Gemma Hume


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Posts by Gemma

  • Win a Nepalese cooking class at the BBC Good Food Show

    November 26th, 2016

    We’re giving people a taste of Nepal on the Practical Action stand at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham this weekend, with samples of Sel Roti and a prize draw to win a Nepalese cooking class for two.

    We teamed up with Momo Cooking to bring the Nepalese delicacy, Sel Roti to the BBC Good Food Show.

    I try Sel Roti made by Momo Cooking's Philippa Magar

    I try Sel Roti made by Momo Cooking’s Philippa Magar

    It’s a sweet rice bread, distinct from any other breads of the world. It resembles a large thin puffed-up doughnut and is prepared by grinding soaked rice to create a thick batter.  It is then mixed with sugar, clarified butter, mashed banana, water, poured into bubbling oil and deep-fried.

    Sel Roti being sold at a market in Nepal

    Sel Roti being sold at a market in Nepal

    The Killer in the Kitchen

    Many people in Nepal cook this in their home over an open fire. The smoke inhaled from cooking over open fires kills 4 million lives a year – more than AIDS, TB and malaria combined. So we’re at the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham from 24-27 November to raise awareness of this silent killer and inspire people to help STOP the Killer in the Kitchen.

    The solution is improved stoves and smokehoods (what we know as chimneys), which Practical Action have developed to carry the harmful smoke out of the home.


    Philippa's mother-in-law cooking Sel Roti over an open fire.

    Philippa’s mother-in-law cooking Sel Roti over an open fire.

    Philippa said her mother-in-law cooks over an open fire so she is very aware of the effects cooking on wood in unventilated homes.

    “My husband’s family live and cook this way and in the house we can see how the smoke and soot cover everything.  The smooth, pale bamboo beams across the ceiling are turned black and cruddy and the smoke stings our eyes and makes us cough. It’s such a simple idea to put ventilation into Nepalese homes and we are delighted to learn that Practical Action are tackling this.

    “We’re excited to be a small part of their efforts and look forward to a time when kitchens in Nepal are smoke free!”





    Win a Nepalese cooking class for two!

    At the BBC Good Food Show, we’re giving people a chance to win a Nepalese cooking class for two with Momo Cooking. You can learn how to make momos (Nepalese dumplings) and other Nepalese street food.

    All you need to do is come to our stand – J151, Hall 20 – fill in a card with your details and pop it in our special prize draw. The winner will be picked at random and notified on Wednesday 30th November.

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  • Why I am writing this for World Toilet Day

    November 19th, 2016

    Yesterday I told one of my friends that I was writing a blog for World Toilet Day and he laughed at me! “You’re kidding? There is actually a World Toilet Day? What will they think of next?”

    I was left speechless and offended by his response. But I guess he doesn’t understand the significance. He’s never had to worry about having nowhere to go (except being caught short in a traffic jam on a motorway). Decent toilets are just there…they are part of everyday life.

    World Toilet Day is an international day to draw global attention to the sanitation crisis. It’s about taking action to reach the 2.4 billion people living without a toilet. Toilets save lives, increase productivity, create jobs and grow economies.

    Devastating impact

    I’ve seen first-hand the devastating impact of not having a access to a decent toilet. Many of you will have seen it on TV when watching Comic Relief but nothing can prepare you for what it is really like.  The poverty and terrible conditions I witnessed during my visit to a slum called Nyalenda in Kisumu, Kenya, shocked me to the core. It’s hard to describe how utterly terrible the few toilets I saw were, or the stench that lingered in the air. Open sewage ran through the slum and waste lined small paths. The children played near the open sewage and walked around with bare feet.  I found it really difficult to deal with and battled with feelings of guilt, sadness and helplessness.

    In this slum, only 32% of the population have access to improved toilets; 25% use shared pit latrines and 30% defecate outside.


    Karen Bolo

    This is Karen Bolo. Her house has no toilet or running water. Her neighbourhood was hit by an outbreak of cholera and a ten-year-old girl from a neighbouring plot died. Karen says she was terrified that the same thing would happen to her children.

    “I have nowhere to go to the toilet at all here because we don’t have the capacity and I can’t afford to buy a new one. I have to ask for help from the neighbouring plots. For our children we have to put down a newspaper and ask the neighbours [who have pit latrines] if we can get rid of it there. It makes me feel awful because it is demeaning to have to ask for this.”



    Her neighbour, 65-year-old Patrick Odliambo, said land near to his home is covered in waste and flying toilets.

    “Around March/April, the rains come and wash the waste down the paths. Faeces flow with the storm water. During that time there are lots of cases of illness such as diarrhoea and malaria. Help does not come quickly; there are bad cases, especially for small children. Even now, my daughter is sick. She is vomiting and has a headache. This is from the environment. There are shallow wells which people drink from; they are not clean and people get sick.”



    Transforming lives with toilets

    But it is here that we have just launched a £1 million, six-year project funded by Comic Relief to transform the lives of 95,000 people by improving sanitation facilities in Nyalenda and another slum in Kisumu.

    This project will work with communities to provide 1,125 improved toilets. 2,500 new water pumps will also be installed through the pipe network.

    I’m really excited to see how the project progresses.

    Three years later following another project in Kenya…

    We have recently completed another sanitation project in Kenya – this time in Nakuru – to improve the quality of life for 190,000 slum residents by providing access to safe, hygenic toilets and hand washing facilities. And we worked with Anthony and other pit emptiers to improve their health, enable them to provide an essential service to their community and raise their status.

    Nakuru Kenya urban slum sanitation toilet

    I wrote a blog about Anthony Ndugu for World Toilet Day three years ago and I felt I needed to include him in this one, not only because the theme for this year’s World Toilet Day is ‘toilets and jobs’ because we caught up with him recently to find out how life has changed for him.

    Anthony would have to empty toilets with his bare hands. He suffered abuse and discrimination as a result of doing his job. People in his community would shun him and woouldn’t go anywhere near him. The pay was so terrible that it wasn’t enough to take care of school fees, household needs, rent and all his other needs.

    As part of the project, his team received a gulper so they no longer have to manually empty the latrines. They were also given protective clothing.

    “They are unique to us. We look professional – like a team. The local government has given us a certificate. We get more business and we are not harassed like we were before. My family are so happy; they are fed and my children can get an education.”

    I’m really proud about the work we do and I was thrilled last year when a Sustainable Development Goal was agreed to achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030 and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations.

    This goal is ambitious. We have a long way to go in achieving even basic sanitation for all, and only 14 years to achieve it. So that’s why we need your help.

    I am counting my blessings that I have a nice toilet to use and if you are too please consider helping people like Karen and Patrick get access to better sanitation, improve their health and restore their dignity. You could give a gift that transforms lives – like a life-saving loo!

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  • Killer in the kitchen at the BBC Good Food Show

    November 18th, 2016

    If I was to tell you that there is a global killer that takes more lives every year than AIDS, Malaria and TB combined, would you know what it was?

    That killer is smoke inhaled from cooking over open fires, taking 4 million lives a year…yet not many people have heard about it.

    Rajan Killer in the Kitchen

    So we’re at the Good Food Show in Birmingham from 24-27 November to raise awareness of this silent killer and inspire people to help STOP the Killer in the Kitchen.

    Virtual reality film launch

    At the show we’re launching our first ever virtual reality film – giving visitors the opportunity to experience, through virtual reality headsets, what it is like for people in Nepal who are forced to cook on open fires in their homes.

    Cooking in these conditions is the equivalent of inhaling secondary smoke from 400 cigarettes an hour! But women need to feed their families and keep warm – and they can’t get cleaner fuels like electricity or gas. It is their only choice…so they are left trapped in a cycle they can’t escape.

    22,000 people die of household smoke related diseases every year in Nepal . That’s over twice as many people who died in the 2015 earthquake. But these deaths are utterly preventable.

    The solution is improved stoves and smokehoods (what we know as chimneys), which carry the harmful smoke out of the home.

    Saraswoti Bal with an improved stove and smokehood in her kitchen. “We are now free from smoke related illness,” she said. “We don’t have to worry any more.”

    When people at the Good Food Show watch our virtual reality film they will see – in astonishing 360⁰ detail – how critical our work in Nepal is, as they join us in training local tradesmen to build and install these stoves and smokehoods.

    A smart solution to a devastating problem

    We are working urgently to get these installed in 36,000 homes across Nepal.

    “I received training from Practical Action and learnt how to make smokehoods,” said Shambhu Adhikari.

    Visitors to the show will get to see one of these smokehoods on our stand (J151 in Hall 20), which has been built for us by Engineers Without Borders.

    They will be able to buy a smokehood for a family in Nepal. It one of a range of Practical Presents that we have available on our stand to buy as Christmas present for someone. Not only will they be giving a special and thoughtful gift but they will be transforming the lives of poor people in Nepal.

    Win a cooking class!

    By buying a Practical Present at the Good Food Show will put people in a draw to win a Nepalese cooking class with Momo Cooking, who has provided a special Nepalese dish called Sel Roti for people to try on our stand.

    Pick up your free virtual reality headset!

    We will also be giving away special virtual reality headsets on our stand so people will be able to experience the groundbreaking world of virtual reality for themselves.

    So come and find us at the Good Food Show in Birmingham and find out how you can help us stop the Killer in the Kitchen. We’re here:

    Good Food Show stand plan



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  • Celebrating sanitation month

    October 28th, 2016

    Clean water is something we take for granted but it is a basic human right that many are often denied.  There are 2.5 billion people in the world that lack access to improved sanitation and 748 million people that don’t have clean drinking water. Nearly 1,400 children die each day from diseases caused by lack of sanitation and unsafe water.

    In 2015, the United Nations introduced their new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty. Goal 6 is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

    It’s Sanitation Month in Bangladesh and we have been celebrating our commitment to reaching the water and sanitation SDG through projects like ‘Delivering Decentralisation’ in Bangladesh, which you can find out more about here.

    Bangladesh slum pic

    The Delivering Decentralisation project supports people living in slums in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka to influence local authorities and service providers in the delivery of improved urban services.

    We established slum community-based organisations, which brought residents together to identify their needs and priorities and build links with and influence local authorities. Through our training on good governance and strengthening of town-wide forums, our local teams changed the mind-set of government officials towards slums. They now integrate community action plans prepared by slum residents into city development plans and allocate budget for them to be delivered.

    The project also helped build roads, toilets, water supply points and introduce waste collection services, including turning faecal waste into compost and biogas.

    But we believe that lasting change is achieved not just by the direct delivery of projects on the ground but also by making knowledge available to the poorest people and in encouraging institutions and governments to adopt approaches that favour the poor.

    In Bangladesh we are working with the Prime Minister’s office to ensure the safe management of faecal sludge is included as a priority in the Government’s action plan for SDG 6. We have also been working with the Bangladesh government to develop a national framework for faecal sludge management, ensuring that human waste from pit latrines is disposed of safely, rather than being dumped in drains and water sources and causing diseases. This will create job security for informal waste workers and improve the health and wellbeing of at least 30 million people living in urban areas.

    As part of our work with the Bangladesh government we were given the responsibility of organising celebrations in three districts (Bagerhat, Faridpur and Satkhira) for Global Handwashing Day under the national sanitation month campaign. The day was celebrated with a rally and discussion session among different NGOs, government officials and civil society.

    Our team in Bangladesh lead a rally on Global Handwashing Day

    Our team in Bangladesh lead a rally on Global Handwashing Day

    Our other teams across the globe celebrated Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to teach people across the globe a thing or two about good hygiene.

    Our Sudan team, for example joined students  and  communities at Twait School in Kassala to teach them  the  importance  of  washing  their hands with soap and water at critical times.

    Mohammed Tahir Adam Samra, a student at Twait school, said: “Now I can prevent my self from abdominal diseases  that cause me to absences from school, so I could get better grades on the exam.”

    We couldn’t help children like Mohammed Tahir without your support. Please help us to work with communities around the world to prevent diseases and save lives and spread the word that more needs to be done to give people access to clean water and sanitation.

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  • Global Handwashing Day: Making handwashing a habit

    October 14th, 2016

    For many of us, washing our hands is a habit acquired from childhood. We unconsciously wash our hands after using the bathroom, eating and preparing meals.

    Teaching children how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

    One of Practical Action’s projects – providing handwashing facilities and teaching children in Peru how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

    But globally the hand washing habit has yet to completely solidify, mainly due to lack of soap and water or lack of awareness and understanding of its effectiveness in washing away illness-inducing germs and bacteria.

    That’s why on October 15, hundreds of thousands of schools, community groups, organizations, and governments will join together to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. It’s a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

    Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old.

    Every day, around 2,000 children die from diarrhoea. Simply washing hands with soap could reduce the number of these deaths by up to 50%, but many people are not aware of the link between hygiene and health.

    This year, Practical Action is using Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to teach people across the globe a thing or two about good hygiene.

    Our team in Nakuru, Kenya, for example, is going to Hyrax Hill primary school to give 2,500 pupils and 500 community members a demonstration on how to wash their hands properly.

    Peter Murigi, Practical Action’s urban water, sanitation and hygiene specialist in Kenya, said: “We want to foster and support a culture of handwashing with soap, shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing around the world and raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap at critical times.

    “This year’s theme for Global Handwashing Day is “Make handwashing a habit”. The event is a good opportunity to draw attention to the need for change, from individuals, families and governments and by asking for better hygiene policies and commitment to promote better hygiene practices.”

    In Bangladesh, we are partnering with other NGOs and the Bangladesh Government’s Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) to celebrate the day both centrally in Dhaka and locally. In Dhaka, we’re taking part in a campaign rally and a meeting organised by the DPHE as a co-organiser. Locally, we are the lead organisation in celebrating the day in three districts: Faridpur, Satkhira and Bagerhat.

    Practical Action delivers significant water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes and we are ambitious to do more. We promote the community-led sanitation approach with partners and local governments, demonstrating best practice and developing innovative technologies for clean water and waste management. And we work with national and city governments to ensure that poor people are included in sanitation planning.

    In Nakuru we have delivered an ambitious project, funded by Comic Relief, to improve the quality of life for slum communities of 190,000 people, by providing access to safe, hygienic toilets and handwashing facilities. You can find out more about that project here and find out what Jack Owino, a headteacher of a school in Kenya, has to say about the impact it has had on staff and children at his school.

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

    In Bangladesh we have been working with UNICEF in 500 communities and 200 schools across Dhaka and Sylhet to improve sanitation and promote a change in hygiene behaviour.

    Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

    Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

    It has changed the lives of 70,000 students. They are healthier, happier, are able to attend school more regularly and their performance at school has improved. Find out more in this blog by Alamgir Chowdhury in our Bangladesh urban services team.

    Projects like this depend on your support. Please help us to work with communities around the world to prevent diseases and save lives and spread the word that more needs to be done to make handwashing a habit.

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  • World Water Week: water and jobs

    September 2nd, 2016

    ‘Water and jobs’ is the theme of World Water Week this week and at Practical Action it’s a focus that we welcome because water is so integral to employment.

    The theme is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers’ lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies.

    Millions of water related jobs ensure that water is made available every day for domestic use, for removing our wastes, as well as for sustaining our production of food, energy and other goods and functions.

    But a lack of skilled water workers, due to a lack of investment in managing jobs in the sector, is holding back progress towards a world where everyone has access to safe water. Millions of people who work in water are often not recognized or even protected by basic labour rights. This needs to change.

    At the same time the daily livelihoods of millions of people depend on well-functioning and well-managed water systems.

    Growing their way out of poverty with water

    Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje irrigate their farm using power from a micro-hydro scheme.

    Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje irrigate their farm using power from a micro-hydro scheme.

    In Zimbabwe, farmers like Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje have struggled to grow enough produce even to sustain their families as their fields are left barren by drought.

    They try to irrigate their land using pumps powered by diesel engines but they are expensive to operate and maintain and when they stop working, families are left in serious poverty and hunger.

    “We were failing to fully utilise our plot because of the faulty and old irrigation system that we had,” said Lindiwe.

    We worked with Oxfam on a project to help families survive future droughts, put food on their tables and sell surplus crops to earn a living by powering irrigation schemes through micro-hydro and solar-powered mini grids.

    As a result, Lindiwe said: “We realised a good income from the sale of the sugar beans and this has enabled us to send our children to school, buy food for the family and clothes for everyone.”

    Improving health and saving time

    For a poor person with no access to safe water at home, buying water can be a huge drain on their meagre salary. Many people have no choice but to compromise their health and earning potential by spending hours each day walking miles to collect water from unsafe sources. They are often sick from this water which impacts on their ability to work.

    Eva Nyamogo at the water kiosk she helped to install in Kitale, Kenya - giving her community clean water every day.

    Eva Nyamogo at the water kiosk she helped to install in Kitale, Kenya – giving her community clean water every day.

    We’ve been working with people like Eva Nyamogo in Kitale, Kenya – training and empowering her to work with her community and council to improve access to safe water and sanitation. Before, they had no access to clean drinking water. She said that people would have to walk four miles, every day; just to collect water from the stream, which was unsafe. People were often unwell and she explained that “they thought it was normal to be sick.” The community now have access to a water kiosk nearby providing clean water every day.

    Dying for a drink in Bangladesh

    In Bangladesh, every day 20 million people are drinking water contaminated with naturally-occurring arsenic. Each year 46,000 of them die.

    Terminal illnesses caused by arsenic poisoning include liver, kidney, bladder and skin cancer, lung disease, nerve damage and cardiovascular disease.

    The vast majority of people who suffer from arsenic poisoning live in poor rural communities and drink from shallow tube wells, built in the 1970s. Many of the wells have not been tested for arsenic and people using them have a choice between paying for bottled drinking water, which is prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of families, or take the risk of drinking from an untested source.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza, who are living amongst the effects of contaminated water.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza, who are living amongst the effects of contaminated water.

    Liza Akhter, 21, from Bagerhat said: “We are surrounded by water, but there is no water for drinking. This area is arsenic affected. If you collect water from the shallow wells then you would get arsenic water.

    “I have heard there are people who have been suffering from diseases caused by arsenic. The thing about arsenic is you get poisoned slowly so you don’t know who has been affected around you already.”

    Practical Action launched its new project after staff witnessed people they work with battling symptoms of arsenic poisoning, but unaware of what was causing their illness, and powerless to do much about it when they were.
    With your help, we are:
    • Providing clean and safe drinking water – simple technologies such as arsenic removal plants and rainwater harvesting can help communities access clean water
    • Educating people on the health implications of drinking contaminated water
    • Testing water points so that communities can see which water is contaminated

    If we are to achieve the Global Goal of water, sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030, or indeed Global Goals on decent work and economic growth, on health for all, we need to recognise that better water for all workers is essential – and now is the time to act.

    With your support we can help more people like Liza access safe, clean water.

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  • World Water Day: a call to action on the extreme drought in Zimbabwe

    March 22nd, 2016

    As the world celebrates World Water Day, the situation in Zimbabwe is still grim even though it has dropped off the news headlines. A serious drought gripping the country has left a third of the population facing food shortages and needing urgent aid.

    female farmer in maize crop field in Zimbabwe impacted by the drought. The maize is dying while the weeds are thriving.

    A farmer in Zimbabwe looks over her field of maize which has been affected by the drought.

    The drought induced by the El Niño weather phenomena is the worst seen in Zimbabwe for three decades. It has had a catastrophic effect – devastating harvests, causing food prices to soar and leaving tens of thousands of cattle dead.

    But there are simple technological solutions that could ensure drought-prone communities have access to water all year round. Such crises can be averted so they aren’t impacted by hunger and have to rely on food aid.

    What is the current situation with the drought in Zimbabwe?

    • This time of year is the peak of the rainfall season in Zimbabwe. However, over 95% of the country has received less than 75% of what they would have normally received.
    • Dam levels are decreasing and boreholes are drying up. Women and children are forced to walk long distances to find water to survive. Each journey putting them at risk of attack as they walk alone, far from home.
    • Zimbabwe is dependent on maize as a staple food but as much as 75% of the crops have failed.
    • The corn that is a food staple for much of southern Africa is now so expensive it has become a luxury many can’t afford
    • Zimbabwe is facing its worst malnutrition rates in 15 years. Nearly 33,000 children are in urgent need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition.
    • 35% of households have inadequate water supply and water scarcity is exposing children to higher risks of diarrhoea, typhoid and other water-borne disease including cholera.

    Practical Action needs your urgent help. In our project areas of Gwanda and Mwenezi the situation is worsening day by day. The crisis also affects livestock, with a staggering 2,000 deaths reported in the districts; forcing poor and vulnerable families to sell their precious cattle at rock bottom prices.  Livelihoods are in tatters.

    How are Practical Action projects being affected?

    I spokMartha Munyoroe to Martha Munyoro, our Communications and Knowledge Management Officer in Harare after she visited our projects in some of the worst affected areas.

    “The situation in Zimbabwe is very bad,” she said. “The delivery of our agriculture projects has been affected as they are in low rainfall regions.”

    • We’re working on a seed multiplication project in Gwanda District but due to the lack of rain most of the demonstration plots are a complete write off. Many farmers did not even plant the crops due to the severe drought.
    • Our work with farmers in Mutasa District to improve their food, nutrition and income has been impacted. We were demonstrating good agricultural practices to improve farmers’ productivity. However, 80% of our maize crops are a in a very poor state and the rest are a write-off.
    • A project delivering water and sanitation facilities and championing health and hygiene behaviour has also been affected as water becomes scarce. The little water available is kept essentially for cooking, drinking and washing utensils. Taps for hand washing at some homes and schools can’t be used due to the unavailability of water, compromising the health of the communities.

    What is Practical Action doing to help?

    • We’ve increased the number of new boreholes we are digging from 20 to 31 to try and increase access to safe water.
    • We’re trying to ration water for irrigating crops and promote climate smart agriculture practices such use in-field soil and water conservation techniques, which is paying off.
    • We’ve also identified great potential for fish farming and are currently working on 22 renovating or constructing fishing ponds.
    • Honey production has also been identified as a potential area and the project is now focusing on identifying interested groups for training and linking to the market.

    The drought serves as reminder that communities vulnerable to changing weather patterns need longer-term help adapting.

    There will be more droughts in Zimbabwe. In the past it was one big drought every 10 years, then it came to one drought every five years, and now the trends are showing that it will be one every three to five years. It’s climate change…it’s going to be the new norm.

    Bringing lasting change to drought-hit communities

    Practical Action is working with communities to bring lasting change – helping provide a permanent source of clean water and helping them earn an income so they can buy food.

    In Himalaya in the Mutare District of Zimbabwe, we have been constructing a micro-hydro scheme and two solar-powered irrigation schemes to provide water to communities, particularly for farming which is a major source of income for rural poor people.

    Farmers Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje have always struggled to get a good harvest from their two hectare plot due to lack of irrigation but thanks to the solar-powered irrigation scheme they are able to grow a variety of crops throughout the year.

    Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje in their tomato field.

    Elizabeth and Lindiwe Mukonje in their tomato field.

    “We have received a good income from the sale of the sugar beans and this has enabled us to send our children to school, buy food for the family and clothes for everyone,” said Lindiwe.

    13-year-old Cornelius Mayengamhuru said the project will help generations to come.

    Cornelius Mayengamhuru is all smiles!

    Cornelius Mayengamhuru is all smiles!

    He said: “I hope my parents will start to grow potatoes now that there is plenty of water being powered by electricity, so that I will be able to eat healthy. I study agriculture at school so when I grow up I want to be a farmer, own a piece of land here and develop my community. This project just came at the right time”.

    We are also delivering solar-powered garden projects in Gwanda District, Zimbabwe.

    54-year-old Janet Moyo, a vegetable and maize farmer in Sibula village, said: “This place is dry and water is a challenge. We have not yet received any rains since October. This project came as a miracle to us. Most farmers are now able to sell their excess crops to other people in their communities as well as other neighbouring communities.”

    Janet Moyo watering her crops

    Janet Moyo watering her crops.

    60-year-old Masotsha Leslie Tshalibe said the solar powered projects have transformed the lives of people there.

    “The projects enable families to increase food security and income generation and have also improved access to clean water as submersible pumps are buried in dry river beds and they tap directly from the water table. The water is clean and safe for households use.”

    So many more drought-prone communities could get access to these simple technological solutions to give them access to water all year round.

    This World Water Day we’re calling for action. We’re calling on donors and Zimbabwe government officials not only to address the imminent crisis but also to scale up technological development for agriculture, energy and water to help mitigate the impact of climate change on the region’s poorest people and help communities become more resilient to future weather events.

    How can I help people impacted by drought in Zimbabwe?

    And we’re calling on you to make a difference this World Water Day by giving an urgent donation today.

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  • European Development Days: Action for an ambitious energy SDG

    Brussels, Belgium, Brussels
    June 4th, 2015

    We’ve got just three months until world leaders agree a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years …goals that will affect the lives of millions of people.

    There are proposed goals to:

    • eradicate extreme poverty
    • eliminate avoidable child death and hunger
    • provide good quality universal secondary education
    • deliver universal access to clean water and sanitation
    • ensure access to affordable energy for all.

    A few months later, UNFCCC negotiators will meet in Paris to finalise a new climate agreement.

    We have a real chance to take serious action against some of the world’s biggest challenges…one of those being access to energy, which underpins efforts to achieve many of the development goals.

    We need an ambitious energy SDG

    In the run up to the deadline, Practical Action is calling for SDG and UNFCCC negotiators to design goals and agreements on energy that support a ‘no person left behind’ agenda and deliver not only on energy for the poor, but energy for the planet. Please join our EU call for action.

    More than one billion people don’t have access to electricity and nearly half the world’s population cook on open fires using solid fuels like wood and charcoal. The toxic smoke from these fires kills more than four million people a year – more than malaria, HIV/Aids and tuberculosis combined.


    Only a robust, clearly defined energy goal can provide the clarity and targets needed to measure progress and hold countries to account for providing not just any access, but meaningful levels of energy that can be used to create jobs, power medical facilities, and provide cleaner alternatives to the dangerously dirty cooking fuels used today by billions.

    If the level of ambition for an energy goal is not increased, universal access to energy will not become a reality, however catastrophic climate change will. The current phrasing inadequately calls for the world to “increase substantially the share of renewable energy.” This does not offer the clarity or sense of urgency needed to spur appropriate action on the greatest environmental challenge humanity has ever faced. Only a goal of tripling the share of renewable energy can deliver on the internationally agreed target of limiting global temperature increases to two degrees.

    Practical Action at European Development Days 2015 (#EDD15)

    That’s why a team from Practical Action are at the European Development Days in Brussels this week. We’re running a session, in partnership with Carbon Clear and UNHCR, highlighting innovative and sustainable energy access solutions that could save lives and our environment. It will specifically examine an innovative project in Darfur, Sudan, which has used carbon credits and microfinance to help 15,000 families replace traditional fires with LPG stoves. The project has not only eliminated deadly smoke from homes and countless hours searching for firewood, but also has reduced deforestation and created jobs.

    The session, ‘Cooking on gas: can fossil fuels save lives and reduce deforestation?’ is at 09:00-10:15 on Thursday 4 June in Room S4.

    We’re also hosting a stand (W3) championing this very topic: showcasing our energy work and advocating the importance of universal access to energy, which is not a standalone issue but underpins efforts to achieve many other development goals.

    “Let’s grasp this historic opportunity”

    “It’s the most important year in international development in a whole generation,” said Melinda Gates at a European Development Days session yesterday. “To make sure of success we need to get citizens around the world engaged in this process. We need to excite people, get them to share information, talk about the goals and stand up and say this is important. Let’s grasp this historic opportunity to make a world where everyone has a chance to live a healthy and productive life.”

    Get involved and influence

    The SDGs have the potential to make a real difference but they are only going to be as good as we make them. That’s why it’s important to get involved and influence this crucial framework for development.

    I’m extremely excited about the conversations that are taking place on this important issue. Join the conversation and follow our activities at @practicalaction and #EDD15.

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  • Grieving families say final goodbyes as Nepal ends mourning period

    Pangtang, Nepal, Pangtang
    May 7th, 2015

    Thousands of people gathered across Nepal in the last day of a 13-day mourning period for the victims of the deadly earthquake. The death toll from the magnitude-7.8 quake has climbed to 8,413.

    woman surveys the damage to her home by the Nepal earthquake

    Hira Devi Gurungstands in front of her house demolished by the earthquake at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

    Sunil Sharma


    This is a guest blog by Sunil Sharma, a photojournalist with Xinhua News Agency in Nepal, who shares the story of a mourning family in Pangtang, a village in Sindhupalchok District in the Bagmati Zone of central Nepal. 




    “Oh God, why did you ruin my family?” said Siddha Bahadur Gurung, who was taking part in mourning rituals of his mother and mother-in-law.

    Man mourning family deaths in Nepal following the earthquake

    Siddha Bahadur Gurung observes mourning rituals for his dead mother and mother-in-law during earthquake at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

    Siddha was totally helpless as his house collapsed. Many villagers in his district were left homeless due to the catastrophic earthquake on 25 April.

    “My mother and mother-in-law died in front of me; I could not do anything,” he said.

    Siddha lived with his wife, two children, sister and mother, while his mother-in-law lived in another house nearby. They were all were together, chatting during lunch time, when the quake hit and turned his house to rubble.

    “My mother fell down near this wall”, he said, showing me the spot on the rubble near a window, “and here my mother-in-law was near the ladder trying to hold my children but she couldn’t.

    man outside his destroyed home in Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal following the earthquake

    Siddha Bahadur Gurung shows his damaged house where his mother and mother-in-law were buried during the earthquake at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

    “I was unconscious until my uncle pulled me out from the rubble after an hour. When I gained consciousness, I started to look for my family. We started to search for them together with my uncle.”

    Siddha’s uncle, Hari was busy in his field when the earthquake struck.

    man recounts his nepal earthquake experience

    Hari Adhikari, Siddha’s uncle (centre) recounts the rescue of his sisters’s family from the damaged house at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

    “Suddenly, I heard a bursting sound and felt the ground shaking,” he said. “Everything was shaking, even the hills. I ran towards my house and saw all the three houses along with Siddha’s lying flat on the ground. I called for help and pulled the family members from the rubble, Unfortunately, I couldn’t save Siddha’s mother and mother-in-law.”

    Siddha’s sister Hiradevi and wife Sangita are both injured. His children were injured too, more so psychologically. He is homeless now and staying in a temporary shelter provided by his neighbours. His animals (goat, chicken and ducks) are all buried under the rubble.

    Siddha’s elder sister Mundrika has also lost her home and is mourning the death of her husband.

    woman mourning loss of her home and husband in Nepal

    Mundrika Gurung, Siddha’s elder sister, who lost her house during the earthquake cries for relief at Pangtang village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

    His injured wife is being treated in a hospital in Kathmandu, but he has to stay with his remaining family, because his father is also too old to look after them.

    family assessing the damage of Nepal earthquake on their home

    Siddha and his sisters are on their damaged house where his mother and mother-in-law were buried during the earthquake at Pangtang Village in Sindhupalchowk, Nepal

    Many other families lost their sons and fathers, mothers and daughters in the remote village of Pangtang of Sindhupalchowk district in this disastrous earthquake, where support from the government has not yet reached with enough relief operations.

    Such is the destiny of a poor village of Nepal.

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  • Nepal earthquake: My experience in the heart of Kathmandu

    May 1st, 2015

    More than 4,000 people have died in the huge earthquake that hit Nepal at the weekend, and nearly 8,000 have been injured. Millions more have had their lives turned upside down.

    Mary Willcox is a Principal Energy Consultant at Practical Action Consulting. She was in Kathmandu when it happened and recounts her experience. Like most Practical Action staff, she is not a qualified, professional aid worker and so returned to the UK this week.

    I had stayed on after going out to Nepal to do a workshop on energy access in order to take a couple of weeks holiday, and was due to fly out on Saturday afternoon. I was in Thamel (the backpacker/shopping part of Kathmandu) at midday when the earthquake struck.

    As if the ground had turned to liquid

    Have you have ever been on a cable bridge – where as someone else treads on it, it shakes? It was as if the whole world was like that – as if the ground had turned to liquid.

    I was pretty scared. I was in a narrow street, I didn’t have a map and I didn’t know exactly where I was. People were crouching in doorways to take cover and as soon as the quake was over we all ran to the nearest open space.

    It was a pretty frightening few minutes, and I immediately decided that I could do without any more pashminas or other gifts to take back with me, and headed straight back, out of Thamel’s narrow streets, to the hotel I’d been staying in on Durbar Marg.

    On the way back to the hotel I saw a few walls and some electricity poles fallen into the road, and a couple of people with minor injuries, but nothing which gave me any idea of the real scale of destruction.

    destruction following Nepal earthquake

    At the hotel, I found the rest of my party and other guests gathered in the parking area in front of the hotel, where we stayed for the next 5-6 hours.

    Very little information

    Through the afternoon there were aftershocks and news trickled in of some of the earthquake’s effects (like the collapse of Bhimsen Tower), but still nothing which really gave a picture of what had happened. We didn’t know where the epicentre was. There was very little information. We heard that the death toll was estimated to be hundreds at the end of the day so at that point in time the scale of the earthquake wasn’t apparent. There was no internet access either. Everyone sent texts to family to let them know they were ok.

    Aftershocks in the night

    By 6pm, clearance came through from the government for people to go back into buildings. That allowed me to retrieve my luggage and passport from my room but the airport had been closed, so I stayed at the hotel overnight. The hotel (a substantial modern building) had suffered some damage but nothing catastrophic, though most of us chose to sleep outside around the pool. I don’t think I’d have got much sleep if I’d stayed in my room.

    There were various aftershocks in the night and I was woken by a particularly big shock at around 5am.

    The airport was chaotic

    The next morning, I took a taxi to the airport which, by 7am, was already chaotic. The roads between the hotel and the airport were open and traffic had continued to flow throughout. Though there were a lot of people wandering around who had obviously slept on the roadside and other open areas, again there was no sign of wholesale destruction.

    After 3 hours queueing I managed to get into the security area and from there into the check-in hall. By about 1pm I was checked onto a plane scheduled to leave for Delhi at 4pm, but then there was another significant aftershock, and though a few more flights left that afternoon, at about 7pm it was announced that my flight had been cancelled. By then aid had started coming in – mainly by the Indian Air Force, but I think there was also some from China.

    Kathmandu airport Nepal earthquake

    I decided to stay in the airport to be at the front of the queue for check in the next morning – but so did lots of other people. By this point the airport was pretty squalid – food and water had pretty much run out and the loos weren’t working (I think the system had been damaged in the earthquake). By 10am I’d checked in, and by 2pm I was on a flight to Delhi, where I managed to get my original flight booking back to the UK transferred to that night’s flight, and I got back to Heathrow on Tuesday morning.

    Living in fear

    All in all, I suffered a few minutes of fear and a couple of days of inconvenience. That’s nothing to what’s facing people in Nepal now who have lost relatives, had homes and businesses destroyed, and are living in fear of another major earthquake. It’s really brought home to me that the superficial visible damage is just the tip of the iceberg relative to the real long-term damage to the infrastructure of people’s lives. Despite this, all the Nepali’s I encountered were calm and courteous and anxious about the well-being of visitors, from the hotel staff who managed to serve all the hotel guests a hot meal on the evening of the earthquake, to the airport staff who were handling many times the usual number of passengers, combined with backlogs from cancelled flights, and conflicts between getting people out and aid in – A skeleton staff working 16 hour shifts was struggling to deal with this and they are the heroes for me in this story.

    Help people rebuild their lives

    I had a tiny glimpse of a horrible event, and have really no better picture of what has happened, and is likely to happen, than anyone else who has been following events on the media. It seems likely that it’s going to get worse before it gets better – and that recovery is going to be a long haul not a quick fix. The first phase is obviously going to be focused on getting immediate help to people in the worst-hit areas, and it’ll be after that that we may be able to help people rebuild their lives. Hopefully, as the picture becomes clearer, our colleagues in Nepal may be able to give us ideas on how we can best help.

    Practical Action has launched an earthquake appeal. Please help our work in Nepal today and donate now.

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