solar energy in chinaThe People’s Republic of China is one of the largest global economies today. Since it was reformed in 1978 to open itself up to the world, more than 850 million citizens were lifted above the poverty line and GDP growth has been on average 10% a year. However, poverty is still a large problem in the country, as 373 million Chinese citizens live in poverty today. The Chinese government implemented the Solar Energy for Poverty Alleviation Program (SEPAP) in 2013 as a means of helping its most poor citizens.

5 Facts About Solar Energy in China

  1. Progress so far: Solar energy in China has already helped many provinces. Between 2013 and 2016, 211 pilot counties reported an average per capita disposable income increase of 7-8%. Counties were chosen for the initial phase of the program primarily for their solar radiation levels and secondarily for their local economic conditions. SEPAP had the greatest impact in the eastern part of the country and the poorest counties saw the greatest increase.
  2. Government plans: The government is planning to install more solar energy to alleviate poverty. After its initial success, SEPAP aims to install more than 10 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity across the country. The government plans to target the poorest parts of eastern China, where solar energy had the greatest impact in the pilot counties, and it estimates that the new solar energy will benefit more than 2 million people across 35,000 villages by the end of the year.
  3. Goals: The goals of SEPAP’s five year plan are ambitious. Officials intend to create a “new normal,” switching economic growth and services from an investment-led approach to a consumer-led approach. From 2015 to 2020, they plan to achieve an 18% reduction in carbon intensity, 15% reduction in energy intensity and have 15% of primary energy come from renewable sources. This is all part of promoting an “ecological civilization” that focuses on green policies and technologies.
  4. Finances: The financial side of the program has a lot to consider. SEPAP researchers believe that quality access to electricity and employment opportunities in solar energy should be considered as future policy as well. This is because the program may cost $4.2 billion throughout its five year implementation period, and research into the proper allocation of funds for solar energy in China must be conducted in order to preserve the economic effects.
  5. Poverty reduction: The community solar programs and similar renewable energy generation projects across the world all seek financial benefit from energy generation in order to alleviate poverty at the county or village level. Some of the revenue from these projects also go towards public welfare projects that reduce poverty as well.

Overall, solar energy programs are not an end all be all solution to China’s poverty problem. However, the communities they are able to provide with relief show significant improvement in income. Solar energy might not fix everything, but it does open up many possibilities in China’s future.

– Kathy Wei
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in China
Homelessness in China is a significant humanitarian concern that affected approximately 2.6 million people as of 2011. China is a unique economic powerhouse, a manufacturing giant with the authoritarian remnants of a communist state and a marvel of global tourism despite its isolationist past. The nation’s mammoth population of 1.4 billion adds yet another set of challenges in negotiating economic and social issues. To better understand the dynamics and origins of homelessness in China, there are several factors to consider.

Natural Disasters

The roots of homelessness in China are not strictly economic. Infrastructural damage from natural disasters can ravage populated areas and leave thousands without housing. In 2000, the Yunnan earthquake resulted in the sudden displacement of more than 100,000 people. China’s population density makes disaster relief especially challenging. In 2008, an earthquake hit southwestern China, compromising the housing of nearly 5 million people in an area, “roughly the size of Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and New Jersey combined.” Beijing appealed for international aid to account for the enormous population in need of temporary housing, food and other supplies. Disaster relief and reconstruction efforts cost the Chinese government $441 billion. Six months following the earthquake, 685,000 homes underwent reconstruction and some rebuilt 200,000 entirely. Even so, around 1.94 million affected households were still living without permanent shelter.

Childhood Homelessness

Nearly 1 million of those experiencing homelessness in China are children. About half of these children are runaways, hoping to escape abusive or impoverished households. Unsurprisingly, these children and adolescents are vulnerable to the lures of gangs and drug use. With an average age of 14 to 15, most of these at-risk youths receive fewer than four years of elementary education. This limits their opportunities for social mobility as they enter adulthood. The one-child policy, China’s aggressive initiative to curb population growth, has also had a direct impact on rates of child displacement. Because of a cultural preference for male children, many girls ended up homeless or in orphanages.

Fortunately, rates of child abandonment have lowered significantly within the past decade. China’s economic development has allowed for higher standards of living and better prenatal care. The end of the one-child policy in 2016 has also lowered rates of child abandonment, particularly for female children. Organizations like China Care help orphaned children with special needs find permanent homes and receive proper medical care. This organization also provides adoptive families with the financial aid necessary to afford adoption costs.

Mental Health

Although the rate of homelessness among the mentally ill is lower in China than in many high-income countries, the relationship between homelessness and mental unwellness is clear. In a 2015 study that the PLOS ONE Journal published, a psychiatrist used a Structured Clinical Interview to screen homeless individuals for DSM-IV Axis-I disorders. Among the subjects that researchers interviewed, 71% had a history of mental illness, 25% of subjects reported alcohol abuse, 25% reported substance abuse and 10% struggled with psychotic disorders. These figures are conservative, as researchers considered nearly one-fifth of the individuals they assessed too ill to consent to participating in the study. Yet, only 13% of those afflicted reported receiving psychiatric care at the time of the study.

This low treatment rate paints a bleak picture of insufficient mental health resources for homeless individuals. In many cases, people must consider patients dangerous before patients can receive involuntary treatment. However, these policies occur with prolonged periods of untreated psychosis. This study points out that mental healthcare professionals should receive training and education on compulsory treatment options for this vulnerable population.

Strides Forward

Despite the complexities of addressing this multidimensional crisis, considerable infrastructure currently supports China’s homeless. Government-subsidized social services are growing, and local governments often ‘buy’ the services of NGOs to provide proper aid. This is naturally scaled to accommodate China’s large populace: as of 2014, China had 2,000 shelters and employed around 20,000 social workers to provide assistance.

– Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Flickr


During the 2008 financial crisis, more than 20 million people in China were laid off, with the official unemployment rate reaching a peak of 4.7% in 2009. Since then, official unemployment in China has remained steady, hovering around 4.6% until 2015 and reaching a decade low of nearly 4.2% in 2018.

China has been able to maintain relatively low numbers in unemployment through an increase in investment in its social policies. Since the 2008 financial crisis, its jobless claims program funding nearly tripled to $82.37 billion. In 2016, China also signed an agreement with the International Labor Organization through the Decent Work Country Program, pledging to focus on generating a better social protection system and increasing the “quantity and quality of employment,” among other objectives, through the end of 2020. However, COVID-19 has interfered with these plans.

Impact of COVID-19 on Unemployment

China has over 84,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with more than 4,600 reported deaths as of May 14, 2020. Since its first case in December of 2019, China has taken drastic measures to reduce the spread of the virus. This lead to a 6.8% drop in its GDP from January to March. Many business were also forced to close. While some industries have now reopened, China’s economy is still far from operating at full capacity and has been left with a grudging consumer base.

There was an estimated increase in unemployment in China by three million people as the rate increased from 5.2% in December 2019 to 5.9% in March 2020. However, there was no increase in the number of unemployed receiving benefits. To make matters worse, this is only what has been officially reported and does not include rural migrant workers. Including migrant workers would change the recent peak in unemployment from roughly 6% to nearly 20%.

Additionally, millions have been working without a contract, working without paying into their unemployment insurance or have not worked long enough to collect, leaving them without access to unemployment insurance. Those who do receive an unemployment check are being sent less than minimum wage each month, leaving many unable to pay rent.

Responses to Unemployment in China

The Chinese government recognizes the extreme troubles millions of its citizens are experiencing. They have mandated government officials to “prioritize job security and social stability above anything else.” Already China has been supporting small businesses through an increase in lending, as well as providing subsidies and tax breaks. Additionally, the government has given 67,000 jobless migrants a one-time payment with an additional 2.8 million more people receiving unemployment benefits (averaging $571 per person) and another 5.78 million people receiving subsidies to combat inflation. Those unable to receive unemployment insurance do have the opportunity to apply for financial assistance depending on their income.

As of early May, close to nine million college and university graduates are expected to enter the workforce, further adding to the workforce competition. In response, the Ministry of Education in China has announced plans to help alleviate the additional pressure from graduates entering the workforce. Over the summer, the Ministry of Education looks to create more opportunities for graduate education and teacher positions, as well as to encourage “small, medium-sized and micro enterprises to recruit more college graduates.”

As COVID-19 continues to be a significant problem around the world, it is essential that countries address the poverty and unemployment that the pandemic exacerbates. Moving forward, China and other nations must continue to create policies and programs designed to protect the impoverished.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Unsplash

Chinese Investment in Africa
China’s rise to economic prominence is unparalleled in modern history. In just 40 years, China has become the manufacturing center of the world, built an enviable infrastructure system and created a robust middle class by lifting 800 million people out of poverty. The regime has also expanded Chinese investments abroad, funding a wide range of projects in far-flung corners of the globe. China’s international strategy has met with skepticism from the West due to allegations of corrupt business practices and sketchy dealings between often authoritarian states. This article will explain the effects of Chinese investment in Africa specifically, exploring the impact through the perspective of the international community, China itself and the receiving African nations.

The Extent

The value of Chinese investment in Africa since 2005 has passed $2 trillion. Chinese investment has many dimensions but primarily focuses on infrastructure and resource extraction. The regime’s plan to extract and ship resources through Chinese-built infrastructure connects more foreign markets to China as part of an ambitious megaproject called the Belt and Road Initiative. In doing so, China benefits by ensuring its supply of material needed to further economic growth and receiving nations benefit through job creation and economic diversification. Additionally, Chinese entrepreneurs own over 10,000 businesses on the continent.

One can only accomplish a proper understanding of foreign influence in Africa comparatively. Chinese interests in Africa are primarily commercial, but raise alarm bells in the West due to the scale of China’s acquisition of hard assets. Meanwhile, the West has had cultural and political interests in Africa for centuries, interests that continue today through the presence of Western military bases, political boundaries and cultural footprints of language and religion.

The Benefits

The ease and effectiveness of Chinese investment have provided many benefits for African nations. From its perspective, China provides fast access to capital and prompt delivery of services and workers. Additionally, Chinese loans do not need receiving nations to meet the ethical restrictions that organizations like the IMF require. The nature of Chinese investment often produces tangible results. Infrastructure projects increase access to transportation, healthcare, education and telecommunication services for ordinary Africans. Resource extraction diversifies the economy and can immediately sell to China’s booming market, as Chinese trade to Africa generally eclipses $100 billion every year.

Outside of investment, China plays an active role in addressing poverty on the continent. In 2018, the regime approved a $60 billion aid package and currently participates in five U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa. In general, African nations view China as a valuable ally with no history of colonialism, but also as an avenue for successful economic development.

The Concerns

While the economic benefits of Chinese investment are numerous, allegations about the regime’s business practices and intentions are of justifiable concern. The lack of accountability measures and regulatory mechanisms on the continent have led corrupt actors to hijack many Chinese-funded projects. In many cases, extraction and infrastructure markets are more concerned with connecting resource markets to China than considering the needs of the population. The influx of Chinese entrepreneurs and cheap goods have also decimated domestic industries such as the Nigerian textile market.

Additionally, Chinese investment projects often lack sustainability regulations and native Chinese laborers frequently dominate them. In fact, every million dollars of Chinese investment only creates 1.78 jobs for African citizens. Chinese lending practices have also received criticism for creating trade imbalances and debt for countries unable to pay them back in time. Finally, Chinese intentions are hard to ascertain, and as their economic influence grows, so does their ability to influence Africa’s diplomatic and political landscape.

The Solutions

Despite the shortcomings of Chinese investment in Africa, there are policy and organizational solutions actively addressing these issues. The findings of international organizations such as the U.N. and WHO can influence the state of Chinese business dealings. In particular, the Ease of Doing Business Index and WHO influence provides international awareness and transparency to Chinese investment projects. African nations have also realized the need to implement more effective regulatory mechanisms in order to combat corrupt dealings.

Additionally, nations such as Nigeria and South Africa have accepted deals from the U.S. and E.U. as a way to mediate Chinese diplomatic influence. China has also sought to improve its image, improving procedural transparency and establishing NGOs throughout Africa. The Beijing Gender Health Education Institute has opened a division in Africa, where it seeks to empower LGBTQ individuals by producing documentaries and spreading visual works. Transnational NGOs with Chinese offices such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the “Free Lunch for Children” campaign have started operating in Africa as well.

Despite uncertainty dominating it, Chinese investment in Africa has provided undeniable benefits to ordinary Africans. Ensuring that Chinese actions receive mediation will take the concerted effort of international institutions and accountability mechanisms. With concentrated reforms and an open diplomatic dialogue, Chinese financial support will be instrumental in helping the international community alleviate global poverty.

– Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr

Daylily/Poverty in China
Chinese President Xi Jinping has made substantial efforts to reduce poverty in China for the millions living without basic necessities. In 2015, President Jinping set the goal of eliminating poverty in China by 2020. There were 1.4 billion people in poverty at that time, defined as earning less than $1.10 a day, a lower benchmark than the World Bank poverty guideline of $1.90 a day. While some of his methods to alleviate rural poverty have been conventional, like increasing tourism and promoting produce production, in one Chinese district his tactic has been far from ordinary.

The Yunzhou District of China is located about 200 miles west of Beijing, in the Yanshan and Taihang mountains. Given its remote location, the cities in this district have dealt with high levels of poverty. However, in the last decade, farmers in this area have capitalized on the fecund growth of daylilies to alleviate poverty in the region, and in China more broadly.

Medicinal Qualities of Daylilies

Daylilies are an edible flower that people use in Chinese herbal medicine. According to studies, they may have detoxification properties, aid in reducing insomnia, lessen hemorrhoids and calm nerves. Daylilies in China belong to a heartier class of flowers since they can grow in a variety of soil conditions, and the flower itself comes in many colors. Its botanical name, Hemerocallis, translates to “beauty for a day,” as most daylilies will bloom in the morning and die by nightfall. However, the flower will stay in bloom for several weeks because each stem has over 12 flower buds.

Increase in Land for Daylilies

Though areas in the district, like Datong City and the Fangcheng new village, have been cultivating daylilies for over 600 years, the district recently increased the land on which it grows daylilies by 10 times. Now, millions of daylilies in China grow on 10,000 hectares or the equivalent of over 18,000 football fields.

President Xi Jinping’s Support for the Daylily Industry

In a recent trip to the district, President Jinping encouraged farmers and locals alike to continue developing the industry to reduce poverty in China. During his visit, President Jinping spoke to the country’s efforts to reach its goal of total poverty eradication by the end of 2020. So far, daylily production has helped lift over 1 million people out of poverty. In 2019, daylily production generated $9.17 million for the district. President Jinping remains steadfast in alleviating poverty in the country despite having only a few months before his deadline.

Revenue from daylilies in China may seem like an unusual product to reduce poverty in China by Western standards. However, according to Eastern culture, the flower is a cornerstone of the Chinese market and therefore a logical aspect of poverty alleviation. Even though the Yunzhou District has been cultivating the flower for over 600 years, it is comforting to know that the towns and cities in that district have utilized daylily production in the last 10 years to bring over a million individuals out of poverty.

– Mimi Karabulut
Photo: Flickr

Hepatitis B in ChinaHepatitis B is an infection of the liver that is passed through blood, sexual contact or from mother-to-child during pregnancy. The cause of the disease is unknown, but hepatitis B affects about 350 million people in the world. It is dubbed as a “silent epidemic” because many people may be carriers, but remain unaware that they have the disease. Particularly, hepatitis B is prevalent in China, where there has been an extensive focus to curb the spread. To better understand this, here are five facts about hepatitis B in China.

5 Facts about Hepatitis B in China:

  1. There are approximately 80 million cases of hepatitis B in China. Further, one in every three people infected around the world is located in China. These numbers are largely due to the nature of the disease spreading from mother-to-child in the womb. A study conducted by Peking University in China found that around 30-50 percent of new hepatitis B virus (HBV) transmissions are through pregnancy.
  2. The “floating population” has been found to spread hepatitis B in China through sexual contact and blood. This population consists of people who frequently move between rural and urban parts of the country for family and work. Hepatitis B in China is found in rural populations 2.57 percent more than urban populations.
  3. The Chinese Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control has developed the ‘Shield Project’ to immunize pregnant women with HBV. Though it does not cure the women, the vaccine succeeds in preventing almost 100 percent of the babies from being born with hepatitis B in China. Additionally, the Shield Project uses a mobile app to spread information to expecting families about HBV and the treatments available. The project has been implemented in 124 hospitals as of February 2019.
  4. For existing and chronic hepatitis B in China, the ‘Chinese 2010 chronic hepatitis B guidelines’ help physicians to develop treatment techniques to help those suffering. As it affects liver functioning, hospitals must keep the symptoms under control to avoid organ failure. Doctors use different antiviral medications and other methods of treatment because of the current knowledge provided in the guidelines.
  5. Unfortunately, due to the economic burden of treatment and the stigmatized culture around hepatitis B in China, many people do not seek out help. A study conducted in Shandong, China, found that patients with illnesses related to hepatitis B had to pay around 40 percent of their income for treatment. There has also been widespread misinformation about the disease and how it is spread. People discriminate against those infected with hepatitis B in China because they are afraid of contagion. Alternatively, communities see the disease as something that can only be sexually transmitted. Doctors can prevent and treat hepatitis B in China if the person is willing to seek treatment. However, some people do not want to face families and communities after diagnoses.

There is a constant struggle in the medical community regarding the availability of resources to curb an outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) calls for hospitals and organizations to provide more information about possible treatments to those that lack education on the topic. WHO also urges hospitals to sign up for projects providing immunizations to newborns and pregnant women with hepatitis B in China. With these efforts, WHO maintains the goal of eliminating hepatitis B in China by 2030. As the epidemic continues, China has made innovative strides to combat the spread.

– Ashleigh Litcofsky

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in ChinaAs the second-largest economy globally and home to 4.5 million millionaires, it is not difficult to forget about the poverty-stricken groups and hunger in China. The government estimates that at least 30 million Chinese are still living under the poverty line, struggling to secure a livelihood.

Natural Disasters

China is among the most disaster-prone countries, with drought and flooding being regular occurrences. With more than 186 million exposed to the effects of these natural disasters, the country’s potential grain output reduces to about 20 million tons annually. The expansion of agricultural activities into areas prone to disasters and with poor maintenance of water conservation systems further exacerbates the vulnerability.

Hunger in China

In 2016, 8.7 percent of the population was undernourished, which is half of the number that was undernourished in 2000. While this is indeed a significant reduction and commendable achievement, there is still an abundance of hunger in China. There are still more than 100 million malnourished Chinese, the majority of those people living in rural locations.

A poor diet leads to a high rate of growth stunting in children (9.4 percent). Additionally, anemia in children occurs at a rate of 19.6 percent. These qualifiers of hunger in China pose significant burdens for 1.4 million citizens.

Furthermore, a study of 1,800 infants in a north-west province in China found that almost half were anemic and 40 percent had hampered developmental cognitive or motor functions. Fewer than 10 percent of the infants in the study experienced stunting or wasting, signifying that the problem in most cases was the lack of nutrients rather than calories. Undernutrition hinders educational achievement and productivity, which would lead to significant economic losses both nationally and globally.

The Government’s Hunger Alleviation Strategy

The rate of malnutrition has pressed the Chinese government to act. The state has provided subsidies for school lunches in efforts to provide a solution to children that experience hunger in China. These subsidies have fed about 23 million children in 680 poorest counties. It also provides nutritional supplements for hundreds of thousands of babies in the country.

The most prioritized strategy to reduce hunger in China is poverty alleviation. Among the initiatives that China has taken, massive agricultural development with land reforms contributed significantly to the successful alleviation of hunger in China. Several key policy reforms and investments have helped stimulate the productivity of farmers, such as the abolition of agricultural taxes, subsidies for farmers, or lifting the sale and purchase of grains. Over the last decade, milk production more than tripled, meat production rose by 30 percent and vegetables and fruits production increased by nearly 60 percent. The increased availability of food in addition to higher income has led to improved nutrition in the population. The prevalence of stunting in children under 5 years of age dropped significantly, from 30 percent in 1990 to about 9 percent in 2015.

With its commitment to alleviate poverty and hunger, China has remarkably improved citizen quality of life. China is now self-reliant with respect to its national food supply. Additionally, a quarter of global food production comes from China. While the government is on a path to achieving food security for the entire population and eradicating hunger in China, efforts should also aim to secure an adequate supply of vital nutrients to reduce the problem of anemia in children.

Since the focus of fighting poverty with reforms and policy more than four decades ago, China has achieved unprecedented success. The government has transformed from a struggling nation to the second-largest economy in the world. By doing so, China successfully lifted millions out of hunger and cut the global hunger rate by two thirds. It is the first developing country to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the number of people living in extreme poverty and hunger. If China maintains the current pace, it is possible the nation will become the first country to entirely eradicate poverty and hunger.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Tackling Poverty AlleviationDespite over 700 million people living in extreme poverty, poverty alleviation strategies recently reduced those rates. Poverty is multidimensional, meaning there are more aspects that one should consider than low income and resource shortages. Poverty includes hunger, malnutrition, violence, lack of human rights and little to no health care. According to Our World in Data, the fast rate in economic growth and political support for improved living standards have improved the state of poverty alleviation in various countries. Socio-economic advancement stems from improved access to opportunities where the four common areas of focus are food, education, employment and security. Here are three parts of the world tackling poverty alleviation.

China

China has made considerable progress in tackling poverty alleviation by bringing citizens out of traditional rural lifestyles. In 2018, around 41 percent of China’s rural population was living in impoverished countrysides. In 2013, China set policies to promote socio-economic development. By registering individuals into a database, China implemented rapid strategies and programs to benefit the entire nation. Meanwhile, Beijing launched an anti-poverty campaign to bring these citizens into more urban locations.

Committing to development with infrastructure and improving tourism, the government helped villagers tremendously. The government strengthened financial support by providing proper funding for health, education, industrial development and agricultural modernization and better access to the internet. Specifically, the 2007 health reform addressed poverty alleviation by providing health care centers for men and women and improving the quality of these centers.

Additionally, the Guizhou Province gave millions of dollars to poor students in 2015 to provide meals to children during the day. Feeding the children increases confidence and improves performance in the classroom. China also built schools in rural and mountain areas to accommodate male and female students. Educating the young means future generations should be able to rise out of poverty as well.

Poverty alleviation also occurs from supporting livestock and crop production in regard to trade partners. Improving farming practices also decreases pollution throughout the country. The Ministry of Agriculture has fully invested in increasing sustainability within agricultural and technological development.

Africa

Government resources in Africa have been vital to the 13 percent poverty alleviation from 1990 to 2015. To combat corruption, Uganda created an anti-corruption action plan through the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. Tanzania even followed these steps with a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. Other programs directed toward social welfare have also contributed to economic growth. By providing conditional cash-transfers, African citizens have more financial security. Promoting governmental transparency through the 2003 Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has protected citizens from violence at a political level.

Further, education for youngsters, with a target for girls and women, have slowed economic poverty; gender inequalities have traditionally set back girls and women in society. The Africa Educational Trust (AET) program focuses on self-empowerment and providing education for all, and is breaking the glass ceiling for African women. Improving inclusivity within communities by removing these women and girls from traditional societal roles inevitably protects from violence. Not only do women get the opportunity to progress in society, but fertility and child mortality rates decline through improved prenatal nutrition.

Finally, agricultural investments through governmental incentives have enhanced food production. South Africa’s Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) launched in 2004 with the aim of expanding job and industrialization practices. Access to clean water through sanitation reforms has drastically improved health status throughout the continent. In Nigeria, the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project tackles the water-scarcity issue by investing in water treatment, disease prevention and enhanced water distribution strategies.

El Salvador

El Salvador stands out as one of the more impoverished countries in Latin America. However, in 2013, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent to 28.9 percent. The government transformed the national debt by addressing historical conflicts that damaged the economy. Tensions between the government and gang warfare affected 16 percent of the country’s annual GDP. Addressing gang violence through the Youth Employability and Opportunities initiative gives children a future involving better education without the pressure of joining a gang to survive.

The Civil War from 1980-1992 also put an enormous strain on the country’s safety. The Safe El Salvador plan addresses poverty alleviation by strengthening community bonds.

Additionally, health care and job investments have aided the country’s endeavors of poverty alleviation. The Strengthening Public Health Care System project invested in health services that have declined mortality rates and have improved disease prevention. Further, the El Salvador government partnered with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2014 to focus on the youth by providing infrastructure and skills to stabilize the economy.

The Social Protection Universal System in 2014 assisted in the protection of the country’s citizens regarding human rights. Another danger to the country is natural disasters, which take a massive toll on the environment and safety of the large population. The government created the El Salvador Disaster Risk Management program to prepare for emergencies such as earthquakes and tropical storms, but it also addressed the recovery process after they hit.

Despite slower progress in some regions of the world, these three parts of the world are continuing to make tackling poverty alleviation a main focus. Investing in the wellbeing of people is a common practice in maintaining human dignity and saving countless lives every day. By establishing attainable goals and understanding the nature of poverty, countries can make significant changes for the future of the globe.

Sydney Stokes
Photo: Pixabay

Locust Swarms in China
The beginning of 2020 has definitely been challenging for East Africa and South Asia because sweeping locust swarms struck agricultural production and threatened food security in those areas. China has been suffering from a similar situation, as it loses over 10 million hectares of crops annually from locust swarms. Locust swarms in China have led to it having some expertise in dealing with them, though. In fact, in the nearest decade, China has efficiently lowered the frequency of locust swarms and freed vast acres of land from them. Updated technologies have aided the fight against the locust swarms. Here are some of the hallmarks that make China stand out in the fight against locust swarms.

China’s National Campaign and Societal Engagement

One can trace the modern engagement of prevention and control of the locust swarms in China to land reform in 1950. Before China enacted its government-led afforestation, the local government effectively mobilized farmers to fight the locust swarms with the use of man-powered tools, minimal technology and scientific methods. However, this process clearly expressed that China would not succeed in its fight against locust swarms without massive societal involvement.

Societal engagement seems subtle compared with actual scientific studies about reducing locust swarms. Continuous alerts to the public regarding the seriousness of the locust invasion is the primary form of engagement. The database of the People’s Daily, a Chinese official newspaper, gives at least 270 news headlines mentioning damage or potential risk of the locust swarms in China each year from 1946 to 2019. Public awareness has yet to ease in regards to outbreaks of the locust swarms in China.

Besides the publicity, environmental education opens another gate for nationwide and generationwide involvement. At the state level, the progress of environmental education directly promotes the cultivation of a new generation of professionals who will work in the prevention and control of the locust swarms in the country. At the college level, over 200 universities and 44,000 students prepared to provide support with expertise contributions in 2012.

This nationwide campaign has evolved in the new era. For example, Ant Forest, launched by Ant Financial Service Group, has planted 122 million trees through societal environmental involvement. Ant Forest achieved the massive tree plantation through a 200 million user base and ease of access from users’ smartphones. People who would not touch environmental issues before can involve themselves more easily.

Inter-Agencies Arrangement

In addition to societal involvement, China has also demonstrated a rigid systematic intervention, which should ensure the enforcement and delivery of policies in any local area. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs (MoA) is not only in charge of the prevention and control of the locust swarms in China but also has to coordinate with agencies such as the General Administration of Customs. One short answer to such a setup of complex agencies is the need to implement continuously improved strategies against the locust swarms. 

Some researchers have suggested that gaining knowledge about locusts in addition to the implementation of more efficient control techniques would decrease the destruction of locust swarms in China. Another research group found that human activities, such as deforestation and desertification, highly synchronize with the outbreak of the locust swarms in China. Overexploitation of the arable lands and grasslands in Northwest China used to cause the degradation of the land and therefore make them habitable for locusts. Due to such a phenomenon, working with the National Forestry and Grassland Administration (NFGA) is one of MoA’s immediate priorities.

One of the successful examples is the Three-North Shelter Forest Program. Despite the program not specifically aiming to reduce locust swarm damage, the program contributed to the total coverage of forest from less than 17 percent to nearly 23 percent. This increase tightened the space for the reproduction of the locust swarms and blocked the invading path. Other projects in flood control or grazing management also support the prevention of the locust swarms in China.

Conclusion

In short, massive social involvement makes the prevention and control of locust swarms a different game in China. Successful publicity mobilized a vast number of the people and the form of the national campaign injected enough attention to resolving the issue with maximized resources. The younger generation has a better understanding of the issue via intensive environmental education. Also, the environmental concept has deeply penetrated ordinary people’s perception because of the broad coverage of easy access, such as smartphones and online services. 

The benefit of these methods to decrease locust swarms in China is clear. On one hand, individuals have taken on the task of protecting and restoring the environment. On the other hand, this allows China to push new policies in environmental protection more easily, especially when the policy is in conflict with the fundamental way of living for people like farmers and nomads. 

A strong institutional arrangement also backs up the enforcement of the policy. It provides China with alternative tools in disaster management and has ultimately reduced the vulnerability of a sole emergency management strategy. By consolidating the collaboration of multiple systems, China is capable of stepping far beyond the boundary of passive defense to engage issues in advance. Therefore, for the African and other locust suffering countries, the key to the reduction of locust swarms may be in a different direction than relying on technology alone.

– Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

5 Developing Nations Harnessing Solar Power
Approximately 840 million people lack access to electricity, most of whom live in developing nations in South Asia, Latin America and rural Africa. In India, around 300 million people live without electricity. In addition, the number is twice as high in sub-Saharan Africa. Yet, the majority of developing nations have enormous solar power potential. Almost all of Africa receives 325 days of strong sunlight a year. Countries in Central Asia have an average of 250 days of sunlight a year. Additionally, many nations are capitalizing on that resource to increase access to electricity and alleviate energy poverty. In 2017, the developing world surpassed first world countries in renewable energy production, largely due to investments in solar. Here are examples of five developing nations harnessing solar power.

5 Developing Nations Harnessing Solar Power

  1. China: China has more solar energy capacity than any other nation in the world, with 130 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV). If all the solar grids were to operate at once, it would generate enough electricity to power the entire United Kingdom several times over. In addition, China is home to many solar farms, including the world’s largest solar plant located in the Tengger Desert. The advent of solar power has directly benefited more than 800,000 poverty-stricken families. Since 2014, when the Chinese government launched a Solar PV for Poverty Alleviation Program, more than 7.9 gigawatts of power has gone to impoverished rural areas. These solar-powered facilities provide employment opportunities and boost household income, in addition to supplying affordable and reliable electricity.
  2. India: Although India’s power system is one of the largest in the world, per capita electricity consumption is less than one-third of the global average. This is largely due to the need for reliable, affordable and sustainable power. To alleviate energy poverty, the Indian government announced an ambitious target of 175 gigawatts of power. Additionally, around 100 gigawatts would come from solar by 2022. Starting with less than 1 gigawatt of solar in 2010, India has around 34 gigawatts of solar power today. In addition to alleviating energy poverty, estimates determined that this project could create over 670,00 new, clean-energy jobs.
  3. Bangladesh: Bangladesh is pursuing solar home systems and microgrid programs to alleviate energy poverty in rural areas. The country has installed more than 5.2 million solar-home systems. This provides electricity to almost 12 percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million people. In cooperation with the World Bank and other private organizations, the government supplies more than 1,000 solar irrigation pumps and microgrids. Off-grid solar power is rapidly transforming the lives of Bangladesh’s rural population, where more than a quarter still lack access to electricity. The introduction of solar power has brought reliable, sustainable energy to households, allowing families to work, study and go out after dark.
  4. Kenya: More than a quarter of Kenyans still lack access to electricity. In response to this challenge, the Kenyan government launched the Kenya National Electrification Strategy. This strategy outlines a plan to achieve universal access to electricity by 2022. Additionally, this roadmap emphasizes the importance of solar power as a means for electrifying rural areas. The government’s commitment to increasing access to clean electricity and partnership with private institutions is working to alleviate energy poverty. For instance, a local company called Solibrium provides affordable solar panels and lamps to more than 50,000 households. Another example is M-KOPA Solar, a private Kenyan corporation, that has installed 225,000 solar energy products in the country.
  5. Rwanda: Rwanda is home to Africa’s fastest built solar power project, which builders constructed within six months in 2014. The power plant has some 28,360 solar panels that produce 8.5 megawatts of energy. The grid increases Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6 percent and powers more than 15,000 homes. Other solar plants across the country provide sustainable and affordable electricity. Rwanda is conducting feasibility studies on the development of further solar power plants in Rwanda.

Energy poverty or the lack of, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. That is why ensuring basic energy for 100 percent of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. These five developing nations harnessing solar power are leading the way in turning the lights on.

Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Flickr