Information and stories on development news.

Cassava Beer_opt
When people think about Africa, breathtaking savannas teaming with migratory wildlife is generally the first thought that comes to mind. What doesn’t come to mind, however, is a robust micro-brewing industry that utilizes the fermentation properties of the locally sourced cassava plant. In an attempt to challenge previously held notions regarding beer brewing in Africa, production of Impala brand cassava beer is helping to usher in new economic opportunities for Ghanaian farmers.

Thanks to the investment of brewer SABMiller, Impala beer – brewed from the cassava plant – was recently launched in Ghana. How does cassava beer help economic development in Africa? Until recently, cassava farming had been dismissed as an economic failure due to the high costs associated with transferring and processing the root-like product.

Enter innovative DATCO engineers and their ingenious development of a mobile cassava processing unit that enables cassava harvesting to be economically feasible. So for those rural cassava farmers previously hampered by transportation constraints, the new processing units and subsequent production of cassava beer will help to bolster demand for their crops, leading to greater economic gains.

In regards to SABMiller’s investment in cassava beer and the economic benefits to local farmers, Accra Brewery Director Adjoba Kyiamah noted that though more than 70% of Ghanaian farms, most of which grow cassava, are 3 hectares or smaller, there is a current annual surplus of around 40%.

The economic possibilities that stem from both the production and sales of Impala brand cassava beer are nothing less that astonishing, and underpins the business sustainability currently lacking from many developing countries. Remarked SABMiller Director Mark Bowman, “The idea here then is to try and create a win-win proposition, where we have a strong group of farmers contracted to producing grains for us of whatever form.”

Brian Turner

Source: How we Made it in Africa
Photo: Hanna Clark Steinman

According to a study done by the World Bank, urbanization has proven to be a key factor in eradicating poverty. The bank’s Global Monitoring Report 2013 offers statics that positively reflect urbanization in developing countries and in countries that have made the most progress in reaching the 2013 Millennium Development Goals.

The Global Monitoring Report says that countries with large population centers such as Southeast Asia or China have made large strides in reducing poverty in comparison to sub-Saharan Africa, where 70% of the population lives in rural areas. Infant mortality rates are also up to nine percentage points lower in urbanized areas than in rural cities and villages.

Urbanized areas create jobs and are generally better at service delivery such as access to sanitation, health care, education and electricity. Access to sanitation varies as much as thirty percent, 80 percent in urban areas to 50 percent in rural areas. Poverty is also significantly lower in urban areas at 11.5 percent versus the 29.5 percent in rural areas. In Africa, poverty in urban areas stands at 33 percent in urban areas to 47 percent in rural areas.

The next step to urbanizing is to ensure resources are available and to move forward at a steady pace to avoid slum areas. Some people favor state support and the finance of health and education systems while others support a combination of public and private financing. The World Bank encourages countries with oil and mineral resources to use the revenues to finance urbanization and health care systems. However, countries such as Uganda, that do not have an abundance of natural resources, prefer to use those revenues to improve the infrastructure in rural areas. According to Maria Kiwanuka, Uganda’s Minister of Finance, there are trade-offs. When the government uses the oil revenue to strengthen the infrastructure in rural areas, it allows the people living there to make more money to eventually contribute to the health care system.

While there are many different ways to fund health and social services and contribute to urbanization and the ultimate end of poverty, the assurance of resources to create the change is most important, says Joe Verbeek, the lead economist for the Global Monitoring Report. By improving the health and education services for people living in rural areas, it will make the transition easier and improve their job skills if they choose to migrate to a city.

– Kira Maixner

Source Voice of America
Photo World Bank

Immigration has always been a hot button issue, especially considering the comprehensive reform laws currently being debated by U.S. congressional leaders. However, what effect would the opening of the nation’s borders have on global poverty? According to several developmental thinkers, quite a bit, as adopting many of the mass migration policies called for in the open borders theory could hypothetically eliminate global poverty forever.

The researchers responsible for the open borders theory, drawn from such disparate fields as Mathematics, Economics, and Philosophy, argue that through the enforcement of a closed border policy, individuals are stripped of their basic human right of self-determination. Furthermore, by allowing migrants to move freely between nations, the net loss of labor productivity could theoretically double the world’s GDP through the mitigation of capital flow inefficiencies.

In regards to the open borders theory, developmental economist Michael Clemens noted that, “Immigration is very, very far from being a zero-sum game of their poverty or ours. Within ranges that even slightly resemble current migration levels, it is rather simply ‘their poverty or their prosperity,’ while we remain prosperous.”

Additionally, supporters of the open borders theory debunked the notion that a huge influx of migrants would depress the wages of developed countries based upon the net employment gains of the managerial sector. And by enabling efficient use of migrant skill sets underutilized by the inadequate facilities of the global south, developed economies would reap huge financial dividends.

Although the open borders theory is still in its infancy and years away from being considered as a realistic solution to global poverty, innovative ideas such as these help to encourage further debate involving current developmental policy. Michael Clemens remarked that, “Development is about people, not places.”

– Brian Turner

Source: The Atlantic
Photo: Women On The Border

Frank Braeken, the executive VP of Unilever in Africa, believes that Western companies have long underestimated Africa’s consumers. He believes that Western companies have failed to realize Africa’s potential as a diverse, multifaceted market and that African consumers have been, “underestimated, underserved, and underserviced.” He feels the West has maintained a patronizing and generic outlook about the opportunities available in Africa.

Unilever has been working in and with African communities for more than a century. They have a presence in 15 countries, employing thousands of African workers.  Yet, even Braeken acknowledges that Unilever struggled to utilize the diversity of consumers across the continent.

Unilever is just now beginning to vary their company policy and strategy, breaking Africa into several distinct chunks, such as East Africa, West Africa, and South Africa. They are working to make their products and distribution strategies relevant for the different types of consumers across the continent.

Nielsen recently released a survey about the types of consumers in African markets. The results indicate that instead of simply being viewed as a continent, Africa should be viewed as, “54 separate and distinct countries with a wide array of political, economic, geographic, cultural, and social features.” They have indicated that Western companies need to stop thinking of Africa as one single consumer.

Western markets would be smart to tap into the African market as it has been and is projected to continue growing in spending on consumer goods, telecoms, and banking. This growth sets Africa apart as an attractive new business proposition for Western companies.

While economic growth and increased knowledge of the prospect of Western companies investing in Africa is growing, there are still problems that Braeken warns need to be addressed. Africa, for the most part, lacks adequate infrastructure, good governance, and states free of corruption. However, Braeken believes that if Western states continue to talk about Africa and the real issues then not only will his company grow, but many other companies will as well.

– Caitlin Zusy 
Source: CNN
Photo: Bloomberg

The Search for Sustainable Materials

What do NIKE, NASA, and USAID have in common? The search for sustainable materials to be used in the production of goods.  As members of LAUNCH, an initiative to raise awareness around the sustainable production of goods, NIKE, NASA, USAID, and the State Department recently gathered with 150 materials specialists, designers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, and NGOs to ignite action around the issue.

The two-day LAUNCH 2020 Summit was opened by NIKE, INC. CEO Mark Parker. He stressed the importance of innovation and collaboration in the area of producing sustainable goods. The Summit also served to reveal the LAUNCH 2013 Challenge Statement. This is an open call for innovation in sustainable materials and good production. The challenge is to create innovation in the system of producing fabrics and is open to both individuals and teams. In August, the 10 strongest ideas will be selected and granted access to creativity, capital, and capacity.

The materials used to produce goods play a significant role in the environment. LAUNCH was created to address this growing issue and to seek innovations solutions to global issues.  Three years ago, LAUNCH was able to provide the needed capital to get Astronaut Ron Garan’s clean water innovation into production.  His project-Carbon for Water-used carbon credits and a filter system to clean dirty water. His filter has provided clean water for over 4.5 million Kenyans.  LAUNCH was also a key player in Gram Power, a program providing thousands of people in India affordable, renewable energy.

You can learn more about Launch at their website or sign up for the 2013 challenge here.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: NIKE, INC.
Video: Vimeo

The Shape of Poverty in India
The layout of different villages and constituencies has been involved in creating the shape of poverty in India. Villages such as Lakshmidevinagar which are impoverished with low rates of development sit close to constituencies such as Yeshwantpur which have seen higher rates of development.

A large problem with these cities is that many districts have private hospitals which service mainly those living in the rich communities. Districts like Lakshmidevinagar are home to residents from poor or middle class families. These families tend to fall through the cracks as other hospitals will not open and compete with the current hospital and government-run hospitals are far away. This problem is only exacerbated by the lack of public transportation.

The lack of public transportation is due, in part, to the poor planning of roadway construction which increases traffic. However, developments are being made and roadways are being constructed to ease traffic and provide easier access to water.

Access to clean water is another problem experienced in these districts of India. Private developers are unwilling to give up land on the banks of the Vrishabhavati river which force the residents to use oftentimes polluted parts of the Vrishabhavati.

In a country which has undergone such fast-paced and recent change, some of India’s population has acquired wealth and pulled itself from poverty. However, crime rates are always heightened in areas where the poor and rich coexist so closely. It is important that the middle and upper classes not forget the people still struggling for relief from these conditions.

-Pete Grapentien
Source: The Hindu

3 Ways Fashion Design Is Encouraging Economic Development in Africa
Everyone loves to wear clothes that accomplish more than the utilitarian purpose of covering the body. From the posh window displays on Rodeo Drive to the highly rated network programs like Project Runway and Fashion Star, people love to wear clothes that are both artistically-creative and well-fitting. The same is true for many developing countries in Africa, where extremely talented fashion designers are looking to sell their products both at home and abroad. These African designers highlight the opportunities that fashion has created for many individuals living in poverty stricken areas. Here are 3 ways that fashion design encourages economic development in Africa.

1. It encourages entrepreneurship – For many business-minded entrepreneurs trying to overcome severe financial constraints, fashion design encourages economic development in Africa by allowing anyone with an eye for fashion an opportunity to generate income both locally and – via the internet – internationally. The market for well-designed clothes is unique based upon the simple fact that despite a global economic slowdown, consumers will always have a need for clothes. Furthermore, if a particular market for clothing is lower than usual, innovative entrepreneurs can take advantage of previously untapped overseas and emerging markets as a means of increasing sales.

2. It stimulates the local economy – For Malawian designer Lilly Alfonso, her company Lillies Creations employs 7 people from a region currently plagued with severe currency devaluation and financial strain. Fashion design encourages economic development in Africa through the employment of talented tailors, textile artists, aspiring models, and support staff necessary for the operation of large design studios; along with the resulting sales opportunities for local fabric retailers and production facilities. Fashion designers help to bolster African economies by the infusion of capital both from the sales and expansion of their small businesses into new markets.

3. It serves as a sustainable business model – Fashion design encourages economic development in Africa due to the inherent sustainability of the clothing and apparel industry. Through the local farmers providing the raw materials, the weavers who construct the fabrics, and the merchants who sell the fabrics in local markets, fashion is an industry that employs many people whose entire economic well being is contingent upon the quarterly sales of the designers. The sustainability of fashion design allows for most of the profits and accompanying investments to go back into the community, along with the eco-friendly methods of cultivation practiced by many African farmers.

In regards to how fashion design encourages economic development in Africa, designer Lilly Alfonso optimistically advises “if you know that you can do it, don’t stop it.”

Brian Turner
Source: BBC

Afghanistan Farming_opt
For the past 12 years, the US Army has primarily been assigned to the role of peacekeeper in support of the NATO led military operations in Afghanistan. Subsequently, as the security operations draw to a close and military personnel began a phased withdrawal, coalition forces have a renewed focus on the long-term economic benefits of sustainable farming in Afghanistan. Sadly, many of the invaluable skill sets necessary for high yield farming have been lost, a consequence of the frequent military incursions that have occurred over the last half-century. In an effort to both ameliorate local poverty levels and build agricultural capacity, NATO is calling for the US Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan.

Soldiers of the 5-19 Agribusiness Development Team of the Indian National Guard have spent the last year instructing Afghan farmers of the Khowst Provice in the basics of farming. What tasks are being covered in the course curriculum? Army instructors are focusing on row planting, pest control, livestock care, and green house management; all important techniques that will enable farmers to increase crop yields and pass along the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities of sustainable farming to future generations. Thus far, the program assigning the US Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan has reaped substantial dividends, with local farmers taking pride in their yearly harvests and neighboring villages working towards the purchase of farm equipment in the near future.

In regards to the policy calling for the U.S. Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Major Gregory Motz noted that, “This is the best job I have had in the Army. To be able to see the progress the Afghans have made in a year and know that it isn’t because we did it for them, but with them…The agricultural community in Khost has made leaps and bounds in the last five years. It is really exciting to be part of that.”

A program calling for the U.S. Army to encourage food security in Afghanistan is a much needed reason to be optimistic about the future of the war torn nation, as the economic opportunities afforded by a newly invigorated agricultural industry will serve as positive legacy that will outlast the violence of the last decade. Furthermore, by laying the necessary groundwork required for a rich food security program to take hold, the citizens of Afghanistan can look forward to a future high in agricultural sustainability and economic development.

Brian Turner

Source: ClarksVilleonline
Photo: National Guard News


Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will speak at the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s second annual Forum on Global Development on April 29th, 2013.  Rice is expected to discuss the importance of foreign aid and its role in U.S. national security and diplomacy.  The Forum on Global Development comes at a key time as budget talks are going on and the world is facing 1000 days until the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Millennium Challenge Corportation was founded by the U.S. Government with the goal to work with some of the poorest countries in the world. MCC believes that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom, and investments in people that promote economic growth and elimination of extreme poverty. 

In addition to Condoleezza Rice, the Forum on Global Development will also honor four award recipients at the event.  The Millennium Challenge Corporation will recognize Green Mountain Coffee Roasters of Vermont with its Corporate Award. Green Mountain has worked hard to partner with local NGOs to promote sustainable community development, to diversify incomes of coffee roasters, and to advance food security.

The MCC will recognize Sophia Mohapi, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Account in Lesotho, with their Country Commitment Award. Mohapi facilitated a commitment by Lesotho’s government of $150 million to poverty-reduction programs.

The last award, the MCC’s Next Generation Award, will go to Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman, founders of Uncharted Play. Matthews and Silverman are working hard to advance youth innovation and leadership through international development. Their flagship product is SOCCKET, a soccer ball that stores kinetic energy to provide light for those living without electricity.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: The Sacramento Bee
Photo: Veteran’s Today

Mato Grosso_opt
The country of Brazil, long known for its biologically-diverse rainforests and unique ecosystems, has been practicing the method of double cropping – or planting two crops per year instead of one – as a means of intensifying the amount of agricultural goods grown in a given area. Recently, much research has been centered on the state of Mato Grosso, known for its heavy use of the double cropping method and position as the undisputed hub of Brazil’s agricultural production area. The data gleaned thus far in regards to economic benefits have been nothing less than astounding, as there is mounting evidence that double cropping encourages economic development in Brazil.

Researchers at Brown University have been conducting extensive research into the GDP, educational infrastructure, and public sanitation of Mato Grossso in order to take a closer look at the ramifications of the agricultural program known as double cropping. Surprisingly, they found that the large production of soybean, cotton, and corn from the area resulted in huge economic opportunities for the residents of the Mato Grosso area. How are they linked? Double cropping encourages economic development in Brazil primarily due to the huge amounts of labor required to harvest, transport, and process the crops grown in area, leading to the low unemployment and high local investment absent from area’s that employ the single cropping method.

In regards to exactly how double cropping encourages economic development in Brazil, Associate Professor at Brown University Leah VanWey noted that the industry has created thousands of jobs, also noting that, “In the long run there isn’t much money in just growing things and selling them, but processing allows the local area and workers to retain more of the per-unit cost of the final product.”

Exiting new methods of agricultural development are being implemented and assessed across the globe, leading to innovative ways of encouraging growth and ameliorating local poverty levels. Furthermore, recent evidence showing that double cropping encourages economic development in Brazil should serve as a reason for continued support of agricultural aid agencies such as the FAO.

– Brian Turner

Source: Science Daily
Photo: Terra Project