life expectancy in MongoliaMongolia is a landlocked nation in Central Asia bordered by China to the south and Russia to the north. It is the third-least sparsely populated country in the world with an average population of 1.9 people per square kilometer. Mongolia has been a representative democracy since the U.S.S.R. collapsed in 1990 when a protest movement forced out the pro-Soviet government. The country’s economy crashed after the withdrawal of Soviet support in the 1990s and then again after the global financial crisis of 2009. It exhibited a strong recovery a few years after each event. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Mongolia should shed some light on the state of health in this country today.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mongolia

  1. The average life expectancy in Mongolia is 69.9 years, ranking 160 in the world out of 224 countries listed. For comparison, the U.S. ranked 43 in life expectancy. According to figures from the World Bank, life expectancy in Mongolia had increased by 43 percent between 1960 and 2016.

  2. The top causes of premature death in Mongolia are heart disease, stroke and neonatal disorders (diseases affecting newborn children). However, neonatal disorders have decreased significantly in recent years. According to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the prevalence of neonatal disorders decreased by 13.3 percent in just 10 years from 2007 to 2017. Infant mortality overall has steadily declined since 1978 from 117.9 to 14.8 per 1,000 live births. However, heart disease and stroke have both increased during that same period by 9.3 percent and 11.2 percent, respectively.

  3. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government foreign aid agency, cooperated with the Mongolian government on a variety of programs as part of a $284.9 million compact between 2007 and 2013. One of those programs was the Health Project, which aimed to combat various diseases, including heart disease and stroke. The project trained more than 17,000 medical professionals and provided equipment to more than 550 health facilities, which enabled those facilities to screen almost every Mongolian person over the age of 40 for various diseases.

  4. In Mongolia, there is a steep divide in health care access between urban and rural areas. Part of the reason for Mongolia’s low population density is that many people in rural areas practice a nomadic lifestyle. However, the healthcare system, which has been largely dependent upon foreign aid since dramatic cuts in government spending in the 1990s, has struggled to adapt to servicing such a mobile population. This lack of equal access to healthcare might explain why health indicators, including maternal and infant mortality rates, HIV/AIDS and others are generally worse in rural areas of Mongolia than in cities.

  5. In recent years, the Mongolian government, with the help of the Asian Development Bank, has significantly expanded access to healthcare for rural people. This involved building new health centers, and providing new equipment and training to existing centers and hospitals. Shilchin Degmid, a nomadic livestock herder, told the ADB that, in particular, “[e]mergency services have greatly improved.” In the end, it is estimated that 700,000 people will receive improved healthcare as a result of the initiative.

  6. Even in urban areas with more facilities, access to healthcare can be very difficult for people living in poverty. Whether they live in the city or the country, people in Mongolia living in poverty struggle to access affordable healthcare. According to Lindskog, in Mongolia, “population health and access to affordable health care are significantly linked to socioeconomic disparities.”
  7. Poverty affects more than 1 in 4 people. According to the Asian Development Bank, 29.6 percent of people in Mongolia live in poverty. However, extreme poverty has decreased dramatically since its peak of 26.9 percent twenty years ago. Today, 1 in 200 people in Mongolia lives in extreme poverty.

  8. One successful project in fighting poverty is the Alternative Livelihood Project (ALP). ALP has been conducted in a rural area of South Mongolia by the U.N. Development Programme and in collaboration with the local government and organized groups of local residents. The primary purpose of the project was to improve disaster preparedness and economic sustainability in the local economy. Support from the U.N.D.P. and the local government has helped local residents access training and start new businesses. Local residents were also better able to access wider markets for their existing businesses thanks to the U.N.D.P.’s connections elsewhere in the country.

  9. Pollution is a serious problem for the health of urban residents. Air pollution has been shown to significantly impact life expectancy throughout the world. Last year, UNICEF declared air pollution in the country’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, to be a child health crisis. The agency noted that Ulaanbaatar has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world during wintertime, with pollution rates reaching as high as 133 times the safe levels recommended by the World Health Organization.

  10. One initiative working to fight air pollution is the Ulaanbaatar Clean Air Project. The project is the result of the collaboration between Ulaanbaatar’s city government, the Mongolian national government, the World Bank and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Between 2010 and 2015, the project distributed 175,000 low-emission stoves to impoverished residents of Ulaanbaatar. Most of the residents living in ger or small detached homes in Ulaanbaatar experience disproportionate levels of poverty. As a result, they heat their homes in wintertime using their stove. The new stoves that the project distributed had 98 percent lower emissions than older models of stoves, reducing pollution during winter months. Furthermore, in 2016, the project helped 200 households to insulate their homes.

 

While the effort to improve life expectancy in Mongolia faces significant challenges, progress is being made. The Mongolian government is collaborating with the United Nations Development Programme on several programs to reduce poverty, including improving economic policy planning and enhancing opportunities for entrepreneurship in rural areas. Furthermore, many organizations have worked with local organizations and governments in Mongolia to improve healthcare in a variety of ways. And while some indicators, such as economic growth, have tended to fluctuate, others, such as infant mortality, have uniformly improved in recent years. Even though challenges remain, these top 10 facts about life expectancy in Mongolia show that the future is bright.

Sean Ericson
Photo: Flickr

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable AgricultureThe Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is a huge non-profit organization established in Switzerland by the company Syngenta, a multinational chemical and agriculture business. Founded in Switzerland in 1999, Syngenta was acquired by the government-owned Chinese company ChemChina in 2017 for $43 billion, which is reported to be the largest corporate acquisition by China to date. To some, this may sound like e a conflict of interest, all for optics and profit. However, with backers such as the United Nations, several governments and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has legitimate support.

What the SFSA Does

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture helps small farmers across the developing world on many fronts. It offers insurance programs for small farmers with affordable premiums to help them if the weather turns foul or their livestock gets sick. This is an enticing and helpful deal for farmers, especially in areas where the weather can be inconsistent. The SFSA also helps farmers plant crops that are more likely to weather the storms and produce a higher quality product at a higher yield.

To take full advantage of their new product, the SFSA teaches marketing and other business strategies to their farmer partners. With a surplus of crops, these farmers can now make a profit whereas before they barely made a living. One of their partners is Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh. Normally, Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh specializes in capital gains, but they also have a social outreach program that focuses on improving working conditions, pay and other social policies including improving nutrition in Bangladesh.

Failure and Success

In the United States, specifically in the State of Kansas, the Syngenta had a rocky start. In 2011, Syngenta introduced GMO corn seeds to Kansas farms before it had the approval to trade with China. This oversight closed off an entire market to these corn growers and processors, causing the price of corn to drop and resulting in the loss of profits. A class-action lawsuit followed. In 2018, a Kansas federal judge ordered Syngenta to create a fund to pay $1.5 billion in damages to companies and farmers in the corn business.

Since 2014, Syngenta and the United Nations have been working together in Bangladesh. This program was initiated to educate farmers on better farming techniques and to get their opinion and input about the issues they face. To do this, the SFSA held townhall-style meetings where they met and listened to these farmers. Since the SFSA started working in Bangladesh in 2001, 30 of their farming hubs have been created. Farmers who have participated have seen a 30 percent increase in productivity per acre and a 34 percent increase in household income.

Though it may have had a rocky start, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has since proven itself to be an asset to a farmer around the world. Looking at joint projects with other organizations around the world, it is easy to see a lot of benefits. It is providing humanitarian aid around the world in the form of agricultural aid and education. Increasing sustainable agriculture and crop yields will go a long way to helping alleviate poverty around the world.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Measles in Costa RicaThe ninth century marked the first diagnosed case of measles globally. Since then, innumerable cases of measles have been reported across the world, including Costa Rica.

What is Measles?

Measles is viral and highly contagious. An issue surrounding the spread of measles is the length of time between contraction of the virus and the first signs of symptoms. After infection, symptoms are not necessarily present for an additional week or two. Astonishingly, the virus can survive in the air for two to four hours after a cough or sneeze by someone infected by it. Thus, the transmission of measles is enabled in places even when the person is no longer there.

At first, many of the symptoms of measles could be mistaken for a cold: fever, coughing, runny nose and watery eyes. However, running an especially high fever of 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher is an indicator of measles. Additionally, the associated rash is incredibly troublesome. Fevers spike according to the severity of the rash.

Over many years, measles has been problematic for countries across the globe. One such country that has faced an ongoing battle with measles is Costa Rica.

History of Measles in Costa Rica

  • In 1967, Costa Rica implemented its first measles vaccination program. For approximately 10 years, the number of diagnosed cases of measles decreased. However, in 1977 there was an outbreak of the disease.
  • Following the 1977 epidemic, further programs were instituted with the goal of preventing another outbreak. Yet, another outbreak occurred in 1979. These new cases were primarily found in children too young to receive the vaccine in accordance with the program; they were under the age of 1.
  • In 1983, 90 percent of children over the age of 2 were vaccinated for measles. The country continued in its mission to eradicate measles in Costa Rica.
  • The last native case of measles was in 2006. Since 2014, when the last imported case was diagnosed, there had been no new cases of measles.
  • Concern arose during 2018 that imported cases of measles would arise, due to the number of cases in Europe and the United States. Due to travel and tourism, the number of reported cases of measles in Latin America had increased. Luckily, no new cases were reported for five years. However, 2019 has seen the reintroduction of measles to Costa Rica.

Recent Cases of Measles in Costa Rica

As of January 2019, Costa Rica continued providing vaccinations for children ranging from 15 months old to 9 years old. However, this vaccination program did not prove wholly successful.

On February 18, 2019 measles was reintroduced to Costa Rica. A young child from France, with classmates that had measles, came to Costa Rica on vacation with his family. The boy developed a rash and was seen by a local doctor. He tested positive for measles.

The Costa Rican Ministry of Health is taking preventative measures to ensure that this possible outbreak is contained. The family was placed in isolation at a hospital because neither the mother nor son had been vaccinated for measles. Additionally, the Costa Rican Ministry of Health has contacted those who were on the same inbound flight and in the same hotels as the family to hinder the spread of measles.

Hopefully, with such plans in place and the measures taken to protect others, measles will be contained. Due to fast action by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health, the spread of measles is likely to be reduced with this new, introduced case.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Pixabay

Development in BangladeshMore than 3.3 million Bangladeshis live in extreme poverty. Poverty is an ongoing issue for the country, but Bangladesh has worked on improving education and health and reducing poverty. In addition, the U.S. has contributed billions of dollars to Bangladesh to support it in its development. U.S. assistance to Bangladesh involves helping “grow more food, build more roads, train more skilled teachers, health care providers and soldiers,” according to the U.S. State Department. Furthermore, the U.S. holds the role as the largest source of foreign direct investment in Bangladesh.

Bangabandhu Satellite

In May 2018, Bangladesh launched its own satellite, Bangabandhu-1 (BD-1) into space. Estimates from the World Bank show that Bangladesh must spend billions until 2020 to bring its “power grids, roads and water supplies up to the standard needed to serve its growing population.” BD-1’s launch is a demonstration of infrastructure development and connectivity for the people of Bangladesh.

The Environment

Environmental challenges facing Bangladesh are largely due to pollution and environmental degradation. In addressing poverty, it is imperative to bear in mind that pollution affects poor communities severely. The government of Bangladesh has “embraced better planning by making environmental sustainability a cornerstone of its Seventh Five-year Plan through 2020.”

The Seventh Five-year Plan includes strategies to address the environmental and economic challenges facing Bangladesh today. In an effort to support its sustainable development agenda, the Government of Bangladesh has many institutions in place, such as The Department of Environment (DoE), Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR), Department of Fisheries (DoF) and Forest Department (FD). Bangladesh has The World Bank’s support in its development to ensure it is resilient to climate change.

Present and Future Development

The economic future of Bangladesh is hopeful, especially with the launch of BD-1. Economic and infrastructure development of Bangladesh must include addressing Bangladesh’s geographical location, thus its climate vulnerability. It is vital for Bangladesh to have plans set in motion to conserve its natural resources and to use its resources in a sustainable way.

A report by the World Bank indicates that development in Bangladesh is on a fast trajectory. The Brookings Institute suggests the biggest reason why there are fast-paced results and booming productivity in Bangladesh’s development is because of the empowerment of women. With the support of NGOs, Bangladesh’s government has “made significant strides toward educating girls and giving women a greater voice, both in the household and the public sphere” resulting positively in the improvement of children’s health and education.

Progress is happening in Bangladesh. If the current trajectory continues, then the rapid development in Bangladesh could result in Bangladesh being an Asian success story. As of March 2018, the world recognizes Bangladesh as a developing country. The announcement will become official in 2024, once the U.N. Economic and Social Council completes its assessment.

– Karina Bhakta
Photo: Unsplash

Unsafe Water and WomenAccess to clean water can be indicative of many things. For starters, it denotes socioeconomic statuses around the world. Communities are more likely to fall sick with waterborne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery and typhoid if they only have access to unsafe water. As a result, they recurrently expend much of their income on health care fees. Moreover, these populations frequently miss work and school due to illness, all of which has negative effects on long-term economic productivity.

Consequences

Rural communities are three times as likely to have to travel far distances for safe water. However, geography is not the only factor. In under-developed countries, lack of clean water access affects genders disproportionately as well. This means that the task of collecting clean water almost always falls on the shoulders of young women and girls.

According to UNICEF/WHO, 263 million people globally have access to water sources considered safe but are forced to spend at least 30 minutes traveling or waiting in line to collect it. UNICEF also estimates that women in sub-Saharan Africa spend 16 million hours collecting water each day, an astronomical sum. Not only is the task time-consuming, but it is also a huge physical burden. Carrying such heavy loads can put substantial strain on the body, which is especially dangerous for pregnant women.  

The daily expeditions can be numerous, meaning young girls are missing more school. This is especially detrimental to education, and eventual economic productivity in adult life. Overall, males have a higher literacy rate, as females account for 56 percent of the total illiterate youth population. A lack of access to sanitation makes the situation even direr, as girls often stop attending school after puberty, or miss school during their periods. According to UNICEF, of the 121 million children absent from school, 65 million are girls.

Unsafe Water and Women

Not only are these conditions detrimental to the future of women, but unsafe water is also killing girls or making them vulnerable to assault and violence. During their travels to collect water, young women are at particularly high risk for sexual and physical assault, kidnapping and death. They may also face conflict at water collection points. Women must commonly walk long distances for a home latrine or forced to manage their needs in the open, leaving them at high risk of violence and rape.

Access to safe water and sanitation is a monumental women’s rights issue. Clean water would protect women globally from physical, psychological and life-risking dangers. Moreover, it would mean that more girls will not miss school. People are less likely to force educated women into marriage, while they are also less likely to die from birth complications or have large families that are challenging to fiscally support. They are more likely to give birth to healthy babies and enroll their children in schools. When young women thrive, everyone wins.

The Future is Woman

These women fight daily for their own health, and for that of their communities; it is now the world’s turn to fight for them. UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) is a promising initiative. Through this program, clean water and sanitation facilities in schools have been provided for more than 100 communities. In addition, Water.org is making an impact by partnering with individuals in communities to build and finance water and sanitation projects, such as wells. The health of a society is reflective of the health of its women. Through efforts like these, not only can women live safely, they can feel empowered.  

– Natalie Marie Abdou
Photo: Flickr

Trade EmbargoesIn a world dominated by complex international relations, tumultuous geopolitical conflicts and volatile financial climates, the sense of protectionism and the implementation of trade barriers are becoming more widespread. An embargo is a term that can be defined as the complete or partial ban on trade, business activities and relations occurring between two countries. Similar to trade sanctions, trade embargoes are involved when countries seek to establish barriers or constraints often for political motives, purposes and gains. But, do they work?

Cuba and the U.S. Trade Embargo

Countries like Cuba, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, China and Russia have often been on the receiving end of trade embargoes for decades. In the past, U.S. trade embargoes have resulted in sporadic political changes and dire effects on foreign policy.

For instance, Cuba, in particular, has been adversely impacted by the U.S. trade embargo since the culmination of the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s, particularly in regard to the collapse of the sugar industry. The initial decline was catalyzed by the imposition of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. Production further declined after the fall of the Soviet Union and a rise in the embargoes by the United States.

Trade Embargoes and Economies

At times, trade embargoes work because they can contribute to more peace and stability, and they can even prevent the debilitation of human rights violations, terrorism, aggression and nuclear threat. However, long term restrictions can be quite damaging and aggravate poverty and the standard of living for civilians. Owing to the sheer level of economic isolation and threat to trading relationships, the effects of trade embargoes can be especially damaging to the business, trade and commerce of a country, impacting a country’s GDP as well.

As a result of the negative effects of trade embargoes, domestic industries and producers often suffer a decline in their export markets and revenues, thereby threatening jobs and livelihoods. Countries that tend to overspecialize in certain commodities, goods and services may be most affected by these constraints as key sectors of the economy may be adversely impacted. Given their level of development, poorer countries are often restricted to producing goods in the primary industry that may have relatively lower returns.

Unintended Consequences

Trade embargoes may lead to grave economic and geopolitical problems like retaliation, such as the Russian counter-embargo after the 2014 EU Energy embargo during the Russian annexation of Crimea. This can result in an escalation in trade and price wars in the long run. Incidentally, the U.S. and China may now also be on the verge of a major trade war due to the new imposition of trade barriers, most recently on steel and China’s HUWEI chip sales.

Due to deficiencies in the country’s power to export goods and services during an embargo, its trade balance will also tend to suffer to a great degree. For instance, a U.N. arms embargo has been placed on North Korea concerning all armaments and related goods. Since December 2017, trade restraints have also been placed on key industries like oil and agriculture. This has created issues for the North Korean economy, but it has done little to deter the government from nuclear testing.

Open Trade Benefits Economies

According to the IMF, there is significant evidence that countries with open economies are more likely to achieve higher levels of economic growth. With new levels of trade liberalization and globalization, expanding economies are benefitting from massive inflows of capital and investment from stakeholder groups around the world. Moreover, in recent years, burgeoning and fast-paced economies like China are graduating to an open trade policy so that they can bolster trading ties with other key trading players.

In the year 2014, members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed to sign the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). In order to ensure greater ease, competitiveness, and efficiency in trade in the future, trade facilitation measures are now being implemented so that weak bureaucracy and productivity issues may be addressed. TFA will also aid developing economies to boost their exports and have greater access to markets.

The answer is not simple. Trade embargos can work under the right circumstances, but they are not always as effective as one would hope. Furthermore, they can have unexpected consequences. Given the vast scope and potential of free trade and development in a dynamically changing world, eliminating barriers and encouraging greater economic integration may provide a more effective way to address important social and economic issues and have profoundly positive impacts in the long term.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Rwanda Child SoldiersRwanda is an African country whose history is marred by colonialism, civil war, political turmoil and genocide. Since the 1994 genocide that killed nearly one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu, the country continues to deal with the aftermath of this suffering.

One of the central issues during the genocide and even today in the post-genocide environment has been the role of child soldiers. Here are the top 10 facts about Rwanda child soldiers.

Top 10 Facts About Rwanda Child Soldiers

  1. Post-genocide, many Rwandan survivors fled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. However, as violence surged in the Congo and a genocide of its own erupted there, Congolese rebels forced Rwandan boys to become soldiers for their cause.
  2. Children are a vulnerable population that are more susceptible to be forced or recruited into child armies. This vulnerability is structural according to Human Rights Watch: “Government officials have done little to protect these children’s rights…traditional societal networks have been severely eroded by poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and, not least, the consequences of the genocide and war.”
  3. According to Michael Wessels, author of Child Soldiers: From Violence to Protection, children are more likely to be recruited as soldiers because “They can be psychologically manipulated through a deliberate programme of starvation, thirst, fatigue, voodoo, indoctrination, beatings, the use of drugs and alcohol, and even sexual abuse to render them compliant to the new norms of child soldiering.”
  4. More than 50 percent of Rwanda’s population is 19 years old or younger and orphans account for 10 percent of this demographic. With limited access to money, shelter, education and other necessities, many of these vulnerable children fall prey to child armies.
  5. In the neighboring country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the rebel military group M23 worked with the Rwandan Defense Force to train child soldiers.
  6. With promises of money, education and jobs, children—many of them orphaned or living in extreme poverty—fell prey to the Rwandan Defense Force which falsely claimed children would be trained for the Rwandan army, not for M23.
  7. Romeo Dallaire witnessed the Rwandan genocide firsthand as a U.N. peacekeeper. According to Dallaire, one of the reasons for employing child soldiers is that “they are viewed as expendable, replaceable.”
  8. For the past 20 years, Rwanda has been working to demobilize Rwandan child soldiers and reintegrate them into Rwandan society. As of 2013, the Rwandan government demobilized about 3,000 child soldiers.
  9. Although the Rwandan government made successful moves to reduce the number of child soldiers, some reports suggest that simultaneously, the Rwandan government recruited some of those same children as soldiers. Following these accusations, the United States denied military funding to the Rwandan Army.
  10. In efforts to help reintegrate former child soldiers, the Lake Muhazi Centre is just one of many places that runs a three-month course that offers counseling, recreational activities, and job training to help facilitate assimilation back into Rwandan society.

Although Rwanda made great strides to demobilize the child soldiers that its own army produced, many child soldiers remain in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was not until 2013 that the Rwandan government acknowledged its role in the production of child soldiers and has, since then, made great efforts to combat this atrocity.

– Morgan Everman
Photo: Pixabay

Child Sexual Abuse in NigeriaChild sexual abuse in Nigeria is rampant and as high as one in four girls and one in 10 boys. Cece Yara is an organization dedicated to preventing and ending the sexual abuse and exploitation of children. The words, Cece Yara, are from the Hausa language which means “save the child” and truly encompasses the mission of the foundation.

The Mission

The Cece Yara Foundation is an NGO with a mission to prevent the sexual abuse of children and provide emergency assistance and care. Bola Tinubu, a child activist and lawyer, founded the organization and she believes in protecting the safety of all children. The Foundation works in coordination with counselors, law enforcement and educators to ensure that every child lives with innocence and safety throughout their life.

Child sexual abuse is still a silent issue in Nigeria and there are many myths surrounding it. The Foundation also works to correct these myths and educate the public on how rampant the sexual abuse of children actually is. The organization believes that educating adults is the first step in preventing this abuse. Cece Yara ensures that every adult in a child’s life is aware of the signs of sexual abuse in a child and how to prevent it or even intervene.

Cece Yara also provides counseling services and a child forensic interview. The interview is a structured conversation between a counselor and a child to teach the child how to recount an incident of sexual abuse. Many children are afraid to come forward about abuse either because they are ashamed or confused. The forensic interview allows them to feel safe enough to get the help they desperately need.

Nigeria’s First Child Helpline

The Cece Yara Foundation has recently implemented the first child helpline in Nigeria. The helpline is available 24 hours a day and has professionals, trained on how to talk to children, answering the line. There are two lines; Cece Yara offers one free for children and the other paid for adults. This line serves to provide immediate help and assistance to a Nigerian child suffering from sexual abuse.

Child Abuse and Poverty

Children in developing nations are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation compared to those living in high-income countries due to the stress associated with poor living conditions. Alleviating poverty can have a significant impact on the rate of child abuse in an impoverished region.

The Cece Yara Foundation has been able to help 2,000 children in Nigeria since its launch in 2016. It has had a tremendous impact on the lives of Nigerian children who have suffered or are suffering from sexual abuse. The Cece Yara Foundation is fighting for a future that is safe for the children of Nigeria.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Pixabay

Chefs for ChangeIn 2015, the United Nations developed a set of objectives that aim to end all forms of poverty by 2030. There are 17 points in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). These points, if achieved, will help to bring the world towards a more sustainable future, one without poverty or hunger. Certain organizations have implemented programs that aim to ensure that these 17 points are met. One such program is Chefs for Change.

Chefs for Change

Together with Nicolas Mounard, the Chief executive of Farm Africa, world-renowned chefs Joan Roca, Eneka Atxa and Gaggan Anand launched Chefs for Change in June 2017. This movement focuses on sustainable agriculture in developing communities and its importance in regards to achieving sustainable development goals. During an event that highlighted the cause, the three chefs talked about their involvement with Chefs for Change.

Chef Joan Roca said, “A dish is much more than the sum of its ingredients. If we consider its sourcing, we see that every ingredient has been created by a varied cast of human characters involved in every step of the food’s journey from land to the plate.” One of the main goals for Chefs for Change is to help rural farmers get the recognition they deserve to ensure that their business can be successful.

Different chef ambassadors are appointed to rural communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Here, these Chefs for Change shadow local chefs as they visit the local farms that provide the food and then return to the restaurants where the food is prepared and served. After working with local farmers for some time, the chef ambassadors then report the progress made in these local communities in regards to their contribution to the 17 sustainable development goals.

The Importance of Farmers in Rural Communities

More than 70 percent of the world’s food supply comes from small farms like the ones that these chefs are working with. These chef ambassadors know that without the help of these rural farmers and the role they play in agriculture, chefs around the world would not have many of the ingredients available for them to use on a daily basis. Through these experiences, the chefs are not only helping the local farmers achieve sustainability but they are learning from them as well.

When the ambassador chefs return from their trips, they have many stories to share. These stories are what help to bridge the divide between upper and lower class agricultural societies. In addition to sharing these stories, the three ambassador chefs hope to inspire other chefs to follow in their footsteps, thus continuing this path of positive exposure and success for smaller farming communities.

Chefs for Change is bringing awareness to the important issue of agricultural infrastructure. The goal is to rid these rural farming communities of food insecurity and ensure that the farmers are thriving in their agricultural practices. By continuously working with local chefs and ensuring that they progress towards achieving the U.N.’s SDG goals, those involved with Chefs for Change are helping to work towards a poverty-free future.

CJ Sternfels
Photo: Unsplash

Plastic Waste in IndiaA Mumbai beach called Versova was covered in used plastic for the longest time. Imagine bottles, dirty plates, bags and wasted plastic skewed all over so that Versova did not look like a beach, but rather a large landfill. The United Nations branded this now, virgin stretch of shoreline the “world’s largest beach clean-up project”. This restoration job took 21 months and involved the cleaning of 2.5 kilometers of the beach. In total, volunteers picked up 5.3 million kilograms of trash and plastic.

Volunteers

Afoz Shah, a lawyer, and his volunteers made the elimination of plastic waste a reality for Versova beach. Shah took initiative one day in 2015 to pick up the trash he saw on his walks. Eventually, his neighbor joined him and that led to 1,000 volunteers pulling up their sleeves and getting dirty. Shah has also taken it upon himself to educate the locals about sustainable waste practices to residents who live along the coastline. Fifty-five thousand citizens live in the Versova beach area.

The Problem: Plastic Waste in India

The mass amount of wasted plastic Shah and his volunteers found on this beach is just a peek into the throw-away mentality of India. People have littered several other beaches nearby with plastic. Creeks are transporting tons of plastic to beaches with their currents. These creeks run by slums and are turned into sewers, dragging the plastic into the waters. Sadly, most slums have no garbage pick-up. As a result, most inhabitants throw their trash into the water to become someone else’s problem.

The Solutions

The government is now paying residents to collect plastic bags. The government wants to promote that collecting plastic bags is a means of income in the hopes of deterring the laissez-faire mindset amongst Indians when it comes to wasted plastic.

In fact, municipal authorities are now starting to criminalize the use of plastic bags. These new laws can come with $366 fines and jail time. Companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks are even feeling the heat to change their packaging. Plastic pollution in India is affecting water sources by blocking up streets and waterways, but hopefully, these stern new laws will make the streets clear.

Thirteen million tons of plastic end up in the world’s ocean every single year. Imagine dumping two trucks full of trash every minute into the ocean. The UNEP advises that plastic not only threatens marine life but also human life. Hopefully, more countries will take a page from India’s book and start implementing strict laws towards plastic waste.

So far, the work of the volunteers to clear Versova beach has had a significant impact. Thanks to their tireless efforts, Olive Ridley turtles have started hatching on the beach. Olive Ridley turtles are the smallest in the ocean and no one has spotted them in decades. So far, 80 of the Olive Ridley turtles have survived and made it to the Arabian Sea.

– Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Flickr