Practical Action CEO Sarah Roberts recently featured in The Daily Star in Bangladesh discussing a hot topic: ‘Everything we do must be climate resilient’.
During a conversation with The Daily Star’s Tanjim Ferdous, she shared various innovations that we’re currently taking in Bangladesh as well as its future plans for the country.
Sarah talks about our Pumpkins Against Poverty work in Bangladesh, and explains
Back in 2005, they were really looking at the transitory char land area. So, you know, these areas where productivity was very high. We managed to double incomes over over the course of that period. So hugely impactful for the people that live there. But what astounded me really was then how it had spread. And that’s what we really hope to see it Practical Action. So now, Pumpkins from those areas are being sold, I believe in 17 regions and 6 overseas markets. So we’ve got some international trade there. And apparently 100,000 people are now involved in that.
Development Discourse | Interview of Sarah Roberts | Practical Action
Dear audience, welcome to our show development discourse. Today we have Sarah Roberts with us. Sarah Roberts is the Chief Executive Officer of practical action. She works with different business or nonprofit organisations, making the partnership stronger to achieve different goals and scaling up development interventions. Welcome to our show.
Thank you so much. It's lovely to be here.
Yeah. First question, I'd like to ask you, what are the working areas of practical action in Bangladesh, and why you have prioritised those areas in while you are working in Bangladesh?
Thank you. So Practical Action. We're an international development organisation. We've been operating for more than 50 years globally. So across Asia, Africa and Latin America, we've got very interesting heritage, we were set up by a very visionary economist back in the 1960s. And he really believed that take what works in different settings, different contexts where people are living in poverty, Bangladesh is no exception, really struggling to look at how can you provide services that are affordable, and that can really work for these very low income communities. And especially as we look at urbanisation, we can see that this is a problem that's growing and growing. And so one of the things I'm really I've been really amazed I've just visited for report for the very first time and talked with the municipal authorities gone and talk to some of the people who were working on their own as informal, pit empty is now organised into cooperatives. And there's a whole Waste Treatment Centre now. So that faecal sludge that's picked up can be treated, and then turned into bioenergy products. So now that waste stream has value. Now there is a sustainable way of providing the service, there's a service level agreement between these cooperatives now and the municipal authority. And there's an affordable way of providing that service. So we're taking that experience now and adapting it to dealing with the problems of plastic waste. So again, huge issue in cities across the world, single use plastics for single use plastics, growing, again, growing cities, but we're finding ways of organising people collecting rubbish in a way that then can be turned into a valuable product sold on or turned into fuels. And then again, you have a you have a value from that service. And you can run it so that it reaches lots of people who don't have waste management services at the moment. So we want to keep doing that kind of work, but really showing how it can work in particular places and then work with other organisations and other municipalities. So they can, you know, they can adapt it to their context. So that's one of the examples
I have. Now I'd like to focus on in a different segments, like you're working in Bangladesh for a long time. And I'd like to know about the achievements or impacts that practical action in Bangladesh has created in poverty reduction in Bangladesh. So you, this is your first visit in Bangladesh, what you have seen in very poor, particularly.
So the example I just gave you of what I've seen, what I've seen the changes that I've seen for these, these, these pit empties, who are now talking about the savings they had
that means people right now they're basically saving money for future or rainy days, investing those to buying assets. Yeah, yeah. So that's a huge stress a
huge change. So when I was also so we went, we went to an area outside of ferry pool, that's, you know, again, hugely, hugely at risk of flooding. And I spent time with a women's group that our our teams have been working with. And they were talking to me about all the different things that the community had been doing, they'd been doing with the community to help them identify, you know, what happened when floods came? What what risks they faced when they lost their crops? So again, working we're doing a lot of work with local authorities.
So in this context, I'd like to know about the climate credit or financing how Bangladeshis can access to that Resilience Fund. What role practical action can play in that? Well, one
of the things I came to learn since I've been here is that still, a lot of Bangladeshis don't have access to clean cooking. And that's so important in terms of health, particularly for women in terms of cost and fuel efficiency and also helping to mitigate using lots of fuel so that we can get clean cooking energy in an affordable, sustainable manner to everyone. Because we all need, we all need that kind of energy, don't waste. So that's really important to us. And I think there's lots of very effective ways we can do it in Bangladesh. Yes,
yes. Yes. Last question to you. So this is your first visit visiting Bangladesh, you have gone to the field, you have discussion with different stakeholders. Right? So what is your observation or your suggestion that will basically enhance or Excel, the process of development, and also the process how this development intervention works in Bangladesh,
Bangladesh is such an interesting place for me. I mean, the progress that's happened since independence in 1971, is astonishing, actually. And from from the discussions I've had so far, it seems that there is such a good combination of good, you know, of different kinds of levels of governance. So I've had quite a lot of meetings since I've been here with Union parishads. So we've looked at how, you know, that really, local level of government is working. And that's
so important the last mile.
Exactly. And we, you know, I was sitting in a meeting a couple of days ago, when we were talking about how they were running their disaster management committees. So you know, how you keep the community safe at that level. So that's really, really important and makes
making those local level governments work really well.
And if you've got the right kind of disaster management happening, right at that, you know, right at that level, all the way up through the different levels to national government, you can really make sure you get to the last mile, and but LinkedIn to, you know, the top level of government, and also you've got
challenges. But you've got this fantastic
NGO sector as well,
at the very top, where the all policymakers are sitting and making policies, right?
Yes, I mean, that's a challenge the world round, isn't it, you have good policies, they don't always make them make their way all the way down. So what we one of the things that we've been doing, there's this great approach of having disaster management committees, at that that local level, but it takes some effort, some energy, some support to make them really effective. So that's something that we're working on, in different places. But I also see that Bangladesh has got such an interesting local NGO sector as well. So again, what I love about working in Bangladesh, is we can work with the different levels of government, we can work with local NGOs, we can use our links internationally to take learning from Bangladesh into the international sphere, we can take learning from other countries into Bangladesh, but I really see how much progress is being made. The really scary thing that we're all facing, though, is the impacts of climate change, isn't it? And Bangladesh knows that better than than any other country? I would think. So. For us, I think it is really important that we keep working in different ways with different partners so that we don't reverse those development gains. Have you
observed any sort of innovation that has been done by local NGOs to tackle climate change issues?
I'm sure there's lots. Certainly when I was out, we're outside for when I was visiting communities outside for report, the type of work that we were doing two different ways of raising houses, portable silage units, I know that kind of work is also being done by local NGOs as well. So very practical approaches. That means, you know, people are safer in different in those different contexts. So, there looks like there's lots of lots of good innovation happening across Bangladesh, and lots for the rest of the world to learn from, I think,
thank you, Sarah, for being with us today. Any last word you want to share? Basically, we're targeting the young people of Bangladesh, how they can basically contribute in development intervention.
So I think that yeah, so countries like Bangladesh with such a young population. There's such a vibrancy and entrepreneurship. I think in countries like that, I think like this, I think it's it's so important that everybody is focused on, you know, the changes that they can make, what they think about, about the climate impacts and the environmental impacts.
So you have been to the field area. So if you like to mention any innovation or any things that is not usually done by people. But that M is due in during your field visit?
Well, maybe I can tell you about some work that we've done over over a few years. So much. So we have so my my team would were telling me about how, back in 2005 they were really looking at the transitory char land area. So you know, these areas that I had really hard to reach area, char land productivity was very high, we managed to double incomes over over the course of that period. So hugely impactful for the people that lived here, that live there. But what astounded me really was then how it had spread. And that's what we really hope to see it practical action, so that the, you know, the the work that we started then spread. So now, pumpkins from those areas are being sold, I believe in 17 regions and to six overseas markets. So we've got some international trade there. And apparently, 100,000 people are now involved in that.
Interesting innovation. Yeah, isn't that isn't
that incredible? So just thinking about what you could do, what kind of crops would be tolerant in that area, how you could farm in a way that worked for that period of time, how you make the market linkages, which is essential, but that has transformed people's livelihoods in that area. And I think those are the kinds of innovations we're going to need to see more of, but it also shows that you can do things in a in a way that's never been done before. And it can be successful.
Yes, that means you have the product production is going on, you have also developed the market system development. Yeah.
And that's always key, you've got to have the market that works. Otherwise, you have a project and then it's finished in it. And what I love is we're not doing direct work there, and it just continues and that's that's what you need. So
that the business model is there. salutely you
have to have that sustainable business model, but I think we know with the right combination of people you can find, find that route.
Thank you, Sara. Dear audience today we have learned different approaches and innovation done by practical action in Bangladesh. Stay tuned with our Facebook page and YouTube channel to learn more about the development intervention in future. Thank you
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