Technology in the Amazon
The Amazon rainforest in Ecuador is an extremely biodiverse ecosystem vital to the survival of more than 70 indigenous communities. Alianza Ceibo is an organization that unites these communities in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Four different indigenous groups run it with the purpose of improving their people’s livelihoods and protecting over 20,000 square kilometers of the rainforest from environmental degradation. This article will examine how technology in the Amazon empowers these indigenous communities.

About Alianza Ceibo

The Alliance received the 2020 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Equator Prize for its efforts to support women entrepreneurs and connect remote communities with solar energy and clean drinking water. The Alliance also provides lawyers to represent the individual communities in land rights cases. As for the use of technology in the Amazon, the Alliance advocates for mapping systems to document indigenous stewardship of the rainforest, and monitoring systems to hold illegal trespassers accountable. The specific technology Alianza Ceibo and other organizations are using includes mapping technology, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS), drones, satellites and blockchain.

Mapping Technology

In the Amazon rainforest in northern Ecuador, the four indigenous ethnic groups that founded the Alianza Ceibo — the Siona, Waorani, Kofan and Secoya — use mapping technology to fight illegal development on their land. Mapping applications can document native plants, important cultural sites, near-extinct animals and geographical spots vital to the community’s well-being. The use of mapping technology in the Amazon’s indigenous communities demonstrates how the indigenous people’s culture, land and livelihoods inextricably link.

The Counter-Mapping Project

The Waorani indigenous group uses mapping technology for its counter-mapping project in the village Amisacho. Digital Democracy, a nonprofit based in California, supports this technology. The work of the counter-mapping project aims to provide an alternative map to the typical government maps only showing square footage and natural resources. The Waorani’s map documents the rich history and cultural significance of the rainforest that they and other indigenous ethnic groups call home. Indigenous leaders of the Waorani, leaders of the Kofan, Secoya and Siona and international activists have all worked together to provide the most accurate representation of the link between people and land.

In a Sierra magazine article, the counter-mapping project’s leader Opi Nenquimo said “Our map shows all of the things that don’t have a price…Building it we also build our communities.” The Waorani do not just use maps to show outsiders the significance of their land. They also use it to teach their younger generations to honor and steward land which their ancestors have defended since the Inca. Using technology in the Amazon’s remote communities can be very useful and empowering, but it is not a replacement for indigenous knowledge and practices that members of the indigenous community passed down through generations.

In 2018, the Waorani used data gathered on Digital Democracy’s mapping application Mapeo, to sue the Ecuadorian government for not asking consent to begin a drilling project. The Waorani, with support from Digital Democracy and Amazon Frontlines, won the case in April 2019. It set an important precedent for future land rights cases in Ecuador and around the world.

Drones and Satellites

Drones that can take satellite images or videos illustrate another effective type of technology being employed in the Amazon rainforest. Drone technology allows people to monitor vast swaths of land in a short amount of time, and to hover over areas that may be difficult to reach on foot. Technicians monitor footage derived from the drones and then contact the relevant indigenous group. With their knowledge, understanding and presence in the forest, indigenous people can make the best decision on how to deal with a potential threat.

Indigenous groups protect nearly a quarter of the Amazon and deforestation affects most of them, which is why it is so important that they are at the forefront of environmental efforts. Speaking to the importance of supporting the communities that live in the rainforest, Suzanne Pelletier, director of the Rainforest Foundation U.S. (RFUS) said, “These are not just trees, these are not just lands, it’s such a virtual part of their culture, it’s how they maintain their health and wellbeing.” To destroy the rainforest is to destroy indigenous people’s livelihood.

RFUS is another nonprofit supporting the use of technology in the Amazon. The organization works directly with indigenous communities, focused in Panama, Guayana, Peru and Brazil. RFUS employs drones and, most recently, blockchain technology.

Blockchain Technology

Blockchain is a public digital registry that timestamps and records transactions, providing the opportunity to make real-time financial transactions without having to go through banks or other institutions. At this point, many still consider blockchain experimental, but the promise of transparency, complete digitization and worldwide access are driving its implementation. This form of technology in the Amazon is new, but for RFUS, it is full of promise.

RFUS uses a blockchain that the Regen Network, a computing and technology development group, developed. RFUS’s pilot program is in the indigenous Ticuna community of Buen Jardin de Callarú in Peru, but the organization hopes to expand the use of this registry across the Amazon. The pilot group agreed to protect 1,000 hectares of forest. In the first year, it plans to save 70 hectares and plant at least 7,000 trees. The group will receive compensation for its work using blockchain technology.

A big problem in forest conservation has been how to support the people actually doing the work on the ground, the same people deforestation most harms. Blockchain offers a possible solution and RFUS has been successful in utilizing it in Peru. In June 2020, RUFUS reported that the Buen Jardin De Callarú community and others working with it were able to reduce the deforestation rate from 10% annually to zero between 2018 and 2020, and obtained pay for their work with blockchain.

These three different technological innovations have demonstrated how indigenous communities in the Amazon are able to fight modern threats with modern technology. The Amazon rainforest and indigenous communities link together, dependent on each other for a healthy and long life. The use of technology in the Amazon empowers indigenous groups to effectively protect the rainforest and thereby also their livelihoods.

– Caitlin Harjes
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 In Ecuador
Since early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ecuador has exemplified how important testing is for regulating the number of coronavirus deaths. Ecuador is a small country on the western coast of South America. It is a country that was already struggling with an uncertain economy. Its greatest generator of wealth is crude oil exportation, which underwent severe damage when oil prices drastically fell at the beginning of the pandemic. Ecuador has continued to produce low numbers in terms of virus cases per capita. However, the huge rise in deaths recently is an alarming sign that the test numbers provided are not capturing the whole picture of COVID-19 in Ecuador.

Numbers vs. Reality

Ecuador has reported a total of 130,000 COVID-19 cases since February 2020. Doctor and public health specialist Esteban Ortiz estimates that the actual number is around 2.1 million. This estimate comes in part from the number of deaths being much higher than it should be for the given numbers of cases. Part of the issue is that the country is lacking the infrastructure necessary to handle the pandemic. Since Ecuador was already struggling financially, the government was not able to properly staff and equip hospitals. This meant that it was not able to provide enough outreach and testing locations.

The lack of testing also meant that Ecuador was not able to keep up with the number of deaths occurring. This resulted from its inability to accurately predict what would happen. Between March and mid-April 2020, the Guayas province, where Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil is located, reported around 14,500 deaths. The average number of monthly deaths in this province was 2,000. The health system became overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the rise in deaths coming from an unknown number of cases. The number became so overwhelming that estimates determined that the actual death toll is 15 times higher than the official number of COVID-19 deaths the government reported.

Tracking the Effects of the Virus

One can also track the impact of COVID-19 in Ecuador by looking at unemployment. By June 2020, unemployment reached 13.3%, drastically higher than 3.8% where it was just six months earlier. Statistics also found that around 67% of workers were underemployed during this time. Additionally, extreme poverty in Ecuador nearly doubled between 2019 and 2020. These economic pressures brought great stress upon the country. It was clear that the economy and the people were struggling monetarily. Reopening the country also seemed to be a massive risk, however, due to the unknown number of cases.

Another factor is the large population of refugees in Ecuador. Ecuador has one of the highest South American refugee populations at around 70,000 and close to 385,000 asylum seekers. These people have entitlement to government medical assistance but do not always receive the aid in practice. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR is working to detect COVID-19 in these communities and provide services. UNHCR has also worked to train and equip six other community organizations around Ecuador to work at a more local level. These groups work through phone hotlines and home visits to identify cases and notify the community in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in these at-risk communities.

Ecuador in Recovery

In recent weeks, Ecuador has begun to regain control as the number of deaths has dropped off. The government has received money from private donors and other governments to bolster its medical system by better funding and equipping its hospitals. As Ecuador begins to build back, it is worth noting how a country with an already unstable economy and an ill-equipped medical system can experience devastation in a short period of time by the virus. It seems that the worst is over for COVID-19 in Ecuador, but its story serves as a warning of the possible dangers of pandemics in developing countries.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Child Poverty in EcuadorChild poverty in Ecuador is on the rise in Ecuador, resulting in poorer standards of living and higher rates of child mortality. Efforts from organizations around the world are successfully fighting against this, promoting the health and education of Ecuador’s youth.

Ecuador’s Poverty Rate

Ecuador is a South American country located on the West Coast of the continent. Northwest of Peru and southwest of Colombia, Ecuador is home to 17.4 million people. Ecuador’s name is derived from its location on the Equator, and the nation is located in both hemispheres of the world.

Ecuador’s poverty rate has fluctuated over the past several years. In 2007, 36.7% of its people lived in poverty. Additionally, Ecuador’s poverty was reduced to 21.5%. However, poverty started rising again recently, and as of 2019, over 25% of Ecuador’s population was impoverished. This means that over a quarter of Ecuador’s 17.4 million people, or about 4.4 million people, live under the national poverty line.

Child poverty in Ecuador is a severe issue. Children in Ecuador are disproportionately impoverished in comparison to the general population. Over 40% of children in Ecuador live in poverty, which is well above the 25% poverty rate of the general population.

Malnutrition does the most damage in adolescence, creating health difficulties that can last for a lifetime. Poverty in adolescence also sets up children to have a lower standard of living, as they are denied crucial education opportunities that would allow them greater future success. Child poverty is also strongly correlated with poor academic performance and early school abandonment.

Children International: Fighting Child Poverty

Fighting child poverty in Ecuador is a focus of multiple organizations in the United States. These initiatives focus on targeting the malnutrition and dwindling health of Ecuador’s children.

Children International, a non-governmental organization (NGO), aims to transform the lives of Ecuador’s youth by addressing hunger, among other necessities. Through its “Nutrition Program,” tens of thousands of children in Ecuador that are malnourished or at-risk for malnourishment are supported. Not only are the children fed, but Children International also provides medical check-ups and holds nutritional training workshops.

The organization also targets impoverished children’s educational opportunities as they “typically don’t have the skills, resources or knowledge to succeed.” Through its Social and Financial Education program, children in Ecuador are learning the skills to secure successful careers, how to be more resourceful and even how to “believe in themselves.” Through this, Children International is breaking the cycle of generational poverty.

Looking Forward

Other organizations are leading the fight against poverty as well. United to Benefit Ecuadorian Children International (UBECI), another NGO, is a prime example. UBECI takes independent action to address the lacking educational, medical and emotional support resources available to Ecuador’s youth. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has also been a key proponent in addressing child poverty in Ecuador. USAID funding has increased access to medicinal treatments for mothers and children in Ecuador, as well as support child education through the creation of schools and higher education programs.

Assistance from various organizations around the world is paramount toward combatting child poverty in Ecuador. While these projects have substantially improved the health and welfare of Ecuadorian children, there is still much to be done to address the child poverty that accounts for one in four children in Ecuador.

– Asa Scott
Photo: Flickr

Raspberry Pi“Ciudad de Ariel” is an elementary school in the rural town of Duran, Ecuador. In this small school, people are studying a computer substitute that could change the world called Raspberry Pi. This life changing computer is a small chip that can fit in a hand.

The Technological Gap

For many developing countries, technology is out of the picture. The general growth in technology proficiency has evaded developing countries. They often cannot afford internet access and computers in all schools, so children and young adults suffer in technological skills. Furthermore, other challenges of poverty, like food insecurity and lack of water, take priority to learning how to use a computer.

The problem is that technology can actually provide large benefits for developing countries. The internet offers vast amounts of information and programming to serve any need. If developing countries have access to computers, the ability to decrease poverty levels can be more feasible. Unfortunately, most computers are specialized, expensive and hard to produce. Previously, developing countries lacked the budget for technology advancement and access. But now, the Raspberry Pi offers tech opportunities to people all over the world.

The Device

There are many unique aspects of the Raspberry Pi that separate it from normal computers. First, its price is affordable; it has a base cost of $35. This is significantly cheaper than any other computer chip on the market. As such, some schools in areas of poverty are using Raspberry Pis in their computer labs.

Another unique aspect of the Raspberry Pi is it’s small form. The Raspberry Pi 4, the most recent model, is only 3.37 inches high and 2.22 inches wide. An entire computer lab of Raspberry Pis can fit in a suitcase. Not only is the computer chip small, it is also incredibly light, weighing only 46 grams. Therefore, the Raspberry Pi is easily portable. This is an important factor as many schools in developing countries are in rural, hard-to-reach areas.

Finally, the Raspberry Pi is famous for its versatility. Most computers are made to do specific tasks. Whether it is running a server, rendering 3D graphics, or browsing the internet, each computer has distinct hardware for its purpose. The Raspberry Pi, on the other hand, is capable of handling almost any task. For example, it can be used as a traditional desktop computer, a server or as a basic computer chip to automate mechanical devices. This allows people to use the device for any function they need.

Due to the Raspberry Pi’s unique capabilities, it has the capability to be highly successful in advancing technology for developing countries.

Real-World Examples

A recent study found that the Raspberry Pi provides a cost-effective approach in building computer labs for schools in developing countries. The success of the pilot project conducted in the elementary school in Duran, Ecuador corroborated this finding. Computer labs have also been built in Cameroon and West Africa. It’s not an entire lab, but a project called Malinux Télé donated Raspberry Pis to children in Mali.

The computer has impacts beyond education. An automated loom was developed using a Raspberry Pi. The designers of this loom found it to be cheaper than traditional automated looms. Another project found a cheap way to purify water using a Raspberry Pi.

The little computer has been able to accomplish tremendous things. From computer labs in Ecuador and West Africa to automated looms and water purifiers, the Raspberry Pi has proven to be a force for good and can change how developing countries access technology.

Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Ecuador
There are currently 17.7 million people calling Ecuador home — but a home with a poverty problem. The overall population living on less than $3.20 per day in Ecuador has been decreasing since 2010 but poverty remains an issue. The result is severe homelessness in Ecuador. It is a struggle many who live there have in common. The poverty rate of people who live on $5.50 a day has fluctuated between 24% and 23% since 2015 according to some figures. This has forced many to live on the streets with no place to call home. Natural disasters and unemployment are other risk factors one can point to — causing people to lose their homes.

Natural Disasters

The main natural disasters that play a role in the high rate of homelessness in Ecuador are floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. Natural disasters impact almost 87,000 people in the country, every day. From 1980 to 2010, about 2.6 million people suffered from natural disasters. In 2008, more than 300,000 people required movement to temporary housing due to a flood. In 2016, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed 700 people and crushed many buildings — a big portion of them being homes. The earthquake destroyed around 35,000 homes. At the time, it was the worst earthquake in almost three decades. Many people had to leave their destroyed homes, changing their whole lives in just a moment.

Unemployment Rates

An increasing unemployment rate exacerbates the issue of homelessness in Ecuador. The unemployment rate in the country was declining — dropping from 5.21% in 2016 to 3.69% in 2018. Since then, it has increased from 2018 with the current rate being at 6.48%. Taking that percentage out of the current population results in 1.1 million people unemployed. Likewise, these people are prone to having to leave their homes or unable to afford housing.

A big part of this issue is the fact that the economy is not growing at a comfortable or suitable rate. This is due to companies having to leave the country and Ecuador’s inability to manage its resources. These living conditions make it incredibly difficult to afford available housing and provide for children and other life needs.

Solutions

While these problems seem very difficult to improve, some are undertaking projects to bring available housing to Ecuadorians who do not have it. The shelter support volunteer project in Quito, Ecuador is a one to 12-week program where participants travel to Quito and help local shelters feed and support local Ecuadorians. The program places 10 to 20 volunteers per month to help out the communities, five hours per day. Tasks for the volunteers include: serving meals, doing laundry, cleaning, maintenance and other living essentials. Volunteers also help educate the youth and work to provide housing for the children and many other Ecuadorians experiencing homelessness.

The Manna Project International is another organization that focuses heavily on bettering the lives of Ecuadorians. The project has two teams — one that works in Ecuador and the other in Nicaragua. Roles on the team involve an Ecuador Site Coordinator, a community development fellow, program directors and volunteer community advisors. In response to some of the shortcomings such as homelessness in Ecuador, the team puts together professional job development workshops. This way, they educate the people there and develop small businesses to help people find jobs. The end goal is to provide Ecuadorians the ability to gain an income suitable enough to afford housing.

Dorian Ducre
Photo: Pxhere

Healthcare in EcuadorHome to the Galapagos Islands and where the equator runs right through, Ecuador is also home to an extremely impoverished population, where 21.5% live beneath the poverty line. In a country where many people struggle to get their daily needs met, long-maintained and accessible healthcare in Ecuador gets set on the back burner. This can exacerbate the obstacles the population faces in seeking wellness alongside food insecurity and sanitation.

The national healthcare in Ecuador was first deployed in 1967, where it floundered in providing reliable and efficient coverage for its population. Spanning the time between 1992 and 2006, Ecuador underwent eight national governments. This lack of stability created a turbulent socio-political landscape. It ended up wounding the efficacy of the various infrastructural sectors, including health. The Constitution of 2008 declares health to be a right. This supports the moral tenants on which its publicly integrated healthcare system operates, those being the universality and equity of it.

Ecuador spends 9.16% of its GDP on health. This number grew from spending $1.153 billion in 2010 to spending $2.570 billion in 2015. For comparison, the United States, a much wealthier nation, spends about 17.7% as a health expenditure, which amounts to about $3.6 trillion.

The State of Health

Deficiency diseases, which are common in places that struggle with food and nutrition security, along with infectious diseases and degenerative conditions are prevalent within the population. The most common health issues tend to arise from vehicular accidents and assaults.

The World Health Organization measures an efficient healthcare system. It is according to population health, equality in healthcare, the responsiveness of the system, the distribution of a responsive system and the responsible allocation of healthcare expenditures. Ecuador is still making strides in all of these criteria.

Additionally, the healthcare system itself lacks consistency, as those delivering care struggle to coordinate. The classification of different sub-sets within the umbrella of healthcare is also poorly defined. Each healthcare institution has its own structure, management and funds. They can make for unequal care for the people depending on their varying circumstances.

The Healthcare System

Furthermore, Ecuador has two kinds of healthcare: private and public. The public sector includes Social Security and other government institutions such as the Armed Forces and the National Police. There are also private organizations that work within the public sector such as the Cancer Society and Ecuadorian Red Cross.

Also, the national budget, funds that come from outside of the budget, outside agreements and organizations and emergency funds all subsidize public healthcare. Meanwhile, private organizations selling their service to the public health sector, private health insurers and pre-paid health insurance bankroll the private health sector. Private insurers and pre-paid insurers cover 3% of the middle to high-income population.

The Country Takes Action

Fortunately, the country is fighting to create a healthcare system that works for and is accessible to everyone in Ecuador. This includes the poorest and most vulnerable communities. As a result, the Ecuador Ministry of Public Health decided to deploy healthcare in Ecuador that prioritizes primary care. The number of those covered by the healthcare system has been rising. In 2007, the number was just 1,518,164, which rose to 3,123,467 as of 2014.

Overall, healthcare in Ecuador has been improving throughout the years. However, as of June, Ecuador clocked in at one of the highest per-capita COVID-19 death rates in the world. Ecuador’s developing healthcare system struggles to keep up with the pandemic. In the meantime, organizations like Direct Relief are sending donations and resources to Ecuador. They attempt to triage the economic damage and loss of life that will be wrought. The nation continues to build a more robust, sustained infrastructure. Such relief is being used to fill in gaps where Ecuador may have been struggling with preventative measures, such as protective clothing and clinics.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

gap year programs fighting poverty in ecuadorRoughly the size of Colorado, Ecuador is a South American country rich in cultural and ethnic diversity. However, poverty in Ecuador is rampant, with 21 % of Ecuadorians living below the poverty line. Poverty also disproportionately affects Indigenous populations, who have less access to resources like clean water and healthcare. Fortunately, many gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador let students get involved in the cause while allowing them to experience Ecuadorian culture. Here are three gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador:

3 Gap Year Programs Fighting Poverty in Ecuador

  1. YanaPuma Foundation: The first of these gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador is the YanaPuma Foundation, an NGO established in 2006. Its main initiative is promoting Ecuador’s community development by focusing on six principles. These principles include sustainability, social justice, respect, freedom, transparency and professionalism. With YanaPuma, students can get involved in various initiatives, ranging from teaching English in the Andes to building natural infrastructure for the Shuar ethnic group in the Amazon. Another of YanaPuma’s ongoing projects is the “Edible Forest Restoration” project. This project aims to provide crops that provide economic and nutritional advantages to the Indigenous population of Tsa’chila. To further this initiative in 2019, the organization planted 2,500 saplings.
  2. United Planet: United Planet aims to create an interconnected global community by providing people the opportunity to immerse themselves in new cultures. Through its programs, participants work with children to enrich their education by tutoring them and teaching them English. Additionally, volunteers work with impoverished children in Ecuador to support human rights developmental programs that help disadvantaged, disabled and orphaned children. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has expanded its program to include the option to virtually volunteer in Ecuador.
  3. CIS Abroad: CIS Abroad provides students the opportunity to study abroad in many countries. Like United Planet, it aims to promote global awareness and help people become international citizens while bridging the gap between cultures. CIS Abroad currently has eight gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador. These programs allow students to serve in various ways, from teaching at-risk Ecuadorian children to creating a service project in a local Ecuadorian community in need. This program is a unique opportunity, because it connects participants to local organizations already working to have specific impacts on the community.

Firsthand Experience

Jeffery Fishman is a rising sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania. Fishman took a gap year to live in Ecuador for eight months and help with poverty alleviation efforts there.

Fishman says, “While living in the Imbabura Province of Northern Ecuador as a Global Citizen Year fellow, I worked at Fundación Arupo, an Ibarra-based therapy center for children with special needs. Fundación Arupo is a unique therapy center in that it provides physical, speech, occupational, psychological and psycho-pedagogical therapy all in one location. In the mornings, I worked to organize monthly events for students in local school districts to teach them about special needs and to encourage an inclusive learning environment. In the afternoons, I helped out the therapists during therapy sessions with the children. Additionally, I lived with an Indigenous host family who introduced me to the Kichwa culture.”

Fishman explains that while living in San Vincent, an agrarian society, he saw poverty firsthand. He says, “Most community members were agrarian workers, who lived off the day-to-day income they earned through selling their crops at markets. As a result, salaries in the community were often unstable and variable depending on the season and product demand. Even so, the community was very tight-knit and was able to band together to help each other out when they fell upon hard times. In terms of infrastructure, the community faced frequent water shortages that could last anywhere from a few hours to a few days.”

Poverty Alleviation and Cultural Immersion

While Fishman engaged in much rewarding anti-poverty work, he was also able to experience Ecuadorian culture. “My favorite Ecuadorian food was llapingachos, which are these fried potato pancakes cooked in achiote and are super crispy and delicious,” he says. “I loved conversations with my host family, where we shared aspects of our lives. Our nights together were filled with laughter and smiles until our cheeks were sore, and no matter how my day was going, I knew dinner would always cheer me up!”

Fishmans’ experience, along with these three gap year programs fighting poverty in Ecuador, highlight the enriching experience of volunteering abroad. Not only can students who take a gap year immerse themselves in a new culture, but they can also actively work to help fight poverty in Ecuador and elsewhere around the globe.

– Kira Lucas
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Indigenous CommunitiesModernization has been pushing Latin American indigenous communities into progressively smaller bubbles. This causes many to lose important aspects of their cultures such as language and tradition. On this same note, many international governments only provide federal funding to indigenous communities if they follow certain guidelines. This has made the preservation of indigenous cultures increasingly more difficult as the years go by. The preservation of indigenous cultures is of course important at its core. However, what is equally important is who is controlling the narrative.

Modern Indigenous Struggles

Many indigenous communities are struggling to balance modernization with the preservation of their rich cultural histories. Although the numbers have been improving, Latin American indigenous communities are still very vulnerable. They also experience higher rates of poverty than their non-indigenous peers. Now many wonder about how this problem can be fixed.

Storytelling as a Possible Solution

Many people are interested in learning about Latin American indigenous communities. However, an ethical approach to this requires an administrative role in the production of any film depicting their culture. This important realization was introduced to the National Film Board in 1968 by the Company of Young Canadians and the National Film Board’s Challenge for Change program. This partnership saw the potential to elevate the voices of marginalized people, allowing them to control their own narratives and advocate for themselves.

A New Indigenous Storytelling Platform

August 9th is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. To commemorate the occasion this year, the People’s Planet Program launched a new platform called Tribal Stories. This platform amplifies the pieces created by indigenous filmmakers in the A’i Cofan community of Ecuador and the Kīsêdjê community of Brazil.

Initially, the founder of the People’s Planet Program, Abdel Mandili, was interviewing indigenous community members to produce his own documentaries. However, he quickly realized the importance of allowing these communities to control their own narrative. He then transformed the People’s Planet Program into a nonprofit organization that focuses its efforts on providing indigenous communities with the tools to document their story and a platform to promote it.

The People’s Planet Program engages in educational workshops and provides film equipment to these communities. Nonetheless, it allows the communities to advocate for the causes important to them. For example, many indigenous communities find themselves on the frontlines of deforestation, pollution and other business practices that negatively impact their communities. They have pivotal insights that many other communities do not.

In tandem with this, the People’s Planet Program helps connect indigenous communities with political activists and legal counsel. They aid them in their fight for equal representation and land rights.

When engaging in international advocacy, it can be quite easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your actions always reflect your intentions. Most of the time, this is true. However, taking a step back and allowing marginalized groups to speak for themselves is a crucial aspect of international advocacy. An important aspect of advocacy is providing people with the tools to better their societies on their own terms.

– Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Latin American Poverty in Spain
The late 90’s and early 2000s saw an influx of Latin Americans immigrating to Spain. The reasons for this immigration are varied and the phenomenon is undeniable. From 1990 to 2005, the population of immigrants in Spain increased from 58,000 people to 569,000 people. The most popular reasons for this wave of immigration include global, economic crises and dangerous dictatorships. Notably, these waves of migration had significant impacts on Spanish culture. Latin American poverty in Spain came about due to a multitude of factors, including economic collapse and political instability. Understanding the effects of immigration can help to better understand the overall effect of migration on global poverty.

Top 3 Reasons Latin Americans Emigrated

  1. Economic Crashes. The crashing of the Latin American economy played a major role in the immigration of Latin Americans to Spain. Countries hit especially hard include Argentina, Brazil and Peru. There were plans to promote the security of the economy at the macroeconomic level, including being more open to trade and interaction with other countries. Also, these plans involved having pro-market policies. There was a belief that these policies would lead to the growth of Latin American economies, though the opposite was the case. As a result of these policies, there was a growth in hyperinflation in the late 80’s, leading to a general crisis across the entire region. Though the economy recovered in the early 90’s, the latter half of the decade proved to be destructive when there was an abrupt decrease in internal, capital flows to the region. These issues continued into the early 2000s. These economic crises corresponded with levels of mass emigration to other countries, most notably Spain and the U.S.
  2. Political Instability. There were several dictatorships in the 20th century that contributed to the economic devastation and the lower quality of life in Latin American countries. This, in turn, also contributed to Latin American poverty. Numerous dictatorships affected this balance. Countries such as Ecuador, Guatemala, Chile, Honduras, Uruguay, and many others felt these effects. Dictators completely altered the way of living in the region. Though there were many writers and artists discussing the effects of the dictatorships (which are still felt in these countries today), the effects ultimately proved too much for some citizens. Shortly after the end of these dictatorships, many people immigrated to other countries. Statistically, the most populous countries for migration were the U.S. and Spain.
  3. Terrible Quality of Life. The decline in Latin Americans’ quality of life was due to a combination of political instability and economic devastation. According to Venezuelan immigrant Rosa (name changed for privacy reasons), her move to Spain from Venezuela was a result of a combination of the two issues. Migrants chose to pursue better economic and political opportunities elsewhere.

Top 3 Things to Know About Latin American Poverty in Spain

  1. Primary Groups of Immigration. Three main groups of immigrants live in Spain — Argentinians, Ecuadorians and Colombians. These groups were the most impacted by the financial crises and dictatorships in the Latin American region. Researchers noticed that these countries felt the most impact by these issues and had the highest levels of emigration. All Latin American immigrants were legally welcomed into Spain through the passage of various forms of legislation intended to help boost the Spanish economy.
  2. Assimilation into Spanish life. Immigrant assimilation into Spanish life has taken on different forms for these migrants. For example, Rosa first migrated to Spain three years ago because of the dictatorship of Nicólas Maduro. Because of the dictatorship, she could not find or hold a steady job and sought better political and economic opportunities in Spain. She described her assimilation as “easier” because she is half-Spanish. One area of immediate struggle for Rosa is the ability to communicate with Spaniards. There are different vocabulary words to represent the same idea and Sandra had to learn the appropriate words to communicate with others. Further, it is culturally appropriate for people to rest in the middle of the day — which was not typical for Rosa.

    Though Rosa was able to transition relatively smoothly, other immigrants fare differently. Ecuadorian immigrants in particular typically reside in one district of the city of Seville. According to previous census records, these immigrants live in urban neighborhoods and make the least amount of money, through low-level jobs. Immigrants have also been shown to contribute the most towards higher crime rates in Spain. Psychologists attribute this to difficulties with assimilation due to the poorer neighborhoods, schools and jobs.

  3. Women & Children. Women and children are disproportionately affected by immigration effects. In particular, children attend worse schools and are more likely to commit crimes. For example, the rates of crime for Ecuadorian immigrants in Spain has continued to increase throughout the years. This, in turn, contributes to the overall levels of Latin American poverty in Spain. Because these immigrants have been living in mostly urban neighborhoods and have been working the lowest-level jobs, they are viewed as more likely to commit crimes such as robbery and petty larceny.

Ending Latin American Poverty in Spain

Latin American immigration is a cultural phenomenon, studied and investigated throughout the entire 21st century. Argentines, Colombians and Brazilians were the primary groups that experienced the highest levels of immigration and the highest effects of immigration. Understanding the dynamics between immigrants and native citizens can inform better responses to Latin American poverty in Spain.

Alondra Belford
Photo: Flickr