Laos' forestsLaos’ forests may be the key to reducing poverty in the country. The World Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry created a new program titled the Lao Landscapes and Livelihood Project. The project, running from 2021 until 2027, seeks to help reduce poverty and kickstart the economy in Laos. The project will cost roughly $57 million and aims to alleviate the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic through the preservation of Laos’ forests.

History of Poverty in Laos

Over the past 30 years, poverty in Laos has decreased dramatically. Poverty went from 46% in 1993 to 18% in 2019, coinciding with rapid growth in GDP. Much of this is a result of farming reform as farmers “moved from subsistence rice cultivation toward the commercial production of cash crops,” increasing income for farmers. However, poverty reduction has recently been slowing down in Laos with a lack of new jobs to drive economic growth and rising inequality.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing even more employment uncertainty. There has also been a sharp decline in tourism due to COVID-19 restrictions and border closures. Workers have to deal with job informality and fluctuations in demand as well. However, remittances, an income source for about 15% of households between 2013 and 2019, contributes to poverty reduction in Laos.

The Role of Forests

There are several ways that the government can ignite poverty reduction, including improving infrastructure and investing in education. However, the Lao Landscapes and Livelihood Project looks toward one of the main sources of income: Laos’ forests.

Much of Laos’ poverty is present in the country’s rural areas, specifically in the central provinces, which are home to an abundance of forests. The main goal of the project is to utilize Laos’ forests to increase investment in sustainable forest management and preserve the country’s “natural capital” while creating employment opportunities that will help reduce poverty. About 70% of Laos is covered in forests and nearly 70% of the population lives in these forest-dense areas. This means that forests can play a key role in igniting economic growth in Laos.

Although the economy improved consistently in the past few decades, Laos’ natural resources have not. The deterioration of natural resources makes “vulnerable rural people more susceptible to floods and droughts while jeopardizing their access to food, fiber, fresh water and income.” This degradation prompts preservation efforts to protect the forests while improving the livelihoods of the people living around them.

Lao Landscapes and Livelihood Project Goals

The project focuses mainly on encouraging economic growth, which slowed during the pandemic. There are three main areas of focus for the project: conservation, tourism and production. Conservation and production relate to new jobs through investment in sustainable practices and facilities. As there is more societal pressure to obtain “good wood,” or environmentally friendly wood production, more companies are willing to invest in sustainable ways of producing wood. Consequently, this may result in nearly 300,000 new jobs in Laos.

Tourism also grows through the protection of the abundant biodiversity in Laos’ forests. Biodiversity is one of the most important, yet quickly disappearing parts of the environment. Therefore, biodiversity protection will not only help the environment but will also attract tourists who wish to see the various plant and animal species that are native to Laos, spurring economic growth.

Looking Forward

The Lao Landscapes and Livelihood Project is one part of the 2030 National Green Growth Strategy. The project intends to utilize the forests of Laos to promote economic growth while also reducing poverty by aiding the federal government in passing legislation and designing policies to align with these priorities. The project also prioritizes gender equality, with roughly 50% of the jobs allocated to women. Overall, the project will ultimately help put Laos back on the right track to continued economic growth and reduced poverty.

– Ritika Manathara
Photo: Flickr

Mission: Recovering EducationThe global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education has been devastating. According to the World Bank, more than 1.6 billion children have lost out on education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, as of March 2021, many children are still not back in school. The impact of COVID-19 on education systems globally is not just a short-term problem. These disruptions in education could potentially “amount to losses valued at $10 trillion in terms of affected children’s future earnings.” UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank have implemented a joint endeavor to ensure progress made on global education goals is not lost, especially since education is the key to poverty reduction. A 2016 report from Global Partnership for Education (GPE) states that 171 million people could be lifted out of extreme poverty if all learners had basic reading skills. For this reason, Mission: Recovering Education in 2021 focuses on three primary goals.

Mission: Recovering Education in 2021: Goals

  1. All children return to school. The benefits of going to school extend beyond learning. Children also receive nutritious meals, vaccinations and psychosocial support, factors that are critical to a child’s well-being. In a remote learning environment, children lose these benefits, in addition to falling behind their expected learning curves. Mission: Recovering Education aims to reunite children across the globe with critical resources by focusing on two targets. The two targets involve bringing school enrollment back to pre-COVID-19 levels and ensuring that schools provide services to catch up on learning and well-being losses.
  2. Recovering learning loss. The pandemic may have caused children to fall behind their age-appropriate learning curves. Many learners may no longer be ready for a curriculum that they would have been ready for had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic disruptions. Remedial learning will help students to bridge the gap. It is important for remedial learning to be seen as essential and not just a luxury. Additionally, social-emotional learning also needs to be incorporated into classroom settings as bouncing back from setbacks can be challenging for children. Furthermore, digital technology is suggested for teaching basic literacy and math skills.
  3. Preparing and empowering teachers. Mission: Recovering Education recognizes the vital role teachers play in the global education system. Without healthy and well-trained teachers, students will be unable to recover the many months of learning opportunities they lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recovering the lost months of learning is essential to reducing global poverty rates. Teachers should be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccinations and must receive support for implementing remedial education, incorporating social-emotional learning and transitioning to remote learning.

Looking Ahead

According to the GPE, education increases earnings by roughly 10% per year of further learning, supporting the fact that education reduces poverty. Mission: Recovering Education will incorporate monitoring tools to assess progress on its three primary goals. In doing so, the organization will help children globally recover as much lost education time as possible. This, in turn, will ensure that the global education system continues to lift children out of poverty.

Thomas McCall
Photo: Flickr

Zero-Waste SolutionsThai researcher Sorawut Kittibanthorn is looking into how to transform the nutrient component found in chicken feathers into a powder that can be turned into a protein-rich source of edible food that can be used in a variety of dishes. Prototypes including his version of chicken nuggets and a steak substitute have received some positive feedback. Kittibanthorn feels chicken feathers have the potential of becoming an alternative food substitute that can reduce poverty and food insecurity. Kittibanthorn and others are determined to promote zero-waste solutions in an effort to reduce global waste and promote sustainability while addressing global poverty and hunger.

Chicken Feather Waste

The poultry market is a booming industry. Chickens are one of the most commonly consumed meat products in the world and poultry is a cultural and economic staple in many countries. The bird feathers, however, produce mass waste. In the U.K. alone, chicken farms discard around 1,000 tons of feathers per week. Few companies have taken notice of the potential behind these unwanted goods. Feathers have a high source of keratin protein, making the feathers ideal sources of insulation, plastic or animal feed. The findings of Kittibanthorn are unique and shift the conversation toward a multi-pronged solution in combating global hunger using creative solutions.

On top of reducing waste, Kittibanthorn maintains the idea that chicken feathers can be repurposed for elegant, elevated dining. The destigmatization of food waste is not completely unprecedented in the culinary world. Michelin star chef, Massimo Bottura, utilized a trash-to-table dining model in 2018 by recovering surplus ingredients to make nutritious and delicious meals for a community. Food waste is a largely uncomfortable issue around the world and the U.S. alone generates 40 million tons per year. By utilizing solutions similar to Kittibanthorn and Bottura, many countries could work toward resolving the issue of world hunger through zero-waste solutions.

A Zero-Waste Future

Utilizing chicken feathers as a zero-waste solution to combat poverty would fall in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, which include seeking to end hunger and improve nutrition. In the context of agricultural initiatives, chicken feathers open the conversation on the collaboration between innovations like feather-based foods and organizations that promote crop diversity.

The Borgen Project spoke with Rodrigo Barrios, strategic partnerships manager at the nonprofit organization, the Crop Trust. Barrios explains how crop diversity includes two elements of action: use and conservation. Barrios told The Borgen Project about the organization’s program called The Food Forever Initiative. The Food Forever Initiative seeks to enlighten the community with crop usability by connecting chefs to less popular crops and giving chefs the agency to promote agrobiodiversity. Barrios says that promoting crop diversity would also help reduce poverty. In a similar fashion, Barrios states “we identify all biodiversity, internationally, that is fundamental for food security and nutrition and agriculture and we ensure that the gene banks are funded in perpetuity, provided they are up to standard.” The Crop Trust’s goals align with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The organization seeks to build more funding to support long-term conservation initiatives as zero-waste solutions.

The Road Ahead

The practice of repurposing materials that are typically disposed of, such as chicken feathers, has great potential to reduce poverty and push for more sustainable market practices including zero-waste solutions. Trends and practices related to repurposing materials would promote ethical decisions in the private sector, help communities with nutrition security and connect agronomics to crop supporting initiatives.

Danielle Han
Photo: Flickr

bringing opportunity to Brazil's favelas
Brazilian favelas, or slum neighborhoods, are Brazil’s historically impoverished and overlooked communities. Typically located on the outskirts of the country’s largest cities, the favelas are especially prevalent in the greater São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro areas. An estimated 1.5 million people live in these favelas, lacking proper infrastructure and water systems. Crime and police killings within favelas are rampant, relative to Brazil’s affluent neighborhoods. In addition to favelas’ dangerous and unhygienic conditions, their low-income residents often lack opportunities for socio-economic growth; this is largely due to the neighborhoods’ marginalized nature. Recently, however, organizations throughout the world have brought resources to help people living in the favelas.

5 NGOs Bringing Opportunity to Brazil’s Favelas

  1. The Favela Foundation funds and collaborates with countless educational initiatives throughout Rochina and Rio de Janeiro’s slums. The foundation recognizes the lack of government action, realizing the importance of grassroots initiatives to assist vulnerable youth. Further, the foundation has played a major role in the success of literacy projects in favelas, launching a teacher training program specifically geared toward children in these areas.
  2. Catalytic Communities, or CatComm, is an NGO based in Rio de Janeiro that is dedicated to empowering favela communities through strategic advocacy, research and education. These efforts are made to ensure that impoverished residents are treated as equal citizens. A recent project, the “Casa Technology Hub,” offers internet access to these communities. The group also launched a website that publicizes the voices of favela residents who are often excluded from mainstream media. By offering funded assistance to these communities, CatComm’s initiatives have been effective in bringing opportunity to Brazil’s favelas.
  3. Community in Action focuses its efforts on education development in Rio de Janeiro, working to elevate the lives of both children and adults in the favelas. Programs include extracurricular sporting events, childcare and vocational training for adults trying to enter the workforce. Since 2004, the NGO has offered these individual and group programs, resulting in countless foreign volunteers serving more than 10,000 people living in favelas.
  4. ActionAid is a UK-based NGO that aims to empower women and girls. The organization has made significant efforts in Brazil’s favelas, recognizing that female inhabitants are a marginalized group within an already marginalized community. They are often the victims of violence and sexual exploitation within favelas, as many young girls resort to prostitution to improve their circumstances. ActionAid provides therapy and educational courses to empower these women and give them the skills they need to enter the workforce. Each of ActionAid’s programs works toward its greater mission of gender equality, one favela at a time.
  5. The Brazil Foundation has raised $53 million for over 625 grassroots organizations throughout hundreds of Brazilian cities, since its founding in 2000. In addition to partnering with and funding NGOs that promote social and economic opportunity in Brazil, the Brazil Foundation offers each organization unique training to ensure the sustainability of its projects. The foundation’s thematic approach categorizes the organizations it supports in categories ranging from socio-economic development to health. This makes certain that the foundation distributes its funding and assistance to diverse groups in an organized and effective manner.

Since the turn of the century, these five organizations have worked tirelessly to bring opportunity to Brazil’s favelas. They aim to counteract the inequality and opportunity gaps between Brazil’s wealthiest citizens and regions, and impoverished favela inhabitants. With about one in every 20 Brazilians living in a favela, the role of these NGOs is growing and becoming more vital to bringing opportunity to Brazil’s favelas.

Breana Stanski

Photo: Flickr

Tackling Poverty AlleviationDespite over 700 million people living in extreme poverty, poverty alleviation strategies recently reduced those rates. Poverty is multidimensional, meaning there are more aspects that one should consider than low income and resource shortages. Poverty includes hunger, malnutrition, violence, lack of human rights and little to no health care. According to Our World in Data, the fast rate in economic growth and political support for improved living standards have improved the state of poverty alleviation in various countries. Socio-economic advancement stems from improved access to opportunities where the four common areas of focus are food, education, employment and security. Here are three parts of the world tackling poverty alleviation.

China

China has made considerable progress in tackling poverty alleviation by bringing citizens out of traditional rural lifestyles. In 2018, around 41 percent of China’s rural population was living in impoverished countrysides. In 2013, China set policies to promote socio-economic development. By registering individuals into a database, China implemented rapid strategies and programs to benefit the entire nation. Meanwhile, Beijing launched an anti-poverty campaign to bring these citizens into more urban locations.

Committing to development with infrastructure and improving tourism, the government helped villagers tremendously. The government strengthened financial support by providing proper funding for health, education, industrial development and agricultural modernization and better access to the internet. Specifically, the 2007 health reform addressed poverty alleviation by providing health care centers for men and women and improving the quality of these centers.

Additionally, the Guizhou Province gave millions of dollars to poor students in 2015 to provide meals to children during the day. Feeding the children increases confidence and improves performance in the classroom. China also built schools in rural and mountain areas to accommodate male and female students. Educating the young means future generations should be able to rise out of poverty as well.

Poverty alleviation also occurs from supporting livestock and crop production in regard to trade partners. Improving farming practices also decreases pollution throughout the country. The Ministry of Agriculture has fully invested in increasing sustainability within agricultural and technological development.

Africa

Government resources in Africa have been vital to the 13 percent poverty alleviation from 1990 to 2015. To combat corruption, Uganda created an anti-corruption action plan through the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. Tanzania even followed these steps with a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. Other programs directed toward social welfare have also contributed to economic growth. By providing conditional cash-transfers, African citizens have more financial security. Promoting governmental transparency through the 2003 Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has protected citizens from violence at a political level.

Further, education for youngsters, with a target for girls and women, have slowed economic poverty; gender inequalities have traditionally set back girls and women in society. The Africa Educational Trust (AET) program focuses on self-empowerment and providing education for all, and is breaking the glass ceiling for African women. Improving inclusivity within communities by removing these women and girls from traditional societal roles inevitably protects from violence. Not only do women get the opportunity to progress in society, but fertility and child mortality rates decline through improved prenatal nutrition.

Finally, agricultural investments through governmental incentives have enhanced food production. South Africa’s Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) launched in 2004 with the aim of expanding job and industrialization practices. Access to clean water through sanitation reforms has drastically improved health status throughout the continent. In Nigeria, the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project tackles the water-scarcity issue by investing in water treatment, disease prevention and enhanced water distribution strategies.

El Salvador

El Salvador stands out as one of the more impoverished countries in Latin America. However, in 2013, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent to 28.9 percent. The government transformed the national debt by addressing historical conflicts that damaged the economy. Tensions between the government and gang warfare affected 16 percent of the country’s annual GDP. Addressing gang violence through the Youth Employability and Opportunities initiative gives children a future involving better education without the pressure of joining a gang to survive.

The Civil War from 1980-1992 also put an enormous strain on the country’s safety. The Safe El Salvador plan addresses poverty alleviation by strengthening community bonds.

Additionally, health care and job investments have aided the country’s endeavors of poverty alleviation. The Strengthening Public Health Care System project invested in health services that have declined mortality rates and have improved disease prevention. Further, the El Salvador government partnered with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2014 to focus on the youth by providing infrastructure and skills to stabilize the economy.

The Social Protection Universal System in 2014 assisted in the protection of the country’s citizens regarding human rights. Another danger to the country is natural disasters, which take a massive toll on the environment and safety of the large population. The government created the El Salvador Disaster Risk Management program to prepare for emergencies such as earthquakes and tropical storms, but it also addressed the recovery process after they hit.

Despite slower progress in some regions of the world, these three parts of the world are continuing to make tackling poverty alleviation a main focus. Investing in the wellbeing of people is a common practice in maintaining human dignity and saving countless lives every day. By establishing attainable goals and understanding the nature of poverty, countries can make significant changes for the future of the globe.

Sydney Stokes
Photo: Pixabay

Evergrande in GuizhouOver the course of 40 years, China pulled 700 million people out of poverty. Rural poverty “decreased from 55.75 million to 16.6 million” between 2015 and 2018. China had planned to completely end extreme poverty by 2020. The country’s agenda is one key driver; however, the effort from the rising private sectors has also been pivotal. China’s private companies have demonstrated innovative ways to tackle poverty-related issues. This article will introduce the case of one leading private company, Evergrande in Guizhou.

Private Investment

China has already had success with private companies working to eradicate poverty. E-commerce has been fiercely discussed on different stages both internationally and domestically for its role in poverty eradication. Alibaba has successfully exercised the strategy of promoting small business from remote and impoverished regions on its online platform to stimulate the commodity economy and end their poverty. In fact, Alibaba’s online sales platforms have helped more than 100 poor counties in China reach a sales record of $14 million in 2018.

In 2019, the United Nations Environment Program honored Ant Financial Services Group for its achievement in afforestation of 122 million trees in arid regions in China to improve their overall living conditions. This tech company also works to finance small businesses. Its Alipay platform provides online money transfer services, lending and investment funds.

Evergrande in Guizhou

However, differing from these online giants, Evergrande leads the real estate business in China. In 2018, the head of the company, Jiayin Xu, said the private sector should do more in poverty alleviation. In the same year, Evergrande won the trophy for its donation of $560 million, which also make them the number one organizational donor. That year, 68 percent of the money donated went towards poverty alleviation.

Absolute numbers of donations are not the only hallmark of Evergrande’s approaches in poverty alleviation. Evergrande has an obvious provincial focus on its poverty reduction projects. Evergrande started working in Guizhou, one of China’s more underdeveloped provinces, in 2015. According to the report, Bijie, Guizhou, received 51.9 percent of the total donation, which equals $302 million. In, Bijie, the number of people living in poverty has decreased by 5.94 million, dropping the poverty rate from 56 percent to 8.89 percent in the last 30 years.

Agricultural Reclamation

Besides the massive amount of financial input, the success that Evergrande in Guizhou has had in combating poverty demonstrates another key mark: a detailed and localized strategy. Evergrande’s research corroborates Guizhou’s traditional disadvantage in agricultural reclamation. Therefore, it developed various alternative measures.

Its plans were to develop Dafang County, Bijie City, Guizhou Province. The company had completed 103 projects targeted poverty by 2017. More than 180,000 local residents benefited from these projects. Through supply, production and sale integration, Evergrande helped Dafang county create 16,473 acres planting bases of economic fruits and 317 beef breeding farms. It also built 10,223 greenhouses and 22 cultivation centers.

China’s private companies have had impressive success in combating poverty. As a new player in the field, Evergrande in Guizhou demonstrated how a private company turns poverty alleviation into an economic opportunity for both local communities and companies. Indeed, the company has had a relatively short time in the field, but its role is no less critical than governmental help.

Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr