Archive for March, 2017

Kamala Joshi — A woman who broke the cycle of discrimination

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 by

Mother’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year. Not because of all the festivities or pastries (which I don’t mind!), but because it reminds me of all the amazing women I have met, but I haven’t had a chance to tell you about yet.

Meet Kamala Joshi, a Nepalese single-mother who, like many other women in rural communities, got married in her early twenties. She had a baby soon after wedlock, sadly, kamalaher husband left her shortly after the baby was born. Kamala struggled to provide for herself and her child, and had to move out of her home. She found a temporary refuge from a women’s shelter (‘maiti’) but knew that she could not stay there for long. A fear to end up homeless was strong.

In Nepal, especially in rural areas, women’s fate is still linked to that of their husbands. A broken marriage leaves a social stigma that most of the women will have to carry for the rest of their lives – no matter what the reasons led to the separation. Women with unlucky marriages, often face discrimination and social exclusion without much hope for the future.

Kamala, however, refused to accept this and wanted to fight for a better life for herself and her daughter. She started working in agriculture and with some time, determination and a bit of luck, she was selected to participate in a training programme in agriculture with Practical Action’s partner, District Agriculture Development Office (DADO). From this, she gained the right tools and knowledge to establish herself as a self-sufficient small-scale farmer.

In 2014, couple years after Kamala had started as a small-scale farmer, she had another training opportunity through Practical Action’s Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security project. This time, she learnt skills and knowledge to support other local farmers. Since then, she has demonstrated and facilitated workshops in her community to share her knowledge of small scale farming for the benefit of all.

kamala2Kamala Joshi managed to break the cycle. Since she started to work in agriculture, she has no longer struggled to provide for her family and even managed to send her daughter to a boarding school. She is now one of the most respected women in the community, despite the social stigma of her marital status. Her story is an inspiring reminder that right knowledge, opportunities and determination have the power to break the social dynamics that cause discrimination against women.

Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Kamala!

Want to help women like Kamala this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.

Factors that instill Technology into our lives

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 by

TechnologyTechnology should save cash. Households reduced their monthly expenditure on energy freeing resources for other needs.
Technology should be affordable: Price matters. As anticipated, the technology we offer is highly connected to their price. If it is affordable, adaptation will be rapid. Price can range from free to unaffordable based on individual household’s income status. Only the technologies that are within the affordable finance will see the light of the day, that too with efforts by development agents.
Poor the households, more they spend on technology (% of income). Based on local situation, knowledge of level of investment that can be realistically expected from different income groups is crucial?
Everyone yearn for new technology. It provides social status and also peer pressure to own new technology (conforming behavior). Some of the values users derive are tangible and others are not. Household decision making has factors other than eco
nomic. (more…)

Women at the heart of the development agenda – interview with Farida Bascha

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017 by

Farida Bascha joined Practical Action as Eastern Africa Regional Director in January 2017 and is a strong advocate for Gender equity and women’s rights. We caught up with her prior to the International Women’s Day to learn more about her and her thoughts about women and development.

Hi Farida, farida profile

Congratulations and welcome to Practical Action! Can you tell us little bit about your background?

Thank you, I’m really excited about this opportunity! My mother once joked that my faith and beliefs are human rights – I don’t think she was wrong as that perfectly sums up my background! With my first degree in law and human rights, my career has been embedded in the principles of dignity, equality and accessibility of human rights. That continues to be my drive and also led me to my position today.

What inspired you to join Practical Action?

It is a great time to be part of Practical Action as the organization is embarking on a new Strategy. Being part of this change, and leading the change in East Africa, inspired me to join the organization. Practical Action’s ‘small is beautiful’ approach means that we get to work with those communities who are often left behind. This is an approach I want to be part of.  The new Strategy also puts women and climate change at the centre of our work which is something that I am excited to drive within the region.

What are your thoughts on current state of women’s rights?

At the global level, the influence of women has become more and more visible. Women’s rights are being discussed again as human rights and this has escalated the need to understand the marginalisation of women in society and decisions that affect them. Women are more educated and work more, however, the social dynamics haven’t changed in many societies. Could this be the time to address the structural causes of discrimination against women, and social gender norms and perceptions that act as barriers to an equitable society?

Farida and bellyWhy women and girls should be placed at the heart of the development agenda?

With the adoption of the SDGs, the need to place women squarely within the development agenda has never been stronger. The targets under the SDGs look at enhancing the opportunity towards equal access to work and reducing the different dimensions of discrimination. To understand these needs and realize sustainable solutions, we need to involve women in all these discussions. Practical Action’s new Strategy puts the needs of women at the centre of our work which is in line with the SDGs, and provides an exciting opportunity to address the barriers to gender parity.

What are your thoughts on women in leadership positions?

We need more women in leadership positions. Leadership to me means being competent and confident to make and uphold decisions. It is extremely important to have women in these decision making positions. That might be the biggest challenge yet but very possible. Women in decision making positions sets the pace for change for millions of women who strive for the same. No one better than a woman herself to understand the change that is needed and be in a position to make this change.

What advice would you give to aspiring women leaders?

Stay driven and keep your dreams and ambitions alive. It might not be an easy road, but every moment wasted looking back stops us from moving forward. Women are the most untapped resource and talent in society. If we can inspire more women leaders, we can achieve an equitable society.

Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women like Farida!

Want to help empowering women this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.


3 A’s of sustainable and affordable access to modern energy: Smart Energy Access

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 by

3AsImproving energy access has been in the agenda for quite some time in the Agenda of development partners – State, donors and civil society. After the UN Secretary General called of Sustainable Energy Access for All (SEforAll in 2012), the agenda got hyped in almost all development partners menu. With its integration in Sustainable Development Goal, it has firmly established as one of development agenda worldwide. Awareness, affordability and availability are described here as three pillars of energy access that is sustainable and smart.

1. Awareness – Knowledge about and knowledge how to use, cognizance
Knowledge on ways and means how people understand their energy need and their access to it is a matter of their level of knowledge. A person’s ability to live a decent living in terms of health, safety, convenience and comfort and exploit potential to earn a decent living or exploit economic opportunities depends on knowledge and skill set owned in addition to assets (resources) at ones disposal. Since energy and device to use energy can impact heavily on one’s productivity, capacity to achieve her/his earning for living, importance of knowledge and awareness of existing options of energy access is immense. Another dimension of awareness in this regard is how the state or society supports or deters her/his access, which is equally important (politically) to ensure equitable energy access.
Therefore, awareness–knowledge at all level including policy makers, users and suppliers is essential for sustainable access to ensure optimum resource utilization in terms of attaining high impact at household national and global level. Competency to select and use the best technology/resource option means being able to acquire and operate based on unabated availability of technical and market information. The ultimate result of knowledge and awareness can be perceived to be willingness to invest at all level by users, state and global actors.

2. Affordability – Be able to buy, able to purchase or able to secure finance
Access to energy resource and device that are better efficient comes at a price. This price needs to be analysed in terms of capital investment and day to day operating costs. The better options are often associated with higher up-front capital requirement. They end of in saving in operating costs mainly fuel costs later. This requires summing-up up-front cost and operating cost to derive real cost of service. Life-cycle costing technology using appropriate discount rate can provide meaningful insights to help in making energy access option selection process. This analysis can be used by consumers, national policy makers and global actors, alike. However, consumers may select discount rate purely based on his financial costs, usually based on current projected market interest rate at which he will be able to source his funding requirements. National policy makers will need a different set of discount rates that takes into account parameters such as supply risks, political and social in addition to financial parameter alone. Further, global actors would add additional parameters like global environmental concern and other matters like world peace etc. while choosing a discount rate to make their decision.
Differentiating consumptive and productive use of energy from affordability aspect is also important. Often higher per unit cost can be affordable for productive use as costs are passed-on to final product costs. Amalgamation of productive use of energy with access for basic need will in effect provide opportunity to bring-down cost of basic energy access through cross-subsidy from productive use. Similarly, grants of various shape and size will impact the immediate affordability. Capital cost, operating cost grants are most common ones.
Financial analysis and life cycle cost of access is only a part of story; another side of coin from affordability point of view is access to finance. What is important to understand and realize is that affordability is not about being able to pay but it is institutional back up including mechanism for grant and loan that will make end-users able to afford. The socio-politico-economic perception and commitments will greatly impact people’s affordability.

3. Availability – Resources and devices are physically available in different size and quality to serve different energy needs. Resource availability is a factor that is governed by nature in tandem with human ingenuity in terms of harvesting technology and processes. However, availability of devices to enable use of resources is entirely made of parameters made by the society. Therefore, as it sounds availability of natural resources and devices for energy access may not be as simple as it sounds. Availability is matter of fact driven by geopolitical realities. Economic policies like pricing and tax and subsidies will determine immediate availability and long-term sustainability. Politically, it may sound attractive to subsidise primal energy access for poor, particularly in poor countries, however financing such a subsidy has always been a challenge. Difficulties in targeting such subsidies, transaction cost and financing the policy are some of the argument that will tend policy makers to look for alternatives. Energy access in the urban and rural areas varies widely in terms of access be it in quantity or in quality. Rural areas are mostly at the short-change side. Enhancing availability in the rural areas, therefore, warrants more importance for multiple reasons including reducing pressure on urban infrastructure and keeping rural economy rolling in addition to maintain geopolitical balance. Optimising resource utilisation, natural as well as financial, will hold the key to a balance and sustainable energy access. Use of various innovative financing instruments and market regulation should be the areas to look for to improve availability. A systemic analysis that comprises market (supply chain) enabling factors like governance and regulations and necessary services to avail energy such as after sales service, finance, insurance, road-access, human resource capacity to acquire and operate will be a way to start analysis and planning for availability.
On the whole, to achieve sustainable energy access, the mechanism and procedures of energy access need to be made “smart”. Use of existing and new technologies with maximum involvement of citizens politically and financially with innovative governance and administration to improve cost-effectiveness are some of the key components of “smart” energy access.

Vishwa Bhushan Amatya
Head of Programme, Energy
Practical Action South Asia Regional Office