10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America
Central America, which includes Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama, is a diverse geographical region housing almost 50 million people. With a wealth of natural resources, Central America has the potential for sustainable and rigorous economic growth as it seeks to mitigate political unrest and economic inequality. Within this context, here are 10 facts about economic development in Central America.

10 Facts About Economic Development in Central America

  1. Central America is an Agricultural Powerhouse: The backbone of Central America’s economy relies on agricultural exports, such as coffee, bananas and pineapples. For example, agriculture comprises 24 percent of Costa Rica’s total GDP and 17 percent of Panama’s total GDP. In 2001, agriculture employed approximately 34 percent of Honduras.
  2. Central America’s Growing Tourism Industry: Belize and El Salvador contribute to Central America’s robust tourism industry. In Belize, tourism is the most important economic sector in the country next to agriculture. In 2017, El Salvador reported a 23.2 percent annual growth rate from domestic tourism. El Salvador expects to generate $75.5 million from its tourism industry in 2019.
  3. Severe Weather and Foreign Aid: In the wake of Hurricane Nate, Costa Rica alone reported $562 million in damages, severely crippling its agricultural and transportation industries. In response, USAID provided $150,000 to support immediate humanitarian efforts. More recently, in 2018, El Fuego erupted in Guatemala affecting approximately 1.7 million people. World Vision, a non-profit organization, responded by sending 30,000 boxes of medical supplies to affected regions.
  4. Tepid Economic Growth: One of the key 10 facts about economic development in Central America that informs policy-making is an analysis of GDP growth and poverty rates. As a whole, Central America has an average poverty rate of 34.2 percent. Guatemala has the highest rate of 59 percent as of 2014. Mitigating these poverty rates is difficult since GDP growth has slowly decelerated in many Central American countries. In the case of Honduras, declining prices for agricultural exports have left its main industries struggling. People expect Honduras’ GDP to grow with the decline in poverty. The nation’s poverty rate came down to 3.6 percent in 2019, from 4.8 percent in 2017.
  5. Political Uncertainty and Economic Expectations: Since 2018, many Nicaraguans protested the political oppression of their president, Daniel Ortega. They believe he is tamping out political opposition from human rights groups and using the poor to maintain political power. This recent political upheaval has alarmed investors, who have withdrawn an estimated $634 million according to Bloomberg. In this tumultuous climate, the International Monetary Fund believes Nicaragua’s economy could spiral into recession with unemployment climbing to 10 percent.
  6. Underinvestment in Infrastructure: Due to extreme weather and political upheaval, Central America often lacks the infrastructure to mobilize its economy. Central American countries spend only around two percent of their total GDP on transportation and infrastructure. Panama is a testament to the benefits of investing in infrastructure. The revenue generated from the Cobre Panama mine and the Panama canal gave the nation an average GDP growth rate of 5.6 percent over the past five years.
  7. Maintaining Trade Agreements: One way Central American countries have greatly benefited in terms of economic development is through maintaining trade agreements like CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). Between 2006 and 2016, Central America’s total trade with the U.S. increased by 17 percent and with the world, 20 percent.
  8. Grassroots Technology and Collaboration: Grassroots organizations have achieved economic success. For example, The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) partnered with Nicaragua and Peru to promote agricultural productivity in its host country of Colombia. The CIAT has 51 active projects in Central America and 15 projects currently in Nicaragua. Such projects include investments in innovative technology that would make the rural family’s crops more resilient and more abundant.
  9. The Future is Technical: Costa Rica has successfully created a robust medical-device manufacturing industry dating back to 1987. It now generates $4 billion in exports for the country. Even more surprising, in 2017, medical device exports surpassed agricultural products for the first time in the nation’s history. Costa Rica boasts quality human resources and manufacturing and houses 96 operating firms in the medical device manufacturing sector.
  10. The Exemplary Success of Panama: Many expect Panama’s GDP to grow at six percent compared to 3.6 percent in 2018 and the country has cut its poverty rate from 15.4 percent to 14.1 percent. Panama’s performance comes from investing in industries like mining, transportation and logistics. In order to continue to compete in the global economy, Panama must continue to invest in education. One initiative in the U.S. that is investing in education in Panama is the Environmental Education Through the Transformation of Schools into Eco-friendly and Sustainable Schools program at Johns Hopkins University. Its goal is to educate Panama’s students on how to make their public school system more environmentally friendly.

Central America has positioned itself well for future economic prosperity based on this brief analysis of 10 facts about economic development in Central America. In order to accelerate Central America’s path of economic growth, World Vision has run a program in Guatemala since the 1970s that provides sponsorships, education, health and protective rights to children. Other organizations, like CIAT, have more than 60 programs in the Central American regions.

– Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in the Philippines
Human trafficking is one of the most heinous crimes in the world. Trafficked individuals often have to do manual labor, become sex slaves or perform domestic servitude. Unfortunately, the prevalence of human trafficking in the Philippines is quite high. Experts estimate that the number of people in slavery in the Philippines totals over 780,000. Many believe that this large number stems from the Philippines’ low GDP per capita (the country ranks 118th out of 191 nations in this measure) and its high poverty rate of 21.6 percent. Listed below are 10 facts about human trafficking in the Philippines.

Top 10 Facts About Human Trafficking in the Philippines

  1. Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines.
    Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, as stated in Article 202 of the Philippine Constitution. However, many individuals in the Philippines in recent years have pushed to enact bills that focus less on punishing prostitutes and more on preventing and helping victims of human trafficking. Such bills have included The Magna Carta of Women, the Quezon City Ordinance, The Anti-Trafficking Persons Act and The Philippine Plan for Gender-Responsive Development. Each seeks to amend Article 202 in an attempt to end the unlawful exploitation of trafficked individuals.
  2. Super Typhoon Haiyan increased human trafficking.
    The destruction from Super Typhoon Haiyan displaced more than 6 million people and left 1.9 million homeless. The typhoon hit the provinces of Leyte and Samar the hardest, two provinces that people already knew as places in which trafficking was common. The resulting chaos and economic instability have resulted in an increase in human trafficking in these regions.
  3. Human traffickers use the promise of work to lure victims.
    Traffickers commonly target individuals who are either from indigenous communities or are living in more rural areas. They usually offer jobs as maids, waitresses or entertainers to trick individuals into trusting them. This tactic preys on the desperation of many economically disadvantaged individuals.
  4. Children are the most vulnerable.
    Children are at great risk for human trafficking in the Philippines. Estimates determine that 60,000 to 100,000 children are victims of human trafficking in the Philippines. These children either go to work in child sex rings in the Philippines or work abroad as prostitutes. To combat this issue, the Filipino government has begun to work with international organizations, foreign donors and NGOs to fund prevention efforts and increase awareness about human trafficking in the Philippines.
  5. Tourism thrives on human trafficking in the Philippines.
    Much of the demand for prostitution in the Phillippines comes from tourists. Such commercial sex is popular in tourist cities such as Boracay, Angeles City, Olongapo, Puerto Galera and Surigao. While people do not advertise the locations where this prostitution occurs outwardly (due to the formal illegality of prostitution in the Philippines) the tourist prostitution system is unfortunately quite expansive and there are many individuals who have knowledge of these locations from other sources.
  6. Internet trafficking is very common.
    In some cases, relatives use children for profit and forced them to commit various sex acts in front of a webcam. The children committing these acts are typically no older than 12-years-old and each show can rake in about $100. In total, there were over 45,000 reports of online child sexual exploitation in 2017. In response to this, the Filipino government has begun to divert more funds towards helping identify situations in which people are sexually exploiting children. 
  7. Traffickers traffick people both nationally and internationally.
    Traffickers send some human trafficking victims in the Philippines to Manila, the country’s capital, while they traffick others abroad to countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Singapore. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) have done good work recently in preventing this cross-border trafficking, but people must do more to ensure that these international human trafficking rings shut down for good.
  8. Destiny Rescue is helping to assist victims and catch traffickers.
    Destiny Rescue is an NGO that works with government officials and task forces that deal with human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. It works with former victims to help them heal both mentally and physically from their experiences. It also gathers intelligence regarding trafficking and exploitation rings around Southeast Asia. Recently, Destiny Rescue helped the Filipino National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) bring down a trafficking agency, freeing 159 women in the process.
  9. UNICEF has taken steps to help fight human trafficking.
    Many NGOs around the world have taken steps to help end the practice of human trafficking, including UNICEF. UNICEF has stepped into work with both the Filipino government and local communities to report and recognize trafficking. Efforts by UNICEF include working to better monitor and collect data about trafficking and informing officials such as social workers, prosecutors and church workers about laws regarding human trafficking.  UNICEF has also aided in the rescue and recovery of trafficking victims and has worked to teach parents and communities about the typical behaviors and practices that lead to exploitation.
  10. The Filipino Government is taking the issue seriously.
    The government has taken huge steps to cut back on the amount of trafficking that takes place. The budgets of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have increased with a specific interest in fighting trafficking. In addition, various government organizations such as the Interagency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) and members of the DOJ and the DSWD have worked together to create new policies in the hopes of preventing human trafficking in the future. The IACAT has also worked to increase awareness about human trafficking by hosting various events open to the general public.

These 10 facts about human trafficking in the Philippines demonstrate that trafficking remains a major problem in the country. However, many are working to help improve the situation and there is hope that, in the near future, human trafficking in the Philippines will be a thing of the past.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Tourism Sector in Timor-Leste Oil accounts for 90 percent of Timor-Leste’s government revenue, but since 2017 the government has focused on diversifying the economy, attracting investors and developing its rising tourism industry. The small island country gained independence in 1999 and reduced its poverty rate from 50.4 percent in 2007 to 41 percent in 2014. It plans to develop the tourism sector in Timor-Leste in order to attract new visitors, increase revenue

and add jobs. USAID, Chemonics and private investors are seeing economic opportunity in the emerging tourism sector.

Benefits of Tourism Industry Investments

The benefits of developing the tourism sector in Timor-Leste include job creation and increased revenue. Poverty-reduction policies, health care and improved education are possible uses of much-needed revenue to the developing economy. The government’s goal is to attract 200,000 annual international tourists by 2030, which would generate $150 million and add 15,000 local jobs. For reference, total revenue for Timor-Leste was $300 million in 2017. Chemonics is currently working with the government and USAID’s Tourism for All Project to develop Timor-Leste’s tourism industry.

Since the tourism sector in Timor-Leste is new, one task stated by Peter Semone, chief of party for the USAID Tourism for All Project, is to explain the benefits of tourism to Timorese that might object to the rising tourism industry, especially in terms of its environmental impact. Marine tourism, particularly on Atauro Island, is expected to flourish once the tourism industry is further developed. One priority is convincing wary Timorese that the rising tourism industry means increased revenue to the government or directly through selling services and/or products.

Achievements by USAID’s Tourism for All Project

The USAID Tourism for All Project began in January 2018 and is slated to end in January 2021. Its goal is to expand and improve the Timorese tourism industry using a comprehensive and sustainable approach. The project costs $9 million and its focus is directed towards two main areas: ensuring laws, institutions and policies are in place to implement the national tourism policy that began in 2017, providing sustainable private sector tourism investments and participation by Timorese communities and replicating successful models for future use.

There are five major achievements of the USAID Tourism for All Project. One accomplishment of USAID’s coordination with the government of Timor-Leste is the registration for a Mt. Ramelau Tourism Partnership that is currently in progress. Mt. Ramelau is a sacred mountain and major tourist attraction. USAID also facilitated the process of Atauro Island residents creating a vision, mission and tourism action plan for the next three years and began registration for the Tourism Partnership of Atauro. Atauro Island is the most marine biodiverse location in the world. USAID and Timor-Leste anticipates a booming ecotourism industry on the island.

Grants programs were also launched under the project to encourage tourism entrepreneurs to invest in targeted areas. One final achievement is the establishment of a working group involving the Secretary of State for Arts and Culture, UNESCO and local non-governmental organizations for conservation and preservation of tais, a hand-woven textile used to make scarves and bags. Tais was proposed for UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage recognition.

Future Economy of Timor-Leste

Semone stated that “tourism is the base to improve the service industry and the culture of service in the country. It is also an excellent factor to foster the development of a private sector of SMEs but also a way to raise environmental consciousness for locals.” With the help of Chemonics, USAID and other organizations, Timor-Leste’s tourism sector shows promise in reaching the goal of attracting 150,000 international tourists and adding 15,000 by 2030.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Poaching and Poverty in Botswana

Botswana is home to roughly one third of all of Africa’s wild elephant population, largely thanks to governmental bans on big game hunting. While other African countries kept more lenient laws in place, many elephants fled to Botswana seeking refuge, leading to the large concentration of elephants in Botswana. However, on May 22, 2019, the Ministry of Environment released a report stating that sport hunters would once again be allowed to hunt elephants after the five-year ban. This means that the cycle of poaching and poverty in Botswana will continue until action is taken.

Poaching by the Numbers

According to National Geographic, elephant populations across Africa dropped by thirty percent between 2007 and 2014. In the years since 2014, Botswana has only suffered more losses to their elephant population. A study published in the scientific journal Current Biology found that elephant carcasses in the years between 2014 and 2018 increased by around 600 percent. Considering that the hunting ban was only lifted in May 2019, this means that the significant increase in elephant deaths can partially be attributed to illegal poaching.

Why Illegal Poaching?

Illegal poaching, especially of elephants, has become a relatively lucrative industry in Africa as demand for ivory in Asian countries remains high. Illegal poaching creates jobs for people living in rural areas where other opportunities may be scarce. The lax enforcement of poaching bans and environmental regulations contributes to the cycle of poaching, but the larger issue is the lack of opportunities for people in rural areas to participate in legal, sustainable ventures.

Ecotourism, for example, is one way in which African countries can profit off of protecting their natural resources. Poaching threatens the very animals and environment that attract so many tourists. While a successful ecotourism industry requires investment in protecting and preserving land, it is a more sustainable (and legal) way to create sustainable jobs in more rural areas. According to the journal Nature Communications, elephant poaching causes African nations to lose the equivalent of 25 million USD each year in revenue that could have been brought in via tourism and conservation efforts.

The Link Between Poverty and Poaching

Poaching and poverty in Botswana is a cycle that hurts the environment, the citizens of Botswana and the economy as a whole. Creating and enforcing stricter poaching laws will not stop illegal poaching as long as there are no other job opportunities for people. A study published in the Nature Communications journal suggests that enforcement of anti-poaching laws will only be successful if the efforts are matched with measures to reduce poverty and corruption.

While poverty in Botswana decreased from 30.6 to 19.4 percent between the years 2002 and 2010, rural areas are still struggling to implement sustainable economic practices. The connection between impoverished communities and poaching levels demonstrates that poaching is driven by economic necessity; investment in rural and impoverished areas could serve to break the cycle of poaching and poverty in Botswana.

Looking Ahead

As poaching in Botswana threatens both elephants and the economy, several conservation groups have been conducting research and collecting data to make the government more aware of the issues associated with poaching. Elephants Without Borders (EWB) is a non-profit group based in Kazungula, Botswana that has provided recent data regarding elephant carcasses in Botswana and surrounding nations. By tracking migratory patterns and identifying elephant populations, EWB seeks to protect elephant habitats and educate the public about this important species. So far, EWB has implemented tracking collars on 170 elephants that travel across five African nations. This data can help scientists understand how why and how elephants migrate and choose habitats.Groups such as EWB are key components in the effort to eliminate illegal poaching in Africa.

– Erin Grant
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Pitcairn Islands
Pitcairn Islands are British Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 3,000 miles away from anywhere or anyone aside from its 50-or-so inhabitants. Crystal clear blue water surrounds its only settlement, the village of Adamstown, which is free of air pollution, but a lack of space and accessibility makes for tight quarters and close relationships. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions on the Pitcairn Islands.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Pitcairn Islands

  1. While the inhabitants of this tiny volcanic island are not a part of the 10 percent living in extreme poverty today, island life is not always a paradise. Pitcairn Islanders are able to live sustainable lives with the help of British financial aid which sums to over $3 million per year. The islanders boil water to serve all of their needs in copper pots over rose-apple firewood. Among the top 10 facts about living conditions in Pitcairn Islands, it is important to note that although job opportunities are in short supply, the Government of Pitcairn Islands or the Government of Private Enterprises employs most of the working residents in roles such as domestic work and gardening.
  2. Of the 50 islanders, most claim they descended from Fletcher Christian, one of the original settlers that took refuge on the island. However, artifacts and fossil evidence suggest that Polynesians inhabited the island prior to the otherwise-documented European discovery and colonization.
  3. The island’s main industry is tourism, as is the case for many small countries in the tropics. Because of its size and population, tourism is somewhat limited. There are roughly 10 cruise ships and several yachts that stop at Pitcairn every year, but some of the passengers are Pitcairners or their family members. Homemade soaps, purple sea urchin jewelry (fetuei) and bone and wood carvings are available to tourists. Islanders harvest their own coffee, cacao and award-winning tropical raw honey. They sell stamps, coins, postcards and other merchandise as well to subsidize their incomes.
  4. The Pitcairn Island Tourism Coordinator explains on its website that “…issues and differences pass as quickly as they arise on Pitcairn – smiles, cheek and laughter generally reign and in the face of adversity we all do what we do best, ‘Get off it and get on with it!’” This speaks largely to the culture that shapes the lives of Pitcairn Islanders, especially considering that generations of child abuse had ensued among native inhabitants and most islanders “looked the other way.”
  5. Lack of accessibility and quality with regards to medical care is still a prominent issue for the people of Pitcairn. The island is located 32 hours by yacht from Peru in the Northeast and New Zealand in the Southwest.
  6. Habitants of Pitcairn claim that they are not so isolated since technological advances, such as the phone and internet, reached their island in 2006. Now, Pitcairn Islands even has its products available globally via its official government website. Islanders hope that having an internet connection will help raise awareness about the island and what it can offer for tourists.
  7. Since the highest quality education is not available to the children of Adamstown, many children and teens go away to school. Pitcairners value education highly and so instead of homeschooling the children, the majority attend school in New Zealand to ensure a proper education.
  8. Within the top 10 facts about living conditions in Pitcairn Islands are parts of the island’s history that are not so fortunate. After the year 2000, trials occurred for multiple men on the island for forced sexual acts against children. The Government of Pitcairn Islands argued that this was the British Government’s attempt to depopulate the nearly desolate island, but as one might guess, Britain claimed otherwise. The latest sexual abuse act of Pitcairn occurred in the late 1990s; many changes have taken place since including the implementation of a full child protection system and the stationing of police officials on Pitcairn for additional protection.
  9. Pitcairn Islands once forbid holding hands in public, as well as dancing, drinking alcohol and smoking. Pitcairn has since abolished these laws and even legalized same-sex marriage in 2015. Still, certain behaviors have become uniquely normalized in Pitcairn Island’s culture; behaviors larger civilizations would not typically tolerate. Ever on the verge of extinction, a conventionally inappropriate form of survival sexual behavior has ensued between men and young girls on the island for years. This type of enforced “abstinence” indirectly contributes to the generations of secret rape culture and sexual abuse towards children that have taken place on this remote island getaway.
  10. Pitcairn Island has its own prison. With only two square miles to work with, Pitcairners found a way to seek justice for those who have been wronged. Of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Pitcairn Islands, the fact that it has a functioning prison system is impressive considering the population, or lack thereof. The prison offers accommodations for tourists. Pitcairn’s prison doubles as lodging for travelers for necessary spatial and efficiency purposes.

Pitcairn Islands faces real challenges, but most are due to a dwindling population as opposed to the extreme levels of poverty that exist elsewhere globally. As long as the island continues to receive financial aid from the British Government at the same rate with respect to inflation, the island should be able to stay afloat financially as long as its inhabitants and future immigrants are able to sustain a population.

– Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Slums in Latin AmericaCurrently, one in seven people worldwide lives in a slum. By some estimates, this number will rise to one in four people by the year 2030. A slum can be defined as housing with no land permits, inadequate access to basic services (water, toilets and electricity), unsafe components (broken windows, dirt floors and leaks) and an overcrowded population. These 10 facts about slums in Latin America explain how people are affected by these poor living conditions.

10 Facts About Slums in Latin America

  1. Rapid Urbanization: South America has historically been dominated by rural living. However, in more recent years, the cities of South America have seen a rapid rate of urbanization. Urban living now supports 82 percent of the population. When people move from the countryside to the city in large numbers, there are often not enough resources to support everyone. As a result, people resort to constructing illegal housing to survive.
  2. Millions Affected: In Latin America, approximately 117 million people survive in poverty. Most of these people survive in slums just outside major metropolitan areas. These cities include Mexico City, São Paulo, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro and Lima.
  3. Neza-Chalco-Itiza: On the cusp of Mexico City rests Neza-Chalco-Itiza, one of the largest slums in South America and the fourth largest in the world. With a population of 1.1 million people, the slum is filled to the brim. People flooded to the city after World War II in hopes of work, but they found poverty instead. Today, the slum has developed a systematic way of living that mimics life inside the major city.
  4. Favelas: Some of the most infamous slums can be found in Brazil. In Portuguese, slums are called favelas. Most favelas in Brazil can be found in the areas surrounding Rio de Janeiro. More than 11 million people live in this type of housing.
  5. Entrepreneurship: While slums can be a source of hardship and poverty, they can also be the birthplace for many entrepreneurs. With so many people struggling to survive, some take it upon themselves to create businesses out of the little resources that they have. For example, Bistrô Estação R&R is a bar inside a garage in Rio de Janeiro. These small businesses bring people together in their communities and can help boost the economy.
  6. Widespread disease: Slums are often a breeding ground for disease. With a lack of proper sanitation and people living in such close proximity, illness develops fast and spreads even quicker. Tuberculosis is just one example of a disease that has spread in slums. In Peru, 60 percent of tuberculosis cases in 2011 were reported from the slums surrounding Lima. Luckily, organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have hosted several government interventions to advocate for development plans.
  7. Drugs, gangs and violence: With a lack of central authority, slums are more susceptible to drugs, gangs and violence. Many of the world’s most infamous drug lords originate from these areas and threaten the local community. While police intervention sometimes occurs, often these communities are ignored. In 2015, 47 of the 50 most murderous cities were found in Latin America.
  8. Upgrading housing: With the aim of improving housing for communities living in slums, several nonprofits, such as TECHO, have advocated for the improvement of infrastructure. TECHO’s policy is that slums of 10 or more families who lack one or more necessities, such as water or sewage, qualify for aid. In several of TECHOs projects, houses have been reconstructed using pinewood and tin. Families who received this assistance have stated that their quality of life has effectively improved after the refurbishments.
  9. Pride: While slums can be riddled with poverty and crime, they are also filled with pride. In a 2013 study, 85 percent of favela residents said that they like where they are from. This could largely be attributed to the communities formed within these tight housing situations and the entrepreneurship that binds people together.
  10. Slum tourism: Slum tourism is when travelers visit impoverished populations in order to see the areas. The practice began in the 1800s when wealthy Londoners would pay to see a lifestyle that was so drastically different from their own. Slum tourism can have negative effects on a community for multiple reasons. For one, it promotes the wealth gap by separating the wealthy from the poor. In addition, poverty tourism does not necessarily benefit local areas. If tourists pay larger organizations to conduct the visit rather than community members, the money will not reach the slums. On the other hand, poverty tourism that challenges negative stereotypes and is led by slum residents can aid in the growth of the local economy.

By looking at these 10 facts about slums in Latin America, it easy to see how these living conditions can damage a person’s health and wellbeing as well as how the residents of these slums are struggling to survive. However, by upgrading communities and being conscious tourists, these areas can be uplifted and improved, helping the one-seventh of the world that lives in slums.

Photo: Flickr

Decrease Poverty in Benin

Tourism is the second-fastest-growing industry in the world, but it is an untapped resource in many countries, including Benin. Benin is a small West African country and one of the poorest in Africa, but it does have one of the best wildlife reserves in West Africa. As a result, the country has exceptional tourism potential, which can help decrease poverty in Benin. However, protecting its wildlife is essential to achieving that goal.

Benin’s Potential for Tourism

Around 40 percent of Benin’s population lives in poverty. Tourism can thus help because it does not only increase gross domestic product. According to the World Bank, Benin’s natural landscapes and cultural attractions give them an advantage by both creating jobs across a range of skill sets and opening new markets for various businesses and entrepreneurs. This helps decrease poverty in Benin by further developing the country and generating shared wealth.

However, tourism and national parks in Africa are nearly symbiotic. Poaching doesn’t just threaten wildlife, it threatens tourism. Popular tourist destinations and National Parks in Africa tend to be East African countries, such as Tanzania’s Serengeti or Botswana’s Kalahari Desert. Botswana’s tourism sector makes up 8.9 percent of the country’s job market, creating 84,000 jobs, and generating $2.52 billion in 2018. Benin has one of the highest conservation land ratios in Africa, but Benin’s Pendjari National Park is one of the last intact and richest wildlife reserves in West Africa.

The park is home to lions, elephants and leopards as well as endangered species, such as the giant pangolin, African wild dogs and the Jabiru Senegal. However, tourism in Benin accounts for only 0.7 percent of the country’s GDP, generating well below its potential at $197 million, and making up 5.6 percent of the job market. Instead, Benin’s economy relies on agriculture, accounting for 26.1 percent of the country’s GDP, although the weather in Benin can be unpredictable.

Plans to Expand Tourism

To expand economic development and decrease poverty in Benin, the Beninese government started the Government Action Program (GAP) in 2016 and passed a public-private partnership law in 2017 to attract foreign investors. The goal is to improve infrastructure, education, agriculture and tourism. Through seven major tourism projects under GAP, Benin plans to increase its tourism GDP to 10 percent by 2021. One project includes protecting and rehabilitating Pendjari Park.

In partnership with African Parks, a nongovernmental organization that manages 11 national parks and reserves in eight African countries, the Beninese government plans to double the wildlife population in Pendjari Park and increase the average six-thousand visitors to nine thousand, but the task is only possible if Benin can protect its wildlife from poachers.

Canine Heroes

Throughout West Africa, poachers kill rhinos, pangolins and elephants to smuggle to Asian and European markets. This is where canines play a vital role in combating poaching and therefore protecting wildlife, tourism and the economy to decrease poverty in Benin.

In Tanzania, tracker dogs are used to combat poaching by finding wounded animals and tracking down poachers. Botswana has been a prime example of wildlife conservation, winning the war against poachers with their Canines for Conservation program and some of the harshest anti-poaching laws, which helped mitigate elephant losses seen in neighboring countries. Elephants from Angola, Namibia and Zambia were seen retreating to Botswana for safety, but when the government disarmed anti-poaching units in 2018, the country lost 87 elephants and five white rhinos to poachers just months later. Poaching in Botswana has been on the rise ever since, not only threatening wildlife but potentially tourism in Botswana.

One of the biggest animal welfare and conservation charities, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), helped establish the Sniffer Dog Project in Benin to help stop poaching in Benin. These dogs are trained to detect animal parts at prime smuggling locations, such as airports, border crossings and the border of protected habitats. Before IFAW, there were no established dog detection training programs in West Africa; now there are eight canine detection units.

In January 2018, African Parks, National Geographic, the Beninese Government and the Wyss Foundation—a charity dedicated to protecting natural habitats—invested $23.4 million to protect Pendjari Park. Because of the vast potential of Benin’s tourism industry, decreasing poverty in Benin lies not only in agriculture, education and technology, but its rich history, iconic landscapes and wildlife.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Google Images

 

Growth in the Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic, a Caribbean nation of 10.77 million people, shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and is primarily known for its beautiful beaches and resorts. With a 13.5 percent youth unemployment rate in the country, these resorts provide necessary jobs, economic stimulation and growth in the Dominican Republic. Despite the recent negative media attention, the growth of resorts shows no sign of stopping. Four new resorts opening in late 2019 and 2020 will continue adding to the burgeoning tourist industry, increasing numbers of workers in the service sector and establish mutually beneficial U.S. and Dominican exchanges.

The Pillar of Tourism

According to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, the tourism industry is one of the “four pillars” of the Dominican economy. It forms 7.9 percent of the economy. Growth in the Dominican Republic focuses on projects encouraging tourists to spend more money. There are already 65 such projects approved by the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism for 2019.

Speedy development will continue the trend of success in the tourism sector. The Dominican Republic Association for Hotels and Tourism statistics for 2018 displayed a 6.2 percent increase in the sector, which now makes up 20 percent of Caribbean trips. There was also a six percent increase in hotel rooms, and people filled 77 percent of total rooms. Overall, the industry reaped immense revenues of $7.2 billion in 2017. Tourism’s success contributes to GDP growth. The University of Denver predicts $89.54 billion in 2019, and GDP rising to $161.4 billion by 2030.

More Rooms, More Jobs

New resorts will extend the tourism industry’s prosperity by increasing the amount of occupied rooms and the jobs required to service visitors. The World Bank reported that the Dominican labor force was 4,952,136 workers in 2018, up from 3,911,218 only eight years before. Service sector workers made up 61.4 percent in 2017, illustrating the prominent role tourism and related industries play for the growth of the Dominican Republic. Here are four vacation spots heating up employment progress in late 2019 and 2020:

Grand Fiesta Americana Punta Cana Los Corales: This resort, owned by the Mexican Company Posadas, will have 558 rooms and various amenities necessitating more staff. The Director-General of Posadas, José Carlos Azcárraga, expressed hopes that the new resort will aid one of the fastest-growing Caribbean economies. The Dominican president visited the cornerstone to show his support. The resort opens in late 2019.

Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana: This American-owned Playa Hotels and Resorts brand also had a groundbreaking ceremony attended by the Dominican president. There will be 750 rooms requiring staff attention, alongside the various dining and fitness services provided. It opens in November 2019.

Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda: This newest edition to Club Med’s resort collection will be an eco-friendly environment with four separate “villages” for new employees to manage. In an email to The Borgen Project, Club Med stated it will hire more than 440 Dominicans and help lead vocational training for approximately 1,000 locals to extend the resort’s positive impact. It opens in November 2019.

Dreams Resorts and Spas in El Macao: AMResorts, a subsidiary of the American-owned Apple Leisure Group, will have 500 rooms for the staff to manage. Bars, pools and a litany of eateries will require service sector employees as well. It opens in 2020.

A Vacation for Two

The development of new resorts is mutually beneficial for both the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. The island nation’s tourism is highly dependent on American visitors, who formed 33.85 percent of guests in 2013. The Dominican Embassy reported that individual tourists spent $1,055 on average in the same year. Americans received a pleasant vacation in exchange for growth in the Dominican Republic.

Two of the above resorts are branded by American companies as well. Their earnings not only benefit the Dominican economy but also benefit the American economy. Resort companies are part of a larger exchange where 53 percent of 2017 Dominican trade was with the U.S.. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service found that the Dominican Republic imported 42 percent of its goods from the U.S. in the same year.

Unfortunately, the four new resorts will not solve all of the Dominican Republic’s problems. Poverty remains high at 30.5 percent, although it has dropped from 41.2 percent in 2013. However, new resorts contribute to this decrease by providing employment opportunities in one of the nation’s most lucrative sectors.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Tourism InitiativesThe United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) notes that tourism is capable of driving high economic status in developing countries. Three of the below initiatives are examples of how sustainable tourism can best support developing communities.  

3 Examples of Sustainable Tourism Initiatives

  1. Cambodia’s Phare Circus
    First unveiled in 2013, the Phare Circus has drawn a large tourist and local crowd over the years and has even organized tours and private performances across the world. The stories they showcase through their acts are an authentic look into Khmer history and culture. By telling stories through performance, the circus promotes Cambodian art both domestically and overseas. The Phare Circus is an initiative of Phare Ponleu Selpak in Battambang (PPSA), which translates to The Brightness of the Arts, a nonprofit school founded in 1994 with the mission of helping young people cope with war trauma through art. All students are able to participate for free and can even move on to work for the Phare Performing Social Enterprise (PPSE), the parent company of Phare and the Circus. Both the PPSA and the PPSE are true definitions of sustainable tourism. The circus returns 75 percent of profits to the educational program and school, who in turn work on creating employment opportunities for Cambodian artists. Like the circus, Phare’s other social businesses under PPSE, such as the Phare Productions International and the Phare Creative Studio, create a reliable income to sustain the school. 
  2. Hotel Bom Bom on Príncipe Island
    Hotel Bom Bom is a bungalow resort situated on São Tomé and Príncipe, an island nation located 155 miles off the northwestern coast of Gabon. The hotel promotes water and recycling projects launched by the Príncipe Island World Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO and invites tourists to take part in these programs. Hotel guests, for example, can participate by exchanging 50 plastic bottles for one “Biosphere Bottle,” a reusable type of water container, which guests can fill up at one of the 13 water stations around the island. In total, 220,000 plastic bottles have been collected since December 2013. Preserving the local environment positively influences the livelihood of the native community.
  3. Prainha do Canto Verde, Brazil
    The native land of Prainha do Canto Verde, a coastal village located in the northeastern Brazillian state of Ceará has been threatened by illegal fishing and tourism development projects. As a result, the community decided to create its own tourism council in 1998. Since then, community tourism has come to represent 15 percent of the town’s source of income. Many of the initiatives they offer include “posadas,” or community inns, workshops and crafts, cooking, cultural activities and native fishing. The posadas are a true example of community-based tourism. Local residents offer up a few rooms in their homes to tourists. One posada, “Sol e Mar,” features a restaurant, garden, and six rooms which can accommodate up to 18 guests. Many families that run posadas end up registering with the Ministry of Tourism and joining the community’s council. It is an enriching experience for the locals that also improves living standards within the native community. Additionally, it allows locals to craft tourism activities and opportunities themselves so that there is little risk of endangerment to their culture. Overall, this tourism initiative in Prainha is actively working towards large goals to redistribute income and preserve the surrounding ecosystem of the village.

The Big Picture

When tourists support sustainable tourism, they are actively taking steps to meet locals, hear their experiences first-hand, and participate in greater causes to combat poverty in those regions. Sustainable tourism allows people to make a social impact on the place they are visiting and the initiatives mentioned above are just some of the few that are providing that opportunity.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Fair Trade TourismSouth Africa is home to sprawling plains with amazing wildlife, stunning mountain ranges and crystal blue coastlines. It is no wonder that it remains a supreme vacation destination for many people around the world. Despite its physical beauty, the country continues to struggle with high crime and violence rates due to large poverty gaps. The Fair Trade Tourism industry in South Africa is helping boost the country’s overall economy. Visitors help boost the country’s GDP when they choose to invest in travel experiences and accommodations that respect Fair Trade Tourism practices.

Fair Trade Tourism

Fair Trade Tourism is a non-profit organization that promotes responsible tourism in Africa through sustainability. They currently certify fair trade products and companies in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar in the Southern Africa region. Additionally, these countries have recognized agreements with other partner programs across the rest of the continent.

This non-profit works to help travelers in Africa seek out meaningful and authentic experiences and products that maintain high standards. Standards must include “fair wages and working conditions, fair purchasing and operations, equitable distribution of benefits and respect for human rights, culture and the environment.” In order to meet these standards, the organization has put in place six pillars for guidance with their own unique subcategories.

Pillars of Fair Trade

  1. Fair share: For tourism to be “fair share,” all participants in an activity, both the locals and the natives, should get a fair and direct cut of the income based on their unique level of contribution to it.
  2. Fair say: All parties involved in tourism should be able to voice their concerns and make decisions based on their values. These values should never be invalidated.
  3. Respect: Both those that host and those that participate should make sure they are respecting “human rights, culture and environment.” They can do this by choosing companies that enforce safe working conditions, protect young workers, promote gender equality, understand socio-cultural norms, reduce water and energy consumption as well as recycle, conserve natural habitats and their biodiversity and bring awareness to HIV/AIDS research.
  4. Reliability: Reliability is met via basic safety and security measures protecting all parties involved.
  5. Transparency: Tourism companies should make clear who owns a business, who shares the profits and where the money raised goes as well as be willing to answer any questions openly and honestly that tourists might have about the company’s missions, practices and values.
  6. Sustainability: Companies should seek sustainability via open-mindedness to increased knowledge, continuous improvements to resources via networking and relationship building, responsible use of resources for economic and environmental safety and support to marginalized groups.

The Importance of Fair Trade Tourism

Seeking out experiences that value these standards helps South Africa on the micro and macro level. On the micro level, it helps individual people working in the tourism industry to gain access to better benefits and working practices, improving their quality of life.

On the macro level, investing in these practices will have an overall better impact on the environment and the culture while simultaneously boosting South Africa’s global economy. The more money earned from the tourism industry, the more it will continue to improve in both environmentally and people friendly ways. This creates a virtuous cycle moving forward.

For South Africans, tourism remains one of the top industries for the economy. The Western Cape, where the bustling city of Cape Town is located, is South Africa’s most developed tourism region. It has grown faster than other areas and has created more jobs than any other industry in the province.

The National Development Plan names tourism as one of the top creators of employment and economic growth. Tourism, directly and indirectly, supported about 1.5 million jobs in South Africa in 2017. If the industry continues to grow at the pace it has been, it has the potential to create a real economic and social transformation for South Africans.

How People Can Help

There are several Fair Trade Tourism partners that tourists can seek out if planning a trip to South Africa or the Southern African region. Potential tourists should make sure they are checking any booked accommodations or experiences to ensure they are practicing Fair Trade. It is an easy solution to the problem of exploitation in the tourism industry. It makes for a better experience for both the locals benefitting from tourism as well as for the visitors themselves.

Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr