Severe Land Degradation in Malawi: Its Cause and Solution

Malawi, a small country located in southern Africa, is heavily experiencing the negative effects of deforestation: severe land degradation. If the country cannot find a successful way to fix its watersheds, it could become water scarce.

Malawi has a population of over 18 million people. Poverty affects a large percentage of Malawi’s population. Agriculture is the main source of income for most households in Malawi, making up more than one-third of the country’s $7 billion GDP and 90% of its exports. Over 80% of the population in Malawi lives in more rural areas, while around 11 million of those people partake in smallholder farming.

While agriculture is the main contributor to Malawi’s GDP, the majority of the land in Malawi is not suitable for farming. Because of this viability issue, the country is experiencing mass deforestation. Smallholder communities, therefore, push into the marginal land to survive. Other than expanding agriculture, Malawi forests are suffering from high demand for charcoal. In March 2017, the Malawi army went to major forests in the country to stop people from cutting down the trees for charcoal production, which was contributing to the land degradation that was contaminating the Shire River, the country’s main water source.

Due to these actions and others, cities in Malawi are experiencing deforestation at alarming rates. For example, between 2001 and 2019, a mere two regions were responsible for over 50% of Malawi’s deforestation. Nhata Bay lost 64.3-kilo hectares of forest, equivalent to about 158,889 acres; Mzimba lost 25.8-kilo hectares of forest, equivalent to about 63,753 acres. Over the last 40 years, over half of Malawi’s forests have been cut down, and because of that, nearly 80% of the total land area in Malawi has experienced degradation.

How is Land Degradation Hurting Malawi?

Here are some ways that severe land degradation and watershed degradation affect the communities in Malawi:

  • The lack of vegetation covering the soil results in erosion, surface runoff, flooding, contaminated water, droughts and reduced energy security.
  • In the last decade, chemical land degradation has led to a 15% loss in arable land.
  • In 2014, the average annual national soil loss rates were 29 tons per hectare.
  • The Shire River Basin is a hotspot for land degradation. As fallen sediment mixes into the water at a higher rate, it is more expensive for the country to filter the water to keep it safe.
  • Sediment in river beds and reservoirs impedes irrigation canals and hydropower generation.
  • About 95% of Malawi’s power generation comes from hydropower produced through the Shire River and Lake Malawi. However, because of low water levels, the electricity generation has reduced by 40%.

Efforts to Help

The Malawi Watershed Services Improvement Project (MWASIP), which the Ministry of Agriculture Irrigation and Water Development (MoAIWD) implemented, aims to fix the watershed crisis and the severe land degradation issue through three different components:

  1. Scaling up landscape restoration ($53 million): Some of the things this component is focused on is scaling up restoration interventions in areas in the middle and upper Shire River Basin and helping the livelihoods of smallholder communities.
  2. Improving watershed services ($82 million): Some things this component focuses on are providing grants to watershed management institutions, enabling infrastructure investments and improving climate information services.
  3. Technical and Project Management Support ($25 million): This component is mainly focused on strengthening MoAIWD’s ability to implement the project.

The proposed project costs $160 million. On June 19, 2020, The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved $157 million for the MWASIP. The World Bank press release noted a few specific things that the $157 million will go towards. It will use the available $45 million dedicated to increasing water infrastructure to create 10 small multipurpose dams; 20 rainwater harvesting structures; 10 small irrigation schemes to increase access to water for productive use; create over 2,500 construction jobs; provide $40 million in livelihood support through community grant programs.

Sophie Dan
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in MalawiChild marriage rates in Sub-Saharan Africa are the highest in the world, with an average of 35% of girls married before the age of 18. In the sub-Saharan nation of Malawi, the rate of child marriage in 2015 was the ninth highest worldwide. The widespread issue of child marriage in Malawi has impacted many young girls and their futures. One of the major contributors is widespread poverty. Over half of the Malawi population lives below the poverty line, causing girls to be married off in hopes of economic advancement. However, these marriages perpetuate the cycle of poverty in the nation as girls are unable to continue their education: 55% of girls in Malawi do not return to school after eighth grade. However, recent successes are working to end child marriage in Malawi.

Changes to Malawi’s Constitution

The Malawi government has been making strides against child marriages within the nation. In 2015, the Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act raised the minimum marriage age from 15 to 18. Nevertheless, a loophole limited this law from fully eradicating child marriage by allowing children between the ages of 15 and 18 to get married as long as their parents gave consent.

Luckily, in February of 2017, the country’s government addressed this loophole. A vote ensued in the nation’s Parliament to pass a constitutional amendment banning child marriage in Malawi for those under the age of 18. The amendment passed unanimously, making child marriage officially illegal in the nation.

The Road to Change

In recent years, organizations around the world have shown increasing interest in eliminating child marriage in Malawi. For example, Plan International, an organization dedicated to advancing equality for children with a focus on girls, joined the movement by supporting Malawian youth groups that spoke up against child marriage.

The United Nations has also spoken out against this issue. U.N. Women Malawi engaged through lobbying efforts, holding consultations with different Malawian agencies about banning child marriage. The organization is continuing to support the ban by aiding in the law’s implementation.

Government Efforts

Local leadership and government have also proven a fighting force against child marriage. Many chiefs within the nation have created specific rules regarding child marriages for their communities. For example, Chief Kapolona of Machinga, Malawi has seen success as the number of child marriages in his community decreased from 10-15 a year to just two cases in 2017.

On the national level, the Malawian government has made commitments to ensure a complete ban on child marriages. For instance, the government has pledged to a United Nations Sustainable goal to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.” Through this goal, the nation plans to eradicate all child marriage in Malawi by 2030. Malawi’s government also created the National Plan of Action to Combat Gender-Based Violence in Malawi. This document includes many smaller goals, all of which are designed to end child marriages.

Although Malawi has a robust history of child marriage, the nation has made drastic progress in eradicating the issue. Hope now exists for young girls across the country to escape poverty, finish their education and gain financial independence.

– Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Malawi
Malawi is a landlocked country in Southern Africa with a population of over 18 million people. It also has one of the worst healthcare systems in the world, ranking at 185 out of 190 countries and having a life expectancy of about 64 years old. While Malawi is gradually improving its system, lowering death rates and increasing its life expectancy, healthcare in Malawi still faces serious issues.

Healthcare Structure

Malawi’s healthcare system has three sectors:

  • Public: The public sector comprises of three different parts that link together by a system of referrals. The three parts are primary, secondary and tertiary care. This sector includes the Ministry of Health (MOH) and government facilities. The government provides the largest amount of free health facilities with more than 8,000 facilities – 86% of the total amount.
  • Private for-profit: The PFP sector includes private hospitals, clinics, laboratories and pharmacies. Malawi’s private health facilities only make up about 1% of the total free health facilities with 120 health facilities.
  • Private not-for-profit: The PNFP sector consists of religious and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), religious institutions, statutory corporations and companies. The Christian Health Association of Malawi (CHAM) is the most notable religious organization, providing approximately 37% of Malawi health services and 73% of the healthcare services in rural areas.

Major Contributions to a Struggling Healthcare System

Several factors contribute to a struggling healthcare system, but there are two major healthcare issues in Malawi to be aware of:

  • Poverty/Funding: Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world which directly affects how much the country can spend on healthcare. The country’s GDP is $7.6 billion, and it spends only 9.6% of it on healthcare goods and services. This comes out to be approximately $32 towards health per capita, which is relatively low. In comparison, the U.S. spends about $10,000 per capita. Due to the scarce amount of money, the healthcare facilities in Malawi cannot receive suitable funding, causing a lack of proper maintenance, health-worker training, infrastructure, transportation, communication and efficient equipment which are necessary for successful healthcare.
  • Distance: In 2019, approximately 82% of the population in Malawi lived in rural areas. This large rural population makes easy access to health facilities more complicated. In 2016, around 90% of the population in Malawi lived within 8 km of a health center or hospital, which means that over a million people still lacked easy access to healthcare services. Also, 56% of Malawian women noted that the distance to health facilities was one of the biggest complications when they needed health services.

Solutions

While healthcare in Malawi is slowly progressing, poverty is still an issue that makes good healthcare a challenge to attain. Programs to educate future and current healthcare workers, proper resources and suitable facilities all require adequate funding. Fortunately, there are organizations like CHAM that are working towards providing Malawi with better healthcare with health-workers and accessible facilities.

CHAM is the largest NGO and healthcare practitioner trainer in Malawi. It emerged with the hope of bringing affordable and quality healthcare to hard-to-reach and rural areas. CHAM is a network of church-owned health facilities, hospitals and training colleges. It has over 175 healthcare facilities and 12 training hospitals where it has educated 80% of Malawi’s healthcare workforce, provided care for 37% of the Malawi health services and 73% of the health services in rural communities. CHAM’s health facilities also administered projects like family planning, HIV prevention programs and empowerment programs. In the future, the organization hopes to find ways to bring in more income so that it can continue to affordably help Malawi citizens, as well as expand its colleges to accept more healthcare trainees.

Although Malawi is receiving help and steadily improving, more can and needs to occur to help fund and implement effective healthcare in the country.

Sophie Dan
Photo: Flickr

Gender Inequality in MalawiWhile the idea of women being denied property may seem antiquated, it is a modern norm furthering gender inequality in Malawi. In the central and southern regions of Malawi, land is intended to be passed down to women through generations; however, Bridget Matinga-Katunda, a researcher at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, explained that this matrilineal system is not as good as it may sound. She stated, “Even under matrilineal systems, decision-making power on land ownership usually lies with male clan leaders who decide who gets a piece of land.”

Excluded from Ownership

Ministry of Hope Malawi, a nonprofit helping orphans and other at-risk communities, spoke to The Borgen Project on this issue. The Program Director for this organization, Daniel Moyo, recalls his personal experience with gendered land laws in Malawi. He describes a “patrilineal culture” where “men own the land and women have no access to land.” According to U.N. Women, around 70% of women work in agriculture. Therefore, despite taking care of the land, they are still not entitled to its ownership.

Additionally, the United Nations states that Malawian legal codes do “not provide for the division of matrimonial property upon dissolution of the marriage. This matter has been left entirely to the courts to decide.” Even if modern legal codes attempt to address the gender inequality in Malawi regarding land ownership, societal trends – often discriminatory – determine who inherits the land. This is especially true if the woman in question is not in a position of power in the community.

Moyo commented, “Personally, after the death of my Dad, all the land we had was confiscated by people we did not even know, leaving us and mum with no land.” His situation is not unusual. Reuters News uncovered that only around 17% of Malawian females are landowners. This parallels the lack of power and representation, as the World Bank reports that in 2019, only 23% of parliamentary seats in Malawai were held by women.

Advocating for a Cultural Shift

While there are legal protections in place for women, the land delegation and nuptial divisions are vague. Groups within the culture are open to interpret them and often adhere to sexist traditions and thought processes. Furthermore, less than one percent of land in Malawi is purchased. Almost all of it is inherited or acquired through marriage. Women report deep insecurity on their land ownership especially if something were to happen to their husbands. Malawian society’s cultural attitude toward women as more inferior to men is often used to justify the sexist land laws.

In order to correct these injustices, a policy shift is necessary to help widows survive and take care of children. Updating the territorial legislation in Malawi could vastly improve its gender equality and the overall economy. Moyo explains that “decision making in the homes is often left to the men. This is one key issue [and at] Ministry of Hope we have been championing women leadership and helping the women to have a voice and not just take everything that the man says…how to use money, how many children to have…they say women in Malawi produce seventy percent of the food but they consume only thirty percent of the same.”

Similarly, organizations such as the Malawi Law Society are fighting for a legal system that is more modern and just. However, an all-encompassing solution must go beyond legality and address the nuances of Malawian agriculture and its connection to gender. Providing social, economic and ownership protections for these laborers is crucial for correcting sexist land laws in Malawi.

Moving Forward

Organizations such as the Ministry of Hope are fighting the discriminatory land laws and working toward ending gender inequality in Malawi by shifting cultural perception. Individuals can help by funding nonprofits based in southern Africa that provide guidance along with financial assistance. Moving forward, continued work by these groups will hopefully help end discriminatory practices.

– Annie Bennett
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Malawi
Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa, is known for its rich culture. Unfortunately, their economy is still very poor. There are many factors that lead to poverty, but education, specifically girls’ education in Malawi, is a major source of financial turmoil that is often overlooked.

Girls’ Education and Poverty

World Bank has found that girls around the world are consistently enrolled in school at lower rates than boys. Malawi is no exception. While around 67% of boys in the country complete primary school, that number is 8% lower for girls. This gap stays consistent throughout different stages of schooling. Low-income households have a larger divide between male and female education. When analyzing upper-class families in Malawi, researchers found little difference in the percentage of girls and boys attending school.

The Malala Fund discovered that improving girls’ education has the potential to unlock trillions of dollars in revenue, while also increasing human rights. Therefore, the barriers to female literacy must not be overlooked. Data analysis proves that nations that discourage education for girls also have higher rates of financial struggle and a larger wage gap. As proven by the aforementioned connections between class and school enrollment, economic barriers are a factor to illiteracy. However, attempting to combat poverty without working toward equal access to education for girls will not yield results.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Malawi

Daniel Moyo spoke to The Borgen Project on the relationship between education inequality and economic strain in Malawi. As the program director for Ministry of Hope Malawi, he witnesses these issues firsthand. The entrenched cultural norms that Moyo says “look at girls as sexual objects and not as equal human beings” are much more difficult to overcome than the financial burdens. Moyo explains that sexism in schooling directly impacts the economy by “creating a situation where most women are not only housewives, but also left to suffer in acute poverty.”

When charities provide economic funding for girls’ education in Malawi without understanding cultural barriers as well, their efforts are futile. Moyo cites an example of aid that went wrong due to this oversight. An NGO sponsored a secondary school in Phalombe and provided every girl with economic support. However, this backfired because it neglected to tackle the surrounding issues. Moyo discusses how the money gave the students freedom without guidance, resulting in their newfound status being used to “compete for boyfriends and men and not necessarily for financial or material gain.” Thus, “at the end of one year, almost half of the girls at this one high school became pregnant.”

Holistic Approach to Improving the Economy

The efforts by organizations such as Ministry of Hope are helping to improve poverty by recognizing its connection to girls’ education in Malawi. This nonprofit, dedicated to helping vulnerable communities, takes a holistic approach to aiding Malawians that has assisted in making tangible change. Between 2000 and 2018, almost 9% more girls were enrolled in secondary school.

Ministry of Hope encourages organizations to not blindly give money to improve the economy. Rather, “it calls for a lot of factors including policy shifts, cultural beliefs, behavior changes, and a lot of investment in girls’ education.” This is why supporting bills such as the Keeping Girls in School Act (S.1071) is so crucial for tackling poverty in the Global South.

There tends to be a narrative that poverty causes illiteracy. However, if that approach is flipped, there comes a new solution with additional potential for forging change. By advancing education, poverty can also be lowered. Those fighting for change must help organizations on the ground who are providing guidance along with their scholarships. By addressing the cultural and economic barriers of educational inequality, poverty can begin to decrease in Malawi.

– Annie Bennett
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MalawiLocated in Africa’s Southern region, Malawi is a nation-state with a size comparable to that of the state of Pennsylvania and a population estimated to reach a little more than 20 million by July 2020. The country is primarily dependent on the agricultural sector which employs close to 80% of the population and remains predominantly rural. Poverty in Malawi is very high and it manifests itself in various indicators, such as in the economy, education and healthcare, rendering it one of Africa’s poorest nations. Here are six facts about poverty in Malawi.

6 Facts About Poverty in Malawi

  1. Throughout the past few decades, Malawi had made tangible progress in several areas of human development. For instance, primary education completion rates have increased by 17% between 2004 and 2013. Meanwhile, mortality rates for children under 5 decreased by approximately 48% between 2004 and 2015. Similarly, the country’s maternal health has improved as mothers are receiving necessary prenatal and birth care as well as increasingly using contraceptives.
  2. Despite the abovementioned improvements, Malawi continues to have high poverty rates, posing substantial challenges to human development and growth in the African nation’s quality of life. In 2017, its GDP per capita (PPP) amounted to only $1,200, leading it to rank among the poorest countries in the world.
  3. In 2016, Malawi’s poverty rate reached 51.5%. That number remained slightly unchanged at 52% in 2018, according to a 2018 integrated household report, which emerged as a result of a joined effort between the Malawian government and UNICEF. The report also highlights child poverty as a particularly problematic issue as more than two-thirds of children in rural areas in Malawi live in poverty.
  4. Higher poverty rates in a given society tend to go hand in hand with sizable challenges underpinning the state of the economy. Malawi’s dependence on agriculture implies that climate-related problems can be a serious threat to its national economic wellbeing. This was the case during the 2015 and 2016 drought, which negatively impacted the country’s economy. Alinafe Nhlane, a mother and farmer in Muona Village, exemplified another instance of Malawi’s economic volatility when she recounted that she had lost all of her crops as a result of the 2019 Cyclone Idai.
  5. In addition to the fact that an estimated 1 million Malawians are living with HIV/AIDS and that the degree of risk of infection with diseases such hepatitis A, typhoid fever and malaria is very high, the physician/population ratio in the country is quite low at 0.02 in 2016. In light of the recent COVID-19 global developments, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Malawi, Maria Jose Torres, expressed her fears that the spread of the virus, even if minuscule, could be destructive to the country’s feeble healthcare system.
  6. On the other hand, it is notable that UNICEF along with U.K. Aid have worked to distribute hygiene and sanitation materials throughout Malawian districts to lead the fight against the virus. Ms. Nhlane also benefited from $33 she received from the World Food Program, aid which she will use to feed her family.

Malawi indeed continues to face paramount challenges that threaten the very livelihood and wellbeing of its citizens. Nonetheless, it has improved in many aspects including child health. For progress to spread and increase in scope and magnitude, however, it remains critical for the efforts addressing poverty in Malawi to carry on.

– Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Flickr

Solar Energy Developments in Malawi
Solar energy developments in Malawi are helping its local communities maintain sustainable energy. Bwengu Projects Malawi provides teachers in high-needs schools with solar-powered LED projectors in Bwengu, the northern countryside of Malawi. This solar energy initiative partners with local providers and financial institutions to connect new solar farms to the power grid. Additionally, USAID is collaborating with solar power companies to provide solar home systems for homes in Malawi.

3 Solar Energy Developments in Malawi

  1. Solar-powered LED Projectors: In 2018, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that 53 percent of Malawi’s population was under the age of 18. Classrooms often swell to 150 students per teacher, and schools experience poor maintanence. Moreover, there are not enough books and resources for students. To help assuage these issues, Bwengu Projects Malawi established itself to help support community and educational projects in Northern Malawi. Most recently, it developed Whole Class Teaching Kits which includes solar-powered LED projectors. It connects with an android tablet and pertains to Malawi’s junior and secondary curriculum. This tablet installs with 20,000 pages of lessons and notes which teachers can then project on the wall. Volunteers regularly visit the schools to maintain the equipment and add additional schools that qualify for the project. Reports show that attendance is up at schools with teaching kits and in the case of one school, passing rates increased from 27 to 65 percent.
  2. The Bwengu Solar Park Project: A local initiative in Bwengu to bring more energy to the community is underway with the creation of solar farms that will feed into the energy grid. The development began in August 2019  and should generate approximately 50 megawatts of renewable energy per year to feed into homes and local businesses in Malawi. The construction of the facility is located on 125 acres in Ulalo Nyirenda village, a piece of land just 1,000 meters from the Bwengu Escome Substation power grid. QUANTEL announced the project in May 2019, a renewable energy producer. More than a dozen other energy companies have signed on to the deal to create the Bwengu Solar Park, marking a milestone in creating a sustainable energy supply in Malawi. The agreement that local and international stakeholders made complies with both United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MDGS III) and comes as demand for energy in Africa, population and industrialization all grow. Feasibility studies in Africa to scale up affordable solutions to meet these needs also drove it.
  3. Solar Home Systems: With financial backing from USAID, a collection of applicant companies like SolarWorks!, Vitalite, Yellow Solar and Zuwa Energy are aiming to deliver electricity to more 100,000 households in Malawi before 2023. However, the energy that these companies provide is uniquely off-grid. Solar Home Systems (SHS) is a focus of the Malawi Government National Energy Policy of 2018. One of the solutions that the policy put forth was off-grid solar energy for households that is easy to deploy and gives sufficient electricity for mobile charging, radio use and lighting. Currently, Malawi has only an 11 percent electrification rate and only 4 percent for rural areas, such as Bwengu. The SHS Kick-Starter Program not only has the design to increase access to energy but also to grow private sector business and provide companies with multiple supports, including operations support, capital and financing over the next three years. USAID has committed $2 million in grant funding and there are many financial backers, such as the Malawi Government and national banks. Among the energy providers are M-PAYG, an SHS pay-as-you-go service for low-income households in the developing world to give them off-grid, solar energy access. According to the Nordic Development Fund, the solar energy that SHS provides, such as M-PAYG, can level the gender playing field as well. Many expect schoolgirls to do household chores and homework in the morning before school. However, if families have access to reliable electricity, girls will have more time in the evenings to finish homework assignments before bedtime. This allows them to sleep in for longer before doing their morning chores.

These three solar power developments in Malawi come at a time when the population is expanding and demand for energy is growing. Cooperating charities, policymakers, national banks and energy providers have successfully powered the developments with support from the government and international community in line with sustainability goals. From these examples, one sees that the educational field has especially benefited from these innovative technologies in spite of historically poor conditions.

Caleb Cummings
Photo: Flickr

Honnald Foundation

In today’s fast-paced and technological world, it is easy to take everyday things for granted. Millions of people have lights, electric stoves and numerous electronic devices at their fingertips. However, there are an estimated 1.1 billion people across the globe who do not have access to basic electricity. These areas often lack development from big companies that would create job opportunities. Thus, it is no surprise that many areas that suffer from “energy poverty” are among the same areas that hold the highest rates of international poverty. Rock climber Alex Honnold identified the intersection between electricity and poverty and decided to take action. In 2012, Honnold created his own nonprofit organization called the Honnold Foundation.

Alex Honnold

Alex Honnold is known for his role in the documentary “Free Solo.” The adventure climber rocketed to fame when he became the first climber to ascend Yosemite’s 3,000 foot El Capitan wall without the assistance of any ropes, harnesses or other protective equipment. He has gained a large international following from his successful climbs of the biggest cliffs in the world. But, Honnold is equally well known for the strong work ethic and humble attitude he carries with him.

As Honnold began to gain attention for his impressive climbing skills, he had many opportunities to join climbing trips to various remote places around the world that were sponsored by different brands. In preparation for his travels, Honnold would often read books about each of his destinations to learn more about the area. He soon began to develop an understanding of climate change issues, social justice efforts and environmental problems. Honnold also witnessed them first-hand in many of his expeditions. On an eye-opening trip to Chad in 2010, Honnold recalled driving through entire villages without access to power.

Developing the Honnold Foundation

Honnold continued to educate himself on these issues. In 2012, Honnold and his longtime climbing partner Maury Birdwell dreamed up the Honnold Foundation. Its vision is to fight poverty, improve lives and reduce environmental impact via solar projects around the world. Poverty and global warming were the two most concerning issues that came up repeatedly in Honnold’s research and experiences. Honnold and Birdwell found that both issues could be resolved by the promotion of solar energy.

They developed the idea on the way home from a climbing trip. With Yosemite as their office, the founders of the Honnold Foundation tweaked and honed their ideas into a cohesive and forward-thinking organization. Honnold believes that access to electricity is essential to improving people’s lives. Since its inception, Honnold has consistently given a third of his income to the Honnold Foundation each year.

Honnold Foundation’s Focus

The Honnold Foundation is a nonprofit public charity that provides funding for solar power initiatives that tackle global energy inequality through environmentally sound means. In recent years, the organization has honed in on four main nonprofit organizations: SolarAid, GRID Alternatives, The Solar Energy Foundation and Northern Navajo Solar Entrepreneurs. Each organization focuses on a unique element of solar expansion and share the unifying mission of transitioning people to solar energy.

There have been several projects to date. One project furthers the efforts of SolarAid to replace polluting and dangerous kerosene lamps in Malawi and Zambia with solar ones. Another is advancing pay-as-you-go financing for solar energy systems in Ethiopia through the Solar Energy Foundation. It installs affordable solar power through GRID Alternatives to off-grid low-income communities. Furthermore, it promotes solar education in community hubs and supports long-term entrepreneurship programs to increase solar energy in Navajo communities.

Solar power is cheap, reliable, safe and variable in its applications. When asked about the great work he is doing with solar energy through his foundation, Honnold often brings the attention back to what this energy is doing for the people in these communities. Many organizations exist to support the basic necessities of food, shelter and water, which are all essential components. Without electricity, there can be no sewing machines or rice mills. Job opportunities are scarce.

Solar electricity gives people access to education, better living conditions and economic advantages. Solar power helps reduce environmental impact worldwide, but especially in regions that have never had electricity in any form. It can’t be expected for those living in poverty to care about sustaining the environment when their own basic needs aren’t being met. The Honnold Foundation aims to shed light on both the planet and poverty.

GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Products Tackling Global Poverty
People who live in poverty-stricken communities typically do not have access to simple products that can be the difference between life and death. Below are five products tackling global poverty.

5 Products Tackling Global Poverty

  1. The Shoe That Grows: The Shoe That Grows produces a shoe for kids living in poverty. It expands up to five sizes and lasts for years. Kenton Lee founded the shoe after he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. He lived and worked with kids at a small orphanage and noticed that many of the children either had broken, worn shoes or none at all. He came up with the idea of a shoe that expands to prevent soil-transmitted diseases and parasites that can cause children to miss out on their education and even death. As of now, the company has distributed over 200,000 pairs of shoes to 100 different countries. The organization sent 30,000 of those to Ethiopia alone.
  2. NIFTY Cup: The NIFTY Cup is a device that some use to feed premature babies in Malawi and Tanzania who are unable to breastfeed. Unlike the metal cups and spoons that people in poverty-stricken countries often use, the NIFTY Cup contains durable, soft silicone that one can shape to allow all nutrients to reach babies’ mouths without causing them to cough or choke. The cup serves as a life-saving resource for mothers who do not have the necessary medical assistance necessary to keep premature babies healthy. Donors have made it possible to send over 6,000 NIFTY Cups to hospitals in Malawi and Tanzania.
  3. The Lucky Iron Fish: The Lucky Iron Fish is a tool used to fight iron deficiency in developing countries. Families place the iron fish in boiling water before cooking to add proper nutrients to meals. One of these iron fish is equivalent to five years of iron pill bottles. The Lucky Iron Fish company works on a one-to-one donation scale. This means that when people in developed countries buy one of the fish, the company donates another to a family in a developing country. As of 2018, the company impacted 54,000 lives because of the buy-one-give-one system. The impact fund has distributed the fish to Nicaragua, Tanzania, Cambodia, Haiti, Benin and more.
  4. Embrace Warmer: Embrace Warmer is a life-saving tool that developing countries use. In these places, newborn babies often suffer hypothermia due to being premature and low weight. The tool is essentially a sleeping bag that helps regulate the body temperature of newborn babies during their first few days of life. Embrace Warmer began as a class project at Stanford, when students had to design a cost-effective product to help battle neonatal hypothermia. Eventually, the product expanded to rural India and has now helped 200,000 infants in developing countries.
  5. Flo: Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit that Mariko Higaki Iwai designed to provide a solution for women and girls in developing countries to take care of their bodies. The kit allows girls to wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads. This kit makes it easier for girls to stay in school, prevent reproductive diseases and illnesses and take care of their menstrual cycle in privacy. Flo is still a prototype but people working in the field in developing countries have been trying to make Flo available for their communities. The team is currently seeking manufacturers to make this possible.

These life-saving products are working at tackling global poverty, while also giving those who live in poverty-stricken communities a better chance at having a healthy lifestyle.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

 

Living Conditions in Malawi

Landlocked in southeastern Africa, Malawi is the fourth poorest country in the world. In 2017, over 70 percent of its 17 million residents lived on less than $1.90 a day.  The largest formal sector employing Malawians is the tea industry.

In 2015, a union of Malawian tea producers, the largest international tea buyers, NGOs and other relevant organizations and donors joined the Malawi Tea 2020 partnership. This program’s main purpose is to develop a booming, environmentally sustainable tea industry that can transform increased profitability into improved living conditions in Malawi by 2020. A living wage for workers, a motivated workforce with better opportunities for women and a profitable smallholder sector are cornerstones of this platform.

Already half-way through the program, here are five ways that Malawi Tea 2020 has made progress on improving living conditions in Malawi.

5 Ways Malawi Tea 2020 is Improving Living Conditions in Malawi

  1. Wage Growth: Tea producers have increased workers’ wages several times since Malawi Tea 2020’s inception. While accounting for the high rate of inflation, it stands that the gap between real wages and living wages is narrowing.
  2. Increased Protections and Opportunities for Women: The Tea Association of Malawi (TAML) formed the first-ever Gender Equality, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy in 2017. They established Gender and Women’s Welfare Centers in each estate, creating systems to address sexual assault and prevent harassment through education. They also began female leadership training. 268 out of 300 targeted women attended weekly leadership training in 2018 creating more opportunities for Malawian women to advance professionally.
  3. More Profitable Smallholder Sector: In the 2018 growing season, 1,734 farmers (78 percent female) attended Farmer Field Schools (FFS) to learn more about good agricultural practices. From last season’s FFS graduates, 99 percent say they saw an increase in crop yield versus prior seasons. A total of 6,189 farmers, or 34 percent of all tea farmers in Malawi, have benefitted from FFS. Similarly, 2,655 farmers participated in Malawi Tea 2020’s Farmer Business School training (FBS) in 2018 to learn better business skills.  Since 2015, 3,300 smallholder farmers have increased their incomes by increasing their yield with better farming and business techniques.
  4. Improved Worker Benefits: Managers have removed barriers to unionization resulting in more unions representing worker wishes. The first collective bargaining agreement in Malawi’s tea industry was signed creating a degree of wage negotiation and an 11 percent increase in wages. Also, the Housing and Sanitation Policy was developed to address problematic living conditions in Malawi. From 2016-2017, TAML demolished almost all poor-condition Category D houses, constructed 51 new houses, and renovated 16 houses.
  5. Improved Nutrition for Workers and Families: Through a meal fortification program, over 40,000 tea workers received fortified mid-day meals daily as well as fresh vegetables once a week leading to higher quality nutrition.

There is still a lot of work left to complete to secure quality working and living conditions in Malawi, but programs like Malawi Tea 2020 are consistently making progress and laying the groundwork towards accomplishing these goals.

Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr