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

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Safari Rally Can HelpThe Kenyan Safari Rally is a car racing event “first held in Kenya in 1953 to commemorate the coronation of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.” The Safari Rally became inactive for almost 20 years “due to concerns over safety, organization and finances.” Now, in 2021, the car racing event is making a comeback in Kenya. The event may be an important source of revenue for Kenya as it has the potential to increase tourism in the country. The revival of the Safari Rally can help Kenya since the country’s “economic outlook remains highly uncertain” due to COVID-19.

Impact of COVID-19 on Kenyan Tourism

From 2009 to 2019, the tourism sector’s GDP value in Kenya grew by about $4 billion. Since almost 40% of Kenya’s youth experience unemployment, a growing tourism industry has the potential to provide employment opportunities, thus reducing poverty in the country. International tourism in Kenya is more profitable than domestic tourism with arrivals of more than two million tourists between 2018 and 2019. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, pandemic-induced restrictions have limited the economic potential of tourism in Kenya.

As is the case for most countries, COVID-19 harshly impacted Kenya’s tourism and hospitality sector with a loss of more than $500 million in hotel revenue alone. Due to decreased travel in 2020, more than 36,000 airline workers in Kenya were at risk of unemployment. According to the World Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed an additional two million Kenyans into impoverished circumstances due to job losses, wage cuts and reduced household income. The Safari Rally offers hope to a struggling Kenyan economy, providing a chance to revitalize the tourism sector after the harsh impacts of the pandemic.

How the Safari Rally Can Help Tourism

By hosting 24 foreign and 34 Kenyan drivers, the Safari Rally will boost not only international tourism but also domestic tourism. Domestic tourism is just as important as international tourism in preventing tourism-based economies from collapsing during the pandemic. The Safari Rally enables local Kenyan residents to travel to the race venues to support Kenya as domestic tourists.

The hospitality industry will see a rise in activity as sponsors and participants in the Safari Rally book hotels for accommodation. A Kenyan betting company, Betika, sponsors the event along with companies such as Toyota. The event will increase the prominence of Kenyan businesses harmed by the lack of sporting activities due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Additionally, the Safari Rally will give Kenyans a chance to boost their sporting culture and patriotism. The itinerary of the race consists of 18 stages that pass through key tourist attraction sites in Kenya. Locations such as Lake Naivasha and other wildlife conservancies give spectators and participants a chance to enjoy the sight of lions, leopards, giraffes and elephants, all while boosting the Kenyan economy.

The Road to Economic Recovery

While tourism may have been the worst-hit sector globally, for developing countries it may be a way to escape the economic impacts of the global pandemic. The Safari Rally can help Kenya by offering Kenya’s tourism sector an opportunity to recover, igniting economic growth and reducing poverty in the country.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Flickr

International Poverty Reduction Center in China
The Chinese government, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and other organizations founded the International Poverty Reduction Center in China (IPRCC) in 2004. Its goal is to allow for the sharing of knowledge and information to reduce poverty and encourage development throughout the world. It also engages in research on international poverty reduction theories and practices and provides reviews of China’s poverty reduction policies. While its work extends beyond Asia, it participates in poverty reduction in Southeast Asia and takes part in ASEAN forums and conferences.

What the International Poverty Reduction Center (IPRCC) Does

One of the major issues of programs seeking to help raise people out of poverty is that they rely too much on giving people what they need today, rather than ensuring they have the resources and knowledge to provide for tomorrow. The International Poverty Reduction Center is trying to prevent this by focusing on involvement at the village level. It pays attention to ensuring those on the ground have the knowledge, resources and ability to continue to grow sustainably even after the IPRCC leaves.

The Ban Xor Example

In December 2016, Ban Xor, Laos became the site for the pilot program of the IPRCC. There were 2,007 residents at the time and half lived on less than $700 a year. The goal of the involvement in Ban Xor is to share knowledge of farming techniques, assist in the construction of public infrastructure and give people market access to sell their products. The emphasis is on using China’s experiences to help others as well as sharing information between both the Chinese and Lao teams. The Chinese experts learned what people in Ban Xor required and what their living situation was like, and the Lao executives’ team learned management methods as well as how to tackle poverty issues based on China’s experiences.

As a result of this program, the people of Ban Xor have improved their corn and cattle farming techniques and have been able to increase their yields. Additionally, women have been able to sell their traditional weaving to Chinese buyers. Some of the infrastructural changes include the building of a bridge to allow easier travel throughout the village at all times of the year. Furthermore, they constructed a school, which caters to students from kindergarten through secondary school, with 60 teachers and 550 students as of 2019. This school includes a playground and places for people to live. As education is one of the best ways to lift people out of poverty and ensures that the next generation will be better off than the current, this is a vital part of this program.

The use of both “hard methods,” such as building roads, bridges and schools and “soft methods,” such as knowledge sharing, is vital. These methods provide the people with the groundwork and the knowledge needed for sustainable development.

The Importance of the Program

While this program is still ongoing and the results of such programs can take years or even decades to come to fruition, changes have already occurred in Ban Xor and other villages to improve the quality of life.

China is still a developing country but has made incredible strides in decreasing poverty within its own country. In 1990, two-thirds of the population was living below the international poverty line. By 2016, it was only 0.5% of the population. That is not to say that there is no inequality in China, but more to show how quickly China has been able to increase the standard of living. This rapid growth has given Chinese poverty reduction experts the knowledge and experience to help others in the region and globally.

Countries like Laos have been steadily decreasing the number of people living in poverty, due in part to programs such as this which facilitate knowledge sharing and encourage people on the ground to make sustainable change. Regional cooperation is vital to ensuring stability and sustainable growth and this program is just one example of how a country can go from a major aid recipient to a major aid donor and help bring change to a region.

– Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

health and wellness centersIndia has long lacked an adequate healthcare system, with disadvantaged communities being particularly excluded. Initiatives were implemented throughout the years to improve healthcare in India, culminating in 2018 with the inauguration of the Ayushman Bharat program. The program includes a two-pronged approach to achieving universal healthcare: the establishment of an insurance scheme aimed at impoverished people as well as the creation of 150,000 health and wellness centers (HWCs) throughout the country. While the former has been widely analyzed, the latter is underrated in its potential to improve the lives of India’s most vulnerable. The new HWCs will greatly expand India’s primary healthcare system and will provide impoverished communities with quality healthcare.

Ayushman Bharat and India’s Healthcare System

The Ayushman Bharat program was initiated in 2018 as a response to shortcomings in India’s healthcare system. Indian policymakers have directed much attention toward combating the rates of communicable diseases or diseases that are spread by bacteria. As a result, deaths due to these conditions have decreased. Meanwhile, non-communicable diseases were the cause of 62% of deaths in 2016. The need to reorient India’s healthcare system to this issue became apparent.

The Indian government’s National Health Policy 2017 detailed the need to upgrade the country’s existing health facilities by investing 2.5% of its gross domestic product (GDP) in healthcare by 2025. Ayushman Bharat launched the next year to facilitate this with one of the main goals of the program: the establishment of health and wellness centers throughout the country.

Health and Wellness Centers

India’s health and wellness centers (HWCs) intend to upgrade 150,000 existing health facilities by December 2022. These upgraded facilities are designed to remedy the country’s substandard healthcare by providing a greater range of services and being in touch with local needs. The expanded range of services is key to reaching more people as HWCs will treat issues such as non-communicable diseases and mental health while also providing dental care.

Additionally, HWCs seek to emphasize community engagement to effectively serve the areas they are located in. This includes health promotion through schools and other community centers as well as the empowerment of individual volunteers to improve local capacity. Furthermore, HWCs will encourage the participation of civil society and will engage with local nonprofit organizations to provide additional care.

With a goal of creating 150,000 HWCs by December 2022, India appears to be well on its way. As of November 2020, 50,000 facilities have been made operational, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In terms of COVID-19, the work of HWCs is integral as they have been involved in efforts for contact tracing, community surveillance and early identification of cases. They have also ensured the provision of health services for people with co-morbidities who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

The Road Ahead

With the combination of expanded services and community engagement, HWCs are designed to encourage Indians to pursue proper healthcare, thus decreasing the rates of diseases and other ailments. This is especially beneficial for India’s disadvantaged communities as they will have greater access to quality healthcare that is specifically tailored to their needs. In all, HWCs will greatly improve India’s chances of achieving universal healthcare.

Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

E-Commerce Can End Rural Poverty in China
E-commerce has the power to end rural poverty in China. In 2014, about 100 out of 640 households in Kengshang were on a list for having annual incomes of less than $400. The rural Chinese village in Anhui province had been in poverty for years. This is due to a shortage of farmland and geographical isolation. Most villagers made their living by growing tea but the working population decreased every year as people left to find jobs.

In 2015, the district’s commerce bureau invested $31,000 in Kengshang. This involved setting up a workshop to train the villagers and renovating a school building. The villagers sold dried bamboo shoots in small decorative bags, which the poverty-alleviation team then sold online. All of the profits went directly to the villagers. The annual revenue from the online shops in 2020 was about $123,870, up from $23,226 in 2016. By 2016, the Chinese government deemed the village of Kengshang poverty-free.

E-Commerce in China

Kengshang is one of many success stories in poverty alleviation thanks to e-commerce in China. E-commerce is the buying and selling of goods over the internet. It allows more people to access potential global markets for their products, which can help reduce poverty by opening up a new avenue of income for the impoverished. It has been especially effective for those facing rural poverty.

E-commerce in China is a robust industry for rural communities. All 832 state-level impoverished counties have e-commerce programs to alleviate poverty. In 2019, 13.84 million rural e-commerce shops existed. The shops registered total online sales of about $8.02 billion in the first quarter of 2020, up 5% from 2019.

The Alibaba Group, an e-commerce giant, launched the Rural Taobao Program in 2014 to help give rural citizens better access to the internet and help farmers increase their income by selling agricultural products directly to urban consumers online. It does this by setting up e-commerce service networks in counties and villages and improving logistical connections for villages. It also provides training in e-commerce and entrepreneurship and develops rural financial services through the AntFinancial subsidiary of Alibaba. The Rural Taobao Program has expanded rapidly, from 212 villages in 12 counties in 2014 to more than 30,000 villages in 1,000 counties in 2018.

The Chinese government has invested in improving the existing e-commerce system. In the future, the government plans to improve infrastructure in rural areas to smooth urban-rural trade channels, especially for agricultural products. Third-party delivery services, improved rural logistics systems and the cultivation of local brands will support agricultural products.

Eliminating Poverty in China

E-commerce in rural provinces has helped China eliminate rural poverty nationwide. In November 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that all rural citizens were living above the centrally-defined poverty line of about $400 a year. While this is still below the internationally recognized poverty line of $700 a year, it is an impressive feat thanks to strategies like e-commerce in rural areas. In the future, the growing industry of e-commerce has the potential to bring all rural Chinese people above the international poverty line.

E-Commerce During COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic, e-commerce has become even more important. Online ordering and no-contact delivery give rural communities a source of income that does not risk their health. Despite disruptions due to shutdowns, Taobao, an e-commerce platform, saw merchants sell 160% more products in March 2020 than in 2019. PinDuoDuo, another e-commerce company, has boosted daily orders to 65 million, compared to 50 million before the pandemic.

Looking Forward

With sustained development and investment, e-commerce has the potential to end rural poverty in China. The Chinese government needs to invest in the workers by providing entrepreneurship training, helping them establish an online presence and creating the necessary infrastructure to help them sell their products online. That way, e-commerce can be a long-term solution.

Other countries can learn from China’s e-commerce model. While China’s success comes in part from the extensive government involvement in the lives of individual citizens, other nations can still take note of the booming e-commerce industry. Investments in e-commerce development programs have the power to help end rural poverty in China.

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Exporting Clean EnergyCongressman Mike Thompson introduced H.R. 848: GREEN Act of 2021 on February 4, 2021. It is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, serving to provide incentives for renewable energy and energy efficiency. Renewable energy can serve as a means of ending poverty as access to energy can improve healthcare, education and economic opportunity. There also lies an opportunity of possibly exporting clean energy.

The GREEN Act of 2021

Congressman Thompson’s GREEN Act of 2021 seeks to increase the incentives for U.S. citizens to use renewable energy. Congressman Thompson is a vocal advocate for clean energy, believing this change will help not only the United States but also the world at large. Thompson’s vigor in promoting clean energy comes from a desire to cut reduce emissions and create millions of jobs worldwide. Congressman Thompson has voiced renewable energy as priority in Congress by cosponsoring the Green New Deal in February 2019 and sponsoring legislation to provide tax incentives for those using clean energy. Congressman Thompson acknowledges the U.S.’s responsibility to aid other countries. One sees this through his commitments to improve education globally. In combining these two efforts, the U.S. could tackle two of the world’s most important issues.

Clean Energy at Work

In the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the elimination of poverty is as imperative as clean, renewable energy. Robert Freling, executive director of the Solar Electric Light Fund, believes energy is a key weapon in fighting against global poverty. To Freling, access to electricity is a basic human right that is not available to many impoverished nations. Without access to energy, developing countries’ attempts to improve people’s lives comes to a standstill.

The World Bank reports that 840 million people do not have access to electricity and 650 million people will still not have electricity in 2030. According to the World Bank, those lower-income families living in rural areas will need to use solar home systems, mini-grids and solar lighting to combat poverty.

Various countries have proven the effectiveness of renewable energy in fighting poverty. For example, in China introducing solar energy led to more than 800,000 families in poverty having access to power. In some areas, solar installations provided families with an additional yearly income of more than $400.

Exporting Clean Energy

This emphasis on the Unites States promoting clean energy across the world has been noticed by other members of Congress as well. Rep. John Curtis believes the U.S. should set an example by exporting renewable energy to foreign countries. Rep. Curtis introduced multiple bills with the main goal of exporting clean energy. One piece of legislation Rep. Curtis introduced is the Worldwide Wind Turbine Act, which would give the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) the power to accept old wind turbines as donations and share these turbines with developing nations who could benefit from wind energy.

By exporting clean energy, the U.S. can lead the way to transition to renewable energy while improving the global economy. Renewable and clean energy efforts are vital because global poverty cannot truly be resolved unless energy poverty is addressed.

Solomon Simpson
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in IndonesiaThe streets are showered in debris, rescue dogs rummage through rubble and more than 400 homes are collapsed in piles where they previously stood. Such a sight followed the earthquake that hit Mamuju, the provincial capital of West Sulawesi in Indonesia, on January 15, 2021. With at least 82 dead and around 30,000 displaced, the aftershocks are devastating. However, for many Indonesians, stories like this one are painfully familiar as natural disasters are common and homelessness in Indonesia is rampant.

Natural Disasters, Poverty and Homelessness

Sitting on the fault line of three tectonic plates, Indonesia experiences earthquakes of magnitude 5.0 or lower almost daily. Major natural disasters have hit Indonesia on average once a month since 2004. These events, including tsunamis, landslides and even volcanic eruptions, destroy homes and communities. Each crisis pushes the rate of homelessness in Indonesia higher. Of course, poverty and inequality also play important parts in explaining why almost three million (1.14%) Indonesians are homeless. Natural disasters pose a unique and pressing challenge to governments and organizations trying to fight homelessness, especially in natural disaster-prone areas.

Homelessness in Indonesia

From the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s till the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia enjoyed commendable economic growth. It also joined the G20 and cemented its status as a low middle-income country. The poverty rate more than halved from 1999 standing at 9.78% in 2020. On many fronts, Indonesia shows potential for significant economic and social development in the first half of the 21st century.

That being said, the COVID-19 pandemic has undone some of Indonesia’s progress from the last two decades. From March to September of 2020, official statistics reported that an additional one million Indonesians had dropped below the national poverty line. At least 2.8 million Indonesians have lost their jobs due to the pandemic and another 70 million informal workers are at risk of unemployment in the near future.

Against this backdrop, homelessness in Indonesia remains a serious problem. In the first half of 2020, natural disasters displaced an estimated 508,000 Indonesians. Adding to the gravity of these high numbers, natural disasters are no temporary predicament. One year after earthquakes and a tsunami hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island on September 28, 2018, an estimated 57,000 people still remain homeless. Moreover, around 25 million Indonesians live in slums or other temporary housing. A recent survey found that even in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, thousands are at risk of becoming homeless because they are unable to pay rent.

Global Endeavors

Habitat for Humanity, the World Bank, USAID and the Asian Development Bank, among many others, fight homelessness in Indonesia through investment and development expertise. Habitat for Humanity has been working in Indonesia since 1997. In 2019, it helped more than 77,000 Indonesians through a combination of housing, market development and water and sanitation programs. In an effort to promote resilience and recovery in the face of natural disasters, Habitat for Humanity constructs concrete-reinforced houses, provides rubble removal and emergency hygiene kits and rebuilds houses that have collapsed from earthquakes or landslides.

In 2019, the World Bank committed almost $2 billion to projects in Indonesia. These address a broad range of development goals, including infrastructure, the maritime economy and sustainable and universal energy access. In 2017, the World Bank committed $450 million to Indonesia’s National Affordable Housing Program. This program aims to increase access to quality housing through a three-pronged approach of easier financing, household improvements and technical assistance for policy reform. By 2020, the program had already led to housing improvements for more than half a million households.

Vision Indonesia 2045

In 2018, the Indonesian government unveiled an ambitious plan for how the country should develop by 2045, the centennial of Indonesia’s independence. Although the plan spans everything from defense to innovation policy, the central pillars are peace and prosperity. One of the more specific goals is to reach an annual GDP per capita of more than $19,794. This would propel Indonesia into the realm of upper-middle-income countries and usher in lower rates of poverty and homelessness. Especially with the World Bank’s recent commitment of $250 million to support Indonesia’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Project, the current crisis is unlikely to derail Indonesia’s goals. If Indonesia realizes its growth potential and foreign aid continues bolstering its natural disaster and housing resilience, homelessness in Indonesia will decline, protecting millions of vulnerable people.

Alexander Vanezis
Photo:Flickr

Extreme Poverty in Botswana
The nation of Botswana, home to approximately 2.3 million people, has undergone an amazing change over the past three decades, transforming from an impoverished nation to one of the wealthiest nations in sub-Saharan Africa. While many of its neighbors have lagged behind—in fact, the United Nations classifies sub-Saharan Africa as the poorest region in the world—Botswana reduced the percentage of its population living on less than $1.90 a day from 29.8% between 2002-2003 to 16.1% between 2015-2016. What are the secrets to success in combatting extreme poverty in Botswana that have allowed it to prosper relative to its neighboring African nations?

A Brief Look at the History of Botswana

Botswana gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 and quickly adopted a parliamentary constitutional republic. In fact, Botswana is the oldest democracy on the continent, though one party—the Botswana Democratic Party—has dominated elections since the adoption of the country’s constitution. Compared to its neighbors, Botswana began with a commitment to free enterprise, rule of law and individual liberties. Its first president, Seretse Khama, had a devotion to fighting corruption, which was critical to Botswana’s success.

To fight extreme poverty in Botswana, the country invested in four critical pillars: public institutions, education, economic diversification and women’s rights.

4 Pillars to Tackling Extreme Poverty in Botswana

  1. One of the most remarkable aspects of Botswana is its extraordinarily low levels of corruption as a result of institutional checks and balances. According to the 2017 Corruption Perception Index, Botswana was the least corrupt nation in Africa, with its score twice as high as the average sub-Saharan African nation. Botswana is one of only a handful of nations that outperform parts of Western Europe, with its score outpacing Spain in 2018. This is as a result of institutional checks and balances, including the Corruption and Economic Crime Act of 1994 and the development of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime, an agency tasked with investigating and preventing corruption. As a resource-rich state known for diamond mining, Botswana was careful to prevent government employees from benefiting from what the nation’s first president deemed public resources.
  2. Botswana invests a considerable percentage of its GDP in education; this percentage was more than 20% in 2009. Botswana’s investment in education translated to a literacy rate of 87% in 2019, compared to a regional average of 65%. High rates of education have contributed to Botswana’s increased economic diversification and strong political stability, making the nation one of the more attractive places to do business in Africa.
  3. Smart economic development has contributed to Botswana’s high living standards and low corruption levels, placing it ahead of its peers. Botswana derived much of its early economic growth from diamond extraction which, among other exports, accounts for approximately 40% of Botswana’s GDP composition by end-use. However, consistent investment in other sectors of the economy has remained a strategy for the ruling party, and the government has increasingly diversified its economy towards the service sector and tourism jobs. Investment in conservation and wildlife has grown the tourism industry to approximately 14% of Botswana’s GDP,  nearly doubling since 1999. Remarkably, Botswana’s commitment to managing its domestic ecosystems allowed it to sign one of the first “debt-for-nature” agreements with the United States, which forgave more than $8 million in debt in exchange for the continued protection of the Okavango Delta and tropical forests.
  4. In addition to the high rates of women’s education and literacy, Botswana remains committed to a strong National Family Planning Policy and healthcare service. Botswana has experienced a rapid decline in fertility, according to the CIA World Factbook, with the total fertility rate falling from over five children per woman in the 1980s to 2.42 in 2021. Easy access to contraception and above-average rural and urban access to healthcare facilities have not only contributed to a decline in fertility but emboldened women’s rights and improved standards of living.

Botswana is by no means a perfect nation. It has extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS, like many of its African peers, and its single-party government has been criticized by some international organizations for suppressing competition. However, decades of consistent improvement in education and women’s rights, increased economic diversification, high levels of economic freedom and a commitment to fighting corruption have made Botswana the most prosperous nation in sub-Saharan Africa and a model for its peers.

– Saarthak Madan
Photo: Flickr

Improve Lives in MexicoBefore the COVID-19 pandemic, moderate poverty in Mexico had declined from 25.7% in 2016 to 23% in 2018, although 29 million people continued living in impoverished conditions. Prior to 2018, Mexico’s multidimensional poverty rate, which includes income poverty as well as factors such as access to food and education, had dropped to about 42% of the population, thereby improving lives in Mexico. However, according to CONEVAL, a public agency that measures poverty, the effects of COVID-19 could mean that 56% of the country, or 70 million Mexicans, may not earn enough to cover their basic needs. This number represents an increase of around 50% more poverty in the past 24 months. Mexican women-led associations and businesses are leading the way to reduce poverty and improve lives in Mexico.

COVID-19 and Poverty

The effects of COVID-19 could eliminate decades of poverty reduction. Global GDP fell 5.2% in 2020, but, Latin America’s drop in real GDP was expected to be closer to 7%, according to the World Bank. The IMF calculates an economic recession of 6.6% in Mexico. By June 2002, more than a million jobs were already lost due to the pandemic.

As a result, Latin America’s second-largest economy, Mexico, could be among the countries in the region that are affected worst. Up to 17 million Mexicans may soon be living in extreme poverty — an increase from 11 million in 2019.

Women Entrepreneurs in Querétaro

In the state of Querétaro, Mexico, a women-led and women-founded association is helping to lift women and their families out of poverty. Established in 2010, Mujeres y Ambiente SPR de RL de CV has combined forces with an environmentally-minded Spanish company, along with the Mexican government and Autonomous University of Querétaro, to develop cosmetics based on local medicinal plants. Mujeres y Ambiente helps women entrepreneurs in Querétaro to expand their own agricultural micro-businesses, thereby helping them to become economically self-sufficient.

Eulalia Moreno Sánchez, along with her two daughters, Ángeles and Rosa Balderas, formed a Women and Environment group in the La Carbonera community. Through consolidating micro-businesses such as selling earthworm humus, mushrooms, medicinal plants, vegetables and aromatic plants, the women utilize the cultivated raw materials which they use in their products, to help the community produce a sustainable income.

International Support for Mexican Women

The Nagoya Protocol came into force in Mexico in 2014. This international agreement supports the equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources that come from traditional knowledge. Under the agreement, the women of rural Querétaro signed the first-of-its-kind permit between Mexico and Spain, which provides access to the genetic resources of traditional medicine plants cultivated in Mexico. The agreement fairly compensates local producers for their knowledge and their work, thus improving lives in Mexico. The community gets to preserve its ecosystem’s genetic resources and the women’s traditional knowledge based on medicinal plants. Members of the association are offered jobs as well as research and business opportunities.

In 2016, Sanchez and her daughters began to export lemon balm, or Toronjil, for the Spanish cosmetics company Provital. Since then, they have signed additional agreements to produce other medicinal plants for the company. With support from the UNDP (Global Environment Facility), the project establishes the legal framework for ensuring the right to protect biodiversity.

Preserving Biodiversity and Creating Jobs

In addition to alleviating poverty, the association’s goals include stabilizing the soil, cultivating a nursery and conserving biodiversity. Cosmetic products are developed from the women’s traditional knowledge about local herbs and medicinal plants. The entrepreneurs are part of the cosmetics industry’s sustainable supply chain and they serve as an example of successful conservation through the sustainable use of biodiverse resources. These activities have allowed the women to derive an income, create more jobs and open up markets, offering a way to reduce poverty and improve lives in Mexico.

Sarah Betuel
Photo: Flickr