Archive for December, 2018


Thursday, December 20th, 2018 by

The climate change talks in Katowice were a roller coaster of highs and lows with a wide variety of issues on the agenda. As diverse as the agenda were the claims of the parties to the convention. Some parties have made excellent suggestions to move the negotiations forward and equally some parties have made plain ridiculous statements, especially those challenging the findings of the scientific community. These diverse perspectives present on one hand faith in human kind and global collaboration, and that despite the challenges somehow we are going to sort this mess out and get back to a new ‘normal’, on the other hand the deniers of climate change, concerned of forgoing economic opportunity, promising continued economic growth, the promotion of fossil fuels and especially coal in the energy mix and making warnings against leaving even a drop of fossil fuel in the ground, appearing on the balance sheet as stranded assets.

Some of the high points have been a change in the language of many of the key parties. Even six months ago many parties were still in denial on the topic of Loss and Damage. They were strenuously denying that irreversible impacts were occurring and that some people and nations were facing losses and damages as a result of changing climates. This denial extended to interesting language such as ‘extreme adaptation’ or proposals for ‘transformational approaches’ to development. However, this language has changed driven by two pieces of evidence. First, the underlying signal of climate breakdown appearing all around us. In 2017-8 the planet has faced numerous climate catastrophes and their frequency and severity can no long be denied, no one, not even those living in the developed world, is insulated from the impacts of climate change.

Sunil Acharya from Practical Action Nepal sharing experiences of the Adaptation planning process

Secondly, and very timely for this COP, was the publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5oC. The IPCC has worked tireless over the last two years to produce a “…special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.” This report not only tells us what will happen if we exceed 1.5oC of warming, but more importantly provides a blueprint of what we need to do to prevent this happening. The report uses simple language, to explain what we need to do, what will happen if we don’t and the time frame for action. Starkly we have little more than a decade to bring emissions under control and any real chance to stabilise the climate at this level.

But why do we go to the COP? We had a small but influential presence at the COP over the two weeks. We have once again punched above our weight against a backdrop in which some governments, research institutes, UN bodies and even some well know civil society organisations send delegations in the tens and hundreds. Although we only numbered three people at any one time, we actively contributed in a number of different ways. For example we engaged with and helped shape the position of civil society, in the first week no less than five articles appearing in the ECO negotiators bulletin including significant contributions from Practical Action. This bulletin is published daily and is widely read and valued by many of the negotiators. These articles shared the collective experience of Practical Action with recommendations of what needs to be done and how the negotiations should progress, to deliver not only on the climate change challenge but how to do this in a fair, equitable and transparent way.

We were a partner in the launch of the innovative and propositional Climate Damages Tax, a polluter pays mechanism that seeks to require the fossil fuel industry to pay for the consequences of continued fossil fuel use.  This launch was widely picked up in the international media. We also participated in a number of side events, provided capacity building for developing country negotiators, and in our role as observers supported the views and positions of minorities and those unable to attend.

It’s clear that for the negotiations to progress we need a new sense of global community, optimism and a renewed sense of urgency. The IPCC report made it clear that technologies already exist that would allow the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions in line with the 1.5oC goal of the Paris Agreement. But for these technologies to be rolled out there needs to be support and that support is needed in both finance and for capacity building. But what is lacking to unlock the climate finance challenge is political will.  A sense of collective effort that needs to be funded not only by donor governments but will also requires shifts in large scale investments stimulated through such innovative means as the climate damages tax.

For myself the potential of the COP24 was best articulated by the words of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager. She was given the opportunity to address the parties and didn’t pander to the room. She spoke truth and wisdom to the assembled delegates. My hope is that the words and actions of the youngest members of society can inspire others to make the difficult decisions and enforce the actions necessary to respond to climate breakdown. This is the signal of hope coming from COP24 in Katowice – that the ask of future generations will be the stimulus necessary to generate the political will that is desperately missing to act now, before it’s too late.



Practical Action Schools…Top five highlights of 2018

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018 by

As the year cones to an end, in the Practical action Schools team we have been reflecting on our top five highlights of the year.  It’s been a great year so hard to choose, but here they are:

No 5 Way Back in January we launched our Ditch the Dirt STEM challenge.  This has been HUGELY popular, with children all over the country finding out about life In Turkana, Kenya and making their own water filters.  Over 1,700 sets of resources have been downloaded and used in schools around the world. We ran Ditch the Dirt workshops at The Big Bang fair …very excited pupils!

No 4Girls into Global STEM Sharing work carried out as part of our Girls into Global STEM (GIGS) project.  This EU funded project combines global learning and improving digital skills with a focus on inspiring girls into STEM subjects. Great to be working with the University of Hull , and others on this. WE have an on-line teacher training programme out soon.



No 3 In October this year we worked with Jersey Overseas Aid schools outreach to deliver workshops to pupils from around the island, and launch a competition. They took part in an amended version of our popular Stop the Spread STEM challenge…and they were fantastic!  We appeared on the Jersey ITV news, and were in the newspaper! @JOA

No 2 Thanks to a growing number of teacher trainers who believe in our work we are reaching more teachers than ever through our teacher training programme launched last year. This year we have reached over 1,000 teachers! Huge thanks to all our great trainers.

No 1 We have enjoyed working with our colleagues at the British Science association on spreading the word about their great CREST awards, particularly because our STEM challenges and our Global Project Ideas can be used by pupils to gain awards. WE also worked with @3MUK on a new joint branded challenge, Fragile Freight, now part of their Young Innovators Challenge.  Well done to all the schools who took part this year, your pupils’ work has been amazing.





Leave no one behind: Nepal Reconstruction Project awareness campaign

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018 by

The Supply Chain Project, unique and innovative in its approach, intervened through the market systems, promoted local enterprises and introduced innovative solutions to provide affordable quality construction materials to earthquake affected people of the remote hill areas of Nuwakot and Rasuwa. The market-led approach implemented to catalyse the reconstruction process also aimed at creating awareness on the use of quality construction materials and access to complete market information. (Read more on Supply Chain Project)

The idea was to leave no one behind. From person-to-person interactions to information dissemination through mainstream media, the project awareness campaign, with a strategic plan, appropriate message and right medium and channel aimed at making as big an impact as possible. It started with community level interactions, focused group discussions and later was escalated through mainstream media. With successful results in the two pilot districts, the project activities and communications strategy were scaled up in three additional districts of Sindhupalchowk, Dhading and Gorkha, .

Community level sensitisation programmes 

Sensitisation program and safety kit distribution in Nuwakot for the internally displaced people of Haku rural municipality. The village in Haku has been deemed unsafe to inhabit by the government.

The initial phase of the campaign carried out interaction and information sharing programmes to the locals at the community level. The interaction programmes were ideal to introduce project interventions as well as spread the message of using quality construction materials to build earthquake safe structures. The community level sensitisation programmes were organised in major market and town hubs according to the clusters formed in the project districts.

The project also conducted workshops for focused groups such as entrepreneurs, construction materials vendors and distributors, and government appointed engineers. These workshops in addition to providing information, would also serve as a means to generate project advocates for further information dissemination.

Street drama

Three young girls sit under a towel enjoying the street drama organized by Practical Action in Kalikasthan Raswuwa. As part of its awareness campaign, the project has conducted a series of street dramas throughout Rasuwa and Nuwakot that focuses on quality construction materials and building safe structures.

A proven popular means to capture the hearts and minds of the people and delivering the required message, street dramas were displayed as a means to create buzz at the local level that would be followed up by messages in the mainstream media.

The street performance was carried out in 15 locations in Raswua and Nuwakot. With an average of 200 to 250 in the audience, the street drama was successful in capturing the attention of the audience while subtly providing message on building safe structures and using quality construction materials. Such programs were also a good platform to share information about the project supported resource centers, enterprises and information centers.

Street drama ‘Suracheet Baas’ being performed in Betrawati, a market hub in Rasuwa.

Information Education Communications materials

From leaflets to comprehensive manuals and how-to videos, the project produced IEC materials as required for its interventions and awareness objectives. Primarily, to provide a complete information package to the entrepreneurs and consumers alike, the project produced manuals and videos of the project supported technologies, such as booklets of timber treatment procedure, how to build with earth bricks (Compressed Stabilised Earth Bricks) manuals, machine maintenance along with simple how-to videos.

In addition, project promotional communications content such as information flyers, brochures of project supported enterprises; posters were produced and distributed in awareness programs, events and workshops and disseminated accordingly. Hoarding boards emphasizing the use of quality construction materials were also erected in strategic places such as rural municipality offices and resource centers.

Market Information App

The app logo represents the initial letter ‘S’of the project name while also forming a link of a chain indicating the Supply Chain of construction materials, from the factory to individual households. Similarly, the background colour represents the colour of earth and bricks.

The project developed a mobile app “Shulav Samagri” for comprehensive market information that would allow users to access information from the price of construction materials at different locations, transportation cost, mason details to local hardware retail shops and its price rates.

The project is now in the process to handover the operational and upkeep of the app as the project period ends this year. Talks with Nepal reconstruction Authority, Post Earthquake Reconstruction Project and other relevant stakeholders for the handover of the application is ongoing.

Radio programmes

With the preliminary awareness activities now on the go, the project collaborated with local FMs, Nuwakot FM and Radio Langtang, to produce a radio program “Suracheet Baas”  that aired twice a week. The local stations further collaborated with similar local FMs in the district to air the same show to capture a wider audience as possible.

Radio Langtang, partner radio station of the project, is operated by an all-female staff. The radio station produced and aired “Suracheet Baas” twice a week. The station now broadcasts PSAs project supported enterprises of CSEB, timber treatment facilities and stone cutting machines.

In addition, promotional advertisements of the project supported enterprises such as CSEB (Compressed Stabilised Earth Bricks), timber treatment, stone cutting machine were aired  in various local FM stations in both pilot as well as scale-up districts of Gorkha, Dhading and Sindhupalchowk. The promotional ads helped generate demand as well as introduce the project supported activities to the general mass. Similarly, Public Service Announcements (PSAs) on timber treatment facilities and CSEBs have been produced and aired at the district level.

  Timber Treatment PSA


Public Service Video 

Two PSA animation videos on identification of quality construction materials and emphasising its use were produced and disseminated through local and national television channels as well as various social network sites. Broadcast of the videos through national TV channels ensured the information would not only be limited to the project districts but available all across the country. The videos were aired just after the monsoon, at the advent of autumn, the preferred construction period and the start of holiday season.

Whiteboard and doodle animation videos of project interventions (CSEB, stone cutting technology and demand aggregation) were produced and circulated in social network sites. These short introductory visual representations have been uploaded in social media platforms as well as disseminated in community level sensitization programs. Social media has already proved to become a useful marketing tool where some enterprises are promoting their products through such social networks.

Journalist exposure visits

 The project also organised various journalist exposure visits throughout the project period to create awareness on the effective technologies introduced by the project. The project activities and interventions were covered by leading national dailies, local papers as well as international news agencies.

Saving the earth with earth bricks

Despite a small-scale awareness campaign, through a strategic approach, the Supply Chain  Project, in various degrees, has been able to influence the government stakeholders, peer organisations, as well as the general public. The government is set to approve the new building guidelines of the project introduced earth bricks, setting up small-scale enterprises is more efficient at the local level, peer organisations have adopted the project approach and methodologies and most important of all people have have access to affordable alternatives.



Overcoming obstacles to achieve success – a dreamer who never gave up

Thursday, December 13th, 2018 by

It was a typical October afternoon in Kuldevmandu, Bajura. The sun was blazing like a fiery medallion in the sky, yet I could feel the chill. The small pavement by the road was filled with dried brown leaves dancing with the wind beats. Just down the road was ever joyful Budhignaga River babbling on its own pace. The Mount Saipal, in the distance not yet snow-cloaked, stood tall and mysterious. It was an awe-inspiring sight.  As we stopped by the sign that read ‘Nateshwari Foods Products’, it was almost 1 pm in the afternoon. Inside a small noodle factory was 24-year-old Bharat Bahadur Saud who was busy preparing noodles. For a while I did not want to interrupt his work, so I sat outside his small factory looking at the passersby.

Festival vibe and nostalgia

Dashain vibe was still on. Usually, Dashain festival lasts for more than a week. It is the biggest festival of the year, when families reunite and exchange gifts and blessings by putting tika on each other’s forehead. Historically, it is celebrated to honour the victory of gods over the evil demons. Not to mention, people in the rural areas tend to celebrate it extensively. I could see people walking around with red tika (red vermilion) on their foreheads. It somehow made me miss home and all the festivity fun. In a distant, I could see a man in his early 30s accompanied by his wife and three kids (which I assumed by their body language). The three kids had almost matching outfits. The man was wearing a light-grey suit piece with a Nepali hat and a big rucksack on his back. His wife was wearing a red sari with a flip flop and was holding a duffle bag (stuffed more than its capacity). Their foreheads were all covered with red tika. The serious looking man must have just got back from his in-laws after receiving Dashain blessings. Just next door was a bunch of kids grouped in one corner sharing snack together, which looked like candy bars and dry noodles from afar.

Pic: Nateshwari Food Products (Sauce Factory)

The first time I visited this place was back in 2014, with the ROJGARI project. Things were very different then. I am glad to see the positive changes; this place has come a long way. All of a sudden, I heard someone calling my name, I turned around and it was Gopal Nepali, our project coordinator for the Bajura district, he introduced me with Mr. Saud, “This is Bharat Bahadur Saud and he is the entrepreneur of sauce and noodle factory.” Mr. Saud greeted me with a smile and I offered him a chair which was just next to me. Mr. Saud seemed a little shy at first but after a while he started opening up and we had a very interesting conversation that went on for hours.

Another one bites the dust

Just like any other kids in the village, Mr. Saud also joined the bandwagon and went to India hoping for a better future. He worked as a cook in one of the restaurants. He recalls his time in India as a reality check, “I didn’t know it would be that difficult to make money, it was very hectic.” As a 20-year-old, Mr. Saud really struggled being away from his family. He got sick and was bedridden for weeks. He had intestinal complications, and had his appendicitis removed as well. In less than a year, he gave up and came back to Nepal. Things were not that good in his own village, so he went to Baglung (a district in western Nepal) and worked as a road painter (drawing white and yellow lines). That also did not last long. The contractor who hired him did not pay the full amount, so he quit the job and came back to his village.

Pic: Bharat Bahadur Saud

Hope and inspiration

Mr. Saud did not lose hope. While working as a painter in Baglung, Mr. Saud was really fascinated by this restaurant where they used to go for afternoon snack. He recalls, “The owner used to make his own chowmein (noodle) and the restaurant used to be filled with customers queuing up for chowmein. That’s what really inspired me.” So, Mr. Saud decided to give another shot. As soon as he came back from Baglung, he went to Dhangadhi and learned the art of noodle making. He sold a small piece of land he inherited from his parents and bought a noodle making machine and started his own chowmein factory. “That’s how things started for me,” smiles Mr. Saud.

Entrepreneurial capacity building

Pic: Bharat Bahadur Saud ready to export sauce

One of the objectives of BICAS project is to provide technical inputs, training and entrepreneurial capacity building to farmers, thereby improving production, value additions through processing and marketing of agriculture produces. Along with his brother, Mr. Saud attended training on ‘sauce (ketchup) making’ offered by the project where he also learned the effective ways to market the product. “The training was really helpful in shaping up our businesses. Therefore, we two brothers decided to open a sauce factory along with our chowmein factory, as it goes hand in hand,” shares Mr. Saud with a smile.

It was no looking back from that moment on. While I was still having a conversation with Mr. Saud, he was getting frequent phone calls regarding the delivery. In a day, he sells around 480 bottles of sauce. He not only sells it in the nearby villages but also in the entire municipality, which covers more than 12 villages. In a month, he makes more than NRS 200,000
(1 USD = NRS 115) profit from the sauce factory alone.

Connecting with local markets

Mr. Saud’s sauce factory has motivated the locals too, in producing tomatoes, chilies and pumpkins (required for sauce making). Kandhari Devi Saud shares her joy for being able to grow vegetables not only for consumption but also to sell it in the market, “Before, our vegetables used to go waste but now we can sell our tomatoes, chilies and pumpkins to Bharat Saud’s sauce factory and in haat bazzar. I am making a living from this vegetable farming.”

Pic: Kandhari Devi Saud in front of her tunnel farm

Despite his multiple failed attempts, Mr. Saud kept on going. He never gave up. His will power and dedication made him the most respected and talked about person in the entire Bajura district. He still has the same passion to do more. In the near future he plans to make potato chips and neemkeen (homemade dry flour chips) along with his noodle and sauce business; and also hire a dedicated marketing and sales agent. The project might phase out but stories such as Mr. Saud’s will live on forever.



BICAS project is co-funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid. To learn more about the project click here.

“The fate of humanity and the natural world is in your hands”

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018 by

These were the words spoken by living legend, Sir David Attenborough at the COP24 climate change negotiations in Katowice, Poland this week. The renowned naturalist and broadcaster took up the newly formed People’s Seat – a largely ceremonial position used to share ‘the voice of the people’ at the annual talks. (more…)

What next for Climate Change?

Monday, December 3rd, 2018 by

Today, at the climate conference Sir David Attenborough didn’t mince his words when he said that civilisation will collapse if humanity doesn’t take action on global warming. He had obviously read the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on 1.5oC which documents the dire state of the global planetary system, something that has been picked up by mainstream media as a warning that we have 12 years left to save planet earth.

“Right now we are facing a man-made disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years, Climate Change”

Here in Katowice I can understand why he made such an impassioned plea. It really has been 24 years since the first gathering of climate negotiators took place following the ratification of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  And yes it has been three years since the Paris Agreement was signed heralding a new era in climate action and global optimism. However, since Paris a lot has changed and not only has the development environment become more contested, but also the consequences of global warming have become more evident. It is now clear that it’s not only the poorest and most vulnerable who will face the dire consequences of unbridled climate change, but also the people living in the developed world as testified by the recent forest fires that have overnight swept away people’s homes and their communities.

So what are the key issues on the table and why is the Katowice climate COP so important?  The Paris Agreement which enters into force next year, heralds a new era of global action to tackle climate change. The Paris Agreement outlines in separate articles clear action on Mitigation, Adaptation and Loss and Damage and provides guidance on the global cooperation required to provide the finance, capacity building and technology needed to deliver the agreement.

Thus the Katowice COP is the forum at which the rules for the Paris Agreement will be agreed.  The great thing about these rules is that they are applied to all countries equally regardless of their contribution or otherwise to the problem in the first place. But equally the rules need to recognise that not all countries have the systems and processes in place to monitor their contribution to tackle climate change from the outset and therefore the rules will recognise different capacities to implement and be applied accordingly. This flexibility creates an incentive for developed countries to support developing countries put these systems in place enabling genuine global contribution to tackle the problem.

Secondly, following the publication of the dire warnings contained in the IPCC report this COP is an opportunity to ramp up ambition. It is clear that under current commitments the planet is on track for at least 3oC of warming. Importantly the IPCC report highlights just how much worse things will get with each increase in global temperatures so as Sir David Attenborough pointed out today, now is a great time to review existing promises and for each country to increase their commitments, to ramp up their ambition.

Finally, nothing happens without political will and the resources required. So this COP is a great opportunity for world leaders to make the commitments necessary for the green transition and for developed countries to commit the resources, technology and skills to support the developing countries accelerate action to adapt to changing climates and start to deliver the support necessary to address Loss and Damage.

It is worthwhile to remember that the brunt of climate change will be felt first and hardest by the people least responsible for the problem in the first place. So isn’t it right that the developed world should step up to the plate and help their transition to a more resilient and sustainable future? Surely such a transition would have dividends for us all? As these new consumers of products would reinvigorate stalling global markets, their future security would reduce the drivers for migration and displacement, and the sense of global community will reignite the fires of global cooperation and reciprocity.

So will Katowice a city in the heart of the Polish coal industry deliver a successful outcome? A lot has changed in the last few weeks following the publication of the IPCC report. I am hopeful that the planetary elder statesmen of Europe, India and China will step into the void created by the absence of the US and nurture the negotiations onto the path necessary for a successful outcome, watch this space.