Digital Solutions
Many countries in Africa suffer from food insecurity for a variety of reasons; most link back to unstable agricultural food sources. Traditionally, most farmers had no means of recovering from natural disasters, such as floods and wildfires. Other outside factors, such as a country’s political state and poor education, can also contribute to poor agricultural yields. Further, while these issues still remain, the creation of numerous digital solutions could help alleviate these problems. Digital solutions can benefit agriculture in Africa and positively impact Africa’s near future.

Digitalization for Agriculture

The use of applications has risen in Africa’s agricultural sector. This includes the use of text messaging to deliver economic advice to smaller farmers. Another way is through the use of interactive voice response to connect farmers with potential buyers and other farmers. These solutions allow farmers to expand their market, while also increasing the number of connections between farmers within a given area.

The digital solutions market in Africa is fairly new, with over 60 percent of the market established within the past three years and 20 percent started in 2018. However, the digital market has not been as beneficial to small independent farm owners. These small farm owners make up around 80 percent of Africa’s agricultural production. Despite this, digital solutions have proven to improve crop yields by up to 300 percent and increase income by up to double what farmers previously made.

How Digital Solutions Help the Economy

Digital solutions not only help farmers through increased market size, but they also provide helpful advice such as weather alerts or advice on which crops will grow well given a country’s climate or season. Additionally, technology can also act as a channel for farmers to innovate new and sustainable ways to improve yields and reduce crop loss in the future.

On top of this, with a new and expanding market for digital solutions for agriculture in Africa, this will inevitably lead to new jobs in the agricultural technology sector. While the amount of small, independent farmers who have access to a mobile device is currently low, Africa is nearing universal phone access within the coming years, which will further expand the digital solutions market.

Nonprofits for a Cause

Some nonprofits have also helped improve the livelihood of independent farmers, such as Self Help Africa. Self Help Africa specializes in creating business ties between distant rural farmers to markets and producer groups. These efforts help rural farmers adapt to the climate and cope with threats of natural disasters. Further, Self Help Africa assists in connecting rural farmers to microfinancing services, improving economic responsibility.

The group also specializes in providing aid for independent women who make up the majority of the workforce for agriculture in Africa. Women do over 80 percent of small scale farm work in Africa; however, these women also only receive a fraction of the support. Some of these benefits are growing increasingly more common due to Africa’s growing digital marketplace for agriculture. However, Self Help Africa’s fight for gender equality will always remain important for females working in small market agricultural systems.

Agriculture in Africa is crucial for providing African citizens with a stable and reliable source of food. With improving tools, more Africans can be successful in their agricultural endeavors. Issues such as flooding, poor connections and knowledge used to be major hindrances to some food suppliers. However, with increasing knowledge of agricultural techniques and increasing market connections, the future of agriculture is looking much brighter for small, independent farmers.

Andrew Lueker
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tourism in Peru
When thinking of tourism in Peru, one’s mind quickly turns to Lima and Machu Picchu, which are areas that tourists often visit due to their immense popularity. However, just miles away, local communities, such as Luquina Chico and the Cordillera Blanca mountain region, provide the same otherworldly experience, including magnificent sights, sounds, eats and more. With new varieties of tourism, including experiential and volunteer tourism in Peru, tourists can immerse themselves in the Peruvian culture outside of the immensely populated and toured areas while also providing economic benefit to the people.

Experiential Tourism with Homestays

About 80 percent of tourism in Peru consists of Turismo financial or experiential tourism. In this homestay option, families provide their homes to tourists to teach them about Peruvian culture by fully immersing them in it.

The community council facilitates all homestays in order to provide fair opportunities for economic benefit to all families. An area with homestays is Luquina Chico, a quaint community an hour and a half plane ride away from the regular tourist go-to, Lima, which resides on the edge of Lake Titicaca. To tourists, an experience in a Luquina homestay feels like full cultural immersion. To the communities and Peruvian families offering homestays, it feels like economic assistance and an entrance into Peru’s thriving tourism sector, symbolizing a well-developed system of exchange. For instance, while staying at a homestay, LA Times writer Thomas Curwen experienced the tranquility of the Luquina environment, as well as the Peruvian culture and food the Gutierrez family offered.

Host families benefit from receiving fantastic interactions with foreigners as well as monetary benefits when tourists pay for meals and nightly lodging. Such earned income provides a sustainable tourist economy for hosts, and also allows Luquina residents to work from home rather than having to migrate outwards to bring income in. It also provides the ability for Peruvian host families to undertake structural repairs to homes or new construction to build paths.

Volunteer Tourism

Volunteer tourism in Peru offers another immersive experience to tourists while also directly assisting individuals and communities with volunteer time, skills and energy. In this exchange, tourists experience Peru through skills exchange, which directly makes valuable contributions to communities in need. There is usually a contradicting image of tourists in poverty-stricken areas often overlooked in the face of vacation. Inspired by this, the owner of WWTrek, Dean Cardinale, found a sustainable way to give back. The organization does so by hosting treks across mountainous areas to provide community assistance for at least one day on the trip.

For 2020, treks include Peru’s Cordillera Blanca mountain range in Huaraz, with a stop in the village of Pashpa, for tourists to complete a computer community center. Such a project at completion will provide Internet access to 400 residents with 10 laptops and digital cameras and 500gb of new educational content, thus providing a significant impact to an otherwise remote area.

It is imperative for one to note that approximately 6.9 Peruvian individuals live in poverty, living on less than $105 U.S. a month. At the same time, Peru’s tourism industry contributes $19.6 million to the economy while providing 1.2 million residents with jobs. With such a huge impact, responsible tourism could positively impact the alleviation of poverty when considering the potential amount of people that could vacation responsibly. People often think of a vacation as a treat to themselves, however, homestays or volunteer experiences show that one’s presence in another country could be a treat to locals as well.

– Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

 

10 Facts About Nelson MandelaPeople widely regard Nelson Mandela as one of the most influential civil rights figures of all time. His work advocating for social justice, becoming the first black president of South Africa and contributing his philosophy to the world, made Mandela one of the most prominent figures of the 20th century. Here are 10 facts about Nelson Mandela including his life, career and the impact that he continues to have upon millions.

10 Facts About Nelson Mandela

  1. Mandela’s realization came during his traditional African circumcision ritual. During a circumcision ritual to prepare him for manhood, a 16-year-old Nelson Mandela heard his chief describe the “enslavement” the young men faced in South Africa. His chief cited that white men were a major part of the issue of South Africa’s lack of independence. The chief implanted this wisdom in Mandela, which would later lead to his strides to end apartheid in his home country.
  2. Nelson was not Mandela’s true name. Mandela was born as Rolihlahla on July 18, 1918. During his time in primary school, his instructor (Mrs. Mdingane) gave him the name Nelson to follow the custom that students in schools should receive Christian names.
  3. Nelson gave his Inaugural Address of Unity in May 1994. In his Cape Town inaugural address, Mandela spoke heavily of the work that the people of South Africa needed to do in order to defeat racism and apartheid in the country. In his speech, Mandela stated, “We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.” This idea of citizens uniting to make their country a better place formed the basis of his drive for social change.
  4. Mandela studied law. While people widely know Nelson Mandela as a highly influential South African president and civil rights figure, his studies in school reflected a different life path. While in college, Mandela studied law. He then later became one of South Africa’s very first black lawyers.
  5. The Nelson Mandela Foundation launched in 1999 and was his project after leaving office and up to 2004. The organization has many goals, but mainly functions as a public service organization. The organization works to combat the HIV/AIDS virus and promote peaceful negotiations amongst individuals. Additionally, the foundation also improves research in underdeveloped schools and takes on many other important tasks.
  6. Mandela fled from marriage. When Nelson Mandela left the University College of Fort Hare, his village king wavered an arranged marriage. The king wanted Mandela to marry his cousin named Justice. The two decided to flee to Johannesburg in order to avoid the whole ordeal.
  7. Sports inspired Mandela. Nelson Mandela was not only a huge sports fan but someone who used the idea of athletics in order to fuel his campaign for social justice. Mandela stated that sport “has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
  8. A movie has showcased Mandela’s pacifism. In Spike Lee’s 1992 film, “Malcolm X,” Mandela plays a school teacher, who toward the end of the film, reads aloud the title character’s main speech. Further, Mandela practiced pacifism his entire life. Therefore, when he reached the part of Malcolm X’s speech that states “by any means necessary,” he refused to read that part of it.
  9. The Black Pimpernel. During the struggle against apartheid, Mandela found various ways to disguise himself against South African authorities. One of his many disguises was as a black chauffeur. After the press caught him, the media began to dub Mandela as The Black Pimpernel.
  10. Mandela turned a prison into school. After Nelson Mandela’s incarceration at Robben Island, a joke emerged referring to the prison as the University of Robben Island. This occurred because Mandela fostered his fellow inmates as they learned history and how to read, write and debate political topics. They even received diplomas, which the Mandela signed for each of the inmates.

Nelson Mandela’s contributions to society are the efforts of a civil rights leader in South Africa. His work also serves as a reminder of his dedication to social change; so much so that he sacrificed his own life to strive for it. Accolades aside, people should not only associate Nelson Mandela with what others print and what he or others wrote but also his lasting impact on the rest of the world.

Jacob Nangle
Photo: Flickr

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh
Bangladeshi women are no strangers to fighting for what they believe in. In 1952, the women of Bangladesh fought against the patriarchal regime alongside their husbands for the recognition of the Bengali language. Below are 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh.

10 Improvements in Women’s Rights in Bangladesh

  1. Health. The USAID assisted in joint communication between husbands and wives regarding women’s health. Therefore, decision-making is mutual and focuses on the future of the family, including healthier pregnancies for both mother and child. Bangladeshi women formed NGOs to mobilize and provide door to door health services, family planning and income-earning opportunities.
  2. Agriculture. Bangladeshi women are not only homemakers, but they are also income earners. Female farmers utilize a new technology, known as the fertilizer deep treatment method. This method uses less fertilizer and produces a higher return on investment. Additionally, Bangladesh also encourages women to sell in markets and pursue other areas of earned income, such as culturing fish and shrimp.
  3. Gender-Based Violence. The USAID works to implement the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act of 2010 in training 50 percent of Bangladeshi women. Further, Bangladesh also supports grassroots efforts of social protection groups as well. Groups act as the ears and eyes of the community, as well as enforcing current human rights laws and providing resources to legal channels. Groups include social workers, doctors, religious leaders, teachers and students.
  4. Voting Rights. The country has set an example of women’s equality in voting. In 1972, the Constitution of Bangladesh guaranteed women the same voting rights as their male counterparts. The constitution also guaranteed equal opportunities, such as serving in parliament. For example, in 1991, there was the election of the first female Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia. Today, Sheikh Hasina holds the seat as Prime Minister. Furthermore, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury holds the seat as House Speaker.
  5. Women and Children Repression (Special Act). In 1995, Bangladesh passed the special act for severe punishment for anyone guilty of forcing women to marry against their will, as well as marrying for dowry. In 2018, the high court also banned and prohibited the two-finger test; it deemed this test irrational and belittling to rape victims. Instead, the government adopted a more appropriate form of health care protocol in line with the World Health Organization.
  6. Education. Research finds that access to education and employment plays a positive role in helping women avoid becoming victims of dowry-related transactions. Illiteracy stifles the opportunity for growth and empowerment for women. The Centre for Policy Dialogue completed a study and found that if homemakers received pay for what people believe is
    non-work, they would receive 2.5 to 2.9 times higher pay than paid services income.
  7. Mass Awareness. Bangladesh also encourages mass discussion, debates and programs to bring awareness to gender inequality. According to lawmakers, mass public initiatives must include legislations and policies; this includes awareness that people teach and model at home.
  8. Working Women. Bangladeshi working women increased from 16.2 million in 2010 to 18.6 million in 2016-17. In 2017, the Gender Gap Index reported Bangladesh in the first spot amongst South Asian countries.
  9. Education. In 1990, the implementation of stipends exclusively for female students in efforts to end gender disparity for secondary schools occurred. Also, 150,000 primary school girls improved their reading skills. Participation increased from 57 percent in 2008 to 94.4 percent in 2017. Moreover, 10 million rural and underprivileged women in 490 Upazilas of 64 districts gained technology access. Bangladesh tops the Gender Gap Index in education in the primary and secondary education category.
  10. More Achievements. Bangladesh initiatives thus far include a reduction in infant and child mortality, poverty alleviation, increased female entrepreneurs and increased education and health. Other initiatives include strengthening workplace treatment and security for women against violence. There have also been income-generating initiatives to train over 2 million women at a grassroots level. Finally, Prime Minister Hasina created the Reserve Quota aimed at increasing the number of women in government, judiciary and U.N. peacekeeping missions and roles.

These 10 improvements in women’s rights in Bangladesh continue to set an example for other countries where inequality is extremely pervasive. While Bangladesh still requires significant work, these improvements bring more opportunities for Bangladeshi women to succeed in the future.

Michelle White
Photo: Flickr

Improving Roads in TajikistanAlthough officially established in 1924, Tajikistan is host to one of the richest and most diverse cultures in the world given its unique geographic location and history. Trade and travel were historically central to Tajikistan’s culture and development, but many roads have been neglected.

Located in Central Asia, the country is neighbored by China to the east, Afghanistan to the south, Uzbekistan to the west and Kyrgyzstan to the north. Tajikistan has evolved immensely from ancient times when nomadic tribes roamed the country, becoming a major center of commerce and trade in the Central Asian region.

The Silk Road was an abstract trade route traveled frequently by merchants from Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East, India and the Far East throughout the Middle Ages and the European Renaissance. It passed directly through many Central Asian countries. Tajikistan was no exception. One of the Silk Road’s most northern routes passed through the Pamir Mountains in what is now modern-day Tajikistan, offering travelers the safest possible route through the “Roof of the World.”

Neglect, Gangs and Corruption

But decades of neglect have led to dilapidated and very dangerous roads in Tajikistan, while governmental abuses and gangs add additional strain on these important transportation routes. In rural areas, hazardous dirt or gravel roads stretch on for many miles before connecting with the nearest paved highways. Rural mountain passes – of which there are many due to the country’s rugged terrain – are also closed for roughly six months during the winter and early spring due to a number of dangerous conditions, including frequent avalanches, mudslides and large rocks falling on the road. Gangs are also known to lie in wait to prey on travelers while corrupt traffic police also inhibit efficient and unimpeded travel along highways and rural roads. The so-called traffic police regularly allow government vehicles by yet pull over others arbitrarily under the pretense of inspecting registration. They often wrongfully deem these cars unfit to drive or claim they are unregistered, forcing travelers to pay a bribe in order to continue on their route.

The Pamir Highway

The Pamir Highway is one example of a Tajikistan highway that has been consistently neglected. While much of the road is paved, most of the mountainous passes it stretches through are unpaved and untended. The passes are closed in the winter months because of the avalanches and other prohibitive driving conditions, and the minimal oversight allows the gangs to inhabit these areas.

The highway becomes especially dangerous as it approaches the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, where the road elevates to as much as 2,800 feet above sea level. Due to a lack of oxygen at these altitudes, many travelers report altitude sickness and lightheadedness, a particularly precarious situation given that there are no guardrails along cliff-drops. Road maintenance teams are also slow to respond to any widespread damages, which are often left in disrepair for indefinite periods of time.

Effects on Rural Populations

As of 2016, 73 percent of Tajikistan’s population lived in rural areas. These people depend on the dilapidated rural roads to access education, health care, food and other tools/supplies, meaning that their lives are put at risk on a regular basis. More broadly, this stifles Tajikistan’s economic development and discourages investment in the country. Economic issues hurt the poorest people most of all, and Tajikistan’s continued infrastructure underdevelopment makes it extremely difficult for rural populations to earn a living and access the necessities of life – as is the case in many developing countries.

Efforts to Improve Roads and Infrastructure

However, outside influencers are trying to improve the poor condition of roads in Tajikistan. Neighboring China has begun investing in updating the country’s poor infrastructure to improve trade inter-connectivity across Central Asia. Within the past decade, the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) financed and constructed the Dushanbe-Chanak Highway.

The highway spans the length of the country from north-to-south and has given many rural areas the means to access other parts of the country in a safe manner. The road is entirely paved and stretches from Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital, to Uzbekistan’s southern border. It has provided the country with stable bridges that span previously dangerous crossings and cuts through mountains, meaning that travelers no longer need to risk their lives driving around them on dangerous dirt roads.

The project is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative to better connect Asia and spur further development and growth of Central Asia. As of June 2017, China has invested $2 billion into Tajikistan, according to the China Global Television Network.

The Future

Foreign investment initiatives such as China’s are part of the solution to improve infrastructure and roads in Tajikistan, which will spur additional economic development and provide more opportunities for rural populations. Newly paved highways that now connect the outer reaches of the country to urban centers will increase commerce both within the country and with neighboring nations. Safer infrastructure will also spur foreign investment from multinational corporations that can bring jobs and technological advances. With further improvement to infrastructure and roads in Tajikistan, the country may well see itself become a center of commerce once again.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Wikimedia

Public Health Crisis in Syria
Syria has been the target of one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching sanctions campaigns worldwide. The U.S., the EU, the U.N., the Arab League, OFAC and several other entities have all applied economic sanctions against the country. The goal is to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his brutal violence against unarmed, civilian anti-government protesters. U.S. sanctions are also in response to the Syrian government’s support for terrorist groups and its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. Imposing these restrictive measures has been the preferred method of Western powers for decades. However, sanctions have continuously failed to stop Assad from doing business with the U.S. and hurt the Syrian public.

Sanctions’ Impact on Syria’s Economy

Sanctions have caused serious damage to Syria’s economy. These sanctions include oil embargos, restrictions on certain investments, travel bans, freezing the assets of central banks and export restrictions on equipment and technology. The country used to be primarily an exporter, but it now relies on imports, mainly from Lebanon, Iraq and China. Before the EU sanctions, 90 percent of its oil exports went to Germany, Italy and France. Since President Trump recently imposed sanctions on its ally Iran, Syria is suffering even more difficulty obtaining goods. The value of the Syrian currency has plummeted, while prices have sky-rocketed, especially because of restrictions on oil imports.

To continue prioritizing the purchase of guns and bombs from Russia, the Syrian government has simply removed the country’s safety nets. Further, the country has cut back on subsidized fuel, food and health spending. Living was less expensive for Syrians during the peak of the civil war. Technically, legitimate businesses and individuals in Syria should be able to undertake critical transactions. However, foreign suppliers are often unwilling to send anything to Syria. These suppliers do not want to risk triggering unexpected violations of the complex sanction rules.

Sanctions and the Public Health Crisis in Syria

Similarly, there are exemptions for importing pharmaceuticals and food. But in reality, health facilities are feeling the effects of sanctions just as much as the rest of Syria’s private citizens, with life-threatening consequences. The consequences of these sanctions have led to a significant public health crisis in Syria. For example, hospitals cannot import nitrous oxide necessary for anesthetics, due to the fact that others could use it to make bombs. Also, they cannot import helium for cooling MRI scanners for the same reason. The humanitarian exemption for exporting software to Syria for medical equipment requires a complicated application process. Thus, health facilities have little access to foreign life-saving machines, drugs and supplies.

Unable to obtain repairs for European dialysis machines, about 10 percent of people dependent on dialysis have died of kidney failure. Russia, China, Lebanon or Malaysia must now provide medical supplies rather than the EU. This further slows down the process and delays the treatment of those with chronic illnesses. Cancer medication, insulin and anesthetics are among the medications Syria relies on imports for. Now, there are shortages of these medicines, as well as in specific antibiotics, serums, intravenous fluids and some vaccines. This has resulted in delayed treatment for cancer and leukemia patients. The government’s health care budget cuts since the civil war began, combined with the detrimental effects of sanctions, have made most imported medicines unaffordable. Finally, only 44 percent of hospitals are now fully functioning and many of them have closed.

The Real Impact of Sanctions

Meanwhile, President Assad’s policies of violence against his people have not changed. The Syrian government, which still carries out million-dollar deals with the U.S. and other countries that applied sanctions, seems to have found ways to circumvent the sanctions and remain largely unaffected. Assad claims that the sanctions are simply creating more refugees. As the inefficiency of sanctions to reduce human rights violations and their drastic effect on public health becomes increasingly clear, Western powers should rethink their policy of sanctions on Syria.

Sarah Newgarden
Photo: Flickr

Industrialization in Kenya
With a current growth rate hovering between 5 and 6 percent, Kenya is one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Industrialization in Kenya, as part of Vision 2030, is a priority that could help transform the agriculture-dependent country into a developed economy. According to Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, its three main goals include increasing foreign investment, improving the business environment and reducing corruption. Kenya has a massive goal of reaching a GDP of $211 billion. That would be approximately the same GDP as Romania in 2017. Kenya’s GDP increased from $18 billion in 2005 to $78 billion in 2017. The 2017 figure was $17 billion more than expected. China is one foreign investor that sees potential in developing Kenya’s economy.

Why Develop Kenya?

One side effect of developing an economy is a reduced poverty rate. Approximately 60 percent of Kenyans work in the agriculture industry, which is typical for developing economies. A developed economy such as the U.S. involves a mostly service dependent economy.

A drought-affected part of Kenya in 2017 slowed GDP growth, increased inflation to 8 percent and harmed the economy. President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged the need for industrialization in Kenya and the country’s dependence on agriculture. Vision 2030 includes increasing manufacturing from 11 percent of Kenya’s GDP to 20 percent of its GDP and focuses on developing its oil, minerals, tourism, infrastructure and geothermal sectors.

Businesses and countries investing in Kenya could add jobs for Kenyans, help diversify into a new market and improve trade between the two entities. Foreign direct investment was $1.6 billion in 2018. The United Kingdom, China, Belgium, the Netherlands and South Africa are the main investors. Banking, tourism, mining, infrastructure and information and communications technology are some of the investment sectors for these countries.

First Steps to Industrialization in Kenya

China is a major investor in Kenyan infrastructure. The Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) costs $3.6 billion and connects the capital with the largest city in Kenya. The China Road and Bridge Corporation hired more than 25,000 Kenyans to work on the railway that opened in 2017. It extended the railway to Naivasha in October 2019. More than one million people rode the SGR in 2018.

China Road and Bridge Corporation also invested in the Nairobi Southern Bypass Highway that relieves congestion through the capital city Nairobi by redirecting traffic to and from the port city of Mombasa. Mombasa has a population of over three million and receives visitors from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan. “There is no doubt the infrastructure projects financed and developed by China are making a huge impact in the country, especially when you look at the ease of travel and employment opportunities,” said Philip Mainga, managing director of Kenya Railway Corporation.

The World Bank also helped rural regions with its Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project. The project involved the construction of more than 60 miles of roads. Also, the project built 52 miles of footpaths, 66 miles of drainage canals, 39 miles of sewer pipelines, 68 miles of water pipelines and 134 security lights by its end date of November 2019.

Progress Ongoing in Kenya

Various organizations completed many other projects that have benefitted millions of Kenyans. Vision 2030 includes ambitious goals that will benefit its economy and people through job growth, key sectors growth and poverty reduction. One of Kenya’s key sectors, tourism, already saw a 5.6 percent growth in 2018, which is higher than the global average of 3.9 percent. The Information and Communication Technology sector saw an average growth of 10.8 percent since 2016, giving Kenya its “Silicon Savannah” name. Kenya’s poverty rate continues to decline as the country develops. Its poverty rate lowered from 46 percent in 2005 to 36 percent in 2016, demonstrating that progress is ongoing in poverty reduction and industrialization in Kenya.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

HYDRO IndustriesWater is essential to life, but unfortunately, there are people all over the world who do not have access to clean water. Pollution, poverty and weak infrastructure are often the causes of a lack of clean water. The world’s poor population has often been obligated to travel great distances in order to get clean water. Dirty water often leads to unsanitary conditions and the spread of disease. Thousands die each year from diseases due to a lack of clean water. Fortunately, a company called HYDRO Industries has a new way to provide water to those in need all over the world.

HYDRO Industries

HYDRO Industries is partnering with BRAC, one of the biggest non-governmental organizations in the world, to bring clean water to Bangladesh. BRAC was founded in Bangladesh, so this is their way of giving back to the community. In Bangladesh, five million people lack access to safe water, and 85 million people do not have access to proper sanitation. The current setup is not working well enough, so a new way to provide water is needed. The two organizations plan to begin their operation in Bangladesh in the spring of 2020.

HYDRO Industries will provide its products and BRAC will use its connections with local communities to establish the water treatment plants. The project aims to help around 25,000 people in the first phase and then continue to improve their product and increase the number of people they are serving. HYDRO hopes to expand all over Bangladesh and neighboring Nepal and India.

How Important is Clean Water?

  • Almost 800 million people do not have access to safe water
  • Two billion people don’t have a good toilet to use
  • A child under five dies every two minutes because of dirty water and poor toilets
  • Every minute a newborn dies because of infections from an unsanitary environment and unsafe water
  • For every $1 invested in clean water, there is a $4 increase in productivity
  • Every day, women around the world spend 200 million hours collecting water
  • Almost 300,000 children under age five die annually from diarrheal diseases

The world’s poor population sometimes has to spend hours looking for clean water. If the water is no longer a worry, they will have more time to be productive and focus on their economy. Clean water also reduces the likelihood of disease. Better health and productivity can result in a better community in the world’s poorest places.

What Does HYDRO Do?

HYDRO is a Welsh tech company that creates innovative water treatment plants that can treat water and raise it to drinking standards. The company also uniquely treats the water. Instead of using chemicals to purify water, they use electric power, which makes the entire process more sustainable and effective than chemical-based purification.

Bangladesh is not the first place that HYDRO is planning on helping. In fact, the organization has already provided clean water to multiple poverty-stricken areas around the world. In 2016, HYDRO provided clean water for 82 East African villages. There the water treatment plants provided locals with 8.5 million liters of water every day.

Finding a new way to provide water to those in need is important to work. HYDRO Industries has an innovative method that could potentially help millions of people around the world. Using electric power, HYDRO’s water treatment units can provide water at levels above western standards. Clean water is such an immense benefit to people all over the world. Clean water helps people fight disease and death. Providing a consistent and clean source of water close to people’s homes makes communities more productive and provides a better chance of reducing poverty.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Response in the PhilippinesAnnually, about 10 tropical storms develop in the Philippines, with averages of eight to nine reaching land. These numbers do not include other disasters the country faces such as typhoons, earthquakes, monsoons and so on. Despite being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, efficient communication with technology in the Philippines allows social media, Google Person Finder and satellites, to provide the best relief efforts. Keep reading to learn more about the top three ways technology helps disaster response in the Philippines.

3 Ways Technology Helps Disaster Response in the Philippines 

  1. Social Media: Social media is indeed a connecting source and finds its strength in aiding the response to disasters with quickly spreading information that is, in turn, easily accessed. Popular media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter updated by disaster area residents offer real-time updates about the current on-ground situation.

    Thanks to organizations such as the Standby Task Force, established in 2012 by Andrej Verity, these social media updates become pillars for relief and rescue. For example, in its use for supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. These updates transform traditional on-ground humanitarian efforts into digital humanitarian efforts with online volunteers.

    Through a streamlined process, volunteers tagged Haiyan-related social media posts. Then, sifting through them for relevancy, otherwise known as digital micro-tasking. Finally, submitting them to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to compile a crisis map. With the widespread information thanks to social media, digital humanitarians take a hands-on approach to affecting the on the ground situation. Given that the combined concentration of thousands of volunteers provide time efficiency, a necessity when it comes to saving lives quicker.

  2. Communication Technology: Other communication technology such as Google Person Finder assists in finding missing persons in the Philippines. For instance, in 2012, monsoon floods from Typhoon Saola caused increased landslides and flash floods; flooding at least 50 percent of the country and creating severe rescue conditions with strong currents. There were at least 900,000 affected families and 11 individuals missing.

    For those looking for the missing or stranded, Google’s free Person Finder tool comes in extremely handy as all one needs to do is input the individual’s name. At the same time, Google cross-references entries from other websites with information about missing persons to ping and locate leads.

  3. Satellite Technology: After Haiyan, most of the traditional methods of mobile communication infrastructure diminished, thus requiring the need for something more reliable, such as satellites. Learning from the Haiyan damage, the nation’s most high-risk disaster areas now have mobile satellite equipment for easy deployment. This new tech brought forth by Inmarsat and the United Kingdom Space Agency, provides a reliable and sustainable communication method for the worst disaster days expected.

    Another example is the Tacloban Health Cluster which utilizes satellites to canvas and coordinates public health response in the worst disaster-stricken areas, allowing better tracking of diseases and medical conditions throughout disaster times in hospitals and clinics. This data collection does not only help respond in real-time. Additionally, it is beneficial for understanding health trends after a storm to allow for a more proactive approach following the next impending storm the islands are known to face.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

Indoor Air Pollution in Rural CambodiaCambodia has seen a rapid decrease in poverty within the last decade. More than 45 percent of the population was impoverished in 2007 when compared to 13.5 percent in 2014. It has also sustained one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world at an average of 8 percent between 1998 and 2018. However, just because the majority of the country has achieved middle-income status does not mean that the country is without its issues. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is a growing problem.

Rural vs. Urban Areas

Many of those who have only recently overcome poverty have just barely done so. A large part of Cambodia’s population still lives on a very small amount of money per day and is at risk of slipping back into poverty. This risk is much higher in rural provinces. Eighty percent of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas that had a poverty level of 20.8 percent in 2012. That is three times higher than the poverty rate in urban areas.

Rural Cambodians are subject as such to the hardships that many of the world’s rural poor must face. These include dilapidated electrical and internet infrastructure as well as limited access to healthcare and sanitation resources. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is one such aspect of health that affects the rural poor disproportionately.

Indoor Air Pollution

The typical symptoms of being regularly exposed to indoor air pollution include nasal congestion, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, a sore throat and asthma. These symptoms seem similar to a common cold, but long-term effects can include more serious respiratory diseases like respiratory disease and cancer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk in the Western Pacific Region. In 2012, air pollution caused at least 3.2 million deaths. Indoor air pollution accounted for about 1.62 million of these deaths. Indoor air pollution is usually caused by smoking tobacco inside and by cooking with wood, coal or dung without proper indoor ventilation. Many people who are poor in rural areas with limited access to gas or electricity use these methods to cook. In rural Cambodia, the prevalence of these cooking methods reached 95 percent of households by 2013.

Biogas Stoves

The main solution to reducing indoor air pollution is to introduce efficient stoves that use clean fuel. One source of clean stove fuel would simply be electricity. However, that is an issue for rural Cambodians since the electrical infrastructure is sparse in rural areas. A better, more applicable solution would be to introduce biogas stoves with proper ventilation.

One million Cambodian households have the proper livestock to supply themselves with biogas fuel. The fuel would need to be extracted by using a biodigester that anaerobically takes methane from natural resources such as dung stored underground and siphons it to the stove. The methane would, of course, need proper ventilation to ensure the air in the household did not become poisonous just like a natural gas stove. Cambodia’s Natural Biodigester Programme (NBP) is working to distribute biodigesters to its rural population in hopes of combatting indoor air pollution. As of 2016, the state-led program has installed about 23,000 biodigesters.

The ACE 1 Stove

Using solid biomass for cooking causes much of indoor air pollution. Another alternative to solid biomass would be to use cleaner biomass stovetops that produce negligible emissions indoors. African Clean Energy (ACE) has launched the ACE 1 stove. This stove uses biomass as fuel but burns nearly all particles inside the chamber to leave barely any emissions. In addition, the stove comes with solar panels that provide LED lighting and outlet ports for mobile phones.

ACE has launched a program in northern Cambodia, the poorest Cambodian region, to try and implement the product. The ACE 1 is auctioned from a local vendor where the buyer pays a $25 downpayment. Afterward, the buyer continues to pay off the stove in small monthly increments of about $7.

Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is still rampant in rural parts despite the overall increase in income. The solutions are there, but in order to ensure economic growth that benefits everybody, Cambodia needs to focus on the implementation of these solutions in an ethical and sustainable way. This would lessen the health risks that the Cambodian poor face from simply living in their houses. It will also help facilitate more stable, lasting economic growth and development for the poor of the countryside.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr