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


The Kingdom of Morocco lies in the northwestern corner of Africa. A desire for the country to become less energy-dependent and more dedicated to the preservation of the environment brought on rapid progress in renewable energy. Drawing attention from energy and environmental communities alike, Morocco has an ambitious goal to reach 42 percent renewable energy by 2020. Making use of its most abundant natural resource, the sun, has greatly helped the country stay on track to meet this goal. The success of solar power in Morocco allowed the country to reach 35 percent renewable energy as of July 2019.

The Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power Complex

Sitting near the southeastern Moroccan city of Ouarzazate is a solar energy complex. The Noor-Ouarzazate Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) Complex is a massive, more than 6,000-acre facility (roughly the size of San Francisco) that produces enough energy to power the country’s capital Marrakesh twice over. Additionally, the solar plant brings a new level of ingenuity to solar power in Morocco. A traditional solar plant faces the problem of supplying consistent power when the sun is not out. Batteries that temporarily store power are expensive and the environmental impacts are questionable.

In contrast, the Noor CSP Complex can supply constant power 24/7 to the 2 million people who draw power from it. Rather than using photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity, the plant utilizes two million sun-tracking mirrors that reflect light to a receiver at the top of the 800-foot tower in the center of them all. The receiver has a mix of liquid salts that superheats and stays hot for 7.5 hours, which is important since energy usage spikes in the evening after the sun sets. The stored heat then superheats water tanks that create steam and turn turbines to generate electricity. The energy then flows out to the public, much like any other electricity but furthers energy independence of the country.

What Does This Mean for Poverty?

People have long thought of adequate access to electricity as one of the fundamental aspects of development. The World Bank goes as far as to say that electricity is “at the heart of development.” In Morocco, much of the population has access to electricity due to the affordability of its energy sector. The recent drive to invest in renewable energy caused the price of electricity to drop significantly. Additionally, renewable energy assures Morocco’s rural population that their source of energy is affordable. According to Mohammed Jamil al-Ramahi, the CEO of Masdar (the company that received the contract for the Noor CSP Complex), “It is now cheaper to build renewable energy power plants than those based on fossil fuels.”

Not only is renewable energy cheaper by itself, but since Morocco started investing in domestic power generation, it can bring electricity to its citizens without worrying about the price of importing oil, coal and electricity from other countries. This also allows for greater energy security and gives Morocco a better stance on the international stage. In addition, the devotion to renewable energy and solar power in Morocco has shown the world that it is dedicated to the U.N.’s seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Morocco is not only helping its poorest people and paving the way for greater rural development, but it is also doing so in a remarkably sustainable way that is largely unprecedented on an international scale.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Technological Access in Bhutan

A mountainous landlocked kingdom of 766,000 people, Bhutan has been traditionally been isolated and disconnected from the outside world for a number of centuries, with previous rulers keeping the nation as a “hermit kingdom” prior to the legalization of television and Internet in 1999. Bhutan‘s economy relies heavily on its agriculture and forestry alongside the budding hydroelectricity industry, which has proven difficult due to the mountainous terrain of the country. The country’s main trade partners are India and Bangladesh, with no known relationship with the U.S. or other major U.N. members. The legalization of the Internet in 1999, as well as investments in technological advancement in the mountainous country, is a turning point for the kingdom as the developing technological access in Bhutan is expected to bring the country to the modern era.

Internet Development

Since the Internet’s introduction in 1999, Bhutan quickly was able to quickly build its telecommunication infrastructure and have much of the country connected. Cell phone services began in 2003, with 80 percent of the population owning a cell phone as of 2018, which includes 70 percent of the population that consists of farmers, making Bhutan one of the most connected countries in the world. This jump from the days of being isolated from the world allows the people of Bhutan to communicate both within and outside of the country’s borders.

Telecommunications

The continued developing technological access in Bhutan has also seen growth through Bhutan’s own investment into its communication networks. Bhutan‘s internal ICT development includes:

  • implementing protection lines for consumer purchases
  • building stations for mobile carriers and broadcasters and expanding upon broadband connections for wireless connections and private access for citizens
  • investing in cybersecurity and strengthening the overall connection quality

The investments in the internal network lines have allowed Bhutan to quickly connect the nation at a rapid pace. However, challenges remain in terms of developing the rural areas of the country within its mountainous terrain. That said, the government is actively looking at ways to change the status quo.

The National Rehabilitation Program (NRB) and the Common Minimum Program are two examples of initiatives focused on building new facilities and roads as well as easier access to electricity and supplies. Mountain Hazelnuts, a company headquartered in Eastern Bhutan has also made major tech investments for its farms, increasing employment and supplying smartphones for hired farmers that help with directions on the road and improve communication.

Henry Elliott
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