Archive for November, 2016

Agriculture – a global win-win but, sadly, a ‘no-win’ at COP22

Thursday, November 17th, 2016 by

Agriculture: everywhere, yet nowhere

As an agriculturalist following the climate change negotiations (the ‘Conference of Parties’ or annual COPs) I used to think that agriculture was the most ‘not talked about’ topic. It was implicit everywhere, but nowhere in the text. Until, with great relief, food security was highlighted in the Paris Agreement.

Recognizing the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change

However, after a rather frustrating week at COP22, it now looks like agriculture is the most ‘not acted on’ topic!

No action on agriculture

Last week the developing countries (the G77 group) introduced a promising draft ‘COP decision’ on agriculture. The proposed text had a focus on ‘adaptation’ as this is the area where action and investment is desperately needed for food security and sustainable development for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – where goal 2 is “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. It also recognised that ‘mitigation’ (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) is a ‘co-benefit’ and therefore the importance of agriculture in reducing emissions.

COP22However, the EU (supported by the USA) proposed an alternative text that called for direct action on mitigation and adaptation, including the use of biofuels to replace fossil fuels. Unfortunately the differences in emphasis (and a lack of trust about underlying intent), led to the withdrawal of the decision. So, yet again, the vital topic of how the COP should treat agriculture was relegated to the body convening for ‘technical discussions’ – for further discussion and to provide ‘advice’ to the COP.

A lack of strategy from COP22

Having a decision at COP 22 would have ensured progress and guided planning, implementation and finance at all levels. The decentralised planning process, through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), would have ensured that the resulting actions are appropriate to individual nation’s needs and priorities. If agriculture doesn’t have a COP decision to guide planning, it risks being forgotten as countries, donors and bilateral actions follow their own priorities.

Watching from the side lines it is hard to not draw the conclusion that somehow the winners in this are those who make money from the status quo – the industries and markets linked to intensive agriculture. Or perhaps developed nations, content with their preferential place in this troubled world, fearful of the cost of adaptation. Can’t they see that addressing the issue from an ‘adaptation with mitigation co-benefits’ perspective, is better than no action! And, failure to act soon will lead to much greater cost in the long run.

A constructive way forward

The Paris Agreement and its rapid and widespread ratification this year is unprecedented and historic. Even the UK has now signed.COP22

Since agriculture is central to climate change the discussions will continue. However, discussion is not enough! Through its various bodies, the COP has been discussing agriculture for years (at least 6). Now is the time to use the Paris Agreement to unlock the door on planning and financing climate actions in agriculture.

Tackling adaptation using co-benefits approach

Practical Action’s ongoing work in South Asia to facilitate organic matter value chains as a strategy for addressing the problem of very low soil organic matter is just one example of ‘adaptation with mitigation co-benefits’ transforming agriculture – a clear win-win! Such ecological approaches address both adaption and mitigation as they improve long-term productivity and protect or build soil fertility, thereby combating degradation and the need for farmers to develop new land.

For me the greatest missing argument for action on agriculture now, is that, if investment and action is based on ecological principles, it can be genuinely inclusive and sustainable. It can be a win-win-win – for food security, rural livelihoods and the environment.

What I took home from the 2016 SEEP Conference

Thursday, November 17th, 2016 by

The 2016 SEEP conference was my second.  At my first. in 2012 I was one of the presenters on Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD)  this time I was a full participant. Thus I had time to follow proceedings as well as network.  I would like to share with you the learning I took home with me.

Small business in MozambiqueThe theme of this year’s conference was ‘Expanding market frontiers’ and indeed we expanded the boundaries.

As I prepared for the conference two tracks caught my mind ‘Enhancing Food Security through Market-oriented Interventions’ and ‘Getting and Using the Right Kinds of Evidence’. I liked these two tracks mainly because at Practical Action we have several projects on livelihoods and food security where we are using a participatory markets systems development approach to transform markets to become more inclusive and to benefit all market actors including the small-scale farmers. The second reason is that I have been working in the sector for some time now and one area I need to explore further is getting and using the ‘right evidence’. How do we measure, report and share systemic changes in the market system?

However my most interesting learning was about how to integrate gender into market systems work. This is not a totally new concept, we have tried doing this for many years. But, quite honestly,we have not been getting the results we want.  This probably won’t happen overnight as some of the factors are so dynamic and cultural so much that they are difficult to change.

One session was on Using ex-ante evidence to promote gender responsive market system change’. Ex-ante means ‘before the event’ so this focussed on using evidence that we collect to inform our program design. More often we rush to do a quick feasibility study and go on to design a program,  racing against deadlines. In such circumstances our design misses some of the critical data that we might need and we sometimes end up disaggregating data to men and women to tick the box on gender mainstreaming.

Significantly this session focused on the need to centre attention on the skills women have and to come up with business models that either take advantage of these skills or build on them. That way, women take part meaningfully and are integral to the project design.

Common business cases we discussed included women as an important market segment, capturing underutilised female skills/talent, improved reliability, improved productivity, improved quality, improved reputation, social impact and diversified distribution channels.

In our recent projects we have had women taking negotiating roles with buyers and other market actors because they are regarded as the best negotiators. Have you ever wondered why most women are involved at the fresh vegetable markets? It is simple.Women  have the best negotiating skills. They are also involved in grading not because of their ‘patience’ but because they have the skill and eye for good quality. So a program built around women’s skills and capacities is better placed to address gender issues and enhance women empowerment.

Moving forward we are going to use such thinking when designing our programs and also see how we can incorporate such lessons in our existing projects.

Insurance is no silver bullet

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 by

Parties will be leaving Marrakech with plenty of work ahead to enhance action and support in order to address loss and damage. With key decisions now reached, let’s take a moment to look at the main tool in the loss and damage toolbox: insurance.

The ability to cope with loss and damage from climate change is going to involve financial mechanisms, including insurance. ECO hopes and expects that many more vulnerable communities will be supported in their efforts to cope with the losses and damages they are already facing. Such support must be guided by pro-poor principles including accessibility, participation of affected communities in designing the support, and the integration of insurance within a comprehensive risk management approach. Importantly, those who have contributed fewer emissions to global carbon pollution cannot and should not be expected to pay for protection against mounting climate risks. In other words, an equitable and rights-based approach to insurance must include financial support to make premiums affordable.

flooding in SiragonjBut let us get one thing straight: it’s not possible to insure ourselves out of the climate change problem!

So whilst ECO strongly welcomes efforts to expand climate risk insurance, we urge Parties to waste no time in developing a comprehensive approach to loss and damage that includes raising finance, addressing slow-onset events and non-economic losses, and a long-term, rights-based approach to migration, mobility and displacement, in the context of climate change.

The framework for the Warsaw International Mechanism’s five-year work plan shows us where we need to start. ECO urges Parties to give the WIM the resources and support it needs to expedite its work, and become an effective tool for addressing loss and damage in all its dimensions. 2016 very sadly gave us many examples of loss and damage, so it’s now vital for the world to get cracking!

Learnings from a gender sensitisation workshop

Thursday, November 10th, 2016 by

Practical Action is committed to advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment through all its work; through programmes, knowledge sharing, advocacy, external communications and organisational development.  It ensures gender considerations in all of its four programme areas –agriculture, food security and markets; urban water, sanitation and waste; energy access and disaster risk reduction.

To stress the importance of gender analysis and develop gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) related project activities and indicators, Practical Action organised a gender sensitisation workshop on 14-15 September 2016 in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The workshop was facilitated by Kamla Bhasin, a feminist activist and social scientist. Her work focuses on gender, education, human development and media. She is an advocate for equality between genders.

Kamla Bhasin facilitating the workshop.

Kamla Bhasin facilitating the workshop.

The first part of the workshop  focused on the concept of gender and inclusion, masculinity and patriarchy, power relations, gender roles and work burdens, gender division of labour and gender relations on social inclusions.

The second part was concerned with gender integration in project management cycle, the role of managers including monitoring and evaluation . The workshop aimed at sensitising the concept of gender and social inclusion on contemporary issues at global, regional and local levels and enhancing the capacity of the Practical Action’s managers to mainstream GESI during the project management cycle.

More specifically, the workshop focused on lecture method. Some short movies related to gender based violence and One Billion Rising (OBR)  campaign were shown.

Brainstorming sessions

The workshop included different types of brainstorming sessions.  Male and female participants were divided into different groups and participants were asked to share their painful experience as a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’.

Female participants in group work

Female participants in group work

The entire group shared their experiences about gender when they were children. The women’s group found their life privileged before getting married and expressed that life after marriage somehow changed due to the expectation of domestic work from women.  The group came up with the outcome that the family is the basic unit of society and it is probably the most patriarchal. A man (father, grandfather, brother and so on) is considered the head of the household within the family and they control women’s sexuality, production, reproduction and mobility. The family where one learns the first lessons on hierarchy, discrimination, etc., continues these patriarchal values and so does the next generation.

Group presentation by the male participants

Group presentation by the male participants

Changed forms of violence

There are different types of violence and the forms of violence are changing based on time, regions and countries, for example female genital mutilations are high in African countries. Similarly gender based violence, sexual exploitation and harmful traditional practices are also forms of violence. These days cybercrime and child pornography are also types of violence.  Agricultural and crafts profession are on a decline and this might be the cause of new kinds of violence and engaging women in prostitution.

Masculinity and patriarchy

Masculinity is all about power and femininity is exactly the opposite of masculinity. Masculinity is social definition given to boys and men by societies. Nature makes male or female, and it gives the biological definition but society makes masculine or feminine. Patriarchy means the rule of father or the ‘patriarch’ and originally it was used to describe a specific type of ‘male dominated society’. In Asian context, it is used more generally to refer to male domination and the power relationship by which men dominate the women. As a result women are kept subordinate in a number of ways. In the context of South Asia, so called ‘Patriarchy’.

Gender is all about ideology and mindset!

Origin of patriarchy

The origin of patriarchy dates from the beginning of human history – the barbarian age, pre-civilisation. Patriarchy, a concept that we experience in our lives, explains women’s subordinate position. During that period men developed weapons and women developed tools. Then women got involved in agriculture, crafts, social relationships and their mobility became limited to the domestic sphere. Gradually, the importance of women in the hunter gatherer economy was enhanced by the significance attached to the reproductive role of women. Female sexuality was not a threat and did not have to be managed since the community depended upon it. Female reproductive power was highly valued and female power was confined to motherhood.  And the male was involved in public spheres.

Gender and gender relations and the gender division of labour are also not the same everywhere. It is specific to culture, location and time.

Gender division of labour

Gender division of labour also leads to hierarchy and inequality because men and women are not valued or rewarded equally. Even these days in some countries feminists are fighting for ‘equal pay for equal work’.  The allocation of certain tasks to men and women in productive processes also leads to issue of command and control over resources. Generally, women have three types of work in our societies.

1. Reproductive work (Biological reproduction and social reproduction)
2. Productive work
3. Community and social work
Even in this work there are certain roles divided between men and women. Gender division of labour leads to gender division of types of work and standard gendered labour.

A highly effective workshop, I have ever attended”- Vishwa B. Amatya – Head of Programme, Energy

Last two days gave us an enlightening experience. This has been an eye opener.”   Archana Gurung- Communications Officer

Definitely a very fruitful time with Kamla Bhasin over the two days period. An amazing person we all fell in love with. ‘Man of quality is not afraid of equality’. We need more men to change now! “Strike, Dance and Rise Ladies”. Khommaya Thapa Pun – HR Manager

A group photo with facilitator

A group photo with facilitator

The workshop was found to be a productive way to communicate the importance of gender analysis. Overall it supported the GESI planning process while developing the GESI related project activities and indicators.

Our Practical Action schools survey said…

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 by

A few months ago we asked teachers and educators to take part in an online survey.  We particularly wanted to find out about how they used our schools materials but also a bit about how they found out about us in the first place and if they liked our materials how they promoted them to others.   We did a similar survey in 2012 so were also interested in any changes that had occurred. 383 people took part.

Infographic Schools survey 2016 Practical Action

Infographic showing results of Practical Action’s schools survey 2016

Some  of the more interesting bits from our point of view are summarised in the infographic.

What we are most proud of…once they know we exist over half of teachers visit our website every 2-3 months, and 93% recommend our resources to others

What surprised us the most…since 2012 there has not been an increase in the number of teachers and educators who use social media as a tool to gather and share information?

What has made us think…Over 45% said they found out about us at local events such as Teachmeets where teachers meet to share ideas and good practice. We do a lot of promotion ourselves (social media, newsletters, articles etc.) but clearly teachers and educators are very successful advocates for us.

What we changed as a result…We estimate the number of pupils we reach, and the targets we set ourselves based on an extrapolation of downloads. This survey enabled us to do that more accurately and we have adjusted our calculations accordingly.

What was an unexpected outcome of doing the survey?…10% of people who took part in the survey hadn’t heard of us before they did, so just running the survey enabled us to reach more lovely teachers!

Why is Loss and Damage critical?

Sunday, November 6th, 2016 by

Or why is Loss and Damage different from Adaptation and Mitigation and why serious political will to integrate Loss and Damage in the global climate regime will be vital for the success of the COP22 climate change negotiations.

This week the world gathers in Marrakesh for the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP22). This is the next instalment in the annual climate change negotiations at which governments as parties, alongside observers in the form of academics, NGO’s, civil society, community representatives and the private sector gather to report on progress to tackle the challenge of climate change. Apart for a few politicians that shall remain nameless, most global politicians, their political parties and the overwhelming majority of scientists recognise that climate change is a very real danger to our lifestyles, wellbeing, and if we fail to act decisively our future survival. So the COP22 talks in Marrakesh are a timely opportunity to check on progress.

Last Friday 4th November, the world ratified the Paris agreement. The speed at which the world has come behind this agreement has been unprecedented. But now the difficult work begins. Putting the Paris Agreement into practice.

Mitigation, here progress has been strongest, efforts to transition to carbon neutral energy systems, along with meeting energy poverty targets has continued to accelerate. However still approximately 3 billion people have either inadequate, or simply non-existent, access to modern, safe, affordable, and appropriate energy while the imbalance in subsidies between fossil fuel technologies and renewables technologies requires further work. Last month Practical Action released the 2016 Poor Peoples Energy Outlook (PPEO) documenting the opportunity for international attention to respond to the needs of those lacking access to modern, safe, affordable, and appropriate energy.

PPEO

Adaptation, has finally started to be prioritised with national adaptation plans to tackle the consequences of climate change being shifted from cherry picked lists of isolated programmes to more holistic assessments of the adaptation priorities across national development systems. Practical Action’s work in Nepal supporting the government develop a national adaptation plan is an example of our contribution to this work. But problems still remain especially trying to understand the scientific, technological and socio-political limits to adaptation possibilities complicated by future climate uncertainty.

One of the most significant achievements of the Paris COP was the separation of Loss and Damage in its own article under the agreement. Article 8 resolved the question of whether or not Loss and Damage was a part of adaptation and therefore belonged under the Cancun Adaptation Framework. Article 8 creates a separate pillar of climate change actions. The third pillar of the agreement formally recognises Loss and Damage and the need to put in place separate measures to coordinate global efforts to respond for those who are already experiencing the irreversible impacts of climate change.

Climate change is driven by greenhouse gasses produced as a result of human activities. We have already pumped loads of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and we cannot suck up all that extra CO2, NOx, SOx, CH4 etc. overnight, so we are going to need to put in place measures that help those people and communities that have been irreversibly impacted by this pollution to survive and thrive. These greenhouse gasses are causing temperature rise, changes in rainfall patterns, seasonal shifts, acidification of seas and oceans and rising sea levels.

Loss and Damage is about helping the poorest and most vulnerable respond to the consequence of these changes. Communities around the world are losing land to increased erosion and sea level rise, they are facing shifts in seasons and cropping patterns which are forcing major shifts in livelihoods and occupations, cultural resources are being lost or eroded and ecosystems are facing major impacts. At COP22 we need to put in place concrete measures that help them cope and transform to survive. It’s not just about putting things back as they were, it’s about helping the most vulnerable shift to more sustainable lives and livelihoods. Insurance may be part of the solution but it will never finance the sorts of transformational shifts that will be necessary to respond to Loss and Damage at the scale and intensity that is becoming necessary.

Extreme poor group of Gaibanda district, Bangladesh

As eloquently articulated in the Stern report, the cheapest and most sensible response to climate change is to maximize mitigation efforts. At the same time we must not forget to put in place measures to help adapt where it is possible. But perhaps most importantly, for those where it is already too late the global community must act swiftly. They must put in place measures that support the financing, technological support and capacity building necessary to enable the transformational shifts that will be necessary to support the wellbeing of the millions of people for which climate action is already too late. If we fail to do this it will not only be climate injustice, it will also mean significant upheaval, forced migration, social and political turmoil, with the price for failure being paid by our children and future generations.

Celebrating International Disaster Mitigation Day in Bangladesh

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016 by

Every year, many national and international days are observed by the Government and NGOs in Bangladesh, but they are mainly celebrated in the towns and headquarters of districts. The urban people see many colourful rallies and processions, with the only downside being slight traffic congestion! The media cover the stories with attractive headlines and citizens in the major towns are informed by the speeches, television coverage and print media.anwar1

But what about the people of Songacha; a vulnerable remote Char area of Sirajganj District, which has no access to TV or print media? Songacha is about 25 kilometres from the district headquarters and stands on the shore of the Jamuna river. There are about 29 villages and 44,825 people live in this Union. Every year, almost all the area is affected by flooding. Many crops and valuable assets become damaged or lost.

It has been proved that knowledge and awareness are the prerequisites of resilience against vulnerability. This is the first time the villagers in Songacha observed any day like International Disaster Mitigation Day.  

anwarOn 13th October 2016, the villagers were in a festive mood – they enjoyed colourful rallies with banners, festoons, a discussion session and folk songs on disaster preparedness written and performed by the local people. The community based organisation arranged the day’s programme with collaboration from Songacha Union Parishad and Practical Action’s V2R+ project.

The Chairman of Songacha Union Md. Sohidul Alom led the programme and inspired the community to become more resilient by avoiding, coping with and absorbing the shock of flooding.  Men, women and children, all came to hear about how to prepare themselves for the onset of future floods. The Daily Sirajganj Barta, a renowned daily newspaper covered the story on their front page.