Charities Operating in Portugal 
In Portugal, there are around 185,000 people working for nonprofit institutions. This figure represents about 4.3% of Portugal’s total employment. While this percentage might not seem staggering, the nonprofit sector makes up quite a significant portion of Portugal’s employment with a large number of charities operating in the nation. In fact, Portugal’s nonprofit sector actually makes up more of the national employment than the agricultural sector. This article will focus on five charities operating in Portugal and how they are making a difference.

5 Charities Operating in Portugal

  1. SOS Children’s Villages International: This Austria-based nonprofit has been operating in Portugal since the early 1960s. SOS works to provide for children who can no longer stay with their families or who do not have families. SOS Villages is currently helping children and families in four locations within Portugal. Internationally, SOS Villages has worked in more than 135 territories and countries.
  2. AMI: This nonprofit focuses on helping people that poverty affects. In Portugal, this charity provides goods and services such as night shelters, street teams and food reception centers. The organization was founded in 1984 and has sent hundreds of volunteers to a number of countries, including Portugal.
  3. Crescer: This nonprofit operates in the greater Lisbon area and focuses on excluded and vulnerable groups of society. The organization is passionate about implementing drug consumption rooms in Portugal. These rooms enable users to consume drugs in a safer setting under the care of medical professionals. They have made contact with 2,478 people experiencing homelessness and 7,969 “consumers of psychoactive drugs.”
  4. Check-In: Operating out of central Lisbon, the main focus of Check-In is youth education. They provide services such as seminars and training for young people hoping to enter the workforce. In Portugal, they also provide access to services such as Portuguese classes for non-natives and workshops for expanding knowledge.
  5. Apoio A Vitma (APAV): This charity’s name means ‘support for the victim’ in Portuguese. As the name suggests, this organization works with people who are victims of violence, sexual assault and discrimination. This nonprofit provides many resources such as a victim hotline, victim support offices and shelter housing. In 2021, APAV had 9,588 phone calls that made contact with victims of abuse. In addition, they made in-person contact with 2,367 other victims.

These charities operating in Portugal are examples of organizations fighting poverty and social inequality. They are looking to provide support for impoverished and vulnerable populations across Portugal and the world.

– Timothy Ginter
Photo: Unsplash

Free Childcare in Portugal
The Portuguese government recently began a new program to introduce free childcare for all children one year and younger. The government also plans to open up free access to childcare to more children in the future. In three years, all children up to the age of three, as well as some children in primary school will be eligible to receive free childcare.

History of Free Childcare in Portugal

Free childcare in Portugal was previously available only to low-income citizens but has now been extended to all children, regardless of income. Not many other European countries offer free childcare to all citizens, regardless of income, making it a revolutionary step forward. This measure was introduced to increase the birth rate in Portugal, which is currently one of the lowest in the world. In addition to free childcare, the Portuguese government will be providing free textbooks and free computers to support eligible families.

Childcare Costs and Poverty

People often disregard childcare when discussing the causes of poverty for families. The costs that childcare imposed are significant expenses for low-income families and parents. In the EU, childcare is very popular with an average of one-third of children under the age of three participating in childhood education or childcare per country. For three-to-five-year-olds, the number rises to almost 90%.

Despite its necessity, childcare is extremely costly. According to data collected in 2019, gross childcare expenses in Portugal were almost 40% of a woman’s median income. Although childcare allows parents to work a full-time job – especially single parents – it also makes it difficult for families to crawl out of poverty. Moreover, it also continues a cycle of generational poverty that puts children at a higher risk of food insecurity, lack of access to good schools, and more.

It is because of this that free childcare in Portugal is such a significant act in the country’s fight against poverty. As Ana Mendes Godinho, Portugal’s Minister of Labor, says, free nurseries can “be lifesavers for many children, allowing them from the beginning to be part of a collective system that integrates them, namely fighting child poverty and cutting intergenerational cycles.”

The Benefits

Research has suggested that early childhood education for low-income children carries future wage benefits and health benefits. It also boosts family income and promotes the well-being of the child. Childcare also has numerous benefits for parents, as it makes it easier for parents to find employment. Additional research has shown that families with access to affordable childcare have a higher rate of maternal employment, which could help lower the gender pay gap between husbands and wives.

The new measure to increase the accessibility of free childcare in Portugal will not only relieve a burden for many families but partake in the fight against intergenerational poverty.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Flickr

Migration to PortugalPortugal, a coastal country known for its colorfully-tiled sunny beach towns, is increasingly gaining a reputation as a destination for migrants looking to work in the European Union. In fact, over the last five years, Portugal’s immigrant population has increased by nearly 70%. In 2020, the number of people that acquired Portuguese citizenship stood at nearly twice that of the previous year. This increase in migration to Portugal stems from the needs of both the country as a whole and the migrants themselves.

The Benefits that Migrants Bring to Portugal

Portuguese citizens, as EU members, have the legal right to both live and work in other European Union countries. This includes countries like Germany and France, which have higher wages and better living conditions than Portugal. As a result, Portugal has a high rate of citizens that emigrate outside of the country, leaving the economy with a need for a replacement labor force.

Not only do migrants remedy the country’s labor shortage but they also bring in tax revenue and contribute to Portugal’s Social Security. Migrants even create jobs by starting businesses of their own, opening grocery stores foreign cuisine restaurants, hair salons and more. This enriches the diversity and vibrancy of the country while stimulating the economy.

What Brings Migrants to Portugal?

To fulfill that basic economic need for labor, Portugal has constructed a legal framework for immigration that is highly beneficial to incoming migrants. In June 2022, Portugal’s minister of foreign and parliamentary affairs announced that the nation would dissolve the quota regime and provide for a six-month work-seeking visa.

Even those without a visa, undocumented migrants, are permitted to apply for work. Once they have secured a job, they can apply for residency. Even “proof of legal entry” requirements in applying for residency status within the country are typically informally lax. Once a resident, migrants can have their families join them and enjoy the same legal status of residency. After five years, a resident can “qualify for a Portuguese passport of their own.” This ease on the path to a passport is a primary perk of migration to Portugal, alluring enough to make up for the relatively low wages offered in the country.

The largest group of migrants in the country are Brazilians, followed by another Portuguese-speaking country, Cape Verde. Both are steeped in poverty, with the most recent estimates of Cabo Verde’s national poverty rate standing at 35% as of 2015. In Brazil, about 27 million people lived under the national poverty line in 2021. With a national poverty rate of 16.2% as of 2019, Portugal offers a gateway out of deeply impoverished communities.

Once a migrant secures a European Union passport, they are free to move toward the wealthy economic core of Europe that draws Portuguese nationals as well, with the promise of higher wages. This allows migrants and their families to pursue opportunities to move toward the higher quality of life they imagined when they chose to leave their homelands.

– Grace Ramsey
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in PortugalThe last remaining coal plant in Portugal closed in November 2021, making Portugal the fourth country in the EU to end coal-sourced energy. This move marks progress in environmental protection, sustainability and poverty reduction. As coal use declines and awareness of renewable energy increases, experts hope to help those in poverty obtain better energy sources. The development of renewable energy in Portugal and the country’s movement away from coal holds many benefits for the nation.

Portugal’s Coal Plants

The Pego plant’s shutdown came nine years earlier than planned since Portugal’s target year to eliminate coal use is 2030. Countries around the world are agreeing to implement renewable energy sources, with Portugal doing exactly that. While Portugal was not the first to go coal-free, it is inspiring other nations to do the same. Austria, Belgium and Sweden all ditched coal-sourced energy with more European countries following their examples. However, the nations prefer different plans and estimates for their energy trajectory. For example, Germany plans to end coal energy by 2038 and France by 2022.

The Pego coal plant was the second-largest carbon dioxide emitter in Portugal. Environmental groups applaud the elimination of coal energy as a large step toward improving the quality of life in the nation. However, while the Pego closure resulted in an obviously positive impact on energy, coal’s impact on poverty constitutes a very different relationship.

Poverty and Coal

It is a worldwide goal to implement renewable energy sources. However, some areas feel the loss of coal energy more than others. It is not always easy to replace coal, especially for those who have no other option. The Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration (SME) explains that “As much of the world lacks access to modern, clean energy, coal is still essential to alleviating worldwide energy poverty.” For example, rural communities that lack access to electricity often depend on coal for cooking, heating and lighting. Coal fuels more of the world’s electricity than any other energy source. However, impoverished and rural populations that depend on coal for energy also risk the negative impacts of coal-sourced energy.

The issue with coal-dependent energy is not with its usefulness but with its aftermath and effects. Coal energy impacts air and water supplies, making it a less than ideal method of energy production. Coal plants compete for water with local farmers, which ultimately leads to tension and societal backlash. With these consequences of coal energy, people in poverty struggle to better their lives. The chances of escaping poverty decrease when people’s health becomes deficient and water and food supplies diminish.

Reasons to Transition to Renewable Energy

Mining displacement affects many communities around the world due to coal consumption. In the 40 years between 1950 and 1990, 2.55 million people suffered displacement in India alone as a result of coal mining. Mining threatens to displace hundreds of thousands more people, with the brunt of difficulty falling on citizens of developing nations that lack strong laws regarding involuntary displacement.

Coal energy and mining directly impact impoverished communities while wealthier communities do not fully see the effects. Debates arise concerning the use of coal energy versus renewable energy, particularly since those in poverty require cheap and effective energy sources. While a switch from coal energy to renewable energy seems far-fetched, this change contains major benefits. In a study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), experts foresaw significant positive benefits to doubling worldwide renewable energy use by 2030. The benefits include a 1.1% increase in global GDP, a 3.7% increase in welfare and the creation of more than 24 million jobs. With the possible environmental and economic benefits that renewable energy provides, coal seems to be an unfavorable option.

An Optimistic Future for Renewable Energy in Portugal

New forms of energy production are not always available in developing countries. In these regions, coal use is vital to the lives of citizens. Yet, coal energy has a short future ahead of it. Major nations are pledging to stop coal energy use completely and utilize new forms of renewable energy. Replacing inefficient energy sources and production methods will greatly improve clean energy and reduce poverty. As Greenpeace explains, “The rapid expansion of clean and sustainable energy offers a win-win for the [impoverished] and the environment. For the [impoverished], particularly the rural [impoverished], without basic energy services, renewable energy is often the cheapest option.” Energy is instrumental in improving the lives of those in poverty. The European Union sets a remarkable example in the sustainable energy movement and developing countries will soon follow suit.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

La Caixa Fights Global Poverty
La Caixa is a savings bank set in Spain that originally began as a private institution in 1904 to provide people with retirement help and disability insurance. Shortly after, savings also became a specialty of the institution. La Caixa started to grow as it “promoted an ambitious, professional concept of management,” which set the bank apart from other institutions. The institution also aimed to help impoverished people “achieve a measure of financial independence and security.” It is in this way that La Caixa fights global poverty.

La Caixa’s Beginnings

The initial aim of the establishment was to attempt to stop or at least decrease financial exclusion as much as possible. After 1917, La Caixa truly began projects to benefit the community. Then, in 1918, La Caixa made a decision to include “community work” into the organization in order to ensure that community projects receive “professional and efficient management.” La Caixa saw this as more than just charitable work, but rather, a means of “providing civic, cultural and social welfare services [to improve] people’s quality of life.”

La Caixa’s Projects

In 2021, La Caixa gave funding to four innovative biomedical projects. One of the projects is a strategy that CiQUS of the University of Santiago de Compostela and the CSIC developed to combat “resistance and recurrence” in cancer stem cells. A second one is a novel medicine based on pyruvic acid that targets cancer stem cells to combat resistance and recurrence.

Furthermore, La Caixa is shifting toward poverty-focused projects as the World Bank reports that COVID-19 has pushed 97 million people into poverty, with numbers only increasing. To address the impacts of COVID-19, La Caixa is dedicating more than €750,000 to support the humanitarian initiatives of Spanish organizations in developing nations. Through this funding, La Caixa has committed to “the fight against poverty and inequalities through initiatives that improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable populations.”

La Caixa has chosen 19 programs to support in this regard. These projects have three focal areas: “socio-economic development, health improvement and promotion of education and training.” The diverse goals of these projects range from improving access to education to women’s empowerment and preventing and treating visual afflictions.

La Caixa’s Support in Portugal

COVID-19 hit Portugal severely, pushing 400,000 new people into poverty. The majority of those most COVID-19 affected “were already in the lower half of the income distribution” even before the onset of COVID-19, causing inequality to intensify further. This prompted La Caixa to begin the Social Observatory of the La Caixa Foundation project in Portugal with the goal to “[diagnose]the social reality in the social, educational and cultural areas.” With this information, organizations like La Caixa fights global poverty by making more informed decisions in implementing programs.

A Focus of Child Poverty

Child poverty is a particular focus area of La Caixa. La Caixa recognizes that, without intervention, generational cycles of poverty are challenging to break. To break these cycles of poverty, La Caixa’s programs focus on social development, skills training and education for children and their families. Through the collaborative work of more than 400 organizations, the program is able to offer services such as “educational family workshops,” mental health services and nutritional education. The program is also able to offer assistance in securing school resources and “glasses and hearing aids.” The program was able to support more than 35,000 families in 2020 and more than 58,000 children.

Partnering with UNHCR

La Caixa fights global poverty through its partnership with the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), which it has worked with since 2002. In 2017, the partners directed their focus to Ethiopia, beginning the MOM project to decrease child mortality rates and improve nutrition among “children and pregnant and breastfeeding mothers in refugee camps.” The strategy of the MOM project is to use technological innovation to provide assistance in emergency humanitarian situations.

The Impacts of the MOM Project

  • More than 80,000 people received assistance, specifically vulnerable mothers and children.
  • A 47% decrease in acute malnutrition.
  • A 60% reduction in severe acute malnutrition.
  • A 23% decrease in anemia in children.
  • A 36% improvement in infant mortality.

With all these accomplishments behind its name, La Caixa still intends to reach more milestones. With each and every project, La Caixa helps to bring generational cycles of poverty to an end and improve the quality of life of citizens across the world.

– Noya Stessel
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in PortugalPortugal is taking advantage of its Atlantic coast by investing in offshore wind farms. These developments occur in an effort to reverse the negative economic effects of COVID-19 and downsize energy poverty in the country. The expansion of renewable energy in Portugal has the potential to reduce the country’s expensive dependency on imports while simultaneously creating new local jobs and domestic industries.

The Issue of Energy Poverty

The United Nations defines energy poverty as a lack of “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy.” Compared to other countries in the European Union, Portugal endures some of the highest rates of energy poverty, with nearly 20% of the country’s population reporting that they were unable to properly heat and cool their homes in 2018. Compared to the EU’s average of 6.9%, Portugal has a notably high rate. Energy-inefficient homes result in extremely high energy bills for citizens when temperatures fluctuate, especially in the winter. Recent studies show that 75% of the buildings in Portugal fail to meet the required guidelines for heating. This is an issue that has devastating impacts on the overall health of residents.

The Portuguese government does provide discounts on gas and electricity for households that meet certain socioeconomic criteria, and in 2020, nearly 753,000 households in Portugal received the electricity social tariff. Additionally, approximately 35,000 received the natural gas social tariff. However, the development of renewable energy and the subsequent reduction of overall energy costs could eliminate the need for these social tariffs altogether.

The Economic Effects of COVID-19

Like many countries, Portugal’s economy has faced huge setbacks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its GDP decreased by 8.4% in 2020, “the largest annual decline since 1936.” In order to combat this decline, the country is making strides to expand its renewable energy sector.

The hope is that it can transition from the expensive task of importing fossil fuels to finding innovative ways to generate its own clean energy. Renewable energy in Portugal has expanded greatly in recent years, providing more than 50% of the country’s electricity needs in 2019, with hopes to reach 80% by 2030.

Innovations in Wind Energy

One area of renewable energy in which Portugal has become a leading European country is the development of wind energy. In 2019, Portugal’s Atlantic coast became home to the second floating wind farm in Europe, an alternative to onshore turbines which can disrupt tourism and generate noise complaints. Previously, offshore wind farms were limited to shallow waters, preventing countries like Portugal from taking advantage of the industry due to its deep Atlantic waters.

However, incredible innovation by the WindFloat Atlantic project produced three wind turbines located 20 km offshore from the port city Viana Do Castelo, minimizing disruption to the local fishing industry and taking advantage of more powerful winds and deep water storms. These three turbines alone possess an installed capacity of 25 megawatts. This is “roughly equivalent to the energy consumed by 60,000 homes in one year.” The cutting-edge feat of the Windfloat Atlantic Project has captured the attention of many other coastal countries who hope to develop similar technology and presents great potential for a resurgence in Portugal’s economy.

Renewable Energy and Economic Growth

COVID-19 caused unemployment in Portugal to skyrocket by 36.2% between May 2019 and May 2020. Throughout the pandemic, workers without a higher education degree were most affected, with an average increase in registered unemployment of 38.3% between the same dates. However, the expansion of offshore wind energy is creating new job opportunities for this demographic which do not require higher education.

Wind energy in Portugal currently gives employment to approximately 22,000 people, and the WindFloat Atlantic project, which Ocean Winds implemented in 2011, has created 1,500 jobs for local citizens. Increased dependence on renewable energy in Portugal will also decrease electricity bills for residents and become a pivotal agent in combating energy poverty. Many expect that the pioneer project will grow in the coming years. Portugal is in the perfect position to capitalize on that growth, improving the lives of its citizens and revitalizing its economy in an earth-friendly way.

Like many countries, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were detrimental to Portugal’s economy. However, the success of the WindFloat Atlantic project has resulted in more job opportunities for those who became unemployed during the pandemic, a decreased dependence on energy imports and the downsizing of energy poverty due to the more affordable prices that renewable energy sources are able to offer. The cutting-edge technology of Portugal’s offshore wind farm has sparked excitement in many other European nations who hope to develop similar projects along their coastlines. As a new leader in the development of renewable wind energy, Portugal will continue to innovate and pave the way for cleaner, more affordable energy for all.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

projects in portugalPortugal already suffers from significant poverty and the recent COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating these struggles. Prior to the pandemic, a fifth of the population, or approximately two million people, were considered at risk of poverty or social exclusion. The pandemic pushed around 400,000 people below the poverty line. Additionally, it increased the at-risk-of-poverty rate by 25%. However, Portugal’s two new poverty projects, formed within the last two years, work to significantly mitigate Portugal’s poverty problems. The projects address two main problems within Portugal: homelessness and child poverty. In addition, these two projects plan to ambitiously confront these features of poverty beyond the pandemic to offer sustainable poverty reduction in Portugal.

CRESCER’s É Uma Mesa Project

CRESCER is an organization that funds several initiatives in Portugal. It aims to promote the health and social integration of the most vulnerable on the streets of Lisbon. In recent months, CRESCER created the É Uma Mesa project. One of a few innovative projects in Portugal, É Uma Mesa centers around the restaurant and catering business. It prompts the social inclusion of specific vulnerable groups into the labor market. The project focuses mostly on homeless people but also supports refugees in extreme poverty. There are two main features of the project: conducting extensive training and offering restaurant employment.

The first feature consists of extensive training for homeless and extremely impoverished refugee groups. The É Uma Mesa effort trains these individuals in social and relational skills. They receive this on top of the service and catering skills acquired from on-the-job restaurant training. Furthermore, É Uma Mesa also offers “psychosocial support” to improve mental health for the homeless. Multifaceted training helps enable better integration of the homeless into the labor market and leads to greater inclusion within Portuguese society.

The Project’s Impact

É Uma Mesa notably supported the homeless community in recent months. FEANTSA, a major European group working on homelessness, recognized its achievements by awarding the project the 2021 Silver Prize of the Ending Homelessness Awards. Moreover, the project does not focus solely on homelessness during the pandemic and it is planning for the future with some notable long-term objectives.

These long-term objectives aim to significantly minimize Portuguese poverty and homelessness. One aim is to integrate 75 beneficiaries into training and 40 beneficiaries into the labor market each year. Efforts seek to improve the lives of the beneficiaries beyond the short term. To achieve this, ameliorating social and health conditions to ensure consistent stability remains a priority. And, CRESCER hopes to ensure the project is self-sustainable after three years.

La Caixa Foundation

La Caixa Foundation is the second of two new poverty projects in Portugal. Its main goal consists of providing several major initiatives that improve Portuguese child poverty and education. Its “social observatory” division is instrumental in conducting studies. Supported by the Center of Economics for Prosperity (PROSPER), the effort works to provide more accurate figures on poverty in Portugal.  The on-the-ground situation in Portugal plunged significant proportions of the population into poverty or propelled many to become at risk of poverty.

The other key division of this foundation is the “social programs” division. Specifically, this division made its most significant impact on minimizing child poverty and furthering education prospects for impoverished families. The collaboration of more than 400 local social organizations promotes the social and educational development of young children and adolescents. Simultaneously, this is in conjunction with mobilization efforts targeted at eradicating child poverty. As a result, La Caixa Foundation’s “CaixaProinfancia” has proven to be significant in its impact. In 2020, the project’s work enabled 58,841 impoverished children to attend school and supported 35,326 families.

Ultimately, these dual efforts reduce the impact of Portuguese poverty through multiple efforts. As the pandemic continues, many of those suffering the most gain critical support at critical times. As La Caixa and CRESCER continue to meet their goals, many of Portugal’s most needy stand to benefit.

Gabriel Sylvan
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in PortugalCOVID-19 has heavily impacted the way people live, even more so for those living in poverty. According to a report published by Agencia EFE Portugal, 21.6% of Portugal’s citizens were already at risk of poverty before the outbreak of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 have pushed thousands of people to poverty.

The Effect of a Pandemic on Poverty

The social, economic and health consequences the pandemic provoked worldwide are undeniable. While eradicating poverty has always been at the core focus of many nonprofit organizations, since the beginning of COVID-19, many nonprofit organizations have prioritized sanitation and clear water programs to eradicate COVID-19 and diminish poverty levels.

Poverty in Portugal is partly due to the enormous social and economic inequalities governing the country. Furthermore, COVID-19 has only exacerbated existing poverty rates. As reported by the World Bank, poverty in Portugal had been decreasing since 2017. During 2018, approximately 17% of the population lived in poverty. However, the situation has dramatically changed. The outbreak of COVID-19 has led to 400,000 additional impoverished citizens in Portugal and “a 9% increase in inequality,” according to a study by PROSPER published in June 2021. Unquestionably, COVID-19 is directly linked to a social and economic crisis that is bringing instability to many countries. As this health crisis evolves, economic hardship increases too.

How Portugal is Managing the COVID-19 Pandemic

The United Nations has published a country report analyzing how the Portuguese government is dealing with the economic situation amid COVID-19. As reported, poverty in Portugal is becoming a core issue for the country. As such, the government has designed several programs covering education, health and social security to combat inequalities. For example, there is a compelling need to adjust pensions as many pensions equal €180 a month. If pensions increase, pensioners will be able to access and afford higher quality products and services and poverty will be alleviated.

Poverty in Portugal is also being addressed by several NGOs. The Portuguese Non-Governmental Development Organizations Platform (NGDOs) is a nonprofit society composed of 62 NGDOs. Cuerama and Caritas are two of the major organizations helping the most vulnerable communities in the country.

Caritas has steadily diminished poverty rates in Portugal. As Caritas published in 2018, the level of citizens demanding social services decreased by 12.7%, which is a historical record. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, disparities have increased again. The Social Observation Centre has been concisely preparing a platform to gather and track as much data as possible to improve the performance of Caritas.

Additionally, in Portugal, the coalition Global Action Against Poverty concisely combats poverty and inequalities. Since 1990, poverty in Portugal has been diminishing. However, as stated above, since the outbreak of COVID-19, the situation has worsened and Portugal is still one of the most unequal countries in Europe. As published by The Portugal News, Portugal “comes ninth in the ranking of most unequal countries out of the 34 the OECD measured.” Tax benefits are one of the most efficient policies introduced by the authorities trying to alleviate inequalities and poverty.

Tackling Poverty in Portugal Amid COVID-19

Poverty in Portugal has always been present. Yet, the outbreak of COVID-19 has tremendously aggravated the situation. As displayed above, figures have been dramatically increasing as social and economic inequalities have risen from the crisis. However, poverty in Portugal has become one of the main focuses for authorities and organizations. Policies like increasing pensions and tax benefits are already in place to combat poverty. Besides creating policies, there is a need to strengthen communication and education to ensure all these programs are successfully implemented.

With the efforts made by the government and NGOs alike, Portugal will hopefully be able to tackle poverty and COVID-19 simultaneously.

– Cristina Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture Cooperatives in Impoverished CommunitiesFor the estimated three-quarters of the global impoverished residing in rural environments, agriculture is the primary source of income. Any aspirations of poverty eradication are existentially dependent on the development of these communities. Cooperatives are associations of people who come together to achieve common economic, social and cultural goals. The long-standing tradition of agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities, where small farms pool resources, is a potential component of an efficient policy to offset the ravages of endemic poverty in agrarian economies.

A Moment in the Sun

Designated by three branches of the United Nations, 2012 was the International Year of Cooperatives. One of its primary ambitions was to highlight the financial disadvantages of small farms and the potential for inter-community economic unions to fight poverty. Agricultural cooperatives, having an impact that “cannot be overstated,” figured heavily into U.N. recommendations and initiatives. Creating 20% more employment opportunities than multinational ventures, agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities provide a long-term potential for sustainable job creation, which is paramount to poverty eradication.

Harvesting Prosperitya 2020 World Bank report, concluded that funding agricultural productivity is twice as effective at reducing extreme poverty as alternative methods. Crucially, the exhaustive report details the belief that industrial farms are the gold standard of high-yield agriculture. Contrarily, current research on “the inverse relationship hypothesis” questions the correlation between scale and productivity. Because impoverished rural communities are overwhelmingly populated with small-scale subsistence farms, one cannot overstate the essentiality of agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities.

Being unique entities based on democratic principles, each cooperative has distinct requirements that defy a universal approach. The economic complexities of members serving as both suppliers and owners create multifaceted organizations with financial and social obligations, as opposed to a corporate performance that is based solely on finance and profitability. The dualistic nature of cooperatives as inherently business and community actors gives these organizations a great deal of leverage to impact the well-being of their communities.

Portuguese Traditions in the Age of Globalism

Over the long history of wine-making cooperatives in Portugal, these unions have consistently allowed members to garner higher prices and greater market share while simultaneously improving value chains and decreasing transaction expenses. Additionally, Portugal has garnered attention as cooperative bylaws are enshrined in the constitution, making them integral to the national economy.

With 39,506 vineyards in the Douro wine-growing region alone, the long-term economic future of an essential component of Portuguese national character requires the implementation of structural reform. Cooperatives represent 46% of regional production in Douro and Port. With most farms under one hectare, individual producers must combine resources to vinify grapes. But, after several failed governmental attempts at modernization in response to globalism, agricultural cooperatives have been stymied by encroaching foreign markets.

Upon Portugal’s entry into the EU in 1986, a direct-to-consumer model that sustained wine cooperatives became untenable as cheap imports via larger wine-producing nations like France and Italy brought competition. Furthermore, environmental and geographic factors prevented Portuguese vineyards from countering increasing imports through higher production. Often inefficient bureaucracies, a slow transition, accompanied by foreign investment allowed Quintas — independent for-profit producers — to flourish. Many Portuguese wine agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities did not survive the opening salvos of globalism.

Think Local, Act Global

The culling of slow-responding cooperatives has forced researchers and policymakers to develop a framework for adaptability. Several organizations, native and foreign, contribute to shaping and communicating the strategies for agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities.

  • CASES: As previously noted, cooperatives must satisfy social obligations in addition to economic concerns. At Cooperativa Antonio Sergio para a Economia Social (CASES), an NGO focusing on the interrelatedness of finance and society, an alliance of Portuguese Creditors finances various cooperatives throughout the economy. A €12.5 million endeavor, Social Investe enabled several wine cooperatives to fund various projects and improvements.
  • PDR2020: The active involvement of governmental agencies is crucial to structural reform. Wine industry infrastructure is notoriously expensive and beyond the resources of independent producers. A federal initiative, Programa de Desenvolvimento Rural de Portugal (PDR 2020), funds agricultural purchases that are particularly crucial for Portuguese vineyards. These grants, amounting to €37.5 million in 2020 alone, also help farmers adapt to increasingly frequent climatic abnormalities that disrupt production.
  • Fenadegas: In order to affect the regulatory environment, wine cooperatives actively lobby for policy reform. Difficult at the individual level, Adegas Cooperativas de Portugal (ACP) is a coalition of 41 members and represents a unified agenda for addressing distinct exigencies of the industry. Additionally, the organization provides a global marketing platform, helping one cooperative survive the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing exports by 18% in 2020.
  • SALSA: The dual requirements of integrating with the local economy and tailoring production while simultaneously developing global strategies present major challenges. With the intergovernmental organization Small Farms, Small Food Businesses and Sustainable Food Security (SALSA), Alentejo regional farmers created the “Km0 Evora” label that certifies local provenance within 50km. Efficient value chains are a traditional strength of cooperatives, but pressures of globalism have disrupted local economies, making community initiatives and branding more relevant. Mimicking Km0’s success, several European agricultural cooperatives have introduced similar measures.
  • Adega de Borba: Maximization of member profit and temporary gain often leave cooperatives under-invested. Despite initial struggles, Adega Cooperativa de Borba (ACB), which began in 1955, successfully transitioned to the global marketplace and produces 15 million bottles annually. A €12 million-member investment to build a state-of-the-art production facility has allowed 300 small farmers to compete internationally by diversifying product offerings.

Restoring Profitability to Agriculture

As rural communities face increasing pressure from foreign influence, these already-disenfranchised populations will struggle to have others hear them amid the cacophony of global interests. Portuguese winemakers, that the rapidly-changing economy overwhelmed, suffered immense emigration as farming no longer provided sufficient income. Restoring profitability to agriculture is a powerful mechanism by which endemic poverty can disappear. Organizations at numerous levels will be instrumental in this effort, but progress must begin with collaboration in agrarian rural communities.

– Kit Krajeski
Photo: Flickr

Rights-Based Drug Policy
Rights-based drug policy has been increasing in popularity in recent years. In 2019, the U.N. Development Programme and the International Centre on Human Rights and Drug Policies collaborated with legal and scientific experts on a three-year project to develop guidelines for a rights-based drug policy approach. The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy laid out recommendations that nations should follow regarding criminal justice, addiction treatment and pain relief accessibility in order to be in accordance with international humanitarian law. These recommendations include:

  • Ensuring access to all drug dependence treatment services and medications to anyone who needs them
  • Ensuring access to all harm reduction medication and services, such as those used to reduce the likelihood of overdose or HIV infection
  • Providing a reasonable standard of living to populations vulnerable to drug addiction
  • Repealing policies that strip drug offenders of their right to vote
  • Repealing laws that allow detainment solely on the basis of drug use

Worldwide, the most common approach to addressing drug use and trafficking relies on punishment. This is often in lieu of providing care to those affected by addiction and violence relating to the drug trade. According to the International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy, punishing drug users and withholding addiction treatment and harm reduction services are violations of human rights.

Some nations have been reforming their drug policy to address community needs and uphold humanitarian practices. Here are a few success stories.

Britain: Controlled Treatment for Opioid Dependence

In 2009, the British government undertook a four-year trial where doctors used injections of the opioid diamorphine, in addition to counseling, to stabilize addiction patients who had not responded to conventional treatments. After just six months of diamorphine injections, three-quarters of the trial participants stopped using street heroin. Crimes that the group committed dropped dramatically.

Today, many British citizens suffering from extreme opioid addiction are qualified to receive diamorphine through the National Health Service. From 2017-2018, 280 patients received this treatment to recover from addiction. However, conservative attitudes about the treatment threaten to cut services. Experts warn that patients who are no longer able to receive diamorphine may return to street heroin.

Scotland: Saving Lives with Naloxone

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Scotland began providing communities with take-home Naloxone kits in 2011 and issued 37,609 kits between 2011 and 2017.

The Scottish Ambulance Service recently rolled out a program to send Naloxone kits home with the friends and family of users after an overdose and train them how to administer the medication before an ambulance arrives to reduce the risk of death. Some Scotland police officers are beginning to carry Naloxone, though many are resistant to the practice.

Portugal: Humane Treatment for Users

In 2001, Portugal decriminalized drug use. Instead of jail time, drug users receive fines or have to complete service hours and/or addiction treatment. Drug trafficking remains a criminal offense.

To replace incarceration, Portugal increased treatment programs. As of 2008, three-quarters of those suffering from opioid addictions were on medication-assisted treatment. Since the policy shift, opioid deaths have fallen dramatically, as well as HIV and Hepatitis C infections. In addition, U.S. research studies indicate that spending money on treatment returns more than investing in traditional crime reduction methods. Portugal also implemented a needle exchange program to provide intravenous drug users with clean needles, which experts say returns at least six times its expenses in reducing costs associated with HIV.

Decriminalization did not lead to a rise in addiction and Portugal’s prison population is lower now than before decriminalization. Rights-based drug policy has flipped the script on addiction in Portugal. Criminalization exacerbates issues related to addiction, such as poverty. Rights-based drug policies are better at breaking the cycle of addiction and thus, alleviating poverty.

Rights-based drug policy means treating users with respect and providing communities with the resources they need to address the devastation drugs can cause. Adopting legislation in line with The International Guidelines on Human Rights and Drug Policy is a crucial step towards a scientific and rights-based approach to combating the worldwide drug crisis.

– Elise Brehob
Photo: Flickr