Living Conditions in MauritiusMauritius is a beautiful island nation located in the Indian Ocean, just off the coast of Southern Africa. Long-renowned for its beautiful beaches, Mauritius celebrates a vibrant history and complex mix of cultures. Vestiges of Portuguese, French and British control and long periods of labor migration left clear marks on the current society. Recent decades have been transformative for the country, starting with its independence in 1968. To grasp a better idea about how life evolved on the island, keep reading to learn 10 facts about living conditions in Mauritius.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mauritius

  1. Mauritius was once a country with high fertility rates, averaging about 6.2 children per woman in 1963. A drastic decline in fertility rates took place, dropping to only 3.2 children per woman in 1972. This shift comes as a result of higher education levels, later marriages and the use of effective family planning methods for women. This is especially important for the island nation, as space and resources are limited.
  2. Mauritius has no indigenous populations, as years of labor migration and European colonialism created a unique ethnic mix. Two-thirds of the current population is Indo-Mauritian due to a great influx of indentured Indians in the 1800s, who eventually settled permanently on the island. Creole, Sino-Mauritian and Franco-Mauritian make up the remaining one-third of the population. However, it is important to note that Mauritius did not include a question on its national census about ethnicity since 1972.
  3.  The population density in Mauritius is one of the highest in the world, with 40.8 percent of the population living in urban environments. The greatest density is in and around Port Louis, the nation’s capital, with a population of 149,000 people living in the city proper alone.
  4. Close to the entire population of Mauritius has access to an improved drinking water source. In urban populations, 99.9 percent of the population has clean water access. There is a negligible difference in rural populations, with 99.8 percent of people accessing clean water. This is essential for the health and protection of populations from common waterborne diseases, like cholera and dysentery.
  5. In 2012, the government allocated 4.8 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to health care. For this reason, an effective public health care system is in place, boasting high medical care standards. The government committed to prevent a user cost at the point of delivery, meaning that quality health care and services are distributed equally throughout the country regardless of socioeconomic status or geographical location.
  6. Non-communicable diseases accounted for 86 percent of the mortality rate in 2012, the most prevalent being cardiovascular diseases. This contrasts with communicable diseases, like measles and hepatitis, which accounted for 8 percent of all mortality in that same year.
  7. Since gaining its independence in 1968, the island’s economy underwent a drastic transformation. The once low-income and agriculture-based economy is now diversified and growing, relying heavily on sugar, tourism and textiles, among other sectors. The GDP is now $13.33 billion. Agriculture accounts for 4 percent, industry 21.8 percent and services 74.1 percent. Government policies focused strongly on stimulating the economy, mainly by modernizing infrastructure and serving as the gateway for investment into the African continent.
  8. Currently, 8 percent of the 1.36 million Mauritian total population is living below the poverty line. Less than 1 percent of the population is living on $1 a day or less, meaning that extreme poverty is close to non-existent. In the hopes to fully eradicate poverty, the government has implemented the Mauritius Marshall Plan Against Poverty which works with poor communities to give greater access to education, health, and social protection measures.
  9. Many environmental issues threaten the island nation, including but not limited to water pollution, soil erosion and endangerment of wildlife. Main sources of water pollution include sewage and agricultural chemicals, while soil erosion is mainly due to deforestation. In the hopes to combat negative outcomes, the government created and published the Mauritius Environment Outlook Report. It recognizes the importance of environmental issues and acknowledges its integral link to the pursuit of sustainable development in the country.
  10. In 2017, the education sector received 5 percent of GDP. Approximately 93.2 percent of the population over the age of 15 can read and write. Gender disparities do exist, as 95.4 percent of males and 91 percent of females are considered literate. Unfortunately, this disparity persists in the job market as well: female unemployment is high and women are commonly overlooked for positions in upper-tier jobs.

The island continues to prioritize health, education and boosting its economy, all of which are essential for the improvement of living conditions in Mauritius. With positive momentum building since its independence in the 1960s, the country propelled itself into a stable and productive future.

Natalie Abdou
Photo: Pixabay

The Green Belt Movement is an environmental organization whose aim is to make the planet green again through fighting deforestation and preventing soil erosion. It engages the community, especially women, in its process and, in return, compensates participants with a small monetary payment. It has now become an international platform for women’s empowerment through the conservation of natural resources.

The Green Belt Movement was started by the late professor, Doctor Wangari Maathai, who founded the organization in 1977 in Kenya. Dr. Maathai is a recipient of Nobel Peace Prize, the first African woman to receive such an honor. She is also the first woman to receive a doctorate degree in East and Central Africa. Dr. Maathai witnessed the struggles of rural Kenyan women with finding drinking water, food and firewood, saw the connection between deforestation, scarcity of rainfall and food insecurity and wanted to address the problem as a whole. She encouraged men and women to practice reforestation, binding soil to prevent soil erosion, food processing, beekeeping and many more sustainable values.

The Green Belt Movement has also dealt with larger issues in the daily lives of Kenyans. It has protected public lands from private landowners, known as “land grabbing.” It has trained farmers with simple techniques to grow indigenous vegetables and fruits that are sustainable in harsh environments. It also uses a water-shed based approach to harvesting. Furthermore, the Green Belt Movement launched the Community Empowerment and Education program, which helped to educate common people on the environment, natural resources and civics.

Since its foundation in 1977, over 51 million trees have been planted across Kenya. The movement also invented a method of spreading ideas among the community through “trainers of trainers.” In 2015 alone, over 200 women who participated in training from the Green Belt Movement have gone on to train over 20,000 members of their communities, thus assisting in the spreading of the Movement’s ideas. The Green Belt Movement has addressed important issues such as deforestation, climate change and women’s empowerment, gaining international status in the process.

– Mahua Mitra

Photo: Flickr

Green Revolution in AfricaAs climate change threatens to alter weather patterns around the world, farmers face the challenges of increased frequency and intensity of droughts. Reliant on rainwater for crop production, these communities often struggle to produce food levels sufficient for even a subsistence farming lifestyle. However, drought-resistant crops may be the solution to negating the effects of these issues and ushering in the new green revolution in Africa.

In 2006, the DTMA (Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa) Initiative was launched with the aim of increasing crop output and negating the effects of drought in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The project has brought together all types of communities, from local agricultural groups and seed producers to research institutions and NGOs.

Of course, this ultimately raises the most the most important question of all: has the new green revolution in Africa succeeded?

“Green Revolution” is a term defined as the increased production of crop yields through the use of improved technological application, the use of pesticides and better management. There are a few areas where this definition applies more to the successes of the DTMA Initiative. In 2015, the drought-resistant maize improved crop output in 13 countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and others. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has reported that hybrid seeds will benefit an estimated 2.5 million people in the region.

“I was truly amazed. I harvested 110 kilograms of maize from the tiny demonstration plot,” 61-year-old farmer Jotham Apamo, whose farm previously yielded a mere 10 kilograms, told WIPO Magazine. “[Before] there was hardly any gain for me. I was pushed into debt. I couldn’t feed my family or pay for my children’s school fees.”

In the meantime, Kenyan scientists at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) have been studying and perfecting the creation and application of this crop (as well as studying disease-resisting properties) since 2013. Researchers have stated that the hybrid seed responsible for Africa’s next green revolution will be available later this year.

Brad Tait

Photo: Flickr

Clean Coal Technology in Indonesia
Indonesia is one of many countries around the world wanting to do their part in reversing climate change and protecting the planet for years to come. Working with the World Coal Association (WCA), Indonesia hopes to implement clean coal technology in plants across the country. Clean coal technology in Indonesia works in a number of ways to burn coal more efficiently and with less adverse effects on the environment.

One method of making the coal burning process cleaner is known as coal washing. In this method, Indonesian facilities would remove unwanted mineral deposits by crushing the coal down and mixing it with a liquid that clears away the undesirables minerals.

Another tactic for cleaning coal involves the use of wet scrubbers to target sulfur dioxide, which causes acid rain, and remove it before burning. In order to avoid burning coal altogether, gasification could be implemented to separate carbon molecules. This process creates what is known as syngas, which is an amalgam of carbon monoxide and hydrogen used in gas turbines to convert heat energy into electricity.

While use of this technology may be more expensive than the less efficient alternative, Indonesia wants to make good on the Paris Agreement, enacted earlier in 2016. Indonesia committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 29 percent alone by 2030 or up to 41 percent with help from foreign aid.

As the fourth largest coal producer in the world, it is essential that Indonesia take the necessary steps to ensure the country becomes a positive example for coal burning nations around the world.

Clean coal technology in Indonesia has more to offer its citizens than merely reducing the output of greenhouse gases. Switching to these technologies will require skilled Indonesian workers, therefore creating jobs and stimulating economic growth.

The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity conducted a study that supported a growth of 150,000 jobs by building 124 new clean coal power plants. Strategies like these could be implemented to achieve similarly positive results in Indonesia’s coal industry.

Initiatives like these bring the world together in order to achieve a common goal. Indonesia is working to support this global mission for job growth, cleaner energy, and a better planet for future generations.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

sustainable future
The World Bank signed an agreement with the government of Sri Lanka to provide $45 million in credit to help protect the country’s ecosystems and natural resources.

Officially solidified on Sept. 5, the partnership will assist in the improvement, protection and fostering of a multitude of areas throughout Sri Lanka, ranging from quality of life to natural ecosystems.

“Sri Lanka is blessed with a rich endowment of ecosystems. Striking a fair balance between economy and ecology is crucial, not only for the preservation of the ecosystem but also for helping people emerge from poverty,” said Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough, World Bank Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

The project, known as the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP), strives to monitor the management of natural ecosystems and sustainable usage of its natural resources in an attempt to directly develop negatively affected neighboring communities.

Working with a multitude of associations and government programs, including the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the Forest Department (FD), the collaboration is intended to ensure the management of environmental resources and the promotion of a sustainable future.

One such aspect of the project is the improvement of the country’s forests. Although natural forests occupy an estimated 30 percent of the total land area in Sri Lanka, and approximately 14 percent of the country’s land area is under legal protection, damage to natural ecosystems is still prevalent.

Devastating forest degradation of dry zone forests and biodiversity loss has led to the inability for natural ecosystems to produce and provide essential benefits. This agreement hopes to halt these harmful actions.

Furthermore, ESCAMP is determined to emphasize the importance and development of social inclusion, something that is vital to the eradication of poverty.

“Managing this natural heritage is the responsibility of all Sri Lankans,” said Pswarayi-Riddihough.

In addition to this collaboration, a number of other equally promising initiatives have recently been enacted to improve a quality of life and the environment in Sri Lanka.

One of these plans is the Metro Colombo Urban Development Project, which is attempting to improve the city’s flood resilience and quality of life through the development of an integrated flood management system. Approximately 232,000 inhabitants of Colombo will have greater flood protection as a result.

Simultaneously, the Strategic Cities Development Project aims to support and strengthen cycling lanes and spaces for riders during the country’s urbanization process.

The culmination of projects such as ESCAMP and its intended goals are transforming how the world looks at, thinks and characterizes Sri Lanka. Overall, Sri Lanka appears to be improving tremendously as it is preparing a more reliable and sustainable future.

Jordan J. Phelan

Heat relief in BangladeshAshis Paul overheard his daughter’s physics tutor explain how gas cools when it quickly expands, and the idea for the Eco-Cooler was born. During the hot seasons in Bangladesh, the temperatures rise up to 45 degrees Celsius, or about 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seventy percent of the Bangladeshi population lives in huts with corrugated tin roofs, which greatly amplify the heat. Eco-Coolers, built with accessible materials such as plastic bottles, provide heat relief in Bangladesh to improve the lives of those living without power or air conditioning.

Paul works as a creative supervisor at an advertising company called Grey Group, which sponsors several pro-bono projects, including Eco-Cooler. To spread the knowledge on how to build an Eco-Cooler, Grey Group partnered with Grameen International Social Business Ltd., which works in many Bangladeshi villages.

Volunteers teach locals to build the Eco-Coolers from easily found materials and encourage them to teach others how to make them as well. Detailed, step-by-step instructions are also available on Grey’s website.

The materials to make an Eco-Cooler include a board cut to fit a window and plastic bottles with the bottom halves cut off. Due to a litter problem, plastic bottles are easy to find in rural villages. Repurposing waste for its construction and requiring no electricity to run, the Eco-Cooler serves as an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective cooling unit.

Extreme heat can decrease productivity, increase dehydration and the number of cases of heat stroke.

Considering the heat coupled with the tin-corrugated roofs, Jaiyyanul Huq, a creative director with Grey Group told The Observers, “I’ve been in these huts. It’s like being in a sauna in the Sahara.” Generally, the Eco-Cooler cools homes up to 5 degrees Celsius, or 9 degrees Fahrenheit, improving the quality of conditions for those living in homes with tin-corrugated roofs.

“The beauty of it is how easy these units are to make,” Huq told The Observers. Eco-Cooler has already impacted 25,000 homes, with more to come, providing environmentally-conscious, cost-efficient heat relief in Bangladesh.

Laura Isaza

Photo: Flickr

Sharing Land DRCSharing the Land is a peacekeeping initiative started by the Christian Bilingual University of Congo in January 2015. Funded by Texas A&M University’s Center for Conflict and Development (ConDev) and USAID’s Higher Education Solutions Network, the organization has made enormous strides in peacefully settling land disputes in one of Beni’s 30 quarters in eastern Congo.

Sharing the Land uses GIS and GPS mapping technology to compile land claim and conflict data as well as road names, neighborhood boundaries, geographic features and points of interest. Data comes from household surveys and government records. The maps are already being used to settle land disputes between individuals, families and large companies in Beni.

Archip Lobo, Sharing the Land’s project leader, grew up in eastern Congo amidst violence and severe abuse of human rights, much of which revolved around land disputes. Though the country has a tragic and ongoing history of violence, Lobo felt that land disputes were preventable and not a grounds for continued, unhindered violence.

Rampant conflicts over land began when King Leopold of Belgium usurped much of the land from Congolese chiefs and initiated a tyrannous rule over eastern Congo in the late 1800s. With a new form of governance entangled in the traditional ways of land management, violence became prevalent.

In the years since Congo gained its independence from Belgium on Jun. 30, 1960, the country has endured great instability, insecurity, corruption and pervasive violation of human rights. Removing land disputes as a cause for violence is a step in the right direction for bringing Congo towards a peaceful future.

Sharing the Land provides Beni with data-driven land management practices instead of relying on differing traditions or interpretations of inheritance rights. While the project aims to bring peace through nonviolent land dispute resolutions, it is also reducing disputes in the first place by making the information publicly available and educating all those involved in urban planning.

According to Texas A&M, 85 percent of court cases in Beni relate to land disputes. The Sharing the Land initiative is already making progress to reduce this statistic in Beni.

This project has two immediate benefits. First, official maps using government data help to standardize the land purchasing process. It also enables land managers to continue to add and update data on the stable ArcGIS platform so that land ownership can be accurately and reliably documented.

Aside from using GIS software to map the land, the Sharing the Land project is encouraging community leaders, government professionals, civil society organization representatives, lawyers and the greater community to collaborate in understanding the origins and consequences of land conflict and together engineer viable solutions.

To date, with the help of ConDev and USAID, Sharing the Land has mapped 531 land parcels and documented 29 conflicts. This year, the organization will collaborate with UN-Habitat to provide land management training to government officials in several Congo provinces in an effort to strengthen and standardize urban planning.

Sharing the Land envisions that this new aspect of the project will position a new generation of government officials to enforce and continue to develop peaceful and sustainable land management practices.

Mary Furth

Sources: IRIUCBC, Codev Center 1, USAID, Codev Center 2, USAID, Eastern Congo

Digital-Tech-Saving-People-from-Digital TechIn multiple developing countries, more families now have access to digital tech, such as cellphones, than to purified water or electricity. There is still a massive digital separation, however, between the poor and wealthier areas of the world in terms of Internet access.

According to “Digital Dividends,” an annual development report put out by the World Bank, greater strides must be made to connect more individuals to the Internet and to create a space that unchains the benefits of digital technologies for all.

Access to the Internet is crucial in vulnerable regions before, during and after a disaster occurs. Organizations like the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) have begun to create a wide range of tools that will deal with disaster risk management — but the tools rely heavily on the Internet’s unlimited potential.

Natural disasters can cause terrible damage, especially to the poorest parts of the world. As efforts step up to improve the Internet’s reach across the world, the GFDRR has helped over 160 million people in 60 countries gain improved access to risk information. Using its Open Data for Resilience Initiative (OpenDRI), the GFDRR also helps countries to establish open disaster information platforms.

Innovative approaches to disaster risk, such as crowdsourcing and social data mining, also expand the information base quickly and cheaply. OpenDRI’s community mapping projects deploy local citizens to collect and maintain data about the environment and how it changes during the different stages of a disaster.

By allowing more people to have access to digital tech, not only will they have access to better jobs and opportunities, they will have first-hand knowledge and awareness of impending disasters heading their way. Digital technology also encourages tighter-knit collaboration with the different parts of a region’s government and the private sector.

A prime example of using crowdsourcing to save lives, the FloodTags project is developing a tool to utilize data via Twitter for eye-witness flood observations. Concepts like this provide a constantly updated understanding of the situation, hopefully saving lives that would otherwise be lost in disasters.

After floods hit Jakarta, Indonesia in February 2015, tweets peaked at about 900 per minute, with a major number including information about location and water depth. FloodTags then utilized this information to devise a method for creating real-time maps based on the messages and regional statistics.

While digital tech like FloodTags and GFDRR’s OpenDRI system have steadily improved and saved lives over the last few years, they fall short in areas that do not have access to the Internet. For digital tech to aid everyone everywhere in the world, the remaining countries need to eventually close the gap in Internet access.

John Gilmore

Sources: GFDRR, Reuters, WE Forum
Picture: Google Images

poverty_rates_in_India
Electricity has played a big role in the recent decrease of poverty rates in India. The country has received a lot of praise recently due to its strides in decreasing poverty.

The country has garnered attention in a lot of right ways from the rest of the world through serving as an example of progress. According to the World Bank, the success is largely due to electricity.

“India has reduced its poverty rate to 12.4% from the 2011-12 estimate of 21%, according to new data released by World Bank, which identified rural electrification as an important driving factor for everything from greater rural spending to schooling for girls.”

It is no secret that access to power is one of the key solutions to poverty. Rural electrification, the process of bringing electrical power to rural and remote areas, is one of the ways to increase that access. India has utilized rural electrification as the main solution to its power problem, and the results have been reportedly positive.

“By late 2012, the national electricity grid had reached 92 percent of India’s rural villages, about 880 million people.”

In areas that the grid was not able to reach, renewable energy has been promoted. This reflects well on India’s environmental and human consciousness, since those who rely on wood and biomass for heat end up producing air pollution, which is not only harmful to the planet, but “attributable for 4.3 million deaths each year,” according to World Bank.

This is why the UN created the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which aims to achieve the following three objectives by 2030:

  1. Universal access to electricity and clean cooking fuels
  2. Doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix
  3. Doubling the improvement rate of energy efficiency

85 countries have already opted into the initiative, including India, through its CLEAN Energy Access Network. CLEAN’s goal is to grow the clean energy sector in India and improve energy access for the rural and urban poor over the next three years.

Prime Minister Modi of India has already showed his support for renewable energy, as he stated solar energy as the ultimate solution to India’s energy problem in August.

This is all a good indication that India is capitalizing on its recent success in order to increase its energy access and efficiency.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: Indian Infoline, World Bank 1, Se4all, World Bank 2, India Times
Photo: Bloomberg

water-contamination-in-egypt
In rural Egypt, the freshwater of the Nile River is a life-giving resource and the main supplier of drinking water; but, due to pollution from human and animal waste, the river is also deadly.

Annually, 5 percent of Egyptian deaths are the result of water contamination and lack of sanitation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Currently, there are as few as 500 rural waste treatment plants in operation throughout more than 5,500 rural villages, with only 37 percent of rural households being covered by a public sewage line.

This lack of sanitation infrastructure is a serious health risk to rural residents because of water contamination. Diarrhea, typhoid fever and E. coli are just a few of the life-threatening illnesses that result from inadequate waste treatment and storage.

In order to fight back against the mounting problem of untreated wastewater seeping or being dumped into the Nile, the World Bank has pledged $550 million to improve existing sanitation facilities in the rural Delta as well as create new sanitation systems throughout Daqahliya, Sharqiya and Beheira in Lower Egypt.

The Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results, approved in July 2015 and set to end in October 2020, is designed to restructure the existing centralized system to create a decentralized system, giving local water and sanitation companies (WSCs) within the Nile Delta the ability to expand and cover larger areas while improving their service.

Through this decentralized approach, WSCs are able to generate more local jobs, improving not only the health of poor rural residents but also their economic standing.

Using a bottom-up business model, WSCs are held responsible through a performance-based capital grant (PBCGs) from the Central Government, ensuring empowered employment and quality service to their communities.

The Sustainable Rural Sanitation Services Program for Results is set to serve 769 villages in seven governorates that have a history of releasing untreated wastewater into tributaries of the Nile.

The program will benefit the health and socio-economic status of rural villages as well as aid in preserving the Nile, the largest source of Egyptian freshwater, constituting 98 percent of drinking water.

The program also protects against untreated human waste seeping into the groundwater, leaving impoverished Egyptians with contaminated drinking water. By the end of the five-year period, an estimated 800,000 poor Egyptians will have benefitted from the program.

Claire Colby

Sources: American Institute of Science, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, WHO, International Water and Technology Conference
Photo: The Chronicle Herald