Marburg Virus in West Africa
Africa is a continent comprising of diseases and illnesses that affect many people’s lives. Notable examples of such ailments include HIV, malaria, Ebola and even COVID-19, impacting the lives of many impoverished communities of Africa. Now, a recent report of the Marburg virus in West Africa is starting to raise concern and officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) are scrambling to address the situation before it intensifies.

The Background

In August 2021, health officials from Guinea confirmed the first case of the Marburg virus disease in a deceased West African man. The patient, who started to develop the illness in late July 2021, went to a local clinic to seek treatment, where he displayed high fever, abdominal pain and external bleeding around his teeth. The man died less than two weeks later in the town of Guéckédou in Southern Guinea, which is in the same region where the Ebola virus broke out in 2014 and 2021.

What is the Marburg Virus?

Marburg is a type of virus that comes from the same family as Ebola and causes hemorrhagic fever in the individual who contracts it. Anyone infected is prone to experiencing internal bleeding, which affects vessels, organs and the body’s ability to regulate itself. Because of the severity of the damage, Marburg virus disease is extremely dangerous with an average case mortality rate of around 50%. In past outbreaks, fatality rates reached as high as 88%. The last noted presence of the virus was in 2008 with the last major outbreak occurring in 2005 in Angola.

Though Marburg has the potential to be very deadly, viruses that cause hemorrhagic fever are rare and are usually limited to areas with specific animals that host the viruses. In 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that fruit bats carry the virus, meaning that a human can only become infected through prolonged exposure in caves or similar habitats. However, once the virus infects one person, the Marburg virus is easily transmittable through direct contact with another individual. The timeline in which a person will start to display symptoms can be anywhere between two and 21 days after infection Although only a single case was confirmed so far, the WHO found the need to declare an outbreak in West Africa due to how easily the Marburg virus can spread.

What are Health Officials Doing?

Due to the concern that the Marburg virus could trigger an epidemic in West Africa, the WHO is taking precautions to ensure that the virus does not spread much further. Since the discovery, Guinea has attempted to track anyone who interacted with the patient. The country is monitoring at least 172 people, ordering them to quarantine to prevent transmission. The WHO has also dispatched a team consisting of epidemiology and socio-anthropology experts, who are now on the grounds of the virus site and are assisting with the investigation of Marburg virus cases. Efforts are also going into improving cross-border surveillance. Since Guéckédou is relatively close to Sierra Leone and Liberia, the WHO is working with authorities to ensure the virus does not spread outside of Guinea.

Disease and Poverty

As it currently stands, there is no known cure for Marburg virus disease, though remedies are in development. Right now, the best way to treat someone infected with the Marburg virus is through supportive care and rehydration. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of the disease becoming fatal. With that said, this current situation in Guinea speaks volumes about the healthcare system in Africa and the specific vulnerabilities of Africa.

Africa is the most disease-prone continent in the world, yet most of its people do not have access to treatment that will help protect against these viruses. In Guinea, which is home to 13 million people, not even 4% of the nation’s population has received full vaccination against COVID-19. If people in West Africa have limited access to a globally distributed COVID-19 vaccine, the likelihood of them easily obtaining treatment for a disease like Marburg or Ebola is slight. For these reasons, officials need to prioritize addressing health inequities and improving access to healthcare in developing regions such as Africa.

– Eshaan Gandhi
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

National Learning Assessment SystemEducation quality and learning outcomes are often key to explaining income differences across countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 88% of primary and lower secondary school children are “not proficient in reading.” Liberia’s Ministry of Education and the U.S.-based nonprofit Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) are developing Liberia’s first National Learning Assessment System (NLAS) for the primary learning level. This assessment will help Liberia’s schools switch from a content-based curriculum to a competency-based curriculum that values learning over memorization. The assessment itself will highlight which areas students are learning least to hopefully close the learning gap.

Education’s Role in Poverty Reduction

Education is important for reducing poverty because it increases the rate of return in the economy. Improving access and quality of education ensures a greater development of skills among the population. Using education as a tool for breaking cycles of poverty, the nation’s standard of living increases, accelerating economic growth.

With education, those employed in the formal sector of the economy have the potential to earn higher wages and secure higher-paying jobs as their careers progress. Illustrating this point, every “one year of education is associated with a 10% increase in wages.” Furthermore, research finds that “primary education has a higher rate of return than secondary education.”

Education in Liberia

Emerging from a destructive period of civil unrest and the Ebola epidemic in 2015, the Liberian education system has suffered considerably. Only 44% of primary-age students currently attend school in Liberia. Of the children who attend school, only 54% complete primary education. In addition, there are no national school quality standards in Liberia. According to the Global Partnership for Education, the largest global fund dedicated to education initiatives, “resourcing at county and district levels require improvement.” With the understanding that education is the key to reducing poverty, it is imperative for Liberia’s education system to improve.

The National Learning Assessment System’s Purpose

The purpose of the NLAS is to try to maximize primary education learning by assessing areas where learners are not performing well. This will create the framework for a national standard. Further, the assessment will serve as a reference point for Liberia’s new national curriculum and help the government decide which reforms to undertake in order to produce beneficial educational outcomes.

Pilot Assessment

In a trial of the assessment with the Liberian government, the IPA reached 874 students across six Liberian counties. Students received both oral and written assesments. The healthy distribution of scores suggested that the assessment was neither too difficult nor too easy. Overall, the results found that “in the oral exam, the average sixth grader answered 36% of the questions correctly in language and 61%” in mathematics. However, in the written assessment, the average sixth grader achieved 47% in language and 40% in mathematics.

Given the fact that more than 90% of students “were over-age for their grade,” the trial illustrates that assessments should not be organized by age. Moreover, because of the significant difference in scores between the oral assessment and written assessment, students should be assessed on both types. The pilot project generally recommends written assessments as these tests are “cheaper and easier to administer” but emphasizes the importance of oral examinations to assess oral fluency.

Education as the Key to Poverty Reduction

Initiating a national learning assessment strategy is the first step toward rebuilding Liberia’s education system after years of turmoil. The assessment provides a basis for education reform according to the learning styles, literacy levels and knowledge gaps among students. More importantly, the initiative demonstrates the government’s interest in the advancement of Liberia’s youth and the hope to help disadvantaged citizens rise out of poverty.

– Annarosa Zampaglione
Photo: Pixabay

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in NigerFemale genital mutilation is the act of “removing and sewing-up parts of the female genitalia.” Many are against the practice and Niger’s Minister of Women and Children Protection Bibata Barry says the act is “unacceptable in a civilized society.” It dehumanizes the women it affects and threatens the lives of mothers and daughters. Several facts help explain the issue of female genital mutilation in Niger.

5 Facts About Female Genital Mutilation in Niger

  1. Niger has laws against female genital mutilation. In 2003, the practice became illegal. Practitioners and assistants who violate this law face six months to 20 years of jail time. The law reduced the occurrence of the practice throughout the country. According to the president of the Nigerien Committee on Traditional Practices, the law has been effective so far. The steps Niger is taking are leading the country toward becoming the first West African country to eradicate female genital mutilation practices.
  2. Female genital mutilation rates are decreasing. In a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Niger greatly decreased between 1998 and 2006. In 1998, around 5.8% of women fell victim to the practice. Meanwhile, in 2006, the percentage dropped to only 2.2% of women. The decrease is largely due to the latest law.
  3. Disparities in education and wealth do not distinctly affect FGM rates in Niger. In a European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI) poll, the percentage of women who undergo FGM procedures does not vary much among education levels. Female genital mutilation practices among women and girls in impoverished rural areas are about 1% more prevalent than in wealthier urban areas.
  4. The population largely believes FGM should be eradicated. In fact, 91% of males aged 15 to 49 believe that female genital mutilation in Niger should stop. Meanwhile, 3% think it should continue and 6% are unsure. Likewise, 82% of females aged 15 to 49 agree the practice should stop. Meanwhile, about 6% believe it should continue and 12% are not sure. This demonstrates the change in beliefs among the younger generations in Niger. These statistics show promise that the nation is moving toward a bright future in which FGM no longer exists.
  5. The United Nations aims to end FGM in Niger. UNICEF and Niger’s government sponsored a ceremony in which about 14,000 villagers from 20 communities vowed to end female genital mutilation and forced underage marriages. About 38% of girls in Niger marry before the age of 15. The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that urged countries to ban the practice. However, without fighting poverty in the communities where female mutilation is prevalent, there is a chance that it may reemerge. Through consistent education and aid programs through the U.N. and other NGOs, there is hope in eradicating the practice completely. Raising the education rate for women will also help eradicate the practice.

There is hope for ending female genital mutilation in Niger. Through the efforts of the community, NGOs and Niger’s government, the practice will continue decreasing. With changing beliefs and laws in place, the culturally entrenched tradition can be eliminated.

– Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

Overfishing in West AfricaWest African people rely on fish as a primary protein source and a form of income, supporting the livelihoods of close to seven million people. Due to overfishing and illegal fishing, fish stocks are dropping, and as a result, the West African population risks food insecurity and increased poverty. Roughly 40% of the region’s fish is caught illegally. Overfishing in West Africa threatens to permanently hobble the economies of many developing countries in the region and destroy fish stocks for generations. In order to curb this threat, organizations are taking action.

Something Fishy

In West African countries, artisanal fishing has been a dominant career for generations. However, industrial fishing operations, mostly from China and the EU, threaten artisanal fishing. These countries use massive ships to trawl fish from the West African seas at a rate that could permanently wipe out the stock of fish in the region if left unchecked. In addition to depleting one of the region’s key food supplies, illegal overfishing in West Africa steals an estimated $1.3 billion in revenue from the region each year.

Local fishers try their best to compete but continue to struggle. According to a study, boats from the EU and China fish 11 times more efficiently than local artisanal fishers in West Africa. Even when foreign nations fish legally, they hardly pay their fair share. The EU, for example, pays West African nations just 8% of the value of fish it catches. As a result of these practices, West Africa loses out on an extremely valuable resource with very little compensation in return.

Not Enough Fish in the Sea

While the long-term environmental and economic impacts of overfishing are very concerning, the immediate hunger of people in West Africa is more pressing. The region faces an all-time high level of food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing conflict in the region. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies estimates that 23.6 million people in West Africa will face crisis levels of food insecurity in 2021.

Increased food insecurity goes hand-in-hand with other economic problems. Hundreds of thousands of people from West Africa migrate to European countries in hopes of finding work, a number that continues to grow. Many of these migrants cite lack of job opportunities and inadequate access to food and other essential services as reasons for leaving.

It is imperative for West African countries to crackdown on illegal fishing in order to address the problem. Researchers from the Sea Around Us project argue that policymakers should focus on supporting artisanal fishing as it creates more jobs and is better for the environment. Furthermore, placing limits on the industrial fleet operations of other countries will return control back to the region and ensure sustainable fishing.

The World Bank’s Solution

While the problem of overfishing in West Africa is daunting, organizations have mobilized to help solve the issue. The West Africa Regional Fisheries Program (WARF-P) is a three-phase initiative with a $170 million investment in the region’s fisheries. According to the World Bank, the program focuses specifically on reducing poverty and food insecurity by ending overfishing.

Phase one of WARF-P saw commendable success in Cabo Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The program has helped shape new laws regarding overfishing and has given local fishers access to more resources. In Cabo Verde, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone, the project helped register 34,000 small-scale fishing vessels in order to better monitor fishing activity. The project began in 2010 and ended in 2019.  WARF-P positively reported that illegal fishing has reduced in all beneficiary countries.

While these investments in the region are helpful for local communities, the investments fall short of compensating for the multi-billion dollar losses from overfishing in West Africa. It is vital to spread awareness on the issue and urge local governments to take action to prevent future losses. At the end of the day, proper management of these oceans falls on the shoulders of West African leaders.

Reeling it in

West Africa is a region that is very susceptible to the impacts of poverty, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Overfishing in West Africa will potentially haunt the region forever if local governments do not comprehensively address the issue. West Africa’s fish belong to the people of the region first and foremost. On the bright side, the benefits of solving the problem are immense and immediate. Food insecurity will drop while local employment rises, reducing poverty in West Africa.

– Jeremy Long
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in NigeriaAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Malaria is a life-threatening disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to people through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.” In 2019, nearly half of the world’s population was at risk of malaria exposure. Despite being preventable and curable, there were still a staggering 229 million global cases and 409,000 malaria-related deaths. With a population of around 201 million people at the time, Nigeria accounted for 23% of those deaths. Children under 5 are especially vulnerable and constituted 67% of all malaria deaths in 2019. Though malaria is present in various tropical areas around the world, Africa accounts for 94% of malaria cases and deaths, with Nigeria maintaining the highest percentage of both.

GBCHealth

GBCHealth is a partnership of companies and organizations that invest resources into improving global health. The nonprofit encourages its network to use its power and resources to progress the health of society and achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in innovative ways.

One of the organization’s initiatives to eliminate malaria is the implementation of the Corporate Alliance on Malaria in Africa (CAMA). CAMA serves as a platform for African corporations to share successful approaches, create new alliances, gain visibility and advocate for malaria control and prevention across Africa. The initiative also acts as a networking forum for businesses to engage and develop relations with key government and civil society stakeholders whose focus is combating malaria. GBCHealth stated that “CAMA companies both lead and support innovative malaria prevention, control and treatment activities and collectively deploy millions of dollars to programs that serve the needs of malaria-affected people and communities.”

Status of Malaria

Despite the improvements in malaria control over the past decade, long-term success in reaching the WHO Global Technical Strategy goals for Malaria 2016-2030 is still far off. The 2020 World Malaria Report stressed that countries in Africa continue to struggle to make significant or consistent gains in the fight against malaria. In 2006, Marathon Oil launched CAMA in Nigeria with members such as Chevron, Access Bank, ExxonMobil, The Aliko Dangote Foundation and Vestergaard. The alliance works with global partners, including The Roll Back Malaria Partnership and The Global Fund, to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Together, these organizations are making strides in the fight against malaria.

CAMA Strategic Plan

CAMA’s 2021-2023 Strategic Plan aims to improve awareness and scale up prevention efforts through private sector initiatives. The End Malaria Project, a major initiative under the new strategic plan, will increase private sector resources in Nigeria and then expand to other high-burden countries, rescuing 50,000 lives in Africa. The project will further the government’s efforts in achieving a malaria-free Nigeria by 2023 and channel private sector resources and capabilities into reducing the incidence and prevalence of malaria in the most endemic communities in Nigeria.

Although malaria has presented a significant challenge to Nigeria, the country is benefiting from the work of GBCHealth. Through its efforts, Nigeria is well on its way to becoming free of malaria.

– Nelia Blackman
Photo: Flickr

Mali's Shea Butter
As the sun rises over the wild-growing shea trees in Mali, West Africa, women from surrounding villages frequently work at the base of the towering trees gathering up the precious shea fruit. Encased within the fruit’s delicious pulp is the invaluable shea nut. Once their containers are full, the Malian women walk several kilometers back to their villages with up to 50 kilos of fruit in teetering baskets upon their heads. There, the fruit heads storage until it is ready for processing. Mali’s shea butter production has the potential to uplift the country’s economy significantly.

Great Demand and Inadequate Supply

Mali is the second-largest producer of shea nuts. It supplies more than 20% of the world’s shea nuts, which primarily go toward making shea butter. Shea butter’s primary use is in food and cosmetic products. The shea butter industry has grown over 600% in the last 20 years and is still on the rise. West Africa exports more than 350,000 tons of shea butter annually. In short, demand is not an issue but due to inadequate processing technology, Mali’s full wealth potential of shea butter production has not undergone realization. With over 42% of the country’s population living in poverty, the untapped possibilities of a modernized, efficient shea butter production practice desperately needed unearthing. The International Finance Corporation (IFC) decided to do just that.

The IFC Lends a Hand

The IFC is loaning approximately $3 million to Mali Shi, a shea nut processing plant located just outside Mali’s capital city of Bamako. The goal is to build a new, more modern plant with updated technology to boost efficiency and promote a better product. The IFC has also committed itself to offering training in business and finance as well as management skills to the shea nut suppliers in Mali. The shea supply chain in Mali mostly consists of women. Therefore, the bolstering of the shea butter industry in this region will allow these women to pay for their children’s schooling, invest in a family business and access transportation.

Prioritizing the Valuable Resource

The shea butter industry is not slowing down any time soon and women in low-income countries are on the frontlines. As the shea fad continues, more and more companies that use shea butter in their products are working to keep their focus on the hard-working women supplying the shea nuts. As companies bring in profits, many are fighting to ensure the suppliers of the valuable shea nuts are reaping the benefits of the backbreaking work.

Ghanaian American Rahama Wright is one of them. Rahama’s company, Shea Yeleen, has a business model that benefits the suppliers in the West African countries producing the shea butter. Shea Yeleen offers shea producers five times the typical income. Instead of an average of $2 per day for the labor-intensive work, many suppliers are now receiving $10 per day from Rahama’s company. Additionally, many of the women who belong to the cooperatives Shea Yeleen supports receive health insurance, training and access to savings groups. Shea Yeleen ensures its suppliers receive compensation by processing payments through the cooperatives and requiring signed payment receipts from cooperative members.

The Future Looks Bright

In a nutshell, as demand for Mali’s shea butter continues to rise, investment in shea entrepreneurs is vital. The efforts to modernize shea processing in Mali offer a bridge between a life of poverty and one of financial stability. For more than 120,000 individual shea nut suppliers to Mali Shi (95% of which are women) the ability to process shea butter with a higher level of efficiency means a brighter future. This empowerment not only benefits the farmers directly affected but also provides an opportunity for serious economic growth for the country.

– Rachel Proctor
Photo: Flickr

digital identification and the fight against global poverty
As the world continues to populate and technology becomes more widely available, the need for digital identification has become vital in the fight against global poverty. Currently, the World Bank has calculated that nearly one billion people worldwide do not have any formal identification, half of whom are in Africa. Thus, many people are without access to a range of essential services like banking, healthcare and general education.

In response, the World Bank Group began an initiative in 2014 to directly tackle this issue. The Identification for Development (ID4D) organization comprises experts, investors and technologies working to bring every person into the digital world.

What is Digital Identification?

Simply put, digital identification is a process in which an individual’s identity is confirmed through digital channels. A digital ID can range from a government-issued ID to a PIN to biometric data. Digital identification provides multiple important opportunities, such as opening bank accounts, establishing credentials for jobs and gaining access to education. Though these forms of identification seem common, many people struggle daily to prove their identity through these methods.

To understand the importance of identity management, one must understand the value and advantages it brings. In low-income countries, over 45% of women and 30% of men have no ID at all. In addition to the gender gap, a World Bank Group survey cited that the most impoverished 20% are the most likely to lack an ID. This places a veil over these communities, making them virtually “invisible.” It bars them from the opportunities and services that they most need to break out of the cycle of poverty.

However, digital identification can and is changing this. Identification for Development (ID4D) is doing pivotal work in building digital bridges, keeping transparency and empowering communities.

How ID4D Works

The ID4D initiative works in conjunction with 10 World Bank Group sectors that work toward digital expansion, economic inclusion, social safeguards and more for those in need of these services. The program primarily focuses on educating communities on the need and benefit of digital identification. Additionally, the group works alongside governments to implement effective and inclusive digital identification systems. The process of building up communities takes time and research. ID4D, therefore, performs assessments and creates a dialogue to understand the communities it serves.

Who ID4D Serves

Identification for Development serves the global community. For instance, the World Group Bank has supported the Moroccon government by designing and implementing a digital ID system. This project reformed the Moroccan social safety net system into a secure and functional digital society and economy.

Likewise, in West Africa, ID4D is in the beginning stages of implementing a new national ID system. This system will allow for easier access to mutual recognition and authentication processes throughout the area. A part of this project involves setting legal standards, industry standards and overall help promote and establish reliable ID systems between borders.

The Benefits of Digital Identification

There are numerous benefits to bringing underdeveloped regions into the digital atmosphere. First and foremost being the generation and broadening of new markets and customer indexes. Giving untapped markets the ability to tap into the digital realm financially gives poor communities a way to build savings, establish a digital trail, build credit and pay for what they need in micro-payments. Furthermore, digital identification helps to prevent fraud in various aspects. For example, with the help of digital identification, Nigeria and other countries have successfully used biometric records to reduce federal beneficiaries.

Not only does digital identification help communities at large, but it paves the way for women to provide for their families. Women account for around 70% of the world’s working population but receive only 10% of the income. As a result, women cannot afford to help raise their families out of poverty. Therefore, increasing women’s ability to verify their identities allows them to claim their income without issue, creating a highly effective method to combat global poverty.

– Sallie Blackmon
Photo: Flickr

Kuli KuliKuli Kuli is a company that sells products made from the moringa tree, a superfood that is high in vitamins, antioxidants, plant proteins, anti-inflammatory properties and has twice the nutrient value of kale. The company’s products consist of energy bars, tea shots and a variety of powders and smoothie mixes.

Kuli Kuli: Identifying a Need

Lisa Curtis developed a heart for those living in extreme poverty while serving briefly as a regional youth coordinator for the United Nations. This led her to volunteer for the Peace Corps in 2010 at age 22, which sent her to work at a community clinic in rural Nigeria. While there, she was introduced to a locally-grown energy source, moringa, and was impressed by both its healing properties and nutritional punch. She quickly saw how a moringa market could address not only the malnutrition issues of the people and villages she worked with but also provide business opportunities for local farmers.

Empowering Women Farmers

Moringa has restorative powers for the human body but it turns out that it also has potential for sustainable economic growth. Kuli Kuli addresses these needs simultaneously by working with small but high-quality farmers and establishing supply chains to foster economic growth and nutritional security in West Africa. Notably, most of the farmers that the company works with are women. In 2020, the company sourced moringa from over 2,400 farmers across 13 countries, with the largest group being African women. The company generated $5.2 million for these farmers and helped to plant and preserve over 24,600,000 moringa trees.

Not only does the company help these farms to scale up their businesses but it also provides training to increase the quality of their products and local use of the plant. Moringa is invaluable for farmers. It requires little water, provides restorative properties for the soil and overall is fairly easy to grow, especially in rural regions where the soil is untainted by industrial areas. The company founder’s ambitious vision seeks to eliminate gender inequality, income inequality, global malnutrition and extreme poverty.

Creating a New Market in Moringa

Since its launch in 2014, Kuli Kuli has dominated the market on moringa products. Though moringa grows naturally in parts of Asia, Africa and South America, the company was the first to introduce the superfood to the United States’ wellness market. By 2020, the company was selling products in 11,000 stores nationwide. According to Curtis, the company has averaged 100% growth every year. Some years do even better, as demonstrated by 2017’s Series A financing, which tripled its retail business, and 2019’s $5 million Series B financing deal with Griffith Foods and Kellogg. With this most recent investment, Kuli Kuli plans to expand into moringa ingredient products. Certainly, Griffith Foods’ 30-country chain is quite a catch for the young wellness startup.

Kuli Kuli’s success demonstrates the power of developing new markets in developing countries that expand into developed ones. Not only is the company empowering rural farmers and fighting malnutrition and extreme poverty in developing countries but moringa products are fast climbing the list of top green wellness supplements in the United States. By noticing this virtually untapped international market and being quick to capitalize on it, the company found itself supplying more than half of the U.S. retail moringa market by 2020, a mere six years after its startup.

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr

Women's Rights in Ghana
People have explored the topic of gender rights for many decades as women’s conventional role in modern society drastically changed. This evolution changed how genders interacted with one another and challenged the conventional norms of patriarchy that went unchecked for centuries. Women’s rights in Ghana is important socially and economically. Although ahead of its neighboring counterparts economically, politically and developmentally, there is still a wide gender gap that needs bridging.

Beginning of Women’s Independence

Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea and enjoys a tropical climate. Ghana gained independence from British colonial rule in 1957. There is no denying the role of Ghanaian women’s benefaction to the outcome of this freedom, as it segued into the establishment of the National Council of Ghana Women in 1960. The council’s intent was to empower and benefit women’s rights in Ghana by developing vocational training centers and daycare facilities.

Efforts to propel women to the forefront of the country’s progression were lacking. The numbers show how far behind women were in comparison to their male counterparts. Ghana is “in the bottom 25% worldwide for women in parliament, healthy life expectancy, enrolment in tertiary education, literacy rate, and women in the professional and technical workforce.”

Enrollment in Tertiary Education

Tertiary education illustrated the gender gap in Ghana best. Looking at the reasons separating women from pursuing higher learning exposes the patriarchal ideology woven into society. In general, keeping girls in education raises a country’s GDP. According to a report by Water.org, increasing accessibility for children in Ghana “on a global scale, for every year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 15-25%.”

Impact of Literacy Rates

The impact of literacy is as severe as reducing a country’s GDP. However, with such devastating numbers related to the gender gap in Ghana, the sinking literacy rates had to be addressed. Women in Ghana do not necessarily obtain the ability to read and write from receiving a formal education due to the consequences of the quick development of schools in low-income countries such as Ghana. There is a current disruption in educating students due to the exponential growth within education systems, which impacts the school’s full potential. However, the literacy rate for women in Ghana has made significant progress over the years. According to the World Bank’s data report in 2018, the literacy rate for females aged 15 or older is 74.47%. While the literacy rate for females aged 15 to 24 years old is 92.2%, increasing young girls’ independence.

Women’s Employment and Labor Force

Currently, 46.5% of the labor force in Ghana is female. However, these women participate in domestic labor, such as in the agricultural field, without any pay, which limits their independence. Despite the rights Ghanaian women have gained since the 1960s, the country has recognized that economic growth does not necessarily reduce gender-based employment and wage gaps.

Contrary to the women who receive no pay, women who earn a subsistence wage through agriculture are at risk of significant health issues due to the physically demanding nature. Ghana is a traditional-based society explaining gender-based roles. However, one nongovernmental organization defending women’s rights in Ghana is Womankind. The organization emerged in 1991 with the goal of ending violence against all women in Ghana. This can help increase their social rights and political power within the government. Over 600 women in Ghana received recognition for their professional training experience to construct their own political decisions within the last five years. The secondary school leadership roles consist of 30 young girls who studied management within the organization. As a result, this increases the chances of independence and rights for women in Ghana.

Developing Women’s Rights in Ghana

Women and men are legally equal in Ghana, and women’s rights in Ghana have made significant progress. However, multiple aspects of traditional society affect gender equality, impacting their rights as women. With educational empowerment and recognizing that economic growth does not necessarily mean women are receiving the same job opportunities as men, gender equality will be more promising in Ghana.

Montana Moore
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