Information and stories about agriculture.

Sustainable Development Goal 2
In 2015, the United Nations established 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for creating global change in key areas by 2030, especially in lower and middle-income countries. The second of these goals, Zero Hunger, aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” According to Action Against Hunger, in 2021, hunger affects almost 10% of the global population. Furthermore, just between 2019 and 2020, the number of people suffering from undernourishment globally rose by 161 million. To prevent the dire consequences of not reaching Sustainable Development Goal 2, the U.N. has suggested several steps for individuals to take to support this goal.

5 Ways to Achieve Zero Hunger

  1. Shop Local and In-Season. Eating locally-grown foods helps to support smaller-scale farmers in one’s community. Buying in-season foods also helps sustain local, native crops and plants. Preserving native crops helps increase genetic diversity as it increases the number of plant species in a given area. Maintaining genetic diversity in food production across the globe is one of the targets of Sustainable Development Goal 2 as this allows the plants with favorable traits — those that are resistant to pests or are able to provide higher yields — to proliferate.
  2. Reduce Food Waste. Food waste is one of the greatest barriers to eradicating hunger as food that could serve food insecure populations instead ends up in landfills. According to Feeding America, U.S. citizens waste “108 billion pounds of food” annually, equivalent to 130 billion discarded meals. However, food waste is not an issue unique to high-income countries: the U.N. Environment Programme’s “Food Waste Index Report 2021” has found that lower-middle-income nations annually discard 201 pounds of food per capita at the household level. In comparison, for high-income nations, this amount is 174 pounds per capita per year. To reduce food waste, people can freeze extra produce and save leftovers from meals. They can also buy “ugly” produce from the grocery store, which often ends up going to waste because it is less aesthetically desirable. However, the slightly misshapen produce found in grocery stores is still perfectly good to eat. In addition, staying informed on anti-food waste initiatives in low- and middle-income countries helps to develop global awareness and better understand the progress that these countries are making toward achieving Zero Hunger.
  3. Reduce Meat Consumption. The U.S. imported $216 million worth of beef from Brazil in the first nine months of 2021. Approximately 80% of deforestation in the Amazon is due to cattle ranching. Deforestation can have negative impacts on food production thousands of miles away. For example, deforestation of the Amazon at 40% would significantly decrease rainfall in the Rio de la Plata agricultural basin more than 2,000 miles away. Such droughts lead to decreased crop production, negatively impacting local farmers. To help mitigate the impact of the meat industry on deforestation, the U.N. has suggested that individuals consider vegetarianism for just a day per week. Just one day of vegetarianism could preserve “3 million acres of land.” Even though those who live in North America may be physically far away from local farmers in the Amazon, individual eating habits still impact these farmers.
  4. Support Organizations Focusing on SDG 2. Two organizations working to improve food security worldwide include the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and the World Food Program (WFP). GAIN focuses on providing aid to women, children and adolescents. One of its programs is Better Diets for Children, which provides support to small-scale food manufacturers in low- and middle-income countries to make nutritious, safe food more affordable and accessible. The program spans eight countries and aims to help more than 120 million people. The WFP provides food assistance to victims of extreme events, such as those facing natural disasters and conflict. The organization operates in more than 80 countries and provides more than 15 billion life-saving meals each year. One of the WFP’s programs is the food assistance program, which provides “cash-based assistance” so that families can afford nutritious food.
  5. Stay Informed and Spread the Word. Staying updated on global hunger reduction initiatives is important for tracking progress made toward Sustainable Development Goal 2. The U.N. SDG website and social media stand as great resources in this regard. It is also important to educate others about Sustainable Development Goal 2 by sharing ways that others can help and the organizations that people can support in achieving this goal. Social media serves as an essential tool for raising awareness of global issues.

Looking Ahead

Minimizing hunger is an important step in the sustainable development of low- and middle-income countries. By taking action to support Sustainable Development Goal 2, each person can help improve food security and small-scale agriculture worldwide.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in South SudanThe North African country of South Sudan is currently facing its worst hunger crisis to date. Estimations indicate that close to 8.5 million people out of the nation’s total population of 12 million people “will face severe hunger” in 2022, marking an 8% spike from 2021. There are several reasons for the worsening levels of food insecurity in South Sudan.

Issues Contributing to Food Insecurity in South Sudan

South Sudan’s most recent civil war, beginning in December 2013 and ending in February 2020, is one of the many reasons for the major food insecurity in South Sudan, among other issues. According to Oxfam International, the war caused an “economic free–fall,” leading to rising food prices and a crumbling economy. Furthermore, food stocks have diminished and harvests are poor due to extreme weather conditions.

The country is facing “the worst floods in 60 years,” affecting close to 1 million people and serving as a significant contributor to food insecurity in South Sudan. In just seven months, from May 2021 to December 2021, about 800,000 South Sudanese people endured the impacts of “record flooding” within the country. The floods have not only destroyed lands where crops were growing but have also led to the loss of a quarter million “livestock in Jonglei state alone.” The floods also swept away vital supplies such as fishing nets, impacting people relying on fishing in waterways as a means of securing food sources.

Along with the devastating floods, in 2021, the United Nations had to cut its food aid by about 50% due to reduced funding and increased costs of food. This reduction in the amount of food aid from the United Nations alone affects more than three million people.

Extreme Measures and Potential Collapse

To prevent starvation, families are resorting to extreme measures such as “ground-up water lilies” as their only meal of the day. Other people living in hunger have attempted to flee to other towns and states in search of food and shelter.

Further compounding the issue of food insecurity in South Sudan is “government deadlock as the country’s two main political parties try to share power.” Resistance among the political groups to work together is a cause of concern for the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, who warns of “a collapse in the country’s peace deal” if parties cannot find common ground in the political arena.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

One of the organizations working to help end food insecurity in South Sudan is the WFP. The WFP is currently employing a variety of methods to get food to the millions of South Sudanese people enduring food insecurity. These methods “include airdrops, all-terrain vehicles, river barges and SCOPE registration.”

The WFP utilizes airdrops as a last resort to deliver food to the most “dangerous and inaccessible” locations in South Sudan where safe road travel is not possible. The WFP also utilizes SHERPs, a type of all-terrain vehicle, to deliver food supplies to isolated areas where travel is challenging but still possible. The SHERPs can traverse the most adverse roads, go over obstacles and “float across water” in flooded areas.

The WFP also uses river barges that run along the Nile River to transport food to families who live in areas where there are no roads. Lastly, the WFP uses SCOPE, which is a blockchain service employed to “register and document people who receive food assistance” from the WFP. SCOPE helps workers to track the individuals receiving assistance and record each person’s “nutrition and health status” and determine full recovery and treatment success.

Looking Ahead

Although the situation in South Sudan is dire and experts predict these circumstances will worsen, many organizations are committing to providing as much aid as possible to South Sudanese people facing the devastating impacts of several disasters. By supporting these organizations, even an ordinary individual can make a difference in reducing food insecurity in South Sudan.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy
Natural disasters are a major threat to all, yet even more so when electricity is absent. Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy and TekPaks to better endure hurricanes. Renewable solar energy has been on the rise for those in poverty, due to its inexpensive and environmentally-friendly aspects. A group of strong Filipino women is taking charge to bring solar energy and life-saving technology to their town.

Learning From Experience

In 2013, tropical cyclone Haiyan hit the middle of the Philippines, killing 6,000 and displacing 4 million. With winds reaching 195 miles per hour, this was one of the biggest and most powerful typhoons ever recorded. One town, Marabut, managed to have zero casualties due to its evacuation plan. The town did not have a designated building to go to for safety. As a result, residents had to find shelter in a cave.

The Tinabanan Cave has provided shelter for centuries and is 32 feet high. When the typhoon hit, more than 1,000 people made the trek up a stairless hill to safety. Lorna dela Pena was alone in Marabut when the super-typhoon struck. She described how her “grandfather’s dream was for it to have stairs” when questioned on the evacuation, as Reuters reported. Building stairs and implementing solar energy became a priority after the tropical disaster.

The Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) trained Lorna dela Pena and Azucena Bagunas, both from Marabut, as solar scholars. They use their training to educate their community and implement vital technology.

TekPaks “Light” the Way

TekPak is a portable solar energy generator, which prepares communities for disasters preemptively. It is capable of powering phones, lights, kitchen appliances and more. The portable feature allows for easy evacuation and installation. Counting the number of people evacuated and communicating are greatly improved as well.

ICSC developed TekPaks and utilized them for storms since its first introduction. Azucena Bagunas described how ICSC used TekPaks “to power a nebulizer when someone had an asthma attack.” Additionally, it trained Pena and Bagunas on how to use TekPaks and educated others on its benefits.

Since electricity is a luxury for those in poverty, solar energy raises more ideas on its use, like harnessing solar energy as a replacement for coal energy. Not only is solar energy cheaper than coal, but it is safer as well. TekPak technology spread across the world for energy solutions and its new versions bring greater success.

Women Warriors in the Philippines

Bagunas and Pena work to educate and improve their community’s quality of life. Their women-led TekPak training sessions in their town make great strides to efficient evacuation drills and protocols. Women and children are among the most vulnerable to disasters, making solar energy a vital initiative.

Natural disasters disproportionately affect women since they “are more dependent on accessing resources that may be impacted.” Domestic work that women endure doubles during a disaster. Further, “women remain susceptible to poor health outcomes, violence and inequalities in all stages of a disaster,” according to Women’s Agenda. Solar energy provides solutions to many problems women face during and after natural disasters.

The use of solar lights rather than oil lamps has been extremely beneficial for the women in Marabut since it prevents crossing the sea for fuel. Collecting water after dark is hazardous for women yet once again, solar energy improves the task.

A Bright Future

Solar energy brings affordability and renewability together. Electricity is vital for the development and quality of life in communities. Solar energy provides a unique opportunity for those far away from power grids to have power. Ending extreme and energy poverty starts with basic necessities.

Women in the Philippines like Pena and Bagunas provide education and innovation to natural disaster victims. With the continuation of their work, the future of solar energy is bright.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Batwa People Facing Extreme Poverty
Being among the poorest populations in one of the poorest nations, Uganda, the Batwa people face extreme poverty in their everyday life. Once known to live in the depths of the African forests as one of the oldest indigenous tribes in the continent, they now reside in town slums. Many have come to wonder how a population that thrived for centuries started resorting to scavenging garbage cans for their next meal.

The Forest: A True Loss For The Batwa

In 1991, the Ugandan government “reclassified lands of the Batwa” to national parks. This move forced many Batwa people to relocate from their homes, sometimes by gunpoint. A 2008 report indicated that 45% of the Batwa people were landless and lived in poverty.

The Batwa people went from a community that once thrived in hunting and gathering to now struggling to find means of survival. The report also highlighted that many Batwa people are seeking work from foreign people under “bonded labor agreements,” resulting in them experiencing discrimination from “their ethnic neighbors.”

In addition, it is important to note that the Batwa people have lost more than their home; the forest was their place of worship and healing. With strong “spiritual and religious ties to the forest,” Batwa people have lost a significant part of their history and livelihood that provided them with herbal remedies when members became sick. The forest was incredibly significant to the lives and culture of the Batwa people.

The Batwa People’s Current Conditions

As aforementioned, some Batwa work for foreign people who are not part of their tribe. Others make a living from performing for tourists who visit the country. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been limited travel of tourists which means that many Batwa people lost their income, resulting in poverty. Due to these circumstances, many Batwa have resorted to “eating from garbage bins” to stay alive.

Solutions

With the massive displacement that took the place of the Batwa, their community is shrinking more and more as time goes by. With little to no resources to stay alive, extinction is knocking on their door. Furthermore, tourism is a key component to the Batwa people’s survival.

To keep the community going, Uganda is encouraging local tourism where the Batwa people are now giving tours of the Ugandan national parks, a place they once called home. With a keen knowledge of this territory, the Batwa people are the perfect tour guides for the forests.

Additionally, Uganda contains an impressive gorilla population that many people travel to see in person. Having shared the forest with them for centuries, the Batwa tour guides introduce visitors to this impressive species with respect and caution. Such tours, which now target even local tourists, offer a memorable experience that is a “culturally sensitive” visit whose proceeds go to people who truly need them.

The Takeaway

It is incredibly important to bring awareness to the Batwa tribe who live in extreme poverty and could disappear after centuries in the forest. With the modernization of their territory, this community has suffered a great loss of their home and livelihood and now faces extreme poverty and famine.

By supporting their efforts to survive through tourism and lobbying the Ugandan government to aid displaced peoples, this community could find hope again.

– Kler Teran
Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in India
In India, a country with a population of more than 1 billion, almost 700 million people use solid fuels, such as wood and charcoal, as their primary energy source. Solid fuels have health impacts that can lead to adverse respiratory and cardiovascular conditions. The Lancet Global Health report from 2016 on India identified the air pollution from these fuels as the leading cause of chronic respiratory conditions, more than smoking. Squatter settlements are common in major Indian cities and often have informal power lines tapping into larger grids. These serve as an unreliable supply and source of electricity to large portions of the Indian population. Energy poverty in India affects all aspects of people’s quality of life, from health, education, productivity and even income-generating activities.

Renewable Partnerships

Energy poverty in India affects all aspects of people’s quality of life, from health, education, productivity and even income-generating activities. These affected areas strain the already stretched infrastructure in India and work against elevating the 8% in poverty.

In rural areas, dependence on solid fuels for energy requires long trips to forests to fetch these energy sources. According to the Encyclopedia of Social Work, this is a responsibility that women normally have. Because of its time-consuming nature, it prevents women from participating in income-producing activities that may elevate their economic conditions.

In light of the 244 million people experiencing energy poverty in India, Tata Power, India’s largest integrated power company and The Rockefeller Foundation have formed a partnership to address the issue. By utilizing Microgrids, this new initiative will be able to provide renewable electricity to nearly 5 million homes in India’s rural areas. Clean energy through these microgrids is set to assist businesses in Indian states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where 40% of enterprises rely on solid fuels such as diesel.

TP Renewable Microgrid Ltd. will run until 2026 and will deliver clean and cheap energy to rural households and businesses. Its unique microgrid design also aims to create 10,000 job opportunities in the green sector and assist the local farming irrigation systems. It could also make Tata Power the largest microgrid developer in the world.

Conclusion

Addressing energy poverty not only provides people with reliable energy sources but also connects them to the wider world. It backs the running of local infrastructures such as hospitals and schools, advances sanitation programs as well as farming and business techniques making them less costly and more efficient.

With the financial resources of The Rockefeller Foundation and Tata Powers’ ideas, this joint venture is a solid example of how innovation can enhance one’s impact when fighting poverty. Innovative microgrid design creatively uses already available resources and scales them for maximum impact.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Agricultural Practices
Agriculture involves land, plant and livestock cultivation. Through agriculture, people are able to use available natural resources for sustenance and income. In fact, agriculture takes up about 50% “of the world’s habitable land, “an established statistic despite 821 million people experiencing food insecurity, according to 2020 data. The link between agriculture and poverty is as direct as it comes, whether in correlation to the people who do not have access to food or the people who are economically dependent on farming as their primary source of income. The more impoverished a country is, the higher the percentage of people working in the agricultural sector. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) notes that 73% of the people in East Africa and 47% of the people in South Asia work in the agriculture sector. Yet, interestingly enough, experts consider agriculture as one of the most effective occupations in bringing people out of poverty. By incorporating Indigenous agricultural practices into modern-day agriculture, impoverished farmers can increase yields and productivity.

The Problems of Modern Agricultural Practices

A significant portion of the challenges modern agriculture faces stem from how people utilize the land. One of the main issues is monoculture, which involves crop specialization or growing a single crop on a large portion of land. While this practice reduces costs and caters to large-scale demand, it also, unfortunately, brings with it a high risk of crop failure because there are no other crops or wildlife to properly maintain the ecosystem. Additionally, pests are more common in the soil where one crop is grown and this, in turn, calls for higher pesticide use, which disrupts the natural balance of the soil.

While monoculture as an agricultural practice is more prolific in the developed world, developing countries still have remnants of this practice. In Indonesia, in 2020, about 14.6 million hectares of land were dedicated solely to palm oil plantations. Crop specialization often appeals to agricultural sectors because of high efficiency, reduced costs and more profits. However, these increased profits do not always translate to higher incomes for the farmers performing the work. Cocoa farming in Côte d’Ivoire provides an example, where “the household incomes of cocoa farmers” average about $2,707 annually despite the nation producing 2 million tonnes of cocoa crops per year.

Advantages of Indigenous Agricultural Practices

Considering the challenges of modern agriculture, two particular Indigenous agricultural practices may offer benefits to improve agricultural productivity and output in developing countries, improving food insecurity and the incomes of farmers with more produce to sell.

  1. Crop Rotation: Expertly practiced by the Mayan farmers of Mesoamerica, crop rotation involves “growing different crops on the same land so that no bed or plot sees the same crop in successive seasons.” Crop rotation provides a host of benefits such as “[preserving] the productive capacity of the soil,” eliminating risks of both pests and crop diseases, reducing the need for pesticides and maintaining nutritional requirements for the crops and soil to thrive. This practice enables farmers to maximize their yields. The Center for Integral Small Farmer Development in the Mixteca (CEDICAM) operates mainly “in the Mixteca region of Mexico, a region categorized by its high level of environmental degradation and desertification.” CEDICAM teaches farmers agricultural practices such as crop rotation and polyculture to increase agricultural success and simultaneously address food insecurity.
  2. Agroforestry: According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “agroforestry is the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and animal farming systems to create environmental, economic and social benefits.” Dating back to centuries ago, Indigenous Americans utilized agroforestry for its vast range of benefits. Practicing agroforestry ensures the rejuvenation of the soil, protects crops from severe temperatures and creates a system that provides diverse resources for medicines, firewood and food.

Drawing Wisdom From Indigenous Agriculture

All over the world, Indigenous agricultural practices involve an acute knowledge of the land, working to ensure that the sustenance of human needs and the rejuvenation of land occur simultaneously. These practices can teach people how to live in harmony with the land and use natural resources in a sustainable way, safeguarding resources for generations to come.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

Child Displacement
Child displacement impacts children across all sectors and nations. As of 2020, more than 33 million children are living in forced displacement. This includes 11.8 million child refugees, 1.3 million asylum-seeking children, 20.4 million children displaced within their own country and 2.9 million children living in internal displacement as a result of natural disasters. Here is some information about child displacement in developing nations.

The Types of Child Displacement

A few types of child displacement exist. These include:

  • Internal Displacement: According to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the definition of an internally displaced individual is “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border.”
  • Displacement on a Large Scale: An example of this is the Palestinian exodus in 1948 which resulted in the displacement of more than 750,000 people.
  • Separation From Family: This type of displacement uniquely relates to children in developing nations. When children are working away from family, they are susceptible to kidnapping, human trafficking and violence. For example, there are 10.1 million child laborers in India and one child is declared missing every 8 minutes.

Cognitive Harm

A study that Child Development published tested executive functions, which are the higher-order cognitive skills needed for decision making and complex thought, among Syrian refugees. The study found that the burden of house poverty affected displaced children’s working memory. This has a long-term impact on the ability to succeed in school and make correct decisions. These findings align and have a serious impact on the refugee crisis in Syria where 45% of Syrian refugees are children with more than a third without access to education.

Child Labor and Violence

Children comprise 25% of all human trafficking victims and are at higher risk for forced labor. After displacement, they can experience separation from family and traffickers can force them to work in fields such as agriculture, domestic services or factories. To date, an estimated 168 million children are in forced labor and more than 50% complete dangerous work.

Children who do not have access to safe and regular migration pathways often turn to irregular and dangerous routes, which further puts them at risk for violence and exploitation. According to the U.N., “around 1,600 migrant children between 2016 and 2018 were reported dead or missing, an average of almost one a day.”

A Lack of Data on Child Displacement

There is simply not enough data on child displacement which translates to inadequate information on the causes and long-term effects. For example, only 20% of countries with data on conflict-related internally displaced persons (IDP) break the statistics down by age.

Data disaggregation by age, sex and origin are essential as it will inform policymakers in the regions most directly impacted by child displacement on how severe the issue is. This will allow them to begin to construct resources to support all children. For example, children who cross borders may not receive services such as education and health care because the statistics regarding how many children are out of school and the long-lasting impact on child displacement are insufficient.

The Global Refugee Compact

In December 2018, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Global Refugee Compact. This is an international agreement amongst nonprofits, the private sector and international organizations to provide objectives to better include refugees in national systems, societies and economies and provide equal opportunity for them to contribute to communities. Through updated guidelines, the U.N. and partner organizations can craft effective modern solutions.

One of the unique features is the digital platform where partners and practitioners can share effective techniques, or Good Practices, to allow others to implement them in another location. The platform also builds a repository of overcoming humanitarian crises through good work that can be studied and implemented across a multitude of sectors.

There are various good practices targeting child displacement shared on the platform. For example, The BrightBox Initiative by the Simbi Foundation began in Uganda in July 2019 with the goal “to enhance access to education for students in UNHCR refugee settlements.” It transforms shipping containers into solar-powered classrooms to“provide access to literacy resources for a community of 6,000 simultaneous learners.” These types of resources are essential as Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa at about 1.5 million. Additionally, 60% of them are children.

Child displacement across the world exists for various humanitarian issues all rooted in poverty and are detrimental to the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable population. However, through large-scale global action, the world can address the causes of child displacement and begin crafting effective solutions.

– Imaan Chaudry
Photo: Flickr

Let Our Girls Succeed
As Kenya moves closer to its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country, many girls still lack educational opportunities, leading to gender disparities as the country develops. Girls living in urban slums and “arid and semi-arid lands” (ASALs) are particularly at risk of poverty. To address these issues, U.K. Aid developed a program, which will run from May 2017 to March 2023, called Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu, Swahili for “let our girls succeed,” as part of the Girls’ Education Challenge.

The Let Our Girls Succeed Program

The Education Development Trust has implemented the Let Our Girls Succeed program in “eight counties in [ASALs] and urban slums” in Kenya. The program targets 72,000 marginalized primary school girls, providing assistance for them to finish their current level of education with optimal outcomes and advance to the next phase of learning. The program builds on the original Wasichana Wote Wasome program, meaning “let all girls learn,” which began in 2013. The Let All Girls Learn program aimed to improve “enrolment, retention, attendance and learning.” Overall, the Let All Girls Learn program saw success, benefiting 88,921 girls.

Program Methodologies

The program uses several methods to help girls succeed:

  • Let Our Girls Succeed Considers Girls in All Contexts: The program addresses the needs of girls on an individual level as well as the needs of the girl in her household, in her school and within the community. Intervention at each of these levels allows for “a holistic approach” to confront issues acting as barriers to the girl’s success.
  • In-School Coaching for Teachers: The average primary school class size in Kenya is around 40 pupils. With this large class size, it is imperative that Education Development Trust offers gender-sensitive training to teachers so that they can teach in a way that supports girls, ensuring they feel comfortable and confident enough to return to class. As such, “more than 2,300” educators have received training on improved methodology and models, including gender inclusivity skills.
  • The Deployment of Community Health Workers to the Girls’ Homes: The Ministry of Health sends community health workers to households to talk to girls and their families about the importance of school. From 2013-2017, these workers made more than 15,000 visits to homes, leading to a rising rate of girls’ enrollment. In 2020, during the school closures due to COVID-19, community health workers were “the only education point of contact” for most marginalized girls in Kenya.
  • Community Education and Involvement: The program appeals to community leaders by seeking their involvement in girls’ education. The previous project saw success in this regard. At the beginning of the Let All Girls Learn project, 43% of community leaders did not agree that “vulnerable girls in [the] community should attend school.” At the end of the project, only 16% disagreed.
  • Implementing Catch-Up Centers: The centers allow girls who have dropped out of school to come back and catch up to their classmates. Rasol dropped out of school due to pregnancy but is now attending the catch-up center so she can re-enroll in primary school. The center focuses on girls aged 10-15 mostly. Typically, girls spend between six and 12 months in catch-up centers. By 2019, the center saw more than 650 girls attending these classes.
  • Cash Transfer Program Aids Underserved Households: More than 3,200 “households have received monthly cash transfers” to allow households to secure their basic needs and fund the costs of girls’ education.
  • Alternative Pathways: Let Our Girls Succeed pushes girls to attend secondary school or TVET (technical and vocational education and training) after primary school. Fatuma and her sister finished primary school in 2018, both with the prospect of attending secondary school. However, Fatuma’s parents could only afford the cost of one girl’s education. Fatuma’s sister attended secondary school and Fatuma chose to attend a TVET center to complete a dressmaking course. However, her parents still could not afford these costs. The program gave her a bursary for this course as well as “a start-up kit to enable her to start a business.” The program has given bursaries to more than 3,700 girls for secondary school and vocational training.

Looking Ahead

The Let our Girls Succeed program plays a crucial role in providing a pathway for marginalized girls in Kenya to gain an education so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. With an education, girls are more likely to have access to higher-paying jobs, gaining the ability to support themselves and their families.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

solar farms on brownfields
Brownfields are areas of land that are vacant due to contamination. In recent years, solar firms have built hundreds of solar farms on brownfields to utilize the empty space. Brownfields are often located near low-income communities that lack affordable access to power. Installing solar farms on brownfields promotes environmental sustainability and can provide cheap, clean power access to local communities.

Jobs and Access to Power

Building solar farms on brownfields can create jobs and transform abandoned land into an economic and environmental asset for low-income communities. Both site owners and local communities have saved millions in energy costs from transforming brownfields into hotspots of renewable energy, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Affordable access to electricity can help alleviate “energy poverty” in low-income communities that surround brownfields. Energy poverty is the phenomenon in which people experiencing poverty have the least access to power. Therefore, they are more likely to remain impoverished, according to the World Bank. Installing solar farms in brownfields could help provide electricity to the 1.1 billion people worldwide who lack access to it. Transforming brownfields into solar farms is a sustainable method of providing affordable energy to low-income communities.

Land Reuse and Protection

Installing solar farms on brownfields often involves land restoration, reuse and protection, which all serve nearby communities. For example, solar panels can sit atop a landfill without digging into the ground and damaging the land’s foundation, creating unwanted pathways for stormwater or puncturing the top of the landfill. Solar panels can also have a design that complements the pre-existing materials on the brownfield, like mill tailings, without further damaging or contaminating the land. Additionally, solar firms often avoid disrupting the soil as much as they can by mindfully designing, installing and operating their solar farms. Transforming brownfields into solar farms is a non-disruptive, and often even protective, method of utilizing vacant land while simultaneously providing clean, affordable energy to low-income communities.

Benefits of Sustainable Energy

Brownfields can offer solar power as a main source of energy to low-income communities, and renewable energy has a variety of social benefits. For one, renewable energy can be less expensive than non-renewable energy, especially when it comes from a local source. It can also minimize low-income families’ reliance on public utilities to provide them with energy. Solar energy is a reliable source of power that essentially will not run out. Renewable energy also reduces pollution, which creates a healthier environment, especially in places with brownfields and ample contamination. A healthier environment can often lead to a healthier population, both mentally and physically. Additionally, solar farms require people to build, operate and maintain the equipment. Therefore, building solar farms on brownfields can employ people in surrounding communities and help them support their families while also preserving the environment.

Creating solar farms out of brownfields has social, economic and environmental benefits. Countries around the world can utilize vacant, contaminated land to preserve the environment and help lift low-income communities out of poverty. Turning brownfields into “brightfields” could be the next great step in reducing energy poverty.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

 India’s Detrimental Farming LawsIn September 2020, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi implemented a series of farming laws aimed at loosening the government’s protective role in selling agricultural products. Instead of assisting the farms and their workers, who make up at least 58% of the workforce, the laws left farms with fewer profits. After months of protests, in the final days of November 2021, the Indian government made the decision to repeal India’s detrimental farming laws, causing farmers across India to rejoice.

Farming in India

India’s farming industry employs one of the largest agricultural workforces in the world and stands as one of India’s greatest providers of economic income. Rice alone earns the nation $8.82 billion, as reported at the end of the fiscal year 2020. According to World Bank data, “agriculture, forestry and fishing” contribute 18.3% to India’s overall GDP.

Small-scale farmers are vulnerable to “many production risks like drought, floods [and crop failure].” In addition, these small-scale farmers’ incomes are also vulnerable to market risks, such as “poor price realization” and an “absence of market.”

From July 2018 to July 2019, Indian farmers’ average income per month was ₹10,218 or approximately $135. This amount monthly means farmers can earn around $1,600 annually, with a margin for error to account for the received income in trades. This figure is the total of all earnings plus expenses.

India’s extreme poverty rate stands at about 7%, however, certain states, usually rural areas, face disproportionately high rates of poverty. For example, in Bihar, one of the most agriculture-dense states, poverty rates are the highest. Estimates indicate that 770 million Indian citizens are impoverished and live in rural areas where the farming laws had the most impact.

Impacts of India’s Detrimental Farming Laws

Modi’s intention was for the laws to allow farmers, specifically those working the smaller farms, to increase earnings by taking away government regulations and allowing easier access to business dealings with private businesses. The government wanted farms to increase dealings with private companies because most private businesses can pay higher rates and the government was willing to guarantee minimum prices. It may not have been the government’s intention, but the Indian government’s three new laws minimized profits for India’s farms in significant ways.

The three bills seem relatively straightforward but do not promise any immediate assistance or an apparent increase in income for farmers. One of the major changes promised was the ability for farmers to sell their products to any private organization. However, the laws did not enforce or extend the Minimum Sales Price (MSP) to those industries.

Before the changes, the MSP was guaranteed for many products from which the farmers often made their highest income. The MSP was the assured price for farmers when selling specific types of products directly to the government. Without the extension of the MSP, the power went to the private businesses. Still, the privatized businesses could buy the products for less than the products’ worth, dramatically undercutting the farmers’ income.

The major secondary change put more power into the hands of the consumers and buyers than into the hands of the farmers. This change left the farmers unable to alter contracts or expand on their average income from the private companies. The government did not repeal the MSP but limited how much it would buy from the small farms to encourage outside sales. At the very least, the farmers demanded a promise of the MSP. Without the MSP, the farmers knew they would lose significant income.

The Road Ahead

Now that the Indian government has chosen to repeal India’s detrimental farming laws, farmers are jubilant. The laws’ repeal passed through both Upper and Lower Parliament, and in doing so, has guaranteed the farmers the freedom to, at the very least, earn the MSPs.

Repealing the laws will have future implications for farmers and their demands of the government. During the year of protests, the farmers learned the extent of their political powers. The farmers account for more than 50% of the workforce and are one of the largest voting blocs in India. After their victory through protest, India’s farmers have become aware of their power and admit their plans to continue protests to place MSPs on other farming products.

India’s farming laws, including those repealed, do not include MSPs for products such as rice or wheat, which are the small farms’ most common and significant creators of income. MSPs on rice and wheat, and hopefully all produce, can significantly increase the average farm income, potentially lifting many farmers and farming communities out of poverty. The power is now back in the hands of Indian farmers and farmers are determined to make the most of it.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: PixaHive