Rabindra Bahadur Singh


Project Manager Agriculture, Markets and Food Security, Practical Action South Asia

Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org

Posts by Rabindra

  • Learning through experience

    March 26th, 2018

    “ All genuine learning comes through experience “John Dewey

    I earned two degrees while working in Practical Action. I often boast it as one of my biggest achievements in Practical Action. My colleagues sometimes quip “when did you work, then? “ – implying how did I balance the work and study. The fact is I never had to study. The learning I gathered in my work was enough to earn me the degrees. I went to universities just for accreditation (balancing the field visit schedules and the exam routines was tough though!!)

    As I am preparing to leave Practical Action after 11 years of service, I wish to keep some of the key learning on record. Let me start with the professional ones,

    Too much focus on delivery kills innovation
    Timely delivery of the project targets including the financial target is important and binding. However, too much focus on delivery limit innovation. Innovation is an iterative process. An idea or technology has to go through several rounds of refinements before it is ready for uptake. If we become too impatient about the delivery from the onset, we may end up promoting the crude ideas and unproven technologies which may not work in long run. Hence, if we expect our projects to be innovative, we should be careful to consider the fact right from the project design and negotiate with donors accordingly.

    We were able to do that in the Strengthening the supply chain  of construction materials project, which I have been managing since last 2 years. As a result, we have been successful to demonstrate various new technologies like CSEB, Stone Cutting machine and innovative idea like Demand aggregation. The project had 4 months of inception period fully dedicated to understanding the context and testing the new technologies /ideas. The inception period was extended by 2 months to allow the ideas to mature further. Actual uptake of the ideas / technologies started only after 9th month. However, it didn’t take long to catch up the financial and physical targets as the ideas were mature and strategy was clear by then.

    Successful demonstration of technology alone doesn’t automatically lead to uptake
    I spent major part of my tenure in Practical Action promoting Gravity Goods Ropeway. I genuinely believe it is a great technology. It holds enormous promise to help 100 of thousands (if not millions) of people living in the isolated hills of Nepal and other mountainous countries in the developing world. However, the technology didn’t tip beyond some isolated success cases and sporadic uptake by few organizations. On retrospection, I feel that our implicit assumption that the successful demonstration of the technology will automatically lead to replication didn’t work. We focused our efforts on demonstrating the technology, which we did really well. However, we missed to demonstrate the incentive that the uptake of the technology will entail to different market actors (government and private sector), except for the poor farmers. The farmers, however, lack resources to uptake the technology on their own.
    The hard learnt lesson, however, came in handy in the Supply chain project, in which we consciously demonstrated both , the technologies and the incentives they entails to different actors. As a result, the market actors (private firms) are scaling up the technologies /ideas in the project districts with light touch support from the project. The firms are spreading the ideas and technologies beyond the project districts on their own.

    Resource poor not the knowledge

    It may sound like a cliché but over the time I have truly started believing that the people we are working for may be poor in resources but are rich in knowledge. They may not present their ideas in the development jargons that we are used to hearing but they always offer the most plausible insight and most practical solution to any problem. Hence, when you feel you are running out of ideas ok  stuck in problems, go to them. If you have patience and right ears to hear them, you will always be rewarded with the most innovative yet Practical ideas.

    Attitude is more important than intelligence
    In last 11years, I got opportunity to work with several people – people with different level of intelligence (IQ) and different attitudes (EI). Just to paraphrase them in the terminology we use in Practical Action for performance evaluation – people with different level of technical competency and behavioral competency. Though, I eventually, learnt to enjoy working with all of them, my experience boils down to the following 2 conclusions,
    • People with right attitude are more important than with higher intelligence for success of any project. Hence, if you have opportunity to choose between the people with right attitude and higher intelligence, go for former.
    • When people are given which is often the case, work through their attitude rather than trying to change them. Attitudes are difficult to change if they can be changed at all.
    I feel vindicated after reading this article. It argues the importance of attitude over intelligence for personal success. But, same hold true of success of any project.

    2 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Progress in Pictures

    July 13th, 2017

    Prepared by Rabindra Singh and Yugdeep Thapa

    Practical Action has been implementing the project “Strengthening the Supply Chain of Construction Materials” in Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts  of Nepal since June 2016. The UKAID funded project aims to help the earthquake affected households acquire quality construction materials at competitive price while rebuilding their houses. The following pictures portray the project activities

    On the cutting edge: The stone cutting machine, a simple technology, introduced in Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts after the earthquake can cut upto 90   corner/through stones in a day, an exceptionally high number compared to 5- 6 stones produced manually. This reduces the cost of the corner/through stones by more than half and significantly saves labour cost for building stone houses. A household can save up to Rs 25,000 ($250) while building a 2 rooms stone masonry house using the machine made corner/through stones.

    Stone cutting work underway at Bhorle, Rasuwa/Thapa Y

    Stone cutting machine/Thapa Y

    Crushing rocks, building dreams: Sanu Tamang has been living in a temporary shelter in Dhunche since the 2015 earthquake, which reduced her house and nearly all of her village in Hakku-3  Rasuwa into rubbles. Ever since, she is making her living by crushing aggregates and nursing her dream to return to her village one day. The project is helping her and internally displaced people like her by organising them into groups, providing tools and safety gears and linking them to potential customers. Their income has increased  by 2 folds after the project support .

    Sanu Tamang at work/ Singh R

    Breaking boundaries:  With the current trend of the male population, especially in rural villages, migrating abroad for better employment opportunities, the female workforce has stepped up in the reconstruction process. They are engaged in construction materials production as entrepreneur and workers,  and as skilled mason in house construction.The women are earning Rs 700 ( $70) per day working in the enterprises and Rs 1200 ( $120) working as the skilled mason.

    The all-women workforce busy producing earth blocks in a project supported Compressed Stabilized Earth Block ( CSEB) enterprise in Uttargaya rural municipality/Thapa Y

    A Female mason building project supported model house at Rasuwa /Shrestha S

    Hitting the airwaves: Radio Langtang, partner radio station of the project, is yet another example of women breaking barriers. The station is operated by an all-female staff and is a bold statement in the traditional hilly areas of Rasuwa. The Radio broadcasts the project supported programme Suraktshit Baas for raising awareness on construction materials.

    Production team at Radio Langtang/Thapa Y

    Fate failed her but technology  helping her rise : Nigma Waglung, 48, migrated to Karmi dada Rawuwa, after a devastating landslide razed her house at Ramche to ground in 2057. She worked really hard to build a new house at Karmi Dada, only to lose it  to the earthquake in 2074. Nigma, single mother of two children, has been living in a temporary shelter, with no means ( and real zeal ) to build yet another house. However, a new Cement Stabilized Earth Block (CSEB)  factory supported by project in her village, has rekindled her hopes. CSEB are cheaper than fired bricks and requires less mortar and labor to build wall with. She has also been chosen for building project supported model house, which will save her labor cost.

    Nigma Waglung in front of her under construction house /Singh R

    Reining in the price : Maha- laxmi Cooperative, a women’s cooperative in Bhorle, Rasuwa, is responsible for demand aggregation of the surrounding communities. The cooperative in coordination with a national level supplier is able to provide construction materials to earthquake affected people up to 10% in discount rates than the market. This is possible through the project developed demand aggregation model, where collective demand and direct linkage with national level suppliers eliminates several middlemen whereby making construction materials prices significantly lower than the market prices.

    Mrs Chandra Kumari Paneru, the Chairperson of Maha Laxmi Co-operative sharing the benefits of demand aggregation/Singh R

    Weighing a sack of cement in Bhorle resource centre/ Singh R

    Quality assurance :  The influx of substandard construction materials is one of the major challenges for building resilient houses. To put a check on it , the project has been providing  local cooperatives engaged in demand aggregation  basic skills and simple equipment to check the quality of construction materials.

    Resource person at Bhorle checking the diameter of iron rebar with vernier caliper/Singh R

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Earthquake victims coming together to rein in the ever increasing price of construction materials

    June 29th, 2017

    A simple act of collective procurement is improving the access of the earthquake victims to quality construction materials and reducing the price by more than 10 percent.

    Two years after the devastating earthquake, majority of the victims are still under the temporary shelters in Nepal. Their journey to permanent housing is uncertain due to ever increasing price of construction materials. Each time price hikes, their hope for bringing back roof over their head fades further.

    Government has no apparent mechanism in place to reduce and regulate the price.

    Communities taking matters in their own hands

    Earthquake victims in Bhorle Village of Rasuwa have, however, found their own way to rein in the price of construction materials. They are landing materials at their village at 10 percent lower price since last two months.

    The resource centre at Bhorle, Rasuwa

    Neither earthen road leading to their village has improved nor have construction materials factories set up in vicinity. They have simply changed the way they procure materials. They have moved from individual procurement to collective procurement practice.

    Maha- laxmi Cooperative, an exclusive women cooperative in the village, is spearheading the venture. The cooperative collects demand for materials from the households on weekly or fortnightly basis and forward the aggregated demand to a central supplier. The cooperative have formal agreement with the supplier for supply of materials. The supplier delivers the materials to resource centre in the village, from where the households collect their materials.

    Cooperative has set up the resource centre to facilitate demand aggregation and provide market information to the households. It is equipped with simple equipment to test the quality of construction materials. A dedicated resource person oversees the day to day operation of the resource centre.

    The difference they are making

    In last 2 months, 42 households in Bhorle procured materials through the new arrangement. Each household saved from $192 to $385.The saving is significant for the poor households who are solely dependent on government housing grant ($2,300) for building their house. If we consider the opportunity cost, the saving is even more significant.

    Mrs Chandra Kumari Paneru, the Chairperson of Maha Laxmi Co-operative

    Earlier people used to buy materials from retailers in Trishuli Bazzar individually. As the individual demand would be small, there was no prospect of getting any discount on price. Beside, every trip to Trishulli would cost them a day and $5 to $10 extra (for food and travel) “said  Mrs Chandra Kumari  Paneru, Chairperson of Maha Laxmi Cooperative.

    People are also spared from the hassle of finding right vendors and bargaining with them after the new arrangement is in place.

    Likewise, People don’t have to worry about the quality of the construction materials. The supplier furbishes the lab certificates and issue VAT bill in each delivery. Besides, the resource person, who is trained on simple techniques of testing the materials, checks the quality before dispatching to households. If the materials doesn’t meet quality standard, the supplier revoke and replace the materials.

    Resource person checking the weight of cement bag

    Where does the saving come from?

    High transaction cost is one of the major contributors to high price of construction materials in Nepal. A sack of Portland Pozzolana Cement (PPC) cost $4.85 at Factory at Bhirahawa. When it reaches to Bhorle , 400km north-west, it cost $6.70. It exchange hands at least four times before it reach to the earthquake victims. Hence, the transaction cost is whopping 40 percent.

    The collective procurement from the central supplier reduces the transaction cost significantly.

    When they procure materials from us they skip 3 layers of the normal market chain and save the margin each layer hold. Besides, saving comes from our effective logistic management, part of which we pass on to the earthquake victims “says Umesh Simkhada, the chairperson of Aakhu Enterpries, the central supplier

    Ankhu combines the demand from the cooperative with demand it receives from 15 other cooperatives  in Nuwakot and Rasuwa before placing order to factories.

    “The demand from individual cooperative is still very small. However, when we combine the demand of 16 cooperatives, it become significant and we get better deal from factories “ says Mr. Simkhada

    Project support

    Practical Action, through its UKAid, funded, Supply Chain Strengthening Project, is helping the cooperatives in Nuwakot and Rasuwa to aggregate the demand and procure collectively. Besides, convincing the cooperatives and the households about the benefit of demand aggregation, it helps cooperatives to establish linkage with suppliers. Project also helps to set up resource centres and manage them.

    Simple yet effective way to reduce the price

    Ever increasing price of construction materials, if not checked, is likely to upset the pace of reconstruction which is already lacklustre. For reducing the price of construction materials, either production cost or transaction cost has to be reduced. Given the persistent power crisis and high dependency on imported raw materials, it is very difficult to reduce the cost of production. However, the transaction cost, which is very significant, can be reduced by proper logistic management. The earthquake victims in Nuwakot and Rasuwa have demonstrated that collective procurement is one of the simple yet effective ways to reduce the transaction cost.

    Trishakti Rana, Senior Supply Chain  Officer, in Strengthening Supply Chain of Construction Materials , also contributed in this blog.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Technologies to put a roof over the heads of earthquake victims

    March 23rd, 2017

    Simple technologies can bring down the cost of house construction and enable the poor earthquake victims build their houses within their means.

    Chhabilal Acharya’s house reduced to a pile of rubbles in less than a minute when the powerful earthquake stuck his village in Laharepauwa Rasuwa on 25th April 2015. His poultry farm, his major source of income, wasn’t spared either. Acharya (62) and his daughter narrowly escaped from the collapsing house.

    Chhabilal explaining how he escaped from the collapsing house

    Chhabilal explaining how he escaped from the collapsing house

    He had built the house in 1995.

    “I gave up even the smallest indulgences in life to save money for the house,“ he said.

    It took him five years to save money for the house as his job at Lagtang National Park would pay very nominal.

    He has been living in a temporary shelter since the earthquake. With his poultry farm gone, his family is scarping by on his meagre pension of $101 a month.

    Government of Nepal has decided to provide $2778 grant to affected households for building house in three instalments. The house should be compliant to the government approved designs to secure the grant. Chhabilal has received the first tranche ($ 500) of the grant. However, he is yet to start building the house.

    “The money is not enough even to prepare ground for foundation and I have no other means to supplement the grant“ he mentioned.

    Chhabilal inside his temporary shelter

    Chhabilal inside his temporary shelter

    Building simple 3-room brick masonry house costs more than $5000 in his village. Stone masonry buildings are equally expensive as the stones are not available locally.

    Chhabilal is planning to take loan from a local money lender by mortgaging all his land at half the value to top on the grant.

    Banks don’t accept farm land in the village as collateral. Hence, for people like Chhabilal who don’t have any other fixed assets, the local money lenders are the only resort for the loan. The money lenders rip them off with the exorbitant interest rate.

    “If my son does well in life, he will be able to pay the loan and release the land,“ Chhabilal said with misty eyes. He knows he may never get the land back as his son is just 16 years old now.

    Two hundred and forty two households in Laharepuawa lost their houses in the devastating earthquake. Only 11 households who are well to do or have family members abroad have built their houses so far. Rest are facing the impossible choice, roof over the head or the land that feed them, like Chhabilal.

    However, simple technologies can save them from this predicament and help them rebuild their house within their means.

    Cement Stabilised Earth Block (CSEB) is one of such simple technologies. It is a very good alternative to bricks. It can be prepared from a simple mixture of local soil, sand and cement (10%). It costs almost three times less than the brick. Besides, it requires less labour and cement mortar to build a house with CSEB. And, it provides better earthquake resistance as the blocks are interlocking. A CSEB compacting machine costs around $ 7000 including installation and all the accessories. The machine can produce up to 450 blocks per day. The pictures below shows the CSEB production at Kalikasthan, Rasuwa. The enterprise was set up with the support of Practical Action.IMG_1508


    Another technology which can save cost is a simple stone cutting machine. It can reduce cost of through stones and corner stones, which are mandatory inthe government, approved stone masonry buildings, by 2 to 3 times. A labour can prepare maximum 6 corner/through stones in a day manually whereas as the machine can produce up to 200 pieces of corner stones.

    A simple one story house requires more than 150 corners/through stones, which approximately costs $300, if prepared manually. However, with the machine, the cost can be reduced to $100. The stone cutting machine costs only about $1200.

    Stone cutting Machine set up with the help of Practical Action at Bhorle Rasuwa

    Stone cutting machine set up with the help of Practical Action at Bhorle, Rasuwa

    Practical Action has been promoting the technologies in Nuwakot and Rasuwa districts through a DFID funded project in a small scale.

    It is an irony that better-off households are better poised to receive the government housing grant as they can fully comply with the government standards. Poor households, who are solely dependent on the grant, are at the risk of losing it as the grant is not enough to build government design compliant house. The technologies can avert the risk by reducing the cost of building house.

    Likewise, the technologies can  provide alternative livelihood opportunities to the people in the earthquake affected districts as they can be promoted as the local enterprises. Hence, larger diffusion of such technologies is across the earthquake affected  districts is important not only for accelerating reconstruction but also improving livelihood.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Impact of low cost irrigation technologies on livelihoods and women’s empowerment

    March 28th, 2016

    ICIMOD held an international workshop on water, livelihood and gender nexus recently in Kathmandu. We were also invited to share our experience.  The following is the full script of the presentation I made on the impact of low cost irrigation technologies (micro irrigation technologies) on livelihood and women empowerment.


    The impact of irrigation on livelihoods is obvious. However, the impact of conventional irrigation schemes on the livelihoods of poor and marginalised households is not that obvious.  Marginalised households often live at the edges of the settlements, mostly in small numbers, making it difficult for the conventional schemes to reach them.

    Google map

    This Google map shows a typical village in western Nepal. The main settlement constitutes about 60 houses. Five houses are below the main settlement, at about 20 minutes’ walking distance. These houses belong to the poor, most likely to Dalits. Conventional irrigation would target the main settlement as there is often  pressure to reach the larger population as better value for money.

    Extending the reach of the irrigation scheme to marginalized households is costly. The per unit cost would be very high and economically unjustifiable. Even if economic viability is discounted and the budget is not a constraint, the water is less likely to reach them, because there is not enough water, even for the main settlement.  Hence, some households will be left out.

    There are thousands of similar villages across the country. You won’t find any village, even in the remotest part of the country, where there is no irrigation scheme of some sort; however, you will find such left out households in almost every village. Hence, large numbers of marginalised households are deprived of irrigation facilities. We promote the low cost irrigation technologies to cater the irrigation needs of such marginalised households.

    The following are some of the  low cost irrigation technologies we have been promoting:

    So, how do the micro irrigation technologies improve the access of poor and marginalised households to irrigation?

    1. Low cost irrigation technologies fill the void left out by conventional schemes.
    2. They increase water efficiency. Our mountains and hills are dry.  Limited resources we have are also shrinking gradually.  Hence, it is very important that we use our water resources wisely and efficiently. These low cost technologies help achieve this.
    3. Studies and our own experience have shown that low cost technologies are more sustainable. They have small and homogenous users. Hence, all the users have equal say in decision making and the distribution of water is more or less equitable. This ensures more ownership towards the technologies which help to improve their sustainability.
    4. Low cost technologies are affordable and simple to operate and maintain. This improves access of marginalized households to the technology.
    5. Low cost irrigation technologies also help in women empowerment.


    This is Tula Devi Saud from Bajura. She literally had to beg to her husband to let her to grow vegetables on some of their land. In the rural areas, women rarely own land. Hence, they have little say in deciding how to use the land.  After much pleading, however, her husband agreed to let her cultivate vegetable in 0.5 Ropani (1 Ropani = 508.72 sq. m) of their land. But, there was no irrigation facility in their village.
    She had to fetch water from a well about 20 minutes walking distance from the village. It would cost her 2-3 hours daily. Hence, she would produce only about 50-60 Kg of vegetable in a season which would earn her merely about five thousand rupees in a year. Thus, she was solely dependent on her husband for all kind of expenses.

    Two year ago, they constructed an irrigation pond in the village. She actively participated in the construction. Now, she grows vegetables on 2.5 ropani of land. It takes her only about an hour to irrigate her plots. Now she sells 1200 kgs of vegetables a year. Last year, she made Rs 45000 from selling vegetable. Now, she supports her husband financially.  In fact, she gets her husband to porter the vegetable to the market whenever he needs pocket money.  This story pretty much explains the significance of micro-irrigation to women’s empowerment.

    We can summarize as follows:

    • While the conventional irrigation schemes are more concerned with cereal crops, the low cost technologies are often used for cash crops, mainly vegetable farming. Often, vegetable farming is the only prospect for rural women, who are mostly illiterate, to earn money. So, the low cost irrigation technologies help.
    • Rural households have multiple water needs. And women are responsible for meeting the needs. Statistics tells us that 80% of the water needed in rural Nepal are met by women. The micro-irrigation technologies help to meet the multiple water needs. For example,  water in the jar or the irrigation pond can be used for irrigation, for cattle and maintaining household sanitation.
    • The low cost irrigation technologies bring the water closer to the house, which reduce their drudgery and save time and energy. It also allows them to attend other household chores alongside irrigating their plot.
    • Finally, the technologies are affordable and simple to operate. Hence, women can own and operate them on their own.

    The 21st century is defined by technological revolution. However, its benefit is lopsided. The rich have greater access to technologies. The technological innovations are inclined to meet the desires of the rich than the needs of poor. However, it is invariably the poor who bear brunt of the negative consequences of indiscriminate use of technologies. In Practical Action we call this technology injustice, and seek to reduce it by promoting the low cost appropriate technologies. Micro-irrigation technologies are among the technologies which hold much promise for improving the livelihoods of the poor and supporting women’s empowerment.

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Dignity through diligence

    August 4th, 2015

    In Nepal, it is unlikely that Dalits, placed at the lowest rung in the caste system, are considered role models for anything. It is even more unlikely in the far western region of the country where discrimination against Dalits is still rampant. However, this is exactly what has happened in Jhalgaon village of Kailashmandu Village Development Committee (VDC ) of Bajura district .

    Jhalgaon is on the wrong side of Safe-Martadi feeder road, across the Bhudhiganga River. More than 100 households ( HHs) of Dalits are huddled together at the lower end of the village, at a clear distance from the main settlement. Chhetri’s are the majority in the village.

    Remittances from India and traditional occupations are the main sources of livelihood for the Dalit households. They also take on other menial works available in the village and local market to complement their income. They also do some farming. But agriculture has never been a serious business for them as they own little or no land. However, things have started to change from last year.

    Women at Jhagaon at work

    Last year, as part of a UK Aid funded Rural Access Programme (RAP)- 3, which Practical Action has been implementing in the district, organised the Dalits into producer groups. It provided them technical training on vegetable cultivation and supported them with improved seeds and irrigation equipment.

    Many saw it as a futile attempt and the “upper caste” neighbours passed sarcastic comments both to the project and the Dalit communities.

    “We didn’t protest then. But, we took the comments to our heart and resolved to prove them wrong,” said Man Singh Sharki, 46, an active member of the Jhalgaon vegetable group, in Jhalgaon.

    “We grew various vegetables in our land. Some of us also leased land for it. The knowledge, skills and regular feedback we received from the project technicians were of great help,’’ he added.

    As there were not many success cases of Dalits doing well in vegetable farming in the district, the project was sceptical about this maiden venture of the Dalit community.

    “We were also not very optimistic. But, in two months, they surprised everybody with well-kept plots of vegetables. They religiously followed our advice and worked hard. Consequently they had a very good harvest last year, much better than their upper caste neighbours,’’ said Lalit Adhikari, junior technician of the project.

    They took their first harvest for selling to the main village instead of the local market. They took only the superior vegetables after grading and put price tags on them.

    “We were not expecting them to buy our vegetables as they wouldn’t even touch us. But, we had to show them our vegetables. It was our answer to their sarcasm” said Harka Bahadur B.K, Chairperson of Jhalgaon Vegetable group.Vegetables from Jhalgaon  displayed at the local market

    “To our surprise, they not only bought our produce but also appreciated our effort,’’

    Now, the ‘upper caste’ neighbours are full of praise for them.

    “Even we were not doing well in vegetable farming so we had serious doubt about them. But they proved us wrong. Their success has inspired us to embrace vegetable farming more seriously,” said Chandra Bahadur Thapa, the head master in the primary school in the village.

    Equally impressed are the traders at the local market. Jhalgaon’s vegetables have already gained the reputation of the best vegetables in the neighbourhood . And, the Dalit households are very conscious of the need to uphold their reputation.

    “They only bring the best produce to us to leave no room for complaint” said, Bhakta Bahadur Saud, a vegetable collector at Bamka Bazzar.

    “I think they even polish their vegetables before bringing here,” he quipped.

    Last year, the majority of the households in the village earned more than Rs 10,000 (£63) from selling vegetables. Lead farmers like Goma Sarki earned as much as Rs 60,000. (£377)

    Goma Sarki a lead farmer of Jahalgaon

    Goma Sarki a lead farmer of Jahalgaon

    It is a great achievement considering that the Dalits were never before engaged in vegetable farming, even for their own consumption. However, what is really significant is the social impact it has on the dignity and the social recognition of the Dalits households.

    Through vegetable farming, the Dailt households, previously looked down upon by their upper caste neighbours, have been able to assert their presence in the community.

    Perhaps other ethnic and marginalised groups in Nepal which have stepped up demonstrations for more rights as the country gears up to write a new constitution, could take cue from them. They offer an excellent example, in their own small way, of more constructive ways of protest and manifestation.


    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Gravity Goods Ropeway in Nepal

    Nepal, Parche
    May 2nd, 2013

    Gravity Goods Ropeway (GGR) is one of the flagship technologies of the Practical Action Nepal office. It fits well to the rugged topography and agrarian economy of Nepal. It taps on the undulation of ground to over the inaccessibility posed by it. It helps farmers to get their products to market in less time, cost and drudgery. It was introduced in Nepal in 2000 for the first time. Now, the technology is heading towards achieving the impact at scale. Following the Access for Opportunities project, 2007 to 2012, which installed 15 GGRs in 4 districts of Nepal, Practical Action is making concerted effort for the wider replication of the technology by influencing and capacity building of other organizations.

    Deputy Director General of DoLIDAR at the Closing ceremony of the GGR training

    Deputy Director General of DoLIDAR at the Closing ceremony of the GGR training

    Department of Local Infrastructure Development and Agriculture Road (DoLIDAR), the technical department of Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development, Government of Nepal, which oversees all the infrastructure development works at the local level, has started to replicate the technology in Nepal. Last year, it carried out feasibility study of GGR on 21 sites in 9 districts. Practical Action provided technical training to its engineers, consultants and verified the feasibility reports. It has also started installation of GGR at 2 sites.  The department has expressed its commitment to include the GGR in its regular programs. Practical Action and the department have agreed to work together to explore the leverage fund for the replication of the technology in Nepal.

    Likewise, Practical Action has started to replicate the technology outside Nepal through Practical Action Consulting. They have been providing technical assistance to Tarayana Foundation Bhutan to install a GGR in Bhutan. The Agriculture Machinery Centre (AMC) Bhutan is also interested to uptake the technology.

    Pulchowk engineering students

    Pulchowk engineering students

    To support and sustain the wider replication of the technology, human resource development is really important. Realizing the fact, Practical Action has been closely working with Pulchowk Engineering Campus, the largest and most reputed Engineering College in Nepal. The college have included the GGR technology in their curriculum and started to run elective class on it for its Bachelor of Civil Engineering final year students. Practical Action supported the college to develop curriculum and has been providing resource person to facilitate the class. A MOU has been signed between Practical Action and Pulchowk Campus for the collaboration. Under the MOU Practical Action will support Pulchowk to run the elective class until 2016. Afterward, Pulchowk Campus will run the class on its own.  This year, Pulchowk Campus is producing 30 Civil Engineers well conversant in GGR.

    There are early indications that the GGR is well on the way to achieve impact at scale. However, there is still a long way to go. There is also risk of losing the momentum if we fail to continue proactive efforts from our side.

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • A journey to prosperity

    Gorkha, Nepal,
    December 4th, 2012

    The Chepang are a semi nomadic tribe in Nepal, numbering around 52,000 scattered across the country. These communities often live in very poor conditions and the Chepang in Hiklung village, Gorkha district are no exception.

    Although the village is only 500m from one of the major highways of the country, it is a million miles from mainstream society. No road connects the village at top of the hill to the highway along the opposite bank of the Trishuli river and no bridge crosses the river. People from the village used to walk for several hours to reach the highway.

    Access for Opportunities, an EU funded project, supported the community to install a gravity ropeway in 2009 and an improved tuin in 2011 to transport goods and to cross the river respectively.  At the same time, Practical Action undertook complementary activities to improve living conditions in the village. These included product diversification, training for farmers and micro irrigation. The village began to thrive as never before. A few weeks ago I visited the village and my chest swelled with pride to witness the change.

    “We used to grow very little food, not even enough for 2-3 months. The rest of the year we lived on forest roots and tubers. Some of us used to work in Fishling Bazaar as porters to support our families and some worked overseas in India and Arab countries” Says Rantna Chepang, the Chairperson of the Jalapa Devi Agriculture Cooperative, formed with the help of the project.  

     “From this project we received improved seeds, micro irrigation technologies and new farming skills. Most importantly, we got the ropeway for transporting our goods to market. Now, we are producing surplus crops and each household earns NPR 120,000 ($ 1380) per annum from selling vegetables “

    This income is nearly double Nepal’s average per capita income of $742, which is heavily reliant on remittances from abroad. This has triggered marked improvements in the living condition of the 56 Chepang households in the village.

    Prem Chepang, 42, has suffered from tuberculosis for more than a decade. Previously his earnings were too small to afford medication for this curable disease. Now, like many villagers he is making a good income from selling vegetables and has saved enough money to seek treatment from doctors in Kathmandu. He is hopeful that one day he will be free from the disease.

    Every monsoon, Basu Chepang, 36, struggled to keep his house dry.  Its straw roofing wouldn’t prevent the rain entering his house. Now, along with many others in the village, he has corrugated iron roofing – the most obvious sign of the prosperity in rural Nepal.

    For, Devi Chepang, a teacher in a primary school in the village, the change unfolded in the form of improvement in children education and hygiene.  Before the project, attendance was low and the children’s hygiene was poor.

    “Now parents have more time and money to invest in their children’s education and hygiene. The school introduced school uniform this year which would have been impossible before as the parents couldn’t afford it.” Devi told me.

    Panmanya Chepang, 32, has never been happier. Her husband has returned home from Saudi Arabia where he had been working for 6 years. “Now, we are making more money from vegetable farming than he was able to send home from Saudi. I am determined not to send him back to Saudi and we are working hard for it “says Panmaya.

    Panmaya is also the treasurer of Jalapa Devi Agriculture Cooperative.  The cooperative’s Capital has risen to $5232 in less than a year. The farmers are saving regularly $2.3 every month in the cooperative and it is providing credit to local farmers who need it.

    This model village now showcases what a marginalized community can achieve if they have access to right skills and technologies. Chepang communities from elsewhere in the country visit to the village to draw inspiration.

    The community deserves all the praise for taking responsibility for changing their lives and working hard for it. Practical Action is proud to provide a helping hand to their journey to prosperity.

    2 Comments » | Add your comment