Archive for September, 2016

Online workshop on gender: process, challenges and possibilities

Thursday, September 29th, 2016 by

Recently, we had a virtual workshop on gender for Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP) project staff. Through participatory methods, the workshop was conducted and all participants enthusiastically shared their experiences and insights. However, Because of some technical difficulties, first day of the workshop could not be organized which was shifted to first half of second day! At the end of the workshop, some activities were identified to include into project and make it more gender sensitive!

the process we followed;

 

process

Glimpse of the activities;

  1. Start of the workshop: sharing a quotation of Kamla Bhasin ( a well-known feminist activist & social scientist of South Asia)

    1

    “I know enough women who are totally patriarchal, who are totally anti-women; who do nasty things to other women, and I have known men who have worked for women’s rights their whole life. Feminism is not biological: feminism is an ideology.” ( Kamla Bhasin)

  2. Why Gender is important for development project like Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP) is being discussed;

2

3.  How PaP  project takes actions (can take action) to address gender inequality in households, women’s effective decision-making  is being discussed and share some of the examples from the region;

3

4. Integrating gender into project cycle: exercise is done for PaP project

4

5.  Mary Surridge ( Gender Consultant UK), Lizzy Whitehead (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Adviser) and PaP project staff (at Rangpur, Bangladesh)

6

6.  Lizzy Whitehead sharing her experiences and concerns through Sype conferencing;

5

7.  Group work on stakeholder analysis and logframe review;

20160908_093831

7

8. Sharing findings of the group work; identified some areas where gender aspects can be incorporated

9

9. Final notes given by the Consultant Mary Surridge

10

Challenges:

The workshop was virtual- for which high speed internet connection was required. But next day of the workshop, Prime Minister of Bangladesh visited the Rangpur and delivered speeches in number of events. There was plan from divisional administration to live telecast her speeches. Therefore, on 6th October internet connection was heavily disrupted which affected the workshop plan. Second important challenge we came across is inadequate time for the workshop. There were lots of associated issues to be discussed and participants had many observations and opinions to share- which could not be completed properly.

Possibilities:

The workshop alos showed us number of possibilities, which are;

  • It was a trial whether to go for this kind workshop. The experience suggests  for going
  • Identified areas for gender inclusion in the project.
  • Agreed to continue this kind of session within the project and beyond the project.
  • Agreed to conduct period gender assessment in the PaP project.
  •  

Conclusion:

We have experience of organizing online meeting frequently but this was first time we tried to conduct a full workshop virtually. Even there were some technical problems in first day, but finally it was ended up with good spirit among the staff. Thus, we are hopeful to transform the project as landmark one for Practical Action!

Sustainable access to water sanitation in Red Sea, Kassala and Gadarif

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 by

One of Practical Action’s latest projects in Sudan is called ‘Sustainable access to water, and improved sanitation and hygiene behaviour in the three states of Red Sea, Kassala and Gadarif’.

These three eastern states are among the poorest in Sudan.  The programme will bring sustainable water supplies, improved hygiene and better sanitation practices to 350,000 people.

ZOA, in collaboration with IAS, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Plan, Practical Action and SOS Sahel (together with the Aqua4East Partnership), will deliver the project over 4 years using an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) approach.

map

Specific Objectives:

  • To establish regional Water Resources Management Committees (WRMC) to represent key stakeholders, and facilitate the development of management plans through a participatory planning process, including analysis from experts on the feasibility of different options.
  • To provide secure access to safe water through renovation and construction of water points and groundwater collection infrastructure
  • To promote improvements in hygiene and sanitation practice
  • To document and share lessons learnt within and outside Sudan

Project Outputs

  1. Inclusive mechanisms for IWRM  in targeted catchment areas
  • Raise awareness on the importance of water resources management
  • Establish Water Resources Management Committees (WRMCs) for selected catchment areas
  • Train WRMCs
  • Set up data collection systems
  • Conduct catchment-specific feasibility studies on options for water resources management infrastructure
  • Develop Water Resources Management Plans (WRMPs) for selected catchment areas

      2. Sustainable access to water for all user groups

  • Construct appropriate water infrastructures for groundwater collection
  • Renovate and/or construct appropriate drinking water facilities
  • Investigate and promote appropriate methods for household water treatments
  • Train WRMCs and WASHCs on the operation and maintenance of constructed water facilities
  • Establish local spare parts supply chains for water points

     3.  Behaviour change for improved sanitation and hygiene practices

  • Community-based sanitation and hygiene promotion
  • Hygiene promotion in schools
  • Construction of latrines in schools, health centres and public places
  • Support to sanitation-related small business

     4. Action learning to promote replication of IWRM

  • Exchange lessons learnt with other similar projects in Sudan
  • Develop technical papers
  • External seminars on sustainable WASH community based projects

IWRM in SudanEffective development committees will be formed in three catchment areas across 22 different villages to improve community and grassroots involvement.

With previous experience in the fields of food security and integrated water resource management, Practical Action was the first to champion the formation of these committees. It is important for local people to participate in the development of projects. Project Manager Emad said,  “Always you are the first and best”.

 

The Role of Digital Technology in Development

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 by

Runner Up Entry to Practical Action Strategy Contest

In June 2016,  in partnership with the International Institute of Environment and Water, 2IE, Practical Action launched a contest called “Fit for the Future.” Intended primarily for students of the Institute, this competition was to involve them in strategic thinking about the future of Practical Action in a decade.

Launched on June 23, 2016, the candidates were invited to submit their ideas and contributions in different forms and to submit them to Practical Action.  A total of 22 contributions were received by the closing date. After analysis, Practical Action has selected two papers for publication and the winning contribution was chosen. This blog is the contribution awarded runner up, written by:

Mr Ibrahim NEYA: water engineering design and environmental engineer 2iE electrical and power engineering option (EGE) from Burkina Faso

The award of 80,000 CFA was presented to the winner on 2 September 2016 at 2IE. You can read the winning entry here.

1

Gauge reader at Karnali River in Chisapani, Nepal monitoring the river levels sponsored by the Zurich Flood Resilience Programme

Gauge reader at Karnali River in Chisapani, Nepal monitoring the river levels sponsored by the Zurich Flood Resilience Programme

Our world is experiencing spectacular advances in the field of technology and the speed of progress shows no sign of slowing down over the years.

In a decade the internet of things, already well known by its English name, will enable the development of more sophisticated tools, accessible to a much bigger portion of the world’s population. We can easily imagine that by 2027, technology will occupy a determining place in all human activities and have a direct influence on people’s lives, and on existing models and structures.

The proliferation of technological applications in the near future does not however signify prosperity and peace for all sectors of society. The rich countries, which will be the instigators of this future thanks to their immense technological potential, will take advantage of it, and the gap between rich and poor countries will widen.

In such circumstances the contribution of NGOs which work to combat poverty, such as Practical Action, will prove interesting to the extent that this NGO aims to make use of technology to take concrete actions to benefit poor communities. To do this Practical Action should support, accompany and promote projects to develop digital applications in the areas of health, environment and education for all, which will benefit the world’s poor. These projects will enable us for example to: provide remote medical consultations for the poor; to monitor environmental issues and raise awareness of pollution and to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds access to the same quality of education, as children of the rich, through online training.

By Ibrahim Neya, Student of Electrical and Energy Engineering at 2iE
Runner up in our Fit for the Future Competition

Technology and the future of Africa

Wednesday, September 28th, 2016 by

Winning Entry of Practical Action Strategy Contest

In June 2016,  in partnership with the International Institute of Environment and Water, 2IE, Practical Action launched a contest called “Fit for Future.” Intended primarily for students of the Institute, this competition was to involve them in strategic thinking about the future of Practical Action in a decade.

Launched on June 23, 2016, the candidates were invited to submit their ideas and contributions in different forms and to submit them to Practical Action.  A total of 22 contributions were received by the closing date. After analysis, Practical Action has selected two papers for publication and the winning contribution was chosen. This blog is the winning entry by:

2 (2)Ms. MAATCHI Audrey NTAFAM: Master of Engineering, Infrastructure and Hydraulic Networks (IRH) HYDRAULIC ENGINEER from Cameroon.

The runner up was awarded to Mr Ibrahim NEYA: water engineering design and environmental engineer 2iE electrical and power engineering option (EGE) from Burkina Faso. You can read his entry here.

The award 80,000 CFA award was presented to Maatchi on 2nd September 2016 at 2IE.

1

“… Africa must broaden its knowledge and skills in science and technology. Whether it’s to increase agricultural productivity or energy production, to improve efficiency and accessibility of ICT services or to provide skilled workers for the extractive industries, it is absolutely essential to strengthen our human capital in science and technology…” (Makhtar Diop, 2014).

Practical Action has anticipated this issue and worked on it for the last 50 years, with a strategic vision to continue to do even more. This vision, based on technology justice, should be used to arouse a desire for research, creativity and innovation among young people, who constitute an inexhaustible potential for the future of Africa. Indeed since technology is the future, the training of young Africans in science, technology and mathematics must be strengthened.

This can be achieved through research and development programmes initiated by Practical Action in partnership with schools and universities, training and research centres, and youth associations. One way for example, as currently happens in some French schools, is to give groups of say 3 students the task of developing an innovative, feasible idea.

Examples might be:

  • To set up software to track crops on smallholder farms or monitor pregnancies
  • To design closed systems so that farmers reuse crop residues and waste as fertilizer for the next crop, and so on.

The best idea is rewarded not necessarily financially, but by monitoring the practical implementation of the idea. Another way is to organise challenges, contests which enable young people to show their talents and for the winners to turn their ideas into action. This challenge open to students of 2iE, for the best ideas for a strategic vision of Practical Action, is an example of this.

Practical Action should focus its initiatives on an increasing scale, ranging from the youngest elementary school pupils to adults, accompanying all who not have means to achieve their ambitions. Access for the poorest and for young girls, to quality training must be improved. Many rural establishments have no laboratories or libraries. Practical Action could work in partnership with local authorities to establish exchange systems to enable the best students to move to the city to complete their training. A culture of technology must begin at the grassroots level. This means fostering in the very youngest, a taste for creativity oriented towards clean development; producing films in partnership with people in positions of authority and local elites, showing how to make organic fertilizer from water hyacinth, design autonomous irrigation systems or solar powered water supplies.

Moreover Practical Action should direct its policy to look at how to increase project financing by local elites. Experience shows that African elites do not have much involvement in funding social initiatives. Organising competitions in their name may help to win their support, as they are being held up as role models for the younger generation. One example of this is the “Aliko Dangote Prize” which focuses on the topic of greener production of cement and on sharing experiences.

Practical Action promotes inclusive development, one of the pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals. This is a major advantage because almost all emerging countries (in sub Saharan Africa in this case) have aligned themselves with this goal. Proposing to governments and donors, actions to strengthen the capacity of rural people, such as participatory support for agricultural initiatives, providing electricity (solar panels), teaching techniques for transforming, recycling and reusing waste, will leverage their desire to fund them.

As President Macky Sall (2016) said: “Science, technology, mathematics and innovation, used in the service of the community, can contribute to finding solutions to the major problems of Africa such as food insecurity, the energy crisis, poverty, climate change and public health. ”

By Audrey Maatchi, Student of Master in Engineering (Option Water) at 2iE, 
Winner of Fit for Future Competition

Changing behaviour through knowledge

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 by

I was working as a volunteer in the women’s development network association in Kassala state when the Practical Answers project began.

children in kassalaThe knowledge centre was one of the activities and when I saw it I simply asked myself, can these centres change the behavior of rural communities? We visited four villages in order to assess the needs for these centers.

We found people ignorant of simple things. One very malnourished child, in second grade at school, caught my attention. When I went to visit the village again after a while, I asked after this child and learned that he had died. This increased my fear and apprehension.  Would these centres be able to change the behaviour of a poor community if even their most basic rights aren’t found – clothing, food and drink.  This is a great challenge for Practical Action.

satelliteThe centre was furnished with a digital TV and DVD player, chairs, table, mattresses and a generator. We started producing informative materials in Arabic and also translated into local dialects.

When I next came to visit I found a significant change in the children. They were so much cleaner! I asked them about this change and one of the trainees in the organization who spoke the local dialect surprised me with the response of one of the children.  He told me that when they watch TV they do not like to their clothes to be dirty.  And so a shift is taking place in these villages.

After a while the Country Director of Kassala came to visit one of the knowledge centres and I was worried whether what we were doing would be clear or not. A meeting was called and we asked 45 year old Sadiq Omar Koliel, what interest there is in these centres in the village and he explained.

women cooking kassala“We can now make dairy products from our abundant milk.  Previously surplus milk would go bad. I felt very proud when I realized that we had reached a turning point from ignorance to knowledge.”

“When you plant a seed and wait for it to grow you are afraid for its future. But when you look at success, you are dazzled.”

This has happened through our knowledge centres and we hope that more and larger communities will benefit through knowledge.

Community messages

  • Challenge poverty with knowledge
  • Knowledge centres sustain development
  • Developmental theatre is an effective tool for change.

‘Sunolo Sakhi’, let’s do the #PeriodTalk

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016 by

Written by Aurosmita Acharya, Journalist, DNA, India

‘Sunolo Sakhi’, literally meaning ‘Sisters, let’s listen’, was broadcast for the first time this year on February 6 on a community radio station in Bhubaneswar.

Aiming to spread awareness and bust taboos, especially in slum areas, the radio show has been designed by a UK-based NGO ‘ Practical Action’ to take the first steps in educate people about menstrual hygiene.

Scheduled to be taken forward with the help of city-based FM stations , the initiative that was launched in January is set to be expanded in its second phase. Girls and young women in slums are encouraged to discuss their issues during ‘Live Phone-in discussions’ and dispel all the myths that have been associated with menstruation with the help of an Adolescent Hygiene Expert Dr Chayanika Mishra.

‘Most families are shy discussing menstruation matters’mens auro1

“When it comes to menstrual hygiene very few women and girls know about the proper hygiene practices. In a city like Bhubaneswar, a handful of urban girls are aware about it,” explains Ananta Prasad, Communications Officer, “In such a situation, we were more concerned about our slum communities. So, we designed this programme for adolescent girls and young women in the slums, who are mostly daily wage workers or students.”

Speaking about the importance of such a programme in slum areas, Adolescent Expert Dr Chayanika Mishra further adds saying, “Most families are shy discussing menstruation issues. So, they tend to practice wrong and baseless customs. In rural or slum areas, people do not conceive menstruation as a normal bodily phenomenon and hence girls are looked down upon.”

Explaining further she adds, “Male counterpart, many a times, make fun of periods or do not realise the difficulties that a girl goes through during this time of the month. Besides, girls or young women in these areas are seen to be following unhygienic practices that lead to infection and other diseases. Hence, the need for such a programme arises.”

‘Sakhi Clubs have been formed to enable change’

Within a span of five months, the programme has gained a lot of popularity in the slums and has been receiving calls from young girls and ladies in the age group of 18 yrs to 35 yrs.

At present, the NGO has been able to socially mobilise 15 slums in Bhubaneswar via audio podcasting, mobile film screenings, and focused group discussions and through knowledge materials. To enable a change in the mindset, Sakhi-Radio clubs have been formed where young girls and women are encouraged to listen to the aired show during the weekend and discuss on the same.

Regular film screenings, focused group discussions, individual counselling, audio pod casting, radio listeners club are the medium of interaction and knowledge sharing means adopted under the project. The live radio show has helped immensely in initiating a change, according to the organisers. The show is scheduled to be aired once a week for duration of an hour, with the local FM radio partner.

Interestingly, the programme intends to reach the visually impaired, hearing and speech impaired as well through audio and visual books. The audio books would socially mobilise the visually impaired while the visual books which would make use of sign language would create an awareness on menstrual hygiene amongst those who are hearing and speech impaired, informed Ananta.

This article was first published here by the journalist from DNA.

Faecal Sludge Management in Odisha; The new sanitation challenge

Friday, September 23rd, 2016 by

Healthy communities are the outcome of effective sanitation practices. Life and livelihood of people largely depends on their health and hence, sanitation holds a major role in it. Thinking beyond toilet, it’s time to ponder about treatment of the human waste and reuse it for the betterment of environment and a healthy life.

As per the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP 2011) India contributes to 58 per cent of the world’s population defecating in the open. And according to last census in 2011, an overwhelming 1.7 lakh households (48.33%) or 8.5 lakh people in the slums of Odisha defecate in the open.

It is noted that, if 1 truck of sludge is exposed unsafely then it is equivalent to 5000 people defecating in open. In this context, if we go by the mission of toilet for all, there will be a huge amount of scarcity of water and also the faecal sludge will be the next problem we will have to face.

Looking at the smart approach of our urban planners and urban development practitioners, now it is highly essential for all urban settlements to come up with solution to deal with faecal sludge. Having proper disposal and a well-planned faecal sludge management is highly needed and should be given much importance in the current context. What if we achieve the objectives of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and we achieve hundred percent toilets in the state and country. And we do not have a sludge management policy which will lead the disposal of solid sludge into our river bodies and also open field. What are we aiming at!!! From open defecation to mass defecation, where are we heading?? Are building toilets will solve the problems or will create a new sanitation challenge??

Let’s look beyond, while addressing a problem also let’s also address the broader sanitation challenges ahead. According to report by Odisha Water Supply and sewerage board, out of the 60 Lakh people staying in 23 Urban local bodies, 31 percent approx. are defecating in open and among people using toilets, only 49 percent households have septic tanks.

This is again sad, that only 2 per cent liquid waste are treated in the state and 98 per cent either percolates to ground water or adjoining water bodies through surface drains without treatment. Waters from Rivers such as Brahmani, Daya, Kathajori can hardly be used for further drinking water purpose. Discharge from insanitary latrines, sewage flowing in drains, effluent from septic tanks, septage, and rampant open defecation are polluting the environment and having adverse health impacts to all of us residing in the state. At present no ULB other than Puri has any sewerage system inside the urban limits. This is shocking and we need to act upon it immediately.

Here, comes the solution. The Faecal Sludge Management and treatment is the need of the hour. The untreated human waste what we call faecal sludge needs to be treated. Be it household level or institutional level, it needs to be treated and an appropriate system needs to be in place if we want healthy life and healthy community.

There are few things which can major take away for an effective FSM policy and management. Decentralized FSM can be a good demonstration on these public utilities and Possibility to introduce decentralized FSM in newly developing areas, public institutions like schools, universities, hospitals, apartment etc is something which needs to be addressed by planning bodies. A conducive environment for private sector and the promotion of PPP model in FSM Private Sectors will create more scope for funding opportunity for infrastructural development. Onsite sanitation solutions seemed necessary to disseminate with sanitation stakeholders for their possible promotion.

If we look at the government initiatives, now Septage management in nine cities / towns of the State (Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur, Berhampur, Baripada, Balasore, Bhadrak and Puri has been included under ‘AMRUT’ launched by GoI. The draft DPRs for septage treatment facility in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Rourkela, Sambalpur and Baripada has been prepared by OWSSB. Pre-requisite measures like land identification and acquisition are in progress. In order to regulate construction, cleaning, maintenance, treatment and disposal of septage in urban areas, government has formulated the Odisha Urban Septage Management Guideline 2016. Government has taken steps for procurement of 86 nos of 3KL Cesspool Emptier for 57 ULBs. All these information has been shared by OWSSB in public domain but still there is a long way to go.  There has been experiments faecal sludge treatment in countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Philipines, Argentina, Ghana and Brazil etc. Even in India there have been few experiments in Bangalore. But no urban local body has come up with a proper plan of action for the same. However, in Odisha the state government has partnered with few philanthropic organisations and there has been two pilot projects of faecal sludge management are happening in Dhenkanal and Angul Municipality. If these proved efficient use of faecal sludge then Odisha can be the pioneer in setting up a system for disposal of human excreta.

Further to add on, the amount of water being wasted in toilet, if the faecal sludge treatment is not combined with waste water management then, in coming days, there will be a huge scarcity of water. This may also lead to dearth of drinking water, which may break the nerves of any government creating challenge for the urban governance.  When a comprehensive sanitation plan is being developed, faecal sludge management must be integral part of every sanitation plan, which builds on on-site sanitation facilities. Sludge management is an indispensable part of the maintenance of these facilities. However, in reality sludge management is often neglected in sanitation planning because the need for it is less apparent than it is for the provision of water supply or toilet facilities. Even when a sanitation plan foresees a component for sludge management, its implementation is often impaired for the same reasons. Sanitation planners and decision-makers must recognize the importance of sludge management.

As we have seen the adverse impacts of human excreta causing harm to human health and hygiene now, its time we must be proactive. With the campaigns of building toilets we must be tighten our belt for proper disposal mechanism. On the eve of toilet day, the urban sanitation planners must look at the mechanism of proper faecal sludge management.

Making up time on Loss and Damage

Friday, September 23rd, 2016 by

This week the world passed a benchmark when the 56th country submitted documents of ratification for the global climate change agreement that was signed in Paris in December 2015[1]. This was a significant step and raises the likelihood that the Paris agreement will be ratified in advance of the next global climate gathering in Marrakesh, Morocco in November 2016.

 

One of the significant achievements (aside from it actually being passed!) was the inclusion of Article 8 on Loss and Damage. Loss and Damage recognises that for many, action on climate change is already too late. That for the poorest and most vulnerable climate change has exceeded the point at which adaptation might help, they are already facing the irreversible consequences of climate change. Climate conditions have already made traditional cropping practices redundant, the rate of sea water acidification has reduced fisheries upon which their livelihoods depend and for many living in coastal areas and especially small island states, sea level rise is already making their homes uninhabitable.

For these people our fixation with fossil fuels meant the loss of their homes and livelihoods, our efforts to decarbonise the global energy systems took too long. So the Loss and Damage article in the Paris agreement goes a little way to start to decide what to do for those people where climate action has been too little, too late. Unfortunately, negotiations to take forward action on Loss and Damage are progressing too slowly, as I found out in Bonn this week.

WIM Ex Com Meeting Bonn September 2016

WIM Ex Com Meeting Bonn September 2016

The fourth meeting of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) met in Bonn, Germany to discuss progress on their two year work plan. It’s clear that a political dance is underway in which everyone recognises the challenge but nobody is willing to step forward with the bold political agenda necessary to deliver climate justice. The developed countries are fearful of any notion of compensation, afraid of mega-lawsuits for Loss and Damages already incurred. Developing countries are trying to build on progress but cannot find the necessary levers to unlock the political impasse.

One of the first challenges is getting Loss and Damage recognised as a priority issue. Global temperatures have already risen 0.85oC from 1880 to 2012[2]. So immediate action to limit warming further is a priority. There are no scientific nor technological barriers to keep global warming within a 1.5oC envelope and therefore minimise Loss and Damage due to climate change. The only obstacles are social and political, an unwillingness to recognise reality and an unwillingness to accept responsibility.

Consequences

The hurdle we have to overcome is not a difficult one. Best estimates for current climate change based on national commitments has warming in excess of 2.7oC[3]. Switching to a 1.5oC trajectory will deliver numerous social and economic benefits in addition to reducing the potential impacts of Loss and Damage, although this should be sufficient in itself to drive action now. Renewable energy technologies already exists and are not being exploited to their full potential. A switch to renewables would have stabilising effects on national economies as fuel prices spikes would be eradicated, with demand for fossil fuels falling and more energy being supplied for free. A switch to renewables would boost energy security. Already many counties especially small island states with the most too loose are well on the way to 100% renewable power generation. For example Costa Rica made headlines earlier in the year when it emerged that the country had been running on only renewable energy for 100 days of 2015[4]. A switch to non-polluting energy production would improve air quality considerably with reduced health burdens on national budgets, a win-win with reduced expenditure on health with increased productivity as health levels improve.

I’ll explore the impacts of Climate Change and the consequences of Loss and Damage in our work next week.

[2] http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/wg1/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf

[3] http://climateactiontracker.org/assets/publications/briefing_papers/CAT_Temp_Update_COP21.pdf

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/costa-rica-renewable-energy-100-days-power-climate-change-a7217441.html

Interlock: access to energy in rural India

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016 by

Terrence McKee, CEO of Interlock, writes on the organisation’s innovative approach to tackling the issues of poverty and rural-to-urban migration. Read how their alternative development strategy is providing clean and reliable energy to rural India and improving the health of the poorest communities.


To lift millions of people out of poverty and to avoid migration to cities, the development of rural economies is of key importance; in this regard the access to energy is a critical component.

Solar energy is on its way to becoming the most cost-efficient option for rural electrification, beating the conventional energy options, such as diesel-based power systems and the extension of the grid. Interlock believes that the time is right for piloting new opportunities, models and partnerships posed by solar energy. In fact, a new initiative has recently been launched by the organisation to pilot stand-alone solar plants in Vadad Hasol, in the rural Ratnagiri district of India. By testing the design, construction and operation of the technology will build a working model which will be used at scale across the country.

interlock-solar

Access to solar electricity has many health and educational benefits, in addition to giving opportunities for new income generating activities. Stand-alone solar plants have allowed Interlock to pioneer their new telemedicine programme. Access to solar energy interlocks doctors in urban hospitals with rural solar clinics allowing the provision of health to rural communities. Getting medical treatment to rural areas has always been difficult, doctor visits are costly and the lack of infrastructure (road access, accommodation and communications) causes obvious setbacks. Yet, now with the introduction of solar energy it is possible to interlock the rural communities with the urban. With internet connectivity, powered by the alternative energy, doctors can visit the most remote villages ‘virtually’. Solar resources will be able to give power to community centres with IT facilities to resource the medical facilities needed.

As well as using alternative energy, Interlock promotes and uses an alternative development strategy through the use of ethical tourism. Tourism has been proven by the organisation to be a sustainable factor in rural village development. at the Interlock HQ there will be a small rural hospitality and catering school where people from the village can be trained to staff their paying guest units. This Catering school will be built in conjunction with a small ecology hotel of 25 + rooms, developed at the Interlock centre.

The Hotel and Catering College will provide much of the funding required for the expansion of the telemedicine programme.  Tourism in India is growing at a rate of 15-17%, Interlock have recognised the opportunity of this and believe that hotel guests can be the commercial footing for the telemedicine programme. Interlock Clusters are to be the hub of the rural villages, giving access to knowledge and communication to large numbers of individuals.

The project will impact the lives of thousands of individuals. Not just in the future but now. The technology is there, all that is required is the will to make it happen.

interlock

Read more about the work of Interlock or get in touch with Terrence McKee to find out more- Terrence@interlock.co.uk . Interlock aims to facilitate sustainable development solutions to poverty-related issues within rural communities.

Pumpkin producers association – a marketing platform of the extreme poor

Monday, September 19th, 2016 by

Recently, I was in Rangpur and met some of our colleagues and partners and had the opportunity to discuss the associations established by our pumpkin producers. This is based on information and insights from that discussion.

DSC_0018

Pumpkin storage at beneficiary household

Since 2009 Practical Action’s Extreme Poverty Programme has been working with river eroded communities to support their livelihoods and empower them economically. Pumpkin production in sandy land is one of the solutions that has been helping them to move out of poverty. However, Shiree (Pathways from Poverty- Stimulating Household Improvements Resulting in Economic Empowerment) the leading project of the programme dreamed of enabling the thousands of extreme poor living in the river embankment of the Tista river to enhance their capacity, skills and knowledge, particularly in the areas of agricultural production and marketing of the goods they produce.

In 2013-14, 5000 households engaged in sandbar cropping developed producer groups and associations for better marketing of their product. Thus, 250 producer groups and 20 associations were formed by the project beneficiaries.

DSC_0054

Pumpkin stored for selling later

How it is formed?
The project supported beneficiaries through a group approach and in each producer group there were 30 farmers. From each producer group 3-4 members were selected for the association (qualities considered were vocal in negotiating, skill at organizing people and interest in marketing work). Representatives from each producer group are the general members of the association. The association is run by a 10 member committee including one president, two vice presidents, one general secretary and one marketing information secretary and five general members.

How project has helped?
The producer group members were oriented through

DSC_0052

Group discussion on formation of the Association

workshops about marketing, market chains, pumpkin post-harvest management, storage, group marketing, selling pumpkin in weight, and grading pumpkin before selling. Pumpkin grading is very important to add value of the product as well as to maintain a long lasting relationship with buyers. The workshops also made them aware about how to bargain with buyers to get a better price, the importance of keeping communication open with buyers and the benefits of selling to local agents.

How does it function?
The association projects their production amount. They organize meeting, seminars and workshops among themselves with relevant market promoters. Taking the advantage of project support, they established linkages with relevant government agencies and private companies. Association leaders also organized exposure visits to potential market players for better marketing their pumpkins. They collected mobile numbers of almost all wholesale market actors and maintain communication with them so that they can get some information proactively. They have been encouraging producers to set up storage space at their home and sell at the collection centre later to get a better price. They also collect and keep updated information from different level market players.

Early impact
In ensuring a fair price, the pumpkin producer association has been playing an important role for poor farmers.

DSC03655

Selling pumpkin through the Association

In the last production season, 41MT pumpkin were exported to Malaysia through the association. From this, 210 farmers household benefited. The producers got BDT 2.5/ per kg more in comparison with the local market price.

Like many farmers, Md. Bakiul Mia (Vice president) and Azizul Hoque (Member) are satisfied to see the previous group activities and their success. They are willingly to continue the old producer’s group activities to get a better price. Similarly, it is also observed that because of the association, now farmers are better united, and they are storing pumpkins using a grading system in order to sell to wholesalers in a group approach.

Challenges
In the last production season, the farmers produced 4000 MT pumpkin. Thus, in compare with the production size, the exported amount is low. Therefore, alternative national or international markets need to be explored. Additionally, buyers prefer to buy only a particular size of pumpkin (2-6 kg of weight) but the farmers mostly produce large pumpkins. Hence, exploring suitable and alternative markets is the ultimate priority work of the group. Last but not least, the association is just crawling to move forward; thus, perhaps they need some technical support from the local authority or a development organization for few more seasons.

The author acknowledges contribution of Md. Abdus Salam and Mizanur Rahman, Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP project), Rangpur Regional Office.