Mexico's Digital Divide
Since 2013, Mexico’s constitution has guaranteed internet access for all within its borders. Mexico was the first country to ever make such a promise to its people. However, in spite of what the constitution says, only around half of Mexico’s population of roughly 129 million people have access to the internet. The vast majority of those who do have internet access live in the country’s wealthier areas while most of those who do not have it live in the poorest areas. People know this gap in access due to income inequality as Mexico’s “digital divide.”

The Importance of Universal Internet Access

Internet access is pivotal for reducing global poverty, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the internet, people have greater access to education, which is important when schools are not in session and learning is remote. The children of families who lack internet access and equipment to connect to it fall behind in school and may drop or fail out. Access to the internet also enables people to speak with health care professionals digitally, whether for physical or mental health purposes. The pandemic has caused an increase in mental health crises as well as suicide. The internet allows people to find resources to help them through crises.

Internet access is also useful for communication. With it, people can reach out to family and friends on social media. They can contact their leaders via email or get their mailing information and phone numbers. If people in poverty do not know the proper ways to get in touch with policymakers, they cannot effectively advocate for legislation that improves poverty and officials will not know how many of their constituents want such legislation.

Along with improving communication and access to services, internet access improves commerce through online buying and selling. This benefit to commerce in conjunction with the jobs internet infrastructure and activity create boosts the economy while lifting people out of poverty. Thus, internet access contributes greatly to reducing poverty, yet less than half of Mexico’s population has access to the internet.

Why Mexico’s Digital Divide Exists

In Mexico, the richest states have a larger percentage of households with internet access than the poorest states. For example, in Sonora and Baja California Sur, 72% and 76% of households have internet access respectively. Meanwhile, in Chiapas and Oaxaca, only 13% and 21% of households have internet. Part of the reason for Mexico’s digital divide is the former monopoly the firm Carlos Slim held that kept prices for data plans and internet connections too high for lower-income households.

Prior to 2013, Mexico’s people did not have guaranteed internet access, and internet-related investments went toward wealthier areas that already had access. Part of the reason for this was the mindset it would be more worthwhile to invest further in the richest areas instead of the poorer ones. The internet also gives people with access to it more of a voice, the communicating of their wants and needs quicker than the wants and needs of people without the internet. However, the Mexican government is making greater efforts to expand internet access to everyone.

Measures to End Mexico’s Digital Divide

Since amending the constitution in 2013, Mexico has invested almost $1 billion into its “Mexico Conectado” initiative. This initiative focuses on ensuring public facilities such as schools and libraries in rural areas have broadband connections. This way, even if people do not have the internet at home, they can go somewhere to access it for free. Additionally, the country has created about 7,200 computing hubs. These locations not only provide free internet but also teach visitors how to use the web, build resumes and learn other skills.

Mexico has experienced an increase in internet users following the breaking up of Carlos Slim’s monopoly as well. The government’s dismantling of the firm’s monopoly has allowed for more competition among providers in the Mexican market, giving people more affordable options in terms of plans, services and providers. The country saw a drop in the percentage of people in poverty, from 46% to 43% by 2016, after guaranteeing internet access and eliminating the communications monopoly.

The disaster relief group Team Rubicon and the NGO NetHope have also been working to get free internet access to refugees, migrants and NGOs aiding them. Together, they set up networks and Wi-Fi for centers serving refugees and migrants while establishing local access points anyone can use. Having internet access enables refugees and migrants to keep in touch with friends and family in addition to staying informed about disasters they may be fleeing from.

The Future of Internet Access in Mexico

Though Mexico’s digital divide remains large, and the constitution’s guarantee of internet access for all remains unfulfilled, the situation is continuing to improve. The number of internet users, providers and facilities with free internet access is increasing. With the expansion of the internet comes the reduction of poverty. Once Mexico’s digital divide finally closes, the country will see significant economic benefits.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr


The fight for women’s rights and gender equality in Mexico has come a long way but still needs improvement. Currently, the country still presents many challenges and obstacles for women to achieve equality. Mexican women face verbal and sexual abuse daily.

Recognizing the dire need for change, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are working hard to empower Mexican women. They are advocating for more women’s participation in politics and government. Here are some NGOs leading the fight for gender equality in Mexico.   

Fondo Semillas 

Fondo Semillas (“Seeds Fund”) is a nonprofit feminist organization based in Mexico. It focuses on improving Mexican women’s lives. The organization’s overarching mission is to create an equitable country where women can make their own decisions.

Launched during the 1968 student movement in Mexico City that represented a breakthrough for young Mexican women, Fondo Semillas seeks to mobilize domestic and international resources. To do this, it seeks institutional, corporate and individual donors. The organization also collaborates with other feminist groups to advance women’s rights.

Rather than coming up with short-term solutions, Fondo Semillas targets the roots of the problems and builds structural policies to address the issues. Through this work, Fondo Semillas has four key gender equity goals. These are protecting women’s bodies, preserving the women’s relationships with nature, advocating for job opportunities for women and preserving women’s identities in the country.

Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute (ILSB)  

The Simone de Beauvoir Leadership Institute (ILSB) is a feminist Mexican non-governmental organization (NGO) that endeavors to strengthen social leadership and citizen participation for women. The organization’s goal is to enhance justice, equity and gender equality in Mexico by helping feminist leaders and activists influence policies. ILSB also focuses on empowering women to demand progress. To advance these goals, ILSB aims to build a culture of activism and knowledge for women. Further, it strives to establish alliances between leaders who value gender equality in Mexico.

Through its advocacy projects and digital campaigns, ILSB is notable as a gender equality trailblazer. In short, the NGO wants to create female leaders who have a commitment to social justice and gender equality. Through these activists, ILSB hopes to change of realities of discrimination and inequality in Mexico.   

Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (“May Our Daughters Return Home”)  

Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (“May Our Daughters Return Home”) is an organization that strives to fight against femicide in Mexico. Founded after the murders and disappearances of Mexican women in the State of Chihuahua, Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa hopes to demand justice for women by focusing on returning the bodies of victims to their families for a proper burial. It also strives to bring aggressors to justice.

The organization attempts to advance these goals by providing legal guidance and social justice support for families whose daughters disappeared. It addresses both physical and mental health issues of affected family members. Not only does Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa inform the state government about any human rights violations but it also demands more accountability from the government. It does this by asking the government to allocate resources for women who femicide affects. Through these works, Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa addresses the ongoing problem of femicide and fights for advancing gender equality in Mexico.   

Las Libres  

Las Libres is a feminist organization with the primary mission to promote women’s human rights and to demand respect for women’s rights across Mexico. The organization specifically aims to provide women with access to legal and medical services. It also focuses on empowering indigenous, uneducated or low-income women.

Las Libres conducts educational workshops for women in marginalized communities. These aim to build awareness of women’s rights and create a safe environment for women to exercise their rights. They also offer legal and medical support for women who are victims of gender-based violence. Through this work, the organization envisions a future for gender equality in Mexico. 

PSYDEH

PSYDEH is a feminist, grassroots Mexican nongovernmental organization (NGO) that empowers rural and indigenous people with training in human rights and citizen development.  Further, it helps them to become leaders of their own marginalized communities. The NGO believes that change needs to come from the bottom up.

PSYDEH views women as central to families and societies. That is why the NGO presents women-led workshops to educate women on creating solutions to local problems. Further, the workshops teach women to utilize resources for improving their decision-making and their understanding of the law. By partnering with like-minded organizations, PSYDEH also helps women develop local projects for improving their quality of life. Through this work, the organization hopes to improve the self-awareness of Mexican women and foster solidarity between marginalized communities. Finally, it also aims to empower women to take action to better their own lives.   

Moving Forward

Gender inequality continues to pose problems for Mexico. However, these five NGOs are working hard to provide services and competency so that Mexican women can promote gender equality in Mexico.

– Tri Truong
Photo: Flickr

Mexican Farmers
Warmer temperatures across the globe have drastically affected farmers’ ability to produce crops, especially in arid communities. Rising temperatures increase evaporation, reducing surface water and drying out the soil. Farmers in Mexico have experienced severe drought since 2012. As of April 15, 2021, nearly 85% of Mexico’s population faced one of the worst droughts in the nation in decades. However, a local engineer in Jalisco, Mexico, created a possible solution, called the “solid rain” technique, to help struggling Mexican farmers through times of drought.

The “Solid Rain” Technique

The “solid rain” technique involves a very absorbant powdery polymer substance that farmers can mix into a formula before adding to the soil. The mixture allows moisture to stay in the ground for up to 40 days, even during times of drought. In 2012, Sergio Rico Velasco, the person who came up with the formula for “solid rain,” told Aljazeera that he sold the idea to farmers in Peru and Ecuador and intended to receive funding from the Mexican government to expand the project to help more farmers in Mexico.

In 2013, the company said the government tested the “solid rain” technique and found that crop production increases by 300% when the technique is used correctly. More than 90% of Mexico’s crops are rainfed and farmers use 90% of the arable land for annual crops like forages and grain maize. Farmers cannot adequately produce the large supply of crops that rely on rain during Mexico’s ongoing droughts. As a result, technological advances like “solid rain” are even more crucial for farmers.

The United States directly benefits from agricultural production in Mexico. For example, in 1998, Mexico’s fruit and vegetables to the U.S. amounted to $2.9 billion and meat and fish exports generated $71 billion. Coffee and cocoa exports from Mexico to the U.S. equaled $682 million.

Water Access

Natural disasters and a changing environment negatively affect access to resources in Mexico. For example, clean water in Mexico is limited due to the hotter temperatures and drought, subsequently drying up Mexico’s water resources. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), increased levels of arsenic exist in about 60% of Mexico’s water resources, affecting 6.5 million children that drink hazardous water.

In Mexico’s valley, communities rely on water sources like rivers and lakes. However, these sources are dwindling due to an overharvest of river and lake resources.

Other organizations, like One Earth, are regularly visiting homes throughout Mexico City to supply communities with a technological system to harvest rainwater. Workers gather supplies like a “first flush diverter,” a water tank, piping and filters, and install the systems on the roof of houses in Mexico City. Ten years after it began, the organization has been installing around 50 systems per day. Thousands of homes that did not have a connection to the Mexican City’s water system now have access to rain harvesting systems and no longer need to rely on trucks to deliver water to their homes.

Though long-term drought is not likely to change soon in Mexico, initiatives to increase crop production through the use of “solid rain” and technology advances like rainwater harvesting systems are helping to mitigate the challenges individuals face in the nation. Hopefully, with new technological advancements, Mexican farmers will be able to produce crops more efficiently.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS in Mexico
To better understand the HIV/AIDS crisis in Mexico, looking at the numbers alone is only half the equation. In 2020, UNAIDS reported 340,000 people living with HIV, a 55% increase from 2018’s report of 230,000. The stigma surrounding positive HIV status plays a significant role in discouraging HIV testing and treatment. However, several programs in Mexico aim to make treatment more accessible and address the underlying issues relating to HIV/AIDS in Mexico.

HIV/AIDS in Mexico

HIV prevalence in Mexico is notably high among gay men, prisoners, transgender people and sex workers. Men who have sex with men (MSM) account for the highest number of infected people, with approximately 1.2 million men affected in this category. Despite this fact, only about 40% of these individuals go for HIV testing and know their HIV/AIDS status. Homophobia and a machismo culture mean that “sex between men is highly stigmatized.” Therefore, individuals within this category are hesitant to access HIV testing. Regular HIV testing is significantly higher in the transgender and sex workers communities at 62% and 66% respectively. The stigma surrounding HIV leaves many unaware of their status and exposed to potential transmission.

“PrEParing” for a Better Future

The fight against HIV/AIDS in Mexico starts with the United Nations PrEP program. On September 13, 2018, the U.N. launched its pilot PrEP program with the goal of targeting high-risk HIV-negative individuals. PrEP or (pre-exposure prophylaxis), is a preventive treatment for HIV-negative people who have an increased likelihood of coming into contact with the virus, such as sex workers and individuals whose partners have HIV.

The program received $26 million in HIV treatment funding to assist “7,500 at-risk people in Mexico, Brazil and Peru” until 2020. In Mexico, the PrEP program was open to assist up to 3,000 people with free treatments across four Mexican cities including Puerto Vallarta, Mexico City, Merida and Guadalajara. Additionally, patients received STD testing, counseling and condoms free of charge.

In a 2018 press release, Dr. Ariel Campos of Jalisco’s State Council for AIDS Prevention (COESIDA) said that in Puerto Vallarta, 300 people would receive a one-month supply of Truvada through the program. After the first month, the plan was to re-test patients for HIV and other STDs and then put them on a “three-month schedule” of Truvada. Studies show that PrEP is 99% successful at preventing HIV infection “when taken as prescribed.”

Protecting Prisoners

The Mexican Movement for Positive Citizenship (MMPC) helps combat HIV/AIDS in Mexico by helping those “invisible to society.” Many living with HIV in Mexico’s prisons often lack basic medical treatment, including prisoners in the advanced stages of the AIDS illness. People living with HIV in prison have personally affected each woman working with the MMPC.

For 30 years, Georgina Gutiérrez, a human rights activist and representative for the MMPC, has worked with Mexicans living with HIV. Her partner faced eight years of imprisonment in the Santa Martha Acatitla Penitentiary where the reality of the prison system opened her eyes. MMPC is one of 30 UNAIDS initiatives encouraging community-based HIV work. MMPC “received an award of $5,000” to carry out its work. To date, the MMPC has helped 180 HIV-positive prisoners at the Santa Martha Acatitla Penitentiary, providing both COVID-19 PPE and HIV/AIDS training. An additional 1,000 prisoners and staff have “benefited from the project.”

The efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS in Mexico continues to grow with help from everyday citizens, commitments from organizations and advancements in medicine. If support continues to grow, the stigma behind HIV/AIDS in Mexico will soon be a thing of the past and Mexico will have its HIV/AIDS crisis well under control.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

Relocate Afghan Refugees
The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans either displaced or seeking refuge. The United Nations has estimated that
 up to 500,000 Afghans will flee Afghanistan by the end of 2021. As a result, as the Taliban’s power continues to grow, countries across the globe have opened their doors to help relocate Afghan refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one global organization that is taking a lead in this relocation work. The IRC helps relocate Afghan refugees in Mexico, Uganda and Pakistan.

About the International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933, the IRC responds to catastrophes and humanitarian crises across the globe. Since its inception, the IRC assists those who have had to relocate by providing them with lifesaving care and long-term stability. To date, the IRC operates in over 40 counties and 22 U.S. cities offering a range of support to people who have been uprooted and are struggling.

How the IRC Helps Relocate Afghan Refugees

For the past 30 years, the IRC has worked to provide aid to Afghanistan and continues to amid the ongoing crisis. On August 31, 2021, the IRC announced that the Mexican government will welcome 175 refugees arriving in Mexico City. Throughout its history and to date, Mexico has been a safe haven for those seeking refuge. Upon their arrival, the IRC provides urgent medical care, welcome kits, COVID-19 PPE and Psychological First Aid (PFA) to those who need it. The IRC has also announced plans to provide refugees in Mexico with cash cards to communicate with families still in Afghanistan.

Uganda is a second country that works with the IRC. Since 1998, Uganda and the IRC have supported over 1.5 million refugees and are currently working with the United States and United Kingdom embassies to provide asylum for Afghan refugees. Similar to Mexico’s approach, upon arriving in Uganda, refugees receive housing, medical assistance, COVID-19 PPE, sanitary products and temporary immigration cards. IRC staff onsite in Uganda have also provided refugees with a 24/7 medical clinic along with individual and group psychosocial services.

The IRC has also been working with Pakistan since 1980 and the partnership has helped more than 3 million Afghan refugees relocate. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has depleted much of Pakistan’s resources and ravaged its economy, Pakistani officials have assured temporary asylum for new refugees coming from Afghanistan. The IRC helps Afghan relocate refugees arriving in Pakistan by supporting them through cash assistance, health care, job training and “child-friendly spaces” where children can play and attend school in a safe environment. 

Types of Support the IRC Receives

  • Donations. The IRC website offers multiple avenues for people to donate. The Rescue Gifts page includes hundreds of gifts ranging from baby kits and survival kits to a year of school for two girls. People can also make a one-time or monthly donation that will go towards providing refugees with medical care and other emergency assistance. The IRC spends 87% of all donations on programming.
  • Volunteers. Volunteers help coordinate community outreach in various areas by hosting donation drives or working internships to get hands-on experience with refugee resettlement. They also help refugees adjust when they make it to the U.S. by hosting refugees in their homes with IRC’s partner Airbnb.
  • Community Support. Individuals can call their representatives and mobilize community members to contact their representatives. In addition, you can work alongside the IRC’s Policy and Advocacy team in the fight for policies and legislation. Text RESCUE to 40649 to start taking action

A Promising Future

The road ahead will be tough for Afghanistan and for the Afghan refugees. Nevertheless, the IRC’s support will change the course of the refugee crisis one donation at a time. 

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr


Disability and poverty in Mexico is a significant issue throughout the nation. Unfortunately, some work to address disability and poverty in Mexico stagnated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, political unrest and gang violence threatened progress. However, the work of the Mexican government and social programs are fighting to provide rights and assistance for the disabled.

According to the World Bank, in 2018, an estimated 41.9% of the Mexican population lived at or below the poverty line. Additionally, those living with disabilities made up 7.5% of the population. The majority of those disabled have either a mobile or visual disability. In fact, cognitive and speech disabilities make up 16.13% and 4.87% of the disabled population respectively.

Government Action for the Disabled

The Mexican government led the promotion of disability rights in its region for decades. In 2011, Mexico implemented into law the  General Law for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities (LGPID). This law promotes, protects and guarantees human rights to persons with disabilities and full inclusion into society and equal opportunities.

In addition, the government designated a section in its job portal to helping find jobs for those living with disabilities. And as of 2011, 47.2% of the disabled population have employment while 11.3% live in poverty.

Educational Wins for the Disabled

Mexico’s education system requires that all teachers receive training to work with special needs and disabled students. Two programs known as Unidades de Servicios de Apoyo a la Educacion Regular (USAER) and Centros de Atencion Multiple (CAM) service disabled and special needs students. As of 2011, 2,400 students under CAM and 3,700 under USAER serve approximately 28,000 schools throughout Mexico.

CAM focuses on students whose disabilities require them to have to leave the classroom. USAER focuses on students whose disabilities are not severe enough for them to not be able to attend school. For example, one school in Cozumel provides a physical therapist, a social worker and a psychologist to work with the children and their parents.

Solutions to Fight Poverty

The fight against disability and poverty in Mexico reduced as economic activity slowed down due to the global pandemic. Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was at 3.44% in January 2019. However, in January 2021, the unemployment rate grew to 4.47%. Unemployment hit rural areas the hardest. As a result, residents of the less developed south often received low productivity and low investments.

To counterbalance the effects of the pandemic, the Mexican government offered advance payments, old-age social pensions and an increase in microcredit loans. The government also halted spending except for priority social programs and major infrastructure projects.

Social programs like CONTIGO and Oportunidades are working to provide financial services to those in poverty. CONTIGO provides financial products to communities that lack access to formal banks. Additionally, the program offers loans and repayment plans to those in poverty and helps customers in financial management. Financial advisors then meet with customers each week to provide support with loan management and repayment plans.

Oportunidades works under the same framework of CONTIGO. It was responsible for reducing around a third of all poverty reduction efforts. The program’s success increased school enrollment rates, nutritional health and health prevention. The program delivers cash directly to families encouraging beneficiaries to send their children to school and the health clinic. Thus alleviating the worry to cover food costs and allows them to make financial investments into a better financial future.

The Future

The work continues in the fight against disability and poverty in Mexico. There is daily progress for disability and poverty in Mexico. Additionally, the Mexican government is making investments into policies and programs. Hopefully, these programs will ensure that all Mexican citizens receive fair treatment and have every opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

How Vertical Farming in Mexico Can Address Food InsecurityMexico is a large country home to more than 130 million people. Of the population, roughly 44% live in poverty and about 10.4 million Mexicans endured severe food insecurity in 2018. COVID-19 worsens these issues, exacerbating concerns of food security and availability. Researchers are now studying the effects of vertical farming as new companies attempt to introduce vertical farming in Mexico.

What is Vertical Farming?

Vertical farming is a method of production in which crops are grown within stacked layers on top of one another. In contrast to traditional methods, where food grows across a singular plane such as a field, the vertical method enables fruits and vegetables to grow in more confined spaces, such as skyscrapers, multi-level warehouses and even shipping containers. In these environments, plants are exposed to artificial lighting and controlled temperatures to produce the best yield. The purpose of this method is to grow more food within smaller areas.

How Can Vertical Farms Help Mexico?

Vertical farming has gained traction in recent years because it gives people the opportunity to grow food in urban cities and areas where the population is rapidly increasing. Estimates indicate that Mexico’s population could rise to 150 million citizens by 2050, therefore, it is important to ensure that food production increases over the next several decades. While vertical farming allows growers to be closer to their consumers, it also alleviates some of the problems brought by agricultural farming. For example, Mexico loses billions of liters of water every year because of the poor irrigation of traditional farming methods. By introducing more vertical farms in Mexico, water waste in agriculture will drastically reduce.

Water reduction is not the only benefit of vertical farming as there are several negative aspects of traditional farming that indoor farming completely avoids. Introducing vertical farms in Mexico can lead to a decrease in fertilizer and pesticide use, which will reduce water, soil and air pollution. Additionally, since vertical farms are much closer to urbanized areas, there will not be as great of a need for agricultural machinery or transportation to deliver goods. This will reduce overall carbon emissions.

In Mexico, 34% of food produced through agricultural farming never reaches the consumer because of problems that occur during production, processing, storing and transporting. Implementing more vertical farms in Mexico can help address this problem by reducing the need for agricultural farming. Additionally, vertical systems can create job opportunities for many people, leading to profitable activities that can positively impact the nation’s economy. Overall, vertical farming can improve the quality of life for many Mexicans by giving them access to locally produced fresh food.

What are the Downsides?

Although vertical farming has a lot of potential in Mexico, it is not without drawbacks and cannot fully replace agricultural farming. This is because indoor farming technology is limited to producing specific fruits and vegetables, primarily leafy greens. While one might be able to produce lettuce, kale and different types of herbs, there are several plants that cannot grow under the artificial conditions that vertical farms create. Potatoes, corn and other root vegetables, for example, rely on traditional agricultural farming.

Limited variety is not the only issue that vertical farming presents. Because vertical farms consume so much energy and electricity, setting them up can cost millions of dollars. In urbanized areas, starting up indoor farms can be more expensive, making marginal profits lower and leading to fewer people who want to invest. Another issue with indoor farming is that it relies too heavily on technology. One day without power or LED lighting can be absolutely devastating and result in the loss of thousands of plants. Despite this, companies are starting to open up vertical farms in Mexico, with some expanding dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Verde Compacto

In recent years, several businesses have emerged in response to Mexico’s need to address food insecurity. One example is Verde Compacto, a vertical farming company that uses shipping containers to grow crops. This method enables founders Juan Gabriel Succar and Jorge Succar to grow 5,000 square meters worth of lettuce within “a 30 square meter sea freight container.”

The business is now working on a project to reduce its LED light use by 75%. Today, Verde Compacto is collaborating with its consumers to build container farms best suited to their needs. It is also looking to bring down the price of produce in countries outside of Latin America, expanding to regions such as Northern Europe in light of the pandemic.

Karma Verde Fresh

Another vertical farming company is Karma Verde Fresh, a startup based in Monterrey, Mexico. Since its founding in 2016, Karma Verde Fresh has developed its own method of indoor farming and has successfully increased its number of vertical racks by almost 90%. In 2019, the company opened its first laboratories, two at the campuses of the Autonomous University of Nueva León and one at the Antonio Narro Agrarian Autonomous University in Coahuila.

During the pandemic, Karma Verde Fresh signed a contract with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture to collaborate and build cultivation systems in food banks in Mexico’s most impoverished regions. The partners are now working to institute a Vertical Agriculture Tech and Trainer Certification Program in Mexico City. Karma Verde Fresh’s current goal is to install vertical farming systems in universities across Mexico, Central America and Chile between 2021 and 2023.

Ultimately, vertical farming is slowly integrating itself into Mexico’s future and is capable of addressing many of the nation’s problems. The benefits vertical farming hold for the nation is truly promising, potentially inspiring other countries to follow suit.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Mexico
Of the 127 million people in Mexico, 44% or 56 million live below the poverty line. Poverty often means a lack of shelter and food and not having the necessary resources to manage monthly menstruation. Without proper sanitation to manage menstruation, girls miss school and women miss work, along with other opportunities to overcome poverty. Period poverty in Mexico needs to be addressed to ensure that women and girls have the opportunity to progress in their lives.

About Period Poverty

Period poverty is the umbrella term for lack of access to sanitary products or the infrastructure to clean oneself during menstruation due to this economic, social and political issue. According to Global Citizen, “When people can’t manage their periods safely and with dignity, they miss out on school, [work] and opportunities to overcome poverty.” Menstrual poverty is an issue that COVID-19 exacerbated. An additional 3.8 million people in Mexico fell into poverty between 2018 and 2021 due, in part, to the pandemic. This rise in poverty is likely to have increased menstrual poverty.

Period Poverty in Mexico Schools

The lower chamber in Mexico approved a law in March 2021 to make female sanitary products, such as tampons, pads and menstrual cups, free in schools. The law still requires the Mexican Senate’s approval. If passed, the intention is to reinforce menstrual education to fight misinformation and bullying targeting menstruating girls.

There remains a lack of sexual and reproductive education, taboos about menstruation and the absence of the sanitary infrastructure for girls to maintain menstrual hygiene practices and dispose of sanitary products, adding to the obstacles around period poverty in Mexico. For women and girls, menstrual poverty perpetuates more poverty. Without menstrual products, water or pain medication, girls may miss school rather than risk humiliation at school.

Mental Health and Period Poverty

Beyond the lack of available menstrual products, missing school, work and other opportunities, girls who live with period poverty may also experience poor mental health. A limited ability to obtain menstrual products due to poverty can lead to anxiety, depression and feelings of embarrassment.

Period, a global nonprofit, and Thinx, a company that sells period underwear, recently implemented a study showing that two-thirds of teen girls experience stress due to limited menstrual supplies, along with feelings of shame and self-consciousness. In fact, UNICEF reports that half of school-aged girls would rather miss school than risk embarrassment of stained clothing from their periods. The fact that girls miss school has links to poverty, domestic violence, health complications and child marriage.

Menstrual products are necessary items that are often unattainable for girls and women facing poverty. This is partly due to the Value Added Tax (VAT) in Mexico that includes a 16% tax on sanitary pads and tampons and all items related to the management of menstruation.

In September 2020, Deputy of Movimiento Ciudadano Martha Tagle approached the Chamber of Deputies in Mexico with a proposal to eliminate VAT on sanitary products. Congress threw the proposal out after a vote with 218 voicing disapproval, 185 votes of approval and 11 abstaining from the vote. Congress stated that eliminating the VAT was not possible during the health crisis of the pandemic. However, groups such as Movimiento Cuidadano are making strides to reduce the cost of menstrual products.

Menstruación Digna Law

While Mexico is yet to remove the tax successfully, one state has made some headway. On March 3, 2021, Michoacán, Mexico, located in Western Mexico along the Pacific coastline and the ninth largest state in Mexico, passed the Menstruación Digna Law that incorporates menstrual education into health education in schools. Advocacy groups see this as a step forward for those experiencing menstrual poverty in Mexico and another positive move toward making sanitary products and menstrual education accessible to all girls and women in Mexico.

Impacts of Childhood Marriage on Period Poverty in Mexico

UNICEF has reported that girls who miss school or do not receive an education are more at risk of entering child marriage, experience pregnancy, malnourishment and domestic violence. Marriage as a child and teen pregnancies can exacerbate the cycle of poverty. Without powerful remedial measures, the World Bank estimates that the learning loss that has already occurred is going to cost girls in Mexico an average of 8% of their future income.

According to the World Bank, ending childhood marriage and educating girls can be powerful agents of socioeconomic change. Upon completion of school, girls are less likely to experience child marriage, face domestic abuse and suffer from long-term health complications. As a result, females who have education are more likely to have fewer and healthier children. These children then, in turn, are more likely to obtain an education and pull themselves out of poverty, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty. Educating girls around the world and in Mexico could shift the socioeconomic status and infrastructure of countries.

Ban on Plastic Applicators

In January 2021, a ban on plastic applicators in Mexico further exacerbated the issue of period poverty for girls and women. With a lack of access to tampons, women and girls are more at risk of missing more school. Experts have said that the ban could increase period poverty in a country where 43% of the population lives under the poverty line. For those in the lowest income level in Mexico, menstrual health accounts for up to 5% of their monthly expenses. A significant group of women in Mexico City also say that they cannot purchase tampons on e-commerce sites.

Eradicating period poverty in Mexico will support the world effort to end poverty by 2030. As Global Citizen states, “The world must act to end period poverty and guarantee clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. Promoting menstrual equity is key to supporting women and young girls.”

Advocating to end period poverty in Mexico is advantageous. Research shows that when girls receive education, gross domestic product (GDP) grows. A one percentage point increase in female education raises the average GDP by 0.3 percentage points and raises annual GDP growth rates by 0.2 percentage points.

– Sarah Mackay
Photo: Flickr

genetically modified seedsMany countries in Central and South America are home to strong agricultural economies. Since the 1990s, the growing use of genetically modified seeds has challenged traditional forms of agriculture. Companies such as DuPont, Syngenta and Bater sent these seeds to Latin America. Since this introduction, Latin American agribusiness has become largely dependent on genetically modified seeds. Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay are home to roughly 120 million acres of genetically modified crops. Promises of greater yields and less work fuel this upsurge. To understand the effects of genetically modified seeds and how farmers are gaining support, The Borgen Project spoke to Aimee Code, the pesticide program director at the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Seeds Endanger Farmers’ Prosperity

Two key factors explain the effect of genetically modified seeds on poverty. The first is dependence. Code explains that “many GMO seeds are intrinsically linked with pesticide use.” Code explains further that pesticide dependence can be dangerous as “this traps farmers in a cycle of needing the pesticides and needing these seeds… it becomes more and more expensive and uncomfortable.”

The difference between this cycle of seed use and traditional methods is stark as genetically modified seeds require the user to buy new seeds each year rather than harvesting and using older seeds from past harvests as is traditional. Farmers are unable to reuse genetically modified seeds and plants because they do not own them; the seeds belong to the company that sells them.

Not only do crops themselves threaten farmers’ prosperity, but the system of genetically modified agriculture also fuels poverty. With the introduction of genetically modified seeds came the promotion of farm consolidation, meaning that fewer farmers are necessary. As a result of this farm consolidation, around 200,000 agricultural producers in South America “have lost their livelihoods” in the last two decades.

Seeds Endanger Farmers’ Health

“The amount of data is woefully inadequate on the health effects experienced by these farmers out in the fields,” shares Code on the issue of health in Latin America. However, even ordinary individuals can draw conclusions just from the nature of these practices. The link between genetically modified seeds and health is best explained by the pesticide use required for these crops.

Because farmers must store pesticides in the crops’ area, the pesticides constantly endanger people living around farms. To highlight the commonality of these exposures, Code reflects on her experience working in Honduras. She says, “A young man offered me water to drink out of an old pesticide bottle.” She explains the link to poor health by concluding that “these are exposures that shouldn’t be happening.”

Along with pesticides sprayed on crops, Code explains that “the seeds are often coated with pesticides, making the seeds themselves dangerous depending on the handling practices.” Unfortunately, many farmers cannot access ample personal protective equipment to protect themselves from dangerous chemicals.

Exposure to the seeds and pesticides is grave as long-term effects can include respiratory problems, memory disorders, skin conditions, depression, miscarriages, birth defects, cancer and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. In the short term, these pesticides can result in nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, dizziness, anxiety and cognitive harm.

Solving the Problem

The effects of genetically modified seeds remain prominent in the lives of many Latin Americans. However, ongoing solutions aim to mitigate the effects. Code explains that the two most important ways to reduce the spread of genetically modified seeds and crops are education and regulation. As the pesticide program director for the Xerces Society, she works with farmers to implement more sustainable practices.

The Xerces Society is not the only organization working to spread awareness of the value of non-GMO crops. Civil society and social movements throughout Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala have mobilized people to protect seeds and the heritage of agricultural practices. These movements are vital for boosting confidence in traditional practices, challenging narratives created by genetically modified seed companies.

Governments from across Latin America have also stepped up to help reduce the use of these seeds. Countries such as Guatemala and Ecuador have implemented full and partial bans on genetically modified seeds. Most recently, Mexico passed legislation to ban the use of transgenic corn and phase out glyphosate by 2024. These mark positive steps as government regulation can stop the trend of high-risk genetically modified seeds that have trapped many farmers. Such legislation will protect food sovereignty and the health of farmers in Mexico.

More legislative measures and actions are required to eliminate the effects of genetically modified seeds in Latin America. However, recent years have seen immense progress in efforts to reduce the seeds’ prevalence through policy action and awareness.

– Haylee Ann Ramsey-Code
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty and MexicoThe country of Mexico has recently seen a massive increase in poverty, which impacts its population and economy. At the end of last year, reports showed that the poverty rate had grown to about 44% with 3.8 million more Mexican citizens falling below the poverty line. This increase has led to a crumbling economy, budget cuts, businesses closing down and layoffs causing more citizens to lose their jobs.

The current recession in Mexico started before the pandemic had arrived, but when COVID-19 hit the country, the livelihoods of Mexican citizens changed as access to health services and food became more difficult.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Poverty

“The Covid-19 health emergency has deepened the challenges that face social development policy in every aspect, particularly for incomes, health, education and the diet of Mexican people,” said development evaluation agency Coneval in an interview with Reuters.

Since the pandemic hit, citizens have felt its effects. Now, about half the Mexican population lives below the poverty line, with careful lines dividing standards of poverty between rural and urban areas. In total, almost 56 million people in Mexico are now below the poverty line; out of that 56 million, about 9% live in extreme poverty.

The Pandemic’s Medical and Economic Consequences

In May 2020, the number of people who were confirmed with the virus was at a then-high of 35,000. Out of that number, about 3,400 died due to the coronavirus. Health care has become difficult to come by for Mexican citizens; since 2018, “Mexicans lacking access to health services grew 12 percentage points.” This has left 35 million people unable to get adequate care for their illnesses. When businesses shut down because of the pandemic, nearly 350,000 jobs were lost. This pressured people to live off of their savings to sustain themselves.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has stated that he is prepared to look at the situation through different approaches and wants to give aid to the people.

Possible Solutions

“So, that is one form to measure poverty and to measure people’s wellbeing […] I have others. A very important one: what we are setting aside as economic support for households,” said President Obrador.

One of the ways the Obrador Administration is trying to alleviate poverty in the country is to raise the current minimum wage up to about $7.10 a day. There is hope that citizens will have more money to support themselves and their families.

In response to the overall pandemic, the government has sought to strengthen its test and trace strategy. In addition, one goal is to widen the distribution of the social protection payments in an effort to control the outbreak and stabilize the economy. The U.S. has also pledged to deliver 8.5 million COVID vaccines for citizens to become inoculated.

“We believe we are in a very good moment in our relationship with the [United States],” said Mexican Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebard in an interview with El Paso Times.

– Demetrous Nobles
Photo: Flickr