Knowledge for survival



Rezal Karim is a 22-year-old student living in Faridpur, Bangladesh. In this most vulnerable area, floods are becoming more common place and precious land where people live and earn a living is washed away. The struggle to escape from poverty has never been harder.

Rezal could no longer afford to continue his education, which he hoped would lead to a better life for him and his family. He knew the unused pond on his family\’s land could be used for fish farming and provide an answer, but he didn\’t know how to do it.

Millions of people in developing countries have the ideas to lift themselves out of poverty but lack access to information to take practical measures and make that dream a reality.

The rewards of knowledge sharing However, with help from Practical Action, an international development charity with more than 40 years\’ experience working in 11 countries, Rezal, along with some of the world\’s poorest communities, have been given help, assistance and advice on appropriate technologies to lift people out of poverty.

Through the charity\’s Practical Answers service, Rezal was given help, knowledge, support and technology to get started. From basic fish culture, fish meal, information on how to prepare a pond, he was able to start fish farming – meaning he could continue his education. As well as doubling his production and taking on another farm, Razel is now earning Tk 20,000 – or £180 per pond, every year, while furthering his education.

This is only one small example of how the Practical Answers service is helping hundreds of people around the world overcome their own poverty, through the provision of knowledge and information.

As well as extensive project work in Africa, Latin America and Asia, Practical Action is one of just a handful of organisations which provides a technical enquiries service.

Now in its fifth decade, Practical Answers deals with more than 3,500 enquiries every year. It allows people across the world to access a wealth of its technical information and experience, including detailed information and manual and engineering drawings. This is a free service providing technical and development information to people who are seeking to combat poverty.

Another major success story was a women\’s group in Zambia. Around 70 women were responsible for planting and harvesting crops, by hand. These were then delivered to market either via bicycle or on foot. With literacy levels low, access to information was difficult, yet contact with Practical Answers resulted in the development of a simple bicycle trailer scheme and the group reaped rewards. A local welder with some training was able to use a Practical Action brief to make trailers for a relatively low cost, meaning women could transport more to market and use the trailer as a mobile market stall. The women\’s group also learned that processing food could make more money. In fact, processing nuts into peanut butter meant they could double their profits. Through this \’Practical Answer\’, more than 70 women gained independence through income generating activities, 70 households have a better standard of living, 280 individuals have better nutrition and more children can attend school.

Through sharing and disseminating information, this practical support has had major impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of poor men and women throughout the world.

Practical Action was founded by radical economist, philosopher and author of \’Small is Beautiful\’, Dr. E.F Schumacher who strongly believed that the right idea, however small, can change lives and improve health and livelihoods. The tools to reduce poverty may be simple or sophisticated, but to provide long-term, practical answers, they must be firmly in the hands of local people.