USAID Programs in Nigeria
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is a government agency that provides aid and development assistance to countries around the world. In Nigeria, USAID has implemented several programs that aim to address key development challenges and promote inclusive economic growth, improve health and education outcomes and support democratic governance and civil society.

Power Africa: Expanding Electricity Access in Nigeria

USAID’s Power Africa program is focused on increasing access to electricity in Nigeria. The program works in collaboration with the government, private sector and civil society to accelerate the development of new power projects and improve the performance of existing ones. Through this program, USAID has helped introduce 3,043 megawatts of electricity production projects in Nigeria, bringing reliable power to more communities across the country.

Feed the Future: Reducing Poverty and Hunger in Nigeria

Another one of the USAID programs in Nigeria is Feed the Future, which aims to reduce poverty and hunger in the country. The program works with smallholder farmers and agribusinesses to increase productivity and access to markets, while also supporting the development of value chains for key commodities such as cassava, maize and rice. USAID’s efforts through Feed the Future have helped to increase agricultural production and incomes for thousands of farmers in Nigeria and have contributed to a reduction in malnutrition rates in targeted areas.

Feed the Future’s investments in 2019 led to the adoption of new farming technologies and improved management practices by 400,000 farmers, resulting in a significant increase in staple crop yields by 155% compared to 2018. Specifically, maize yields rose by 75% and rice yields increased by 37%. The program also resulted in greater participation of women and youth in agricultural markets and food systems, with 25% of participants being women and 28% being youth who received training and access to agricultural technology that led to increased crop yields.

Health Partnerships for Outcomes: Boosting Primary Health Care

USAID recently announced new partnerships in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria to accelerate primary health care in these countries. The partnership will leverage these countries’ global health footprint, which USAID has supported with an average of $415 million per year. This will improve coordination, synchronize investment initiatives and showcase significant improvement in primary health care.

The goal is to boost life expectancy, increase health equity and respond to disease outbreaks and arising health threats head-on. This action comes on the heels of USAID’s recent launch of the Accelerating Primary Health Care Collaborative, which intends to establish a unified primary health care approach while enhancing the exchange of information, technical integration and coordination.

Education: Increasing Access to Quality Education in Nigeria

USAID’s Education program focuses on increasing access to and improving the quality of education in Nigeria, with a particular emphasis on basic education and literacy. To achieve this, USAID works with the government and civil society to increase enrolment and retention in schools, particularly for girls and children in conflict-affected areas, and to improve the skills and knowledge of teachers and other education personnel. USAID’s efforts through this program have helped increase the number of children attending school in Nigeria and have contributed to a rise in literacy rates and improved educational outcomes.

Approximately 10 million primary school-aged children in the country do not enroll in formal education, according to estimates. USAID has targeted this issue through its Addressing Education in the Northeast (AENN) program in Borno and Yobe states. The program has successfully reached more than 20,000 out-of-school children in both formal and informal settings in Northeast Nigeria.

Combating Gender-Based Violence in Nigeria: USAID’s MOMENTUM Program

“In Nigeria, one in three women and girls aged 15 to 24 have experienced gender-based violence,” which often comes from close friends and family. By disguising it as tradition, culture and religion, this type of violence is normalized. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation.

USAID has partnered with the Nigerian government to launch a four-year program in Sokoto state which is in Northern Nigeria and Ebonyi state in the Southeast, to combat this near epidemic. A $5 million budget will help with the implementation of the MOMENTUM Country and Global Leadership in Nigeria (MCGL) program. It seeks to reduce maternal and child mortality by expanding access to high-quality health care. It also seeks to address the causes of child, early and forced marriage, as well as to prevent and lessen the impact of violence against women and girls.

These USAID programs in Nigeria are making a significant impact on the country’s development and the well-being of its citizens. The programs cover a range of areas, from expanding electricity access and reducing poverty and hunger to improving health care and education. Overall, USAID’s programs in Nigeria are helping drive progress and sustainable development in the country.

– Nkechi First
Photo: Unsplash

USAID Programs in Honduras
Honduras is a developing nation with one of the highest economic growth rates in Central America; nevertheless, it still battles high rates of poverty and still needs a hand in encouraging economic growth and stability. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the country had a steadily growing GDP, reaching 3.7% in the last decade. However, that increase showed little change for those in poverty. Poverty continued to worsen when hurricane Eta and hurricane Iota devastated the country’s landscape. Currently, Honduras is in a post-pandemic and post-hurricane period of recovery with an estimated 25% of Hondurans living in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. This is evidenced in children, with 23% of them stunted in growth due to malnutrition and food insecurity. However, USAID programs in Honduras are on the job, helping to strengthen food security and disaster preparedness.


USAID is a development agency that encourages economic growth, food security, basic education, government transparency and other humanitarian efforts for foreign countries. President John F. Kennedy founded the organization in 1961 and it continues its mission to “save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.” USAID has utilized millions of dollars to encourage economic growth through disaster relief, social work and food security. In terms of Honduras, USAID entered the country in 1961 and has since focused on food security and the elimination of poverty in the years since.

Food Security

Food is a foundation of Honduras. Nearly 28% of Honduras is prime agricultural land—all of which is susceptible to hurricanes and droughts which frequently plague the nation. Interestingly enough, 39% of all Hondurans work in food production and agriculture. Without enough food, there are not enough jobs. If there are no jobs and no food, food insecurity begins to rise.

In 2001, Honduras had a 22% undernourished population. While food insecurity was still rampant in 2018, only 13% of the population was undernourished.  As a response, USAID presented new practices to farmers to create more sustainable and weather-proofed crops. This includes planting cold-climate vegetables such as carrots, squash and green beans, among a variety of other foods.

USAID also educated farmers on “diversification of crops, drip irrigation and soil management to increase crop production and better protect against future climate shocks.”

Natural Disaster Resilience

In Honduras, hurricanes are a huge threat to human life and well-being—especially to those already in poverty. Hurricane Eta and hurricane Iota killed close to 100 people, while simultaneously destroying the landscape with flooding and powerful winds. Until natural disaster repairs are made and human needs are met, the country slows to a near standstill.

To combat this, USAID has helped introduce early warning devices and monitoring systems to detect floods and storms which often hit the country. It educated the people on methods for removing waste and obstacles which hurricanes may generate. Among these new tools are aerial photography and river topography, which will be key in saving lives.

USAID programs in Honduras are vital to positive progression and development. With knowledge of how to grow more sustainable food in greater amounts, food security could increase and malnutrition could decrease. New ways to approach the challenges due to hurricanes could help citizens become resilient against disasters. With more of its people having their basic needs met, Hondurans could be free to advance their way of life.

– Thomas LaPorte
Photo: Unsplash

OPAD ProjectsOPAD is an international non-governmental organization based in Sweden that works to create an “equitable society free from human suffering” by improving people’s standard of living and empowering people to fight against poverty. OPAD works with governments, local NGOs and donors throughout Europe, South America, Africa and Asia to address gender inequality, localization, human rights abuses and other pressing global development issues. All OPAD projects help to alleviate global poverty by addressing the specific needs of a community.

Kenya: Drugs and Alcohol Abuse Prevention and Parenting Tips

In some regions of Kenya, there are insufficient resources and education for men and women in regard to drugs and alcohol usage, responsible parenting, preventing teenage pregnancy and promoting literacy. To address this, the European Union funded work in the Kisii, Kakamega, Isumu, Bungoma and Migori counties of Kenya from June 2019 to 2020. The project also aimed to increase community knowledge about violence against women and create accessible resources for men and women in the targeted counties. Overall, the project enforces goals four and five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These SDGs outline the importance of implementing equitable, inclusive, quality education and promoting lifelong learning as well as empowering all women and achieving gender equality.

Sweden: Integration Pathway for New Adult Migrants and Refugees

In Sweden, specifically Stockholm, the donor Erasmus+ funded a project for new adult migrants and refugees entering Sweden. The project involves improving adult education by improving and creating education opportunities for adults, focusing on migrant citizenship issues and encouraging adults to learn high-quality skills to bring to the workplace.

France: Y+E3: Youth Empowerment Through Entrepreneurship Education

Funded by Erasmus+ from June 2019 to 2020, this project empowers youth through education in entrepreneurship and assists them with the development of innovative products and services that increase their productivity in their trade, OPAD reported on its website.

Turkey: Youth Unemployment and Psychological Well-Being

This OPAD project alleviates global poverty by providing opportunities in training and education and social services to youth experiencing unemployment in Turkey. The project, funded by Erasmus+ from June 2019 to 2020, promotes SDGs four and five. These two SDGs are central to this project as unemployed or underemployed youth face financial insecurity and psychological health damage.

Upcoming Events

Throughout 2019 and 2020, OPAD alleviated global poverty through its projects implemented in countries around the world that face issues like food insecurity, unemployment, lack of education and lack of opportunity, all of which contribute to global poverty when left unaddressed. Moving forward, OPAD continues to plan events in a variety of countries including hosting conferences like the International Youths Exchange Conference, which provides leadership and skills training for youth. These conferences, along with other events, all reflect the core mission of OPAD, which is to alleviate global poverty, aid in the development and create a society free of human suffering.

– Arden Schraff
Photo: Flickr

MinecraftWhen thinking of Minecraft most people will associate it with kids playing something akin to digital Legos, building worlds and if everything goes according to plan, defeating the Ender Dragon. At its core, this view effectively captures the game at the surface level. Partnering with U.N.-Habitat, Minecraft developer Mojang has harnessed the game concept and applied it to sustainable solutions for developing public space and addressing global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Since 2012, the aim has been to integrate Minecraft into urban planning on a local level, prioritizing the involvement of community members, particularly those that lack a voice in public development initiatives such as women, children, refugees and the elderly. The space they are working with is for the people and designed by the people. Behind the success of the Block by Block methodology lies the simplicity of Minecraft, providing an exceptionally effective lens for visualizing a three-dimensional environment that an untrained eye can make sense of, and propter hoc contribute to.

Block By Block

Pilot ventures in Nairobi and Mumbai in 2013 evolved the methodology into what it is today, built on the central tenet of collaboration. Block by Block provides community residents with the training, tools and platforms to develop and share their ideas on how best to transform public space. The exchange of ideas broadens the considerations of all those involved in the collaborative planning process.

Co-created public spaces come into existence, designed by different people and as such take into consideration the needs and concerns of all those involved in the process, resulting in a ubiquitously accommodating locality. Furthermore, what develops as a by-product is a shared sense of ownership and responsibility for the area, increasing the likelihood of maintenance and endurance, whilst simultaneously strengthening the bonds of the community.

Block by Block selects projects based on financial sustainability, accessibility and potential impact. They tend to target youth empowerment, refugee rights, climate change, accessibility, cultural heritage, social inclusion and human rights involving health and safety.


Following the success of a 2015 project in Pristina, Kosovo, that saw the transformation of an abandoned marketplace into a vibrant public space with a range of facilities including children’s playgrounds and Kosovo’s first skatepark, the Block by Block methodology was implemented once more in Mitrovica, some 40 km north of Pristina.

Located on the banks of the Iber river and divided by The New Bridge, the administrative center of the district is burdened by the ethnic divisions between the Serbian and Albanian communities on either side of the river. A symbol of division, the bridge separates the 80,000 Kosovo Albanians living in the north and the community of 20,000 Serbians in the south. In 2016, Block by Block hosted a workshop bringing together residents of both communities to explore ways how to transform the area and collaboratively design their ideas using Minecraft. The approach aimed to negate the divisions between the communities, changing social attitudes towards the city’s unity through democratizing urban planning’s development process. Construction began in 2017, focused on community interaction and urban redevelopment and has had knock-on effects on intercity cooperation to bring about enduring changes across Kosovo’s socio economic landscape.


Dey Pukhu, literally translated to “state pond,” as found in the Kirtipur settlement of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, is as one would expect, a pond, typically used for daily gathering and steeped in tradition, having been designed for socio-religious functions. Rapid urbanization across the area threatened the water systems and affected the use of Dey Pukhu for social and traditional gatherings, with other public spaces similarly experiencing some form of deterioration as well. In 2013 Block by Block selected it for restoration with the aim to sustainably revitalize the area and for the methodology to gain traction and lead to further development initiatives across Nepal.

Gathering local stakeholders to propose ideas for restoration and development, the initiative noted the rise in youth engagement with the project and the notion of public space. As Pontus Westberg of U.N.-Habitat outlined, the young people’s confidence, effort and pride in their work was perhaps the most rewarding outcome from the project. The positive response led to further development programs put in place across the Kathmandu metropolitan area.

Noteworthy is the 2015 Kirtipur project that proposed the development of a site with a school, temple and a water system amidst large open areas of green and vegetation. Following designs and finalized models of the site, the earthquake hit Nepal in April 2015, delaying implementation. U.N.-Habitat allocated $50,000 in emergency response, repairing a damaged local school and providing essentials for survival including water tanks and emergency shelter. By June 2016 the project was running again, with a trash-covered hillside converted into an open park with recreational space and access to clean water as well as a Public Space Revitalisation Plan put in place for the entire municipality of Kirtipur.

Successful Stories

The Block by Block applied its methodology to other cities across the Kathmandu Valley and is active in over 35 countries. The examples above have set off a chain reaction in the areas of implementation. More recent projects include the likes of public gardens as safe spaces for women and children in Beit Lahia. The successes are a momentous use of technology for the public good and make one wonder what other global concerns can have a solution in something as simple and commonplace as video games.

– Bojan Ivancic
Photo: Unsplash

Green Urban Growth
Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, is on the cutting edge of African development. In May 2022, the Rwandan government launched the second phase of the environmentally friendly, $175 million Rwandan Urban Development Project. The project consists of reinforcing nature-based infrastructure and protecting the city against extreme weather conditions. A hub of architects and entrepreneurs is working out of the newly built MASS Design Group’s largest office in Kigali. The recent increase in investment in the once war-stricken city aims to set Rwanda on the path to green urban growth.

A Critical Eye

President Paul Kagame received many criticisms for taking the position of an authoritarian strongman. While Rwanda appears to be a safe space for foreigners, Lewis Mudge, the Central Africa Director at Human Rights Watch recently told CNN,  “Rwanda is a safe country for Rwandans if you keep your head down and don’t ask any questions or challenge anything. The moment you step up and start to question something or have an independent opinion and express it, Rwanda becomes a very difficult country to live in.” It is impossible to ignore the claims of citizens and spokespeople in the region. For Western and Asian allies, however, Kagame remains a “liberator” with intentions of expanding economic prosperity in the region.

Sustainability and Reframing

The Rwanda Urban Development Project focuses on developing the natural infrastructure of Kigali and surrounding cities. A green micro-mobility company called Guraride, which began a bike share scheme in Kigali in 2021 is just one of many firms setting up in the city. Guararide CEO, Tony Adesina, explained, “We’re looking at a situation where Kigali becomes the Silicon Valley of Africa.” President Kagame has made aspirational claims of making Rwanda a middle-income country by 2035.

In the decades since the atrocious 1994 genocide, the government has brought the country out of the ruins by taking several measures. For one, Rwanda now has close financial ties to China; in 2008, the country outlawed the use of non-biodegradable plastics a notable step towards its desire to be a green country. Moreover, it has closed gender gaps with 61% of its parliamentary seats, which women hold. The World Bank continues to report “strong economic growth” in the region, and a poverty decline from 77% in 2001 to 55% by 2017. With the decline in poverty and awareness of the need for renewable energy, Rwanda is a beacon of hope for the naysays of energy reform and a model country on the path to green urban growth.


A coalition of architects, engineers, city planners, researchers, designers, construction and film industry has come to the MASS Design Group’s central hub. Entrepreneurs like Tony Adesina are attracted to the area because of the government’s inclination towards allowing tech-based and eco-friendly development. As increasingly severe weather conditions erupt around the world, Rwanda is taking the initiative to develop green solutions to the unique problems weather causes. Launched in 2017, The Green City Project in Kigali is an example of this initiative. It aims to be a green community in the Kinyinya Hill area of Kigali; allowing developers to use innovative climate-responsive building techniques and collect rainwater, as well as increase vegetation, tree cover and renewable energy sources. This facility is a harbinger for more green projects to come around the world, as the move to green urban growth becomes evermore important.

The region of Kigali represents hope for war-stricken countries. Often through struggle and war, many creative solutions emerge out of necessity. Western counterparts regularly overlook developing communities in Africa and view them as “reporters” of what is happening, rather than true artists and creators themselves. Though others should not ignore the iron fist of the Rwandan government, an encouraging move toward sustainability that the nation has taken is the bottom-line approach necessary to tackle environmental and economic issues.

– Shane Chase
Photo: Flickr

Chile to enter CPTPP
In October 2022, Chile’s Congress passed a vote allowing Chile to enter the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), previously known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade agreement. Chile, a nation that relies heavily on international trade, is joining the CPATPP to boost its economy and the global economy.

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

In 2005, the CPATPP began as a five-nation agreement. The nations were Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore. In 2008, President George W. Bush agreed to begin talks for the United States to join this trade agreement. President Obama continued the trade agreement, with a finalized agreement by 2016. Unfortunately, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the agreement, crumbling the TPP and forcing all 12 countries involved to re-plot the deal. The TPP then turned into the CPTPP.

The remaining 11 countries in the TPP moved forward to create their international deal, with the recent vote for Chile to enter the new international trade deal.

Eleven, soon to be 12, countries have ratified the deal to enter the CPTPP, a free-trade agreement aiming to boost domestic and global economies. For its members, the CPTPP removes 95% of the tariffs used commonly for international trade. The CPTPP eliminates all tariffs on sheep’s meat, wool and cotton. There are partial tariff eliminations for industrial/manufactured products, plants (medicinal or otherwise), wine, dairy products and beef (specifically Japan’s beef products). The CPTPP is the first international agreement providing a free market for e-commerce and no policies forcing ownership of one nation over an e-commerce enterprise. It protects foreign investments and keeps all parties safe from potential discrimination, thus creating fair and free trade that benefits all involved.

The CPTPP accounts for 40% of the global economy and in the case of the global trade value, about 25%. The CPTPP can create lasting positive effects on the global economy because of its impact on raising global GDPs. It can increase productivity and national income worldwide, bringing money into local economies, increasing wages, creating jobs and effectively lowering poverty rates worldwide. The potential benefits of the CPTPP convinced Chile to enter the trade deal.

Chile’s Global Trade

Chile is trusted internationally for its strong trade presence, but like the rest of the global market, Chile experienced some economic downturns during the COVID-19 pandemic, though it appears to be recovering. With the U.S., Chile has an established free-trade agreement. Chile already limits tariffs on its exports, welcomes foreign investments, and its open market operations. An open market, such as Chile’s, has no barriers to trade, i.e., no tariffs. Its economy is in solid shape with only around a 4% poverty rate. As many can benefit from Chile’s lack of tariffs, it is logical for Chile to seek similar financial gain elsewhere.

Chile’s main exports are copper, which accounts for 48% of all Chile’s exports, but it also relies on its exported manufactured and industrialized goods for income (38% of exports and export income). Chile earned $50.7 billion from copper alone in 2021, an incredible increase from $33.17 billion in 2020. Chile’s international presence and trade are substantial factors in the government’s decision for Chile to enter the CPTPP. The Chilean government hopes to promote additional changes regarding certain “state-to-state” trade operations in the CPTPP but remains hopeful for future economic prosperity.

The Benefits of the CPTPP

The CPTPP still has room for advancement as more countries enter it. Despite its newness, there has already been significant progress relating to the world of e-commerce. The CPTPP inspired e-commerce trade regulations and other free-trade agreements between Chile and Argentina. China, an important trading partner for most of the world, has applied to receive recognition as a full member of the CPTPP. China’s presence could entice other nations to follow suit, given its placement on the world stage.

The CPTPP protects small and medium enterprises (SMEs), a fact that Canada heavily promotes. About 47%  of Chile’s businesses are SMEs. The presence of SMEs allows for local economic development and can attract foreign investments. As the world faces economic troubles and continued recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada reported stable and trusted trade and attributed this success to the CPTPP.

Many nations have already found the CPTPP beneficial in one way or another, be it regarding e-commerce trade, decreased tariffs or protection of SMEs. As a free market, Chile exemplifies the benefits and economic prosperity that the CPTPP can provide on a larger scale. Chile is an example of the kind of nation and partnership the trade deal seeks to create. When Chile enters the CPTPP, it can share its economic prosperity worldwide with strengthened trade partners.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in East Africa
Village Enterprise, an organization that aims to end extreme poverty in rural Africa, published the results of its Development Impact Bond for alleviating poverty in East Africa in November 2021. A development impact bond is a kind of financial security that is made of funds from private investors to finance development in low-income communities. Village Enterprise implemented the program in households across Uganda and Kenya from November 2017 to December 2020. IDinsight, the program evaluator, documented the success of the program.

Poverty in East Africa

Extreme poverty is prevalent in East African countries, with about 44.2% of citizens living on less than $1.90 per day in March 2021. About 41% of the population of Uganda in 2016 and 37% of Kenyans in 2015 lived below the international poverty line.

Countries in East Africa experience extreme poverty because of consistent droughts, conflicts and unstable economies. Data shows connections in these regions between poverty and a significant lack of clean water services, access to quality education, transportation, housing and energy.

Details of the Development Impact Bond

In Uganda and Kenya, the Development Impact Bond provided aid to 241 villages and gave no aid to 241 control villages in order to measure and compare the effects of the aid on household consumption and amount of assets. Consumption included purchases relating to food, transportation, social activities and other everyday spending and assets included household savings, livestock and business supplies.

Village Enterprise provided two phases of cash transfers and regular entrepreneurial training throughout the duration of the program. The program provided two grants to 13,839 households. The program focused on business skills and cash transfers as a combination of both has shown to be more effective at helping people raise enough money to lift themselves out of extreme poverty.

The results of the study considered various characteristics within each household. Some households started with more baseline wealth than others, about 30% of households had a woman head of household, about 47% of households reported at least one member with a disability and each household also reported their respective business types.

The study also aimed to provide results to aid and encourage similar organizations in designing and implementing future programs to alleviate extreme poverty.

Results of the Development Impact Bond

Results of the Development Impact Bond reported an increase in both the consumption and asset categories across households, with a 6.3% increase compared to the control group in consumption per household and a 5.8% increase in net assets per household. The program exceeded its goals, with a 140% benefit-cost ratio. The Impact Bond initially invested $5.32 million into the program and reports predict that the lasting effects of the program will generate quadruple this amount.

Although the program provided two different amounts of cash transfers to households, there was a similar increase in all household consumption regardless of the transfer amount. Households that received larger cash transfers reported more assets than households that received smaller cash transfers. Households headed by women started out with less baseline wealth than households headed by men but reported a similar percentage of improvement in both consumption and assets. There was no significant difference in the effects in households that had at least one member with a disability.

When comparing business types across households, households that ran crop businesses consumed less on average and households that had businesses that fell under multiple identifying categories consumed more. Households with livestock businesses and multiple-category businesses reported higher asset gains than other business types. Businesses that started with higher success levels reported an average higher in both consumption and asset wealth.

Overall, results from the Village Enterprise Development Impact Bond show significant improvements in the livelihoods of extremely impoverished households across Uganda and Kenya. Recipients all reported positive improvements in consumption and assets and provided data that organizations can use to build and improve similar programs in the future.

Success in Numbers (2017 to 2021):

  • About 4,766 businesses emerged.
  • About 14,100 beginner entrepreneurs received training with women accounting for 75%.
  • Exactly 481 business savings groups began.
  • There was a 6% average increase in household consumption and assets.
  • Estimates determined there was a $21 million “increase in lifelong household income.”
  • About 95,000 people benefited from the program.

It is clear that Village Enterprise has seen substantial success in alleviating poverty in East Africa. Through its efforts, people have been able to start businesses and improve their incomes, subsequently impacting their overall lives.

– Melissa Hood
Photo: Flickr

Three Seas Initiative
The Three Seas Initiative, which Polish President Andrzej Duda and former Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitrovic founded in 2015, is an economic forum of 12 Eastern and Central European nations created as a means for Eastern Europe to boost economic development, expand infrastructure and promote cooperation in the energy sector. The Three Seas Initiative works by securing investment for infrastructure, energy and digitization projects to rectify the gap between East-West and North-South infrastructure in Europe. As more investments continue to support digital infrastructure, energy and transportation projects, people in poverty in Eastern Europe are likely to experience greater economic prosperity through the increasing trade opportunities and greater access to markets through economic investment.

Three Seas Initiative Projects

As of July 2021, the Three Seas Initiative has 90 interconnection projects with a total estimated investment value of €180.9 billion. Registered in 2018, the Rail-2-Sea project is a Three Seas Initiative plan to build a railway connecting the port of Gdansk and the port of Constanta across Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. This plan will further link the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea over four different branches of a railway, each with its local plans for modernization.

Another Three Seas Initiative infrastructure plan is the Rail Baltica plan. This plan aims to increase infrastructural integration between Baltic Sea nations. More specifically, in a partnership with Finland, Rail Baltica is creating infrastructure to construct “missing cross-border connections” and “integrate the Baltic States in the European rail network” while dissolving “transport infrastructure bottlenecks.”

These plans are all, in one way or another, increasing economic interconnection and mobility between Eastern European nations. These infrastructural developments will provide more opportunities for people living in Eastern Europe by providing greater access to European markets and more efficient supply chains. The cheapening of consumer goods through trade is especially beneficial to low-income Eastern European citizens who could potentially afford better and more daily necessities.

Impact of the Three Seas Initiative

Nations within the Three Seas Initiative saw greater economic growth and faced less economic shock from the COVID-19 pandemic compared to other European Union (EU) nations. According to a July 2021 speech by IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, “During 2015-2019 they [Three Seas Initiative nations] averaged 3.8% GDP growth a year, nearly double the rate of EU-15.” Furthermore, the economies of Three Seas nations only contracted by approximately 4% whereas Western European economies shrunk by approximately double that.

Throughout the initiative, the poverty rates of many nations, especially in Southeast Europe, have declined. For example, Romania had a poverty rate of 25.4% in 2015, the founding year of the Three Seas Initiative. Right before the pandemic in 2019, Romania’s poverty rate declined to 23.8%.

The Three Seas Initiative similarly oversaw a decrease in the risk of poverty in Hungary with 28.2% of people facing the risk of poverty in 2015 in comparison to 17.8% in 2019. Slovenia saw a decrease in poverty as well, albeit relatively minor from 13.9% in 2015 to 12% in 2018, and it only rose .4% in 2019.

The Three Seas Initiative has vast potential to deepen economic ties within Europe, foster sustainable European energy and reduce poverty. As it carries out more projects, the U.S. and the EU can continue to encourage economic investment and development of the Three Seas Initiative countries. Such economic investment and capital inflow have the potential to make Eastern Europe more prosperous while lifting people out of poverty.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Planting Trees Can Alleviate Poverty
Scotland announced plans to “plant millions of trees” along national rivers to preserve salmon populations. Salmon prefer cold waters and trees help provide shade during hot summer months. Planting trees alongside rivers also improves water quality, stabilizes riverbanks and protects wildlife habitats. Countries can use tree-planting campaigns to attain healthy rivers, which bring social, economic and environmental benefits that can uplift low-income communities. In these ways, planting trees can alleviate poverty.

The Value of Rivers in Low-Income Communities

Around the world, about 2 billion people rely on rivers as direct sources of drinking water, according to the World Wildlife Fund. In areas without electricity or water filtration systems, rivers can provide a quick and accessible supply of drinking water. Globally, “25% of the world’s food production depends on irrigation from rivers.” Rivers indirectly and directly supply billions of people with food and water. Therefore, it is vital to keep rivers and their surroundings clean and healthy. Dam development, rising temperatures and increasing demands for water to use on farms and in hydropower plants put rivers under more pressure than ever before. Protecting and conserving rivers especially benefits low-income communities by sustaining natural resources, like fish, that millions of people rely on to support themselves and their families.

How Trees Lead to Healthy Rivers

Planting trees alongside rivers can improve water quality by limiting pollution and runoff from nearby land. Trees stabilize riverbanks by binding the soil, which reduces the risk of riverbank collapse. Trees also absorb water and intercept heavy rain, which prevents flooding and excessive runoff. Entire ecosystems may arise from planting trees by riverbanks. Land animals form habitats in trees and surrounding wooded areas and species, such as salmon, that live in rivers benefit from the shade that trees provide. Planting trees protect and promote biodiversity in a time when many human factors threaten it. People, plants and animals alike benefit from rivers and rivers benefit from nearby trees. Planting trees can alleviate poverty by improving river health and the ecosystems that millions of people rely on to survive.

Scotland: A Plan in Action

Scotland recognizes the benefits of planting trees along rivers and aims to plant a million trees by 2035. Scotland’s plan involves planting several native tree species, which will preserve the country’s history and improve biodiversity. Fisheries in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, have already “planted 250,000 saplings” alongside the River Dee, which is a salmon fishing hotspot. Scientists found that rivers in the Scottish Highlands and uplands are too warm for wild Atlantic salmon in summer months when the fish swim “upstream to spawn.” Planting trees alongside rivers protects salmon populations and benefits Scottish people who rely on fish for food and income. With socioeconomic and environmental benefits, planting trees can alleviate poverty in places where people rely on rivers for their livelihoods and national success.

Healthy rivers are essential to ecosystems around the world and trees play an essential role in maintaining these environmental networks. As seen in Scotland, tree-planting campaigns can have great influences on preserving local and national wildlife. Planting trees can alleviate poverty by protecting rivers that support life and provide resources to millions of people worldwide.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) is a nonprofit that began in 2010. It aims to stimulate the economy by increasing the use of financial services. AFR addresses the barriers that restrict financial sector service to the low-income population, with hopes to bring sustainable change and financial inclusion. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted their poverty levels and economy drastically, making AFR critical to recovery. Here is some information about Rwanda and how AFR is improving Rwanda’s financial sector.

Poverty in Rwanda

Poverty is not new for Rwandans, since it is one of the poorest countries in the world with 56.5% of the population living on less than $1.90 a day. However, this was before the COVID-19 pandemic which brought this percentage higher. The World Bank explained that “the overall increase in the poverty headcount is 5.7 percentage points, indicating an estimated additional 625,500 people falling into poverty.”

The harsh reality of the pandemic hit Rwanda hard, making foreign aid more important than before. The unfortunate aspect of the situation is the step back from previous successful progress.

How AFR Works

Access to Finance Rwanda (AFR) aims to help boost Rwanda’s financial sector, which is essential for its growth. It implements phases, each lasting five years with specific goals and targets to achieve. Each phase consists of Micro, Meso and Macro level achievements which all aid Rwandans in poverty.

Between 2010 and 2015, almost 1 million people in Rwanda were able to access and use financial services thanks to AFR and its partnership with other institutions. During the second phase, between 2016 and 2020, AFR partnered with the public and private sector and implemented interventions and allowed the access and use of financial services to around 2.5 million people in Rwanda. Its work speaks for itself and with more phases to come, Rwanda has a loyal and strong team fighting on its behalf.

AFR’s Objectives

AFR’s objectives are clear and demonstrate the importance of their job.

  1. “Increase access to financial services for poor rural and urban people and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs);”
  2. “Improve the livelihoods of poor people through reduced vulnerability to shocks, increased income and employment creation;”
  3. “Provide funding and technical assistance to the public sector/private sector and/or civil society recipients in order to promote, and achieve, the objectives set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) above; and”
  4. “Carry on all other such things that are incidental or conducive to the attainment of the above.”

AFR upholds values of respect, integrity, collaboration, responsibility, quality and value for money. Its mission and vision are to bring inclusivity and diversity to Rwanda’s financial sector. This could bring sustainability and resilience to the economy and people.

Rwanda’s Future

Although the pandemic brought setbacks to Rwanda’s development, its previous progress brings hope for the future. Rwanda continues to have one of the fastest-growing economies in Central Africa. By 2035, Rwanda hopes to gain Middle Income Country Status and High Income Country status by 2050.

The pandemic resulted in Rwanda’s first recession since 1994, which is extremely impressive for this country. Not to mention, its economic growth brought immense improvement in living standards, “with a two-thirds drop in child mortality and near-universal primary school enrollment,” according to the World Bank.

Organizations like AFR grow every day in strength and number, so expect great improvement in years to come. Rwanda could return to making the progress it started over 20 years ago and the benefits could continue to improve life for Rwandans.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr