Information and stories on development news.

Energy Security in Armenia
Energy security in Armenia is a serious problem; the country experienced harshly cold and dark years in the early 1990s. It was a time when the newly independent Republic of Armenia experienced an incredibly severe energy shortage. The population only had access to electricity two hours a day, and even hospitals went without heat. The lack of internal energy sources, regional conflict in the Caucuses and the collapse of the Soviet Union contributed to the crisis. Though the country recovered, it has never forgotten the importance of energy security in Armenia.

Post-Energy Crisis Armenia

Today, Armenia depends on the external energy sources it imports from other nations. Having no known internal oil or natural gas sources of its own, these imports satisfy 75% of the country’s energy demand. In 2019, Armenia had a total natural gas energy supply of 89,423 terajoules, a nuclear energy supply of 26,967 TJ and a hydroelectric supply of 8,535 TJ.

Armenia sources its oil from Iran, Georgia, Europe and Russia. The natural gas largely comes from Russia via Georgia. The company Gazprom Armenia holds a monopoly on the imports and distribution of natural gas in Armenia. Gazprom Armenia is a subsidiary of the state-owned Russian gas giant Gazprom, the largest natural gas company in the world.

Because of its heavy dependence on imports and Gazprom Armenia’s monopoly, Armenia experiences price shocks that drive up the cost of energy for its population of nearly 3 million people. This dependence also puts Armenia in a weak position during price negotiations with Gazprom. When the government and the company cannot come to an agreement, it is the people who go without heat and power. The government-owned Metsamor nuclear power plant generates electricity within Armenia. However, Russia is also the country’s main supplier of nuclear fuel, so Armenia is still dependent on Russia.

Lighting the Way to Energy Security

Armenia is focusing on building and improving renewable energy infrastructure to achieve greater energy efficiency and energy security in Armenia. In January 2021, the government implemented the 20-year Energy Sector Development Program intended to boost energy efficiency and diversify the fossil-fuel-dominated power grid.

Additionally, in 2022, the government plans to implement amendments associated with the 2017 Law on Energy. This should liberalize the energy market, which in turn will increase competition between electrical suppliers. Ideally, it will break the monopoly held by Electric Networks of Armenia. The company currently has full control over the nation’s electrical distribution driving up prices for consumers.

With a solar energy flow of 1,720 kilowatt-hours per square meter, Armenia has a higher solar energy potential than most countries. To optimize this, the Armenian government wants to focus on the construction of new solar plants. By 2030, the goal is for solar power generation to have a minimum 15% share of the country’s capacity, at 1.8 billion kilowatt-hours. To achieve its desired level of energy security in Armenia, however, the government also recognizes the need to improve its use of geothermal energy. The country has a 150-megawatt potential regarding geothermal energy, only a fraction of which it is tapping into.

Other Players

The government is not the only one taking action to strengthen energy security in Armenia. In 2017, Shen NGO and the Geghamasar cooperative constructed a greenhouse and a biogas facility. These have been producing food and heat respectively for the community of Geghamasar during each winter since. They manufacture the biogas from manure, and when they are not heating the greenhouse, the biogas facility generates electricity. Both it and the greenhouse created jobs in Geghamasar in addition to inspiring other communities to build similar installations.

Power to the People

As of 2019, 12.3% of Armenians lived on less than $5.50 a day. Many cannot afford the current cost of energy, much less the rises in prices imposed by monopolies. Those who cannot pay go without heat and power because there is no alternative source of energy they can rely on. Energy security in Armenia is a necessity to consistently meet the needs of the people. However, thankfully, the country is working on becoming less dependent on external energy resources and diversifying its energy grid.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

End Time Worldwide Missions
For the past 10 years, Nigeria-native and missionary Abraham Sunday has used his empathy and deep understanding of poverty to help reduce poverty in Nigeria. He has since extended his work to helping people around the continent. Four years ago, he founded End Time Worldwide Missions to spread Christianity. However, he realized the urgency of first meeting basic needs. “You cannot preach to a hungry person,” Sunday said in an interview with The Borgen Project. As a result, he and his team focus on providing things like food, water and shelter for the people they serve. “I know what it means to be poor. I know what it means to be hungry. I know what it means to be homeless,” he said.

How it Started

Growing up in Nigeria, which is a country with a lot of poverty, Sunday had to drop out of secondary school. The way he grew up allows him to understand precisely what it means to live with nothing. He recalled a time when he turned to his mother and asked, “Why is there no one we can go to for help?” Then, she told him that he needed to be that help for other people.

Coupled with the profound poverty around him, the wisdom and encouragement from his mother are largely why he does what he does. Now, he offers the kind of help he desperately needed when he was younger.

Where End Time Worldwide Missions Works

End Time Worldwide Missions began its services in Nigeria. Within the immediate poverty around him, Sunday found an opportunity to do good and help reduce poverty in Nigeria. All of it began with small acts of kindness. For instance, when women came to his door hungry, he fed them. He recalls some widows in his community having nothing. After he gave them what was equivalent to $5, they fell to the ground and wept.

What might seem “small” in the United States is profound in a place like Nigeria, where 40% of the population lives on less than $381.75 each year. While $5 might not seem like much to a U.S. citizen, it can be everything to an impoverished person in Nigeria, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter.

Sunday bought books and taught himself mathematics and science. For years, he has taught at a local school despite not having a degree. When he goes on missions, he spreads knowledge to the children and adults he serves. Now that his organization has grown to about 30 individuals worldwide, Sunday is expanding his horizons. Because of the lack of access to health care in Africa, he wants to study medicine at a U.S. or Canadian university to reduce this issue. This way, he can additionally provide health care to the people in his own community and on missions.

The Organization’s Most Impactful Mission

Nigeria’s neighbor to the left, Benin, is a constitutional presidential republic with a population of 11.8 million people. It relies heavily on trade with Nigeria, which makes up 20% of its GDP. When borders temporarily closed in 2019, Benin’s economy suffered a major blow, likely reversing previous economic success. Poverty remains widespread, with a life expectancy of around 61.2 years old.

In February 2020, End Time Worldwide Missions went into Benin and completed what Sunday feels is its most impactful mission to date. When it got to the destination village, it realized that most of the children did not wear clothes and went around barefoot. Thanks to a U.S. partner that sent used clothes, the Mission distributed more than 1,000 pieces of clothing there. It was also able to provide people with food. Sunday and his organization works to uplift other Africans from poverty and spread the gospel.

Nigerian Poverty and COVID-19

A major factor in Nigeria’s poverty is the nation’s reliance on oil, which accounts for 80% of its exports and half of all government revenue. Consequently, when oil prices dropped during COVID-19, the country experienced the deepest recession it’s seen in decades.

Sunday describes the awful experience of living in Nigeria during the worst of COVID-19. The government enforced a lockdown, but many people staying home did not have food. During this time, Sunday did all he could to help neighbors and community members find a way to cope. Though he planned to go on a mission to Ghana, lockdown prevented that from happening. Still, he did what he could in Nigeria, helping his community in a continued effort to uplift other Africans from poverty.

An Inspiring Example

Sunday and his organization seek to help others, even if they have little to give. His profound empathy after having lived in poverty as a child mobilized him to help those suffering.

Abraham Sunday’s work is bringing the world a little bit closer to equity and prosperity. World powers like the United States also have this power vested in them, at a larger but equally significant scale. All acts of goodness are equally significant. If nothing else, Sunday emphasizes that “I want people to see the good in people. You have to learn to see the good.”

– Cameryn Cass
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Kids
Jason Sudeikis, star of the hit Apple TV+ series “Ted Lasso,” is working with Abbott, a U.S. multinational medical device and health care company to end malnutrition in kids all over the world. Sitting down with the Today Show co-hosts, the actor discussed his involvement with Abbot and what made him decide to fight malnutrition in children. Sudeikis stated that “I’m just here to use the platform that I’ve been granted [with] this groovy job that I have, to just support what [Abbott] is doing to help kids with malnutrition, to help with the education of it and ultimately the prevention of it.”

How Does Abbott Plan to End Malnutrition in Kids?

Sudeikis through his role as a paid spokesperson for Abbott helps raise funds to develop new technology for Abbott that will educate kids on malnutrition and ultimately prevent it. The actor has appeared alongside Abbott during an event at the New York Stock Exchange in October 2021 to show support for children’s health after Abbott announced a partnership with the Real Madrid soccer team to support the health and nutrition of children around the world.

Malnutrition is a worldwide problem that global poverty exacerbates. Due to a lack of resources and food insecurity, 690 million people are hungry with one in five children suffering from malnutrition worldwide.

The company has launched its Abbot Center for Malnutrition Solutions. The Center will focus on reducing malnutrition around the world, especially for vulnerable populations, such as mothers, infants and young children, aging adults and people that lack access to good nutrition.

Abbott has invested $45 million annually to help identify, treat and prevent the worldwide problem of malnutrition. Statistics show malnutrition in kids can cause stunting, being underweight and wasting with 149 million children suffering from stunting. This means they have fallen under the healthy height for the age. Of those underweight, 462 million are below a healthy body mass index (BMI).

Abbott’s Work Around the World

The company works in 160 countries and has created medical devices to address malnutrition with the advent of the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) z-score tape, which helps detect malnutrition among children around the world. The MUAC z-score tape detects the risk of malnutrition in kids by examining age-specific, color-coded indicators.

Abbott also offers countries the necessary funds to fight malnutrition through its Abbott Fund. For instance, Abbott is helping to fight malnutrition in Haiti by investing $10 million to build a facility in hopes to build local capacity and stimulate the local economy with the help of Partners in Health (PIH). Abbott has provided 50 Abbott specialists from science, manufacturing and engineering to help construct the facility. It also provided more than 14,000 hours of volunteer technical support. The facility will provide Nourimanba, a nutritious, peanut-based food product, for severely malnourished children through 12 PIH hospitals and clinics throughout rural Haiti for free. This will contribute to the health and well-being of two thousand children with severe malnutrition.

Another example of Abbott’s fight against malnutrition has led to the advancement of clinical nutrition in China and Vietnam through the Abbott fund. The result was training for 6,500 health care professionals to provide better care for patients and reduce the malnutrition risk for children admitted into Shanghai Children Medical Center (SCMC) by more than 80%.

Support the End of Malnutrition in Kids

Abbott is fighting malnutrition in kids around the world through its innovations and celebrity partnerships. However, it is important to remember that there are ways that individuals can support the end of malnutrition in kids. It is not necessary to be an Emmy award-winning actor to help end global poverty and malnutrition in kids. Congress has introduced the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act, which individuals can support by emailing or contacting their representatives.

– Grace Watson
Photo: Flickr

The Developmental Sector
Activists are urging politicians and development agencies to reform foreign aid and humanitarian work on the ground. Critics of the developmental sector tie it to colonialism, and actors within foreign aid are thinking about improving the quality of life for people around the globe while also moving away from colonial ideologies. Outreach International is one of the organizations helping to change the realities of the developmental sector.

The Relationship Between Colonialism and the Developmental Sector

The foreign aid sector has received criticism for being a neocolonial agent. The arguments are that Western countries impose their cultures on non-Western cultures through development programs and that the Global North portrays the Global South as helpless.

In the history of development programs, Western countries have imposed their values on non-Western countries and have touted modernization. Prominent Western officials, who were unaware of the Global South’s everyday realities, designed the programs without input from the actual citizens. The West brought values and practices to non-Western countries that were not necessarily important or even helpful for the people in these countries, as these experts mainly were from non-aid countries.

Additionally, some have portrayed foreign aid recipients as helpless. The foreign aid sector has not historically given agency to people in recipient countries to decide what they want for their futures and how they wish to achieve it. A mentality developed that the Global North could “save” the Global South from misery and poverty even though the Global South was not asking for anyone to save it.

The developmental sector receives criticism, but it has also helped people around the world. For instance, from 1990 to 2019, extreme poverty has substantially decreased from 36% of the global population to 8% of the worldwide population, maternal and infant mortality rates have reduced by 50% and smallpox cases no longer exist.

Neocolonialist criticisms invite the developmental sector to reflect on its history and current practices. The inclusion of voices from aid-recipient countries in creating and implementing development programs can produce sustainable poverty reduction.

Prioritizing Community Voices: Outreach International

Outreach International is a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the challenges of global poverty. The organization partners with nine locally-registered nonprofits that operate in nine countries spanning from Africa to Latin America to Asia, and the organization has been in operation for 42 years. Outreach International’s program interventions focus on organizational, capacity and leadership development. The organization, alongside its program and community partners, has worked on 541 community issues, and 62,724 people benefit from the organization’s work.

Collaboration with local communities in poverty-reduction work is the cornerstone of Outreach International’s programming. In fact, The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Elene Cloete, Director of Research and Advocacy for Outreach International, and she shared that, “We [Outreach International] believe that you can support people in obtaining greater social, economic health…. They [locals] are in [EC1] and should be in the driving seat of their community-led development.”

The Participatory Human Development Process (PHDP), Outreach International’s own methodology, creates sustainable improvements to everyday life. Through the PHDP, the organization and its program partners facilitate discussion among community groups so that locals are the ones who identify the poverty-related problems that are most salient to them and so that local communities can create their own solutions. The PHDP enables communities to plan their futures.

Outreach International’s On-the-Ground Success in the Philippines

Rural communities often face high rice prices in the Philippines. Rural communities also rely on wage labor in the agricultural sector, and rural Filipinos can only work during the planting and harvesting seasons. Between these seasons, many rural Filipinos are out of a job. Combined with high rice prices, rural Filipinos struggle to feed their families.

Outreach International, its program partner, Outreach Philippines, Inc. and rural Filipino communities have worked together to establish a program that allows rural communities to access rice from their own community-based organizations at very low interest, especially in comparison to the other options that rural Filipinos have. The community groups implement rice loan projects through which they buy rice at an affordable price because they purchase the rice in bulk. The interest rate powers the growth of the local community groups by increasing the number of people who can take part in them.

Rural communities own and run the rice loan project, and the program’s rice and money remain in the communities, giving agency to rural Filipinos and allowing them to access a more sustainable source of food. Dr. Cloete sums the program up beautifully; “That’s the beauty of it. Because the project is owned, managed, driven by the community, they have ownership over the project. And they can decide what issue they want to address next. We have this beautiful cyclical thing that takes place.”

Activists and organizations within the developmental sector are encouraging it to veer away from neocolonialism and instead make local voices heard. Outreach International is a crucial example of championing sustainable poverty reduction through the empowerment of local communities. The organization is contributing to changing the developmental sector, and it will be exciting to see Outreach International’s growth and impact over the coming years.

– Anna Ryu
Photo: Unsplash

Burundian Refugees
Burundi is a country in East Africa comprising three ethnic groups of the same cultural background, history and language. The Hutu and Tutsi groups are responsible for years of war that plagued the Burundi communities. After 12 years of war, a ceasefire went into effect in 2005, ending the Burundian Civil War. However, Burundian refugees are just now returning to their homes after initially fleeing their violent living conditions.

The Civil War left approximately 200,000 people dead, and many displaced. To prevent attacks, civilians had to enter camps, which resulted in malnutrition, disease and death. The war resulted in a 19% increase in poverty between 1994 and 2006. According to the World Food Program (WFP), Burundi is one of the world’s poorest countries, with more than 50% of the population living in poverty.

The Fleeing of Burundian People

Many Burundians fled to surrounding countries due to the war, political inconsistency and human rights violations. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled Burundi since 2015. Many refused to return until it was safe.

The majority of Burundian refugees, more than 200,000, resided in Tanzania. Rwanda hosted more than 80,000 in the Mahama camp, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) held 45,000.

Underfunding became an increasing problem with many of the refugees living in camps. People had limited access to resources such as food and classrooms, and shelters began to deteriorate. Experts determined that approximately 2 million people in Burundi were food insecure during October 2017.

The Efforts to Make Refugees’ House a Home Once More

Although the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and partners have not encouraged refugees to return, they are working with relevant governments to assist those who do return to Burundi. In 2018, UNHCR and its partners launched a Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan for that very reason of support. More funding is necessary to sustain a large amount of returning refugees.

Included in the refugee return package are household items, three months rations, cash and non-food items. The cash grant increased in 2020 from $75 to $150 an adult and $35 to $75 a child. The increase is to ensure sustainability for three months.

Making a Safe Return Home

President Ndayishimiye’s call for refugees to return home finally occurred in June 2020. Since then, convoys of around 1,500 refugees are arriving in Burundi every week. Now that the political tension has subsided, refugees have the opportunity to return safely.

A 2021 Burundi Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan that UNHCR created is also in place. The 2021 Burundi Joint Refugee Return and Reintegration Plan goals are to implement livelihood projects, increase the value of companies, strengthen programs to access and improve health services, water and sanitation, education, social protection and human rights.

Additionally, the community developed a joint response plan along with Burundian authorities to ensure a stress-free return, a safe environment and access to food, shelter, water and sanitation, education, health and job opportunities.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR and partners are working to ensure a safe transition from camps to Burundi. COVID-19 symptom checks, rapid tests and social isolation are all mandated.

Overall, the success of this plan is dependent solely upon funding. Burundian refugees could potentially build their lives and create stability with support from the community itself, UNHCR and partners and the Government of Burundi.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

USAID's Foreign Assistance
On November 3, 2021, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated its 60th year of existence. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 made the formation of USAID possible. USAID’s creation stems from President John F. Kennedy’s aim to consolidate the foreign assistance work of several organizations into one main agency. Today, USAID operates in more than 100 nations across the world, fully or partially manages $24.8 billion in accounts and employs roughly 3,450 U.S. citizens to help fulfill USAID’s foreign assistance mission.

Official Mission Statement of USAID

As an agency representing the foreign assistance interests of U.S. citizens, USAID aims to “promote and demonstrate democratic values abroad and advance a free, peaceful and prosperous world.” Ultimately, USAID plays an instrumental role in making a reality the foreign policy values of the U.S. As such, “through partnerships and investments” USAID aims to “save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people emerge from humanitarian crises and progress beyond assistance.”

The Birth of USAID

Coming out of World War II, the U.S. stood as the world’s preeminent superpower. However, not long after, in 1947, the Cold War rivalry between the U.S. and the Soviet Union began. Looking to prevent the spread of communism, the U.S. realized its endeavors would require more than just military might — the U.S. would also need to win the hearts and minds of developing countries before the Soviet Union did.

Through diplomacy and goodwill, the U.S. hoped to spread democratic and free-market principles to as many countries as possible, and in return, not only stop the spread of communism but also open up new global markets for trade and shared prosperity. With this goal in mind, President Kennedy felt the U.S. needed a more strategic approach to foreign assistance. Therefore, he pushed Congress to pass the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which empowered him to then create USAID via executive order.

USAID Over the Years

USAID’s approach to international development has evolved over the years. In the 1960s, the focus was on large-scale capital and technical assistance projects in select countries committed to economic reforms. Gears shifted in the 1970s when the agency pivoted toward a more humanitarian approach that focused on widespread delivery of food, education and health services to the most impoverished populations. The 1980s brought about the increasing use of U.S. NGOs and for-profit contractors to fulfill USAID’s mission. In the post-9/11 world, development assistance in Afghanistan and Iraq would consume a large share of the USAID budget as the U.S. sought to rebuild these war-torn nations.

The Legacy

In the early years of USAID’s foreign assistance, the U.S. stood as the undisputed leader in international development aid. Through its innovative development and humanitarian efforts over the decades, it is clear that USAID has helped shape a better world with much less hunger, disease, illiteracy, child and infant mortality and all-around suffering than would otherwise be the case. Other advanced nations have since developed similar programs, with several countries now spending significantly more on official developmental assistance than the United States, proportional to their respective gross national incomes (GNI). However, the U.S. still leads in absolute spending, with $47 billion in foreign assistance obligations worldwide in 2019, of which, USAID obligations made up 45%.

In a November 3, 2021, tweet to mark the 60th birthday of USAID, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Now more than ever, as we face historic challenges in global health, climate and other critical issues, it’s vital that our diplomacy and development go hand in hand. That’s why I’m so grateful to the outstanding public servants at USAID…” Ultimately, USAID’s foreign assistance transforms nations, improving the lives of millions of people while contributing to the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and reducing global poverty.

– Jeramiah Jordan
Photo: Flickr

In the year 2011, Zambia moved up in income status with a reclassification from a low-income country to a middle-income country. The reclassification stems from improvements in Zambia’s economic and social structures. Zambia has made strides in the education realm in particular, with high primary school education completion rates. However, due to geographical barriers and higher rates of poverty, access to education in rural Zambia does not see the same equality as other parts of the country. Acknowledging the role of education in poverty reduction, it is imperative to improve access to education in rural Zambia.

School Completion in Zambia

A point of pride for Zambia is its national primary school completion rate, which stands at 91.8%. However, when comparing the national primary school completion rate with semi-urban or rural regions, regional discrepancies become apparent. In Zambia’s northern region, comprising mostly of rural areas, this rate stands at 81.3%, indicating clear geographic disparities in completion rates.

Despite high national primary school completion rates, just 67% of students go on to attend high school. Barriers to high school attendance include a lack of secondary schools “to accommodate all primary school graduates.” Additionally, school fees are necessary from eighth grade upward, which many impoverished families cannot afford.

Poverty and Access to Education in Rural Zambia

For students living in rural areas, the long distance to educational establishments presents an additional barrier. In fact, rural Zambia faces the most obstacles in keeping children in school because there are few schools, often far from students’ homes. Most rural Zambians cannot afford the costs of transportation to schools because rural areas face a higher rate of poverty.

Furthermore, impoverished families struggle to afford the costs of school fees. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate in rural Zambia stood at 76.7% in 2015 while the urban rate stood at 23.4%. The World Bank also estimates that about 75% of Zambia’s impoverished reside in rural regions.

This has far-reaching impacts. Children who do not go to school often end up in child labor in order to contribute to household income. Furthermore, parents marry off their young girls to ease the economic burden on the family. Access to education in rural Zambia will lower both child labor and child marriage rates while providing a pathway out of poverty.

In order to improve access to education in rural Zambia, the most significant barrier to education, poverty, must stand as a priority in aid efforts. In order to keep more children in school in Zambia, geographical location and financial means must not stand as barriers to education.

CAMFED Zambia Takes Action

CAMFED Zambia began in 2011, initially working in Zambia’s rural areas, such as the northern region. In particular, girls in rural areas face a higher rate of exclusion from education. Thus, CAMFED Zambia “empowers the most marginalized girls in rural Zambia to attain a full secondary school education.” With CAMFED’s efforts, the female students it supports “achieve a completion rate of 96% and a progression rate of 98%.”

CAMFED also supports the education of other marginalized children. Since its beginnings, CAMFED Zambia has helped more than 400,000 children obtain primary and secondary education through donor support. “CAMFED provides holistic support” in the form of “school or exam fees, uniforms, sanitary wear, books, pens, bikes, boarding fees or disability aids” to ensure children remain in school.

Efforts to improve access to education in rural Zambia ensure that children gain the knowledge and skills to rise out of poverty. With an education, these children are able to secure higher-paying, skilled jobs, enabling them to contribute to growing Zambia’s economy overall.

– Hariana Sethi
Photo: Flickr

the Maasai Mara
In the first week of November 2021, the Rotary Club of Nome, Alaska, provided a month’s worth of food resources to the Maasai Mara village of Nkorkorri, Kenya. One of Africa’s most recognizable tribes, the Maasai Mara faced devastation due to COVID-19 restrictions on tourism. The project to assist Nkorkorri village stands as part of the Rotary Club of Nome’s 75-year-long commitment to humanitarianism.

Background Story

It all began in 2018 when Nome Rotary member Marcy O’Neil traveled to Kenya in collaboration with the ME to WE Foundation to provide eye care to patients of the Kishon Health Centre in Narok. The ME to WE Foundation is an enterprise of WE Charity, an organization that partners with communities around the world to create sustainable solutions to poverty, such as supporting small farms, funding education and building hospitals.

During her time in Kenya, O’Neil worked alongside several Maasai warriors whom she kept in touch with after returning to Alaska. In an interview with The Borgen Project, O’Neil explained that “once [COVID-19] shut the world down and tourism came to a halt, most Maasai men who supported their families through tour guiding lost their jobs and income.” Compounding the Maasai’s troubles, Kenya is enduring a severe drought, leading to higher food insecurity rates in villages and starving livestock. “Over the past couple months, two of my Maasai friends reached out to our group that worked with them back in 2018 to see if we could find ways to help their villages,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil worked with Benson Leparan Sankuya of Nkorkorri village to calculate the funds needed to feed 450 people for one month. After finalizing the details, O’Neil made a formal proposal to the Rotary Club of Nome at the club’s November 6, 2021 meeting. The club of 25 Rotarians voted unanimously to approve the project, combining a club donation with two individual member donations.

The Maasai Mara

The Maasai Mara people are semi-nomadic cattle herders native to the Maasai Mara region of Narok, Kenya. Historically, cattle husbandry met all of the Maasai Mara’s needs, but in recent years, wildlife conservation, privatization and commercial development have led to the displacement of the Maasai, among other impacts. A drastic reduction in herd sizes means the Masaai can no longer solely rely on “the cattle economy,” but instead, must look to farming practices or economic endeavors in the tourism industry.

The Maasai Mara National Park is a world-famous destination for wildlife enthusiasts. International visits to Kenya totaled 2 million in 2019, however, the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic decimated the country’s billion-dollar tourism industry, which endured an estimated loss of at least 80 billion Kenyan shillings (about $752 million). In addition, the livestock industry plummeted when pandemic restrictions called for the closure of cattle markets and slaughterhouses, putting intense strain on traditional livelihoods. The combination of factors left tens of thousands of the Maasai Mara without income or food security.

Assisting the Maasai

A collective of 15 nature conservancies located in and around the Maasai Mara National Park helps nearby communities sustainably manage and protect Kenya’s wildlife. During the pandemic, when income from foreign visitors came to a halt, officials at the Nashulai Masaai Conservancy looked to counteract food insecurity through crowdfunding to provide weekly food rations to at-risk Maasai families.

Aiming to decrease the area’s economic dependency on the tourist industry, the conservancy began training Maasai people in beekeeping and farming to increase both food security and income. The conservancy also trained women to make soaps, sanitizers and sanitary pads to sell as local markets.

Whether an organization is small or large, working on-site or helping from afar, humanitarian service projects provide life-saving support to the most vulnerable people. The Rotary Club of Nome President Adam Lust tells The Borgen Project that his hope is for the club’s service to the Nkorkorri village of Maasai Mara to develop into a long-term endeavor. Nevertheless, as it stands, the club of just 25 people has helped reduce the detriments of poverty by providing sustenance to an entire community.

– Jenny Rice
Photo: Flickr

Reduce Poverty in India
In August 2021, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India will spend $1.35 trillion to improve the country’s infrastructure. The infrastructure plan called “Gati Shakti” will create jobs that can potentially reduce poverty in India by increasing household income across the nation and improving the economy at large. The plan also intends to expand the “use of cleaner fuels to achieve the country’s climate goals.”

The Gati Shakti Plan

The specifics of India’s Gati Shakti plan were not immediately announced, but amid the country’s economic decline and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Modi claims the plan will increase India’s economic output, which decreased by more than 7% in 2020. Specifically, “the plan will help local manufacturers compete globally and create new avenues of future economic growth.” In addition, Gati Shakti will help India “become energy independent by 2047,” by transitioning to “a gas-based economy” and developing India into “a hub for hydrogen production.”

How Better Infrastructure Can Reduce Poverty in India

Studies show a clear link between improved infrastructure and poverty reduction. Better infrastructure may help reduce poverty in India in a variety of ways. Improved infrastructure has the ability to increase economic activity in the country by minimizing “production and transaction costs” and increasing “agricultural and industrial productivity.”

Infrastructure leads to job creation due to the demand for labor in both the development process and the ongoing management and maintenance of the infrastructure. Therefore, impoverished and disadvantaged people can participate in an economy that they once had no place in.

Even though income-related aspects of poverty are at the forefront of the issues better infrastructure addresses, better infrastructure also has non-income advantages, including “health, nutrition, education and social cohesion.” These aspects improve the quality of life for people across the nation. Overall, better infrastructure has the potential to contribute to reaching the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

How Infrastructure Improvements Contribute to SDGs

  1. SDG 2: Zero Hunger. Malnutrition and food insecurity are significant problems in India, with more than 200 million citizens lacking “sufficient access to food.” Modern infrastructure can help improve people’s access to food by promoting better productivity (particularly among farmers) and by helping to decrease production costs. Decreased production costs can drive prices of food products down, making them more accessible to the impoverished.
  2. SDG 3: Good Health and Well-Being. Adequate health infrastructure means more people will have access to health care services, especially impoverished people in remote locations. Better health infrastructure will increase the number of in-hospital births, which will reduce both the infant mortality rate and the maternal mortality rate. This reduction will come as a result of the presence of skilled birth attendants and access to hospital equipment in case of emergencies. India’s current infant mortality rate stands at a staggering 28.771 deaths per 1,000 live births.
  3. SDG 4: Quality Education. Road infrastructure influences the attendance and enrollment of students in schools. This also affects the quality of teachers attracted to a school. More school facilities mean education is more accessible to children in remote locations. More than 27% of Indian youth find themselves “excluded from education, employment or training.” Education infrastructure is essential because education helps people acquire the skills and knowledge to obtain higher-paying, skilled jobs that can help them rise out of poverty.
  4. SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. Due to the economic impacts of COVID-19, according to The Indian Express, almost 200 million more Indian people could face poverty by the close of 2021. Ultimately, this means that more than 50% of the Indian population may live in poverty. Under SDG 8 is target 8.7, eliminating child labor in its entirety by 2025. Families tend to resort to child labor when they need extra income to meet their basic needs. India’s infrastructure plan can potentially help reduce poverty in India by providing adults with more job opportunities and by increasing household income, negating the need for child labor. Similarly, parents marry off their young girls to take the economic burden off the household, hoping that the girls’ husbands will economically provide for the girls. However, with increased household income and more employment opportunities, families can bear the costs of taking care of all their children. Then, marriage will be an option and not an economic necessity.

For all these reasons and more, better infrastructure can reduce poverty in India, improving lives throughout the nation.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr

Hip-Hop Helps Improve Education
In schools worldwide, mathematics is a leading subject that is necessary for people to progress and complete their education. Although educational systems differ across countries, many still see math as one of the most crucial skills for developing critical thinking building blocks that drive logic and decision-making. While mathematics is held to a high standard in countries within Africa, education in South Africa lags behind its counterparts in terms of performance on international standardized assessments. With a lack of trained math teachers in schools, large class sizes and “deficient and outdated infrastructure, instrumentation and teaching materials,” many students are unable to reach their full potential. As countries seek different methods like technology to better educational outcomes, one specific school in Cape Town has adopted a unique approach: Hip-Hop. Hip-hop helps improve education in South Africa by recognizing the various methodologies of learning.

Hip-Hop Helps Improve Education in South Africa

Kurt Minnaar, a former dancer and current eighth-grade teacher, decided to test a creative approach when he saw his students struggling to grasp concepts in school. Minnaar recognizes that while the current system of education in South Africa may have worked for the older generation, it is failing today’s kids. As a student who once struggled with math himself,  Minnaar believes in recognizing four different types of learning methodologies in education. Acknowledging these different learning styles, Minnaar uses music and dance in the classroom to engage students in their learning and improve math outcomes. With the rise of social media, especially music-focused platforms such as TikTok, engaging students with the activities that appeal to them can help improve their math outcomes.

The Rise of Social Media

Social media is growing in South Africa, with the rate of social media use increasing 19% since 2019. Of the current South African population, roughly 40% are active users on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Young people aged 18-24 account for 40.4% of these users.

Confirming the rise in social media use, a survey of 200 South African university students shows that 88% of students identified as users of social media. This illustrates the large role and the growing influence of social media on the lives of the current generation of students. Although some see the increase in the use of social media as unhealthy, young educators like Minnaar see it as an opportunity to use the current culture and trends to make learning enjoyable for all.

Creative Learning

Since Minnaar began teaching, he has created several rap beats that stimulate the minds of his students while increasing their ability to retain information. Some of his pieces include “Cre-eight,” “Trick-onometry” and “Van Guard,” all of which address multiplication tables through catchy hip-hop beats. To ensure that students are gaining the most out of his classes, Minnaar has students rap the songs to the beat of the music he plays off his laptop and encourages students to dance during class. He sees creative activities like singing and dancing as essential to helping students enter a headspace conducive to learning. Thus far, Minnaar has only created content for multiplication tables. However, the results have been so positive that he is currently working on new material and lesson plans to address different areas of education in South Africa.

While Minnaar enjoys creatively interacting with his students, he also recognizes the importance of scholastic performance and his role as an educator to ensure students’ progress. Thus far, he has seen success in helping his students in their academic achievements. He also recognizes, however, that some students respond best to traditional methods. Minnaar’s only hope is that people remain open-minded to the many approaches to education in South Africa. After all, the approaches of some of the greatest individuals of all time were once met with skepticism. Thus, perhaps mathematics and hip-hop are not the most unusual pair after all.

– Chloe D’Hers
Photo: Flickr