Written in partnership with Mariama Kamara, Founder and Director, Smiling Through Light
The energy sector is traditionally male-dominated with men’s access to better education, skills training, and finance enabling them to develop businesses and access markets that women have often been excluded from as a result of gendered social norms and women’s unpaid care work. In the energy world, the role of women has often been limited to that of consumers; particularly in relation to the household sphere and cooking practices. The benefits of clean cooking fuels and technologies on women and girls is championed on global platforms; and women are being increasingly recognised as important to energy access planning processes. What benefits arise, though, when we embrace and empower women as agents of change who are actively striving for, and driving us towards, Sustainable Development Goal 7 (SDG7)?
CSW61: Women as Agents of Change
Last month, at the UN’s 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), Practical Action hosted a parallel session exploring just that: Women as Agents of Change in Sustainable Energy Access Value Chains. The session, which heard from Practical Action’s Sudan and East Africa offices, Smiling through Light, Energy Research Institute Sudan, and Solar Sister, demonstrated that investing in women’s potential as entrepreneurs, technicians, policy-makers and thought-leaders is vital for achieving gender-transformative outcomes and more effective energy access approaches.
Gender Equality + Sustainable Energy Access = Opportunity for All
Across the panellists’ different experiences, from the grassroots initiative of Smiling Through Light to the global campaign of Solar Sister, a clear message could be heard: at the intersection of gender equality and sustainable energy access lies vast potential – for women’s economic empowerment, certainly, and also for sustainable development and improved wellbeing for their communities and beyond.
The keynote speech, delivered by Lydia Muchiri, Senior Gender and Energy Advisor for Practical Action East Africa, explored the Women in Energy Enterprises in Kenya project (WEEK). Delivered in partnership with Energia, this project empowers women as providers of energy across three value chains – improved cookstoves, solar products, and biomass briquettes – in the roles of producers, suppliers and ‘brand activators’. WEEK project activities support women to build their social capital, develop fundamental business skills, and improve their confidence as entrepreneurs; these women now drive behaviour change, convincing others to adopt clean energy options. Five WEEK project entrepreneurs appeared at the recent SEforAll Forum to share their experiences, demonstrating a growing appetite to hear rural women’s grassroots knowledge on global stages.
Smiling Through Light: be the change that you want to see
Smiling Through Light’s Founder and Director Mariama Kamara highlighted the centrality of women’s knowledge, empowerment and collective action to building environmentally sustainable pathways to sustainable energy access; emphasising in particular the diverse roles women play across the energy value chain from production and transportation, to distribution and end use. At the age of nine Mariama left Sierra Leone during the civil war; after later learning that energy use in Sierra Leone was still mostly limited to kerosene for lighting, with no access to clean energy services, she started Smiling Through Light in 2014. By doing so, Mariama became the change she wanted to see. Smiling Through Light now advocates for women, as primary consumers and users of clean energy products, to be integrated into the process of designing appropriate solutions and engaged throughout the value chain to improve their livelihoods.
The path to SDG7
There remain many clear opportunities to advance women’s positions across the energy access value chain, including:
Policy – Advocate for policy that goes beyond perceiving women as victims of energy poverty or mere consumers, but as potential drivers of the sector. Embrace and lobby for the critical role of smaller, distributed energy solutions in addressing rural energy poverty, and women’s unique contribution to this sector.
Finance – Recognise that women’s access to finance is often constrained by social, political and economic constraints; i.e. collateral requirements based on land or asset ownership. Dedicate specific financing, credit facilities, grants and concessional loans to women’s sustainable energy activities.
Skills – Address the significant skills and local workforce development gaps in energy access in a way that empowers more skilled women to participate across the value chain, and educates others on the value of their contributions.
Evidence – Continue to build evidence to help inform policy on why women in clean energy value chains are uniquely positioned to make a lasting impact; bringing local women entrepreneurs and decision-makers’ voices and experiences to the fore.
As energy access advocates and champions of gender equality we must continue to find opportunities, like at CSW61, to demonstrate the positive impacts that women’s economic empowerment in energy access initiatives has for themselves and their families, as well as their extended communities and international development practice more broadly. We need to continue challenging damaging gendered social norms which disempower women as change-makers; and simultaneously strengthen policy coordination, knowledge sharing, financial inclusion, programmatic partnerships and research to advance women’s participation in sustainable energy development for all.
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There is an enormous use of pesticides in developing nations that has lead to drastic effects, hence making it one of the top concerns for global environmentalists. The use of these pesticides, some of which are totally illegal, has not only led to drastic environmental degradation, but negative effect on climate at large. Importantly, human health has been affected with end users of these farm produce complaining of neurotoxic, reproductive, and dermatologic effects.
In most cases, these pesticides are used to secure supply of food by countering insect-borne diseases. Also, they are widely used in treatment and protections of forests, not to mention the controlling pest attacks on fiber farms and plantations. However, the overdependence of such agents has necessitated that global institutions join hands to seek alternatives to what seems to be an ever-growing global menace.
The volatility and long distance transport of these pesticides from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, has had far reaching global effects that traverse national and geographical boundaries. Statistics indicate that there is a large rural-urban migration in these countries with many people going to the cities in search for jobs. The ripple effect is that the workforce left in the farms has to overwork or use specific means (in this case, pesticides) in order to control pests on their farms.
In the same breath, these countries are playing a vital role in the production of agricultural-based food stuffs for the global population. This is especially for those countries that are located in the colder regions of the areas. In as much as they play a vital role in the entire scenario, the use of these chemicals has negatively impacted both humans and environment.
Challenges Global Institution Face
One of the main problems is that in many of these countries, there are no clear differentiation strategies on which particular chemicals should be used-and which specific types should be avoided. Furthermore, if there are any policies that have been put in place by government, then not many are well implemented. As such, most farmers are unaware of the short-term effects of the problems caused by these pesticides. Neither are they aware of the long transport these pesticides are carried by water and their far reaching effects on other lands and climate.
The lack of educational programs in many of the developing nations has hindered progress on how to counter the use of these pesticides. Furthermore, weak legal frameworks and the lack of adequate training for inspection officer make it quite difficult to control the use of unlawful pesticides in these nations. It is equally important to note that lack of funds to implement some of the programs has led to increased ignorant levels amongst farmers. In as much as many farmers want to add value to their crops and supply on the international market, the continual use of these pesticides is one thing that has always been a big hindrance.
International Institutions Help
It is acknowledged that the use of pesticide is a global problem, and this is why international institutions have come in at least to help educate farmers. In almost all cases, farmers are educated on the use of safety methods and other non-volatile weed control methods that will not have negative effect on the environment as well as humans. For instance, UNEP United Nations-Environmental Programs in conjunction with governments is playing a crucial role not only in influencing policies but also helping educate the remote farmers. They are also pushing governments in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to show more concern about the safety use of pesticides.
The Food and Agriculture Organization, working in cohorts with UNEP, has also tightened the rules in regard to use and trade of food stuff across the globe. As such, this has led to a substantial decrease in the use of harmful pesticides in many of these countries. There are also stringent rules that have been put in place in regard to the international pesticide trade. As matter of fact, this has helped a great deal when it comes to the quality of chemicals that are traded by the involved parties.
In retrospect, the set up pesticide control rules created a better environment for accountability amongst nations and trading partners. It has also been possible for parties in trade and national groups that are concerned to air their views, and at the same time, point out pertinent issues based on the types of pesticides in specific markets. In the long run, this is going to have a counter effect on reduced use of harmful pesticides across the globe.
If all the efforts made are to succeed, there must be consistent efforts form all the stakeholders. So far, there is substantial progress that has been made in the past few years. It is something that will definitely help counter the wrong use of pesticides in developing nations.
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Bernie Omodei from Measured Irrigation writes about a very low cost innovation that may reduce the water consumption for drip irrigation by up to 50% without affecting the yield. The innovation uses the weather to control the irrigation scheduling rather than a program. The DIY (Do It Yourself) instructions in this blog can be applied to any drip irrigation application in any poor community.
Upgrading drip irrigation to unpowered MI
Many smallholders use gravity feed drip irrigation to irrigate a small garden (less than an acre). The most commonly used scheduling method is programmed scheduling and this method wastes a lot of water because it does not respond to the prevailing weather conditions. By upgrading from programmed irrigation scheduling to measured irrigation scheduling, water consumption may be reduced by 50% without affecting the yield. The cost of the upgrade is negligible.
Measured irrigation evaporator
The evaporator is any container with vertical sides with a surface area of at least of at least 0.75 square metres. Draw a level line on the inside of the evaporator about 3 cm below the overflow level. Position the evaporator in the garden, preferably exposed to full sun.
Position a dripper so that it will drip water into the evaporator. This dripper is called the control
dripper and it should be at the same level as the other drippers in the garden.
The volume of water delivered by each dripper in your garden during an irrigation event is the same as the volume of water delivered to the evaporator by the control dripper.
How to use the evaporator
Check the water level in the evaporator at sunset each day.If the water level is below the level line, start irrigating. Stop irrigating when the water level reaches the level line.
How to adjust the surface area of the evaporation
The amount of water that your plants need will depend on many factors in addition to the weather. For example, as the plants grow and become bigger they will need more water. Plants growing in sandy soil will need more water than plants growing in heavy soil.
To take account of all these additional factors, I recommend that you use a length of steel pipe to check the moisture level in the soil. I suggest that the diameter of the pipe be between 40 and 50 mm. An angle grinder can be used to cut some slots in the steel pipe to that you can inspect the soil inside the pipe. I suggest that the width of the slots be about 13 mm.
By checking the moisture level in the soil through the slots in the steel pipe, you can decide whether the plants have been irrigated the night before with too much or too little water. If the plants have been given too much water then you can reduce the water usage by reducing the surface area of evaporation. For example, the surface area of evaporation can be reduced by placing full bottles of water in the evaporator. On the other hand, if the plants have not been given enough water then you will need to increase the surface area of evaporation. After irrigation and adjustments over several days, the surface area of evaporation should stabilise at an appropriate level for the plants at their current stage of growth.
As your crop grows and the water requirement of the crop changes, you may wish to repeat the process of adjusting the surface area of evaporation.
MI on sloping ground
One sloping ground you will need to organise your plants into a number of zones so that the plants within each zone are at approximately the same level. Each zone should have its own evaporator, control dripper and inlet valve. The irrigation of a zone is independent of the irrigation of all the other zones.No Comments » | Add your comment
This article is informed by research conducted at Practical Action’s Southern Africa offices in Harare, Zimbabwe as part of a work-based placement at the University of Edinburgh.
Distributed renewables for access
The ongoing energy poverty that leaves 1.2 billion people in the world without access to electricity, and 2.7 billion people relying on traditional biomass for cooking is one of the great injustices of our time. Innovation systems need to shift in order to ensure the goal of enabling universal access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 is achieved. Technologies and business models have emerged that have the potential to live up to the challenge. In particular, Distributed Renewable Energy System (DRES) have tremendous potential to respond rapidly and efficiently to energy poverty, especially in rural areas.
Still, the development of pro-poor innovation systems for sustainable energy access based on DRES faces challenges at multiple levels, as large energy projects continue to be promoted by governments in developing countries and attract support from major development financiers, as go-to solutions for electrification. When small-scale renewable energies are financed, the sum of the smaller projects usually does not even come close to matching the large-scale project both in terms of total capacity of sustainable energy generation and of funding. However, considering the urgent demands of energy poverty, the speed by which small-scale renewables can become operational and the ever-decreasing cost for their installation should favour rural electrification policies based on DRES. The habitual preference for large and mega-projects is also inadequate to effectively address energy poverty as well as provide a sustainable and reliable source for energy in the light of climate change.
Opportunities for pro-poor innovations
Technology justice demands stronger efforts by all actors in the innovation systems to address the needs of the poor. Innovation is needed across the board to promote a more holistic understanding of the long-term impacts of energy projects taking account of:
- Their resilience to climate change and the vulnerability of highly centralised national/regional energy systems to extreme weather events and disasters
- Their water footprint (cooling of coal power plants) and water requirements (in particular run-of-the river hydro-power plants) in the light of climate change-related decreases in water security and more frequent droughts
- The relatively low energy return on investment associated with high-input, large fossil-fuel based infrastructure (e.g. the energy it takes to extract, transport coal and build a power plant, etc.), the greenhouse gas emissions and the environmental impact of the entire lifecycle of the project.
The benefits of DRES as opposed to big power projects need to be made more explicit in economic terms for decision-makers who are concerned with growing the aggregate national economy. Currently, the economic calculations do not take sufficiently into consideration the impacts listed about or the impacts of fossil fuel plants on public health, or the potential for DRES to be an engine for sustainable growth in rural areas.
Whereas prioritising access to energy enables education and promotes entrepreneurship, the creation of local businesses and sustainable energy services, e.g. via refrigeration, irrigation, powering machinery and recharging batteries for electronics; large projects tend to benefit energy-intensive industries rather than aim at the alleviation of energy poverty. Given the appropriate incentives via transitioning towards a cost-reflective tariff for electricity and by including models of climate risk and ecosystem services in economic calculations, the private sector can be galvanised to innovate for the benefit of people in rural areas where there are large levels of energy poverty. After all, the rural poor do not merely have the willingness but also the ability to pay if provided with suitable financial instruments.
However, access to finance is arguably the core barrier for the alleviation of energy poverty at the moment. Innovation accompanied by capacity building needs to occur in the financial sector, where there is a need for financial instruments that are accessible and affordable to the energy poor. Innovative initiatives are being rolled out by development organisations that de-risk rural, small-scale renewable energy investments in the developing world. Still, the challenge for the development sector remains to ensure that financial institutions give out loans for sustainable energy access as well as invest in local entrepreneurs offering energy services and building businesses on the back of the productive uses of energy.
Finally, in terms of technological solutions, there is a large demand for affordable and effective solutions to energy storage. Likewise, the full potential of both solar PV and especially concentrated solar power remains to be unleashed. Whereas some solutions require high-input R&D, national and local innovation systems in the developing world should build on the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of the youth to find accessible, affordable and sustainable solutions responding to local needs.1 Comment » | Add your comment
Runner Up Entry to Practical Action Strategy Contest
In June 2016, in partnership with the International Institute of Environment and Water, 2IE, Practical Action launched a contest called “Fit for the Future.” Intended primarily for students of the Institute, this competition was to involve them in strategic thinking about the future of Practical Action in a decade.
Launched on June 23, 2016, the candidates were invited to submit their ideas and contributions in different forms and to submit them to Practical Action. A total of 22 contributions were received by the closing date. After analysis, Practical Action has selected two papers for publication and the winning contribution was chosen. This blog is the contribution awarded runner up, written by:
Mr Ibrahim NEYA: water engineering design and environmental engineer 2iE electrical and power engineering option (EGE) from Burkina Faso
The award of 80,000 CFA was presented to the winner on 2 September 2016 at 2IE. You can read the winning entry here.
Our world is experiencing spectacular advances in the field of technology and the speed of progress shows no sign of slowing down over the years.
In a decade the internet of things, already well known by its English name, will enable the development of more sophisticated tools, accessible to a much bigger portion of the world’s population. We can easily imagine that by 2027, technology will occupy a determining place in all human activities and have a direct influence on people’s lives, and on existing models and structures.
The proliferation of technological applications in the near future does not however signify prosperity and peace for all sectors of society. The rich countries, which will be the instigators of this future thanks to their immense technological potential, will take advantage of it, and the gap between rich and poor countries will widen.
In such circumstances the contribution of NGOs which work to combat poverty, such as Practical Action, will prove interesting to the extent that this NGO aims to make use of technology to take concrete actions to benefit poor communities. To do this Practical Action should support, accompany and promote projects to develop digital applications in the areas of health, environment and education for all, which will benefit the world’s poor. These projects will enable us for example to: provide remote medical consultations for the poor; to monitor environmental issues and raise awareness of pollution and to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds access to the same quality of education, as children of the rich, through online training.
By Ibrahim Neya, Student of Electrical and Energy Engineering at 2iE
Runner up in our Fit for the Future Competition
‘Sunolo Sakhi’, literally meaning ‘Sisters, let’s listen’, was broadcast for the first time this year on February 6 on a community radio station in Bhubaneswar.
Aiming to spread awareness and bust taboos, especially in slum areas, the radio show has been designed by a UK-based NGO ‘ Practical Action’ to take the first steps in educate people about menstrual hygiene.
Scheduled to be taken forward with the help of city-based FM stations , the initiative that was launched in January is set to be expanded in its second phase. Girls and young women in slums are encouraged to discuss their issues during ‘Live Phone-in discussions’ and dispel all the myths that have been associated with menstruation with the help of an Adolescent Hygiene Expert Dr Chayanika Mishra.
‘Most families are shy discussing menstruation matters’
“When it comes to menstrual hygiene very few women and girls know about the proper hygiene practices. In a city like Bhubaneswar, a handful of urban girls are aware about it,” explains Ananta Prasad, Communications Officer, “In such a situation, we were more concerned about our slum communities. So, we designed this programme for adolescent girls and young women in the slums, who are mostly daily wage workers or students.”
Speaking about the importance of such a programme in slum areas, Adolescent Expert Dr Chayanika Mishra further adds saying, “Most families are shy discussing menstruation issues. So, they tend to practice wrong and baseless customs. In rural or slum areas, people do not conceive menstruation as a normal bodily phenomenon and hence girls are looked down upon.”
Explaining further she adds, “Male counterpart, many a times, make fun of periods or do not realise the difficulties that a girl goes through during this time of the month. Besides, girls or young women in these areas are seen to be following unhygienic practices that lead to infection and other diseases. Hence, the need for such a programme arises.”
‘Sakhi Clubs have been formed to enable change’
Within a span of five months, the programme has gained a lot of popularity in the slums and has been receiving calls from young girls and ladies in the age group of 18 yrs to 35 yrs.
At present, the NGO has been able to socially mobilise 15 slums in Bhubaneswar via audio podcasting, mobile film screenings, and focused group discussions and through knowledge materials. To enable a change in the mindset, Sakhi-Radio clubs have been formed where young girls and women are encouraged to listen to the aired show during the weekend and discuss on the same.
Regular film screenings, focused group discussions, individual counselling, audio pod casting, radio listeners club are the medium of interaction and knowledge sharing means adopted under the project. The live radio show has helped immensely in initiating a change, according to the organisers. The show is scheduled to be aired once a week for duration of an hour, with the local FM radio partner.
Interestingly, the programme intends to reach the visually impaired, hearing and speech impaired as well through audio and visual books. The audio books would socially mobilise the visually impaired while the visual books which would make use of sign language would create an awareness on menstrual hygiene amongst those who are hearing and speech impaired, informed Ananta.
This article was first published here by the journalist from DNA.No Comments » | Add your comment
Terrence McKee, CEO of Interlock, writes on the organisation’s innovative approach to tackling the issues of poverty and rural-to-urban migration. Read how their alternative development strategy is providing clean and reliable energy to rural India and improving the health of the poorest communities.
To lift millions of people out of poverty and to avoid migration to cities, the development of rural economies is of key importance; in this regard the access to energy is a critical component.
Solar energy is on its way to becoming the most cost-efficient option for rural electrification, beating the conventional energy options, such as diesel-based power systems and the extension of the grid. Interlock believes that the time is right for piloting new opportunities, models and partnerships posed by solar energy. In fact, a new initiative has recently been launched by the organisation to pilot stand-alone solar plants in Vadad Hasol, in the rural Ratnagiri district of India. By testing the design, construction and operation of the technology will build a working model which will be used at scale across the country.
Access to solar electricity has many health and educational benefits, in addition to giving opportunities for new income generating activities. Stand-alone solar plants have allowed Interlock to pioneer their new telemedicine programme. Access to solar energy interlocks doctors in urban hospitals with rural solar clinics allowing the provision of health to rural communities. Getting medical treatment to rural areas has always been difficult, doctor visits are costly and the lack of infrastructure (road access, accommodation and communications) causes obvious setbacks. Yet, now with the introduction of solar energy it is possible to interlock the rural communities with the urban. With internet connectivity, powered by the alternative energy, doctors can visit the most remote villages ‘virtually’. Solar resources will be able to give power to community centres with IT facilities to resource the medical facilities needed.
As well as using alternative energy, Interlock promotes and uses an alternative development strategy through the use of ethical tourism. Tourism has been proven by the organisation to be a sustainable factor in rural village development. at the Interlock HQ there will be a small rural hospitality and catering school where people from the village can be trained to staff their paying guest units. This Catering school will be built in conjunction with a small ecology hotel of 25 + rooms, developed at the Interlock centre.
The Hotel and Catering College will provide much of the funding required for the expansion of the telemedicine programme. Tourism in India is growing at a rate of 15-17%, Interlock have recognised the opportunity of this and believe that hotel guests can be the commercial footing for the telemedicine programme. Interlock Clusters are to be the hub of the rural villages, giving access to knowledge and communication to large numbers of individuals.
The project will impact the lives of thousands of individuals. Not just in the future but now. The technology is there, all that is required is the will to make it happen.
Read more about the work of Interlock or get in touch with Terrence McKee to find out more- Terrence@interlock.co.uk . Interlock aims to facilitate sustainable development solutions to poverty-related issues within rural communities.No Comments » | Add your comment
Do you remember the movie Sliding Doors? The one that asks the question ‘what if she never caught that train?’
A colleague and I were exchanging ‘what if’ questions recently and I told her my favourite ‘what if’ was ‘what if Coca Cola was never invented?’ I started outlining my current theory which includes a lot of yoghurt-based drinks like India’s Lassi or Turkey’s Ayran.
My colleague told me her dad’s favourite ‘what if’ was ‘what if there was no Google?’ We both rolled our eyes of course, laughing at what a typical dad-type question that was. Amidst the sarcastic giggling, there was something about this question that struck a chord. Being the life-hack addict I am, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to once again experiment on myself and I decided then and there to abstain from Google and all other search engines for a month.
I started excitedly buzzing about my plan to ‘go Google-less’ and a friend suggested that I fundraise off the back of my crazy experiment and donate to Practical Action’s Technology Justice work. Given my tendency to give up on things halfway, I figured fundraising for a worthy cause would spur me on to achieve my goal so I set up a Just Giving page and the rest is history.
Actually, I only wish it was history – my experiment started just a few days ago, at the beginning of September…
If I’m honest, I had very little idea what it would be like without instant access to information apart from the obvious: London would be tough to navigate without Google Maps, my poor memory of song/band names would be exposed once and for all and (the most scary perhaps) I would never know when to take my umbrella with me. Less than a week into my ‘Life before Google’ experiment, I am already on quite a different type of adventure.
If I could name one thing that has truly impacted me so far it would be the simple act of asking for help. Instead of feeling ‘help-less’, asking friends and family for information has made me feel much more warmth and connection with other people in my life. Today I asked my Colombian friend to translate the word ‘Chévere’ which I had seen being used online. His answer was: ‘it’s a very Colombian word. It means “cool” or pleasant, nice, fun… yeh, more like cool and fun’. I couldn’t help but bask in the warmth of his wonderful, personalised answer and the subtle shades of meaning he conveyed – a far more enjoyable experience than frantically using Google Translate in the cab en route to an Airbnb.
Asking for help is sometimes a bit scary too, especially when you think you already know the answer. For example, I am forever getting confused between sea bass and sea bream. Last night I was convinced that I’d finally remembered the long skinny one (my favourite) was called sea bream. Unfortunately my boyfriend was of the opinion that this was actually sea bass. After several minutes of debate, I habitually reached for my phone but then remembered: no Google during September. There I was in the kitchen, the realisation slowly dawning on me that I might have no other option than to trust my boyfriend (at least for September). A scary thought for someone like me who is always right!
I remember my dad saying to me once that when people can help you, it makes them feel really special. I have a feeling that over the next few weeks I’m about to make a lot of people feel special. Either that or they will stop answering the phone when they see who’s calling them to ask for help… again.2 Comments » | Add your comment
In order to support our understanding of ‘wellbeing’ Practical Action is supporting doctoral research at University College London, Development Planning Unit. Stephanie Butcher is looking at the connections between urban services and citizenship, to support wellbeing in informal settlements.
Stephanie Butcher is a PHD candidate at University College London’s Centre for Urban Sustainability and Resilience and Development Planning Unit. These reflections emerged as a part of a wider project conducted by the MSc Social Development Practice programme at the DPU.
What do we mean by wellbeing?
Wellbeing is a golden thread which weaves its way through all our work at Practical Action, but what do we mean by ‘wellbeing’?
Critically it’s about people getting their basic material needs met. Our work in areas such as food security and access to energy and clean water, are all key to improving material wellbeing. But wellbeing is more than this. It’s about the degree of control people have over their lives and the quality of relationships within their communities. What this means for Practical Action, is that it’s not just what we do that’s important, but also how we do it as well. People participating in decisions and taking control of their own development is critical and central to the way we work.
What innovations can address the next generation of urban water challenges?
In 2015, I spent time with residents of the Kondele neighbourhood, one of the many informal settlements of Kisumu, Western Kenya. This community benefitted from an innovative type of water service delivery, called the Delegated Management Model (DMM), implemented as part Comic Relief funded work, and delivered by Practical Action under the 2008-2013 ‘People’s Plans into Practice’ programme in Kisumu, Kenya, with local partners Shelter Forum and Kisumu Urban Apostolates Programme.
In Kisumu, the Kisumu Water and Sewerage Company (KIWASCO) agreed to begin working in informal areas, providing cheaper water to a ‘master meter’ in the settlement. The responsibility for this meter was given to a managing community group, who use a network of small pipes to deliver to individual houses or community kiosks. For the utility, this creates incentives to work in hard-to-monitor informal areas, as it no longer has to police illegal connections and leakages. For Kondele residents, both the master meter and community kiosks are new business opportunities, as water can be sold down the network at a small profit.
What was most striking in Kondele was that the managing water meter group was linked with an elected body of representatives, called the ‘Neighborhood Planning Association’. Practical Action used participatory planning tools to support these associations in agreeing and voicing their priorities for service improvements. Practical Action’s intervention also particularly encouraged women, people with disabilities, and youth to participate as kiosk operators and in the planning association.
Conversations with residents demonstrated a range of positive outcomes of this model.
It helped the growth of the water network, generated employment and income opportunities for entrepreneurial residents. It allowed for more flexible service delivery.
Residents experienced many positive contributions to their wellbeing, including perceived health benefits; greater community interaction; improved quality and quantity of water; and economic benefits from subsidised tariffs.
Yet I was also struck by how this model was working in the wider Kenyan environment, especially given the shifts towards the commoditization of services, and decentralization of service delivery.
In Kisumu, an emphasis on cost-recovery in the Kenyan water sector meant that some of the most vulnerable residents were less likely to access the services. Master meters were most often placed in areas of higher economic potential, so that they could run as sustainable businesses. This meant they tended to be located in denser, wealthier, or roadside locations, leaving behind some of the poorer interior areas of the settlement. Tenants especially noted the rapid increase in rents with the improvement of services, creating real trade-offs in whether to live closer or farther to improved services.
Second, while decentralization allowed for coverage in informal areas, the old risks from leaks and illegal tappings suddenly became the concern of the community group. While leaders expressed a sense of ownership, this increase in responsibility did not always come with an increase in authority. Ongoing disputes made it clear that the Kondele association did not feel they could fully hold the utility accountable in partnership agreements.
Finally, gender aspects were improved but there’s more to be done. For many, the emphasis on women’s participation created options to participate in extra income-generating activities and water forums. However, where gaps did exist in coverage, it was still largely women and young girls that bore this burden as ‘household managers’, walking farther distances to collect from DMM sources, or squeezing household resources to pay more from private vendors.
Some reflections on the Delegated Management Model
- The DMM was possible because of a supportive policy environment in Kenya, which encouraged spaces of citizen participation.
- Emphasizing cost-recovery might prevent access for the most vulnerable. The location of master meters, household income, and rental status meant that not all residents benefitted equally. This suggests that some master meters might need to be placed in less economically viable areas to reach lower-income residents. Likewise, reaching agreements with landlords to maintain rental prices plays a crucial role in supporting tenants.
- Practical Action’s support linking the water group with the elected Neighbourhood Planning Association supported ownership and democratic practice. This was critical. As in other neighbourhoods of Kisumu meter management has been opened to private individuals, potentially moving away from management by a community-based organisation. While this is intended to stimulate competitive service delivery, there is a critical difference between the empowerment of savvy entrepreneurs, and that of an elected community body.
- Capacity building measures for both utility staff and community groups remain key. The experience in Kondele demonstrated the wider benefits experienced through the trainings of Practical Action’s ‘People’s Plans into Practice’. Yet there is also still room for engagement with utility staff—and particularly in establishing clear channels of accountability
- Social and cultural norms continue to influence water services. This calls for further research on the different ways water management occurs at the neighborhood and household level for women and men, addressing perceptions which reinforce identity-based inequities.
- Download the full paper
- Watch a webcast of the paper
- Read more about Practical Action’s work on WASH in urban areas
What are your experiences? Feel free to get in touch and post comments below.
 This was a key question posed by the 2015 Reducing Urban Poverty Student Paper Competition, hosted by the Wilson Centre , World Bank, Cities Alliance, and IHC global, at which I presented these reflections.No Comments » | Add your comment
The growth of 3D printing has been rapid in the last decade, with the creation of low cost printers and the availability of easy to use software.
The growth and use of this technology is evident across many developed economies. 3D printers are now a common tool for prototyping and used by many design agencies, engineering firms and research institutions. However, there is now a real opportunity to use 3D printing in developing economies and help to leapfrog highly capital intensive manufacturing.
The premise of 3D printing is simple, in that firstly 3D geometry is created using specialist 3D modelling software. This geometry is then virtually sliced into layers and outputted as numeric code. This code is read by the 3D printer which prints layer by layer to create the final part. The print material could be metals, plastics or ceramics and typically come in one of the following forms:
- Liquids – often cured using a laser
- Filament – typically extruded from a nozzle
- Powder – typically cured using a laser or form of adhesive
These 3D printers are available in various sizes and have respective build qualities. Although traditionally very expensive, growth in the 3D printing industry has led to the development of desktop printers which are easy to use, affordable and have relatively good part quality.
Future of 3D printing
Some predict that this rapid development of 3D printing has started a new industrial revolution which will ultimately influence and affect almost every aspect of life. However, it is already evident that the advantages of 3D printing have opened the way for novel product development and innovations which can provide a range of logistical and technological advantages. The core advantages include:
- Ability for low volume production
- Faster and more responsive production than traditional methods
- Simplification and shortening of manufacturing supply chains
- Democratisation of production
- Ability to optimise and personalise a design
These advantages represent a potential paradigm shift in the manufacture of products which will have a direct effect on the design and distribution process. The market and application for this technology is clear in the developed economies. However, there is now an opportunity to investigate the application of 3D printing in developing economies as a way to alleviate poverty and help bridge the vast technological divide.
3D printing in developing economies
Although developing countries may not be the most obvious place to adopt 3D printing technology, the rapid uptake of mobile phones shows how new technologies can be used to leapfrog developed nations.
Over the last 30 years the cost of mobile phones has significantly decreased and the rate of adoption has reached 3.4bn (50% of the population). Uptake in developing countries has far exceeded expectations, with usage in sub-Saharan Africa now at 60% of the population.
Before the mobile phone, developed economies had invested large amounts of money in land-line infrastructure. However, developing economies are able to effectively skip the landline, which, after all, would have been prohibitively expensive in poor communities due to vast distances and low population density. The popularity of mobile technology, its ability to increase levels of income, and the rapid adoption demonstrates the real opportunity for 3D printing as the technology development curve is not dissimilar to that of mobile communication. Furthermore, this lack of infrastructure and limited logistics provides a huge opportunity for 3D printers as it could mean rural villages would be able to print their own products or agriculture tools and not have to rely on unreliable supply chains. The advancement in mobile communication and the internet continues to support this technology allowing for the rapid transfer of data between sites.
For engineers, this development could enable greater access to these markets through online communities (which are already beginning to form) and enable end users to join the design process, creating more effective [product] solutions to meet their needs.
3D printing pilot study in a developing country
As an academic, it is interesting to see how this technology can be integrated into the development sector. In order to begin to understand this De Montfort University has partnered with Practical Action to carry out a pilot study with the charity’s office in Lima, Peru.
The primary aim of the project is to see if 3D printing can be used to enhance the design of existing solutions, and if some of their current products can be more effectively developed across multiple site offices. The secondary aim is to understand if the possession of a 3D printer enables new and innovative design ideas to be created, which were previously not possible. The hope is that this pilot will lead to a larger study exploring the potential of this technology in the development sector.
Initial findings from a visit to Lima highlighted that one of the first things Practical Action wanted to do was to print a 3D topographical map of the areas of poverty in Lima. This showed, in clear detail, how landslides were a real danger and what would happen in their inevitable event. These 3D maps will be used to explain, across a language barrier, to people living there why we needed to make changes, to have safety measures put in place. Without 3D printing it would not have been possible to produce these. These insights are really useful and demonstrate just one potential benefit of 3D printing technology.
The study is being carried out with Practical Action using an Ultimaker 2 Desktop printer. For further information please visit the project website www.bridgingthedivide.org or contact email@example.comNo Comments » | Add your comment