Mining in Malawi: Understanding the Conflict
The relationship between the mining industry and the country of Malawi is burdened with complexity. Mining in Malawi promises substantial economic growth, yet it simultaneously has the potential to violate human rights and destroy the natural ecosystem.

Malawi profits through the mining industry, as the country is rich in economic deposits of uranium. Both Malawian granite and sandstone host uranium reserves, such as the Karoo sandstone in Karonga, Malawi.

The district of Karonga lies on the northwest side of Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is one of the only freshwater lakes on the entire continent of Africa and is a key source of livelihood for over 1.5 million Malawians.

While clearly rich in resources, the country itself is impoverished. Due to this, the government has signed many agreements with extraction companies, hoping to increase exports.

Some national organizations are concerned about the mining industry’s effect on the precious and fragile ecosystem of Lake Malawi, yet the government has prioritized economic interests.

In 2007, a subsidiary of Paladin Energy took interest in Karonga due to a uranium deposit in the district. Due to the immense economic potential of the mine, called Kayelekera, the government agreed to let Paladin extract uranium in 2009. The government was issued 15 percent equity in the subsidiary.

As expected, the mine stimulated a crucial boost to the country’s foreign currency account. Over the following 10 years, the uranium industry overall is expected to raise Malawi’s GDP by 10 percent, account for 30 percent of exports and increase exports by 25 percent.

Due to company promises, many people in Malawi flocked to Karonga, hoping the uranium industry would generate employment, build clinics and increase general infrastructure in the new mining community.

Others, however, were not adequately informed that uranium mining was going to take place around their homes. None were aware that the Kayelekera mine would disrupt their entire way of life.

Reporters from Human Rights Watch conducted research for a year in Karonga, interviewing nearly 80 villagers who had been affected by uranium mining. They found that the general lack of government oversight and corporate responsibility harmed Malawians.

The construction of the Kayelekera mine caused villagers to be evicted from their homes. Many were only notified of the relocation at the last minute. Without any time to find other places to stay, these Malawians found themselves temporarily homeless.

While Paladin did offer compensation for the forced removal, the sum was insufficient to completely cover the cost of buying new land and building a new home. The company offered about MWK 50,000 to each family, which currently equates to about $70.

The uranium mining in Malawi damaged maize crops, dried rice fields and destroyed irrigation channels. As most of the villagers around Karonga live off of subsistence farming, threatened agriculture endangers survival.

Secrecy around the operations of the mine led to Malawian suspicion. When the people in Karonga asked the corporation to test the water for contamination, Paladin claimed to have a monitoring system in place. The company then refused to release any results. This lack of transparency has left many villagers concerned for their health.

As the laws surrounding mining in Malawi have not been updated since the Environmental Management Act of 1996, amendments are well overdue. In order to protect the interests of its citizens, the government of Malawi needs to strengthen regulations over extractive corporations, educate its people about the risks of mining, enforce institutional transparency and take measures to mitigate any damage.

The Kayelekera mine was closed in 2014 for repairs, yet the uranium industry in Malawi is just beginning. Moving forward, the Malawian government needs to enforce corporate responsibility on all companies who wish to extract natural resources from their country.

This conflict over mining in Malawi ignites fundamental questions over the delicate balance between economic development and social responsibility. With a more comprehensive legal framework, the government of Malawi may not have to choose one or the other. After further reform, the government can protect its people while simultaneously fostering social, institutional and economic development.

Larkin Smith

Photo: Flickr

The Resource Curse?
A strange correlation between natural resource-rich countries and human rights abuses has emerged over the past decade.

In 2001, Michael Ross discovered that the majority of states who are high oil-exporters also employ undemocratic policies.

An oil-rich state is classified by dividing total oil exports and by the total population of the country. To be considered a long-term oil-rich state, a country must produce over $100 per citizen for two-thirds of its sovereign years.

Ross found that oil-exporting states enjoy the “rentier effect”, which allows authoritarian regimes to use the revenue collected from oil sales to levy lower taxes. Consequently, the reduced taxes enable regimes to operate without accountability to its people.

The resource curse also has other negative consequences. According to Oil Change International, oil states employ a “repression effect”, which is the violation of human rights through the appropriation of land, forced migration and brutality on its citizens.

An example in which the resource caused human rights abuses in Nigeria. During the mid-1990s Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders were executed for their roles in a successful campaign to remove Shell from the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Burma in the late 1990s also was a victim of the resource curse. The Burmese army and Unocal corporation were caught “clearing routes for the pipelines, including forced relocation, forced labor, rape, torture, and murder”. In 2005, Unocal offered conciliatory compensations to local villagers in lieu of a lawsuit engendered by Earthright International and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Beyond authoritarian rule and the oppression of its people, the resource curse is linked to internal conflict. The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) found that over the past 26 years, oil-rich states have been twice as likely to experience civil war compared to their non-oil-rich counterparts, using the example of oil-rich states the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Niger Delta, Iraq, Libya and Angola.

Similarly, the NRGI coined the term “petro-aggression” to define oil-rich states’ heightened likelihood to engage in an inter-state conflict such as Iraq’s invasion of Iran and Kuwait.

The resource curse also bears a direct relationship with the restriction of gender parity. Research has demonstrated that oil-rich states have fewer women in the workforce and government. Additionally, oil-rich states often have higher rates of HIV/AIDS, a consequence of the influx of male mine workers that travel from one oil-rich country to another.

An indirect consequence of the resource curse is the Dutch disease, which is the process of eliminating all non-oil industries. Consequently, states are dependent on a volatile market, undermining the stability of their economies.

The resource curse has incontrovertible and severe consequences. It is incumbent on democratic leaders to encourage good governance and strict adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, democratic states must continue to encourage the diversification of oil economies through foreign assistance.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

Botswana
Supported by the discovery of diamonds, poverty in Botswana has reduced while the country has achieved universal access to HIV treatment and strengthened their social services.

Botswana, a small landlocked country of 2 million people, was once one of the poorest countries in Africa. In 1996, the country was one of the least developed and poorest nations in the world with a per capita annual income of $83. In the years that followed, Botswana had one of the fastest growing economies in the world. By the 21st century, Botswana’s per capita annual income was $7,300. The success has come from Botswana’s partnership with De Beers, a diamond mining and trading company, which helped develop its diamond resources.

The diamonds of Botswana are very difficult to find. They are not sedimentary, rather they are found deep in the ground making them more valuable. The country shares joint-ownership, which guarantees Botswana the majority of the profits, with De Beers.

Due to low global demand for minerals and metals, Botswana’s economy began to decrease in 2012, but bounced back in 2013 and then decelerated again in 2014 and 2015; however, the economy is expected to rebound with projected economic growth rates of 3.7% and 4.3% respectively in 2016 and 2017, driven mainly by an improvement in diamond prices.

Once the money from diamonds starts coming in, all the revenues are reinvested in other assets. Priorities include investing in schools, roads, electricity and getting running water into homes and farms.

When the HIV/AIDS crisis came to Botswana, the country used its diamond money for public investment to essentially buy HIV/AIDS treatments for every citizen that was infected. Nearly 95 percent of the population now lives within 8km of a healthy facility.

Botswana’s discovery of the diamond has created more than 2,000 jobs and stabilized the economy. The percentage of people in poverty in Botswana continues to decrease, with a decline in citizens living at or below the poverty line from 50 percent to about 19 percent today.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr

Public Education_Africa
Although it invests more money into its education system than any other African country, South Africa is currently facing a public education crisis. One-quarter of students failed their final examinations this past school year. The dropout rate has also increased, resulting in less than half of current students completing their secondary education, which greatly contributes to the South African education crisis.

Students in South Africa often face challenges in the areas of mathematics and science. One explanation for this issue is that 25 percent of secondary schools do not offer math classes for grades 10 through 12. In 2014 and 2015, South Africa’s math and science programs ranked last out of 140 countries in the Global Competitiveness Report.

Language barriers between teachers and students are also a major dilemma, as South Africa is a very linguistically diverse country with 11 official languages. According to Professor John Volmink, in order to bridge the gap, teachers must be better equipped to teach English to their students.

Multiple leaders also point out the negative consequences of education stemming from apartheid. Schools of better quality are mostly located in predominately white areas, meaning that black students must travel to these schools or settle for sub-par schools in their neighborhoods. Though apartheid is over, the South African education system is still working to reduce its residual negative consequences.

South African Minister of Education Angie Motshekga recognizes the weaknesses in the South African education system and continues to work to overcome the legacy of apartheid. She also plans to work with unions to increase teacher attendance, allowing students more time in the classroom.

However, while these factors do play a part in the reality of the education system in South Africa, there is hope. Business Tech is quick to point out that the South African education crisis, and specifically the country’s rankings, do not “reflect the ability of the country’s learners but is indicative of an education system that needs urgent intervention.”

Some schools that lack even basic educational resources still excel academically. South Africa also has many high-quality private institutions, although not all families are able to afford these schools. With help from the international community, more South African students can reach their full academic potential.

Carrie Robinson

Photo: Flickr

AmeriCares
Category five super-cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji on Feb. 22, 2016. With winds of up to 180 mph, Winston was both the strongest cyclone to ever hit Fiji and the strongest cyclone on record to make landfall in the South Pacific archipelago overall. Fortunately, AmeriCares has stepped in to support Fijians in need.

AmeriCares, an emergency response and global health organization based in Stamford, Connecticut, is currently helping Fijians in their recovery and relief efforts. The organization has dispatched an emergency response team of volunteers to provide the medical care and assistance that some inhabitants require. AmeriCares has also prepared approximately 5,000 pounds of medical and relief supplies to deliver to Fiji.

Founder Robert C. Macauley first conceived of AmeriCares during the Vietnam War. In 1975, he and his wife sent an aircraft to Vietnam in order to airlift 300 infant orphans to safety in California. In order to do so, Macauley was forced to take a mortgage out on his house.

Since then, AmeriCares has worked in over 140 countries. These countries include North Korea, where the organization has sent medical supplies since 1997 — and Syria, where $7 million in medical aid has been delivered since 2012.

Approximately 909,389 people inhabit 110 of the 332 islands that compose Fiji. In Cyclone Winston’s wake, 347,000 now find themselves in need of humanitarian aid, of whom 120,000 are children, says UNICEF.

42 Fijians have been confirmed dead and some of the villages within the more remote islands of Fiji are thought to have been completely obliterated by the storm. An article by the Huffington Post reports that 35,000 are currently living in evacuation centers, some of which are running low on supplies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXXk1U7HgSw

Two major hospitals were also damaged by the cyclone, according to AmeriCares’ website. AmeriCares’ aid may thus prove an important component in supplementing some of the infrastructural support that was lost in the cyclone.

Jocelyn Lim

Sources: AmeriCares, The Huffington Post, UNICEF, William Grimes

Low-Carbon_EmissionsIs it feasible to provide energy to the poor with low-carbon emissions? The World Bank believes so. It claims clean energy is the solution for getting people out of poverty.

In our modern age, those in poverty can’t get out without access to reliable energy. Currently, 1 billion people globally have no power, which means no opportunities to run a business, provide light for kids to study, cook and Internet access to search for jobs and be informed.

Climate change is and will continue to affect everyone, but no one will suffer more than the poor, throwing away decades of development work.

The World Bank Group supports building low-carbon, climate resilient cities, forward movement on climate-smart agriculture as well as speeding up energy efficiency and investment in renewable energy.

In addition, the Group is also focused on supporting work on ending fossil fuel subsidies and developing carbon pricing to increase costs of emissions that will lead to energy for all and decreased emissions. The focus is a balancing act on growing economies and reducing emissions, but it can be done.

More and more we see a shift to renewables, such as hydropower, geothermal, solar and wind. Government financial departments are realizing how costly the effects of climate change are with rising sea levels, changes in weather patterns and human migrations, costing trillions and potentially killing hundreds of thousands.

Notably, there has been an increase in renewable energy of 45 percent globally from 2010 to 2012, with Asia leading by 42 percent. Governments such as those in Bangladesh are developing sustainable strategies with more than 3.5 million solar home systems, creating 70,000 direct jobs.

In addition, Morocco is leading the way in Africa with its formation of an agency for solar power and coming up with a super grid for solar, wind, hydropower and biomass. The country has increased its renewable energy investment, to some extent by reducing fossil fuel subsidies from $297 million in 2012 to $2.8 billion in 2013.

For the rest of Arica, the cost of renewable energy is out of reach for most governments, and the private sector doesn’t want to invest in it because it doesn’t know if it will be a safe investment. This is a shame given the amount of resources Africa has. The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) is providing some funding.

Carbon taxes are or will be used by 40 countries and more than 20 cities, states and provinces to decrease emissions, generating nearly $50 billion. Green bonds are also increasing in popularity, with the World Bank raising $8.4 billion through the 100 total it has issued in 18 currencies.

Green bonds are currently funding two energy efficient projects in China that are eliminating 12.6 million tons of carbon dioxide every year, the equivalent of eliminating 2.7 billion cars every year.

It seems that some governments have realized the cost implications of the inaction to climate change, mostly because they are being affected more and more by it.

Not only is it cost-effective to address this problem, it’s also moral to get people out of poverty and prevent them from having to endure the bulk of the consequences of a problem they didn’t create.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: African Development Bank Group (AfDB), The Guardian
Photo: Pixabay

Solar_Power_Kits
When a bike accident left Pascal Kassongo injured, out of a courier job, and nearly destitute, his prospects looked grim. But thanks to the Amandala Project, Kassongo has found a new source of income with the Ecoboxx.

Lightweight and portable, each Ecoboxx can supply up to 50 hours of power and comes with a fan, hair clippers and charging ports for cell phones and other devices. Since launching in January of 2015, the Amandala Project, whose name means “power” in Zulu, has distributed 300 solar power kits to South Africans in need, with plans to distribute almost 600 more kits in the near future.

The goal of the project is to supply the unemployed, and particularly the migrant, residents of South Africa with the means to start their own small businesses, free of any charge past the initial investment. An individual can make up to 1,600 rand (about $128) cutting hair each week, and another thousand charging phones and other devices. The average income in South Africa for unskilled workers is around $500 per month.

While some choose to stick with running a barbershop with their Ecoboxx, others have come up with creative alternative uses. Janet Bete, who came to South Africa from Zimbabwe, rents out her kit for lights to local businesses and churches operating when it is dark. The enterprising woman also takes time to give back to her community. “Whenever there is a funeral in my community and there is no power, I donate my lights—it’s my way of paying [people] back for living well together,” said Bete.

Kassongo has also opted to put his solar kit to an alternative use. Rather than run a barbershop himself, Kassongo, a father of four, rents his kit out to neighbors who do own barbershops, sharing the proceeds with them. “It helps put something on the table,” said Kassongo.

The Ecoboxx, which retails at around 4000 rand, is being distributed by the Amandla Project, a subsidiary of the South African organization Community Chest, for a nominal fee of 200 rand. Community Chest CEO Lorenzo Davids said he hopes the kits will “electrify” rural South Africa, and when combined with creative entrepreneurialism, help generate income in the regions that so desperately need it.

Gina Lehner

Sources: All About Africa, EcoBoxx
Photo: EcoBoxx

parenting_intervention
Often it is the simple, low-resource interventions that can have the most impact in improving the lives of women and children.

In Lira, Uganda, a community-based parenting intervention has proven to be successful in supporting both child development and maternal wellbeing.

The link between maternal wellbeing and child development is important. Maternal depression can be stigmatized or regarded as unrelated to child health. However, the study implemented by Dr. Singla and his colleagues reveals that maternal and child health are related and can be addressed together.

The study selected 12 parishes in Lira; half participated in the parenting intervention and the remaining parishes served as a control group. Mothers were paired with their children in the study. The children were between 12 to 36 months old, and the mothers were selected for a background of low maternal education.

The parenting intervention group consisted of 12 fortnightly peer-led group sessions related to maternal wellbeing and caring for children. Topics discussed included increasing the involvement of fathers as well as ways to care for children in regards to playing, talking, hygiene practices and expressions of love and respect.

Results of the intervention program were assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development and the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale. The endline results were collected three months after the 24-week program ended.

Children who were in the intervention group had higher cognitive scores and receptive language scores. Mothers in the intervention group also self-reported fewer symptoms of depression. These results are positive and confirm the hypothesis that maternal and child health can improve in a unique way when the issues are addressed together.

Atif Rahman, Professor of Child Psychiatry at the University of Liverpool, and his colleagues support the integration of maternal mental health into maternal and child health programs. They also emphasize that this work must connect to broader goals, such as poverty reduction and gender empowerment.

It is significant that this Ugandan program was successful with non-professional, local community members because this indicates that similar programs can be implemented without great expenses.

Iliana Lang

Sources: The Lancet Global Health, PLoS Medicine
Photo: Pulitzer Center

Wind_Power

Construction has begun on the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which will become Africa’s largest wind power farm. It is estimated to be finished by 2017 and the farm will produce a fifth of Kenya’s total energy. Additionally, Kenya Power has signed a contract to purchase energy from the farm for the next 20 years. The 40,000-acre farm has 365 turbines and will take advantage of a low-level jet stream known as the “Turkana Corridor Winds,” which blow year round.

Regarding the powerful wind speeds and the energy potential, Carlo Van Wageningen, director of the Lake Turkana Wind Project, states, “On average, we obtain 11.8 metres per second. Now, if you make a comparison with onshore wind farms in Europe, you’re looking at a good wind site being about 7.5 to 8 metres a second at best.”

Investors from the European Union have financed the USD $690 million project with the African Development Bank. The program is a milestone in a broader global effort to maximize Africa’s wind power production. Wind power has taken off already in many African countries, such as Morocco, Sudan and South Africa. More than two thirds of Africa’s total population does not have access to electricity. These efforts aim to provide universal access for impoverished Africans living in both urban and rural areas.

In January, a transmission line failure caused a power outage that left over half the country without electricity for four hours. It is absolutely necessary for a country of 4 million people to have a more reliable and accessible source of energy. While power interruptions are becoming increasingly less common, these blackouts can have severe implications for families living in poverty.

The wind farm’s completion is coming at a crucial time for the country. Approximately 80,000 South Sudanese have taken refuge in Kenya to escape their civil war. This massive migration has greatly increased the need for electricity, both for native Kenyans and for refugee camps. Less than 25 percent of Kenyans have access to electricity, but it is estimated that the farm’s energy will provide the majority of the population with access to electricity.

Additionally, the farm will provide temporary construction work for almost 2,500 Kenyans and will employ 200 full-time upon completion.

The outlook for the future is quite promising as well. Eight African countries have the most wind energy potential among developing world nations. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that sub-Saharan Africa alone could produce twice the energy that Africa as a continent currently consumes.

The IEA estimates that by 2040, wind power capacity in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 12 gigawatts. There are one billion watts per gigawatt and a single LED light bulb requires approximately 15 watts. For a continent that is so severely energy-deprived, a seemingly basic amenity like a light bulb can make a monumental impact.

Frasier Petersen

Sources: QZ, AFKInsider, CNBC
Photo: Flickr

global wa
With a conflict as large and diverse as global poverty, it can be difficult for people, particularly small or independent nonprofit organizations, to feel like they are making a legitimate difference in the lives of others around the world. Larger associations have been popping up recently that serve to unite all advocates, and one particular association is Global Washington.

Headquartered in Seattle, Global Washington works to strengthen “Washington state’s vibrant global development community and [increase] the impact of [its] members.” By using this approach, more areas of global poverty are covered and relief is provided through a number of outlets.

Global Washington connects businesses, companies and non-government organizations with opportunities to support numerous global development projects as well as to create engaging strategies that promote global welfare and focus on global development issues.

There are numerous benefits to having one association umbrella over the global development community. This “mutual friend” in Global Washington allows new connections to be made between businesses and fundraisers or philanthropist. Through Global Washington’s work, new partnerships have been formed that serve to strengthen smaller organizations in the fight against global poverty. Global Washington also allows every country around the world to be interconnected through the numerous businesses, organizations and individual philanthropists that take part in the work.

According to Global Washington, one in three jobs in Washington state is dependent on trade and global development, and each state in America holds similar statistics. Global Washington has over 300 nonprofits working internationally, serving to improve millions of lives, creating thousands of jobs and providing a sense of stability and hope for the future. Foundations such as World Vision and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have partnered with Global Washington to provide support and improve living conditions, health and sanitation and education.

Global Washington is ushering in a new wave of global poverty reduction by creating one association that can adopt numerous organizations, businesses and individuals. Unifying all actions against global poverty increases the rates and effects of poverty reduction. With so many vast challenges and struggles to battle, strong unity among dedicated advocates is crucial to accomplish the work of reducing poverty’s harshest realities. Global Washington is setting the bar for future businesses and organizations to work together in order to fight global poverty.

– Alaina Grote

Sources: Global Washington, Seattle Foundation
Photo: Google Plus