Information and stories about agriculture.

EMPOWERING WOMEN IN AGRICULTUREThe agricultural sector is a critical facet of Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) economy. As of 2015, women make up around 40% of the SSA’s agricultural labor force. Although their contribution is critical, due to discriminatory laws and social norms, a large gender gap within this sector continues to persist. However, many have come to realize the potential that lies behind empowering and educating female agriculture workers in Africa. By decreasing the gender gap and expanding females’ access to land and resources, these women have the potential to increase agricultural output in developing countries by between 2.5 and 4%. Organizations are prioritizing empowering women in agriculture in order to reduce poverty.

The Gender Gap

Regardless of their active role in agriculture, women own fewer assets, have less access to necessary agricultural yields and receive less education and training in these areas compared to men in Sub-Saharan Africa. The main cause of this persistent gap is established traditional gender roles. Gender roles continue to negatively impact women across Africa. Women often face more difficulties in owning land, establishing credit and gaining access to proper resources. When given the proper tools, these women could have a substantial positive effect on both the economy and SSA’s agricultural output.

The Benefits of Gender Parity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Closing the gender gap is imperative to making progress in SSA’s economy and increasing agricultural output. By empowering female agricultural workers and increasing their access to finances, land rights, resources and training, there could be a significant positive effect for the whole of Africa. Ruth Meinzen-Dick explains that in Sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture is two to four times more effective in reducing poverty than growth in other sectors. She explains further that because women are more likely than men to invest resources into meeting their children’s educational and nutritional needs, investing in women is crucial.

Making Women a Priority

Although the benefits of female empowerment are clear to see, in order to make these benefits a reality, it is imperative that programs and policies target three main factors: land rights, equal access to agricultural resources and finances and equal power in decision-making. Furthermore, as more women become educated and empowered, these investments and knowledge will not only be passed on to their children but throughout the community. As explained by Slyvia Tetteh, “When mothers are educated, they keep their education in their home and use it to educate their children. If you educate a woman, you educate her home and to some extent, the community.”

Women Who Farm Africa

Across the world, efforts are being made to educate and empower female agricultural workers in Africa. Policies and programs are all pushing to further female agricultural workers’ rights and power. A clear example of this is Women Who Farm Africa. This alliance was created in order to provide resources for women farmers to learn about agriculture through empowerment. By involving them in decision-making and access to finances, women farmers can increase their income, develop a stable rural livelihood and contribute to ensuring food security.

The Promise of Female Farmers

It is clear to see why female empowerment and closing the gender gap should take priority across Africa. Doing so would not only increase the lives and quality of living for these women but would also positively impact the agricultural output and the general state of Africa’s economy. Furthermore, this could also create more stability for the children growing up in rural communities. With the knowledge that mothers gain, this knowledge can then be passed down to their children and the rise in income can be invested in the children’s future. If properly prioritized and applied, empowering women in agriculture could break intergenerational cycles of poverty, reduce hunger and malnutrition rates and improve Africa’s economy as a whole.

– Caroline Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in MicronesiaAll too often, poverty’s defining factor is income. However, other factors such as access to healthcare, public transportation and education all impact poverty as well. Micronesia’s well-deserved reputation as a paradise wrongly implies that poverty and hunger aren’t an issue. The islanders face a complex grouping of problems affecting food availability and agriculture despite the picturesque locale. Micronesia is comprised of 607 islands in the Northwestern Pacific. The country is represented in four states: Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae. It is home to about 112,000 citizens with a median household income of $7,336 as of 2019, primarily earned through the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries. This article will highlight the issue of hunger in Micronesia and list three potential solutions.

Hunger in Paradise

The issue of hunger in Micronesia has varying causation through the states. Although, some of the primary culprits throughout the country are climate change, a lack of affordable food and rapid urbanization. The effects of climate change in Micronesia is increasingly apparent; the resulting damage effects produce and agricultural land at an alarming rate. Wells in developing areas can become unusable once saturated with seawater, limiting potable water sources for drinking and cooking. Naturally abundant crops like breadfruit and taro suffer from rising sea levels too, with the intrusion of saltwater into their root systems limiting crop-yields or rendering them inedible. In the case of taro root, it takes between two and three years for the plant to be harvestable, so the damage is often long-lasting.

Rising sea levels have also forced residents to relocate or become further removed from services like emergency food supplies. Additionally, the geographical layout of the islands leads to heavy rainfall throughout the year and increases the number of typhoons, exacerbating coastal erosion. Unfortunately, many Micronesians live in these sinking coastal areas.

Additional Challenges

The loss of land and local produce has led to a search for non-agricultural jobs, leading to rapid urbanization in the country. This change has traditionally meant increased dependence on imported food as opposed to local crops, typically exported to the U.S., Japan and Guam. While convenient, these imported foods lack nutritional density, and often lead to health problems, increasing the rates of obesity in Micronesia. Today, as much as 70% of the daily diet in Micronesia can come from imported sources.

Solutions to Hunger in Micronesia

Unfortunately, issues like climate change seem to be here to stay. But, there are solutions to hunger and poverty in Micronesia. Below are three potential solutions:

  1. Increasing Education and Employment Opportunities: This hunger-reduction method will likely be challenging and costly, but increasing opportunities would boost the Micronesian economy and increase social welfare as a result. The Micronesian government might increasing internet accessibility or by rejuvenating the domestic food industry.
  2. Investing in Agriculture: Investing in nation-wide food production is likely to reduce hunger. For example, hydroponics can help combat the need for more farming land. Micronesians might use this technology to prevent saltwater from ruining the soil. Additionally, Micronesia might incentivize its citizens to buy local produce by increasing taxes on imported goods.
  3. Investing in Desalinization Systems: When specified to the region, purification and desalinization systems can improve the quality of drinking water, especially after natural disasters. Similarly, the Micronesian government might consider investing in solar-powered filtration systems. Lastly, Micronesia might increase its supply of drinking-water by increasing regulations on sewer facilities to prevent water contamination.

Identifying the issues and creating potential solutions is just the first step to ending poverty in Micronesia. Hopefully, Micronesia will choose to implement its plans and to invest in its future citizens. However, it will take foreign aid and the work of NGOs to fully tackle the problem of hunger in Micronesia.

Katrina Hall
Photo: Flickr

Agroforestry Can Reduce Global PovertyForests provide food, medicine, fodder and energy for 250 million of the world’s extreme poor. If utilized properly, the method of agroforestry can reduce global poverty. The resources and benefits that forests can provide are often inaccessible to those in poverty due to the private ownership of forests.

Ownership of Forests

Approximately 77% of the world’s forests are owned and administered by governments that do not recognize the claims of indigenous peoples and local communities to the land. Since government priorities do not always align with community needs, the locals who need the forests to survive do not receive the benefits that they should. For example, the timber and ecotourism industries in Africa are skyrocketing but the locals do not share in the profits.

Agroforestry

Agroforestry, the agricultural practice of growing trees and shrubs around crops or pastureland, can ameliorate this problem. Agroforestry builds on existing agricultural land already owned by communities to create new forests not owned by the government, thereby circumventing the ownership problem and guaranteeing that profits remain in the community. Agroforestry systems are smaller in scale than typical forests but they still deliver many of the same positive results: they diversify production, restore soil fertility and increase biodiversity.

The benefits of agroforestry extend beyond environmental issues. Agroforestry can reduce global poverty by increasing food resources and security, improving nutrition and increasing profits for farmers.

3 Countries Using Agroforestry

  1. Bolivia uses agroforestry to reduce food insecurity. Bolivia is one of the biggest producers of organic cacao, which despite being edible, is not a major food crop. Cacao is grown mostly wild or in monocultures, though there is a growing shift to agroforestry systems where cacao trees are intercropped with shade trees and other by-crops like bananas and avocados. Over 75% of Bolivian households lack regular access to basic foods. Thanks to agroforestry, 40% of the population who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods can both produce more food and earn more money to buy what they do not grow. The Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) found that the return on labor was double for agroforestry systems compared to monocultures even though the cacao yields were 40% higher in the monocultures. The revenue difference came from the sale of the by-crops, which offset the lower cacao yield. The by-crops helped farmers earn a profit but also represented a food source for the communities.

  2. Burkina Faso uses agroforestry as a means of women’s empowerment. The U.N. Development Program estimates that an average of three million African women work directly or indirectly with shea butter. Women have historically played an important role in the extraction of shea butter but they have not always been compensated for their work, even as the industry and profits grew. Agroforestry allows for more community involvement in farming, which in turn opens up opportunities for women. NGOs like CECI and WUSC help to train women in shea harvesting as part of the Uniterra project, which aims to get women involved in entrepreneurial ventures such as developing their own shea butter businesses for international exports. As a result of agroforestry, more women are empowered to take themselves out of poverty.

  3. India is a global leader in agroforestry policy. India was the first country to create a national agroforestry policy in 2014 despite existing policies that were unfavorable to agriculture, weak markets and a lack of institutional finance. The country set the ambitious goal of increasing national tree cover to 33% as a way to make agriculture more sustainable while optimizing its productivity. Agroforestry is currently in use on 13.5 million hectares in India but the government hopes to expand it to increase benefits like reducing poverty and malnutrition by tripling crop yields. Already, agroforestry provides 65% of the country’s timber and almost half of its fuelwood. Timber production on tree farms generates 450 employment days per hectare per year, which can reduce rural unemployment, and in turn, rural poverty.

The Potential of Agroforestry in Poverty Reduction

Many other rural communities in Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia have relied on agroforestry throughout history, with and without government backing. As a whole, agroforestry is underused in the fight against global poverty. Nations with large agricultural sectors need to adopt agroforestry policies and promote the training needed to help farmers implement agroforestry on a large scale. These agroforestry efforts have the potential to significantly contribute to global poverty reduction.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in Tanzania
Poverty eradication in Tanzania has seen success with the country’s poverty rate falling from 34.4% in 2007 to 26.4% in 2018. The country requires more renewable energies including solar, biomass, hydro and wind in order to create jobs and lower unemployment. Agriculture is the main part of Tanzania’s economy today and is a significant consideration when thinking about renewable energies. Here is some information about poverty eradication in Tanzania.

Poverty in Tanzania

The 2019 Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment of overall poverty eradication efforts in Tanzania shows that the country has made steady gains in lowering the overall poverty rates between 2011 and the present. In fact, poverty decreased by 8% in 10 years, down from 34.4% in 2007 to 26.4% in 2018. Most of the reduction in poverty was in rural areas and outside urban Dar es Salaam. However, the eradication of poverty in Tanzania has slowed down since 2012. For example, the economic growth on poverty reduction went from a 1% decline annually to 0.3% yearly since 2012-18. As a result, for every four Tanzanians who rose above poverty levels, three more Tanzanians fell into poverty. One reason for this is that families have a large number of dependents and less access to resources that would assist with basic needs, limiting their ability to access employment.

Poverty eradication in Tanzania has been successful based on the measures to eradicate poverty. For example, many in the country are using solar power now. While poverty and living conditions, in general, have experienced steady improvement, only 29% of Tanzania has access to electricity with 10% going to rural Tanzania and only 7% going to poorer families.

Facts About Energy and Energy Poverty in Tanzania

  1. Tanzania’s Energy: Tanzania generates its energy mostly from natural gas (48%), hydro (31%), petrol (18%), biofuels (1%) and solar (1%). Solar implementation would be beneficial to Tanzania region-wide, considering that its current sunshine hours range between 2,800 and 3,500 per year. The global radiation is 4-7kWh per m2 per day.
  2. Untapped Renewable Energy Sources: Tanzania still has a vast amount of untapped renewable energy sources that include biomass, hydropower and wind sources, as well as ample sunlight. Some of the country’s efforts to implement the use of solar power has been paying off greatly. For example, in rural areas, people are using 33% solar energy in contrast to urban areas that are only using 14% solar power. Meanwhile, the World Bank stated that “Despite some improvements, about 45 percent of households still rely on such inefficient lighting sources as torches and kerosene. Tanzania energy situation – Solar efficient energy sources for cooking has also improved slightly, but over 80 percent of all households, and more than 90 percent of rural and poor households, continue to rely on firewood and charcoal.”
  3. Biomass, Hydro and Wind: Biomass challenges facing the population include limited technical knowledge, lack of financial facilities for investment purposes into renewable energy and limited knowledge of the population’s different energy options to calculate cycle cost and make the best use of biomass renewable energy. Hydro is also a highly dependable source of renewable energy for Tanzanians, however, there is an area for growth and opportunity to utilize a different renewable source such as wind power. If, for example, the country does not have much rain, it might choose to depend on another source for energy, such as wind, although wind power has been slow to evolve.

Amplifying Employment Through Agriculture

A World Bank article looked at how Tanzania has reduced poverty and improved its economy over the last decade. However, it also uncovered that a large number of the population is still at risk of falling into poverty. Without sufficient job growth, the Tanzanian population, which is only growing larger, could experience trouble. The unemployment rate went down to 9.7% in 2020, showing considerable improvement in comparison to the unemployment rate of 10.3% in 2014. Urban areas show less stability regarding consumption inequality and inequality opportunities than rural areas. The need for increased education and general awareness to the entire population is why it is prudent to understand the renewable energy options available and get the population of Tanzania up to speed on the technology available to them, along with real resources.

The Tanzanian government’s Tanzania Development Vision 2025 and the Five-Year Development Plan (FYDP II) aim to eliminate poverty and sustainably industrialize with the goal of Tanzania becoming a middle-income country by 2025. As a result, the Tanzanian government is turning its attention to agriculture in order to increase the country’s socio-economic development, as outlined in the Second Agriculture Sector Development Program (ASDP II). Some of ASDP II’s goals are to increase commercialization, prioritize commodity value chains and mobilize capital by giving the formal private sector a growing role in agriculture. Agriculture drives about two-thirds of jobs in Tanzania and three-quarters for those in poverty meaning that the improvement of the sector is necessary to the creation of more and higher-quality jobs in order to reduce poverty.

Agriculture is and has been one of the mainstays economically. It also accounts for about a quarter of Tanzania’s GDP and makes up two-thirds of the jobs. It is prudent that Tanzania takes enhanced measures to improve the strategy and ensure the creation of more jobs according to The World Bank. Plenty of room exists for innovation and increased job creation to meet the acceleration of population growth. The focus goes back to the need to help Tanzanians understand and gain awareness of how to implement “commercialization, prioritizing high-potential commodity value chains, and mobilizing capital by giving the formal private sector a growing role in agriculture.”

Looking Ahead

As the world progresses globally in technology and trade, the question becomes, will the Tanzania population keep up? Many in rural areas still have employment in agriculture. Agriculture employment opportunities will continue to exist, but with more advanced equipment, thereby, creating more production opportunities to increase employment opportunities.

– Kathleen M. Hellem
Photo: Pixabay

Crop Pests and DiseasesThe global climate is changing and food demands are increasing. As a result, the threat of crop pests and diseases could mean widespread hunger, especially for at-risk populations. The nature of many agricultural pests and pathogens compound this problem. They are hard to detect, widespread, and highly specified.

Containing these diseases can only happen once they’ve become detectable. Consequently, this often means that large amounts of crops have been damaged past the point of recovery and containment. One disease alone can cause financial losses in the hundreds of millions. A single outbreak of Karnal bunt fungus in north Texas caused a $250 million loss in revenue in 2001.

More Food, More Pests?

The world’s food supply faces increased biological threats due to climate change, increased travel between countries, and increases in large-scale food production. The need for food increases each year as well, with a predicted nine billion people in need by 2050. Mass agriculture of staple crops, such as wheat, rice, palm, cassava and various fruit and vegetables, face dangers unique to each crop:

  • Cassava Mosaic Virus: This virus produces ‘s’ shaped stalks, stunted plant growth, and low yields.

  • Coconut Rhinoceros beetle: The ‘Coconut’ Red Rhinoceros Beetle (X. glabratus) spreads fungus called Raffaelea Lauricola that kills redbay and avocado trees, effectively starving their pollinators.

  • Wheat Rust: This fungus is caused by Puccinia triticina (Brown Leaf Rust), and it reduces wheat kernel yield and size. It is a prolific spreader that is present in major wheat-growing sites worldwide.

  • Citrus Greening: This virus is rampant in the southeastern U.S. as well as citrus and other orchards worldwide. As of 2019, the disease has reduced Florida citrus production by 75%.

Additionally, the loss of staple foods to crop pests and diseases can contribute to livestock malnutrition. Roughly 36% of the world’s crops are grown for feeding livestock. In some developing countries, these animals are essential to meeting a minimum caloric intake. Thus, famine in developing countries can commonly be exacerbated by a secondary loss in crop-dependent food supplies, such as cattle or goats.

However, a potential solution to the malnutrition of both humans and livestock lies in an unforeseen place.

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

dog’s sense of smell is consistently strong, with some odors detectable in parts per trillion. The scent abilities of our four-legged canine friends have an ancient history of benefits. This includes successful applications in hunting, national security, border patrol, medicine and agriculture. This skill also makes them well suited for training in detecting crop pests and diseases.

Dogs have a particular knack for new scents, described as a form of neophilia. “This technology is thousands of years old – the dog’s nose; we’ve just trained dogs to hunt new prey: the bacteria that causes a very damaging crop disease,” says U.S. Department of Agriculture researcher Timothy Gottwald.

Agricultural scientists approve of this new application (detection of crop pests and diseases) of a canine’s olfactory system. Equally important to note is the cost-saving potential of training dogs over traditional identification and lab processing, as money is a pivotal issue in developing countries when eradicating crop diseases.

Conclusion

Food security, the increase in crop pests and diseases and the costs of testing for agricultural diseases is a dynamic problem combination in need of unique solutions. To date, dogs have been successful in identifying crop diseases such as clubroot, wheat rust and citrus greening. They have also shown promise in early and accurate detection. These early successes imply that training our canine companions can be a worthwhile and life-saving venture for millions of food-insecure peoples in the future.

Katrina Hall
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and income diversification The World Bank estimates that 78% of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Most individuals who reside in these areas depend on farming and agriculture not only for sustenance, but also for household income. There is consequently a correlation between poverty and having one, dominating occupation. Yet according to researchers, there seems to be a solution to this relationship through increased income diversification.

Farming

There is an issue of volatility that is inherent in farming. Variability in conditions can adversely affect crop yield, which ultimately impacts the income received by farmers. According to Farm Europe, competition can also be problematic. If all the poor in a given region take up farming as a means of earning income, then at some point, the supply outweighs the demand. When that happens, either crop prices will either decrease or crops will waste away in storage. This effect is further amplified when governments are unable or unwilling to offer adequate compensation for farmers’ excess crops.

Even in the United States, abundant in resources and well-developed in agricultural techniques, farming is a constantly changing industry. The USDA reports a wide fluctuation in income earned by a typical commercial farmer between 2000 and 2014. As a result, there is a need for income diversity worldwide, and this is particularly illustrated by some of the success stories in impoverished countries.

Vietnam

Since the 1990s, Vietnam has experienced high rates of economic growth. Researchers with the IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) assert this is due in large part to income diversification.

Vietnam’s highest concentration of poverty is located in the Northern Hills. An analysis of the region suggested that those able to earn income by way of agricultural production, as well as non-farming activities, experienced the highest spike in their earnings over time. However, where does that leave those solely reliant on farming?

Residents limited to farming only managed to earn a living by applying the principle of diversification to their crops. They deviated from the typical crop grown, rice, and added cash crops, like coffee and tea, to their output. The cash crops yielded a much higher profit per unit of sale and required less land, labor and resources to grow and maintain. Even so, their spike in income did not match that of those who participated in both farming and non-farming activities. Nonetheless, the practice of diversification provided a much more stable source of income overall.

Niger

Niger currently ranks as the fifth most impoverished country in the world, and it is actively striving to end its poverty issue. People are seeing positive results attributed to the dynamic between poverty and income diversification.

A study conducted on over 600 smallholder rice farming families in Niger revealed that those who also participated in non-farming wage employment were better off than those who strictly farmed or were self-employed in some capacity related to farming. An important effect of a second stream of income was the ability to maintain the size of a given farm. The ancillary job could generate enough profit during a poor season to cover overhead costs for the following season.

Conclusion

The relationship between poverty and income diversification has become a central focus for policymakers across the globe. It is an effective way for individuals to mitigate the impacts of poverty. Empowering impoverished families to earn steady income can solve many issues embedded in poverty. If a family can individually afford food and water, they can pay to keep their lights on or go for a visit to a doctor. Moreover, the idea of attaining an education or further developing their current form of income becomes a realistic possibility. Diversifying income creates a pathway to not only sustaining livelihoods, but lays the groundwork for prosperity.

Christian Montemayor
Photo: Flickr

Use of Chemical Pesticides
Despite their effectiveness in killing specific pests, historic incidents and unknowns related to chemical pesticides have led to public health concerns. Fears that people could be at risk if they consume food treated with chemical pesticides do have a foundation. Pesticides have been found to partially cause neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s Disease, among other maladies. Chemical pesticides cannot choose which organisms they kill, which can lead to raised ecosystem contamination and toxicity. Not all chemical pesticides directly harm humans. However, evidence of those that do, along with evidence for unintended ecological damage, led to efforts to reduce the use of chemical pesticides.

Neem as an Alternative

One of the most concerning side-effects of the use of chemical pesticides is their effect on bee populations. Bees are vital to crop pollination and indirectly help create much of the food that humans eat. Pesticide use is a primary cause of the current decline in beehive populations. American and European beekeepers report this is at around 30% per year.  Bee population decline contributes to food scarcity and poverty. When food becomes more scarce, prices rise and more people go hungry. Current conditions necessitate implementing an alternative to chemical pesticides that is safe for humans, certain insects and plants.

New research points to naturally derived pesticides as possibly safer and less damaging to the environment. Currently, the most promising natural solution is neem oil. Neem oil is an organic, naturally-derived substance from the Neem tree. The tree grows primarily in tropical regions. These areas tend to be most affected by insect infestations and represent some of the poorest areas in the world.

Neem oil use is not a new phenomenon. Traditional Indian farming methods practiced for thousands of years, and even folk medicines incorporate neem usage. It is effective at reducing specific insect populations while having minimal noted negative effects on beneficial insects like bees and worms. A number of agricultural companies have begun using neem in their products, and its use is only expected to grow as its efficacy is increasingly verified.

Outbreak and Application in Africa

In early 2020, East Africa faced its worst locust outbreak in decades. Swarms devoured hundreds of thousands of acres, fostering hunger and fear in local communities. Millions of people became more food insecure and the use of chemical pesticides became less viable. The COVID-19 pandemic upset the global chemical supply chain, which seems to have inhibited governments from receiving the large quantities of pesticides needed to make an impact against the locust invasion.

In response, some farmers in Kenya began making their own neem oil to push back against locust invasions. Neem oil can weaken locusts’ reproductive ability and potentially kill them, which reduces the current and future populations. While it was too late to make a big impact against the swarms, individual farmers protected their crops. If enough farmers learn to make their own oil in the future, or if it is produced cheaply on a large scale, Kenya could have an effective, safe defense against locust invasions. Other countries in the region also afflicted by locust swarms stand to benefit from looking to Kenya as an example.

Potential for Future Practices

Chemical pesticide use is harmful to the environment and can create bad health outcomes for some people. Industrial use of neem oil instead of chemical pesticides could improve health conditions worldwide and protect ecosystems. On a smaller scale, it could protect the economic interests of poor farmers and people at risk of starvation. People may also be more accepting of the use of growable, natural pesticides over the use of chemical ones. Locally-made neem oil also mitigates environmental pollution. This puts more power into the hands of individual farmers. Though natural pesticide solutions require more research, they represent critical development in the future of agricultural pesticides.

Jeff Keare
Photo: Unsplash


Agribusinesses in Trifinio, Guatemala renovated cattle and pasture lands into crops for exports which dramatically changed the area. The transformation drove approximately 25,000 people into this remote area in the southwest rural region of Guatemala and employed thousands of people who sought an opportunity in this growing business. The University of Colorado created a healthcare alliance to provide quality medical treatments in the now booming community.

Trifinio, Guatemala

Few people know about Trifinio, Guatemala even though it is a major producer for AgroAmerica’s Chiquita bananas. The town is made up of small concrete houses and only a few paved roads. Most homes are single-room units. When it comes to cultural development, the town’s only form of entertainment is a local bar.

This small and highly impoverished community suffers from the reality of poor health care access. With its nearest hospital one hour away in the town of Coatepeque Guatemala, the residents of this area face the challenges of malnutrition, high infant mortality rates, and a range of infectious diseases. More than 46% of children have intestinal parasites, 38.7% of children have anemia and one-third of women are affected by pregnancy complications. The numbers could not say it clearly enough; this community needed help. Fortunately, AgroAmerica teamed up with the University of Colorado to find a solution.

University of Colorado partners with AgroAmerica

In 2011 Fernando and Gustavo Bolaños, brothers and CEOs and COOs of AgroAmerica, became frustrated by the lack of health care access in their community. With Guatemala’s history of little investment in healthcare, they found themselves unable to ask the public sector for help. Gustavo Bolaños himself addressed this issue in an interview where he claimed, “In Guatemala, we have a lot of inequality and poverty, the government hasn’t been able to really cover the basic needs of the population. We as a private company, see all the needs of our people, and the biggest problem we are facing is education and health”. Therefore, rather than going to the government, they turned to the University of Colorado’s Global Health Center.

With an investment of 1 million U.S. dollars, the Bolaños made a healthcare alliance with the Colorado School of Public Health. Their goal was to build a medical center on their banana plantation. Three years later, the Bolaños proudly stood before the new medical facility. It houses a clinic, laboratory and conference space. The Trifinio Center for Human Development serves around 4,500 plantation workers, along with the 24,000 residents of the neighboring villages, and is “staffed by CU doctors, nurses, midwives, students and other health professionals rotating through Guatemala”.

The Last Six Years

Before Trifinio’s Center for Human Development (CHD) a visit to a health professional cost people in this community at least $25 USD. This did not include transportation fees and the loss of a day’s wages. With the medical facility, that cost has dropped to less than $5 USD. Families now have access to health resources without a geographical and economic barrier. The clinic is committed to decreasing neonatal morbidity, childhood mortality and increasing safe delivery practices and childhood growth and development. Along with these medical goals, the center hopes to impact the health education and social realities of its community.

In 2017, the CHD began a youth leadership program run by participating high-school students from the area. This initiative provided an opportunity for future leaders to learn about community organizing and advocacy that could improve human development. The program not just helps the community, but “students selected for this program receive a scholarship to cover their school fees,” promoting access for educational attainment.

Along with the youth program, the center provides sexual health education to neighboring schools in the area. For mothers, it has a maternal and child health program. This provides quality prenatal care and gives families a direct line for medical professionals to track both the mother’s and child’s health.

The center also conducts research to serve the needs of the community and bring new knowledge to the rest of the world. Their Student Health Survey, taken in late June and early July of 2019 “enrolled 1,414 participants from 15 Trifinio middle and high schools” to better understand the health and social realities of these children, and hopefully address the needs that are found.

The Future

In 2013 Stephen Berman, the director of the Center for Global Health at the University of Colorado said, “The solutions we develop through this program may someday be replicated in communities all over the world”. The program has had measurable benefits for its community, which is a good reason for its replication in other regions. Health care accessibility is not an easy system. But we saw major success through the healthcare alliance of a privately run company and a public institution. There are possibilities for new solutions to address the needs of those most vulnerable.

Ana Paola Asturias
Photo: Flickr

TechnoServe is Alleviating PovertyNearly two-thirds of developing countries rely heavily on the economic profit of agriculture to support local financial infrastructure. The industry holds high profitability but farmers rarely have the means to create a profitable business. TechnoServe works closely in agricultural advancements, creating capitalizing markets for countries to grow upon. Technoserve is alleviating poverty through its initiatives in the agricultural sector.

Training Skills for Farmers

Kenya, Haiti and Zambia are some of the many developing countries rich in natural resources that are in high consumer demand, such as mangos and cashews. The support and training skills implemented by TechnoServe work to profit on the supply and demand. These natural resources could provide significant economic growth if farmers are given the skills to create a profitable business. Technoserve has partnered with nearly 4,000 businesses and upwards of 300,000 farmers each year.

TechnoServe’s mission is to implement training methods that these regions lack, such as skills in management training, finance and secure markets that are needed to create profitable enterprises. The implementation of training skills and knowledge allows individuals and communities to continue to carry the skills for a lifetime.

TechnoServe has made a lasting impact for millions of individuals and in 2019 it was rated the number one nonprofit fighting poverty by ImpactMatters.

Focusing on Women’s Empowerment

The annual report from 2019 reveals an increase in entrepreneurship for farmers and women, highlighting specific countries, and more specifically, women’s impact. In 2019, 38% of beneficiaries were women or women-owned businesses. Overall, 317,493 individuals and companies, as a result of Technoserve’s help, display increased profitability and financial benefits of $200,579.

In developing countries, women face gender barriers that are disproportionally more likely to affect them. Women’s economic empowerment is vital for alleviating poverty and creating employment opportunities. Investing specifically in women’s economic opportunities, such as access to training, knowledge and resources, could impact farm production up to 30%, allowing for increased employment opportunities. Studies estimate that this change could impact the global GPD by 26%, or $28 trillion.

Women in Business (WIN)

Working closely with businesses and organizations, Technoserve is alleviating poverty by proactively working to create social equity within communities. Breaking the barrier of gender inequality to empower women-run institutions through funding and support, improves the quality of life and financial status. For instance, Technoserves five year program designed for women, called Women in Business (WIN), focuses on female entrepreneurs in Mozambique. Similar training is also provided for men through Technoserve, to create complete gender balance.

More than three-quarters of economically active Mozambicans are involved in small and informal businesses, 60% of whom are women.” Despite most business owners being women, their businesses are less likely to employ as many people and are relatively smaller than their male counterparts. Highlighting gender barriers, women face higher demands at home due to families and are not likely to receive the same networks, information and opportunity. The WIN program utilizes a market systems approach to produce partnerships with private sector companies, associates and service providers, to create an inclusive market for women. WIN is able to provide these women resources through the partnership established with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Sida assists TechnoServe’s initiative through funding, providing resources such as creating employment opportunities, equipment, financial services and products needed.

Overall, TechnoServe is alleviating poverty with initiatives in the agricultural industry and acknowledges the important role of women in this endeavor.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

How Poverty Affects Everyday Life in MoldovaPoverty in Moldova is a common reality for those that live there. Many have had to leave their family, friends and homes to find a job because it is nearly impossible to find one in Moldova due to high unemployment rates. Now imagine being the ones left behind: the family members and life-long friends who are left in a politically torn country. Since Moldova gained its independence in 1991 it has struggled to fight poverty within its borders, affecting everyday life in Moldova. Moldova’s main causes of poverty are immigration due to high unemployment and governmental strife. These factors especially affect the children of Moldova.

Immigration and High Unemployment

Many of Moldova’s citizens are moving out of the country. There are simply not enough jobs for everyone. Doina Grecu, a woman born in Moldova who moved to the U.S. to further her education, said that her father had to find work abroad for several years when she lived in Moldova. Electricity was not stable and was expensive then, so people would only be able to talk to their loved ones every now and then and waited to hear that they were alright. Grecu also recounted that some people traveled from Moldova all the way across Europe to France. Poverty in Moldova has caused many people to leave their homes.

Governmental Strife

Even though Moldova has strengthened its relationship with the EU, it still struggles with poverty because of its conflicting interests in trade. Half of the country believes that they should exclusively trade with Russian because of their history together, and the other half have seen that Europe has prospered in trade and believe that Moldova should trade with them.

To further complicate things, Russia has been known to retaliate if Moldova trades with other countries. Doina Grecu stated that there were videos of Russians destroying apples from Moldova for this very reason. Moldova has uniquely rich soil that makes it an agricultural economy, so this kind of retribution is extremely harmful to these farmers. And while farming is Moldova’s main source of income, the rural areas have an almost five times higher poverty rate than Moldova’s urban areas.

Moldova’s Impoverished Children

Child poverty is significantly high. UNICEF states, “Children in Moldova remain disproportionately poor.” Some children were sent to orphanages, not because they had no parents, but because their parents were unable to care for them, as recounted by Grecu. Other children had to live with their grandparents, who may be unable to properly care for them, while one or both of their parents went abroad to find a job to send money home.

Poverty in Moldova has improved over the years. The non-governmental organization EcoVillage Farms has come up with a way to help Moldova capitalizes on what makes it special. As mentioned before, Moldova’s fertile soil is definitely an asset to Moldova. As such, the country is making the transition to the “quality over quantity” mindset when it comes to what they eat, states Grecu. Since Moldova is mainly an agricultural country, investing in farmers and small businesses will help boost Moldova’s economy and improve everyday life in Moldova. EcoVillage’s goal is to give these upcoming businesses a place to start. A furnished kitchen space will be available for rent for these business owners to practice their craft. Renters can also pay to use other renters’ equipment so as to build a sense of community and learn from each other. In addition, EcoVillage will provide counseling in finance and the logistics of how to start a business.

This NGO’s dream is still in the works, but they are more than halfway to their fundraising goal. When they are finished, this opportunity for small food businesses in the country with help reduce poverty in Moldova by building its economy on its biggest asset: a quality grounds for agriculture.

—Moriah Thomas
Photo: Flickr