Poverty in Peru
Peru has gradually reduced poverty over the past decade. Currently, approximately 6 million Peruvians live under the national poverty line in comparison to 16 million in 2004. This is remarkable progress in tackling poverty in Peru. Around 20.5% of Peru’s population lives in poverty nonetheless. Most of them are indigenous Quechua and Aymara communities living in the rural Sierra region. Despite their essential role in the economy, women bear the greatest burdens of extreme poverty in Peru. Here are eight facts about women’s poverty in Peru.

8 Facts About Women’s Poverty in Peru

  1. Women account for the majority of the population living in extreme poverty. In the Piura, Cajamarca, La Libertad and Apurímac districts, extreme poverty affects 25.7% of women. This is over three times the national average.
  2. In 2020, Peru scored 0.65 in the gender gap index, meaning that women are 35% less likely to have economic equality with men. In fact, 30.4% of women in Peru receive no personal income. Women who do receive personal income still make 30% less per month than men. Fortunately, Peru passed Law No. 30709 in 2017, prohibiting pay discrimination by gender. On July 1, 2019, The National Superintendency of Labor Inspection put the law into effect.
  3. Women are essential to Peru’s economy. The average rural woman accounts for 80% of her family’s labor force, working in agriculture, livestock and traditional household care. Women’s underpaid and underrepresented labor allows household men to search for temporary work.
  4. Women hold few influential roles in the workforce and politics, due to Peru’s traditional views about the role of women. This means women face higher rates of unemployment and poverty.
  5. Girls and women suffer from higher illiteracy rates than boys and men. Illiteracy among women in rural areas is 33.7% in comparison to 10.9% of men. In urban areas, where 7.4% of women and 2.4% of men are illiterate, women still face unequal opportunities in education. Organizations like Peruvian Hearts and the Sacred Valley Project give girls, especially those in rural areas, opportunities for further education in the form of scholarships, tuition and boarding schools.
  6. Peruvian women and girls often face violence and discrimination. Between 2009 and 2015, domestic violence and gender-based crimes killed more than 700 women. In 2006, 69% of women reported that they had suffered physical violence. These reports were higher in rural areas. In 2015, Peru adopted Law No. 30364 aiming to eradicate all forms of violence against women and family members. Over time, the implementation of Law No. 30364 has improved, leading to the creation of a Gender Justice Commission composed of women judges. Reporting domestic violence is now easier and safer. Groups like Ni Una Menos raise awareness about violence against Peruvian women. Last year, it organized a protest in Lima to demand justice and government action for victims of gender violence.
  7. Peruvian women face limited access to reproductive and maternal healthcare. Choices regarding birth control are slim, and resources are often hard to find or too expensive. The fight for reproductive rights is ongoing. In 2014, Peru issued national guidelines for legal abortions in the case of sexual assault. Therapeutic abortion has been legal since 1924, however, access was not secure until 2014. Increased spending on reproductive healthcare over the past decade has improved access to birth control and other contraceptives. Organizations in Peru like PROMSEX promote sexual health and reproductive rights through political advocacy.
  8. Environmental challenges impact women the most in Peru. Resources like clean water, energy and food are scarcer in rural areas of Peru. Since women secure these resources, they bear the pressures of environmental challenges. Taxing jobs like collecting firewood and gathering clean water are becoming even more difficult as resources become scarce. These burdens make families vulnerable, forcing women to put family before health. Additionally, women’s lack of representation in government denies them information and resources that mitigate the effects of climate change.

Hope for the Future

Gender inequality worsens women’s poverty in Peru. Recent legislation and activism have begun to bridge this gap and focus on women’s rights. For example, political representation for women is near 30% and growing. Economic equality is also growing thanks to Law No. 30609 that prohibits pay discrimination between genders. Additionally, reforms to domestic violence services have reduced crime against women in Peru.

Meanwhile, women’s rights organizations like Womankind Worldwide are partnering with Peruvian organization FEPROMU in efforts to educate women and develop leadership skills. The organizations Women’s Empowerment Coalition and Awamaki partnered in 2019 to build an artisan center in Huilloc. The women’s association can now weave and make textiles and train women for leadership.

Government reform and the activism of women’s organizations have allowed helped the women of Peru to climb toward gender equality. This progress should hopefully lessen women’s poverty in Peru.

Dalton Dunning
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Peru
Thanks to the government and various international organizations, Peru has made noticeable progress in regards to sanitation and clean water. However, there is still a large amount of room for improvement in the country. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Peru.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Peru

  1. Access to Running Water: The water crisis in the suburbs of Peru is complex. Even in more urban areas, running water is still a rare commodity. In middle-class homes just outside of Lima, 3 million people still lack running water. Hand-dug wells are common sources of water in these areas and local citizens may travel miles in order to use the restroom. The country has made progress in the hopes of expanding access to running water. In 2014, the International Secretariat for Water Solidarity established a sustainable source of water in Cuchoquesera and followed this with a similar development in the town of Waripercca. Both communities now have running water.
  2. Sanitation in Schools: The Peruvian water crisis has heavily affected schools. Almost no rural schools have clean bathrooms or working sinks. A lack of proper restrooms and facilities can prevent academic progress. Luckily, sanitation officials in Peru have identified this issue and created a plan to increase infrastructure. This plan should provide suitable and sanitary bathrooms to Peruvian schools by 2030 and educate younger children on hygienic practices, however, donations and investments could speed up the process.
  3. Sanitation in Hospitals: In 2016, 18 percent of health care facilities reported having to operate without running water, leading to problems in water disposal, waste management and an overall inability to perform tasks as simple as cleansing the hands. According to a report from UNICEF and WHO, this can easily lead to life-threatening illnesses, especially for newborns that may be born in these facilities.
  4. Plumbing Systems: Even homes in the suburbs of Lima do not always have toilets. In Peru’s urban areas, about 5 million people do not have a working toilet in their homes. In places where these facilities do exist, the plumbing system is so fragile that flushing toilet paper could do serious damage to the system, or at the very least cause the toilet to clog or flood. The best solution to this less-than-perfect system is to invest more money in plumbing infrastructure or to utilize the “dry toilet” designs that are popping up around the world.
  5. Open Defecation: Despite having dropped since 2000, the percentage of the rural population practicing open defecation still measured around 19 percent in 2017. Experts cannot understate the negative health and sanitation effects of citizens experiencing exposure to human waste. The good news is that the portion of the urban population practicing open defecation is as low as 3 percent and both rates are in a steady decline.
  6. Untreated Drinking Water: Lima’s source of water and the surrounding areas is the Rio Rimac, a river heavily polluted by harmful microorganisms. One of these microorganisms is Helicobacter pylori, a dangerous bacteria that can affect the gastrointestinal tract of those unlucky enough to experience an infection. The good news is that water treatment is seeing a slow uptick in Peru, especially in urban areas. The number of people consuming untreated water has decreased by the thousands since 2000. Public health intervention has begun to focus on treating the water before distribution, partnering with organizations like the International Secretariat for Water Solidarity.
  7. Unsafe Water Affects More Than Drinking: While drinking unsafe tap water is a prominent issue, the problem becomes monumental when one considers everything else that people use water for. Fruit and vegetables that individuals wash in tap water may be dangerous for consumption, as well as drinks with ice and any foods kept on ice.
  8. Unsanitary Practices: While many of the sanitation problems in Peru come from lack of funding or infrastructure, another big problem comes in the form of unsanitary practices. This involves hand-fecal transmission and infection, which may lead to transmission to the face or other individuals in the community. During observation in 2014, 64 percent of those researchers observed potentially contaminated their face, hands or food within one hour of hand contamination. This can be detrimental to the health of Peruvians, as contamination can cause an array of enteric pathogens including salmonella and Escherichia coli. These practices are simply a result of the lack of running water in many parts of the country and lack of awareness of the diseases that fecal transmission can cause. Peru can eliminate this issue by educating Peruvians as children about sanitation and hygiene and by improving the running water system in Peru. There have been attempts to address these issues, including observation and correction of some of these behaviors.
  9. WaterCredit Program: Water.org’s WaterCredit program is quite possibly the jumpstart the nation needs in order to provide running water and sanitary conditions to all of its citizens. The WaterCredit program works with various donating partners to provide plumbing and similar infrastructure to countries that need it. Through this program, Water.org has been trying to reach people in urban areas, like Lima, and provide them with improved indoor bathrooms, sewage collection infrastructure and safe running water. It has reached an estimated 2.5 million people and hopes to reach more within the country in the future.
  10. Stray Dogs: One problem affecting sanitary conditions in Peru is the fact that stray animals, especially dogs, run rampant in cities like Cusco and Mancora. Sadly, due to lack of proper care, these animals can carry various infections that they can spread to humans through direct contact. These infections include rabies, norovirus, salmonella and brucella among others. These infections can have detrimental health effects on humans if contracted and the infected animals may show little to no symptoms.

While the conditions of sanitation in Peru are not yet acceptable, the country has made significant progress in the last decade. It is not an overestimation to say that Peru will continue this forward progress with the help of its citizens and various donating partners. With continued aid from international organizations, the sanitary conditions in Peru could see a significant increase in quality in the next few years.

Tyler Hall
Photo: Flickr
Factors of the Political Crisis in Peru
The political crisis in Peru is an ongoing event that first came about in 2017 and still needs to resolve. Corruption within the country’s government spearheaded discontent among Peruvians and planted the seed for the continued crisis in Peru. The crisis itself has become more complex as it has developed over the years. Thus, the process of a resolution has seemingly become just as difficult to navigate. Here are a few factors that helped create the crisis and continue to perpetuate the political issues surrounding it.

The New President

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski won his political position by a very slim margin in a race against Keiko Fujimori in the 2016 election. His political party was only able to secure a small portion of seats within Peru’s Congress. Naturally, it faced strong opposition in many different facets. President Kuczynski’s political opponents and opposers portrayed him as a lobbyist that served as a political threat to Peru’s government. As a result, there were some questions surrounding his presidency and its legitimacy from the very beginning.

The Opposing Party

The political alliance behind Keiko Fujimori is the Popular Force Party. Following her electoral defeat, the Popular Force Party slowly began to pick away at its opposition using an obstructionist strategy. The party continuously targeted cabinet members of their opposition in hopes of ousting them and succeeded in several instances, warping the political landscape of Peru and deepening its government corruption. This strategy ultimately led to a dismantling of the cabinet and a continuous shuffling of members.

Suspicion of Corruption

Under the suspicion of corrupt government practices, the Peruvian Congress ousted President Kuczynski with a vote of no-confidence very early on in September 2017. This vote followed a sort of dare from the President. It forced out his second education minister and gave him a limited time span of three days to swear in a new Cabinet. Following the vote that ousted him, Congress tried the President in a congressional impeachment hearing in December 2017. This happened when he testified on a matter of suspected corruption. The particular incident that the hearing discussed was his involvement in receiving payments from one of his businesses from Odebrecht, a well-known Brazilian construction firm.

The vote following the deliberation of Congress did not result in his impeachment. However, a new scandal arose. It became publicly known that the President negotiated with former President Alberto Fujimori’s son to keep his position in power. These rumors of negotiations between the two sparked unrest and distrust among Peruvian citizens because of the public view of Fujimori. In exchange for the safety of his position, Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori for crimes against humanity and corruption, despite his 25-year prison sentence that the public largely supported.

Release of Former Dictator

The release of former dictator Fujimori sparked intense indignation and dissatisfaction among Peruvians. Arguably, this was the pivotal point marking the beginning of the political crisis in Peru. The courts overturned the pardon that President Kuczynski performed and he eventually resigned, consequently pushing Vice President Vizcarra into the presidency. He wasted no time in pushing an anti-corruption campaign in an attempt to quell protests and civil discord among Peruvians. However, the Popular Force Party still attempts to block these proposed anti-corruption reforms.

Dismantling of Congress

The past few years have been key in determining the political state of Peru, and it remains a delicate one. As of October 2019, President Vizcarra dissolved Congress after facing opposition. This dismantling of Congress has plunged Peru into a constitutional crisis which it must address immediately. The political crisis in Peru does not affect just corruption levels or prominent figures defeating their opposition. Instead, it affects Peruvians in ways they may not even be fully aware of. It primarily stifles public policy progression due to legislative gridlock. This means that no anti-corruption reforms or efforts can come to fruition because of the persistent corruption stalling and dismantling Peru’s politics. Direct legislation cannot pass because of this. For instance, there are necessary reconstruction efforts to address damages from detrimental coastal flooding that occurred in 2017. The Peruvian economy originally experienced a boom following its democratic transition. However, the growth has slowed substantially in the midst of this crisis.

Solving the Political Crisis

Although the situation may seem bleak, it is not an unfixable issue. The political crisis in Peru requires cooperation mainly from its primary political parties. The days of ousting the opposition in a never-ending battle for power must end. In addition, a united front must form against corruption. However, this may not be easy. Such a united front would require the major political parties in Peru. The parties have to abstain from their corrupt practices long enough to negotiate a new way of governance. This will help avoid the power struggles that have brought political turmoil upon the nation. The international community must provide support for Peruvians in this time of crisis. Additionally, it should help to rebuild the once successful democratic institution that existed within Peru. It can accomplish this largely by acting as mediators between parties and pushing for compromise and cooperation.

The government has not completely ignored the political crisis in Peru. Rather, the country has made a decent amount of progress in the past two decades by strengthening its economy, lowering its poverty rates and decreasing the amount of income inequality present. The strengthening of the political institutions and the laws surrounding them will ultimately help Peru the most. Once Peru’s institutions are able to regain legitimacy and close the loopholes that allow political corruption to thrive, the country will hopefully be able to feel a sense of normalcy. Domestic and international actors’ aid in tackling corruption head-on will combat the political crisis in Peru. In addition, forming a sense of unity should help the country attain stability.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Peru
When thinking of tourism in Peru, one’s mind quickly turns to Lima and Machu Picchu, which are areas that tourists often visit due to their immense popularity. However, just miles away, local communities, such as Luquina Chico and the Cordillera Blanca mountain region, provide the same otherworldly experience, including magnificent sights, sounds, eats and more. With new varieties of tourism, including experiential and volunteer tourism in Peru, tourists can immerse themselves in the Peruvian culture outside of the immensely populated and toured areas while also providing economic benefit to the people.

Experiential Tourism with Homestays

About 80 percent of tourism in Peru consists of Turismo financial or experiential tourism. In this homestay option, families provide their homes to tourists to teach them about Peruvian culture by fully immersing them in it.

The community council facilitates all homestays in order to provide fair opportunities for economic benefit to all families. An area with homestays is Luquina Chico, a quaint community an hour and a half plane ride away from the regular tourist go-to, Lima, which resides on the edge of Lake Titicaca. To tourists, an experience in a Luquina homestay feels like full cultural immersion. To the communities and Peruvian families offering homestays, it feels like economic assistance and an entrance into Peru’s thriving tourism sector, symbolizing a well-developed system of exchange. For instance, while staying at a homestay, LA Times writer Thomas Curwen experienced the tranquility of the Luquina environment, as well as the Peruvian culture and food the Gutierrez family offered.

Host families benefit from receiving fantastic interactions with foreigners as well as monetary benefits when tourists pay for meals and nightly lodging. Such earned income provides a sustainable tourist economy for hosts, and also allows Luquina residents to work from home rather than having to migrate outwards to bring income in. It also provides the ability for Peruvian host families to undertake structural repairs to homes or new construction to build paths.

Volunteer Tourism

Volunteer tourism in Peru offers another immersive experience to tourists while also directly assisting individuals and communities with volunteer time, skills and energy. In this exchange, tourists experience Peru through skills exchange, which directly makes valuable contributions to communities in need. There is usually a contradicting image of tourists in poverty-stricken areas often overlooked in the face of vacation. Inspired by this, the owner of WWTrek, Dean Cardinale, found a sustainable way to give back. The organization does so by hosting treks across mountainous areas to provide community assistance for at least one day on the trip.

For 2020, treks include Peru’s Cordillera Blanca mountain range in Huaraz, with a stop in the village of Pashpa, for tourists to complete a computer community center. Such a project at completion will provide Internet access to 400 residents with 10 laptops and digital cameras and 500gb of new educational content, thus providing a significant impact to an otherwise remote area.

It is imperative for one to note that approximately 6.9 Peruvian individuals live in poverty, living on less than $105 U.S. a month. At the same time, Peru’s tourism industry contributes $19.6 million to the economy while providing 1.2 million residents with jobs. With such a huge impact, responsible tourism could positively impact the alleviation of poverty when considering the potential amount of people that could vacation responsibly. People often think of a vacation as a treat to themselves, however, homestays or volunteer experiences show that one’s presence in another country could be a treat to locals as well.

– Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

 

Energy in PeruAccess to electricity is oftentimes the precursor to further development of a region or country. Without electricity, there can be no significant upgrades in sanitation, health care, education, productivity, cooking, modern technology and internet access. Many of the sectors listed require development; however, much of Peru does not have access to these modern standards. As a result, Peru has begun to critically focus on energy accessibility in recent years.

Energy Access in Peru

The population percentage that has access to energy in Peru has increased from around 65 percent of people in 1992 to 95 percent in 2015. Much of the increase has come from Peru’s transition to mixing its energy sector with crude oil and natural gas thermal plants. Previously, Peru operated mainly on domestic hydropower plants.

Peru’s natural gas reserves primarily come from domestic sources. This includes sources such as the Camisea field and imports from Ecuador since the Andes have gas in abundance. Following natural gas, Peru’s oil sector is largely reliant on U.S. imports. From 2008 to 2014, the amount of crude oil imported from the U.S. has increased threefold.

Problems with Energy in Peru

Transitioning to a greater fossil fuel dependence is harmful to the environment; however, it has given the Peruvian population better access to electricity and has made energy in Peru much cheaper. Currently, the average price of electricity in Peru is around $13.4 c/kWh. Comparatively, the average price of electricity in the U.S. is about $13.19 c/kWh. Theoretically, once people have better access to electricity, their quality of life will improve. Additionally, incomes should increase, as well as further infrastructure development with greater energy access.

The biggest disparity of energy access is prevalent in the same regions with the biggest wealth disparities: rural areas. Only about 76 percent of those who live in the Peruvian countryside have access to electricity, as compared to 100 percent of those who live in cities. While 24 percent may not seem like a large number, this equates to about 1.6 million people that are still without electricity in rural areas.

Energy Improvement Initiatives

This does not mean that Peru is doing nothing to address the energy situation in rural areas. One such infrastructure overhaul initiative is the Peru Second Rural Electrification Project (RE2). This project follows up on RE1, which had already contributed to the increased regulation of the energy sector. RE1’s efforts also allowed for much more stable electricity access in rural communities. This was done through subsidizing solar home energy systems (SHS) and through developing online resources for private energy sources in order to more efficiently manage energy consumption.

RE2 expanded on RE1’s plan to increase physical electricity connections and promote self-sufficient energy sources like SHS’s. This is in addition to totally upgrading the Peruvian rural energy structure to grid extension and off-grid solar extensions. Ultimately, the plan brought electricity to more than 160,000 new people with roughly 48,000 of these people using SHS’s. The project, funded through the Peruvian government, loans/grants from NGOs and a $50 million loan from the World Bank, also takes the socioeconomic impact of increased electrification into account. Through the project’s provisions, those who have never used electricity in an extended manner before were educated on safe electricity use and how to limit consumption. In addition, 12,300 training kits were distributed to rural communities that have new access to electricity.

Future Access

Through efforts from the Peruvian government and international organizations, energy access in Peru has continued to improve over the past three decades. Not only is electricity more easily accessible for Peruvians, but it is also cheap enough to adequately distribute. By properly educating the rural population on the safe use of electricity, Peru has also better ensured a low level of electrical accidents. In this way, Peru is doing all the right things to facilitate a quicker, safe and ethical development of its rural communities that will ensure a better future for all Peruvians.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Education in Peru

Education in Peru is an area in need of improvement, especially for children living in the most vulnerable parts of the country. In 2017, the Peruvian government spent only 3.92 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education. While this represents an improvement from 10 years prior, with only 2.63 percent of its GDP spent on school improvement, there is a significant disparity between private and public education.

Private schools have a reputation for offering the highest quality education in the country, but only families with deep pockets can afford the high fees. For instance, the Markam College, one of the top bilingual schools in Lima, costs $12,500 for middle school and $8,500 for high school and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program.

Most middle and lower class Peruvians cannot afford such high school fees. The situation is even worse in the Peruvian Andes and Rainforest regions, where indifference and tremendous cultural and linguistic barriers often hinder children from receiving an education at all. To solve these problems, UNICEF Peru started the Multicultural Bilingual Schools Initiative or “Friendly Schooling” in 2017 to tackle the three main obstacles that Andean and Rainforest students face: isolation, gender inequality and language barriers.

Education in Peru: Isolation

When referring to isolation, in many cases, children have to walk for hours to school. Others may discontinue their education altogether due to family pressures or gender discrimination. That is why Peru’s “Friendly Schooling” works closely with community leaders and parents, keeping them informed of the academic progress of their children. Parents and the rest of the population participate in the children’s education, even taking time to educate new teachers on their culture. “Friendly Schooling” also emphasizes that for the community to develop, education must be a priority.

Education in Peru: Gender Inequality

The 2015 documentary “The School of Silence” shows the desperate situation of girls in Andean schools and the reality that the main role of females in the school environment is to do chores and serve as assistants to their male counterparts. Girls were rarely seen taking on leadership roles and in general, female participation in the classroom was almost nonexistent.

“Friendly Schooling” aims to destigmatize this cultural bias. In this new school environment, both girls and boys equally participate in keeping the classroom clean. However, the most significant contribution is that girls now have the possibility of participating in class elections. Now, thanks to cooperation between teachers and parents to uplift female students, girls are taught that they are equal to their male counterparts.

Education in Peru: Language Barriers

The biggest obstacle to overcome is the language barrier that exists not only between the authorities and the community but also between students and teachers. When the “Friendly Schooling” initiative first started, several schools were selected from three provinces where native languages such as Quechua and Aymara are primarily spoken rather than Spanish. Learning in a language they barely understood caused many female students to forgo continuing their studies. In fact, according to Brookings, “along Peru’s northern Pacific coast, where the Afro-Peruvian population is most heavily concentrated, only 26.9 percent of those girls access education, compared with an average of 42.3 percent for all girls in the same geographic area.”

The point of this bilingual education initiative is not only to teach children in their native tongue but also to ensure adequate training for teachers and the provision of quality materials for students. The program also leverages the use of ICTs in delivering instruction in Spanish and the given native language of children.

Implementation Worldwide

Peru‘s “Friendly Schooling” Program can serve as an example for many countries whose native populations are suffering from a lack of educational opportunities. Indigenous communities can become empowered if their culture is formally recognized in their studies.

– Adriana Ruiz and Kim Thelwell
Photo: Flickr

Deforestation and Poverty
Deforestation throughout the world has been increasing over the past decades. Forests contribute to 90 percent of the livelihood of those that live in extreme poverty. Once people cut down and remove these resources, it takes years to replace them, which puts people deeper into poverty. Deforestation and poverty connect because of what the forest can provide for people living in poverty.

Reasons for Deforestation

There are several reasons that deforestation is so much a part of developing nations. One of the most prominent reasons is logging or cutting down trees for processing. While logging does provide temporary relief from poverty once loggers cut down the trees, it takes years for them to grow back.

Indonesia has the worst problem with illegal logging with 80 percent of its logging exports being illegal. Agriculture is necessary for a country to become self-sufficient and rely on itself to feed its people. Hence, to clear land for crops, farmers cut down large sections of forests. Indonesia also has the worst problem with clearing forest for agriculture; the country states that it is necessary to make way for the trees for palm oil, one of its major exports, in order to reduce poverty.

In Brazil, clearing forests to make way for grazing livestock is the reason for deforestation. Brazil is a top beef exporter having exported over $5 billion worth of beef in 2018 and beef is a significant contributor to its economy.

The Benefits and Harm of Deforestation

The three countries that have the most deforestation are Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. These countries all have access to the Amazon rainforest and they use its resources to help alleviate the strain of poverty. Deforestation has devastated all three of these countries, as each has cut down millions of acres of rainforest.

Since 1978, Brazilian loggers, cattle rangers and farmers have cut down 289,000 square miles of rainforest. One of Brazil’s top crops is soybeans that farmers use to feed its growing cattle population. Massive sections of forest require cutting to make way for both soybean production and cattle and this impacts the indigenous people of Brazil the most. Their entire livelihood is dependent on the forest and when the trees disappear, they suffer extreme poverty.

Peru has recently increased its efforts to control deforestation due to mining. Gold is a large part of the economy of Peru along with logging. These efforts have worked for the people of Peru who were able to cut their poverty rate from 48.5 percent to 25.8 percent in less than 10 years. However, experts believe that this relief, while significant, could only be temporary because the rate of deforestation will have a profound impact on climate change that will, in turn, harm the forests and economy of the country.

The GDP per capita of Bolivia is currently at $2559.51. This makes it one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. To help the poor people of the country, the government has doubled the amount of deforestation that occurs in the country to make way for cattle, agriculture and infrastructure.

With the increase of deforestation, the benefits can seem like relief for those that are deeply immersed in poverty. While these countries’ removal of whole forests can help those living in poor conditions, the help is only temporary and in the long run can harm their well being as much as help. Deforestation and poverty are linked and to save the forests, it is essential to help those living in and around the forests.

Samuel Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

single-use plastics

In December of 2018, Peru‘s Congress passed a national law to significantly discourage and limit the use of plastics. The law was discussed for nearly a year prior to a unanimous vote in support of it. Over the past several years, plastic accumulating in and contaminating water sources has become a global crisis. With 71 percent of the Earth’s surface quickly becoming polluted, Peru‘s efforts to do their part in eliminating single-use plastics is a momentous stepping stone in cleaning up the planet.

Peru’s Response

The issue with single-use plastics is that they are virtually everywhere. Their easy accessibility has created nothing short of a man-made disaster. However, companies around the world are coming up with more sustainable options in hopes of remedying the issue and easing the country’s transition away from plastic.

Peru’s Environment Minister Fabiola Munoz explains that they intend to transition to “reusable, biodegradable plastic or others whose degradation does not generate contamination by microplastics.” Peru‘s law regulates the consumption of single-use plastics by drastically reducing the production of disposables. Therefore, inevitably forcing consumers to seek out alternatives to plastic, which has an extremely detrimental effect on the environment.

The Devastating Affect on Wildlife

Fish consume an average of 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause intestinal damage and death. This means that larger marine mammals and human seafood eaters who consume the affected fish can become very ill. The South American country is home to 1,500 miles of Pacific coastline is known for its delicacy ceviche. The Environmental Ministry spearheaded the campaign “I don’t want this in my ceviche” in order to get more people on board with reusable bags.

This issue spreads far wider than the ocean; it affects each ecosystem that it comes into contact with. This is not limited to sealife. Birds often ingest or get caught in the plastic. Ingested plastic doesn’t break down in the birds’ stomachs and can lead to death. In addition to ingestion, marine mammals often become entangled large pieces of plastic. In fact, at least 700 species get entangled in plastic waste, some of which are already endangered.

Long-Term Plans

The Environment Ministry estimates that Peru uses 947,000 tons of plastic each year with 75 percent of it being discarded into landfills and only 0.3 percent being recycled properly. With this law, Peru is doing away with common disposable items, such as plastic straws, foam packaging and plastic tableware. It is anticipating getting rid of plastic bags entirely within three years by placing a tax on them. It will also ensure that plastic bottles are at least 15 percent recyclable within the next three years.

Additionally, the country plans to place a limit on the number of plastic products being distributed as well as imported and exported within the country. The Peruvian government also banned tourists from bringing single-use plastics into 76 of the country’s cultural sites, including the historic site and tourist destination, Machu Picchu.

This initiative is just the beginning of a larger movement to undo the damage that humans have done to the plant over generations. Hopefully, other nations across the globe will acknowledge Peru’s efforts and also be inspired to eliminate single-use plastics.

—Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Pixabay

symphony for peruJuan Diego Flórez is a highly-recognized, award-winning Peruvian tenor, who has sung on the most coveted stages, including Covent Garden and Milan’s La Scala. He is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and in 2011, he started Symphony for Peru. The foundation offers music classes and activities for children in low-income families, giving them a chance to develop their talent, teach them values through the arts and pull them away from at-risk situations.

The Need for Creativity

After struggling in the 80s and 90s with terrorism, hyperinflation and corruption, Peru started recovering and achieving steady economic growth from the beginning of 2005 to 2013. Poverty rates decreased and the stable economy gave Peruvians hope of improving their quality of life. This growth, however, has not been able to translate into proper educational or social development. Although it no longer stands in the last place of the PISA rankings, there is still much work to be done. With this in mind, Flórez stepped in and decided to help in the best way he knew: through music.

Juan Diego Flórez created Symphony for Peru, or Sinfonía por el Perú in Spanish, in 2011 to promote musical education in Peru’s most distant and poorest communities, throughout Coastal, Andean and Amazon regions. Flórez used the structure of the Venezuelan government’s music program as inspiration for Symphony for Peru; José Antonio Abreu created this program, who linked musical skills as a route to improve social and personal development.

Music to Peru’s Ears

Symphony for Peru aims to help children in low-income communities. The organization provides music education not only for children to develop their creative skills, but also to provide a different form of entertainment or hobby, taking them away from the risks of the streets, including drugs, crime and teenage pregnancy, and into the classroom.

As it is spread out throughout the country, the Symphony for Peru created different core groups of around 400 and 600 children who participate in either choirs, orchestras or jazz bands. It also works to have two luthier workshops, where children can practice instrument development by learning how to build and tune their own instruments. Another important aspect of the organization is their main Symphony Orchestra, which performs a couple of times per year and has recently recorded and released its own Christmas album.

Perhaps the most innovative way to show the results of the work Symphony for Peru is doing is by letting the children speak for themselves. Students in the organization can show their improvement and talent with patrons and the general audience in free concerts that Flórez organized. These often happen in July, Peru’s independence month.

An Impact through Music

More than 8,000 children have developed their skills as part of the program, and as a result, perseverance and efficacy at school has improved, as well as their behavior and ability to focus in the classroom. Additionally, the organization has proven to be a useful and more productive way for children to spend their time, and the levels of both psychological and physical abuse in the families of students have drastically decreased.

There is no doubt that Flórez is one of Peru’s most important cultural ambassadors. His talent and work ethic lead him to the top, and music critics compare him to some of the best opera tenors in the world like Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. His greatest gift, though, may not be his musical talent, but his selflessness and generosity, as well as his will to give back to his country and share his skills with the people who need it the most.

– Luciana Schreier
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition and Economic Growth in Peru

Globally, 1 in 7 individuals suffers from malnutrition every day.  This problem is illustrated quite clearly in Peru, where 13 percent of children under 5 are chronically malnourished. However, much progress has been made in the past decade to improve this statistic. One organization that has made a positive impact on the situation is the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development (AASD). Over the past decade, they have established numerous partnerships between both local and international academic institutions, as well as indigenous communities, in order to help conduct valuable research, fund agricultural projects, and establish solidarity programs. These efforts have helped to improve malnutrition and facilitate economic growth in Peru.

The School Greenhouse Project

One of the AASD’s most notable achievements is the creation of The School Greenhouse Project. Co-designed by a cohort of graduate students from around the world and local agricultural experts, the project provides fresh vegetables for school lunches as well as an interactive classroom for students. Providing these resources to young children helps accomplish one of AASD’s main goals, which is to address malnutrition and economic growth in a sustainable and locally-driven way.

Ecological Footprint Farm

Agriculture in Peru’s Sacred Valley has a rich history dating to before the Inca Empire. Unlike agricultural models adopted by the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture, AASD seeks to establish and capitalize on relationships with local family farms. For example, AASD’s Ecological Footprint Farm is based out of the Nina Family Farm. This partnership aims to tap into the decades of agricultural expertise for high altitude cultivation that the Nina Family have collected. According to the website, The Ecological Footprint Farm “acts as an experimental space for fusing ancient and modern forms of agriculture, a place of communal learning, and a bridge between local and global communities.”

Nutritional Deficiencies and Crop Growth

Living at high elevation poses particular challenges for nutrition. For example, individuals living in the Peruvian highlands have been shown to have significantly more nutrient deficiencies compared to individuals living in regions along the coast of Peru. Specifically, coastal inhabitants have higher protein and vitamin A intakes than their high-altitude brethren. This has led to organizations like AASD to focus the majority of their efforts on improving malnutrition into areas of high elevation. One integral aspect of farming that AASD works to inform individuals living in these areas about is the importance of taking the elevation that they are at into account when growing crops. For instance, potatoes cannot be grown at elevations higher than 12,000 feet, but superfoods like quinoa and canihua can grow at elevations of almost 15,000 feet.

Solidarity Program

In addition to their agricultural programs, AASD also offers a Solidarity Program. This program provides opportunities for youth, high-school and college-aged students to live and work in locations throughout Peru. It teaches these students the basics of international development, as well as the importance of social justice and community development work. For example, in one recent show of the good work that the program helps facilitate, high school students helped to raise $12,000 to build a new greenhouse for the School Greenhouse Project. Through this partnership, AASD completed a tangible project which will have long term positive ramifications for the health of the community while also spreading Andean wisdom to the high school students. This kind of knowledge building is central to AASD’s model for change, as students often depart these programs with an understanding of the importance of sustainable, community-driven projects.

Looking Ahead

While Peru still faces many challenges with regards to malnutrition and economic growth, the Andean Alliance for Sustainable Development has helped establish many important building blocks to ensure that the people of Peru can begin to overcome these challenges. Their agricultural and community-building initiatives have provided an enormous help to millions of Peruvian children, teens, and adults, and as a result, they have helped to spread greater awareness about the problems that Peru faces going forward.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Wikipedia Commons