Stacey McNeill


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Posts by Stacey

  • 5 Simple solutions that llama farmers love

    August 5th, 2016

    Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to visit a number of Practical Action’s projects across Latin America. Not only was I overwhelmed by the colours, culture and pure grit of people living in some really challenging environments, but by the generosity and open friendship they showed when welcoming us into their homes.

    Martin Queso's prize winning llama

    Martin Queso’s prize winning llama

    At an altitude of almost 4000m, high in the mountains of western Bolivia is the Jesús de Machaca municipality. With a population of roughly 400 people, a tough four hour car ride from any major town along rough dirt roads, this is a remote and arguably hostile landscape to live in. There are few ways to make a living up here, and apart from growing limited crops such as quinoa, the environment means agriculture is largely restricted to farming camelids.

    Llamas and alpacas are hardy animals, which when cared for properly; provide a vital income for farmers. However; challenges of weather, uncontrolled breeding, inadequate knowledge of rearing livestock, along with often unfair access to markets means that farmers in the upland areas of Peru and Bolivia are struggling to earn a living to support their families.

    But, with the help of our kind supporters, Practical Action is changing this. Below you can read about five simple, sustainable solutions that are helping to transform the livelihoods of camelid farmers in Latin America.


    Queso family standing in front of their Practical Action llama shelter.

    1. Covered shelters:

    The relentless push of climate change is causing the weather to be unpredictable in high altitude areas, and farmers in Bolivia are often caught out by sudden bites of frost, or prolonged rainfall. Martin Queso and his family showed us the open fronted shelter that Practical Action have helped him to build, he told us:

    “Before, my animals would just range freely. When the weather suddenly changed, with cold winds, ice or rain, they would get sick, often they would die, and I would have no way of making any income. I couldn’t afford to replace a lost llama, and my flock got smaller and smaller.”

    With the shelter, now the family can easily bring the herd inside for protection from the elements when needed.

    2. Rainwater storage, irrigation and water pumps and troughs:


    Photovoltaic water pump and trough for livestock

    With erratic and unreliable rainfall, mountainous areas in Peru and Bolivia often go for periods of time where water is scarce. With the implementation of rainwater harvesting systems like this one is Nunõa, Peru, water can be collected and stored. Irrigation pipes are connected to the reservoirs, ensuring the surrounding ground remains green for grazing.  In Jesús de Machaca, the installation of photovoltaic water pumps and troughs means that livestock have access to fresh water all year round.

    “We didn’t believe it would work at first” Dalia Condori, a member of the local council told us, “but now it has brought water and a better life for so many”

    3. Breeding pens:

    We’ve seen them patch-worked into the countryside of the United Kingdom for centuries:


    Rainwater harvesting and irrigation system and stone-wall breeding pens

    Dry-stone wall enclosures that hem-in herds, divide open grassland and mark boundary lines; but this simple method of livestock separation has only been introduced fairly recently to communities in the Nunõa district, near Sicuani in southern Peru. Enabling farmers to isolate certain alpacas from the rest of the herd allows for selective and planned breeding of the healthiest animals, in turn producing the highest quality wool fleece, returning a better price at market. It also means that young alpacas can be nurtured and protected for longer periods of time before being released to roam freely with the herd, thus boosting their fitness and increasing their chances of survival.

    4. Market access and product diversification:

    In the remote villages of upland Bolivia, getting a fair price for llama wool is tough – individual farmers can only sell for whatever the going price in the local area is, even though this may be much lower than what the fleece is actually worth. Practical Action is working with farming communities to create co-operative groups that can work together to access bigger markets for their products, and demand a higher, fairer price.  Llama farmers like Andrés are also encouraged to diversify their products in order to make a better income. Andrés, who has won multiple awards for his spinning and wool-product work, also makes and paints traditional Bolivian clay figures to sell at the tourist markets.


    Llama farmer and artisan Andres showing his tools for sculpting traditional clay figures

    Llama farmer and artisan Andres showing his tools for sculpting traditional clay figures

    5. Training and knowledge:

    Practical Action helps to provide training on basic animal husbandry and wellbeing. Farmers in Jesús de Machaca learn about the right type and quantities of nutritious food, how to administer medication for their llamas when they are sick, and how to maintain the grazing pasture land. The knowledge is then shared between farming communities by Practical Action ‘Promotors’ who help to teach others how to breed and care for their livestock effectively.

    It is vitally important to the families in these areas that the great work that Practical Action is able to do continues. Llamas and alpacas are strong and intelligent and are crucial for the farming communities in Latin America. Access to the tools and knowledge for breeding and looking after their animals provide families with a secure source of income. With just £47 you can help to support a llama farmer in Bolivia by buying a ‘llama lifeline’ Practical Present today.

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  • Five unique fundraising ideas

    March 9th, 2016

    Breaking news guys…fundraising can be tough. We get it. Your potential donors are bombarded with demands for their hard earned cash from breakfast to bedtime, so making your fundraising request cut through the noise can seem impossible. We’ve put our heads together and come up with some donation-driving schemes which are a little bit different, to keep your potential donors interested and stop you from losing your mind.

    If you’re burnt out by bake sales and run down by races, why not try one of our unique fundraising ideas?

    • Used book sale.

    used book saleBasically, it’s easier to make people give money if they’re getting something in return, so try dipping your toe into the world of second hand book-selling. Have an epic clear out of all your old books, and encourage your colleagues, friends and classmates to the same. There are few things more liberating than finally getting rid of that book on French philosophy you bought to impress the cute guy on your commute (just us?).

    Once you’ve gathered your spoils, set up a stall in your workplace, or outside your house, and be prepared to haggle. You could even leave out some Practical Action literature alongside the books, so everyone knows that the proceeds are going to a great cause.

    • Karaoke evening.

    Karaoke evenings are the cheesy chips of social occasions – you either love them, hate them, or you won’t go near them until you’ve had a few drinks. Whichever camp you fall into, getting your friends together for a night of caterwauling and showing-off is a great way to raise money.

    If you’re based in London, we’d recommend booking your event with Karaoke Network, a comprehensive compendium of karaoke venues, including bars, clubs and restaurants. The song list has everything from Gangnam Style to Gangsta’s Paradise (though we’d probably choose to belt out some Britney).

    Prices on Karaoke Network start from £4 per person, so charge slightly more than that for tickets and your event has the potential to raise a lot of money. It’s worth a try, as how often do you get to embarrass yourself on a night out and feel good about it the next day?

    • Language fines.

    If you work in any kind of office environment, you’ve probably been subjected to corporate slang at one time or another, whether it’s someone wanting to “touch base” or someone else suggesting you “blue sky this”. In order to end this sickening behaviour forever, and raise some money for charity in the process, introduce fines for particularly egregious jargon use. Hey, it’s worth running this idea up the flagpole and grabbing some low hanging fruit (sorry).

    • Put on a festival.

    put on a festival

    Fancy yourself a bit of an Emily Eavis? Hosting your own music festival involves a heavy dose of mud, sweat and tears, but it will probably be an experience you’ll never forget.

    We spoke to Emily at the Nozstock festival who gave us their top tips on putting on a festival, to help you throw a charity event to rival Live Aid.

    ‘Festivals are all about balancing many plates at once. The biggest challenge is keeping true to your vision, when there are so many amazing different directions you could go in. At Nozstock The Hidden Valley, we have always been devoted to being a festival that anyone can come to. We’ve had 4 generations of one family at the festival and we want to keep it that way.

    Apparently, event organisation is in the top 5 most stressful jobs. To keep your head is key. Do whatever it takes to get perspective when things get stressful – take the dog for a walk, sit in a quiet place for a minute, make a nice comprehensive list, remember that it’s not life or death – it’s about having fun. Manage all that and you’ll probably be fine!’

    • Clean miles.

    For a fundraising opportunity that’s super relevant to Practical Action, get your friends and family to sponsor you for every “clean mile” you travel. That’s basically a mile in which you use no energy to get from a to b – sounds doable right?

    Cycling is one of the best ways to do this, and we’d recommend using an app to keep track of your progress.  Strava is popular, and with good reason. The streamlined, clean interface lets you know how many miles you’ve cycled or run, as well as your speed and how many calories you’ve burned. You can even share the results of your rides on social media so you can humblebrag about how much energy you’re saving. Practical Action are committed to ending energy poverty so you’ll be raising awareness too.

    Whatever route you decide to take with fundraising, good luck! If you have any more unique fundraising ideas, why not share them with us on Twitter?

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  • Practical Action’s favourite 5k runs

    February 23rd, 2016

    Sponsored runs are one of the easiest ways to fundraise – all you really need is a good pair of trainers runningand the tenacity to hound friends, family and colleagues for money. However, if you’re only used to tackling the distance between the fridge and the sofa, a long run can seem pretty daunting.
    We’d suggest trying a 5k run to begin with. Short enough to be achievable yet still challenging enough to be rewarding, a 5k charity run is perfect for beginners and is guaranteed to make you feel great about yourself. Raising money for charity and getting fit?! I’m sorry, your halo is blinding me.

    We’ve scoured the country to bring you our favourite 5k runs, which combine stunning scenery with a friendly, fun atmosphere. All you need to do is sign up and get fundraising!

    South-East – Windsor 5k Fun Run

    • Where: Windsor
    • When: 19th March

    Located in the hallowed grounds of Eton College, the Windsor and Eton Fun Run is a family friendly dash just fifteen minutes from London. Eton College hosted the rowing and canoeing events in the London 2012 Games, so whether you’re an Olympian or just limping along you’ll be racing in iconic surroundings.

    South West – Supernova 5k

    • Where: Bournemouth
    • When: 1st October

    A run with the visual aesthetic of a rave, the Bournemouth Supernova 5k is a pretty unforgettable experience. Runners are supplied with LED wristbands and encouraged to wear fluorescent clothing, and the run takes place at dusk, creating a moving spectacle of light.

    Midlands – Spire Bushey 5k

    • Where: Hertfordshire
    • When: 3rd July

    Winding through and around the charming town of Bushey , the Spire Bushey 5k is a relaxed run through leafy (or should that be Bushey?) scenery. The best thing about this run is that it’s part of the annual Bushey Festival, so once you’ve cooled off you can enjoy local music, art and food.

    North West – John West Spring 5k

    • Where: Liverpool
    • When: 30th April

    Probably the only race to have samba band entertainment partway round the course, the John West 5k takes the concept of the “fun run” seriously. After you’ve slogged through beautiful Sefton Park, you can unwind with face painting and a free massage – one of which will probably be exactly what you need.

    North East – Great North 5k

    • Where: Newcastle
    • When: 10th September

    Don’t feel quite ready for the Great North Run, but fancy soaking up the atmosphere anyway? Try the Great North 5k. The UK’s leading half marathon is preceded by a 5k run which gives you the scenic drama of running over the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in a starter pack distance. It also means you won’t be all sweaty when you go celeb-spotting at the main event later in the weekend. (Mo Farah’s been known to make an appearance).

    Are there any great 5ks near you? Let us know and we can include them!

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