Growing Cannabis Industry In recent years, the United States and countries around the globe have legalized medical marijuana. Several states in the U.S. have gone further and decriminalized the recreational use of cannabis. Growers and distributors of cannabis in the U.S. and Canada have been capitalizing on the growing cannabis industry. Doors have also been opening for companies based in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) countries like Jamaica, Colombia and Uruguay.

According to the World Health Organization, 80 percent of the world’s population uses marijuana for medicinal remedies. People know Latin American and Caribbean countries for their expansive farms and high levels of agricultural exports. Cannabis companies can leverage these existing production and distribution channels to their benefit. Ideal climate conditions coupled with increasing investment flows have positioned South America and the Caribbean for explosive growth. Some estimate the industry to grow to $55.8 billion by 2025.

Jamaican Agribusiness Shifts Priorities

In 2015, Jamaica became one of the first countries to decriminalize marijuana. Jamaicans can possess up to two ounces of marijuana. A license to grow marijuana costs $300 and allows citizens to cultivate five cannabis plants. The government is taking proactive steps to capitalize on the growing number of countries legalizing the use of marijuana by supporting local companies and universities in their research and production.

In September 2019, Jamaica’s Ministry of Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, announced it would be partnering with Harvard International Phytomedicines and Medical Cannabis Institute (HIPI). Through this partnership, HIPI will conduct research on the pharmacological benefits of cannabis. Jamaica aims to capitalize on this partnership and use it as an opportunity to grow and develop its national marijuana industry.

The Alternative Development Programme (ADP), a new government program in Jamaica, has the purpose of helping farmers benefit from the growing cannabis industry. The purpose of the program is to assist farmers in their transition from small-scale farming to large-scale farming to supply large international companies.

Uruguay’s Trailblazing Stance on Marijuana

In 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to fully legalize both the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana. Combating gang violence was one of the Uruguayan government’s top motivators behind legalization. Despite it being well-known as one of Latin America’s safest countries, Uruguay’s crime rate has been steadily on the rise. By targeting drug cartels’ highest source of revenue, the government hopes to curb the growing violence stemming from the illicit drug trade.

Fotmer Life Sciences is a cannabis cultivator based in Uruguay. In September 2019, Fotmer became the first company to legally export medical cannabis from Latin America. Its first export partner was Australia, and Fotmer also trades with Germany and Canada. Diego Oliviera, the head Uruguay’s national drug agency, hopes to expand Uruguay’s place in the marijuana industry by expanding exports from solely marijuana plants to finished products, like oils. Although Uruguay is home to three other marijuana-based companies, Fotmer is the only company with a license to process and export the marijuana flower and products for direct consumption.

Marijuana as Colombia’s New Most Popular Export

Colombia, known for its petroleum and coal supply, can attribute 57 percent of its total export value to just that. Coffee and spices make up an additional 6 percent of exports due to Colombia’s ideal climate and 12 hours of daylight year-round. It is looking to attract cannabis cultivators using the same ideal conditions as a selling point and viable alternative to growing in countries like Canada and the United States, where people have to spend significant amounts of money on greenhouses for colder seasons.

Desired Effect of Legalization on Crime

In Colombia, the laws regarding marijuana are not as progressive as those in Uruguay. People can possess small amounts of marijuana and medicinal use is legal, but recreational use remains a criminal act. Similar to Uruguay, the Colombian government hopes that legalizing cannabis use will decrease gang and drug-related violence.

Drug- and gang-related violence is second to cancer as a leading cause of death in Colombia. It is too soon to tell whether legalization has had an impact on crime, but the strategy is to crimp revenue streams of gangs by making the illicit marijuana market. Now that it is legal for marijuana to grow for medicinal purposes, cannabis industry workers hope to attract investors. The Colombian Cannabis Industry Association (CCIA) has 29 member companies who have invested over $600 million in the construction of medical marijuana facilities.

It is becoming increasingly popular for Latin American and Caribbean countries to capitalize on the opportunities that arise from the growing cannabis industry. As more and more companies look to locate their farms to the Caribbean and South America, LAC countries are seeking to benefit by coupling foreign investment with academic and industrial research in the hopes of reaping socio-economic dividends for everyone.

– Desiree Nestor
Photo: Flickr

Safe, Quality Drinking Water

On May 24, 2019, thousands of residents from poor neighborhoods in Lima, Peru protested business litigation that has been obstructing their access to drinking water. The demand for safe drinking water, a necessity for any lifeform to thrive, is, unfortunately, a common obstacle in South America. Several countries struggle in providing this vital resource to its citizens, especially in rural areas with poorer communities. However, other countries are successfully paving a path to ensuring access to drinking water and sanitation facilities. Here are a few facts about safe drinking water throughout South America.

Access to Safe Drinking Water in South America

  • Peru: Thirty-one million people live in Peru, but 3 million don’t have access to safe drinking water, and 5 million people don’t have access to improved sanitation. While more than 90 percent of Peruvian residents have access to improved drinking water, in rural areas, access drops to below 70 percent. Likewise, urban areas offer sanitation facility access to 82.5 percent of the population, but barely over 50 percent of people in rural communities, highlighting the drastic disparity between socioeconomic and regional populations.
  • Brazil: Similarly, shortcomings in providing safe, quality drinking water exist in South America’s largest country, Brazil. With a population of 208 million, 5 million Brazilians lack access to safe drinking water, and 25 million people, more than 8 percent of the population, don’t have access to sanitation facilities. While 100 percent of the urban population has access to drinking water, in rural areas the percentage drops to 87. The numbers take another hit when it comes to access to sanitation facilities. Eighty-eight percent of the urban population has this access, but almost half of the people in rural populations lack proper sanitation facilities.
  • Argentina: A similar narrative occurs in Argentina, where urban populations might have decent access to safe, quality drinking water and sanitation facilities, but the numbers drop off concerning rural and lower socioeconomic communities which struggle in having their needs and demands addressed by the government. Typical causes for low-quality drinking water include pollution, urbanization and unsustainable forms of agriculture.
  • Uruguay: In stark contrast, Uruguay has available safe drinking water for 100 percent of urban populations, almost 94 percent in rural populations, over 96 percent for improved access to sanitation facilities for urban populations and almost 94 percent for rural populations. The World Bank participated in the success of transforming Uruguay’s access to drinking water, which suffered in the 1980s, by offering loans to the main utility provider. The World Bank and other developers financially assisted Obras Sanitarias del Estado (OSE), the public utility that now provides drinking water to more than 98 percent of Uruguayans, in addition to providing more than half of the sanitation utilities in Uruguay. In addition to finances, these partners aid in ensuring quality operation standards such as upholding accountability, preventing unnecessary water loss, implementing new wastewater treatment plants in rural areas and protecting natural water sources such as the Santa Lucia river basin.
  • Bolivia: Like Uruguay, Bolivia made recent strides in improving access to safe, quality drinking water. They began by meeting the Millenium Development goal of cutting in half the number of people without access to improved drinking water by 2015. President Evo Morales, “a champion of access to water and sanitation as a human right,” leads to a path for the next step which is to achieve universal access to drinking water by 2020 and sanitation by 2025. Bolivia also recently invested $2.9 billion for drinking water access, irrigation systems and sanitation. In 2013, Morales addressed the United Nations calling for access to water and sanitation as a human right. Dedicated to his cause, he leads Bolivia in surpassing most other countries on the continent in ensuring these essential amenities to his constituents.

Unfortunately, the progress of Bolivia and Uruguay doesn’t transcend all borders within South America, as millions still feel neglected by their governments due to not having regular, affordable, safe, quality access to clean drinking water.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in UruguayIn recent years, Uruguay has been lauded as something of a success story in the realm of economic progress and poverty reduction. According to the World Bank, which has played an enormous role in supporting the Uruguayan economy over the past decade, poverty in Uruguay has decreased from 32.5 percent to 9.7 percent in the past ten years. Extreme poverty has nearly been eradicated with only 0.3 percent of the population being identified in the poorest sector. Still, poverty does exist in this Latin American country, and the causes of poverty in Uruguay can be summarized in three major categories: lack of education for young children, the rapidly modernizing rural sector and discrepancies in economic status between men and women.

A large majority of the impoverished population in Uruguay is made up of women and children. Children under the age of 15 make up a large percentage of the most impoverished sector. Further, rural families who fall in the poorest 20 percent of the population tend to have the largest number of children. This inverse relationship between family size and economic status contributes to the lack of nourishment and education available to the children in these families. Research performed by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean revealed extreme learning deficiencies in children at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum.

The modernization of the rural sector has also played a large role in perpetuating the high level of poverty in the more rural regions of Uruguay. As rural production work is streamlined with the rise and availability of new technologies, those employed by rural producers are being forced out of work. While the more urban areas of Uruguay remain positively impacted by modernization the number of rural workers who are finding themselves unemployed due to modernization is also on the rise.

In both rural and urban areas of the country, women make up a large proportion of the workforce. In fact, Uruguayan women have the highest participation rate in the labor industry in all of Latin America. Still, the discrepancy in wages between men and women is enormous and one of the main causes of poverty in Uruguay. With Uruguayan women making less than 60 percent of men’s income on average, it is no wonder that women fall into the most impoverished sector far more often than men. Women also continue to fulfill traditional obligations in the home, allowing them less mobility and time during which to work for pay. As a result, single-mother households make up a large part of the poverty sector in Uruguay.

There is certainly still much work to be done in the restructuring of agribusiness, education and wage disparity between men and women if the causes of poverty in Uruguay are to be addressed in the coming years. However, the progress that the Uruguay has experienced in the past decade is no small feat.

With assistance from the World Bank, the Uruguayan government has been able to implement a development process — a composite of loans, insurance, donations and informational exchange — that has had outstanding results. In 2013, Uruguay was ranked as a high-income country with the largest middle class in the Americas, at 60 percent of the population. Beyond economics, Uruguayan citizens have an extremely high level of confidence in their government, based largely upon low levels of corruption and governmental stability.

Overall, Uruguay is something of an anomaly in Latin America in terms of its financial independence and high level of equal opportunity for citizens. And though poverty does still exist in the country, the prospects for decreasing the level of poverty even further are extremely favorable as Uruguay continues to grow and prosper as an egalitarian and economically stable country.

Bhavya Thamman

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in UruguayUruguay is an upper-middle income country with a population of 3.444 million people. The country is located on the coast of South America between Brazil and Argentina. Like in many other countries, noncommunicable diseases have topped the list of common diseases in Uruguay.

1. Cardiovascular diseases

Cardiovascular diseases constitute 30.6 percent of deaths in the country. Ischemic heart disease is the most common form of cardiovascular disease. Risk factors include unhealthy weight, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, unhealthy eating habits, smoking, stress and lack of exercise. In Uruguay, 56.6 percent of the population is overweight or obese, 29.2 percent have high cholesterol, 30.4 percent have hypertension and 5.5 percent have diabetes. Most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

2. Neoplasms

Cancer makes up 24.8 percent of deaths in Uruguay. For men, the most common cases of cancer are lung cancer (45.32 percent of cases), prostate cancer (22.13 percent) and colorectal cancer (11.37 percent). For women, the most common cases are breast cancer (22.74 percent), colorectal cancer (12.65 percent) and lung cancer (6.43 percent).

3. Respiratory diseases

Respiratory diseases account for 9.2 percent of deaths in Uruguay. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the most common respiratory disease in the country. COPD is caused by breathing in smoke, dust and chemicals. Smoking is a major risk factor for respiratory diseases as well as lung cancer. About 29.7 percent of adult males and 19.1 percent of adult females smoke. Additionally, 22.9 percent of adolescents ages 15 to 18 smoke. Secondhand smoke is another risk factor, and roughly 11.8 percent of adults are exposed.

In 2006, Uruguay passed a smoke-free policy that mandated public facilities and workplaces be smoke-free. This lead to a 26 percent decrease in hospitalization for respiratory diseases between 2006 and 2012. There has been a significant reduction in asthma and pulmonary infection. However, COPD has not had the same decrease.

4. Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Dementia is a major cause of death and disability and most common in the elderly. About 4.03 percent of the population has dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia. Between 40,000 and 50,000 people in Uruguay have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Understanding and further research of these common diseases in Uruguay can aid in the fight against poverty.

Francesca Montalto

Photo: Flickr

Uruguay Poverty RateUruguay has made great progress in reducing poverty since the mid-1980s, mainly due to the country’s extensive social policy and macroeconomic stability in the 1990s. The country is also notable in Latin America for its equitable distribution of income. However, the Uruguay poverty rate remains a concern for some Uruguayan communities.

Uruguay’s impoverished residents typically have a critical combination of low skills, weak demand and high family dependency that makes them vulnerable to financial struggles. A dual strategy that improves Uruguay’s investment climate and enhances growth is one method that could help the country’s poor. Investing in human capital via education could assist impoverished residents as well.

Uruguay’s poor are also marginalized. Impoverished Uruguayans are increasingly concentrated in specific neighborhoods, challenging poverty reduction efforts and implying changes to social services. Uruguayan children have become a significant portion of the country’s poor, with 40 percent born into poor families — a fact that foreshadows an intergenerational poverty problem.

Teenage mothers, inactive youths and unemployed adult males (40 to 50 years old) with low skillsets are vulnerable to the Uruguay poverty rate as well. While this demographic is relatively small, it could increase given Uruguay’s past social problems. However, this problem is still manageable in scope and depth. Uruguay would require a change to conventional social programs in order to help this vulnerable demographic.

Uruguayan children are the country’s most vulnerable demographic to impoverished conditions. However, Uruguay’s elderly population are at the least risk due to the country’s pension benefits and increasing job salaries. Uruguay’s constitutional change in 1989 permitted the indexation of pensions to wages, helping the country’s elderly to have higher income deciles and lower poverty rates as well.

Income inequality is another reason for the Uruguay poverty rate. Inequality in workers’ wages was on an upward trend from the 1990s to 2007. Since 2008, increases in labor income have helped lower Uruguay’s income inequality problems. However, Uruguay’s income inequality rate is still relatively high by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) standards.

Thankfully, Uruguay’s poverty rate is continuing to decrease. The country’s poverty rate was 11.5 percent in 2013 and dropped to 9.7 percent in 2014. Uruguay’s homelessness rate of 0.5 percent dropped to 0.3 percent within the same years. The country’s Central Bank stated that Uruguay’s economy grew by 3.5 percent and slightly above market expectations.

While the Uruguay poverty rate continues to decrease, the country’s impoverished communities will require opportunities for income equality. Uruguay has a literacy rate of 96 percent (the highest rate among Latin American countries) and a social contract that stresses the importance of accessing education.

Uruguayans with low skillsets may be able to escape poverty by taking advantage of the country’s educational opportunities, and therefore creating a brighter Uruguayan future for all.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Supporting the education of women and girls around the globe is often a key component in efforts to end extreme global poverty. Statistics show that educated women marry later. This results in fewer child marriages and reduces fertility and infant mortality rates. Educated women are also more likely to go to work. When a woman receives regular pay, she can give back to her community, and when the working population in a community doubles due to female education, the cycle of poverty ends. This is why the World Bank Group (WBG) is focusing on ending the gender disparity in education in Uruguay.

Educating girls and women is WBG’s main goal in their fight to eradicate poverty. In Uruguay, women and girls face gender-based violence that discourages them from attending school. Gender bias and stereotyping is a long-standing issue in Uruguay that extends beyond the classroom. Recently the government in Uruguay has prioritized addressing the gender bias. They teamed up with WBG to implement the Improving the Quality of Initial and Primary Education in Uruguay Project to end gender-based violence and discrimination in schools.

The project is a part of the $2.5 billion investment in global education that WBG President Jim Yong Kim announced at the Let Girls Learn event in April 2016. Improve the Quality of Initial and Primary Education in Uruguay is a $40 million project that will implement teacher training to make educators aware of the gender disparity and equip them with the knowledge and tools to address it. The training will focus on social norms regarding masculinity versus femininity. In the process, WBG will direct a study of gender equality that will inform the Gender Equality Action Plan from 2017-2020.

In addition to addressing gender inequality, the project will also improve access to quality early childhood education. WBG plans to utilize the teacher training component of the project to focus on emotional and social development in primary schools. Their hope is to create a sustainable, gender-equal education system by implementing these practices from the beginning of a child’s schooling.

In April 2016, WBG President Jim Yong Kim said, “empowering and educating adolescent girls is one of the best ways to stop poverty from being passed from generation to generation and can be transformational for entire societies.” The Improve the Quality of Initial and Primary Education in Uruguay plans to do just that.

Rachel Cooper

Photo: Flickr


Poverty in Uruguay was at borderline catastrophic levels less than 15 years ago. Uruguay has made strides over the past decade to dig itself out of a massive hole and has brought its poverty levels from nearly 50% to below 10%. Its success is due in large part to government action — via a safety net to lift those at the bottom to a more manageable level with the help of leaders who lead by example.

In 2002, Uruguay fell into one of the worst financial crises in its history, which was heavily influenced by the Argentine depression and the Brazilian Financial Crisis. That year, unemployment shot from 10% to 18%, GDP fell by 11%, and poverty in Uruguay doubled. By the time 2004 came, the poverty rate in Uruguay had reached a peak of 39.9%, of which children made up almost 60%.

Thanks to the implementation of new governmental policies targeted at improving the quality of life of its citizens, poverty in Uruguay fell to 9.7% in 2015, and its GDP grew to $56 billion. One of the reasons for this turnaround was taking care of Uruguay’s weakest and most vulnerable first, via the Emergency Social Program. Enacted in 2005 by then-president Tabare Vasquez, it provides the safety net necessary to slowly lift the citizens of Uruguay back to their feet. An allowance program was also created during this time, providing families in poverty a means to live — 700 pesos a month (on average), or about $31.

After Vasquez, poverty in Uruguay continued to fall during the term of Jose Mujica — “The World’s Poorest President.” Mujica was the president of Uruguay from 2010-2015 and did not live in the presidential palace, but instead on a modest farm outside the capital city. He donated 90% of his earnings (about $12,000 per month) to charity and the people he represented and is quoted as saying, “I’m not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live.”

Uruguay has experienced a drastic turnaround since its economic crisis due to economic growth, introducing social safety nets and strong leadership from the presidents who governed during this time. It still utilizes high levels of social spending and agricultural exports, and current projections are that Uruguay’s growth will continue to climb in the coming years, leaving the high rates of poverty in Uruguay a thing of the past.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

Education in Uruguay

Despite being one of the smaller nations of South America, the Oriental Republic of Uruguay boasts some of the most successful education statistics in the continent. In fact, Education in Uruguay boasts statistics among the best in the world.

According to the U.N. Development Program’s Education Index in 2013, Uruguay is “slightly better educated than the average country at 0.71 out of one” while the world’s median is 0.65. The Republic also boasts a 98.36 percent adult literacy rate, making them rank first out of 12th for South America and 33rd in the world’s ranking.

Education is compulsory in Uruguay for students between the ages of six and 11, and free at all levels. Its capital of Montevideo is also the major center for education and the home of the main and only public university: University of the Republic. Across the board, classrooms have a great student per teacher ratio, at 13.8 students per teacher. This assuring statistic has resulted in a greater amount of attention given to pupils in addition to higher grade averages.

The commitment to compulsory education in Uruguay dates back to the 1800s when President José Pedro Varela convinced the government to pass the 1877 Law of Common Education. This key statute instituted a model for public school systems and was made in the image of the French academic system. It created three separate branches – primary, secondary, and university levels. Although president for only one year, Varela’s impact remains influential to the country’s education system.

Uruguay’s commitment to education even goes so far as to become the first country to give free laptops and Wi-Fi connection to every student across the country. In 2009, President Tabaré Vázquez finalized the inaugural project “Plan Ceibal” which gave laptops to all grade school students and their teachers. The project worked in alliance with non-profit One Laptop Per Child, an organization with a mission to distribute low-cost laptops to poor children all over the world.

Education in Uruguay only continues to improve classroom conditions and technologies with each succeeding year. Minister of Education and Culture María Julia Muñoz and American Ambassador to Uruguay Kelly Keiderling recently renewed a Fulbright partnership between the two countries, which will allow teachers to learn modern education methods from their Fulbright scholars.

Muñoz stated that the Ministry of Education and Culture has even increased their contribution to the partnership program from 60,000 dollars to 100,000 dollars, to maintain their marked dedication to the lives of Uruguayan students and teachers.

The continued efforts of Uruguayan leaders will undoubtedly secure the significance of academia as an apex of the Oriental Republic and its culture. Further movements concerning the Education of Uruguay are, therefore, not to be discredited.

Ashley Morefield

Photo: Flickr

uruguay’s “poor” president
The Economist recently named Uruguay the 2013 country of the year, noting that the country, which is described as “modest yet bold, liberal and fun-loving,” also has a leader who fits that description as well.

President Jose “Pepe” Mujica, also known as the world’s poorest President, has drawn attention not only because of his policies and bold leadership, but also because of his leadership philosophy and modest lifestyle.

At a time when world leaders often have hoards of staffers at their beck and call, it is a rare phenomenon to see a President who looks on convention and decides against it. Uruguay’s “poor” president lives in a small, one-bedroom farmhouse with his wife and donates 90 percent of his salary to charity. He drives a Volkswagen Beetle and he rarely wears a suit.

Uruguay, which has seen its fair share of conflict, has been able to make tremendous strides in poverty reduction over the past few years, falling from 22.4 percent of the population in 2008 to 12.4 percent in 2012. With a President who leads by example, it’s clear that he is just what the country needs during times of austerity and difficult decisions.

Here are 5 famous quotes from Uruguay’s Presidnet Mujica on his thoughts about revolution, leadership, and global consumption

1. “I’ve seen some springs that ended up being terrible winters. We human beings are gregarious. We can’t live alone. For our lives to be possible, we depend on society. It’s one thing to overturn a government or block the streets. But it’s a different matter altogether to create and build a better society, one that needs organization, discipline and long-term work. Let’s not confuse the two of them. I want to make it clear: I feel sympathetic with that youthful energy, but I think it’s not going anywhere if it doesn’t become more mature.”

2. “It seems that we have been born only to consume and to consume, and when we can no longer consume, we have a feeling of frustration, and we suffer from poverty, and we are auto-marginalized.”

3. “We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means, by being prudent, the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction. But we think as people and countries, not as a species.”

4. “Businesses just want to increase their profits; it’s up to the government to make sure they distribute enough of those profits so workers have the money to buy the goods they produce… It’s no mystery — the less poverty, the more commerce. The most important investment we can make is in human resources.”

5. “My goal is to achieve a little less injustice in Uruguay, to help the most vulnerable and to leave behind a political way of thinking, a way of looking at the future that will be passed on and used to move forward. There’s nothing short-term, no victory around the corner… What I want is to fight for the common good to progress.

– Andrea Blinkhorn

Sources: 1, 2, The Economist, Vice News, Al Jazeera, World Bank