Information and stories on development news.

International Women Development Champion AwardThe International Women Development Champion Award honors exemplary women who have dedicated their lives and have committed their efforts to the economic development of Africa and African women. On 24th March, the President of UN Women National Committee Canada, Almas Jiwani, was awarded the International Women Development Champion Award in Paris. She is the first Canadian and the first UN Woman representative to receive this award. The initiatives she took in trying to connect the gaps between the corporate world and the humanitarian world made her a new face for humanitarianism. She has put tremendous efforts into establishing change through excellence and dedication to philanthropy.

Almas Jiwani expressed how this award promotes equality, “We must continue investing in African women and increase their involvement in the political structures in place and in everyday life.” Furo Giami, the Executive Director of the Center for Economic and Leadership Development said that it’s an honor to present Almas Jiwani with this award to recognize her efforts and achievements at contributing to the end of global poverty and “all forms of vices militating the development of African women.”

Some of the women who have received this award in the past include President Joyce Banda of Malawi, Vice President Joice Mujuru of Zimbabwe, Business Leader Wendy Luhabe of South Africa, Ida Odinga (wife of the Prime Minister of Kenya), Rt. Hon. Anne Makinda (the Speaker of Parliament in Tanzania) and others.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Market Wire

Landesa Helps People Gain Property Rights

Landesa is a rural development institute devoted to securing land for the world’s poor.  The company “partners with developing country governments to design and implement laws, policies, and programs.”  These various partnerships work to provide opportunities for economic growth and social justice.

Landesa’s ultimate goal is to live in a world free of poverty.  There are many facets of poverty.  The institute focuses on property rights.  According to Landesa, “Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is a key asset.”  Poverty cycles persist because people lack legal rights to land they use.

The company was the world’s first non-governmental organization designed specifically for land rights disputes.  Then known as the Rural Development Institute (RDI), the institute was the first to focus exclusively on the world’s poor.

Roy Prosterman founded the company out of a deep passion for global development.  Prosterman is a law professor at the University of Washington and a renown land-rights advocate.  He began his lifelong devotion to property rights after stumbling upon a troublesome article.  In 1966, he read a law review article “that promoted land confiscation as a tool for land reform in Latin America.”  Prosterman recognized the policy’s ills immediately.   He quickly authored his own articles on how land acquisitions must involve full compensation.

These articles led him to the floor of Congress and eventually the fields of Vietnam.  Prosterman helped provide land rights to one million Vietnamese farmers during the later part of the Vietnam War.  The New York Times claimed that his land reform law was “probably the most ambitious and progressive non-Communist land reform of the 20th century.”

Prosterman traveled the world to deliver pro-poor land laws and programs.  His most notable work was in Latin America, the Philippines, and Pakistan before founding the institute.  Today, Landesa focuses mostly on China, India, and Uganda.

He aims to “elevate the world’s poorest people without instigating violence.”  The company negotiates land deals with the government and landowners who received market rates.  Landesa helps people gain property rights, so people can focus on health and education efforts instead.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: The Seattle Times

Top Priorities for Africa in 2013The Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings released a report of top priorities for Africa.  The AGI “brings together African scholars to provide policymakers with high-quality research, expertise, and innovative solutions that promote Africa’s economic development.”  The Foresight Africa report shows promising opportunities in Africa.  It outlines the top priorities for Africa in 2013.

Moving from “economic stagnation to above 5 percent GDP growth on average,” Africa is prospering.  Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and African governments are embracing this growth by lowering transaction costs.  Africa’s economic growth is creating a new middle class.  This middle class means new markets for goods and services.  The Foresight Africa report notes that it is a prime time for investors.

Some African countries are mirroring Asian models and engaging their diasporas for economic and social development.  South Africa, for example, is using TalentCorp’s model.  TalentCorp is a partnership between the government, the private sector and the overseas diaspora.  The model aims to bring highly skilled Malaysians living abroad back to their home country.

Countries everywhere recognize the potential in harnessing Africa’s diaspora.  In 2011, the United States Congress proposed the African Investment and Diaspora Act.  The bill was designed to support African development.  Ghana and Kenya are on the cutting-edge and have already “established units within their respective governments to oversee diaspora affairs.”  AGI’s Foresight Africa report points to these examples as models for other countries.

Check out the full report for more information.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Brookings
Photo: Daily Maverick

Scientific Breakthrough in Stress: Free CropsThe ability to grow crops in acidic soil environments has, up until recently, been feasible with only a few species of maize. However, current scientific research into the genes responsible for plant tolerance may enable the cultivation of stressed free crops in soils once considered impossible, opening up exciting new frontiers in the field of sustainable farming.

Researchers from Cornell University in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research have been conducting fascinating studies into the high aluminum tolerance of Ethiopian Maize and Brazilian Sorghum. Why aluminum? Well to start, the aluminum present in the clay of soils with a highly acidic pH dissolves, which is toxic when absorbed by nearby root systems. Amazingly, researchers were able to break down the genome of the aluminum tolerant species of maize and identify key gene copies known as MATE1 that were linked to the unusual trait. Moreover, by isolating and identifying the genes that enable crops to thrive in lands regarded as non-arable, stress-free crops can be grown in all types of climates and soil compositions.

In regards to stressed free crops, USDA Director of the Agricultural Research Service Leon Kochian remarked that “Aluminum tolerance in Maize is associated with higher MATE1 gene copy number. This could be a key factor for other traits of agricultural importance.”

The prospect of farmers being able to grow stress-free crops in areas that were once written off as unusable gives pause for optimism in nations that have been plagued with chronic food shortages and low soil efficacy. By unlocking the amazing potential of stressed free crops, remote areas that were once dependent on foreign aid can now reach the goal of sustainable development through aluminum tolerant maize.

– Brian Turner
Source: Science Daily
Photo:Nation Sydication

Branson_Charity_Wealth
Sir Richard Branson and his wife, Joan, have joined a handful of billionaires who have pledged much of their wealth to charity. Branson joined Warren Buffett and Bill Gates as the latest billionaire to make such a pledge as part of The Giving Pledge, started by Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Branson, the UK’s fourth richest person, whose net worth is estimated at $4.2 billion, declared half of his wealth to charity in an open letter in which he also said that he would like to use a majority of his wealth to “make a difference in the world” through “entrepreneurial approaches,” also saying that money and objects do not bring happiness.

The entrepreneur behind the Virgin Group of companies, Branson went on to state that he and his wife realized how little they valued material possessions after a series of disasters caused them to lose a number of personal items, including a house in London that burnt down and one in the British Virgin Islands that was struck by lightning.

Richard Branson asserted that he and his wife would like a portion of their fortune to go towards creating a “healthy, equitable and peaceful world for future generations to enjoy.” The Giving Pledge, started three years ago by Gates, has already seen a around 30 additional American billionaires pledge a good amount of their wealth to charity.

Christina Kindlon

Photo: Time

wheels8
Maintaining mobility and independence can be challenging for millions of disabled people around the world. While a physical handicap may make life more difficult no matter where you live, many physically disabled people in the developing world aren’t able to purchase a wheelchair either for lack of funds or they simply because aren’t available. That’s where The Wheelchair Foundation comes in.

The Wheelchair Foundation, a branch of the Global Health and Education Foundation, works to provide wheelchairs to the people that need them throughout the developing world. The chairs are given at no cost to the families that receive them. An estimated 100 million people in the developing world are physically disabled and either wheelchair-bound or in need of a wheelchair to move around. The Wheelchair Foundation works with many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that operate in the countries to which the wheelchairs are delivered and from there, the chairs are equipped and delivered in person. The organization also distributes chairs to Americans in need by working with Goodwill, Catholic Charities, and groups that work to help American veterans.

Organizations such as this one are great because of their specialization and their use of existing networks. Specialization without the great connections could lead to a less efficient organization but utilizing their relationships with other NGOs and government programs allows The Wheelchair Foundation to be a real success that addresses an important problem that many people in the developing world face each day.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: The Wheelchair Foundation
Photo: Mental Floss

afghanistan art gallery
Art is a powerful form of expression and has been a tool artists have used to document the world around us for ages. Created by ART WORKS Projects and co-presented by UN Women, ten international photojournalists entered the lives of women and girls in Afghanistan to document and photograph their everyday lives in a country of conflict and fear. This was their way of presenting  development through art in Afghanistan.

Behind the camera lens, these photojournalists were able to depict these women and girls by revealing the immense courage they have for strengthening women’s rights. The highlight of these photographs are representative of how much the world has changed, depicting the status of these women in focuses of healthcare, education, peace and security, and economic development.

This women’s rights focused exhibition is a powerful contribution for the celebration of International Women’s Day in March. Joining in on the exhibition includes a collection of essays and writings by journalist Elizabeth Rubin and curator Leslie Thomas.

Some of the photographers includes Jean Chung, with one of her images above, Jared Moossy, Ron Haviv, and Moises Saman are just a few of them who have their work in this gallery. The exhibition is already open for public viewing at the Rayburn Foyer in Washington, DC. For more information on the artwork and project, visit the website here.

Jada Chin

Source: UN Women

Combating Undernutrition
Each year, 3 million children die from undernutrition.

There are more than 165 million children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth, a marker for malnutrition.

In the media, malnourished children are often portrayed as being skinny with protruding stomachs. Yet, a protruding stomach is not the only marker for undernutrition. In fact, undernutrition comes in many different shapes and sizes. Stunted height, especially before the age of five, is a marker  “of multiple deprivations regarding food intake, care and play, clean water, good sanitation and health care,” according to The Guardian.

Children that face undernutrition in the first 1,000 days after conception are unable to fully, properly develop. Brain-synapse development and the development of the immune system are especially vulnerable and incorrect development of these major parts of the body can have long-lasting and serious effects on a person. Further, undernutrition leads to the deaths of 1 in 3 children and 1 in 5 mothers in developing countries.

The European Commission has recently launched a new effort that will hope to decrease the number of stunted children by 7 million by addressing malnutrition by the year 2025. This will be done through the provision of funds from donors – and from the EU humanitarian and development budgets – as well as by making this a global movement. Everyone must get involved to combat malnutrition, which is usually the result of impoverished situations that make it hard to access food, healthcare, clean water and sanitation, and education.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: New Europe, The Guardian
Photo: UN

Can Aid For Trade Reduce Poverty?In 2005, the World Trade Organization (WTO) launched its Aid for Trade initiative, which works to reduce poverty in developing countries through trade. In most developing countries, supply-side and trade-related infrastructure problems hinder the ability to participate in international trade. The Aid for Trade initiative works to educate governments on the potential for trade to work towards development.

The World Trade Organization has managed to raise $200 billion worth of funding for the initiative that will go towards resource mobilization, the mainstreaming of trade into development plans and programs, regional trade integration, private-sector development, and the monitoring and evaluation of Aid for Trade. Emphasis is placed on gathering support and resources to counter constraints that deter trade in developing countries. Aid for Trade works on the assumption that “a rising tide floats all boats,” meaning that as national wealth increases, the poor will profit as well.

Some NGOs, however, question the viability of this method in reducing poverty. A study was commissioned by Traidcraft and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development to look into the real impacts of these projects on the poor. Saana Consulting reported that most of the funding had gone to middle-income rather than low-income countries. They had also found that the program had little impact on the poor, calling the assumption that it will have an effect “a leap of faith.”

Donors have admitted that impacts are indeed difficult to track. Adaeze Igboemeka, head of Aid for Trade at the UK Department for International Development, concedes that there is indeed a lack of information, as the programs impacts on poverty are seemingly indirect.“The assumption,” Igboemeka said, “is – and there is a lot of evidence to support it – that if a country is able to trade more, it will grow, and that will create jobs and increase incomes and lead to poverty reduction.”

The consensus seems to be that, generally, trade is good. However, for now, there is not enough information and time to accurately project its impact on poverty reduction.

– Rafael Panlilio

Sources: The GuardianWTO

India Receives More Focus from the World BankThis week, President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim said that the World Bank will dedicate more resources to ending poverty in India’s most destitute regions as part of an initiative to end poverty worldwide within a generation.

Kim asserted that reaching the goal to end global poverty within the near future could only be achieved by increasing support for India’s poorest seven states, where over 200 million people continue to live without proper nutrition, education, or healthcare.

Although the World Bank already gives nearly $3 to 5 billion annually to India for development purposes, Kim said that a larger percentage of the existing aid would be redirected towards the seven states in India that are the most in need, with no new additional aid being given. These seven states contain only half of the approximately 400 billion people throughout India who live in extreme poverty; meaning that they live on less than $1.25 per day. Two of the states included, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, are two of India’s largest states in terms of population, which is a contributing factor in why India is receiving the increased focus from the World Bank.

Kim went on to acknowledge India’s gains in development and poverty-reduction thus far, saying that progress there holds beneficial guidance for the World Bank and other development institutions. India is one of the World Bank’s largest beneficiaries, having received over $26 billion in aid from the institution within the last four years.

Kim also stated that “We have to be smart about fighting poverty – we have to have economic growth because without growth you can’t lift people out of poverty.”

Christina Kindlon

Source: Gulf Times