A 2015 report by the United Nations Organization for Food and Agriculture (FAO) showed that Panamanian malnutrition rates have fallen in the last 25 years from nearly 26 percent to 10 percent. The report attributed this trend in decreasing hunger in Panama to its economic growth.

Panama has made significant progress in reducing poverty in recent years. Between the years 2008 and 2014, from the 3.9 million citizens of Panama, an additional 168,000 people overcame extreme poverty, while close to 300,000 got out of poverty.

Regional disparities are still prevalent, however, especially in rural areas mainly inhabited by indigenous people. While in urban areas extreme poverty is below 4 percent, in rural areas, extreme poverty is at about 27 percent. In indigenous territories, poverty is above 70 percent and extreme poverty is above 40 percent. These consistently high poverty rates in rural indigenous communities mean that many still face hunger in Panama.

Combating Hunger with Everyday Foods

To combat persistent malnourishment and micronutrient deficiencies in rural communities, Panama has adopted a national strategy of biofortifying staple food crops like rice, beans, and sweet potatoes.

Research began in 2006, coming to fruition in August 2013, when the government launched Agro Nutre Panamá, coordinating the improvement of food quality among the rural, indigenous poor by adding iron, vitamin A and zinc to seeds.

“We see biofortification as an inexpensive way to address the problem by means of staple foods that families consume on a daily basis,” said Ismael Camargo, the coordinator of Agro Nutre, in an interview with Inter Press Service (IPS) in 2014.

The program enlisted 4,000 subsistence level or family farmers in planting biofortified seeds and does not plan to monetize the seeds for commercial use.

“The aim is to improve the nutritional quality of the diets of family farmers,” food engineer Omaris Vergara of the University of Panama told IPS.

While the exact impact of these biofortified crops has yet to be measured, due to lack of the Central American country’s research infrastructure, this program of eliminating hunger in Panama shows great promise.

Casie Wilson

Photo: Flickr

What had once been a course on music production and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has now become one of the most innovative global outreach programs in current times. Founded by Stephen Levitin, Doctor Mark Katz and Pierce Freelon in 2011, awareness and support for Beat Making Lab was originally gleaned through crowd-sourcing.

However, Levitin, Katz and Freelon gleaned more than just funds–they also attracted the attention of PBS Digital Studios, which agreed to document the efforts of Beat Making Lab in places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Panama and Ethiopia.

Beat Making Lab collaborates with global communities in order to achieve cultural exchange, innovation and inspiration. Beat Making Lab, an enterprise of the production company ARTVSM LLC also partners with PBS Digital Studios in order to donate equipment such as laptops and software to global communities. The studio also shoots music videos with the selected community in order to create a weekly web-series with PBS.

For example of how Beat Making Lab has spread its message of global collaboration and peace through art is evident in Ethiopia, last summer, Beat Making Lab trained a group of 18-25 year old students in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The group was taught how to blend modern hip-hop beats with traditional Ethiopian rhythms in order to convey messages regarding pressing political and health issues in their homeland.

One of the many goals of Beat Making Lab is to provide youth around the globe with the tools and information necessary to become entrepreneurs of their own. In order to ensure that the knowledge provided during the two week session is not lost, students are requested to keep training other members of their community.

A former Beat Making Lab student, DJ Couler, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, stated that ““when the instructors return to the United States, for us that will not be the end. It will be more like a continuation, or even a beginning for us because we will be able to teach others how to create their own beats.”

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: Beat Making Lab, Beat Making Lab- 2, PRI
Photo: Okay Player

poverty_happiness_panamaA Gallup poll revealed that Panama was one of the happiest countries in the world, followed by Paraguay and El Salvador. The poll interviewed people in 148 countries and asked about their experiences the day before. People were asked if they smiled a lot, if they felt respected and if they were well-rested.

Panama is one of the poorest countries in the world. Why are people there so happy?

1. Positive Attitude

Latin American countries focus on positives such as friends, family and religion despite the difficulties they may face in their daily lives. With the economic boom, including more jobs, resulting from the success of the Panama Canal comes increased traffic and crime. However, Panamanians choose to focus on the positives. People in the happiest, yet poorest, Latin American countries find joy in moral satisfaction more than in material goods, a mentality that is often not found in citizens within developed countries.

“Overall, I’m happy because this is a country with many natural resources, a country that plays an important role in the world,” Carlos Martinez said. “We’re Caribbean people, we’re people who like to celebrate, to eat well and live as well as we can. There are a lot of possibilities here, you just have to sacrifice a little more.”

2. Health Care

State-of-the-art equipment, highly skilled doctors and reasonably-priced health insurance are just a few benefits of living in Panama. As a result of a good healthcare system, life expectancy is quite high in Panama – 74 years for men and 80 years for women.

3. Favorable Climate

The temperature remains at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. Furthermore, the country does not experience dry and rainy seasons. The weather, along with a developed pension system, draws retirees to the country. In 2005, Panama won first place in the global index of the most comfortable countries in the world. According to the American Association of Retired Persons and the organization “International Living,” the United States recognized Panama as one of the world’s four best countries to live in outside the United States.

Haley Sklut

Sources: Live Science, Daily Mail, World Mathaba,
Photo: News