microfinance empowers womenGender inequality has a significant impact on poverty and income inequity. Income inequality based on gender is lower in countries with policies that support women and facilitate the employment of women. These policies include maternity leave, paid sick leave and unemployment benefits. In countries where women receive larger incomes, poverty rates tend to be lower overall. Microfinance or micro-lending combats poverty by helping individuals in low-income areas kickstart small businesses. Microfinance institutions provide micro-credits to people who are struggling financially with the goal of helping them reach financial security. Most of these institutions work in developing countries. As a result, microfinance empowers women to succeed and escape income inequality. 

How Do Loans Help Women?

Women account for 74% of the clients of microfinance institutions, which provide credit to almost 20 million people around the world. These loans help women in developing countries gain autonomy while also positively impacting their children and the opportunities available to them. When women gain financial security, they are more likely to invest money in their children’s education or medical expenses. Microfinance for women can also have positive impacts on entire communities. For instance, through the prioritization of education and reduction of gender inequalities. 

Women’s Empowerment Benefits the Economy

Microfinance enables women around the world to start businesses and act on ideas that they would not be able to achieve without a loan. FINCA, a Microfinance institution, has stated that 72% of its female clients were able to provide for their families and send their children to school. Gender inequality has significant economic implications. According to Kiva, another Microfinance institution, there are 1 billion women around the world without access to a savings account and necessary credit. Women earn 63% less than men on average and over twice as many men are involved in the early stages of business planning. Kiva loans have helped 2.7 million women in 94 countries, and 83% of the institution’s loan recipients are women. Additionally, these loans impact communities by building confidence in young girls. Estimates have determined that by 2025 the global GDP would grow by $12 trillion if women equally contributed to the economy. 

Women’s Empowerment and Healthcare

Microfinance programs often require women to meet on a weekly or monthly basis to repay loans and deposit money. This allows women to come together and simultaneously provides financial security while building support systems. These meetings also create an opportunity to provide health education to women who lack insurance and access to health care. Specifically, HIV/AIDS prevention programs can increase the reproductive and sexual health of marginalized women. 

Therefore, in many different ways microfinance empowers women. It not only allows women to gain independence financially but it increases opportunities for children and positively affects entire communities. Enabling women to gain financial security and empowering young girls can help decrease gender inequality around the world and combat poverty. From this, it is clear that microfinance has a far greater impact on poverty and female empowerment than simply providing a loan.

Maia Cullen
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 In TaiwanWith a population of approximately 23 million people and a location that is in close proximity to China, epidemiologists expected that Taiwan would be the next epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. After having 668 reported cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003, Taiwan was well equipped to contain and slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

5 Things About COVID-19 in Taiwan

  1. Although Taiwan is close to China and has a population of nearly 23 million, it has done remarkably well in its response to COVID-19. As of July 30, 2020, there have been 467 positive cases and just seven deaths reported. This translates to 20 cases of COVID-19 per one million people living in Taiwan.

  2. In an effort to help citizens locate where they can purchase masks, more than 1,000 Taiwanese software developers created applications to help citizens understand where masks were available. In early March there were “59 map systems, 21 line applications, three chatbots, 23 mask sales location search systems, 22 apps, five audio systems, two information-sharing systems and one online mask reservation system.”

  3. Wearing a mask in public to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was an early practice in countries like Taiwan. Prior to the rise of the pandemic, Taiwanese manufacturers were producing 1.88 million to 2.44 million face masks per day. In an effort to ensure masks were available to those who needed them, the Government of Taiwan banned the export of masks on January 24, 2020.

  4. During the 2003 SARS outbreak, Taiwan had a robust contact tracing and quarantine system, border and travel regulations, a SARS advisory committee and training on infection control. Although these efforts were initially effective, Taiwan ultimately reported 668 probable cases of SARS. As a result of the severity of the SARS outbreak in the country, Taiwan stepped in quickly with stricter policies to slow the spread of COVID-19 by hosting virtual lectures about COVID-19, implementing travel restrictions, prohibiting large events and quarantine and isolation measures.

  5. Because Taiwan has been able to successfully control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many aspects of daily life have resumed. After approximately three consecutive weeks of no community spread, the Taiwanese Baseball League became the first in the world to allow spectators and fans back into games. On May 8, 2020, the professional baseball league allowed 1,000 fans into their scheduled games to spectate.

As a result of its swift and effective response to COVID-19, Taiwan has been able to return to a semblance of normalcy. Taiwan’s success stems from the government’s quick action, technological assistance as well as hard lessons learned from the SARS pandemic. In light of all the above, it comes as no surprise that Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 ranks as one of the world’s best.

Maddi Miller
Photo: Flickr

Kazakhstans Rise out of PovertyKazakhstan, a Central Asian country bordering Russia to the north and China to the east, has witnessed tremendous strides in poverty reduction over the past three decades. The nation gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and its government became heavily involved in Kazakhstan’s rise out of poverty by reforming the nation’s economic and political state. In 2001, the rate of individuals living below the national poverty line was 46.7%. Since then, the rate has fallen to 4.2%. Health and education conditions have also improved during this time, and as of 2017, the Asian Development Bank reported that 100% of its citizens had access to electricity. Government policies that developed the energy sector, opened the market, attracted foreign investment and provided social services to citizens, greatly contributed to these positive developments.

The “Kazakhstan – 2030” Strategy

In 1997, former President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the “Kazakhstan-2030” Strategy. The following priorities were delineated for the nation:

  1. Defense of their independent status
  2. Unify citizens both socially and politically
  3. Attract foreign investments and establish domestic profits that contribute to an open, growing economy
  4. Education and health for citizens and sustainability for the environment
  5. Increase energy sector extraction and exportation
  6. Develop communication and transportation infrastructure
  7. Enhance efficiency in the public sector while representing the people

Steps to achieve these objectives were then broken down into segmented plans that addressed the country’s immediate needs in concordance with the goals. For instance, state programs addressing industry growth, education reforms and language standardization were created for the 2010 to 2020 period to increase GDP, human capital and societal unification.

Economic Reforms

Kazakhstan possesses the richest mineral and hydrocarbon deposits in Central Asia. The nation solicited foreign investment and created national companies in order to develop its energy sector after gaining independence. In 2016, the nation ranked seventh globally in coal exportation and one year later it ranked 12th globally in oil production. Profits from this sector have greatly impacted Kazakhstan’s rise out of poverty by contributing to citizens’ financial prosperity and the government’s ability to fund internal development.

The government has also privatized land properties, housing properties and automobiles and made policy adjustments that benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in order to create an open market. These developments, along with reforms in education and pension, have fostered a growing middle class that has contributed to the reduction of poverty.

Foreign Policy

In accordance with economic incentives of attracting foreign investment and maintaining positive trade relations, Kazakhstan operates with a “multi-vector foreign policy” by participating in international organizations and engaging in diplomacy.

Trade relationships with China, Russia and regions of Southern Asia and Western Europe have proved vital to Kazakhstan’s rise out of poverty. Creating conditions for foreign investment has led to relationships with organizations such as the World Bank Group and the Japan International Cooperation Agency that provide critical assistance in developing SMEs, educational systems, transportation, agriculture, medical care and environmental sustainability. Kazakhstan is also a member of the World Trade Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union. Additionally, in 2010 it served as chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Looking Ahead

In 2012, Kazakhstan released a plan for 2050 that builds upon the “Kazakhstan – 2030” Strategy and aims to place the nation among the top 30 developed countries in the world. Innovations in the agricultural and food industries, empowerment of regional authorities and SMEs, increases in renewable energy and diversification in the economy, are among the priorities for this new agenda. Though the nation is focused on developing these areas, Kazakhstan’s rise out of poverty has equipped the country with the financial and structural means to continue making positive strides in all sectors of Kazakhstani life.

Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and PoachingIn recent years, African nations have been grappling with a crisis: declining numbers of some of its most iconic animals. Over 90% of Zambia’s elephant population was wiped out because of poaching, which began in the 1950s. These staggering numbers, however, are connected to a more significant issue in the region: poverty. With a clear correlation between poaching and poverty, research suggests that if poverty can be abated, so can poaching.

The Link Between Poverty and Poaching

Poaching, which kills between 10,000 to 15,000 elephants per year, can largely be attributed to excessive rates of poverty in a particular area. In fact, in regions where elephant populations are faring better, the local human community is too. Where infant mortality and poverty density rates are lower, fewer elephants are being killed. Therefore, it is essential to understand that eliminating poverty and poaching are two sides of the same coin.

In Tanzania, a recent study corroborated the link between these issues. Of 173 local villagers, four out of five confessed to having participated in poaching to provide food or income to their families. The majority of participants maintained that if their basic needs could be met another way, they would permanently stop poaching. Therefore, by addressing their need for food and income, poaching could be significantly reduced.

A Local Organization with a Solution

Fortunately, a local Zambian organization recognized the connection between poverty and poaching and considerable progress has been made to diminish both. Community Markets for Conservation, or COMACO, located in the Luangwa Valley region of Eastern Zambia, works to fight poaching by addressing the root cause of why people poach: poverty. The organization educates villagers on sustainable conservation practices, creating a reliable source of income and food that can consistently provide for local families.

By addressing poverty and poaching as a holistic issue, COMACO has worked to reduce both issues in the Luangwa Valley region. The operation works with over 179,000 locals in 76 different chiefdoms across more than 10.5 million hectares of land. After educating villagers in sustainable ways, COMACO then purchases their goods at premium prices and sells them across Africa under the name “It’s Wild!” On average, farmers in this program turned a food deficit into a food surplus in only a couple of years.

A Proven Method for the Future

With women comprising over half of certified COMACO farmers, this organization has transformed both poverty and poaching in Eastern Zambia. The results show that 86% of farmers are food secure, and their income has tripled. Their pledges to support conservation efforts have yielded promising results.

Poaching incidents have dramatically decreased in the region, there is a surplus of nutritious food and incomes have seen substantial growth.

Poverty and poaching are two intertwined issues that can only be solved by addressing them comprehensively. Local villagers poach because of their inability to find food and a lack of income. COMACO, which understands this connection, has successfully implemented a system to address both and the results are wildly successful. By educating and supporting former poachers on sustainable agricultural practices, COMACO has diminished poverty and poaching. Villagers have a food surplus, a source of income and now, wildlife can safely and freely roam.

Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

North Korea Health Care
Despite North Korea having universal health care, many of its citizens struggle to obtain basic health care. The health care system has been in a state of crisis since the 1990s, so the little health care that is available goes to high-income Koreans. Here are five facts about health in North Korea.

5 Facts About Health in North Korea

  1. North Korea spent the least on health care in the world in 2019. The total amount of money that the country did use for health care equaled less than $1 USD. The lack of funding makes the quality of health care lower which prompts citizens to bypass doctors altogether and buy medicinal products from markets and self-medicate.
  2. Two out of every five North Koreans suffer undernourishment. Mission East, a Danish NGO, is the only U.N. exception sending agricultural machinery into the country – which the country has banned alongside metal objects. Mission East emerged in 1991 and was finally able to establish a country office in Pyongyang in the summer of 2019. It helps the rural population with food security and health in North Korea.
  3. Out of the 131,000 cases of tuberculosis in North Korea, 16,000 citizens died throughout 2017. Multi-drug resistant strains are becoming more and more common in recent years. The Eugene Bell Foundation has been giving health care aid to North Korea since its beginning in 1995. The Foundation returns to North Korea every six months and has initiated a multi-drug resistant tuberculosis program as well as a tuberculosis care program. The program has cured over 70 percent of the patients in North Korea with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.
  4. Sixty-one percent of North Koreans have access to safe water. UNICEF in North Korea has implemented a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (WASH). NGOs such as the Swiss Humanitarian Aid and World Vision International have received approval from the U.N. to send shipments related to the WASH program into the country. UNICEF works to promote good hygiene, provide technical support and support delivery of supplies.
  5. The infant mortality rate is 33 percent in North Korea. People often neglect children with disabilities and do not report their deaths in most cases, so the number could be up to five times higher than reported. Minimal access to health care, good sanitation and healthy foods play a huge role in the deaths of infants and their mothers. The Korea Foundation for International Healthcare, established in 2006, has partnered with The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health to provide medicine, procedures and surgeries to citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. Recently, a vaccination campaign has immunized millions of North Korean children.

It is not easy to obtain information on North Korea due to the isolated nature of the country. A lot of organizations have to fight to provide aid to the citizens and the ban on equipment and metal shipments into the country makes it hard to provide proper care to people in the country. Since the country prevents citizens from leaving the country without permission, these organizations are the saving grace for many. Health in North Korea is not as successful as it may seem at first glance, but the recent decisions the U.N. has made leaves room for optimism and change.

Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

Equal Food Distribution
One of the leading causes of malnutrition is the lack of equal food distribution. According to the World Economic Forum, Americans spend 6.4 percent of their income on food. Meanwhile, households in impoverished countries can spend up to 80 percent of their income on food. These numbers show a clear uneven trend in distributing food to people in need. Equal food distribution is also at risk from another influencer on poverty: population growth. Even in developed countries, the current rate of food distribution will eventually be unable to keep up with population growth. Distributing food to people in need will soon become an issue for not just underdeveloped countries, but for developed countries as well. 

One way of solving the growing issue of food distribution is through the utilization of new technologies. A combination of developing technologies, new economic models and support from global leaders could lead to curbing the problems behind food distribution for both the developing and underdeveloped world.

Text Message-based Farmer Assistance

In Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, farmers have access to a service that functions through text messages. Provided by CGIAR, an organization focused on water, land and ecosystems, farmers can send a message through SMS (short message service) to request updates on the best way to grow their crops. People know this service as ICT, or Information and Communication Technology. According to CGIAR, farmers send one message code when they want to see an update on their crop growth and water-use efficiency compared to other farmers using the service. Based on this data, experts monitoring the farming data can identify irregularities and alert the farmer. One issue that CGIAR sees going forward is funding. Maintaining its database would require more funding than what farmers or smallholders have already offered. However, this service would be able to help farmers, in areas of need, increase the amount their farms produce.

Using ICTs to help feed people in need has shown promising results. An ICT service will help improve irrigation and water drainage in Egypt. This service has seen a 25 percent increase in crop yields during its first phase of implementation. Magrabi Farms has also implemented ICT to allow the proper irrigation of over 8,000 acres of land.

Farming and Machine Learning

Increasing farm production is a common method of tackling the issue of distributing food to people in need. Sciforce says that almost every step of farm production uses machine learning. Machine learning, according to Sciforce, is “the scientific field that gives machines the ability to learn without being strictly programmed.” Farmers can use machine learning to:

  • Find which genes would help a crop survive in adverse weather conditions.

  • Manage the soil and help farmers understand the ecosystem they are growing in.

  • Manage water and allow farmers to be more efficient with their irrigation systems.

  • Improve the prediction of crop yield.

  • Fight disease and weeds by using a calculated distribution of agrochemicals that only target specific plants.

Machine learning accomplishes all of this by analyzing decades of farming records. It uses a combination of algorithms and scientific models to best apply the trends from decades of farming data.

NBC News reported that Carnegie Mellon University roboticist George Kantor claimed that machine learning could increase the variety of grain sorghum from 100 different variants to 1,000. Machine learning could do this by examining the crop’s genetic code.

Weather Forecasts

Another way to ensure that countries are able to distribute food to people in need is by improving distribution itself. The Weather Company’s Agricultural Head, Carrie Gillespie, stated that “A lot of food waste happens during distribution…” Suppliers often use weather forecasts when distributing food to people in need. Due to distribution including the harvesting process, these weather reports can help farmers know when the soil is at its best for harvesting.

3D Printing

While this may seem like an idea from a sci-fi movie, 3D printing is a technology that may soon allow food printing. Jordan French, CEO at a 3D food printing startup called BeeHex, explains that 3D food printing could allow for customization of food products based on the certain wants and needs of the consumer. This could include developing food with certain nutrients that an impoverished community may be lacking, much like the recently FDA-approved golden rice, which emerged to treat a global vitamin A deficiency.

Jordan French also theorizes that 3D printing food could eliminate the need for distribution altogether, as it would create a bridge between the producer and the consumer.

The market for 3D-printed food is rising in profits by 46 percent each year until 2023. Mark Crawford of ASME.org alludes that this is due to how the technology could provide a solution to distributing food to people in need.

These technologies aim to tackle the challenges of distributing food to the impoverished for the sake of equal food distribution. Improving farming quality through databases and machine learning, watching the weather to allow for better distribution and even bypassing the need for food production are just some developing technologies that have the potential to assist the world’s hungry.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: United Nations

Gates Foundation Poverty China
Former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, have used their private organization, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to aid China in its goal to eradicate poverty by 2020. Meanwhile, China has had several issues that have contributed to its problems with poverty, including its transition to becoming a more urbanized country back in 2012. The urban population has risen to 52 percent, which is more than the rural population at 48 percent. People continue to move into urban sections of the country in search of better-paying jobs. This becomes a problem as poverty increases as people end up taking underpaying jobs while the cost of living also goes up. Another problem was that 170,000 students attended school in 2010 in Shanghai, while more than three times that amount worked on farms in that same city.

The Game Plan

The Gates Foundation Poverty China project launched a campaign called Goalkeepers to help quicken the process towards ending not only poverty but also inequality and injustice. This coincides with helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which include gaining quality education, clean water and sanitation, along with universal health care for all.

Despite the issues that a more urbanized China has, it has produced positive results during the past 70 years by lifting over 850 million people out of poverty over a span of 40 years. Meanwhile, others have developed their own plans to get themselves out of poverty by using business sense. One example is when a local Shibadong farmer named Shi Quanhou worked his way out of poverty by running an agritainment farm. Agritainment is a compound word for farms that include both agriculture and entertainment. These farms might include pumpkin patches, petting zoos and corn mazes, among other attractions for a family-friendly atmosphere. Although one cannot say this about other farmers, Quanhou underwent this plan in a desperate measure to help him provide a more secure and prosperous life for his family. Farmers have also found a 12.1 percent increase in their income by transitioning their farms to agritainment farms.

China’s Success

Furthermore, assigned teams have gone to farms and villages to investigate how those areas are performing, making sure that those with struggling land receive assistance. China has also promoted poverty alleviation, which includes e-commerce and providing employment opportunities for over 2.5 million people. It also originated more than 30,000 poverty reduction workshops and classes in order for attendees to gain employment close to home.

With many people still underprivileged, The Gates Foundation Poverty China project also offered its support during this stretch with three solutions that incorporate working with government agencies, advocating for financial services, health care and childhood nutrition. The organization also added a partnership with the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development to research how to remedy these issues through experience within China and also between China and other countries. Establishing stronger platforms that encourage participation in the relief efforts to end poverty has also been part of its long term plan. The Gates Foundation Poverty China is closing in on completing what could very well be the largest turnaround of this global issue in the world’s history.

Helping Health

The Gates Foundation Poverty China plan includes a $33 million grant to combat tuberculosis to the Chinese Ministry of Health. This partnership intends to better detect tuberculosis cases and find a cure for those suffering from it. With over 1.5 million cases each year, this partnership is providing innovative tests, along with patient monitoring strategies to deliver improved treatment and diagnoses across the country.

Additionally, China has developed a plan to decrease TB by creating The Chinese Infectious and Endemic Disease Control Project (IEDC) back in 1991. The World Bank partly funded $58 million to it and the World Health Organization developed it in 1989. The IEDC was a booming success, curing 85 percent of identified patients within two years of its implementation. TB cases decreased by over 36 percent between 1990 and 2000, about 4.1 percent each year.

Infinite Improvement

People have widely recognized China for its dramatic improvement. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed out that China has contributed the most to its cause over the last decade. This turnaround means that the livelihoods of many will boost China’s economy and build a more prosperous nation. With that plan in motion, China has almost eradicated rural poverty by refocusing on areas where the poorest live in places with poor infrastructure and have special needs. China went from a staggering 97.5 percent in 1978 to a meager 3.1 percent among the rural population at the end of 2017. With 2020 already underway, President Xi Jinping has informed the Chinese people that anyone in an impoverished state should receive medical benefits, such as insurance, aid and allowances. With the Gates Foundation Poverty China plan and China’s campaigns and multiple partnerships with local governments, China’s ability to avert its national catastrophe will not only gain global attention from other suffering countries or have more fortunate nations lend a hand, but will be able to lend help of its own.

Tom Cintula
Photo: Flickr

Guayaki’s ethical business
Yerba mate is a plant native to South America that has properties similar to caffeinated plants. People can use the leaves in a similar manner to tea leaves which steep in hot water to diffuse the taste and desired properties of the plant. In addition to the physical effects of mate, the plant has cultural significance in South American folklore. People originally discovered it in modern-day Paraguay and Southern Brazil where the natives dubbed it an herb “from the gods.” The natives imbibed it to boost physical and mental stamina, and they used it for medicinal purposes and in religious ceremonies to worship the gods. Today, Argentinians, Paraguayans and Brazilians drink it in a similar fashion to how Americans drink coffee. A couple of people can share a bowl of mate and have a chat or college students can drink it while studying for their exams. Guayaki’s ethical business produces yerba mate while giving back to its community.

Guayaki’s Business Model

Guayaki is one of the few companies that farms and sells yerba mate in the North American market. The company has established itself and its business model with respect to the native traditions people associate with mate, as well as through its efforts to promote sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices, indigenous culture resilience and ethical management and payment of its employees. Guayaki’s ethical business model focuses first and foremost on the well-being of its workers in conjunction with the environment. By 2020, Guayaki plans to restore 200,000 acres of rainforest and create 1,000 living wage jobs.

To start, Guayaki grows its mate plants in their natural state, in the shade of the dense jungle. The workers then come and harvest only the leaves and young stems by hand to make sure the plant continues to grow. They do this because modern agricultural practices may cause the original taste to deteriorate. Moreover, growing the mate in this way also guarantees that the operations put off the least amount of emissions possible.

Clean Living

In addition to simply farming sustainably, Guayaki’s ethical business practices not only meet the standards of Fair for Life and Non-GMO certifications, but they also help promote the biodiversity of the rainforest and create a carbon sink for emissions. People farm the mate through multi strata agroforestry, which is the act of combining crops with the forest canopy and creating a carbon skin that draws carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in the leaves and soil. The company conducts all packaging actions and transportation methods with 100 percent renewable energy and does all packaging with recyclable and/or compostable resources. Through these efforts, Guayaki has created a net-zero carbon emissions business.

A Company for the Community

Guayaki’s ethical business model proves to be a frontrunner with regard to the treatment of employees. The company sources all of its mate from indigenous communities, mainly in Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. In contrast to the business model of many large corporations that buy the land from local farmers outright, Guayaki pays its farmers two to three times the amount that a large company would pay to buy the land in order to ensure they do not suffer exploitation in the long run while still benefiting in the short term. As of 2017, Guayaki created almost 900 jobs among local indigenous communities that pay a comfortable living wage to the producers.

Guayaki not only treats its workers well, but it also gives back to the communities where it operates. The company donates funds to improve infrastructure and build/upkeep schools. People can make donations through the Guayaki Foundation, which also encourages local communities to plant indigenous hardwood trees. It also teaches the methods of agroecology to school children in order to give them an education that will help them with their careers later in life and make their lives much more enjoyable and livable.

Through all of Guayaki’s ethical business practices, the company is helping protect the environment while also bringing neglected populations out of poverty and into not only a survivable life but a livable and enjoyable one. Through their benefits and teaching methods, Guayaki is making sure that the people will always have the means to support themselves in an ethical, comfortable way for years to come.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Waste Action and Poverty in IndiaWithin the last year, more information has come out about the consumption of plastics and their mismanagement. The information has spread awareness of the dangers of single-use plastics and encouraged using paper or reusable straws along with a number of other initiatives. Few, however, have been as transformative as one undertaken in India by the NGO Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha (SSVAJKS). SSVAJKS has spearheaded a streamlined process of plastic waste collection and sell to recyclers. Though SSVAJKS may be the only organization connecting plastic waste action and poverty in India, others are joining the efforts to mitigate the problem.

Large Scale Support

At least 16.5 million tons of plastics are consumed annually, 43 percent of which are single-use, packaging material. Around 80 percent of these plastics are discarded. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India Drive promises to address pollution in India. In March 2019, India banned imports of plastic waste. By September, it banned single-use and disposable plastic products. Headlined by Modi’s speech on August 15 calling for the elimination of such items by October 2, the Indian government aims to reduce disposable plastics to zero by 2022.

In alignment with this initiative, Amazon India and Walmart’s Flipkart announced actions to remove single-use plastics from their packaging. They will instead opt for entirely paper cushions and recycled plastic consumption by March 2021. In June 2018, PepsiCo India vowed to replace its plastic Lays and Kurkure bag with “100 percent compostable, plant-based” ones. This was countered by Coca-Cola’s goal to recycle one can or bottle for every one sold by 2030.

Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha

While governments and corporations have addressed the future of plastic consumption, they neglect the areas where SSVAJKS helps the most. SSVAKLS is dealing with the existing plastic that has already been produced. SSVAKLS has the support of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program under the advisement and jurisdiction of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). These efforts have connected the campaigns against plastic overconsumption and mismanagement with SSVAJKS’ recycling initiative.

The NGO began linking plastic waste action and poverty in India in the city of Bhopal in 2008. It developed a sustainable integrated waste management system for the city’s five wards, a model that expanded to the state level in 2011. Replicated across India in all of its states, this model relies on ‘ragpickers’ to sift through the waste and pick out plastics returned to municipal collection centers. These collectors come from highly vulnerable, socially marginalized castes and are predominantly poor, illiterate women.

Since partaking in this initiative, the incomes of the ‘ragpickers’ have vastly improved, doubling in many cases. The plastic they collect and submit to the collection centers is recycled into roads and co-processing in cement kilns, benefitting upwards of two million people. The overwhelming success of the NGO led to another SGP grant that enlisted “2,000 unorganized waste pickers” across the Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s 70 wards.

The Endgame

SGP hopes to build a sustainable plastic waste management system and ensure the co-processing of plastic waste. It will also increase the standards of living for 2,000 ragpicker families. New initiatives are introducing vermicomposting along with paper bag and cotton making units. The results are phenomenal. Ragpickers have collected 4,200 megatons of plastic, saving plastic from burning and emitting 12,000 megatons of carbon. Additionally, the ragpickers themselves are able to open bank accounts to accumulate their savings, lifting them slowly but surely out of abject poverty. The success of the SSVAJKS in combining efforts to address plastic waste action and poverty in India demonstrates the NGO’s capacity to tackle multiple issues at once and incentivize the solving of one through the other.

Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

Industrialization in Kenya
With a current growth rate hovering between 5 and 6 percent, Kenya is one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Industrialization in Kenya, as part of Vision 2030, is a priority that could help transform the agriculture-dependent country into a developed economy. According to Kenya’s Ministry of Industrialization and Enterprise Development, its three main goals include increasing foreign investment, improving the business environment and reducing corruption. Kenya has a massive goal of reaching a GDP of $211 billion. That would be approximately the same GDP as Romania in 2017. Kenya’s GDP increased from $18 billion in 2005 to $78 billion in 2017. The 2017 figure was $17 billion more than expected. China is one foreign investor that sees potential in developing Kenya’s economy.

Why Develop Kenya?

One side effect of developing an economy is a reduced poverty rate. Approximately 60 percent of Kenyans work in the agriculture industry, which is typical for developing economies. A developed economy such as the U.S. involves a mostly service dependent economy.

A drought-affected part of Kenya in 2017 slowed GDP growth, increased inflation to 8 percent and harmed the economy. President Uhuru Kenyatta acknowledged the need for industrialization in Kenya and the country’s dependence on agriculture. Vision 2030 includes increasing manufacturing from 11 percent of Kenya’s GDP to 20 percent of its GDP and focuses on developing its oil, minerals, tourism, infrastructure and geothermal sectors.

Businesses and countries investing in Kenya could add jobs for Kenyans, help diversify into a new market and improve trade between the two entities. Foreign direct investment was $1.6 billion in 2018. The United Kingdom, China, Belgium, the Netherlands and South Africa are the main investors. Banking, tourism, mining, infrastructure and information and communications technology are some of the investment sectors for these countries.

First Steps to Industrialization in Kenya

China is a major investor in Kenyan infrastructure. The Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) costs $3.6 billion and connects the capital with the largest city in Kenya. The China Road and Bridge Corporation hired more than 25,000 Kenyans to work on the railway that opened in 2017. It extended the railway to Naivasha in October 2019. More than one million people rode the SGR in 2018.

China Road and Bridge Corporation also invested in the Nairobi Southern Bypass Highway that relieves congestion through the capital city Nairobi by redirecting traffic to and from the port city of Mombasa. Mombasa has a population of over three million and receives visitors from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan. “There is no doubt the infrastructure projects financed and developed by China are making a huge impact in the country, especially when you look at the ease of travel and employment opportunities,” said Philip Mainga, managing director of Kenya Railway Corporation.

The World Bank also helped rural regions with its Kenya Informal Settlements Improvement Project. The project involved the construction of more than 60 miles of roads. Also, the project built 52 miles of footpaths, 66 miles of drainage canals, 39 miles of sewer pipelines, 68 miles of water pipelines and 134 security lights by its end date of November 2019.

Progress Ongoing in Kenya

Various organizations completed many other projects that have benefitted millions of Kenyans. Vision 2030 includes ambitious goals that will benefit its economy and people through job growth, key sectors growth and poverty reduction. One of Kenya’s key sectors, tourism, already saw a 5.6 percent growth in 2018, which is higher than the global average of 3.9 percent. The Information and Communication Technology sector saw an average growth of 10.8 percent since 2016, giving Kenya its “Silicon Savannah” name. Kenya’s poverty rate continues to decline as the country develops. Its poverty rate lowered from 46 percent in 2005 to 36 percent in 2016, demonstrating that progress is ongoing in poverty reduction and industrialization in Kenya.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr