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  • Social media – a community of practice!!

    The 9th ICT4D (Information and Communications Technologies for Development) Conference kicked off in Hyderabad, India with more than 800 attendees from 40 plus countries representing private, public and civil society organisations from across the humanitarian and international development community. Hyderabad was the right spot to be picked for the conference as they lead the digital India initiative, a campaign launched by the Government of India. The state of Telangana (Hyderabad is the capital city of the state) also launched its Open Data Policy on the first day of the conference itself and this shows that they are pretty serious about being open on data. It was also particularly motivating to note that the Government of Telangana plans to connect every household with a broadband service in few years’ time. Considering the scale of development and investment it would be interesting to see what returns they are planning for and what impact it would on the lives of the under served.

    Every year, the conference focuses on a particular theme and this year the focus was on sustainable development goals (SDGs) and how we can harness the power of data to accelerate progress toward the SDGs and increase the impact of our programmes.

    For most of us who were representing non-profit sector (Practical Action, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, World Vision, Catholic Relief Services to name a few) the focus seemed to be in understanding interventions that have worked for others and the enabling environments that triggered success. It was overwhelming to see the number of inspiring ICT based technologies being used/piloted all around the world. Many of them succeeded but the general problem was scaling them up. As the concentration was mostly on data so, most of the sessions that I attended were on data based decision making and how it helped better planning and implementing interventions.

    One very interesting session that I attended and want to talk about was “Social media for agricultural extension and advisory services” which highlighted a case study of six people who started a Facebook group which in few years’ time went on to become a space for more than 99,000 farmers, practitioners and service providers to collaborate. This is a great example of how social media could help us disseminate right information to huge number of people in a short span of time. Just imagine if you want to make everyone aware of spreading swine flu in a particular area. In a traditional way you could only let the local authorities know about it and hope that they take the matter urgently to the farmers (which could take a day or more). With the use of groups like these, you can spread the word to almost all the stakeholders in a matter of minutes which might help them take preventive measures and save their livestock. The example also highlights the importance of locally relevant contents which are produced by local experts, farmers and other stakeholders.

    Pic: Dr. Saravanan Raj presenting the case study.

    You can imagine the complexity of managing the social group as there would be many irrelevant posts and the need to audit the posts continuously but it was reported that there have been very few posts that needed deleting and the ones that needed curation were done by multiple group admins and group members themselves. This is again a great example of how a community of practice group could operate with minimal investment and intervention.

    As the tagline suggests, most of the discussions were focused on how we can use Big Data to achieve SDGs but there were few notable discussions on other topics as well. Some worthy mentions are:

    • Responsible Data Practices
    • Data Security/Policy
    • Digital Principles (http://digitalprinciples.org/)
    • GIS
    • Weather Information systems
    • Data driven policies
    • Financial Inclusion
    • 3D printing
    • ICT and Gender

    At last, I was thrilled to see some representatives from donor agencies like USAID and DFID there in the event discussing various topics and trying to find a common understanding on how #ICT4D community can help everyone achieve our goals and objectives better and in a short span of time.

    Have a look at my other tweets during the 2017 ICT4D event here and follow me for more tweets related to #ICT4D and #digital.

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  • Connecting people to nature – 5 ways knowledge protects our planet


    June 5th, 2017

    World Environment Day is the largest global day for positive environmental action. Here at Practical Action we want to create a sustainable future for everyone on our planet. To achieve this sharing knowledge is key.

    To celebrate, here are 5 ways knowledge really can protect our planet:

    1. Krishi Call Centre – By simply dialing 16123 farmers across Bangladesh can call to receive the solutions, information and answers they need to solve their pressing challenges. Our call executives help farmers to farm in ways that will not cause harm, now and in the future, to our planet. Advice is given on a range of topics from pesticide use, organic farming , fisheries and many more!

     
     
     


    2. Podcasts in Zim
    babwe – Through the power of voice, our field staff work closely with communities to strengthen their knowledge so that they can farm in sustainable ways, use clean energy solutions and use natural resources appropriately. Podcasts are delivered in local dialects, so that even the most hard to reach communities can learn how to protect our planet, and use natural resources sustainably.

     

     

    3. Portals – Online communities really can create action – our infoportals, and more specifically our “info bosques” portal, are full of great resources, dialogue and learnings promoting the approaches, techniques and methodologies which are kind to our planet.

     

    4. Technical Information – Our e-library is a fantastic collection of technical document, briefs, guidelines and how to guides that are free of charge to use, download and share. It is a rare collection that can really teach field staff, technicians, community workers and even students the best practices and approaches to connect, and protect our earth.

     

     

    5. Join the community – this World Environment Day, why not get involved? Join the movement online, through Twitter, through Instagram and share why the environment is important to you! We certainly think it is important, tell us what you think!

    This World Environment Day why not use knowledge to connect with the environment? Have a read of one of our technical briefs, explore our app or join the online movement #WorldEnvironmentDay

     

     

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  • How to automate drip irrigation from a farm pond


    May 24th, 2017

    Watch the video DIY Solar Drip Irrigation Kit

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVkkQvdJa4g

    This video is for smallholders using gravity feed drip irrigation on a small plot of land. Using the kit, you can automate your drip irrigation system so that water is pumped automatically from your farm pond (or other water supply) to the header tank and all your plants are irrigated automatically. As well as watching the video, I recommend that you download the User Manual for the DIY Solar Drip Irrigation Kit from the Measured Irrigation website.

    http://www.measuredirrigation.com.au

    The DIY Solar Drip Irrigation Kit can be purchased online from the Measured Irrigation website. All the other parts required for the automation may be purchased locally (for example, a solar panel and a battery).

    By automating your drip irrigation system you can leave your plot unattended for weeks. This will allow you to become involved in other activities away from the plot; for example, travelling to the market to sell your produce.

    The DIY Solar Drip Irrigation Kit uses measured irrigation, a new method of irrigation scheduling that responds to the prevailing weather conditions. This means that you use much less water without affecting the yield.

    farm pond in Kenya

     

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  • Lights, Camera, Action: Reflections from the Access Agriculture video training in Bangladesh

    It is very easy to make videos with your mobile phone but when your aspirations are to share the film globally, and with a specific audience in mind, it is not

    Over the last two weeks colleagues from Bangladesh and Nepal participated in a video training workshop provided by Access Agriculture in the Northern part of Bangladesh. Access Agriculture are a key partner of Practical Answers, our technical information service, providing and sharing technical solutions to solve agricultural challenges!

    Practical Action staff learning how to use video

    The training took place over a 12 day period. Four trainers, from England, Belgium and Kenya, led the course- they were very friendly, and ensured an engaging and insightful experience for all involved!

    Prior to the training we selected, among our colleagues, three video topics: 1. Rearing sheep and goats on a raised platform, 2. Mango grafting and 3. Sorting and storing pumpkins. Before filming it is important to have a good script ; we discussed our prepared scripts so that we could receive feedback from the group.

    The video production process consists of:

    • Issue selection
    • Research desk work
    • Script writing 1st draft
    • Feedback from specialist or relevant persons
    • Recce (the process of visiting and quickly looking around a place in order to find out information)

    The recce process was  very new to me. After visiting the site we revised our scripts as we had gathered new information that would enhance the original drafts. In between this time we prepared some questions to take to interview: why should you store pumpkin, which pumpkins can be stored, how to protect pumpkins during storage etc. Then we went for filming.

    Around 280 clips of footage was collected in four days, ranging between 2-8 minutes in length. At this stage 70% of work is completed within the production process. The remaining 30% consists of:

    • Input footage-logging/selecting
    • Transcription
    • Translation of audio
    • Incorporating translations into the revised script
    • Record voice over
    • Final edit

    We used an editing software called Light Works, it is interesting as tasks are auto-saved. However, before editing we need to arrange the files into a specific computer drive. We learnt that for structured content it is important to consider using subtitle, voiceover and interview-translation using different voices. When using graphics you should consider cutaway pictures and moving shots. You should be aware of issues such as the height of the camera and ensuring there is action in the frame. You should also consider having music, title captions, name captions, background sound and edit credits.

    When taking footage it is important to understand the different types of shots, they are:

    • GV: General View
    • VLS = Very Long Shot
    • LS = Long Shot
    • MLS = Medium Long Shot, it also call 3/4 shot
    • MS = Mid Shot
    • MCU = Medium Close Up
    • CU = Close Up
    • BCU = Big Close Up

     

    When taking a shot we used a tripod to ensure the filming was smooth, and not shaky!

    Our video on pumpkin sorting and storing will soon be available online in French, Bangla and English. This training course was a fantastic learning opportunity, and I look forward to putting my learning into practice! These newly acquired skills will allow us to better share knowledge in video format! Videos produced will be shared through the Access Agriculture network meaning our technical knowledge and experience can be used by many more practitioners.

    Visit Access Agriculture to learn more about work, and future training opportunities.

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  • Story of Kopila Chaudhary — how knowledge transformed my life


    March 20th, 2017

    The gift of material goods makes people dependent, but the gift of knowledge makes them free”, these profound words of E.F.Schumacher still hold true today. In fact, they are the foundation of Practical Action’s last mile knowledge service, Practical Answers. Knowledge sharing, skills development and capacity building allows vulnerable communitieMushroom farmings across the globe to improve their own livelihoods and thrive in future years to come.

    Meet Mrs Chaudhary, a mother to five. She lives in the far west rural region of Nepal. This area has a past. The 17th July 2000 was a milestone in Nepalese history, the day the Government of Nepal abolished the Kamaiya systemthe abolishment of bonded labour. Kamaiyas were freed, Mrs Chaudhary was freed. Yet, life remained difficult. These families were sent to live in Mukta Kamaiya,­ communities of freed bonded labour set up by the government. Life remained difficult for Mrs Chaudhary, although she had been re-housed the promises of rehabilitation had not be fully fulfilled. Wage labour was essential if she was to support her family and change her livelihood for the better:

    “The government had provided us four Kathha (approx. 14,500 sq.ft) of land with some money to start our new life as a freed Kamaiya, but it was insufficient to fulfil the daily needs of the family. I along with my husband worked as daily wage labour for 15 years but still struggled to make ends meet for our family and fulfil our children’s basic needs. Many organisations came to us in past; they sympathised on our situation and showed us hopes and inspirations but almost to no effect.”

    Gyanodaya Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC), supported by Practical Answers, is located in the area. Owned by the local community, staff knew that the Kamaiya community must be supported through the gift of knowledge. Social mobilisers encouraged individuals, like Mrs Chaudhary, to join their training and learning sessions. These participatory trainings focus on income generation activities and diversification; key skills to improve the livelihoods of these vulnerable communities. Sceptical at first, participants of these sessions are now thriving commercial farmers specialising in agribusiness. Mrs Chaudhary is one of them. Social mobilisers from the CLRC Mushroom farminghad encouraged her to participate, sharing the benefits that neighbouring communities had gained since joining the training. During the training, she learnt how to write business proposals to apply for government grants:


    “Surprisingly, I got a grant of NPR 40,000 (£300) along with some machinery for mushroom farming and now I have started commercial mushroom farming. I was able to produce 50kg of mushroom. With the money, I am building another tunnel to grow 200 more bags… CLRC has built hope on us to change our lives”

    Knowledge sharing and skills development for individuals, like Mrs Chaudhary, enables vulnerable individuals to improve their own livelihoods by their selves, to grow and prosper without handouts. Knowledge empowers. Knowledge empowers women like Mrs Chaudhary to be business women supporting their family, community and growing their own confidence day after day after day.

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Mrs Chaudhary!

    Want to help women like Mrs Chaudhary this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here

     

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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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  • Knowledge matters and it empowers


    March 13th, 2017

    Three female Muscovy ducks were splashing in greenish water kept in a small concrete tub when we reached Bhumisara Poudel’s house. The drake was tethered to a post near the coop and the area was covered with a mosquito net. Nearby, a manure yard measuring 6 ft x 4 ft made from cement blocks was also covered with a mosquito net.

    I wondered why they had mosquito nets everywhere around the manure yard.

    The net stops rats and moles from eating earthworms,” said Baburam Poudel, Bhumisara’s husband. “These are not ordinary earthworms, each one costs NRs 3. We bought half a kilo of earthworms for NRs 1,500 (Around 15 USD) and these creatures have been helping us produce vermicompost enough for our seven kattha (1 kattha = 338 sq. m) farm.”

    Demand-driven training to farmers

    Jyoti Ale Magar, a social mobiliser at the Sauraha Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC) told us how Bhumisara started raising the earthworms for vermicompost. “We trained 20 farmers from this area on vermicomposting,” she said. “We organise the trainings as per the demand from the community.

    With the support from Practical Answers Knowledge Services Programme, 22 CLRCs in 15 districts of Nepal have been organising trainings for farmers, interaction with agriculture experts and practical sessions at regular intervals.
    Linking farmers to government and non-government organisations

    During one of the interaction sessions, the CLRC connected Bhumisara with the Agriculture Service Centre in the area. The service centre provided a grant of NRs 25,000 to Bhumisara to construct a shed and a manure yard, and buy earthworms for vermicomposting.

    As we were talking about the benefits of organic fertiliser, Baburam dug out a handful of vermicompost from the pit. Two small earthworms wriggled out of the dark brown compost. Putting them back to the pit, Baburam showed us how to determine whether the fertiliser was ready to use.

    The ready-to-use compost is like a handful of dry CTC tea (black tea made by crush, tear, curl method),” he said. “It’s easy to carry and administer to the soil – not like the wet livestock manure.”

    All they needed to do was to add livestock manure, dried leaves to the pit, keep it cool by sprinkling water at regular intervals. The earthworms would do the rest of the work.

    Improving food security and livelihood

    Learning how to prepare and handle vermicompost, we went to the adjacent farm to see how the vegetables were faring. The couple had recently harvested a crop of potatoes and the newly planted bitter gourd saplings were climbing up the stakes, with their tendrils coiling around them.

    We harvested 10 quintals of potatoes in this three kattha plot,” said Baburam beaming with joy. “Earlier the plot yielded not more than 5-6 quintals. We sold some and have stored a quintal of potatoes in a cold store.”

    The manure pit produced vermicompost enough for the potato cultivation. In addition, they had applied the compost to the bitter gourd saplings and the flowers at the front of their house.

    Bhumisara Poudel is happy with her vermicompost venture. She happily shares her knowledge with others.

    Bhumisara Poudel is happy with her vermicompost venture. She happily shares her knowledge with others. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

    Spreading the knowledge

    Close to the vegetable farm, I could see an outlet protruding from base of the manure pit and a reddish brown liquid dripping from the pipe. The water sprayed on the manure yard converts into a nutrient after getting in contact with the manure and earthworms. And according to Bhumisara and Baburam, it is more nutritious than the compost and can be collected in a bottle.

    Bhumisara quipped, “Earlier the fertiliser used to be carried in truckloads, then in sacks and now in bottles.”

    Appreciating his wife’s knowledge, Baburam said, “She learnt all this at the CLRC and I learnt from her.

    Many people come to see how we are raising the earthworms and producing vermicompost,” added Bhumisara. “We are happy to teach them all the tricks of the trade.”

    Now, they no more need to carry truckloads of wet livestock manure. It used to be a back-breaking chore before cultivation and lasted for 5-6 days at a stretch. The vermicompost can be stored and stacked in sacks and the liquid nutrient adds to the productivity of the crops.

    Practical answers to the farmers’ queries

    As we were having coffee after the snapshot of the manure yard and vegetable farm, Baburam let go the tethered drake. It started chasing the other three ducks and the place became lively with the ducks’ quacks.

    The social mobilisers at the CLRCs respond to the queries of the farmers. They provide the related knowledge materials and invite experts to interact with the farmers.  This gives the farmers a better idea on managing their land, cultivating crops and starting alternative income generating activities.

    I’m planning to dig a pond by the side of the coop,” told Baburam. “So that these ducks can swim and we can get fish to eat.”

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  • Kamala Joshi — A woman who broke the cycle of discrimination


    March 9th, 2017

    Mother’s Day is one of my favourite days of the year. Not because of all the festivities or pastries (which I don’t mind!), but because it reminds me of all the amazing women I have met, but I haven’t had a chance to tell you about yet.

    Meet Kamala Joshi, a Nepalese single-mother who, like many other women in rural communities, got married in her early twenties. She had a baby soon after wedlock, sadly, kamalaher husband left her shortly after the baby was born. Kamala struggled to provide for herself and her child, and had to move out of her home. She found a temporary refuge from a women’s shelter (‘maiti’) but knew that she could not stay there for long. A fear to end up homeless was strong.

    In Nepal, especially in rural areas, women’s fate is still linked to that of their husbands. A broken marriage leaves a social stigma that most of the women will have to carry for the rest of their lives – no matter what the reasons led to the separation. Women with unlucky marriages, often face discrimination and social exclusion without much hope for the future.

    Kamala, however, refused to accept this and wanted to fight for a better life for herself and her daughter. She started working in agriculture and with some time, determination and a bit of luck, she was selected to participate in a training programme in agriculture with Practical Action’s partner, District Agriculture Development Office (DADO). From this, she gained the right tools and knowledge to establish herself as a self-sufficient small-scale farmer.

    In 2014, couple years after Kamala had started as a small-scale farmer, she had another training opportunity through Practical Action’s Promotion of Sustainable Agriculture for Nutrition and Food Security project. This time, she learnt skills and knowledge to support other local farmers. Since then, she has demonstrated and facilitated workshops in her community to share her knowledge of small scale farming for the benefit of all.

    kamala2Kamala Joshi managed to break the cycle. Since she started to work in agriculture, she has no longer struggled to provide for her family and even managed to send her daughter to a boarding school. She is now one of the most respected women in the community, despite the social stigma of her marital status. Her story is an inspiring reminder that right knowledge, opportunities and determination have the power to break the social dynamics that cause discrimination against women.

    Did you enjoy this story? If yes, go to our Mother’s Day site  and meet other inspiring women just like Kamala!

    Want to help women like Kamala this Mother’s Day? Our Practical Presents Charity Gift shop offers some amazing Mother’s Day gifts that are designed to transform lives. More information here.

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  • Pesticide Use in Developing Countries


    February 21st, 2017

    There is an enormous use of pesticides in developing nations that has lead to drastic effects, hence making it one of the top concerns for global environmentalists. The use of these pesticides, some of which are totally illegal, has not only led to drastic environmental degradation, but negative effect on climate at large.  Importantly, human health has been affected with end users of these farm produce complaining of neurotoxic, reproductive, and dermatologic effects.

    In most cases, these pesticides are used to secure supply of food by countering insect-borne diseases. Also, they are widely used in treatment and protections of forests, not to mention the controlling pest attacks on fiber farms and plantations. However, the overdependence of such agents has necessitated that global institutions join hands to seek alternatives to what seems to be an ever-growing global menace.

    https://www.happytosurvive.com/weed-control-without-chemicals/

    https://www.happytosurvive.com/weed-control-without-chemicals/

    The volatility and long distance transport of these pesticides from Latin America, Asia, and Africa, has had far reaching global effects that traverse national and geographical boundaries.  Statistics indicate that there is a large rural-urban migration in these countries with many people going to the cities in search for jobs. The ripple effect is that the workforce left in the farms has to overwork or use specific means (in this case, pesticides) in order to control pests on their farms.

    In the same breath, these countries are playing a vital role in the production of agricultural-based food stuffs for the global population. This is especially for those countries that are located in the colder regions of the areas. In as much as they play a vital role in the entire scenario, the use of these chemicals has negatively impacted both humans and environment.

     Challenges Global Institution Face

    One of the main problems is that in many of these countries, there are no clear differentiation strategies on which particular chemicals should be used-and which specific types should be avoided. Furthermore, if there are any policies that have been put in place by government, then not many are well implemented. As such, most farmers are unaware of the short-term effects of the problems caused by these pesticides. Neither are they aware of the long transport these pesticides are carried by water and their far reaching effects on other lands and climate.

    The lack of educational programs in many of the developing nations has hindered progress on how to counter the use of these pesticides. Furthermore, weak legal frameworks and the lack of adequate training for inspection officer make it quite difficult to control the use of unlawful pesticides in these nations. It is equally important to note that lack of funds to implement some of the programs has led to increased ignorant levels amongst farmers. In as much as many farmers want to add value to their crops and supply on the international market, the continual use of these pesticides is one thing that has always been a big hindrance.

     International Institutions Help

    It is acknowledged that the use of pesticide is a global problem, and this is why international institutions have come in at least to help educate farmers. In almost all cases, farmers are educated on the use of safety methods and other non-volatile weed control methods that will not have negative effect on the environment as well as humans.  For instance, UNEP United Nations-Environmental Programs in conjunction with governments is playing a crucial role not only in influencing policies but also helping educate the remote farmers.  They are also pushing governments in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to show more concern about the safety use of pesticides.

    The Food and Agriculture Organization, working in cohorts with UNEP, has also tightened the rules in regard to use and trade of food stuff across the globe. As such, this has led to a substantial decrease in the use of harmful pesticides in many of these countries.  There are also stringent rules that have been put in place in regard to the international pesticide trade. As matter of fact, this has helped a great deal when it comes to the quality of chemicals that are traded by the involved parties.

    In retrospect, the set up pesticide control rules created a better environment for accountability amongst nations and trading partners.  It has also been possible for parties in trade and national groups that are concerned to air their views, and at the same time, point out pertinent issues based on the types of pesticides in specific markets.  In the long run, this is going to have a counter effect on reduced use of harmful pesticides across the globe.

    If all the efforts made are to succeed, there must be consistent efforts form all the stakeholders. So far, there is substantial progress that has been made in the past few years. It is something that will definitely help counter the wrong use of pesticides in developing nations.

     

    Read more on the Happy to Survive website; view their infographic on “Weed control without pesticide”

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  • Measured irrigation for smallholders: more crop per drop


    February 20th, 2017

    Bernie Omodei from Measured Irrigation writes about a very low cost innovation that may reduce the water consumption for drip irrigation by up to 50% without affecting the yield. The innovation uses the weather to control the irrigation scheduling rather than a program. The DIY (Do It Yourself) instructions in this blog can be applied to any drip irrigation application in any poor community.

    Upgrading drip irrigation to unpowered MI

    Measured irrigation evaporatorMany smallholders use gravity feed drip irrigation to irrigate a small garden (less than an acre). The most commonly used scheduling method is programmed scheduling and this method wastes a lot of water because it does not respond to the prevailing weather conditions. By upgrading from programmed irrigation scheduling to measured irrigation scheduling, water consumption may be reduced by 50% without affecting the yield. The cost of the upgrade is negligible.

    Measured irrigation evaporator

    Water level below level line

    Water level below level line

    The evaporator is any container with vertical sides with a surface area of at least of at least 0.75 square metres. Draw a level line on the inside of the evaporator about 3 cm below the overflow level. Position the evaporator in the garden, preferably exposed to full sun.

    Position a dripper so that it will drip water into the evaporator. This dripper is called the control

    Control dripper will drip water into the evaporator

    Control dripper will drip water into the evaporator

    dripper and it should be at the same level as the other drippers in the garden.

    The volume of water delivered by each dripper in your garden during an irrigation event is the same as the volume of water delivered to the evaporator by the control dripper.

     

    How to use the evaporator

    Start irrigating at sunset

    Start irrigating at sunset

    Stop irrigating when the water level reaches the level line

    Stop irrigating when the water level reaches the level line

    Check the water level in the evaporator at sunset each day.If the water level is below the level line, start irrigating. Stop irrigating when the water level reaches the level line.

     

     

    How to adjust the surface area of the evaporation

    An angle grinder can be used to make some slots in a length of steel pipe.

    An angle grinder can be used to make some slots in a length of steel pipe.

    The amount of water that your plants need will depend on many factors in addition to the weather. For example, as the plants grow and become bigger they will need more water. Plants growing in sandy soil will need more water than plants growing in heavy soil.

    To take account of all these additional factors, I recommend that you use a length of steel pipe to check the moisture level in the soil. I suggest that the diameter of the pipe be between 40 and 50 mm. An angle grinder can be used to cut some slots in the steel pipe to that you can inspect the soil inside the pipe. I suggest that the width of the slots be about 13 mm.

    Early in the morning after irrigation the night before, push (or hammer) the steel pipe into the soil near a dripper

    Early in the morning after irrigation the night before, push (or hammer) the steel pipe into the soil near a dripper

    By checking the moisture level in the soil through the slots in the steel pipe, you can decide whether the plants have been irrigated the night before with too much or too little water. If the plants have been given too much water then you can reduce the water usage by reducing the surface area of evaporation. For example, the surface area of evaporation can be reduced by placing full bottles of water in the evaporator. On the other hand, if the plants have not been given enough water then you will need to increase the surface area of evaporation. After irrigation and adjustments over several days, the surface area of evaporation should stabilise at an appropriate level for the plants at their current stage of growth.

    Remove the steel pipe from the soil and use the slots to inspect the moisture level in the soil and the position of the wetting front.

    Remove the steel pipe from the soil and use the slots to inspect the moisture level in the soil and the position of the wetting front.

    As your crop grows and the water requirement of the crop changes, you may wish to repeat the process of adjusting the surface area of evaporation.

    MI on sloping ground

    One sloping ground you will need to organise your plants into a number of zones so that the plants within each zone are at approximately the same level. Each zone should have its own evaporator, control dripper and inlet valve. The irrigation of a zone is independent of the irrigation of all the other zones.

    Read more about Measured Irrigation or get in touch with Bernie Omodei to find out more bomodei@measuredirrigation.com.au

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