Fighting radicalization in Mauritania

The Mauritanian government, with the help of outside organizations, has been working to decrease radicalization in Mauritania since the early 2000s. While Islamic terrorist attacks have been effectively stopped, there are still concerns about the spread of extremist views throughout the nation as well as in the surrounding countries. Several Islamic extremist groups have bases in Mauritania, including Al-Qaeda. Fighting radicalization in Mauritania requires a multi-faceted approach that tackles the factors contributing to radicalization and proactively dissuades extremist views from being able to gain traction.

Factors Contributing to Radicalization

The common problems many impoverished countries face include high unemployment, food insecurity, violence and political turmoil, all of which cause great suffering. These issues can sometimes make individuals more likely to adopt extremist views.

In Mauritania, unemployment is high, particularly for the youth with approximately 18.6 percent of 15 to 24-year-olds unemployed. Combined with poverty and a disconnect from political and civic life, this creates a population of young people who feel disillusioned by the options available to them. These individuals may then look for alternative and sometimes extreme methods through which they can exhibit their frustrations.

A majority of the Islamic jihadists in Mauritania are middle or low-income people, the majority of whom are below the age of thirty. Underemployment and delinquency are two additional factors common in the experiences of these individuals.

Racism in Mauritania

Another contributing factor to radicalization in Mauritania is ethno-racial tension. Conflicts between Arab and black Africans go back as far as the 1960s with the government giving preference to the Arab population. For example, when Arab leaders gained control of the nation’s education system, they reformed the system according to their values and mostly excluded black Africans from administrative positions.

Black Africans are also excluded more generally from society. Even those who have assimilated to the Arab culture are more likely to be illiterate, viewed as second-class citizens and sometimes denied basic rights. In combination with the poverty that many black Africans face, these genuine grievances contribute to the appeal of extremist views.

Additionally, it is important to note that much of what Islamic extremists are protesting – authoritarianism, torture, corruption and Mauritania’s relationship with the West – are genuine grievances. While extremism is never tolerable, the presence of these significant problems will continue to create a context in which extremist ideas are considered attractive.

Fighting Radicalization in Mauritania

The government’s efforts to combat terrorism have included arrests, raids, strengthening border control, improving military and intelligence capabilities and cooperating with the United States. While this is an important part of reducing the threat of terrorism, it is also important to implement programs and policies intended to prevent radicalization in Mauritania.

In 2015, the Ministry of Youth and Sport and UNDP created the National Strategy for Youth and Sport to encourage youth participation in society as a method for preventing radicalization. A youth center in the city of Nouakchott began providing opportunities for young people to discuss the problems as well as their aspirations for the future. Young people also participate in educational programming that teaches them important skills for employment. Discussion forums hosted by the center help train young people to recognize and resist extremist rhetoric and give them the tools to engage in productive dialogue in their communities.

One high school student indicated that her goal is to become a surgeon, but without the support of the youth center, she wouldn’t be prepared for this level of education. Another student expressed the desire to become a teacher and noted that he was “struck by the ignorance that still exists in poor suburbs, and by the lack of teachers in rural areas.” His hope was to be able to help by teaching in those communities.

Another participant noted that being unemployed and religious, he had been “tempted in the past by extremist ideas because of intense frustration,” but the center steered him away from radicalization through training sessions and debates. Over time, he recognized that he had a place in society and began to feel less disillusioned. Centers like the one in Nouakchott are essential for preventing extremism amongst Mauritania’s youth by providing an opportunity to engage in dialogue as well as prepare for a successful future.

Moving Forward

UNDP is also working with the government to create other projects aimed at fighting radicalization in Mauritania. It is focused on tackling the root causes. Starting with the youth is important, but based on the contributions poverty and ethno-racial tensions play in promoting extremism, these issues also need to be addressed more fully in counter-terrorism efforts.

Moving forward, extremism needs to be more fully recognized as a product of poverty and inequality. Efforts to decrease radicalization in Mauritania, therefore, should focus on decreasing poverty more broadly as well as promoting human rights for all Mauritanians. Only through a multi-faceted approach that seeks to tackle the factors contributing to extremism in the nation will fighting radicalization in Mauritania become truly successful.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mauritania
With potential in its iron, copper and fishing industries, the West African nation of Mauritania could see economic improvements in the coming years. However, the country remains crippled by a multidimensional crisis caused by food insecurity, a high rate of malnutrition, limited access to water, institutional barriers to educational opportunities and an existing system of slavery. Here are 10 facts about living conditions in Mauritania.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mauritania

  1. Malnutrition. In Mauritania, climate-related effects on crops, such as droughts and inconsistent rains, have caused food shortages. Over 130,000 children, including nearly 32,000 children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM), and 31,000 pregnant and lactating women, will require nutritional care and treatment in 2019.
  2. Energy. In Mauritania, only 29 percent of the nation has access to electricity. However, the Mauritanian government has made it a priority to expand its electricity supply in a bid to reduce poverty. Efforts to increase access include encouraging investment into the renewable energy sector in order to stimulate the economy.
  3. Education. Children aged 6 to 14 are required to attend school in Mauritania but systematic barriers have prevented many students from getting the education they deserve. Mauritania’s civil registration process requires families to produce official paperwork for children to be admitted to primary schools, but such policies disproportionately affect low-income families who lack the necessary documents and have found replacing them to be an arduous process. Only 40 percent of children from the poorest households are registered compared with 85 percent of children from the wealthiest households. In addition, such social and ethnic barriers are known to discriminate against Mauritania’s Haratine (Hassaniya-speaking former slaves or descendants of slaves) or Afro-Mauritanian populations.
  4. Gender Equality. Mauritanian women and girls face many cultural and social battles. Grooming young women to take on the role of a wife and then forcing them to marry before the age of 18 is a common and accepted practice. In addition, freedom of choice remains elusive for girls in Mauritania. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is also a commonplace practice with a prevalence rate of 66 percent. However, data from UNICEF shows a change in attitude around FGM leading to tougher legislation.
  5. Right to Water. The only available water table is in Trarza (southwestern Mauritania). Leaky pipes in the impoverished areas of the city have contributed to an inadequate distribution system resulting in only 68 percent of the population having access to water. Still, this population is restricted to less than 50 liters per day per person. In rural areas, drinking water shortages are more recurrent. Efforts to increase access to drinking water remain strong in the West African country. With support from technical and financial partners and implementation of the necessary projects and programs, humanitarian groups believe the West African country can meet its goal of supplying water access to 100 percent of the population by the year 2020 with a 2030 deadline.
  6. Slavery. Mauritania was the last country to make slavery illegal in 1981, just 38 years ago. Still, thousands of people — mostly from the minority Haratine or Afro-Mauritanian groups — find themselves living as bonded laborers, domestic servants or child brides. It is estimated that up to 20 percent of the population is enslaved, forced to work on farms or in homes with no possibility of freedom, education or pay. Recently, two slave owners were jailed receiving the toughest sentence to date for slave owners at 10 and 20 years. Despite these historic sentences and the fact that Mauritania criminalized slavery in 2015, the Sahel country has jailed more anti-slavery activist than slave owners. The African Union has urged Mauritania to issue harsher sentences for this crime.
  7. Access to Health Care. Currently, the country is suffering from a poor health care system resulting in very high maternal mortality and infant mortality rates. In addition, only a small percentage of the population is covered by the national insurance scheme. Divisions in government and political agenda have made it coordination efforts challenging for the donors and NGOs on the ground.
  8. Infrastructure. Although Mauritania is 90 percent desert the economy relies heavily on agriculture as a main sector of the economy. However, the major agricultural industries: meat, milk and fish are being held back by a lack of processing facilities. It is hoped that increased investment in areas such as hydrocarbon development will help bolster agriculture in the country.
  9. WASH practices. In the capital city of Nouakchott, signs of improvement are palpable. For example, water basins have been installed and classroom instruction on proper handwashing and better hygiene practices have been implemented, benefiting more than 6,500 people. Improved conditions for students also means fewer absences from school.
  10. Medical Waste Disposal. Proper medical waste disposal in these regions are creating healthier environments. With the installation of six biomedical waste incinerators, health centers are reducing the health risks that are posed by exposure to infectious microorganisms found in medical waste. Moreover, proper medical waste management and disposal help protect the environment from hazardous substances allowing for soil, water and air to be used for growing food.

As these top 10 facts about living conditions in Mauritania show, the country faces an uphill battle as it continues to progress into a self-sustaining country. However, government initiatives along with support from international aid groups continue to tackle social and systematic barriers in order to change the status quo.

– Leroy Adams
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania
Mauritania is a rather large country in western Africa that has abundant natural resources like iron, oil and natural gas. Unfortunately, water and arable land are not at the top of the list. Nearly two-thirds of the nation is desert. Despite the lack of water, nearly half of the nations 3.8 million people make a living from livestock and cereal grain farming. Sustainable agriculture in Mauritania is essential to put this land to its best use and help the rapidly urbanizing population economically.

Promoting Sustainable Agriculture in Mauritania

According to the FAO, the amount of food produced domestically in Mauritania each year only meets one-third of the country’s food needs, leaving the other 70 percent to be imported from other countries. The FAO has been working to increase crop output by promoting and supporting agriculture farming in Mauritania. One such program is the Integrated Production and Pest Managment Program (the IPPM) in Africa.

This program covers nine other countries in West Africa. Since its inception in 2001 as part of the United Nations new millennium programs, the program has reached over 180,000 farmers, 6,800 in Mauritania. In Mauritania, the IPPM program focuses on simple farming techniques to increase both the quantity and quality of the crop yield each year.

These techniques include teaching farmers how to chose the best seeds to plant along with the optimum distance to plant the seeds from one another. The program also educates farmers about the best use of fertilizers and pesticides. Overuse of these chemicals can pollute the already small water supply and harm the crops. The program also teaches good marketing practices to help with crop sales.

Programs Working With Government Support

It is not only outside actors that are promoting sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. The government has been helping as well. A report by the Guardian from 2012 explains the government’s new approach since 2011. The plan includes new irrigation techniques, the promotion of new crops, such as rice, and the training of college students in sustainable agriculture techniques through subsidies.

Data from the World Bank in 2013, showed that the program was slowly succeeding; however, too little water was still the biggest issue. The World Bank and the government of Mauritania are still working towards those goals by building off of the natural resources available. According to the CIA, a majority of the economy and foreign investment in Mauritania involves oil and minerals.

A Work In Progress

Data is not easy to find on the success of these programs after 2016. What can be noted, though, is that programs run by the FAO and other international organizations are still fighting for sustainable agriculture in Mauritania. They have been able to sustain using money from mining and oil that is coming in each year.

While these are certainly not the cleanest ways for a government to make money, it is a reliable way for the foreseeable future. The government has already proven that it is willing to spend this money on its people. Hopefully, the government will continue to invest in its people and sustainable agriculture in Mauritania.

Nick DeMarco
Photo: Flickr

Liberty in Mauritania

In the West African country of Mauritania, though slavery was abolished in 1981 and a 2007 law was passed that criminalizes owning a slave, much of the population remains in bondage.

The Global Slavery Index reported that there were up to 47,000 slaves remaining in Mauritania. The size of this human rights violation and recent crimes against activists warrant American attention and aid for those longing for liberty in Mauritania.

History of Slavery in Mauritania

Slavery has a long and storied history in Mauritania. As in other parts of the world, it is often based on skin color and ethnic background. Most enslaved people in Mauritania are darker skinned and Harantine/Afro-Mauritanian. This is especially relevant considering that the government is overwhelmingly run by the lighter skinned Arab-Berbers, under an administration that has done little to ease the plight of slaves.

Stories of Slaves

Even when Mauritania’s minority peoples live as freedmen, they tend to occupy lower positions in the social hierarchy than the Arab-Berbers. This colorist system is deeply ingrained throughout Mauritanian culture. One Harantine slave testified that her mother used to tell her every night that she must respect the masters because their caste is higher and they are considered to be the saints. Despite the horrors of slavery, ingrained biases often block the way to liberty in Mauritania.

Those who remain enslaved in Mauritania live in abhorrent conditions. Stories of cruelty and barbarism abound. Fatimatou, a former slave that was freed by the nongovernmental organization SOS Slaves, testifies: “I lost two babies to this family because they prevented me from taking care of my own children. I was forced to work when I had just given birth.” Aichetou, another former slave, escaped in 2010, assisted by her sister. The older sibling had escaped after witnessing her captor murder her child using hot coals.

Unfair System

Despite the frequency and brutality of these incidents, only five people have been punished in the past three years for practicing slavery. In comparison, at least 168 human rights activists that are fighting against slavery have been arrested in the past four years.

This institutional disregard for anti-slavery efforts has become apparent leading up to the country’s September elections. On August 7, former presidential candidate and human rights activist, Biram Dah Abeid, was arrested because of an “order from above.” Most likely, he has been detained because he and several colleagues planned to run for legislative positions. His vow to defeat the authoritarian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has made him a focus of much controversy and state persecution.  Throughout the most recent detainment, Biram Dah Abeid and other arrested opposition members have not been given access to a lawyer during the prosecution.

How Can People Help?

People around the world who feel sympathy for the plight of those seeking liberty in Mauritania have several ways in which they can assist.

  1. First, they can learn all they can about the subject and spread the word to their friends and family on social media.
  2. Second, they can donate to anti-slavery organizations like the Abolition Institute that uses the proceeds to rescue people from bondage.
  3. Finally, they can write a letter or email to the U.S. government to prevent the deportation of Mauritian asylum seekers. Amnesty International has warned that if deported, these people face the threat of slavery, torture and death. One of the easiest ways to contact influential people is through the Borgen Project, specifically through this link.

Only with the support of compassionate and aware citizens can enslaved victims find liberty in Mauritania.

– Lydia Cardwell
Photo: Flickr

US Benefits from Foreign Aid to Mauritania
Nestled between Senegal, Mali, and Western Sahara, Mauritania is a mostly desert country. The population is roughly 4.3 million people, making Mauritania the fourth least densely populated country in Africa. Half the population lives at or around the coastal capital of Nouakchott. The country faces the challenge that only 0.5 percent of its land is measured as arable. It suffers an extremely hot and dry climate, leading to dust-laden wind and occasional droughts.

The History of U.S.-Mauritania Relations

The U.S. was the first country to recognize Mauritania’s independence when it became independent from France in 1960. The U.S. had excellent relations with Mauritania from 1960 to 1967 and aided the country with a small amount of economic assistance. In 1989, U.S.-Mauritanian relations were disturbed by the Mauritanian governments expulsion of Senegalese citizens. Ties were further deteriorated by Mauritania’s supposed support of the 1991 Gulf War.

At the end of the 1990s, the Mauritania government began to adopt new policies, which were higher regarded by the U.S. As a result, U.S.-Mauritanian relations grew significantly, and military cooperation and training programs soon followed.

The U.S. condemned Mauritania’s military coups in 2005 and 2008. However, the U.S. supported the nations transition to democracy after the coup d’état in 2005. Furthermore, the U.S. assisted in election-related business, such as voter education and election support in 2007.

Since 2009, funding has returned to Mauritania. The U.S. continues to support the Mauritania government and to encourage political leaders to continue democracy. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mauritania because of key issues the nations fight for together: food security, counterterrorism, strengthening of human rights, and the promotion of trade. This is most evident through the growth of trade and counterterrorism movements.

Trade Growth

Although it is slow, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Mauritania by growing trade and investment relations within this country. The two countries are linked through the U.S.-North Africa Partnership for Economic Opportunity (NAPEO), a regional public-private partnership that improves the network of businesspersons in the U.S. with the five Magherb countries, including Mauritania.

Counterterrorism

Mauritania is among five other nations (G5) that work with the Multinational Joint Task Force to end terrorism. They are an important member in creating African-led solutions to counter instability and terrorism. The G5, Mauritanian authorities, and the U.N. have worked closely together to implement solutions of counterterrorism. The representatives set out plans that aim to:

  1. Increase education
  2. Support the role of women in reforming security
  3. Bettering investigative abilities
  4. Reintegrating previous offenders
  5. Strengthening border security

In October 2017, the U.S. government pledged up to $60 million toward the G5’s counterterrorism initiatives. The funding was to be used to train and equip members of the Joint Task Force. The goal of this funding is to entrust nations, like Mauritania, to provide their own safety.

Terrorist organizations are still active in this region and had launched a series of attacks through Mauritanian from 2005 to 2011. Foreign aid workers and tourists were targeted during this time. Although the threat of terrorism in Mauritania remains high, it is on its way toward improvement because of the counterterrorism actions being taken in 2017, made possible by foreign aid.

– Stefanie Babb
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Mauritania

Mauritania is a deeply divided and struggling country. Slavery has only recently been legally abolished, about 20 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day and over half of adults are illiterate. Although one of the biggest threats to Mauritania remains the increasing influence of Al Qaeda, poverty and lack of female educational opportunities are some of the worst perils facing Mauritanians in their daily lives. To understand the current reality of girls’ education in Mauritania, it is first necessary to know where the country has been.

Mauritania’s History

Initially settled by Berbers and Arabs in the 3rd century A.D., Mauritania was a trading and transport hub for connecting West Africa to the Maghreb. In the 1850s, France came to control the territory militarily, leading a brutal regime of oppression. This regime left those living in the area profoundly divided between Arabs and Berbers and subjugated to subhuman conditions. By 1904, France formally established Mauritania as a colony, and in 1920, Mauritania became part of French West Africa and was subsequently administered by Senegal. Mauritania became an overseas territory in 1946; by 1958, the country was self-governing and became independent in 1960. 

Shortly after Mauritania gained independence, a series of elections, coups and race riots took place through much of the latter 20th century. The elections and coups slowed to a considerably slower pace in the 2000s and the subsequent decade, providing Mauritania with some semblance of stability. This stability was vital; it allowed outside organizations such as the U.N. and UNICEF to offer much-needed assistance to the battered nation of 3.7 million. Between 2000 and 2007, for example, literacy declined nearly 8 points. This was primarily due to the Mauritanian government’s failure to dedicate any time, money or resources to education.

Successes in Education

While Mauritania has had significant struggles with education, there have been signs of improvement and cases of success. For example, the NGO Global Partnership for Education (GPE) began funding the Mauritania Basic Education Sector Support Project. Over the course of this program, gross enrollment rates increased from 88 percent to 97 percent and completion rates rose from 53 percent to 71 percent between 2001 and 2012. Girls’ education in Mauritania also improved significantly; 21,168 adolescent females have been enrolled in lower secondary education in 2016, as opposed to 7,400 in 2014. 

UNICEF has also forged a partnership with the Mauritanian government to promote education and provide resources for schools. This national partnership was reached following the success of UNICEF’s initial mission in the country. The new goal of UNICEF and the Mauritanian government is to achieve universal access and completion of secondary education for all Mauritanian children.

The Importance of Female Education

It is critical to recognize why female education in Mauritania is so important beyond the educational aspects. Girls’ education has been shown to lead to female empowerment. In a country so bitterly divided and struggling with social progress, support for women’s empowerment is a vital aspect. Improving education in Mauritania also improves poverty in the country. The United Nations Girls Education Initiative reports that many young girls in Mauritania face dire poverty. Since only 53 percent of households have access to clean water, disease is common, and there is insufficient access to vaccinations. Girls’ education provides access to schools, which in turn provides access to the water and medicine many desperately need.

While the challenges to girls’ education in Mauritania are plentiful and can seem immense, much headway has been made in recent years. With organizations like the U.N., UNICEF, and GPE working with the government, there is significant improvement on the horizon for girls’ education in Mauritania.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to MauritaniaMauritania is an impoverished country located on the west coast of Sub-Saharan Africa in the Sahel region. Of its 4.1 million people, 42 percent live below the poverty line. The population faces additional challenges of high youth unemployment rates and low levels of formal education. However, a huge decline in the poverty rate during the 2010s and successful projects in humanitarian aid to Mauritania place the country in a position to grow economically.

Mauritania gained independence from France in 1960 but has since seen two coups creating some political instability. The first occurred in 1978 and the second 30 years later in 2008. The second coup coincided with a time of poverty reduction, and the 2000s, in general, brought GDP growth for Mauritania. The mining industry is large in Mauritania and was a big factor in that growth due to an increased global value of minerals.

Humanitarian aid to Mauritania can help further boost the growth of the country and benefit the people. Below are four areas in which humanitarian aid has been a success.

  1. Finance – The World Bank has been involved with humanitarian aid projects in Mauritania since 1963 and is working on financial projects that benefit the people. There are currently eight projects that total over $370 million in aid to Mauritania. The projects align with the goal of creating jobs, as well as provide analytical work and technical assistance. Also, in 2012 the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC) invested $12 million in commercial banks to provide a $127 million two-year credit line so that Mauritania would have a stable source of energy products.
  2. Education – The World Bank is also involved in two educational projects in Mauritania. Mauritania’s population suffers from a lack of formal education and a 44% youth unemployment rate. These World Bank projects (totaling over $30 million) educate the population and increase the relevance and efficiency of vocational training in Mauritania. The projects are also working with training institutions to modernize them and improve their programs. Seven of these institutions already have performance contracts and three will be internationally certified to best prepare the workforce.
  3. Climate – Located in the Sahel region in Africa, Mauritania has a semi-arid climate. Additionally, as a coastal country, Mauritania faces challenges from sea level rise and erosion. Up to 30 meters of coastline is lost in any given year. To combat this, Mauritania is working with other countries, regional alliances and international partners. Mauritania is developing an investment plan based on environmental analysis that will be part of a foundation for its future sustainable development. Also, Britain’s Oxfam is working to help the population affected by recurrent climate crises.
  4. Food – A large portion of humanitarian aid to Mauritania focuses on food security and nutrition. The European Commission is working to prevent malnutrition of those most vulnerable in the population. Additionally, USAID is working with Action Contre la Faim (ACF or Action Against Hunger in English) to prevent malnutrition through cooking demonstrations and nutrition education. Further, they conduct screenings to identify children most at risk of malnutrition so they can be treated. They have contributed over $200 million to ensure food availability in Mauritania.

Despite the improvements in Mauritania in the 2000s, there are still many people living in poverty and the country faces development challenges. Humanitarian aid to Mauritania has been essential to helping the people of the country and will continue to help grow the economy.

– Hayley Herzog

Photo: Flickr

Mauritania is a country located in West Africa that gained independence from France in 1960. In 2007, Mauritania saw the election of its first independent and freely elected president. However, his term in office ended abruptly when he was deposed by the military in 2008. General Abdel Aziz was then sworn into the presidency in August 2009 and was again re-elected in 2014.

Mauritania continues to experience tensions between ethnic groups, and suffered serious threats to its security through activities from various terrorist organizations. However, since 2011 strategies and development projects in Mauritania have been implemented that use dialogue and military actions, which have stopped terrorist attacks from occurring thus far.

After years of insecurity and instability, the situation in Mauritania is improving politically. Various international and national organizations are working in Mauritania to improve the lives of citizens and increase economic growth and decrease food insecurity. Here are five development projects in Mauritania that are currently active or have recently concluded.

  1. Skills Development Support Project
    This project was initiated by the World Bank and implemented by the Directions des Projets Education et Formation. The project ran from April 2011 to December 2017. Carrying a total cost of $17.6 million, this project’s objectives were to improve the efficiency as well as quality of training institutions in Mauritania and to foster a more “market driven technical and vocational education training system.”
  2. Programme de développement durables des oasis
    This project was approved in 2003 and ran until 2012, and was financed by IFAD. Costing a total of $33.9 million, its major objective was to reduce the poverty rate in five provinces in Mauritania. The project promoted sustainable farming solutions through the spread of technology and supported the financing of economic as well as social infrastructures, which reached 50,000 households.
  3. Poverty Reduction Project in Aftout South & Karakoro Phase II
    This is another project financed by IFAD, but one that is currently active. Costing a total of $28.9 million, this project aims to improve livelihoods and incomes for women and young people in 21,000 rural households in three moughataas (departments), which include M’Bout, Ould-Yengé and Kankossa. This will be achieved by fostering an increase in the economy through sustainable resource management, specifically by developing systems of crop and livestock management, soil restoration and water management and support for local project development.
  4. Construction of the Rosso-Boghé road
    This project is funded by the African Development Bank (ADB), the Nigeria Trust Fund (NTF) and the Mauritanian government, with loans of $11.69 million and a grant of $720,000 from the ADB and a loan of $8.6 million from the NTF. The construction of this road will help develop the right bank of Senegal River and will have an enormous impact in promoting the development of agriculture, fishing industries and transportation services. It will affect 100,000 people in 67 localities.
  5. Integrating disadvantaged young people into the building sector
    This project, started in 2006, will conclude in 2020 and will affect regions of Gorgol, Guidimakha and Brakna in Mauritania. Implemented by the International Labour Organization, and costing a total of €3.2 million, this project’s primary objective is to help improve the living conditions of youth through improving access to professional training and employment. The goal of the results are to improve the quality of work in construction through training and enlarge the scope of professional training programs.

Although only five development projects in Mauritania are mentioned here, there are numerous other organizations working within the country to improve the lives of Mauritanians. Through collaborative and inclusive effort, the livelihoods, economy and food security of many are sure to improve.

– Miho Kitamura

Photo: Flickr

Women's empowerment in MauritaniaThe World Bank and the Competitiveness Industries and Innovation Program (CIIP) aim to strengthen women’s empowerment in Mauritania through the country’s leading industry: fishing. Women constitute 30 percent of the workforce within the fishing sector, and therefore participate in the growth of the country’s economy, as the industry contributes 25 percent of public revenue and up to 5 percent of Mauritania’s GDP.

However, in the northern city of Nouadhibou, women face a lack of access to capital and land, thus being driven to work in the fishing industry out of economic necessity. Despite their contributions to the economy, women in Mauritania work in poor conditions. They often have no choice other than to sell their goods outside of the fisheries market, isolated from the saturated Nouadhibou market. As a result of selling their products in smaller markets, women are forced to sell their products at lower prices and will attract only a few buyers.

To avoid a drop in women working in the fishing industry, the Nouadhibou Eco-Seafood Cluster Project was created in March 2016 by the World Bank and the CIIP. The project will strengthen Nouadhibou’s port infrastructure while expanding its onshore fish processing activities, in order to develop a seafood cluster within the region. Targeted training will also be part of the project, reinforcing women’s skills in fishing and helping them grow their businesses and to generate value.

The innovative Personal Initiative (PI) Training is one such project, with the goal of building entrepreneurial success within the community by introducing women entrepreneurs to new products and services.

All these initiatives offer hope for women’s empowerment in Mauritania as they help women develop the entrepreneurship skills they need to become financially and economically stable. In addition to supporting women’s empowerment in Mauritania, these projects have also significantly addressed two urgent development challenges, poverty and unemployment.

 – Sarah Soutoul

Photo: Flickr

Education in MauritaniaTerrorism, corruption, slavery and poverty. These are some of the significant issues that plague most of the African continent. Some of the lowest education and literacy rates can be found in Africa. One of the primary ways a country can help its citizens and begin to climb out of poverty is by providing education. Despite enormous political and economic challenges, one nation is doing this: Mauritania.

Mauritania is a country of about 3.7 million people in the northwest corner of the continent, sharing borders with places such as Mali and Algeria. Given its geographical location and proximity to unstable countries, Mauritania faces egregious challenges both outside its borders and within them. This has undoubtedly made the pursuit of education expansion and overall poverty alleviation measures difficult to implement effectively.

The overall literacy rate in the country suffered a decline between 2000 and 2015. This is clearly a result of failed policies by the government to provide education for its people. When compared to its neighbors, Mauritania spends the least amount of GDP per pupil. The fact that its neighbors suffer from similar if not worse conditions than Mauritania makes this even more absurd.

However, in 2014, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a nonprofit fund dedicated to improving education systems in developing countries, began funding a new program in Mauritania. This new program is designated the Mauritania Basic Education Sector Support Project.

There has been a myriad of successes since implementation, most notably the 101 teachers certified under the Teacher Training Initiative curricula and the construction of 10 middle schools in rural areas. This project is continuing to provide training for administrative support staff as well as distributing pedagogical kits to students and schools.

In 2017, The Underrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization teamed up with the Association of Volunteers Against Illiteracy to improve education in Mauritania. This partnership sought to target specifically the Haratin minority by constructing two schools in the city of Nouakchott.

The project was a success, having provided education to over 70 women and children in just under four months. In addition to the school buildings themselves, the Education Spells Freedom project provided a bathroom facility, rugs and school supplies in order to improve the experience of attendees.

The challenges facing Mauritania will not be overcome quickly or easily. Education in Mauritania is a key starting point in the process of improving the lives of Mauritanians. The Education Spells Freedom project and the GPE program in the country should serve as a guide for future nonprofit organization initiatives regarding education in Mauritania and beyond.

Daniel Cavins

Photo: Flickr