Rural Poverty in VietnamVietnam has had incredible success in lifting a significant proportion of its population out of poverty. In fact, the poverty rate has plummeted from 58% in 1992 to approximately 5% in 2020. Vietnam even reached the Millennium Development Goal of reducing its poverty rate by 50% a full decade before the target date established by the United Nations. This widespread alleviation of suffering is the result of a systematic overhaul of government and economic structures, a program known as Doi Moi or “open door.” Even with all this progress, there is still room for new programs to continue the fight against poverty in Vietnam. One such program involves the use of cellphones and targets vulnerable ethnic minority populations, with the aim of reducing rural poverty in Vietnam.

Rural Poverty in Vietnam

Sprinkled along the rolling, verdant rice paddies of Vietnam are communities of rural families. These rural areas are concentrated with the remaining households that struggle in poverty. Ethnic minorities in these communities are particularly at risk of poverty. In fact, 57% of ethnic minorities in high mountain rural communities are impoverished.

However, one can still note visible progress in these communities. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Phan An, a local resident, recalls reading by oil lamp and bathing in flooded rice fields as a child. He and his family lived in Danang in a single room with no electricity or water. By his 20s, An had a computer, washing machine, flat-screen TV and refrigerator.

Cellphones, in particular, have been on the rise in rural communities. In the 1990s, Vietnam had “one telephone per 544 people.” A 2018/19 report shows that 89% of the population in rural Vietnam have a cellphone, and of this percentage, 68% own a smartphone. The popularity of this technology could be a key tool in tackling rural poverty in Vietnam.

A New Technological Solution

As part of the continuing work to end poverty in the country, Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) and the Cao Bang Provincial People Committee worked together with the World Bank to implement a new technology that specifically targets these vulnerable populations. In January 2019, the partners piloted the technology in specific provinces of the country where 90% of the population are ethnic minorities.

The new technology is an electronic payment program for social assistance benefits. Before the pilot program, Vietnam made assistance payments through an onerous cash system. The dispersal of the cash would occur on only two days of the month. This meant that those looking to collect their benefits would have to wait until the next month to receive their payment if they happened to be unavailable or otherwise ran into an emergency that kept them from getting to the local government office.

Not only was this ineffective for beneficiaries, but also for local officials. The process required that the relevant department make a payment list, call communal officials to collect the money and only then would the officials disseminate the cash directly to recipients.

The Benefits of the Program

The new program allows individuals to receive electronic payments directly to their cellphones. Local payment officials assist beneficiaries in setting up an electronic payment account. From then on, social assistance payments are deposited directly into the account and the beneficiary receives a notification on their cellphone that payment has taken place. From there, the beneficiary can either go to payment agents in their commune to make cash withdrawals from the account or the beneficiary can pay electricity, internet and phone bills directly from their phone. Beneficiaries can also transfer money to family members.

This pilot program eases the workload of government administrators. It also facilitates a quicker, more secure and much more convenient transfer of essential benefits to more than 3,000 citizens, most of whom are ethnic minorities. As a lack of financial capital is a key driver of continued rural poverty in Vietnam, getting benefits to those most vulnerable in these communities could be a catapult to even more dazzling success in reducing poverty in Vietnam.

– Grace Ramsey
Photo: Unsplash

E-commerce Brings Opportunities to Rural CommunitiesRural commercialization continues to grow in Latin America as communities increasingly turn to e-commerce to conduct business and make purchases. In 2020, retail e-commerce sales rose by 63.3% in Latin America. The COVID-19 pandemic is a driving factor in the growing popularity of e-commerce in the region as digital platforms to purchase and sell negate the need for physical contact. According to a study by Karine Haji, e-commerce brings opportunities to rural communities to improve their quality of life. E-commerce has the potential to engage rural communities and provide the opportunity for those communities to participate in the consumer market unlike ever before.

Rural Opportunities with E-commerce

Consumer market demand is increasing in rural regions and with that comes increased financial inclusion and access to products not typically seen in the region. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, rural markets are expanding at a faster rate than urban markets in many countries. Rural communities typically have a short supply of retail stores, products and e-commerce that offer the opportunity to fill this gap. Not only can rural areas access more consumer goods due to e-commerce but they are also able to avoid the difficulties of traveling to urban centers to purchase goods. E-commerce brings opportunities to rural communities by alleviating the burden of transportation and ultimately saves money. The expansiveness of e-commerce allows rural sellers to make sales on a more broad and dynamic scale rather than limiting their reach to customers in their immediate vicinity.

Social Commerce Provides Inclusivity for Rural Communities

Social commerce is a trend occurring in the e-commerce realm that connects suppliers with local communities. The concept of social commerce is based on the market model and uses existing social platforms. Originating in Colombia and launched in 2018, Elenas is Latin America’s first social commerce marketplace and has increased services to communities all over the region. Many sellers on Elenas are housewives or students and large portions of Elenas sales come from rural communities. Furthermore, the research team behind Elenas has found that the impact of the company directly affects social and economic conditions for women. In 2021, Elenas launched in Mexico and became a popular employment opportunity for unemployed women in the country. E-commerce brings opportunities to rural communities, especially women and students who seek economic opportunities and employment.

E-Commerce Brings Opportunities to Rural Communities in Brazil

Brazil is embracing e-commerce as an inclusive and sustainable economic alternative to traditional consumer markets with the goal of alleviating poverty and improving the quality of life for its people. Brazil is a leader in e-commerce in Latin America and seeks to expand its interests. According to the 2021 eEbit Webshoppers report, Brazil’s e-commerce activity rose by 31% in the first six months of 2021. The Brazilian government supplied pandemic relief funds to citizens through digital wallets, providing access to online stores. Brazil has also taken steps to bridge the digital divide by implementing national broadband plans. Increased internet access offers inclusivity and access to consumer markets typically out of reach to rural communities.

E-commerce Inclusive Opportunities for Rural Communities

As rural communities continue to engage with e-commerce, they begin to emerge in the global supply chain, ultimately generating wealth for the community and by the community. E-commerce brings opportunities to rural communities as well as a sense of ownership and economic engagement, ultimately giving power to marginalized communities. Additionally, it nourishes job creation and industry development. E-commerce also generates the funds that a community needs to improve infrastructure and increase broadband connection. Several countries in Latin America embrace the benefits of e-commerce as a proven inclusive and sustainable economic opportunity for marginalized communities.

– Jennifer Hendricks
Photo: Flickr

Poverty reduction in Peru
Peru, a small country of 32 million located on the western coast of South America, has made significant reductions in poverty in the 21st century. Over the last 20 years, Peru’s GDP quadrupled and its poverty rate decreased by nearly 30% by 2019. Peru’s rapidly growing economy, combined with substantial social welfare programs, resulted in a drastic increase in quality of life for poor and middle-class Peruvians. But notably, these gains largely concentrate in urban areas. While the Peruvian economy was not exempt from a COVID-19 induced recession, expectations have determined that it could rebound in 2021. Here is a review of how things stand in regard to eliminating poverty in Peru.

Eliminating Poverty in Peru

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peru experienced 14 consecutive years of poverty reduction. Its economy ranks as one of the 21st century’s fastest-growing economies due to the high demand for its natural resource exports of copper, petroleum and zinc. While Peru’s middle class enjoys substantial growth due to its booming economy, inequality persists, especially in rural areas. A web of social welfare programs has been integral to Peru’s successful war on poverty as well as increased access to education and financial institutions. Previous administrations successfully balanced growth and poverty reduction in Peru, but more work is necessary.

Rural Poverty in Peru

Despite Peru’s strong growth and successful anti-poverty initiatives, much of the rural population still suffer material deprivation. In 2014, Peru’s rural poverty rate was nearly 50% with an estimated 15% of rural children suffering from chronic malnutrition.

Past administrations created several initiatives to expand welfare access in rural areas. However, Peru’s diverse geography and mountainous rural terrain make them difficult to implement. Rural Peruvians experience limited access to social programs and high transaction and transportation costs. Additionally, they enjoy far less economic opportunity or connection to growing markets than their urban peers.

Rural poverty concentrates most widely among the indigenous population, who often live in geographically isolated areas. Exacerbating the urban-rural cleavage are conflicts between the government and indigenous rights groups over mining and energy projects in the Andes. This conflict highlights the friction between extractive policies that constitute the base of Peru’s growing economy and the lived experience of rural Andeans who bear the cost of these industrial initiatives.

Peru’s New President

Pedro Castillo of the socialist Free Peru party won the June 2021 election. His election marked a paradigm shift in Peru’s political landscape. The former teacher and son of rural peasants, Castillo won a close election against Keiko Fujimori, daughter of Peruvian dictator Albert Fujimori who ruled the country from 1990 to 2000. Fujimori claimed that election fraud was responsible for Castillo’s victory, but the Peruvian election authorities ultimately dismissed her claims. Representing his rural constituency, Castillo declared that “Votes from the highest mountain and farthest corner of the country are worth the same as votes from San Isidro and Miraflores” in response to the baseless claims of election fraud.

Castillo promises to aggressively fight poverty and increase the state’s role in the economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Castillo’s posture as an anti-establishment populist will make his economic revolution difficult in the face of elite opposition. However, Peru’s difficult year increased the appetite for radical reforms to the neoliberal economy. Peru has experienced the highest deaths per capita of any country in the world and has seen its poverty rate increase due to the 2020 recession. Castillo’s five-year term will be a new chapter for a country that has not seen a truly left-wing president in a generation.

Snowballing Success in Eliminating Poverty in Peru

Peru has made impressive gains against poverty in recent decades. However, a multitude of factors has prevented these gains from undergoing equal distribution among urban and rural Peruvians. COVID-19’s impact led to the election of a socialist president who has pledged to take aggressive steps toward poverty reduction, especially in rural areas. While Peru’s poverty rate is less than half of what it was two decades ago, there is still a long road ahead to ameliorate the material deprivation that nearly 7 million Peruvians experience.

– Will Pease
Photo: Flickr

Rural-urban migrationWhen thinking of rural-urban migration, experts tend to focus on the positive aspects for migrants. New economic opportunities, access to public services and greater social tolerance define the experience of newly-urban migrants in the conversation around rural-urban migration. When discussing flaws, the conversation gravitates toward the slum conditions and informal labor in large developing-world cities. However, the developing world’s rapid amount of rural to urban migration leaves many villages with less human capital and resources. What does this rural-urban migration mean for the rural developing world?

Urban Transition

Rural-urban migration has swept the developing world since the late 20th century. This transformation, known as “urban transition,” brings the economies of countries from rural-driven to urban-driven. Seeing this trend, many countries have supported larger development projects in urban areas, looking to get ahead of the curb. While an admirable strategy, it leaves out the rural populations who tend to be more isolated. This creates a vicious cycle, where people move where the government invests, and the government invests where people move.

This lack of investment creates a problem for rural areas. Unable to increase productivity and suffering from a lack of investment, impoverished rural areas are stuck in a loop, using the same basic techniques for subsistence farming utilized in the 20th century. Rural families have many children, hoping some will move to the city to send back money and some will work on their local subsistence farm. By sending the educated children to the city, families create a gap in living standards, with those with opportunity leaving while those without stay behind.

Migration in Trade for Remittances

However, this rural-urban migration also brings benefits to the rural areas. Many families send their young adult children into the cities, investing in their future in the city. Remittances, money sent back by those moving to urban areas, keep rural finances diverse and pay for many essential services for rural people. Without this income source, rural families would be completely dependent on the whims of nature, with no sense of security that a separate income gives. Studies show that these remittances increase life expectancy and happiness, two factors increased with security.

How to Help Rural Areas

One of the rural areas’ biggest difficulties is low productivity which hinders economic growth. Many Africans living in rural areas are subsistence farmers, meeting their own food needs but creating little surplus which drives economic growth. For this reason, young people commonly move to higher productivity urban areas. To prime rural areas for development, scholars have identified several factors which developing-world governments should attack. For instance, poor rural infrastructure, illiteracy and low social interaction all hinder rural growth, which drives rural-urban migration.

By attacking these problems, governments can increase rural development, attack poverty at its heart and protect rural communities in the long run. Severe “brain drain,” where educated people move to more productive areas, especially impacts rural communities. Lowering populations will lead to less monetary and representative allotments, decreasing the voice of rural residents. Additionally, men make up the majority of rural-urban migrants, leaving women in a vulnerable position both in caring for children and running subsistence farms.

Rural development projects which take into account community leaders at all levels of planning and execution can greatly increase their effectiveness. Improving the governance of these projects, especially reducing corruption, is essential in assuring rural development. The integration of system-wide rural development projects serves as an opportunity to increase rural development. Currently, thousands of NGOs operate rurally around Africa, with many separate governmental programs overlapping. By increasing cooperation, systematic development of rural areas can occur rather than a patchwork of unrelated development projects.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

child poverty in PeruLife in Peru is rich in indigenous culture and beautiful landmarks such as Machu Picchu, Cusco and the Amazon jungle. Livelihoods in Peru take different forms as people from the countryside live in more traditional means, partly because of their Quechua origins and the location in which they reside. In the working world of Peru, children often work beside adults. However, the prevalence of child labor means that child poverty in Peru is also prevalent.

Rural Children in Peru

The significantly mountainous geography of Peru affects how citizens travel and exert energy to accomplish daily tasks. The land in Peru creates a large gap between urban and rural lifestyles. For a person who lives in rural land, it is normal for whole families to provide for each other because it is the most efficient means for survival.

Everyone plays a part, including the children, who have obligations to the rural Peruvian household. Project Peru states that approximately “28.6% of children between the ages of 6-17 already receive wages or are paid in kind.” Fulfilling duties to support the household is not uncommon. Earning an income while trying to balance schooling is a norm for many Peruvian children. Yet, prioritizing income over education only serves to exacerbate child poverty in Peru since education is a proven tool for breaking cycles of poverty.

Children Providing for the Household

Roughly 90% of Peruvian children work in informal job sectors. These jobs are often unregulated, putting children at risk of exploitation and dangerous working conditions. Some of these children work more than 45 hours per week — more than an average adult’s work schedule in the United States. The informal sectors contribute to 73% of the economy’s labor.

In the same instance, child labor usage significantly benefits unregulated, informal businesses, and as such, employers consider children to be assets. Hence, child poverty in Peru is commonly present because informal sectors take advantage of underprivileged rural children, often underpaying, overworking and exploiting these children.

An April 2008 study by Alan Sanchez shows that almost one in every two Peruvians lives in poverty. Meanwhile, 60% of Peruvian children live in poverty. Urban children do not experience the same hardships because they often do not need to provide extensive income for the household through child labor. For children from the countryside, however, life is vastly different.

The prevalence of child labor links to high rates of poverty and minimal opportunities for well-paying, secure employment that can provide enough monetary support for the whole household. In addition, a lack of social support from the government means families struggle to meet their basic needs without the economic assistance of their children.

The United States Intervenes

In response to the high rates of child poverty in Peru, in July 2012, the U.S. donated $13 million to Peru to reduce the usage of child labor. The donation helped make educational resources more available for rural children. The pilot program created by Peru had plans to support rural families to increase their income without relying on the employment of a child in the household. The director of the project, Maro Guerrero, said Peru is not against children working. However, children’s work should not interfere with their education and well-being. The pilot program was expected to yield positive results, however, there is little data available on the official achievements of the program.

“Free of Child Labor” Certification

In 2019, the government of Peru partnered with an NGO “to create a new label to certify family businesses” as “free of child labor.” This effort serves to help eradicate child labor in Peru. In 2019, roughly “1,500 small producers” were “preparing to be evaluated and due to obtain certification by 2020.” María Gloria Barreiro, director of the Development and Self-Management NGO, states that “It’s not about children not helping at home, it’s about drawing that line that divides help at home, training and learning activities and what constitutes a danger.”

The Peruvian government hopes that these child labor-free certified products will sell at a higher price, as with organic goods, improving the income of impoverished Peruvians. Barreiro emphasizes that to truly eradicate child labor, the certification must exist alongside social initiatives “to improve the economic situation of small producers and ensure their children have access to education.”

With efforts from governments and organizations that aim to reduce child poverty in Peru, hope is on the horizon for the impoverished children of Peru.

– Trever Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture Cooperatives in Impoverished CommunitiesFor the estimated three-quarters of the global impoverished residing in rural environments, agriculture is the primary source of income. Any aspirations of poverty eradication are existentially dependent on the development of these communities. Cooperatives are associations of people who come together to achieve common economic, social and cultural goals. The long-standing tradition of agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities, where small farms pool resources, is a potential component of an efficient policy to offset the ravages of endemic poverty in agrarian economies.

A Moment in the Sun

Designated by three branches of the United Nations, 2012 was the International Year of Cooperatives. One of its primary ambitions was to highlight the financial disadvantages of small farms and the potential for inter-community economic unions to fight poverty. Agricultural cooperatives, having an impact that “cannot be overstated,” figured heavily into U.N. recommendations and initiatives. Creating 20% more employment opportunities than multinational ventures, agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities provide a long-term potential for sustainable job creation, which is paramount to poverty eradication.

Harvesting Prosperitya 2020 World Bank report, concluded that funding agricultural productivity is twice as effective at reducing extreme poverty as alternative methods. Crucially, the exhaustive report details the belief that industrial farms are the gold standard of high-yield agriculture. Contrarily, current research on “the inverse relationship hypothesis” questions the correlation between scale and productivity. Because impoverished rural communities are overwhelmingly populated with small-scale subsistence farms, one cannot overstate the essentiality of agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities.

Being unique entities based on democratic principles, each cooperative has distinct requirements that defy a universal approach. The economic complexities of members serving as both suppliers and owners create multifaceted organizations with financial and social obligations, as opposed to a corporate performance that is based solely on finance and profitability. The dualistic nature of cooperatives as inherently business and community actors gives these organizations a great deal of leverage to impact the well-being of their communities.

Portuguese Traditions in the Age of Globalism

Over the long history of wine-making cooperatives in Portugal, these unions have consistently allowed members to garner higher prices and greater market share while simultaneously improving value chains and decreasing transaction expenses. Additionally, Portugal has garnered attention as cooperative bylaws are enshrined in the constitution, making them integral to the national economy.

With 39,506 vineyards in the Douro wine-growing region alone, the long-term economic future of an essential component of Portuguese national character requires the implementation of structural reform. Cooperatives represent 46% of regional production in Douro and Port. With most farms under one hectare, individual producers must combine resources to vinify grapes. But, after several failed governmental attempts at modernization in response to globalism, agricultural cooperatives have been stymied by encroaching foreign markets.

Upon Portugal’s entry into the EU in 1986, a direct-to-consumer model that sustained wine cooperatives became untenable as cheap imports via larger wine-producing nations like France and Italy brought competition. Furthermore, environmental and geographic factors prevented Portuguese vineyards from countering increasing imports through higher production. Often inefficient bureaucracies, a slow transition, accompanied by foreign investment allowed Quintas — independent for-profit producers — to flourish. Many Portuguese wine agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities did not survive the opening salvos of globalism.

Think Local, Act Global

The culling of slow-responding cooperatives has forced researchers and policymakers to develop a framework for adaptability. Several organizations, native and foreign, contribute to shaping and communicating the strategies for agriculture cooperatives in impoverished communities.

  • CASES: As previously noted, cooperatives must satisfy social obligations in addition to economic concerns. At Cooperativa Antonio Sergio para a Economia Social (CASES), an NGO focusing on the interrelatedness of finance and society, an alliance of Portuguese Creditors finances various cooperatives throughout the economy. A €12.5 million endeavor, Social Investe enabled several wine cooperatives to fund various projects and improvements.
  • PDR2020: The active involvement of governmental agencies is crucial to structural reform. Wine industry infrastructure is notoriously expensive and beyond the resources of independent producers. A federal initiative, Programa de Desenvolvimento Rural de Portugal (PDR 2020), funds agricultural purchases that are particularly crucial for Portuguese vineyards. These grants, amounting to €37.5 million in 2020 alone, also help farmers adapt to increasingly frequent climatic abnormalities that disrupt production.
  • Fenadegas: In order to affect the regulatory environment, wine cooperatives actively lobby for policy reform. Difficult at the individual level, Adegas Cooperativas de Portugal (ACP) is a coalition of 41 members and represents a unified agenda for addressing distinct exigencies of the industry. Additionally, the organization provides a global marketing platform, helping one cooperative survive the COVID-19 pandemic by increasing exports by 18% in 2020.
  • SALSA: The dual requirements of integrating with the local economy and tailoring production while simultaneously developing global strategies present major challenges. With the intergovernmental organization Small Farms, Small Food Businesses and Sustainable Food Security (SALSA), Alentejo regional farmers created the “Km0 Evora” label that certifies local provenance within 50km. Efficient value chains are a traditional strength of cooperatives, but pressures of globalism have disrupted local economies, making community initiatives and branding more relevant. Mimicking Km0’s success, several European agricultural cooperatives have introduced similar measures.
  • Adega de Borba: Maximization of member profit and temporary gain often leave cooperatives under-invested. Despite initial struggles, Adega Cooperativa de Borba (ACB), which began in 1955, successfully transitioned to the global marketplace and produces 15 million bottles annually. A €12 million-member investment to build a state-of-the-art production facility has allowed 300 small farmers to compete internationally by diversifying product offerings.

Restoring Profitability to Agriculture

As rural communities face increasing pressure from foreign influence, these already-disenfranchised populations will struggle to have others hear them amid the cacophony of global interests. Portuguese winemakers, that the rapidly-changing economy overwhelmed, suffered immense emigration as farming no longer provided sufficient income. Restoring profitability to agriculture is a powerful mechanism by which endemic poverty can disappear. Organizations at numerous levels will be instrumental in this effort, but progress must begin with collaboration in agrarian rural communities.

– Kit Krajeski
Photo: Flickr

Rural Chinese PovertyThe World Bank has approved a $200 million loan to support the Chinese province of Hunan in expanding access to public services for rural residents. About 30 million people in Hunan live in rural areas and the loan will deliver equitable and efficient public services to this demographic in an attempt to alleviate rural Chinese poverty.

Rural Inequity in China

China has experienced remarkable economic growth in the past four decades and with it an undeniable drop in extreme poverty. However, the distribution of this poverty alleviation has largely benefitted urban residents over the rural population. More than 500 million of China’s residents live in rural areas and their remote locations in such a massive country have made reducing poverty particularly difficult. Rural Chinese people do not have access to big-city poverty reduction resources like quality education, healthcare and high-paying jobs. It is also harder for the government’s poverty alleviation programs to track down farmers scattered across the vast rural Chinese landscape.

Furthermore, local governments often bear a disproportionate responsibility for trillions of dollars in loans to pay for poverty alleviation programs and this debt hinders rural provinces’ abilities to complete internal improvement projects. Unfinished road construction projects force rural farmers to carry their produce across miles of difficult terrain to reach the nearest major road. Besides obstructing rural commerce, broken roads prevent people from being able to reach quality schools and well-paying jobs. Healthcare and treatment for COVID-19 are also highly inaccessible due to the crumbling infrastructure that keeps China’s rural people in a cycle of poverty.

How New Funding Helps

Hunan’s $200 million loan from the World Bank will serve as a template for other provinces and will help alleviate rural Chinese poverty in a few key ways. First, it will provide funding for rural public schools which often suffer from a lack of resources and staff. It will also increase financing for rural road maintenance and enhance the climate resilience of roads so that storms and flooding do not decimate residents’ main avenues of travel. Road improvement projects have an enormous impact on Hunan farmers as a recently completed 63km road project provided for more convenient transport, opened farmers to broader markets, and in effect, increased Hunan residents’ incomes by about 30%.

Also included in the loan are measures designed to strengthen local debt management, which will allow more of Hunan’s budget to go toward improving living conditions rather than repaying debts. Lastly, the loan will make budget information more accessible to citizens, which should decrease the amount of fraud and fund mismanagement experienced. In the past five years, China has reported more than 60,000 cases of corruption and misconduct in its poverty alleviation programs. In 2018 alone, the government recouped about $112 million of misappropriated poverty spending. With information like this available to the public rather than buried in private documents, Hunan expects a reduction in poverty-related fraud and embezzlement.

Poverty in Numbers

The World Bank loan will certainly create positive changes in the Hunan province but impoverished rural citizens overall still need much more support. The impact of rural Chinese poverty often gets understated as basic statistics do not tell the whole story. While the number of Chinese citizens in extreme poverty living on less than $1.90 a day has decreased by almost 750 million, a quarter of China’s population still lives on less than $5.50 a day. The World Bank sets $5.50 per day as the poverty threshold for upper-middle-income countries like China, so by this measure, a large number of Chinese people still live in poverty, most of whom are likely rural people.

The Road Ahead

The rural residents in Hunan and elsewhere in China have not shared the triumphs of national poverty eradication. In order to effectively assist impoverished rural citizens, China and the international aid community can draw wisdom from the strategy for the allocation of the World Bank’s new loan.

Spending on higher-quality rural education will increase the standard of living and offer rural residents a better opportunity for socio-economic growth. Completing road construction projects and making roads climate resilient will provide rural citizens increased commerce and more convenient access to education, healthcare and job resources. Strengthening local debt management will ease the strain of provincial loan repayment and allow greater spending on internal improvements. Finally, making budget information transparent and accessible for citizens will decrease cases of fund mismanagement and ensure poverty reduction programs are properly using expenditure to alleviate rural Chinese poverty.

Calvin Nordhougen
Photo: Flickr

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

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

E-Commerce in China

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

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

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

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

Eliminating Poverty in China

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

E-Commerce During COVID-19

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

Looking Forward

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

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

– Brooklyn Quallen
Photo: Flickr

Agroecology in ColombiaPoverty levels in Colombia have decreased by almost 15% between 2008 and 2018, yet significant inequality persists as poverty continues to disproportionately affect rural communities. In 2019, 36.1% of the Colombian rural population lived in poverty and 15% lived in extreme poverty, double the rate of poverty in urban areas. Effects of rural poverty in Colombia are greater among Afro-descendant people, indigenous groups, women and those with disabilities. The transition to agroecology in Colombia will positively impact farmers, especially rural farmers. It has the potential to mitigate environmental risks, protect farmers’ health, strengthen food security and preserve the ecosystem, reducing poverty overall.

Colombia’s Agricultural Industry

Over the past 60 years, the Colombian agricultural industry has greatly contributed to the growth of the economy, providing 16.45% of the country’s jobs. Colombia has the highest use of fertilizer and the second-highest use of pesticides in Latin America. Colombia spends 35% of total food cost production on agrochemicals with pesticide use nearly quadrupling since 1990. Agrochemicals affect the health of people and the health of the land. Integrating sustainable agroecology in Colombia presents an opportunity to protect people’s health and the ecosystem while minimizing environmental risks.

Health Risks of Agrochemicals

Agrochemicals can have adverse effects on the human neurological, immunological, respiratory and reproductive systems. The risks of exposure can result in long-lasting, chronic health outcomes for farmworkers and can especially affect pregnant women, children and older family members. In 2017, reports determined the existence of 8,423 pesticide-associated poisoning cases and 150 pesticide-associated fatalities in Colombia. Ruben Salas, a toxicologist at the University of Cartegena, predicts that chronic diseases in connection to pesticide exposure are frequently undiagnosed and underreported.

Despite the evident adverse health and ecological effects of agrochemicals, not all embrace the adoption of agroecology in Colombia. A study investigating factors that contribute to Colombian Campesinos’ use of pesticides found that pesticide users do not believe pesticides are detrimental to human health nor the environment.

Fighting Environmental Challenges

Reports determined that pesticide use causes damaging environmental events, leading to agricultural depletion and socioeconomic conflicts. According to risk analysis, predictions have determined that changing weather in Colombia will affect food security by 34.6% and human habitat by 26.2%. As the majority of Colombian’s in rural regions are already facing water shortages and land instability, an urgent need exists for sustainable solutions.

Sustainable Development Initiatives

To protect human health and the environment, efforts to implement agroecology in Colombia have proficiently provided alternatives to substitute traditional agricultural methods. The Food and Land Use Coalition, Yara International and Ecoflora are examples of groups that have developed effective strategies to diminish agrochemical use and promote sustainable agricultural practices.

The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) working group prioritizes the development of sustainable and capable agricultural applications. In collaboration with the government, biotechnology companies and research institutions, FOLU is working toward certifying farms in Good Agricultural Practices, developing bio-inputs, bio-protection and agroecology throughout farming communities.

Yara International is a fertilizer company that assists farmers to promote sustainable crop practices. Yara agronomists collaborate with local crop nutrition experts to provide an individualized solution for farmers. Through engagement, market research, trials and meeting, Yara ensures farmers experience sustained success.

Ecoflora is a biocontrol company that creates natural color technologies while focusing on sustainable and ethical practices. In Colombia, Ecoflora has developed alliances with communities of African descent, indigenous people and those in rural regions. Ecoflora encourages the use of natural resources and sustainable practices within these communities to preserve the environment and ensure equitable social benefits.

Going Forward

The marginalized communities of rural Colombia are more vulnerable to the consequences of agrochemical use. An increase in farmer’s understanding of agrochemical impacts, education on effective and sustainable agricultural management and novel technology training would promote the uptake of agroecology in Colombia. The government should continue supporting the integration of agroecological practices to protect the health and well-being of historically neglected communities. Furthermore, agroecology promotes sustainable food security, addressing food shortages, hunger and poverty overall.

Violet Chazkel
Photo: Flickr

Cancer and Poverty in AustraliaThe nation of Australia suffers from the highest rates of cancer in the world, but, the disease takes a significant toll on the disadvantaged and rural residents in particular. Impoverished and disadvantaged Australians are 60% more likely to die from cancer due to a lack of finances for a timely diagnosis and proper treatment. The connection between cancer and poverty in Australia can be clearly seen.

The Link Between Cancer and Poverty

The cost of treatment is only one part of the problem. The importance of prevention cannot be overstated and because of a disadvantaged situation, many poor Australians are more likely to smoke cigarettes, be overweight and not get screened for cancers. This leads to more impoverished residents developing a range of cancers that reach later stages before they are diagnosed.

While the country has a decent healthcare system, the connection between cancer and poverty in Australia is significant. Poor citizens are more likely to develop cancer and are the least financially prepared for it. One out of every three Australian cancer patients has to pay out-of-pocket for treatment ranging from a few hundred dollars up to $50,000 AUD. Patients that have private health insurance rather than public medicare often pay far more out-of-pocket, sometimes double, in addition to their regular insurance payments.

Rural Residents in Remote Areas

Residents of Australia’s rural areas often face the worst financial obstacles as they must incur travel expenses and be far from home for extended periods. In 2008, only 6% of oncologists practiced in rural areas, leaving a third of Australians that live in remote regions without immediate access to decent treatment. There were 9,000 more cancer deaths in rural areas than in urban areas over a decade, a 7% higher death rate compared to city residents.

Due to the extensive travel time, many cancer patients from remote regions are forced to quit their jobs increasing the financial burden of treatment. Those that can keep their jobs, often force themselves to continue to work despite their illness and during treatments in order to pay the bills. In many instances, cancer patients must take loans from friends or family. creating further financial obligations.

Indigenous Australians

In addition to rural residents, indigenous citizens also disproportionately die from cancer compared to other residents. Indigenous Australians have a 45% higher death rate from cancer compared to non-indigenous patients. Cancer is extremely underreported by indigenous people in remote or rural areas resulting in a lack of proper data for the government to act on.

Addressing the Link Between Cancer and Poverty

To reduce the mortality rates of cancer patients, the government must address the correlation between cancer and poverty in Australia. As of 2017, only 1.3% of Australia’s health budget is allocated for cancer prevention, screening and treatment. The country must invest in prevention as well as rapid-access cancer aid for both patients and caretakers.

The Clinical Oncology Society of Australia and Cancer Council Australia are working to improve cancer treatment in rural areas of Australia. Solutions to diminish the connection between cancer and poverty in Australia include new methods of diagnosis and treatment. Telehealth and shared care, in which the patient’s primary physician works with an oncologist to limit travel for treatment, help cut down on costs for struggling patients.

Cancer organizations in Australia have worked with the government to set up the regional cancer center (RCC) initiative across the country to make cancer care more accessible for residents living in rural areas. Since 2010, 26 regional cancer centers have opened to help patients living in remote locations.

Prioritizing the Health of Rural Residents

For the mortality rates of impoverished or rural cancer patients to lessen, the government must invest in prevention as well as access for rural residents. Above all, for Australia to successfully provide aid for cancer patients there must be accurate data collection on cancer and poverty in Australia to properly allocate funds for all demographics.

— Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr