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DFAR) to build sustainable governance of 18 lagoons in Sri Lanka. This is a really challenging project which has generated a host of lessons.

As Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize winner in Economics in 2009 expressed it: “Clear property boundaries are a requirement for governing common properties”. This is the first requirement for building sustainable governance for natural resources. This process however, presents formidable challenges.

Often, property boundaries of lagoon ecosystems are established by fixing concrete posts around their perimeters. Past lessons from Sri Lanka show that such physical demarcation of the lagoon ecosystem boundaries does not work, due to relentless illegal encroachments taking place which renders further steps in the process dysfunctional.  Landowners around lagoons possess old deeds, containing much ambiguity and lack of specific boundaries. This has been exploited by encroachers. How this happens is an interesting area for study. Often old deeds may include a clause such as; “eastern part of this land goes up to the lagoon”. This clause creates much ambiguity in defining the boundary between land and a lagoon. This ambiguity is used to advantage by encroachers by filling the edges of the lagoon and moving the concrete posts towards the lagoon. This has led to a situation where lagoon water surfaces are increasingly forced to shrink while the surrounding land is illegally extended. Finally, this gives rise to social conflicts among different users of the lagoon ecosystems resulting in small-scale lagoon fishers being victimized.

Using GPS technology to halt lagoon encroachment in Sri Lanka

The SLLP and DFAR began searching for alternatives, and innovatively introduced GPS technology to map-out the lagoon boundary catchment areas. This led to detailed maps being agreed upon for each lagoon for the first time. Because GPS points are indisputable and specific, the lagoons cannot be illegally encroached. Even if the concrete post are moved towards the lagoons, encroachments can be easily identified because established GPS points do not change. The process entails developing detailed maps with GPS points that will be legally declared as Lagoon Management Area. This is formalized by public Gazette notification. Subsequently, the Co-governance committee along with Lagoon Fisheries Management Committees (LFMCs) of a lagoon ecosystem can take legal action against violators in the event of illegal encroachment. This is a major deterrent to encroachers. Furthermore, these maps serve as indicators in the physical mapping of fish species and help as a monitoring tool for all stakeholders who are in the co-governance committee meetings.

The first Gazette notification of this kind has been published for the Kokkilai lagoon. This lagoon spreads into two provinces; northern and eastern in Sri Lanka. Since this involves two different administrative divisions plus different social economic and political contexts, having clear proper boundaries has expedited the fisheries co-governance process, facilitating interactions between different stakeholders to develop a Kokkilai Lagoon governance plan. This process will further be replicated in other lagoons of the SLLP project while doubtlessly providing more lessons to improve demarcation work.

The advantage here is that stakeholders such as fishers, farmers or extension workers can provide information to take legal action against encroachers and keep tabs on whether lagoon ecosystems are encroached by simply using of smart phones. This is an initiative that uses ICT to add value to fisheries governance.

Using GPS technology to halt lagoon encroachment in Sri Lanka

‘Where the need was there, energy made it possible’

Thursday, October 29th, 2015 by

At this year’s Small is Festival held at the Centre for Alternative Technology in West Wales, I met Rod Edwards, who worked at Practical Action (then ITDG) from 1986 to 1992. As we’re celebrating 50 years of Practical Action, I was eager to find out more about his work back then.

Rod Edwards

Rod Edwards at the Centre for Alternative Technology

Rod spent two years in Peru working on the micro hydro energy programme, setting up demonstration programmes and training people in the techniques required to install and maintain micro hydro systems. The funding for this project came from the EU and other funders for village level electrification. The Inter America Development Bank  supported a revolving fund which enabled 47 low cost micro hydro installations between 1992 and 2007, delivering clean, renewable energy to more than 3,000 families.

The project aimed to source materials locally as far as possibly but some items such as circuit boards of the right quality were unobtainable in Peru at the time and had to be imported. However there was one key part of the system, the Pelton wheel, that encountered a major manufacturing problem. Without a tradition of bronze casting in Peru, developing the skills required to produce precisely engineered Pelton wheels locally proved challenging.

But, international co-operation within Practical Action provided a solution. Rod’s colleagues working on micro hydro projects in Nepal were working with a group of religious statuary manufacturers who used the ancient technique of lost wax casting.

Nepalese statue makers polishing their casts

Nepalese statue makers polishing their casts

Working with Peru’s energy specialist, Teo Sanchez and UK sculptor Stephen Hurst, they came up with a means of producing the precision required for the Pelton wheel, while retaining the simplicity of local manufacture.

“We were constantly evolving the technology development with interaction between the two countries.  This was very healthy.”  Rod told me, he went on to say:

“Personally and professionally, we were sharing ideas and technical knowledge between different cultures and people and working out how to build this into social structures.  You have to do your homework in the community before otherwise it won’t work.”

Casting moulds laid in the kiln for firing, 1989

Casting moulds laid in the kiln for firing, 1989

The team ran micro hydro courses for engineers in Sri Lanka, Peru, Nepal and Zimbabwe and most of the attendees went on to build systems in their countries.  These engineers then worked with local NGOs and small businesses  implementing new micro-hydro systems.

In Nepal the Agriculture Development Bank of Nepal provided loans for micro hydro installation and Practical Action provided training, manufacturing guidelines and quality assurance.

Breaking the plaster mould from a Pelton wheel after casting. A nervous moment, as you are never quite sure how it will turn out !

Breaking the plaster mould from a Pelton wheel after casting. A nervous moment, as you are never quite sure how it will turn out !

Micro hydro power plants were more successful in some places than others.  It was important that the need for energy was there – not just for lighting and leisure activities, but for enterprise.  For example, one installation alongside the Ucayali river in Peru on a popular truck route, led to the setting up of a group of small catering enterprises supplying truck drivers with food and drink.

A couple of weeks later I came across these old black and while photographs of a lost wax Pelton wheel training course in Nepal in 1989. As someone who believes that understanding the past is vital for planning the future, this co-incidence was too good to ignore!

Exciting times for off grid electricity in Africa

Thursday, October 29th, 2015 by

This week I am at the World Energy Council congress in Addis Ababa and have had the opportunity to speak at a couple of sessions on energy access. There have been some lively and informed debates, but for me the most interesting thing (given the congress attendees are generally from the formal power sector) has been the apparent widespread acceptance that off grid distributed electricity generation will have an important part to play in achieving universal access to energy. This, I feel, represents an encouraging change in attitude amongst policy makers in recent years.

Certainly that acceptance is in line with the thinking of major energy policy analysts such as the International Energy Agency (IEA). In 2011 the IEA suggested that achieving universal access to electricity would take 20 years and require, for sub Saharan Africa, around $18.5b of investment annually. Given that 80% of those without access to electricity at the moment live in rural areas and may not be economic to connect up to the grid in the near future, the IEA also said that around 60% of that investment, $11.5b per year, would have to be for mini grids or isolated off grid technologies if access were to be truly universal.

energy enablesBut today others, notably the Power for All coalition of which Practical Action is a member, argue that the IEA’s figures are too conservative and that universal access to electricity could be achieved in just 10 years and at one tenth of that cost by using rapidly developing solar photovoltaic technologies.

Certainly the viability of solar systems to provide domestic power has never been greater. The cost of solar panels has plummeted in recent years, falling 75% since 2009, while lithium batteries have become far more efficient vehicles for storing power.

Perhaps even more importantly the power requirements of appliances have also dropped with the advent of not just LED lighting but also super-efficient fridges TVs and fans, meaning you can get much more out of a solar panel than you could even a couple of years ago. The same 40 watt solar panel that 10 years ago could power one 25 watt light bulb can today power four LED lights, a phone charger, a radio and maybe even a small colour TV.

The size of the demand in Sub Saharan Africa (600 million people without electricity) and the falling price of the technology have combined with pay as you go approaches to consumer financing to create market based opportunities to tackle the energy access challenge using solar home systems and lights. The social enterprise Sunny Money has sold over 1.7 million solar lamps in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Malawi and Zambia to date for example. Meanwhile companies such as MKOPA are using the MPESA mobile money system in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda to allow people to buy US $200 pico solar home systems by spreading the cost over a year to 18 months in daily or weekly micro instalments. The MKOPA system provides an 8 Wp panel, 3 lights and charging for a mobile phone and a radio. Costs are around US 45 cents a day which compares favourably with typical household costs of 50 – 60 cents per day for kerosene for lighting plus typical mobile charging costs. MKOPA has grown rapidly from 60,000 customers in April 2014 to 250,000 today.

In Tanzania, Off Grid Electric uses similar technology but operates a leasing model, selling energy as a service as opposed to ownership of the solar panels and batteries themselves. Customers receive free servicing and repairs and can upgrade to higher power systems over time by just increasing their regular payments. Off Grid Electric is adding 10,000 customers a month at the moment and heading for 200,000 customers by the end of 2015. And there are other companies engaged in the solar home system market in sub Saharan Africa including Econet Solar in Zimbabwe, Nova Lumos in Nigeria, Azuri Technologies in East and West Africa and Sun Transfer in Ethiopia and Kenya.

The sorts of partnerships involved here are different from traditional power sector arrangements. Relatively small private sector companies or social enterprises are putting innovative technology packages together. They are partnering up with either mobile phone companies to use mobile money or networks of local distributors to use prepaid scratch cards similar to those used for mobile air time to manage micro credit payments, sometimes directly and sometimes via a 3rd party micro finance institutions.

But there are a couple of challenges to taking this model to scale.

The first is access to working capital to scale up. To date most companies have used grant finance or equity from impact investors to cover the costs of product development and inventory. But these sources of funds are limited and commercial finance is needed. There are some signs that this is happening – both MKOPA and Off grid Electric have recently raised funds in the market. But that needs to rapidly increase.

For this to happen though a second challenge has to be met – the need for a supportive policy and regulatory environment. Governments need to clearly signal SHS as part of the national energy plans. The playing field needs to be levelled by dealing with subsidies on kerosene – the principle competitor. Other boosts to the market such as import duty holidays or VAT tax breaks on renewable energy equipment have been shown to help. And the enforcement of quality assurance standards for products and consumer rights are also important to ensure markets are not spoilt by low performing equipment.

It’s also questionable though whether commercially delivered solar home systems alone can truly deliver universal energy access (as opposed to universal access to electricity). They cannot deliver sufficient power for the most intensive household energy application – cooking. And it’s doubtful that they can deliver affordable mechanical power at a household level for productive use and livelihood creation.

LPG has to be one possible solution for cooking. It’s not green, but it reduces indoor air pollution to safe levels and can make significant enough reductions in GHG emissions to qualify for carbon financing from the voluntary carbon trading market. Practical Action has some interesting experience of working with women’s groups, LPG suppliers and carbon brokers on stoves programmes in North Darfur in Sudan for example. Other more renewable options include biogas or ethanol as clean cooking fuels.

Off grid energy for productive use – particularly mechanical power for applications such as milling, water pumping, machine workshops, etc remains a challenge. In terms of renewables, the technology required tends to be at the communal rather than household level (microhydro powered mini grids for example) or much larger solar installations and affordability issues then play a factor in making this level of energy access available universally through commercial channels. Public funding support rather than pure market based solutions has to then be a consideration in this case to support the establishment of rural livelihoods and economic development.

But, in conjunction with clean cookstove programmes and public financing contributions for energy for productive use, the pay as you go solar home system can play a major role in achieving universal energy access, perhaps at a much faster rate that we initially envisioned.

Celebrating the harvest in Sudan

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015 by

Yesterday the Ministry of Agriculture  organized a harvest celebration at Girgir dam, in the Kassala area of Sudan.  It was led by the general director of the Ministry.  Participants attended from the departments responsible for land use, agricultural research, technology transfer and planning as well as the World Food Programme, German Agro Action and the Algandoul network for rural development.

girgir dam1The Ministry of Agriculture consider the Girgir dam one of the best locations in the state for harvesting yield  in 2015, a year which experienced a shortage of rainfall throughout the state.

The dam strongly demonstrated its ability to cope with this difficult situation by harvesting water across boundaries and spreading it to farms downstream.

The total area of the land harvested is estimated to be about 800 feddan and the harvesting yield is about 720 kilograms of sorghum per feddan.

girgir2The Girgir water harvesting project, located 30 km north of Kassala, was established in 2008.  It is designed to irrigate about 1500 feddans of land.  Seven villages benefit from the project with a total population of 12,500.

Advantages of the Girgir dam

  1. It spreads water over 1,500 feddans
  2. Builds social linkages between farmers
  3. Collective management of the catchment area
  4. Harvests trans-boundary water from high land of Erttaria
  5. Reduces soil erosion and runoff
  6. Possibility of increasing the amount of irrigated land through water diversion
  7. Possibility to feed ponds  and ground water from the diverted water
  8. Increased soil moisture in the catchment area which makes it possible  to have more than one harvesting season
  9. Increased fertility of the catchment through accumulation of silt in the catchment area
  10. Increased diversity of green cover vegetation

Its Back to the Future Day!

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 by

I loved it as a teenager! And am so excited to have now reached ‘the Future’.

I enjoyed Marty’s story and the idea that he could bring future technology into the here and now. So exciting!  The power to transform the world.

Back to the futureSo, if you could send Marty McFly back to the future what would you change?

I’m tempted by great, affordable renewables – solar lights, clean cook stoves….

I’m also tempted by hover boards that could fly across the roughest terrain – maybe racing medicine to a baby in desperate need.

Clean water filters to stop children and their parents dying from the diseases caused by dirty water.

Exciting new technologies that will help end poverty and protect our planet!

But then having had fun imagining the changes Marty could bring I realised that it’s not the great ‘wow’ innovations that we need. All the technology required to get clean water to people, decent medicines and to fight the impacts of indoor air pollution exist. We even know how to protect our planet from dangerous climate change.

Maybe the change we need is different.

One of the great things about science fiction films is that they help shape out vision of the future . If you’ve experienced it in someone’s imagination the reality is so much easier to create – a small example being Star Trek ‘communicators’ and clam shell mobile phones. I had one did you?

So imagine if next time Marty went ‘Back to the Future’ he found a world where everyone had access to the technologies they need to lead a good life – in a way that protects our planet. He found a world where people shared.

Can you imagine the power of such a story? It could be inspirational.


Global Handwashing Day in Nakuru

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 by

Bondeni Primary School in Nakuru County became a haven for pomp and colour on 15 October as it hosted over 5,000 people – a majority of them school children- to commemorate the Global Handwashing Day.

Themed “Raise a hand for hygiene,” the 2015 Global Hand Washing Day Celebrations reached out to students from 10 primary schools and thousands of people living in densely populated Bondeni informal settlements in Nakuru County. The 2015 celebrations aimed at fostering a global culture of handwashing and raising awareness about benefits of handwashing with soap was organised by the County Department of Health in partnership with more than 10 organisations that included Practical Action.

Educating the public

The celebrations started with participating school children, Nakuru County Government officials and stakeholders congregating at Afraha Stadium followed by a procession of 2,000 people through the Bondeni informal settlement spreading messages of proper sanitation to the locals.

The procession, led by the Nakuru Brass Band, made several stop overs within the informal settlements to educate the public on the benefits of handwashing with soap as a preventive mechanism to diseases.

Procession in Nakuru, Kenya,  on Global Handwashing Day to raise awareness of the  importance of handwashing.

The handwashing procession passing thorough Bondeni informal settlements in Nakuru

Speaking during the celebrations, Dr. Joseph Lenai, Nakuru County Public Health and Sanitation Director, called for all hotel operators in Nakuru to have handwashing facilities in their hotels. “We also urge all proprietors of public eateries, schools, government institutions and health facilities to put in place mechanisms geared towards promoting handwashing with soap,” he said.

Lenai also urged headteachers in the area to further educate students on the importance of handwashing, adding that diarrhoea disease is one of the leading causes of child mortality:

“Here in Kenya, diarrhoea disease and acute respiratory infections are among the leading causes of child mortality with about 16% of child mortality in the country attributed to diarrhoea and 20% to pneumonia,” he said. “Handwashing with soap can reverse this trend. Handwashing with soap is a self-administered vaccine against diarrhoea and pneumonia.”

Transforming handwashing into a culture

He said the County Government of Nakuru has rolled out an inter-agency partnership programme comprising of government, private sector and the civil society to promote hygienic standards in the region. “Our county government has put together a partnership comprising Department of Health and relevant departments which include: Education, Water and Environment, the private sector and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to embark on the process of transforming handwashing with soap into a culture. We want to raise awareness among our people that that the simple act of regular washing hands with soap could save more lives than any medical intervention, preventing the spread of infection and keeping children in school,” Lenai said.

Lenai further appealed to the media to educate the public on the benefits of handwashing.

Reducing school illness

Speaking during the celebrations, Janet Ochieng’, Nakuru County Deputy Director of Education emphasised the need for sanitation in schools, noting that handwashing facilities in schools would reduce the number of days children spend out of school due to illness.

During the celebrations, all children were taught how to effectively wash their hands with soap, with five students from each school participating in a handwashing competition. The day also included drama and songs from schools and sponsors with demonstrations on the dangers of improper hygiene dominating the performances.

Dr. Lenai and dignitaries also participated in a handwashing demonstration to teach county staff and teachers on how to effectively wash away germs from their hands using soap.

Children from participating schools take part in a handwashing competition during the Global Handwashing Day celebrations in Nakuru, Kenya

Children from participating schools take part in a handwashing competition during the Global Handwashing Day celebrations in Nakuru, Kenya

The World Health Organisation states:

“Diarrhoea is the second leading cause of death among children under five. Diarrhoea causes nearly one in five deaths of children under five, resulting in 760,000 deaths each year. A large majority of these deaths are attributable to unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. Treating and safely storing drinking water, hand washing, and exclusively breastfeeding young children can prevent diarrhoeal disease.”

Global Handwashing Day is a campaign to encourage people globally to improve their handwashing habits by washing their hands using soap, especially at critical moments like after visiting the toilet. The campaign aims at decreasing disease spread through proper handwashing and raising awareness of handwashing with soap as a key approach to disease prevention.

Under the banner of Raise a Hand for Hygiene, we are looking to:Raise a hand 2015

  • Raise awareness of the newly passed SDG commitment to hygiene, but also advocate for a dedicated indicator to measure this component
  • Ensure greater funding for hygiene behaviour change and handwashing infrastructure as part of national WASH or health budgets (the GLAAS report in 2014 found that countries are spending less than 1% of their WASH budget on hygiene promotion)
  • At Practical Action we are particularly concerned about the significant health risks that the urban poor face as a result of poor sanitation and hygiene conditions, leading to health outcomes which are often worse for slum dwellers than rural populations. More needs to be done to address their needs in ways which are adapted to the conditions they face.
  • Motivate local champions to carry the messages of hygiene and handwashing throughout the year

As GMO patents expire, will they be used more by smallholder farmers in LDCs?

Friday, October 16th, 2015 by

Today 16th October is World Food Day, a day to highlight the hunger and suffering millions of people face throughout the world. One of the responses to hunger in recent years has been to turn to science and technology to help boost yields of ‘staple crops’. One such method has been the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But the use of such seeds is controlled by the companies who ‘make’ them. Recently however, the patents protections on some of the earlier generations of GMOs are starting to expire. (more…)

World Food Day and the SDGs: The challenge – no! the opportunity – for agriculture to leave no one behind

Friday, October 16th, 2015 by

Today, 16th October, is World Food Day. A day when we are reminded of the vital importance of agriculture in providing our basic need – food. More importantly, the vital role agriculture plays in providing food security and livelihoods for the majority in developing countries. For me it is a reminder of how, to date, agriculturalists and the international community are still failing to enable the many millions of small-scale farmers to use their efforts, and their resources – the natural environment for which they are in fact our custodians – to develop their agriculture so it is productive, resilient and sustainable. Our understanding of ecology and agricultural systems tells us that sustainable agriculture is possible, but this is not reflected in our research and development efforts to pursue that approach. This injustice is evident from the fact that the 2014, Global Hunger Index concluded that levels of hunger remain “alarming” or “extremely alarming” in 16 countries, and this year’s FAO report on the State Of Food and Agriculture (SOFA, 2015) show that most of the extreme poor and hungry live in rural areas.

Great Goals

ward no.7 07.03.2010Whilst alarming this is not news, and it was therefore with good reason that last month, through the Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs), the international community properly recognised the vital role of agriculture in combating poverty. Unlike their predecessor, the Millenium Development Goals (the MDGs) in which agriculture was omitted, the SDGs have a specific goal to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030 (Goal 2). And, to achieve that, specific targets to double agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, whilst maintaining the genetic diversity of our food crops and livestock, and delivering a sustainable food system.

With the SDGs the global community has done well to agree meaningful goals and targets for agriculture. However, this is not enough because agriculture is complex, it provides different things to different people, there are many strategies for growth and intensification and there are many interests at stake. For example, at the household level agriculture is important for food security, incomes, identity and jobs. For many it is a safety net – a base from which to rise. As a sector it is important financially and economically – for trade, adding value (processing), technology (inputs and machinery), raw materials for industry (fibres, fuels, oils), investment and growth. Agriculture is also one of the most significant of human activities that impact on the environment. Expanding and polluting agriculture is causing the loss of forests, wetland and marine ecosystems, which is having a negative knock on effect on our climate. There is a tension between food and incomes now, and maintaining our natural resources for future generations.

The Role of Technology

Many people and governments look to science and new technologies for the solution. The green revolution multiplied the yields of major staple crops, but yields are plateauing, soil fertility is declining and land degradation threatens the sustainability of the gains achieved. Despite the dramatic, even transformational, effect of that science, poverty and hunger remain.

Certainly science and technology has a vital role to play but it needs to create accessible, innovative and sustainable solutions. To do this requires research, capacity building and policies that enable farmers to make the most of the assets and knowledge they already have, and to use science to complement and improve their efforts. Agroecology provides an agricultural development pathway to do that. To be relevant, and bring forward, the many millions of smallholder farmers, in particular women, indigenous people, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, so that indeed many fewer are left behind.

Implementation & Measuring Success

Coming back to the SDGs, and the challenge of implementation, the important issue now is to have realistic indicators for monitoring and measuring success, and most importantly, guiding the strategies that governments choose to promoting transformation in agriculture.

There will be a tendency, the sake of easy implementation, measurement and reporting, to simplify the issues. For example, to measure yields and the closing of the so called ‘yield gap’, use of fertiliser or new seeds. As we have seen from the green revolution and the environmental pressures on agriculture in developed countries, such measures do not ensure access, innovation or sustainability. The SGD indicators should rather measure the ability of farmers to adapt and cope with change, and our ability to refocus research and development to improve their capacity, knowledge and skill so they can so they can improve and manage the natural resources they have.

In conclusion, the food insecurity of millions of extreme poor people could be alleviated with agroecological technologies to improve the productivity and resilience of smallholder farmers, rather than investments in technologies for industrial farming.

Reflecting on technology in the lead up to COP21, Paris

Friday, October 16th, 2015 by

These videos outline the background to the UNFCCC meetings held recently in preparation for the vital COP21 climate change talks in Paris at the end of November.

Technology needs assessment

Over the past year developing countries have been identifying their priority technology needs, to provide a basis for a portfolio of environmentally sustainable technology development.


The opportunities of decentralised renewable energy


In depth technical paper to facilitate detailed planning

How a revolving fund empowers women

Friday, October 16th, 2015 by

Fatima Adam Ali is a young mother of three children from Majdoub,  a village 7km to the west of El-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur State. Fatima and her husband farm a  9.5 feddan plot of land (2.5 feddans of which is fertile), on which they grow a combination of staple cereal crops and cash crops.

This is their primary livelihood with sesame and tobacco being their most consistently profitable crops. In addition, Fatma owns five goats, which she keeps for milk for the household but also for sale in case of a poor crop harvest. In 2014 she had to sell two of her goats as her tobacco crop failed. Through her local women’s community based organisation (CBO), Fatima has participated in several activities as part of the Wadi El Ku Project.

women from darfur

Significantly, she attended a training course in organic compost production and use. Following the training she made 10 sacks of compost which she will use to increase the soil fertility of her farmland. She was also involved in the wadi bank stabilization programme and along with others in her community helped to plant and protect a 3km line of tree seedlings on the severely degraded banks of the wadi. She is responsible for watering seven trees, which she does every Thursday. One tree died, but the rest are thriving.

When she heard that her local women’s community based organisation was providing small revolving funds to exploit local market chain gaps, Fatima immediately applied. Three years ago she started her own small perfume business. She saw this opportunity to access credit as a chance to grow her business. She used the funds to purchase large quantities of basic perfume ingredients such as oils from El Fashir town. She now produces a number of new perfumes, including khumra (the heavily scented signature perfume of married Sudanese women), stocks henna and a variety of incenses and woods used for smoke-baths, and regularly purchases dilka (a dark paste, made from a mixture of sorghum, fragrant oils and spices, which is used as an exfoliant) from her aunt for resale.

As the only person producing and selling perfumes in Magdoub and any of the neighbouring villages, she has had no shortage of customers with many women preferring to buy perfumes locally than having to travel to El Fashir market to purchase ready-made perfumes or to buy the raw materials to produce their own perfumes at home. She makes her perfume at home whenever she has some idle time. She sells her perfumes from her house, with her eldest son helping by delivering orders to neighbours and others in the village.  Soon she hopes to set up a stall in the weekly village market. She estimates that in a slow month she makes about 150 SDG profit and in a good month she makes more than 200 SDG.

* An EU funded project, implemented by Practical Action in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), to promote integrated water resource management in North Darfur and to strengthen local livelihoods.