Information and stories about food security news.

Papatoetoe Food Hub Fights Food Insecurity in South AucklandSouth Auckland, a highly diverse region of New Zealand, is home to numerous Māori communities like mana whenua and Pacific, Asian and European ethnic groups. Each of these groups holds significant food traditions that currently face the risk of increasing food insecurity. Data from the area reveal that one in seven children come from families facing moderate to severe food insecurity, with 30% of Māori children affected. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated food insecurity in South Auckland, with a local food bank reporting that most of its food parcel recipients were individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Traditional Food Practices

Land ownership, or the lack thereof, has severely affected indigenous communities’ ability to access and cultivate food. This is especially true for Māori communities, where colonization and urbanization have hindered their ability to gather and prepare traditional kai (food). In addition, the respectful use of whenua (land) is central to food cultivation in these communities. However, maintaining these values is becoming more challenging in the context of contemporary food systems. Consequently, the struggle of indigenous communities to engage in environmentally friendly farming practices is a major factor in escalating food insecurity.

The Papatoetoe Food Hub

The Papatoetoe Food Hub set up shop in South Auckland to provide sustainable and affordable meals to the community while embracing traditional values of community and environmental stewardship. A key focus, as reported by the Food Hub, is promoting knowledge exchange on growing, harvesting and maintaining crops. To this end, it conducts on-site lessons about indigenous cooking methods. The hub also prioritizes sustainable food practices aligned with Māori values, rescuing and repurposing 18.6 tons of food between September 2019 and May 2021.

A Community-Led Success Story

The Papatoetoe Food Hub adopts a community-led strategy, working in close collaboration with local schools, universities and government agencies to benefit its local community. Knowledge Auckland conducted interviews with 30 individuals about the hub, seeking to understand its impact. The study revealed the value generated by every dollar spent at the hub:

  • $0.55 goes to the team, comprised of people hired from local communities.
  • $0.38 goes to the local economy, including the purchase of ingredients from local suppliers.
  • $0.07 goes toward government infrastructure.

Julio Bin of the Southern Initiative observed, “The Food Hub is a tangible demonstration of how we can do things differently.” Meanwhile, a local mom emphasized, “They base the menu on what the community wants.” The Papatoetoe Food Hub continues to thrive, attracting an increasing number of patrons and even received endorsement from former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The hub aims to build on this success, with local stakeholder Gael Surgenor noting, “The biggest impact is yet to come.”

Looking Forward

The Papatoetoe Food Hub exemplifies the power of community-driven solutions in combating food insecurity while preserving cultural heritage. Addressing food insecurity in South Auckland, the hub intertwines traditional values with modern sustainable practices. It offers a beacon of hope for diverse communities, showcasing a scalable model for others to follow.

– Kayleigh O’Brien

Kayleigh is based in Leeds, UK and focuses on Good News and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Unsplash

Being Poor in North KoreaNorth Korea, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is one of the poorest countries in the world, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula in East Asia. The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, when the North Korean Army attacked South Korea. The war lasted until 1953 when military commanders from the United States (U.S.), China and North Korea signed the Korean Armistice Agreement. It established a demilitarized zone (DMZ) that has economically and culturally separated South and North Korea to this day. 

Following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, North Korea experienced a significant economic decline, mainly due to a reduction in foreign aid. Poverty in North Korea is widespread, and its people have become one of the most isolated and marginalized groups. This economic downturn has contributed to the challenges faced by the population.

What Is Poverty Like in North Korea?

Poverty is prevalent in North Korea. Around 60% of the total population is believed to live below the poverty line, equating to 15 million people. According to the remote-sensed luminosity data, the economic status of North Korea forecasts a downturn even though there is a lack of credible information regarding the poverty figures. Furthermore, due to agricultural mismanagement of the state as well as an increasing economic inequality between regions, North Koreans are suffering from food shortages, leading to malnutrition. Aside from economic problems, there is a lack of infrastructure in education and health care, making the quality of life much poorer. 

When Have They Been So Poor?

Being poor in North Korea has been an ongoing issue. From 1994 to 1998, there was a severe famine in North Korea, which resulted in nearly two to three million deaths, more than 10% of North Korea’s population. All the natural disasters, such as hailstorms in 1994, flooding from 1995 to 1996 and droughts in 1997, pushed the whole country into a more grievous economic crisis. Despite starvation during the 1990s, the regime has maintained a failed economic model, which put the country’s food security in danger. Throughout the global pandemic coronavirus disease, starting in early 2020, North Korea closed its borders, which aggravated the scarcity of food. Day by day, North Koreans face increasing repression and danger, threatening the welfare of their lives. 

Why Is Poverty Rampant in North Korea?

Undeniably, being poor in North Korea stems from the poor governance of the totalitarian regime of the Kim family. They adopted the “Juche” ideology, having these three elements: the spirit of independence, self-reliance in the economy and self-defense in the military sector, which paved the way for the dictatorship by isolating the country in the name of independence. This ideology led the leadership to take on a command economy, also known as a planned economy, in which they controlled the production and distribution of goods and services. 

This economic model severely limits freedom in the domestic market setting, hindering economic growth due to the absence of competition. All the regulations on international trade exacerbate the country’s economy. Furthermore, the regime violated the right to life and freedom, and in particular, women and children are poorly treated among all vulnerable groups.

Hope in Action

Helping Hands Korea(HHK) is a non-governmental organization based on the Korean peninsula that has actively supported North Koreans since 1996. It provides necessities, including food, medicine and clothing, to North Korean people as well as escapees in China. 

LiNK, Liberty in North Korea, is an international non-government organization that aims to rescue North Korean refugees who have to travel a 3,000-mile secret route and empower them by offering resettlement programs. The organization also strives to change the narrative on North Korea by creating media content. More than 150,000 people engage with North Korean storytellers on social media, and in 2019, this project reached over 5.7 million people online. 

The what, when and why of being poor in North Korea reflects that its political and economic stance has made North Korea a hermit kingdom. However, despite the extreme poverty in North Korea, they have a hopeful future ahead as there are international supporters who are acting in full hope to ensure they are well-fed, clothed and sheltered.

– Grace Mun
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Fighting Global HungerGlobal hunger is a multifaceted issue that affects communities and economies. Addressing it is not only a humanitarian imperative but also essential for achieving broader global goals and ensuring a more equitable and sustainable future.

Despite the challenges posed by the Russo-Ukrainian war and the growing wave of nationalism, the United States continues to take initiatives aimed at reducing global hunger and improving food systems and nutrition security on a global scale.

What is the Global Hunger Index?

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is responsible for calculating and tracking hunger at regional, national levels and global levels. GHI evaluation is done on the values of four component indicators: undernourishment, insufficient availability of food, shortfalls in the nutritional status of children and child mortality. The GHI score is measured on a 100-point scale reflecting the severity of hunger, where zero is the best score, indicating no hunger, and 100 is the worst.

According to the report, there are currently 46 countries experiencing “serious” or “alarming” levels of hunger. Unfortunately, without significant changes, both the global situation and approximately 46 specific countries are not expected to attain even a minimal level of hunger reduction, as the Global Hunger Index (GHI) measured, by the year 2030.

Some have said the reason to be the Russo-Ukrainian War, which has disturbed the supply chain. Before that, the COVID-19 pandemic worsened economic crises. Further climate change and civil disputes have increased the scale of global hunger. This has caused the need for the urgent scaling up of humanitarian and resilience-building responses.

The US Initiatives for Reducing Global Hunger

The U.S. is responding to these worrying details with three initiatives. The U.S. dollar has relatively high purchasing power, and the country is trying to contribute its fair share to end global hunger.

The following three initiatives have extended humanitarian assistance to the people who are facing hunger.

1. Feed the Future

The foundation of this initiative was laid down in 2010 by Barack Obama. The program has helped in the technological advancement of 9 million farmers and improved the diets of nearly 18 million children across the globe by working in a variety of sectors to reduce hunger and promote self-resilience. It is active in 19 countries including Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, etc. 

The program focuses on the promotion of agriculture. For example, the program has helped farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to learn new techniques upon high prices of fertilizers. The Feed the Future DRC Fall Armyworm Activity program works with farmers to make them aware of new technology and methods of mitigating the Armyworm, an infectious pest.

Furthermore, Feed the Future catalyzes research in various fields. As an illustration, in 2023, Esther Achola conducted research aimed at combating groundnut rosette disease (GRD). This disease is especially harmful to peanut crops as it results in plant discoloration, stunting and distortion, leading to total loss of the crop. In April 2023, a five-year, USAID promised a $15 million investment in the Peanut Innovation Lab. This contribution will strengthen global food security and will prove a boon for farmers.

2. Food For Peace

Almost 60 years ago, President Dwight D. Eisenhower found a solution to the agricultural surplus going to waste in America. He signed the Agricultural Trade Development Assistance Act into law. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy expanded the program, naming it Food For Peace (FFP). The new program came under the purview of foreign policy and worked to provide food to people in need.

Through its emergency programs, the program can reach people in acute shortage of food, who natural disasters affect. The program also has a development-focused aspect which equips people to be less dependent on foreign assistance. 

Yemen has the most concerning situation in terms of food security. FFP provided more than $361 million in life-saving emergency food assistance to Yemen in 2018.

In Guatemala, FFP trains people to farm in a way that helps the environment and makes more food at home. In the area where the project happened, more farmers started using good farming methods. These methods include using better seeds, taking care of the soil, using natural fertilizers, growing gardens at home, looking after fruit trees and growing local herbs. In 2013, only 50.1% of farmers used these methods, but by 2018, it went up to 63.8%.

3. The Global Food Security Act

The Global Food Security Act of 2016 was aimed at extending the U.S. commitment to eliminate global hunger. The success of the Feed the Future program prompted the passing of this act. On October 11, 2018, President Trump signed a law that reauthorized the Global Food Security Act and added five years to achieve better results. It emphasized reducing global hunger and poverty with attention to solving the problem of malnutrition in developing countries. Sustainable development aims to achieve the reduction.

The Global Food Security Act of 2016, or GFSA, made official the methods that Feed the Future uses to combat global hunger. It is a commitment to keep fighting hunger and making sure everyone knows about it. Through GFSA, the United States made Feed the Future even stronger by improving how it tracks progress and making different parts of the government work together.

Looking Ahead

Addressing global hunger is imperative for a more equitable and sustainable future. Despite the challenges that conflicts pose, such as pandemics and changing weather patterns, the United States is actively engaged in combating global hunger through initiatives like Feed the Future, Food For Peace and the Global Food Security Act. These efforts exemplify the nation’s commitment to making a positive impact on the global food security landscape, emphasizing the urgency of collective global action to achieve meaningful progress.

Asra Mairaj
Photo: Flickr

Food Security for Venezuelan RefugeesThe collapse of global oil prices in 2014 led to a rapid economic decline in Venezuela and subsequent hyperinflation. In 2015, this caused a rebellion and the forming of a major opposition group whose leader Guaidó became the interim leader of Venezuela. The standoff between the two leaders was exacerbated by U.S. and EU support for Guaidó and Russian and Chinese support for Maduro. Social services could not be provided, and as a result, many refugees traveled underfed and carrying disease. While Maduro managed to get inflation down a bit in his presidency, the pandemic caused a second economic decline causing a second wave of refugees to arrive into Colombia.

More than 7.2 million Venezuelans fled their country from 2019 to 2023 due to the violent revolution and economic turmoil. Approximately 2.5 million have sought refuge in Colombia, and about 980,000 Colombians who were working there had to return to their home country — which now has to support over 2 million refugees seeking jobs and housing. This has caused an obvious strain on food security in Colombia. 

The 2023 Humanitarian Response Plan for Colombia identified 7.7 million people in the country to be in need of humanitarian assistance, in particular food security, health and protection. As of February 2023, approximately 30 percent of Colombian households were food-insecure. More than half of the migrant and refugee population in Colombia — 1.3 million people — face acute food insecurity.

Foreign Aid

USAID provided more than $958 million in response to the regional crisis since 2018. The primary focus was emergency food security in Colombia — cash transfers for food, food vouchers redeemable in local markets, hot meals and food kits for traveling refugees. Additionally, USAID has supported five NGO partners since 2021 to provide critical protection interventions such as hygiene kits, reproductive services and temporary shelter. In 2023, $47 million was set aside from the budget for this kind of emergency assistance. The U.S. understands that prosperous countries are great trade partners. Since 2012, Colombian agricultural exports to the United States have grown by more than $2.1 billion.

In hopes of boosting economic growth to accommodate the high number of refugees, the Colombian government signed a 2022-2026 National Development Plan amid the Venezuelan conflict. It was created with the help of e-government and regional input, the document being translated into 51 dialogues. There are five major outcomes, one of them being food security in Colombia. The country plans to increase food availability by improving roads for transport and providing online platforms to inform and help farmers with their logistics and operations. Colombia’s President Petro promised in 2022 to buy 1.23 million acres of land to give as farmland to rural communities in an effort to strengthen food security. Another of the five major outcomes is security for the individual — which encompasses a wider health care system, crucial for new refugees carrying disease. 

Unfortunately, many humanitarian aid groups face restrictions when trying to access certain communities in Colombia notably Guaviare, Nariño and Norte de Santander. OCHA, an emergency agency within the U.N. reported a 133% increase in restrictions on humanitarian assistance in Colombia between January and April 2023. President Petro signed a peace agreement with Maduro in 2022, and it is theorized that eager to re-establish ties with Venezuela, Petro downplayed the magnitude of the humanitarian issues Venezuela’s migrants face. Additionally, Colombia still does not have enough money to keep the economy stable. A Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan — aimed at helping Venezuelan migrants in 17 Latin American and Caribbean host countries — only received about 8% of the $1.72 billion in funding it needed for 2023. 

Final Thoughts on Food Security for Venezuelan Refugees

Thankfully some services have been in Colombia since before the conflict and have strengthened the economy. The U.N. Agency IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) has services to increase the productivity and income of small-scale farmers and rural entrepreneurs. The agency does this through the improvement of its assets, its association capacity, its access to markets and access to inclusive financial services. The NGO is creating partnerships with the private sector to develop permanent agribusinesses. It is crucial that the food available is well-distributed.

Thanks to foreign aid and a welcoming government, Venezuelan refugees are slowly gaining safety and food security in Colombia. Though much progress needs to be made for Colombia’s economy and refugees, international coverage of the Venezuelan conflict has brought in substantial finances to ease Colombia’s strain and give hope to its people.

– Claire Duvillier
Photo: Flickr

Sahrawi Refugees
Since 1976, the Sahrawi refugees have been in the middle of a dispute over who controls the Western Sahara, being confined to refugee camps in the Tindouf province of Algeria. The conflict
has changed the way they live their lives settling in arid conditions and struggling for self-sustenance away from their traditional nomadic lifestyle. Due to the lack of self-sustenance many of the population residing in the camps largely depend on humanitarian aid for survival and food security. The impact of hydroponics on Sahrawi refugees living in the Algerian Sahara has had profound effects on food security, economic opportunities and reducing malnutrition in the camps raising the Sahrawi people’s standard of living.

Problems and Challenges Faced by Sahrawi Refugees

As of 2018, the total population of the five camps located in Tindouf was 175,000. Due to the Algerian desert being a very hostile environment to live in with frequent sandstorms and temperatures that can exceed 50 degrees Celsius, food is a major issue in the harsh environment making it nearly impossible for anything to grow naturally. The hostile climate combined with the lack of economic opportunities has led to around “one-quarter of the camps’ residents” facing chronic malnutrition. This chronic malnutrition comes from “the limited range of food available – which is mainly composed of cereals, sugar and oil but is lacking in protein.” Due to chronic malnutrition and hostile conditions, “food assistance accounts for 52% of refugees’ food consumption” with the “poorest households spending over 60%” of their income on food. 

Hydroponics as a Solution

H2Grow is a World Food Program (WFP) hydroponic initiative that uses low-tech hydroponic units to grow food for animals to “strengthen food security in the community” as the Sahrawi refugees’ diet traditionally consists of meat and milk. Hydroponics uses 90% less water than traditional agriculture without the use of soil. Therefore, this technique can be used to enable plant growth in areas that are non-fertile and arid, the same condition where the Sahrawi refugees currently reside.

The Sahrawi refugees value livestock for meat and milk; however, due to the Algerian desert’s arid climate, goats in the camp often end up eating garbage. Thus, using hydroponics, the WFP alongside local experts “developed a low-tech system to grow barley for use as animal fodder by refugees in camps in Tindouf.” The increase in the volume of barley has allowed more goats to be fed, increasing access to milk and meat, thereby improving food security in the camps. 

In 2017, the WFP made both a solar-powered container and DIY household unit built with “locally procured material at 10% of the cost” as well as household kits. Due to the success of hydroponics, the technique was scaled up in the camps increasing the number of units from four to now 200 as of 2018.

The Impact of Hydroponics on Sahrawi Refugees in the Algerian Sahara

The impact of hydroponics on Sahrawi refugees living in the Algerian Sahara has been significant, with the Sahrawi people working together to maintain and protect the hydroponic units from “wind, sandstorms and keeping it cool from the sun.” With the hydroponic units at full operation, refugees can use 90% less water to “grow barley grass from seed in just 7 days.” According to Oxfam, each unit produces about “132 pounds of fodder per day – enough to feed 20 goats.” The implementation of hydroponics has led to a better diet for goats, something the Sahrawi refugees rely on for livelihood whether for food or economic trade. The WFP has found that hydroponics had increased goat milk production by 250% when fed fresh fodder rather than garbage found around the campsite, with meat quality and quantity improving also. Furthermore, excess fodder was able to be sold creating a new revenue stream for the Sahrawi refugees.

The impact of hydroponics on Sahrawi refugees living in the Algerian Sahara has been huge. The WFP and Oxfam have taken huge leaps in improving food security and livelihood for the Sahrawi people who live in a hostile environment. Due to the success of hydroponics in Algeria, the technique can be used in “similarly challenging environments such as Chad, Jordan and Sudan.” The implementation and impact of hydroponics on Sahrawi refugees living in the Algerian Sahara show us that humans cannot just survive in hostile environments but thrive.  

– Kishan Patel
Photo: Pixabay

Advancements in Vertical Farming 
Among the biggest issues families in poverty face are the lack of access to nutritional foods and the fatigue that follows extreme hunger. Vertical farming is a modern agricultural advancement that may be able to greatly increase accessibility to healthy, natural food for lower-income families and China is a leading investigator into this new idea. In April 2023, Chinese scientists managed to make one of the biggest advancements in vertical farming. They grew a previously unheard-of yield of cabbages and lettuce — 2,500 — in a single 9 by 5.5-meter tower in Singapore. The tower was in the shape of an “A,” and its yield was about 10 times that of a traditional farm with about 5% of the ground space. 

China’s Vertical Farming Efforts

China is one of the top investors in vertical farming. The farms require high-technology equipment to regulate temperature, making the production of them an expensive endeavor. However, China is confident in its ability to provide food to urban areas and has so far invested in more than 250 farms across the country. The country was even one of the first to officially invest in the farms in 2002, and its popularity has increased steadily since then. 

One of the largest farms set to be made in China is the Jian Mu Tower, which is designed to be 218 meters tall and use 10,000 square meters to grow indoor crops. This amount of space would yield almost 300,000 kilograms of crops each year, meaning it would be able to feed about 40,000 people. This is set to be one of the biggest advancements in vertical farming and many other agricultural practices. The tower is not only intended to be a farm but an experiment center for techniques like solar shading and microclimate control. The production of this building in Shenzhen will set the bar for vertical farms across the globe, alongside being a huge agricultural and architectural advancement. 

The Benefits of Vertical Farming

One of the biggest benefits of vertical farming is that it simply takes up less space and water. Vertical farming is built upward, not outward across acres of land, and thus can yield thousands more crops with only a fraction of the ground space of traditional farming. The farms are also able to eliminate water waste within farming.  

Another huge advantage to vertical farming is that the farms’ yields are not susceptible to bad weather conditions. In traditional farming, entire acres of crops can be wiped out by tornadoes or windstorms, yields can be ruined because the climate is too hot or cold and certain crops can only be grown in season. Indoor vertical farms can grow almost all crops year-round independent of weather conditions. The indoor farms are able to simulate any climate to properly nurture crops and save them from harsh weather conditions that would otherwise wipe them out, yielding high-quality, healthy food consistently and without high waste. 

Finally, plants are also able to grow without bugs eating away at them, meaning agrochemicals that are used to control weeds or repel insects do not need to be used. This benefits both the crops, keeping them natural and unaffected by chemicals, and the environment, through the decreased use of aerosols. 

The Downsides of Vertical Farming

Unfortunately, vertical farms can be very expensive. Many of the benefits that come along with vertical farming are a direct result of the cost of creating vertical farms. The equipment required to simulate outdoor conditions and properly monitor the growth of the crops is high-tech and high-priced, making countries less likely to invest in the farms. 

The Future of Vertical Farming

Traditional farming is high-maintenance, strenuous work, and young people are becoming less interested in traditional farming as a career path. As of 2017, around 60% of farmers were more than 50 years old, and fewer and fewer young people are willing to participate in manual labor as the world becomes more technologically advanced. Vertical farms could grow in popularity because of this, as their controlled environment and smaller-scale individual production make working conditions much more comfortable. 

– Allison Groves
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Eradication in FinlandAcross the world, more than 150 million people are homeless, around 783 million lack food security and more than half the global population lacks essential health services. Among countries, Finland stands out as a pioneer in implementing innovative solutions to combat mass poverty. The following is a brief look into innovations behind poverty eradication in Finland.

Decline in Homelessness

From 2006 to 2007, Finland experienced a spike in the number of homeless people, the first since 1998. This prompted a focus on addressing homelessness and led to innovations in poverty eradication. The main innovation Finland implemented was the Housing First policy. Enacted in 2008, the Housing First policy has dropped the number of homeless people from more than 8,000 to 3,686 in 2022. This correlates to a 50% reduction in the number of homeless people in Finland in 14 years. The Housing First policy works by granting homeless people access to long-term housing as opposed to the more common temporary shelters. These rental housing units are innovative as they are financially viable and provide the homeless with substantial social support, such as better employment opportunities.

As more homeless people acquired jobs, the unemployment rate dropped by 2.6% from 2015 to 2022. This has, in turn, stimulated Finland’s economy and compensated for the cost of these rental units, thereby highlighting the efficiency of the Housing First policy. Overall, the Housing First policy benefited more than 4,000 individuals through housing, and an additional 137,208 through job opportunities.

Stable Food Security

Food security has become a non-issue in Finland due to innovative approaches dominating the Food and Agriculture industry. One such innovation is the prevalence of vertical farms. Vertical farms have revolutionized food security within Finland as they maximize space (no need for arable land), are pesticide-free, decrease water usage by 90%, cultivate up to 2.5 times more yield and have rapid scaling potential (from 500 to 20,000 sq.m). Vertical farms have proven to be positively transformative as they have successfully increased access to cheaper and healthier foods. Each vertical farm, such as the one in Pirkkala, Finland, has the potential to feed more than 20,000 people.

Another innovation in Finland is the recent creation of Solein, a natural protein produced using air and electricity. The creation of Solein has the potential to increase food security in Finland as it exceeds the bounds of traditional proteins. Solein can be used in meat, cheese, dairy, bread, pasta, drinks, etc. Solein’s versatility makes it suitable for various food products, offering a cost-effective alternative for nutritious food seekers.

As a result of these food security innovations, Finland achieved a score of 83.7 on the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) in 2022, the highest among countries. As opposed to the world average of 11.7 % in 2022, Finland’s food insecurity rate remains relatively low at 2.5%. The country’s innovations have prevented 511,233 people from falling into poverty.

Effective Health Care

Finland is lauded for its health care system as it offers a variety of services at affordable prices. One way Finland achieves this is through the innovative Kela Card. In terms of health care, the Kela Card plays a key role, in reimbursing people for medical prescriptions, ill-related absences, travel and a portion of private health care expenses. The Kela Card is an integral component of Finland’s health care system because every citizen and permanent resident of Finland receives it. The Kela Card also provides social security and employment benefits. Its very design allows it to assist those who are struggling to maintain a stable income and provides them with social benefits. This has, in turn, benefitted more than 360,000 people in Finland each year.

Innovations in poverty eradication in Finland extend to medical hardware as well. Finnish tech company Sooma developed a portable medical device for depression treatment. This device is portable and requires no expertise to use, thus reducing the medical costs associated with depression. Another medical instrument, created by Optomed, captures retinal images and diagnoses diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness worldwide. This device is innovative as it is the most affordable camera of its kind. The efficiency of medical equipment in Finland has allowed people to avoid the excessive costs associated with modern health care.

What is Next?

Finland continues to pursue poverty eradication through ongoing innovation. These modern solutions have already contributed to a 1.4% drop in poverty rates between 2019 and 2020. Ultimately, the success of Finland’s innovations could serve as a model and inspiration for other countries looking to alleviate poverty.  

– Manav Yarlagadda
Photo: Unsplash

Villages in Partnership is an organization that has assisted Malawi in its fight against poverty. More than 50% of the population in Malawi lived under the national poverty line in 2019, the World Bank notes. Villages in Partnership has contributed by providing electricity, wells to access clean water and many other basic necessities that the people of Malawi lack.

Infrastructure

During the rainy seasons, areas of Malawi easily become flooded, which makes it more difficult for the people of Malawi to travel from one place to another. Bridges allow students to get to school and allow people to access wells for clean water while allowing others to travel to health care centers and access goods and services. Villages of Partnership’s mission is to build more bridges to provide this crucial access to the people of Malawi.

Malawi is known for its lack of electricity. Less than 10% of the population of 18 million is connected to the electrical grid. And, access to electricity stands at just 1% for the 80% of people who live in rural areas.

Electricity is very important to the infrastructure of a country. In 2013, Villages of Partnership provided electricity to the village of Kaupe to power the maize mill. The mill makes flour, which is an important ingredient in the staple dish called nshima. Because of the electricity access, the mill can supply flour in minutes instead of producing it through hours of labor without electricity.

Food Security

Unlike countries like Congo, Malawi does not have rich soil. This forces farmers to depend on successful rainy seasons. However, the climate in Malawi is very unpredictable, and this often leads to food insecurity.

Villages in Partnership has created a solar irrigation technology for the farmers in Malawi. In 2020, the organization added a second site for this technology, which has created a water source for more than 70 farmers and families that are now able to depend on it.

Alongside that, Villages in Partnership also provides improved seed varieties and fertilizers to farmers to increase their crop yields and gives goats and chickens to families in need. The animals provide eggs and meat, which improves the food security of many families in Malawi.

Access to Water

In Malawi, 4 million people lack access to safe water, USAID reports. Along with that, only 6% of the population has the ability to access clean sanitation facilities. Unfortunately, this lack of access to clean water and sanitation can lead to disease and even death.

One of Villages in Partnership’s top priorities is providing accessible and safe water to villages that need it. In Malawi, women and girls are spending their time walking several miles to source clean water. Sometimes, the women source this water from contaminated rivers.

Many villages in Malawi have been hesitant to accept the option of building wells and donating land due to the time-consuming nature of the process. Nevertheless, since 2019, there has been significant progress in efforts to improve water accessibility in the town of Sakata. A total of 23 boreholes and 15 shallow wells have been dug, and many damaged wells have been repaired.

Villages in Partnership takes a proactive approach to addressing water scarcity issues in Malawi. Every year, it organizes the Water Walk, a global event that brings people together to understand the needs of Malawian villages and the significance of clean water. Participants in the Water Walk contribute to various initiatives, including providing solar irrigation, creating employment opportunities, and facilitating access to health care through the Khanda Health Center. The primary focus remains on raising funds to drill wells in Malawian villages.

Education

In 1994, the Malawi government initiated free primary education, providing a valuable opportunity for children to receive education at no cost. However, this move resulted in challenges such as overcrowded classrooms and insufficient supplies, leading to decreased educational quality and poor student performance.

Presently, Malawi faces low literacy rates, with only 65% of the population able to read or write, and limited access to secondary education, with one-third of students attending. For Sakata’s community, the percentage of people who have attended university is as low as one-tenth of 1%, highlighting the education system’s shortcomings.

Nonetheless, education remains a crucial pathway out of poverty. Recognizing this, Villages in Partnership supports 15 community-based childcare centers, acting as preschools to foster the mental, social and physical development of Malawian children.

Additionally, Villages in Partnership has undertaken projects like Chimpeni School, providing education to children who previously had limited access to schools. The organization also undertook the reconstruction of Sakata School after it began to deteriorate in 2016. These efforts aim to improve education opportunities and enhance the prospects of the Malawian community.

Looking Forward

Villages in Partnership is making a significant impact in Malawi by addressing key challenges such as infrastructure, food security, access to water and education. Through building bridges, providing electricity and implementing solar irrigation technology, the organization is enhancing the lives of people in need. By focusing on clean water initiatives and supporting educational opportunities, Villages in Partnership is empowering communities and contributing to the fight against poverty in Malawi.

Abigail DiCarlo
Photo: Pixabay

Unemployment Inequality in Belize

In 2019, over 60,000 people in Belize had employment in the country’s tourism industry. The country’s relatively small economy is primarily dependent on tourism, which accounts for 40% of the country’s GDP and 70% of export proceeds. When the COVID-19 pandemic crossed borders into Central America, unemployment levels rose dramatically with the swift restrictions that were placed on international travel and other major industries. This growth in unemployment was coupled with a simultaneous growth in unemployment inequality in Belize, as the women of Belize found themselves more at risk of unemployment than men.

Unemployment on the Rise

Toward the end of 2019, unemployment began to rise in Belize. Reports indicated a jump from 7.7% to 10.4% in the last quarter. Some suggested that this increase in the unemployment rate was due to an unprecedented growth of the labor force and an insufficient job market. Specifically, women found themselves out of employment more than their male counterparts. Figures indicated that an increase in women entering the workforce effectively flooded the labor market, where there were not enough available jobs.

In all the districts of Belize, unemployment rose significantly in 2019. Research indicates that around 6,200 people found themselves unemployed from April 2019 to September of the same year alone. A staggering three-quarters of this demographic were women.

As COVID-19 crept into the country the following year, it became apparent this pattern was set to continue. COVID-19 created the biggest contraction within Belize’s economy to date, which was already in a precarious way prior to the pandemic. ‘Substantial declines’ in vital industries such as tourism, led to a further increase in unemployment inequality in Belize, which continued from 2020 to 2021.

Impacts of Unemployment

Food Insecurity: The rising unemployment rate in Belize had many profound impacts on affected households. Notably, COVID-19 and unemployment directly correlated with an increase in food insecurity and hunger for Belizeans. 25% of households reported that they were skipping meals as a result of economic struggles from the pandemic, and many children who had main meals at school found their access to food restricted as school closures were imposed across the country.

Gender Inequality: The intersection of gender and unemployment in Belize resulted in a widening gap in unemployment inequality. Micro and small enterprises were hit particularly hard by the pandemic, resulting in many closing down and workers finding themselves unemployed. The majority of business owners within these micro and small enterprises were women, making them particularly vulnerable to unemployment.

On job recovery since COVID-19, this pattern of unemployment inequality continued. 21% of jobs held by men were not recovered after the pandemic, yet 38% of jobs held by women were not recovered. This has led to an increase in unemployment inequality in Belize as more women are finding themselves unemployed than men.

The Solution

However, despite this staggering widening of unemployment inequality in Belize, the government has implemented measures which are proving to be relatively effective so far. Executive Secretary Alicia Bárcena for the Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC) has identified that in order to reduce the prevalent poverty and hunger rates in Belize, employment policy must be at the center of government policy making. In response, the government has built on the Horizon 2030 Vision Project, which has been running since 2010 to support long term development in Belize.

The Horizon 2030 Vision is focusing on increasing employment opportunities in the Northern Triangle and Southern Region of Belize, for all Belizeans, including women and indigenous people. These two priority areas are seeing investment and protection of small and medium enterprises, and an increase in trade agreements such as the Belize-Guatemala border, in the aim of job creation.

Results

Since Belize implemented this in 2021, a steady decrease in unemployment has been seen as the country begins to reverse the negative impacts of COVID-19. Between 2021 and 2022, unemployment decreased by over half from 10.2% to 5%. This was coupled with a significant increase in the country’s GDP as economic performance and productivity was boosted, which is expected to continue.

To tackle the inequality amongst unemployed persons in Belize, the government increased funding for targeted social spending, such as BOOST, a cash transfer program designed to support families in sending their children to school. This program has been successful in increasing enrolment figures which has directly resulted in increasing the female labor force participation in Belize. As of October 2022, female participation in the labor market stands at 44%. This is a positive result which is indicative of a continuing trend of tackling unemployment inequality in Belize.

– Ariana Mortazavi
Photo: Flickr

new technologies in South SudanTechnology increasingly offers more and more solutions to help reduce poverty across the globe. Considering South Sudan’s unpredictable climate and scarce resources, new technologies in South Sudan can provide a gateway of opportunities and security to the locals. This can be through new farming methods and equipment, schooling, banking and monetary management.

The Problems in South Sudan

South Sudan’s current climate is posing many challenges to its poverty-stricken population. The World Bank describes poverty as ‘ubiquitous’ across South Sudan, with it estimating that two-thirds of the population requires humanitarian assistance.

Estimates stated that floods are affecting up to 1 million people every year because the floods have forced many to evacuate their homes. This has had an impact on education with floods affecting 100 schools. As a result, more than 60,000 students have reduced access to education.

In the short term, people in South Sudan have had limited access to nutrition and health care. This has contributed to the fact that 60% of the population is facing malnutrition.

It is not just flooding that impacts South Sudan. Excessive drought, temperature changes and unpredictable rainfall have all damaged day-to-day life in South Sudan. Droughts have resulted in food insecurities leading to a loss of livestock and crops.

This is severely impacting the economy in South Sudan considering that 95% of the population work in sectors that rely on the climate. This includes agriculture, fishing and forestry resources.

In the 2020-2021 period the South Sudanese economy reduced by 5.4% due to lower exports of oil and agricultural output. This is having a large impact on the living conditions of individuals in South Sudan.

The Conflict in South Sudan

As a result of the unpredictable climate in South Sudan, many have had to migrate. In fact, up to 4 million people as of 2022 remain displaced due to climate-induced dangers – 1.6 million internally and 2.3 million in neighboring countries.

Migration has led to enhanced homelessness across South Sudan. This has reduced living standards and increased disease. A lack of infrastructure has led to more exposure to malnutrition, mosquitos and climate-induced diseases such as malaria and cholera.

Serious conflicts over resources in South Sudan between groups, especially in areas of extreme drought, has led to livestock raiding and exacerbated the displacement of people into concentrated areas making resource scarcity even more serious.

Furthermore, the large weaponry market that has spread throughout the territory to the failure of the South Sudanese government, fuelling the problem and resulting in wider political instability in South Sudan. Resource conflicts have increasingly become a method to gain political support and power.

UNHCR’s Efforts

To solve the issues of conflict and lack of institutional and infrastructural support in South Sudan, the resource and climate problems require mitigation and resolution. Technology could be a solution, but South Sudan has limited new technologies presently.

First, and foremost, technology can make farming more efficient and sustainable. For example, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is trying to develop sustainable and resilient infrastructure such as dikes and drainage systems to try and appease the problems in South Sudan. Moreover, UNHCR has provided flood-tolerant seeds and training for locals. To help with droughts, it has introduced new irrigation systems and set up tree nurseries to regrow forests. In Maban, five tree nurseries underwent establishment in four refugee camps. These activities are introducing new skills and opportunities for the locals, that are more resistant and malleable to the changing climatic conditions. Other technologies include high-efficiency cooking stoves, reusing agricultural waste and using solar energy to extract water from boreholes.

How the US is Helping

Next, greater investment into education and human capital development is vital for presenting more opportunities for the locals to be able to use new tech. The U.S. has provided more than $117 million to South Sudan on top of humanitarian aid. This is helping the government to invest more money into their infrastructure, allowing more to access education.

The U.N. has also been providing increased support across Africa. It is important that this continues as, alone, South Sudan does not have the fiscal capacity to create a stable socioeconomic climate.

A further key area for South Sudan is taking full advantage of technology to provide education to rural areas that otherwise do not have access. This seems to have had little traction so far but could prove to be a very advantageous development.

Lastly, introducing these new technologies and skills in South Sudan will help to address the migration problem, reducing the levels of migration and allowing the population to become more dispersed again. This will hopefully help to reduce conflict in South Sudan as well.

Looking Ahead

Behind this shift to new technologies in South Sudan in the long run, support through charity and initiatives will help to smooth the transition. For example, to help with conflicts UNHCR has started several peace initiatives in Eastern Equatoria to reduce further conflict between herders and farmers, and to incentivize the use of new technology in pastoralists’ original locations, rather than internally migrating.

As a result, it becomes clear that South Sudan can reduce conflict across the country if it introduces more sustainable technology to help with the unpredictable climate. This requires the support of other countries and the cooperation of the South Sudanese government if this is to successfully reduce poverty.

– Reuben Cochrane
Photo: Flickr