Information and stories on awareness.

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

NFTs Can Fight Poverty
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have taken the world by storm as an efficient way to invest and make a profit. In contrast to the also widely known cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, each NFT is one of a kind, with unique pre-installed code and data. NFTs are not in typical commercial transactions. They are more like art pieces that people can sell, trade or buy. Since bidders and buyers use crypto graphics as displays of wealth and to represent property rights, it might be surprising to think that NFTs can fight poverty.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold his very first tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million with the intention of donating the sum to GiveDirectly, a charity that supplies cash to various communities in extreme poverty around the world. Pioneering this wonderful use of the NFT, Dorsey conveyed his profits to the Africa Relief Charity through GiveDirectly in March 2021.

What is GiveDirectly?

Paul Niehaus, Rohit Wanchoo, Jeremy Shapiro and Michael Faye founded GiveDirectly in 2008. As the name might suggest, this organization provides direct money transfers to families in need worldwide, especially in African countries.

GiveDirectly operates in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, DRC, Togo and the U.S. So far, this program has distributed millions of dollars to 20,000 people within 197 villages and surveyed an extra 100 villages to act as a control group for research purposes.

On top of one-time donations, the charity offers various useful programs and opportunities. One of GiveDirectly’s most beneficial schemes is its Universal Basic Income program, through which willing donors may donate $1 per day per individual.

Donors have the option of supporting one individual, three individuals, 10 people or an entire village. Some recipients will collect ongoing payments for 12 years, making this a great giving opportunity for those who have just scored big with an NFT jackpot.

NFTs, Millennials and Charity

Most, if not all of the time, NFTs sell for large sums of money, leaving the seller with an instant and enormous growth in their wealth. NFTs typically range in price from almost millions to millions of dollars. According to Morning Consult, millennials are the generation most involved in collecting and selling NFTs; a shocking 23% of those involved in NFTs were millennials.

Additionally, millennials suffered the most financially from the COVID-19 pandemic because they also experienced the 2001 recession and the Great Recession. Between the Great Recession and the recession that the pandemic caused, millennials are no stranger to money shortages. They are either on an ongoing job hunt, just lost their job or are unlikely to see a raise. Consequently, it is no surprise millennials swiftly took advantage of the NFT money-making format.

Urging NFT sellers to give to reliable charities like GiveDirectly is thus one avenue through which NFTs could have a significant impact on global poverty. An increasing amount of millennials are telling miraculous rags to riches stories, similar to the stories of the most charitable celebrities and millionaires.

Since competitive bidding systems determine NFTs costs, it is easy to wait for an NFT to reach an exorbitant price. Mike Winklemann sold the most expensive NFT for $69 million. The craziest bids amount to sums the average millennial may never see in their entire lifespan.

Celebrities who come from humble beginnings are the ones who donate the most, most notably Brad Pitt and Kanye West. With this empathy toward the experience of living in a state of prolonged scarcity and uncertainty, along with Jack Dorsey and his sold tweet’s respectable example, more and more NFT sellers may use their gains to aid in fighting poverty.

How NFTs Can Fight Global Poverty

A rapidly increasing number of millennials and zoomers are gaining a keen interest in NFTs, so it is valuable to have conversations with peers about what the funds could go towards, such as charitable endeavors. The young populace in the United States should know that NFTs can help in the fight against poverty.

– Fidelia Gavrilenko
Photo: Flickr

Heroin Use in Seychelles
In 2019, the Republic of Seychelles had the world’s worst reported heroin usage rate per capita. About 10% of the working-age population, between 5,000 and 6,000 people, had an addiction to heroin. The archipelago’s total population in 2019 was only 94,000. Seychelles’ opioid use rates have also consistently been among the world’s highest rates. These have continued to rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heroin use in Seychelles continues to be an epidemic, but some are implementing measures to combat it.

Why Seychelles is Suffering a Heroin Epidemic

Seychelles is a developing country in the Indian Ocean that includes more than 100 islands. The nature of Seychelles’ borders makes it difficult for law enforcement to intercept heroin arriving primarily from Afghanistan. Even during the pandemic, while lockdown measures were in place, the drug market continued to flourish in Seychelles with steady imports of illicit drugs as other markets struggled.

Heroin is so abundant that the cost of a line has dropped from about 1,000 Seychellois rupees to about 30 rupees. By 2020, the typical salary in Seychelles was $420 or approximately 5,400 rupees. With about 40% of the country’s population living in poverty, heroin has become an affordable option for drug users. People living in poverty are also more likely to use drugs like heroin and engage in drug-related crime than people who are financially better off. Additionally, impoverished people who are drug addicts tend to lack access to the addiction services and other forms of support they need to recover.

By 2011, the number of heroin users was about 1,200. The alarming and quickly rising number of users prompted the government to engage in a war on drugs. The war involved implementing strict enforcement on drug traffickers and addicts alike. However, the increase in users over the years accompanying the significant drop in the cost of heroin shows the ineffectiveness of cracking down on addicts. As a result, the government of Seychelles shifted its focus to drug prevention and rehabilitation.

Efforts to Curtail Heroin Use in Seychelles

In 2020, Seychelles’ government invested 75 million Seychellois rupees toward prevention and rehabilitation, nearly ten times what it invested in 2016. The Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (APDAR) also emerged in 2017. Enrolled in its programs are more than 2,000 people, 68% of whom have gainful employment. The agency offers a high- and low-threshold program for addicts.

People who participate in the high-threshold program receive in-patient care and go through detoxification. Those registered for the low-threshold program primarily learn harm reduction strategies designed to reduce drug abuse’s negative impacts. APDAR also engages in prevention efforts, demand reduction and aftercare programs. In 2018, the agency designed a national plan to deal with heroin use in Seychelles. Included in the plan is a rehabilitation village offering residency to drug users and their families which began construction in 2020.

Seychelles has a notable lack of NGOs to provide support to people dealing with drug addiction. In 2012, an NGO called CARE launched a drug abuse education and awareness campaign targeting youths. Young people make up a large proportion of Seychelle’s heroin users. Therefore, education informing youths of the dangers of heroin is necessary to reduce the number of future addicts.

Stopping the Heroin Epidemic

The pandemic certainly has not helped to reduce heroin use in Seychelles. However, with complex and well-funded prevention and rehabilitation programs in place, heroin addicts and their families can get the help they need. Relapse is always a possibility for users as getting and staying clean is a difficult thing to achieve. However, with time, Seychelles can bring the number of users down to what it was in 2011, and then reduce the number even further.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

Higher Education in South Africa
Higher education can be the catalyst to reshape a struggling economy, lessen the unemployment rate and ultimately reduce poverty. With South Africa’s staggering poverty rate of 55.5%, higher education in South Africa is rife with inequalities lingering from the apartheid era and the Bantu Education Act. These historical inequities have sparked student-led protests and movements to eliminate financial and cultural constraints in the education system.

Educational Disparities Remain Post-Apartheid

Earning the title of “the most unequal country in the world,” according to the World Bank, South Africa faces many challenges in recovering from its apartheid past. The racial disparities in education are apparent long before a student reaches higher education in South Africa. In 2018, nearly half of Black and “Colored” (biracial) South Africans did not complete secondary school while more than 80% of White South Africans did.

Of the Black students that completed secondary school, only 4.3% enrolled in a higher education institution, and as of 2020, only 4.1% have a degree. The World Bank found that if the household head achieved some higher education in South Africa, the risk of poverty reduced by about 30% compared to household heads with no schooling. With the nation’s racially oppressive history, access to inclusive and affordable education is a key pathway out of poverty for Black South Africans.

Educational Barriers

The Bantu Education Act of 1953 segregated schools by race and the lesser-known Extension of University Act of 1959 prohibited non-Whites from attending formerly “open” universities.

White supremacy ideologies are still indirectly visible in many top universities. While many Black students enroll in these universities, they struggle to find belonging. A documentary by Stellenbosch University students, “Luister,” which means “listen” in Afrikaans, examines 32 students’ experiences with racism and the absence of helpful provisions for a diverse, multilingual body of students.

South Africa has 11 official languages, yet many universities use English as the primary language for instruction. A myriad of students faces frustrations because they are ill-prepared to learn in an environment where their studies are not taught in their primary language. The Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, developed a language policy to promote multilingualism and provide access to the linguistic needs of each university’s students.

The Digital Divide

The COVID-19 pandemic forced higher education institutions in South Africa to move to remote learning. While more South Africans below the poverty level are attending universities at greater frequency, a large percentage do not have access to the internet or digital devices in their households. This relatively new form of disparity is digital inequality and the pandemic exacerbates this issue for students. As of 2019, a study estimated that only 10.4% of South African homes have access to the internet.

In addition, a 2020 survey report found that only 60% of students own a laptop. More than half of the students reported not having a quiet place to study. Students who received funding through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), a program for students below the poverty line, felt disproportionate effects. Therefore, 90% of students claimed that the only devices they own are smartphones.

Student Protests

The deadly Soweto Uprising of 1976, which protested Afrikaans as the language of instruction in South African schools, was the first of many student-led movements to raise awareness of the inequalities in education.

Since then, students have continued to demand that higher education in South Africa be affordable, accessible and decolonized. In 2015, the Rhodes Must Fall movement at the University of Cape Town was a campaign for the removal of a Cecil Rhodes statue, a figure symbolic of South Africa’s apartheid past and the colonization that prevails in the university.

The Fees Must Fall Movement

In the same year, the Fees Must Fall movement ignited when the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg declared a tuition increase of more than 10% for the following year, along with other institutions expected to follow suit. The movement was successful because former president Jacob Zuma decided to eliminate tuition increases in 2016, according to Global Citizen.

The movement reignited that same year when the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training asserted that fees would continue in 2017. President Zuma announced that education would be free through NSFAS to those whose annual household income was less than R350,000 ($22,456).

In 2019, students protested against historical debt, the cost of tuition that NSFAS does not pay for as well as the “missing middle” class that do not qualify for aid but cannot afford tuition.

The Wits Asinamali Movement

The latest movement in 2021, Wits Asinamali, which translates to “we do not have money,” occurred when Minister Blade Nzimande announced that due to a decrease in funding first-year students could not benefit from NSFAS. Many students with historical debt were unable to register as well.

The students managed to raise R4 million to aid those who cannot afford tuition at Witwatersrand University and the university allowed those with historical debt to still register for classes.

Despite the low enrollment of Black students, higher education in South Africa has failed to meet the needs of the expanding prospect of new students. However, students are holding policymakers and universities accountable by demanding that their education be affordable, accessible and inclusive. Countless students have been met with adversity, but are making strides in advocating for a more equitable higher education system.

– Amy Helmendach
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

Eradicating Recidivism
Recidivism is the repeat of criminal activity which often leads the offender back to prison. It is one of the many flaws of today’s prison system because it is costly from both a monetary and social standpoint. Reducing recidivism reconciles the life of those formerly incarcerated as well as their families. When people have something to work toward, it gives them purpose. Despite the challenges that many people face when exiting prison and reestablishing their lives, the restaurant industry might be the answer to eradicating recidivism.

On a larger scale, when crime rates reduce, the overall well-being of the community that experiences that reduction improves. The tax dollars that governments spend on the incarceration process could go toward improving the quality of life in many communities that contain high recidivism rates through improving schooling systems or building more green areas in cities. Substance abuse treatment, education and employment services and education are two of the most successful recidivism reduction strategies that are currently undergoing implementation in several countries. For example, reports have stated that providing education in prisons can reduce recidivism by 29%. These strategies would be beneficial on a global basis with proper standards. One form of employment opportunity that has shown success is the operation of a restaurant. The restaurant industry might be the answer to eradicating recidivism.

The Areas That Need Reform

Prison systems today alienate the incarcerated from society. Post incarceration policies are barriers to reducing recidivism. Some of these include challenges for former inmates when they seek employment as well as the fact that they oftentimes do not have a driver’s license or voting rights. These policies are not harmful at the surface level but they have long-term debilitating effects on inmates’ lives when they leave prison.

Obtaining an educational degree is necessary in most cases when seeking employment. However, when individuals leave prison, it is nearly impossible for them to obtain a degree mostly due to their inability to afford tuition. Additionally, lenders frequently deny ex-offenders loans and they often cannot obtain licenses in human services fields such as social work or health care.

The suspension of a driver’s license from the time of conviction makes for a nearly impossible reapplication process. No driver’s license translates to an inability to drive to job interviews, provide child care or attend necessary probation or doctor appointments. Public transportation is an option, but that is often unreliable. Meanwhile, revoking the right to vote excludes ex-offenders from the opportunity to have a voice in policy, many of which affect them directly. This is a strip of humanity and leads to further alienation of ex-offenders. The restaurant industry might be the answer to eradicating recidivism by implementing more employment opportunity programs in prisons.

InGalera and Brigade

One restaurant named InGalera is changing the lives of prisoners of Bollate prison located in Milan, Italy. InGalera was the result of a collaboration of companies and organizations with one goal in mind: set prisoners up for success when they return home. The restaurant began in 2012 as a small project that had the motto “From the jail to the city: the social restaurant, a business model.” InGalera is now a fully functioning restaurant where the only non-inmates are the head chef and head waiter.

The restaurant is accommodating to any dietary restriction such as gluten allergies or veganism. Additionally, it makes a special children’s menu per request. The in-house bathroom has a ramp to accommodate people with disabilities. These are more accommodations than what most restaurants provide. This shows the dedication the restaurant owners have to ensure the success of both the restaurant and the inmates. The inmates receive salaries, and although they cannot keep the money for themselves, they can transfer it to their families. Recidivism is 10% less likely for the inmates of the Bollate prison.

Brigade is a restaurant located in London with a similar mode of operation. The restaurant trains and employs people who are currently homeless or are just struggling to gain social mobility due to a lack of resources and support. Brigade has trained more than 6,000 people and employed more than 1,000. The restaurant works with The Beyond Food Foundation to ensure a continuation of the success. This is another example of how valuable employment opportunities are. Re-entry into the world whether it is from prison or after struggling to make ends meet is doable when you have work experience which leads to a path of success.

How Reducing Recidivism is Beneficial for Everybody

Recidivism affects where individuals choose to live, where taxpayer dollars go, the quality of children’s schools, the cost of living in communities and so much more. Working to eradicate recidivism could benefit all sectors of society.

The current prison systems around the world are making it nearly impossible for ex-offenders to thrive in society once released. There is an extreme lack of access to institutions to aid them in staying away from crime and being active citizens. Additionally, the system frequently puts a permanent label of convict onto each offender. The more people that experience alienation from contributing to society translates to increasing poverty levels. In fact, homelessness rates increase when ex-offenders cannot afford housing. Additionally, workforce participation rates plummet when jobs are unattainable. Increased numbers of children in the welfare system are a result of ex-offenders not being able to provide for their families. If the current system in place does not change for the better, poverty rates may not either.

In order to work toward eradicating recidivism, the programs in prisons need to be attainable to inmates of all backgrounds. Regardless of whether someone was an inmate or not, it is nearly impossible to uphold a stable life without secure mental health so it is important to aid inmates in every possible way. The restaurant industry might be the answer to eradicating recidivism because it serves a universally loved good and if made accessible, the operation tends to a variety of skill levels. Prisons should aim to help set inmates up for a successful life outside of prison instead of prisons strictly holding and punishing them.

– Maggie Forte
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Guatemala
Many know Guatemala for its volcanic landscape, Mayan culture and the colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, Guatemala has regularly faced high rates of poverty and economic inequality with the effects of the COVID-19 exacerbating it. Fortunately, organizations are coming together to form sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala which will protect the environment while creating opportunity within Guatemala. The number of people living in poverty in Guatemala is very high. In fact, according to World Bank data from 2020, 47% of individuals live in poverty. As a result, poverty reduction in Guatemala is very important and the emerging poverty reduction measures are vital to improving public health and improving quality of life.

Reducing Deforestation to Improve Economic Stability

Deforestation is a problem throughout Central America’s rainforests due to the high demand for lumber throughout the world. It has caused negative effects on the agricultural environment leading to challenges for farmers throughout Guatemala. Reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while increasing job opportunities is vital to protecting agricultural commodities and decreasing poverty.

Enrique Samayoa, a farmer from El Jute, told Americas Quarterly that environmental challenges and deforestation have led to greater rainfall and flooding. Deforestation leads to this flooding, which trees and vegetation usually absorb, and causes soil erosion. This means that when a flood occurs, it washes away nutrients in the top layer of soil, creating a poor environment for agricultural workers.

Fortunately, organizations like Utz Che’ Community Forestry Association and Sustainable Harvest are leading the effort to create sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala. Utz Che translates from the Mayan K’iche language to “Good Tree.” This organization is responsible for protecting more than 74,000 hectares of forest in the mountains of Guatemala.

It is increasing opportunities for Guatemalans by training thousands of families in better farming practices. As the forest provides livelihoods for villagers, Utz Che’ communities are planting trees to improve their lives. Poverty reduction in Guatemala is a key aspect of this Utz Che’s mission because, with a healthy environment, farmers’ livelihoods will flourish as well.

When soil erosion decreases the number of crops that farmers could produce, employees may lose their job which can lead to an increase in poverty. Sustainable Harvest and an organization called ASPROGUATE worked together in 2021 to help decrease gender inequities by focusing on women-owned and sustainably run farms.

Empowering Guatemala’s Youth

Reactiva Guate is a crowdfunding platform for young entrepreneurs which started in 2020. It creates opportunities for young people with business plans to help their communities after the pandemic greatly impacted the economy. This organization appeals to venture capital to invest in young peoples’ ideas to overcome the economic crisis and has successfully raised thousands of dollars.

According to Statista, “31.3% of the employees in Guatemala were active in the agricultural sector, 18.73% in industry and 49.98% in the service sector.” Providing alternative careers for Guatemalans that focus on decreasing the effects of environmental challenges will help improve the quality of life for people there.

A massive vaccination program began in February 2021. Since then, municipal workers have promoted vaccinations by going house to house to reach unvaccinated people. The Guatemala Ministry of Health said that 88.8% of the eligible residents of Guatemala City have received their first dose. These statistics are good news that could bring tourism back into the country. It could create more job opportunities for youth and impoverished individuals.

Revamping Transportation to Improve Accessibility

UNDP is working with Transmetro, a transportation program that began in 2008. It helps expand the bus system in Guatemala City from one bus line to seven. Improving the transit system is vital to creating accessibility to jobs within Guatemala City. Without an available mode of transportation, many individuals are unable to find work. This initiative will create greater access to jobs and education.

These sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala are vital to improving the opportunities available to its citizens and while keeping the environment safe and sustainable. This could improve the situation in Guatemala and lead to poverty reduction in the country.

– Robert Moncayo
Photo: Flickr