Information and stories about poverty reduction.

crowdfunding is reducing povertyIn 1997, modern-day crowdfunding gained global traction as British rock band Marillion funded their U.S. tour entirely through fan donations. Since then, crowdfunding has transformed into a global market. It is capable of financing aid projects, resource distribution and business ventures. Thus, crowdfunding is reducing poverty in developing countries, as proven around the world.

What is Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a fundraising method performed on the internet. Investors contribute small amounts of capital to finance an idea or aid individuals. Using social media networks, crowdfunding works to draw people’s attention to situations of need. Moreover, it creates an opportunity within which anyone with money can invest.

Crowdfunding is typically performed through loans and donations. The loan system helps businesses that are developing a product or resolving a conflict. In this regard, crowdfunding is reducing poverty by giving investors an incentive to have a stake in a business’s success. Additionally, donations are a way for individuals to raise money after being impacted by natural disasters or medical expenses. In both ways, crowdfunding improves fundraising accessibility on a global scale.

Crowdfunding’s Growing Popularity

Crowdfunding became a popular option for entrepreneurs at the turn of the 21st century. Sites such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe have expanded globally. Revenue increased “from $530 million in 2009 to $1.5 billion in 2011,” contributing to economic growth. Not only does crowdfunding allow individuals to invest in campaigns directly but it also brings attention to causes around the world as a catalyst for poverty reduction.

Market Potential

According to the World Bank, crowdfunding’s popularity is spreading from developed to developing countries. In order to boost profitability, global poverty reduction legislation has created an opportunity for crowdfunding to thrive. Due to advancements in income equality and job growth, there are up to 344 million households that can contribute small investments to crowdfunding platforms. This means that by 2025, nearly $96 billion can be raised just through crowdfunding alone.

Thus, crowdfunding is reducing poverty through its ability to connect people around the world. When observing diaspora remittances, education and housing funding, crowdfunding has the potential to increase capital by 25% more in developing countries. As such, in emerging economies that struggle to provide adequate healthcare, crowdfunding can alleviate some of that pressure.

Crowdfunding and Health

A 2018 study by the British Medical Journal studied poverty in India. The Journal found that 38 million people went into poverty as a result of self-financing healthcare bills. The second wave of COVID-19 hit India hard, and as such, many citizens relied on crowdfunding instead of insurance coverage. Through crowdfunding, nearly $1.6 billion was raised from more than 2.7 million donors. Thus, while developed countries have adopted crowdfunding as a method to support innovative business ideas, the developing world is seeing money channeled into small projects or helping others afford medical bills.

Leading by Example

As crowdfunding has gained popularity, several platforms are working to help those in need. Kiva is a loan-based platform that started in 2005. This website allows people to crowdfund loans that support more than 1.7 billion people who are unable to access essential financial services. Kiva’s work spans 77 countries, funding female-led businesses, youth education and medical expenses. In total, Kiva has supported $1.63 billion worth of loans.

A forerunner for crowdfunding sites in India, Milaap, offers investors the opportunity to contribute donations for causes they are passionate about without incurring any fees. Started in 2010, Milaap’s team has been a pioneer in providing funding to rural areas and small businesses. Now, crowdfunding is reducing poverty in healthcare, making Milaap the go-to platform to raise money for treatments and operations.

Similarly, Transparent Hands is the largest crowdfunding platform in Pakistan, which also assists the health sector. Those who are in extreme poverty can rely on donations made by people around the world to help cover the costs of surgery.

Overall, crowdfunding is an emerging resource that is positively affecting the scope of global poverty. Its potential to provide funding to low-income groups is an important step toward solving inequality.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

Bees Reduce PovertyBees are an essential part of global agricultural systems. Additionally, bees reduce poverty around the world as they are responsible for pollinating 80% of the world’s plant species, including 90 different types of crops.

Study by the FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) studied 344 plots of land in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. The plots revealed a positive correlation between the number of bees that visited a particular plot of land and its agricultural productivity. For small farms with a landmass of fewer than two hectares, the study concluded that farmers could increase their crop production by an average of 24% by increasing pollinator traffic.

The results of the FAO study could affect approximately two billion farmers worldwide. Because of their importance to agricultural production, increasing the number of bees on agrarian lands could improve global food security. Bees also provide a valuable way to reduce rates of poverty. Bees can be especially valuable to people living in rural poverty, a very important issue to address as approximately 63% of people in poverty worldwide live in rural areas.

5 Ways Bees Reduce Poverty

  1. Beekeeping helps households increase their income. Rural families living in regions with poor agricultural yields may struggle to make ends meet. However, raising bees can help these families earn more money. In addition to potentially increasing their annual crop production, bees produce honey and beeswax which families can sell. For example, Bees Abroad and the Poverty Abroad for the Poor Initiative taught farmers living in extreme poverty how to run bee farms. As a result of this training, 30 of those farmers went on to run their own bee farms afterward, which helped increase their incomes.
  2. Beekeeping creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs use bee by-products to make commodities such as shoe polish, candles and ointments. More importantly, beekeeping presents opportunities for entrepreneurship, which helps people escape poverty and support themselves and their families. Entrepreneurs are finding ways they can use bees to reduce poverty and improve living conditions.
  3. Food insecurity and poverty are linked. Poverty is the main driving factor behind food insecurity worldwide. Across the world, roughly 80% of chronically undernourished people live in rural areas of developing countries, making food insecurity a particularly important aspect of ending rural poverty. Increasing bee populations can enhance food security by increasing crop yields. By improving food security, bees reduce poverty in a way that is especially beneficial to rural communities.
  4. Beekeeping is an effective form of occupational therapy. Occupational therapy helps people with disabilities accomplish goals such as working and attending school. People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by poverty, which makes addressing their needs critical to reducing poverty. Additionally, inaccessible work and education opportunities are major contributing factors to this problem, which occupational therapy can help address. Fortunately, beekeeping requires little capital and helps occupational therapy participants become financially independent, making it an effective form of occupational therapy.
  5. Protecting the global environment keeps people out of poverty. Environmental degradation can increase levels of poverty. For example, the loss of natural resources to environmental degradation leaves communities with fewer means to support themselves. However, bees are critical pollinators that support ecosystems and natural resources across the globe. Additionally, bees can even improve habitat restoration efforts. So, by preserving and restoring vital resources, bees reduce poverty.

Overall, bees provide unique benefits that have the potential to reduce global poverty. By garnering the help of pollinators, impoverished communities can rise out of poverty.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

poverty reduction in MalaysiaEstablished in 1963, Malaysia is a small country located in Southeast Asia. Since earning its independence, Malaysia has made considerable strides in working to reduce the national poverty rate, to the point where the country is expected to gain high-income status between 2024 and 2028. With the help of the United Nations and other organizations, poverty reduction in Malaysia is slowly reaching rural areas, which still remain disproportionally plagued by poverty.

A Flailing Poverty Line

Malaysia’s economic success cannot be explained without first noting the shift in an economic system previously dependent on agriculture to one built around commodity exportation. With about 40% of its labor force working in export activities, the country’s positive attitude toward trade and investment is responsible for the upwards trajectory in job growth and income expansion. Poverty reduction in Malaysia is apparent in its revision of the poverty line, increasing from $231.27 to $521.06 in 2019. That same year, however, rural households reported earning less than $2 per day.

Reports from government officials, which detail poverty reduction in Malaysia, ignore risks that many people face every day. The most impoverished 40% consist of rural villagers, migrant workers and refugees. These people are often left out of official poverty figures and lack a social safety net. Moreover, the dramatic economic growth seen in recent years is not accurately reflected in the poverty line, which is largely inconsistent with the current income levels of Malaysians. In his report, Professor Philip Alston explains that the impoverished have benefitted in gaining universal access to basic utilities. However, things like medical care and education are widely unattainable.

In areas such as Pulau Indah, an island not far from the capital Kuala Lumpur, many citizens live alongside heaps of garbage consisting of discarded plastic waste from Western countries. Here, sanitary living conditions are hard to come by. Education levels and medical needs prohibit people from building a life elsewhere. Most are even employed at illegal factories working to burn the waste that surrounds them. This leaves them in an inescapable cycle of poverty.

Villages Struggling to Stay Afloat

Problems are exacerbated in rural areas where the distance from hospitals, schools and jobs prevents residents from obtaining help. In water villages, which are clusters of homes sitting atop the water’s surface, the communities are subject to pollution and dangerous living conditions. While poverty reduction in Malaysia targets floating villages, providing them with basic necessities is still a hurdle. Access to clean water is a major problem as towns have no way of installing sewer systems. Even safe methods of electricity for heat or cooking are unaffordable. Thus, people resort to illegally extending power lines, risking engulfing entire villages into flames.

Casting a Safety Net

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is using an innovative strategy to aid poverty reduction in Malaysia. True to its mission of caring for the environment by improving people’s quality of life, UNEP sponsored a pilot project aimed at providing sewage treatment tanks to homes and schools in floating villages. This is major for a region like Sabah, which has 10,185 floating homes. These efforts are helping nearly 50,000 people gain access to sanitary living conditions. As part of a 36-month-long project, UNEP hopes to install 200 more treatment tanks in another village. Additionally, UNEP is encouraging the establishment of a facility where local people can work to produce the tanks themselves.

A business known as Hive Bulk Foods has also made considerable efforts at drawing attention to the waste issues in Malaysia and the impact of waste on impoverished communities. Founded by Claire Sancelot, The Hive encourages sustainable living and works with local farmers to source its ingredients. It operates as one of the only no-waste stores in Kuala Lumpur.

This push toward empowering rural communities to help eliminate poverty is apparent in the Malaysian government’s work as well. Legislation such as the 12th Malaysian Plan is based around promoting economic growth and poverty reform. Key policy measures that include providing help for undocumented citizens and re-evaluating the poverty line would ensure that poverty levels continue their downward trend for good.

– Nicole Yaroslavsky
Photo: Flickr

women's rights in BelizeAlthough gender roles in the Americas are constantly evolving, Belizean women still face discrimination. Women make up more than 50% of Belize’s population, yet they are approximately 30% less likely to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Belizean women also have little representation in the country’s political, social and economic spheres. The fight for women’s rights in Belize aims to remedy gender-biased treatment by prioritizing equality.

Gender Roles and Gender Gaps

Gender roles in Belize are typically traditional, with significant value placed on marriage and childbearing for women. Belizean women are often expected to stay home and look after the children, while men are the primary breadwinners. In families living in poverty, women often depend on men for economic stability.

The rate of employed people older than 15 and living under the international poverty line in Belize falls at 8.8% for women and 11.3% for men. However, the U.N.  Women Count Data Hub finds that Belize’s unemployment rate for people older than 15 is 9.8% for women but only 4.6% for men.

In regard to political representation, women held only 12.5% of the seats in the nation’s parliament as of February 2021. Women in Belize also face exploitation in the workforce, earning “only 56% of the income” earned by their male counterparts, according to Statista. Yet, in terms of literacy rates for people older than 15, Belizean men and women are on par at 70.3%.

Belize’s gender gap is often attributed to chauvinistic societal standards that favor men and traditional masculinity. Additionally, the lack of gender-based data makes it difficult to assess the true state of women’s rights in Belize. Only about 37% of the data needed to monitor sectors such as unpaid domestic work and violence against women was available as of December 2020.

Violence Against Belizean Women

In the year 1992, “the Belize Domestic Violence Act was passed.” The act was reenacted in 2007, with broadened and extended protections. The Women’s Commission of Belize is an instrumental figure in gender-responsive legislative reform and women’s rights.

In June 2010, the Belizean government adopted the three-year National Gender-based Violence Plan of Action, which aimed to remedy the domestic violence, assault and abuse that disproportionately affects women and young girls. The Women’s Commission also developed a “domestic violence protocol” for Belizean police, “with the goal of improving the effectiveness of police investigative practices in addressing violence against women.”

However, many Belizean women continue to suffer violence, especially those who live in rural areas. More than 70% of rural women experience violence at the hands of their partners. Not only do these women often lack basic infrastructural resources but they also face difficulties in accessing protective services. Additionally, domestic violence studies often overlook Belizean women in rural areas.

Improving Women’s Rights in Belize

In order to promote gender equity, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) guided the creation of the 2017-2021 Country Programme Document (CPD). The CPD outlines a program that prioritizes three focal areas covering issues such as safety, sustainability, health, justice and resilience, “with gender as a cross-cutting theme.” As the CPD addresses poverty, the CPD also aims to address gender equity as part of bettering Belize.

In addition to helping develop domestic violence protocol for law enforcement, the National Women’s Commission of Belize partners with organizations such as the Belize Crime Observatory and the Ministry of Human Development, Families & Indigenous People’s Affairs. As an advisory board to the government, the Commission promotes women’s rights in Belize through political and social advocacy and provides resources to women facing domestic abuse.

In a year, the Belizean police receive more than 2,000 “domestic and sexual violence reports.” However, victims often endure “unfair treatment when reporting.” The National Women’s Commission aims to remedy this with the launch of the Gender-Based Violence Services Complaint Form in 2020. The form encourages reporting and identifies the authorities involved in unjust treatment.

Efforts from the government and organizations contribute to a more equitable future for women in Belize, empowering women to rise out of poverty.

Cory Utsey
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

chic brandsArtisans living in impoverished communities often do not receive fair compensation for their crafts. This issue is especially prominent if their work is sold in a more economically developed country, due to the nature of the country’s economic power. However, four chic brands are offering local artisans more sustainable job opportunities that provide equitable wages.

4 Chic Brands Giving Opportunities to Local Artisans

  1. Zambeezi. Founded in 2018, Zambeezi is a Zambian company that produces handmade soaps, body balms and lip moisturizers made out of beeswax from bees managed by Zambian beekeepers. According to Zambeezi, farmers and workers in Africa receive minimal compensation for their work, despite their products selling for high prices in more economically developed countries. In order to prevent this continuous cycle, Zambeezi forms partnerships with “entrepreneurs, farmers and beekeepers in Zambia, Africa” to ensure that workers are able to earn a “fair and living wage.” Going beyond fair compensation, Zambeezi allocates a portion of its profits to support local community development projects, such as developing wells and constructing schools.
  2. Gift of Hope. Founded by the Haiti Foundation Against Poverty in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Gift of Hope is an “ethical fashion initiative” looking to break the poverty cycle by creating jobs for more than 70 artisans from Haiti. With a mostly female workforce, the organization pays employees three times the minimum wage to economically empower them to rise out of poverty. The company also works to prevent children from becoming “orphaned by poverty” simply because of the financial struggles of a family. By crafting jewelry, purses, headbands, keychains and more, using recycled and repurposed fabrics and materials, women in Haiti are able to provide income for their families and financially support their children.
  3. Pura Vida. Pura Vida began with two struggling Costa Rican artisans crafting string bracelets and grappling to survive on their earnings from selling only a few bracelets per week. On a visit to Costa Rica, Californians Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman asked the artisans to make 400 bracelets for Thall and Goodman to take back to the United States. The bracelets sold out at a boutique within just a short period. This prompted the start of Pura Vida, a company that now sells millions of these bracelets annually. The bracelets are made by more than 800 previously impoverished artisans located in Costa Rica, China, India and El Salvador. The company provides its employees with a sustainable work environment and a steady income. Pura Vida partners with more than 200 charities worldwide and has donated approximately $3.8 million to charities chosen by consumers.
  4. Hiptipico. Hiptipico provides transparency, fair compensation and “non-factory working conditions” to women living in impoverished, indigenous communities in Guatemala. The company creates partnerships with artisans in Guatemala to craft items from its collection, including bandanas, dog collars, camera straps, laptop cases and handbags. Furthermore, Hiptipico allows artisans to price the items themselves. This ensures that workers receive fair earnings for every crafted piece of work. Additionally, the brand allows female artisans to select their own working hours. The flexibility allows women time for family responsibilities while providing an income. Guatemalan artisans also have the freedom to create their own designs and add a touch of personal flair to their crafts, ensuring products reflect the authenticity of Guatemalan culture.

Supporting Fairtrade

These four chic brands strive to end poverty by providing jobs, safe working conditions and fair wages to impoverished artisans. The brands also preserve the originality of the artisans’ cultures. By creating partnerships with artisans globally, the brands ensure that the artisan is rewarded fairly for their craftsmanship. The four companies provide an income to impoverished families while allowing the artisans time to care for their children. Overall, these brands are bringing the world one step closer to ending poverty.

Lauren Spiers
Photo: Flickr

Globalism Reduces PovertySeveral factions surround globalism, some cite statistical reduction in poverty, while others decry effects on local communities. As in all reductive thinking, oversimplification misstates the complexity, succumbing to the facility of a universal perspective. What is absolutely clear, however, is the initial decades of global trade created categorical winners and losers — the most impoverished 5% gained $.07 in daily income, while the top 1% averaged $70. The theory that globalism reduces poverty is multifaceted, and such, globalism is best described as a “two-way street.”

Global Inequality

As the global pool of wealth undeniably grows, financial resources are increasingly concentrated among a powerful economic cadre, actually increasing global inequality. Subsequently, inter-national economies are seeing more parity, but intra-national wealth distribution is increasingly unequal.

Absent the economic investment from global trade, however, developing nations struggle to modernize. Lacking foreign capital investment to create sustainable industries, an estimated 95% of Indian youth are forced into informal child labor. In the nation-state equivalent of “Sophie’s Choice,” governments are forced to participate while the premise that globalism reduces poverty remains dubious.

Relative and Absolute Poverty

Early returns from globalism showed a reduction in extreme poverty from 36% to 19% between 1990-2008 and capitalists trumpeted imminent eradication of poverty by the benevolent “invisible hand” of market forces. Undoubtedly a monumental achievement, millions have benefited from access to foreign markets.

As always, the devil is in the details. Poverty is an indiscriminate measure, a theoretical categorization defines the powers that be. For the World Bank, poverty is a function of daily income. But, between 1990-2018, the threshold indicating extreme poverty has preposterously risen a mere $0.90 while global GDP grew by $60 trillion during the same period. Given such disproportionality, it is difficult to see how globalism reduces poverty.

Global Poverty or Global Inequality

Ambiguous poverty metrics belie a true consequence of globalism, that the top percentile claimed more than 60% of growth. To retain these substantial gains, it is the providence of influential international corporations and institutions to promote globalism. Exceedingly fungible, poverty metrics become a prism through which various interests and policymakers justify exploitative agendas, often accompanied by stifling conditionalities.

As the International Monetary Fund and European Union counsel draconian measures to fledgling economies, local “governments often find it politically easier to cut the public expenditures for the voiceless” impoverished as connected wealthy classes are “disinclined to share in the necessary fiscal austerity.”

Equally as true in developing nations, entrenched hegemonies have little incentive to shoulder the burden of globalism and frequently siphon economic growth for personal enrichment. Irresponsible stewardship of finances and resources, as always, disproportionately affects voiceless and impoverished communities.

Generations after the ouster of foreign monopoly United Fruit Company from Latin America, indigenous farmers’ share of profit is essentially stagnant as corrupt domestic entities pocket revenue. Globalism reduces poverty only when sufficient protection is guaranteed to populations most at risk of exploitation and achieved only when international, federal, corporate and municipal institutions communicate with disenfranchised communities.

Paternalism in South Africa

Under the best of circumstances, sudden inundation of investment and foreign influence is devastating. For countries without robust legislative institutions, it is cataclysmic. The hyper-racialized-apartheid bureaucracy of South Africa was particularly ill-prepared for the rapid modernization required by globalism.

Despite democratic revolution, political bodies could not address the dual responsibilities of erasing paternalistic and racist policies while simultaneously reentering international trade. After centuries of protectionism and isolation, South African society was a manicured house of cards temperamentally opposed to foreign influence.

The draconian society, which enslaved the Black majority, created a delicate homeostasis and the post-apartheid government was manifestly incapable of protecting the citizenry as globalism began in earnest. A systematically underprivileged class was ripe for exploitation.

Skills-Based Bias

During apartheid, underpaid, low-skill labor provided the engine for economic growth in South Africa. Known as “lumpenproletariat,” these peri-urban shantytown workers relied on the largesse of landed aristocracy for survival.

As a matter of course, economic opportunities through education represented an existential threat to White hegemonies. Because “it is surely the lack of opportunities of the less advantaged that is the real concern” in reducing poverty, undereducated South Africans were dispositionally unable to profit from economic growth.

Compounded by exclusion from land ownership, Black South Africans possessed neither the capital nor the skills for socio-economic gain. Various policy initiatives for Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) have targeted inequality, but generations of subjugation cannot be erased during the short lifespan of South African democracy.

Case Study: South African Winemakers

Overregulation and heavy subsidies throughout the 20th century created an extremely inefficient South African wine industry. Traditional focus on bulk production for domestic markets encouraged widespread plantation of high-yield, low-quality cultivars that were antithetical to international demand for higher quality. With a contorted supply chain entirely unfit for global competition, South African winemakers responded by replanting 50% of vineyards between 1990 and 2005.

To finance these changes, producers required foreign investment. At the behest of multinational distributors, conglomeration through a spate of mergers destabilized traditional market structures — the consolidation of Distillers and Stellenbosch Farmers Winery eliminated 2,000 jobs alone.

Moreover, a weak currency forced producers to rely on foreign capital for infrastructure improvements to replace apartheid-era slave labor. As South African winemakers became increasingly dependent on external financing, mechanization reduced permanent employment by 60%.

The Unequal Distribution of Benefits

Nonetheless, foreign investment allowed the wine industry to grow. Exports increased tenfold during the 90s, and by 2002, South Africa was the fastest-growing sector in the all-important British market. Representing 45% of domestic exports, the fortunes of South African winemakers were existentially linked to unpredictable foreign markets.

But, native producers have seen little benefit. As of 2018, the average return on investment for those costly infrastructure upgrades is an abysmal 2%. And after three decades of democratic rule and countless land reforms, Black ownership in the wine industry is 3%. However, a goal of 20% by 2025 was established in 2007.

A Two-Way Street

In the hyper-competitive wine trade, “survival is not made any easier by the fact that globalization is a two-way street.” The South African wine industry is just one example of countless local communities at the mercy of free markets.

Nonetheless, increased trade and economic growth from globalism affect poverty. The 21st century will be judged by how well the fruits of international wealth are distributed to the most vulnerable populations. As early growing pains subside, poverty eradication is within grasp if the world so chooses.

Kit Krajeski
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in KenyaDue to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Kenya has experienced socioeconomic challenges leading to delayed progress in reducing poverty, with an estimated two million additional Kenyans falling into poverty. The rapid spread of the virus in Kenya has severe repercussions for people. The consequences include reduced job opportunities, lower wages, less access to healthcare assistance, difficulties transitioning to remote learning and food insecurity. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Kenya has especially affected women, youth and refugees.

Limited Jobs and Lower Wages = Reduced Food Supply

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Kenya affects household welfare due to fewer work opportunities and lower earnings, which leads to decreased food security. Compared to pre-pandemic rates, unemployment has nearly doubled. The working hours and earnings of wage workers have been cut, especially impacting women. Most families relied solely on the income of their small businesses, but due to lockdown restrictions, many businesses closed or experienced significantly reduced revenue. During the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1.7 million Kenyans experienced job losses.

Food security is a major concern for many families. Some are unable to afford expensive foods like vegetables and others can only afford to consume one or two meals per day. Most families reported that food shortage is the biggest challenge in the household. With the loss of jobs and income, people in Kenya can barely afford basic necessities such as food, water and healthcare assistance.

Limited Access to Healthcare

COVID-19 has deeply compromised access to healthcare. Many people reported having trouble getting public health coverage for non-COVID-19 related health problems. This forced people to go to private health clinics that offer highly-priced examinations. When a person in Kenya is infected with COVID-19 or other deadly diseases, the person is usually hospitalized even though they cannot afford the medical expenses. This forces the person to seek support from relatives or friends. Access to healthcare for intricate cases such as COVID-19 is limited since more than 78% of the population live in rural areas and 52% of people live in poverty. Most community and primary care centers in Kenya are short on medication and lack access to some of the most needed respiratory equipment, such as ventilators, which are needed to treat COVID-19.

Education for Children

Kenya has a commendable literacy rate of almost 80%. Due to the global pandemic, schools closed to prevent any further spread of the virus. This led to education transitioning to remote learning. Roughly 70% of Kenya’s schoolchildren live in rural areas with a lack of properly financed schools, qualified teachers and educational resources. Schools were expected to transition to remote learning but many students could not due to a lack of internet access and the high cost of internet access, especially in remote areas. For most households, accessing the internet costs more than a day’s pay. Many low-income families, particularly in rural areas, also have limited access to electronic resources such as smartphones and computers.

Raising Futures Kenya

Raising Futures Kenya is an organization that has helped Kenyans since 2001. Its main focus is helping young Kenyans secure a better future. The organization’s vocational centers have provided more than 1,500 young Kenyans with the skills and knowledge needed to secure employment and rise out of poverty.

Due to the global pandemic, fewer children are able to receive an education and people have limited access to healthcare. Fewer jobs available for families means households struggle to secure their everyday meals. The organization has called for support in order to effectively carry out its COVID-19 response plan in Kenya. The response includes securing essential items for communities such as food, hygiene products and medicines. Raising Futures Kenya is also prioritizes imparting important public health information to Kenya. Furthermore, the organization is transitioning to telephonic counseling to support children and youth during COVID-19.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Kenya has been harsh, pushing millions of families further into poverty and causing the population to face even more difficulties. Due to the outcomes of COVID-19, organizations will need continued funding and support to continue to address the effects of poverty in Kenya.

– Mary McLean
Photo: Flickr

Increase Access to clean waterAccess to clean water is a basic human right, but as of 2017, 884 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and more than two billion people do not have access to fundamental sanitation facilities. These issues have become more pressing as the COVID-19 pandemic pushed many into poverty and increased the world’s need for adequate sanitation to prevent the spread of th virus. The sixth Sustainable Development Goal is to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all” by 2030. Organizations are working together in a greater effort to increase access to clean water.

7 Innovations for Water Access

  1. Majik Water. Founded by Beth Koigi, Anastasia Kaschenko and Clare Sewell, Majik Water is a Kenyan company that engineers solar-powered filters capable of harvesting drinking water from the air. Koigi was the victim of water scarcity while at university and sought to create a device that would reduce water scarcity in Kenya and beyond. The device has the potential to provide water to the 1.8 billion people globally who may be without reliable access to water by 2025.
  2. Gravity Water. A majority of the people in the world who do not have access to clean drinking water live in tropical and subtropical areas where fresh water is plentiful. Gravity Water wanted to create a system that would allow people in these areas to take advantage of the water they have access to but are unable to drink because of pollution and contamination. “Through harvesting rainwater and storing it above ground, Gravity Water systems provide pressure for filtration without the dependency of electricity, which is commonly lacking in rural areas.”
  3. Ashok Gadgil and Vikas Garud. While UV water filtration is a proven way to purify water, these systems are expensive due to the materials needed to build them. Ashok Gadgil and Vikas Garud have developed a modified version of these devices. UV lamps placed above water tanks filter the water and then use gravity to separate the drinkable water from residue inside. The device is smaller than traditional underwater UV devices and is able to disinfect 1,000 liters of water an hour.
  4. Guihua Yu (University of Texas). Guihua Yu and his team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin created a device that can be used in disaster situations and areas without access to clean water. The device uses water-absorbent hydrogels that release water when heated and work in both humid and dry climates. The water comes from the air, and when the hydrogels are exposed to sunlight, the water is released. The device also runs on solar energy, making it affordable and sustainable.
  5. Innovative Water Technologies (IWT). Jack E. Barker founded Innovative Water Technologies (IWT) to develop global water treatment facilities to be used in humanitarian and disaster relief efforts. These solar and wind-powered water filtration systems can process 5,000-250,000 gallons of water a day. IWT has four different products, all of which bring clean water to those in need,
  6. Dar Si Hmad. Dar Si Hmad is a female-run nonprofit organization based in Morocco. Its water project makes use of fog collectors, also known as the “cloud fishing” technique. A fine mesh gathers droplets of water in areas with thick fog such as Southwest Morocco. Once enough water is gathered, the water falls into a basin and is filtered using solar-powered filters. The water is then piped to 140 nearby households. The fog-catching system is able to provide 6,000 liters of water daily.
  7. The Drinkable Book. WATERisLIFE and Dr. Teri Dankovich developed the Drinkable Book to provide easy water filtration options to those in need. One page from the perforated book can filter 100 liters of water. One book can secure a person’s drinking water needs for up to four years. The pages are made up of cellulose and silver nanoparticles that can filter out “99.99% of the bacteria found in cholera, E. coli and typhoid.”

Access to Clean Water

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need for universal water access, showing the broader impacts of lacking water access during times of crisis. Since poverty and water access are linked, innovations that increase access to clean water contribute to reducing global poverty.

– Harriet Sinclair
Photo: Flickr

Solutions to Volcanic EruptionsThroughout history, volcanic eruptions have caused countless injuries, deaths and destruction. Many of the eruptions include concurrent disasters beyond the direct flow of lava. These include tsunamis, agricultural deterioration and aerosols that cloud the atmosphere and reduce local or even global temperatures. This was the case during and after the eruption of Tambora in Indonesia in 1815, which claimed more than 100,000 lives. Since then, volcanoes continue to cause numbers of casualties while damaging infrastructure and impacting productivity around the globe. Many people view volcanoes as unstoppable forces of nature. In reality, there are several ways to mitigate the damage that volcanoes cause and the resulting poverty. It is impossible to stop volcanoes from erupting, however, several solutions to volcanic eruptions can help prevent loss of life and property.

Volcano Observatories

The most important factor in mitigating the damage caused by volcanic eruptions is predicting when the eruptions will occur. The endangered people are then able to evacuate accordingly. Accurate predictions tend to rely on established observatories near a given volcano. Each volcano observatory is occupied by a handful of experts who monitor the volcano’s behavior in order to predict eruptions.

Beyond merely existing and making accurate predictions, observatories should “have credibility and formal agreements with local and national governments.” This promotes effective action in times of crisis, as referenced by geologist Jacob Lowenstern. Historically, observatories were among the most important solutions to volcanic eruptions. However, the observatories can be expensive to build and maintain and require investments in equipment, technology and software. Recent innovations may allow developing countries to predict eruptions at a more affordable cost.

Deep Learning AI and Satellites

Historically, volcanologists have relied on ground observatories to predict eruptions. Due to recent innovations, it may be possible to reliably predict eruptions from satellites. Satellites are much less expensive to maintain as a whole. Satellite information was once unreliable due to noisy data, however, deep learning AI is increasingly proficient at filling the gaps in the data to form useful information. Currently, a group of researchers from Penn State University, with support from NASA, are working to improve the models to allow for accurate predictions of eruptions around the world.

Redirection of Lava Flow

While prediction methods and observatories can save countless lives, the facilities have little to no impact on the amount of property damage caused by inevitable eruptions. Many large cities in developing countries, including Managua in Nicaragua and Legazpi City in the Philippines, are built next to active volcanoes. Fortunately for the cities, there is still the option of diverting or stopping the flow of lava in order to prevent loss of infrastructure.

Lava redirection may be an expensive process, but when a lava flow is headed directly toward a city, redirection protects the city. In 1983, a large team armed with bulldozers, explosives and firehoses was able to divert the flow of the eruption from Mount Etna in Italy. While the project required an estimated $2 million, volcanologist John Lockwood says the diversion prevented the loss of around $100 million in property damage. Stopping the flow of lava is easier in the case of eruptions near the coast. In 1973 in Iceland, damage was mitigated by channeling large amounts of seawater into the lava to solidify it.

Lava diversion has its risks and some attempts have been unsuccessful. Some communities are not open to lava redirection. For example, some Hawaiians hesitate to interfere with lava flows due to spiritual beliefs surrounding Pele, the volcano goddess. However, as a last resort attempt to protect a city, lava redirection is still worth considering.

Continued Research on Solutions

Although volcanoes remain a force of nature that will inevitably cause damage, recent solutions to volcanic eruptions may improve safety and prevent poverty in the affected regions. Continued research into the solutions could make the solutions even more affordable and practical, resulting in more stable economies and the reduced risk of poverty.

Sawyer Lachance
Photo: Flickr

Chile’s electionOver the weekend of May 15-16, 2021, a very unique election took place in Chile. Chileans voted for mayors, governors and city councilors. The distinctive part of Chile’s election was the vote for 155 representatives who will make up the Constitutional Convention responsible for drafting the new constitution of Chile.

The Need for a New Constitution

Back in 1973, Augusto Pinochet came into power as an authoritarian military dictator. Pinochet drafted a constitution that was reflective of his rule. Since then, Chile has been making the transition to democracy through several presidential administrations, the current being that of President Sebastián Piñera. Pinochet’s 1980 constitution has been a point of contention because many Chileans perceive it as favoring corporations over citizens.

Additionally, the constitution does not even mention indigenous people who account for more than 1.5 million Chileans. Chileans generally want to move away from the old constitution, which symbolizes the move from a transitional period into a full embrace of democracy. A new constitution would allow this to happen. Chile’s election decides who participates in the drafting of this monumental document.

Protests in Chile

Public disapproval came to a head in October 2019 when massive protests swept the South American country. Major cities like Santiago, Valparaíso and Concepción experienced riots, looting and several casualties as a result. An increase in subway rates initially triggered the demonstrations. The riots continued over concerns of extreme economic inequality and poor public health and education systems. One of the demands of the protests was to rewrite the constitution. A new constitution was seen as a solution to address the root of all the issues.

In October 2020, Chile’s government held a referendum in response to the protests. The referendum asked Chileans if they would want a new constitution, and if so, Chileans were to specify the type of body they would task with drafting this new constitution. Chileans responded with a majority of more than 78% of the country voting in favor of a new constitution to be drafted by a group elected by popular vote.

The Constitutional Convention

The Constitutional Convention is the first in the world to have a gender parity requirement. Because of the election, 50% of legislative seats will belong to women. Another milestone is the inclusion of Chile’s indigenous people. Indigenous representatives will account for 17 of the 155 convention seats. Seven of these seats go to the Mapuche, the largest Indigenous community. In recent years, industrial deforestation has wiped out much of the Mapuche lands, greatly harming the community.

In addition, six out of the 155 representatives will come from the LGBTQ+ community. Although the nation is facing great troubles, the achievements of Chile’s election should not be overlooked. The built-in diversity and representation should be cause for global celebration. The majority of seats have gone to independent and opposition candidates. This goes against the right-leaning coalition that is currently in power under President Piñera. Since the “government-backed candidates” now take up only about a quarter of the seats, they are left unable to pass legislation or block dramatic changes.

The Goals of a New Constitution

One of the primary goals of the leftward shift is fighting poverty in Chile, but not in the traditional sense. In terms of GDP per capita, Chile is considered the wealthiest country in South America, but the wealth is distributed very unequally. Chilean’s want the country’s wealth to be distributed equally, which should be reflected in better housing, education and healthcare for all.

Whether through indigenous rights, equitable educational services or the taxation of the wealthy, the Constitutional Convention will figure out how to make Chile a more equitable place. A well-structured and democratic constitution has the potential to bring lasting change to the country and reduce extreme poverty, which is why Chile’s election is such a significant moment in the country’s history.

Lucy Gentry
Photo: Flickr