UN Warns Environmental Threats Increase PovertyA report released by the UN warns that the number of people in extreme poverty could rise by 3 billion in 2050 unless immediate action is taken to combat environmental threats.

The 2013 Human Development Report had stated that more than 40 countries have shown significant improvement on health, wealth and education with rapid increases in Brazil, China, India as well as many other developing countries. The percentage of those living in extreme poverty, or living on $1.25 a day or less, had fallen from 43% to 22% from 1990 to 2008. This is attributed to significant successes in poverty reduction and economic growth in China and India. In response to this statistic, the World Bank has said that the Millennium Development Goal of decreasing extreme poverty by half by 2015 was ahead of schedule.

However, the UN had also reported that if environmental challenges such as climate change, deforestation, and air and water pollution were left unaddressed, human development progress in the poorest countries could come to a halt and possibly be reversed. Environmental threats and ecosystem losses are worsening the living situations and hindering the livelihood opportunities of many poor people. Building on the 2011 edition of the report arguing for sustainable development, the UN warns that unless coordinated global action is taken to combat environmental issues, the number of people in extreme poverty could rise.

“Environmental threats are among the gravest impediments to lifting human development,” the report says. “The longer action is delayed, the higher costs will be.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: Flickr

FAO Encourages Food Security in North Korea
With their recent posturing and threats of nuclear destruction to both South Korea and the United States, North Korea has been a hot topic of many newspaper headlines and evening news programs. Surprisingly though, little attention has been paid to the chronic lack of food security in North Korea, an issue that the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) has been trying to address for years.

The gross human rights violations of Kim Jong-un notwithstanding, North Korean civilians have been the greatest casualty of the failed agricultural and food reapportionment policies of the government. By shutting out much of the international community, including various NGOs and aid workers, progress has been slow in devising a realistic solution to the problem of food security in North Korea. The most recent FAO mission report on food security in North Korea is startling, with both soybean oil and vegetable production down dramatically, raising concerns that were highlighted by mission leader Kisan Gunjal when he remarked that “The country needs to produce more protein-rich foods like soybean and fish and to put more effort into growing two crops a year so a more varied diet is available for everyone.”

However, there were bright spots on the horizon as annual staple food production has been growing over the past couple of years, effectively mitigating the amount of acute malnutrition in the population. Overall, the FAO was satisfied with the improvements their targeted aid has made in specific areas, yet considerable headway still remains in combating children’s vulnerability to shock and pregnant and nursing mothers’ levels of malnutrition. DPRK Country Director Claudia von Roehl commented on the status of food security in North Korea when stating that while harvest figures were optimistic, “the lack of proteins and fats in the diet is alarming” as there are still about two million children in the country who are in need of healthy, balanced diets.

Brian Turner

Source: FAO News
Photo: Time

My Congressmen... Who are they?If you’re wondering who are my Congressmen, then look no further. The Borgen Project has the inside scoop on who your Congressmen and Congresswomen are and how to contact them.

Everyone living in the United States is served by 2 U.S. Senators and 1 U.S. Representative. Enter your zip code below to find their name and phone number.

100 Senators + 435 Representatives = Congress

Congress in Simple Terms…

  • You have three members of Congress who represent you in D.C. – two Senators and one Representative.
  • Senators serve 6-year terms in the Senate and there are two from each state.
  • Representatives serve 2-year terms in the House of Representatives. The number of representatives from each state is determined by population. For example, there are numerous Representatives from New York City while there is only one Representative serving the entire state of Alaska.
  • Representatives are frequently referred to as Congressmen, Congresswomen or Reps.

Learn how to call Congress and why these phone calls help influence leaders.

Yesterday, the United Nation published its 2013 Human Development Report. Among the most encouraging signs of development are the percentage increases in some of the countries with the lowest Human Development Indices (HDI). Gains have been seen in every single country with complete data since 2000; no country is worse off than 13 years ago by the standards of the HDI report.

This metric measures statistics like infant mortality, per capita income growth, and school attendance in order to give an accurate picture of how a country’s development is proceeding. Some of the countries which have had notoriously low HDIs have seen “impressive” gains of more than 2% per year, including Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Liberia. Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have seen these gains as well, and despite having the lowest overall scores in the world, they are “among the countries that made the greatest strides in HDI improvement since 2000.”

Although sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest average HDI of all global regions, its growth since 2000 has outpaced all but Southeast Asia. However, national and regional averages can actually make the data seem to represent realities which are more nuanced. When taking into account countries’ internal variations of human development, the rankings can look different. For example, the United States would be ranked 16th instead of 3rd. This data goes to show that our preconceptions of development can often be quite skewed. Areas where many think there is no progress being made are actually improving quite drastically, whereas countries that are seen as well-off have distinct problems in ensuring better circumstances for their poorest citizens.

Jake Simon

Source: UNDP
Photo: UNDP

World Bank Commits to IndiaWorld Bank president Jim Yong Kim reaffirmed the World Bank’s commitment to India on a recent trip to New Delhi. The World Bank contributed $8.3 billion over the last five years through multiple programs and promises to continue providing support and furthering progress in the fight against poverty.

Much of the $8.3 million dollars that were allocated to aid programs in the country over the last five years have gone through a program called the International Development Association (IDA). As India continues to grow at an unmatched rate there was some questioning about whether or not the World Bank would change the status of the country in discussions regarding development loans. As India is planning to receive less and less foreign aid from other countries and has even created its own aid-giving body the development loans provided by organizations such as The World Bank may prove to be more important now than they have been in the past.

The World Bank plans to maintain its annual loans of around $3-5 billion each year over the coming four year period. As much of the country continues to grow, industrialize, and urbanize, the funds are being directed to the regions that demonstrate the most desperate need. Kim visited Uttar Pradesh, where a mind-boggling 8 percent of the world’s population of the severely impoverished reside. While the country overall has risen to the status of a middle-income nation, severe poverty is still a glaring issue. Continued involvement of the international community and responsible development banking efforts may soon cause a faster rate of decreased poverty and a stronger status for all Indians.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: The Wall Street Journal

African Agriculture and Agribusiness Will Grow to $1 Trillion by 2030A World Bank report states that agriculture and agribusiness in Africa have the opportunity to grow to a trillion-dollar market by 2030.The report titled “Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness” calls for the need to increase access to capital, electricity, technology, and irrigated land to allow for better and increased farming. World Bank Director for Financial and Private Sector Development in Africa Gaiv Tata comments that “a strong agribusiness sector is vital for Africa’s economic future.”

Currently, the size of Africa’s food and beverage market is at $313 billion. This number is projected to increase more than three-fold to $1 trillion by 2030. This growth in the agriculture industry in Africa could lead to an increase in jobs and growth, a reduction of hunger and poverty, and the ability for African farmers to compete better globally by exporting surplus crops.

The report stated that as of now African agriculture and agribusinesses are underperforming with many other developing countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Thailand exporting more than all of Sub-Saharan Africa combined. The import of food products is still rising as exports are falling, a trend, the report says, that can be reversed through good policies, and public-private investment and partnerships.

Much of Africa’s land and water is left underutilized. More than half of the fertile yet uncultivated land in the world is in Africa. And only two percent of Africa’s abundant water resources are made use of compared to the global average of five percent. Africa is the leading importer and consumer of rice in the world with $3.5 billion spent on importing rice from other countries. Though much of Africa is suitable for dairy production, Kenya is the only country to have established a competitive dairy industry.

The report emphasizes that agriculture and agribusiness should be the main prerogative in the development and business agenda in Africa. African agriculture and agribusiness is now being recognized as a powerful and imperative driver in the continent’s growth, accounting for nearly half the continent’s economic activity. More investment through irrigation expansion and increased research into crop varieties would further strengthen the agro-economy. Additionally, when governments effectively work with farms to link them to consumers, they create a more sustainable and dynamic food market rather than only maintaining a reliance on food imports. A strong agriculture and agribusiness market in Africa is key to greater prosperity and a better future for Africa.

“The time has come for making African agriculture and agribusiness a catalyst for ending poverty,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for African Region.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source:  Flickr

USAID Takes Part in New Child and Maternal Health Initiative in IndiaThe U.S. Agency for International Development has partnered with two other philanthropic organizations to improve health care for mothers, adolescent girls, and children throughout India. Along with USAID, the Kiawah Trust and Dasra have created a $14 million collaboration to tackle the health issues that women face. Currently, nearly 67,000 women in India die annually due to childbirth or pregnancy, and nearly 50 percent of children under five years old experience continuous malnutrition. The three organizations hope to commission various other parties in creating new solutions that fight current maternal and child mortality rates.

The administrator of USAID, Dr. Rajiv Shah, said that although India has made great strides towards eradicating hunger and poverty, innovation alone will not be enough to completely end the issues that plague the poor in the country – local collaboration and partnerships are crucial “to achieving unprecedented gains in human health, prosperity, and dignity.”

Dr. Shah went on to address India’s various businesses, financial organizations, and investors aid in the fight against barriers to increasing development by creating alliances between the private and public sectors and asserted that solutions created in India could also be put into practice in other developing nations in order to fight poverty.

Dasra, India’s largest philanthropic organization, published a report on female health in India showing that “the root cause of maternal and child mortality is closely linked to the age of marriage and first pregnancy.” Other crucial factors for health affected by age of marriage and pregnancy are hygiene and sanitation, level of education, and access to clean drinking water.

Dasra’s representative, Deval Sanghavi, said that many types of involvement and capital are needed “to collectively find impactful and scalable solutions for the millions of women and children living in poverty in our country.  This collaboration has the potential to build collective action and attract like-minded parties.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: USAID

Asian Development Bank Reports on Water SecurityThe Asian Development Bank (ADB) turned out a study on Wednesday about water security and the accessibility of quality water throughout Asia. The study’s results proved to be both alarming and, at the same time, encouraging.

Access to clean water is an important issue all around the developing world. Yet even when there is access to useable water sources, the wealthier countries have the cleanest water and best water delivery and sewage systems. In the last twenty years the progress made in Asia as a whole has been astounding, with nearly 91 percent of all regions experiencing greater access to clean water today. The ADB claims that no member country has a sufficient water security plan. While water accessibility has increased, the threat of natural disasters could seriously affect the drinking water of every Asian country. The high frequency of water-related natural disasters throughout Asia such as floods, tsunamis, and landslides creates instability for those in charge of protecting water supplies. The recent study claims that access to clean drinking water throughout Asia has improved from about 74 percent in 1990 to 91 percent in 2010.

The ADB is glad to see that the region overall continues to make such significant progress but the fact that almost four-fifths of Asia’s major rivers have been declared in poor sanitary health is cause for concern. The urbanization of the continent’s population along with unchecked pollution may worsen the current situation and reverse the progress of the last two decades if the problems are not addressed by regional governments and conversationalists. Hopefully, with more hard work and good leadership, the positive trend of increased water access will continue.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: Flickr

Parveen Rehman: Honorable Aid WorkerParveen Rehman, an influential aid worker in Sindh, was killed recently when she was shot twice in the neck while traveling through the Orangi area of Karachi. Rehman was the leader of the Orangi Pilot Program and her funeral was attended not only by friends and family but national officials and members of the development community.

The Orangi Pilot Program was founded to help the inhabitants of the region’s largest squatter settlement to escape from severe poverty. The program helped locals maintain their own sanitation systems, build suitable housing, and keep contact with regional micro-finance banks. While no armed group has claimed responsibility for the killing, many believe that Rehman may have been killed because of her involvement in efforts to study and record illegal land grabbing by large corporations in the area. Rehman had reportedly received death threats in the past and was even kicked out of her offices once by armed men.

This story should really serve to remind us that there are people working around the world to make it better. Rehman’s story is really one of bravery and is more than honorable. After the two attacks in the last year on aid workers in Nigeria and Pakistan we should truly honor the work that these people do and the risks that they take in order to help others. Really, lives such as their demonstrate the meaning of “heroism”. Hopefully we can all take a moment to think about Rehman and the amazing people like her working in the field, in the offices, and in government to work toward real change.

Kevin Sullivan

Source: BBC
Photo: The Nation

Is A 'Silicon Savannah' The Answer To Poverty In Africa?While many African economies are showing tremendous growth, a new struggle is beginning among African nations to establish technological hubs and assert themselves as leaders in Africa’s emerging technological boom.

Perhaps following Egypt’s lead, Ghana and Kenya have begun constructing entire cities focused on IT research and software development. Ghana plans to create Africa’s largest building, a 75-story tower reaching over 885 feet backed by the telecom group RLG. Some 4,000 miles away, Kenya has invested $14.5 billion to create what it has nicknamed “Africa’s Silicon Savannah.” Konza City will be a tech city focused on software development.

These cities are a great improvement and move toward the direction of developed nations, but the actual number of jobs may be a future problem. Cities like Konza may be new to Africa, but they are common in the developed world and often supported by a network of adjoining developed tech-savvy cities.

However, the unique advantage African based tech communities have is the first-hand access to the emerging markets in Africa. African economies have been growing exponentially and are set to outpace their Asian counterparts in the coming years. Being so closely linked to these markets will allow African tech communities to better assess and meet the needs of the quickly developing markets. While a “Silicon Savannah” may not be the only answer to poverty in Africa, it will definitely help on the road to development.

– Pete Grapentien

Source ZD Net