Herbal Medicine
The continent of Africa — especially Sub-Saharan Africa — is abundant with rich vegetation. Among the plants that naturally grow on the continent, there are many of them that are used to treat a variety of diseases. Herbal medicines are one of the oldest methods used for healing in Africa, even before the European invasion. According to the World Health Organization, 70-80% of the population uses some form of traditional medicine, with herbal medicines standing out in particular. The knowledge regarding which plants are safe to be used for healing has been orally transmitted from the elders. Currently, most regions combine herbal and modern medicines according to the kind of disease or symptoms a patient has. The following are the contributions and concerns of herbal medicines in Africa in relation to modern medicines.

Contributions

  1. Heals Common Seasonal Diseases: Herbal medicines are widely used to cure seasonal respiratory and digestive diseases such as colds, coughs and constipation. Some herbal plants are also used to cure common parasitic skin diseases like acne and others are used to lower the intensity of some symptoms like inflammation. For example, Pygeum is used in Africa to treat Malaria and fever-like symptoms.
  2. Accessible: Most medicines grow naturally and can even be grown in a backyard. They are easily accessible to people and this accessibility reduces the amount of money paid at hospitals and for pharmacy bills. In rural regions of Africa, herbal medicines are more accessible than pharmaceutical drugs, and this availability saves people time and resources as opposed to traveling long distances for common minor diseases. On the other hand, herbal medicines can raise some important concerns. These concerns are the reason why some people prefer to use modern pharmaceutical prescribed drugs.

Concerns

  1. Lack of Research: There have been few studies that have examined the efficiency and credibility of some herbal medicines. This lack of research causes ambiguity in using herbal medicines. Since most advanced herbal medicines are recommended by traditional specialists, people simply rely on beliefs and stories rather than recorded credible research. Otherwise, people simply go for the medically tested pharmaceutical drugs because their efficiency is proven with credible research.
  2. Easily Mistaken: Different plants might have similar features but with different chemical components. In regions with thick vegetation, plants of similar characteristics grow together. This similarity leaves no room for error because some plants can be poisonous and cause harm to the patient.
  3. Inadequate Measurements: Unlike modern medicines prescribed after testing and done in proportion to an individual’s weight, it is hard for random individuals to know the exact number of herbs to use for a certain problem. Overdosing on strong herbs can cause inflammations, liver damage and kidney failure. Additionally, if patients combine pharmaceutical drugs with these natural herbs, there can be dangerous interactions and one medicine can reduce the efficiency of the other.

African countries are encouraging cooperation between herbalists and doctors. This collaboration will help doctors understand their patients who have been using herbal medicines. Additionally, herbalists will know when patients should go to the hospital in case herbs do not work or if they cause some problems to the patients.

Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

In 2016, the African Development Bank launched the New Deal on Energy for Africa to accelerate the supply of electricity across the continent. After the African Development Bank launched its bold initiative, the president of the organization, Akinwumi Adesina, made a statement that resonated with countless communities: “Africa is tired of being in the dark.”

Fast forward to today and the vision of the New Deal has faded. All across Africa, communities suffer from frequent blackouts and grid congestion plagues slowly growing businesses. As the world becomes more tech-centered, it is critical that Africa is supported by modern technology rather than, as Adesina feared, being left in the dark.

High Population, High Demand

As the population in Africa steadily rises, so does the demand for reliable electricity to power growing communities. In sub-Saharan Africa, growing populations are overtaking electricity access, and the percentage of people in the region with access to electricity is declining. Additionally, mere access to power does not guarantee a high value in energy service. For instance, in Nigeria, it is estimated that homes and businesses spend $14 billion each year on fuel to power supplemental generators. This is because the current power grid is unable to keep up with the needs of the people.

If energy storage in Africa can be optimized, millions of people and small businesses will experience fewer blackouts. This will, in turn, provide energy, electricity and economic boosts for many struggling, impoverished communities. If executed properly, energy access could be the break in the poverty cycle that Africa has been waiting for.

Renewable Energy in Africa

With a consistently sunny climate, Africa has an incredible potential for solar energy. The cost of solar energy generation in Africa may even be relatively inexpensive compared to the current average prices for electricity. In Liberia, for example, one would have to pay a high average of $490 per megawatt-hour for electricity. However, if investors utilize the expansive supply of sunlight across the continent, the price will drop in the long run and provide more African consumers with stable energy. This could also provide more work opportunities in industry, technology and small businesses that would otherwise be unable to pay an electricity bill.

Overall, the impact of investing in new energy storage technology will be substantial. Impoverished communities will have access to reliable power, the poor can find work and countries’ economies will grow. However, the path to renewable energy integration is not as simple as one may hope.

In recent years, older and more traditional power plants have been attempting to provide stable power to communities with moderate success. It is estimated that 42% of Africans lack access to electricity in their homes because they are not in zones served by an electric grid. Additionally, frequent blackouts and massive regions without power are not uncommon in the continent.

Energy Storage

As Africa aims to integrate affordable solar energy on a large scale, the current grid capacity will not be able to respond to the high levels of demand. Without massive design changes, this issue will continue to worsen in the near future.

Energy storage in Africa allows for the integration of renewable energy on a broad scale and can address the electrical challenges found across the continent. It will also create a buffer between the limited supply and increasingly high demand. Thus, a new grid system concentrated on energy storage and more resilient power systems will be absolutely critical in guaranteeing renewable energy. Such a system will also lower the cost of electricity for Africans. With this progress, millions of families and businesses will have access to stable electricity.

Making Progress

Though there is still a great deal of work to be done, it is impossible to ignore the remarkable advancements in African energy in recent history.

When looking for companies that are investing in the people of Africa, one need look no further than the massive retailer Amazon, one of the largest and most successful businesses today. Amazon recently announced that it is hiring around 3,000 South Africans for customer service positions that are designed to be fully remote. It is a rare case in which Africans prove to have a stable-enough internet connection for the work from home lifestyle to be possible.

The potential impact this will have on the poverty rate in South Africa is outstanding. The ability to work from home opens doors for a number of people who previously did not have the opportunity to work. For example, mothers who were generally expected to be the familial homemaker can now work from home while taking care of their children. Additionally, people all across the region will be able to avoid expensive travel costs altogether.

With more investments in energy storage in Africa, more families and businesses will be able to thrive. Should these massive economic leaps continue in the future, the unemployment rate in the region will gradually decrease. Providing access to electricity also benefits families, businesses and consumers by improving education, healthcare and quality of life. At the same time, it helps to improve the bottom line for utility costs and rates of return for investors, drawing in more business.

It is evident that investing in one region can slowly bleed into the next, giving hope for a more stable future to the whole of the African continent. Through these continued efforts, Africa will no longer be left in the dark but rather will be brought light.

– Daniela Canales
Photo: Flickr

Off-Grid Solar TechnologyEnergy poverty refers to people who lack access to modern energy services. They aren’t able to use an array of technologies, primarily electricity. Gaining energy access is a gateway to additional resources, and having it can lift families and communities out of poverty as a whole. Access to energy is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to eradicate energy poverty by 2030. Off-grid solar technology is regarded as one of the promising ways to achieve this.

Off-Grid Solar Technology

Currently, there are 840 million people who lack access to electricity and 573 million of those people reside in Sub-Saharan Africa. While 153 million people a year have been gaining electricity, remote areas have proven to be especially hard to reach. In areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa that are far from cities, off-grid solar technology is being used to generate electricity where it was previously unobtainable. Additionally, off-grid solar technology is now also being used to power water pumps, irrigation systems and refrigeration, making off-grid technology more promising than ever to solve energy poverty.

Bboxx

One company that has made extraordinary strides in increasing energy access is Bboxx. Bboxx’s mission is to aid developing countries through their decentralized solar-powered systems. To do so, they design, create, distribute and manage this off-grid solar technology. So far, Bboxx has positively impacted over one million people. It has allowed 350,000 solar home systems to be installed.

The technologies Bboxx creates are safer and cheaper than the kerosene-powered systems traditionally used in homes without electricity. Bboxx estimates the switch to using their clean, solar energy saves customers $200 a year. Additionally, it allows customers to pay for only what they actually consume, which is a cost-effective system that is monetarily achievable for its targeted customers.

To make their company as accessible and effective as possible, they created a system called Bboxx Pulse. This platform makes it easy for a utility company to monitor and serve all Bboxx customers. This even applies to the customers who live in rural areas that were previously hard to communicate with. To implement this and all of their other technology, Bboxx has formed partnerships with some of the countries’ governments it operates in. Doing this ensures that its technology is stable and supported.

Solar Electric Light Fund

Another organization dedicated to providing energy to communities in need is the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF). It uses solar projects to increase healthcare, education, water and food security and economic development in under-resourced areas globally.

One of SELF’s programs is installing solar-pump water stations to areas that contain heavily contaminated water. It is currently working to install 24 of these stations in the Kalalé District of Benin in West Africa. This will provide clean water to 82,000 people. This is a life-changing development for this community, as 19% of deaths in this area are due to contaminated water. Access to clean water will drastically improve overall health in the area. It will also increase the safety of girls and women who usually had to travel long distances to obtain water for their families.

Additionally, SELF has extensively worked on installing solar-powered technologies in Haiti to improve public health and energy access. However, these systems are unsustainable unless they can be maintained by trained workers. To solve this issue, SELF formed Haiti’s National Solar Training Center (NSTC). This program trains students to become solar technicians, which in turn provides well-paying jobs to Haitians while making their solar infrastructures sustainable. Overall, organizations such as Bboxx and SELF are increasing the safety and health of thousands of communities around the world by providing them with off-grid solar technology.

 

Hannah Allbery

Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Africa
Africa still has a long way to go in terms of mental health awareness and care. Mental health is highly stigmatized and there are not enough mental health facilities or resources for the people. In Africa, the average number of psychiatrists is 0.05/100,000 population, while in Europe it is 9/100,000 population. Here are five challenges to mental health in Africa.

5 Challenges to Mental Health in Africa

  1. Poverty: There is a strong correlation between different mental illnesses and the socioeconomic status of patients. According to The Conversation, when people are stressed about searching for basic resources for survival like food and stable sources of income, this stress affects their mental health. Furthermore, the healthcare expenses are high, making them inaccessible to some. People with mental health problems may also have more trouble with functioning effectively which can harm their financial resources as well.
  2. War and Conflict: Various African countries endure tribal wars and terrorist groups. These wars affect the population’s mental health — especially the victims. Commonwealth Health reported that more than half “of refugees have mental health problems from post-traumatic stress disorder to chronic mental illness.”
  3. Insufficient Resources: Most African countries spend less than 1% of their budget on mental health. Additionally, mental health is not a popular subject; therefore, there are few higher education facilities teaching about it. The stigma around it prevents graduates from enrolling in mental health-related programs. As a result of this shortage, the Mental Health Innovation Network states that “90% of people with mental illnesses have no access to treatment, especially in poor and in rural areas.”
  4. Lack of Awareness: Mental illness is a taboo topic in some African cultures. A study done by BioMed Central in Northern Nigeria found that at least 34.3% of respondents believed that drug and alcohol abuse was “a major cause of mental illness.” Commonwealth Health reports that the widespread stigma makes families hide their members who are suffering from mental illness because of the discrimination they have to endure.
  5. Other Diseases: Many African countries are still fighting a number of deadly communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cholera, malaria and tuberculosis. As a result, the governments of these nations prioritize helping people survive these illnesses. A mere 3% of Nigeria’s health budget is invested in mental health: the other 97% goes to other health departments. This means that people with functional mental disorders are usually unnoticed and have difficulties accessing appropriate professional help.

Despite all the issues, progress is steadily being made. In Burundi, lay community counselors started screening people and encouraging dialogue about mental health. They emphasized educating parents about better ways to discipline children without causing trauma. Additionally, cognitive behavioral therapy has been helping people in Sub-Saharan Africa to deal with depression. Crisis assistance hotlines were also put in place to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts and other urgent crises. All these intervention alternatives highly depend on the community counselors to integrate the strategies with their respective cultures in order to provide relevant solutions.

Many African nations are trying to invest more in mental health and encourage people to seek professional help. Moving forward, countries must continue to support mental health research and intervention measures, prioritizing both the mental and physical health of Africans.

Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Sudan
Located in northeastern Africa, Sudan has long been a diverse region of interaction between continental Africa and the Mediterranean. The country is home to hundreds of sub-Saharan African ethnic groups, and political and security challenges in recent decades have impacted it. In addition to displacement, the scattered population has recently suffered several outbreaks of cholera, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever (RVF), chikungunya and malaria.

Healthcare in Sudan faces both unique geographical and financial barriers to access. Improvements in health indicators are difficult to measure since they vary by region. Additionally, efforts to improve healthcare access have met with challenges. These include ineffective implementation of policies and poor coordination between the health and education sectors.

Financial Barriers

Postcolonial Sudan had free access to healthcare until the 1990s when the government gradually withdrew healthcare service provision. To retain healthcare access, Sudanese people often relied on borrowing money from relatives, working more and reducing expenditure on other vital living expenses. Many resorted to buying partial recommended treatments, resulting in further health complications.

Despite reducing support for healthcare, the Sudanese government also invested in higher medical education around the same time. It opened 30 new medical schools and made Sudan the country with the highest number of medical schools in Africa. This investment was an important step in the sustainable progress of healthcare in Sudan. It ensured a steady increase of healthcare professionals for the growing population of 42 million. Consequently, the physician-to-patient ratio improved from 0.1 per 1,000 people in 1996 to 0.41 per 1,000 people in 2015.

In 1997, in an effort to compensate for reduced government spending on health, the Ministry of Health introduced social health insurance (SHI). By 2017, SHI covered most of the population in Khartoum state and a few others. Despite internal efforts, healthcare in Sudan receives little international support. Compared with 50% of healthcare expenditure in Rwanda, only 5.4% of Sudan’s healthcare expenditure comes from external aid. The Sudanese government spends a comparable amount on healthcare to other sub-Saharan countries. However, the cost of healthcare for Sudanese citizens remains high, and many are uninsured.

Current Challenges

Sudan is struggling to retain healthcare workers, many of whom leave the country for better living and working conditions. To reduce physician migration, the Sudanese government has offered various incentives to specialists, such as generous salaries, leading positions, housing, transport and free education for offspring. However, the government cannot afford to sustain these efforts in the long-term or extend these benefits to all physicians.

Michelle Bachelet, a U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, argued that sanctions that the U.S. imposed have barred Sudan from receiving international funding for healthcare and COVID-19 relief. Sudan is on the U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which makes it ineligible to access any of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank’s $50 billion Trust Fund. This fund is currently assisting vulnerable countries to fight COVID-19. Sudan’s health minister Akram Ali Altom has also confirmed that the healthcare system is in urgent need of funding.

Geographical Barriers

As in many African countries, the main challenges to healthcare in Sudan are in rural areas. There, conflict, lack of transport and uneven distribution of resources reduce the availability of healthcare workers. An estimated 70% of the total healthcare providers are in the capital city Khartoum, serving just 20% of the population.

One way that some Sudanese states have addressed the problem has been through the use of telemedicine. Telemedicine has the potential to break down geographical barriers and increase access to high quality, specialist care to patients. A two-year pilot program in Gezira introduced electronic health records into the area for the first time. More than 165,000 new patients were able to register for consultations.

Sudan has many challenges to overcome before telemedicine can become a national success. Consultants located in the Khartoum center were not responsive. Additionally, issues involving software licensing and equipment maintenance have hindered smooth operations. As Salah Mandil, who led the first telemedicine project in Khartoum, noted, poor collaboration between scattered telemedicine projects has hindered efficiency and growth. For instance, projects such as the Surveillance project (FMOH) and the eHealth project have begun independently in various areas. However, they do not communicate or coordinate efforts.

Despite challenges to stability and safety, Sudan has made steps toward improving healthcare access in the past decade. To ensure equal and sustainable healthcare in Sudan, it must address the remaining challenges through better cooperation, management and funding from the government and international aid organizations.

– Beti Sharew
Photo: Flickr

Pest ControlAgriculture is often crucial to the economies of lower-income nations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of the population is smallholding farmers and about 23% of the GDP comes from agriculture. Because of the importance of this industry, pest control can become a major issue in a lot of countries.

Influence of Pesticides

When pests are not properly handled, produce is damaged, which leads to reduced yields and profits. If crops are drastically damaged, it can lead to a decrease in food supply and an increase in prices. When pesticides were first introduced to farmers in Africa, it seemed to be a quick and easy form of pest control to fix their infestation problems. Pesticides increased yields, which led to higher household incomes and more trading. However, pesticides present their own set of obstacles. When mishandled, pesticides can be very dangerous. Many farmers lack the proper knowledge and equipment to safely administer the chemicals. This can cause health problems among farmers, contaminate soil and water sources, and result in pesticide-resistant insects.

Pesticidal Pollution in Kenya

A study conducted in 2016 that tested the water quality of Lake Victoria in Kenya revealed the negative impact pesticides had on the environment in the area.In May 1999, the European Union imposed a fish import ban on all fish from Lake Victoria when it was discovered 0rganochlorine pesticides were being used to fish in the lake. This ban resulted in an estimated $300 million loss for Kenya.

Organochlorine pesticides are mostly banned in high-income nations, but they are still used illegally in East Africa. Sometimes organochlorine pesticides are also used in East Africa for “public health vector control,” meaning to control the population of pests that spread diseases. The continued use of these pesticides is cited as a reason why pesticidal pollution was still found in Lake Victoria in 2016. Testing the water revealed that the pesticide concentrations in the lake were higher during the rainy seasons compared to the dry seasons. This led to the conclusion that the pesticides were entering the lake from contaminated runoff from surrounding farms. Those conducting the study concluded that the lake contaminations presented an immediate danger to the animals and humans relying on the lake as a food and water supply, due to the pesticide bioaccumulation entering the food chain.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Cases such as Lake Victoria’s are why the government, academic and public agricultural agencies have been promoting the use of IPM. IPM is a system that aims to decrease the need for pesticides by “incorporating non-chemical techniques, such as pruning strategies or soil amendments that make plants less inviting to pests, using insect traps that monitor pest populations so growers can be more precise with chemical sprays or adopting pest-resistant crop varieties.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have all supported the IPM process. Still, IMP has been slower to spread to the low-income nations of the world.

Whereas pesticides are made to be harmful and heavy-handed, IPM requires more finesse and care. IPM requires farmers to possess significant pest management knowledge in order to be effective. They must closely monitor their crops and keep detailed records. This is a difficult change for a farmer to make, especially when failure can have dire consequences, as they rely on their farms for food and income. However, with proper training and knowledge, IPM can present a good alternative for pest control to farmers who lack easy access to pesticides or can’t afford them.

The FAO has been using the Farmer Field School program to try to teach IPM and other sustainable farming practices to farmers in low-income nations. Programs like these are likely the most effective way to teach farmers about alternatives to pesticides. They may be able to help farmers in low-income nations find the resources necessary for safe and successful pest control.

Agriculture is often very important to the economies of lower-income nations. Improper use of pesticides, due to a lack of resources, can end up negatively impacting the environment in those areas where people are trying to grow crops. Programs like the Farmer Field School Program may be able to help lower-income nations transition to safer pesticide methods, such as IPM.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child LaborDespite a 38% global reduction of child labor between 2000 and 2016, hundreds of millions of children remain in exploitative labor conditions. Work deprives children of their formative childhoods and educational experiences, while potentially harming them physically and psychologically. So, how are people and organizations working to end child labor around the world?

Living in poverty is the main reason children work, whether by circumstance or force. However, child labor creates a cycle of poverty. Some children have to work to survive and help support their families. These children, therefore, do not have the time to receive an education. Education is considered a key to escape poverty; without it, children do not have many options other than continuing to work.

Most child labor is in agriculture; more than 75% of child laborers work the fields, but others work in factories or the service industry. Out of the 170 million child laborers, 6 million children are forced into labor. These children often become child soldiers or are sold into prostitution or slavery. The United Nations calls for an end to child labor in all forms by 2025, a mere five years away. Here are three U.N. solutions to achieve their goal to end child labor:

3 UN Solutions to End Child Labor

  1. 2021 is the International Year for Ending Child Labour. The United Nations General Assembly wants to draw attention to the millions of children working in fields, mines and factories during 2021. Member states of the International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the U.N., will raise awareness of the importance of ending child labor and share successful projects. These projects include initiatives to reduce poverty, educate children, offer support services and enforce minimum age requirements, among other solutions. As the steady decrease in child labor tapered off in 2016, the hope is that this effort will renew the global community’s interest in eradicating child labor.
  2. The Clear Cotton Project plans to have sustainable cotton industries without child labor. With the rise of fast fashion, cotton is one of the most valuable supply chain commodities. Because of its high demand, the cotton industry is notorious for its use of child labor, now embedded into the supply chain. Children work long, often excruciating, hours picking cotton, weeding and transferring pollen in the fields. In factories and workshops, child workers spin the cotton and have various tasks, from sewing buttons to embroidering fabric. All of this work is often underpaid if compensated at all. The Clear Cotton Project wants its partner countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Pakistan and Peru to create sustainable cotton industries without child labor. The program, which started in 2018 and will end in 2022, has two strategies aimed at ending child labor. The first includes editing, strengthening and enforcing policy, legal and regulatory framework against child labor in accordance with ILO standards. The second strategy works to support local governments and public service providers. This strategy aims to increase access to education, create youth and women employment schemes and strengthen worker unions so workers can both recognize their rights and monitor their working conditions
  3. Ending child labor in African supply chains is receiving special attention. While the rest of the world saw a decrease in child labor between 2012 and 2016, Sub-Saharan Africa observed an increase. Child labor is most prevalent in supply chains, especially in cacao, cotton, gold and tea. In the tea industry alone, around 14% of children are working as laborers in Uganda. Even more children work in Malawi—38% of all children from ages 5-17. Producing tea is labor-intensive, from preparing the land for planting to harvesting to preparing the leaves for export. Children are involved at every level. To combat this, ACCEL Africa, a four-year program, began in 2018 to “accelerate action for the elimination of child labor in supply chains.” Partnered with the Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, the program aims to address the problems that cause institutionalized child labor in supply chains. These countries will also improve their child labor policies and legal framework and enforce the revisions to stop child labor.

While the U.N. has set a challenging goal, with increased awareness, commitment and cooperation, the global community can succeed in its programs, ending child labor by 2025. With a real childhood, education and a brighter future, these children will have a chance to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Unsplash

Women Empowerment Organizations in Sub-Saharan AfricaWomen’s empowerment is a critical component in achieving development and sustainably reducing poverty. It increases the quality of life for men and women globally. Gender parity would allow for a $28 trillion increase in the global GDP. In addition, women typically invest in their families and communities more than men. This will contribute to overall economic and social growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is a rapidly developing region. However, there are serious challenges when it comes to gender equality in terms of education, economic rights, leadership opportunity and access to healthcare. Gender parity in sub-Saharan Africa will specifically allow for $721 billion in growth to the GDP. For the region to develop and grow to its full potential, the gender gap must be addressed. Many women’s empowerment organizations are working to address gender gaps. Here are four gender empowerment organizations operating in sub-Saharan Africa

4 Gender Empowerment Organizations

  1. Africare: Africans and Americans founded Africare in the 1970s. Africare is a non-governmental organization with the mission of improving the quality of life of people in Africa. Since its beginning, Africare has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to tens of millions of people across the African continent. The organization does this by addressing Africa’s development and policy issues. In addition, Africare partners with African people in an effort to build sustainable communities. Africare’s approach includes community engagement, capacity building, locally-driven behavior change and innovative public-private partnerships. Africare is a women’s empowerment organization that believes providing resources to African women is beneficial to African societies. Additionally, as women receive education and higher legal status, they are able to provide their households with better nutrition and access to healthcare. Moreover, Africare works to provide greater leadership opportunities for women by working with local partners. Africare provides leadership coaching, literacy training, business training and market access for African women.
  2. Make Every Woman Count (MEWC): Make Every Woman Count is an African, women-led organization that works in mobilization, networking, advocacy and training African women. The organization helps build women’s leadership capability and works towards changes in policy to be more supportive of women. The work is largely online, using the potential of the internet to reach out to women in Africa. In addition, MEWC plays a huge role in information proliferation. They give guidance to other organizations and grassroots movements operating to empower women in Africa. In addition, the organization also provides a platform for women to exchange ideas and create networks to “establish female leaders in Africa.” Furthermore, MEWC’s major goal is to make sure that African women “have a strong voice in governance institutions.”
  3. Asante Africa Foundation: The Asante Africa Foundation is primarily an educational organization. Its mission is to educate and empower the next generation of agents of change. In 2018 alone, the organization was able to impact 23,085 lives. Moreover, it understands the specific challenges that face women and girls in aspects of access to education in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the foundation has programs that are female-centric to aid in these issues. The foundation pioneered the Girls’ Advancement Program. This is one of the women’s empowerment organizations that centers around the idea that using girls’ education promotes development and economic growth. Moreover, the Girls’ Advancement Program takes a holistic approach by taking into account the “cultural, social and health factors.” All of these factors are relevant and correlated to the gender gap in education. The program aims to do this by creating safe spaces, educating in reproductive health, building peer support and mobilizing women as mentors in their communities.
  4. Men Engage: Non-governmental organizations along with U.N. agencies formed Men Engage in 2004. The organization works to engage men and boys in the struggle for gender equality. The coalition is made up of organizations like the Family Violence Prevention Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation, WHO, UNDP and so forth. The understanding that men play an important role in achieving gender equality is essential to the alliance. In addition, the alliance is working at the national level in many African nations through its MenEngage Africa section to create a dialogue with key individuals, policymakers and advocates working locally to make gender equality a reality. Its sub-Saharan African Regional Symposium brought together delegates from 25 countries, resulting in the MenEngage Africa Declaration and Call to Action.

These women’s empowerment organizations are doing important work in addressing gender inequality and building capabilities. Women’s empowerment is a necessary focus on creating sustainable development and reducing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and globally.

Treya Parikh

Photo: Flickr

agricultural developmentThe Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the world’s most recognized foundations. It has a penchant for global awareness unlike any other. Started in 1999, the Gates Foundation has developed into an international organization across five continents and 138 countries. Additionally, the Gates Foundation has amassed an endowment of $46.8 billion. In the past two years alone, the foundation has provided close to $10 billion in direct grantee support. One of the Gates Foundation’s areas of focus is agricultural development in impoverished countries.

Agricultural Development

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded billions in research and grants in support of agricultural development. The vast majority of funds have gone towards making staple crops more resilient, farmers’ education on irrigation and techniques on pest or disease control.

The foundation stands by the idea that livestock offers the chance to improve both income and nutrition for those in poverty or extreme poverty. It also increases the livelihood of women in particular who stand to be the largest group overwhelmed by extreme poverty. Africa, in particular, is the continent with the highest probability in the agricultural sector. In Eastern Africa, more than 70 percent of individuals rely on small farms for both income and sustainment.

Poultry Donation

In a partnership with Heifer International, Bill and Melinda Gates donated 100,000 chickens to sub-Saharan African families, which helped to create a sustainable poultry market in the region. The science behind the donation is evident in the $300 yearly income increase that families who received a chicken saw. This furthers the effort to provide vaccinated chickens suitable to the area and its conditions. The goal is to provide 30 percent of families in the region with vaccinated poultry.

Heifer International and the Gates Foundation have been collaborating for nearly a decade now. Together, they made their first joint investment of $42.8 million an effort to double the income of East African farmers through dairy farming within the span of a decade. The history of both organizations in the region has seen actionable agricultural development from previous successes.

A Chicken’s Impact

When someone in poverty makes just $700 a year, $300 can make a remarkable difference and continue to improve their lives through targeted investments. With the donation of 100,000 chickens, around 2,500 families will be getting groups of 40 vaccinated poultry. By keeping chickens for over a year, many will benefit from eating eggs, which provide much-needed nutrients and protein. Furthermore, farmers can sell their chickens after only six weeks of breeding.

Once again, the Gates Foundation is providing the capital necessary to give projects that may never get off the ground the chance to see their impact on individuals living on less than $2 a day. Within the next year, we will see the Gates Foundation’s impact on 2,500 farmers’ lives as well as the marker of 30 percent of the poultry market being appropriately vaccinated for the region. Projects like these show the impact agricultural development can have on poverty.

Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Pixabay

The School Fund: What One Company is doing to tackle the Global Education CrisisOver 115 million school-age children are not able to attend school worldwide, largely due to compulsory school fees that are required for attendance. In Sub-Saharan Africa, about 63 million adolescents are out of school and only 37 percent of children finish secondary school. One company targeting barriers to education is The School Fund (TSF). Through the collaboration of technology and willing donors looking to make a difference, the organization is able to provide low-income students with the opportunity to receive an education.

The Mission

The School Fund is a crowdfunded, nonprofit organization based in California. One hundred percent of donations go directly toward each student’s unique scholarship. Its mission is to tackle the global education crisis by connecting donors to students in developing countries who cannot afford an education. It stands firmly behind the belief that education is the most effective way to successfully eradicate poverty.

Barriers to Education

The reasons children do not receive secondary education are plenty and vary from location to location. Some of these reasons are the cost of supplies, the long distances that need to be traveled to reach school, safety and cultural norms. When it comes to education, poor and rural areas are especially disadvantaged.

How it Works

The School Fund partners with local organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. These range from private schools to local public schools, or local scholarship organizations. The Field Partners then select students for the TSF website, including biographies, stories and pictures of the children. Biographies help to keep each donation personal and invested in the growth of each child. Donors then select which student they want to sponsor.

These donors are able to view the breakdown of school costs and receipts on a web platform with complete transparency. Direct journal updates from their sponsored student are available for donors as well, helping to foster the connection between the donor and the student. The School Fund ensures that students are attending school via receipt tracking and field drop-ins.

Outcomes

The School Fund has successfully funded 1,291 students, with many more on the horizon. Since 2009, the organization has raised over $500,000. TSF also found that with just one extra year of secondary education, a student’s lifetime wages have the potential to increase by 10 percent.

TSF has shown a 50 percent growth rate each year in revenue accrued for scholarships. It also connects regularly with its Field Partners to collect updates, including grades and yearly data. This ensures that each student is seeing improvement and growth through their education.

Women in particular benefit from receiving an education. Only one in four girls attend school in many of these developing countries, but of those who do, women have fewer unwanted pregnancies, delay getting married young, have healthier kids and are three times less likely to test positive for HIV. TSF is helping women combat cultural norms and ensuring empowerment for all.

 

Children around the globe continue to face barriers to education. The School Fund is one of many organizations breaking down these obstacles, making sure money is not a deterrent for something that everyone should be entitled to.

Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Pixabay