Information and stories about developing countries.

Develop telecommunication technology
The Solomon Islands has reached a deal with Australia to help develop telecommunication technology in the country. Only about one-sixth of the country’s 660,000 people are currently connected to the Internet, with most of that population concentrated in the Solomon Islands’ urban areas and relying on satellite connections to use it. The Solomon Islands tech deal with Australia will allow the country to connect to outside servers and develop telecommunication connections within. Australia had also previously helped the Solomon Islands quell civil unrest between various indigenous militias between 2003 to 2017.

The Giant Undersea Cable Project

The Australian communications company Vocus is in charge of the construction of a major underwater cable known as the Coral Sea Cable System. Australia granted it in 2017 with a grant of $137 million, and Australia, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea agreed to the deal to build the cable in 2018. The Coral Sea Cable System is a 4,700 km (2920 mi) underwater cable that will link Sydney to Port Moresby and Honiara, with the latter also connecting to Solomon Islands Domestic Network linking the archipelago. The cable will transfer over 40 TB of data to all three ports in the network, which would allow for 300,000 new jobs and growth of $5 billion in GDP for Pacific countries such as the Solomon Islands by 2040. As noted previously, only a small percentage of the population that uses the Internet use satellite to connect to it. As such, the underwater cable should grant the island nation more reliable and stable connections in part for the Solomon Islands tech deal which has helped to develop telecommunication technology significantly.

Since making the deal official, the project has made much progress in building its undersea cable network. The project installed landing sites at Port Moresby and Honiara in July 2019, symbolized by a golden buoy marking the occasion. In August 2019, it installed the landing site in Sydney and the final splice in September 2019. The Solomon Islands Domestic Network planned to finish in time for the December 2019 activation. Once complete, the Solomon Islands, alongside neighboring Papua New Guinea, can connect to a more reliable broadband connection and reliable Internet access.

Other Developments

Before the Solomon Islands tech deal with Australia, the Solomon Islands’ fisheries brokered a deal with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for training tech. Beginning in May 2018, the WWF provided funds for new tech such as tablets that allow for training of observers to monitor and observe fishing levels in the Solomon Islands and currently has 85 percent of electronic reporting by satellite commutation with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR). This efficient approach also lets observers electronically report between fishing boats out at sea and stations back on land. While the deal occurred before the Coral Sea Cable system deal, the e-reporting will benefit greatly from the system implementation upon its completion in 2019.

The Solomon Islands tech deal with Australia will build the internal infrastructure and bolster the Internet connection in the country by connecting the Solomon Islands with not only neighboring Papua New Guinea and Australia but the archipelago as well. The project also will bolster existing tech programs with improved infrastructure once completed. The project should complete by the end of 2019. Continuing to develop telecommunication technology is important for the global population.

–  Henry Elliott
Photo: Pixabay

Kelvin Beachum

As an offensive tackle in American Football, Kelvin Beachum is accustomed to being in tough circumstances. But as a child, he remained unaware of the harsh reality of food insecurity that his hardworking parents struggled with. His family grew up poor but his parents always found a way to provide, sometimes having to rely on government programs like food stamps or WIC (Women, Infants and Children) to put food on the table. Now, the football player does his part by giving back to ensure that fewer families have to worry about where their next meal will come from.

Beachum and World Vision

There are 795 million hungry people throughout the world, and malnutrition is the cause of almost half of all deaths of children under the age of 5. These sobering facts have inspired Beachum to take his cause for food security international. In the summer of 2016, he traveled to Honduras with World Vision, a global Christian humanitarian organization, to witness how another country deals with the issue of childhood hunger. He was surprised to discover that finding a source of clean water is just as difficult as finding food within the country.

During his travels, he visited a rural school where he witnessed a water tank system that is part of a World Vision water project and will eventually provide access to clean water for more than 200,000 people. In another community he visited, World Vision facilitated the growth of an economic empowerment project, which provides clean drinking water for the entire community as well as water for agricultural irrigation.

Beachum and World Food Day

Beachum also advocates for World Food Day, which is celebrated every year on October 16th to honor the founding of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. For World Food Day 2018, he created a match challenge for five food banks throughout the U.S. His plan entailed donating $5,000 to each food bank and doubling his donation if members of the community matched his contribution.  Eventually, he reached his goal of $70,000, which provided 327,000 meals for hungry individuals throughout the U.S.

“It allows me to keep things in perspective,” Beachum states. “I was…on food stamps growing up…We had people who helped us out. So, for me, that keeps me grounded, honestly, because I was there.”

Kelvin Beachum and Feed the Future

His advocacy extends Feed the Future (FTF), the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. FTF works with partner countries to break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger by developing their agricultural sectors and working to sustainably grow enough food to feed their people. They are also leading the implementation of the Global Food Security Act of 2016, which promotes global food security, resilience and nutrition. FTF draws on resources and expertise from multiple U.S. federal departments and agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The progress speaks for itself; it is projected that 23.4 million more people are living above the poverty line, 3.4 million more children are living free of stunting, and 5.2 million more families do not go hungry within the countries that FTF partners with. The Global Food Reauthorization Act, signed by President Donald J. Trump in 2018, ensures that funding continues for FTF so the assistance they provide for hungry individuals around the world will persist.

Conclusion

Through his advocacy and partnership with organizations such as FTF, Kelvin Beachum is breaking the mold of the stereotypical football player. His interest in humanitarian issues all started with a canned food drive in college and has blossomed into global efforts that are making real change. His hope is to inspire others to take action through advocacy, donations, and volunteering. “The world is going through a lot right now,” Beachum writes. “Anything [one] can do to bring light to it—that’s impactful.”

– Rachel Baum
Photo: Flickr

CodersTrustThe only things a person needs to survive is food, water and shelter, but they won’t thrive. To provide them with an opportunity to thrive starts by giving them access to education. While this seems relatively easy for some, others are not as lucky to have this opportunity. For those who are not as fortunate or not able to access education, putting forth legislation and supporting non-profits and other NGOs that give people this opportunity allow citizens who once had nothing to thrive and become productive members of society able to give back to the community. Organizations such as CodersTrust give people the opportunity for an education they most likely would not receive.

CodersTrust

CodersTrust was founded in 2014 in Denmark with the hope of providing access and marketable skills to children and young people around the world who are considered “underprivileged, disadvantaged and marginalized,” people who do not have access to education or opportunities to thrive in a professional setting. They welcome children and young people from all walks of life including women, those who are disabled or refugees, teaching them both digital skills and soft skills which give them the best chance at finding a job or internship opportunity; for one of the goals of the organization is to train as many people as well as possible. These are the people who have very few options in life, CodersTrust gives them an opportunity they might not have to get an education and be independent. 

Mads Galsgaard, the current CEO of CodersTrust, spoke more candidly about the reason behind the formation of CodersTrust saying, “CodersTrust was founded on the vision to create affordable education and job access to people in developing countries. The founders deeply believe in outsourcing work to talented people abroad and through their past projects, they came across several talented people in Bangladesh, helping them with accounting, etc.”

As of now the organization itself is rather small but is looking to expand. According to Galsgaard, there are three people stationed in Denmark, three people in Kosovo and two people in Kenya. The largest headquarters in Bangladesh with over 50 staffers there. Regarding the future plans for the company, Galsgaard states, “We are scaling up the business and will onboard new staff members in the coming months, to ensure that our online and franchise partners are given the full human interaction that is key for a successful education and job creation.”

CodersTrust was founded with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in mind. The Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, were created in 2016 with the idea that they were created to ensure that all countries will fight to end poverty, fight inequality and address climate change, all while ensuring all people are apart of the conversation and that people globally will benefit from these goals. The SDGs are based on the success of the Millennium Development Goals and address all countries to do their part, not just the wealthier countries. The goals combine the importance of ending poverty and social justice while trying to protect the plant and stop the adverse effects of climate change. There were seventeen rules implemented when the UN created this plan. CodersTrust works to follow rules 1, 4, 5, 8 and 10. These rules are no poverty (1), quality education (4), gender equality (5), decent work and economic growth (8) and reduced inequalities (10). CodersTrust’s dedication to these rules is something Galsgaard is extremely proud of with the organization. 

Opportunities for Women and Young Girls

Coderstrust has also done many projects to assist women and girls in obtaining an education and having a fair shot as well, for one of their main focus groups is women and young girls. They have partnered with other organizations, that too help with offering those in areas where education is not possible, an opportunity for education. When speaking of the impact CodersTrust has had on the battle for gender equity, Galsgaard says, “We have done several projects to focus on young women, in Kosovo with Women in Online Work (WoW) and recently in Bangladesh, where are training 1000 women to become digital freelancers.”

The interesting part of CodersTrust does that differs them from other organizations is that it works to combine education with job experience and job hunting, so people working with CodersTrust are doing both at the same time. They also encourage globalization through the internet by allowing their students and clients to branch out to businesses worldwide. The example they use on their website is “Companies in Bratislava can have their website built in Kenya and students in the Philippines can bid on managing the Social Media Portfolio for the Mountain Bike Shop in White Horse, Canada.” Since the foundation of CodersTrust, 11,525 people have received an education and graduated, 11 countries have been introduced to CodersTrust and 18 different courses have been offered to students. CodersTrust has mainly reached students in the Global South, as well as post-war zones, for education and job opportunities are the worst there. 

With the development of this organization, their goal and plans for the future involve globalization for their education plans, and job searching in order to improve themselves and help more people. With this vision, students will be able to take everything they have learned from their time at this organization and apply it to the job market. When asked if CodersTrust intended on expanding outside of technology and freelancing, Galsgaard said, “Our primary focus is training people in digital skills, but our marketplace could over time also provide a job market for tradespeople, such as carpenters, plumbers, etc. We focus on providing a transparent platform where companies can easily find workers and have a secure payment flow, where both parties can review validated reviews, certificates and other elements to build trust and easy operation.”

Plans For The Future

With the success and the growth of CodersTrust in mind, Galsgaard talks about plans for the organization five years from now and ten years from now and what he would like the see the organization accomplish from there. Galsgaard says, “We wish to have 1 million users by the end of 2020 and 5 million by 2025. If our scale-up goes as we hope and expect, our touchpoints will be both online and offline, to ensure that people all over the world can access our offerings, as long as the student has a laptop/mobile device and a stable internet connection. We also wish to provide certain entry-level education programs for free, to ensure that we also attract people with no or little IT skills and lift them out of poverty.”

Regarding the expansion of the organization and CodersTrust’s vision for the future, Galsgaard states, “Our expansion strategy is based on providing a global footprint reaching even more people, whilst still maintaining the human interaction so each student has direct access to support anytime and anywhere.”

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

digital inclusion for African farmersThe spread of mobile technology has granted developing nations access to the digital revolution. This is called digital inclusion. From the digital revolution, we have experienced one of the most innovative new business models, networking. Companies like Facebook and Instagram are involved in social networking. Uber and Lyft specialize in transportation networking. Go-puff, Grubhub, and Door Dash all focus on food delivery networking.

What makes these business models unique to networking is that their products are simply information. Food, cars and people’s personal information, provided by the users themselves, is the secret. Networking companies need only to provide intuitive transfer of this information over the internet.

New companies across Africa are taking advantage of the networking business model. With increased digital inclusion for African farmers, there are new ways for transactions to be streamlined.

Hello Tractor!

The mechanization of agriculture is an important innovation to spread into developing countries. Unfortunately, many farmers in these countries cannot afford to outright buy a tractor and maintain it. Hello Tractor! creates a network between tractor dealers, contractors and farmers that makes mechanization a reliable and affordable investment for all.

Based in Nigeria, Hello Tractor! targets the 36 percent of the Nigerian population that is employed in agriculture. The physical product of Hello Tractor! is a device that attaches to tractors and monitors them, sending GPS and maintenance data to the Hello Tractor! software.

Farmers use the software by downloading a mobile application, to book the dates in which they need tractors. Once contractors send out their tractors, they can use the app to see if the tractors are being used properly. Tractor dealers also have access to the information so that they may perform maintenance when required.

John Deere supplied 10,000 tractors to Nigeria’s Ministry of Agriculture in 2018 and they are all managed by the Hello Tractor! systems. Ultimately, digital inclusion for African farmers can build trust between stakeholders.

Agri-wallet

Selling produce is a more arduous task than many may think. As the market expands, this risky and tedious process only puts more pressure on farmers. Digital inclusion for African farmers can settle this issue.

Between the farmer and the consumer, there exists a distributor. However, unlike how we think of big business deals in America, these distributors can not put down payments on produce. They must take weeks to sell the products to consumers and bring back the returns to the farmers after.

A solution to this problem is in high demand as 70 percent of workers in Kenya are employed in agriculture.

Agri-wallet fits nicely into a niche area between the Kenyan farmers and the market distributers. When farmers sell to their distributors, Agri-wallet pays up-front into the farmers’ banking app. Now, farmers can restock during this intermittent period of sales.

Convenient transactions and loans such as these would not be possible without the growing interconnectivity of mobile technology spreading into Africa.

Now, 4,000 farmers in Africa are benefitting from the services of Agri-wallet.

Farmer’s Pride

According to the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, 3 quarters of Kenyan farmers have planted fake seeds at least once. Farmer’s Pride is a Kenyan company that will provide infrastructure and safe avenues for e-commerce among farmers and distributors.

A primary focus of Farmer’s Pride is “putting the area on the map” so that village-level farmers are more attached to society as a whole. Extra care for farmers, from digital access to insurance to local access to veterinary care for livestock, is what makes Farmer’s Pride such a promising franchise.

10,000 farmers have been connected through Farmer’s Pride, making an extra $2m income through their intervention.

These secure smartphone apps are promoting e-commerce, intelligent planning and proper resource management. When African farmers are given the opportunity to be included in the digital world, the entrepreneurial and economic prosperity we have enjoyed in America will become open to them.

– Nicholas Pihralla
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Nauru’s Overweight Health Issue
Nauru is a small island country located in the Pacific Ocean near Papa New Guinea and is home to around 10,000 people. More than 70 percent of the population in this country is categorized as obese and overweight. According to the World Health Organization, Nauru has the highest percentage of overweight and obese people in the world. Its ongoing health issue has gained much attention from health organizations. Many organizations, like the World Diabetes Foundation, have reached out and offered financial help to establish health care programs in the hopes that the people of Nauru will take on a healthier lifestyle but have found little success. Here are 5 facts about Nauru’s overweight health issue.

5 Facts About Nauru’s Overweight Health Issue

  1. Causes of Death: Nauru has the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the world with 40 percent of its inhabitants affected by the condition. This condition puts many people at risk for heart and kidney disease on the small island and many suffer from high blood pressure. Very few people live past the age of 60 on the island.
  2. The Nauruan Diet: The obesity and overweight problem found in Nauru may be because of the lack of proper nutrition in Nauruan’s diets. Many of their diets consist of white rice, instant noodles, imported Westernized foods and soda with very little fruits and vegetables. A Global Nutrition Report suggests that once Nauru makes improvements to the quality of foods available, it could start to see some success in reducing the number of people being that obesity affects. Some ways it can start working towards a healthier lifestyle is by creating easy-to-understand food labels, limiting the marketing of junk food to children and increasing taxes on sodas.
  3. Child Obesity: According to a 2017 UNICEF report, 44 percent of children ages 13 to 15 are overweight while 17 percent are obese. Many children on the island are not getting enough physical activity. Only 15 percent of children reported being physically active for at least an hour a day. On the other hand, 33 percent of children reported that they spend at least three hours per day doing sitting activities. Obesity has become a social norm that many children have accepted and do not see anything wrong with.
  4. Lack of Traditional Practices: The World Health Organization has suggested that Nauru’s obesity problem started with the decline of traditional practices such as fishing and gardening. Before the country gained independence, many Nauruan’s diets consisted of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables grown on their own land. Because of the easy money the country was able to gain from phosphate mining, people stopped farming and fishing and found it easier to import canned and frozen foods.
  5. Solutions: Obesity rates have not dropped on the island, but some have made efforts to help people get some physical activity. Events such as Walk against Cancer were prevalent in Nauru. In 2010, locals received encouragement to walk around the three-mile airport perimeter every Wednesday. The country eventually stopped the three-mile walks due to security reasons but people on the island still provide regular exercise classes.

These 5 facts about Nauru’s overweight health issue have shown that the island country of Nauru is suffering from a huge obesity problem and exercise is not the only solution to this issue. Good nutrition is an extremely important aspect of preventing diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease and something that Nauru has to prioritize to see any changes in the lifestyles of its citizens. Providing children and adults with fresh vegetables and fruits instead of imported junk foods will make a huge impact on the health of this country. The people of Nauru are capable of changing their lifestyles if provided with the right tools.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr

table banking in Kenya
Table banking is a group-based funding strategy in which members form groups where they can save and borrow money immediately during meeting times. The objective of the strategy is to help the poor, particularly women, fight poverty and stay financially sound. About 97 percent of table banking members in Kenya are women.

Members of a table banking group save money each time they meet from which they can take either short or long term loans. The repayment of these loans is what helps to grow the group’s revolving fund. Different groups have varying methods of how they can raise additional funds. Some tactics include investing in land, applying for grants from county governments or fining members for lateness and absenteeism.

How Table Banking is Different From Conventional Banking

Table banking in Kenya became popular among women because it made it easy for them to access loans without land. Additionally, it means that they no longer have to go through microfinance institutions to get loans. While table banking groups have similar principles as a guide, each group creates and agrees on their own rules such as which members can receive loans and what the terms of repayment are. This means that interest rates can be as low as 1 percent, compared to an interest rate of 12.39 percent in banks.

Another key difference between conventional banking and table banking is that when a member of a table banking group gets into difficulty in terms of repaying their loan, their group members assist them to overcome those difficulties. As the group members are dependent on and accountable to one another, the loan repayment rates tend to be high.

Benefits of Table Banking

Table banking has given women, who were once totally dependent on their husbands for everything, the ability to support their families as well. Women have been able to help out when it comes to paying school fees and rent as well as purchasing groceries and other household goods. The Joyful Women Organization (JOYWO) reports that as women increasingly become part of the source of income for their families, people no longer view them as liabilities. This has strengthened family bonds.

In addition to financing household activities, table banking in Kenya has enabled women to create small businesses or to expand their already existing ones. JOYWO, which is one of the most visible table banking movements in Kenya, has documented success stories of women who have put up rental houses and started small shops where they sell various items.

Table banking in Kenya has also given women the ability to buy and own land. Reports show that while women can constitutionally buy and own land, less than 7 percent of women have title deeds.

Women in Africa contribute between 60 percent to 80 percent of food, but they only have an estimated 5 percent access to agricultural extension services. The Global Report on Food Crises 2018 estimates that at least 25 percent of Kenya’s population is food insecure as a result of dry weather. As more women take ownership of land, they will be able to use their harvest as food to feed their families or as a means of income which will enable them to buy what they do not have at home, making their families food secure.

Conventional Banks are Taking Notice

The Central Bank of Kenya shows that women currently account for at least 82 percent of total savings in Kenya. Leading banks in the country are taking notice of the effects of table banking in Kenya and most of them now have group accounts to entice the various groups. Additionally, the banks are now reaching out to the various groups and offering them loans on friendly terms.

Table banking in Kenya has been a game-changer for women as individuals as well as for their families and it is going a long way in helping lift people out of poverty.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

Breaking the Poverty Cycle by Early Childhood Development Insufficient early childhood development is an epidemic in the developing world. It is the engine that propels the cycle of poverty. According to the World Bank, 250 million children around the globe are at risk of not reaching their full potential due to poverty as well as physical and cognitive stunting. Of note, only half of all 3-to-6-year-olds around the world have access to primary school. The Global Partnership for Education reports that there are over 175 million children not enrolled in pre-primary education worldwide. When it comes to breaking the poverty cycle, early childhood development cannot be ignored.

According to a Wyoming Scholars Repository report, childhood poverty can change the structure of a developing brain, potentially impacting the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus and neurotransmitter. This means that a child’s attention, inhibition, emotional regulation, motivation, planning and decision-making skills are all at risk of not reaching their full potential. The same report found that low socioeconomic status is responsible for around 20 percent of the variance in childhood IQ.

Furthermore, according to the Childhood Poverty Policy and Research Centre, approximately 1 billion children will be growing up with stunted mental development by 2020. This is why early childhood development is the key to breaking the poverty cycle.

Two Components of Early Childhood Development

There are two main components of early childhood development that many impoverished children lack which are essential to brain development. The first is education and stimulation. According to UNICEF, early childhood education builds cognitive and language skills, increases social competence and supports emotional development. Early childhood stimulation and care boost the brain’s capacity to function by sparking neural connections across multiple regions of the brain. According to the World Bank, a 20-year study of children in Jamaica showed that early stimulation interventions for infants and toddlers increased their future earnings by 25 percent. In addition, a World Bank Group analysis in 12 countries found that children involved in early education are more likely to be employed in high-skill jobs as adults.

The second component is health and nutrition. Sufficient early childhood health begins with prenatal care. The Wyoming Scholars Repository reports that deficiencies in nutrients such as folate, choline, B12, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and iron are commonly noted in pregnant women living in poverty. These deficiencies can increase the risk of defects such as oral-facial clefts, spina bifida and stunting in eye and brain development.

According to the Childhood Poverty Policy and Research Centre, childhood malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies also increase a child’s vulnerability to diseases both in childhood and adulthood, which greatly decreases the likelihood of breaking the poverty cycle. Some gains can be made in adulthood to combat the consequences of insufficient early childhood development, but many effects, especially those related to cognitive development, are irreversible. Mitigating the stunting of children in poverty is crucial to reducing global poverty. According to the World Bank, children in a long-term study in Guatemala who suffered from stunting were much more likely to break the poverty cycle and earned up to 50 percent higher wages in adulthood.

Economic Benefits of Early Childhood Development

Research shows that investing in early childhood development has economic benefits at an individual and societal level. A RAND Corporation analysis found that targeted early interventions like education, health services, parent skill training and child abuse recognition create positive economic and societal outcomes such as:

  • Improvements in educational process and outcomes for the child
  • Increased economic self-sufficiency, initially for the parent and later for the child, through greater labor force participation, higher income and lower welfare usage
  • Reduced criminal activity
  • Improvements in health-related indicators, such as child abuse, maternal reproductive health and maternal substance abuse

Early childhood development proves to be a cost-efficient investment. According to the World Bank, for every $1 invested, there is a return of between $6 and $17. A report conducted by the Copenhagen Consensus and the Indian Consensus Prioritization Project found that implementing cash incentives to increase enrollment in pre-school education and passing policies to improve the quality of pre-school both show positive benefit-to-cost ratios.

Liberia is a good example of a country that has taken notice of the value of the investment in early childhood development.

In 2010, Liberia’s Ministry of Education implemented the Education Sector Plan for 2010-2020 with a grant from the Global Partnership for Education. The plan committed to cross-sectoral efforts around early childhood development and the expansion of access to pre-primary education. In 2011 the government established the Bureau for Early Childhood Education and approved its National Inter-Sectoral Policy on Early Childhood Development.

However, according to the Bernard van Leer Foundation, the Early Childhood Development Community Education and Awareness Programme (ECDCEAP) passed in 2012 has been the most effective in raising awareness about the importance of early childhood development. The program trains mental health professionals, pre-school teachers on childhood development knowledge and health workers and midwives to provide proper support to pregnant women and new mothers. There has yet to be a formal analysis of the ECDCEAP. However, the Bernard van Leer Foundation states that anecdotal evidence suggests an improvement in the comprehension and action surrounding early childhood development.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is a non-governmental organization that focuses on bringing education and early childhood development to the developing world. The organization has invested $270 million in early childhood education in 35 countries and two-thirds of the organization’s grants in 2018 included support for early childhood care and education. According to a GPE report, enrollment in pre-primary education doubled from 2002 to 2016 in the countries partnering with the organization.

Early childhood development is the key to breaking the poverty cycle. It gets the root cause of poverty’s cyclical behavior. Although organizations like The Global Partnership for Education are making large strides, early childhood development is not as recognized as it should be for reducing poverty. According to the same GPE report, 40 percent of countries with data allocate less than 2 percent of their education budget to early childhood education and less than one percent of global aid is invested in pre-primary education. To end the cycle of poverty, early childhood development needs to move up the hierarchy of foreign aid, government expenditure and international focus.

Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

 

Eight Facts about Turkey’s Kurds

The Kurds are a Muslim-majority ethnic group located mainly in Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. With a total global population of around 30 million, they are the largest ethnic group without a state. Since the rise of the Islamic State, the Kurds have been crucial in the fight against ISIS and have been a reliable US military ally. The Turkish government has had a contentious relationship with the Kurds for decades, as it views the Kurds as a threat to the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK as a terrorist organization. To better understand Turkey’s relations with its Kurdish minority, here are eight facts about Turkey’s Kurds.

8 Facts about Turkey’s Kurds

  1. There are between 15-20 million Kurdish people in Turkey, most of whom are located in the Kurdish districts of Sivas and Marash and in Eastern and South-Eastern Anatolia, or what the Kurds call Northern Kurdistan. Large Kurdish communities also exist in Turkish cities, such as Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Adana and Mersin. Turkey’s Kurds comprise somewhere between 19-25 percent of its total population.
  2. After the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the Kurds’ homeland, Kurdistan, was divided so that it was controlled by the mostly newly-formed states of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Many Kurdish people in Turkey are dissatisfied with this arrangement and want their own state. Indeed, since the 1930s the Kurds have resisted rule by the Turkish government, such as the government’s insistence on one national language.
  3. Since 1984, the PKK, often aided by Iran and Syria, has waged an armed insurgency against the Turkish regime. In the 1990s, the PKK executed several suicide bombings. The Turkish army has suppressed these Kurdish uprisings, and targeted Kurds suspected of supporting the PKK. In the 1990s, the regime depopulated rural Kurdish areas by evacuating or burning 4,000 Kurdish villages to the ground. This destruction displaced millions of Kurds, who received no social assistance or compensation. Furthermore, it is responsible for high unemployment among Turkey’s Kurds and economic inequality between the Kurdish and Turkish populations.
  4. When the AKP (Justice and Development Party) rose to power in Turkey in 2002, the government adopted a “zero problems with neighbors” foreign policy. In accordance with this shift, Turkey sought to cooperate with Syria, Iran and Iraq on the Kurdish issue. However, since the onset of the Arab Spring in 2011, Turkey’s relations with Syria and Iran have deteriorated significantly. Additionally, the Arab Spring reenergized Kurdish hopes of statehood, and the PKK escalated its terrorist attacks.
  5. Still, the AKP government has increased its efforts to engage with moderate Kurdish groups. For instance, in 2011, then-Prime Minister Erdogan recognized the Dersim massacre that occurred in the late 1930s. Some Kurds participate in Turkey’s political process; the Kurdish separatist party BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) gained three dozen seats in Turkey’s parliament.
  6. In an effort to quell political unrest among its Kurdish population, the Turkish government has employed a carrot-and-stick approach. In conjunction with the repression of the Kurdish resistance through the army and police, the Turkish regime has taken up a strategy of ‘‘development as counterinsurgency.” According to this plan, the Kurdish rebellion against the Turkish regime is attributable to the chronic poverty and lack of economic development in Southeastern Turkey and, therefore, can be resolved through economic development programs and welfare redistribution. Turkey’s most significant effort to provide economic development to its Kurdish population is the Southeast Anatolia Project (GAP), a program implemented which has provided more than 30 billion dollars in regional development assistance since the government implemented it in the 1970s. Notably, however, this program has not proven to benefit the Kurds. Between 1996-2003, the socioeconomic status of all but one province supposedly aided by GAP regressed. The construction of dams on the Euphrates and Tigris through the program proved to be disastrous environmentally and demographically.
  7. The Turkish government has successfully implemented social assistance programs, such as means-tested free health care, for individual impoverished Kurds. Other social assistance programs include the provision of conditional cash transfers, food stamps, housing, education, and disability aid for the poor. These programs have expanded in the 2000s, and from 2003-2009, Turkey’s spending on social expenditures increased 85 percent.
  8. These government welfare programs disproportionately benefit the Kurds; for instance, poor Kurds are twice as likely to receive a free health care card than non-Kurds in Turkey.

Conclusion

Due to this unequal distribution and Turkey’s historical relationship with the Kurds, critiques of the Turkish government conclude that it is aiding the Kurds not based on their needs, but according to their ethnicity. According to this argument, the Turkish regime provides social assistance to its Kurdish population solely in the hopes of containing the political unrest and weakening the ethnic identity of the Kurds.

The Kurds are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Middle East, and Turkey’s Kurds make up a substantial minority of its population. Thus, Turkey’s conflict with the Kurds has huge implications for the entire Middle East. As these eight facts about Turkey’s Kurds show, this fraught relationship spans decades and will not be easy to resolve, as it concerns the sovereignty of the Turkish state and the rights of the Kurdish people.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

environmental factors affecting impoverished communities
The environment can have profound effects on impoverished communities by being a huge force in either aiding or hindering developing countries. Those facing extremely impoverished conditions often rely almost solely on the health of their environment in order to sustain a clean, resourceful and plentiful living environment. An abundance of varying environmental factors like temperature, average rainfall, wildlife, water sources, soil nutrients and pollution levels can contribute to the general well-being of citizens in impoverished communities. Meanwhile, a lack of resources that could improve significant environmental factors in comparison to the more advantaged higher-class community can put impoverished communities at an automatic disadvantage. The quality of water, the availability of natural resources and the vulnerability to natural disasters are all aspects of how the environment affects impoverished communities.

Quality of Water

Water sources available to a community can come in many forms and are critical to the everyday life of communities in poverty; the quality of local water sources and the resources available to maintain good quality water are examples of how the environment can have an effect on poor communities. Citizens of impoverished communities often cook, clean, drink, fish, irrigate their crops and bathe in shared water sources. This shows just how critical the quality of this water can be to an entire community.

Low-infrastructure regarding water filtration and purification can cause an increase in health problems. One of these health problems can be cholera, a potentially life-threatening disease common in impoverished communities due to water contamination. The accumulation of trash, dumping of hazardous materials and daily reliance on a source of water can cause contamination.

Availability of Natural Resources

Natural resources also assist in a community’s prosperity and serve as an example of how the environment affects impoverished communities. A rural community often relies on natural resources like agriculture and soil quality, livestock and genetic diversity and forests and fisheries for multiple reasons. A study by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed the positive effects of maintaining natural resources in impoverished communities. The study successfully expanded access to land in South Africa, increased access and management of forests in Bolivia, supported the sustainable management of watersheds in India, improved access and management of fisheries in Samoa and enabled the poor to be a part of the carbon market in Mexico. The FAO study also exhibits that an increase in natural resources can increase job opportunities for local citizens. More consideration and funding for natural resources, as well as education, can increase the well-being of an impoverished community.

Vulnerability to Natural Disasters

An impoverished community often faces increased vulnerability due to the devastating effects of natural disasters. Some natural disasters are hurricanes, tornados or tsunamis. The World Bank study reports that the effects of natural disasters cost the global economy $520 billion a year. This estimate is 60 percent higher than any previous estimate once it properly considered impoverished communities. Impoverished communities are especially vulnerable because there are few prevention and action emergency plans due to improper resources. Stronger government support and improved technology to better prepare for upcoming disasters could decrease the risk of detrimental effects.

A significant disadvantage low-class communities face compared to higher-class communities occurs because of an extreme lack of infrastructure, funding towards protecting natural resources and governmental prevention and action plans in the event of a natural disaster. Studies by the FAO and The World Bank demonstrate the importance of even one factor of the environment that affects impoverished communities. Once impoverished communities can put more focus into taking care of the environment, they can start building themselves from the ground up.

– Kat Fries
Photo Credits: Google

Labor reforms in Qatar
In the prelude to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar received relentless criticism on migrants’ working conditions from the international community and mass media, causing the government to transform its labor system and uphold the rights of migrant workers through sweeping reforms.

Kafala System

Qatar’s kafala system ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers by requiring them to obtain their permission (a no-objection certificate) in order to change jobs. This, in turn, gives the employer entire control over the exit visa of his employees. This sponsorship and visa system not only leads to abuses and exploitation of labor practices, including the confiscation of migrant workers’ passports, but it also prevents a local domestic labor market from operating. Thus, radical labor reforms in Qatar are necessary in order for the country to develop itself according to international standards and to modernize its economy.

Recent Reforms

One of the significant steps Qatar made in 2017 was concluding a cooperation accord with the International Labor Organization (ILO). It stated that it would set a minimum wage and promised to repeal the kafala system. Later in 2017, Qatar introduced a temporary minimum wage of 750 Qatari Rial (approximately $200) and plans on introducing a non-discriminatory minimum wage by the end of 2019, making it the first country in the Gulf region to do so. These labor reforms in Qatar will improve migrant workers’ rights significantly, which will not only increase their working conditions but also their motivation to work, resulting in a more efficient and productive economy. In addition, Law No. 13 entered into force in October 2018, stating that migrant workers would no longer need their employers’ permission to enter and exit the country. These laws contribute to transforming Qatar’s current system into a modern industrial relations system.

Ending the Kafala System

However, Qatar still has not abolished the kafala system which caused hundreds of workers to go on strike and protest in August 2019. This is barring the fact that Qatari law strictly bans joining unions and participating in strikes. Protesting workers have reported that they have not received pay for months and are not receiving their renewed working permits from their employers, making it illegal for them to stay in the country. Consequently, Qatar’s Minister of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs announced that the reform ending the Kafala system will enter into force in January 2020, facilitating the efficacy of the other recently introduced reforms as a whole.

Issue of Irregular Migration

Although positive, these reforms and Labor Laws do not cover migrant domestic workers with a local Qatari contract, meaning that the Labor Law does not protect them and they cannot seek assistance from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. By excluding migrant domestic workers, Qatar is not tackling the issue of irregular migrants and the illegality of employment, which is a major concern for the local authorities. The Sponsorship Law binds domestic migrant workers to their employers, and so, if they suffer abuse, they are likely to abscond and either seek illegal work in the country or attempt to return to their home country. An underground informal labor market developed in Qatar due to the high number of irregular workers looking for work, which is a predominant issue for the government. Indeed, one of the key objectives included in the Qatar National Vision 2030 is to develop a knowledge-based economy consisting of highly skilled people and reduce Qatar’s dependency on low-skilled foreign nationals. Therefore, the inclusion of domestic migrant workers and resolving the issue of irregular/illegal workers is essential for Qatar’s plan to become a modern economy with highly-skilled people.

The current labor reforms in Qatar are a major step towards improving the human rights of the millions of migrant workers living in the country, in addition to contributing to the development of Qatar’s fast-growing economy. Despite the implementation of these laws seeming interminable, Qatar focuses on long-lasting and profound changes in its labor market with the help and recognition of international organizations such as the ILO and the United Nations.

Andrea Duleux
Photo: Pixabay