Countries With Child Labor 
There are an estimated 218 million children as young as 5-years-old employed and exploited around the world. Countries with child labor often force and coerce children to work for free and many cases go undocumented due to child homelessness in impoverished areas. The International Labor Organization defines child labor as work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity, and harms them physically and mentally.

Where Child Labor is Most Prevalent

Some of the worst cases of widespread child labor are Africa and Southern and Western Asia. A huge factor in child labor is poverty. These areas often poorly develop their educational systems and many children who work do not enroll in school at all.

In Nigeria, over 15 million children under the age of 14 are child laborers. Girls often start earlier than boys in domestic help positions, but both work in agriculture, fishing, mining and construction. Often, child labor is essential to the income of the households these children live in. Children work in similar positions in India where 33 million children ages 5 and older work manufacturing jobs.

This is not the worst form of child labor, however. In Somalia, people often force children into the armed forces. In 2018, military forces —both state and non-state—recruited 1,800 children. People also force many girls into sexual servitude and multiple clan militias in other countries use child soldiers. Afghanistan has been using children in war since the 1980s and with the continuing violence, there have been reports of 3,179 cases of children suffering killing or maiming because of conflict violence.

The Harm it Causes

Child labor, forced or voluntarily, exponentially stunts a child’s growth. Childhood is an important part of development, and putting children in dangerous and mentally-straining environments causes emotional damage and even kills some children. Countries with child labor put children to work in places where they are in danger of suffocation, drowning, amputation or even heavy equipment crushing them. Child labor is responsible for 2.78 million deaths and 374 million illnesses. Children who work at young ages often do not have the resources or opportunities as an adult to work; this leads to generational poverty.

Who is Helping

Action Against Child Exploitation (ACE) is an NGO that focuses on ending child labor. Founded in 1987, its project areas are Japan, India and Ghana. It has saved over 1,000 children from child labor, as well as supported education for 13,000 children. It works to stop child labor in cotton and cocoa production since 70 percent of child workers are in agriculture.

The Global March Against Child Labor is an organization of trade unions, teachers and civil societies that work to eliminate all forms of child labor and slavery and provide and ensure education. The movement started out as an 80,000 KM cross-country march against child labor in 1998. Today, the organization works toward the development of countries, education children, elimination of sex-trafficking and research on laws and policies in countries with child labor.

What People Can Do

Despite years of work against child labor, it is still a problem in many countries. Due to the lack of educational facilities, economic failure and extreme poverty, there is not a simple fix to the problem. What people can do is conduct research, raise awareness and reach out to their Congress members. There have been laws to protect children from others forcing them into work or military, but people are still doing little to enforce those laws. It will take many more years of effort, economic growth and child labor reformation to eradicate the continuing issue of child labor.

– Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

Rural Poverty in Burundi

Two civil wars and genocides in the 1970s and 1990s destroyed Burundi’s economy and increased poverty from 33 percent in 1993 to 67 percent in 2000. Burundi’s poverty rate remains at 65 percent today. At $700 in 2017, its GDP per capita is the lowest in the world. The agricultural industry, which makes up about 80 percent of the workforce, weakened during the civil wars. The most affected people are those in rural areas, where about 1.77 million are food insecure. The Burundi government, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and NGOs are working together to address rural poverty in Burundi. The goal of these efforts is to bring the economy back to its pre-war state.

IFAD’s Programs

IFAD — which has worked in the country since 1980 — has funded nine projects in Burundi totaling $141 million. Rural and agricultural development, as well as food security, are two main areas the IFAD focuses on. Almost 500,000 households directly benefit from these projects. Many of the initiatives began around 2009, several years after Burundi’s economic reconstruction gained traction.

Value Chain Development Program

The Value Chain Development Program began in 2010 and ends in 2019. The program benefits more than 77,000 households and costs $73 million. The main focus areas include reduced poverty and increased food security through agricultural value chain development and increased income for rural farmers. To date, 5,761 people have been trained on value chain development, seed multiplication and better animal husbandry techniques. Also, more than 6,400 acres of anti-erosion ditches have been dug.

Agricultural Intensification and Value-enhancing Support Project

Another program that addressed rural poverty in Burundi is the Agricultural Intensification and Value-Enhancing Support Project. This program began in 2009 and ends in 2019. It has helped more than 30,000 households in six provinces in the north and east of the capital city, Bujumbura.

After 450,000 refugees returned after political instability and violence lessened, the need for jobs increased. Rapid population growth, small land allotments and soil degradation made it difficult to sustain an income for rural farmers. Some of the results of the project include constructing 1,210 modern sheds for livestock, building 32 miles of roads to rehabilitated marshlands, providing more than 1,290 goats to poor households, planting more than 6 million trees and constructing 11,567 acres of anti-erosion ditches. The project also reduced the number of households living in extreme poverty by 7 percent and direct beneficiaries have enjoyed a 64 percent increase in income.

Vision 2025

Although rural poverty in Burundi is still a major issue, the government created Vision 2025 to set goals on addressing its high poverty rate. The government’s objectives are to reduce the poverty rate to 33 percent by 2025 and increase its GDP per capita. While the country’s dependence on agriculture and its heavy reliance on financial assistance pose threats to sustainable growth, with the help of the IFAD, NGOs and other organizations, Burundi could reach the goal of cutting its poverty rate in half by 2025.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

helping farmers in povertyAbout 78 percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and rely heavily on agriculture. They had to turn to farm, livestock, aquaculture and other agricultural methods to place food on their plate. For millions, agriculture is the starting point to get out of poverty. But, out of the 78 percent of people who rely on agriculture, only a mere 4 percent receives official development assistance. And, for those who do manage to get out of poverty, they will face a competing market for organic goods.

Farmers Struggle to Meet the Rising Rates of Consumption

With the rising rates of consumption to an ever-growing world, farmers are struggling. In order to meet the increasing demand and multiply production, farms have to increase the efficiency and productivity of the existing farmland. WWOOF shares in the same philosophy and helps farmers in poverty by providing workers to those existing farms.

Since 1971, WWOOF has been connecting sustainable farmers and growers with visitors through an exchange of education and culture for a hands-on experience to help create food and other agricultural products—a key part of how WWOOF is helping farmers in poverty. The visitor picks the country they would like to be working in and WWOOF connects them to an available farm that will provide them with room and board. The guests can stay in the country while learning about its culture.

Working on the Farms with WWOOF

As for working on the farm, visitors normally stay from two to three weeks but farms are open to shorter or longer stays. Usually, they work from four to six hours a day and have afternoons and evenings free. Currently, WWOOF has farms in 95 countries all around the world. The organization proposes that the search for authenticity and local food, such as items from a farm shop, has the potential to enhance the visitor experience by connecting consumers to the region and its perceived culture and heritage.

Organic Farming

WWOOF focuses on organic farming, an agricultural method that involves not using pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. It helps by reducing the level of pollution and human and animal health hazards by reducing the number of residues in the product. Organic farming keeps agricultural production at a higher level. But, it is more labor intensive. Although organic farmers love the independence and the hard day-to-day work, most find themselves overloaded. Organic systems require 15 percent more labor but the increase of labor may range from seven percent to 75 percent. The WWOOF program offers a satisfying experience to the visitors whilst addressing the additional labor burden on the farming family.

The WWOOF program realized that organic farming has a vital role in helping farmers in poverty. As the years pass, organic farms will earn a higher income than those of the conventional farms due to the increasing awareness of pesticides and the ability to charge higher premiums. Not only that, organic farms have the potential to improve local food and nutritional security because of diversified production and resistance to weather variables. Because of the diversified production, organic farmers live a healthier lifestyle when using their own crops for food. The organization gives a small part that makes a big difference for those organic farms.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Ecological Approach to Diminish Poverty in ChinaUnder the leadership of President Xi Jinping, many successful efforts have been made in recent years to diminish poverty in China, such as taking an ecological approach. One such effort is the approach of creating jobs for impoverished citizens through the implementation of land protection programs. Poverty in China and environmental sustainability issues are being treated simultaneously. As designated by the Chinese government, impoverished people are those earning approximately $1.10 per day. Comparatively, the International Poverty line, established by the World Bank in 2015, rests at earning $1.90 per day.

This ecological approach to reduce poverty in China resulted in a decline since 1978 by more than 800 million people who were previously living below the national poverty threshold. In the year 2018, President Xi Jinping and his administration enabled 13.86 million people to rise out of poverty. In 1990, China rose from a 0.502 human development index value of 0.752 in 2017.

Rural Poverty in China

For Chinese citizens living in rural and remote areas, poverty mitigation has become much slower. Currently, 16.6 million rural citizens continue to live in poverty.

President Xi Jinping and his administration are combining the impending issues of rural poverty with another pressing matter, environmental decline. The Chinese government was among the first to incorporate the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals in a national action plan. One of the United Nations’ goals is to completely eradicate poverty by 2030.

Grasslands Protection as a Solution for Poverty

A significant part of China’s sustainable development plans is the protection and development of grasslands within the nation. Grasslands comprise 63 percent of China’s green vegetation but 70 percent of these areas are moderate to severely degraded. The decline of Chinese grasslands is attributed to erosion by both wind and water as well as the changing environmental conditions. Additional damage is done by the uncontrolled grazing of livestock. The deteriorating grasslands largely overlap with impoverished rural communities within the same region of western China.

In Qumalai, a county in China’s western Qinghai province, the grazing of cattle and sheep, which constitute the region’s largest industry, is being constrained as a side effect of grassland protection efforts. In response, the Qinghai Forestry and Grassland Bureau has assisted in creating jobs in the form of grassland guardians for approximately 49,000 registered impoverished people within Qumalai. Each member of this workforce has the potential to earn around $260 per month. A more permanent solution with a larger potential comes in the form of establishing a Chinese herb plantation in Qumalai’s Maduro township.

In 2005, the restoration of grasslands in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region improved grass coverage to 100 percent, which enables the survival of animals on lands designated for grazing. For locals in the region, subsequent animal products added the addition of 300 yuan to the average annual income per person. The region is additionally able to replenish the local economy with more than four million yuan annually through the harvest of dried hay.

Since 2016, China has been working with its 13th Five-Year Plan to address poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability. Present efforts focus heavily on the impoverished rural fraction of Chinese citizens. Between 2018 and 2020, about 31 billion dollars are set to be used for remedying poverty in China.

– Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

Education Development in Tajikistan

Education development in Tajikistan has increased in recent years through the assistance of UNICEF, the European Training Foundation (ETF) and other organizations. The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Tajikistan (MoES) introduced key reforms, such as the National Strategy on Education Development 2020, to improve its lacking education system. The reasoning behind efforts in education development in Tajikistan is to attain useful skills so that citizens may gain employment and a steady income. As a result, the declining but high poverty rate of 31.5 percent in Tajikistan can be reduced.

Education in Regions of Rural Poverty

The European Training Foundation found that 600,000 Tajikistanis are labor workers that work in Russia. About 57 percent of these workers are unskilled, poorly paid and work in hazardous conditions.

Since 73 percent of the country lives in rural areas, the main focus of the ETF, UN agencies and nonprofit organizations are regions such as Khatlon and Soghd. Over 70 percent of the poor live in the Khatlon and Soghd Regions. Both regions are emphasized to reduce poverty in Tajikistan and improve the quality of education.

The government’s goal is to double its GDP and reduce poverty in Tajikistan to 20 percent by 2020. To achieve this, the European Union and the ETF have identified three priorities: Health and vocational education, training and rural development.

These priorities have a total cost of around $275 million. The ETF is providing support in the following areas: contributing to international donor cooperation active in professional training, providing thematic expertise to support EU projects, articulating policy dialogue methods and practices and involving key national stakeholders in initiatives.

The World Bank’s Progress

The World Bank financed the $16 million Fourth Global Partnership for Education Fund Grant. The grant was created to improve Tajikistan’s preschool and general education. Additionally, it was meant to strengthen the system’s ability to withstand continued reforms in the education sector.

Marsha Olive, World Bank Country Manager, signed the act in 2013 and said, “This comprehensive project aims to ensure that the children of Tajikistan, especially the most marginalized including girls, ethnic minorities, rural children, and children with disabilities, are afforded the opportunity to achieve their education goals for future development and success.” The fund built off of the success of previous projects that began in 2006 from the Global Partnership for Education Fund.

The grant ended in 2017. It resulted in 18,978 students benefiting from infrastructure improvements against a target of 7,900 students. The grant also trained 5,395 primary teachers. Furthermore, it provided supplementary books to all schools. About 160,000 primary students are enrolled in schools with upgraded learning conditions, against a target of 100,000.

Looking to The Future

With the help of organizations such as the World Bank, UNICEF and other nonprofit organizations, education development in Tajikistan will continue to progress. Consequently, the poverty rate will decline. Although the government’s goal to reduce poverty in Tajikistan is slow, progress is being made through coordinated efforts. Progress in the education sector shows that positive change is occurring in the country.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Rural Poverty in ChinaSince the 1980s, China has experienced rapid economic growth and increased average income, a far cry from rural poverty. After opening up to international trade and foreign direct investment, the East Asian nation has grown to become one of the world’s largest economic superpowers with a nominal gross domestic product of $12.01 trillion, second only to the United States.

Though China’s rapid development has benefited its citizens who live in highly industrialized urban centers along the eastern coast, it has simultaneously left many rural and agricultural communities behind. These rural communities have little food, limited access to clean water and insufficient means to dig themselves out of poverty. However, rural poverty in China is something that the Chinese government is actively working to combat.

Hannah Adkins, a university student who recently studied abroad in China, commented on the poverty disparity between its rural and urban communities. “Though ecotourism, for example, is a growing industry in China due to the country’s natural beauty and expansive landscape, rural communities have a difficult time jumping on those opportunities. They simply do not have enough expendable money to put toward money-making industries like ecotourism, meaning that they must receive help from the government or NGOs. Otherwise, these poor rural people will be stuck in cyclical rural poverty,” Adkins told The Borgen Project.

When most people think of China, they undoubtedly think of the nation’s rise to economic prowess and its many industrial centers. However, China is an enormous country geographically, consisting of 3.7 million square miles of land area. Many, though, are unaware of its impoverished rural people who live in its expansive central and western provinces. Here are 10 facts about rural poverty in China.

10 Facts About Rural Poverty in China

  1. China’s rural population makes up roughly 42 percent of the nation’s total population, meaning more than 580 million Chinese citizens live in rural areas.
  2. According to the CIA World Factbook, approximately 3.3 percent of China’s population lives below the poverty line.
  3. Based on a report by the Wall Street Journal, upward of 90 to 99 percent of China’s impoverished population either lives in or comes from rural areas, such as the nation’s mountainous villages and arid landscapes.
  4. Only 63.7 percent of China’s rural population has regular access to improved sanitation facilities, compared to 86.6 percent of its urban population. This is just one example of the rural-urban disparity that results in rural poverty in China.
  5. The combined income of households in China’s eastern coastal regions, where a large majority of the country’s urban centers are located, is more than 2.5 times that of inland regions’ households. This disparity is another contributing factor to the issue of rural poverty in China.
  6. In an effort to improve its rural and long-distance infrastructure, China introduced a 2014 plan called the Pledged Supplementary Lending program. The program works with the Agricultural Development Bank of China “to better support rural infrastructure and development projects in funding to improve residents’ living conditions in rural areas.”
  7. Much of China’s rural population relies on agriculture as a source of sustenance, as well as income. However, approximately 40 percent of land in China has fallen victim to land degradation in the form of salinization, desertification or soil erosion. This makes it so that farmers and landowners do not have nearly as much access to fertile and farmable land, thus contributing to the rural poverty in China.
  8. On top of China’s land degradation, the country has about 19 percent polluted land. As a result, the contamination of food and water has become increasingly common due to the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as other pollutants.
  9. The International Fund for Agricultural Development’s projections estimate more than 12 million rural Chinese citizens will move to urban centers annually over the course of the next 10 years. Though this continued urbanization will decrease the amount of crop production in agricultural communities, it will also place poor families in urban centers with more job opportunities and more sufficient living conditions, thus potentially aiding the issue of rural poverty in China.
  10. Though rural poverty in China is still a problematic issue, the Chinese government has put forth a plan to eliminate all poverty in China by 2020. President Xi Jinping’s 13th Five-Year Plan aims to identify, register and assist every impoverished Chinese citizen, especially those in rural areas, in order to guide them out of poverty and lower the overall poverty rate. This is just one of the ways by which China plans to decrease its poverty issue in the coming years.

While rural poverty in China is a paramount issue, there are movements to make improvements. China’s Pledged Supplementary Lending program and President Xi Jinping’s 13th Five-Year Plan will be sure to improve rural living conditions and help Chinese people in need.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Urban and Rural Poverty in Egypt

While the North African nation of Egypt has experienced substantial economic growth in recent years, it still grapples with the issue of poverty. With an overall poverty rate of approximately 28 percent, Egypt still struggles with more than a quarter of its population living in poverty. However, like many other developing countries, there is a poverty divide in Egypt between rural and urban people that is highly problematic for the nation. Specifically, reports completed by the World Bank indicate that the highest share of the nation’s poor population lives in upper rural Egypt. The inequality and poverty divide in Egypt between wealthier urban families and poorer rural families are issues that the North African nation must look to correct if its goal is a more stable and evenly-distributed domestic economy.

Urban vs. Rural Poverty in Egypt

There are some explanations for the poverty divide in Egypt. Like many other countries, those living in rural communities tend to rely more heavily on industries such as agriculture and livestock as a means for sustenance. Agriculture accounts for approximately 27 percent of the total Egyptian workforce and 55 percent of employment opportunities in rural upper Egypt are related to agriculture. This means that as Egypt continues to modernize its economy in its urban centers, those in more rural, agriculturally-focused regions such as upper Egypt and the Nile River valley will inherently be forced to find more reliable and modern sources of employment in urban centers. Agriculture constitutes too small a percentage of Egypt’s economy (11.7 percent of the total GDP as of 2017) for the government to significantly invest in such an industry and, as a continuously urbanizing nation, it seems as though this trend will continue. There are simply more opportunities for employment and financial prosperity in bustling urban centers like Cairo than in secluded rural villages throughout poorer regions.

However, several factors may be quietly contributing to the poverty divide in Egypt, one of which involves the illiteracy rate. As of 2017, of Egyptians aged 15 years and older, about 28 percent of that population is still illiterate. Many of these illiterate people live in rural areas where education is much less accessible. In fact, a 2017 report by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) found that the rural illiteracy rate in Egypt stands at about 32 percent, while the urban illiteracy rate is approximately 17.7 percent.

Hannah Adkins, a university student who visits family in Egypt, commented on the issue of illiteracy in Egypt. “Illiteracy is definitely higher in rural areas because they simply have more limited access to schools and teachers,” Adkins told The Borgen Project. “Urban areas have a large concentration of wealth so that people with more privilege can afford to send their kids to private or international schools.”

According to statistics reported by the Education Policy and Data Center, 25.5 percent of rural Egyptian children do not receive secondary education, compared to 14.5 percent of Egyptian children in urban areas. The lack of wealth distribution between rural and urban areas has led to a steep poverty divide in Egypt. As a result, many Egyptians find themselves stuck in a cyclical process of poverty and illiteracy with little opportunity to emerge.

Though the poverty divide in Egypt has been accentuated by many factors like illiteracy, there are still groups and organizations focused on resolving such issues. In fact, Egyptian agencies like CAPMAS have set goals to eradicate the poverty rate by half by 2020 and fully by 2030. CAPMAS plans to do so by implementing different programs aimed at benefiting poorer families, especially in rural areas and villages throughout Egypt. In fact, a 2015 program called Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity in English) in an effort to provide poor families and elderly Egyptians with income support, education and healthcare assistance. This program was launched with the support of a $400 million World Bank program. Egypt’s government has made it clear that eradicating its crippling poverty divide is a top priority, and as long as the nation can keep up with its plans in the coming years, impoverished Egyptians will hopefully be able to dig themselves out of their desperate situations.

– Ethan Marcetti
Photo: Flickr

 

transportation impacts poverty
Transportation impacts global poverty in ways that are both obvious and subtle. If the job market is centered in an urban area and potential workers live in a distant, rural area, their immediate survival depends on access to transportation. On a larger scale, the ability for a developing country to transcend poverty and become productive and prosperous depends a great deal on the transportation systems that are implemented with the help of foreign aid. This article analyzes five ways transportation impacts global poverty.

Five Ways Transportation Impacts Global Poverty

  1. Rural isolation arguably deserves its own list of ways transportation impacts global poverty because it has so many consequences that perpetuate continued destitution. For example, farmers in isolated rural environments often fail to reach their economic potential because they cannot easily access marketplaces that offer seeds, fertilizers and other tools for agricultural success.
  2. Other casualties of rural isolation are the elderly or otherwise infirm. Healthcare services are usually in centralized urban locations. Even if the poor and sick or even the old, pregnant or injured can afford the costs associated with health services, they are often unable to get to where the providers are if they live in rural communities. World Bank has helped to address this in developing regions of India, Georgia and Vietnam by subsidizing travel costs and making health professionals available in more remote areas.
  3. Investing in basic infrastructure is often one of the most significant ways in which transportation impacts global poverty. The building of roads, trails and bridges creates greater accessibility even for those who can only travel on foot. Jobs are created to facilitate these developments, and there are often new modes of public transportation implemented to make use of newly created roads or railroad tracks. This helps to minimize the travel time between rural and urban regions. Bill Gates asserts that while domestic resources can and should be utilized for infrastructure investment, global aid is a critical component as well. An investment in a developing country ultimately benefits the entire world, including the wealthiest nations.
  4. It stands to reason that the more easily a population can access educational facilities, the more educated that population is likely to be. People living more than an hour’s walk from the main road in Papua New Guinea were shown to be experiencing twice as much poverty as those living closer to the road. Building new roads and providing greater access to transportation resulted in an increase in education enrollment and literacy as well as an overall decrease in poverty.
  5. A theory known as “spatial mismatch” describes a phenomenon in which those who can easily pay for transportation, whether by automobile or public means, move away from congested urban regions. This creates a problem for the poor because the market often follows the wealthy as do the jobs. In developing countries, this is especially problematic since it feeds a cycle of poverty in which cheap housing options are only available in areas where there are few amenities, poor transportation options and limited jobs.

Writer Wilfred Owen asserts, “Continuing global prosperity is contingent on the very large volume of trade with developing countries and on the foreign investment opportunities they provide.” This will not be feasible without a short-term investment in the infrastructure and transportation systems of those developing countries. While the governments of the developing nations play a vital role in upgrading transportation options in their countries, foreign aid must also play a part. As this article shows, transportation impacts global poverty; therefore, it is not a simple matter of charity but rather a wise investment in our global future.

Raquel Ramos
Photo: Flickr

China
Poverty in China today primarily refers to the rural poor, as the country’s economic growth over the past few decades has led to the majority of urban poverty being eradicated. But while local Chinese governments have implemented many programs and policies in an effort to aid China’s poorest regions, there is still one major factor that researchers say China is forgetting about: language. In a lot of ways, language and its variations affect poverty in China.

Language Statistics in China

Geography plays a huge role in analyzing the relationship between spoken Chinese languages and poverty. China’s last national census reported that the nation has more than 1.38 billion inhabitants, many of whom are located in the urban areas of Eastern China. Studies of China’s urbanization trends also reveal a migration of the nation’s various ethnic groups. The main language of the most urbanized cities is determined by the ethnic group that populates that area the most. With 91.51 percent of the Chinese population being Han Chinese, standardized Mandarin is the most commonly spoken language across the nation.

The remaining 8.41 percent of the Chinese population is made up of 55 other ethnic groups. This part of the population, though a minority in terms of the general population makeup, accounts for the majority of those who are located in rural Chinese areas. The Chinese central government has identified 14 of these rural provinces as areas of concentrated poverty. These areas have their own distinct languages and cultures, speaking one of 200 dialects from five main dialectical groups, out of which Mandarin Chinese is only one. Furthermore, around 30 percent of these ethnic minorities are illiterate and unable to speak Mandarin, the main language in the country. As such, many of these ethnic minorities remain isolated from provincial opportunities that may help them rise out of poverty.

Government’s Work

There has been an increase in attention from regional and local Chinese governments in terms of addressing the education gap between urban and rural communities. One expert, Zhu Weiqun, even states that the Chinese government needs to do more to teach these ethnic groups standardized Mandarin, as this has been a primary influencer in the development and urbanization of cities like Beijing. This type of education will provide these ethnic minorities with the lasting ability to access other jobs apart from farming, that will enable them to earn enough money to feed and clothe themselves without such a strong dependency on governmental programs.

Challenges

Understandably, there is also the problem of resistance from certain ethnic minority groups, particularly Muslims, who feel that their language is integral to their cultural identity. As such, the government is tasked with encouraging the standardization of its most commonly spoken dialect in a way that does not simultaneously alienate any one ethnic group. This cycle of promotion and rejection is integral to the way that language continues to affect poverty in China.

– Jordan Washington

Photo: Unsplash

Communities in Africa, Bridge building
Poverty rates are historically higher in rural, more isolated areas, with an estimated 78 percent of the world’s poor living in the countryside. Africa is no exception. In fact, the majority of Africa’s population is rural, but infrastructural development continues to be slow. This is why building bridges in rural Africa is a much-needed, important step in reducing poverty.

Creating Safer, More Connected Communities

Despite the recent achievement of near-universal mobile phone coverage, Africa’s rural poor are still physically isolated, with many places lacking roads and footbridges, the latter of which is especially critical in servicing marginalized communities. A single pedestrian footbridge empowers a whole community; previously impassable rivers are transformed, providing villagers access to more opportunities.

Bridges in rural Africa prevent drowning, eliminate crocodile and hippo attacks, connect neighboring villages to each other, allow children to reach schools safely and greatly increase access to medical centers. In a walking world, one bridge can provide up to 72,800 secure crossings per year.

Leonard Wantchekon, a professor of politics and an associated member of the economics faculty at Princeton University, emphasizes the value of bridges in rural Africa. His maternal village, Dovi, was formerly one of the most affluent communities in the region, but the loss of the village’s bridge resulted in poverty. Wantchekon wrote, “Today, Dovi is the poorest village in the region despite the fact that the land is still highly fertile. […] the bridge that linked Dovi to neighboring villages across the Oueme River had collapsed in 1992 and the market completely disappeared soon after.” The loss of the bridge led to a loss in commerce, devastating this once thriving village.

Two Organizations Helping Build Bridges

Fortunately, there are organizations whose sole mission is to mobilize rural sectors with bridges. Bridging the Gap Africa (BtGA) is an organization that assists communities in Kenya with bridge-building. BtGA involves community participation with local volunteers, collaborating with them in every phase of the building project. These phases include gathering sand and rock for the bridge footings and raising a portion of the construction costs. BtGA provides technical expertise and financial assistance throughout the process. Once the footbridge is complete, BtGA celebrates the community’s achievement with an opening ceremony wherein the bridge is officially commissioned and owned by the village.

Bridges to Prosperity is a global project that has built more than 250 footbridges worldwide. Although it is based in the United States, the organization has active programs in countries all around the world, including Rwanda and Uganda. Their outreach includes building demonstration bridges, training locals, partnering with local technological institutes and supplying recycled wire rope.

Bridges Are Improving Communities

The work done by organizations like those mentioned above has left palpable ripples. Angelique, a thirteen-year-old resident in the Shagasha community of Rwanda, states that having a safely installed bridge nearby has transformed her commute to school, and thereby her learning performance. “I used to be 30th in my class. I had repeated bad performance because I missed school. Now I’m 6th in my class – my marks have improved.” Being able to attend school regularly, thanks to the bridge built in the community, has allowed many children to improve in their studies since they have been able to safely get to their classes. 

The bridges are also helping with commerce. “Before the bridge, it would take me one hour to get to the market, and when it rained, I would have to turn back because the river was too dangerous to cross. Now it only takes me 3 minutes whether it’s raining or not,” said Dativa, a businesswoman in Gaseke, Rwanda. By alleviating the burden of walking through dangerous flooded water, Dativa has been able to dedicate more time to the success of her shop.

Bridges in rural Africa are directly correlated to a community’s economic and educational gains. They, along with other infrastructural improvements in rural sectors, are essential in alleviating poverty and achieving long-term prosperity in Africa.

Yumi Wilson
Photo: Flick