Volunteer
Throughout the United States and Europe, voluntourism, as a combination of tourism and volunteering, has been on the rise. Students are dedicating their free summers and vacations to go abroad to help communities and organizations in bettering their infrastructure and spreading awareness of their individual causes. As in any other form of tourism, voluntourism has undoubtedly its downsides, yet it is important to shed light on its benefits. Voluntourism, if done properly, can benefit communities and organizations, and for the volunteer, it creates a cultural awareness that would not be achieved otherwise. The key to voluntarism is sustainability, and if done in a sustainable way, the benefits of voluntourism are many.

Fixable cons of voluntourism

One of the greatest issues facing the voluntourism sector is the level of qualifications that the volunteers have. Many negative representations of voluntourism depict underqualified students working in health clinics or orphanages, fields that require years of specific qualifications. This can certainly be cause for concern. However, it is important to note the benefits as well. Internships abroad are often seen as opportunities for voluntourism. Internships require a certain level of qualifications which ensures that the student or person who volunteers has a certain degree of skill in the required field. This allows the intern to further their understanding of the field in a new culture, while simultaneously having a positive impact on the industry. For example, South Africa has an uneven distribution of doctors as for every 1000 person there is less than one doctor available. Many of these doctors work in the private sector. This has created a need for international medical interns. Read more

ecotourism in sri lanka
Elephants, whales, dolphins, eagles and mangrove forests are just a few aspects of Sri Lankan nature that give rise to the increasing popularity and benefits of ecotourism in Sri Lanka.

Tourism in Sri Lanka

Tourism, in general, is rapidly increasing in Sri Lanka. The surge in number of tourists seeking Sri Lanka’s nature brought initial exploitation and misuse of nature by locals trying to capitalize on the quickly accelerating business. However, ecotourism in Sri Lanka and efforts from others inspire more protection and the growth of sustainable tourism.

While further improvement efforts are still needed, nature is now more recognized by Sri Lankan locals and government as a valuable resource that needs protection and intelligent management. Only this kind of treatment will continue bringing income and other benefits.

The number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka hovered around 200,000 to 500,000 per year for the past three decades. However, in 2011, that number raised to about 850,000 tourists, which reached beyond two million tourists in 2016. While the number of tourists visiting Sri Lanka has drastically increased in the past few years, the average length of stay has consistently remained the same since at least the 1970s – about 10 nights.

A Nation’s Economy

Those 11 days and 10 nights of tourists pouring their money into Sri Lanka’s economy combined with the drastic increase in number of tourists in the past few years has caused the tourism sector to become an important core of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Exchange (FE) earners. Ranking third in 2016 behind worker’s remittances at 29 percent and textiles/garments at 19 percent, tourism brought 14 percent of Sri Lanka’s FE earnings.

Undoubtedly, tourism is becoming an increasingly important and beneficial part of Sri Lanka’s economy that helps to reduce poverty and empower local communities. The surge in tourism presents economic benefits, stark challenges and sustainability issues as businesses seek to capitalize.

Elephants

For example, elephants are one of the major tourist draws, and they have been (and some still are) horribly abused by Sri Lankan locals trying to make a profit from tourists. Many tourists are not aware of the extreme suffering captive elephants undergo in the businesses offering elephant rides.

Some good news is that many local Sri Lankans, international animal protectors and ecotourists are trying to put an end to the suffering of elephants in Sri Lanka’s tourism industry while also providing alternative tourism income. There are now sanctuaries for elephants to rescue the creatures from abusive businesses and provide acreage and veterinary care for the rescued elephants to heal and retire.

The Sri Lanka Wildlife and Conservation Society (SLWCS) is a non-profit organization working to bring harmony between humans, elephants and nature in Sri Lanka. SLWCS focuses on sustainable economic development, conservation and field research. New Life Elephant Sanctuary (NLES) is a project of SLWCS, with goals of providing medical care and protected nature habitat for rescued elephants, educating people and transforming tourism into a co-existence format that doesn’t hurt the elephants.

Ecotourists are drawn to spending their money on visiting wildlife sanctuaries such as NLES rather than abusive businesses. As general tourism and ecotourism in Sri Lanka grows, so do organizations such as SLWCS, regulations and improvements in environmental management.

Mangroves

Mangrove ecosystems also provide an option for the development of sustainable ecotourism in Sri Lanka. Although Sri Lanka’s mangrove ecosystems were hit hard during the 2004 tsunami, local communities, experts and organizations work to restore them.

Mangroves provide locals with tourism income as they continue to heal from tsunami damage. The trees not only provide opportunity for sustainable tourism income, but they also offer a habitat for unique species and act as a buffer protection shield for inland Sri Lanka against tsunamis and other storms.

Exclusive Economic Zone and the DWC

In addition to nature that can be used as economic resources within the country, Sri Lanka also has sovereign rights to an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) — an area that includes 510,000 square kilometers of ocean extending 200 nautical miles beyond its shore.

It is now illegal in Sri Lanka to go whale or dolphin watching without paying a park fee for a permit from the Department of Wildlife and Conservation (DWC). Also, since 2013, fishing licenses are now required for any fishing activities, and registration certificates must be obtained for any boats intended as fishing vessels.

Prioritization of Both Tourism and Nature

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also helps Sri Lankans deal sustainably with issues connected to its increasing numbers of tourists and urbanization. In September 2017, USAID granted $625,000 to organizations in Sri Lanka for proper waste management, including recycling and to “create livelihood and income generating opportunities such as composting and the sale of recyclable and reusable plastics.”

Overall, initially poor management of the surge of tourism and mishandling of nature in Sri Lanka led to eventual increase in protections for animals, conservation of land and more sustainable ways to share nature with tourists. While continued and expanded efforts are still needed, increasing conservation efforts from locals, assistance from USAID and eco-friendly choices of ecotourists are helping Sri Lankans realize longer-lasting economic benefits of their sustainable tourism and nature.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

A Journey to Stay: Migration and Industry in the South Pacific
Migration led to the population of the South Pacific Islands, along with innovation to sail against the wind. The islands developed a unique history, language, and culture and migration and industry built the South Pacific nations. There are challenges facing the islands, but people are rising up to face them. 

What are the South Pacific Islands?

The South Pacific includes about 10,000 islands located in the South Pacific Ocean that, based on their ethnic geographic history, can be further broken down into Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. 

About 3,400 years ago, people left land and started sailing, and the wind brought these new settlers to many remote islands such as Tonga, Fiji and Samoa. Eventually, this exploration stopped for about 2,000 years due to a lack of technology to sail against the wind. Once the technology was developed, many continued their migration and industrialization in the South Pacific to explore and settle the rest of Oceania to Tahiti, Hawaii and New Zealand.

From the 16th to 18th Century, the Europeans began to make infrequent and accidental discoveries of the islands that helped add to the narrative of wealth in unknown lands. It was not until the 18th Century that Europeans began an organized colonization effort in the South Pacific Islands. By 1980, most of the South Pacific Islands had reached independence.

Recent Migration

The general consensus is that people are happy on the islands and few leave unless searching for work or education. However, due to an increase in dangerous weather and rising seas, many are faced with a possibility of being forced out. An estimated 10 tropical cyclones are predicted to hit the islands between November and April each year.

While, there is no international law that recognizes people leaving on account of weather changes, talk of a new refugee has begun. On Tuvalu, it is estimated that migration will increase 70 percent by 2055, and already about 23 percent of citizens on Kiribati have migrated due to climate stressors, 41 percent for work and about 40 percent may migrate if flooding or climate changes worsen.

Business

Many of the islands face similar challenges — islands possess limited natural resources, a distance from larger markets and a greater susceptibility to external factors such as natural disasters. Despite these challenges though, tourism and other businesses are becoming a strong reality for many.

Larger islands such as Fiji, Samoa and French Polynesia have already begun to build a strong tourism industry. Fiji, in particular, is partnering its tourism with oceanic sustainability — a priority for many. Some tourism operators engage tourists with local communities by bringing them to view the Shark Reef Marine Reserve or visit villages away from the popular resorts.

Leaders in the Pacific Islands encourage entrepreneurialism, but efforts in the past have had mixed results, often beginning with loans and ending with shut-downs due to lack of payment. Currently, a refocus on education and training has started to take place, and informal polling has pointed out the importance of community in building businesses and highlighted microfinance for the future.

Migration and Industry in the South Pacific

Migration and industry in the South Pacific work to change islanders’ lives for the better. Australia still looks at many Pacific Islands as recipients rather than providers, which often detracts from viewing these islands as loci for businesses. To combat this perception, the Australian government is challenging financial institutions to sign a memorandum that will promote private sector development through financial inclusion.

Migration and industry in the South Pacific are of key importance. The islands are faced with finding their innovative selves to develop businesses and new technologies to avoid migration.

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr

Tourism Alleviates Poverty
Tourism is one of the fastest growing economic sectors; in fact, the number of international travelers hit 1 billion in 2012. That same year, tourism accounted for 9 percent of global GDP and 5 percent of global exports. This rapid growth has raised the question of how and whether tourism alleviates poverty. Salli Felton, the acting chief executive of the Travel Foundation, stated that tourism is “the largest transfer of resources from rich to poor.”  It may be the largest, but is it the best?

Tourism, The Industry

Tourism as a method of economic growth and poverty alleviation has advantages and disadvantages. In the most direct way, tourism can help to create jobs for low skilled workers. The tourism sector was responsible for over 260 million jobs worldwide in 2010—about 1 in 11.

These jobs in the tourism industry also help reboot other sectors of the economy, in turn creating indirect employment: 1 job in the tourism field generates roughly 1.5 additional jobs in other related areas such as construction, utilities, textile, transport and agriculture. The vast array of goods and services that tourism requires — infrastructure, roads, power, water, airports, hotels and resorts, restaurants, entertainment — leads to a more dynamic and wider economy at large.

Tourism’s great appeal for developing countries lies in its accessibility for communities often detached from other means of economic development i.e. island nations and rural areas. In fact, tourism is one of the 5 largest sources of exports for 69 developing countries, and the largest source for 28.

Tourism’s Attraction and Reliability

Many island areas hold draw for tourist activity—beautiful beaches, warm weather, and rich culture—but lack the connectivity to grow in other ways. On some island states, tourism is responsible for nearly 25 percent of the nation’s GDP. However, if not introduced in a sustainable way, it is not the case that tourism alleviates poverty or even helps to develop a country’s economy.

Often, tourism is not a reliable source of revenue as it is extremely sensitive to environmental and political fluctuations. Tourist towns are also susceptible to seasonal demand, making consistency difficult to achieve.

Many instances of tourist expansion come at the expense of local populations and can lead to exploitation. For instance, competition over resources between locals and tourist may ensue, as well as ecological degradation and loss of cultural tradition or heritage. In some cases, developing countries turn towards importing food, equipment, labor and other goods to meet the expectations of vacationers; as a consequence, these actions redirect revenues away from the local community.

Making Tourism Sustainable

In order to combat the negative effects of tourism, growth must be sustainable—that is, activities must be beneficial to the people of the host country. Sustainable practice can be ensured on a number of levels.

Governments can become involved in regulating environmental impacts and incentivize locally-sourced resources and labor. Large resorts can also partner with local communities. For instance, the Ritz Carlton hooked up with nearby organizations on children’s issues, hunger and poverty across their numerous locations.

Finally, tourists themselves can research which hotels or resorts are affiliated with sustainable certification programs and/or have local residents as staff. Tourists can also get outside of hotel and resort walls to use their purchasing power to help the economy by eating local, shopping local and using local guides.

If implemented in a sustainable manner, tourism alleviates poverty and lessens hardships associated with poverty related issues. However, due to the inconsistent nature of activity, tourism is not a catch-all response to poverty eradication, but rather a step in the right direction.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan addresses poverty
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has introduced an ambitious restructuring and development plan called Vision 2030. This plan was first released by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and King Salman in April 2016. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan addresses poverty by working to boost female participation in the workforce, reforming the health and education system and reducing the national unemployment rate.

The goals also include diversifying the Saudi economy, increasing life expectancy, achieving environmental sustainability and making Saudi Arabia a tourist-friendly destination, among others. These are five of the many ways that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan addresses poverty.

How Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 Plan Addresses Poverty

  1. Empowering the Nonprofit Sector
    The best way that Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan addresses poverty is by setting up a regulatory framework that strengthens the nonprofit sector by offering government support and incentives for wealthy families to contribute, and increasing the number of government projects that generate a social impact. The kingdom currently has fewer than 1,000 nonprofits, which contribute only 0.3 percent of the national GDP. The goal is to increase the sector’s contribution to GDP from less than 1 percent to 5 percent, and to rally one million volunteers for this sector each year, compared to the current average of 11,000.
  2. Increasing Women’s Rights and Participation
    The kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic reform plan sets out a goal to increase female participation in the workforce from 22 percent to 30 percent. Additionally, as a part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 plan, the Saudi government now funds the education of more than 35,000 Saudi women around the globe. New jobs for women have also been created in the government and in the military. Empowering women and allowing them to participate in the workforce can help them provide for their family and be self-sufficient, thus helping to fight poverty worldwide.
  3. Reforming Education
    The kingdom will be investing in childhood education by reforming the country’s academic and educational system. The government has also made numerous scholarships available that are aimed at Saudi students wanting to attend top international universities. To further develop local educational opportunities, Saudi Arabia also aims to have at least five universities ranked among the top 200 in the world by 2030. To do this, the government plans on preparing a modern curriculum with rigorous standards and tracking its progress and improvement throughout the years. Additionally, it plans to work with the private sector to ensure that students are prepared for the job market in each sector. This will help fight poverty by increasing the opportunities available to Saudi students worldwide.
  4. Investing in Small Business and Enterprise
    Small and medium-sized enterprises are essential to economic growth since they create jobs and promote financial independence. However, these enterprises currently account for only 20 percent of the national GDP, compared to up to 70 percent in more developed economies. In order to increase investment in small and medium-sized enterprises, the government has created the SME Authority to encourage entrepreneurship and help create easier access to funding and remove burdensome legal and administrative obstacles that are preventing their growth and creation.
  5. Investing in Saudi Arabia as a Tourist Destination
    In 2018, tourists visas will be issued for the first time ever in Saudi Arabia. Previously, tourist visas could only be acquired by Muslims going on the Hajj. Additionally, the government is investing in several luxury hotels and facilitating access to heritage sites. This part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 addresses poverty because it will create jobs and increase the amount of money circulating in the Saudi economy.

King Salman described his mission by saying, “My first objective is for our country to be a pioneering and successful global model of excellence, on all fronts, and I will work with you to achieve that.” Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plans to accomplish this objective by alleviating poverty throughout the country.

– Luz Solano-Flórez
Photo: Flickr

tourism in ThailandThailand is a unique country that attracts over 32 million tourists each year. Tourism made up 20.6 percent of Thailand’s GDP in 2016 and supported about 6.1 percent of jobs. Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, was the most visited city in 2017. It is clear the tourism in Thailand is impacting the country.

Thailand’s 2004 Tsunami Recovery

Tourism both aided and hindered Thailand in its post-tsunami state. With a high need for jobs and funds, many luxury hotels were able to reopen within months. Unfortunately, some groups such as migrant workers had a difficult time receiving aid, if they even received any at all.

The event was also a catalyst for the marginalization of those in a lower socioeconomic status as many were barred from returning to their homes in popular tourist areas such as the beach. It is estimated that upwards of 10,000 were either prevented from returning or an attempt was made to prevent them from returning.

The Marginalized in Thailand

The country’s social bias against migrant workers, immigrants and refugees is one of Thailand’s biggest criticisms. People in these marginalized groups are at a legal disadvantage compared to Thai citizens. Migrant workers are at the will of their employer, needing a “termination and employer transfer form” (in other words, permission from their current employer) in order to switch jobs. Research by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2010 found 33 to 50 percent of employers in the fishing, domestic and manufacturing sector used this law to their advantage to prevent losing migrant workers as employees.

There are also multiple reports of migrant workers being punished by law in what seem like uncertain situations. One example is the fourteen migrant workers who filed a complaint against their employer for exploitation, thus damaging the company’s reputation. This resulted in the employer filing a lawsuit against the workers with potential consequences being imprisonment and fines. 

Another unfortunate example occurred in 2015 when two migrant workers from Myanmar were sentenced to death for the murder of two tourists; the case was marred by police misconduct such as the mishandling of evidence and the alleged torture of the workers. While it is difficult to find an exact number of migrant workers convicted of a crime in Thailand, it is becoming increasingly clear to the world that this is a human rights issue that needs to be addressed.

Sex Tourism in Thailand

Prostitution was outlawed in the 1960s, but Thailand still has a growing trade revolving around paid sex. There is no way to get a real number on those traveling for sex tourism in Thailand, but NGOs estimated 70 percent of male travelers were visiting specifically for the sex industry in 2013. Prostitution does not have a social stigma in Thailand like in other countries and many Thais have accepted it as part of the culture, creating growth in the industry despite questionable legalities.

Medical Tourism in Thailand

Many tourists travel to Thailand because of the low-cost medical treatment. In 2006, about 200,000 tourists traveled to Thailand explicitly for medical treatment. By 2011, that number rose to half a million.

According to insurance company Thai Expat Club, Thailand was third in the world as the most likely destination for health tourism in 2016. Many medical tourists are saving at least half of what they would pay in the US. Add on recovery by the beach or in a resort and it is no wonder Thailand has become the medical hub of Asia.

Tourism’s Impact on the Environment

With tourism in Thailand increasing, trash increases as well. Unfortunately, Thailand’s infrastructure has been unable to keep up. A common assessment has been waste left over from beach parties. It is estimated that Ko Phangan Full Moon beach parties leave about 12 tons of debris per day behind which mostly goes into landfills or the ocean.

Many groups are currently trying to highlight this issue which will hopefully create a springboard for biodegradable materials and other environmentally conscious decisions. Some of the organizations partnering with Thailand to address the waste issues are the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which collaborates with Thailand to protect environmental laws, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which works on conservation within the country.

Tourism in Thailand is drawing in great opportunities such as growing jobs, a developing medical field and cultural awareness. However, there are some points of contention with prostitution, the waste problem and an increasing awareness of the marginalized in Thai society. Curbing environmental problems and working toward a more equal society will create a stronger Thailand and, ultimately, a stronger world.

– Natasha Komen
Photo: Flickr

Top five U.S. Trading Partners
The U.S. has strengthened relations with other countries around the world by offering foreign aid. In 2017, the top five U.S. trading partners all received foreign aid from the U.S., the world’s largest trading nation.

In 2013, U.S. exports in goods and services were $2.3 trillion. Trade is vital to the U.S. economy as it provides growth, aids jobs and offers Americans affordable goods and services. It supports families and businesses by allowing more productive and higher paying jobs, growing the variety of products available for purchase and encouraging investment for a more rapid economic growth.

The top five U.S. trading partners of 2017 received foreign aid, and then returned the favor by assisting the U.S. economy.

China

Aid received from the U.S. in 2017: $16 million.

China is the United States’ top trading partner with 130,000 exports and 505,000 imports in 2017. In 2015, Chinese manufacturing lowered prices in the U.S. for consumer goods which lowered inflation and in turn gave more money to Americans; as a result, consumer prices were 1 to 1.5 percent lower.

Though the percentage seems small, such actions make a significant impact throughout time. In 2015, the average income for a household was $56,500; trade with China saved these families up to $850 each in that year alone.

Canada and Mexico

Aid received from the U.S. in 2017: $28 million and $61 million.

Canada, Mexico and the United States are members of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Between 1993 and 2017, trade between the three countries quadrupled from $297 billion to $1.17 trillion. Specifically, the U.S. increased its exports of goods to Canada and Mexico from $142 billion to $525 billion.

NAFTA aids economic growth, profits and jobs for all three countries in its agreement.

Japan

Aid received from the U.S. in 2017: $30,000.

Japan benefits the U.S. by providing 710,000 American jobs via exports, and their benefits continue to grow as well. Japanese students that study abroad in the U.S. contribute at least $600 each to the U.S. economy; Japan also ranks fourth of countries to contribute to American tourism. In 2014, there were more than 9.4 million Japanese visitors who spent $17 billion in the U.S.

Germany

Aid received from the U.S. in 2017: $15,000.

Germany is the largest consumer market in the European Union (EU), and due to its success, the U.S. benefits from Germany through exports. Although U.S. investors may have to pay a higher cost while doing business in Germany, they can count on high levels of productivity, a highly skilled labor force, quality engineering, a first-class infrastructure and a prime location in the center of Europe. Germany also helps the U.S. through spreading their businesses overseas — companies such as BMW, Daimler, Siemens and Volkswagen have expanded operations in the U.S. which has resulted in more jobs.

Foreign aid is an important aspect of world operations because it strengthens economies and improves other countries’ ability to grow and build relations. The top five U.S. trading partners demonstrate the direct benefits that foreign aid can bring back to American soil.

– Anne-Marie Maher

Photo: Flickr

the Media Misrepresents LebanonLebanon is a sovereign state that lies on the western coast of the Mediterranean sea. With over six million inhabitants, this small country shares a long border with Syria, a country that is currently facing a multi-year civil war that has been the cause of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and intense human suffering.

Due to Lebanon’s close proximity to Syria, it naturally has faced some conflict in recent years with the overflow of refugees and military conflict on Lebanese soil. The Syrian war has already rendered and continues to produce much devastation for Syrian people, mainly through a lack of human rights.  

Because of this, the media has associated countries in the surrounding area with this chaotic state. There has been a very distinct picture painted of Lebanon, characterized as unsafe and disorganized. However, everything the public is being told is not exactly true, and the way the media misrepresents Lebanon has a major impact on how we categorize and make assumptions about this beautiful, culturally-rich state.

The main implication behind the way the media misrepresents Lebanon is the fact that the media industry survives off public opinion, meaning that headlines and article content are often edited and revised to fit a style that will capture a reader’s attention. Due to this, it is not uncommon for the media to misrepresent situations and give inflated facts to attract more coverage. This is one of the biggest factors of how the media misrepresents Lebanon and, more specifically, the country’s stability.

While certain parts of Lebanon have faced overflow from the Syrian war–for instance, there have been minor security incidents that have occurred in smaller cities like Baalbek and Sidon–these incidents have been both sporadic and uncommon. The way in which the media covers these topics often paints Lebanon as an unsafe environment for travelers, which is not entirely true.

While there are places to avoid, such as the smaller cities that lie on the Lebanon-Syrian border, larger cities like Beirut have remained nearly untouched and are still safe for tourism. In fact, sources like the New York Times and ABC News have published pro-Beirut pieces that highlight the beauty of Beirut culture. Specifically, the New York Times article touched on the Beirut art scene and the various cultures weaved throughout the city’s architecture and cuisine.

In addition to Beirut, other Lebanese cities like Byblos and Zahlé have also been marked safe for tourism in recent years, with standard travel-safety procedures. The truth is that these Lebanese cities are very similar to any other major city; it is simply a large metropolitan area with general security issues like pickpocketing, scamming and robbery. These problems exist in all major cities throughout the globe.

However, when visiting Lebanon, it is important not to ignore the struggle the country faces with border safety and its ongoing rubbish crisis, in which large amounts of trash continue to cover the state’s shoreline. While tourism helps the Lebanese economy, it is vital that tourists do not contribute to the country’s main issues such as littering.

Although it faces a few security concerns, Lebanon is a beautiful country. Cities like Beirut, Byblos and Zahle have enriching cultures and histories alike, and it is important not to let the way the media misrepresents Lebanon take away from the nation’s true colors.

– Alexandra Dennis

Photo: Flickr

Sharks have become increasingly feared throughout the years. In 2017, more people were recorded being afraid of the animal than they were of death. Thanks to movies with ominous music preceding the creature’s appearance on screen, extensive media coverage of the few shark encounters, rather than the more extensive dog bites and lightning strikes, people are associating fear with sharks more and more. The marine animal is on more people’s minds now than gang violence, illegal immigration, or drought, but the truth is, sharks can reduce all of those things that attribute to human suffering. In fact, sharks can reduce poverty itself.

Essential Species

Sharks are considered a ‘keystone’ species among scientists meaning that they are essential in keeping their inhabited environments balanced and well. They keep the oceans and reefs from collapsing. Sharks keep the fish healthy by consuming the unhealthy and weak ones which allow evolution to strengthen fish. This not only maintains the populations and allows the plant life to thrive as a result of balanced amounts of feeding fish, but for the seafood that people in developing countries eat and sell to be of good quality. In short, saving the sharks save the oceans, and saving the oceans saves people relying on it for income and nutrition. In short, sharks can reduce poverty.

Many developing countries’ economies rely on the seas. Whether that be for their fishing markets, tourism due to beaches, or shark tourism itself (most sharks have been estimated to be worth over a million dollars for revenue over their lifetime), many poor communities depend on healthy oceans for sustainable human lives. Ocean conservation means prosperity, and one big way to do that is to save the sharks.

Sharks Need Protection

Currently, we are killing sharks faster than they can recover. Humans are poaching, accidentally killing them with other fishing gear, and getting them trapped in nets. Sharks have been around for 400 million years providing people with thriving oceans, and now 100 million are killed annually.

While it’s impressive that scientists are vocal about the climate, society needs to become educated about why sharks need protection. Reasons include:

  • sharks control and keep oceans thriving;
  • once you reduce the shark population, the ocean becomes less secure;
  • sharks maintain the oceanic ecosystem and contribute to healthy oceans which counteract climate change.

Even just in terms of tourism revenue, a study of Palau found that each shark was worth almost two million dollars. The Australian Institute of Marine Science found that diver tourism made up 39 percent of the Palau’s income, and 21 percent of those same divers toured exclusively to see  sharks. Struggling communities can not only sustain themselves with the help of sharks, but can thrive.

Again and again it has been proven that sharks can reduce poverty, and therefore, should be protected. Spreading awareness about the animal’s positive impact on poverty-stricken communities can help those struggling in developing nations, and in the process, save the seas. Sharks need to stay.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

How to Help Comoros: Education and DevelopmentComoros, a group of three islands in the Indian Ocean, has great scenic beauty, although the nation is poor. Skilled workers often go to France, hurting development and leaving Comoros with a consistently low gross domestic product. Since its independence in 1975, Comoros has slowly gained self-sufficiency in food production, with subsistence farming being the top employer in the region and making up the bulk of the economy. This means that poor harvests and the potential to run out of useful land are major issues in Comoros, and the need to help people in Comoros diversify the economy is becoming more and more time-sensitive.

The nation is not completely without help, however. France provides major financial support, and other countries provide some financial aid as well, including Saudi Arabia and Japan. But in order for Comoros move away from a subsistence farming and fishing industry and towards a more developed economy, it needs to expand and find better solutions that do not rely on foreign lending. The World Bank is cautiously optimistic that the new government elected in 2016 is starting to implement policies that may prove successful in helping the GDP grow through “expanding the coverage of the electricity network and relaunching public investments.”

Upward Mobility and Higher Education
However, one of the ways to help people in Comoros is to boost its areas of success, namely, the agricultural sector. This may not improve the nation’s economy, but stimulating this sector will help the poor in the region, most of whom live in rural areas where the only employment opportunities are in the agricultural sector. Upward mobility for the poor is crucial, as the last household survey conducted in 2014 found that almost 18 percent of the population lives under the international poverty line, which is set at $1.90 per capita per day. Therefore, in order to have enough money to pursue more developed industries, the people of Comoros need to rely on higher-paying agricultural sector work first.

In the long-term, Comoros is in a position to develop through better education initiatives and public spending. While the government does not have much money to work with, one of their first goals should be to increase spending for better schooling and then provide monetary rewards for those educated citizens that come back to the islands after college. Only then, through an educated populace, can the country really diversify its industry enough to increase the GDP and stimulate the economy. The population is already set up for this kind of initiative, with 53 percent of the citizens being under the age of 20, the perfect age group to benefit from better education and trade industries.

The Tourism Industry
Another way for Comoros to get an economic boost is to increase its tourism industry. Although tourists do go to Comoros due to its beautiful beaches and natural forests, the nation remains relatively unknown. Making a deal with a nation like France to bring in tourists and open up transportation to the island, as well as commercializing a few of the nicest beaches would not only stimulate the economy but also provide new employment opportunities for the citizens of Comoros. This is not to say that the islands should be completely commercialized, as it would take away from their natural beauty and culture, as well as harm their subsistence farming and fishing industries. However, a moderate tourist industry could be enough of a boost to provide funding for other useful initiatives.

Ultimately, Comoros has a struggling economy and lack of development that cannot be turned around quickly. However, through diversifying industry, educating the populace and opening the islands up to more tourists, Comoros will have less poverty and more opportunities for its citizens moving forward.

Rachael Blandau

Photo: Flickr