Friday, January 13, 2012

Punjam Micro Hydro Installation

Thanks to a wonderful and dedicated team of outsiders, new comers, and local talent, the Punjam turbine was recently installed. ...Much work ahead before releasing water into the turbine and finally seeing light, but we're moving in the right direction!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Interfaces of Research, Policy, and Practice

Hola! Halo! Ibowen! Namaste!

In the wake of an interesting conference call yesterday, between academicians, policy designers, and practitioners, the following thoughts/conclusions came spurring this morning. I am sharing them to get input from you:

1. Money is directed by the intellectual community. For example, money for large scale implementation is directed by policy makers and government. And money for research and development, which should ideally include innovation (for practical issues!), is dictated by academics.

2. Yet, in all cases, the interface between the funds and the actual work that will consume those funds falls on the plates of practitioners.

3. Policy makers and academicians work within (intentional or unintentional) self-serving, self-strengthening associations. For example, in the policy maker world: what is the policy based on -- actual results or ideals/abstracts, where the only tangible data point becomes the image of the ruling government. In the academic world: who besides academicians, reads all the theses, dissertations, and journals? Besides academicians, who writes these papers? Who gets paid for them? Who gets degrees for them? How many of those degree-ed products of academia go into practice? How many of them go back into a closed loop, research setting? Because policy makers and academicians work within self-strengthening, closed loops, they attract human resource, often young energy, that eventually (and unfortunately) roots itself within the same closed loop that has little sense of the outside realities.

4. Yet, in the practitioners world, there are hardly any networks or associations. This maybe because practitioners cannot work within self-serving, closed loops (even if they wanted to). The ends of their loop can never meet because their reality cannot be boxed or looped into an abstract world of words on paper. The interface of their work includes the reality of living communities, human natures at their extremes, the elements (e.g. malaria, maoists, mines), and unplanned budgets that have no choice but to make the work happen. Therefore, the structured closed-loop, self-serving associations that the policy makers and academicians thrive on may not be adequate for practitioners. Maybe, practitioners need organic and flexible associations?

Surely, practitioners need space to be passionate, to be quirky/nerdy, and to be activists that give voice to the masses. Yet, to survive financially, practitioners are forced into the same funding structures (which as I mentioned earlier are dictated by non-practicing worlds), often creating white elephant NGOs (and unintentionally aloof executive directors that once had the freedom to give all of himself to the field, rather than now being occupied by carbon creating, long international flights for raising funds).

5. And yet policy makers and academicians need practitioners. Till date, it seems that practitioners have interfaced with the other worlds only as individuals, as handfuls, or simply as study sites. Practitioners have never participated in the other two worlds holistically (yes, broad generalization--I would love to hear examples that refute this!). While policy makers and academicians continue to be prolific, practitioners are too narrow minded and hence not productive enough to "scale" their work. (A question for another blog entry is whether or not development benefits from scaled efforts.) Yet, take a look at the darn system. Why aren't practitioners prolific in numbers? Why can't their world attract and retain human resources? Are they actually involved as equal players in policy making and innovative research? If practitioners were involved, terms such as action-policy-making or action-research would not be foreign to the world's best PhD programs!

6. Because of this imbalance, the following is happening:

a. There is a deep gap between what is intellectually reported/analyzed and what is actually happening in the field. The reported stuff is archaic and skewed.

b. Because practitioners are are spread thin -- in terms of time, money, and personnel -- we do not (yet) have the bandwidth to become self-organized associations and networks. We function like start-up's, where the smallest of tasks can take up days. The practitioner-involved networks that do exist are unfortunately not rooted in the practicing worlds and are often sourced from the budgets of capricious aid agencies. (Though my favorite exception are the Sri Lankan micro hydro developers associations. We have much to learn from them!)

c. In case after case, independent practicing experts, who have great talent and have built living knowledge in technical, socio-technical, and even institutional topics in a short periods of hands-on time in the field, remain un-tapped (and now even jobless). Ironically, when employed in white elephant NGO's, university labs, or government contexts, the gifted, hands-on expert practitioner no longer blossoms.

d. Many of the independent field experts work as consultants. Some have the courage and skills to start their own association: a business. You all must know wonderful examples of this phenomena -- please share them! I want to understand how a practitioner transforms herself into an entrepreneur. Is the passion retained? What innovation is used to maneuver around the field realities at scale? To what extent does the policy making and the academic worlds make genuine efforts to reach out to these businesses? If they reach out, what do they want from them -- more isolated data or an opportunity to strengthen a world outside of their own closed loop?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amthagouda Repair

These are photos of Amthagouda repairs in spring 2010. I will post again to explain the repairs. For now...only photos:

The runner was installed backwards after one servicing. ...and for a reason that I do not recall (but will eventually), we needed to take the entire shaft assembly to the machine shop.

The manifold is fabricated in way that makes it very difficult to dis-assemble and assemble the main parts.

It doesn't help that the parts are quite heavy!

We broke two bearing pullers while trying to open the shaft assembly. Finally we designed a heavy duty puller of our own.

No easy access to grease the bearings!

We made the pulley/shaft key ourselves...and that maybe the reason we need such a big hammer to use a tapper lock pulley!

Locally-Made Concrete Poles: Village-to-Village Mentoring

The initial pole-making and installation training was given by Padma Dewa from REDCO, Sri Lanka to Purna Guma village youth. Because it was our first round of poles and because I did not fiercely check the mold quality, the poles were not the best quality. With each project, the quality of the poles has drastically improved.

Then the following year, the Purna Guma youth trained the Karnivel youth to make and install poles for their system.

This year the the Karnivel youth trained the Bijapada youth...

And Purna Guma youth trained the Punjam youth.

The Purna Guma youth are admiring how much better the molds look than what the molds looked like 3 years ago, during their project's pole making training!

With each year, the quality of the poles has improved. This year, thanks to Pabitra Dada's team and Ranjit, the mold design was greatly improved, resulting in the best community-made transmission poles we've seen so far in Kalahandi!

Of course, the quality of the molds and the process for making the molds can still be drastically improved in future projects. I'll share how in a later post.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bijapada: Health Issue--First Patient

In Loragouda hamlet of the Bijapada cluster, the site of Gram Vikas' newest micro hydro project, we have a friend who dealing with a severe skin illness...he cannot walk. We are trying our best to bring skin specialists to the village soon.

Bijapada: Health Issue--Second Patient

A few minutes walk from the Laragouda hamlet, in Khidadhura, there is another patient with severe skin disease. This man's grandson also has signs of the disease.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Casting Pelton Buckets


1. "Bronze" and "cast iron" are very vague descriptions for metal. Bronze and iron are both alloys. Alloys can come in various percentages of various base metals.

2. Therefore, when someone claims to be selling you bronze, ask them how much tin and how much copper. Brass is technically a type of bronze, made from "mostly" copper and "some" zinc. (I hope you're noticing my vague adverbs!)

3. In India, "tin" has various meanings. Tin is not the same as the material used in tin sheets. The tin that we need to any type of bronze maybe similar to the tin found in the tinning material used for soldering...which is tin plus lead.

4. The local casters do not believe they can melt tin, because they think tin is a type of steel. ...Indeed tin is a type of steel...but why does the material used in tinning?