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  • 8 steps to make farmers flood resilient

    February 7th, 2017

    By Buddhiram Kumal  & Dinanath Bhandari

    Building on the strength of the farmers’ field schools (FFS), Nepal Flood Resilience Project has devised the FFS to train and help farmers further to adopt flood resilient technologies, strategies and approaches to transform their vulnerability into resilience. Here’s how we are making farmers flood resilient through this academy for flood resilience.

    1. Organising to learn

    Farmers’ field schools are proven approaches and strategies to help farmers learn and adopt new technologies and skills. The FFS are discussion, practice and demonstration forums promoting learning by doing. Farmers from the community organise into a group and assemble together with a facilitator in regular interval, often weekly or fortnightly based on the need to discuss, learn and practice on growing crops of their choice. It is practised in the farmers’ field as a school to learn throughout the crop cycle, generally for a year and then follow up. Acquiring knowledge and skills is the crucial element of transformation. Farmers’ livelihoods and disaster resilience capacities are affected by the access of people to knowledge and skills on their livelihoods that would prevent, avoid and successfully cope with the impacts of floods they are exposed to.

    2. Empowering women

    In the project area, agriculture technicians have been facilitating each FFS where multiple strategies have been introduced to enhance access of marginal farmers to knowledge, skills and technologies on growing crops in different seasons.  These FFS are particularly focused to flood prone communities in Karnali flood plains in Bardiya and Kailali districts. They are smallholders and utilising the seasonal window-the winter-and non-flooding season is important to complement loss of crops from flood (however not always) and increase income utilising to grow cash crop in the land which potentially remained fallow in the past. So far in last two and half years, the project facilitated 31 FFS each in a community where 621 (Men: 85, women: 536) people – one from each family- participated and learned on technologies and skills to growing usual crops and new crops and varieties that could be sold instantly for cash income. Each field school consisted of 20 to 25 people mostly women. Since male migrate out seasonally in search of work in India or abroad, the agriculture is feminised. Therefore, participation by more number of women in the FFS contributed to enhance production and family income in particular.

    Apart from learning to better grow crops and livestock, the participants discuss on the strategies to prevent losses from the flood and better recover if losses were unavoidable. For example: one group near Tikapur town adopted growing mushroom and selling them into local market during winter which surpassed the loss of crops by flood during summer. The group discusses on the hazards, risks and potential interventions to reduce the risk and successfully overcome the disaster losses. The FFS have become like a Flood Resilience Academy fostering culture of learning, doing and sharing among farmers. The FFS have become instrumental to vulnerable people to change their cultivation practices to produce more yields of usual crops and multi-seasonal production has additional income that creates opportunity and confidence for resilience thinking. Many farmers’ group have developed into a formal institution with agreed group functioning protocols and registered with the respective government institution-District Agriculture Development Office or its Area Service Centre. This provides them better access to government services, information on technologies and practices. The service centres try to reach farmers through such groups.

    3. Academy of practice

    The FFS comprises of theory and practice on the subject matter. The course follows the crop cycle from soil preparation to post harvest and even further to marketing or final consumption/utilisation. A facilitator supports organization of farmers’ into the ‘School’. Farmers learn on concepts and practices and then they practice. For example, if they learn on nursery bed preparation, they prepare a nursery bed. The next week they would discuss on transplanting and would do transplanting in their demonstration plot, and so forth towards the end of crop cycle. Usually the facilitator designs and conducts the classes; however it is ensured that farmers have access to interact with a range of experts relevant to crops and other livelihoods of the farmers. In our case farmers also discussed on problems associated with flooding, health and social issues reflecting on the past to improve future. Demonstration and practice is priority for learning by doing.

    4. Building up confidence on technical knowledge and skill

    Each crop or livestock have different requirement, they are sensitive to a number of hazards and adversities. Therefore, technical knowledge and skills are important to build on confidence. Strategy, therefore, is to help farmers learn and do soil management, seed/breed/variety selection suitable to local climatic conditions, market potential and farmer’s individual preference. Later on, the process goes on to learn and apply growing seeds, transplanting, weeding,  pruning, top dressing- the intercultural operations through harvesting and selling of particular crop, variety or breed. Passing through a cycle of crop, farmers build up skills and confidence potentially becoming able to go for higher yield, greater in scale and more confident to prevent or recover the losses. They also build on confidence to utilise seasonal opportunities and switch to better crops or options.

    5. Improvement and changes in practices

    The strategy is both to improve existing practice and adopt new practices and technologies. Few farmers were engaged in the commercial farming in the past. Farmers have lost crops not only from flood but also from different diseases in crops like rice, wheat, maize etc. But now after a cycle of FFS in the community, the farmers have selecting improved varieties of vegetables (to name: Snow crown, Silver cup and Kathmandu local varieties of cauliflower; Madhuri, Manisha, Himsona and Shreejana varieties of tomatoes) to increase production. They also learned techniques to protect crops and vegetables from diseases and adverse weather effects. Considering the market and value of product, farmers have initiated grading of potatoes to increase the sale of good quality produce at higher prices.

    Vegetable farming in a plastic tunnel at Anantapur, Rajapur Municipality, Bardiya.

    Vegetable farming in a plastic tunnel at Anantapur, Rajapur Municipality, Bardiya.

    6. Enhanced skills, increased production and improved livelihoods

    Farmers’ field schools have been helping farmers to develop systemic thinking. At least 174 (28%) farmers in a FFS were growing mushroom which is new crop for them, 286 farmers have been growing green vegetables as new winter crop to most of them and selling them in local markets. In rainy season some members in the FFS tried planting flood tolerant rice variety Swarna Sub-1 recommended by research but new to them.

    Furthermore, FFS helped to improve community access to agriculture advisory services and weather information. Better access to reliable weather prediction services helps them to plan activities. Some farmers have altered input dates like preparing nursery bed or harvesting produce. The change in time depends upon the weather forecast of that period although not true for every time. FFS also changed farmers understanding on irrigation at vegetables. Farmers irrigate vegetables more efficiently comparing to past. Due to these knowledge and information, farmers are producing more and getting more income.

    7. Leveraging benefits to enhance flood resilience

    The FFS has been helping farmers grow different crops and increase income. Farmers have invested the income on their children’s formal education, health and fulfilling family’s daily needs. Some of them are saving for future. For instance, Mrs. Manju Chaudhary – a member of Navajagaran farmer group at Bangaun of Dhansinghpur Village Development Committee (VDC) is growing vegetables. She learned from FFS and made income NPR 85,000 (approximately $770) in the past two seasons. She has built her new home with a 2 feet 3 inches raised platform to avoid the flood impact, investing NPR 40,000. She has invested NPR 13,000 as a premium for insurance of her son. She has been paying monthly educational fee amounting NPR 1,500 for her two children and also constructed a biogas plant for NPR25,000.

    The FFS outcomes contribute to enhance family’s flood resilience making their economy and livelihood assets robust and resourceful and contributing to many themes that contribute to flood resilience. The learning process helps to find and adopt a number of choices and opportunity to innovate thereby building redundancy and enhancing rapidity to contain losses if any disastrous hazard hit them.

    Mushroom farming at Shantipur, Gola VDC, Bardiya.

    Mushroom farming at Shantipur, Gola VDC, Bardiya.

    8. Fostering flood resilience

    Sustainability of preventing losses of lives, assets and livelihoods is the prime outcome of flood resilience. This comes through a range of themes in at least five different livelihood capitals. The knowledge/skills and technologies gained by each farmer helps to maintain continuity of their household income even during ups and downs which will also influence other choices and decision making. The linkages developed with the local government and government service providers will be continued beyond project periods.  The institutional set up and linkage will help access support to recover the losses faster. These assemblies provide avenue for farmers to discuss with each other and learn together by doing and demonstrating. The approach has been instrumental in the area particularly for women to utilise time window of winter and dry season to grow lucrative crops and overcome the losses by flood during monsoon. Even during the flooding season, farmers have adopted flood tolerant varieties, different species mix and switching to different crops to diversify income sources. The farmers’ field school lasts for a year generally, however, enhanced confidence and learning sharing culture and access to their service providers and market will continue to improve fostering farmers’ resilience to flooding.

    Buddhiram Kumal is Project Officer, Nepal Flood Resilience Project and Dinanath Bhandari is Programme Coordinator, DRR and Climate Change, Practical Action South Asia Regional Office.

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  • Technology changing lives – Transformation of Surajpur, Gulariya from abysmal to a model village

    July 25th, 2016

    Jai Bageshwori is a small village located in Surajpur-11, Gulariya consisting of 24 households. Majority of the people were relocated during the Maoist insurgency period. Mr. and Mrs. Rana are one of them who were displaced from Jajarkot. Mr. Pabitra Rana recalls, “during the insurgency period, we didn’t have any options but to join the Maoist. I had my mom, dad and my little boy who was only 3 years old then, so for their security reason also I had to join the Maoist.” Mr. Pabitra Rana and his wife Mrs. Gita Rana served the Maoist army for 4 years. He shared many gruesome stories which were beyond my imagination. Later he suffered from chronic gastritis and mental stress; therefore, decided to abscond along with his wife and took refuge in India. On 21 November 2006, a peace agreement was signed between Nepal government and the Maoist, which was six months after the Rana couple had fled Nepal. “It was really painful to drift apart from the family, there was not a single day I didn’t think of them. The day I found about the peace agreement I decided that was it, so packed my bags and came back to Nepal,” says Mr. Rana with a tear in his voice. Mr. Rana worked as a laborer in one of the companies in India and had saved some money. So, instead of going back to Jajarkot, he decided to start a new life from the money he had saved. He bought a small piece of land in Jai Bageshowri and built a one bed room house and decided to call it home.

    Mr. Pabitra Rana & Mrs. Gita Rana

    Mr. Pabitra Rana & Mrs. Gita Rana

    A decade long people’s war has definitely affected Nepal in one way or the other, be it in terms of economic development or poverty alleviation, it is still struggling to overcome the effects of the war. The people’s war claimed more than 18,000 lives and displaced more than 100,000 people. Nevertheless, after the peace agreement in 2006, progress has been made, yet the challenges still persist.

    It was not a fairy tale start for the Rana couple. The entire village had only one toilet, as a matter of fact it was rarely used. People used to defecate outside in open spaces or behind the bushes. The water from the boring contained arsenic which was poisonous, they did not have any purification system. Just across from the street was a jungle separated by a canal which belonged to the Indian side. They feared for their life from wild animals. Life was just terrible.

    Surajpur VDC was hit hard by natural calamity on August 2014
    In 2010, Practical Action and Environment and Public Health Organisation (ENPHO) launched SWASTHA project, an awareness program on water, air, sanitation and hygiene in Surajpur Village Development Committee (VDC). The objective of the project was to contribute to sustainable improvement in health and wellbeing of vulnerable population. Right after SWASTHA project phased out, Surajpur VDC was hit hard by natural calamity. On 13 August 2014, Surajpur VDC was flooded by the swelling Babai River which wiped out the entire community. It added more misery to the miserable community of Surajpur VDC. The newly built toilets, latrines, smoke hood and filter for drinking water were all wiped out; the only thing left was utter chaos. Homesteads, crops and livestock were washed away leaving people in distress.

    SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was launched in Gulariya Municipality
    Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is one of the essential ingredients of human health. It has an adverse effect on food security and livelihoods of people. According to the UN report, every year millions of people, most of them children die due to inadequate water supply, sanitation and hygiene. In Nepal alone, more than 10,000 children die annually from inadequate water supply and water borne diseases. Nepal is ranked the lowest in South Asian Countries in terms of water and sanitation. With an objective to achieve sustainable Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015, focusing on coverage of sanitation facilities, enhancing the capacity of local stakeholders and introducing innovative solutions in sanitation; such as and/or disaster resilient sanitation facilities, faecal sludge management and healthy communities, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was launched in Gulariya Municipality, Bardia district by Practical Action and ENPHO the same year.

    Surajpur VDC was declared a “Healthy Community” on 12 April 2016
    Easier said than done. It needs relentless effort to make such a change where open defecation has been practiced for generations. Mr. Dev Dutta Bhatta, Program Manager of Practical Action says, “Awareness is the key to change. It is a gradual process, where one needs to be educated regarding water and sanitation.” Self-awareness comes from self-knowledge. An inner urge needs to be felt to embrace the change. Ones attitudes, habits, beliefs, norms and cultures may subvert the behavioral change. Therefore, educating on safe drinking water, better sanitation, personal hygiene, proper kitchen and solid waste management were the key components of SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project in achieving its goal. Several street dramas, mass rally, awareness programs were also organised to educate the community.

    Surajpur VDC being declared a "healthy community"

    Surajpur VDC being declared a “healthy community” on 12 April 2016

    In a short span of time, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (ODF) project was successful in overturning Surajpur VDC from abysmal to a model village. On 12 April 2016, Surajpur VDC was declared a “Healthy Community.” “Before we used to drink water straight from the tap; now, we drink water only after it’s been purified, it even tastes better,” chuckles Mr. Rana. He further adds, “I hardly have upset stomach, loose motion or fever these days, wish I had known about this much sooner.” Mr. Rana is one of the first ones to have a toilet built and water filter installed in the community. After knowing about the benefits of having a proper hygiene and sanitation, he acted as a mediator in convincing the people of his community to vouch for toilet, safe drinking water, kitchen and solid waste management.

    Likewise, Dipendra Nagar and Kothiya were also declared healthy community on 02 February 2016 and 20 May 2016 respectively. Three more VDCs are on the verge of being declared a Healthy Community. Gulariya Municipality is an exemplary for other municipalities to follow. After being declared Open Defecation Free on 25 May 2015, now the Gulariya Municipality is aiming towards achieving the “Healthy Community” status. The credit goes out to each and every member of the community; especially Mr. Rana, who is also a secretary of the user-community group for his persistent effort convincing every single member of the community towards building a healthy community. If we have someone like Mr. Rana in each VDCs, it won’t be long until the entire Gulariya Municipality is declared “Healthy Community”. Furthermore, it will definitely help achieve the national target on sanitation- Universal access to sanitation by 2017. While the role of the government is vital, people have equally important roles to play for better results and sustainability.

    Technology Justice
    A simple technology in the form of pit latrine or bio-sand filter can change people’s lives. A village where open defecation was practiced not long ago has been declared “Open Defecation Free,” and the community now has access to safe drinking water. For me this is technology justice and I salute the innovator of such technologies. Not only should the technologies reach the privileged and elite class but also to the poor and marginalised groups. Therefore, I think it is time for you, me and us to rethink about the innovation in technology. Let the justice prevail.

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  • Learnings from a food security project in far-western Nepal

    May 17th, 2016

    When I look back, it still gives me a reason to visit the place again and again. The trip to far-western Nepal, our project sites, was a whirlwind – with all sorts of emotions jumbled up – getting me excited at each turn of the road.

    Though harsh life in the rugged terrain is a daily affair for people living in abject penury, it is a moment of revelation if you are a first-time traveller to those areas.

    The Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security (POSAN-FS) project is being implemented in four remote districts of far-western Nepal – Achham, Bajhang, Bajura and Doti with an overall objective to contribute to enhance regional food and nutritional security.

    Out of the four, we visited three districts and had chance to hear the real stories from the horse’s mouth.

    Here are few nuggets of knowledge I gleaned from the tour.

    If people find opportunities at home, they would never migrate.

    Achham and other neighouring districts in the Far-Western Nepal suffer from a chronic disease of seasonal migration. No wonder, the district has the highest number of HIV cases in Nepal. People, from here, leave for India to earn a living every year.

    Man Bahadur BK recently returned from Gujarat, India after spending 35 years there. Along with him was his wife, Chandra Devi BK, who had been with him in India for the last 10 years. Man Bahadur worked in a Bajaj motorcycles showroom for many years and later started a small business of his own.

    Rearing chicken provides extra income to road-side shopkeepers.

    Raising chickens provides extra income to rural shopkeepers.

    After returning to his home in Achham, Man Bahadur has opened a shop – a mom and pop store selling items of daily need. To augment his earnings, he has kept three goats along with chickens provided by the POSAN-FS project. The project has also provided corrugated galvanised iron sheets for roofing the coop.

    Man Bahadur also showed us a small patch of tomato farm by the side of his shop. The couple is affiliated with the Punyagiri group of farmers who cultivate vegetables and spices and use kitchen waste water for irrigation.

    Though traditional crops are neglected, they are nutritious.

    Talking with local people, we came to know that they had left cultivating traditional crops that are nutritious. With the awareness raised by the project and its support, they have been encouraged to grow neglected crops like yams, millet and buck-wheat among others.

    Though yams are neglected, they are nutritious. Image by Flickr user Wendell Smith. CC BY 2.0

    Though yams are neglected, they are nutritious. Image by Flickr user Wendell Smith. CC BY 2.0

    Climbing down a hillock, we could see newly grown yam saplings on the erstwhile barren slopes. When asked, Project Manager Puspa Poudel explained, “Yams have been introduced as nutritious but neglected crops.”

    Kitchen gardens are essential for food security.

    Among the piles of problems, water scarcity is another ubiquitous problem here. People need to walk miles to fetch a pail of water. In these conditions, thinking of growing vegetables in kitchen garden is a far-fetched idea.

    Reaching the Janalikot Village, we met with Saraswati Karmi, a young farmer in her early twenties working in her vegetable plot.

    Saraswati proudly showed us the brinjals and chillies in her kitchen garden. Standing next to the vegetables was a healthy crop of turmeric. Nearby was a small ditch for waste-water collection from the kitchen. Though the area is parched with water scarcity, the small puddle stored enough water to grow vegetables, enough to eat and sell in the market.

    Kitchen garden not only provides vegetables for family consumption, but is also a source of income to rural farmers.

    Kitchen garden not only provides vegetables for family consumption, but is also a source of income to rural farmers.

    Introduced to kitchen garden concept few months ago, Saraswati is self-sufficient, at least for vegetables. She doesn’t need to buy them from market any more. She now saves nearly NRs 1200 (around USD 12) per month, which else, would be used in buying vegetables.

    Besides kitchen gardening, she has been raising chickens provided by the project. Out of the 19 chickens given to her by the project,10 were ready to be sold in the market. They looked like local chickens and would sell at least at NRs 800 per chicken.

    The kitchen garden produce and chickens are taking care of the family’s food security. Now, instead of spending, they are saving!

    Know more about the POSAN-FS project.

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  • Weather information board enhancing community resilience

    May 9th, 2016

    This is a story of a youth Assistant Badghar Ashish Kumar Chaudhary (Badghar is an elected leader in Tharu community) from Tighara, Rajapur. He explains how the Zurich Foundation funded Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP) weather board is helping his family and the villagers to take farming decisions.

    Assistant Badghar Ashish explaining about the usefulness of the weather information board

    Assistant Badghar Ashish explaining about the usefulness of the weather information board

    Ashish says:

    “Weather information board is very helpful, I check the board every day and particularly before planning for any agriculture farming and harvesting activity. Earlier my family used to harvest the paddy looking at the sky and making prediction about the weather. I still remember we lost paddy after the harvest many times due to rainfall since our prediction was wrong. But now I check the weather board and convey the message to the community so that they plan the farming and harvesting activity in an appropriate time when weather pattern is suitable. Due to the weather information we have been able to save our harvest which earlier used to be destroyed due to bad weather conditions. This has made the community more resilient to the floods and other hazards as good harvest means they can save the grain for difficult period.”

    Community members observing the weather information

    Community members observing the weather information

    For more information visit following links:

    Bidhya’s story

    Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP)

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  • ‘Sunalo Sakhi’ : An experiment that needs further support

    April 4th, 2016

    “Sunalo Sakhi” is a small demonstration project started under the banner of Practical Answers at the beginning of 2016. The local partner CCWD happily agreed to partner with us for 3 months to implement the program in 15 slums of Bhubaneswar. This Bhubaneswar based NGO has strong grass root level presence and as this project was for a small period. We decided to use the already existed groups formed by the local NGO for the successful running of the project.

    The project focussed on educating adolescent girls on menstrual hygiene. Many development organizations have comprehensive programmes on and around this issue. But what made us different from others is the multi faceted campaigning through radio shows, podcasting, individual counselling, focused group discussion, and film screenings in slums and in nearby high-schools.

    We are happy to share that in Bhubaneswar we broadcast the first ever radio show exclusively on menstrual hygiene.

    Some of the notable achievements of this three month project are;

    1. Through radio we are reaching out to directly around 2000 young girls and women in 15 slums
    2. Through our community outreach programme we are reaching out to more than 3000 girls and women.
    3. Through film screening we are reaching out to more than 500 school going girls
    4. 15 Kishori Clubs have been revived with 386 members and many change agents have been identified to keep on sharing the knowledge with their peers

    As the radio has a 25 KM radius cover of Bhubaneswar it is reaching even more adolescent girls of the city than those in our project area. During the radio shows our community workers are ensuring their presence in the field where the adolescent girls are able to ask their questions through telephone calls and our resource person is immediately answering the questions.
    IMG_2637 (Cópia)

    It was really nice to hear the experiences of Usharani, Babita and Auropriya in the sharing workshop. Auropriya said that these shows helped her to prepare herself as she was about to attain puberty. Now she knows how to maintain hygiene during her periods. Usharani and Babita said that this has really helped many young girls as they were not able to ask anyone their concerns and the radio shows have addressed many of the issues of their fellow girls.

    The project has successfully identified many blind beliefs associated with menstruation and developed knowledge products to address those. There are 436 slums in the city and many girls are deprived of such knowledge. I must accept we need further resources to expand the programmes. Hence, we are exploring partnership with some of the like minded organizations. But there are a few key things that I hope the project team will work on:

    1. Sharing our recordings with other community radio stations managed by non-profits and requesting that they broadcast these in their operational areas
    2. Sharing the knowledge products with other organizations
    3. Ensuring Kishori club members keep sharing their knowledge with their peers.

    The sharing meeting opened up new windows to educate more girls in different regions. Using community radio across the state, this kind of programme can now reach out to thousands of other girls in need of resources.  Technology has now forward a step in witnessing a change in the hygiene practice of young girls and we wish to spread this knowledge with more communities.

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  • When Manjari met Badamanjari

    January 20th, 2016

    Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes ~ EF Schumacher

    This is about a story of two entities carrying the same name and few similarities; however the differences make this quite a story.  It began when we took a journey from Bhubaneswar to Koraput to see a few micro hydro projects. I was assigned to document the good practices and was figuring out ways to start.

    By the time we left Bhubaneswar, both the characters were already developed and discussed by my colleagues. One was part of geography and the other one was human existence. One was the means to progress the other one was progressive. One was hopeful about the hopes of the other one. One was a place to visit and other one was the visitor. One was Manjari and the other one was Badamanjari.

    IMG_0793 (Cópia)

    Badamanjari Village, Koraput, Odisha

    It sounds funny, but what made me write this blog was something which we in Practical Action believe -giving the human touch to my work. Though it started with pulling Manjari’s leg, (she’s the Senior Energy officer from the Nepal office) we all were heading to Badamanjari where we have demonstrated a micro hydro project linking it with sustainable livelihood under project SMRE (Sustainable Micro-hydro through Energizing Rural Enterprises & Livelihood) with a support from WISIONS.

    Crossing the hilly terrains of the Eastern Ghats, we were heading towards Badamanjari on the second day, we were constantly teasing Manjari making her more inquisitive about the place. We crossed the beautiful valleys of Koraput on our way, taking photos of beautiful landscapes. We passed several small villages and hamlets but Badamanjari was still far away. I was ready with my camera to capture the moment when Manjari meets Badamanjari!!

    I could hear the beat of drums and local instruments. I guessed a wedding was happening seeing the crowd of people. But as soon as we came closer, a few familiar faces came towards us, which made me sure that we are in Badamanjari and the music was to welcome us. We were overwhelmed but things that happened after that made our day. When Manjari got down from the car, the women put garlands around her neck and also on ours – this was a grand welcome, beyond our expectations.

    To our surprise, the women took Manjari to dance with them with the beats of local songs and the instruments. I could see a perfect sync between Manjari and Badamanjari. It was a beautiful village in the foothills of tall mountains with colourful walls and magical music of water flowing from the surrounding fountains.

    After nearly two hours in the village, when we were returning, I asked Manjari, about her experience and I was expecting her to be happy and positive about the warm welcome and the time we spent there. She had showed the villagers how to operate the powerhouse smoothly.  After a few seconds of silence and a deep sigh, Manjari replied.

    Her reply initiated a discussion about something which we must bring into our practices in the village.  We had community meeting where there was a proportionate number of both male and female  villagers attending. But when it came to participation in the discussion the women said very little, despite being asked several times. One of the villagers was translating the discussion in local Kui language but it made no difference. The women remained silent and we were unsure whether they got anything from the discussion or not. I could see the worry in the words of Manjari while she shared this. She was unhappy to see few women participating in the development process. She also raised a valid point that no women from the village have a clear idea of the micro hydro project and things that are benefitting their village.  No women accompanied us at the powerhouse.

    IMG_0838 (Cópia)

    Women from Badamanjari Village, Koraput

    There is a need, for these women to come out of their cocoon.”  she said. With these words of Manjari, I could connect to a lot of situations and suddenly Manjari made me realise that, I have also taken the video interviews of a male villager whereas it could have been a women sharing her bit of story.

    We had already left the village and it gave me enough space to rethink and realise the real essence of development.

    As a development professional when all our efforts are heading towards making life better of marginalised communities, our ethics should compel us to take a stand on bringing equality in all spheres. Gender equality must feature in our actions in the field and rather than just being a term in the development dictionary. All our projects and people managing projects and supporting services must be sensitised to work on this. Because real essence of development lies in practice rather than theory – this what Manjari made me realise.

    As they say, we learn from our mistakes. I am hopeful to give justice to my work at a personal level by abiding by such ethical values. Beyond all good memories, hardship and fun we had during the journey I will take away this learning which will make me a better individual and a professional as well. Yes, it was a story, a real one. Of two entities with the much similarity of name, but beyond the names I could feel the invisible bond unnoticed.

    I looked out of the window and saw the setting sun and a silver lining there at the horizon.

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  • Khamba’s Story: filtering his way to progress

    December 8th, 2015

    Khamba Prasad Gharti (42) migrated from his village in hilly Jajarkot District some fifteen years ago to Surajpur, Gulariya-11, Bardiya District in the terai plains due to the ongoing armed conflict at that time. Life in the terai was not easy for his family of five, because of the language barrier, climatic conditions, cultural differences and economic constraints.

    “It was not easy to settle down at a new location. Altogether 28 families from our village had come here to settle after life became increasing difficult there. But we had to struggle really hard to keep our families fed,” shares Khamba. He used to go to neighbouring country India to do odd jobs, but it was quite difficult to make the ends meet for the family.

    But now, things have changed remarkably for him and his family.

    “My life changed after attending that one training,” Khamba shares happily.

    Khamba remembers attending a five day bio-sand filter making training six years ago. “When I heard about the training, I thought why not?” says Khamba.

    The training was provided by SWASTHA project which was implemented by Practical Action from 2009 to 2012. It worked in Bharatpur, Butwal, Gulariya and Tikapur Municipalities of Nepal with the main objective of improving the health and wellbeing of the urban and peri urban settlements. A major objective of the project was to improve the access to safe water in the communities. Since, the underground water in these communities have high levels of arsenic, bio-sand filters were an appropriate solution. Bio-sand filters not only filter impurities like bacteria and iron but also arsenic which does not get filtered by other common filters available in the market. It is also low maintenance and can used for years.

    Khamba making filter in front of his house few years ago

    Khamba making filters in front of his house few years ago.

    “After the training, I wanted to start a small enterprise to manufacture bio-sand filters but I didn’t have enough money to start a business on my own. I asked a few friends who had attended the same training to initiate a joint venture, but they all refused. No one thought that making filters could actually be profitable. I felt quite discouraged at that time,” remembers Khamba. “But the project team encouraged me and supported me with some equipment. They provided me a mould to make the filter. After that, I took a loan of NPR 25,000 (1 GBP=159 NPR) and started making bio-sand filters.”

    Khamba made 100 filters in the first batch and the cost of one filter was NPR 2,500 at that time (it now costs NPR 5,000).

    “As people were becoming aware of the benefits of safe drinking water due to different activities of the SWASTHA project, it was not difficult to sell those 100 pieces. I was able to pay back the loan, right after selling the first lot,” says Khamba happily. “After that I was motivated to manufacture more filters, I made 300 and 400 pieces in second and third lot respectively. As I made the filters very carefully, everyone liked my products. People from communities and different organisation bought my filters.”

    Khamba’s customer Pansara Rawal using her bio-sand filter

    Khamba’s customer Pansara Rawal using her bio-sand filter.

    After the SWASTHA project was over in 2012, Khamba saw a bit decrease in the demand for his filters. “The sales were not rapid but it was regular enough to keep my income inflow ongoing regularly. I have not faced any financial difficulty after starting this filter making enterprise. All three of my children are going to good schools,” shares Khamba. But it is not just economic progress that is keeping Khamba happy, he also feels a sense of service to the community after delivering each filter. “It is like giving a gift of pure water to the families. I feel like I am serving the community as well while earning my own living. This is way better than going abroad for work.”

    One of Khamba’s customers, Pansara Rawal (53) was among the first buyers of the filter. “There was a government official who came to test water filtered by bio-sand filter, the results showed that there was almost no trace of arsenic, so I ordered one from Khamba immediately,” says Pansara. “Our family has been using it since the last five years, and there is absolutely no complaint as yet. The water tastes good and we have not suffered from water borne diseases like we used to do before we used the filter.”

    Another project, currently being implemented in Gulariya Municipality by Practical Action, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015), is helping to promote Khamba’s work and effort. This project is presently conducting orientations on bio-sand filter maintenance for fulfilling one of its objectives – ‘achieving healthy communities’.

    “I feel a sense of satisfaction that I am helping the community become healthier through my enterprise. I plan to set up a shop at Nepalgunj (the nearest city) to promote my business,” says Khamba. Fourteen other bio-sand filter makers like Khamba, many of them trained by SWASTHA have formed a network of bio-sand filter makers called Bio-sand Filter Association of Nepal (BFAN) with members all over the country. They conduct meetings two times a year and collect NPR 200 monthly for the progress of the network. “We want to promote the bio-sand filter collectively all over the country, the network has been doing quite well until now,” says Khamba.

    “I used to live in a hut, now I have made a concrete home and this year bought a motorbike too!” Khamba beams with happiness. Khamba has come a long way since SWASTHA and is a shining example of what a small initiative can lead to. He has not just done well for himself but also promoted the very cause of the project even years after it has been over.

    Khamba explaining about his filter in front of his house presently.

    Khamba explaining about the filter in front of his house.


    Khamba sharing his story.

    Khamba sharing his story.


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  • Necessity is the mother of invention

    September 24th, 2015

    Development does not start with goods; it starts with people and their education, organization, and discipline. ~EF SCHUMACHER

    About 668 million or around 70% of Indians live in rural areas (in 640,000 villages) and continue to use animal dung, agricultural waste and wood as fuel for cooking. The thermal (energy) efficiency of these traditional sources is very low (15%). Particulate matter in the Indian households burning biomass is 2000 μg/cubic m which is much higher than the permissible 150 μg/cubic m.

    Use of traditional fuels is estimated to cause around 400,000 premature deaths in India each year due to respiratory problems. 75% of rural households depend on firewood for cooking, with 9% each using dung-cake and LPG, as against 22% of urban households using firewood for cooking, another 10% on kerosene and about 57% on LPG. For domestic lighting, 55% of rural households depend on electricity and another 44% on kerosene, while in urban areas dependency is 89% on electricity and 10% on kerosene.


    Access to clean cook stoves for social well-being and economic sustainability (ACCESS), supported by Johnson Matthey, is helping Practical Action achieve another milestone in developing new, appropriate technology in the clean cook stove market.

    The project is being implemented in Koraput, in Odisha. 90% of the population in the district depend on firewood as their prime cooking source. Deforestation and erosion are often the end result of harvesting wood for fuel. People, especially women, spend the whole day on firewood collection for 2/3 days cooking needs. Hence, the main goal of most improved cooking stoves is to reduce the pressure placed on local forests by reducing the amount of wood the stoves consume. Additionally, the money a family spends on wood or charcoal translates into less money being available to be spent on food, education, and medical care; so an improved cooking stove is also a way of boosting a family’s income.

    stage -1

    Prototype 1

    However idea of this project was to pick the best available cook stove in the market and involve women entrepreneur groups in the cook stove business through establishing production centres. Our local partner for the project “EKTA” started looking at the available cook stoves in the local market and their feasibility, we continuously got a negative result. We started negotiating with bigger and established manufacturers but “transferring technology to the community” was refused because of issues with security and quality control.

    Prototype 2

    Prototype 2

    Time pressure encourage us to develop our own cook stove through a series of experiments and demonstrations and consulting our colleagues in Nepal. We enlisted the help of an engineer to design the stove according to our specifications as well as a local expert to make it using the design. This has been updated four times based on community feedback. Finally the community friendly cook stove has been developed by the project and is getting attention at stakeholder level. It is cost effective, movable, light and above all looks attractive..

    Prototype 3

    Prototype 3

    The cook stove has been demonstrated and passed water boiling and cooking tests at the community level and has been sent for lab testing at Odisha University for Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), where it was received enthusiastically.

    We hope this cook stove will add a milestone to Practical Action’s achievements in India and that it will help rural women to secure a stake in improved cook stove manufacturing and business. Considerable challenges still exist in promoting improved stoves,  but the key to moving forward will be to effectively engage women in ways that accommodate or help overcome existing constraints.

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  • Finally I saw a micro hydro project……

    September 18th, 2015

    IMG_2255The place is not safe as it is said to be an extremist area. It takes around two hours to reach the village of Badamanjari from Koraput by a hired field vehicle. I have never used a road of such kind, earthen and muddy one, going through the hills where the vehicle can slip if there is rain. But I decided to go there as I was not able to control my anxiety to see a successful micro hydro project. The previous day I had tried to see one which is near to the district headquarter but I could not go there because of heavy rain. The vehicle got stuck in the mud and the driver was not ready to take us uphill.

    IMG_2345Badamanjari village can be termed one of the remotest, having no roads, electricity or mobile network.  It is a tough place to stay. On the other hand, the scenic beauty of the village cannot be expressed in words. Surrounded with hills and forest and small hill streams the village can contribute to tourism in the state. The village is mostly inhabited by the indigenous communities with around 91 households. Agriculture is the main source of income.

    IMG_2353 Practical Action is working with a broken micro hydro which provided electricity to the villagers for 6-7 years. The people have a taste for  electricity but remain deprived of it as it was damaged. With the support of a local NGO partner, Koraput Farmers Association (KFA) Practical Action took up the task of rehabilitating it and ensure a community based management system. The project aimed at providing electricity to the villagers along with establishing rural enterprises with the use of electricity.

    The following inputs were provided for the better management of the micro hydro;

    1. Skill development around enterprise development such as business plan development, market research through PMSD
    2. Rehabilitation of civil components and electro-mechanical components
    3. Renewal of power-based enterprises and installation of new enterprises.


    Now the system produces more than 30kw of electricity – just as before, this electrifies around 110 households in two villages; Badamanjari and Phulpadar. Besides this two enterprises have been established by the community members with our technical support – rice hulling and turmeric processing.

    As the villagers may not be able to pay a big amount towards the user charges for the consumption of electricity, the plan is to collect somewhat a good amount (as per meter) from the enterprises which can sustain the system. Still the villagers have decided to collect Rs. 30/- per month per household towards the charges. All the enterprises have started but it will take little time to make those fully functional in terms of market.

    IMG_2362I am not sure if the village will get a grid connection in near future, but this micro hydro is definitely going to change the fate of the two villages in coming years. The children can now study in the evening. A few people have already purchased televisions. Both of these will help to educate the children and community as well.

    The doors are open for them to see the wider world now.

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  • They came, they saw and they conquered

    September 15th, 2015

    “…we tend to think of development, not in terms of evolution, but in terms of creation.”

    E. F. Schumacher

    Three slums, three women and their amazing work has made them agents of change. Yes, we are talking about our very own Bhubaneswar and the untold stories of three women whose efforts have made lives better and easier for the whole community.

    Coming under ward number 22 of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation, this slum had some serious problems. Most of the male residents, who work as daily wage workers and females work as servants in nearby smarter areas, used to face the common problem of defecating in the open every single day. When it comes to women and young girls avoiding male eyes was the most awkward task and they struggled every morning to find a space. They had to go either before sunrise or after sunset to hide in order to defecate. It was a matter of shame till the women group got united and fought for a solution.


    Community Toilet in Birsa Munda Slum, Bhubaneswar

    The local sanitation group led by Ms Ranjulata Mohapatra, united the women in the community and despite many hurdles they mobilised around 26,000 and gathered more support from organisations like Practical Action and European Commission and built a community toilet with facilities for both men and women. For more than two years those toilets have served their communities. Looking at this gesture the local authority also constructed another community toilet at a nearby community which is also serving the people.

    Talking about the management of the toilet, Ranjulata adds, “We have a sanitation committee which takes care of the daily operation of the toilet. Every family has been given two duplicate keys (one for male and one for female members) and any point of time anyone from our community can use the toilet using their keys. We are collecting 20 rupees per house per month from each of the families. The collected amount covers our expenses for electricity, fees for the regular cleaner, other maintenance and rest we keep for contingencies. The toilet is connected with piped water which lessens the burden on people to carry buckets of water. Hence, it has been of immense help for women, child and senior citizens of the community. We are aware of other slums who are still defecating in open, but all it needs is strong determination and cooperation to make life easier which we did and we are thankful before Practical Action, who supported us financially as well as advocating our fight for a respectful life.” It is noted that this project was a collaboration of Practical Action and European Commission who provided the financial assistance for the developmental works.

    Similarly, in a slum like Dumduma Satya Nagar, a highly populated area with few individual toilets, it was saddening that people were not using the existing community toilet and were still defecating in open. With much persuasion the local women from Amar Sanchaya Samiti have taken a lead and now successfully run the community toilet which is serving hundreds of people every morning. It is noted, that the community toilet has been there for the last 6 years, but it was defunct and unused for a considerable period. Since they have taken charge, they have made their best efforts to run it for the people. However, it has also been self-sustaining by meeting its regular needs as in electricity and cleaner fees as well as the regular maintainance.


    Members of Amar Sanchaya Samiti who takes care of the Community Toilet in Dumduma Satya Nagar.

    Two women of the 14 member sanitation group take care of the regular opening of the toilet and collection of users’ fee 4 rupees per person and this happens on rotation basis. Every two months new members take charge. Every day they deposit the collected amount and reinvest the same by giving loans to members which generate interest and additional return for the group. However, they admit that still people are defecating in open, but they are continuing their efforts to mobilise them by letting them know the perils of open defecation. This community toilet was tranformed in management and operation under the guidance of Practical Action who has set up a solar panel to light the toilet and basic support to revamp the defunct one with social mobilisation.

    Another group of women under the banner of slum committee led by a community leader Swayamprabha Sahoo in Satya Kali Slum who has been an agent of change by bringing safe drinking water to the doorstep. She has lessened the burden of many women from fetching water from a distance and using water from well for cooking.


    Swayamprabha Sahoo, whose efforts brought drinking water for the people of Satya Kali Slum.

    Located centrally in Bhubaneswar, the capital city of Odisha, the people of Satyakali Basti live in the shadow of urbanization. The slum had 13 personal wells and one stand post provided by the Municipal Corporation for water supply. Now with the installation of two overhead tanks being run by the motor boring which runs through electricity, there are 30 stand posts catering to around 300 houses.

    Practical Action in collaboration with the European Commission has supported the community to build these water points. When inaugurated, there were only 21 stand posts which now the community have installed 9 more with their own efforts and resources.

    While remembering the past, Swayamprabha says, we used to depend on wells mostly for the water, and we have water at our doorstep now. They have formed a committee ‘Satyakali Sangathana’ and collect 20 rupees per household per month. The committee collects the amount and takes care of the proper running of the water system. Apart from the caretaker’s salary and electricity bill and regular maintenance, the committee also saved money from the users’ fee to spend in other developmental activities.

    There are difficulties to live in such unhealthy living conditions in a slum; however, one may see the  glimpse of smile in the sparkling faces of the residents as a talk on the issue of drinking water or open defecation, they have been a winner in their own struggles. They came, they saw their problems and they conquered them.

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