Blogs tagged as Bangladesh

  • The magic trick and resilience: can it work?


    August 28th, 2017

    If you are a citizen of any country exposed to natural disasters, you may know that flooding, cyclones or hurricanes are some of the words that first come to mind when anyone talks about natural disasters. When we talk about disasters, either natural or man-made we all think of one thing – how we can survive?

    We are putting all our effort into finding that magic trick which we believe that will save us from all disasters. What we need, is to recover quickly from difficulties or be strong in the face of disasters. That magic trick is called Resilience. Global efforts are now focused on building resilience in order to reduce the impact of these disasters which is a continued threat to people’s life and livelihoods around the world. However, when we talk about natural disaster and disaster resilience there are no proper or clear tools which can start to lead us towards that magic trick. In a previous study for the United Nations Development Programme, researchers concluded that “no general measurement framework for disaster resilience has been empirically verified yet.” This finding highlights a key challenge for any resilience building efforts: if resilience cannot be empirically verified, how do you empirically measure whether a community is more resilient as a result of your work?

    It is neither simple nor easy to know whether efforts focusing on what we believe builds resilience are correct. However it is necessary to try to measure that the impact of our work is leading to more resilient communities or at least that they are more stable and adaptable to the disasters than before. In that scenario the flood resilience measurement tool (FRMT) developed by the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance designed to quantify the flood resilience of the community. The tool has been trialled in numerous communities across 10 different countries including Bangladesh, by various implementers. It has already demonstrated that it can be a great complementary tool to flood resilience community programming.

    For Bangladesh, a country at the forefront of the battle for flood resilience, the tool can provided valuable insight. Where the tool has been implemented recently in a running project, it has started to help us identify not only the community trends of floods resilience but also the gaps in resilience by looking into the strength and weakness of the communities from the data analysis. This tool also allows the organisation to understand the community better by analysing interdependencies and by understanding it through different lenses. This process helps us and our partners to work on addressing the gaps. Our hope is to gather this evidence and feed into the national level for better advocacy and lead to more informed policy makers.

    Currently the tool is in development phase; key parties test and feedback on strengths and weaknesses of the tool to make it as robust as possible for measuring the flood resilience.  Through continued use and improvement of this tool we can begin to increases the resilience of the community by considering the all key areas. The use of the FRMT can begin to identify changes in resilience over time and verify through post flood assessments whether our interventions are managing to strengthen communities. So that at a time in the future we can not only say that the magic trick is working through the development work of the organisation but also the people’s ability to resist and recover from the disaster is increased.

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  • Jute for environment, jute for employment


    August 23rd, 2017

    Practical Action, together with Karupannya Rangpur Ltd. – a champion jute product manufacturer, a national NGO RDRS and Rangpur Chamber of Commerce started to bring a significant change in jute textile value chain in four northern districts of Bangladesh. They made a breakthrough against conventional practice of  many years by introducing a new small fiber extraction machine funded by EU.  As a new start-up this season, 62 jute fibre extraction machines serving in four northern districts reached around 1200-1500 farmers. The machine was initially brought from China and further modified by Karupynnya Rangpur Ltd and largely introduced to farmers by Practical Action this year. It can extract 2-3 tons of green plant per day. The machine entrepreneurs charged 1500 taka per bigha (33 decimals) to farmers which is relatively cheaper than their manual labour cost. The operation requires 4-5 litre of diesel fuel per day and four man power (most cases husband and wife are
    entrepreneurs). Let me give a real example of this season. Nurul Haque lives in Vuridhoea village under Lalmonirat District, has 250 decimal arable lands who cultivates two varieties of Jute (Kenaf & Tosha) in his 94 decimal land. He was found enthusiastic of the Kenaf jute variety for its high productivity. Plant height of the jute was 15-16 feet and the fibre was much brighter would obviously attract comparatively higher price. Nurul Haque cultivates kenaf variety in 54 decimals, used the newly introduced semi-Automatic Machine (Aashkol) for separating jute stick and fibre and learned an improved jute retting system in ponds. Normally he used to pay Taka 2,000 to Taka 2,200 labour cost for threshing jute plants of one bigha of land, whereas he paid only taka 1,500 per bigha for using the machine. He is happy with the quality of fibre and extra 280 kg jute this time than the last year. Additionally he sold 55 mounds of  jute stick to a local trader at BDT. 4400 this season. He is expecting more profit of BDT 15000  from his 94 decimal land by using the new machine, new variety of jute seed and new retting process. Particular unique aspect of the machine is to secure eco-friendly jute fibre processing which will require less water, less labour and create less pollution to the water bodies. It will open new avenue for trading jute stick as a new industrial raw material in the local and global market. It will create new employment make our agro-economy resilient.​

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  • Money Matters: what role for finance in achieving universal energy access?

    This week saw key players from the energy world gather in Brooklyn, New York, at the SEforAll Forum to talk all things SDG7: that is, access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030. Overarching the vibrant panel discussions, a clear call has emerged: greater and more dynamic action is needed, and fast, if we are to achieve universal energy access on this tight timeline.

    Energy access is vital to achieving nearly every sustainable development goal and progress on energy access acts as a barometer for development progress more broadly. Monday’s launch of the latest Global Tracking Framework, which looks at the state-of-play on energy efficiency, access and renewable energy, gives us food for thought…

    The Global Tracking Framework update

    The report, led by the World Bank Group and the International Energy Agency, confirms that global electricity poverty has declined only minimally from 1.1 billion (GTF 2015) to 1.06 billion (GTF 2017); while the number of people using traditional, solid fuels to cook has actually risen slightly to 3.04 billion, “indicating that efforts are lagging population growth”. For progress to move at the speed and scale required, the report asserts that we need to at least double our investment in modern renewables. But, is increased investment alone the answer?

    Financing national energy access: a bottom up approach

    Man and woman stand outside the Kalawa Financial Services Association in Kenya

    The PPEO 2017 explores this question, using case study evidence gathered from 12 energy-poor communities across Bangladesh, Kenya and Togo. This brand new research, showcased by Practical Action for the first time at the SEforAll Forum this week, demonstrates that while the volume of finance does indeed need to be scaled up, we must delve deeper into understanding the types of finance and directions of financial flows that are key to planning for universal energy access at the national and global levels. Our analysis is unique in that it builds on poor people’s own preferences, and takes a holistic view across households, productive uses and community services.

    Decentralised energy as the way forward

    Villagers in Kitonyoni, Kenya, gather to discuss decentralised energy technologies. Credit: Sustainable Energy Research Group and Energy for Development.

    This is particularly pertinent to the vast majority of those living in energy poverty today; poor rural populations who would best be served by the sorts of distributed energy (mini-grids and stand-alone systems) that receive a disproportionately small amount of the energy access financing pot – in comparison to the grid and in relation to their potential service provision. While World Bank funded power sector projects have an average timeline of nine years from conception to service delivery, research by Power for All demonstrates the vast benefits of decentralised systems; with mini-grids taking on average just four months to get up and running, while for solar-home-systems this is less than one month. According to our own modelling in the PPEO 2017, the distributed energy sector should account for a significant portion of future electricity access financing nationally; up to 80% in Bangladesh and 100% in Togo. At present just 25% of planned investments in Bangladesh, and 5% in Togo, will go towards distributed energy.

     

    The PPEO 2017 also finds that:

    • Increasing national energy access financing for clean cooking to similar levels as for electricity will be key to empower energy-poor communities to use the very clean fuels (gas and electricity) they show a keen interest in.
    • Particularly in pre-commercial markets such as Togo, there is a real opportunity for the public sector to improve the policy and regulatory environment to better embrace distributed solutions, and encourage financial institutions to support consumer and enterprise loans more flexibly, so as to enable rapid market activation.
    • Concessional finance will play a vital role; and consideration of how best to deploy this will be important to help companies move up the ladder to scale and profitability, in order to bring energy access to more people.
    • To make further progress in already mature markets such as Kenya and Bangladesh, addressing barriers to accessing finance that are related to specific policies could help reduce the cost of distributed electricity and clean cooking solutions (including tax exemptions and streamlining of licensing requirements).
    • Inclusive energy access financing can actively promote gender equality. To enable women to participate meaningfully as consumers and entrepreneurs gendered norms around accessing small loans should be addressed, as should the impact of women’s caring responsibilities on their mobility and ability to participate in various markets and training.

    Beyond Brooklyn: what next for SDG7?

    Solar-powered irrigation provides smallholder farmers the water they need to cultivate crops in Gwanda, Zimbabwe

    The PPEO 2017 and Global Tracking Framework agree that utilising the right tools and approaches takes us a step closer to bringing energy access to people more quickly, sustainably and affordably. By listening to the voices and preferences of energy poor communities, as the PPEO series has done, and by framing national planning processes and global financing mechanisms around the sorts of bottom-up approaches which put these priorities front and centre, SDG7 can be achieved. It has been immensely encouraging to see the voices of the rural energy-poor being elevated across the SEforAll forum this week; which has been undeniably multi-stakeholder, with actors from national governments and global institutions, civil society and the private sector rubbing shoulders and engaging in lively debate on the best way forward. One thing is for sure – to achieve the goal we are all aiming for, the elusive SDG7, this cross-sectoral dialogue must be continued well beyond Brooklyn, because no actor working alone will reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

     

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  • An interview with Nazmul Islam Chowdhury


    January 12th, 2017

    The Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal has been a major success, raising an incredible £1 million from people just like you.  This was then matched pound for pound by the UK Government.

    Almost every year monsoon rains cause the three major rivers of Bangladesh to swell, resulting in devastating floods.  They wash away fertile land and destroy homes and livelihoods.  Families are forced to find a new place to live and a new means of earning a living without land to cultivate.  Sandbars emerge as the rivers recede; the soil is barren but can be made productive by using the technique of pit cultivation for pumpkins and other crops.  It’s a simple solution that is truly changing lives, thanks to your support.

    "A small dream is now a big dream" Nazmul Chowdhury

    Nazmul Islam Chowdhury is the Head of the Extreme Poverty Programme in Bangladesh and manages the Pumpkins Against Poverty project.  Nazmul came up with the idea of using the barren land in this way many years ago and has gone on to develop and implement the solution in communities across Bangaldesh.  Below he explains just why this project is so important.

    “Firstly, I want to say thank you so much for everyone’s generous support of Practical Action and the Pumpkins Against Poverty project.  You are helping to reach thousands of people.

    “When I initially came up with the idea of sandbar cropping, I thought something is better than nothing, but we have been able to develop and improve the project. It now has a huge impact on the ground and there is potential to bring this innovation to other countries. The pumpkin is like a magic golden ball; it is a solution for food security, vitamin A deficiency, income and gender equality.

    “I have many stories from the people the project helps but there is one that sticks in my mind. In 2009, When I was visiting a community in Rangpur, I was interviewing a farmer when I heard a girl crying. She was only around three years old. Her cries interrupted the interview and I asked her mother what was wrong. She said she was crying because she was hungry and she had no food to feed her. I was shocked and thought, how can I help? I still think about that girl now. We must do something to help these families.

    “I always tell my children, imagine that you have no food at home and you are hungry. You should always try to help the people that need it.”

    Thank you to everyone who has supported the Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal. You are helping thousands of people to lift themselves out of poverty, for good.

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  • Celebrating sanitation month


    October 28th, 2016

    Clean water is something we take for granted but it is a basic human right that many are often denied.  There are 2.5 billion people in the world that lack access to improved sanitation and 748 million people that don’t have clean drinking water. Nearly 1,400 children die each day from diseases caused by lack of sanitation and unsafe water.

    In 2015, the United Nations introduced their new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty. Goal 6 is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

    It’s Sanitation Month in Bangladesh and we have been celebrating our commitment to reaching the water and sanitation SDG through projects like ‘Delivering Decentralisation’ in Bangladesh, which you can find out more about here.

    Bangladesh slum pic

    The Delivering Decentralisation project supports people living in slums in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka to influence local authorities and service providers in the delivery of improved urban services.

    We established slum community-based organisations, which brought residents together to identify their needs and priorities and build links with and influence local authorities. Through our training on good governance and strengthening of town-wide forums, our local teams changed the mind-set of government officials towards slums. They now integrate community action plans prepared by slum residents into city development plans and allocate budget for them to be delivered.

    The project also helped build roads, toilets, water supply points and introduce waste collection services, including turning faecal waste into compost and biogas.

    But we believe that lasting change is achieved not just by the direct delivery of projects on the ground but also by making knowledge available to the poorest people and in encouraging institutions and governments to adopt approaches that favour the poor.

    In Bangladesh we are working with the Prime Minister’s office to ensure the safe management of faecal sludge is included as a priority in the Government’s action plan for SDG 6. We have also been working with the Bangladesh government to develop a national framework for faecal sludge management, ensuring that human waste from pit latrines is disposed of safely, rather than being dumped in drains and water sources and causing diseases. This will create job security for informal waste workers and improve the health and wellbeing of at least 30 million people living in urban areas.

    As part of our work with the Bangladesh government we were given the responsibility of organising celebrations in three districts (Bagerhat, Faridpur and Satkhira) for Global Handwashing Day under the national sanitation month campaign. The day was celebrated with a rally and discussion session among different NGOs, government officials and civil society.

    Our team in Bangladesh lead a rally on Global Handwashing Day

    Our team in Bangladesh lead a rally on Global Handwashing Day

    Our other teams across the globe celebrated Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to teach people across the globe a thing or two about good hygiene.

    Our Sudan team, for example joined students  and  communities at Twait School in Kassala to teach them  the  importance  of  washing  their hands with soap and water at critical times.

    Mohammed Tahir Adam Samra, a student at Twait school, said: “Now I can prevent my self from abdominal diseases  that cause me to absences from school, so I could get better grades on the exam.”

    We couldn’t help children like Mohammed Tahir without your support. Please help us to work with communities around the world to prevent diseases and save lives and spread the word that more needs to be done to give people access to clean water and sanitation.

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  • Menstrual Hygiene Day

    Saturday 28th May is Menstrual Hygiene Day, a really important day to raise awareness of good menstrual hygiene and to break some of the taboos that surround something that affects half the population of the world!

    It’s sad that in 2016, women and girls are still made to feel ashamed by a natural bodily function. Girls are often held back from achieving their full potential aDanier Bangladesh SANIMARTs they are unable to attend school and it’s shocking to think that in some communities, girls are made to sleep in sheds, away from their home, when menstruating. It shouldn’t be this way.

    In August last year, I travelled to Bangladesh to see some of our work and to meet people who Practical Action is supporting. In Bangladesh, menstrual hygiene remains a taboo topic, sanitary products are rarely available and young girls are often too afraid to ask.

    I met 25 year old Danier who told me what it was like to be a woman in her community. She explained how women are considered ‘unclean’ during their periods, sanitary products are not available and girls are forced to hide away and use rags to soak up the blood. These rags are used over and over again. Washing and drying the rags is difficult, as they shouldn’t be seen by anyone. During this time, girls don’t attend school, because they are too afraid of blood leaking onto their clothes.

    But this is beginning to change. Danier spends her mornings – along with other women from her village – making and selling biodegradable and good quality sanitary products. The women not only make the products, they also encourage other women and girls to use them and are starting to break the silence around the issue. The women earn a small income from making the pads, which they are able to use to help pay for their education.

    Before this project, Danier explained that everyone was using rags but now, most of them are using the products she and her friends make!

    “I’m happy, I even use the product. I am helping other girls. No longer do they have to feel shy.”

    I was touched by how the project had empowered Danier. She felt she had a voice and was making a difference to the girls in her community. Menstruation should not be a taboo subject. Women and girls across the world should not feel ashamed by their periods. Hygiene education and sanitary products should be available to all wherever you live in the world.

     

     

     

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  • Our farmers are not millionaires, do you know why?


    October 14th, 2015

    We do not need to smoke, but tobacco producers are millionaires; we do not need to drink wine/carbonated drinks, but those businesses are also making millions. We need rice, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs – these are our daily necessities, but the producers of these commodities… I am sorry I cannot say that they are millionaires. Most of them are poor and are still living below poverty line.

    Krishi Call Centre advertisement stricker
    Practical Action has always answered queries in the development sector. Today, around 30 members of the staff from 10 different countries in Practical Answers are now appointed to answer questions.

    Practical Answers Bangladesh team has built a Krishi (agriculture) Call Centre with the promise of providing agriculture related information and services in partnership with the Department of Agriculture & Extension under the Ministry of Agriculture.

    The journey of Krishi Call Centre started in 2011-12 with the aim to support rural farmers who are living in remote areas of the country. During the test period, we received around 20,000 calls from 18,000 clients through an eleven digit number for farmers to connect the centre and farmers are charged 0.65 BDT/minute. ‍Subsequently, in 2014, the government made the centre toll free (The connection number is 16123 from Bangladesh only) just for 6 months. Thanks to our Ministry of Local Government for that initiative. After that time Government has declared the lowest rate (0.25 BDT/min excluding vat and surcharge) for the farmers. This is indeed a very good initiative.

    However, with the help of donors, the centre may not continue its work in the long run. The Government should take it to a revenue model; otherwise it will be very difficult to sustain.

    Coming back to what I said at the start, if a farmer gets support from a remote place for his agricultural production, it will be valuable for our economy as well as Gross Domestic Product – GDP. As Bangladesh still relies on agricultural based economy, the government should take the necessary steps to make the Krishi Call Centre sustainable and a successful project.

    Krishi Call Centre

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  • Flood-proof school …flood-proof community


    March 11th, 2015

    All around the UK are villages and towns with community centres, but just imagine how valued that community centre would be if it was not just a community centre but also a school, and a place of safety. The Multi-purpose Community Centre and School in Saghata, Giabandha, is one such place.

    IMG_2677Most of the time the building is used as a school and this is what it was being used for when I visited it.  The place was full of incredibly well-behaved, delightful children from 5-18 years old.  When I walked into a classroom they all got up to say good morning to me, and were clearly very proud of their ability to speak English, and to recite traditional English rhymes.‘Early to bed , early to rise makes a man healthy and wealthy and wise’ was a firm favourite.  Several of the children were able to tell me a little bit about their lives.  Playing football is obviously a popular pastime in Bangladesh!

    IMG_2668BUT…this is a school with a difference, if you look closely at the buildings you will see they are all raised from the ground on plinths and made of brick.  This is a flood-proof school.  When the floods do arrive however it stops becoming a school and is a place of safety for the local community.  The classrooms become places where people and animals can stay until the flood subsides. This Centre was clearly the hub of the community and is making a big difference to the lives of the people who live there irrespective of flooding.

    School2I will always have fond memories of the children who greeted me so warmly and the staff who were clearly very dedicated.

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  • Give a man a fish…

    We have all heard that saving, ‘give a man a fish and he will have food for a day, teach him to fish and he will have food for a lifetime’. At Practical Action we take this a step further, we would teach a man to fish and provide all the equipment he needs to do that as well!

    PA-SnackBoy-13

    In my recent visit to Bangladesh it was this expression that came to mind when I met a lovely family were keen to tell me how their lives had been made much better as a result of their involvement in a Practical Action project.

    Hagera is a lady who had been given training and equipment from Practical Action as part of the Shiree project about 3 years before.  She had learnt how to make a range of different snacks to sell to local shops and door to door. She was proudly wearing the Practical Action apron she had been given at the time.  What made this story a bit special however was that recently she had trained her 19 year old son Allakba  to also get involved in the business.  He told me that if he didn’t make snacks he would have to be a labourer.  As a labourer he would make 100 Taka a day ( about 90p) , but by making snacks he could make 300-500 Taka. He was a very happy and in fact he didn’t stop smiling the whole time I was there!

    Hagera and her son showed me how they made the snacks and then with typical Bangladeshi hospitality invited my colleague and myself to taste them…and they were delicious. My favourite was a snack called jhuri, it is similar to a hard chip that tasted both salty and sweet at the same time, not like anything I had ever had before but really yummy.

    In terms of the difference  Practical Action’ had made to their lives Hagera told me that in the three years they had managed to buy a cow and  the materials to build a house, which was obviously a huge thing.  She clearly felt very blessed and grateful for both what she and her son had managed to achieve so far and that as a result of our input they had a bright future to look forward to.

    Another ‘proud to work for Practical Action’ moment for me, and a family I will never forget.

    PA-SnackBoy-15

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  • Marvellous Microbes

    Having been to the amazing biogas plant at Gaibandha a while ago I decided ‘Marvellous Microbes’ would be a good title for the science video I am going to be producing for school pupils.  The video will be one of three illustrating that access to technologies like biogas is important part of technology justice. 

    We could learn a lot from the engineers in Bangladesh, who have made good use of a by-product (the biogas) from a waste collection system designed primarily to reduce the hazard caused by kitchen waste being dumped in the street.  The system is well managed, it is a definite benefit to the community and the staff are incredibly dedicated. Within the process itself the microbes are the star of the show!  Microbes break down the kitchen waste from 1,000 households producing two really useful products, fertiliser and biogas.  The biogas is used by 25 household to cook food and the fertiliser is in the form of slurry, some of which is then used to make compost.

    If you are interested in more details please read on. The process goes like this!

    1. Household recruiters, Biogas plant , GiahbandaFirst of all you need buy in from the community, so a team of three lovely ladies go from door to door encouraging households to get involved in the scheme and pay a small fee to have their kitchen scraps collected. They told me that mostly people do this because they understand it is better for the community as a whole to not have waste dumped in the street, and the only other option is to walk quite a distance to larger bins.   In this site just over 1,000 households have joined in. Like me (!) these ladies have their targets to reach and are constantly signing up more. The plant itself could manage waste from about 2,000 households in total so there is a way to go.
    2. Kitchen waste is collected every day by vendors.  One vendor I spoke to has worked here for 4 years. He much prefers working here as he can look through the waste and if he finds anything that can be reused he can take it and sell it,  this could be something like a small plate. By doing this he can increase his income by about 50% .  He told me that most precious thing he found was a locket which he didn’t sell but gave to his daughter.
    3. Kitchen waste is also sorted by ladies at the landfill site. They spend up to 5 hours a day separating it out from general waste. Not a job many people would like but they said they were happy because they have work and the are given safety equipment.

    Vendor working at biogas plant Giahbandha Waste pickers at landfill site Giahbandha

    1. The kitchen scraps collected in these two different  ways are  then put into the digester and mixed with water where the marvellous microbes get to work. Conditions for these anaerobic digesters are perfect, The right pH, temperature, moisture and oxygen levels mean that in 15-20 days the kitchen scraps have changed to fertiliser that can be used as slurry and converted into compost, plus lovely biogas. Slurry is used in the plant itself and surrounding fields, in fact I was told the biogas plant is known as the ‘green garden’ because the plants in it grow so well. The compost is sold on to generate a small income for the plant.

    Putting kitche waste into the biogas digester BiogasDigester

    1. Biogas is piped out of the plant to 25 lucky households. They receive the biogas gas three times a day. Women who are lucky enough to get biogas for cooking  much prefer it to the more traditional stoves because it is cleaner, and also food doesn’t have to be watched to the same degree,  reducing  drudgery as it allows the women time to do other things whilst the food is cooking. The plant has the capacity to provide biogas for up to 50 households, the limiting factor being the cost of  building the pipes.

    Biogas stove, giahbanda, Bangaldesh Biogas plant Giahbanda, Bangladesh

    I came away feeling …what a great idea, basically a win win situation.

    To find out more about Practical Action’s work on biogas go to   www.practicalaction.org/biogas-fuel

    For a technical brief on biogas to use with pupils go to  practicalacton.org/technical-briefs-schools-energy

    …And watch out for that Marvellous Microbes video coming soon on Youtube!

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