U.S. Aid in Vietnam
The relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam was at one time a negative one. However, over several decades, both countries have formed a positive and beneficial relationship. In 1995, both countries established a bilateral relationship and have since developed a friendship. The U.S. hopes for Vietnam to one day be strong enough to be independent of aid from outside sources.

Until that day comes, U.S. aid in Vietnam will continue to help the Vietnamese people. In just the past 20 years alone, the U.S. has provided $706 million worth of aid to improve health in Vietnam. In that same amount of time, the U.S. provided an overall total of $1.8 billion in aid to Vietnam.

US Health Aid in Vietnam

Much of the U.S. aid in Vietnam aims to improve the health of the Vietnamese people. In particular, the U.S. hopes to control the spread of infectious diseases in Vietnam such as HIV. There are various programs USAID has operating within Vietnam to achieve this goal. One such program is Healthy Markets. The purpose of this project is to create a market in Vietnam with easy access to viable medical goods and services used to combat HIV. The program called Local Health System Sustainability (LHSS) provides services directly to the government of Vietnam. This project aims to increase the financing of Vietnam’s health sector. These are just two of the 16 health projects operating in Vietnam thanks to USAID.

US Aid to People With Disabilities

The U.S. aid in Vietnam also targets Vietnamese people with disabilities. Over the years, USAID has changed the way it helps Vietnamese people with disabilities. Originally, the U.S. helped this group of people directly by providing prosthetics. Over time, the U.S. has come to appreciate the fact that people with disabilities in Vietnam also need access to important services and the need for their inclusion in Vietnamese society.

Similar to the medical projects, there are also projects in Vietnam working to help Vietnamese people with disabilities. One of these projects is Advancing Medical Care and Rehabilitation and Education. This project is working toward improving care for people with brain impairments. Projections have determined that this project will last until 2023 on a budget of $10.3 million. The project called the Disability Rights Enforcement, Coordination and Therapies is working to make sure disability rights undergo enforcement within Vietnam. This project also works to improve therapy and other essential services for people with disabilities. It will last until 2023 and has a budget of $10.7 million.

Why it Matters

While Vietnam’s poverty rate has been 5.8% as of 2016, U.S. aid in Vietnam still goes a long way. People living in poverty often do not get to participate in the better aspects of society. This makes U.S. aid in Vietnam so important because it allows all people to have a better life including those in poverty. For example, the U.S. has been able to reach 30,000 people with disabilities in Vietnam. It is numbers like this that show the positive impact aid can have on other countries.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

There is a clear dichotomy between how the impoverished citizens of developed and developing countries feed their families. In wealthier nations, families living below the poverty line buy cheaper food options. In many packaged and overly-processed foods, the possibility of unhealthy food preservatives and a surplus of calories is common. As a result, negative health effects ensue. In developing countries, impoverished citizens rely on easily cultivated and cheap foods to feed themselves. These products often do not have sufficient nutritional value to ensure a healthy lifestyle. In order to increase the accessibility of healthy produce, understanding the causes of income disparity and food restriction is necessary. Through this awareness, finding a solution to supply nutritious foods to those in need is possible.

Income and Food in Developed Countries

How one budgets their income is an essential factor when learning the impact of economic resources or the lack thereof on one’s daily health. An observational study conducted by BMC Public Health in the United States focused on the relationship between income and health. “Compared to lower-income households, higher-income households had significantly higher total vegetable scores, respectively, higher dairy scores and lower proportion of grocery dollars spent on frozen desserts,” said French, Tangney et. al in the study.

Overall, families with lower incomes purchased fewer vegetables, fewer dairy products and more frozen desserts compared to families with higher incomes. Thus, according to this study, individuals with lower incomes in developed countries are more likely to choose high caloric, less nutritious foods than their higher-income counterparts as these foods are more economically accessible to them than fresher, more nutritious foods. By understanding the results of this study, it is evident that the accessibility of healthy produce is limited to the wealthy members of society who can afford it.

Can Health Be Bought?

Compared to developed countries, developing nations struggle to provide protein-rich foods for their people. In these areas of the world, one’s income also dictates one’s food options. In developed countries, high-calorie foods are often cheaper than low-calorie food, yet in many developing nations, high-calorie and high-protein foods are more expensive. This can make it very difficult for low-income individuals to access necessary high-protein foods, such as eggs.

In Niger, egg calories are 23.3 times more expensive than calories from staple foods. In contrast, egg calories in the United States are 1.6 times as expensive as staple food calories. Diversifying one’s calorie intake is seemingly difficult due to one’s economic position. Consequently, one’s likelihood of contracting type two diabetes, heart disease or cancer also rises with high consumption of low nutrient food. Thus, the higher the price, the lower the accessibility of healthy produce and the higher chance of life-threatening diseases.

Solutions

Despite these issues, there are ways to end global hunger and poverty. Organizations all over the world are finding ways to help those in need. One nonprofit organization, A Growing Culture, is currently working to support farmers globally. By giving them a voice in the agricultural industry, farmers are able to gain back power.

In addition, the organization promotes sustainable agricultural methods. Through these goals, A Growing Culture has encouraged communication between farmers around the world. These conversations inspire the use of environmentally safe techniques, discussion of common struggles and shared desire to nourish the world. Organizations like these can go a long way to helping combat world hunger and improve. With the popularity of their mission, fighting industrial farming and decreasing the prices of daily foods is possible.

– Kristen Quinonez
Photo: Flickr

Yerba MateParaguay experienced an economic boom during the last decade. It is the fourth-largest producer of soybeans and the sixth in beef. However, most of the rural population remains impoverished as the landowners in Paraguay accumulate a large portion of the wealth. Agribusiness is growing and big businesses are taking over the farming land. As a result, indigenous farmers have no means to defend their former livelihood. There is a massive exodus to urban areas, as indigenous people live in poverty, unable to return to farming.

The Hope of Yerba Mate Onoirū

In this grim scenario, there is a sliver of hope through ecological agriculture. Yerba Mate Onoirū, commercialized since 2016 with the aid of the NGO Conamuri, empowers small-scale and subsistence farmers. It focuses on women in indigenous communities whose widescale agribusiness have been marginalized. Conamuri supports sustainable, fair-trade farming in various districts in the department of Itapúa, aiding small-scale Yerba farming in Paraguay since 2011.

History of Yerba Mate and Its Successes

In Paraguay, drinking yerba mate is an ancestral practice dating back to the pre-Columbian era. UNESCO recently declared the drinking practice as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Many South American countries consume the drink, but Paraguay ranks first in consumption per capita. For example, the average Paraguayan consumes 6-8 kilograms of yerba per year. Each region has its own preparation preferences, adapted for cold and hot climates as mate and tereré, respectively.

Small-scale farming under the Conamuri program specializes in ecological farming techniques. They use no pesticides or agrochemicals and produce high-quality yerba mate. Training includes education on soil and treatment, sustainable fertilizers, marketing and commercialization. Then, families are ready to start producing Yerba Mate Onoirū, getting paid more than farmers under widescale yerba mate buyers. “Oñoirũ is part of a movement looking to create a fairer model of society using our natural resources so that our young people can stay in their communities and have decent living and work conditions,” says Pedro Vega, general manager of Yerba Mate Onoirū.

Conamuri denounces the crimes of industrial agriculture toward rural populations in Paraguay, especially that of soybean plantations. The NGO employs more than 100 families in Paraguay, producing around 220 tons of yerba mate per year.

Gender in the Agricultural Sector in Paraguay

Conamuri also runs workshops on gender issues, teaching rural women how to manage their own profit to grow their agricultural produce. Tackling gender issues is a key part of the NGO’s mission. Gender-based violence is rampant in rural Paraguay, mainly through employment inequality. Many rural women work independently or in the household, and often never make an income of their own. Conamuri, through Yerba Mate Onoirū, grants them an opportunity to be independent through sustainable farming.

Looking Forward

The organization grants vulnerable individuals an opportunity to live a more dignified life and learn traditional farming methods. Additionally, they obtain yearly dividends and make democratic decisions about the business. As of 2021, Yerba Mate Onoirū now exports to Argentina, Brazil, Russia and the U.S., as demand for fair-trade yerba increases worldwide.

– Arai Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Rural-urban migrationWhen thinking of rural-urban migration, experts tend to focus on the positive aspects for migrants. New economic opportunities, access to public services and greater social tolerance define the experience of newly-urban migrants in the conversation around rural-urban migration. When discussing flaws, the conversation gravitates toward the slum conditions and informal labor in large developing-world cities. However, the developing world’s rapid amount of rural to urban migration leaves many villages with less human capital and resources. What does this rural-urban migration mean for the rural developing world?

Urban Transition

Rural-urban migration has swept the developing world since the late 20th century. This transformation, known as “urban transition,” brings the economies of countries from rural-driven to urban-driven. Seeing this trend, many countries have supported larger development projects in urban areas, looking to get ahead of the curb. While an admirable strategy, it leaves out the rural populations who tend to be more isolated. This creates a vicious cycle, where people move where the government invests, and the government invests where people move.

This lack of investment creates a problem for rural areas. Unable to increase productivity and suffering from a lack of investment, impoverished rural areas are stuck in a loop, using the same basic techniques for subsistence farming utilized in the 20th century. Rural families have many children, hoping some will move to the city to send back money and some will work on their local subsistence farm. By sending the educated children to the city, families create a gap in living standards, with those with opportunity leaving while those without stay behind.

Migration in Trade for Remittances

However, this rural-urban migration also brings benefits to the rural areas. Many families send their young adult children into the cities, investing in their future in the city. Remittances, money sent back by those moving to urban areas, keep rural finances diverse and pay for many essential services for rural people. Without this income source, rural families would be completely dependent on the whims of nature, with no sense of security that a separate income gives. Studies show that these remittances increase life expectancy and happiness, two factors increased with security.

How to Help Rural Areas

One of the rural areas’ biggest difficulties is low productivity which hinders economic growth. Many Africans living in rural areas are subsistence farmers, meeting their own food needs but creating little surplus which drives economic growth. For this reason, young people commonly move to higher productivity urban areas. To prime rural areas for development, scholars have identified several factors which developing-world governments should attack. For instance, poor rural infrastructure, illiteracy and low social interaction all hinder rural growth, which drives rural-urban migration.

By attacking these problems, governments can increase rural development, attack poverty at its heart and protect rural communities in the long run. Severe “brain drain,” where educated people move to more productive areas, especially impacts rural communities. Lowering populations will lead to less monetary and representative allotments, decreasing the voice of rural residents. Additionally, men make up the majority of rural-urban migrants, leaving women in a vulnerable position both in caring for children and running subsistence farms.

Rural development projects which take into account community leaders at all levels of planning and execution can greatly increase their effectiveness. Improving the governance of these projects, especially reducing corruption, is essential in assuring rural development. The integration of system-wide rural development projects serves as an opportunity to increase rural development. Currently, thousands of NGOs operate rurally around Africa, with many separate governmental programs overlapping. By increasing cooperation, systematic development of rural areas can occur rather than a patchwork of unrelated development projects.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr


Cameroon’s anglophone regions have been stuck in a civil war involving the government and separatist groups. Beginning in October 2016, this war is continuing to take a severe toll on Cameroon’s civilians. The Anglophone Crisis has a devastating effect on poverty in the region. Additionally, the crisis ruined livelihoods and caused several civilian casualties.

Historically, the British and the French governed Cameroon. However, in 1972, French Cameroon assumed executive control over the entire region, including the British sector. As a result, the Anglophone Cameroonians found themselves slowly shrinking in power. A protest by the Anglophone Cameroonians in 2016 resulted in a lethal response from the Francophone government. Subsequently, it set off the Anglophone Crisis. A group of Anglophone separatists declared independence in a region called Ambazonia.

Civilians in the Crossfire

At least 4,000 civilians died as a result of the Anglophone Crisis, and the crisis displaced far more. Throughout the region, citizens have witnessed the burning of buildings, the kidnapping of their neighbors and the destruction of homes. Those who survive escape to live in the jungle or seek refuge in neighboring countries, often living on little to no food, water and money.

Originally, the cycle of conflict was repetitive: a radical separatist would incite an attack on the Francophone military, and the military would respond by going after the separatists in a frenzy. However, several recent Anglophone attacks shifted to target civilians. Francophone government security forces are also consistently unafraid to abuse any civilians suspected of having separatist connections.

Humanitarian Concerns

There are human rights abuses coming from both sides of the Anglophone Crisis. However, providing aid to the region is extremely difficult. The Francophone government has a complex and tough procedure that organizations must go through in order to receive approval. Additionally, these organizations also have to negotiate with separatist groups. However, both sides are kidnapping aid workers due to suspected collusion.

As more and more people experience displacement, it is increasingly more difficult for these civilians to find assistance. In particular, the healthcare system in Cameroon is in shambles. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this becomes especially dangerous. The United Nations has reported that nearly 20% of healthcare facilities are no longer functioning. The organization Doctors Without Borders was running a free ambulance system that has completed thousands of referrals. However, the organization suspended the program in the Ambazonia region in December 2020.

Peace Movements

A movement of grassroots peace activists, largely women, attempt to end the Anglophone Crisis following the breakdown of official talks between the two sides. They do not have the prowess or protection that the international mediators have. However, they do have the benefit of being local. They understand the conflict in a way that outside groups do not, and they work on multiple facets of peace. Groups worked to soften a school boycott that disrupted children’s education for years. Also, they helped former fighters of the conflict re-integrate back into society.

Peacemaking is still dangerous, and many people on either side do not want it to happen. These activists are subject to arrest, abduction and torture from both the Anglophones and Francophones. Despite the risks, their work is incredibly important. With their goals of social cohesion and healing, these peace activists bring hope to a dark period of time.

– Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

Jarawa tribe
“Dance,” pressured the policeman to the tribal women who were naked from the waist up. “Dance for me,” he pestered, offering them food in exchange for coercing the semi-naked tribe members to put on a performance for his entertainment. This was a viral video from 2012 that brought mainstream attention to the Jarawa tribe. The video shows a tourist fantasy for those who encroach upon the land for a “human safari” experience. The Jarawa, a tribe that some once hunted down during colonial British rule, now runs the risk of extinction due to growing modern-day threats.

About the Jarawa Tribe

According to scholar George Weber, the Jarawa tribe are Pygmy Negrito people living in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India who are “a remnant population representing perhaps the earliest migration out of Africa of modern Homo Sapiens.” This Paleolithic tribe that still lives a Stone Age hunter-gatherer lifestyle has around 450 members in total. The tribe represents one of the four tribal communities (Great Andamanese, Onge and Sentinelese) living in the region who for the longest time refused contact with modern society. Unlike the Sentinelese tribe who refuse contact violently, the bow and arrow-wielding Jarawa tribe first established peaceful contact with the Indian government in 1997.

The Threats the Jarawa Tribe Faces

While making half-naked women dance is common, poachers similarly lure young tribal women with groceries, alcohol and meat to harm them physically and sexually exploit them. The government-approved “contact” resulted in alcohol and smoking addictions as well as the spread of diseases (the tribes lack the immunity of modern people) with COVID-19 now becoming one of their gravest threats. Additionally, a growing number of settlers is encroaching on tribal land. With one Jarawa for every 1,000 settlers, the wealthier settlers tend to deplete tribal land of resources.

But the most threatening thing to the Jarawa tribe today is “mainstreaming.” Mainstreaming refers to the policy of pushing a tribe to join the country’s dominant modern society. This most notably strips the tribe of its self-sufficiency and identity, leaving them struggling at the margins of society. The Borgen Project spoke with Yash Meghwal, the spokesperson of Tribal Army, a leading organization in India that has been fighting against tribal injustice. According to Meghwal, hunter-gatherer, tribal populations like the Jarawas are “not equipped to survive in a market-based economy.” Elaborating on this, he stated that “to move into the upper echelon of society, one must have proper education and then the adequate business or job opportunity” which governments have failed to provide to the tribes.

The Latest Threat: Human Safaris

Interactions with modern society increased after the construction of the Andaman Trunk Road. The road cuts through the Jarawa tribe’s reserve forests and brought in a large population of refugee settlers. Tour companies now allow “human safari” experiences along this road. This does not just exacerbate abuse, addictions and the spread of diseases from interaction with modern people. It also encourages the treatment of tribes as if they are zoo animals. This cultivates the dehumanization of tribal people. As Meghwal put it, “we are failing if our citizens are equated with wild animals.” Human safaris exist to profit from the poor, powerless tribal population. Thus, the tourism industry has emerged at the expense of their privacy, dignity, health and human rights.

When referring to the road, Meghwal said that “the state is only interested in making new roads as infrastructure. Modern society does not care about the ecological and environmental balance; their focus is more on the extraction from the tribal land.”

Larger Problem of Tribal Discrimination

Discrimination in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is emblematic of a larger problem of tribal discrimination. Unfortunately, this level of discrimination is far bigger than the confines of the Islands. Meghwal claimed that this discrimination comes from conflating the tribal population with the Dalits. The Dalits are among the Indian lower caste. The Indian caste system is a hierarchal system that ascribes supremacy to one group and untouchability to the other. “Both Dalits and tribes suffer similar nature problems such as deprivation, discrimination and exclusion,” Meghwal claimed.

The Borgen Project also spoke with Jarken Gadi. He is a former sociology professor who is now a fellow for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. According to Gadi, this discrimination is a product of “the lack of awareness supplied by educational institutions and media houses.”

Tribal Army as a Solution

Hansraj Meena, one of the most prominent tribal activists in India, founded Tribal Army. This organization may hold the solution to the discrimination of the Jarawa tribe and other tribes across the country. Meghwal claimed that people should grant tribes rights in the case of land and forests. He also mentioned that “we should avoid [letting] too many outsiders into tribal territory.” Additionally, he stated that there is also a need for constitutional measures to protect tribes as they participate in the market economy. Tribal Army has also called for requirements of “reservation in the private sector and in business,” stating “it is the most necessary step for tribal welfare.”

Gadi’s solution to discrimination and threats is a call for awareness programs which the government initiated. These programs would teach the public about the different tribes and how they should treat them. The education system and media can influence thought, change negative attitudes and stop harmful actions toward the tribal community.

Organizations like Tribal Army constantly advocate for policy change. People are challenging the status quo of tribal discrimination. With advancements like these, positive change can come for the Jarawa tribe and for overall tribal welfare.

– Iris Anne Lobo
Photo: Flickr

uses of human wasteHuman waste is typically overlooked, yet it can be a valuable resource capable of solving many of the issues surrounding the world today. As the global population continues to grow, coupled with environmental and sustainability concerns, a solution is needed. More than 700 million people worldwide live in extreme poverty. Some of the challenges they face are food insecurity and access to electricity, clean water and social services like healthcare. Human waste is a sustainable material and replaces non-renewable resources like coal, oil and natural gas. Technology and ideas emerge every day, including new uses of human waste. Interestingly, creative ways to solve the issues surrounding poverty and the future of an expanding world have also arisen.

Why Human Waste?

Each year, humans produce 640 billion pounds of feces and 3.5 billion gallons of urine. Lack of proper sanitation is one of the concerns surrounding poverty as human waste can enter water supplies and cause infections and diseases among people. Feces are typically made up of 55-75% water and the remaining portion is made up of methane and a solid. Once dried, the solid could provide the same amount of energy as coal. If converted into fuel, global human waste would be worth about $9.5 billion. Human waste contains minerals used in fertilizers for crops, which increases crop yields and the nutrition of plants and soil.

Biogas as Fuel

Biogas digesters break down human waste into methane, which is then piped through buildings and used in vehicles. The digesters submerge the waste in water where bacteria break down the solids without the presence of oxygen. The resulting fuel is one of the most valued uses of human waste, capable of powering homes, buildings and vehicles.

Sometimes, areas where poverty is common lack access to electricity. Biogas offers a cheaper solution. Installing a biogas digester uses an already present resource to produce fuel on-site rather than relying on an outside company to bring electricity. An example of this is a prison in Malawi that once relied on firewood to run its kitchens. Since installing a biogas digester, inmates at Mulanje Prison no longer have to spend five hours chopping wood in order to prepare food for the day. Moreover, the prison’s electricity bill went down by an average of $400 a month.

The procedure decreases the reliance on firewood, which in turn, slows down the rate of deforestation — a widespread issue in underdeveloped nations. Biogas digesters are also present in other prisons throughout Malawi. In the capital city, Lilongwe, the NGO Our World International takes household waste for its digester and sells the biogas for half the price of natural gas.

Clean Water

Around two billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. A potential solution to this comes from the use of human waste, which involves turning urine into fresh water. Filters and machines rid the urine of salts and ammonia, leaving clean water to utilize for drinking or commercial use. The International Space Station uses a similar process to convert astronauts’ urine and sweat into drinking water. One Belgian solar-powered device removes 95% of ammonia from urine and has the capacity to be used in areas without electricity to provide fresh water. Although many people would not feel comfortable drinking water that came from urine, regions suffering water shortages due to natural disasters or violence will greatly benefit from a much-needed supply of water.

In addition, one of the other uses of human waste, fertilizing crops, is already practiced in many places. Wastewater and urine can also serve the same purpose as feces, adding minerals and nutrients to the soil. All of these uses show the functionality of human waste as an undervalued resource with the potential to decrease poverty and improve living conditions for millions of people.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: pxfuel

people in ColombiaIn collaboration with the Colombian government, the World Food Programme (WFP) created a pilot program in August 2021 to help fight poverty and food insecurity in Colombia. The country faces significant struggles due to the pandemic and rising tension with the government, increasing the number of those in poverty over the past year. The program hopes to help people in Colombia obtain more access to food for their families, as food security is a particular struggle, especially over the past 15 months or so.

Protests in Colombia

Since the end of April 2021, more than 50 people have died during protests across Colombia. At first, the demonstrators opposed a tax reform lowering the tax thresholds of salaries. As such, any individual earning 2.6 million pesos (roughly $684) or more per month is subject to tax. Furthermore, many tax exemptions would disappear and there would be an added increase in taxes for businesses. The aim of the reform was to help the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of people protested, and after four days, President Iván Duque finally declared that he would withdraw the bill.

However, the protests did not stop there. There was significant police presence during the marches as a court order prohibited protesting due to the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus. Human rights groups say riot police had used tear gas and even live ammunition to disperse protestors. Evidence from social media show violent clashes, and now, many have lost their lives. Demonstrations have only strengthened as anti-government protests continue since November of 2019. More than 2,300 citizens and members of security forces were injured as the protests persisted.

Protests, led by the National Strike Committee, go on for several reasons, but the main issue igniting outrage among citizens was “the actions of riot police.” Protests against the police began long before the pandemic as tens of thousands marched in 2019 after the death of Dilan Cruz, “a teenager who was hit by a projectile fired by riot police at an anti-government protest.” The protestors want the riot police to disband and security forces to have more accountability. However, the president does not currently plan on disbanding the riot police.

Poverty in Colombia

Poverty in Colombia is another significant problem as the pandemic pushed more than 3.6 million people into poverty. In some cities like Quibdó, the number of people experiencing extreme poverty rose to 30% and in the supposed “economic powerhouse” of Colombia, Medellín, the rate of extreme poverty is now 9%. Indigenous groups joined the protests against inequality and the riot police as they were hit the hardest due to violence in rural areas. Before any progress can be made, President Duque said protestors must lift all roadblocks as the barriers have already caused significant damage to the economy. On May 28, 2021, the president said “he would deploy 7,000 troops to clear main highways.” Duque ruled out the protesters’ main demand of dismantling the riot police so it is likely that protests will arise once more.

Poverty Statistics in Colombia

  • Poverty in Colombia rose from 34.7% in 2018 to 35.7% in 2019, equating to 662,000 people falling into poverty. Just a year after, 3.6 million fell into poverty during 2020.
  • Inequality measured by the Gini index, which looks at the distribution of income for a population, went upwards in 2019 as the Gini index measured inequality at 52.7. Income inequality continued to grow in 2020.
  • There were about 2.5 million job losses in 2020.
  • In 2020, the unemployment rate jumped to 15.9% and 22% of citizens worked less than 20 hours per week.
  • Challenges in Venezuela made food insecurity a significant hurdle as 1.8 million Venezuelans and 500,000 Colombian returnees entered Colombia for food and other basic resources.
  • The Venezuelan crisis means at least 1.8 million people in Colombia “require food assistance.”
  • The United Nations projects that 5.1 million Colombians require humanitarian aid.

Help From the World Food Programme

The WFP and the Colombian government are fighting poverty in Colombia through the pilot program, expanding the national social protection system to include migrants and vulnerable host communities. The assistance “included cash transfers and in-kind food distributions aimed at more than 72,000 vulnerable people, among them Venezuelan migrants, Colombian returnees and vulnerable Colombians.”

The WFP and the Colombia Administrative Department for Social Prosperity worked together to fight Colombia’s poverty crisis. The cash transfers from the WFP “aligned with the emergency social protection programs provided by the Government of Colombia, to ensure consistency with the national social protection system.” The WFP could obtain important information from the national social registry to better understand where to efficiently use its resources. Poverty in Colombia continues as a significant concern, but the program provides hope, alleviating food insecurity for thousands of families.

– Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

Digital Divide in IndiaAs India industrializes, the country has made great strides in internet usage and access, however, there is still a lingering gap between those who have access to the internet and those who do not, also known as the digital divide in India. Demographics play a major role in the digital divide in India. Rural villages, impoverished people and women are far less likely to have proper internet and technology access. Only around 16% of women use “mobile and internet services” in India. The COVID-19 pandemic further exposed the digital divide in India and its role in hampering access to vaccines. Because of a lack of digital literacy and access, families and communities are often unable to set up appointments to register for vaccinations. This contributes to a slower rate of vaccinations in India, heightening the urgency of crossing the digital divide in India.

5 Organizations Addressing the Digital Divide in India

  1. Women Who Code Delhi: This organization started as a “community group in 2011,” with the goal of changing the technology industry to make it better suited for women. Since 2011, the organization has grown to become a significant global nonprofit force in inspiring women to excel in technological careers. Chapters are spread throughout various cities, including New Delhi, India. The chapter in New Delhi came about in 2014 and currently has more than 2,700 members. Like other chapters, it hosts events and creates “safe spaces for women” to learn new technologies and grow their careers in the technology field. Events take place at least once a month, free of charge. The main goal of this organization is to advance female careers in the technology field. Despite a large number of women working in the technology sector, female workers are less likely to get noticed in their careers. An estimated 45% of women will leave the technology industry after eight years. Women Who Code hopes to eliminate this by teaching women new skills and empowering them in their career growth.
  2. VMInclusion Taara: VMInclusion Taara is a return to work program for women. It has partnered with Women Who Code Delhi to offer free technical education in newer technologies. India has only about 26% female participation in its workforce as of 2018. About 40% of women choose to take a break from work at some point, but 91% of those women want to return. Moreover, for women in technology fields in this position, many lose the tools or education to keep up with the changing technological landscape. This is where VMInclusion Taara comes in. With this program, thousands of women will increase their prospects for growth in the technology field, crossing the digital divide in India.
  3. Feminist Approach to Technology: The Feminist Approach to Technology (FAT) is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women by increasing their participation in and knowledge of technology through various programs, such as the Young Women’s Leadership Program. During the Young Women’s Leadership Program, young girls learn basic computer and internet skills, breaking stigmas around technology. Since 2010, this program has trained 281 girls and 435 female learners are currently enrolled.
  4. ThinkZone: Working with under-resourced communities, this organization utilizes a free mobile app and accessible technology to educate children. The app sends learning content to instructors and parents in areas with low internet access so children can learn foundational language skills and math skills. Not only is this organization crossing the digital divide but it is also increasing education rates in the most vulnerable communities. Founder and CEO Binayak Acharya told The Borgen Project, “[T]he program ensures education for children without the requirement of smartphones or internet access.” Educators are additionally trained through a blended learning environment, learning specific technologies to equip them for all types of scenarios. Using ThinkZone technologies, a significant number of children developed age-appropriate skills during their early childhood. Acharya adds that the “state government of Odisha reached out to us for scaling the programs in new geographies.” ThinkZone hopes to reach an “additional 10,000 children from July 2021 onward.”
  5. Soochnapreneur: The Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) funded the Soochnapreneur project to promote and strengthen the information system in rural, Indian communities. In these communities, many people are unaware of their rights and are also unaware of available government schemes and their benefits so DEF started the Soochnapreneur project in 2016 to bridge this gap. The DEF trains women from rural locations in technology areas. The women can then provide and teach these skills to vulnerable and impoverished communities. The project aims to fulfill various components of a digital India by creating digital infrastructure, delivering services digitally and empowering digital literacy. Currently, the DEF works in more than 20 Indian states and 130 districts.

Together, these organizations make significant efforts to bridge the digital divide in India. In their combined work, the organizations help connect all areas of India to the nation’s future technological prospects, one person at a time.

– Lalitha Shanmugasundaram
Photo: Flickr

AkoinYoung entrepreneurs in Africa face unique obstacles when starting their own businesses, which prolongs Africa’s development. Akon, the multi-platinum-selling singer and recording artist, is originally from Senegal in Africa. Therefore, he has a deep understanding of the economic strife facing Africa due to inflation and financial instability. On top of this, about 350 million adults in sub-Saharan Africa remain unbanked, equivalent to 17% of the world’s total unbanked. Akon aims to change this by introducing the Akoin cryptocurrency.

Why Akoin?

Akon is using blockchain technology to help African entrepreneurs. He seeks to provide them with the tools necessary to overcome the difficulty of working between more than 40 currencies across 54 African countries by uniting currencies. With the Akoin cryptocurrency, seamless transfers within and across borders could be possible.

In the early months of 2021, the youth of Senegal took to the streets to protest the economic instability and unemployment facing their generation, highlighting the need for a new economic recovery plan. Although the economy in Senegal has grown in recent years, the growth has not always meant growth in jobs for young adults.

Akon is aggressively seeking to reach his goal of implementing Akoin in Africa because “[i]t brings the power back to the people and brings the security back into the currency system.” The singer-turned-social rights advocate seeks to implement Akoin as a form of payment to provide users access to a suite of business tools. Additionally, the construction of Akon City has been approved by the Senegalese government. Construction will take an estimated 10 years with the cost of this futuristic city being an estimated $6 billion, supported by Akon and other investors.

How it Works

Akoin, the African cryptocurrency token, is part of a decentralized exchange ecosystem that allows users to trade tokens and other cryptocurrencies between each other or major exchanges. After making this technology accessible to emerging entrepreneurs and helping them with the extensive paperwork required by banks when starting a new business, Akon could strengthen the African economy with a stronger infrastructure for startups.

Unlike other cryptocurrencies, Akoin is specific to Africa and seeks to provide optimal support as a transaction medium in otherwise hard-to-reach areas. One major obstacle to the African adoption of cryptocurrency as tender is government uneasiness. Signs show that the wariness of another legal tender remains, potentially due to a lack of public knowledge and the possible insecurity that comes with blockchain technology’s anonymity.

Looking Foward

With Africa awaiting a crypto boom, Akon makes the clarification that Akoin does not necessarily need to be deemed legal tender, only an “alternative financial solutio[n].” According to Chainalysis, a blockchain analytics firm, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are ranked among world leaders in peer-to-peer crypto transactions. Mwale Technological and Medical City have beta-tested the transaction platform. More than 2,000 merchants utilized the technology as the “sole currency and payment processor.

Hope remains for the Senegalese government’s adoption of Akoin. Leaders of the African cryptocurrency scene are hopeful for more African countries to adopt and primarily benefit from the plethora of crypto applications.

– Melanie Goldsmith
Photo: Flickr