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Meeting the challenge

It is more than a year since the launch of the global poverty alleviation initiative, the Telford Challenge. Director Dominic Verschoyle brings us up to date.

THE TELFORD Challenge was initiated by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Commonwealth Engineers' Council.

It started work in April 1999, its aim being to defeat poverty by increasing the contribution and application of engineering at community level.

Since December 1999 2,200 ICE members have written to support the Telford Challenge following a letter from Professor George Fleming. In addition, £57,000 has been donated to the work of our partner organisations overseas.

We are also reclaiming £7,800 from the Inland Revenue. The Department for International Development provides matching funding to all donations.

We have received support from local associations and a combined donation of £11,700 from various companies. The ICE appeals have raised £150,000 for use in overseas work.

The challenge for engineers is to help to enable communities to manage their own surroundings and environment for their present and long term profit. The millions who live in rural environments often cannot be assisted by major capital projects. But they can be helped by smaller undertakings.

In the urban city slums engineering solutions are well known, but the means of providing them and of obtaining a secure income stream to pay for operation and maintenance have yet to be discovered in many cases.

Throughout India's rural and urban environment there are many active indigenous non government organisations seeking to combat poverty. Many of them need technical advice delivered at an appropriate level and with a full understanding of environmental and cultural factors.

To enable the provision of such advice and to ensure community ownership the Challenge works through robust in-country partners. Our aim is to initiate programmes which will be selfsustaining and self-replicating.

All contributions from ICE members and other supporters go towards programmes. Since April 1999 a dozen have started or are being developed.

One important theme is trades training. In both rural and urban communities there is a need for competent trades-people to service developing industries and domestic demand. It is next to impossible for most of those in poverty to obtain training, yet once trained they are able to support themselves and their families for the rest of their working lives.

The Challenge is supporting a programme in Nagpur which will provide training for 150 students over the next two years. It is also developing another scheme with the Institution of Engineers (India) outside Calcutta. Further areas to be tackled include rural water harvesting and urban municipal utilities.

The Telford Challenge, One Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London SW1H 9JJ. Tel: (020) 7304 6871, Fax: (020) 7973 1308, E-mail:, Website:

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