Archive for January, 2017

Improving latrine usage in Darasta

Tuesday, January 31st, 2017 by

The Aqua4East project in Telkok is working towards its communities becoming Open Defecation Free (ODF).  This will be achieved through practical activities such as latrine construction, burying faeces and keeping compounds and stream beds clean. The project is encouraging the Darasta community to use the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) approach.

children Darasta CLTSThe group which was trained in these methods noted an improvement in latrine construction and encouraged people to build their own household latrines. In the past other organizations built latrines for some households but they were not used properly.  Now people understand their importance better and most of them are used.

Sita Ahmed Adam, aged 25, said that she and her family have started digging and soon they will have their own latrine.  They now understand that their faeces can contaminate their hands and their food if they do not  properly dispose of their waste.

CLTS in DarastaAmna Omer Hohamoud, aged 20 and her husband attended the CLTS training and recounted the importance of the family working together – wife, husband and children. They have now completed and use their latrine.

“Now we feel comfortable we have the latrine inside the house and avoid people looked  at us and we go in the open, Also we know how to clean our hands after visiting the latrine with soap or ash.”

The community members told us that the appearance of faeces on the street are less now that defecating in the open has reduced. They hope soon to be open defecation free.

Towards pro-poor innovation systems for sustainable energy

Friday, January 27th, 2017 by

This article is informed by research conducted at Practical Action’s Southern Africa offices in Harare, Zimbabwe as part of a work-based placement at the University of Edinburgh.

Distributed renewables for access

The ongoing energy poverty that leaves 1.2 billion people in the world without access to electricity, and 2.7 billion people relying on traditional biomass for cooking is one of the great injustices of our time. Innovation systems need to shift in order to ensure the goal of enabling universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 is achieved. Technologies and business models have emerged that have the potential to live up to the challenge. In particular, Distributed Renewable Energy System (DRES) have tremendous potential to respond rapidly and efficiently to energy poverty, especially in rural areas.

maintenanceStill, the development of pro-poor innovation systems for sustainable energy access based on DRES faces challenges at multiple levels, as large energy projects continue to be promoted by governments in developing countries and attract support from major development financiers, as go-to solutions for electrification. When small-scale renewable energies are financed, the sum of the smaller projects usually does not even come close to matching the large-scale project both in terms of total capacity of sustainable energy generation and of funding. However, considering the urgent demands of energy poverty, the speed by which small-scale renewables can become operational and the ever-decreasing cost for their installation should favour rural electrification policies based on DRES. The habitual preference for large and mega-projects is also inadequate to effectively address energy poverty as well as provide a sustainable and reliable source for energy in the light of climate change.

Opportunities for pro-poor innovations

Technology justice demands stronger efforts by all actors in the innovation systems to address the needs of the poor. Innovation is needed across the board to promote a more holistic understanding of the long-term impacts of energy projects taking account of:

  • Their resilience to climate change and the vulnerability of highly centralised national/regional energy systems to extreme weather events and disasters
  • Their water footprint (cooling of coal power plants) and water requirements (in particular run-of-the river hydro-power plants) in the light of climate change-related decreases in water security and more frequent droughts
  • The relatively low energy return on investment associated with high-input, large fossil-fuel based infrastructure (e.g. the energy it takes to extract, transport coal and build a power plant, etc.), the greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental impact of the entire lifecycle of the project.

mapThe benefits of DRES as opposed to big power projects need to be made more explicit in economic terms for decision-makers who are concerned with growing the aggregate national economy. Currently, the economic calculations do not take sufficiently into consideration the impacts listed about or the impacts of fossil fuel plants on public health, or the potential for DRES to be an engine for sustainable growth in rural areas.

Whereas prioritising access to energy enables education and promotes entrepreneurship, the creation of local businesses and sustainable energy services, e.g. via refrigeration, irrigation, powering machinery and recharging batteries for electronics; large projects tend to benefit energy-intensive industries rather than aim at the alleviation of energy poverty. Given the appropriate incentives via transitioning towards a cost-reflective tariff for electricity and by including models of climate risk and ecosystem services in economic calculations, the private sector can be galvanised to innovate for the benefit of people in rural areas where there are large levels of energy poverty. After all, the rural poor do not merely have the willingness but also the ability to pay if provided with suitable financial instruments.

However, access to finance is arguably the core barrier for the alleviation of energy poverty at the moment. Innovation accompanied by capacity building needs to occur in the financial sector, where there is a need for financial instruments that are accessible and affordable to the energy poor. Innovative initiatives are being rolled out by development organisations that de-risk rural, small-scale renewable energy investments in the developing world. Still, the challenge for the development sector remains to ensure that financial institutions give out loans for sustainable energy access as well as invest in local entrepreneurs offering energy services and building businesses on the back of the productive uses of energy.

Finally, in terms of technological solutions, there is a large demand for affordable and effective solutions to energy storage. Likewise, the full potential of both solar PV and especially concentrated solar power remains to be unleashed. Whereas some solutions require high-input R&D, national and local innovation systems in the developing world should build on the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the youth to find accessible, affordable and sustainable solutions responding to local needs.

An interview with Nazmul Islam Chowdhury

Thursday, January 12th, 2017 by

The Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal has been a major success, raising an incredible £1 million from people just like you.  This was then matched pound for pound by the UK Government.

Almost every year monsoon rains cause the three major rivers of Bangladesh to swell, resulting in devastating floods.  They wash away fertile land and destroy homes and livelihoods.  Families are forced to find a new place to live and a new means of earning a living without land to cultivate.  Sandbars emerge as the rivers recede; the soil is barren but can be made productive by using the technique of pit cultivation for pumpkins and other crops.  It’s a simple solution that is truly changing lives, thanks to your support.

"A small dream is now a big dream" Nazmul Chowdhury

Nazmul Islam Chowdhury is the Head of the Extreme Poverty Programme in Bangladesh and manages the Pumpkins Against Poverty project.  Nazmul came up with the idea of using the barren land in this way many years ago and has gone on to develop and implement the solution in communities across Bangaldesh.  Below he explains just why this project is so important.

“Firstly, I want to say thank you so much for everyone’s generous support of Practical Action and the Pumpkins Against Poverty project.  You are helping to reach thousands of people.

“When I initially came up with the idea of sandbar cropping, I thought something is better than nothing, but we have been able to develop and improve the project. It now has a huge impact on the ground and there is potential to bring this innovation to other countries. The pumpkin is like a magic golden ball; it is a solution for food security, vitamin A deficiency, income and gender equality.

“I have many stories from the people the project helps but there is one that sticks in my mind. In 2009, When I was visiting a community in Rangpur, I was interviewing a farmer when I heard a girl crying. She was only around three years old. Her cries interrupted the interview and I asked her mother what was wrong. She said she was crying because she was hungry and she had no food to feed her. I was shocked and thought, how can I help? I still think about that girl now. We must do something to help these families.

“I always tell my children, imagine that you have no food at home and you are hungry. You should always try to help the people that need it.”

Thank you to everyone who has supported the Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal. You are helping thousands of people to lift themselves out of poverty, for good.

What if preparedness action was informed by forecasts?

Monday, January 9th, 2017 by

Imagine if we had forecast information that a flood disaster was likely to strike a particular location and we could anticipate the rain coming but were unable to do anything in that small window of opportunity. It would make sense if we were able to take early action and help vulnerable communities prepare before a disaster event based upon the available forecast information. Forecast based Financing (FbF) is a niche concept in the humanitarian sector that allows us to take actions based upon the best science ahead of time when it is not too late to respond.

FbF combines disaster management and climate research where scientific weather forecasts are used to anticipate possible impacts in high risk areas and predefined plans automatically mobilizes resources before a disaster event.

 

 

Current preparedness plans are often normative and based upon the average level of risks though there is a huge potential to scale up humanitarian actions when science indicates the increased level of risks regarding impending hazards. So far the policy directives have increasingly spurred investment in improving preparedness, enhancing existing early warning systems and response initiatives. But it has clearly overlooked much needed linkages between early warning and early actions for improved preparedness and response.

FbF triggers early action based on forecasts, bridging the gaps between preparedness, disaster risk reduction and emergency response. Likewise, FbF also supports the Sendai Framework’s emphasis on the paradigm shift towards risk management and mobilizing investments to avoid new risks.

 

Practical Action Consulting (PAC) is currently providing Technical Assistance (TA) to the World Food Programme (WFP) Nepal  in reviewing climate risks and flood early warning systems of Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Surkhet, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts  in Western  Nepal. The engagement will seek to develop dynamic Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) where thresholds triggers flood preparedness actions in the aforementioned districts.

With contributions from Madhab Uprety – DRR Consultant at PAC

Communities building resilience

Monday, January 9th, 2017 by

Bangladesh has a population of 16 million in a small area. It is on a journey with the aim of becoming a developed country. Apart from the challenges and barriers, Bangladesh has become better known globally for using  effective measures to build more resilient communities.

Being a delta country, Bangladesh is vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, riverbank erosion, cyclones and drought. All these hazards are expected to increase in intensity and frequency under a changing climate. In addition, increased temperature, erratic monsoon rainfall, sea level rise and salinity intrusion not only increase the frequency and impact of hazards to become more dangerous but also are expected to have a serious effect on lives, livelihoods and food security.

resilience

So it is vital in Bangladesh to build communities that make lives and livelihoods more sustainable.

But do we give equal attention to the people who live in these communities and to society as a whole? “Sometime yes but sometime no” is the reply from those of us who work in this field.  And there are are a few reasons for saying that that. Community based organizations (CBOs) play a major role in building resilience by performing two major activities.

Firstly they organise community meetings to discuss issues, to raise awareness, to review action plans, prepare plans in advance for disaster emergency fund and many other things.

Secondly they are active in response to a disaster by helping in the distribution and management of relief, saving lives from the disaster and sheltering affected people.

CBOs also look after income generating activities, social welfare, deal with social crises, network with service providers and much more.  This emphasis on community led work through mobilizing to build better resilience is where the community based organization provides a vital platform for a vulnerable community to take the initiative in capacity building alongside both Government and Non-Government Organizations.

Participatory market systems development

Friday, January 6th, 2017 by

Kassala Talkok village is a place where many people produce and innovate. But there is one big problem – they do not know how to market their products.

To address this Practical Action Sudan organised a workshop centered on the concepts and application methods of Participatory Market Systems Development (PMSD), as part of the Aqua 4 East project.

The rationale behind this training is the need to expand the understanding of project participants about their own obstacles and constraints in order to enable them to engage in community development with extensive perspective and knowledge.

PMSD workshop Talkot

Unlike other approaches PMSD  suits such situations where community capability and readiness is restricted by a variety of factors that hindering their applications.  Almost all the participants were new to this approach and were excited by its features.

The facilitation of the training was done by an expert who has previous working experiences in the same field with Practical Action, which helped the workshop reach its objective

The objective of this training was to enable representatives of local communities and Aqua 4 East project partners  to participate in their communities and institutions to contribute to the achievement of project goals through the application of market development systems.

PMSD workshop Talkok

Specific training objectives

To enable participants to understand the approach to market development systems through identifying:

  • Tools used in the participatory market system development
  • Guidelines steps involved in development of markets systems
  • How to use the application method on the ground

As a result of the training participant acquired the skills and knowledge of practical and scientific PMSD and its application on the ground.  They learned the basic steps of the road map approach to market development systems and how to apply them along with a knowledge of the markets systems partners of the market at various levels and roles of each partner’s specific market.

Promoting inclusive urban growth

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017 by

Stories of urban cleaners society in Bangladesh

by Md. A. Halim Miah, Makfie Farah, Uttam Kumar Saha and Hasin Jahan

History reveals that there were a special group of people who, unlike other artisans like smiths and weavers, worked at cleaning sewerage and drainage system in the old urban civilizations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. They were mostly enslaved. We are now under the charter of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights where every man has equal rights to choose their profession and lead a decent life with dignity and equality.

Urban cleaner is a caste or class?

FSMAs well as that Indus civilization as we also had a thousand year old urban centre named Pundra nagar. That city had also had a ‘cleaner class’, a special artisan community culturally called ‘Harijan’.

Among the society of cleaners in Bangladesh there are broadly two communities based on their religious identity – a Hindu or Harijan community and a Muslim sweeper community.

In the Hindu religious system society is segregated into a caste system of four professional groups. The Harijan community is one of these. Mahatma Gandhi, a famous Indian political leader renowned for his non-violence movement and social reform, worked for the rights of those human groups who did not have minimum dignity as human beings.  He tried to bring them in the main stream Hindu society by giving them a new name. He called them Harijan (hari means most honourable) and that was officially declared as ‘scheduled’.

There is no social stratification in Islam but in practice lower status communes exist in  society who are exploited in many ways due to their low status profession like ‘Kulu’ (traditionally oil producer), ‘Jhula’ (weavers) and ‘Hajam (circumcision).  As today many people from rural peasants society have moved away from their land and traditional livelihoods due to natural disasters and are forced to take shelter in urban and peri-urban areas. These poor people, who do not have skills that fit with the urban economy, are  engaging in this type of lower skills based employment. They face economic, social, and cultural marginalization.

Political economy of cleaners

participationAvailable statistics show that there are around 150,000 Harijan in Bangladesh.  If we include Muslim cleaners in this profession then the number is higher and is gradually increasing with urbanization.  There are around 532 urban centres in Bangladesh representing 35% of the population and contributing 80% of national GDP (MHHDC, 2014). Experts suggest that rapid urbanisation will mean that this number will reach 50% by 2030.

Each day 13,333 MT of urban waste is generated – per capita this is ½ kg per day. This study was conducted in 2005 when there were 512 urban centres and the total urban population was around 25%.  This increased to 35% in 2016 so waste generation today could be around 20,000 MT per day.

For a liveable city and healthy urbanization we need improved and modernized cleaning services and a professional group with skills and adequate logistics. We can not expect these improvements immediately, but need a priority plan to take the country and our economy to the stage of middle income countries where per capita gross national income starts from  US$1,026 to $ 12,475.

How do we expect to do this when we ignore around two million people whose services are required daily to foster our urban economy and production? Are they being exploited? Is their work less economically valuable than that of other artisans among the urban classes? We cannot afford to ignore the cost of negligence of proper sanitation cleanliness.

A study ‘The Human Waste’, conducted by Water Aid and Tearfund shows that  in developing countries 80% of disease is due to poor sanitation. People suffering from water borne diseases occupy half of the world’s hospital beds. Poor sanitation causes an increased burden of disease, numbers in hospital, a daily work loss, lower participation of children in school and the long term effect on health from anaemia and stunted growth.

The report also reveals that school sanitation programs increase the enrolment of girls annually by 11%. My 12 year old daughter was admitted to a new school after her graduation from class five to six. In the beginning she reported to me that her school toilets were not cleaned properly so she did not want to continue at that school. She repeatedly reported this to her class teachers and she is now fine with her present school. So we can see how the social and economic value of this cleaning works!

Why are cleaners not a development priority?

The Bangladesh constitution confirms equal rights for every citizen under the article 19(1) “the state will attempt  to ensure equal; opportunities for all the citizens” and also article 20(1) where every citizens rights are agreed with same value  regardless of their caste, class, religion and sex. But in practice what we see is that communities like cleaners are deprived in many ways of equal access to basic citizen services.

A recent study conducted by Professor Ainoon Naher and Abu Ala Mahmud Hasan among the harijan of northern Bangladesh (HEKS/EPER, 2016) shows that, “In general, the common feeling among the Dalit is that they have always been looked down upon by the mainstream/dominant groups who tend to avoid Dalit in public spaces”. It also reveals that Dalit women are the ‘marginalized among the marginalized’.

Social safety nets are a major instrument of the Bangladesh government to reduce poverty and hunger. The allocation of safety nets is mostly rural biased with safety net packages more than three times higher in rural areas compare to urban (House Hold Income and Expenditure Survey , 2010, Pp. 72, BBS).  Girls from extreme poor communities who live in urban slums are not entitled to school stipend program as metropolitan cities are excluded from that safety net policy.

The Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) network Bangladesh organized a national convention of pit emptiers on 7th December 2016 in Dhaka. Around 92 pit emptiers from 20 municipalities attended. It was an exceptional day for the development workers as well as for these most marginalized people. They identified plenty of eye awakening issues (revealed in the table below) about what we need to know if we really want to change the world

Table:  Extent of deprivation of cleaners

Health & SecurityEquityDignityFair income
“We want equal attention in health care centres when we become sick”“We want to play together with all the children”

“We are avoided in social events even though we attend we are humiliated”“What we earn monthly that is enough for twenty days and rest of the days we have to live with borrow from informal money lenders with high interest of repayment”

What is the solution?

Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary of the United Nations commented that ‘No- one left behind’ is the underlying moral code of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. He  emphasized that people who are hardest to reach should be given priority.  Practical Action Bangladesh have implemented a four year (2012-2016) multi-country (Bangladesh, Nepal & Sri Lanka) project named Integrated Urban Development ( IUD2) that focused on participatory planning for inclusive urban governance.

The findings of this project are encouraging for development thinkers and policy makers. It followed a participatory approach to include urban cleaners in the development process with a drive to demonstrate pro poor urban governance.  Narratives from project beneficiaries show that they were enlightened by understanding the democratic process and how to identify problems and solutions through a participatory planning process. “We can arrange election in our SIC reformation, exercise and enjoy democracy”,  said Rumpa Begum, Slum Improvement Committee, Faridpur.

We learned that to create an enabling environment for interaction between two classes of people (elite and proletariat) governance improvement is essential. At the same time a focus on improving skills and reducing health and safety risks is important for transforming any economic sector.

Customized gulpher for emptying pitIn the history of human society the dominant class has always controlled advanced technology. So creating access to technology for this class can make change happen. I found this to be true for the cleaners’ community of the Faridpur municipality. At the beginning of this year Urban and Energy Service Program of Practical Action, Bangladesh organized an impact review and learning workshop. One of the main stakeholders of this program was city /municipality government. Anisur Rahman Chowdhury, an honourable counsellor of the Faridpur Municipality, who commented in one of the learning sessions on Practical Action’s engagement in the development of his city:

“Earlier I myself never give space to stand my side any mathor (Cleaner) but when I found that they are now use machines for emptying pit. They do not get down into inside of the pit. I found there is no any bad smell with their body. They are doing like other mechanic or civil engineering works. So I sit with them in a same table at tea stall”.

I think this is the way to change social perspectives and change the lives of the most disadvantaged communities in any country.  This has also been recommended by Mr. ABM Khurshed Alam, Chairman of the National Skills Development Council to make available modern tools and machinery which could change their status. He also suggested for arranging certificate course for increasing skills of the people of this profession.