Blogs tagged as Practical Action

  • Climate Change is back in the News


    , | September 6th, 2018

    The last few years have started to place climate change back on the political map, not in respect to astounding stories of climate denial but because the foresight of scientists such as James Hansen[1] finally seems to be coming to fruition.  Last autumn witnessed the most devastating North Atlantic Hurricane season on record. A season that the poorer Caribbean counties are only just started to recover from, some may say just in time for the next one. Europe has experienced exceptional heat waves, globally the planet has exceeded numerous temperature maximums and worryingly some planetary system appear to be showing signs of failure. Perhaps most worrying for anyone living next to the sea, is the collapse of the arctic ice sheets. It’s starting to be pretty obvious to everyone except the incumbent of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that we are entering a new normal, one of increased and less predictable weather.

    Currently the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, (UNFCCC), signed into force back in 1994, are meeting in Bangkok to progress negotiations on the rule book for the Paris Agreement. The negotiations have so far been convened in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration but based on the first three days there still remains a lot of work to do. So what are the key areas where further work is required?

    The scientific community is nearing the completion of a special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on keeping within 1.5oC[2]. It’s clear from the full report that this is extremely unlikely and we are falling behind efforts to meet the Paris Agreement. Current commitments as document in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) landing us well above 3oC warming. This will have catastrophic global impacts but mostly on the poorest, those least responsible for the problem in the first place.

    One of the sticking points in the negotiations and obvious here in Bangkok is finance, or the lack of it. The developed world made a pledge in Copenhagen to provide support to the developing world to respond to the losses caused by climate change. The promise was for $100Bn in addition to existing development budgets to finance climate action. The global community rapidly mobilised the Green Climate Fund as the conduit for this funding, but sadly the promised level of funding is not being met and the majority of the funding is going on Business as Usual mitigation projects with little going to adaptation, and no mechanism in place to cover Loss and Damage caused by irreversible climate change. As we are seeing for some people and communities climate action is already too little and too late, they are living with the consequences of a changed climate.

    But who should pay for the irreversible consequences of climate change, should the polluters pay? One simple way to do this would be the introduction of a climate damages tax[3]. A fossil fuel extraction charge levied on producers of oil, gas and coal to pay for the damage and costs caused by climate change. The use of the substantial revenues raised would be allocated, for the alleviation and avoidance of the suffering caused by severe impacts of climate change in developing countries, including those communities already forced from their homes.

    Finally on technology, something close to the hearts of myself and my colleagues at Practical Action. Technology is critical to limit warming to less than 1.5°C. The Paris Agreement proposes a technology framework, meant to provide guidance on technology as a means along with finance and capacity. The Technology Mechanism that came out of COP 16 in Cancun, is great but has had limited achievements. It has been stymied by lack of funding and struggled to get past the first stage of top down, gender blind technology needs assessments. The framework was meant to enhance the process to deliver technology to support transformational climate action, by bringing more actors on board and by empowering the voice of local communities and national governments. The sort of participatory action necessary to deliver in the spirit of the Paris Agreement. Parties seem to have lost their ability to dream big and develop the technology framework that the world needs, unfortunately it feels like we are stuck at square one[4].

    [1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/jun/25/30-years-later-deniers-are-still-lying-about-hansens-amazing-global-warming-prediction

    [2] http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

    [3] https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/the-climate-damages-tax-an-idea-whose-time-has-come/

    [4] https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/skeletons-castles-and-closets-a-reflection-on-technology-negotiations-at-sb46/

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  • The Gravity of GRAVITY


    June 8th, 2018

    Life in high hills and mountains is not very simple. Access to resources, market, education to even health and other basic services are bleak due to treacherous geography; not to mention, how hard even commuting for the locals can become through the steep hills and cliffs. In absence of much prospect, many are compelled to live at edge of poverty. We have come across many people who have outlived great challenges with so much persistence and struggle. Their life stories inspire us every day to work harder and motivate us to do more to make life better for them.

    The Hardships of Hill, Belkosha’s Story

    In many stories, one of Belkosha Bohora from Tilagufa Village in Kalikot might captivate your sentiments too. She seems happy and content at first glance, but listening to how she went through the thick and thin of her life, anyone can feel dejected. Growing up in the parched hills of Kalikot, all she saw in life was the hardships the hills had to offer; in form of loss of childhood, no education and no alternative but to marry early and of course make a bunch of babies. With no option other than to work at the fields carrying fertilisers heavier than her, half her life went by foraging, farming and taking care of the cattle. In patriarchal society that is so deep rooted, men were not expected to take care of the babies she gave birth to almost every year after her marriage. That’s why she was not just a full time mom for year after another but also full time labour until the last day of her delivery and as early as 5 days after the delivery. Overworked and ‘un’cared, Belkosha lost 8 of her 12 babies to the hardships of the hill until eventually her uterus prolapsed.

    Belkosha Bohora (40) from Kalikot who lost 8 out of 12 children due to drudgery, Photo: G Archana

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Gravity Goods Ropeway

    But in the forty years of her life, she is finally going to feel rested. We are making it easy for women like Belkosha by bringing a pulley technology at the village that lie at the top of vertical peak. In Nepal, roads alone cannot guarantee access to services for the most marginalised and isolated communities like Belkosha’s. Gravity Goods Ropeways (GGR) is simplest form of rope based transportation system that works on the proven principle of a controlled freefall mechanism, GRAVITY. It is operated by potential energy of mass at upper station, generating kinetic energy by the action of pulley systems. Through GGR, people can easily transport goods from uphill to downhill and the other way round. Similar technology has been installed in Tipada of Bajura District where people are making most out of the system. We have witnessed people’s life changed since the technology directly affects farmer’s livelihood by bringing the market closer. Many farmers who were subsistence based have started commercial vegetable farming since they can easily transport the goods downhill in less than two minutes instead of hours and hours in the steep hills which have claimed lives of many. This simple to operate, low cost solution requires minimum maintenance and is indeed changing lives of many.

    Gravity Goods Ropeway being operated in Bajura, Photo: S Kishore

     

    The pulley system is being installed with financial support of project named BICAS, implemented by Practical Action with funding support of the European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid (JOA)

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  • कालीकोटका “वन्डर वूमेन” का लागी !


    May 18th, 2018

    कालीकोटको तिलागूफा गाउँमा चाँडै ग्रभीटिबाट सञ्चालन हुने रोपवे सुचारु हुँदैछ । यातायातको कूनै सुविधा नभएका कारण पाहाडको टूप्पो देखी सडकसम्म गाउँलेहरू आफ्नै काँधको भरमा सामानको भारी बोक्न बाध्य छन् । यस्तो कार्यभारको प्रमूख बोझ भने महिला माथी परेको छ । घाँस–दाउरा, मेलापात, बालबच्चा र घर खेतको जिम्मेवारी त छ नै, साथमा धेरै पुरुष बैदेशिक रोजगारका लागी विदेशिने हुँदा, महिलाहरूको शारीरिक तथा मानसिक बोझ आकाशीदो छ । त्यस माथी पाठेघरै खस्ने जस्ता समस्याबाट प्रताडित तिलागूफाका महिलाहरूका लागी यो रोपवे एउटा बरदान भन्दा कम हुने छैन होला । रेपवेको पर्खाइमा आँैला भाँची रहेका यहाँका महिलाहरूको जीवनका भोगाइहरू बूझ्दा त यि महिलाहरू पो साँचो अर्थमा “वन्डर वूमेन” हून जस्तो लाग्ने ।

    बाँदर पनि लड्ने भिरमा घाँस दाउरा गर्ने, आकाश छुने अल्गो रुखको टूप्पा चडि स्याउला काट्ने, नाङ्गो पाइताला लिएर बस्तू चराउन जंगल जाने, नौ महिनाको गर्व लिएर आफै भन्दा गरुङ्गो मलको भारी बोक्ने, बारीमा एक्लै बच्चा जन्माएर नवजात शिशु डोकोमा हाली घर ल्याउने…… यी कथाहरू यहाँका हरेक महिलाको दिनचर्या हो । यहाँका महिलाले छानेको जीवन त यस्तो होइन तर भौगोलीक कठिनाइ, सामाजिक मान्यता, गरिबी तथा यावत कारणहरूले गर्दा अहिलेलाई अरु कूनै उपाय पनि छैन । यद्यपि हामीले लाँदै गरेको रोपवेले केहि व्यथा त समाधान गर्ला, केहि घाउ त पूर्ला की । ओझेल परेका यी महिलाहरू, यी “वन्डर वूमेनहरू” को सम्मानमा समर्पीत एउटा भावनाः

    कालीकोटे “वन्डर वूमेनहरू” फोटोः अर्चना गुरुङ्ग

    आज मेरो आँसूले बनेको सागर बनी हेर 
    मेरा भत्केका रहरहरूको ढिस्को बनी हेर 

    मेरो घाउ अनि चोटको हिमाल बनी हेर

    मेरो मर्मले भिजाएको सिरान बनी हेर
    मेरो भक्कानोले फूटाएको पहाड बनी हेर 

    मैले कोर्न नपाएको कलम बनी हेर

    मैले देख्नै नपाएको बालापन बनि हेर
    मेरो कोखले गुमाएका बालखा बनी हेर

    तर कालो अधेरीमा जुनकिरी पनि बनी हेर
    त्यो चोटको हिमाल माथी उदाउने सूर्य बनी हेर
    मैले बुनेका सपनाको महल बनी हेर
    मैले भिजाएका सिरानले दिने आड बनी हेर
    त्यो नांगो पहाड भित्रको बल बनी हेर
    मैले संसार देखाएको कोपीला बनी हेर
    मेरा पाखूरा र पौरखकोे उर्जा बनी हेर

    मेरो आँखाले देखेको प्रकाश बनी हेर

    कूहिरो माक्रको ईन्द्रेनी बनी हेर
    बादल भित्र लूकेको किरण बनी हेर
    कालीकोटे भीरमा फूल्ने गुरास बनी हेर
    कर्णालीको तीरमा बग्ने बतास बनीहेर

    आज एक पटक तिमी ……….
    मेरो पसिनाले भिजेको पछ्र्यौरी बनी हेर
    मेरो सहासले कसिएको पटूकी बनी हेर
    मलाई सजाउने मूस्कान, त्यो गहना बनी हेर
    मेरो लामो रातको सूस्केरी बनी हेर
    मेरा दरफरीएका हातको रेखी बनी हेर

    मेरा ओझेल परेका कथा बनी हेर !
    मेरा ओझेल परेका कथा बनी हेर ! !

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  • Primary Science- What’s the story?


    April 4th, 2018

    I am a self-confessed twitter geek. I love twitter. I start my day with twitter. As soon as my eyes have focused after my alarm goes off and before I even have my first coffee I can’t resist having a quick peak!   For me it is both a way to keep up to date with what is going on in the sector, plus a way to share the work I do that I am so passionate about.

    So, recently on twitter I was disappointed and dismayed to see a link to an article in TES on how primary science is ’dying ‘ in our primary schools. The article highlight concerns that:

    I must admit I was surprised by this as my experience from going to conferences and feedback from teachers generally is that there is a thriving community of passionate science mad primary teachers out there. Maybe I only ever meet the already converted. I hope not.

    It seems to me that a lot of factors influence the teaching of primary science. If you are a primary teacher where you live has a huge bearing on what support/training is available to you. If you are lucky enough to live in Leeds you will have a great support network. Just this week I attending the fantastic Leeds Primary Science conference and was really inspired by the teachers commitment there, not just to ‘do’ science but to do it with rigor,  focusing on good practice around the 5 key aspects of enquiry. Sadly not all areas offer support like Leeds, but there are other national initiatives out there with regional support you can look at. The Association of Science Education (ASE) has a great primary science community and offers CPD at its conferences. Primary science Quality Mark (PSQM) and the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) also offer support.  For a different kind of hands-on help you could also tap into the STEM Ambassadors network, a network of STEM professional keen to come into your school to …for free!

    Back to twitter…embracing social media really can help you with your science teaching. Primary Rocks has really taken off this year, and they love science! You can join then every Monday evening at 8pm on a twitter chat #primaryrocks and at the same time ( yes I do flick between the two!) the ASE have their twitter chat #ASEChat which includes sharing ideas on primary science. So many great people /organisations to follow, to start with I would recommend @theASE @CREST-Star @UnleashPriSci @priscigeeks @seeley_claire  @pstt_whyhow  @primaryrocks1 @PSQM_HQ  @IgniteFutures @lab_13 @Sarahpurplee  @kulvinderj @Scikathryn and of course @PA_Schools. Many of these also have Facebook pages too…why not do both!

    Then there are lots of amazing free resources for primary science. Explorify is getting a lot of love from the primary science community, and other resources can be found on schoolscience.co.uk and the STEM Learning website. Then there are our primary materials of course and the materials linked to the CREST Star and CREST Discovery awards

    So… back to what’s the story. I think it is that if you are a primary teacher and you want to see good quality primary science in your school it’s up to you gather all the support you can then dive it. Things you can do to get started include:

    JOIN – a local support network if there is one in your area, and look at schemes like the PSQM or PSTT.

    ATTEND – conferences that host CPD, such as the ASE national and regional conferences

    CONTACT – organisations willing to help you, like the STEM Ambassadors network

    FOLLOW – inspiring/supportive accounts on twitter and Facebook.

    USE – The great free resources that are out there…including ours!

    Here’s hoping that if enough primary teachers do that the report in a few years time will tell a different story.

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  • Enhancing Flood Resilience through Livelihood adaptation


    February 7th, 2018

    “The 2014 flood was worse than the 2009 flood but the loss and damage was less because people had learned from the earlier event.” Dinanath Bhandari

    I am currently visiting the Practical Action Nepal flood resilience project in the western region, which has been supported by the Z Zurich foundation for the last five years. The project is working in 74 flood vulnerable communities adjacent to the Karnali River, located in the Terai plains, the flat lands that connect Nepal to India. The western Terai is one of the poorest regions of the country and has faced migration from the mid-hills by landless farmers looking for space to farm. When they arrived much of the unoccupied land was next to the river, the flood prone area which has fertile soil great for agriculture, as long as you can save yourself and your assets when the monsoon flash floods arrive. It is in this context that the flood project operates, and I’m fortunate enough to be exploring the lessons from phase one with my Nepali colleagues before we start a second phase.

    Mrs Mana Kumari Tharu and her elevated rice store

    The raised grain store

    In the Terai flooding is a matter of life and almost every year a flood event of varying severity occurs. For many of the poorest members of the community this can be a devastating loss as hurriedly harvested rice stored in traditional ground level storage jars are ruined by the flood waters. It only takes moisture reaching the jar for the rice to spoil. One simple measure to avoid this problem is to raise the storage bins off the ground. But the problem is the bins can be very heavy and wooden structures aren’t strong enough to support their weight. So the project has provided 40 of the poorest households with concrete platforms to elevate their rice storage bins. Mrs. Mana Kumari Tharu[1] told me that now when she gets the message to flee to the flood shelter she is less worried about her precious rice. She knows it has a much better chance of surviving. If she can preserve this staple food supply her family will have enough to eat and will not be forced to adopt erosive coping strategies such as selling equipment or livestock. This will also reduce their dependency on relief food aid, something that not all families will be fortunate to avoid, hence ensuring those supplies reach the remote families who need them the most.

    The off farm training

    Youth workshop trainees from Rajapur

    We joined a workshop in which 12 young people between 20 and 35 years old, came together to share their experiences of a series of off farm training courses in which they had enrolled. This gathering was organised 12 months after their training to learn about their experiences and whether they had been successful in their new careers. The 14 young people gathered had been trained in such diverse topics as carpentry, dressmaking, engineering, plumbing and construction. The course was validated by the district education office and each of the graduates received a certificate which greatly enhanced their employment opportunities. All of the participants reported success in finding work and the story of one young graduate Mr. Anil Tharu who went to Kathmandu was particularly interesting. After receiving his certificate he tried to find work locally but was unable, so he ended up paying a middle man to join a construction project in Kathmandu. Initially he had to pay back the travel loan and the finders fee for securing the work. But he quickly realised that there was more work in Kathmandu than there were skilled workers. So he was able to pay back his loan find work on his own and after three months, he has saved enough money to return to Rajapur. He is now employed with a local construction company building houses and earning 30,000 Nepali Rupees (£200) per month.

    Mr. Sita Man Tharu and Mr. Prem Thapa discussing his Banana plantation

    The banana plantation

    Mr. Sita Ram Tharu is a traditional rice farmer who grew up in the Terai region. He was invited as a member of one of the target communities to attend a farmer field school at which a number of different cultivation methods were demonstrated. He said that most of the methods on show didn’t interest him, until they presented banana plantation. He and his wife, who suffers from high blood pressure, found that the annual chores of preparing the rice filed, growing the saplings, dibbing them out, caring for them during the rainy season and finally harvesting and winnowing his crop was getting too much. In addition the rice plants were vulnerable to flash flood events washing the young seedlings out of the ground. So Mr. Tharu replaced his seasonal rice plot with a banana plantation. He purchased the tissue culture produced saplings for 45 Nepali Rupees (30p) each and planted them in this plot. He admitted that the first year the labour was excessive, but now the 90 trees are established the job of wedding the plantation and harvesting the bananas is a lot less stressful than the challenge of producing a rice crop. And he knows that if a flood event does occur his banana trees have a much greater chance of withstanding the water providing him with continued income once the waters recede. The old rice plot used to generate a maximum of 30,000 Nepali Rupees (£200) per year, his banana plot now generates over 200,000 Nepali Rupees (£1,400) per year. When I asked him what he did with the extra money, he said he had put some in the bank in case his wife needed medical treatment for her blood pressure, and the rest he had used to send his son to Kathmandu to study for a master’s degree.

    All these stories demonstrate the transformative power of well targeted interventions and local choice in their uptake and adoption. This wasn’t mass development but locally targeted appropriate development, but I am still wondering if this will be enough to make the people and their communities flood resilient?

    Next steps…

    I am interested to explore with my Nepalese colleagues how these individual successful pieces of the puzzle, could fit together to tackle the underlying resilience challenges facing these people. Floods will undoubtedly continue, and will be supercharged by climate change making the monsoon rains more intense as we saw last year. But what can the individuals, the communities, the local government, private sector, national government and international community do to build the resilience of these people? These three examples are all successes in building resilience, however we still have a long way to go to roll this out across this one river basin let alone the other twenty plus river basins that criss-cross Nepal.

    More to follow….

    Find out more

    Discover more ways to build community flood resilience on the Flood Resilience Portal by exploring the resources library or sending an inquiry . Or share your own experiences with the Flood Resilience Portal community.

    [1] Tharu is indigenous to the Terai with over 70% of the population sharing this surname

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  • Ditch the Dirt…a NEW STEM challenge

    We think young people will love it!

    Practical Action’s latest Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) challenge ‘Ditch the Dirt’ offers a great opportunity for pupils to explore how simple water filtering techniques can remove so much ‘dirt’ from contaminated water.

    Set around the real-life context where millions of people worldwide don’t have access to clean and safe drinking water, Ditch the Dirt enables pupils to find out for themselves how science and technology can play a critical role in developing sustainable solutions to global challenges.

    Pupils start by exploring their own daily water use before learning about the challenges for many children and women in Turkana, Kenya to collect water from ground water holes, on average 3 miles from home.

    Pupils then learn about the impact on health of drinking ‘dirty’ water before researching and developing their own  ideas for ‘cleaning’ water and making it safe to drink.

     

    One of the primary science teachers involved in trialling the materials explains,

    ‘Setting these science investigations in a real-life context really motivated the pupils to develop the best filtering systems they could. It made the science relevant to them, they could clearly see how science can make a difference to peoples lives.’

     

    Ditch the Dirt can be used to gain the British Science Association’s CREST awards at both primary and secondary level.  To see which levels it can be used for, and to view our other popular STEM challenges accredited for CREST go to the CREST page on our website.

    We look forward to sharing stories from children and teachers who use the Ditch the Dirt challenge materials over the next months.

    Enjoy them and please share the link with your own contacts of  teachers and parents.

    The materials for Ditch the Dirt can all be found here. Ditch the Dirt.

     

     

     

     

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  • Energy Supporter Objects – The Variety of Energy Technologies and Uses in Refugee Settings


    December 5th, 2017

    A blog authored by Sarah Rosenberg-Jansen and Anna Okello. December 2017.

    A ‘missing link’ in humanitarian energy access

    Energy is a critical need for refugees and displaced people: millions of displaced people do not have access to energy, and humanitarian agencies and refugees themselves struggle to work with complex energy technology systems and products – as we discuss in the Moving Energy Initiative Report. Recognising this, Practical Action has developed an extensive portfolio of work on energy in humanitarian settings. This includes current research into how refugees practice and perceive energy, undertaken by working with communities to understand how refugees in Kenya engage with energy technologies and the objects that surround them, funded by the University of Edinburgh among others. By ‘objects’ or ‘energy supporter objects’, we mean items and technologies which are integral for, or attached to, sources of energy to make energy-use possible. These technologies can be seen as missing links between the energy supply (e.g. a solar panel) and the service (e.g. a fully charged mobile phone) – the energy supporter object is the phone charger, because without it the end energy use (charging a phone) is impossible. Other examples would include, matches, wires, cooking pots, vehicles for transport, and appliances such as clocks and headphones.

    Our research shows the extent to which communities maximise their total energy access needs by using a variety of energy objects and technologies. This goes far beyond having solar lanterns and improved cook-stoves, as, for people to use these products effectively, they require a great many additional technologies and objects.

    A comprehensive approach to energy poverty in humanitarian settings

    For humanitarian decision-makers to be fully aware of how communities’ use and value energy, we argue that it is vital that the total energy life of refugees is taken into consideration. Energy supporter objects form a core part of the realities of refugee lives, and systems of support and humanitarian response need to consider these physical things as well as basic energy access technologies to effectively work with communities. For example, a bicycle may not be considered an energy technology, but many people are reliant on this form of transport to enable them to move batteries to be charged, to transport firewood, and to deliver diesel fuel.

    Energy supporter objects in practice: Kakuma Refugee Camp

    One area Practical Action works in is Kakuma Refugee Camp, which is in the Turkana District of the north-west of Kenya. In Kakuma there are many diverse communities; with people from Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The camp population is currently estimated to be over 180,000 and has been in existence since 1992. In the past few years, the camp has expanded quickly with new arrivals coming from South Sudan or being relocated from Dadaab camp, which may close.

    In Kakuma, there are a dynamic set of markets, energy products and services available within the communities. During our research several types of ‘energy supporter objects’ emerged as being key to the community, including matches, wires, and phone chargers. The table below provides a summary of some of these objects and the type of ‘traditional energy objects’ they are often connected with or to in the Kenyan context.

    Communities solving their own problems

    While we don’t suggest that humanitarian agencies should provide energy supporter objects as part of their responses or aid programmes, we want to draw attention to the ways local communities are already solving these problems themselves. Many of the refugee and host community businesses that exist within or close to refugee camps are already centred on energy supporter objects and are supplying this demand gap themselves. For example, the picture below shows a refugee business owner who sells solar panels. But in his shop, there are also batteries, matches, torches, extension cables, light bulbs, chargers, speakers, sound systems and radios. By supporting and facilitating these markets, humanitarian responders have an ideal opportunity to also support income generating opportunities and the self-sufficiency of refugees – which can lead to increased human development and wellbeing of communities.

    Refugees’ energy access priorities in reality

    In many cases, our research found that the energy supporter objects were more central to business owners and refugee households than the source of energy itself. The picture below shows a music store in Kakuma camp, the owner of whom has multiple energy appliances: a computer, screens, keyboard, fans, a television and sound system. The source of energy for this business was actually a mini-grid connection, however, when discussing energy, the business owner focused almost exclusively on the appliances and uses of energy. This finding is in-keeping with Practical Action’s Poor People’s Energy Outlook report series, which has long maintained that it is not the energy supply but energy services that matter most to marginalised people – people care about what they can do with the energy, not where it comes from.

    We suggest that NGOs and practitioners can focus on the way that people use energy and the practical realities of living as a refugee, to more successfully deliver support and energy access technologies. Understanding energy supporter objects is one angle that could be used to achieve this. More information on the energy lives of refugees and displaced people is available from the Moving Energy Initiative and Practical Action’s work on humanitarian energy.

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  • Is the snail accelerating?


    November 13th, 2017

    With the first week of the conference done and dusted, where are we in negotiations?

    In September I wrote about the Government of Fiji’s ambition[1] for the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties (COP23) to the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change. The first week of the conference is now over and the high level segment is about to begin. So are we any closer to a comprehensive deal to tackle climate change? A deal that needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to avoid catastrophic social systems failure, that puts in place mechanisms to help people in developing countries adapt to the challenge of climate change and for those where climate action is already too late, put in place a mechanism that responds to their Losses and Damages. A mechanism that helps them pick up the pieces and find a new life despite climate change exacerbated floods washing away their homes, sea level rise making their homes unliveable and fields unproductive or the multitude other ways that climate change impacts are already exceeding the capacity of the poorest to adapt.

    The negotiations are complex from a technical as well as a political perspective. Countries ultimately want to see an equitable deal that delivers on keeping climate change to within 1.5oC. A deal that recognises the different needs and builds from the contributions that each country can make.

    Based on progress during the first week the following three areas must not be forgotten by political leaders as they travel to attend next week, tasked on behalf of all of us to finalise and approve what need to be ambitious conference outcomes.

    First, get serious on mitigation, keep coal in the ground and shift from oil and gas to renewable sources as rapidly as possible!

    Location of coal power plants in the EU in 2016, circle diameter indicates capacity, country colours depict coal use per capita (darker shading indicates higher coal use per capita)

    Second, mainstream climate change in all development, ensure mitigation action doesn’t undermine progress on adaptation and vice versa!

    We know that to end poverty, we must reverse climate change as quickly as possible.  Without doing so, we risk pushing more than 100 million people back into poverty by 2030 from the impacts of climate change alone[2].

    Thirdly, pre 2020 ambition, the two year period before the Paris Agreement comes into force should be a race to climate excellence, not to be climate laggards!

    Prior to the COP starting the U.N Environment Programme released a sobering report[3] detailing the gap between what countries pledged in their initial Paris Agreement commitments — their nationally determined contributions — and what they will need to do in order to keep global warming below the ideal of 1.5oC. Unfortunately for future generations current commitments cover only approximately one third of the emissions reductions needed to be on a pathway of staying well below 2°C. This isn’t a surprise to delegates at the COP, what is alarming is the lack of progress on ramping up this ambition, particularly leadership by the developed world, leading by example on mitigation, and providing the technical and financial support needed to deliver on Adaptation and Loss and Damage to ensure that we do stay on the track agreed in Paris.

    [1] https://practicalaction.org/blog/programmes/climate_change/fijis-vision-for-cop23/

    [2] http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/11/08/rapid-climate-informed-development-needed-to-keep-climate-change-from-pushing-more-than-100-million-people-into-poverty-by-2030

    [3] https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/22070/EGR_2017.pdf

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  • Resilience in the face of increasing risk and uncertainty


    September 14th, 2017

    Practical Action’s strategic plan 2017-2020 states “Our vision is for a world where all people have access to the technologies that enable them to meet their basic needs and reach their potential, in a way that safeguards the planet today, and for future generations”. But with development gains being eroded by natural hazards, I sometimes wonder if we are fighting a losing battle?

    Volunteers rescuing people in Bardiya, Nepal Photo: Nepal Flood Resilience Project

    According to the Economist, there are now 400 extreme weather events every year, four times as many as in 1970[1]. A trend demonstrated vividly by the extensive flooding in South Asia and the impacts of the current North Atlantic hurricane season with the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Although Practical Action does not work in developed countries, the fact that cities in the United States, cities with planning agencies, building regulations and investment in mitigation, have been devastated by natural hazards demonstrates the increase in climate risk for communities in the developing world, that lack similar government capacity and struggle with limited budgets.

    In a world of increasing risk, resilience is a useful concept to explore the capacities, assets and behaviours that people, their communities and the societies in which they belong, need to be resilient to shocks and stresses. But resilience itself as an outcome of development, may be foolhardy to pursue.

    Practical Action recognises that technology is a key enabler of human development, that technological innovation has the power to enable a better world. Technology can advance the adaptive capacity of communities to cope with risk. For example a community protected by an Early Warning System have access to the information to allow them to act in advance of a flood event. As more EWS messages are received and successful responses are triggered, the community starts to learn what behaviour keeps them safe and the actions needed to limit the destruction of the flood event. Access to knowledge and information and their increased safety, nurtures experiential learning, they start to learn how to live with the flood.

    In a world in which there is no clear endpoint for development, in which resilience becomes ever more distant, enabling communities to experiment, to learn and adapt their lives and livelihoods will be vital if they are to survive and flourish. Resilience as an outcome is dangerous, it suggests an end state of resilience, whereas resilience is more dynamic. Resilience must consider the role of culture and human agency, and that the development aims of all people, communities and countries need not necessarily align to the same outcome. What builds the resilience of a farmer with a tractor may not be the same as what would build the resilience of a farmer dependent on livestock for motive power. Different vulnerabilities, different contexts, stress the need for different resilience building processes. We must stop focussing on the outcome of resilience and instead concentrate on learning from what we are doing, be brave enough to adapt when things start to diverge from the expected, and most importantly we mustn’t forget that it’s ok to learn from failure.

    [1] https://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2017/08/daily-chart-19

    Find out more…

    See more of our work on the Flood Resilience Portal. This portal provides practitioners who live and work in flood-affected communities with easy access to the resources they need to build resilience to floods. This is part of the ongoing global Zurich Flood Resilience Programme.

    Or learn about the difference made by Practical Action resilience programmes during the 2017 flash floods and landslides in Nepal and what this revealed about disaster preparedness.

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  • Selling vegetables to educate wife, a moving story of Gopal Mahat


    June 29th, 2017

    Gopal Mahat just turned 24 and is a local denizen of Ghagar Village of Badimalika Municipality in Bajura. This young and energetic man with a high school education passes almost all his day in his vegetable farm. Gopal lives in a family of five along with his parents, wife and a child. He is among a very few men in Bajura who support their wives in pursuing higher studies. Gopal makes a special exception because he also takes care of his new born to let his wife study. If we look at Nepal’s rural societies, women’s career stops before it even starts mainly due to patriarchal mindsets. And Gopal sets a beautiful example of breaking the odds.

    Gopal Mahat with his wife in front of their home

    I am living my dreams through my wife by educating her – Gopal Mahat

    However, only a few years ago, his life was full of hardship. After completing school, he borrowed some money to continue with high school but the loan money was not sufficient to support his education since he also had a family to look after. So he decided to be engaged in an income generation. Clueless about what to do, Gopal came across a demonstration on cultivation of tomatoes under plastic roofing for better yield conducted by the POSAN FS project. He was quite impressed with the practice and decided to give it a hand. He then cultivated tomato, brinjal, cucumber and some other vegetables in one ropani land (1 Ropani = 508.83771 m²) land he owned. Each season then, Mahat’s yields kept multiplying and he decided to continue cultivation of vegetables and expand the business further. So he added some more land in lease.

    Gopal working at his vegetable farm

    In the spring of 2016, he cultivated tomato, capsicum, some leafy vegetables and coriander in more than four ropani land taken in lease. Mahat made use of improved varieties, micro-irrigation and other improved farming technologies due to which his annual income has increased by about six folds. Mahat shares,

    “I earned NPR 25,000 (£186) only in four months’ time. Also due to creation of market with support from POSAN FS project in form of collection centres here in Rapka, sales has been easier for me. In 2016 alone, I sold fresh vegetables worth NPR 1, 00,000 (£745). This money has not just helped improve my living standard but my dream to support my wife’s education is being fulfilled.”

    Fresh tomatoes ready for harvest inside the tunnel house at Gopal’s farm

    Improved irrigation techniques have helped Gopal increase the production

    Mahat has paid back his entire loan and is also paying premium regularly for his child’s life insurance. Most of all, he is supporting his wife’s education which he said is his dream. Though it was challenging for him to study, he wanted to live his dream when he wanted due to financial crisis, he wants to support his wife’s education in every way possible. He shared us that his main motivation towards working hard for better income was to see his wife getting a good degree in future. His wife is getting a promising results in her studies and wants to become a civil service employee after gradating. He is looking forward to further widen his agri-business in the coming years and of course invest more in educating his wife. As an educated young farmer of Bajura, Mahat is also gaining popularity for improved farming practices as he had been involved in many varietal and improved farming practice demonstrations at his farm in coordination with POSAN FS project.

    Gopal’s wife preparing for her exams

    By investing his income, time and effort for his wife’s education, Gopal is not just helping her get a better future but is setting a milestone in breaking stereotypes of Nepal’s rural patriarchal perspective. Where women after their marriage almost loose all their identities, Gopal is helping his wife build one. He is passionate about the way she reads and writes as he sees her in a better position as an empowered women in the village. What he is doing is quite bold for where he belongs and is worth sharing far and wide.

    POSAN FS project recently concluded in four district of the far-west, Bajhang, Doti, Achham and Bajura. The project was co-funded by the European Union.

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