Key articles and information on global poverty.

Indonesian Youth Programs
Around 85 million children live in Indonesia, making up one-third of the country’s population. Children are necessary for their country’s future, and the education and opportunities they receive are what allow them to have that impact. That is why it is important for children to have programs and organizations that give them more opportunities and allows them to realize their full potential. Several Indonesian youth programs provide these opportunities to children in Indonesia. The Indonesia Youth Foundation, Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking (IYOIN) and Indonesian Youth Diplomacy are prime examples of Indonesian youth programs that aid children in education, provide resources and give them outlets to channel their passions.

Indonesia Youth Foundation

The Indonesia Youth Foundation began on July 23, 2020, as a non-governmental organization. Its objectives include connecting the children of Indonesia and other global youth through a variety of youth activities, offering general knowledge about the country and taking part in world advancement and the development of youth.

One can track the organization’s Youth Empowerment program through a series of articles on the organization’s official website, each entry providing tips on subjects such as boosting productivity and caring for mental health. Also featured is information on education and tourism to provide a better understanding of Indonesia.

Indonesian Youth Opportunities in International Networking

Indonesian youths created IYOIN in 2015. Since then, the self-started Indonesian youth program has spread across several different regions in Indonesia, with 18 local chapters.

The purpose of this organization is to serve as a medium for children in Indonesia to congregate, share and work together to realize their values for the country. The opportunities that this program provides also aim to improve the Indonesian youths’ education and to ensure that the youth will have the qualifications to tackle their futures successfully.

IYOIN became a United Nations SDSN Youth Member in 2017, a program that works to guarantee education that is inclusive and equal for all, in addition to encouraging learning opportunities. IYOIN joined this program because these goals align with its own mission.

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy

Indonesian Youth Diplomacy is a nonprofit Indonesian youth program that promotes and provides international exposure and empowers the next generation of Indonesian leaders. Known initially as G20 Youth Indonesia, efforts to form the organization began in 2010. This process continued in 2011 when the Indonesian Organizing Committee emerged to recruit Indonesian youth interested in contributing to the annual G20 Youth Summit. Recognizing the necessity of involving Indonesian youth in diplomacy beyond what the G20 program provides, the organization updated in 2013. Now known as the Indonesian Youth Diplomacy, it sends Indonesia’s promising young leaders to represent the country in international forums to raise awareness of diplomacy.

Youth programs can offer multiple benefits to children. They provide youth with quality education, a chance to involve themselves in their community and learn essential life skills and create a healthy social environment. All three of the organizations give these opportunities to the children of Indonesia. These Indonesian youth programs are crucial to allow children to spread their wings and learn since the youth are the backbone of their country.

– Celia Brocker
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in Togo
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is female circumcision — a ritualistic practice that occurs in several countries as a rite of passage leading to womanhood where someone removes the external genitalia of a female. Africa, Asia and the Middle East are where FGM is most prevalent. More than 200 million women today have gone through this procedure. This article, in particular, will focus on female genital mutilation in Togo.

About Togo

Togo, a West African nation on the Gulf of Guinea, comprises at least 30 ethnic groups, most being immigrants from other parts of Western Africa. The majority of its population lives in small villages throughout rural areas. For the purpose of economic planning, the country has five regions — Maritime, Plateaux, Centrale, Kara and Savanes.

Togo gained independence from France in 1960. Following this, rifts between the country’s leaders and the rise of coups have left the people to fend for themselves. This has resulted in immense poverty. The year 2009 brought the establishment of a Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission. The goal of this commission was to investigate the political violence in the country from 1958 to 2005. The group published its final report in 2012. This report included numerous recommendations such as reforming the electoral system, the judiciary, and military and security forces.

Currently, Togo has an elected president. A 70% majority vote declared Faure Gnassingbé the winner.

Togo Women and FGM Practice

Women in Togo have dealt with inequality for years. Recently, they have gained more opportunities and improvements in equality. Women in Togo have become more involved in politics as well. However, these women tend to have ruling tribal family backgrounds or be successful businesswomen. Women in Togo have also received a much more developed education, and literacy rates have increased. These improvements bring knowledge and awareness of the outlining health problems from FGM. Support for the abandonment of FGM is higher among women whose mothers are more educated.

A percentage of women in Togo still support the practice of genital cutting. Therefore, they remain adamant about their daughters going through with it. Women are the primary guardians of this puberty rite which ties closely to women’s status and power. The use of anesthesia is not common during the procedure.

In Togo, female genital mutilation is highest in Centrale. In fact, 13.5% of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced it. Savanes is the second-highest region with 7.6%. FGM is lowest in the southern Maritime and Plateaux regions with less than 2%. The most common type of FGM that people in Togo practice is the cutting and removal of flesh.

The most common age range for female genital mutilation in Togo is 4 to 14. However, infants and women preparing for marriage can also experience FGM. Sometimes, FGM occurs in women who are pregnant with their first child or who have just given birth. According to a survey from 28 Too Many, 73% of Togo women, aged 15 to 49, have heard of FGM; of these, 94.5% believe the practice must end.

Laws Against FGM

Law No. 98-016, dated November 17, 1998, is the main law relating to female genital mutilation in Togo. This law does not address FGM that health professionals carry out or cross-border FGM procedures. According to the September 2018 Togo law report from 28 Too Many, “Law No. 98-016 bans all forms of female genital mutilation in Togo and defines FGM as the total or partial ablation of the external genital organs of infant girls, young girls or women and/or all other operations concerning these organs.” In November 2015, Togo unveiled a new penal code further criminalizing the practice of FGM.

However, Togo citizens have rarely enforced these established laws. In addition, a limited number of known court cases on the issue have occurred. This is due to the fact most cases had happened in rural areas where there is limited awareness of the law, or “traditional customs often took precedence over the legal system among certain ethnic groups,” according to the report.

Strategies

The year 2016 saw the establishment of a national communication strategy to target traditional practices of FGM. This strategy included the support of the humanitarian aid organization, UNICEF. The strategy targets local community and religious leaders and partners with grassroots organizations to achieve commitments to end the practice. The strategy also educates women on their rights and provides alternative sources of income opportunities for former traditional FGM practitioners.

Many are still highly concerned regarding what to do about female genital mutilation in Togo. The practice, still viewed as a rite of passage for women, continues in rural areas. Several have voiced the urgency for the government to enforce the legislation and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Just like in many other countries today, female genital mutilation is still a massive threat in Togo. Its women are in danger of physical and mental health issues from the procedure. More strategies are ideal, and proper execution of the laws that Togo has put in place will help the women in the country.

– Thomas Williams
Photo: Flickr

Plenitud teaches sustainable farming in Puerto Rico
The small Puerto Rican town of Las Marias lies deep in the island’s interior mountains. At least 43% of its population lives below the poverty levels and another 21.8% are aged over 65 years. The COVID-19 pandemic further exacerbated the situation. On the island, 40% of families reported food insecurities, up from roughly 33% prior to the pandemic. Luckily, one organization is busy addressing this. Here is how Plenitud teaches sustainable farming to impoverished Puerto Rican families.

What is Plenitud?

A group of graduates from the University of Florida created Plenitud in 2008 in order to research, learn and educate about sustainable farming techniques. With a strong conviction and purpose, these friends quickly began cultivating permaculture and teaching initiatives in Puerto Rico’s central mountains. Within a few years, Plenitud grew and swiftly established relationships with several major universities across the island. These universities host groups of students for academic and service trips in impoverished areas. In 2011, Plenitud settled on a 15-acre Las Marias farm equipped with a greenhouse, food forests, eco-buildings, campsites, rainwater collection and a Teaching Center. Here, Plenitud teaches sustainable farming and operates as a hub of sustainability.

Building Community Resilience

Plenitud has a strong belief that communities deserve access to safe shelter, clean water, food and health. Because of this, the organization supports community resiliency among the most vulnerable populations. To do this, Plenitud installs rainwater harvesting systems and regularly tests and monitors the water quality. Additionally, Plenitud establishes food security among communities by training a new generation of farmers, installing community gardens and growing fresh and healthy food. These efforts improve food security by ensuring local food sovereignty.

Further work has gone into building “SuperAbobe” shelters. These are a form of earthbag construction that can provide quick and secure housing for vulnerable individuals. These SuperAbode homes, like other bio-construction buildings, aim to minimize the impact on the environment by sourcing local, raw materials. Additionally, SuperAdobe shelters offer a form of alternative housing that easily withstand the earthquakes and hurricanes that frequently devastate the area.

Inspiring the Future Generations

Plenitud believes that teaching the value of cultivating food from an early age is crucial to resolve many of the problems faced by Puerto Rican children and their families. Plenitud teaches sustainable farming not only to promote economic stability in impoverished Puerto Rican regions but also to inspire the youth into choosing organic farming as a profession. To do so, Plenitud developed partnerships with four public schools in addition to universities. Its Partner Schools Program offers over 1,000 students experiential education in food preparation and sustainable farming. In this way, Plenitud is preparing the future generation of sustainable farmers.

With these applied techniques, Plenitud is successfully positioning itself at the forefront of the sustainability movement in Puerto Rico. This movement’s core is about giving impoverished and malnourished communities the right tools to become resilient and self-sustainable. Through community resilience projects and sustainable farming practices, these communities will have the tools to lift themselves out of poverty, contributing to the economic development of the entire region.

– Jesus Quinones
Photo: Flickr

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

Food Waste During Pandemic
The Philippines’ state of emergency during the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on farmers. While the new coronavirus guidelines halted city life, they were particularly damaging for individuals living in the lower-income rural parts of the island nation. Farmers primarily inhabited these regions of the Philippines and the new guidelines resulted in their isolation along with their farming businesses’ isolation from the major cities they feed. Luckily, a farmer rose to the challenge to tackle food waste during the pandemic.

COVID-19 Measures

When the first case of COVID-19 broke out in the Philippines in December 2019, the Filipino government had a severely delayed response over the course of four months which led to high and widespread transmission rates throughout major cities such as Quezon City and Manila. The spread quickly reached rural areas and had infiltrated much of the country before the Filipino government took action. Because the response was so late, it had to be immense. In turn, the Philippines declared a state of emergency and granted Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte emergency powers by mid-March; Duterte treated the pandemic as war and took warlike measures to fight the virus by using ex-military leaders to spearhead the pandemic efforts. Under this new state, Filipinos had to enter strict curfew and lockdown, and the country mandated the use of masks and shut down commercial roads, transportation and businesses.

Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Farmers

Just as the Philippines entered a state of emergency and lockdown took place, many of the Filipino farmers were harvesting the products of the dry season. Without the pandemic, these farmers would typically gather their crops and utilize commercial routes to bring them into the bigger cities. In these urban areas, the farmers would be able to sell their products to larger markets where the farmers could make a larger profit while simultaneously feeding the cities. However, the coronavirus lockdown in the Philippines shut down the major commercial traveling routes, effectively cutting farmers off from their major source of income. Moreover, lockdown prevented farmers from selling off their crops which resulted in a major food waste during the pandemic.

From March 2020 to May 2020, farmers amassed their Spring crops and eventually had to dispose of them due to a lack of consumers. Consequently, massive amounts of edible food underwent destruction while people in the urban areas did not have access to fresh produce. Moreover, Filipino farmers lost tremendous amounts of money by not being able to sell their fruits and vegetables.

Unfortunately, the government leaders did little to assist the movement of produce from rural areas to big cities and largely left Filipino farmers at a loss of money for months. This was particularly detrimental for the farmers because they were losing income while already living in a low-income area; in turn, the farmers’ access to additional job and income opportunities did not exist and made the farmers more vulnerable to falling into deep poverty. Moreover, these farmers became extremely susceptible to the coronavirus as they did not have access to medical resources or personal protective equipment or the money to obtain any medical resources. The pandemic created an extremely unique predicament for the farmers as they were left to fend for themselves against income loss and the spread of the virus.

However, a youth-led initiative fought food waste during the pandemic by providing an avenue of opportunity for these farmers to produce, harvest and sell their products in a manner where they would not experience exposure to the coronavirus while simultaneously maintaining their main source of income.

AGREA: The Road Ahead

Filipino farming organization AGREA saw the struggle that Filipino farmers were facing at the hands of the pandemic and decided to take action. Spearheaded by AGREA CEO Cherrie D. Atilano, AGREA sought to minimize food waste during the pandemic by creating alternative methods for farmers to transport and sell their produce.

Atilano and AGREA organized the #MoveFoodInitiative for many rural villages which sought to engage local communities in the efforts to fight food waste during the pandemic. The initiative mobilized youth food producer groups and local trucker groups which helped ship food from the local farmers to markets in the larger cities. Consumers of these products can easily access a list of fruits and vegetables with their respective prices on an order form, a method of contactless shopping that protects both the producers and the consumers.

AGREA’s #MoveFoodInitiative has become wildly successful as it has helped over 7,000 Filipino farmers reach and sell over 160,000 kilograms of fruit and vegetables to over 50,000 families across the Philippines. Additionally, AGREA has been able to utilize the surplus produce by donating the food to local kitchens that feed frontline medical workers who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

While the pandemic temporarily brought a stop to the businesses and livelihoods of many lower-income farmers and created massive food waste, AGREA’s quick work provided relief for farmers, food for consumers, and initiatives for youth groups to strengthen Filipino communities during these trying times. Due to her immense and important work in decreasing food waste during the pandemic, Cherrie d. Atilano has received the title of the Filipina U.N. Summit Food Systems Champion.

– Caroline Largoza
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Change in Chad
In the 1960s, the country Chad had one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, Lake Chad. Since then, Lake Chad and the rest of the country have undergone a dramatic environmental change. Environmental change is a widely-understood concept, but too many only know this through media portrayal. Media often presents it as a local rather than a global issue, and solutions tend to suffer from the same presentation. Here is some information about environmental change in Chad.

Lake Chad

Rural communities in the Lake Chad region depend on agro-pastoral and fishing activities. The water loss has made this highly dependent hydro-climate area difficult to live in. Its 430,000 inhabitants have had to adjust to the constant environmental change and new challenges. In the 1980s, the annual maximum flooded area of the lake varied from 25,000 kilometers. Today, that has reduced to 10,000 kilometers.

Correlation between the hydro-climate, increased violence and population growth could provide insight into detection challenges, such as shortfall of agricultural production, and identify solutions to prevent food insecurity. Seasonal changes, lake levels and local rainfall are essential to understanding future adaptations.

Community and Violence

In the 1960s, it was easy to share the water of Lake Chad, but today there is competition for the little water that remains. The rise in extreme weather conditions, which for Chad are primarily heat-related, links to conflict and violence. Moreover, the lack of shade in the area contributes to competition and violence. Human behavior becomes just as complicated as the environment undergoes further destruction. The temperature reaches over 40 degrees Celsius and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Violence has taken many forms in Chad and has led to the genocide of many Chadians. Here are some examples:

  • Children: The political conflicts have led to extreme violence against children that often results in death. Children are vulnerable to becoming child soldiers and victims of human trafficking. Many children end up orphans because of widespread diseases including AIDS. Those who live in rural areas experience these dangers the most because they often perform work that leaves them alone and vulnerable. Children also suffer from malnutrition and, due to the lack of advanced healthcare and healthcare workers, a high infant mortality rate exists. It is common for women to give birth without the assistance of medical professionals.
  • Religion: Opposing religious groups in Chad have taken matters into their own hands. They are deciding what is sinful and enforcing punishment that results in the death of and violence against young girls. Education has become a source of violent attacks against Chadians as religious groups prevent growing western education in these communities.
  • Poverty: About 63% of Chad’s population lives in poverty. The struggle to find food makes people living in poverty extremely vulnerable to extremism. With such a high percentage of the population struggling to find food day-to-day, community members can also become competitive with one another.

Women

Indigenous women who are suffering from the declining resources due to environmental change in Chad have taken lead in promoting change, using their own experiences as examples of the consequences of a deteriorating climate. Illiteracy among Chadians affects 32% of the population, as does the scarcity of medical health care workers. Large-scale agriculture is not directly affecting Chad, since it is practically non-existent. While it is true the men control what happens within these communities, women are often the heads of the family. In terms of the number of challenges that they struggle with to solve to protect their families, they are better able to provide insight into the needs of their communities.

The shifting climates often mean that the men who do work have multiple livelihoods as the seasons change. Women and children have to adapt to finding water and natural remedies to illnesses. Many often overlook their significance and not just in their communities. Some also see them as victims, as opposed to the communities who work hard to adjust to changes that are a result of their environmental degradation. Women have both knowledge and experience that provides the world with opportunities to better understand the importance of protecting and caring for the environment. In many instances, the communities have already learned to survive.

The future of Chad will depend on preventative measures and promoting peace. One should not interpret violence in communities as the fault of the community, but rather the community’s need to survive. It is difficult to maintain reason when fighting for one’s own life and one’s family. Understanding communities in countries such as Chad not just as unfortunate but as an example of the urgency for change in how the world approaches environmental change and solutions.

World For TCHAD

Guy Boypa is the founder of World for TCHAD. He was born in Chad but spent most of his life in France. When he visited Chad as an adult, he found his friends and family living in ruins due to lack of water and harsh living conditions. Boypa initiated the change he wanted to see as many women have been taking action in pursuit of change.

World for TCHAD is working in Chad to provide wells that make free water obtainable to Chadians, in addition to collecting donations to provide children and families with education and self-care supplies. Local French artists, including musicians and comedians, stay involved and raise awareness in the French community. Aligning with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), World for TCHAD is addressing environmental change while taking action. The organization recognizes the burden this is particularly on women and children who take on the pursuit to collect water every day.

So far, the organization has provided over 20,000 Chadians with clean drinking water from 26 wells, with the 2021 goal of adding 10 more. It is currently active in Chari-Baguirmi and Hadjer-Lamis regions and plans to expand into the Mayo-Kebbi East region. Between 2014 and 2015, 208 community wells were drilled and 14 human motor pumps supplied 13,000 villagers. About 74% of Chadians currently have access to unclean and unhealthy drinking water. World for TCHAD wants to provide for more than half of them.

Zoe Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Musicians Helping Those in Need
One can consider musicians the creators of the soundtrack of life. Through the art that musicians create, millions of people can find joy and excitement. However, their influence does not end there. Musicians have consistently played a prominent role in helping people in need around the world. From Jimi Hendrix to Nina Simone, recording artists have been pivotal in bringing awareness to numerous important issues and causes whether it be through their music or the work outside of their music. The philanthropic endeavors of musicians have provided support for countless individuals. The immeasurably popular creations of musicians provide them with opportunities to reach areas others may not be able to and extend much-needed support to the vulnerable and impoverished. Below are a few dedicated musicians helping those in need.

Madonna

People possibly know Madonna the best for her legendary pop hits and iconic fashion style. For decades, people around the world have emulated the pop star’s unforgettable looks. Her dedication to her artistry is undeniable, but another passion for the singer/performer is giving. Raising Malawi, established in 2006, focuses on orphaned and vulnerable Malawian children. Since its foundation, the nonprofit organization has built 10 schools throughout Malawi. Another notable achievement from the Raising Malawi organization is the scholarship and psychosocial program that has provided for the 20 young Malawians featured in the “I Am Because We Are” documentary film.

Madonna’s charitable efforts extend beyond her Raising Malawi organization. The year 1998 saw the beginning of The Ray of Light Foundation, named after the singer’s seventh studio album. The Ray of Light Foundation centers on supporting organizations that are dedicated to promoting peace, equal rights and education for all. The Foundation has been incredibly successful in its many efforts. In Afghanistan, the Ray of Light Foundation has assisted 133,824 patients through health clinics that the Foundation established. In addition, mobile literacy classes that the organization funded educated 335 women, and the nonprofit provided 95,542 patients with health education. With these charitable organizations, Madonna consistently proves her dedication to helping those in need.

Rihanna

Rihanna has attained astronomical success in her nearly two-decade-long career. The Barbadian pop star has attained numerous accolades and awards that have placed her in the same league with musicians far beyond her years. While these achievements are significant, they almost pale in comparison to the incredible impact of the singer/business woman’s philanthropic endeavors. Rihanna’s charitable efforts date back to 2006 with the Believe Foundation which provides financial, medical, educational and emotional support to terminally ill children. Another cause that Rihanna has lent her hand to is the fight against HIV/AIDS in multiple collaborations and campaigns with brands like MAC Cosmetics and H&M.

In 2012, Rihanna launched the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) in honor of her grandparents Clara and Lionel Braithwaite. The CLF supports and provides funding for groundbreaking global education, health and emergency response programs. CLF has made considerable contributions to various causes throughout its history. Since its foundation, CLF has raised more than $24 million and assisted in more than 100 projects. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CLF has allocated more than $36 million to help those the crisis most impacted. The Foundation has also provided immediate COVID-19 assistance to over 14 countries along with providing funds to 45 organizations. Therefore, Rihanna is an exceptional example of the tremendous influence musicians dedicated to helping those in need can have on the world.

Conclusion

Musicians have contributed to the lives of many with their musical talents. However, another area musicians have made a remarkable impact in is assisting those poverty effects. With its resources and talents, musicians can reach places others cannot. This is why the musician’s role in helping those in need is a pivotal one. Not only does it provide crucial support but it also brings awareness to important causes. The artists above are just a few of many musicians dedicated to helping those in need.

– Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr

Spices Alleviating Poverty in VietnamAs unexpected heroes, the spices alleviating poverty in Vietnam are everyday seasonings that are saving the Southeast Asian nation. Since 2013, the Vietnamese spice industry has been practicing more sustainable farming and sharing knowledge between agricultural communities, helping to lift more than 80,000 households out of poverty.

The Spice Industry in Vietnam

By improving the spice value chain, the nation’s farmers have seen a 14.5% increase in annual income, improving their standard of living and allowing them the financial freedom to thrive rather than just survive. This is possible due to the increase in global demands for spices including cinnamon, turmeric, star anise, black pepper and cardamom.

With the profitable market that Europe and the U.S. have brought to the Vietnamese spice industry, many expect new regulations for safe production and quality control for the industry. Some spice farmers had to pivot to organic farming to meet these requirements and have since seen a great increase in profits as these Western nations pay higher prices in comparison to China and India.

Regulated Spice Farming

To meet these requirements and appeal to Western markets, farmers follow the guidelines that the Regional BioTrade Project set. Vietnamese farmers now learn how to farm without chemicals like herbicides or preservatives, use special machinery for harvesting and label spices with their correct origins. These practices help to build a sustainability chain to keep the Vietnamese spice industry profitable for the future.

Several organizations have helped the Vietnamese spice industry reach this level of success. The Spice of Life Project, which the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Cordaid funded, has helped thousands of spice farmers in Vietnam by creating the Spice Association to foster relationships between small community farmers and the state. These initiatives also improved irrigation, drying, slicing, processing and packing practices, yielding higher production and quality.

Providing these local farmers with this knowledge is essential to successfully use spices to alleviate poverty in Vietnam. The National Agriculture Extension Center (NAEC) and the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) have introduced a National Sustainability Curriculum and Agrochemical Apps to properly train farmers to produce spices for the global market.

The 3 Essential Spices Alleviating Poverty in Vietnam

  • Pepper: Vietnam has exported pepper to more than 100 countries and territories, making up 60% of the world’s exports. In 2018, Vietnam’s booming pepper industry held the international pepper conference called Vietnam Pepper Outlook. This event intended to allow farmers to connect and share knowledge, expand business connections and suggest ideas for the sector’s sustainable development.
  • Cardamom: This spice grows in a shady, cool environment, making it an ideal source of income for villages located at high altitudes. Due to the income that the spice generates, many households in these higher regions, such as the H’Mong people, were able to raise household income above the government-defined poverty line. People can use cardamom for medicinal, aromatic or culinary purposes but the cardamom market had died off until the mid-1980s when demand rose again. Many small farmers have successfully taken advantage of this rise in cardamom demand, pulling low-income households out of poverty. Farmers are working toward sustainable practices to ensure the success of this spice for years to come.
  • Cinnamon: In 2016, the Nam Det commune’s annual income from cinnamon products was 32 billion Vietnam Dong ($1.4 million). In this Vietnamese commune, people have not only left poverty but they have produced enough income to send their children to school, buy refrigerators and other commodities they once thought of as an inaccessible luxury. Since the Vietnamese spice market has stretched to the West, farmers’ lives have improved immensely. The bark of one cinnamon tree brings in about 300,000 to 500,000 Vietnam Dong ($13-21), a far greater price than what cinnamon farmers received only years ago.

A Poverty Reduction Spice Success Story

Exemplifying cinnamon’s potential is Trieu Mui Pham, a 94-year-old cinnamon farmer that saved her poverty-ridden village, Lao Cai, by planting cinnamon seeds. In 1974, she visited Yen Bai, a village that farming cinnamon had successfully revived. Pham decided to plant cinnamon seeds and waited patiently for years until she could harvest. Today, her cinnamon forest has more than 50,000 trees and her community is prosperous, an inspiring example of spices alleviating poverty in Vietnam.

While the spices alleviating poverty in Vietnam are improving people’s standard of living, spice farming has also helped to restore and protect the environment. Vietnam now focuses on farming and crop exports as opposed to felling trees for profit. Spices are lifting people in Vietnam out of poverty while contributing to the global economy.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Pixabay

5 Things to Know about Feed the Children and Their Work in Haiti
For the last 40 years, Feed the Children has been working toward a hunger-free world by providing resources to those who lack basic necessities. In 2020, Feed the Children has created a substantial impact worldwide and reached countless children and families in need. Most notably, Feed the Children is making a difference in Haiti.

Feed the Children’s Goals

Feed the Children works in Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Philippines, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania to reduce hunger and bolster education. The specific approach in each country varies slightly based on the overwhelming needs of the area. However, the dedication to alleviating food insecurity and teaching self-reliance remains a priority in every community. These impoverished areas desperately need assistance to help build better communities for their children. Feed the Children hopes that its efforts will yield the following four results:

  • Properly nourish children by age 5.
  • Provide all children with clean water, proper sanitation and hygiene resources.
  • Enable all children to receive a high-quality education.
  • Cultivate financially stable families that contribute to their communities.

Successfully Reached over 1.6 Million People

The organization displays its impressive impact in its 2019 Annual Report and shares its Strategic Plan for 2019-2023. While the organization works both in the United States and internationally, its combined impact accounts for 6.3 million people worldwide. In its 10 countries of focus, it has reached 1.6 million people and distributed over 9.4 million pounds of food and essential items; the value of these items total over $31 million. The organization gave school supplies and books to 17,821 international students. Moreover, 228,450 school children now benefit from regular, nutritious meals at school. In its Strategic Plan for 2019-2023, Feed the Children plans on implementing many new initiatives to create an even larger impact in the future. Here are some of its most prominent strategic visions:

  • Expanding its emphasis on child-focused programming to 10% of total resources.
  • Reducing chronic and acute undernutrition in impoverished communities to only 12%.
  • Increasing the percentage of food donations by 8%.
  • Gaining 36% more corporate partners to contribute toward product and service donations, financial gifts and promoting shared values.
  • Increasing overall revenue by 21%.

Intervention in Haitian Natural Disasters

Haiti is both the most impoverished and least developed country in the western hemisphere. The country’s literacy rate is only 61%, which is significantly below the 90% literacy rates among most Latin American and Caribbean countries. Its education expenditures account for only 2.4% of the GDP; these numbers make it apparent that the Haitian commitment to education is staggeringly low. The economy struggles from political instability, natural disasters, disease and mismanagement of humanitarian relief. Frequent hurricanes contribute to the high rates of damage and death seen in Haiti. In 2017, Haiti only collected 10% of its GDP for tourism. This is significantly low compared to its past percentages and the Caribbean states’ average of 15%. These startling statistics caught the attention of Feed the Children and inspired them to extend aid to this struggling nation.

Community Development Programs and Peer-to-Peer Care Groups

The Child-Focused Community Development (CFCD) programs have been making a difference in Haiti through their implementation into 12 different communities. This program teaches children and their families how to prevent malnutrition and reduce poverty through food and nutrition, health and water, education and lifestyle. This training is extremely pertinent to the members of these Haitian communities, as many children suffer from malnutrition. At least 17% of babies are born with low birth weights and 22% of children have stunted growth. Feed the Children hopes that this community development program will save many children from the harmful effects of malnutrition. Through an emphasis on low-cost sanitation initiatives that possess high impact results, families can learn how to address health issues more quickly and prevent disastrous health outcomes.

Additionally, Feed the Children has incorporated peer-to-peer Care Groups in Haitian communities. These groups meet to help educate mothers of young children about nutrition and health. With the ultimate goal of raising healthy children, the peer-to-peer Care Groups teach mothers how to utilize nutritious foods and how to prevent water-borne illnesses through safe cooking.

Positive Results

Not only has Feed the Children been able to give its 12 targeted Haitian communities more food and basic resources, but it also equipped them with the tools they need to build more self-sustaining societies. From the peer-to-peer Care Groups alone, over 1,600 women received training as caregivers who are equipped with extended knowledge on nutrition and safe health practices for their children. Feed the Children also incentivized families to keep their children in school by offering a hot meal three times per week at school. For many families, this school food serves as the only guaranteed meal a child would consume in a day. Therefore, providing these meals for school children both helps keep them from malnourishment and encourages consistent school attendance.

Feed the Children is a great example of an organization that has been making a difference in Haiti and yielding substantial results in the fight against global poverty. With various initiatives spanning 10 nations, countless numbers of vulnerable children and families are learning about how to implement healthy food, water and hygiene habits into their daily lives. Food insecurity and lack of education are huge contributors to poverty; Feed the Children recognizes this and strategically approaches malnutrition and education in a way that cultivates improvements in the lives of the poor.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Guatemala: An UpdateIn Guatemala, more than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Families of four or more live in small one or two-room huts — if a shelter is available at all. On average, a child is abandoned every four days because families do not have the means to take care of another child. Homelessness in Guatemala often forces people to sleep under benches or in the dirt.

Street Children

Among the homeless individuals in Guatemala, 7,000 of them are children and adolescents left to survive on their own. Many street children turn to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, which adds to the cycle of homelessness in Guatemala. Violence directed towards street children is not uncommon. The Guatemalan police’s use of deadly violence toward these children remained unchecked until the early 2000s, but the threat of physical harm has not been yet been completely abolished.

Homelessness in Guatemala is a ripple effect that has cyclical consequences for the children of the impoverished. It is often necessary to work instead of going to school. The little income they make working often does not stretch far.

More than a quarter of the population of children in Guatemala are actively involved in child labor out of necessity. One in four children under the age of 15 is illiterate. Chronic malnutrition and hunger are a consistent part of life. Without access to proper education or nutrition, the children of the impoverished do not have the ability to move forward.

Inadequate Housing Plagues Families

Traditionally, Guatemalan culture revolves around family. Tight-knit communities are hindered by a lack of funds, nutritional food and educational opportunities. Those with shelter often live in small huts with a tin roof and dirt floors. Children, parents and grandparents often live together without running water or electricity. Diseases plague newborns and small children due to an inability to keep housing sanitary, leading to high infant death rates. Medical care is frequently nonexistent.

Cooking is done over an open fire kept inside the home, leaving the women and children breathing in smoke for hours at a time with no ventilation. Some houses are made from straw or wood, both of which are extremely flammable and pose an additional risk to families inside while food is being prepared. As a result, respiratory illness affects a large portion of the poor population and the idling soot becomes toxic for the entire family. Without running water, there is no way to properly clean the soot and, without electricity, there is no other option for families to cook food.

The Plight of the Indigenous Woman

Half of the homeless in Guatemala are indigenous women. Indigenous impoverished women not only suffer the fallout of poverty but face racism and gender-based violence.

Compared to the rest of the country, including non-indigenous Guatemalan women, indigenous women have a higher chance of having multiple unplanned children, living in poverty and being illiterate. The birth mortality rate for women of native heritage is double that of non-indigenous women, who also have a life expectancy of 13 more years compared to that of indigenous women. These women are malnourished and underpaid. The inequality trickles down to their children who face food insecurity, a lack of education and, if they are young girls, the same fear of violence and racism their mothers have endured.

Housing Aid in Guatemala

Basic human necessities are not available for many in Guatemala and haven’t been for generations. However, The Guatemala Housing Alliance is focused on providing proper shelter to families and works in tandem with other groups aiming to help education, food insecurity and sexual education for the impoverished in Guatemala.

The Guatemala Housing Alliance built 47 homes with wood-conserving stoves that eliminate the danger of open-fire cooking. It installed flooring in 138 homes that previously had dirt floors. The foundation also offers to counsel young children and has hosted workshops for women to speak openly and learn about sanitation, nutrition and their legal rights.

Even amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Guatemala Housing Alliance is still hard at work. It provided 1,340 parcels of food, and each parcel supports a family of four for two weeks. With the organization’s many goals, individuals who are homeless in Guatemala are slowly but surely being given access to a plethora of resources that can help improve their quality of life.

– Amanda Rogers
Photo: Flickr