Innovation Capabilities
Innovation is essential for countries to develop, but there are countless barriers to innovation capabilities. Innovation capabilities are the parts of a production process that people cannot buy but are critical to supporting and driving innovation. Companies must learn and develop these elements. These elements include basic organizational skills, human resource management, planning routines and logistical abilities.

The Importance of Innovation

Without innovation, companies cannot evolve and be sustainable. This, in turn, impacts the progress of whole countries. A lack of innovation leads to people being unable to leverage their resources.

According to the World Bank, many developing countries suffer from low innovation. Low innovation includes the following:

  1. Weaker managerial and technological capabilities and the lack of ability to cultivate them.
  2. Weaker government capabilities.
  3. A general lack of physical, human and knowledge capital.
As a result, developing countries often have a difficult time progressing through innovation. In 1900, many now developed countries were in a similar state to developing countries today. These developed countries were able to capitalize on their innovation capabilities and successfully manage new technologies. This is what developing countries must now do to progress.

Innovative Examples

There are several examples of how developed countries have capitalized on innovation, compared to those still developing:

  1. Brazil was able to upgrade technologically after a slump in its iron industry.
  2. Japan took its textile technologies and modified them for the needs of different locales. It also diversified into machinery, chemicals, cables, metals and banking. This enabled Japan to establish its first leading manufacturing industry.
  3. The United States leveraged its copper resources. It pushed the frontiers of metallurgy and chemistry through a combination of high-level human capital and a network of universities and laboratories.

Developing countries, however, have had trouble reaching the same goals. While Norway was able to leverage its oil and gas deposits with its high-tech sector, Nigeria was not. Spain and Chile were unable to successfully identify and adopt new advances in mining and metallurgy for their copper industries. This eventually leads to these country’s selling out to foreign interests who could.

Production Capabilities: Management and Government

Two subsets of capabilities directly impact innovation including production and technology. Production includes management and government, while technology includes incentives and the environment.

Management focuses on the organization and maintenance of a company. Developing countries tend to have weaker managerial capabilities than developed countries. In these developing countries, managers tend to not have as much education. This greatly impacts their capabilities to properly identify and understand high-return on potential projects, take responsibility for long-term planning and implement new talent.

Limited competition can prop up inefficient companies. A lack of government support, however, makes it difficult for more efficient companies to effectively incentivize their workforce and upgrade their technologies.

A country’s productivity can illustrate an example of the effects of different management practices. There is a 25 percent difference in productivity between developing countries and those in the United States.

Governments organize and support how effectively companies run. In developing countries, governments generally do not have enough human resources or they are unable to efficiently organize policies. The organization, design and implementation of these policies help to rectify market or systemic failures and promote innovation.

These capabilities are the rationale and designing of a policy, efficacy of implementation, comprehensibility for the National Innovation System (NIS) and consistency. Most developing countries, however, are unable to meet these requirements.

Technology and Innovation: Organization and Environment

Governments and management often work to organize companies. It is the organization of the company itself, however, that allows it to implement and expand new technologies. Companies must incentivize workers so they can receive the tasks that make them the most productive. This also empowers workers to brainstorm new ideas and improvements for products or systems.

This type of organization creates an innovation-friendly environment for the company. These incentives show positive influences on creativity and innovation in workers and the company as a whole.

An example of innovation at work is the Aquafresh company in Ghana. It dealt with fierce competition from Asia, eventually discovering that the best way to confront this competition was not to address it at all. Aquafresh started as a clothing company but later reinvented itself, turning to soft drinks. This was possible due to its innovation-friendly environment and organization. This environment eased the transition and sustained them through the change.

Solutions for the Barriers to Innovation Capabilities

Adopting better managerial and organizational practices can push companies to innovate in products, processes and quality. This can also inspire companies to create innovative projects, which can lead to new products and technologies.

Access to human, knowledge and technological capabilities increases a developing country’s innovation potential. This renders foreign aid less important as the countries learn to become self-sustainable.

Companies in developing countries need help with overcoming the barriers to innovation capabilities. If the National Innovation System could focus on supporting companies with better capabilities, investing in higher-level human capital and management and the development of capable governments, a larger innovation system could come into fruition for developing countries. This, in turn, would benefit the entire world.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Education in SpainThe Spanish education system does not match up to the standards of the rest of Europe or other developed nations. However, the government is doing its best to put measures in place aimed at improving these standards. Below are eight facts about education in Spain:

8 Facts About Education in Spain

  1. The current system of education in Spain, also known as the Ley Orgánica de Educación (LOE), or the Fundamental Law of Education, means that education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. This system also typically requires parents to pay for books and other materials such as uniforms.
  2. It is estimated that as of 2016, 98.3 percent of the population in Spain is literate. This is largely attributable to the 10 years of compulsory education.
  3. The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport generally oversees education in Spain. However, each of the 17 autonomous regions in the country can make most of the decisions regarding their systems.
  4. Schools are categorized in three ways, there are state schools that are fully funded by the state, privately-run schools which are funded partly by the state and partly by private investors and purely private schools. A majority of Spanish students, 68 percent to be exact, attend state schools. This compares to only 6 percent of students who attend purely private schools.
  5. There are four levels of education in Spain. The first is a nursery or preschool, which is optional. Next comes six years of primary, which is the first stage of compulsory education, followed by compulsory secondary education for four years. Finally, there is an optional level of upper secondary education. At the primary level, the average number of students per class is around 25. While in secondary, the average number of students per class is around 30.
  6. A 2019 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Spain experiences more class time than both the European Union and OECD averages. The difference is more pronounced in high school, where Spain’s class time per year is 1,045 hours. This compares to the EU average of 893 hours, while the OECD average consists of 910 hours. This doesn’t seem to have any positive outcome, considering Spanish students perform worse on average than other students regarding the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test. PISA experts believe the problem lies in the teaching methods, as Spanish students tend to memorize information instead of trying to find their own solution to problems.
  7. From pre-primary to secondary education, the enrollment rate was above 90 percent at each level in 2017. However, for tertiary education, the enrollment rate falls to 88.85 percent during the same period. Again, this is attributable to the fact that tertiary education is neither compulsory nor free. Interestingly, more girls than boys enrolled at each stage of education. This includes a marked difference at the tertiary level where the enrolment rate for females is 97 percent compared to 81 percent for males.  However, Spain also faces the greatest number of school dropouts in the EU.
  8. The government expenditure on education has steadily declined since 2009, including spending of 4.87 percent of the GDP on education, compared to 4.21 percent in 2016. This puts makes Spain on the tail-end of European countries when it comes to governmental education spending

While there are positives surrounding education in Spain, the situation requires additional efforts. With increased investment by the government and improved policies, schools will be able to afford more resources, hire more teachers and reduce the ratio of students to teachers. In doing so, students can receive more personalized attention and a better academic experience. Further, this will improve the quality of education and possibly reduce the time spent by students in the class. Finally, these enhancements will likely decrease the unemployment rate and greatly improve the quality of life in Spain.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

African Immigration to Spain
While Eastern and Central Europe have been dealing with the brunt of the refugee crisis—thanks to conflicts in Syria and the rest of the Middle East—Western Europe is far from unaffected. However, a large number of immigrants in Spain originate from West Africa, and they come to Spain for a variety of different reasons; both as refugees, and in search of economic opportunity unavailable to them in their home countries. This article takes a look at the causes of African immigration to Spain, as well as the living conditions immigrants experience in their new host country.

Five Questions and Answers

1. Why are People from Western and Central Africa Leaving their Home Countries?

The short answer is a variety of reasons. While the overall volume of immigrants to Europe has dropped to pre-2015 levels, African immigration to Spain is still spurred by more than just garden-variety economic migration—though that certainly still plays a large role. The reasons for migration vary greatly by gender, with most men emigrating for economic reasons while most women are leaving due to threats of violence.

2. Why Spain?

Spain has a labor shortage and is more welcoming to migrants than other European countries. While geography is a major factor in emigration from Spain to Africa (the Strait of Gibraltar is slightly over seven nautical miles from the African mainland to Spain), Spain has—until very recently—been a notable exception to the anti-immigrant sentiment overtaking much of Europe. The current Spanish government is center-left, with over 80 percent of adult poll respondents saying that they would be in favor of taking in irregular refugees. New agricultural sectors in the south of Spain—mainly greenhouse farming—have also created an unskilled economy that few Spaniards find attractive, but looks promising to refugees.

3. How do Immigrants get There?

Refugees arrive in Spain either by the Spanish enclaves in Morocco or the dangerous crossings of the Mediterranean. The most immediate destination for African immigration to Spain is the enclave city of Ceuta, which is politically Spanish and geographically Moroccan but is governed more or less autonomously, like Catalonia or the Basque Country. Some also arrive via ship, in the infamously choppy Mediterranean. The first decision of Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s administration was to admit the Aquarius, a ship of more than 600 migrants, into Spain after Italy turned it away.

4. What Kind of Life is Waiting for Immigrants Once they Arrive?

“Nobody talks about what it’s really like.” Many of the African migrants in Spain live in the southern regions, doing seasonal agricultural work. This is especially true for the men who emigrated to Spain for economic reasons, trying to send money back home to their loved ones. Despite the supposed greater economic opportunity that comes from a Eurozone nation, many of the African migrants in Spain live in ramshackle chabolas, makeshift shacks comprised of wood and plastic leftover from agricultural scrap. In these settlements, more migrants have mobile phones than access to a toilet or kitchen.

5. Is Spain’s Generosity Towards Migrants Coming to an End?

The short answer is yes. The majority of African immigration to Spain comes through Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar, but the path of many migrants does not end there. Recently, Spain has come under fire from other European leaders for being the exception to an otherwise-ubiquitous tight border policy, which has put pressure on the Spanish government to somehow stem the tide. In response, Spain has outsourced its border security to Morocco, the country that processes most migrants to Spain. This has alarmed left-leaning political groups and human rights NGOs, who claim that Morocco’s human rights record is inadequate.

While Spain has upheld the Sanchez government’s initial promise of being more accepting of migrants, large-scale African immigration to Spain and pressure from other European leaders has prompted a tightening of the flow of migrants through Morocco and the Mediterranean. While the conditions African migrants find in Spain are far from luxurious, the work is good enough for them to continue to migrate. What Spain ultimately decides to do in regard to the influx of immigrants from Africa could either continue to serve as a lone exception to the rest of Europe or join the continent in its increasing anxiety over immigration.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in Spain
Spain is a simultaneous representative of both the success and the struggles of twenty-first
century Europe. The Spanish economy was hit particularly hard by the 2008 recession that sent shockwaves throughout global markets. As a result, Spain, along with Greece and Italy, has often been cited as an example of the straining of Eurozone economics. Though Spain remains firmly a developed country, the country’s struggle with poverty should not be overlooked. Here are nine important facts about poverty in Spain.

Nine Facts About Poverty in Spain

  1. Over one-quarter (26.6 percent) of the Spanish population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion as of 2017. These results do also show, however, that this number has fallen from a peak of 29.4 percent in 2014.
  2. Spain has the highest youth poverty rate (.221) in Western Europe. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization, Spain sits ahead of both its neighbors, Portugal and Italy, and is even ahead of its Mediterranean counterpart Greece.
  3. Nearly 40 percent of Spain’s youth labor force were unemployed in 2017. This number is compared to a 9.2 percent in the Euro Area.
  4. Poverty in Spain is concentrated in rural areas. A chart published by a Spanish statistical website compares the different regions of Spain based on their per capita GRP (gross regional product) or PIB in Spanish. In general, the more rural provinces, such as Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha and Andalucía, have a lower GRP than the Basque country, Madrid and Catalonia. The poorest households in Spain are those of young, inexperienced foreigners who live in southern Spain.
  5. The migrant crisis has put a strain on Spanish support systems. The New York Times reports that over 20,000 migrants have reached Spain by sea in 2018. This has put added pressure on the migrant support systems and increased the population of those in need of assistance.
  6. About 34.4 percent of Spanish households were unable to afford a week-long vacation in 2017 according to data compiled by the National Statistics Institute, a Spanish government agency. This is down, however, from 45.8 percent when the study began in 2013.
  7. Unemployed Spaniards are gaining employment via temporary or part-time jobs. Now that Spain’s economy is rebounding, many new jobs have been created and, although temporary, they may help ease the poverty of previously unemployed Spaniards.
  8. Spanish youths are the beneficiaries of the European Commission’s Youth Guarantee program. This program has the mission of ensuring that all of Europe’s young people have “a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship and traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.” This program, among others like it, hopes to reduce youth unemployment and a more employed workforce may mean a reduction in poverty.
  9. Spain is now recovering well from the 2008 recession. According to a 2017 article by the New York Times, the economy of Spain is growing roughly at three percent, is producing goods for export and “is restoring a sense of normalcy” to the country. With this growth, the unemployment rate is expected to decline as per the European Commission’s forecast for 2018.

In Spain, the reduction of poverty and economic recovery in the wake of the 2008 recession represent great strides for a long-troubled economy. These facts about poverty in Spain show that more people in the country are working, and there are more and more jobs being created. These strides must not be undervalued. However, continued efforts in Spain are needed to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for all.

– William Menchaca

Photo: Flickr

Growing Up in Exile: Who is Monique Macías?Who is Monique Macías? Currently an author, Monique Macías was one of the only foreign students at the prestigious Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea. Now out of exile and in her 40s, Monique Macías often depicts her unconventional upbringing as a black African adolescent in articles and memoirs.

Born in Equatorial Guinea in 1970, only two years after the country gained independence from Spain, her father, Francisco Macías Nguema, was the small country’s first elected president. As a new president, Macías sought to form relationships with leaders of other countries such as North Korean President Kim Il-sung.

Monique Macías stated that her father and Kim Il-sung became fast friends because they had “a lot in common”, pointing out that “both fought against colonial powers and both built their support base through nationalism.”

Regardless, Francisco Macías had a short term due to a series of illegal acts he implemented through the Equatorial Guinean government. In the late 1970s. Francisco Macías was overthrown as president of Equatorial Guinea and tried for numerous crimes including genocide, embezzlement and treason. Francisco Macías was executed by firing squad in the late 1970s.

Foreseeing his exile and later execution, Franciso Macías sent his three children to North Korea to live and receive an education. Monique Macías, along with her sister and brother, attended Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea, where they learned to shoot Kalashnikov rifles and participated in daily physical drills that involved running and climbing.

Formerly an all-boys school, the Mangyongdae Revolutionary School made a new class for Macías and her sister as an exception. The special treatment often led other students to ask: who is Monique Macías and why do she and her siblings deserve preferential treatment? Macías was not too young to recognize the special treatment that she and her siblings received in Pyongyang:

“[We] were the only Korean-speaking long-term foreign residents during that period. We lived a privileged lifestyle compared to other foreign students and the majority of North Korean people. Throughout those years Kim Il-sung stayed in regular contact with us…”

Macias lived in exile in Pyongyang for 15 years before relocating in 1994.

So, who is Monique Macías outside of exile? Still affected by the conditions in which she spent her formative years, Macías continues to author memoirs and articles about her incredibly unconventional childhood and discusses how living in Equatorial Guinea, North Korea, Spain and the United States informed her opinions of the North Korean regime.

“There are people in North Korea who know that this is not the right way to live,” she said in an interview with Reuters. “I don’t think it’s going to collapse easily.”

However, Monique Macías does not shy away from defending the country that took her in upon her father’s death and formed her childhood:

“I have found that Western media normally just focuses on nuclear issues, politics or human rights. Together, all this makes people think that North Korea is an evil country and that its people are simply robots….But having lived there, I am proof that all of these things are not always true.”

In the 2000s, Monique Macías published her memoir “I’m Monique, From Pyongyang” in Korean.

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Agriculture in AndalusiaIn Andalusia, one of the 17 autonomous regions in Spain, agriculture and food production drive the economy. According to 2016 report, 24.3 percent of the region’s population lives in rural areas. Desertification, the process by which once-fertile land becomes lifeless, is eating away at vital landscapes. The dehesa, a traditional Spanish amalgamation of agriculture, natural grasslands and shrubbery, is falling out of favor.

Cultivation of singular crops has been going on for decades. This monoculture leads to vast segments of exposed land actively depleting, risking fire and limiting natural resources. As viable lands shrink, urban drift intensifies. Smallhold farmers without knowledge or resources to promote sustainable agriculture in Andalusia move away in hopes of finding work in the city. For the many who met with failure, it is time for them to come home.

How to Make Smallholder Farming Profitable

Expanding sustainable agriculture in Andalusia will allow smallholder farmers struggling to grow their products in profitable ways an incentive to return to their holdings. Affordable, accessible ways to repair dead soil and improve access to water are increasingly available. Healthy soil acts as a sponge; to rebuild the soil is key to water stewardship.

Between the coasts and the olive groves, Andalusians traverse stretches of terrain on horseback. The land is harsh and unforgiving at times. Andalusian culture speaks to its past life as a Moorish outpost, as well as its Spanish ties. Olive trees and the famed jamón ibérico paint the landscape and provide important sources of revenue.

Today, sustainable agriculture in Andalusia is positioned not only to reclaim land lost to desertification, but also to create a vibrant agricultural economy that fights climate change and improves quality of life. Though the Spanish economy overall ranks at fourteenth in the world, this statistic masks the macroeconomic disparity of wealth among the autonomous regions.

Recent data reports that over 40 percent of the population in Andalusia lives in poverty. Abandoned holdings plus the failure of urban drift to create lasting jobs contribute to the spike in unemployment. However, the root and the solution to this problem can be found in the same place: the land.

Global Efforts

Desertification is a natural disaster occurring on a global scale. When the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification launched in 1994, the combined effort of member states to protect the welfare of populations living in drylands established this threat as a priority.

The resonating message from the last meeting is one of urgency. As desertification mushrooms across land, left in the wake of destruction are not only the environment, but also the livelihoods of the people who are sustained by it.

Rebuilding the Andalusian Farming Culture

Danyadara, a grassroots organization nestled in the foothills of the Sierra de Grazalema, is drawing from the region’s long history of human interaction with and reliance upon the land in order to provide a working example of sustainable agriculture. Cost-effective ways to improve soil and manage water are showcased on their property, where a formerly barren field grows into a thriving food forest.

For the many Andalusians that only know poverty, the current situation only reaffirms their way of life. But this passive acceptance may fade as sustainable agricultural investment blossoms.

Danyadara recognizes that Andalusia is positioned to be a leader in small-scale sustainable agriculture. Efforts of the small staff and volunteers are directed at not only regenerating their own land, but also sharing knowledge and resources with the community. Their methods are three pronged: bring back the soil, improve water stewardship and increase carbon sequestration. Detailed information on their projects can be found in both Spanish and English on their website.

Climate Farming

Sustainable agriculture in Andalusia, or climate farming as it is sometimes called, is a vehicle for job creation and investment. The historic dehesa-style of farming is a natural stepping-stone toward climate farming and sustainable agriculture. It encourages biodiversity, the replanting of grasslands and enables a no-till farming structure that is important in the fight against climate change.

“For us, the biggest game changer will be when we can share no-till seeding technology with our neighbors,” said Jacob Evans, Farm Manager at Danyadara. “Our host site, Suryalila Retreat Centre, enables a hyper-focus on soil health since the land is a gift. Once we show people that it is possible to seed without tilling, keeping the soil intact, the lessons and gifts from the older generation will come full-circle.”

– Andrea Blumenstein

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

  • Education in Spain

Education in Spain is a broad and extended topic. Although the federal form of government in the country resides in Madrid, and is lead by the prime minister Mariano Rajoy, the country is divided within 17 autonomous regions that have smaller forms of government within each one. This leads to some schools in Spain teaching Spanish in the particular dialect from each region, such as in Catalonia, the Basque country, Galicia and more.

The Spanish schooling system is divided within three categories: public schools, private schools and state-funded private schools. Regardless of public schools being completely funded by the state, thus free of charge for the students who attend such schools, class materials, books and sometimes uniforms still need to be paid with citizens’ own money.

Sunken within the 2008 economic crisis, the European country of Spain has just now started to recover its economy and generate interest, breaking the loop that has positioned the country at the second highest unemployment rate within the European Union, Greece taking the first place. The sector that has been most affected by the economic crisis of the past several years has been public education in Spain. This issue has been a notoriously increasing one since the economic crisis started, due to extreme budget cuts on the public schooling system within the European country.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy declared José Ignacio Wert as the minister for education in the year of 2011, and from then to 2015, when Wert was substituted by Iñigo Méndez de Vigo, education was greatly affected. From the year 2012 to 2013, public schools’ teaching systems declined when sharp cuts forced the government to leave up to 25,000 teachers unemployed. Public universities’ tuition fees increased by 66 percent, taking Spanish citizens out on the street to protest the dreadful management that increased the numbers of people who could not afford education for their families.

The main consequence regarding these issues has been the increase of school dropouts, which stood at an alarming rate of 25 percent in 2014, the highest school dropout rate in the European Union. However, there is good news. Even with high levels of poverty, education in Spain was ranked as having the 12th lowest inequality gap for students of all the countries in Europe.

Spanish residents fight for a better schooling system and education in Spain everyday. The lack of teachers, economic resources and the increase of students per class have lead to a series of educational strikes in order to make the Spanish government understand and respond to the gravity of the issue.

Paula Gibson

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in Spain

Spain is best described as the land of Picasso and Gaudí by art lovers and home to Real Madrid and Barcelona by football fans across the world. Spain is a great tourist destination, thanks to its unique culture which includes the great dance form of flamenco, the celebration of La Tomatina and the famous bullfighting.

However, Spain has always struggled economically compared to other European states. The early 2000s saw a great change, as Spain became one of the strongest economies in the EU. Foreign direct investment tripled from 1990 to 2000. Unfortunately, the financial crisis of 2008 hit Spain the hardest of any country in the eurozone, as it had relied heavily on property and the construction sector. The unemployment rate increased dramatically and banks failed.

In 2012, the poverty rate in Spain was estimated at 21.1 percent. Today, Spain has recovered from the recession and is growing fast, but issues still linger. Most of the work available is of low quality, wages remain low and the unemployment rate is still at 18 percent, and almost 40 percent for youths, while strikes and job insecurity are still very common. These issues most impact families with children. According to UNICEF, 40 percent of children in Spain are living in poverty, which is the third-highest in the EU.

The reduction in spending on healthcare and education as austerity measures have had a negative long-term impact. Social protection policies are not focusing on children and their sustainable future. The gap in social protection for children and people over 65 is the highest in Europe. Spain also has the biggest wealth gap in Europe, with the middle-class disappearing and wealth concentrated in the hands of very few.

The good news is that the last three years have seen impressive growth in Spain’s economy. The government has outlined several solutions to decrease the poverty rate in Spain:

  1. New labor market reforms offer subsidies to firms hiring the young, women and long-term unemployed.
  2. Ensuring adequate income in old age and boosting private pension schemes that guarantee less risk of poverty among the old.
  3. Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship through friendly policies.
  4. Investing in early childhood education and care as well as providing vocational training for youths.
  5. Overhauling the tax and transfer system.

As the country works to revive its economy, it is key to prioritize reducing the poverty rate in Spain. To make that happen, all its policies must be directed towards inclusiveness and concerning the existing inequalities.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Spain
Located on the Iberian Peninsula, Spain has a population of 46.56 million. Similar to patterns around the world, morbidity and disability in Spain are increasingly caused by non-communicable diseases. Below are five common diseases in Spain.

  1. Cardiovascular Disease
    Cardiovascular disease is responsible for 33 percent of deaths in Spain. Risk factors include smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. In Spain, about 23.9 percent of adults and 21.7 percent of youth smoke. About 26.6 percent of Spaniards are obese.
  2. Neoplasms
    Following world trends, the number of cancer cases in Spain increased 15 percent between 2012 and 2015. The most common types of cancer in Spain are bowel cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer and bladder cancer. Respectively, every year there are 41,000, 33,000, 28,000, 27,000 and 21,000 new cases. It is estimated that about one-third of these cases can be prevented through improved lifestyle choices such as reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption, increasing cancer screenings and decreasing obesity rates.
  3. Chronic Respiratory Diseases
    Chronic respiratory diseases most common in Spain include asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. About 80,000 adults aged 20 to 44 are diagnosed with asthma every year. Eighty percent of these cases do not result from allergies and instead result from lung disorders developed from chewing and smoking tobacco, obesity, air pollution, respiratory infections suffered during childhood, genetics and high risk occupations. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) causes 18,000 deaths per year in Spain or about 50 deaths per day. There are about two million people in the country with COPD but the majority go undiagnosed. A main cause of COPD is smoking. About one-third of Spaniards smoke, and 40 to 55 percent continue to smoke following COPD diagnosis. COPD can lead to emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
  4. Mental and Behavioral Disorders
    Mental illnesses are the second most common cause of temporary and permanent leave from work in Spain. Depression is the most prevalent. About five to 10 percent of Spaniards suffer at least one depressive episode in their lives. Depression and other mental health illnesses have high social impacts because of missed work, costs, morbidity and care.
  5. Alzheimer’s Disease
    In Spain, more than 800,000 people live with Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia. Risk factors include age, genetics, mild cognitive impairment and traumatic brain injury. Studies also suggest that education may be linked to Alzheimer’s as well as cardiovascular disease. Between 2005 and 2015, the death rate due to Alzheimer’s increased by 11.9 percent.

Certain cases of the above diseases in Spain can be prevented. For example, smoking is a prevalent cause of non-communicable diseases such as asthma, COPD, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Because of this, improving health education in Spain is one way to reduce and prevent these unnecessary medical costs, illnesses and deaths.

Francesca Montalto

Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in Spain
2008 may seem like a distant memory to many, but to those still suffering the repercussions of Spain’s recession of the same year, the time has crawled by. Despite economic growth, poverty and hunger in Spain continue to affect millions.

Spain’s recession saw devastation throughout the city streets. Mothers with their children and young adults who had just begun to learn the feeling of job security, rummaged through discarded bins of leftover produce: their next meal. At local wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, produce that had rolled off trucks was spotted and hastily collected by hungry onlookers. Those not willing to scavenge in the streets turned to food pantries.

Food pantries and soup kitchens saw a 33 percent increase in visitors, all of whom had never required previous nutritional aid. Families met with the new and unexpected inability to provide for themselves felt deeply ashamed for seeking such help. Some families would even visit pantries in neighboring towns to avoid meeting anyone they knew. That was in 2012, already four years deep into the recession. Economic recovery was slow, and there was little progress toward ending hunger in Spain.

The city of Girona retaliated with a disheartening response. Instead of solving the issue of hunger, the city decided only to solve the issue of public scavenging. The city padlocked all of its supermarket trash bins. The locks were deemed a “public health precaution.” However, no such precautions were taken to aid those who had been forced to scavenge in the first place.

Miraculously, between 2015 and 2016, certain individuals set out to tackle hunger in Spain by way of repurposing food waste.

In the Basque town of Galdakao, Alvaro Saiz created Solidarity Fridge. It’s exactly what it sounds like: based on cooperation and mutual support, this fridge sits on a sidewalk in a small fenced in area. Individuals, restaurants and stores can bring their perfectly good leftovers to the fridge. Then, those in the area who are unemployed or tight on cash can take what they need.

Saiz said the idea for Solidarity Fridge started with the 2008 economic crisis. The pictures of people searching dumpsters for food got him thinking about how much food is wasted daily.

Mireia Barba went right to the source with another method to combat hunger in Spain. Barba is the founder of Espigoladors, meaning “gleaners,” an organization that takes to the fields of Catalan post-harvest. It may come as a surprise to most regular grocery shoppers, but farmers discard massive amounts of unwanted crops considered unmarketable. Espigoladors coordinates with farmers to harvest their unwanted crops and deliver them to food banks.

Like Solidarity Fridge, Espigoladors emerged out of necessity in the aftermath of the recession. Europe wastes an appalling 88 million tons of food each year, which translates to about $168 billion. In addition to feeding the hungry and improving diets, gleaning can also reduce pressure on land use and provide work for the socially excluded. The Espigoladors initiative seemed a logical solution in a country suffering from economic strain and hunger.

It is amazing what simple neighborly compassion can do in a time of need. It will take hard work and continuing innovation to improve hunger in Spain. Solidarity Fridge helped local businesses recognize the corners they were cutting by throwing out leftovers, and Espigoladors returned to the source of the hunger crisis. The bottom line is this: Spain won’t get to the root of the problem without getting a little soil on its hands.

Sophie Nunnally

Photo: Flickr