Drought in India Brings Villagers TogetherThe villages around Dungarpur in India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan have a natural beauty that is characteristic of many rural hillside towns. There are rolling wheat fields, eucalyptus trees and luscious neem trees that contrast the colors of the red-tiled houses. However, this area is not without its natural problems as well. The region suffers from a chronic lack of water and faces the common problem of drought in India. Between rainy seasons, the men of the village often have to leave their farms to pick up work in surrounding cities.

This year, half the men are staying closer to home. The village is structured around a pond that provides water to surrounding farms. Normally, the pond dries up by this time of the year, but thanks to the Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR), the lake has enough water to last until the next rains come months from now. The pond has suddenly turned into a lake after tractors deepened it by 15 feet last May to drastically increase the size of the reservoir. Now, the lake is not only filled in a time of year when it used to be dried up, but there is enough water to irrigate fields that are farther away, allowing the villagers to plant second crops. This drought in India is benefiting the villagers.

EFICOR’s work in the region has not come easily. The organization has been in this area of India since 2008 trying to gain the trust of the locals and figure out how best to serve them. The villagers in the area are marginalized Bhil people that are distrustful of and unconnected to state government. EFICOR worked with them to make use of the government aid programs that they are eligible for. One of the most important breakthroughs for the villagers was forming community committees. The formerly disconnected families came together under these new committees to decide which ponds to deepen and which families needed the most urgent attention. The committees even tested the power of the village chief that formerly based these types of decisions on favoritism.

In addition to their community committees, EFICOR has set up savings groups for women in the villages. One group saved enough money to consider buying a small grinding mill. The goal of the project is to build confidence among the marginalized communities and show them that they are entitled to just as many government services as any other citizens. The plan seems to be working, but it will be a long time before we can tell if the newfound solidarity among the villagers will last.

 – Sean Morales

Source: The Guardian

5 Ways That Africa is ImprovingIn the past, Africa has been a notoriously troubled continent. While some African countries are plagued by political turmoil, some are plagued by poverty, while others are just plagued by English nobility. With all of the media attention to the problems in Africa, it would seem that the continent is caught in a downward spiral. But is that necessarily true?

Here are five ways that Africa is improving:

1. Africa’s Economy is Flourishing 
As a continent, Africa’s economy is projected to grow 6% in 2013 while the world’s collective economic growth for this year is projected to be around 1.2%. At 6%, Africa has eclipsed even U.S. growth, which is projected to be around 2.5%.

2. Children Are Putting Down Guns and Picking Up Books
Fewer children bear arms and records numbers are going to school. Africa as a whole has around 12 guns for every 100 people. Although this pales in comparison to the United States’ one gun per person ratio, many African countries are trying to limit gun sales and restrict the use of existing guns.

3. HIV Rates Are Dropping
HIV infections have fallen by 75%. Safe sex programs and advice has been disseminated through Africa, sometimes in the form of soap operas. Whatever the strategy, it’s been working as HIV rates continue to plummet.

4. Foreign Investment is Increasing
Foreign investment in Africa has tripled while the economic markets in many countries remain uncultivated and untapped. This presents the perfect opportunity for businesses to invest in Africa.

5. Average Personal Income is Growing
75% of African countries have an average an income of $1,000 per person. While $1,000 a year isn’t much, it is over the global poverty standard of $1.25.

These victories are huge, it shows that Africa is improving. However, there is still more progress to be made and more work to be done. As long as philanthropic organizations and individuals keep assisting with helpful information and other forms of support, big improvements are on the horizon in Africa.

– Pete Grapentien

Source The Economist

Dengue Fever Epidemic in BrazilBrazil has a dengue fever epidemic. Compared to 2012, nearly three times as many Brazilians have been infected with dengue fever in 2013’s first seven weeks, according to health officials. The mosquito-borne disease has spread to over 200,000 people, whereas last year, there were roughly 70,000 reported infections. To make matters worse, the heavy levels of rainfall create beneficial conditions for mosquito breeding, leading experts to believe that the climate will add additional challenges for medical professionals.

This particular strain of dengue first appeared in Brazil in 2011, but dengue itself has been around far longer. However, immunity to one strain does not grant immunity to the three variants, so this relatively new form of the virus has the potential to run rampant.

Fortunately, Brazilian Health Minister Alexandre Padilha explains that fewer people have died as a result of this year’s dengue fever epidemic than last year despite the dramatic rise in infections, which demonstrates that “authorities were following the right strategies…extra training…has clearly paid off.”

Dengue fever presents flu-like symptoms; eradication efforts are centered around both the development of a vaccine, as well as containment tactics for mosquitos. An extremely popular and cost-effective measure for keeping mosquitos at bay is the implementation of mosquito nets: cheap, re-usable material to protect living quarters from the buzzing disease-carriers. Mosquito nets are already popular candidates for foreign aid funds, but more is always better when it comes to saving lives.

Jake Simon

Source: BBC
Photo: EMS Solutions

The World Alliance of Cities Against PovertyOne voice may not always be enough for the world to hear, but when a community of more than 900 cities joins together to combat and confront development challenges such as global poverty, being heard is a guarantee. The World Alliance of Cities Against Poverty (WACAP) is a network of more than 900 cities, some of them located in nations such as the United Kingdom, Turkey, Ethiopia, among many more. This vast number of cities collaborate together to mobilize change with individuals, governments, and anyone willing to bring a helping hand into confronting and ending global poverty.

When a community comes together, there is the power of partnership and collaboration to depend upon. With this strength magnified, the ability of the network to make strides in development is multiplied.

When a city wants to join WACAP, they don’t only envision an improvement in their own communities, but an open opportunity to help fight urban poverty everywhere. This is the idea of cities helping cities. The cooperation between the cities is a vision of strengthening development. In the mission of WACAP, this vision is comprised of sustainable development in the urban context, understood through economic, environmental, and social dimensions.

Poverty kills thousands and leaves many people leading lives of constant despair and struggle. In order to create hope for these people living in poverty-stricken cities, WACAP is in an enduring partnership that will work to alleviate their suffering and build community networks that people can rely on.

Jada Chin

Source: WACAP

New Pope, New Take on Contraceptives?The beginning of this March is an important time for the Catholic Church, as Pope Benedict XVI resigns from the papacy. With the seat of St. Peter empty, what global issues will the new Pope face?

Catholics and non-Catholics alike realize that the Pope and his decisions have an influence in many areas throughout the world. The next Pope, whoever that will be, is going to inherit the Church in a time of crisis. While there is a myriad of problems to be dealt with within the Church, one issue related to international poverty will be at the forefront: the use of birth control.

Pope Benedict famously stirred up no small bit of controversy in the international aid community back in 2009 when he claimed that the use of condoms does nothing to prevent the spread of HIV and that the availability of condoms actually makes the problem worse. Around the same time, the Pope offered a rare example in which the use of condoms would be acceptable in the case of a male prostitute using one. Such comments brought about different feelings about where the Church would be going with the issue; would it stay conservative or consider altering its’ stance on condoms?

The next Pope will have an opportunity to make his own statements about birth-control and perhaps his stance may be slightly more accepting than his predecessors. It would be irrational to expect the Catholic Church to reverse its position on the issue of birth control, but it is also important to remember the relationship between overpopulation and poverty. Even the smallest bit of change could make a difference for millions and hopefully, it will start to come about with the new Pope.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: The Guardian

Indian Budget Promotes Greater Social InclusionIn India, the effect of economic slowdown is not obvious. On the surface, economic activity is lively as businesses appear to be thriving and new ones are being created. This year, however, growth is predicted to be at around 5 percent.  Emphasizing a need to increase Indian growth to 8 percent, how it was prior to the global economic crisis, Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram presented the new Indian budget last Thursday. Chidambaram’s plan involved placing focus on greater social inclusion and a need to tax the super-rich of India.

Outlined in the presented Indian budget were plans to increase spending on education and vocational training, agriculture, and health by 17 percent, 22 percent and 24 percent respectively. An additional $1.8 billion was set aside for food subsidies as part of a plan to ensure food security and combat malnutrition, especially in remote rural areas. The Finance Minister’s recommendations also included improving the living situation of disenfranchised groups, including lower castes, minorities and women, for greater social inclusion and sustainable growth.

“There is a compelling moral case for equity but it is also necessary if there is to be sustained growth,” Chidambaram said.

Additional revenue to fund these programs would come in part from a 10 percent surcharge on 42,800 Indian taxpayers who reported a taxable income of more than 10 million rupees or $180,000 in the last year. Companies earning more than 5 million rupees would pay an additional 5 percent tax surcharge. This tax surcharge would be in effect for just one year. Chidambaram was optimistic that rich Indians would take well to this additional surcharge confident that they would pay “cheerfully.”

Since his appointment as Finance Minister in August, Chidambaram has worked to prevent a predicted fiscal deficit of 5.8 percent in GDP. Through forced expenditure cuts, he has managed to halt the fiscal deficit at 5.2 percent. Chidambaram pledges to lower the fiscal deficit for next year to 4.8 percent.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: CNN
Photo: Reuters

USAID Partners with DFID to Fund DevelopmentThe United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a partnership today with the Department for International Development (DFID) of the United Kingdom “to invest in cost-effective innovations to humanitarian challenges.”

The USAID/DFID Humanitarian Innovation Initiative seeks to further rewards for those involved in the USAID Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program, a results-based project for new, groundbreaking development ideas. Seeking to solve problems like malnutrition, high mortality rates, and a lack of infrastructure, the DIV competition gains additional support from this new joint venture.

Projects submitted to DIV are eligible for up to $1 million in grants; if the concept has already been proven and is not an untested idea, grants can reach up to $15 million. Successful ideas have harnessed technology like SMS and GPS to empower individuals in developing countries with access to the kind of information developed nations to take for granted.

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah supports the DIV program because it serves to “help strengthen the resilience of communities to disasters and care for the least vulnerable among us.” All parties with potential ideas are encouraged to submit their applications to the DIV website. With initiatives like DIV, there are strong incentives for budding social entrepreneurs to develop and implement unique programs for reducing poverty around the world.

Jake Simon

Source: USAID/DFID

Rio20_opt

Earlier this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 55 scientists from throughout the world met to discuss sustainable development solutions and how science can play a leading role in the fight against poverty. The goal is to explore the ways that science can help defeat such challenges faced by all human beings. Members of science academies who were involved in this meet are ones already involved in dealing with global warming, population growth, and evolution issues.

This meeting was organized most importantly to parallel the United Nation’s Millennium Goals of 2015 to end global poverty: “Based on the “Future We Want” document signed in Rio last June, the panel organized its meeting to find solutions for the welfare of mankind and for sustainable development.” Although industrialized developed countries were mainly prevalent to meet the Millennium Goals, recently there has been a need for input from developing nations as well.

According to the Brazilian representative of the U.N. Development Program, science’s role is to change the very path of development which would thereby lead the world to a better outcome. Thus, this meeting will elaborate on the ways that science reduces poverty.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Global Post
Photo: Google

Why Resilience in the Sahel is CrucialResilience is the ability of a family or community to survive shocks without going into financial ruin or facing hunger. In the case of the Sahel region in Africa, the shock that they must face every few years is drought. After three droughts in seven years, it becomes harder and harder for the citizens of the region to return to normalcy each time. Some of the consequences of these disasters are parents having to pull their children out of school, downgrades in the quality and amount of food they eat and going into debt. Resilience in the Sahel is a necessary part of solving these problems.

The key principle of resilience is to implement structures in the community that will last. There are no quick solutions because temporary cures will not stand up to the scrutiny of traumas over many years. Resilience in the Sahel will not only have to find a way to survive the drought this year but for the next decades to come in order to be truly successful.

As of now, there are two main interventions that organizations attempt to implement. The first, increased agriculture production, consists of assisting the farmers in the area to produce more and better quality stock from what they have. Unfortunately, this tactic only helps the large and medium farmers to stay afloat and not the rest of the community. The second tactic, social safety nets, is believed to help more of the marginalized people in a community. Social safety nets are finances provided to a single household that is in need to get them enough nutritious food.

In order for resilience in the Sahel to work, there needs to be a long commitment to the region. A five-year plan will be insufficient. Ten to twenty years are necessary to implement all of the best tactics and to make sure that they actually help the community to recover enough that they escape from the cycle of shock and bankruptcy.

 – Sean Morales

Source: The Guardian

Invest in America First

Congressman Larry Bucshon’s ‘Invest in America First Act’ is intended to constrain foreign aid to countries with a GDP of over 1.5 trillion dollars. The Indiana congressman wants to focus on rebuilding and strengthening the U.S. economy by cutting foreign aid. Bucshon’s argument is that the U.S. has piled up an incredible amount of debt and now has to borrow 42 cents for every dollar it spends. In addition to debt, the congressman asserts that the U.S. now “struggles to find the financial resources to live up to the commitments made to our own citizens.”

The congressman argues that it’s simply irrational to give foreign aid to places with a high GDP with budget surpluses, places which also hold many of the U.S. Treasury securities such as China, Russia, Brazil, and Mexico. The main issue that Bucshon is pinpointing is that the U.S. is offering foreign aid to these places only to borrow money back with interest which presumably is not a positive cycle and doesn’t lead to positive outcomes for the U.S. economy.

There are exceptions made to the ‘Invest in America First Act’ including military assistance, humanitarian assistance, and security assistance. However, even within these exceptions, aid would be regulated based on the supplies and materials needed and not just based on a big amount of money. Also, security assistance would be given to places where threats to the U.S. national security would otherwise be threatened.

Plenty of facts and statistics can be found on the Borgen Project’s website under ‘3 Ways Downsizing Global Poverty Helps the U.S.’By reducing poverty, the threats on national security drop, and the export market economy is boosted due to jobs created right here at home.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Global Washington