Problems and solutions

As part of the challenge a friend and I have set ourselves we are writing seventy-three specific blogs – we came a cross a list of possible subjects it was possible to blog about… why seventy-three? I have no idea! Did the person who compiled the list run out of ideas, was there some significance in the number? Who knows, not me! However that is hardly a problem, but problems are what I am going to write about because number seventeen on the list is ‘Problems and Solutions’.

There are so many problems in our world but I am not able to offer solutions for any of them. However… there is a group of people who do consider the life-threatening problems some people face and do offer practical solutions. The group of people are those who work for a charity called Practical Action,  ‘an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) that uses technology to challenge poverty in developing countries.’ The great thing about it is that the help is exactly what the name implies, practical!

There are four major problems addressed:

  •  access to sustainable energy
  • the ability to grow food and practice agriculture
  • to manage and supply urban water and to deal with waste
  • disaster risk reduction

…and the areas of the world where Practical Action happens:

  • Bangladesh
  • East Africa (Kenya and Rwanda)
  • Latin America (Peru and Bolivia)
  • South Asia (Nepal, India and Sri Lanka)
  • Southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique)
  • Sudan
  • West Africa

… and the themes of this action:

  • the impact of climate change
  • markets (enabling producers to improve their production, processing and marketing)

I’m going to think about one of the problems… water. Over the last few days, during the holiday period when we have had the family at home and friends staying there has been a massive amount of washing up undertaken as you can imagine! There has also been a lot of water used in preparing the meals we have been so lucky and fortunate to enjoy – preparing vegetables, boiling things, making cups of tea and coffee – we turn on the tap without a thought. We have washed ourselves and our clothes, we have washed floors and surfaces… and of course we have visited the loo and then washed our hands! All, as I said, without a single thought, without hardly noticing that the water is running, and it’s  taken away, along with waste, through pipes and plumbing and out into the sewers. Once in our sewerage system it is dealt with and cleaned and purified and returned to nature. We don’t give it a thought. It is not a problem to us – either having it, using it or getting rid of it.

However, in many areas of the world, having not only a water supply, a safe, reliable water supply, but also a system to dispose of it safely once it has been used is a massive problem. This is where the charity Practical Action steps in to offer solutions, practical solutions so ordinary people. Here are just a couple of examples of the solutions to some of these problems:

  • solar-powered water pumps – in many areas, particularly during times of drought, women and girls walk mile after mile to reach a supply of water. They must then carry the water back over those miles, and the water they are carrying might not necessarily be clean. What would be a simple practical way to help – solar-powered water pumps! There is plenty of totally free sunshine! Not only does this give people fresh clean water, free from water-borne diseases, it saves time – time which can be spent trying to grow vegetables, now irrigated with the water, and the children can go to school.
  • improved toilets – many people don’t have access to proper toilet facilities, and for women and girls in particular this is a terrible problem. Sometimes there are no toilets at all in rural areas; in urban areas there may be pit latrines, or even worse alternatives (involving plastic bags… I don’t need to say more) Not only is all this disgusting for the people who have to use them, it is so dangerous to health. Practical Action has several cheap and easy to build and maintain alternatives, including bio-latrines, pour/flush toilets,  ecological sanitation and ventilated improved latrines. Easy, cheap technology!
  • irrigation techniques – here are two examples of low-tech schemes with added benefits: drip irrigation which uses a bucket, a small platform and perforated hoses and gravity! … and treadle pump irrigation where a foot treadle not a hand pump is used to suck up water from a well. Using strong leg muscles rather than weaker arm muscles means it can be worked longer and what is more, because the parts are made locally, it also helps the local economy.

You can read more about Practical Action on water here:

I support this charity because it works in a way which is sustainable and allows for self-sufficiency; it gives ordinary people the means to help themselves and to continue to do so. This also allows  children to receive an education, which I mentioned above, and education, as everyone knows, is a way out of poverty.



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