energy, poverty and politics
Americans are burning through fossil fuels at historically high rates. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the U.S. ranks number one in top energy producers and consumers as of 2019. While the domestic effects of oil, gas and coal consumption may feel familiar, the industry’s impact reaches beyond U.S. borders, influencing energy, poverty and politics.

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Bret Gustafson, professor of sociocultural anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis and author of “Energy and Empire: Bolivia in the Age of Gas,” explained the interplay among energy, poverty and politics.

Socioeconomic and Ecological Consequences of Fossil Fuels

Gustafson views the connection between fossil fuels and poverty as a paradox. Large profits bolster the wealth of companies and their owners rather than those living and working near industrial hubs of fossil fuel extraction. Similarly, many of the resource-rich countries that source of much of the world’s fossil fuels seem to benefit far less than the countries they supply.

The regions involved in fossil fuel production exist as “sacrifice zones.” These zones are so named because the social and environmental rights of people nearby are forfeited for profit. Gustafson argues that corporate heads of fossil fuel companies realize their industry’s detriment. However, the “logic of the corporate CEO is that anything that is negative can be paid for.”

Fossil fuels also wreak environmental and social destruction. From extraction to transportation, drilling and mining may lead to accidents, toxic spillage and water/air pollution. Moreover, fossil fuel production involves human risk. In fact, between 2008 to 2012, 34 fatalities and more than 1,400 injuries resulted from offshore oil rigs.

The Industry’s Role in US Politics: Subsidies and Lobbying

Energy, poverty and politics intersect in the U.S. as well. Despite evidence of socioeconomic and ecological harm, fossil fuel industries enjoy favorable political support in the U.S. Credible estimates of annual domestic fossil fuel exploration and production subsidies range between $10 billion and $52 billion per year. These estimates are likely to remain high with the current administration’s goal of “energy dominance,” a term synonymous with President Trump’s efforts to ramp up fossil fuel production and end the “war on coal.”

The fossil fuel industry and some U.S. politicians maintain a symbiotic relationship. The oil and gas industry was the fourth-largest industry spender in the U.S. for political lobbying in 2019.  In addition, from 2017 to 2018, companies tethered to fossil fuels spent nearly $360 million in campaign donations and lobbying. Koch Industries, ExxonMobil and Chevron were the leading spenders. In comparison, renewable energy industries spent $26 million during the same period of time.

A Sustainable Future in Energy, Poverty and Politics

Successfully addressing issues tied to energy, poverty and politics will likely require parallel streams of infrastructural change and public pressure. Experts at the Environmental and Energy Study Institute advocate for more efficient reconfigurations of the energy grid, such as a shift to electric transportation and renewable-powered buildings.

Gustafson believes awareness and protest will catalyze the political action necessary to make these changes mainstream. “It won’t happen by itself,” he says. “We need people in the street, marching, demonstrating.”

Though the fossil fuel industry operates within complicated socioeconomic and political contexts, individuals can walk, bike, vote or protest in the short-term for just, sustainable energy.

Maya Gonzales
Photo: Flickr

photographing the worlds poorPhotography can inspire empathy and mobilize viewers to care more about the world around them. This is especially true for photography of the world’s poor. However, along with photography’s power comes an ethical responsibility to ensure that it does not objectify or exploit its subjects.

Photography of the World’s Poor: Inviting Empathy

Between a click of shutters and closed corner frames, moments freeze into ageless photographs. Photography invites the viewer into a new world and a new perspective through a single captured moment. Such invitation is essential to the impact of photography, as both an art form and a journalistic device.

Photography of the world’s poor is a powerful tool. Photographs offer a visual language, one that situates the viewer in a specific moment and allows headlines and statistics to become real and palpable. Many non-profit and news organizations have utilized photography of the world’s poor in order to inform, mobilize and inspire the public to further help those in need.

Studies: The Identifiable Victim and The Visual

Photography’s power stems in part from the identifiable victim effect, which “refers to peoples’ tendency to preferentially give to identified versus anonymous victims of misfortune.” The phenomenon connects one’s empathy with an ability to humanize and personalize another. A study in 2007 exemplified the identifiable victim effect by showing that people were likely to donate more when they were presented with a single individual, such as an image of an orphan that would benefit from their donation, than with a group statistic reflecting the millions in need.

Along with employing the identifiable victim effect, photography harnesses power as a visual medium. A 2013 study found that subjects were more likely to donate when they were given a photograph of an orphan than if they saw a silhouette of that child or her name. The study shows how the visual stimulation of an image generates a greater response in viewers than other personal but non-visual information.

Through its use of the identifiable victim effect and a visual medium, photography can inspire empathy and generosity in its viewers. Photography of the world’s poor can quite literally open the public’s eyes to the suffering and injustices that are taking place globally. It is difficult to wrap one’s mind around the millions of people suffering from extreme poverty, but looking at a portrait of a single individual suddenly makes the issues a lot more personal and pressing.

The Dangers of Photography: Poverty Porn

With photography’s power comes consequences. Photography of the world’s poor has the potential to objectify and exploit its subjects. Some describe such photos as “poverty porn.”

Poverty porn can be difficult to define, but it seeks to identify exploitative images that strive to be as horrifying and pitiful as possible in order to shock the viewer into feeling sympathy and oftentimes making a donation. Sometimes photographers may even stage subjects, positioning them to look particularly poor and helpless in order to capture a specifically desired image.

This type of photography is not only one-dimensional, but it is dangerous. Poverty porn creates a culture of paternalism and objectification that paints the viewers as saviors and reduces the poor down to their struggles. Furthermore, poverty porn disregards a community’s capability, strength and resilience, and instead “evokes the idea that the poor are helpless and incapable of helping themselves.” Rather than intelligent and competent agents, the poor become disempowered individuals, stripped of their dignity, in order to invoke a guilt-ridden response from the viewer.

Utilizing Photography for Good

For all its power and potential, photography of the world’s poor brings with it an ethical responsibility. When done right, photography can provide an important look into the lives it captures, giving voice to the voiceless and inspiring viewers to care more deeply for the world around them.

Yet, in utilizing this precious tool, it is also necessary to understand what remains unseen in these images. As described in an article in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), “each image arises from a set of momentary, fragmented relationships embedded in asymmetrical power relations.” These “asymmetrical power relations” begin with the photographer’s choices and extends into the viewer’s perception of the image. It is important to remember that the individuals in the photograph do not always have a say in how they are depicted.

No photograph, no matter how justly done, can convey the full story: complex, intricate human lives cannot be completely captured by a two-dimensional frame. Yet, as written in the NCBI article, “our photographs — and [the] emotional reactions they produce — speak to both the very need for the image and the desire for it to capture what will literally ‘work’ for the agencies that commission their production.”

Photography’s ability to inspire empathy in viewers and connect the world through a single human moment is enough evidence that it is an art form worth utilizing in the fight against world poverty, when done correctly.

Jessica Blatt
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Mapping TechniquesHow many people live in poverty? The answer a search engine might give overlooks the complexity of the issue. A great deal of poverty data comes from the World Bank, which still relies on household surveys. These household surveys can be very inaccurate, and statistics like these are critical in the fight against poverty. Thankfully, many organizations are working on creating better poverty mapping techniques to help fight global poverty.

The Need for Poverty Mapping Techniques

Governments, private companies and NGOs must know who needs help, what works and how much they need in order to fight poverty. With more accurate data, aid programs can be rolled out more effectively, directly targeting populations who need it the most. Accurate data also determines the effectiveness of aid or other interventions, which helps agencies discover what works. It is important for the missions of many agencies to have accurate data on poverty, but methods for collecting this data are flawed.

One issue with current data collection is the amount of data available. The World Bank is a leader in the fight against global poverty, and it compiles many official statistics on poverty rates. Historically, the main way the World Bank typically measures poverty is through household surveys. However, these surveys do not reach as many people as they should. For lower-income countries, an annual investment of $1 billion would be required to expand these surveys to generate consistent, accurate data.

Not only are these surveys too narrow, but they are also not frequent enough. Surveys typically happen every few years and even every decade in some countries with lower capacities. Between 2002 and 2012, no poverty data was collected from 29 countries.

The Problems with Current Poverty Mapping Techniques

The most common surveying method employed by the World Bank is the household survey. Unfortunately, household surveys have built-in inaccuracies and miss many people, usually some of the poorest. This method tries to measure poverty by sending surveys to households, but these surveys are ill-suited to measure an atypical home environment. Many people trying to avoid poverty live in open households, whose membership is usually in flux. These households operate to reduce poverty collectively in ways that a typical survey cannot easily measure. When data from these households is not interpreted differently from other household data, overall data on poverty can be skewed.

Satellites Mapping Poverty

This dearth of accurate data was the inspiration for a team of Stanford researchers. Marchall Burke, David Lobell and Stefano Ermon have spent the better half of the last decade creating better poverty mapping techniques. The solution they are working on now is satellite mapping.

The team has used artificial intelligence to map poverty using publicly available satellite imagery. The system examines poverty by analyzing the wealth of assets in a given area as seen from space. By indexing images of wealthy areas and poor areas, the program can identify levels of poverty in other areas. It uses a variety of factors like lighting at night, roofing, infrastructure, roads and other easily recognizable traits to do so. Utilizing deep learning, the program is able to correlate factors and create an idea of poverty in an area with fairly high accuracy. The model explains about 70% of asset wealth variation at the village level. This means the model can predict more accurately than other attempts at mapping poverty using higher resolution imagery and mobile phone mapping. The ability to distinguish poverty at a village level also means that the program can identify levels of poverty in places that surveys never go, with much less cost and time required.

Household surveys have become obsolete compared to more modern and effective methods. Better poverty mapping techniques like the Stanford researchers’ will enable organizations to fight poverty with a greater level of accuracy, which will make this decade of poverty-fighting more efficient than the last.

– Brett Muni
Photo: Flickr

poverty in haiti
Haiti is known for its need for foreign aid. Not only do its citizens suffer at the hands of their own government, but natural disasters caused over half of Haiti’s population to fall into poverty, as of 2012. Project Esperanza, an NGO based in the Dominican Republic, is working to help immigrants escaping poverty in Haiti build new lives for themselves and their families.

Causes of Poverty in Haiti

Haiti is classified as a Republic. It has an executive, legislative and judicial branch. Citizens vote for their president and prime minister (who each serve a five-year term). Though the nation is in dire need of aid for its citizens, the International Monetary Fund was on the fence about giving aid to the government in 2019. After the IMF struck a deal with Haiti to give the country $229 million, there was a significant governmental change when they switched prime ministers. This untimely decision, halting the exchange of the funds, had a negative outcome, as Haitian citizens needed that aid.

Poverty in Haiti is accentuated by the government’s lack of cooperation, but one of the main causes of poverty in Haiti recently is the economic downturn in 2019. Haiti closed its borders completely for almost half of 2019 because of fuel shortages. Venezuelan gas providers cut Haiti off due to unpaid debts and a fuel crisis also in Venezuela. With essential services like hospitals unable to operate, the need for foreign aid increased. Without access to proper health care, poverty in Haiti increased.

Project Esperanza Aids Haitian Immigrants

A common way of escaping poverty is immigration. Many Haitians find refuge in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic. Immigrants make the difficult decision to leave their entire lives behind and start fresh. Approximately 800,000 Haitian immigrants have settled in the Dominican Republic.

Fortunately, there are people willing to help these immigrants build a better life for themselves and their families. Project Esperanza is an NGO that helps give Haitian immigrants the tools that they need in order to survive outside of their country of origin. The organization recognizes that Haiti is a well-known crisis zone in constant need of humanitarian aid, with one of its main concerns being poverty among its citizens. Therefore, it works to ensure that Haitian immigrants receive the support they need to rise out of poverty once they reach the Dominican Republic.

One of Project Esperanza’s initiatives has employed Haitian artists in a free trade art shop so that they can make a living in their new home. The organization also runs a boys’ home for immigrant youth without familial support, and sponsors schools across the country. Project Esperanza’s primary focus is providing educational and social opportunities for immigrants, adapting to their needs.

Moving Forward

Rising poverty in Haiti has caused an increase in Haitian immigrants. Moving forward, it is essential that the Haitian government and international humanitarian organizations address the causes of poverty and provide much-needed aid. The work that organizations like Project Esperanza are doing is also essential, helping immigrants build successful and prosperous lives.

Moriah Thomas
Photo: Pixabay

Andorra Struggles With COVID-19 ResponseAndorra, one of Europe’s smallest and oldest countries, does not boast full European Union membership. Instead, sandwiched between Spain and France’s 11,000 foot high Pyrenees borders, Andorra relies on integrating relations with the two countries. Yet, as Andorra’s economy and demographics differ greatly from most of the European Union, Andorra has a unique agreement with the body of countries. Unfortunately, lacking full E.U. membership and the benefits this includes, Andorra has faced struggles with their COVID-19 response.

A Unique Agreement With the European Union

As evidenced by the recent Brexit controversy, E.U. membership comes with positive and negative aspects. Entry challenges proved a significant hurdle for Andorra; therefore, it initially did not join the union. Only after the 2008 recession did Andorra arrange a special agreement with the European Union, like other European micro-states.

Due to tourism, the country’s main economic draw, and Andorra’s location on a map, some economic realities have been unavoidable. After 2008, Andorra began using the Euro and entered trade agreements slashing tariffs. However, unlike the rest of Europe, Andorra continued to restrict individual taxes. This branded the small country as a hot spot for tax evasion. This caveat kept Andorra afloat but alienated the country from the rest of Europe. Due to international pressure in 2011, the country began moving towards international tax standards.

Even though it lacks full European Union membership, Andorra still retains membership in the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Does Andorra qualify for European Union aid?

Full European Union member countries qualify for aid programs. The European Union, like most international institutions, provided large amounts of COVID-19 aid–37 billion Euros in the initial program to be exact. Individual countries qualify for an additional 100 billion from the E.U. for employment assistance.

However, Andorra’s partial membership benefits to the European Union are limited to:

  1. The customs union, which is a group of countries that have agreed to charge the same import duties as each other and allow free trade between themselves.
  2. Tariff exemption to void taxes imposed by a government on goods and services imported from countries outside of the European Union.
  3. Euro use for stable and standardized currency.
  4. Access to name and tax databases.

COVID-19 in Andorra

As Andorra’s place in the European Union is unclear, so is its ability to receive COVID-19 aid. It appears that Andorra cannot and has not accessed any European Union COVID-19 aid. As neighboring Spain and France have done, Andorra implemented specific travel limitations. Uniquely, its rules included odd and even-numbered homes taking turns with short exercise periods.

Poverty in Andorra

The tough situation created by COVID-19 shutdowns and the ambiguous nature of Andorra’s relationship with the European Union have left the country exposed to further poverty. Unlike countries with widespread extreme poverty, Andorra’s poverty is specific to immigrant labor unemployment during tourism lulls and the housing crisis. Both of which, when paired with COVID-19, have the potential to drastically increase Andorra’s 4% poverty rate.

As of now, Andorra continues to encounter additional struggles with their COVID-19 response. As the post-2008 trend of strengthening relationships between Andorra and the E.U. continues, more poverty prevention aid will hopefully find its way to this small, land-locked country.

– Rory Davis
Photo: Flickr

Macedonia's Housing Crisis
Macedonia’s housing crisis requires swift attention. In 2018, about 21.9% of the country’s population was living below the poverty line. With a population of 2,082,957 in 2018, more than 456,000 people living in Macedonia were experiencing poverty that year. Furthermore, Macedonia saw an unemployment rate of 17.76% in 2019, a rate which is more than double the national average of 7.04%. The collapse of state-run housing development organizations in Macedonia since its independence has led to about 15% of Macedonians living in “illegally constructed buildings.” This means that roughly 320,000 people living in Macedonia lack access to adequate housing.

Invisible Homeless

The unauthorized housing that many people in Macedonia must live in bars thousands from access to important social systems and tools. Since Macedonians require an official home address to obtain a legal ID, the state effectively renders many of them nonexistent. This prevents these people from utilizing such essential services as insurance, social safety nets and immunization services.

Macedonia’s housing crisis is also a health crisis. Without adequate housing, hundreds of thousands of Macedonians are at risk of injury and disease due to hazardous living conditions. In 2018, fewer than a third of Macedonians had thermal insulation systems in their places of residence. Inadequate heating and insulation in buildings have forced thousands of people living in Macedonia to use homemade fires to keep warm since they cannot afford the expensive heating bills otherwise necessary to heat their homes. In the capital city of Skopje, roughly “two-thirds of households use firewood as their primary source of heating,” according to the Financial Times. Without proper air circulation, this can lead to severe chronic health conditions such as heart and lung disease due to inhalation of the hazardous particles which such fires produce.

Habitat for Humanity and Roma SOS

While Macedonia’s housing crisis is a daunting problem, some are doing significant work to improve housing in impoverished Macedonian communities. Despite being an attractive country for foreign investment due to its low tax rates and free economic zones, Macedonia still has one of the lowest foreign investment rates among European countries. This can make it harder for the government to provide solutions.

A Macedonian-based organization called Roma SOS is working to improve the living conditions of those experiencing the most need in Macedonia. The organization is currently working with Habitat for Humanity to provide impoverished Macedonians with zero-interest loans for legalizing and renovating their homes. While Habitat for Humanity provides the funding for these loans, Roma SOS helps residents in navigating the legal process of receiving approval for their loans.

Since 2004, Habitat for Humanity has worked to improve affordable housing for the people of Macedonia, and in 2019 it served 4,245 individuals “through market development.” Habitat for Humanity has further worked to provide individuals in Macedonia with housing that is not only affordable but also energy efficient. Since beginning this project in 2010, it has worked to restructure more than 60 buildings to improve energy efficiency, which has saved Macedonia more than 7,910 MWh of energy usage annually. The loans that Habitat for Humanity provides are essential for giving impoverished people in Macedonia access to better housing. With these loans, Habitat for Humanity has made heating safer and more affordable for more than 1,000 families living in Macedonia.

On the Path to EU Membership

Macedonia’s government also appears to be taking steps towards increased funding for improved housing. Macedonia has recently signed a deal with Greece and is currently on its way to becoming a member of the E.U. By joining the E.U., Macedonia would see an increase in foreign investment and would be able to apply for crisis aid packages to help improve housing in its impoverished communities.

The country’s housing situation may look bleak, but there is significant work occurring to address Macedonia’s housing crisis by improving the country’s economic situation. Several organizations, both outside of Macedonia and within it, are providing poor Macedonian populations access to safe, legal housing. With Macedonia moving towards E.U. membership and its accompanying economic support, there is hope for thousands of people in Macedonia whose living conditions formerly seemed hopeless.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty Reduction in France
Nearly 9 million people in France, about 14% of the population, live under the poverty line, defined as 60% of the median income. However, the large total number does not necessarily mean destitution. Under the same criterion, the poverty rate in France is lower than that in many other developed countries. Moreover, France has long been active in reducing poverty at national, European and global levels, and many other countries have drawn lessons from various exemplary innovations in poverty eradication in France. 

France and the UN

In 1989, France proposed the resolution 1989/10 to the Human Rights Commission (HRC) of the United Nations, requesting to give particular attention to extreme poverty and exclusion from society. It was the first time that the commission raised extreme poverty as an independent issue, and the adoption of the resolution marked the starting-point of the U.N.’s work on extreme poverty and human rights.

From then on, every year, France presented a resolution on extreme poverty to the HRC. In 2012, France presented a resolution together with 39 other countries and had it adopted as The Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. The document sets out the principles that form the basis for all poverty reduction and eradication policies, such as rights of the child, equality between men and women, transparency and access to information, etc.

Over decades of international solidarity policies, the number of people in extreme poverty around the world has successfully dropped by more than half since 1990. In 2015, the U.N. set the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of 2030, including eradicating extreme poverty and hunger in every corner of the globe. Following this universal call, France’s main aim is to adopt national and international policies to remedy current situations of extreme poverty and inequality.

Governmental Anti-poverty Plan

In September 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron — though people sometimes criticize him as a “president of the rich” — announced an €8 billion national anti-poverty plan. The new plan focused on helping the young from poor families and dealing with unemployment and introduced various innovations in poverty eradication in France. Macron announced compulsory school or vocational training for all until the age of 18 and free breakfast at primary school for the poorest students as well as subsidized school lunches for €1 each. He also granted funding to open new daycare centers and other extra crèche places in the most deprived regions in France, in order to help new mothers return to work. The government promised to reform the social benefits system and to extend completely free healthcare to several million more people.

By the beginning of 2020, the French government had allocated €1.9 million to the Red Cross and other welfare organizations in Mayotte, one of the poorest of all the 101 French départements.

Fourth World People’s University

A French priest, Joseph Wresinski, founded the ATD Fourth World organization in France in 1957, aiming toward the eradication of global poverty. Fifteen years later, the organization established the Fourth World People’s University that provides people living in poverty with opportunities to participate in political and public life as well as in the production of first-hand knowledge of fighting against poverty. In regular meetings and dialogues, people in extreme poverty share opinions and experience with others who work in solidarity with them, and they together work for a more inclusive world. Since then, having their voice heard, people have benefited from People’s Universities in eight regions throughout France and in a dozen other countries.

In 2019, some 100 participants of the European Fourth World People’s Unversity gathered at the European Parliament in Brussels and met with European deputies and various European institutions. They delivered the messages from the poor and discussed how the E.U. can address poverty, by stressing the impact of family-related policies on people living in poverty and working on indicators of poverty.

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty (IDEP)

On October 17, 1987, Wresinski gathered 100,000 people on the Human Rights and Liberties Plaza in Paris and launched the first commemoration to the victims of poverty and hunger. In 1992, in memory of the death of the humanist priest, the United Nations instituted the date of October 17 as the official annual International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, to help the people living in extreme poverty fight actively and to make their voices heard. For the IDEP of 2018, France and Burkina Faso organized a conference at the U.N. in New York, delivering speeches from ambassadors, activists as well as people living in extreme poverty, to advocate the U.N. goal of eradicating extreme poverty for everyone, everywhere.

Throughout the years, the world has witnessed many regional anti-poverty movements and innovations in poverty eradication in France become international. It is time for other affluent countries to learn the experience and take up more global responsibilities to reach the 2030 goal of the eradication of extreme poverty.

– Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Hunger in Cabo Verde
Cape Verde, commonly referred to as Cabo Verde, is a country consisting of 10 islands off the west coast of Africa. The country has a small population of 525,000 people — about one-sixteenth of the population of New York City alone — dispersed among the nine inhabited islands. Due to the country’s isolated location, volcanic origin and limited resources, poverty and hunger in Cabo Verde are significant issues. Here are five facts about hunger in Cabo Verde.

5 Facts About Hunger in Cabo Verde

  1. As of 2017, 12.6% of the population of Cabo Verde was unable to meet their daily food needs. Hunger in Cabo Verde has been decreasing since 2010 but at a rate of no more than 0.6% per year. In recent years, this rate has decreased to about 0.1%, marking little change in the total population that remains hungry. When comparing rates of hunger to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), hunger decreased at the highest rates during the years the GDP increased at the highest rates. Since 2017, the GDP has been increasing at a much slower rate, and the smaller monetary value of goods and services in Cabo Verde leads to fewer resources in battling nationwide hunger. This is a small amount of progress, and this progress may diminish if the economy does not continue to grow.
  2. Cabo Verde has limited access to water. One of Cabo Verde’s most limited resources is clean water. Ever since a nearly two-decade-long drought beginning in the 1970s, citizens must pay for buckets of filtered water for delivery to their homes. Recurring drought and the allocation of clean water to drinking and hygiene have led to frequent failures in agriculture. Crops that rely on irrigation are not sustainable, and this can lead to a lack of crops that could feed many people on islands where importing crops is difficult.
  3. Trade is successful, but not in terms of food. Cabo Verde’s highest exports are fish products, and its highest imports are petroleum and automobiles. Due to the republic’s lack of resources such as natural gas, imports like the aforementioned are necessary and common. However, the closest coast to Cabo Verde is roughly 350 miles away, so transporting any fresh food is difficult due to expiration periods. As a result, international trade cannot make fresh food more accessible, exacerbating the problem of hunger in Cabo Verde.
  4. The soil is volcanic and rocky. The islands of Cabo Verde are the creation of multiple volcanic eruptions. In fact, a quarter of the land is volcanic rock and the country’s soil is rough and unrefined. The land is ideal for grazing, which allows for livestock throughout the country. However, poor soil contributes to the country’s inability to rely on agriculture as a food source. Any available water cannot irrigate the tough soil, and wind erosion has led to a loss of valuable soil.
  5. Absolute poverty is a factor in hunger in Cabo Verde. As of 2015, 35% of the population lived in poverty. Limited resources across the country have systematically led to low rates of education and high rates of unemployment. Rates of higher education dropouts are high and no universities exist. Reform in education systems and growth across more industries beyond the exportation of goods can help close the poverty gap. An economy that values diverse industries and expanding resources will result from improved education, more job opportunities and the ability for citizens to complete degrees in other parts of the world. With expanded industrial areas comes more opportunities for residents to earn money and combat the effects of hunger that low-income households often face. Essentially, better primary education leads to strength in higher education, and the need for higher education is evident in a nation with an economy of limited industries.

Solutions to the Hunger Issue

Fortunately, some have taken steps to address hunger in Cabo Verde. In 2016, the country hosted the Center of Excellence Against Hunger’s Global Nutrition Forum, a panel of 40 government leaders that discuss solutions to hunger. At this event, the Cape Verdean School Social Action Foundation emerged to increase the number of nutrition programs in public schools. With the support of this panel and its creations, the U.N.’s Hunger Map has removed countries like Brazil. With continued support and brainstorming of creative solutions to battle hunger, Cabo Verde can move towards poverty reduction and solve its hunger crisis.

Hope for Cabo Verde

Even though poverty and hunger are a concern in Cabo Verde, the nation remains relatively economically free and has maximized its trading efforts in spite of limited resources. As a country far from the coast, it typically has the responsibility of remaining self-sufficient in terms of its economy and the way in which it handles poverty- and hunger-reduction. However, it is possible to continue lowering rates of poverty and hunger. Recognizing this country’s impact on the trade market is a step that other nearby countries can take, as this is the way that Cabo Verde stimulates its economy. If more countries create strong trade relations with this nation, it is likely that Cabo Verde will receive more imports of valuable resources, and it will also likely pave the way for the creation of more jobs in the trade industry. Despite its economic stability, the problem of hunger is still significant in Cabo Verde. However, it is possible to take more steps to eradicate hunger in the country.

Evan Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Soccer in Africa
The start of soccer in Africa traces back to the 1800s, during the period of European imperialism. British soldiers and missionaries introduced the game, and it quickly gained traction in mission schools. The first official game occurred in 1862.

During the 1880s and 1890s, organized soccer teams began popping up in Southern Africa. Africa’s oldest surviving soccer club, Ghana’s Cape Coast Excelsior, started in 1903. The game continued to grow in popularity over the following century. African countries joined FIFA, the international soccer association, as they gained independence from colonial rule. South Africa made history in 2010, becoming the first African country to host a World Cup.

Soccer in Africa Today

Many commonly consider soccer the most popular sport in Africa. Rugby and cricket are also popular throughout the continent. Additionally, basketball has been gaining popularity; the emergence of Cameroon born basketball stars Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam helped create a basketball fanbase. Nonetheless, soccer reigns supreme as Africa’s favorite sport.

Although it is the top sport in Africa, soccer abroad captivates many African fans. The English Premier League is a mainstay on pub televisions. Despite the numerous African teams, elite players often leave their homelands to play in Europe’s top leagues. African born players have made their mark on Europe’s soccer leagues. Most notably are Samuel Eto’o, Yaya Touré, Didier Drogba and the current Liberian President, George Weah.

Some of Africa’s most famous players have used their fame and wealth to give back to their home countries. For example, Didier Drogba, a legend in the Premier League, is an influential figure in Cote D’Ivoire. Drogba used his platform to help end the Ivorian civil war in 2007. In 2015, Drogba built a hospital in his hometown, Abidjan, using money from an endorsement deal.

Soccer Academies

The population of Africa is incredibly young. About 42% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is aged 14 or younger. This is good news for soccer leagues who are anxious to recruit new players.

Soccer academies are opening all over the continent. In Ghana, the Right to Dream academy is a nonprofit with the goal of giving young athletes the opportunity to play at a high level. According to its founder, Tom Vernon, “When a child enrolls at Right to Dream, their lifetime earning potential increases 23 times.” Upon graduation, students receive the equivalent to a Ghanaian high school degree. To date, Right to Dream students have accessed over $40 million in educational scholarships.

In Right to Dream’s 22 years of operation, more than 30 former students have played soccer professionally. For those who do not move on to professional soccer, many find attending college is an option. So far, 51 Right to Dream students have received full scholarships for schools in the U.S. and U.K.

LEAD Monrovia Football Academy is another notable African soccer academy. Rather than creating soccer stars, LEAD MFA focuses on social and educational development. The soccer academy is located in Liberia. Unfortunately, 58% of Liberian children aged between 15 and 24 have not completed their primary education. LEAD MFA uses soccer as an incentive to keep its students enrolled and enjoying school.

Africa has a rapidly growing population. By 2050, projections determine that the country will be home to over 2.5 billion people; estimates predict that a quarter of the world’s population will be living in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thankfully, the growing number of academies will provide a path for young Africans to play the game they love while furthering their horizons off the field.

Matthew Beach
Photo: Pixabay

New Zealand Green Party
The New Zealand Green Party believes that protecting the planet and its inhabitants are two sides of the same coin. Green Party members hold eight seats in the federal government and are also represented in 42 local governments. Ahead of the 2020 elections in New Zealand, the Green Party has announced they are running 24 candidates for various seats within the federal government. According to the party’s website, the Green Party believes that New Zealand’s government must take further action to “protect our planet and make sure everyone is treated equally and has access to what they need to live a good life.” The party also announced an unconventional plan to reduce poverty in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s Poverty Action Plan

While New Zealand is typically considered a prosperous nation, approximately 14% of New Zealanders live in poverty. Some calculate this figure (poverty) based on the median household income, since there is no official national poverty line. As of 2016, researchers consider households with two adults and two children to be living below the poverty line if they are earning less than $390 (New Zealand dollars) per week. Additionally, single parent, single child households making less than $250 (N.Z. dollars) per week fall into the same category. The New Zealand Green Party has announced a poverty reduction plan centered around wealth taxes and a guaranteed minimum income. The plan, according to the party’s website, intends to “completely change the way [the government] support[s] people in New Zealand so when people ask for help, they get it.”

Poverty Action Plan Design

The party’s Poverty Action Plan is built on the following eight points, each of which is designed to fix what the party has called the country’s broken welfare system:

  1. Guaranteed Minimum Income: All New Zealanders who do not work a full-time job, including students, are provided with a small, guaranteed weekly income that assists those living below the poverty line and those living paycheck-to-paycheck.
  2. Universal Child Benefit: Families with children under three-years-old are supplied with a small, weekly payment of $65 (N.Z. dollars).
  3. Family Support Credit: Family Support Credit is a simplified version of New Zealand’s existing Working for Families tax credit system. It would provide weekly payments for families based on the number of children they have.
  4. Financial Support for Single Parents: Single parents receive additional financial support in addition to the Family Support Credit.
  5. Reforming the Accident Compensation Corporation: Improve compensation for work-impairing health conditions and disabilities to be fairer and more equitable.
  6. Wealth Taxes: All New Zealanders with a net worth over $1 million (N.Z. dollars) will be subject to a 1% wealth tax.
  7. Progressive Tax System: Redefine tax brackets to redistribute wealth among New Zealanders.
  8. Tax Brackets: Redistribute wealth using the addition of two new top income tax brackets.

The New Zealand Green Party leader, Marama Davidson, believes the country’s current welfare system is “outdated, unfair and unlivable.” Davidson hopes her party’s ambitious new plan will help struggling New Zealanders. While New Zealand does not suffer from extreme poverty, there is still room for improvement. The Green Party hopes to be a catalyst for this change through its new Poverty Action Plan.

Jessie Cohen
Photo: Unsplash