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

Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

The landlocked country of Malawi has a life expectancy rate of 60.2 years for males and 64.3 years for females. While this is much lower than the global average of 69.8 years for males and 74.2 years for females, it represents an improvement from previous years. These eight facts about life expectancy in Malawi will help shed light on the reasons for the low rate as well as what the country has done, and can still do, to improve it:

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

  1. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, an estimated 1 million people in Malawi were living with HIV/AIDS which places the country at 10th in the world in terms of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there were also 13,000 deaths from the virus in the same year. Still, the government has made major strides to curb the epidemic in the last 10 years. Part of its strategy includes providing free condoms as well as educating young people. As of 2018, 78 percent of all people living with HIV in Malawi are on medication. There was also a decline in the number of new infections from 55,000 in 2010 to 38,000 in 2018.
  2. Maternal Health: In 2015, maternal mortality stood at 634 deaths for every 100,000 live births. This is considerably higher than the global average of 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, it represents a significant improvement as the government along with support from USAID has been able to reduce maternal mortality by 53 percent between 1990 and 2013. Today, more expectant mothers in both rural and urban areas are now receiving prenatal care as well as skilled birth assistance.
  3. Child Health: Great improvements have also been made in terms of child health, as most children under 5 in both rural and urban areas are vaccinated. This has helped reduce deaths from communicable childhood diseases such as measles, tetanus and pneumonia. The Ministry of Health has also implemented strategies like deworming and has also distributed vitamin A supplements to deal with other major causes of childhood death.
  4. Fertility Rate: In the 1980s Malawian women had about seven children per woman. Today, that number is at 5.5 children per woman. The high fertility rate affects life expectancy in Malawi as it puts pressure on the government to provide adequate social amenities in order to improve people’s lives.
  5. Population Growth: According to a 2018 census, Malawi’s population is 17.6 million people. By 2020 this is projected to hit 20.2 million, before doubling by 2050. This rapid population growth puts a lot of pressure on the country’s land, water and forest resources and threatens life expectancy as most Malawians derive their income from agriculture. The Third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) sets out a number of policies including promoting family planning and sexual and reproductive health rights as a means to slow population growth, and better managing migration and urbanization.
  6. Infectious Diseases: Malawians are at very high risk of contracting infectious diseases. Food and waterborne diseases include diarrheal diseases and typhoid fever. In order to deal with diarrheal deaths, Malawians are in need of nutritious food as well as an unpolluted environment. Other diseases include malaria, dengue fever and rabies from animal contact. The country has been dealing with malaria by subsidizing mosquito nets. Additionally, Malawi is one of the three African countries taking part in a malaria vaccine pilot. The pilot aims to reach 360,000 children each year across Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
  7. Water and Sanitation: One in three Malawians do not have access to clean water while 9.6 million people do not have a decent toilet. This affects the life expectancy in Malawi as it leads to an increase in diarrheal diseases. With the support of UNICEF and organizations such as Water Aid, the government of Malawi has made significant progress in reducing the number of people who lack access to safe water. Additionally, the rate of open defecation has declined from 29 percent in 1990 to four percent in 2015.
  8. Education: Malawi introduced free primary education in 1994 which put a strain on the education system. This is because the infrastructure, number of teachers and number of teaching and learning materials were inadequate when compared to the number of students who enrolled. It resulted in poor performance by the students, especially in terms of literacy.  The government of Malawi has been making an effort to improve the education sector by allocating more than 20 percent of the national budget to education.  It has also partnered with bodies such as USAID and UNICEF to improve literacy levels as well as student enrollment and completion rates. An educated and skilled population will help increase Malawi’s economic growth. Educational reforms will help reduce the unemployment rate which is currently more than 20 percent.

Malawi is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, and a lot still needs to be done to improve the lives of its people. It is however clear that the government is working with the support of nonprofit organizations around the world to make life better for its people.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

Combating Poverty with Renewable EnergyIn the modern era, more than a billion people around the world live without power. Energy poverty is an ongoing problem in nations like Liberia where only about 2 percent of the population has regular access to electricity. The World Bank explains that “poor people are the least likely to have access to power, and they are more likely to remain poor if they stay unconnected.”

With the new global threat of climate change, ending poverty means developing renewable energy that will power the world without harming it. Here are five countries combating poverty with renewable energy.

5 Countries Combating Poverty with Renewable Energy

  1. India plans to generate 160 gigawatts of power using solar panels by 2022. According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water and the Natural Resources Defense Council India must create an estimated 330,000 jobs to achieve this goal. With this new effort to expand access to renewable energy, East Asia is now responsible for 42 percent of the new renewable energy generated throughout the world.
  2. Rwanda is another nation combating poverty with renewable energy. The country received a Strategic Climate Fund Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program Grant of $21.4 million in 2017 to bring off-grid electricity to villages across the country. Mzee Vedaste Hagiriryayo, 62, is one of the many residents who have already benefited from this initiative. While previously the only energy Hagiriryayo knew was wood and kerosene, he gained access to solar power in June of 2017. He told the New Times, “Police brought the sun to my house and my village; the sun that shines at night.” Other residents say it has allowed children to do their homework at night and entrepreneurs to build grocery stores for the village.
  3. Malawi’s relationship with windmills started in 2002 when William Kamkwamba, famous for the book and Netflix film “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind,” built his first windmill from scrap materials following a drought that killed his family’s crops for the season. Kamkwamba founded the Moving Windmill Project in 2008 with the motto, “African Solutions to African Problems.” Today the organization has provided solar water pumps to power water taps that save residents the time they had once spent gathering water. Additionally, it has added solar power internet and electricity to local high schools in order to combat poverty with renewable energy.
  4. Brazil has turned to an energy auction system for converting their energy sources over to renewable energy. Contracts are distributed to the lowest bidders with a goal of operation by the end of six years. Brazilian agency Empresa de Pesquisa Energetica (EPE) auctioned off 100.8 GW worth of energy on September 26, 2019. EPE accepted 1,829 solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to be auctioned off at the lowest prices yet.
  5. Bangladesh is turning to small-scale solar power in order to drastically improve their access to energy. These low-cost home systems are bringing electricity to low-income families who would otherwise be living in the dark. The nation now has the largest off-grid energy program in the world, connecting about 5.2 million households to solar power every year, roughly 12 percent of the population.

With one in seven people living without electricity around the world, ending energy poverty could be the key to ending world poverty. The story of renewable energy around the world is one that is not only tackling climate change but also thirst, hunger and the income gap. According to Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Imad Najib Fakhoury, “Our story is one of resilience and turning challenges into opportunities. With all honesty it was a question of survival, almost of life and death.” With lower costs and larger access, renewable energy is not only the future of environmental solutions but the future of development for countries all around the world.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Flickr

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement The African Continental Free Trade Agreement is the largest free-trade agreement in the world with a 1.2 billion-person market and a combined GDP of 2.5 trillion dollars. It was signed in March of 2018 by 44 African heads of state, and following the initial signing, 5 more countries joined in July for a total of 49. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement’s primary focus is to increase intra-African trade by promoting free movement of goods and tariff-free trade. In fact, for the countries that joined, tariffs are expected to decrease by 90 percent within 5 years.

According to an article by The Economist, roughly 82 percent of African goods are exported to other countries. Due to high transport costs, poor infrastructure (e.g. in West Africa, less than one-fifth of the roads are paved) and time-consuming border procedures, it is more costly to trade within Africa than to export to foreign countries.

With the new free-trade agreement, a more competitive market will emerge that will reduce costs for consumers. Additionally, producers will have access to a larger number of potential buyers, as well as more investment opportunities from foreign countries. Strengthening intercontinental trade has the potential to protect the countries in Africa from the impact of exogenous trade shocks.

Maximizing the Impacts of AfCFTA

In order to reap the highest benefits from the new intra-continental free trade agreement, it is imperative to make adjustments to Africa’s trade structure. However, trade facilitation is not an easy task. It involves coordination between countries, transparency in policies and easing the movement of goods. Currently, intra-African trade accounts for only 16 percent of Africa’s total exports, while the bulk of its exports are to Europe (38 percent), China (19 percent), and the U.S. (15 percent). With the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa estimates that intra-African trade will see a 52 percent increase by 2022.

Infrastructure Development

Reducing non-tariff barriers, like transport time for goods, is an essential component of solidifying the new free-trade agreement. According to the International Monetary Fund, the average cost of importing a container in Africa is about $2,492, which is significantly more expensive than the cost of exporting to another continent. This helps to explain Africa’s high incentive to export the majority of its goods.

In order to aid with the implementation of infrastructure projects, the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) has facilitated two main systems of information. The African Infrastructure Database (AID) concerns itself mainly with data management and stores information about ongoing infrastructure development projects including the location as well as relevant financial and economic information. The Virtual PIDA Information Centre contains regional and continental infrastructure projects and promotes investment opportunities.

Clearly, higher access to information regarding infrastructure projects can help countries organize themselves around infrastructure development efficiently. This will help to reduce the intra-African costs of trade by fostering more easily navigable and cheaper transport routes between countries.

Economic Integration

It is crucial to consider that the informal trade sector contributes to a large amount of overall trade in Africa. The Africa Economic Brief is a document published by Jean-Guy Afrika and Gerald Ajumbo that discusses the specifics of informal trade in Africa. It states that the informal cross border trade sector (ICBT) represents 30-40 percent of total intra-African trade. In West and Central Africa, women make up almost 60 percent of informal traders, and 70 percent in Southern Africa.

Problems that affect the formal sector, like infrastructure and trade, have a disproportionate effect on the informal sector—especially for marginalized groups such as women and youth. It is unclear how the African Continental Free Trade Agreement will affect these groups as trade is adjusted; however, an increased focus on local trade and easier trade routes will likely facilitate trade for everyone involved. Since informal trade struggles with the same main issues as formal trade, making trade more accessible in the formal sector can create positive spillovers.

The informal trade sector is an important one to protect. Big businesses often avoid trading with rural areas due to high transportation costs, so instead these areas rely on informal trade for food, clothing and other commodities. Furthermore, ICBT provides a vital source of income to individuals who are often low-income or low-skilled. According to the Africa Economic Brief, studies estimate the average value of informal cross border trade to be 17.6 billion dollars per year in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

In order to provide support for informal traders in Eastern and Southern Africa, the United Nations is funding a project to help decrease gender-specific obstacles in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. A focus on female empowerment will help maintain and improve the informal trade sector and contribute to poverty reduction.

With support from various organizations, countries in Africa are taking defining steps to reduce taxes, transport times, and an increase in market competition. Signing the African Continental Free Trade Agreement opens Africa up to free trade and, if facilitated effectively, it will have enormous positive implications for Africa’s economy.

– Tera Hofmann
Photo: Flickr

The Malawi Project

Malawi Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3), Christian, nonprofit, humanitarian organization that focuses primarily on improving the physical and spiritual health of men, women and children in Malawi. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Malawi Project has provided aid to Malawi in areas as diverse as education, medicine, famine relief, agriculture and community development. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak with Richard Stephens, co-founder of the organization about the Malawi Project’s impact to date.

The Borgen Project: Is the Malawi Project the biggest provider of humanitarian aid to Malawi?

Richard Stephens: First, allow me to give some background about the nation and people of Malawi. According to USAID, More than one-half of the country’s 17 million people live below the poverty line, and more than one-third consume less than the required daily calories, contributing to the stunting of nearly one-half of children under 5 years of age.

The agency notes, “Malawi continues to score poorly on major health indicators for maternal, infant and under-5 mortality. Eighty-five percent of households engage in agricultural activities and most rely almost exclusively on rain-fed subsistence farming that is particularly vulnerable to cyclical droughts.

These challenges are compounded by threats from the highest rates of deforestation and population growth in the region.” Only 50 percent of children complete primary school, and of those, only 60 percent successfully pass the exam to access public secondary school; only 15 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school.” However, the Malawi Project would not be the largest provider of humanitarian aid to Malawi.

TBP: What is the organization’s biggest accomplishment?

RS: According to Dambisa Moyo, a recognized Zambian economist, in her book “Dead Aid,” developed nations delivered over $1 trillion in aid to Africa over the past 50 years. The result? Moyo notes that from 1970 to 1998 when that aid was at its peak, the unemployment picture went from a low of 11 percent in 1970 to a high of 66 percent in 1998. 

Obviously, something was wrong in the way aid was administered. The Malawi Project is proud of its stance of supplying its aid packages in such a way as to inspire creative thinking among the recipients, development of oversight and management by in-country local management, and the creation of an infrastructure to carry out their own work with little or no outside oversight or management.

The Project supports grassroots development of businesses, churches and community groups that will build up and develop the nation from within. Action for Progress is an example. Made up of business, church and community leaders from all three regions of Malawi, this not-for-project organization is taking the lead in the identification of specific need areas and the successful distribution and follow up reporting on nearly all of the aid currently being delivered to Malawi by the Malawi Project.

In the past 26 years, more than 375 forty-foot shipping containers have delivered over $300 million in aid from the Malawi Project. This aid has been delivered to every region, every religion and every walk of life. Additionally, more than 800 people have traveled to Malawi with Project teams to assist the citizens.

More than $3 million in cash infusion has been delivered in the form of locally purchased food, and through a food processing plant constructed under the sponsorship of [our organization] employing more than 100 people, purchasing raw food materials from over 1,000 Malawi farmers, and feeding over 60,000 people a day — as well as an agricultural village, inspired by the Malawi Project, is training 50 farm families a year in current agricultural practices. Additionally, a five-building, 110-bed medical complex serves the needs of people north of the capital and a 27-building childcare center takes care of more than 160 parentless children. These programs are now working independently of support from the Malawi Project and many others are in the development stage of creating this same independent approach to their future.

TBP: Does the Malawi Project ever collaborate with other humanitarian organizations? If so, could you provide some examples?

RS: Yes, the Malawi Project has teamed up with Feed the Children, Nourish the Children, USAID and the governments of Canada, Sweden, Israel, Holland and Germany to supply food and medical assistance to Malawi. Organizations such as Universal Aid and Compassionate Resources in Canada, World Emergency Relief, Amigo International, Breedlove Foods in the U.S. have supplied food, medical assistance and agricultural assistance through the Malawi Project. Hoffnung fur kinder in Germany, Children’s Hope Fund in Hong Kong and Aid to Africa in Washington D.C. have all given financial assistance. Healing Hands International has supplied technical expertise in areas of food processing and agricultural development. Proctor and Gamble, Adidas and Nike are but a sampling of corporations that have extended assistance through the donations of various products.

TBP: How many Malawians have been helped by the Malawi Project?

RS: “The number would be impossible to estimate, but one can note that medical supplies have gone into every district of the nation, to some 600 medical facilities, and school supplies and textbooks have been delivered to well over 1,000 schools and colleges throughout the nation.”

The scope of the Malawi Project work and the impact it has made in Malawi make it an excellent humanitarian organization. In fact, GreatNonprofits recognized the organization as a top-rated nonprofit in both 2017 and 2018. Yet, Stephens’ answers reveal that there is still great need throughout Malawi. Thus, he and the rest of the Malawi Project have no desire to end their work in this country any time soon.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Wikimedia

reduce poverty in Malawi
In 2016, about 51 percent of Malawians lived in poverty, an improvement from 65 percent in 1997. Still, with more than 80 percent of the population employed in the agriculture industry, frequent droughts and floods are major issues that devastate farmers and Malawi‘s economy. Keep reading to learn how irrigation projects are working to improve the situation of poverty in Malawi.

Flood Control and Irrigation Systems

Flood control and irrigation systems funnel floodwater into areas of storage for future use. One system is diversion canals, such as the Red River Floodway in Winnipeg, Canada. The diversion canal prevented 10s of billions of dollars in damage since 1968 and is the second-largest earthmoving project after the Panama Canal. Diversion canals are artificial floodways that send floodwater to ponds, rivers, reservoirs and irrigation systems. Most farmers do not relocate unlike the displacement that a dam causes to locals in the dam’s region. Although the Red River Pathway is a highly ornate design, a basic diversion canal helps indirectly reduce poverty in Malawi and benefit those that crop-damaging floodwaters affect.

The pathways direct flooded water away from homes and crops in order to flow into rivers, ponds and artificial lakes. The plan is to use collected in the future. The pathways directing floodwater that destroy homes and land are a long-term solution to floods and droughts. The downside to these pathways is the unknown cost of infrastructure necessary to accomplish this system as no one, including Malawi, has proposed or implemented major developments in the country.

Infrastructure Development

A prerequisite to water management is infrastructure development to provide stored water from floods to irrigation systems. Pipes allocate water to farmers, whether above or below ground and irrigation systems, such as surge flooding, bring a simple solution to irrigation for a country where only 9 percent have electricity. Surge flooding is a system of gradually releasing small amounts of water into the land. This allows for better infiltration and less runoff.

Malawi relies heavily on charities and countries for aid, and developmental progress has been slow. The country ranks as one of the least developed countries. Investment in the county’s infrastructure could reduce poverty in Malawi, help the economy grow and diversify into other areas besides agriculture, such as the energy, telecommunications, banking, manufacturing, information technology and tourism sectors. Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima has been Vice President of Malawi since 2014 and stated a need for change in not only investment in infrastructure development, but also many other areas that are undeveloped. He understood that half of all Malawians, particularly women in rural regions, are in extreme poverty and that an emphasis on development is the key to the countries future success.

Climatic Effects on the Economy

Climatic changes frequently affect Malawi, though it receives support externally. Recently, the World Bank donated $70 million to Malawi to help it recover from Cyclone Idai, yet external aid is simply a short-term solution. Improving infrastructure to combat climatic changes, such as cyclones, floods and droughts, supports the people of Malawi that have crops that natural disasters easily damage. Floods and droughts destroy crops in which more than 80 percent of Malawians rely on for food and a meager income. One solution to reduce the cycle of flood, drought and famine is through an intelligent design implementing irrigation and flood control across Malawi.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

First Malaria Vaccine
Malaria is a parasitic virus transmitted through mosquito bites, and those infected with the disease often experience grave fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms. Although malaria can potentially end in death, physical precautions such as safety nets in malaria-dense environments and prompt treatment can usually prevent it. Unfortunately, because malaria largely affects poorer nations, it can be a great strain on national economies and impoverished populations. The World Health Organization is enlisting pilot testing for the first malaria vaccine.

The Problem

Malaria reportedly infects tens of millions, killing over 400,000 people worldwide every year and mostly children; Sub-Saharan African countries are the primary nations in which malaria thrives—the World Health Organization estimates that over 250,000 African children die every year from the virus.

The malaria-carrying parasite is able to evade victims’ immune systems by constantly changing its surface, which is why developing a vaccine against the virus has been so difficult. With today’s modern technology and scientific insight, that is beginning to change.

Testing the First Malaria Vaccine

In April of 2019, a large-scale pilot test of what many are dubbing the world’s first malaria vaccine to give partial protection to children began in Malawi. Scientists from the drug company GSK first created the RTS,S vaccine in 1987 and has been refining it ever since. Organizations like Path Malaria Vaccine Initiative have been instrumental in supporting this initiative.

The new RTS,S vaccine is attempting to teach the immune system how to attack the malaria parasite. A patient needs to receive the vaccine four times—once a month for three months, followed by a fourth and final dose 18 months later. In 2009, Kenya held smaller trials of the vaccine and concluded with a 40 percent protection rate of the five to-17 month-olds who received the vaccination. Since then, malaria rates have plateaued rather than decreased, which is another reason the new pilot test is so vital in the modern-day.

Now testing is taking place in Malawi, Kenya and Ghana with aims to immunize 120,000 children aged two-years-old and younger. These three countries are ideal for two reasons: one, these nations already have large anti-malaria programs in place; and two, in spite of this, they still have high numbers of malaria cases. As Dr. Matshidiso Moeti (World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa) stated, “Malaria is a constant threat to the African communities where this vaccine will be given” and explains that the vaccine is needed because “we know the power of vaccines to prevent killer diseases and [hope to] reach children, including those who may not have immediate access to the doctors, nurses and health facilities they need to save them when severe illness comes.”

Looking Towards the Future

The purpose of the pilot tests is to build up evidence that can be reliably considered while WHO policy is debating its recommendations on the broader use of the RTS,S vaccine. The experiment will examine the reductions (if any) in child deaths, vaccine uptake rates (including how many children receive all four vaccinations) and the overall safety of the vaccine in routine use.

If the testing goes well, not only will the World Health Organization aid the vaccine to its core package of recommended measures for malaria prevention and treatment, but hopefully, it will begin a chain reaction that again sparks a decrease in malaria cases around the world.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr