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  • Where Social Cohesion Works: Refugees in Cox's Bazar

    Words and images by Magnus Wolfe Murray, a Re-Alliance member currently working in Bangladesh. Above: Camp 26, just down the road from Shamplapur. Fences are going up to surround all the camps, making freedom of movement even harder. And the feeling of confinement is ever more real. Shamplapur is a town on the coast an hour or so drive south from Cox's Bazar. A river estuary emerges here; a town emerged generations ago. From the 1970s, Rohingya people came here to work in the fishing boats; more people came in the 90s, many of them refugees fleeing Myanmar's military horror. And again in this most recent refugee influx in 2017. Perhaps mindful of their pressure, possibly by local edict, the numbers remained relatively low, at around a few hundred families. By late 2017 there were several thousand refugee families. They rented land from local landlords for their shelters, they worked in the boats, the tea shops, they shopped in their markets. Children were born, they went to the local schools, were raised with the locals. They grew up and married into the local community, had kids, lived a life. A classic story of migration and settlement. Then, this year, the central Government in Dhaka decided they needed to shut down this integrated community altogether. To every extent possible the Government wants to prevent refugees becoming permanent here. And integration with the local community - a big no-no. So Shamplapur is the latest example to be set, and it's quite tragic to see entire communities dismantled, the people given notice and a few weeks to pack. Using a pretext of national security concerns (despite the lack of any security pressures here). Local businesses are furious, they've invested in larger boats, now they lose much of their labour. Shops and markets will lose half their trade. All those young people raised here, now being forced to leave. The Government isn't exactly forcing them at the point of a gun, but it certainly isn't informed nor voluntary movement - which is what we hold up globally as a basic principle for a decent approach to population movements. Above: When things couldn't really get much more difficult, people are forced to move again. So where will people go? Most of the Rohingya communities have left already, trucked off to different camps inland. And many others to a new island the Government has developed called Basanchar, from where it's said they cannot leave or return to the mainland. All that said, it's really hard for western governments to criticize or even raise concerns, when we do so little we can be proud of with refugees on our shores. Throughout 2017, the UK accepted a total of 6,212 refugees (during the height of the Syrian refugee crisis). Other asylum seekers who show up on the shores illegally are locked up in quite appalling centers, from where, like those Rohingya in Basanchar, they cannot leave. Above: Picking up the pieces - a family after relocation from "outside the fence" in camp 26, where they had to dismantle their shelter, with quite old bamboo and material which couldn't be re-used - meaning they were forced to buy most of it again. But look for a moment at how other countries deal with refugee communities. The French Government closed the camps in Calais with violence and abuse. Literally burning and bulldozing the refugees and migrants out. Australia is perhaps the worst offender with its harsh policies of sending asylum seekers to Nauru Island, for many years, where eventually human rights groups exposed extreme levels of mistreatment, sexual exploitation and unfathomable levels of despair and depression brought on by years in a kind of purgatory where you're not allowed to work, study or progress in life. Whereas other countries seem to have a much more reasonable approach. Uganda hosts some 1.4m refugees (mostly from South Sudan). They're allowed freedom of movement, they can work, study, farm the land. In Turkey, the world's largest refugee hosting country, has 4m, mostly people from Syria. Again, they're allowed to work and live relatively freely, given special ID cards. A Turkish Doctor I met recently said it had led to a degree of economic development as factories and agriculture had benefited from the increased labour market. Pakistan and Iran too, for decades have accepted millions of refugees - most of them working, renting homes and starting businesses. And Germany welcomed about 1.8m refugees and asylum seekers - despite the criticism sometimes used that they only accept well qualified refugees. So the struggle continues. Shamplapur settlement, also known as camp 25, is one of 34 camps in total. One can't get too engaged on only one. The old adage of winning a battle but losing the war, perhaps translated here as knowing what you cannot change, focusing on the things you can influence, and trying to keep a level head enough to know the difference. Above: An area where other refugees were settled - but into a sunken basin of land which is likely to flood when the rains start. Is this a disaster waiting to happen? Words and images by Magnus Wolfe Murray, a Re-Alliance member currently working in Bangladesh. Re-Alliance aims to promote a regenerative, place-based approach to settlement design. For some examples of what that can look like in different contexts, see our case studies page here.

  • Introducing MET – an Evidence-Based Toolkit for Regenerative Programmes

    Report by Giulia Genna, Alexander Howarth, Yu Rim Kim, Nafisa Shamim Rudmila, and Lara Soliman Article by Giulia Genna Created from a collaboration between five LSE graduate students and Re-Alliance, the aim of this report is to understand regeneration, and highlight some beneficial characteristics when applied within the disaster relief field. The purpose of this report is to produce an evidence-based toolkit that can easily adapt to the flexibility of regenerative approaches. To achieve such a goal, we decided to first analyse the regenerative movement as a whole, underpinning its most salient points. The results of our literature review revealed a lack of a shared language and terminology within the regenerative movement, which undoubtedly hinders the capacity of regeneration to become more well known in the disaster relief community. Secondly, we interviewed fifteen key informants coming from different academic and professional backgrounds, to better understand the nature of regeneration, the common targets and features of regenerative approaches, and the essential aspects of a successful disaster relief project. The findings from the interviews built the foundations for the MET, a monitoring and evaluation toolkit for regenerative approaches. The MET is divided in three distinct, yet ever-developing, phases: planning, implementation, and review. In the planning phase, we highlight the importance of creating a shared regenerative language, promoting regenerative values, and understanding the challenges of regeneration. In the implementation phase, we focus on the different methods of data collection, highlighting SMS integrated databases and online web pages with backend databases as possible solutions, and we stress the importance of evidence of progress to advertise regeneration. In the final phase, the programme review, we emphasize the role of community involvement and accountability, funding and donors’ management, and knowledge sharing. Ultimately, the MET is presented as a set of questions which aims to facilitate practitioners in the process of implementation of regenerative practices. The goal of the toolkit is to give structure to regenerative programmes, in order to help professionals promote regeneration among other organisations and donors. With the hope that our toolkit will be of help to aspiring regeneration practitioners, our wish is to see the MET further developed into a complete guide through additional research and interviews. Once again, we want to stress that creating a shared language, data collection, and community involvement, are crucial for the development of regeneration into a well-established approach to disaster relief. You can find Genna et al.'s report below, including the MET in section 5.

  • Himalayan Permaculture Centre: The Farmers' Handbook

    The Himalayan Permaculture Centre (HPC) is a grass roots non-government organisation set up by trained and motivated farmers from Surkhet district in Mid-Western Nepal in 2010 to implement sustainable rural development programs in Nepal. The Farmers' Handbook HPC staff have years of experience working in remote mountainous regions leading to the development of a wide range of appropriate technologies and approaches aimed at increasing domestic farm productivity while reducing costs. Concrete and positive outcomes, such as a measured increase in crop production, vegetable consumption, and reduction in firewood use have been demonstrated. These techniques are published in the “Farmers’ Handbook” which is also used for practical literacy education. It was published in the Nepali language by co-creators Chris Evans and Jakob Jespersen in 2001 (7,500 copies) with reprints in 2012 and 2018 (1,500 copies respectively). In 2002 the handbook was translated into English and in 2009 made available as free PDF downloads on the Permaculture Research Institute’s website. The handbook is 50 chapters in 5 volumes – a total of 792 pages, including 170 pages of colour photos and illustrations. Above: Farmers are taught how to make a hot bed that protects seedlings BACKGROUND In Nepal, According to a Food Security Assessment carried out by the FAO, agriculture provides livelihoods for more than 80% of the population and accounts for some 40% of its Gross Domestic Product. Rising population and inappropriate foreign aid programmes, which often try to replace traditional practices, have combined to undermine the sustainability of traditional agriculture. The result is a disempowered people with unequal access to basic needs, struggling to grow enough food to last the year despite working all hours. The proportion of undernourished population is estimated at 40.7%, in the Terai where on average 17.7% of children under five suffer acute malnutrition. These communities can be seen as "marginal”, lacking access to key resources such as education, health care, food security and credit. At the same time the physical areas where they live can also be described as being marginal due to the high altitude combined with poor infrastructure of roads, power and communications. These are the people and places where HPC has prioritised its work, where small inputs of appropriate technology and appropriate education can make huge differences. Subsistence agricultural practices have developed by HPC to be finely in tune with local climate, landscape and people's needs. HPC practices are intimately interwoven with the forest and other natural resources to provide basic needs of food, fuel, fodder, timber and medicines. HPC has 178 demonstration farmers in 32 villages, known as “Barefoot Consultants” to easily disseminate working agricultural processes. HPC work has resulted in 387 kitchen gardens, planting over 51,000 fruit trees and planting over 50,000 multi-purpose trees and shrubs in agroforestry plots as well as the development of 726 smokeless stoves. Furthermore, 81 farmers have implemented SRI, (System of Rice Intensification.) This method of rice farming aims to increase yield of crop while reducing both labour and water use. The Farmers Handbook has helped in the training of over 7,000 farmers in agro-ecological practices including vegetable growing, composting, pest management, green manures, agroforestry, SRI, water management. The HPC's work centres around 3 main strategies: Training and Education: Assisting farmers and development workers in the process of design and implementation of demonstrated sustainable agriculture systems and agro-ecological approaches. Resources: The seed, seedlings and published information (books, booklets, posters) needed for farmers and development workers to design and implement such systems on their own land and in their communities. Research: This is implemented to identify useful new species and cropping patterns, or combinations of those existing traditionally, which are favoured and can be appropriated by local farmers for their own use. HPC carries out demonstration, training, resource production and research on its own resource centres (working farms) in Kathmandu, Surkhet and Humla districts. It also carries out these activities on farmers own land, though the research needs to be risk-free otherwise they may lose valuable food crops or land if experiments don't work. In addition to its farming-related activities HPC also works in the health, education (schools and adult literacy) and livelihood sectors because of their connection with its agro-ecological strategies. Participants on a farmers training session learn how to plant fruit trees WHAT MAKES THIS REGENERATIVE? IMPACT ON PLANET Increase in biodiversity and soil health. Decrease in pressure on forest areas. Regeneration of degraded areas around and within villages. Planting of over 51,000 fruit trees and over 50,000 multi-purpose trees and shrubs planted in agroforestry plots. 81 Farmers implementing SRI. IMPACT ON PEOPLE Increase in on-farm and domestic productivity. Decrease in labour and resource cost. Recognition of local culture, skills, technology and biodiversity. Increasing awareness of local issues of gender imbalance/women's health, local regenerative economies. Awareness of global issues of trade, climate change and justice As it is published in the Nepali language, the Farmers’ Handbook is used for practical literacy education. COMBINED REGENERATIVE IMPACT Demonstrations and training resources provided so that local people can see techniques and approaches that meet holistic goals and further receive training on how to design and implement in own communities. Using Permaculture design and integrating issues such as food production/agriculture, health, education and livelihoods then settlements are designed that reduce the need to leave communities for work/income elsewhere. Replicability: Following a farmers training session, a farmer from outside HPC's working member villages establishes a root stock nursery at his home, demonstrating the spread of HPC's activities. SCALABILITY AND REPLICABILITY HPC works directly in 32 villages (over 5000 beneficiaries) but as farmer-to-farmer contact spreads it's techniques way beyond this there are many other areas. The Farmers Handbook is a step by step guide in many agriculture processes that although are specifically tailored for Himalayan Conditions, the ideas in this comprehensive document can be adjusted for other agro-ecological environments. WHAT'S NEXT FOR THIS PROJECT? HPC wants to reduce its need for external funding by developing internal/local resilience through processing, marketing and fair trade for local, national and international trade. It will continue to offer increased resources for other organisations/communities through its barefoot consultants program. CONTACT THE HIMALAYAN PERMACULTURE CENTRE The Himalayan Permaculture Centre (HPC) is a grassroots regenerative NGO based in Nepal with a focus on rural development. Website | Facebook | Download The Farmer's Handbook CONTACT US If you would like to join our network of regenerative practitioners, contact us here.

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  • Regenerative Design in Humanitarian Response and Development | Re-Alliance

    Supporting the humanitarian and development sectors to implement regenerative change. A Coalition Bringing together field practitioners, policy makers, educators, community leaders and humanitarian and development workers. Sharing skills and experiences to grow the influence and impact of regenerative development in the humanitarian field. Case Studies View more Re-Alliance | Why Regenerative Design? Play Video Facebook Twitter Pinterest Tumblr Copy Link Link Copied

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