Digital Green Empowers Poor Farmers
World hunger is one of the biggest challenges to overcome in the journey to eradicate poverty. It is impossible for communities to advance into other sectors without access to food. Roughly 690 million people do not have adequate access to food today. However, if information can be readily available and accessible for rural farmers, they could help reduce this number. Digital Green is a company that began in 2006 and aims to reduce world hunger.

What is Digital Green?

Digital Green is an Indian-based company that aids smallholder farmers in implementing better farming practices. It uses a unique software that more conventional organizations do not utilize. However, company co-founder Rikin Gandhi did not always see himself in Digital Green. He graduated from college with knowledge in science and engineering in hopes of becoming an astronaut. Moreover, the way astronauts melded intelligence and courage inspired him.

Gandhi said that he ended up focusing on another group of people who meld intelligence and courage after experiencing rejection from astronaut programs. He focused on the smallholder farmer. Immediately, he knew he wanted to approach things differently. Thus, he teamed up with Microsoft to create Digital Green.

Community Videos

Gandhi believed that the best way for smallholder farmers to improve their practices was by learning tricks from other farmers in the area. However, there was a problem. Many smallholder farmers in India live far apart. As a result, he created a database called community videos. This database is a collection of videos from several farming communities to share their wealth and knowledge.

Community videos are different from YouTube because they specifically target smallholder farmers. Farmers can easily select their desired language and region, and ensure that they are watching content that someone they can identify with produced.

Digital Green has produced more than 6,000 videos relating to farming practices to date. Additionally, the company oversees every video’s production from start to finish, ensuring that the sequence makes sense and that communities find the information relevant. Certain crop yields have soared by as much as 74% after farmers began using community videos.

FarmStack

Digital Green also implemented FarmStack to empower farmers. FarmStack is a platform designed to connect government and non-governmental organizations to smallholder farmers. It allows both groups to upload and download relevant data such as soil conditions and food prices at local markets.

The platform allows for immediate communication and makes sure that farmers receive customized solutions for unusual predicaments. In addition, it ensures that farmers receive relevant data that will help them better manage productivity as well as finances. As a result of the program, farmers’ income has increased and crop failure has decreased.

What is Next for Digital Green?

Digital Green is currently working on projects primarily in India and Ethiopia. COVID-19 has posed new challenges for the organization, but it shows no signs of slowing down. Furthermore, Digital Green hopes to one day reach every smallholder farmer in need. Luckily, the organization has partnered with powerful organizations around the globe to accelerate the process. Some organizations currently partnered with Digital Green include Walmart, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UKAid and Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD).

Although smallholder farmers only support a small aspect of their community, Digital Green acknowledges that they hold the key to ending world hunger. If all of these small communities connected, knowledge would spread like a wildfire. Eventually, every smallholder farmer across the globe may see an uptick of even 5% in crop yield. This impact would be tremendous.

– Jake Hill
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Cocoa Industry
Tony’s Chocolonely, a chocolate company in the Netherlands, emerged in 2005. When police arrested a journalist by the name of Teun van de Keuken, he asked to go to prison. He hired a lawyer to help send him to prison and asked a judge to convict him of driving child slavery. However, the judge would not convict him, stating that his crime was simply eating a bar of chocolate. Keuken was not satisfied with this decision and ventured to create a chocolate company that would both combat child labor and poverty in the cocoa industry.

A Better Idea

Instead, Keuken decided to try to stop child slavery from the inside. He wanted to do this by setting up a chocolate company with the mission of ending child slavery in general by fighting poverty in the cocoa industry. Since 2005, the company has grown, and with it, so have its missions. The brand is now the Netherlands’ favorite chocolate company and it has an international reach as many supermarkets in Europe sell its products. Additionally, it is inspiring cooperatives and chocolate companies across the world. Here are Tony’s Chocolonely’s five guiding principles.

Tony’s 5 Guiding Principles

  1. Traceable Cocoa Beans: The company does not buy large quantities of anonymous beans, but rather trades directly with farmers and cooperatives so that it knows the environmental and social conditions in which the beans grew. The company has implemented Tony’s Beantracker so that it knows exactly where the cocoa for its chocolate comes from. This is part of its transparency to ensure conscious consumption.
  2. A Higher Price: The company pays a higher price for its cocoa to ensure that cocoa farmers earn a living wage, which is enough to feed their families and run their farms. This has involved paying a premium; as the cocoa market can be so volatile, Tony’s pays farmers the same amount, even when prices drop. This helps ensure that farmers have enough funds to maintain their livelihoods. In 2019, cocoa prices fell and Tony’s increased its premium from $375 to $600 per tonne to ensure the security of farmers’ income.
  3. Strengthening Farmers: Tony’s Chocolonely is working to professionalize farming cooperatives. If farmers work together, they will be more empowered to structurally challenge the inequality in the value chain. When working together, farmers can stand up to middlemen in the production chain, negotiate better prices when buying production resources as a collection and raise concerns. Tony’s facilitates meetings where farmers can engage and raise concerns, empowering farmers to speak up.
  4. The Long Term: Normally in the cocoa industry, a buyer seeks out the cheapest price. However, Tony’s has committed itself to sign five-year contracts to tie it into longer deals. The longevity of these deals allows the company to build relationships with the farmers. It also ensures farmers a stable income for five years so that they have a steady source of income and can feed their children and pay the bills.
  5. Improved Quality and Productivity: Tony’s invests in agricultural knowledge and skills related to growing cocoa and other crops. The company wants to help farmers increase their crop productivity to give them more stability in sales, but also in subsistence agriculture so they have the crops they need to survive nutritionally. To help here, Tony’s works with Soil & More to help farmers develop and source compost and organic fertilizer.

Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk

Tony’s Chocolonely leads by example in how it is fighting poverty in the cocoa industry. However, it has extended its mission to raise awareness and inspire others to act in the same way. It is spreading its message to more people every day in an effort to acknowledge the problems of slavery and poverty in the cocoa industry so that citizens can be more conscious consumers. Such awareness promotion is having an effect; in the Netherlands, where the company is based, 75% of people now know about the problems of child slavery and poverty in the cocoa industry and say they will try to be more ethical consumers.

Advocacy

Tony’s Chocolonely’s advocacy aims to inspire others. This is evident in its partnership with the Netherlands’ largest supermarket Albert Heijn, which has worked to make the chocolate it sells slave-free. In 2019, Tony’s Chocolonely also broke into the markets of the U.K. and Germany.

The company is aiming to pressure big chocolate producers like Nestle and Cadburys to eliminate child slavery from their practices. Tony’s Chocolonely wants to get to that tipping point where ethical practice becomes necessary for business and would like this to occur either through law or by requirement. In fact, it would like it to be necessary for businesses to have a license to operate in the cocoa industry.

– Lizzie Alexander
Photo: Flickr

Most Generous Donor Countries
According to the Principled Aid Index, a study by OECD’s DAC (Development Assistance Committee), the most generous donor countries tend to be the most humble and modest about the help they provide to the world’s poor. Amongst DAC’s 30 member countries, the four most generous are Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. All exceeded the United Nation’s recommended level of donating 0.7% of Gross National Income to foreign aid. How are those four most generous and principled aid donors using their international funds to help the world’s poor?

Luxembourg

Luxembourg tops the list of most generous donor countries with 1.05% of its Gross National Income going to foreign aid. The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is a partner to nine developing countries across Africa, the United States and Asia, and is a member of the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

Luxembourg’s foreign aid strategy, developed through Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency, focuses on improving local development through providing education and employment, digitalizing healthcare and funding renewable energy. Its main areas of work have been Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Mali, Niger, Senegal, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Norway

The second country on the list of most generous donor countries is Norway. Norway spends on average NOK 39 billion ($4.3 billion) on foreign aid per year. Apart from exceeding the United Nations’ 0.7% target, Norway has only failed to donate over 1% of its Gross National Income to international humanitarian aid once since 2013. In 2020, Norway donated 1.02%.

The Norwegian government has five focus areas of appointing its foreign aid funds – education, health, private-sector development, environmental challenges and humanitarian assistance. It also focuses heavily on development, whether through human rights, gender equality, the environment or the fight against corruption. Its most prioritized areas of work, and the recipients of its biggest donations, are mostly countries in the SWANA region.

Norway is currently focusing on development cooperation in Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda. It is also focusing on conflict prevention in Afghanistan, Malawi, Niger, Palestine, Somalia and South Sudan.

Norway has announced that in the year 2021, it will put a significant focus on international humanitarian assistance and global health, and thus will donate nearly NOK 10 billion to both of the causes. Expectations have determined that its overall 2021 foreign aid budget will reach NOK 38.1 billion ($4.7 billion.) At the beginning of 2021, Norway joined COVAX. COVAX is an international collaboration within developed countries aiming to bring COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries. Norway has committed itself to the redistribution of its surplus vaccine doses to poorer countries in the program.

Sweden

Although Sweden is the sixth country on the DAC list, it is actually the third most generous donor based on the proportion of its foreign aid donations to the size of its economy. Sweden has exceeded the United Nation’s 0.7% target every year since 1975. In addition, it has kept the long-term commitment of donating at least 1% since 2008. In 2020, the Swedish government ensured its COVID-19 response will not affect its development funding during the pandemic.

The main national body acting on foreign aid donations is the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). SIDA’s Aid Policy Framework is based on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and focuses on eight main areas – human rights and democracy, gender equality, environment and environmental challenges, peace and security, inclusive economic development, migration, health equity and education. SIDA has 35 partner countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Sweden’s biggest donations go to Tanzania, Afghanistan and Mozambique. However, SIDA also works in Palestine, South Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Sweden has been very open about its strong commitment to international development cooperation. One of the central points of its foreign development policy has been gender equality and women’s empowerment. In 2014, Sweden was the first country to implement Feminist Foreign Policy, which ensures fundamental rights, peace, security and opportunities for sustainable development for women and girls in developing countries – such as cash grants supporting female-led households in Tanzania, which Sweden has been providing since 2016. Furthermore, a large part of Sweden’s funding between 2014 and 2017 went towards its efforts to domestically host refugees. Later in 2019, it also created an emergency fund for Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan. As part of Sweden’s 2021 budget plan, the country has a commitment to spending $6 billion USD on foreign humanitarian aid.

Denmark

According to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Denmark has donated 0.71% of its Gross National Income to foreign aid – $2.55 billion – in 2020. The main sectors on the Danish foreign aid agenda are ensuring a secure transition to migrants by providing them with education and employment opportunities. Denmark also works to promote democracy and equal human rights, as well as implementing inclusive and sustainable development.

Most of the aid goes to “priority countries” like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, Myanmar, Palestine, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda. Denmark also donates significant funds to Indonesia, Pakistan, South Africa, Colombia, China, Mexico, Turkey and Ukraine. All of Denmark’s humanitarianism is a part of its new strategy for development and humanitarian action called “The World 2030.”

Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Luxembourg’s generosity to other countries has had a multitude of benefits. From helping improve education to aiding countries’ healthcare systems or women’s rights, these most generous donor countries are making a positive impact across the world.

– Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr

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