Practical Answers | Blogs

  • Interlock: access to energy in rural India

    Terrence McKee, CEO of Interlock, writes on the organisation’s innovative approach to tackling the issues of poverty and rural-to-urban migration. Read how their alternative development strategy is providing clean and reliable energy to rural India and improving the health of the poorest communities.


    To lift millions of people out of poverty and to avoid migration to cities, the development of rural economies is of key importance; in this regard the access to energy is a critical component.

    Solar energy is on its way to becoming the most cost-efficient option for rural electrification, beating the conventional energy options, such as diesel-based power systems and the extension of the grid. Interlock believes that the time is right for piloting new opportunities, models and partnerships posed by solar energy. In fact, a new initiative has recently been launched by the organisation to pilot stand-alone solar plants in Vadad Hasol, in the rural Ratnagiri district of India. By testing the design, construction and operation of the technology will build a working model which will be used at scale across the country.

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    Access to solar electricity has many health and educational benefits, in addition to giving opportunities for new income generating activities. Stand-alone solar plants have allowed Interlock to pioneer their new telemedicine programme. Access to solar energy interlocks doctors in urban hospitals with rural solar clinics allowing the provision of health to rural communities. Getting medical treatment to rural areas has always been difficult, doctor visits are costly and the lack of infrastructure (road access, accommodation and communications) causes obvious setbacks. Yet, now with the introduction of solar energy it is possible to interlock the rural communities with the urban. With internet connectivity, powered by the alternative energy, doctors can visit the most remote villages ‘virtually’. Solar resources will be able to give power to community centres with IT facilities to resource the medical facilities needed.

    As well as using alternative energy, Interlock promotes and uses an alternative development strategy through the use of ethical tourism. Tourism has been proven by the organisation to be a sustainable factor in rural village development. at the Interlock HQ there will be a small rural hospitality and catering school where people from the village can be trained to staff their paying guest units. This Catering school will be built in conjunction with a small ecology hotel of 25 + rooms, developed at the Interlock centre.

    The Hotel and Catering College will provide much of the funding required for the expansion of the telemedicine programme.  Tourism in India is growing at a rate of 15-17%, Interlock have recognised the opportunity of this and believe that hotel guests can be the commercial footing for the telemedicine programme. Interlock Clusters are to be the hub of the rural villages, giving access to knowledge and communication to large numbers of individuals.

    The project will impact the lives of thousands of individuals. Not just in the future but now. The technology is there, all that is required is the will to make it happen.

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    Read more about the work of Interlock or get in touch with Terrence McKee to find out more- Terrence@interlock.co.uk . Interlock aims to facilitate sustainable development solutions to poverty-related issues within rural communities.

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  • 5 Simple solutions that llama farmers love


    August 5th, 2016

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

    Martin Queso's prize winning llama

    Martin Queso’s prize winning llama

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

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

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

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

    1. Covered shelters:

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

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

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

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

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    Photovoltaic water pump and trough for livestock

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

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

    3. Breeding pens:

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

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    Rainwater harvesting and irrigation system and stone-wall breeding pens

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

    4. Market access and product diversification:

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

     

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

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

    5. Training and knowledge:

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

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

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  • Determination leads to success


    August 1st, 2016

    Sushil Chaudhary, a 22 years old young farmer, is a model farmer for the youth who are migrating towards the cities and Gulf countries in search of jobs and better earnings, instead of generating self-employment using own resources.

    Sushil lives along with his seven-member family in Hikmatpur Village Development Committee (VDC) of Kailali district in Far-Western Nepal with a small land holding, i.e. 0.1 ha (10914.60 square feet). The family source of income was only wage labouring and subsistence farming that only partly fulfilled family needs. Sushil was forced to seek employment in the Gulf. But his family was unable to sponsor him for the cost required for employment in the Gulf.

    Sushil Chaudhary and his poultry and pig farms.

    Sushil Chaudhary in front of his poultry and pig farms.

    Because of this, he had no option other than wage labouring until he heard about the community library in his locality, which was helping community people improve their earnings and livelihoods.

    In 2015, he visited Tikapur Community Library to seek information for self-employment and a better livelihood. Sushil was advised on an integrated farming system for sustainable income which was suitable for people with small land holdings.

    With the guidance of a community worker and information from the library, Sushil began vegetable and pig farming. He participated in vegetable farming and animal husbandry training provided by the library. In the first year itself he was able to earn Nepali Rupees (NPR) 43,000 by selling vegetables and NPR 39,050 by selling two pigs (1 USD = 100 NPR). He expects more income this year as one of his piga gave birth to 10 piglets and all of them are healthy. Besides farming, Sushil is also pursuing his Bachelor’s degree and is in his second year of college.

    Sushil says,

    “Until I visited the library, I was unable to decide what to do for better earnings… The guidance and technical information in the library helped me make up my mind…”

    He adds, “On account of what I learned, I have adopted commercial pig farming along with vegetable farming as a method of income generation. I initiated with four pigs in the pigpen constructed by myself. Two of the pigs I had been raising were recently sold for meat at the rate of NPR 170- NPR 200 per kg for the net price of NPR. 39,050. Furthermore, one of my pigs recently gave birth to ten piglets. Not very long ago, I used to be unemployed but now I have a reliable source of income. Tikapur Community Library’s Technical Knowledge Service section has not only helped me but also a number of other villagers who didn’t use to have much knowledge about agriculture or animal husbandry.”

    Embolden by his success he is planning to expand his farming by leasing more land and rearing more pigs. With a smile on his face, he says,

    “I am helping other youths in the community by advising them that one can achieve a goal if he has determination and zest to seek the right help.”

    Practical Answers Service in Tikapur Community Library, Kailali, is supported by Nepal Flood Resilient Project (NFRP) funded by Zurich Foundation.

     

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  • 10 reasons why Practical Action is the best organisation I have worked in so far


    July 13th, 2016

    Since, I started my professional work life on 1 April 2010, I have served 8 different organisations in just 6 years and freelanced for numbers of other organisations voluntarily and also as consultants before. I clearly remember 13 July 2015, the day I had joined Practical Action, it was just like any other organisation I had served before. However, I had started my journey with a small road accident on the way to my office, which keeps the date full of memories for me.

    A new organisation with a complete new team of people, I had not thought of being very comfortable but the people here made work life so easy, my conscience forced me to pen down this article. This is my return to each and every employee of Practical Action family for making it happen.

    In India, people are skeptical about those who work with NGOs. I have faced so many situations where I feel people do not welcome the fact that I work in an NGO. When it comes to marriage proposals or parents, let me be very honest, the development sector is not something most people/parents look at. Such ironies apart, I made up my mind to mention 10 reasons why I love Practical Action more than my previous employers, however I have served in media houses, corporates and NGOs earlier. As I am celebrating my one year completion in the organisation, this is my return gift to the people around.

    1. Small is Beautiful : A theory worth working for

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    The organisation believes in the famous theory of the founder EF Schumacher i.e ‘Small is Beautiful’. Even in work, I experienced this is so beneficial to start with small and then expand. Most of our projects are actually small and having the best impact but with a bigger future prospective. This organisation inherits this principle within you.

    1. Witnessing Technology Justice

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    21st Century while experiencing the all technological advancements this organisation continues to prove how Technology is being used for poor communities and challenging social disparities. A small villager in Badamanjari village of Koraput is experiencing electricity where the grid is still a dream. The smile in their face will make your day. #TechnologyJustice

    1. Experiencing innovations

    JULY (2)

    Innovations are the key to Practical Action’s work. Though we are new in our operations in India, some innovations are unique indeed. The Small Wind and Energy System in Kalahandi providing electricity from both Solar and Wind through a hybrid system is definitely an innovation. The other country offices have so many innovations and I experience them through in-house communication. These innovations inspire me to think out of the box.

    1. A liberal organisation

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    The organisation is liberal in terms of work culture. You get lots of encouragement during work and also fun elements are added. The organisation gives scope to reflect on your mistakes and also your successes. It gives much scope for self-assessment. The regular Monday meetings keep me updated about all others work and I self-asses my week’s achievements and short comings if any.

    1. No hierarchy

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    I was surprised and glad when I had got a personalised mail from our the then CEO Simon welcoming me the day I joined. Though I work under my line manager, matrix manager and senior manager I still never felt a strict hierarchy imposing on me. All my managers are so supportive and have given me the scope to grow and work with a free hand. (PS : Not trying to impress my managers, my appraisal is already done)

    1. Too much to learn

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    This is something I love the most about the organisation. In our India Office, though a small team, we have experts from different areas. Working with my WASH team, Energy officer, Monitoring, the Admin I get to learn a lot of things. Even, I get to learn from the finance team about managing the finance in project management. If I talk about communication, my mates in Nepal, UK and other country offices are so well equipped with knowledge, I have learned a lot during the whole year. I thank them all for making my stay here with full of learning.

    1. Travelling is an integral part of my work

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    Oh yes! If you personally know me, then I am sure, you would have guessed how happy I am when I travel. And the organisation gives me scope to travel. Though these are official trips but, I get to learn from projects, people, and places. In a span of one year, I have had 11 trips to different project locations and out of which 4 are out of the state and one is out of country perhaps my first foreign trip to Bangladesh.  All such work travels basically give me exposure to new work and let me document things both visually and in print.

    1. I get umpteen opportunities to click humans and write stories

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    Well, I am a born story teller, which I believe and try to create more stories. This happens when i meet people, I click them and write stories. Stories of change and stories of technology justice, this has made me a frequent blogger. I hope to create more such stories in both visuals and words for you all.

    1. It allows and approves my creativity

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    This is one organisation, which has allowed and actually approved my creative thinking. Some projects have actually taken shape with my creativity and value addition from my managers and other team mates. Even in other events, I had given free-hand to think rethink and create some magic.

    1. I love my team

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    I love my team, each of them. They get me some delicious food every day at the lunch table. I am like the finisher if something is left from the lunch boxes. The foodie in me loves them for making myself little fat. Jokes apart, being the youngest member of the team, I have been pampered, being scolded when I deserved that, being guided which happens quite often and being taught with lessons which have made me a better professional and a far better person.

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  • A flood warning system to reduce economic loss in disasters


    May 18th, 2016

    Md. A. Halim Miah [1]and Mohammad Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan[2]

    Weather Forecasting Display Board: Atuilia weatherboard.

    This Weather Forecasting Display Board (WFDB) is both attractive and useful to the local community, especially to those who are vulnerable to flooding and other climatic disruptions.

    The results of the first pilot study show that rural people working in agriculture and shrimp farming found it very helpful.  Coastal areas like Atulia of Shyamnagar, Satkhira district and Zhilonga Union in Cox’s Bazar District are highly susceptible to cyclone and water surges, so found it very useful for their daily livelihoods.  It was scaled up at Sirajganj Sadar Upazila, a disaster prone area where flood and river bank erosion occur frequently.

    Shyamnagar Upazila, is a climatic hotspot and the majority of the people are manage their livelihood by shrimp farming. This Weather Board was first demonstrated at the Atulia Union Council of Shyamnagar Upazila in 2011.

    How does it work?

    1. Construction: A wooden frame with CI sheet and covered by transparent either glass or white plastic where clear, concise daily weather messages are interpreted with well-known symbols
    2. Function: If somebody doesn’t understand the messages on the board, they ask the Gyaner Haat people (Entrepreneur of Knowledge node at community level, Union Digital Centre) for an interpretation.  This helps them to understand about the implications of the messages of the board and what action they should take.
    3. Content:  Weather and climatic information are displayed like daily temperature, rainfall, humidity and sunlight hour along in attractive and relevant ways.
    4. Scientific Information is carried at local level:  Information is collected from the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) on current weather issues on a regular basis and interpreted on the Weather Forecasting Board for three weeks. It also provides agricultural information for farmers proactively like suitable crops variety during that time for planting, whether farmers should go for raising a seed bed, or releasing fries in the gher etc. in the current week.
    5. Link with extension agents:  The board includes necessary mobile phone numbers/contact persons of relevant government departments, so that farmers and fishers can make phone calls to Gyaner Haat and concerned  government professionals for necessary information and advice.

    Digital display of weather forecasting  and flood early warning

    Digital weather boardPractical Action trialled this  manual display board for access to weather and early warning information for reducing loss and better farming preparedness. This was a very low cost solution but effective. Now a day’s supply of electricity and internet connectivity has been expanded through a government Access to Information program (a2i) that is called Union Digital Centre.

    Practical Action in partnership with a2i project has installed a knowledge service branded as Gyaner Haat. In each Gyaner Haat there is an entrepreneur who has a computer, printer and internet connection. We get national weather and flood forecasting information from government authorized sources (Bangladesh Meteorological Department and Flood Forecasting Centre)  and these are translated into local dialects along with descriptive information for the farmers.  Information such as what they will do if the vapor level is high, what would be the effect of higher humidity enables farmers to make better preparation. The digital board allows easy and rapid information delivery at community level and thus contributes to saving poor people’s assets and resources.

    We are implementing this in the Sirajganj and Bogra districts, two of the most flood prone areas , which are recurrently attacked from flood during the monsoon season from July to September. This has been empowering knowledge poor people to benefit from forecasting and disaster preparedness. It is one of the knowledge intervention activities of the Zurich Flood Resilience Project in Bangladesh.

     

    [1] Coordinator Knowledge Service ( Operations), Practical Action, Bangladesh

    [2] Senior Knowledge Officer ( M&E), Practical Action, Bangladesh

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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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  • Knowledge for resilient livelihoods – Bidhya’s story


    April 27th, 2016

    This story dates back to couple of months ago when I visited one of the Practical Action projects in mid-west Nepal. Funded by the Zurich Foundation, the Nepal Flood Resilience Project (NFRP) is building the resilience of vulnerable communities to flood risks.

    Bidhya in her mushroom farm

    Bidhya in her mushroom farm

    I met a very enthusiastic beneficiary of the project – Ms Bidhya Kumari Chaudhary (28). During our conversation she was happy to describe how the project helped her to increase her resilience to flood.

    Bidhya lives in Rajapur, Bardiya with her 10-member family. Her husband is a contract farmer and income of her husband is scarcely sufficient to maintain the expenditure of the family members’ basic needs. Due to the low income of the family they were not able to make any saving from the income which they could utilise responding to their needs in hard times.

    However, now things have changed since Bidhya learned about mushroom farming from NFRP.  With this practical knowledge she started farming and since last year (2015) she was able to make 10 thousand Nepali rupees (around US$ 100) from it. She invested this income in goats.

    Bidhya with her goats

    Bidhya with her goats

    Now she has four goats as the goats she purchased gave birth to two kids. She earned another 10 thousand rupees from mushroom farming this year, out of which she invested six thousand rupees in her children’s education and household needs and saved four thousand rupees.

    This year Bidhya is planning to expand her mushroom farming and expects that she will be able to make a profit of 30 to 40 thousand rupees. To take her farm to a commercial level, she is now asking the NFRP to connect her with a good input service provider for mushroom seeds.

     

    How all these made Bidhya and her family resilient to floods

    Bidhya’s village is at risk of floods from the Karnali River every year during the monsoon season. Earlier, due to lack of savings the family was vulnerable to the effect of floods and used to take long time to revert back to the same socio-economic condition. But now since she has an extra income and savings, she thinks that it has increased the resilience of her family. She says,

    “With the increased income and savings I feel more resilient to floods and other hazards as I can use the savings to rebuild my livelihood.”

    Bidhya has become the vice president of the Community Disaster Management Committee (CDMC). She understands the early warning system procedures established by the NFRP well and instructs fellow villagers about the early warning signals, communications channels, evacuation route and safer shelter.

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  • Krishi call centre helps fisheries sector in Bangladesh


    April 8th, 2016

    Krishi Call Centre, a low cost solution to the extension challenges of the fisheries sector in Bangladesh

    “Hello, I am Ahsan Habib from Kishoreganj, my fishes are dying due to skin ulcer. What are the treatment measures for carp ulcerative syndrome? “

    Ahsan Habib is a small scale farmer. He has a pond with an area of 60 decimal (800 sq m approx). He farms carp, tilapia and local catfish in his pond. This season he stocked his pond with carp and tilapia fish. But, during first week of January he discovered his fish were dying with red ulcers on their bodies.

    He knew about the Krishi Call Centre from one of his neighbours, so he called 16123 for suggestions. The fisheries executive suggested he use lime and salt to disinfect the pond water and KMnO4 (potassium permanganate) to help the fish recover. After two days he called back to say that his fish were better now and wanted some suggestions for a proper feeding scheme. After few months, we learned that Mr. Shahidul saved his fishes and expected a 60 to 70,000 (£6,000-7,000) taka net profit. Every day Krishi Call Centre gets this type of call from local farmers about their problems.

    Fisheries for poverty reduction

    fishery BangladeshAttaining higher fisheries growth is a key factor in poverty alleviation in rural areas. Bangladesh has extensive aquatic resources and fish and fisheries are an indispensable part of the lives and livelihood of the people of this country.

    Bangladesh is a south Asian country, situated between latitude 20°34′ and 26°39′ north and longitude 80°00′ and 92°41′ east.  Hundreds of river crisscross the country. The river water is the soul of our country and provides fertility for our motherland. The climate of Bangladesh is congenial to fisheries and the country is endowed with many inland bodies of water. Our country has productive freshwater fisheries comprising 6,27,731 hectares of enclosed water and 40,24,934 of open water. The Bay of Bengal marine resources covers a huge area of 46,99,345 hectares. Bangladesh has 710 km of coastline and 25,000 sq. km of coastal area with a huge population, supporting a variety of land uses.

    The deltaic country is rich in fishery resources including 260 freshwater fish species, 475 marine fish species, 24 freshwater shrimp species, 36 marine shrimp species and other important species. In 2013-2014  Bangladesh produced 34,10,254 tons of fishery products and fish provides about 60% of our daily animal protein intake. In Bangladesh, fisheries sector plays a vital role in our national economy regarding employment generation, animal protein supply, foreign currency earning and poverty alleviation. More than 11% of the total population depends directly and indirectly on the fisheries sector for their livelihood.  The fisheries sector contributes 4.37% to GDP, 23.37% to agricultural GDP and 2.01% of the country’s export earnings. Fish is one of the most familiar, popular, tasty and nutritionally enriched food items of the world including Bangladesh. As a result of the global market economy along with so many food items, garments, and pharmaceutical products,  fish and fishery products also get the opportunity to enter the global market. Thus the fisheries play a crucial role in the national economy of Bangladesh.

    Challenges and opportunities in extension services

    krishiSmall scale pond farming has great potential for contributing to the increase in aquaculture production in coastal regions. These fishery resources are facing a severe threat of depletion because of lack of proper guidelines. The latest communication facilities like newspapers, radio, television and internet are used for disseminating knowledge to farmers.  There is no doubt that ICTs can play a vital role in giving better access to information in a cost effective way to the millions of poor, smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs. Mobile phone based call centers play a role in agribusiness in many countries. In Bangladesh, the total number of mobile phone subscriptions reached 131.085 million at the end of February, 2016.

    It is therefore timely for farmers that the Krishi Call Centre offers real-time advice on farming issues in Bangladesh. The Centre was launched in June 2014 by the Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury by dialing to the number, 16123, whilst addressing the National Digital Fair at Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in the city. This is an initiative between Practical Action and the Agricultural Information Services (AIS), of the Ministry of Agriculture.

    Farmers can call 16123, the number of the centre from any mobile operator to seek advice on any problem related to livestock, fisheries and agriculture production. A farmer from any part of the country can contact to the Krishi Call Centre by dialing mobile number 16123 at the nominal cost  of 0.25 taka for a minute and share their problems/queries related to farming in local dialect. The specialists at the Krishi Call Centre provide suggestions to the farmers immediately. If the call centre operator is unable to address the farmer’s query, they consult with other specialists and then provide feedback.

    The southern part of the country is endowed with vast aquatic resources where aquaculture is a promising sector. But aquaculture is beset with numerous problems, especially disease. Fish farmers face immense problems when their farms are affected by diseases. Very few support centres are available in Bangladesh where they can get crucial information. Sometimes they go to their fisheries officer but fisheries officers are busy most of the time due to lack of enough manpower. It is also almost impossible for officers to visit farms and solve their problems in a single day. Hence, a large number of fish die and farmers lose faith in fish production.

    Another promising sector in aquaculture is shrimp farming.  The government earn a huge amount of foreign currency from this, but its is not free from problems. A viral disease can wipe out a farmer’s whole stock of shrimp and many fish farmers have lost everything. If farmers had enough guidelines regarding shrimp farming, they could easily avoid this horrendous loss.

    DRR and climate change risks solutions in the fisheries sector

    Climate change is an emerging challenge for the fisheries sector. The erratic weather makes our farming and fishing communities more vulnerable. Bangladesh is a low lying country which makes it extremely vulnerable to sea level rise.  It is ranked first in countries affected by the adverse effects of climate change. Every year farmers face massive losses due to heavy rain or flooding. Flooding happens recurrently in some regions in Bangladesh but climate change has made this seasonal phenomenon more unpredictable. Earlier the rainy season lasted from mid of June to September but now it rains even in late of March and carries on until October.

    Practical Answers in Bangladesh have uploaded 500 questions and answers related to DRR and Climate Change adaptation solutions for better farming. These 500 questions and answers have been collected from farmers who are most at risk of flood and other environmental disaster. Zurich Flood Resilience Program has been supporting this. Those questions and answers are validated by the national experts from the Agricultural Information Services and uploaded in the repository of the Krishi Call Centre for answering the questions of farmers throughout the country.

    There are other problems small fish farmers face which hinder them from profiting from their farming, such as feed prices and the adulteration of fish feed. Feed industries do not maintain the appropriate composition of the feed according to their specification. But farmers can prepare their own on farm fish feed with proper guidelines.

    Fish farmers are often exploited by middlemen when they sell their fish to consumers through middlemen. If farmers are regularly updated with price information about their products, they can secure their expected price.

    The government does have some support programs for fisheries and fisher community.  But, due to lack of literacy many farmers cannot attain those services. By asking the Krishi Call Centre a small farmer or new entrepreneur can benefit without intermediaries.

    incoming call rate pie chartAt present of the total incoming calls to Krishi Call Centre, about 71% are agricultural calls, 17% livestock calls and 12% fisheries related. The call rate in case of fisheries is comparatively lower than others. Among the total calls in fisheries, about 43% are disease related, 27% management related, 26% culture related and 4% have other aquaculture related queries. Most of the calls on fisheries come from the northern part but fisheries dominate the middle and southern part of the country. It is necessary to disseminate information about the call centre and its importance to every corner of the country to ensure a golden revolution in our agricultural sectors. Different media workers, newspaper agencies, government offices and NGOs should come forward to publicize Krishi Call Centre services among the grass root level farmers.

    Other contributors: Md. Aminul Islam and Mohammad Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan

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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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  • Local innovation in agriculture in North Darfur


    February 22nd, 2016

    Over the past few years Ibrahim Hamid Mohamedain, a farmer from Magdoub A in North Darfur, has been selectively breeding his millet crop, the region’s foremost staple grain. Like farmers across the region, Ibrahim has struggled with increasingly low yields of millet year on year. Whereas twenty years ago one mukhamas (equivalent of 1.25 acres) used to produce 6-8 sacks of millet, it now rarely produces more than half a sack. The reasons for the falling fertility of the sandy soils on which the crop is grown are many, chief among them is widespread deforestation across the region.

     

     

    Ibrahim realised that one of the (albeit lesser) causes of this deforestation was the practice of local farmers cutting down trees on their farm land, and uprooting tree seedlings, as a preventative measure to reduce the number of birds, seen as one of the main pests of the millet crop.

    As an environmentally conscious farmer, he sought a biological and natural form of bird control. One day, his wife Aisha Adam observed that a few of the millet plants grown by her sister were covered in small hairs and were thus resistant to birds and grasshoppers. He took some of these seeds back to his farm, so beginning his three-year endeavor to selectively breed a bird-resistant millet variety which would also have high tolerance to drought (essential in an arid area increasingly prone to rain shortages) and a high yield.

    In this attempt, he drew on his experience accumulated as a Practical Action trained agricultural extension agent (from 2004). In 2005 he participated in an exchange visit to neighbouring North Kordofan state with the State Ministry of Agriculture and Agricultural Research Corporation, where he was taught how to select and propagate seeds. More recently, he participated in a refreshment training course in agricultural production techniques for village extension agents, organised as part of the Wadi El-Ku catchment management project for peace and livelihoods.

    IMG_1063

    Close-up of Abu Suf (hairy) millet

    In the 2014 agricultural season he tied a strip of cloth around the first millet stalk to flower, considering this as an early maturing variety and resistant to drought. He also observed that as it grew, the millet head was the biggest, a sign of high production. Most importantly, he also he observed that the same millet head was covered in long hairs which made it difficult for the birds to eat. He observed a second millet variety with a compacted seed head with large seeds that made it hard for locusts and bird to dislodge and eat.

    He selected these millet heads and stored them as seeds for the coming year. This second crop was harvested in October/November 2015 with stunning results. Despite being one of the worst rainy seasons in many years, he produced a surplus of millet beyond his annual household’s needs, the only farmer Magdoub A to do so in 2015. The crop was virtually untouched by birds.

    Scaling up use of new millet variety

    Ibrahim invited Practical Action to attend the harvest, with the aim of seeking support to scale-up the propagation of this new millet variety. Practical Action, accompanied by a team from the State Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Agricultural Research Corporation (ARC), visited the farm to assess the seeds and to discuss with Ibrahim how his millet variety could best be expanded to the benefit of other farmers in the state.

    This scale-up began with Ibrahim training 250 other farmers in Magdoub, and from neighbouring satellite villages, in identifying, selecting and breeding seeds. The next step in the scale-up plan is still being discussed but the provisional plan entails distributing the seeds to 50 farmers in the state who will then grown the seeds; keeping half the crop and passing the other half on to a further 50 farmers. Practical Action also hopes to use these seeds to encourage farmers to adopt agro-forestry. As they no longer need to fear birds damaging their crops, planting Acacia trees on their sandy soils after 4 or 5 years will significantly improve soil fertility. At this point they can also benefit from the trees as Arabic gum gardens supplying reliable source of additional income, through the sale of gum Arabic.

    IMG_1017

    Aisha Adam harvesting her Abu Suf millet

    While this variety of millet is not new to Sudan as a whole, with other pioneer farmers developing similar locally propagated improved seeds in several states, his efforts show how with limited training and outside support, farmers can find locally appropriate solutions to their livelihood challenges.

    This is in line with Practical Action’s vision of promoting local knowledge that contributes to improving the livelihoods of poor communities. By connecting farmers with governmental institutions such as MOA and ARC, we encourage sustainable development.

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