Blogs tagged as Practical Action

  • COP OUT!


    December 20th, 2018

    The climate change talks in Katowice were a roller coaster of highs and lows with a wide variety of issues on the agenda. As diverse as the agenda were the claims of the parties to the convention. Some parties have made excellent suggestions to move the negotiations forward and equally some parties have made plain ridiculous statements, especially those challenging the findings of the scientific community. These diverse perspectives present on one hand faith in human kind and global collaboration, and that despite the challenges somehow we are going to sort this mess out and get back to a new ‘normal’, on the other hand the deniers of climate change, concerned of forgoing economic opportunity, promising continued economic growth, the promotion of fossil fuels and especially coal in the energy mix and making warnings against leaving even a drop of fossil fuel in the ground, appearing on the balance sheet as stranded assets.

    Some of the high points have been a change in the language of many of the key parties. Even six months ago many parties were still in denial on the topic of Loss and Damage. They were strenuously denying that irreversible impacts were occurring and that some people and nations were facing losses and damages as a result of changing climates. This denial extended to interesting language such as ‘extreme adaptation’ or proposals for ‘transformational approaches’ to development. However, this language has changed driven by two pieces of evidence. First, the underlying signal of climate breakdown appearing all around us. In 2017-8 the planet has faced numerous climate catastrophes and their frequency and severity can no long be denied, no one, not even those living in the developed world, is insulated from the impacts of climate change.

    Sunil Acharya from Practical Action Nepal sharing experiences of the Adaptation planning process

    Secondly, and very timely for this COP, was the publication of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on 1.5oC. The IPCC has worked tireless over the last two years to produce a “…special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.” This report not only tells us what will happen if we exceed 1.5oC of warming, but more importantly provides a blueprint of what we need to do to prevent this happening. The report uses simple language, to explain what we need to do, what will happen if we don’t and the time frame for action. Starkly we have little more than a decade to bring emissions under control and any real chance to stabilise the climate at this level.

    But why do we go to the COP? We had a small but influential presence at the COP over the two weeks. We have once again punched above our weight against a backdrop in which some governments, research institutes, UN bodies and even some well know civil society organisations send delegations in the tens and hundreds. Although we only numbered three people at any one time, we actively contributed in a number of different ways. For example we engaged with and helped shape the position of civil society, in the first week no less than five articles appearing in the ECO negotiators bulletin including significant contributions from Practical Action. This bulletin is published daily and is widely read and valued by many of the negotiators. These articles shared the collective experience of Practical Action with recommendations of what needs to be done and how the negotiations should progress, to deliver not only on the climate change challenge but how to do this in a fair, equitable and transparent way.

    We were a partner in the launch of the innovative and propositional Climate Damages Tax, a polluter pays mechanism that seeks to require the fossil fuel industry to pay for the consequences of continued fossil fuel use.  This launch was widely picked up in the international media. We also participated in a number of side events, provided capacity building for developing country negotiators, and in our role as observers supported the views and positions of minorities and those unable to attend.

    It’s clear that for the negotiations to progress we need a new sense of global community, optimism and a renewed sense of urgency. The IPCC report made it clear that technologies already exist that would allow the reduction of greenhouse gases emissions in line with the 1.5oC goal of the Paris Agreement. But for these technologies to be rolled out there needs to be support and that support is needed in both finance and for capacity building. But what is lacking to unlock the climate finance challenge is political will.  A sense of collective effort that needs to be funded not only by donor governments but will also requires shifts in large scale investments stimulated through such innovative means as the climate damages tax.

    For myself the potential of the COP24 was best articulated by the words of Greta Thunberg, a Swedish teenager. She was given the opportunity to address the parties and didn’t pander to the room. She spoke truth and wisdom to the assembled delegates. My hope is that the words and actions of the youngest members of society can inspire others to make the difficult decisions and enforce the actions necessary to respond to climate breakdown. This is the signal of hope coming from COP24 in Katowice – that the ask of future generations will be the stimulus necessary to generate the political will that is desperately missing to act now, before it’s too late.

     

     

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  • Practical Action Schools…Top five highlights of 2018


    December 19th, 2018

    As the year cones to an end, in the Practical action Schools team we have been reflecting on our top five highlights of the year.  It’s been a great year so hard to choose, but here they are:

    No 5 Way Back in January we launched our Ditch the Dirt STEM challenge.  This has been HUGELY popular, with children all over the country finding out about life In Turkana, Kenya and making their own water filters.  Over 1,700 sets of resources have been downloaded and used in schools around the world. We ran Ditch the Dirt workshops at The Big Bang fair …very excited pupils!

    No 4Girls into Global STEM Sharing work carried out as part of our Girls into Global STEM (GIGS) project.  This EU funded project combines global learning and improving digital skills with a focus on inspiring girls into STEM subjects. Great to be working with the University of Hull , and others on this. WE have an on-line teacher training programme out soon.

     

     

    No 3 In October this year we worked with Jersey Overseas Aid schools outreach to deliver workshops to pupils from around the island, and launch a competition. They took part in an amended version of our popular Stop the Spread STEM challenge…and they were fantastic!  We appeared on the Jersey ITV news, and were in the newspaper! @JOA

    No 2 Thanks to a growing number of teacher trainers who believe in our work we are reaching more teachers than ever through our teacher training programme launched last year. This year we have reached over 1,000 teachers! Huge thanks to all our great trainers.

    No 1 We have enjoyed working with our colleagues at the British Science association on spreading the word about their great CREST awards, particularly because our STEM challenges and our Global Project Ideas can be used by pupils to gain awards. WE also worked with @3MUK on a new joint branded challenge, Fragile Freight, now part of their Young Innovators Challenge.  Well done to all the schools who took part this year, your pupils’ work has been amazing.

     

     

     

     

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  • Overcoming obstacles to achieve success – a dreamer who never gave up


    December 13th, 2018

    It was a typical October afternoon in Kuldevmandu, Bajura. The sun was blazing like a fiery medallion in the sky, yet I could feel the chill. The small pavement by the road was filled with dried brown leaves dancing with the wind beats. Just down the road was ever joyful Budhignaga River babbling on its own pace. The Mount Saipal, in the distance not yet snow-cloaked, stood tall and mysterious. It was an awe-inspiring sight.  As we stopped by the sign that read ‘Nateshwari Foods Products’, it was almost 1 pm in the afternoon. Inside a small noodle factory was 24-year-old Bharat Bahadur Saud who was busy preparing noodles. For a while I did not want to interrupt his work, so I sat outside his small factory looking at the passersby.

    Festival vibe and nostalgia

    Dashain vibe was still on. Usually, Dashain festival lasts for more than a week. It is the biggest festival of the year, when families reunite and exchange gifts and blessings by putting tika on each other’s forehead. Historically, it is celebrated to honour the victory of gods over the evil demons. Not to mention, people in the rural areas tend to celebrate it extensively. I could see people walking around with red tika (red vermilion) on their foreheads. It somehow made me miss home and all the festivity fun. In a distant, I could see a man in his early 30s accompanied by his wife and three kids (which I assumed by their body language). The three kids had almost matching outfits. The man was wearing a light-grey suit piece with a Nepali hat and a big rucksack on his back. His wife was wearing a red sari with a flip flop and was holding a duffle bag (stuffed more than its capacity). Their foreheads were all covered with red tika. The serious looking man must have just got back from his in-laws after receiving Dashain blessings. Just next door was a bunch of kids grouped in one corner sharing snack together, which looked like candy bars and dry noodles from afar.

    Pic: Nateshwari Food Products (Sauce Factory)

    The first time I visited this place was back in 2014, with the ROJGARI project. Things were very different then. I am glad to see the positive changes; this place has come a long way. All of a sudden, I heard someone calling my name, I turned around and it was Gopal Nepali, our project coordinator for the Bajura district, he introduced me with Mr. Saud, “This is Bharat Bahadur Saud and he is the entrepreneur of sauce and noodle factory.” Mr. Saud greeted me with a smile and I offered him a chair which was just next to me. Mr. Saud seemed a little shy at first but after a while he started opening up and we had a very interesting conversation that went on for hours.

    Another one bites the dust

    Just like any other kids in the village, Mr. Saud also joined the bandwagon and went to India hoping for a better future. He worked as a cook in one of the restaurants. He recalls his time in India as a reality check, “I didn’t know it would be that difficult to make money, it was very hectic.” As a 20-year-old, Mr. Saud really struggled being away from his family. He got sick and was bedridden for weeks. He had intestinal complications, and had his appendicitis removed as well. In less than a year, he gave up and came back to Nepal. Things were not that good in his own village, so he went to Baglung (a district in western Nepal) and worked as a road painter (drawing white and yellow lines). That also did not last long. The contractor who hired him did not pay the full amount, so he quit the job and came back to his village.

    Pic: Bharat Bahadur Saud

    Hope and inspiration

    Mr. Saud did not lose hope. While working as a painter in Baglung, Mr. Saud was really fascinated by this restaurant where they used to go for afternoon snack. He recalls, “The owner used to make his own chowmein (noodle) and the restaurant used to be filled with customers queuing up for chowmein. That’s what really inspired me.” So, Mr. Saud decided to give another shot. As soon as he came back from Baglung, he went to Dhangadhi and learned the art of noodle making. He sold a small piece of land he inherited from his parents and bought a noodle making machine and started his own chowmein factory. “That’s how things started for me,” smiles Mr. Saud.

    Entrepreneurial capacity building

    Pic: Bharat Bahadur Saud ready to export sauce

    One of the objectives of BICAS project is to provide technical inputs, training and entrepreneurial capacity building to farmers, thereby improving production, value additions through processing and marketing of agriculture produces. Along with his brother, Mr. Saud attended training on ‘sauce (ketchup) making’ offered by the project where he also learned the effective ways to market the product. “The training was really helpful in shaping up our businesses. Therefore, we two brothers decided to open a sauce factory along with our chowmein factory, as it goes hand in hand,” shares Mr. Saud with a smile.

    It was no looking back from that moment on. While I was still having a conversation with Mr. Saud, he was getting frequent phone calls regarding the delivery. In a day, he sells around 480 bottles of sauce. He not only sells it in the nearby villages but also in the entire municipality, which covers more than 12 villages. In a month, he makes more than NRS 200,000
    (1 USD = NRS 115) profit from the sauce factory alone.

    Connecting with local markets

    Mr. Saud’s sauce factory has motivated the locals too, in producing tomatoes, chilies and pumpkins (required for sauce making). Kandhari Devi Saud shares her joy for being able to grow vegetables not only for consumption but also to sell it in the market, “Before, our vegetables used to go waste but now we can sell our tomatoes, chilies and pumpkins to Bharat Saud’s sauce factory and in haat bazzar. I am making a living from this vegetable farming.”

    Pic: Kandhari Devi Saud in front of her tunnel farm

    Despite his multiple failed attempts, Mr. Saud kept on going. He never gave up. His will power and dedication made him the most respected and talked about person in the entire Bajura district. He still has the same passion to do more. In the near future he plans to make potato chips and neemkeen (homemade dry flour chips) along with his noodle and sauce business; and also hire a dedicated marketing and sales agent. The project might phase out but stories such as Mr. Saud’s will live on forever.

     

     

    BICAS project is co-funded by the European Union and Jersey Overseas Aid. To learn more about the project click here.

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  • Practical Action on Jersey ITV news


    Jersey, St Lawrence | November 16th, 2018

    When your job is writing materials to engage the next generation in Practical Action’s work there is nothing more satisfying when you see that in action!

    Last month I went to Jersey with my colleague Bren Hellier. Following on from a week of activities with primary pupils run by The Jersey Museum which focused on our Ditch the Dirt challenge, we delivered workshops with Jersey Overseas Aid to over 100 secondary students over three days.

    stop the spread

    ”We could be engineers!!”

    Minister for International Development Jersey working with pupils on Practical Action's Stop the Spread challenge

    Carolyn Labey, Minister for International Development Jersey working with pupils on Practical Action’s Stop the Spread challenge

    The secondary students soon got to grips with our Stop the Spread challenge which highlights the global issue around the spread of infectious disease and includes activities where children design and build their own hand washing station, plus produce education materials for primary age pupils in a school in Ethiopia. They came up with all sorts of ingenious solutions and really understood the importance of the work our two organisations and others are doing to address this.

    The workshops caused quite a stir on the island and we were featured on Jersey ITV news , in the local press and on the radio!  We also had a visit from Carolyn Labey, Jersey’s Minister for International Development who got stuck into the activity and told the students about her role on the island.

    Some of the comments from the pupils included

    ‘I learnt that water is a vital part of being healthy’
    Finlay

    ‘I really enjoyed developing problem-solving skills…using what I had learnt in science in a real like situation and learning about Ethiopia and the UN global goals’
    Hugo

     ‘I like doing this because it get everyone involved and makes sure everyone’s voice is heard’
    Joss

    ‘I had heard of JOA and what they did but didn’t realise it was on such a bit scale’
    Jessica

    The materials pupils were using during the two weeks had been adapted for Jersey and included reference to Jersey’s own issues with the spread of cholera in the past. These materials can be found at www. joa.je/schools

    What’s next?

    We’re running a competition open to all pupils in Jersey. They are asked to send in a short video showing how they have worked in the challenge, including a demonstration of their model in action. Entries will be judged by JOA and Practical Action and the deadline is 11 March 2019.  If what I saw was anything to go by the quality will fantastic. More details here.

    Following a meeting with the Jersey Government’s Head of Curriculum we’re hopeful that it won’t be long before many teachers in Jersey will be using our materials in their own teaching, embedding them in their schools’ curriculum.

     

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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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