Information and news about success stories

EcoZoom Provides Accessible Cookstoves
EcoZoom works to empower local work forces, economies, and women throughout the developing world. The company provides accessible cookstoves and has earned B corp status. “B corp certification is to sustainable business what Fair trade certification is to coffee.” This status reinforces EcoZoom’s commitment to social and environmental performance.

The company strives to create “financially sustainable markets.” EcoZoom is more than mere kitchen utensils. Their slew of cookstoves use different types of biomass fuels. From burning wood to corncobs and cow dung, these premium stoves use nearby resources to cook food. The stoves produce 70% less particulate matter and smoke than open-fire cooking. These revolutionary products improve respiratory health and food quality. Individuals in developing countries have reported using the stoves for over 6 hours a day.

The Z+ program is a “buy-one-invest-one program,” much like that made popular by TOMS shoes. For each stove sold, EcoZoom allots a stove for projects in developing countries.  These are the same models sold in the US and Europe.  The company partners with international aid organizations and ships packages to developing countries for every 1,200 stoves sold.

EcoZoom believes that “people of any economic status should have access to beautifully designed cooking products that will improve their health, income, and environment.” The team recommends that people check out the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The alliance educates people on the need for improved cookstoves. Cookstoves are often overlooked, but everyone has a right to prepare food safely.

– Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: EcoZoom Stoves

Madagascar's Millennium Village is Independent
Madagascar’s Millennium Village, Sambaina, is functioning independently after five years of support and development from the UN Development Program and the Millennium Villages Project. With a donor investment of $400,000 per year, or just $50 per person per year, living conditions have improved dramatically.

The country of Madagascar has suffered in the last five years as a result of political upheaval. Following a coup in 2009, foreign aid to the country has remained frozen, and the government does not have sufficient funds for social programs or the salaries of civil servants. In the commune of Sambaina, where over 60 percent of the population was living in extreme poverty when the project began, residents say that their lives have improved.

Targeted investments in the areas of agriculture, education, sanitation, health care, infrastructure, technology, and local business have made a world of difference in Madagascar’s Millennium Village. Implementing the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has helped farmers increase yields to the point of achieving food security for eleven months out of the year. Previously, their harvests only lasted three months. About 70 percent of Sambaina farmers now use the SRI method, and have seen sustainably increased rice production.

Pumps have ensured access to clean drinking water, while health education has encouraged people to maintain good hygiene and utilize the village’s health care facilities. Other investments include computers in classrooms, renovations in schools and infrastructure, and funding to start-up businesses.

Now that initial investments have been made in developing Sambaina’s basic necessities, the villagers will be responsible for maintaining them. To this end, committees have been established, which will collect contributions from residents to fund maintenance projects.

The success of Madagascar’s Millennium Village is undeniable. Even in a country with almost no economic growth and four years of political crisis, targeted investment and development assistance has nearly eliminated extreme poverty in Sambaina within just five years. The country of Madagascar has no hope of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. But Madagascar’s Millennium Village Project in Sambaina proves that foreign aid, when responsibly managed, is instrumental in improving the lives of the world’s poor.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN

World Poverty Declines RapidlyOxford University’s poverty and human development initiative published a world poverty report.  As world poverty declines, the report notes that “never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast.”  In fact, if some countries continue to improve at current rates, it is possible to eradicate acute poverty within 20 years.

The academic study measured new deprivations, such as nutrition, education, and health. By examining more than income deprivation, the study is able to convey the bigger picture.  The new methodology is entitled to the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI).  Past studies identify income as the only indicator of poverty.  This is a misrepresentation because multiple aspects constitute poverty.

The MPI measures poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standards, lack of income, disempowerment, poor quality of work, and threats from violence.  These factors provide a holistic look as world poverty declines.

Dr. Sabina Alkire and Dr. Maria Emma Santos developed the new system.   They named the system “multidimensional” because it is what people facing poverty describe.  “As poor people worldwide have said, poverty is more than money,” Alkire said.

This increased information and understanding better inform international donors and governments.  “Maybe we have been overlooking the power of the people themselves, women who are empowering each other, civil society pulling itself up,” Alkire said.  The new data could incentivize donors to provide assistance.  International and national aid contribute to declining rates.  Improvements to infrastructure, education, and healthcare help decrease poverty rates.  Trade has improved the economies of Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone.

Rwanda, Nepal, and Bangladesh experienced the greatest decrease in poverty rates.  It is possible that “deprivation could disappear within the lifetime of present generations.”  Close behind in the ranks of poverty reduction were Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia, and Bolivia.

The study is supported by the United Nations’ recent development report.  The UN report stated that poverty reduction was “exceeding all expectations.”

Check out the MPI interactive world map for more details.

– Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: The Guardian

Landesa Helps People Gain Property Rights

Landesa is a rural development institute devoted to securing land for the world’s poor.  The company “partners with developing country governments to design and implement laws, policies, and programs.”  These various partnerships work to provide opportunities for economic growth and social justice.

Landesa’s ultimate goal is to live in a world free of poverty.  There are many facets of poverty.  The institute focuses on property rights.  According to Landesa, “Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is a key asset.”  Poverty cycles persist because people lack legal rights to land they use.

The company was the world’s first non-governmental organization designed specifically for land rights disputes.  Then known as the Rural Development Institute (RDI), the institute was the first to focus exclusively on the world’s poor.

Roy Prosterman founded the company out of a deep passion for global development.  Prosterman is a law professor at the University of Washington and a renown land-rights advocate.  He began his lifelong devotion to property rights after stumbling upon a troublesome article.  In 1966, he read a law review article “that promoted land confiscation as a tool for land reform in Latin America.”  Prosterman recognized the policy’s ills immediately.   He quickly authored his own articles on how land acquisitions must involve full compensation.

These articles led him to the floor of Congress and eventually the fields of Vietnam.  Prosterman helped provide land rights to one million Vietnamese farmers during the later part of the Vietnam War.  The New York Times claimed that his land reform law was “probably the most ambitious and progressive non-Communist land reform of the 20th century.”

Prosterman traveled the world to deliver pro-poor land laws and programs.  His most notable work was in Latin America, the Philippines, and Pakistan before founding the institute.  Today, Landesa focuses mostly on China, India, and Uganda.

He aims to “elevate the world’s poorest people without instigating violence.”  The company negotiates land deals with the government and landowners who received market rates.  Landesa helps people gain property rights, so people can focus on health and education efforts instead.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: The Seattle Times

Top Priorities for Africa in 2013The Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) at Brookings released a report of top priorities for Africa.  The AGI “brings together African scholars to provide policymakers with high-quality research, expertise, and innovative solutions that promote Africa’s economic development.”  The Foresight Africa report shows promising opportunities in Africa.  It outlines the top priorities for Africa in 2013.

Moving from “economic stagnation to above 5 percent GDP growth on average,” Africa is prospering.  Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are some of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and African governments are embracing this growth by lowering transaction costs.  Africa’s economic growth is creating a new middle class.  This middle class means new markets for goods and services.  The Foresight Africa report notes that it is a prime time for investors.

Some African countries are mirroring Asian models and engaging their diasporas for economic and social development.  South Africa, for example, is using TalentCorp’s model.  TalentCorp is a partnership between the government, the private sector and the overseas diaspora.  The model aims to bring highly skilled Malaysians living abroad back to their home country.

Countries everywhere recognize the potential in harnessing Africa’s diaspora.  In 2011, the United States Congress proposed the African Investment and Diaspora Act.  The bill was designed to support African development.  Ghana and Kenya are on the cutting-edge and have already “established units within their respective governments to oversee diaspora affairs.”  AGI’s Foresight Africa report points to these examples as models for other countries.

Check out the full report for more information.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Brookings
Photo: Daily Maverick

Imagine living in a slum. There is little food to split between you and your family and you are a minority in your age group because you have regularly attended school before. This was exactly the situation that teenager Phiona Mutesi found herself in when she started learning chess.

The slum where Phiona lives is called Katwe, and it is located right in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, where veteran and refugee Robert Katende began a chess program for children, giving them food in return for completing a lesson. Of his program, Katende has said that he had started it hoping to teach analytic and problem-solving skills that the children could apply to succeed in their own lives.

This was the program that would come to change Phiona’s life and turn her into “The Queen of Katwe”.

“I was living a hard life, where I was sleeping on the streets, and you couldn’t have anything to eat in the streets. So that’s when I decided for my brother to get a cup of porridge,” Mutesi told CNN.

Although she was unfamiliar with the game, as is most of Uganda, Phiona worked hard, practicing every day for a year. Eventually, she began to win against older children and compete for titles. Since those early days, Phiona has represented her country in several international chess competitions in countries such as Sudan, Siberia, and Istanbul.

Although life for her is still hard – she still lives in the Katwe slum with her family – winning competitions and working hard to one day become a Grandmaster keeps her hopeful. A grant that she has received through her competing has even allowed her to go back to school and develop her reading and writing skills.

While Phiona’s story of success has yet to win her the chess title of Grandmaster, she has gained another, unofficial reputation as the ultimate underdog. She is an underdog on the global chess stage both because she comes from Africa, a continent where chess is culturally absent in most countries, and because she is from Uganda specifically, a nation that is one of the poorest on the continent. The fact that she is from Katwe, a slum, is a strike against her even to other Ugandans. However, despite these odds, she has achieved enormous success given her circumstances.

Phiona Mutesi’s inspiring story was written into a book called “The Queen of Katwe,” by Tim Crothers, and was published in October of 2012. Since then, Disney has bought the rights to the story and has started making a movie to chronicle Phiona’s journey to the international chess stage. The Queen of Katwe remains steadfast in attaining her dream of becoming a Grandmaster and is an inspiration to us all.

– Nina Narang

Source: CNN