Winters in Mongolia
Mongolia, a mountainous country that borders both Russia and China, is infamous for its harsh, dry winters. Severe winters are particularly dangerous for the 40 percent of the population that survive by herding animals. Traditionally, Mongolian herders depend on their herds for everything; they eat the animals’ meat and drink their milk, burn the waste for warmth and sell and trade skins.

Dzud

The particularly deadly combination of summer droughts and freezing winters in Mongolia is so notorious that it has a name: dzud. This is the term used to describe the phenomenon in which dry summers prevent animals from obtaining the necessary protective fat to survive the extreme temperatures of the winter, and hundreds of thousands die, plunging many herders into poverty. As of 2016, the poverty rate in Mongolia was almost 30 percent and has increased disproportionately in rural areas. The percentage of rural residents living below the poverty line in 2016 was 49 percent, compared to 33 percent in cities.

There are several different types of dzud, classified by herders depending on weather patterns. Black dzud is characterized by long periods of drought, and a white dzud involves heavy snow that obstructs normal grazing patterns. Iron dzud entails a winter with a period of thawing and refreezing which encases pastures in ice, and a cold dzud causes animals to burn through their stores of fat prematurely.

Unstable Weather Conditions

Dzud has historically been a fact of life for Mongolian herders, generally occurring once or twice each decade, but evidence suggests that the natural disaster is becoming more frequent in recent years due to changing weather patterns. Mongolia experienced three dzuds at the turn of the 21st century and another in 2010, which killed 22 percent of all livestock in the country. Most recently, 2018’s dzud killed over 700,000 livestock. Experts have linked these severe droughts to the increasing frequency of deadly dzuds and predict worse and more frequent dzuds in the coming years.

Urbanization

For herders, this prediction is highly unsettling. Many have given up their ancestral pastoral lifestyles and moved to urban areas in search of more stable work. Oyutan Gonchig moved to Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, after the dzud of 2000 killed his herd. He says many of his friends and neighbors have also moved due to similar losses, and he questions whether herding animals is even sustainable anymore.

Increasing urbanization in Mongolia has contributed to other issues. Ulaanbaatar has grown by 70 percent in the past two decades and is now home to around 40 percent of Mongolia’s residents. Those in the city’s slums, called ger, often have to deal with a lack of sanitation, water, electricity and heat, making life in the city difficult for many. The ger house around 60 percent of the city’s residents.

A Growing Mining Industry

Other former farmers and herders are looking to the mines for financial stability. The nation is endowed with large quantities of natural resources like coal, copper and gold. Many Mongolians have migrated to provinces with rich mineral deposits to work in the mines or as truck drivers ferrying resources across state borders to buyers in China. Mining accounts for 90 percent of Mongolia’s exports, so the industry is lucrative. However, heavy traffic and collisions spell danger for the more than 12,000 drivers working the Sino-Mongolian border. 51 truck drivers were killed on the road from 2015-2018.

Who is Helping?

Dzud has caused widespread poverty and instability in Mongolia, resulting in hunger and malnourishment, but several nonprofit organizations are working to combat the detrimental impact of winters in Mongolia. Mercy Corps has been working on the ground in Mongolia since 1999, providing veterinary materials and services, strategic agricultural training and weather prediction services to help herders through dzud. Mercy Corps also encourages small businesses and entrepreneurs who have begun tapping into Mongolia’s budding tourism industry.

In 2017, World Animal Protection partnered with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and USAID to provide emergency nutrition packs to 1,740 Mongolian households. The packs included vitamin supplements, milk powder and food blocks to help livestock survive the harsh winters in Mongolia.

Despite these efforts, dzud is still contributing to rising rural poverty rates and the urbanization of Mongolia. A more serious, coalition-style response must be implemented to establish long-term solutions and poverty relief for Mongolian citizens and the animals so many depend on for survival.

– Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tokelau
Tokelau, a country between Hawaii and New Zealand, consists of three coral atolls and is home to a population of approximately 1,500 inhabitants. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Tokelau.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Tokelau

  1. Tokelau’s culture, maintained through civil unification and tradition, emphasizes language, arts, song and dance. There exists a strong sense of social unity in terms of care and protection among Tokelau’s people.
  2. The coral atolls which make up this Oceanian nation are a mere one to five meters above the sea level. As such, the global rise in seawater levels is a significant threat to the preservation of Tokelauan lands. As a part of the Tokelau Emergency Plan, the country has tasked villages with the construction and upkeep of seawalls to protect from flooding.
  3. Emigration to New Zealand, where Tokelauans can travel without restriction, has been largely common among the population since 1962. Additional communities of Tokelauans exist in Samoa and Australia.
  4. Poor soil quality on the atolls largely restricts the expansion of Tokelau’s agricultural economy. Tokelau successfully cultivates only a handful of tropical crops, including bananas and coconut. Since 2011, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has assisted Tokelau on how to plan efficient land use to improve agriculture practices.
  5. The main source of animal protein in the atolls comes from fisheries located in the reefs and deep ocean. Additionally, the fisheries account for the majority of Tokelau’s annual income.
  6. The long-term health of the Tokelauan people has decreased over generations thus prompting the implementation of public health programs. This worsening health is due to an increase in noncommunicable diseases, particularly obesity. Despite this, the life expectancy in Tokelau, 69.1 years, is of the highest among small pacific locations.
  7. For international and inter-atoll travel, the people of Tokelau are limited to sea travel by the government ship, Mataliki. The ship travels to Tokelau every two weeks unless cases of medical or environmental emergencies disrupt the schedule. In the event that something disrupts the ship’s schedule, travelers must remain at their current locations until transit resumes.
  8. The 400 students living in Tokelau study in one of three schools, one on each atoll. The schools offer education from early childhood to year 13 with emphasis on Tokelau language, English, math, social sciences and science.
  9. Tokelau natives depend on solar panels for almost all electrical needs. In 2013, Tokelau became the first nation to go 100 percent solar. A reduced number of diesel generators remain as a contingency plan, though.
  10. Tokelauans do not currently have an established cell phone network available for use but landline installation is possible among households. Additionally, in 2017, Tokelau introduced a 4G broadband internet network to improve communication efforts. Education, health, commerce and transportation services have also been able to utilize the network for further efficiency.

As a result of Tokelau’s diminutive size and remoteness, the people of Tokelau live in accordingly interdependent communities. Extreme tropical weather and the effects of rising sea levels present challenges to life in the atolls. As a result, Tokelau has implemented plans for sustainability and preventative measures for emergencies to combat these issues. Recent advances in public services facilitate efforts to modernize the nation. As demonstrated by the top 10 facts about living conditions in Tokelau, the country and its people plan only to prosper.

– Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Notre-Dame RepairsThe cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is a cultural, religious, and architectural icon that has stood at the center of Paris for nearly a millennium. For many, this cathedral is a sacred place of refuge, an escape from the world or a childhood memory. On April 15, a fire nearly destroyed the cathedral, severely damaging the spire and roof of the building. In the aftermath of this tragedy, news headlines focused on the noteworthy flurry of donations from billionaires and small donors pledged to Notre-Dame repairs.

After reaching nearly $1 billion just days after the fire, several articles marveled at how easy it was to raise these funds when investing the same amount of money and public support for other pressing issues seems so difficult. In a few op-ed pieces, authors even expressed the sadness and disappointment of how vigorous the funding was to repair a church whose religion preaches helping the poor and oppressed. This begs the question of what else could $1 billion be used for? Here are five different ways the funds for the Notre-Dame repairs could have been used.

What $1 Billion in Aid Could Do Around the World

    1. International Aid: In 2017, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spent more than $1 billion on agricultural aid worldwide, which includes investment in capital for agricultural and technological development. USAID spent a similar amount on maternal and child health worldwide to treat cases of illness and provide medical technology to assist in childbirth.
    2. World Hunger: Through local partnerships and government leadership, the Feed the Future Inititiaive spent roughly $3.3 billion in agricultural and rural loans between 2011 and 2017 to mobilize farmers and families in developing countries. The average spending per year for this program amounts to about half of what was donated to the Notre-Dame repairs ($0.5 billion), yet the progress made through this initiative has added an estimated value of nearly $42 billion in economic output.
    3. The Refugee Crisis: The Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested $783 million to aid the South Sudan crisis where there are an estimated 2.4 million refugees. It raised $783 million in just 24 hours after the Notre-Dame fire. The funds UNHCR has requested for the crises in the countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan comes to around $879 million. That money would aid more than a million refugees collectively in the three countries.
    4. Homelessness: In Beijing, China, homelessness is an increasing problem. The Fengtai Shelter, located in Beijing, serves almost 3,000 people annually and receives just $1.2 million each year in aid from the government. With $1 billion, nearly 800 similar homeless shelters could receive $1.2 million in aid.
    5. Climate Change Relief: Alaskan residents have witnessed dramatic changes where whole villages have been sliding into rivers. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said relocating one such village, Newtok, would require anywhere between $80 to $130 million. Given this analysis, $1 billion could be used to relocate roughly ten such villages in Alaska, impacting thousands of people who are being displaced by increasing water levels.

Here are just five different ways that $1 billion could be used towards important problems in the world. These examples go to show the magnitude of what can be done with $1 billion to help the poor and oppressed. Although it is hearting to see so many people rally together to help with the Notre-Dame repairs, it would be an amazing leap to see that kid of dedication put towards humanitarian aid efforts.

Luke Kwong

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tropical Cyclones in Bangladesh Monsoon season in the Bay of Bengal usually lasts from June to September and can be characterized by sudden, violent downpours of torrential rain. These heavy rains are integral to the climate and culture of this part of the world, but can also pose a threat to lives and infrastructure when storms become severe. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh, monsoon rains and cyclones can trigger landslides on the steep, uneven ground. These landslides have become increasingly deadly in recent years. Substantial landslides in the second half of the 20th century typically recorded few to no deaths. This changed by the turn of the century: in the 2007 and 2017 landslides, 136 and 170 people died, respectively. Landslides in Bangladesh are becoming deadlier and the government must take measures to prevent further loss of life.

Rapid and Unplanned Urbanization

With an urbanization rate of 3.17 percent, Bangladesh has experienced a large amount of internal migration. People who seek better job and educational opportunities are moving to urban areas. Urbanization itself is not a bad thing, but problems can arise when local governments do not utilize appropriate city planning measures. For example, 21.3 percent of Bangladesh’s urban population lived below the poverty line in 2010, and 62 percent of the urban population lived in slums in 2009. These statistics reflect an inability to accommodate a quick, large influx of people.

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, unplanned urbanization can be deadly. People seeking land in the area often end up settling on the hills just outside of urban centers. Building is supposed to be prohibited on these landslide-prone areas, but zoning is typically not enforced and people ignore the warnings. The Department of Energy found that there are about 2,000 families in the area currently at high risk.

Indigenous Displacement and Land Conflict

Land in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has a contentious history. Groups of indigenous people in Bangladesh have long fought for rights and protections that the federal government is reluctant to give. In the 1970s, an indigenous guerilla group launched an insurgency on settlers who were encroaching on their territory. The 1980s saw no more protection for indigenous lands, but a large influx of Bengali settlers moved to the area as part of a government-supported migration effort. Violence has since persisted between landless Bengali settlers building in the hills and indigenous communities who once called the area home.

Indigenous communities in Bangladesh suffer disproportionately from land conflicts and lack of governmental support. It is estimated that about 90,000 indigenous people were displaced as a result of the conflict, with many families setting up temporary structures on the steep and unstable slopes. Amnesty International has called on the Bangladeshi government to be more proactive in recognizing indigenous rights, but concrete progress on the issue remains evasive.

Increased Cost of Building Materials

Because many indigenous communities have lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracks for generations, they have the knowledge necessary to allow them to build homes that are less vulnerable to landslides in Bangladesh. Ideally, homes on these slopes would be stilted so that mud and water can pass underneath without causing damage. The increased cost of lightweight building material like bamboo, however, has recently made this practice much more expensive. When families cannot afford materials to stilt their homes, they are forced to build on the ground and in the path of landslides. These ground-level homes can also make the hills more unstable, as digging increases the amount of loose earth on the slopes.

Increased Storm and Monsoon Intensity

Monsoons have been changing in recent years. Increasingly, rain comes in powerful torrential downpours that may only last a few days but can dump as much water as would previously be recorded over the span of a month. This pattern is likely to increase the frequency of dangerous landslides as water has less time to seep into groundwater deposits.

Cyclones, known in North America as hurricanes, are single storm systems that form over the ocean and carry rain and wind to land along the coast. Only about 5 percent of the world’s tropical cyclones form over the Bay of Bengal. However, out of 10 cyclones that recorded very high loss of life, five were in Bangladesh. This statistic reflects the vulnerability of people living on the exposed hill tracts.

Measures Being Taken

Local governments have recently been more proactive about implementing storm warning and evacuation systems in vulnerable areas. Only 11 people died from landslides last year, which is significantly less than the 170 landslide fatalities in 2017. However, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts district, there are no official storm shelters. This means that during periods of evacuation, government-run buildings such as radio and TV stations must accommodate people fleeing their homes. These buildings sheltered about 4,000 people last year. Official storm shelters would be better equipped to handle the increasing number of people fleeing storm damage.

The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) is recommending that until more concrete preventative measures can be taken, schools and faith-based organizations should work to prepare and educate communities about the dangers of landslides in Bangladesh. If people living on the slopes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts cannot avoid landslides, they may have to learn how to adapt to them.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

10 International Issues to WatchWith the world always changing, there are some issues that remain constant. Some of these issues are directly related to poverty while other events increase the likelihood of creating impoverished communities. Here are 10 international issues to watch in relation to world poverty.

10 International Issues to Watch

  1. Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa
    The good news is that global poverty rates have been dropping since the turn of the century. Nevertheless, there is still work that needs to be done. Approximately 10 percent of people in developing areas live on less than $2 per day. Poverty rates have declined in Eastern and Southeastern Asia, but more than 40 percent of residents of sub-Saharan Africa still live below the poverty line.
  2. Lack of Access to Clean Water
    There are more than 2 billion people in the world who cannot access clean water in their own homes. Lack of access to clean water increases the likelihood of contracting illnesses. When people get sick, they have to spend money on medicine, which can cause families to fall into extreme poverty. In other cases, people have to travel extremely far to collect clean water. Altogether, women and girls spend approximately 200 million hours walking to get water daily. Access to clean water is one of the 10 international issues to watch in relation to world poverty.
  3. Food Security
    By 2050, the world will need to feed 9 billion people, but there will be a 60 percent greater food demand than there is today. Thus, the United Nations is taking steps to address the problem. The U.N. has set improving food security, improving sustainable agriculture and ending hunger as some of their primary focuses by the year 2030. The U.N. must address a wide range of issues to combat these problems. These issues include gender parity, global warming and aging populations.
  4. Improving Education
    Most impoverished communities around the world lack a solid education system. Some common barriers include families being unable to afford school, children having to work to support their family and the undervaluing of girls’ education. UNESCO estimates more than 170 million people could be lifted out of poverty if they had basic reading skills.
  5. Limited Access to Jobs
    In rural and developing communities around the world, there is often limited access to job opportunities. There is a multitude of factors that can lead to a lack of adequate work or even no opportunities at all. Two common roadblocks are a lack of access to land and a limit of resources due to overexploitation. It is obvious that no available means to make money ensures that a family cannot survive without outside help.
  6. Limiting Global Conflict
    When conflict occurs, it impacts the poor the hardest. Social welfare type programs are drained, rural infrastructure may be destroyed in conflict zones and security personnel moves into urban areas, leaving smaller communities behind. At the state level, impoverished communities have lower resilience to conflict because they may not have strong government institutions. Poverty and conflict correlate strongly with one another.
  7. Gender Equality
    From a financial standpoint, gender equality is vital to improving the world economy. The World Economic Forum states that it would take another 118 years to achieve a gender-neutral economy. In 2015, the average male made $10 thousand more a year than their female counterparts. However, there has been an increased amount of awareness on the issue that may lead to an improved economy for all.
  8. Defending Human Rights
    In 2018, the world saw a decline in global freedom. However, over the last 12 consecutive years, global freedom rights have decreased. More than 70 countries have experienced a decline in political and civil liberties. However, in 2019, steps are being taken to limit this problem. At the International Conference on Population and Development, there will be a focus on human rights. France will also align its G-7 efforts at limiting a variety of inequalities.
  9. Responding to Humanitarian Crises
    The 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview shows a large number of humanitarian crises around the world. Between Syria, Colombia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are more than 19 million internally displaced people. In 2019, approximately 132 million people have needed humanitarian help, costing the world economy almost $22 billion.
  10. Climate Change
    From a scientific standpoint, the land temperature has increased by 1 degree C. in the last half decade, and greenhouse gas emissions have risen to their highest levels in more than 800,000 years. This has led to increased storms and droughts throughout the world. In the last 39 years, weather-related economic loss events have tripled.

Even though the world still has many issues to address, progress is being made in a variety of areas that may help limit global poverty. These are but 10 international issues to watch in relation to global poverty. The global awareness of poverty-related issues is something that continues to be extremely important for the advancement of our world.

Nicholas Bartlett
Photo: Google Images

UN Report on "Climate Apartheid"On June 25th, the United Nations released a report saying the world is at risk of a “climate apartheid.” This describes a situation where wealthy people will be able to escape heat and hunger caused by climate change, while the poor are forced to endure distressing conditions. Philip Alston, a UN expert on human rights and extreme poverty, said climate change “could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places poor people live and work.” While there are many things to understand from the dense findings, there are key highlights that are crucial to know about the UN report on “climate apartheid.”

5 facts from the UN report on “climate apartheid”:

  1. Extreme weather conditions threaten to undo the last 50 years of progress in poverty reduction around the globe.
    Weather-related conditions like droughts and flooding are much more likely to occur if climate change continues to worsen. People who already experience extreme poverty tend to live in communities that depend on local harvests to survive. If weather causes food supplies to disappear, these people are likely to experience famine and malnutrition. This can result in illness and death.
  2. Even the “best-case scenario” for climate change would lead to food insecurity in many regions.
    Next, Alston says that “even if current targets are met, tens of millions will be impoverished, leading to widespread displacement and hunger.” Reaching current targets would mean only a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperature by 2100. This would cause many already poor regions to become food insecure.
  3. The UNHC says that it’s likely the wealthy will be able to pay to escape worsening conditions.
    Alston notes that “an over-reliance on the private sector could lead to a climate apartheid scenario in which the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict, while the rest of the world is left to suffer.” For example, he cited the 2012 Hurricane Sandy as an example of this, because many impoverished New Yorkers were without basic necessities during the disaster, while “the Goldman Sachs headquarters was protected by tens of thousands of its own sandbags and power from its generator.”
  4. Democracy could be at risk in affected regions.
    If weather conditions lead governments to declare states of emergency, it is likely to cause drastic changes in power structures. The report says “states may very well respond to climate change by augmenting government powers and circumscribing some rights. This will be a very fraught process and require great vigilance on the part of governments, human rights institutions and national and regional courts.” Additionally, some governments will be under-prepared to cope with serious conditions. As a result, this can cause social unrest and community discontent. It could even spark nationalist, xenophobic and racist responses.
  5. There are potential solutions.
    The report also suggests that tackling the problem with a human-rights-focused response may be the best way. It includes giving vulnerable communities access to protective infrastructure, financial aid, relocation options, employment support and land tenure. Additionally, this includes access to food, clean water and healthcare. Furthermore, the report noted that building coalitions are key to addressing the issue, saying “major human rights actors must tackle questions about emissions, resource allocation, and energy and economic policy that states are grappling with and where there is a real need for detailed, actionable recommendations.”

Why the report matters

Overall, the release of the UNHR document has sparked widespread media coverage and global awareness. Understanding these 5 Facts from the UN report on “climate apartheid” is a critical step in addressing the problem.

-Natalie Malek
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters in Bangladesh

The people of Bangladesh face great risks from natural disasters. Given the country’s geographical position, cyclones, earthquakes and floods are not uncommon. Natural disasters in Bangladesh are more prominent because of the country’s entirely low-lying, flat landscape. This topography puts more than 80 percent of the inhabitants at higher risk of “floods, earthquakes and droughts, and more than 70 percent to cyclones.” This is why it is so important to have a preemptive system in place for the preparation of natural disasters.

The Impact of Climate Change

The Asian continent accounts for more than half of the cities at risk of experiencing the effects of a changing climate. Among the impacts of a changing climate are frequent droughts, fierce heat waves, intense cyclones and severe flooding. The “World Bank predicts climate change could force tens of millions of people to migrate within their own countries by 2050, including some 13 million in densely populated Bangladesh alone.” Nnatural disasters in Bangladesh leave the people of suffering on a large scale on an annual basis.

An article posted by The New Humanitarian delves into the torrential rainfall that came down on Bangladesh in 2017. It had a severe and negative impact on the fertility of the land and damaged the crops, which is what Bangladeshi people rely on to grow and sell every year. The warm winters and dry summers have brought tremendous flooding.

Even worse, farmers are continuing to move away from their homes and farms, migrating to Bangladesh’s cities. Many families have relied on farming as a sustainable way of life for generations; however, due to weather extremes, they are migrating within their countries by the thousands. Not only does the migration create a sort of refugee crisis as well as overcrowding in the urban areas within the nation but the destruction of crops may ultimately lead to a food security issue.

Moving Forward

It is imperative that the government create better systems of preparation for natural disasters in Bangladesh in order to prevent more issues. In a stride toward environmental public health, efforts to adapt and minimize damages due to the changing climate are underway. Bangladesh has allocated more than $400 million into its Climate Change Trust, which is a “state body that finances adaptation and mitigation projects by government agencies.” Hopefully, some of the projects that come out of this organization will show improved disaster preparation techniques.

The Haor Infrastructure and Livelihood Improvement Project within the Rural Development sector has set a goal to “improve road infrastructure, build local capacity and expand access to natural resources, technology and markets.” The five targeted districts of this poverty-reducing project are Sunamganj, Kishorganj, Brahmanbaria, Habiganj and Netrakona.

Among many projects is the Coastal Embankment Improvement Project (CEIP), which was approved by the World Bank in 2013. This project has helped Bangladesh improve emergency response to the impact of cyclones and flooding in the coastal areas.

Natural disasters in Bangladesh are both inevitable and a public health emergency for a host of reasons. However, the preparations and emergency response protocols already underway signal a more stable future for the promising developing country.

– Karina Bhakta
Photo: Flikr

Progress in Benin
Despite a low unemployment rate of one percent and a GDP growth rate that increased from two percent to over five percent from 2015 to 2017, progress in Benin has been slow and it is still a poor country in West Africa. With more than a third of the over 11 million population living below the poverty line, it is difficult for Beninese to live without a feeling of unease. Three major reasons Benin has a rising poverty rate is because of over-reliance in Niger’s economy, the largest exporter, reluctance for Benin to modernize its own economy and climatic shocks, particularly massive floods.

Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project

The agriculture sector employs over 70 percent of Beninese. In an effort to boost the economy, the Republic of Benin is investing in improvements in the agriculture sector. The Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project began on March 22, 2011, with a budget of $61 million and ends on February 28, 2021. Its purpose is to repair major damage caused during Benin’s 2010 flood and improve productivity in certain export-oriented value chains, such as aquaculture, maize, rice, cashew and pineapple.

One component of this project is improving technology and restoration of productivity. The devastating flood in 2010 destroyed over 316,000 acres of cropland and 50,000 homes. The project began after the major flood and takes into account the need for drainage systems to stifle rising waters during floods. Small-scale irrigation infrastructure repair and improvement are issues that the project faces and hopes to correct in the timeframe. Climate-smart production systems are another investment that the country is developing to prevent widespread destruction to cropland when a natural disaster threatens to destroy homes and crops. The project is also set to create new jobs by investing in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), especially for youth and women.

Improving the Business Environment

Although flooding caused several Beninese people to lose their homes and cropland, there is one impediment that halts economic development: corruption. President Talon became the President of Benin in 2016 and stated in his inaugural address that he would “make the fight against corruption an ongoing and everyday struggle.” A 29 percent electricity access is another issue that prevents developmental progress in Benin, but since 2016 blackouts have reduced and electricity generation has improved significantly.

Economic Diversification

The last major impasse that prevents development in Benin is over-reliance in Nigeria, Benin’s major exporter. Current IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, announced a call for economic diversification in Benin. Lagarde believes diversifying is one way to reduce the high poverty level of 36 percent. Due to the country’s economic reliance on the agricultural sector and economic conditions in Nigeria, it is difficult to grow if a recession, such as the 2017 recession in Nigeria, occurs. In her speech at the Chamber of Commerce in Cotonou, Benin, Lagarde discussed how Benin could strengthen land tenure, increase food security in rural areas and invest more in education and health, and improve transparency in the government so that outside investors would find investing in Benin appealing.

Rate of Progress in Benin

There is room for growth, though the poverty-stricken nation has had success in certain areas, such as the average life expectancy that rose from 50 years in 2000 to 62 in 2018. With the creation of the Agricultural Productivity and Diversification Project, improvements in agriculture and infrastructure are already underway. The estimated rate of urbanization is fairly high at 3.89 percent from 2015 to 2020. At this rate of progress in Benin and under the leadership of President Talon, the country will continue its headway in development so that the percentage of Beninese in poverty will gradually drop in the coming years.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

What is Food Insecurity?What is Food Insecurity? Food insecurity occurs when a person is consistently unable to get enough food on a day-to-day basis. This epidemic plagues millions across the globe, resulting in malnutrition, chronic hunger and low quality of health. When a person lives with hunger or fear of going hungry, they are considered to be food insecure. It is important to understand why food insecurity happens and what can be done to alleviate it.

What is Food Insecurity?

Food insecurity can be broken down into three aspects. The first is food availability, which means having physical access to a food supply on a consistent basis. The second is food access, which means that a person has the resources, such as money, available to obtain and sufficient amount of food. The third is food utilization, which addresses how a person consumes food and whether or not they use the food available to maintain a nutritious diet. It is important to note that proper sanitation and hygiene practices also contribute to food utilization.

On average, more than 9 million people a year die from global food insecurity. Unfortunately, poverty and food insecurity have long gone hand-in-hand because people living in poverty are less likely to have sufficient resources to buy food or produce their own. Families without the resources to escape extreme poverty are likely unable to escape chronic hunger as well. There are several factors contributing to the large number of people who are food insecure.

  1. The steady growth in human population contributes greatly to the increase in food insecurity. With more people on Earth comes more mouths to feed. The rate in which food is grown simply isn’t able to keep up with the projected population growth.
  2. Another contributing cause of food insecurity is the global water crisis. “Widespread over-pumping and irrigation” are leading to a depletion of water sources needed to produce agriculture and produce. Water reserves in many countries have dropped drastically, directly impacting food supplies in these countries and others.
  3. Recent climate extremes and natural disasters also affect food supplies, ruining communities and the agriculture within them. Climate change has impacted crops, forests and water supplies, ultimately spiking prices in areas that are already affected.

The Impact of Food Insecurity

Food insecurity impacts individuals, families and communities far and wide. Although the number of people living with hunger has dropped since the 20th century, there are still more than 800 million people in the world without food security. In developing countries, nearly one in six children is malnourished and poor nutrition accounts for almost half of deaths in children under five. While Asia has the highest population of food insecure people, Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest prevalence with 25 percent of the population living in hunger.

Food insecurity can lead to many health problems if a person is not getting the nutrients they need. Malnutrition is an issue that can affect all aspects of one’s health. While food insecurity directly impacts all these people, it indirectly impacts the whole population. The problem of food insecurity is a product of behaviors that people do every day, and it has the ability to affect people who may not even know it.

Combatting Food Insecurity

Despite a large number of impending causes, there are still actions that can be taken in daily life to contribute to combating food insecurity. Urging the government to make nutrition programs that emphasize nutrition as a priority is one way to help in the fight. Even if someone is not exposed to food insecurity in their personal life, they can still put pressure on the government to make policies that could help people in developing countries fight this epidemic.

There are also a number of programs and nonprofit organizations that rely on donations and aid in order to make a big difference. The World Food Programme and World Health Organization are two examples of charities that devote time and resources to combating malnutrition and hunger. Donating food to a local food bank or volunteering at one are more hands-on ways to make a difference. Of course, an emphasis on foreign aid and public policy are two of the most impactful ways to reach the most people in the shortest amount of time.

While the numbers may seem staggering, there has been a 17 percent decrease in global food insecurity since the 1990s, but with awareness and effort, that number could be improved. There is reason to believe that, given the right tools and commitment, global food insecurity could become a more manageable problem in years to come.

Charlotte M. Kriftcher

Photo: Pixabay

Ecosia
As of 2015, less than one-third of our planet’s surface contains forests, and that percentage continues to decrease. According to the World Wildlife Fund, approximately 18.7 million acres of forest are destroyed annually. But a search engine called Ecosia is on a mission to help.

The Problem With Deforestation

Deforestation rates have slowed down somewhat since peak levels in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the Earth continues to lose this ecosystem at an alarming rate. Forests are home to an estimated 80 percent of the world’s non-aquatic species. The Amazon rainforest alone shelters an estimated 2,000 animal species and 40,000 plant species. As the world’s forests are gradually destroyed, millions of plants and animals lose their habitats. It is possible that, due to deforestation, countless species have gone extinct before they were ever discovered by humans.

In addition, forests play a number of roles in maintaining a safe and habitable environment. Forests are carbon sinks, meaning that they absorb large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, thereby helping to maintain a balanced and habitable climate. The loss of forests is responsible for at least 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to rising temperatures, extreme weather conditions and an increasing number of dangerous storms. These changes have the potential to make human life more difficult and dangerous, and people in impoverished countries often face the greatest risks.

What is Ecosia?

Ecosia is a web search engine founded in 2009 and based in Berlin, Germany. The brainchild of Christian Kroll, Ecosia was created as a “social business” with the primary objective of helping the world. For most businesses, profit comes first and service projects second. Ecosia has turned this order on its head.

Like other search engines, Ecosia makes money off of ads in internet searches. But unlike other engines, 80 percent of Ecosia’s revenue is used to plant trees in countries suffering from heavy deforestation and to fund reforestation projects. The search page also comes with a tree counter, allowing users to see how many trees their searches have planted so far.

As of 2018, Ecosia is contributing to reforestation efforts in 15 countries across Asia, Europe, and South America. Its projects target biodiversity hotspots containing a high number of plants and animals without alternative habitats. Many of these areas are at risk of disappearing. By reforesting these areas, Ecosia’s efforts are preventing countless species from going extinct.

Agricultural Benefits of Reforestation

Forests are vital to the health and safety of agriculture. Apart from maintaining a healthy climate and biodiversity, trees prevent erosion by holding soil. Without this protection from erosion, good soil is lost, and agriculture becomes significantly more difficult.

Trees also shield smaller crops from violent storms and channel nutrients to surrounding plants. They provide habitats for bees and other pollinators, facilitating natural fertilization of crops and plants. Perhaps most importantly, trees aid in precipitation. By drawing groundwater through their roots and evaporating it through their leaves, the water can return as rain. Not long after the reforestation project in Burkina Faso commenced, rainfall became more frequent in the semi-desertic area.

By setting the groundwork to create better and more sustainable conditions for agriculture, Ecosia is helping rural communities around the world improve their livelihoods.

Community Benefits of Reforestation

While reforestation efforts are inherently beneficial to the environment, Ecosia also ensures that local communities benefit from their projects. Many of the company’s efforts focus on planting trees that are useful to local farmers. One example is Ecosia’s project in Ghana, where more than 900,000 trees were planted along the Daka River. Most of these trees were fruit or nut trees. These trees not only helped restore and maintain the water level of the river but provided local people with food. Through the harvesting and selling of shea nuts, the plants also created new economic opportunities.

Finally, Ecosia projects bring communities out of poverty by employing locals to plant trees. The company provides a stable source of income for people in areas where jobs and money are scarce.

How to Help

Ecosia can be downloaded for free as an extension for browsers including Safari, Firefox and Google Chrome. It is also offered as an app on iOS or Android. So far, nearly 6 million people have begun using Ecosia, leading to the planting of more than 40 million trees. By 2020, the company hopes to have planted at least 1 billion, reviving broken habitats and contributing to a sustainable future.

Keira Charles
Photo: Flickr