Blogs tagged as water

  • Global Handwashing Day: Making handwashing a habit


    October 14th, 2016

    For many of us, washing our hands is a habit acquired from childhood. We unconsciously wash our hands after using the bathroom, eating and preparing meals.

    Teaching children how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

    One of Practical Action’s projects – providing handwashing facilities and teaching children in Peru how to wash their hands properly at an early age.

    But globally the hand washing habit has yet to completely solidify, mainly due to lack of soap and water or lack of awareness and understanding of its effectiveness in washing away illness-inducing germs and bacteria.

    That’s why on October 15, hundreds of thousands of schools, community groups, organizations, and governments will join together to celebrate Global Handwashing Day. It’s a global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.

    Diarrhoea is the second biggest killer of children under five years old.

    Every day, around 2,000 children die from diarrhoea. Simply washing hands with soap could reduce the number of these deaths by up to 50%, but many people are not aware of the link between hygiene and health.

    This year, Practical Action is using Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to teach people across the globe a thing or two about good hygiene.

    Our team in Nakuru, Kenya, for example, is going to Hyrax Hill primary school to give 2,500 pupils and 500 community members a demonstration on how to wash their hands properly.

    Peter Murigi, Practical Action’s urban water, sanitation and hygiene specialist in Kenya, said: “We want to foster and support a culture of handwashing with soap, shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing around the world and raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap at critical times.

    “This year’s theme for Global Handwashing Day is “Make handwashing a habit”. The event is a good opportunity to draw attention to the need for change, from individuals, families and governments and by asking for better hygiene policies and commitment to promote better hygiene practices.”

    In Bangladesh, we are partnering with other NGOs and the Bangladesh Government’s Department of Public Health Engineering (DPHE) to celebrate the day both centrally in Dhaka and locally. In Dhaka, we’re taking part in a campaign rally and a meeting organised by the DPHE as a co-organiser. Locally, we are the lead organisation in celebrating the day in three districts: Faridpur, Satkhira and Bagerhat.

    Practical Action delivers significant water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programmes and we are ambitious to do more. We promote the community-led sanitation approach with partners and local governments, demonstrating best practice and developing innovative technologies for clean water and waste management. And we work with national and city governments to ensure that poor people are included in sanitation planning.

    In Nakuru we have delivered an ambitious project, funded by Comic Relief, to improve the quality of life for slum communities of 190,000 people, by providing access to safe, hygienic toilets and handwashing facilities. You can find out more about that project here and find out what Jack Owino, a headteacher of a school in Kenya, has to say about the impact it has had on staff and children at his school.

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

    Jack Owino is the Headteacher of Eileen Ngochoch Primary School in Nukuru, Kenya.

    In Bangladesh we have been working with UNICEF in 500 communities and 200 schools across Dhaka and Sylhet to improve sanitation and promote a change in hygiene behaviour.

    Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

    Children at a school in Bangladesh using their new handwashing facilities.

    It has changed the lives of 70,000 students. They are healthier, happier, are able to attend school more regularly and their performance at school has improved. Find out more in this blog by Alamgir Chowdhury in our Bangladesh urban services team.

    Projects like this depend on 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 make handwashing a habit.

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  • Juliet – the water entrepreneur


    September 7th, 2016

    “I’m so glad that Practical Action didn’t look down on me like everyone else. They picked me up and dusted me off.”

    Juliet lives in Kajiado, Kenya and Practical Action supported her by helping her to access a loan to start up her own water business. Juliet no longer has to struggle to earn a living by making charcoal which was back-breaking and dangerous work.

    In the mountains and forests where she used to burn charcoal to make her hand-to-mouth living, she encountered wild animals and bandits. She was once bitten by a snake and came close to standing on a poisonous viper. Her most frightening experience occurred when she was pregnant: she went up the mountain and was confronted by a man in a mask. She fled and he followed; “he wanted to rob and rape me”. Hungry and expecting a child, Juliet had to stop running. Fortunately, when she stopped she noticed three other men sat down – “they were my salvation”. The men stood up and ran after the attacker.

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    Just before Juliet had her baby, she could not make it up the mountain to get her charcoal and it got stolen. After she had her baby, her husband brought the charcoal down from the mountain for her and Juliet then sold it. But it was not making Juliet enough money and so she had to supplement her income. She washed clothes for her neighbours but she still struggled to afford enough food to feed her family. “I reached my end. I’d even decided to buy poison and kill myself because I’d reached my end! No-one wanted to associate with us. I was dirty; I was so black [from the charcoal].” Juliet could not afford water to clean herself and local people said that she would “die soon” as she was so thin. The day after she gave birth to her youngest son, Juliet went out to sell charcoal. No one helped her and no one knew she had had a baby because she was so malnourished.

    Juliet recounts having a premonition that she should come back to her local town and start selling water. A friends’ mother told Juliet about a local mentor who was creating awareness of a loans scheme. Juliet carried on living in the bushes for a month burning charcoal as well as doing other jobs alongside to earn enough money for a loan. She stayed in the forests for days on end, to ensure that people didn’t steal her charcoal. She made 200 Kenyan Shillings (KSH) per day – equivalent to around £1.50. When Juliet went to clean for people, she took her baby with her and would have to leave him outside the house, making somewhere comfortable to lay him. Through her constant work, Juliet managed to save 2000 KSH to access the loan. Juliet built a savers group of 10 people – which was hard to build due to her status – and each member had to contribute: their group loan was 50,000 KSH.

    Juliet and her youngest son show off the water containers that have made their life comfortable

    Juliet and her youngest son show off the water containers that have made their life comfortable

    Juliet said: “There was no connection from the water company, so I couldn’t fill my tank before I bought it. My daughter and I saved money and we didn’t tell my husband. We got the connection and I surprised him! We managed to buy the water storage tank.”

    Once the water tank arrived, Juliet began to sell a lot of water which ensured that her local community had access to safe and clean water. The money she made from the water enabled Juliet to go back to the bank and ask for another loan to buy another tank. However, when they received the loan, Juliet’s husband took 12,000 KSH (almost £1,000) of it, as he wanted to go back to his home town to sell some land. He told Juliet he would buy a motorbike and set up a grocery shop for her to run, but he left her with his debt. “He was away for 2 months and he called me. He asked me for 2,000 more. I helped him because he was supposed to be setting up a better life for us.” Juliet did not hear from her husband for a further month and found out through his son that he had sold the land. When he did call, he was in a disco and told Juliet she was too old for him now. “He is 67 and has no teeth!” Juliet exclaimed.

    Juliet’s husband had received money from the land he sold and instructed the new land owner to call Juliet and warn her not to look for him. He went to Tanzania for a 2 week holiday and “surrounded himself with beautiful women because he had money. I continued running the business and saved enough money to buy the second tank”. Julia repaid the loan and now has her own savings.

    Juliet with her water storage tanks

    Juliet with her water storage tanks

    Her estranged husband found another woman and told her that he had a successful water business, that it belonged to him and that his ex-wife had stolen it. They arrived at Juliet’s home to take the business, but Juliet “chased them away with a machete.” The husband went to the police and reported the business stolen. Juliet went to the police station armed with her documents and explained what had happened. Her husband was told to go and never come back.

    Despite her struggle for money and being accused of stealing the business, Juliet is determined to succeed. She has even set up another new business, rearing poultry. “It was good that my husband left. I have gone to hell and back. He tried everything to make my life hell; he even tried to sell my water tanks… My husband left me with debt. He left me with a baby. But I am free, I am happy and I will not stop! I want my own land; I am working hard and praying hard.”

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  • 5 Simple solutions that llama farmers love


    August 5th, 2016

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

    Martin Queso's prize winning llama

    Martin Queso’s prize winning llama

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

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

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

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

    1. Covered shelters:

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

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

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

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

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    Photovoltaic water pump and trough for livestock

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

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

    3. Breeding pens:

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

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    Rainwater harvesting and irrigation system and stone-wall breeding pens

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

    4. Market access and product diversification:

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

     

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

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

    5. Training and knowledge:

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

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

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  • Khamba’s Story: filtering his way to progress


    December 8th, 2015

    Khamba Prasad Gharti (42) migrated from his village in hilly Jajarkot District some fifteen years ago to Surajpur, Gulariya-11, Bardiya District in the terai plains due to the ongoing armed conflict at that time. Life in the terai was not easy for his family of five, because of the language barrier, climatic conditions, cultural differences and economic constraints.

    “It was not easy to settle down at a new location. Altogether 28 families from our village had come here to settle after life became increasing difficult there. But we had to struggle really hard to keep our families fed,” shares Khamba. He used to go to neighbouring country India to do odd jobs, but it was quite difficult to make the ends meet for the family.

    But now, things have changed remarkably for him and his family.

    “My life changed after attending that one training,” Khamba shares happily.

    Khamba remembers attending a five day bio-sand filter making training six years ago. “When I heard about the training, I thought why not?” says Khamba.

    The training was provided by SWASTHA project which was implemented by Practical Action from 2009 to 2012. It worked in Bharatpur, Butwal, Gulariya and Tikapur Municipalities of Nepal with the main objective of improving the health and wellbeing of the urban and peri urban settlements. A major objective of the project was to improve the access to safe water in the communities. Since, the underground water in these communities have high levels of arsenic, bio-sand filters were an appropriate solution. Bio-sand filters not only filter impurities like bacteria and iron but also arsenic which does not get filtered by other common filters available in the market. It is also low maintenance and can used for years.

    Khamba making filter in front of his house few years ago

    Khamba making filters in front of his house few years ago.

    “After the training, I wanted to start a small enterprise to manufacture bio-sand filters but I didn’t have enough money to start a business on my own. I asked a few friends who had attended the same training to initiate a joint venture, but they all refused. No one thought that making filters could actually be profitable. I felt quite discouraged at that time,” remembers Khamba. “But the project team encouraged me and supported me with some equipment. They provided me a mould to make the filter. After that, I took a loan of NPR 25,000 (1 GBP=159 NPR) and started making bio-sand filters.”

    Khamba made 100 filters in the first batch and the cost of one filter was NPR 2,500 at that time (it now costs NPR 5,000).

    “As people were becoming aware of the benefits of safe drinking water due to different activities of the SWASTHA project, it was not difficult to sell those 100 pieces. I was able to pay back the loan, right after selling the first lot,” says Khamba happily. “After that I was motivated to manufacture more filters, I made 300 and 400 pieces in second and third lot respectively. As I made the filters very carefully, everyone liked my products. People from communities and different organisation bought my filters.”

    Khamba’s customer Pansara Rawal using her bio-sand filter

    Khamba’s customer Pansara Rawal using her bio-sand filter.

    After the SWASTHA project was over in 2012, Khamba saw a bit decrease in the demand for his filters. “The sales were not rapid but it was regular enough to keep my income inflow ongoing regularly. I have not faced any financial difficulty after starting this filter making enterprise. All three of my children are going to good schools,” shares Khamba. But it is not just economic progress that is keeping Khamba happy, he also feels a sense of service to the community after delivering each filter. “It is like giving a gift of pure water to the families. I feel like I am serving the community as well while earning my own living. This is way better than going abroad for work.”

    One of Khamba’s customers, Pansara Rawal (53) was among the first buyers of the filter. “There was a government official who came to test water filtered by bio-sand filter, the results showed that there was almost no trace of arsenic, so I ordered one from Khamba immediately,” says Pansara. “Our family has been using it since the last five years, and there is absolutely no complaint as yet. The water tastes good and we have not suffered from water borne diseases like we used to do before we used the filter.”

    Another project, currently being implemented in Gulariya Municipality by Practical Action, SAFA & SWASTHA Gulariya (Open Defecation Free Gulariya Municipality by 2015), is helping to promote Khamba’s work and effort. This project is presently conducting orientations on bio-sand filter maintenance for fulfilling one of its objectives – ‘achieving healthy communities’.

    “I feel a sense of satisfaction that I am helping the community become healthier through my enterprise. I plan to set up a shop at Nepalgunj (the nearest city) to promote my business,” says Khamba. Fourteen other bio-sand filter makers like Khamba, many of them trained by SWASTHA have formed a network of bio-sand filter makers called Bio-sand Filter Association of Nepal (BFAN) with members all over the country. They conduct meetings two times a year and collect NPR 200 monthly for the progress of the network. “We want to promote the bio-sand filter collectively all over the country, the network has been doing quite well until now,” says Khamba.

    “I used to live in a hut, now I have made a concrete home and this year bought a motorbike too!” Khamba beams with happiness. Khamba has come a long way since SWASTHA and is a shining example of what a small initiative can lead to. He has not just done well for himself but also promoted the very cause of the project even years after it has been over.

    Khamba explaining about his filter in front of his house presently.

    Khamba explaining about the filter in front of his house.

     

    Khamba sharing his story.

    Khamba sharing his story.

     

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  • What the increasing use of desalination means for the world


    August 25th, 2015

    Hundreds of new desalination plants are cropping up across the globe to meet the growing needs for water – estimated to be increasing by an astonishing 640bn liters per year. But as the world looks towards technology to solve the growing crisis of fresh water access, what does this mean for people and our planet? (more…)

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  • Water – don’t take it for granted


    April 10th, 2014

    I’ve never been one to drink much water, I don’t really like it, tea’s my poison and failing that a nice diet coke goes down well. During my week doing live below the line however, my relationship with water really changed. It became my crutch. It became my best friend –  the one thing that I could have that kept me feeling full and sweetened the horrible taste that was permanently hanging around my mouth from the poor diet I was enduring.

    child drinking safe clean water in Kenya

    Communities in Turkana, Kenya, get access to clean, safe water for the first time!

    About half way through the week I went to the tap to fill my bottle up, on the way through the office, my eye was drawn to a photo on the wall of a woman collecting water from a dirty pool.

    As I stood at the tap letting it run until it was cold enough, I started to think. It’s all very well living on £1 a day, it was really making me empathise with the tedious lack of choice and eating to survive rather than eating for pleasure, but the very people I was doing it for had another problem…they couldn’t just go to a tap and keep hunger at bay with a glass of clean water.

    It might shock you to hear that 758 million people are without clean safe water. We live in 2014 and yet millions of people have no access to something as simple as clean water. It really made me think. Without water I would have been more hungry, felt weaker and without doubt would have felt worse. It almost felt like cheating!

    The good news is that my efforts living on £1 a day have helped solve just a teeny weeny bit of the problem. Last year Practical Action helped 68,000 improve their access to drinking water and sanitation. The money that I raised might be a drop in the ocean (pardon the pun!) but every little helps and until all 758 million people have access to clean water, living on £1 a day suddenly feels like a walk in the park!

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  • Let’s Talk Toilets


    February 20th, 2014

    As part of the University of Edinburgh’s International Development Week I was asked to take part in a Development Academy Loo Event which aimed to bring together students from architecture, engineering, and international development in a multi-disciplinary  workshop where they were challenged to come up with a sanitation solution to three different scenarios; a rural setting in arid farmland, an urban setting with densely crowded housing and a location where houses were built up on stilts above water.

    The Practical Action technical brief Types of Toilet and Their Suitability that outlines some of the options available in low-cost toilet design was taken as a starting point and I highlighted a few issues that related to these designs and how they are implemented in practice, some of which is repeated here.

    Stepped Improvement

     

     stepped-improvement

     

     

     

    The basic approach of Practical Action is to take people from a situation where we there is no sanitation to one where there is a stepped improvement on what has gone before. This goes hand in hand with improvements in terms of behaviour and in terms of facilities for washing as well as the catering for the waste management issues that part of improved toilet facilities.

    Poor Quality Toilets

    Although is some locations toilets exist they are in such a poor condition that they do not provide any health benefit. The examples shown below are all from Kenya. And you can see that the waste from the toilet flows into an open channel. This means that there are no benefit.

    Poor-Quality-Toilet

    This is a poorly constructed corrugated toilet block with an open sewage channel in Kibara, an informal settlement (slum) in Nairobi, Kenya. It occupies about a square mile and is home to something like 700,000 people. Drainage consists of “natural” drainage channels formed in the paths and roads, which render the roads impassable during the rainy season; sanitation facilities are insufficient and waste disposal services do not exist. Sanitation is a huge problem.

    Rural Toilets The situation for people in rural areas can be quite different to those in more urban areas and the issues faced when it comes to sanitation are particular to the location. The population will be low and dispersed over a greater area.  People can be in very remote locations a long way from any urban centre, possibly in a mountainous area   which makes transportation of materials and goods difficult.

    Remote-ToiletThis photograph of a compost toilet in Peru highlights the remoteness of some homes. This project was managed by Practical Action Latin America (Soluciones Prácticas).

    Types of Toilets

    In rural areas basic toilets, variations on pit latrines, are common. Beyond open defecation, possibly the simplest approach, is the Arbour Loo (see Toilets That Make Compost by Peter Morgan http://developmentbookshop.com/toilets-that-make-compost.html or download at  http://www.ecosanres.org/pdf_files/ToiletsThatMakeCompost.pdf). This is a shallow hole which is filled relatively quickly, once it is full the toilet superstructure (the part above ground) is move to a newly dug hole. The old hole with its composting waste is used to cultivate a tree, hence the name of arbour loo.

    Conventional pit latrines (See https://practicalaction.org/a-practical-guide-for-building-a-simple-pit-latrine) are common and are generally dug a little bit deeper. Ventilation Improved Pit Latrines have additional features which mean that flies are trapped within the toilet vent thus reducing the spread of disease.

    VIP-in-Kenya

    This school in Kenya (left)  has installed ventilation improved toilets which have additional benefits in improved hygiene as flies become tripped within the toilet and die.

    Compost-toilet-in-NepalThis compost toilet (right) is another of Practical Action’s projects. It is built in rural Nepal. Practical Acton has focused on constructing the chambers that are underground while the superstructure is built by the farmer from local materials.

     

    Urban Toilets

    Urban-mapUrban sanitation where there is no sewage systems such as the Kaptembwa and Rhonda estates in Nekuru, Kenya shown below have very densely packed housing which very few toilets. The main issue where the toilets do exist, most probably pit latrines, is that the waste has to be removed. In some places specialist equipment  might be used but too often it a full pit latrine has to emptied by hand

     

    Types of Toilets

    Bio-sanitationThere are a range of ways in which this is approached. The PeePoo is an approach where you use a single use bag. This then can be passed to a collection point. More conventional in some respects is a regular collection of waste from the home every day or every two or three days, the collection is made by workers who take the waste to a disposal centre. One example of this is the Clean Team Ghana. These approaches get round the problem of waste building up on site which can be an advantage in confined spaces. More common is intermittent emptying such as pit latrines but these need to be emptied in, sometimes this is done by hand when there is no alternative but there are designs for small scale machines such as a vacutug that are capable of getting into small spaces to extract the waste  (see Pit Emptying Systems). Pour flush toilets such as Aqua-privy and sceptic tanks also have their own advantages.

    More advanced technologies such as bio-sanitation (see Bio-latrines ) can be used in certain locations if there is sufficient funds available. Here an underground biogas chamber is being constructed that will be part of the sanitation system. Then participants were set to design their best solution to a given sanitation problem. There was the dry rural setting, an urban setting and a high water setting. With Practical Action’s urban Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) work households and landlords are encourages to provide better sanitation through an approach of establishing a set of standard six toilet designs which ensures that people know what they are getting, the characteristics are well known and the costs can be accounted for by users and banks thus making is much easier to get a loan for installing a toilet. There are many other considerations that have not been covered here but should be taken into account such as high water tables, rocky conditions and other geological aspects. And then there are the considerations of design for disability which seems to be omitted in many projects

    Making Toilets

    Urinals-in-KenyaAs cost has to be kept to a minimum, then you need to determine what can be achieved with the available money.This example of a simple urinal is from a pilot ecosan facility in London (a suburb in Nakuru) through the ROSA (Resource Oriented Sanitation Options for Peri-urban Africa). While Practical Action has worked in partnership with ROSA (local consortium) Practical Action did not have any direct input in this facility. ROSA is managed through WASTE Netherlands and others. Transportation issues will also play a part.

     Here we see a few items being transported by rickshaw in Bangladesh.

    Transport

     

     

     

     

     

    Additional Resources

    https://practicalaction.org/sanitation-answers

    http://saner.gy/our-work/the-sanergy-model

    http://www.cleanteamtoilets.com/

    http://www.sswm.info/

    Contact Us

    infoserv@practicalaction.org.uk

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  • What will make headlines in 2014?


    February 6th, 2014

    Last month Thomson Reuters Foundation asked its correspondents what stories they thought would make headlines in 2014.

    In response I asked directors at Practical Action to draw up 10 pressing issues they thought would make headlines in 2014. Here is their list. I’d welcome any feedback on the points or any issues that you think should have been included.

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    1. Climate change and economic growth will collide

    Our changing climate will bring yet more extreme weather events. The trend started by record cold temperatures in the USA and severe flooding in the UK will continue unabated with more countries affected by climate related disasters like Typhoon Haiyan. By contrast world leaders will continue to ignore the crisis and instead push for universal and sustained economic growth.  In 2014 this divergence will become more pronounced with increasing voices starting to question what price we are willing to pay to protect the climate.

    1. ‘Technology justice’ will come of age

    ‘Appropriate new technology’ will help lift many more people out of poverty. Until recently in rich countries technology has been something to consume, not to discuss. 2014 will see the role of technology highlighted in global meetings culminating in the United Nations climate change talks in Peru in December. This will help start an important debate about whether we can deliver ‘technology justice’ for the poor.

    1. 22397Projects not meeting the Millennium Development Goals will struggle to get funding

    With the deadline for the MDGs now just over a year away we will see resources directed towards getting as close to the targets as possible. Large scale projects delivering large numbers of beneficiaries will be favoured. Small scale work – even vital work – which does not meet the targets will find it increasingly hard to attract funding.

    1. Political instability, insecurity and conflicts will continue in Bangladesh and other developing countries

    Developing countries will make headlines around the world but again for the wrong reasons. In Bangladesh nearly 60%  of the days between October and December 2013 were marked by political strikes, closures, violence and insecurity. These trends will continue in 2014 with many developing countries suffering heavy economic losses and the poorest being the most hard hit.

    1. The poor in middle income countries will be forgottenclean water

    As more nations become middle income countries, donors will understandably withdraw their financial support and instead focus on the poorest.  But there are many poor people who live in middle income countries.  In 2014 if more international development organisations withdraw, there will be generations of people who will not escape poverty.  Southern national governments will try to step in but how effectively?

    1. Deaths associated with uncollected urban waste in Africa will rise

    In Southern Africa, over 22 million people have no access to a clean water supply and sanitation facilities, especially in urban areas. In urban slums between 30-60 per cent of all the solid waste goes uncollected, a figure which will increase in 2014. As a result many more people will die of associated diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera and dysentery.

    1. Mobile technology will help transform the lives of the poor

    Mobile phone technology will continue to rapidly change the face of communication in poor countries. By the end of 2014 out of the seven billion people in the world, approximately six billion will have a mobile phone and most will be in developing countries. In response companies, governments  and NGOs will use phones to do everything from transferring money to letting people know of an impending disaster using a text alert.

    Nakuru

    1. Renewable energy will struggle to attract the investment it needs

    Progress in exploiting shale oil, shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuel sources will erode any incentives the big oil companies have to work on renewables as future alternative revenue streams. At the same time this will tempt governments to focus on short term energy security issues rather than long term environmental sustainability issues such as climate change. In this atmosphere further progress in climate talks or the management of carbon will be very difficult.

    1. The inter-dependency between food, water and energy will become more pronounced

    The need to think about food, water and energy in a holistic manner will  become ever more apparent as trade-offs between food and energy crops, agricultural inputs and food prices and the scarcity of water in many parts of the world increase. In developing countries this will result in continuing conflict over resources and globally more environmental refugees seeking a better life.

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    1. More poor people will get energy

    The recent focus on energy access issues at an international level will reduce the numbers of people lacking electricity or still cooking over open fires. However, the current over reliance of markets and private sector finance to solve the problem will leave big holes in cover for the rural poor, where returns on investment for much of the needed infrastructure will not be high enough to attract private investment.

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  • 5 things to make life better


    January 16th, 2014

    aWhat would your life be like without lighting or power? And can you imagine living without a toilet?  This was the reality for Ravalina and her family, who live in the Canchis region of Peru, way up in the Andes, making a living from selling the wool spun from her herd of alpacas.

    Being without these basic services, which most of us would regard as essentials, made life pretty tough.  It affected all aspects of her life – work, health and education. 

    Supported by innocent foundation

    The innocent foundation supported this Practical Action project financially and they have made a great video about our work – take a look at the Chain of Good.

    Here are the five things that have made a huge difference to Ravalina’s life.  I certainly couldn’t imagine living without any of them, but this my order of priority for me.  Do you agree?

    sanitation

     

    cookstove

     

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  • Still visiting Kenya


    September 25th, 2013

    I am sure that everyone reading this will be aware of the awful events still unfolding in Nairobi with over 60 people killed, and almost 200 hundred injured following attacks by an armed group.

    On Saturday I was still at home in the UK with a ticket booked for Nairobi the following day. As the first news filtered through, I began to get concerned calls from friends and relatives checking I was not already in Kenya, and asking if I felt safe to proceed with my planned trip.  My immediate answer was  – “yes of course”.  Though I did check with the local Practical Action office that they were still happy to host me.

    Having been here for three days now, and with the final stages of the hijacking not yet fully resolved, it’s impossible to understate how horrific events must have been for people involved or their relatives.  Thankfully none of our own staff were directly affected.  However, at the same time I think it’s important to recognise how much Nairobi, and Kenya is determined to “get on with business”.

    Hygiene lessons in Nakuru

    Hygiene lessons in Nakuru

    Yesterday I was in Nakuru, with two new Board members of Practical Action Kenya, and while they were keen to keep up to date with events, they were also excited to discover our work on the ground.  Here we are working in an amazing partnership with local county authorities; water companies; banks; landlords and civil society groups. Our target?  To ensure that everyone in Nakuru has access to a toilet.  While this may not sound that challenging, when you think that of the 190,000 people living in the low income areas of Nakuru, only 15% currently use a toilet today, you might begin to understand that this is quite a stretch.

    In the middle of the day I met Joseph, an entrepreneur who we helped to set up a waste collection company which cleans up low income communities and also makes him and his colleagues a small income.

    Having made the decision to come to Kenya, do I still think it was the right thing to do?  Yes, absolutely.  It has made me realise that while there is terrible news unfolding in Kenya, there are also some really positive stories.  Of course the story of Practical Action, toilets, and waste collectors won’t reach the headlines, but I do think it important that people know that there are other things going on.

    Background

    On Saturday 21st September, between 10-15 heavily armed terrorists invaded the busy Westgate mall, in upmarket Nairobi (Westlands). The mall has several food courts and on that particular day, there was a young chefs competition – which meant, that there were several children at the Mall with their mothers.  Al-Shabaab/Al Qaeda groups have claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack was conducted at midday, when the Mall is at its busiest. The official number of deaths currently stands at 68 (official figure) and several others (around 200) with varying degree of bullet/shrapnel injuries. Official reports state a minimal number of hostages are yet to be rescued. The operation is led by the Kenya Defence Forces and the Kenya Police with assistance from Israeli, US and UK advisors. The terrorists have refused to negotiate – they want Kenya Defence Forces to pull out of Somalia.  On the fourth day, as Kenya enters a three day period of national mourning, we are all hoping and praying that the siege is over,  people can grieve, bury their dead, and nurse their wounds.

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