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  • Meeting rural electricity needs in Malawi


    June 20th, 2017

    An expanding geographic area of work for Practical Action is in Malawi’s agriculture and energy sectors.

    Malawi has an agro-based economy, with the agriculture sector contributing 30% to the national GDP annually.  Increasing challenges from the changing climate and the demand to feed a fast growing population are driving an increasing focus on this sector. Practical Action has a valuable role to play, which I will talk about in a future blog.  Today I want to concentrate on our role in the provision of electricity.

    Malawi relies on a limited number of hydroelectric stations to generate its electricity. But grid generation is only able to provide power to 10% of the population and within that to only 1% of the rural population. Current generation plans fall far short of meeting the growing national demand. We know that electricity provision – for lighting, for cooking, for small businesses, for water pumping for irrigation is crucial for social as well as economic development.

    Malawi microhydro

    Microhydro site

    Currently there is a high reliance on fuel wood, cow dung, agricultural waste, candles, diesel and paraffin for energy provision in the rural communities but these solutions are not cost effective or environmentally sustainable compared to renewable energy technologies.

    Practical Action is working to address this shortfall in rural electrification through applying its strong international pedigree in pioneering off grid power generating solutions to producing results and learning in Malawi.

    Over the past five years we have established a functioning minigrid serving communities, small business, schools and health facilities in the Mulanje area in the south of Malawi. This facility will soon see three hydro schemes generating electricity from the rivers falling from Mount Mulanje.  This operation is managed and maintained by a local social enterprise and is the first independent power producer in Malawi to be approved by the Government. Practical Action also has other ongoing electricity generation schemes in Malawi, this time using solar power, providing electricity to pump water into irrigation schemes in Chikwawa and Nsanje in the lower Shiree. We are already seeing results in the form of household and community lighting stimulating improved education, improved healthcare and efficiency of small businesses.

    Malawi milling

    Diesel powered milling machine

    The greatest opportunity we have now is not to continue delivering these solutions ourselves but to produce solid evidence and learning from our past and current work and share this widely to allow others to take the delivery forward. By learning from these interventions and using this knowledge of what worked and what did not work we will define our role in Malawi by assisting and supporting others in the off grid sector. This approach will ultimately give more people access to electricity.

    A real example this new role comes from a scoping visit last week to a new hydro site North of Muzuzu. We have an exciting opportunity to facilitate a hydro based electricity generation minigrid through working with a group of commercial coffee producers, local communities and artisan entrepreneurs, funding agencies and the Ministry of Energy.  The potential is there to create a minigrid that provides power for local businesses to develop, to provide communities with lighting, to provide electricity to improve education and healthcare standards and also to power the coffee growers and processers thus stimulating economic output.

    malawi coffee

    Coffee co-operative

    Before we go further, we must be clear of the level of responsibility that lies with us – there are downsides as well as upsides to this initiative. Our role initially will involve learning and experience to feed into a thorough feasibility assessment taking into consideration the technical possibilities of harnessing the river flow and the economic sustainability using supply costs and demand forecasts. We must also emphasise the social and environmental impact. The project site is in a rural and forested part of northern Malawi and we must ensure that the generation scheme and the development that it catalyses minimise environmental degradation (the aim is to improve this aspect) as well as incorporate plans to  address the social changes resulting from increase concentrations of people around the electricity access areas.

    We believe that our learning and evidence from our current and past minigrid work places us in a very strong position to produce the best possible outcome.

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  • What’s next for ‘Enabling the Business of Agriculture’?


    June 1st, 2017

    Each year the World Bank bring together their country representatives from around the globe to measure progress and push forward on new initiatives.  ‘World Bank land’ in Washington DC becomes a bustling mini-city within a city. Even the bus stops get the messages out.  My favourite this year was Rich countries shouldn’t define poverty for poor countries’world bank

    I was there to participate in a panel discussing the relevance and progress of their four year pilot of the Enabling the Business of Agriculture program (EBA).

    Work began on this in 2013, funded by donors like DFID, USAID and Gates Foundation. It set out to become a high profile global programme that assesses countries regulatory environment for agri-business. The intention is to provide governments and others with information which will help them to make better policy and investment decisions.

    Over the past four years Practical Action has been engaging with this program because we know that:

    1. Farmers and other agri-business players are deeply affected by the enabling environment and, whatever the context, it can have a direct impact on their ability to make money from their activities. Part of this is determined by the regulatory environment, but only part.  Our work highlights many more issues not covered by the EBA.
    2. Regardless of what NGOs think of tools like the EBA, they can be influential, whether we like them or not! The World Bank’s flagship program Doing Business is in its 14th year and has been shown to shape regulation in the 190 countries that use it. So however imperfect, we recognise that this type of information is used by policy makers and investors.

    Throughout the pilot phase the EBA program has had harsh criticism from a high profile campaign Our Land Our Business. This group are concerned that the EBA will “create a race-to-the-bottom between countries as they clamor for World Bank investment dollars”.

    Practical Action has not joined this campaign but instead has been working closely with other INGOs like Christian Aid to engage with the EBA team to push for a stronger focus on:

    • Ending poverty – we’ve argued for the EBA to focus more on those aspects that will promote inclusion, i.e. benefit smallholders and others who struggle to achieve gains from agri-business, particularly women, despite their dependency on the sector for their livelihoods.

    end povertyWe want this ambition to move from obscurity to full visibility. A bit like these pictures I took of the World Bank building during the meetings. A big (literally!) reminder for all of the primary purpose of the World Bank.

    • Long-term environmental sustainability, making agricultural sectors towards fit for purpose in a changing climate. This needs to be bedded into key areas of the EBA (seeds, fertiliser, mechanisation) not sitting on its own, as a special island of optimism without regulatory teeth.

    Agri-business as usual is not an option

    There is global consensus that agri-business as usual is no longer an option. Kristalina Georgieva the World Bank’s CEO, opened a packed session on “The Future of Food” with a strong call for changes to a failing food system. We’re interested in how the EBA can support (as opposed to undermine) those changes to happen. The ‘Our Land our Business’ campaign is deeply concerned that it will exacerbate the failings of the food system. We are more optimistic. Over four years we’ve had some good conversations with the EBA team. However it’s been challenging for them to incorporate feedback because of their very tight data collection schedule and the limitations of the tool, because the donor mandate of the project means the focus is solely on regulation.

    EBA2017-Report17 1It is encouraging to see that in this recent progress report  attention is given to both environmental sustainability and gender. The EBA team are clear that it’s still very much work in progress. They are moving the program to biennial data collection and reporting which is very positive because it means they can take some time to address the more challenging issues. This is vital if the EBA is not to skew decision-making on agriculture in the future.  For the next phase of this program as they continue to develop and expand it there needs to be a clear intent to deliver:

    • Deeper engagement and meaningful consultation in-country – dedicated to incorporating views of agri-business and civil society as well as public actors.
    • More attention on inclusion and environmental sustainability – integrate them properly into the EBA so they are in the data sets and scores which will get the attention of policy makers. Make them what this is about. It’s a great opportunity for the EBA to make the shift that is needed actually happen.

    It is so important for users and supporters of the EBA to take a balanced approach, given that regulation is a very small part of the picture when it comes to an effective enabling environment for agriculture. In particular the World Bank and the EBA donors should focus on delivering the SDGs by supporting wider investment in processes that will shift towards a more inclusive and sustainable agriculture.

    For Practical Action that means investing in systems that rely on fewer external inputs, creating lower risk agriculture for the majority.

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  • Talking shit at FSM4 Conference – Feedback on our sanitation work in Bangladesh

    Talking about shit for a week in India — a fascinating context to present our sanitation work! India, a country that has undertaken a huge and ambitious national scale clean-up campaign (Swachh Bharat/Clean India Mission), hosted the LOGO4th_faecal_sludge_management_conference4th Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) Conference in Chennai this February. In total, 1,100 practitioners, governments and private sector representatives from all over the world participated in the conference. This was a truly unique sharing and visibility opportunity for our organisation. As a result, we ran out of our latest Technology Justice paper on Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) on the second day of the conference!

    During the conference, we shared lessons from the preliminary operation of the business model we are implementing in Faridpur, Bangladesh, as part of the ‘Public Private Partnerships (PPP) for Sustainable Sludge Management Services’ project  (Gates Foundation – DFID funding). We also provided the community of practice with some key insights on the relevance of business modelling and market-based solutions in FSM, and received some excellent feedback from the participants, because we were addressing the following issues:

    Why work on FSM  The dreadful economic and health costs of poor sanitation

    The World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program estimates the economic costs of poor sanitation in Bangladesh to be USD 4.2 billion each year. This was equivalent to 6.3 per cent of Bangladesh’s GNP in 2007! This shows that the health impacts dwarf the economic costs. In Bangladesh, open defecation has remarkably decreased to only 1 per cent (from 34 per cent in 1990). However, in most secondary towns, like Faridpur, there are no sewers. Residents rely on on-site sanitation, combined with unsafe FSM practices. In addition, 90 per cent of the sludge in Faridpur was not safely emptied or transported when we first assessed the situation in 2014. The absence of drainage or emptying facilities in the low-income settlements results in overflowing toilets, which simply leads to the problem of open defecation reoccurring! This is the main reason why we developed our programme in Bangladesh. This project now mixes hardware (e.g. treatment plant) and software solutions (e.g. private entrepreneurs and municipality partnership around FSM business).A national FSM framework to fill the legal vacuum in Bangladesh
    Bangladesh FSM NetworkThe health and economic risks presented above are what we call a “second-generation sanitation challenge”.  Bangladesh has achieved 99 per cent access to sanitation. However, the key challenge now is: how can both, public and private sector actors, safely manage all the sludge that is contained in these new on-site systems.  Practical Action and ITN-BUET (our partner University) work on developing viable business models for the problem. In addition, we have been developing a National Institutional and Regulatory Framework for FSM. This was inexistent in Bangladesh but is now being approved. This framework will significantly clarify roles for the municipalities in charge. It is now complemented by the strategic policy advocacy and knowledge dissemination; role played by the newly created National FSM Network, including I/NGOs, CSOs, government, private sector and industries. Practical Action was a key founder of this network.

    Lessons and highlights from the FSM4 Conference

    • Awareness raising and demand generation are the key to kick-start new FSM businesses.Street Drama, World Toilet Day
    • Early indications show, that pit-emptiers in Faridpur are now seeing an increase in demand. As a result, faecal waste is now safely disposed at the treatment plant. While some projects have tended to underestimate activities such as street drama, cycling events, cleanliness drives, quiz contests and cycle rallies. These have proven to be the central drivers of a progressive increase in revenue from pit-emptying. Further, they create a sense of ownership and environmental awareness. Increased demand for a trustworthy service demonstrates good potential for uptake of such models.

    • A cross-subsidised tariff system is required to attain a responsive service in these cities.

    Income that pit-emptiers get from fees cannot fully cover the cost of collecting, transporting, treating and disposing the sludge. This is why business models explore the possibilities to have other sources of revenues; such as a smart subsidy from the Municipality, and sales of co-compost from sludge in medium-long term.

    FSM Business ModelTaking a system’s approach helps seeing the bigger picture and to forsee interconnected issues.

      • Looking at FSM as a system (i.e. including all stakeholders, rules, norms beyond the mere service chain household-to-treatment plant) allowed the project team to see hidden strengths and blockages that would only have been uncovered later on. By doing so, the Faridpur project could:
        • Build on the informal sector as an existing and relatively efficient service provider and
        • Understand conflictive incentives in providing pit-emptying services.
        Practical Action is good at facilitating participatory and inclusive design of partnerships between Municipalities and the private sector,

    e.g. between FaridpurMunicipality, formalised pit-emptiers, and a treatment plant operator. Years of collaboration with municipalities have helped to build trust, and therefore, to facilitate the design of such business models that are flexible, modular and adaptable to how demand for pit-emptying evolves over time.

    Outstanding questions and food for thoughtPreliminary operation of the FSM business model, Faridpur, Bangladesh

    • The multi- stakeholder’s steering committee, set up in Faridpur Municipality to oversee the performance of the service, will play a key role in rolling out and scaling up the service – is it possible to use this model in other Water & Sanitation projects to ensure ownership and to take this approach to scale?
    • We should have a better understanding of pro-poor sanitation services in our projects. Our projects are focusing on scale and profitability, however the question of the affordability of emptying services for the poorest in Faridpur was raised by our peers.
    • Could we not complement our systems and business approach with a “Rights-Based Approach”? Human rights based approaches (HRBAs) are successfully used to build citizens’ capacity to claim this basic right to the Government.

    For more information about why our sanitation work matters, watch our Bangladesh Director Hasin Jahan’s TED Talk.

     

     

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  • What if preparedness action was informed by forecasts?

    Imagine if we had forecast information that a flood disaster was likely to strike a particular location and we could anticipate the rain coming but were unable to do anything in that small window of opportunity. It would make sense if we were able to take early action and help vulnerable communities prepare before a disaster event based upon the available forecast information. Forecast based Financing (FbF) is a niche concept in the humanitarian sector that allows us to take actions based upon the best science ahead of time when it is not too late to respond.

    FbF combines disaster management and climate research where scientific weather forecasts are used to anticipate possible impacts in high risk areas and predefined plans automatically mobilizes resources before a disaster event.

     

     

    Current preparedness plans are often normative and based upon the average level of risks though there is a huge potential to scale up humanitarian actions when science indicates the increased level of risks regarding impending hazards. So far the policy directives have increasingly spurred investment in improving preparedness, enhancing existing early warning systems and response initiatives. But it has clearly overlooked much needed linkages between early warning and early actions for improved preparedness and response.

    FbF triggers early action based on forecasts, bridging the gaps between preparedness, disaster risk reduction and emergency response. Likewise, FbF also supports the Sendai Framework’s emphasis on the paradigm shift towards risk management and mobilizing investments to avoid new risks.

     

    Practical Action Consulting (PAC) is currently providing Technical Assistance (TA) to the World Food Programme (WFP) Nepal  in reviewing climate risks and flood early warning systems of Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Surkhet, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts  in Western  Nepal. The engagement will seek to develop dynamic Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) where thresholds triggers flood preparedness actions in the aforementioned districts.

    With contributions from Madhab Uprety – DRR Consultant at PAC

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  • Flood Dynamics in the Karnali Basin, West Nepal


    July 6th, 2016

    The Karnali is a trans-boundary river that originates from the Himalayas and flows along the steep and hilly terrain of West Nepal. The Karnali drains into the Terai plains from a narrow gorge at Chisapani where the river splits into the Geruwa and Karnali rivers, creating an inland delta before converging as the Ghagra in India (Zurich 2015). The river carries snow fed flows and has significant discharge even during the dry seasons. Based upon historical discharge records, 80% of the total flow occurs during the monsoon season with maximum flow events mostly occurring during the months of June through September (Dixit, 2009).

    The geomorphological origins of the Karnali bifurcation along with river shifting is not well understood, which is probably dictated by tectonics and attributed to the process of mountain building in the Himalayas (Sinha et al, 2014). Despite being one of the largest rivers of Nepal, there exists dearth of research on river morphology of the Karnali mega-fan (Zurich, 2015), and even less is known regarding the sediment dynamics and its impact on flooding at a basin scale. However, what is known is that the Karnali River floods the Terai plains every few years, and the frequency has increased in the past decade with major floods occurring in 2008, 2009, 2013 and 2014.

    Understanding the catchment response for rivers in Nepal is highly complex owing to the dynamic geomorphology upstream coupled with topographic and geological constraints (Nepal et al. 2014). Moreover, it is challenging to comprehend the catchment response during high intensity and short duration precipitation events that trigger flash floods downstream (Shrestha et al, 2008).  Floods are also dependent upon river morpho-dynamics and local slope conditions and generally follow non-linear pathways (Sinha et al, 2014).

    It is critical to understand non-linear pathways to flooding in large river basins such as Karnali, where myriad of engineering structures such irrigation canals and hydropower plants are currently being planned to divert water flows. With the changing climate, magnitude and frequency of floods are expected to increase in the near future (NCVST, 2009), altering the dynamics and carrying capacity of the rivers that would most likely impact the future flood conditions, which cannot be discounted for the Karnali River.

    LANDSAT Imagery indicating the relative locations of the Karnali and Babai rivers as they drain from the hills, along with both bifurcation point from Chisapani and re-joining of the Karnali River in the Indian floodplains

    LANDSAT Imagery indicating the relative locations of the Karnali and Babai rivers as they drain from the hills, along with both bifurcation point from Chisapani and re-joining of the Karnali River in the Indian floodplains

    Note: This post first appeared in the Flood Resilience Portal

    http://www.floodresilience.net/blogs/flood-dynamics-in-the-karnali-basin,-west-nepal

    References:

    1. Dixit, A. (2009). Kosi embankment breach in Nepal: Need for a paradigm shift in responding to floods. Economic and Political Weekly, 70-78.
    2. Gautam, D. K., & Dulal, K. (2013). Determination of threshold runoff for flood early warning in Nepalese Rivers. IDRiM Journal, 3(1), 126-136.
    3. Nepal, S., Flügel, W. A., & Shrestha, A. B. (2014). Upstream-downstream linkages of hydrological processes in the Himalayan region. Ecological Processes, 3(1), 1-16.
    4. NCVST. (2009). Vulnerability through the Eyes of Vulnerable: Climate Change Induced  Uncertainties and Nepal’s Development Predicaments. Kathmandu: Institute of Social and  Environmental Transition-Nepal (ISET-N), Nepal Climate Vulnerability Study Team (NCVST).
    5. Shrestha, A. B., Shah, S. H., & Karim, R. (2008). Resource manual on flash flood risk management. Internat. Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, ICIMOD. http://lib.icimod.org/record/7891.
    6. Sinha, R.; Kale, V.S.;Chakraborty, T. (2014), Tropical rivers of south and southeast Asia: Landscape evolution, morpho-dynamics and hazards, Geomorphology 227, 1–4.
    7. Zurich Insurance (2015). Risk Nexus: Urgent case for recovery: what we can learn from the August 2014 Karnali River floods in Nepal.

     

     

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  • Good and not so good news from the World Humanitarian Summit


    June 13th, 2016

    Two weeks ago I attended the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and thought I would share a few thoughts.

    Firstly, the positive message! The side-event on the Moving Energy Initiative with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves went very well: The next phase of funding was agreed and additional funding for the energy in emergencies sector was announced. The event was well attended and Practical Action made connections with important partners for us in the energy space.

    Baroness Verma from DFID and Susan Myers from the UN Foundation spoke at the event, reinforcing international commitments to delivering sustainable energy for all in conflict and disaster situations.  Participants pledged to investigate the linkages between gender-based violence and energy access, as well as work with humanitarian agencies to innovate with technology and approaches to increase access to household cooking energy and renewable energy in refugee camps.

    Moving energy initiative

    On a less positive note, the summit as a whole was, as expected, a demonstration of political wrangling. The high-level commitment emerging is the Grand Bargain, which commits to a target of 25% of humanitarian funding going to local NGOs by 2020. This includes greater use of cash transfers and global south implementation partners. But will this work in practice? Will it change the way major donors fund and the way the UN bodies implement? The feeling at the summit was no.  MSF were the strongest voice in this arena, refusing to even attend the summit, but many other NGOs and groups at the conference were voicing similar concerns.

    The challenge we face as a development organisation when working with the humanitarian community is – does the existing system work for the poorest and most vulnerable people? Many in the sector think it does not, and that we have a failing system in need of radical reform. Many field workers at the summit felt we should leave the UN and the international summit process and start doing things differently, independently, and directly. Were Practical Action to consider engaging further in the humanitarian sector, we need to think carefully where our engagement should focus.

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  • A Progressive Approach to Climate Compatible Development

    co-author Francis Muchiri

    Sustainable development will increasingly be judged on emerging metrics such as climate compatibility and gender-sensitive approaches.

    Climate change is a collective challenge facing the world today, and any effective solutions to slow down or mitigate its effects will need collaboration at all levels. It continues to manifest itself through natural shocks that are increasing in intensity and frequency: raging floods, extended and unpredictable droughts, compromised eco-systems and so on. The effects of climate change have a direct bearing on industry, industrialisation, food security, human migration trends, production systems, availability of water, and overall poverty levels, with the greatest negative impacts being felt by the most vulnerable groups.

    Because of the diffuse nature of its effects, conversations around climate-compatible development should take into account the diversity of efforts required: from the broader policy level, right down to the communal level, that will lead to greater impact. Kenyan women selling charcoal in Bondo market

    Women in both rural and urban areas face barriers (social, economic and political) that limit their ability to cope with the impacts of climate change. However, there is a danger in singling them out as passive victims or recipients to the benefits of adaptation or mitigation activities. Any collective efforts need to engage women alongside men and any other groups, as potential actors or agents for change. Information on the effectiveness of gender-sensitive approaches has not been quantified and analysed to produce clear evidence on the need for engendered approaches in climate compatible development. The lack of segregated data makes it difficult to demonstrate the link between gender, adaption and mitigation activities. Indeed, the impacts of climate change are experienced differently according to age, sex, location, and economic activity. It further has a composite effect on education, employment and the health sector, among others. We need to ask ourselves whether ongoing interventions incorporate strategies that ensure equal participation of both women and men.

    This presents a unique opportunity; to provide the required benchmarks on the effectiveness of gender-sensitive climate compatible development to create frameworks for future planning, investment and resourcing. Successful implementation of these interventions will require a demonstration of equity, where everyone benefits from, and is able to contribute to these measures regardless of their social status, locations, gender, occupation and so on.

    Evidence produced from Practical Action’s program implementation over the past 50 years has shown that community initiatives and interventions will neither be effective nor sustainable unless there is equitable buy-in and contribution from both men and women. Based on complete projects that integrated gender-sensitive approaches, there exist prospects to demonstrate how and to what extent engagement of both women and men in adaptation and mitigation efforts has contributed to the achievement of specific objectives, while improving their livelihoods.

    Susan Asiko lives in Kibera. She found herself in an unfortunate position when her only source of livelihood as a domestic worker came to an abrupt halt. After months of living from hand to mouth, and many times sleeping on an empty stomach, a neighbour introduced Susan to the briquette making business. With minimal education, Practical Action provided both business and technology support that has empowered her to manage her enterprise and make business decisions effectively. From an initial investment of Kshs. 200, she has been able to grow her business, producing an environmentally-friendly fuel for household use, and see her children through school. Her enterprise is meeting a number of varied goals: it is making use of available waste material, reducing reliance on ineffective biomass at the household level within her locale, and limiting the pollution generated from unclean fuels here. It might seem like a drop in the ocean, but because she was able to access relevant training, she can now make her individual contribution towards mitigating against the effects of climate change. How much more can be done to build an army of Susans?

    Practical Action through its consulting arm, Practical Action Consulting, is collaborating with the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) across three regions (Latin America, Eastern Africa and Southern Asia) to manage Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN)’s learning study dubbed “Gender Equality and Climate Compatible Development: Drivers and challenges to people’s empowerment”.

    The study will manage the production and dissemination of high quality evidence on gender-sensitive approaches to Climate Compatible Development (CCD) including how and to what extent they can contribute to increasing women’s ability to engage in adaptation and mitigation efforts in ways that affect the long-term impacts. The findings from the three sub-national studies will be used to substantiate the benefits of gender equality within the development and adoption of policy decisions and the subsequent design and implementation of appropriate development programmes in the case study countries and beyond.

    The one-year study will look at the adoption and meaning of ‘gender-sensitive’ approaches to Climate Compatible Development in different urban contexts, and also build understanding of the roles both men and women play in climate change related initiatives. It will also explore the socio-economic, political and cultural factors and conditions which either support or constrain gender responsive policies; strategies, approaches and actions; and the existing barriers in effective participation of women in decision making for activities around disaster risk reduction, post-disaster recovery, adaptation and mitigation in varied settings.

    In Kenya the CDKN Project will evaluate, through a gendered lens to CCD, the five-year Comic Relief Funded project titled People’s Plans in to Practice: Building Productive and Liveable Settlements with slum dwellers in Kisumu and Kitalewith part of its strategic focus on ‘People Living in Slums’. The project was implemented jointly by three partners; Practical Action, Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programme (KUAP) and Shelter Forum in collaboration with the defunct Municipal Councils of Kisumu and Kitale, commencing in 2008 and closing in December 2013.

    The overall aim of the project was to improve the well-being, productivity and living conditions of poor people living in informal settlements in Kenya and the East African region, 80% of who were women and children. It aimed at ensuring their inclusion in the planning and development processes of the Local Authorities; and by improving access to clean water, better sanitation, waste management, drainage, supporting secure land tenure and affordable housing.

    The CDKN study will document efforts made by development agencies to integrate gender into climate compatible development whilst identifying gaps that exist both in programming and policy at national and county levels. This will inform subsequent design and implementation of appropriate urban development strategies in cities and towns experiencing similar challenges.

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  • Learning from 2014 Karnali River Floods in West Nepal


    August 5th, 2015

    As part of Zurich’s flood resilience program, the post event review capability (PERC) provides research and independent reviews of large flood events. It seeks to answer questions related to aspects of flood resilience, flood risk management and catastrophe intervention. It looks at what has worked well (identifying best practices) and opportunities for further improvements.

    The Karnali region in Nepal experienced major flooding in August 2014, causing 222 deaths and severely affecting more than 120,000 people. The challenge now is to recover, build resilience and to prevent similar damages and loss during future disasters.

    Urgent Case for Recovery: What we can learn from the August 2014 Karnali River Floods in Nepal is a post event review evaluating flood events, impacts, response and recovery to understand what happened, what could have been done differently, and opportunities for building flood resilience in Nepal. The post event review conducted by ISET International, ISET-Nepal, Practical Action Nepal and Zurich examines two rivers and two districts in the area affected by the floods -the Karnali and Babai Rivers in Kailali and Bardiya districts in West Nepal.

    While the early warning systems saved many lives, these lives have been irrevocably changed with the widespread loss of livelihoods, property, and critical infrastructure. The challenge now is to prevent such damages and loss from future disasters and develop local resilience. A common misconception is that building resilience is an expensive, resource heavy process. However, critical gaps in the disaster management system can be fixed with inexpensive and simple solutions.

    Problems seen in the 2014 floods – such as unwieldy response procedures and lack of information – hamper response to all disasters, including the recent earthquakes. Decision-making processes should be improved, more reliable data gathered, and aid needs to get to those people who need it most. In the end, it comes down to finding ways to become ‘resilient’ to disasters. Resiliency means risk mitigation and preparation, not just picking up the pieces and starting again after every new catastrophe. This is also the focus of Zurich’s flood resilience alliance program.

    Schematic of Karnali and Babai Basin

    Schematic of Karnali and Babai Basin

    Focusing on the disaster management landscape as a whole, including disaster risk reduction, preparedness, response and recovery, this post event review evaluates the flood events, impacts, response and recovery to understand what happened, what could have been done differently, opportunities for action, and identify opportunities for improving flood risk and disaster management as a whole in Nepal.

    The bigger picture that emerges from the 2014 floods in Nepal can be applied more universally: long-term thinking and addressing chronic problems that increase hazards should be part of the picture to get beyond relief efforts. Much work is still needed to save individuals, families and entire communities from the devastation of floods.

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  • Simple technology – great results!


    December 16th, 2014

    Resident of Chitwan District of Nepal, 51 year old Ramlal Chaudary’s family has been dependent on agriculture for generations. But in the recent times, it was getting difficult to sustain his family of nine through agriculture alone. Recently, he had started driving tractor as a side business. But agriculture – is a part of his culture; paddy being the major harvest.

    Ramlal Chaudary at his paddy field. (Photo: Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

    Ramlal Chaudary at his paddy field. (Photo: Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

    This year too, Ramlal cultivated paddy like every other year. But this year, his field was greener and healthier than that of his neighbours. Even the other farmers observed his field curiously. Though most people assumed that he must have worked too hard to get this result, he actually had neither weeded nor used any pesticides or chemical fertilisers in his field.

    Ramlal shares happily, “The pests that were not controlled by strong pesticides are non-existent in my field now, even though I haven’t used any pesticide. Others weeded their fields numerous times and also used chemical fertilisers, but without doing any of that, the paddy in my field has flourished quite extraordinarily.”

    So what is the reason behind this drastic change in Ramlal’s paddy? What has he changed in his farming practice to get these great results?
    The answer actually is very simple.

    Ramlal has started raising ducks along with the rice in his field.
    He explains, “I decided to raise ducks in my rice field after attending an orientation programme about rice-duck farming organised by Practical Action. The organisation provided us with proper training to carry out this farming technique and also supported us with a day old ducklings. After the training, we formed a group and started rice-duck farming.”
    Rice-duck farming technology was found to be beneficial in terms of providing social, economic and environmental benefits in a pilot research carried out by Practical Action in 2013. Currently, Practical Action Consulting Pvt. Ltd. is implementing integrated rice-duck farming project in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts with the financial support of Grand Challenges Canada. The project is working to build the capacity of 1000 small holder farmers to adopt the rice-duck farming technology – Ramlal is one among them.

    Ducks at the rice field.

    Ducks at the rice field.

    Ramlal says, “I didn’t have any idea about the practice of rice-duck farming. But now, I am experiencing many benefits. The droplets of the ducks acts as manure so there is no need to use chemical fertilisers. The ducks gets the nutrition by feeding upon the pests and weeds. I feel that the ducks are a boon for the rice field.”
    Ramlal is the treasurer of the ‘Quality rice-duck farming’ group. There are altogether 15 members in this group – all practice rice-duck farming. The members of the group made a collective decision to practice rice-duck farming in their individual fields. They conduct monthly meetings where they share their agricultural progress and problems, most of which they solve with combined effort. Each member contributes NPR 50 (£0.32) for saving on a monthly basis. The amount is used among the members for agricultural inputs whenever required.

    Ducks coming out of the paddy field.

    Ducks coming out of the paddy field.

    The rice-duck farming technology has made an impact in Ramlal’s life in the first year of the practice itself. The yield in his field has increased. Previously, 0.03 hectares of field yielded hardly two quintals; this year it yielded 2.66 quintals of rice.
    He further adds, “I made rupees 52,700 (£337.82) more from the rice alone in comparison to last year. And the best part is that, the ducks become ready to be sold at the same time as rice harvesting. Among the total of 18 ducks I raised, we have kept few to be used at home and sold others at the price of rupees 800 (£5.12) each. This has made a significant impact on my income. People from neighbouring localities and villages also take interest when they see the ducks in the rice field. I try my best to share the knowledge with the ones who are unaware about it.”

    (The information for this story was collected by Tej Mani Panth, Practical Action)

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  • Giving a voice to the voiceless


    October 16th, 2014

    Practical Action’s Community Based Approaches (CBA) has gone a long way in addressing the issue of inequality in access to power and decision making in vulnerable communities.  I will never forget the feeling of gratitude that Zvishavane Ward 19 expressed after undergoing this training.

    Simon Zulu, of Ward 19 said that “The area has been lagging behind in terms of development because of community’s lack of knowledge. We never used to question prescriptive top – down approaches employed by NGOs and other development partners, for fear of losing aid even if the type of assistance was not a priority in our area.”

    “Our negotiating skills were so poor that our development priorities could not be easily prioritized even by our own Rural District Council. The CBA training empowered all socio-economic groups in the Ward (women, people living with disability) on how they could participate in making decisions on development interventions that affect them.

    Mr Zulu went on to day that CBAs empowered the community on how to make decisions and demand services. On power – some leaders who used to hold many posts in the community which they could not effectively execute have transformed and are now concentrating on posts within areas of their strengths.

    I heartily agree with Ward 19’s slogan: CBAs gives a “voice of the voiceless –no planning for us without us.”

     

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