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Elevating Farmers in KenyaAfrican agricultural technology (agri-tech) services bring in $2.6 billion every year. Kenyan agri-tech is a large piece of Africa’s agri-tech industry, accounting for 25% of all startups. Agri-tech companies in Kenya create websites and mobile applications with the hope of elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty by allowing them to showcase their products and access information databases. Mobile applications and virtual marketplace platforms also boost market accessibility for farmers in Kenya.

Agriculture in Kenya

More than 25% of the global workforce works in the agriculture sector. In Kenya, agricultural employment accounts for more than 40% of the population. Additionally, agriculture comprises 33% of Kenya’s GDP. Although agriculture is a major economic sector, in Kenya the industry traditionally consists of older and smallholder farmers. Socially, Kenyans see farming as lackluster and dirty. Many young people prefer to turn to education rather than farming but digitalization in the agriculture industry is drawing in younger people.

It is important for younger Kenyans to enter the agricultural industry because their experience with technology will advance the market. What Kenyans saw as an industry for the older generation is transforming into a technologically advanced industry with the help of young adults. Engaging young people through social media and other mobile applications will rejuvenate and modernize agriculture in Kenya. Additionally, because many farmers in Kenya are smallholders, people who own small-scale farming operations, the creation of mobile applications allows farmers to feasibly access new markets via smartphone or computer without relying on brokerages or a middle-man, elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty.

4 Agri-Tech Applications Transforming Agriculture in Kenya

  1. Mkulima Young: Created by Joseph Macharia, a Kenyan farmer, Mkulima Young’s website connects farmers and potential buyers throughout East Africa. The platform is enhancing trade throughout the region. Using the application, Kenyans can feasibly buy and sell agricultural products. On the platform’s website’s homepage, Mkulima Young features young farmers’ selfies with their products, the latest products its members uploaded to the site and requests from buyers. Another page on the site includes a virtual market that allows farmers in Kenya to showcase and sell their cash crops, flowers, livestock and other agriculture products. Mkulima Young’s virtual marketplace gives users access to data to help understand trend projections and market insights.
  2. Twiga Foods Ltd: Beginning in 2014, Twiga sources products from Kenyan farmers and food manufacturers for registered vendors to sell, in turn providing adequate market security for farmers and vendors. After sourcing fresh fruits and vegetables from Kenyan farmers, Twiga Foods brings produce to Kenya’s urban centers. Currently, more than 4,000 suppliers and more than 35,000 vendors utilize Twiga’s marketplace platform. Twiga prides itself on transparency and efficient delivery of quality products. The platform offers smallholder farmers reassurance that their products will be profitable. Twiga Foods makes selling and buying Kenyan produce easier for average Kenyan farmers and vendors through its transparency and a guaranteed market.
  3. DigiCow: Founded by tech start-up Farmingtech Solutions, which specializes in agricultural data management, DigiCow provides smallholder farmers with farming management services. With DigiCow’s services, farmers in Kenya can reach data-based conclusions rather than guessing and estimating results, which was common practice before applications like DigiCow. The application enables its users to make data-driven decisions. Specific tools the application offers are, but are not limited to, virtual training, message boards for farmers to connect with each other, digital tracking of feeding, insemination and milking, notifications for vital dates and analyzed reports. April 2019 marked a notable milestone for DigiCow. The World Bank recognized the Farmingtech Solutions team as Kenya’s most inventive Agri-tech by awarding DigiCow the winner of the Disruptive Agricultural Technologies challenge. With the DigiCow application, farmers can now keep data sets and make educated decisions.
  4. DigiFarm: Founded by Safaricom, a telecommunication firm in Kenya, DigiFarm allows farmers to connect directly with bulk produce buyers, credit providers and cheaper agronomic materials. DigiFarm arranges deals with buyers for small farmers. These deals are more beneficial than the deals farmers use to make with traditional brokers. More than 40,000 farmers utilize the application. The app allows smallholder farmers to analyze the market of their produce. Additional services DigiFarm provides its users are insurance for weather-related incidents, loss management and recommendations on how to increase yields. Projections estimate that if success continues, DigiFarm will represent 10% of annual ag-business affairs in Kenya. Before DigiFarm’s assistance many farmers could not afford supplies but with DigiFarm’s help, many small farmers can now run successful operations.

How Agri-Tech Alleviates Poverty in Kenya

The World Bank states that an increase in agriculture technology will assist Kenya in meeting its rising food demand, whilst elevating farmers in Kenya from poverty. As smaller farmers utilize more agri-tech, their production will increase leading to a rise in income for themselves and also a rise in food production for the country. Increasing agriculture productivity through agricultural technology will not only increase food supply but will also increase the number of jobs available in both the agriculture and technology sectors.

These agricultural technology applications are a game-changer for smallholder Kenyan farmers. They have the potential to create economic growth in the agriculture and technology industry. The creation of virtual marketplaces and agri-tech platforms will ultimately lead to prosperity in Kenya.

– Bailey Lamb
Photo: Flickr

Cabo Delgado crisis
Mozambique, a southern nation located in East Africa, is one of the poorest nations in the world. Cabo Delgado is its northernmost province and is rich in natural gas and rubies.  A mix of political tensions, Islamist militancy and inequality have provided fertile ground for Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado crisis

Background of the Crisis

Violence erupted in Cabo Delgado in 2015 and continues today as clashes between the militant group al-Shabab and state security forces.  Members of al-Shabab feel that the state does not provide for those in Cabo Delgado who do not belong to the elite. To date, almost 3000 people have died and hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. In particular, Mozambican children are suffering heavily from physical and mental challenges.

Physical Challenges to Children: Displacement

The Cabo Delgado crisis has displaced over 336,000 children from their homes. Children flee from their homes on short notice to escape violence. They often travel long distances, sustaining injuries as a result of their journeys. Within the span of one month from June to July 2021, the number of children fleeing alone from Cabo Delgado increased by 40%.

Physical Challenges to Children: Hunger and Violence

Children impacted by the Cabo Delgado crisis also suffer from starvation. A UNICEF SMART survey analysis indicates that 33,000 children in Cabo Delgado are severely malnourished. Still, this number does not even take into account the children who have fled the region.

Some children are even subject to kidnappings and extreme violence. In the span of 13 months, ending in August 2021, over 50 children, mostly girls, were kidnapped. Additionally, there have been reports that children as young as 11 were beheaded.

Mental Challenges to Children: Trauma and Education

In addition to physical challenges, children displaced by the Cabo Delgado crisis also suffer from severe mental distress and trauma. This is often a result of children witnessing horrifying scenes including the murder of their own parents.

The Cabo Delgado crisis also challenges children’s access to education. Cabo Delgado has one of the highest rates of illiteracy in Mozambique. Thus far, the conflict has destroyed 221 schools, jeopardizing children’s access to essential learning.

Helping the Children of Mozambique

The Mozambican government has taken steps to try and improve life in provinces impacted by the Cabo Delgado crisis. In March 2020, the government created the Northern Integrated Development Agency to provide humanitarian aid and support economic growth and youth employment in Cabo Delgado and other provinces impacted by the crisis.

The international community has tried to help diffuse the Cabo Delgado crisis by strengthening the government. In April 2021, the World Bank agreed to provide $100 million to the government of Mozambique to support displaced civilians with basic infrastructure and job creation.

Save the Children

Save the Children, the international humanitarian organization, is helping.  It recently worked to reunite 63 Cabo Delgado children with their parents and caregivers. The organization provides foster homes and other forms of temporary accommodation for displaced children.  It also provides mental health and psychosocial support service. In addition, Save the Children works with the Mozambican government and other partners to combat malnutrition and provide improved health programs for children. Thus far, the organization has provided support to more than 25,000 children in times of crisis and vital nourishment to almost 15,000 children.

The Mozambique government, global financial leaders including the World Bank, and international humanitarian organizations including Save the Children are making strides to improve life in Cabo Delgado. While much work still remains, these groups are alleviating the suffering of children who are caught up in the Cabo Delgado crisis.

– Savannah Algu
Photo: Flickr

Covid -19 in Malawi
Malawi, a landlocked southeastern nation in Africa, faces hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of October 2021, COVID-19 in Malawi say a rise in over 61,700 COVID-19 cases and over 2,200 deaths. The biggest spike that Malawi experienced began on January 25, 2021, with a seven-week average case count of 994. The cases diminished significantly by September 2021, with most 7-week average counts bordering 40 cases. Already deep in poverty, Malawians certainly did not benefit from imposed lockdowns and a rising unemployment rate.

Effects on Poverty

Malawi continues to be one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks 222 of 225 countries in terms of the greatest GDP per capita, with 526.93 in December 2020. Additionally, Malawi’s poverty rates can be attributed to its economy, which employs about 80% of the population in the agricultural sector. The COVID-19 pandemic greatly affected most urban areas and forced services and businesses to terminate.

The last demographic statistics of Malawi dates back to 2016 and recorded a poverty rate of 69.2%, which increased from the previous statistic of 62.4% in 1997. This means that this population lives with an income averaging below the extreme poverty line of $1.90 per day. Though no definitive statistics of Malawi’s current poverty rate exist, experts estimate it to be near or greater than the last census of 69.2% due to the unemployment rates caused by COVID-19. The unemployment rate of Malawi increased from 5.6% in 2019 to 6% in 2020, accounting for the jobs terminated by COVID-19.

Economic Development

As mentioned previously, the agriculture business in Malawi accounts for 80% of jobs. However, agricultural production is not necessarily abundant. By September 2020, over 2.6 million Malawians suffered food shortages from a combination of COVID-19 and weather complications.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malawi experienced economic development with 3.5% economic growth in 2018 and 4.4% in 2019. The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) was created in 2017 to aid Malawi in several different sectors, including industry, health and poverty. However, the pandemic abruptly paused the project, and some fear that the effects of COVID-19 in Malawi will reverse the progress made in previous years. The Malawi Economic Monitor (MEM) predicts long-term and widespread negative effects from the pandemic, even though measures such as the Emergency Liquidity Assistance should mitigate some of the damage. If the effects do not worsen by the end of COVID-19 in Malawi, the nation will likely be able to reconstruct its economy with the 5-year installment plans within the MGDS.

Social Conditions

One of the greatest worldwide challenges of the pandemic continues to be providing schooling for students at home. With Malawi’s poor standards for education, where only 8% of students finish secondary school, the pandemic posed a great challenge. In a survey of 100 parents of school-attending children, 86% reported that they had no contact with any teachers or the school throughout the lockdown. Additionally, there is a lack of school materials in Malawi, making learning at home even more difficult.

Another social issue due to COVID-19 in Malawi is the rise in suicide rates. The lack of professional services available for mental health in Malawi resulted in drastically increased suicide rates. In 2020, the Malawi police service reported an increase of up to 57% during the pandemic. Additionally, statistics found that 92% of suicides in Malawi during this period were men, with 8% being women. Certain psychologists associate this with the loss of jobs and rising poverty levels in Malawi. These struggles place intense pressure on the men of a household to provide for their family during drastic times.

All Is Not Lost

Though it may seem like the current conditions in Malawi are beyond hope, there is still a chance that Malawi can recover from the pandemic and return to its course of economic improvement. With COVID-19 cases lowering, Malawi may be seeing the end of the pandemic. Also, the implementation of The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy will help with Malawi’s economic reset and assist the country in its recovery.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Wikimedia

 

COVID-19, Poverty and The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI)
In the wake of its continuing devastation, Covid-19 has left, among other things, recessions across the world’s poorest countries. These recessions threaten to push more than 100 million people below the $1.90-a-day threshold that defines extreme poverty. To prevent poverty exacerbation, G20 countries have been called on by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to establish the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI). The initiative is designed to redirect funds planned for debt liquidation towards battling the pandemic and helping the most vulnerable populations.

How Does It Work?

Established in April 2020, the DSSI allows the suspension of government-to-government debt payments for 73 eligible countries. Over 60% of these countries accepted the offer as of 2021. The International Development Association and the U.N.’s respective lists of least developed countries encompass all countries cleared for suspension, minus Angola. Qualification for deferment also requires an application for an arrangement with the IMF, along with a commitment to use unfettered money towards social, health, or economic spending designed to remedy the effects of Covid-19.

Including interest and amortization payments, the total sovereign debt servicing payments in 2020 was projected to reach nearly $14 billion. Less than $4 billion of that belongs to the Paris Club group, prompting calls for other creditors like China and Russia to take part. Additionally, the G20 received requests to include entities such as banks and investment funds in the initiative, but this call has yet to receive a favorable response. About $5.7 billion in payments were deferred in 2020, with an additional deferment of $7.3 billion planned for June 2021.

The Unturned Stones

Reservations have been voiced regarding the ability of the temporary cessation of bilateral debt payments to provide adequate relief for the countries concerned. All debt is not the sovereign debt that is accounted for in the DSSI, and the fiscal ability of the approved countries is largely insufficient to weather the inclemency of Covid-19, even with debt deferment. At the vanguard of the call to private-sector creditors to adopt the initiative is the Institute of International Finance (IIF), a global association concerned with the finance industry.

Estimations from the IIF show that participation by private-sector creditors would provide an extra $13 billion in deferment. This would offer significant potential relief from the $35.3 billion owed collectively by the countries eligible for the DSSI. However, the IIF has made its concerns clear, particularly concerning the DSSI’s lack of consideration for the unique situation of each debtor country and the doubt that this causes for private-sector creditors.

The overall narrow eligibility scope of the DSSI has also been called into question. Middle-income countries have over eight times the amount of collective external debt outstanding compared to DSSI eligible countries. With $422.9 billion in debt payments in 2020 alone, these countries also run the risk of being financially incapable of dealing with Covid-19. After foreign investors pulled approximately $100 billion from middle-income countries’ markets in stocks and bonds, capital outflows leveled. The IIF, perhaps because of this observation, projected that the countries in question will encounter difficulties in borrowing money. The IIF also made projections that indicated unparalleled fiscal deficits in 2020.

Possible Solutions

Currently, no mechanism is in place to ensure that deferred debt payments will be used accordingly. One proposal involves the creation of a central credit facility (CCF) at the World Bank. This organization, if allowed, would require countries requesting relief to deposit deferred interest payments to certify that the funds would be used to negate the effects of the pandemic. Although the CCF has gained academic support and press recognition, whether countries will adopt it is uncertain.

Corporate or individual bankruptcy for countries is not an option.  The IMF attempted but failed to establish a sovereign resolution regime with its Sovereign Debt Restructuring Mechanism (SDRM) proposal in 2002, ultimately because of conflicting opinions on how to structure its design. A notable implementation of a debt moratorium occurred in 1931 by Herbert Hoover, then President of the United States. His declaration was followed by a rush of countries defaulting. Although these countries recovered faster than countries that did not default, such countries were hard-pressed to find any foreign lending for more than 20 years after defaulting.

Forging A Way Forward

While COVID-19 inflicted disastrous financial difficulties on nations worldwide, initiatives like the DSSI work to counteract the damage. In April 2021, G20 government-to-government creditors extended the DSSI for the final time by six months, taking its activity through December 2021. Despite concerns about its implementation and consequences, the DSSI represents a positive attempt by creditors nationwide to help the most vulnerable in the wake of COVID-19.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Unsplash

Education in Kenya​Flying Kites, an organization co-founded by Leila de Bruyne, seeks to improve education in Kenya by focusing on the needs of individual students. The emphasis on individual students stems from de Bruyne’s experience teaching in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004, when she identified weak points in the educational system. These include the reality that long-term, highly trained teachers, as well as a focus on the individual child, not just the academic student, were lacking. Since then, the organization has reached 134 teachers and 4,591 students at seven schools across Kenya. Their belief that “education is a path out of poverty” supports their goals to create solutions to widespread poverty, hunger and illiteracy.

Poverty, Hunger and Education in Kenya

​The World Poverty Clock estimates that 11 million Kenyans are living below the poverty line, which is defined as less than $1.90 per day. To provide additional financial support for their families, many Kenyan children forgo education. Of those who do attend school, many are eventually forced to drop out due to financial instability. Only around 40% of children make it through primary school and are enrolled in secondary school.

Gender discrimination is another factor affecting school attendance. A Menstrual Health report found that “one in ten 15-year-old girls are having sex to get money to pay for sanitary ware,” and dropping out of school due to pregnancies or lack of sanitary supplies is common.

Nutrition also impacts attendance. Many students don’t have access to food at home, let alone enough to bring to school for lunch. The Borgen Project spoke with Katie Quinn, the U.S. Director of Operations for Flying Kites, who said, “In Kenya, one in four children suffer from stunting due to chronic undernutrition. Stunting is associated with an underdeveloped brain, causing long-lasting harmful consequences including diminished mental ability and learning capacity.”

With 90% of Kenyan teachers citing hunger as the primary obstacle to student learning, Flying Kites understands that “without access to food at school, hungry students cannot learn.” The organization has since implemented a program that works with families, teachers and schools to provide meals to students across the country in order to encourage health and education in Kenya.

Primary Goals

According to Quinn, Flying Kites aims “to ensure that more vulnerable students in rural Kenya come to school, stay in school, and thrive in school.” It isn’t enough to have students simply attend school. Instead, by upskilling teachers and investing in girls, Flying Kites creates an atmosphere in which they can excel.

  1. Upskilling Teachers: ​The Teacher Training Center and Academy seeks to provide teachers with the support and the skills necessary to increase learning among students. Its programs include year-round ICT training and a digital learning curriculum to encourage the use of technology as a learning tool. The Center and Academy work throughout a network of schools assembled alongside Kenya’s Ministry of Education to spread the wealth of highly trained, capable teachers across schools and communities.
  2. Investing in Girls: ​Girls United is a Flying Kites program designed to support girls and train female teachers to be “advocates for gender equality and agents of change.” G.I.R.L.S. (Guidance, Information, Resources, Leadership and Skill-building) focuses on the whole individual, her needs and her rights within the community. The program supports vulnerable girls, especially those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides them with essential resources such as sanitary pads, allowing them opportunities to discuss important information within their communities and teaching them basic life skills.

Challenges and Successes

The COVID-19 pandemic “illuminated the technology divide” limiting educational opportunities in Kenya and elsewhere. Faced with virtual education and school closures, Flying Kites realized that technology was crucial to equitable student learning outcomes. To mitigate this divide, the organization implemented the KitKit program, a digital and tablet-based early learning solution to bring more students into virtual classrooms.

Yet, in-person education is Flying Kites’ primary goal. In particular, girls mentioned feeling unsafe at home and struggling with being out of school during the pandemic. Additionally, students who were provided with meals at school weren’t receiving the same nourishment at home. Today, Flying Kites is bringing students back for in-person classes after many were forced to return to work to help supplement their families’ incomes during the pandemic.

Transforming “18 schools into food distribution centers to support 6,449 students and their families,” turning a school bus into a library and mobilizing a network of teachers to launch a Remote Learning Program: These are Flying Kites’ major pandemic successes. But their most major success, Quinn says proudly, is getting students back in school and improving education in Kenya.

Partners and Next Steps

​Flying Kites recognizes that there is more to be done to ensure that education is a path out of poverty. The organization partners with several organizations to help spread the word and seek student-centric solutions. Quinn cites two in particular:

  1. ZanaAfrica Foundation: ​This ZanaAfrica Foundation is an “innovative rights-based menstrual and sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) education curriculum” that supports women and girls. Flying Kites joined the foundation amid COVID-19 closures to ensure the health and safety of its female students. Together, they provide resources to women and girls, educate them and train teachers on the SRHR aspects of the curriculum.
  2. Ujamaa (No Means No Worldwide): Ujamaa provides workshops to address sexual gender-based violence (SGBV) in Kenya and across the globe. Flying Kites hopes to continue providing workshops to students, especially those in grades 5-8 since the pandemic resulted in numerous incidents of SGBV.

Looking Ahead

​Flying Kites aspires to promote change with the knowledge that “systemic change requires a holistic, grassroots approach.” By building from the ground up, training teachers, supporting partner organizations and, above all, ensuring the safety and success of the students, Flying Kites works to ensures that education is a path out of poverty by implementing individualized solutions.

– Grace Manning
Photo: Flickr

Rural-urban migrationWhen thinking of rural-urban migration, experts tend to focus on the positive aspects for migrants. New economic opportunities, access to public services and greater social tolerance define the experience of newly-urban migrants in the conversation around rural-urban migration. When discussing flaws, the conversation gravitates toward the slum conditions and informal labor in large developing-world cities. However, the developing world’s rapid amount of rural to urban migration leaves many villages with less human capital and resources. What does this rural-urban migration mean for the rural developing world?

Urban Transition

Rural-urban migration has swept the developing world since the late 20th century. This transformation, known as “urban transition,” brings the economies of countries from rural-driven to urban-driven. Seeing this trend, many countries have supported larger development projects in urban areas, looking to get ahead of the curb. While an admirable strategy, it leaves out the rural populations who tend to be more isolated. This creates a vicious cycle, where people move where the government invests, and the government invests where people move.

This lack of investment creates a problem for rural areas. Unable to increase productivity and suffering from a lack of investment, impoverished rural areas are stuck in a loop, using the same basic techniques for subsistence farming utilized in the 20th century. Rural families have many children, hoping some will move to the city to send back money and some will work on their local subsistence farm. By sending the educated children to the city, families create a gap in living standards, with those with opportunity leaving while those without stay behind.

Migration in Trade for Remittances

However, this rural-urban migration also brings benefits to the rural areas. Many families send their young adult children into the cities, investing in their future in the city. Remittances, money sent back by those moving to urban areas, keep rural finances diverse and pay for many essential services for rural people. Without this income source, rural families would be completely dependent on the whims of nature, with no sense of security that a separate income gives. Studies show that these remittances increase life expectancy and happiness, two factors increased with security.

How to Help Rural Areas

One of the rural areas’ biggest difficulties is low productivity which hinders economic growth. Many Africans living in rural areas are subsistence farmers, meeting their own food needs but creating little surplus which drives economic growth. For this reason, young people commonly move to higher productivity urban areas. To prime rural areas for development, scholars have identified several factors which developing-world governments should attack. For instance, poor rural infrastructure, illiteracy and low social interaction all hinder rural growth, which drives rural-urban migration.

By attacking these problems, governments can increase rural development, attack poverty at its heart and protect rural communities in the long run. Severe “brain drain,” where educated people move to more productive areas, especially impacts rural communities. Lowering populations will lead to less monetary and representative allotments, decreasing the voice of rural residents. Additionally, men make up the majority of rural-urban migrants, leaving women in a vulnerable position both in caring for children and running subsistence farms.

Rural development projects which take into account community leaders at all levels of planning and execution can greatly increase their effectiveness. Improving the governance of these projects, especially reducing corruption, is essential in assuring rural development. The integration of system-wide rural development projects serves as an opportunity to increase rural development. Currently, thousands of NGOs operate rurally around Africa, with many separate governmental programs overlapping. By increasing cooperation, systematic development of rural areas can occur rather than a patchwork of unrelated development projects.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Water SecurityThere are 326 million trillion gallons of water on planet earth. However, only 1% of that is clean and accessible. This means there is enough water for everyone on the planet and more. Nonetheless, 1 in 5 children still do not have basic water security.

Lack of Water Security Hurts the Poor Most

Globally, 80 countries harbor children living in regions considered to have low water security. The poorest children are the most likely to live in these regions. Of the top ten most affected countries, nine are in the poorest continent on earth: Africa. A staggering 58% of children in Eastern and Southern Africa face a difficult path to get water on a daily basis. In some regions, families have to travel for up to 30 minutes to get water at all. Consequently, the lack of water security increases the risk of dehydration and takes time away from families who could be working. The risk for water deprivation is also increased, which is lethal. Furthermore, impoverished children face another issue related to poor water security.

An Infectious Problem

In regions with poor water security, bacteria and viruses often contaminate the water. Water contamination leads to diarrheal illness, taking more children’s lives than many of the most common causes for death. It is the second leading cause of death for children worldwide. The illness causes the person affected to lose so much fluid that they die from dehydration. In total diarrheal infections take the lives of 525,000 children each year.

The Water Packet

Water security is a concerning problem that industry giant P&G has been tackling one liter at a time. In 2004, P&G initiated its Children’s Safe Drinking Water program, a revolutionary initiative based around a simple yet effective invention called a purifier of water packet. Created by company scientists, it has the ability to transform 10 liters of dirty water into crystal clear drinking water in thirty minutes. First, the four-gram packet is placed in dirty water and then the whole container is stirred thoroughly. During the stirring, any particles in the water group together into thick clusters. Then the stirring ceases and the particles are allowed time to settle at the bottom. Throughout the whole process, the packet disinfects the water from contaminants. Lastly, the water is run through a cloth which catches the remaining particles and all that is left is drinkable water.

Brittaney Stapleton, Volunteer Relations Coordinator at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical garden informed The Borgen Project about her time at a P&G event where she was shown a demonstration of the packet. She said that during the event the attendees were taken to a beautiful piece of land with a murky brown reservoir of water. “I wouldn’t have touched that water with a ten-foot pole,” she remembered. “So they opened the packet and I don’t remember exactly how long they had to do it but they just stirred with a big stick and after a period of time, the water was crystal clear. There was no debris. It was crystal clear and it looked like something you would see in a Brita filter. Just clear.”

Looking Towards the Future

Throughout the lifetime of the program, a total of 18 billion liters of water have been purified, with P&G planning on purifying billions more in the future.

Brittaney added that they geared the demonstration towards showing people how easy it is to change lives. “It made you feel that much better to know even if you could only give a little bit it’s making a huge impactful difference. It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to be a millionaire, you can be just middle of the road and you can still help.”

– Cole Izquierdo
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in ZimbabweChild Marriage in Zimbabwe has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without schools functioning in person, children have less protection and experience more human rights violations such as child marriage and pregnancy.

Child marriage in Zimbabwe greatly predates the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that efforts to eliminate the practice will require a wide range of economic and cultural mitigation tactics rather than focusing solely on the eradication of the coronavirus.

Current Events

The topic of child marriage in Zimbabwe caught international attention recently when 14-year-old Memory Machaya died during childbirth. The practice is common in Zimbabwe’s Apostolic Church and has led to an online petition entitled “justice for Memory Machaya” garnering nearly 60,000 signatures.

“Female persons are not seen as fully human, with individual rights, choice, right to control our own bodies,” said Zimbabwean feminist activist Everjoice Win in a tweet on August 6, 2021 “The enemy is patriarchy, and the attendant systems within the state and religious institutions and wider society, which do not see us as humans.”

Introduction to Child Marriage in Zimbabwe

Almost one in three Zimbabwean women are married by the time they turn 18. The practice most often occurs in the poorer regions of Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland West regions, where 50% and 42% of girls, respectively, marry as children, according to a 2014 UNICEF report. Despite the fact that the Zimbabwean Constitutional Court deemed the practice of child marriage as unconstitutional in January 2016, setting the minimum age for marriage at 18, child marriage in Zimbabwe persists.

What Drives Child Marriage?

The risks for child marriage in Zimbabwe have the potential to exist domestically but require unequivocal participation from healthcare providers. In a 2016-2020 healthcare plan, The Zimbabwe National Family Planning Strategy allowed 16-year-olds to receive contraception without parental consent. However, providers remain reluctant and child services are scarce.

Lack of education also drives child marriage in Zimbabwe. The same 2014 survey found that “the average age at marriage is 17.2 years for girls with no education and 23.6 for girls with more than a secondary education.” Nearly half of 15- to 19-year-olds without a secondary education began having children compared to only one in five girls the same age who completed their secondary education.

Potential Solutions

UNICEF published a list of strategies that it plans to implement throughout Western and Central Africa to reduce child marriage. The organization cites the growing child population in Africa behind the urgency in their efforts.

The following practices will help UNICEF reduce child marriage in the year 2021:

  1. Enable At-Risk Girls to Stay in School Through Secondary Education: UNICEF sees education as an opportunity for at-risk girls to develop vital life skills to make their own life choices and stand up for their rights. As this article previously mentioned, the rate at which girls marry depends on the presence or lack of secondary education.
  2. Fuel Positive Opinions Regarding the Investment in Girls: Through community discussion, the opinions of whether to invest and value the lives of girls could help in promoting and implementing practices that limit or eliminate child marriage.
  3. Provide Adequate and Affordable Health and Education of High Quality: Not only is the presence of education and health care important, but the quality is as well. Without providing affordable and effective health care and education systems, girls are at a greater risk of falling into the cycle of child marriage.
  4. Promote Laws to Match “International Standards” and Ensure the Implementation of the Measures: An effective strategy could be to identify countries or regions with an anti-child-marriage framework and incorporate the successes of those systems in the context of Western and Central Africa.
  5. Partner with Governments to Monitor Progress and Data: By utilizing the services of surveillance and relevant technologies of other countries, Western and Central African nations can adequately track progress to ensure that they are meeting set goals.

While the practice of child marriage in Zimbabwe has deep roots, the international community has taken notice and has a plan to reduce its prevalence. With increased empowerment and investment in young Zimbabwean girls, child marriage will soon enough become much less commonplace and eventually, experience eradication.

– Jessica Umbro
Photo: Flickr

gmos in AfricaScientists created the first genetically modified organism or GMO in 1973, and the FDA approved a GMO product for the first time in 1982. GMOs are crops that have undergone genetic alternation for a specific purpose, such as weather, pest or weed resistance. Such traits can produce larger quantities of crops and make them resilient in different climates.

However, GMOs raise concern for many people, countries and organizations. While they are commonplace in the U.S., Europe largely avoids GMOs. Proponents of GMOs claim that they can help end global hunger, but opponents claim that they will damage both the planet and human health.

In Africa, GMOs are beginning to become a part of modern agriculture, but as of now, only in small ways. As of 2019, just five of Africa’s 47 countries allowed GMO crops to be grown: South Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Egypt and Nigeria. Larger GMO initiatives in Africa could help feed the continent, but resistance to GMOs is large enough that Africa is beginning to use them only slowly and cautiously.

Pros of GMOs in Africa

Pests called stem borers are responsible for a loss of 400,000 tons of maize in Kenya yearly, or about 14% of total maize. Genetically modified maize called Bt maize can make maize crops more resilient to stem borers. Researcher Hugo de Groote says Bt maize will help small farmers in particular because pests affect them the most.

“The major surprise was that, contrary to the usual claims, Bt maize is very likely to benefit poor farmers and small seed companies,” De Groote reported to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

As of 2020, Kenya is near accepting domestic production of Bt maize. The country is also seriously considering allowing GMO imports, which would aid the nearly 1.5 million Kenyans facing acute hunger. However, experts say that in order for Kenyans to benefit from GMO crops long term, they need to start growing them on their own soil.

Many African countries struggle with drought, crop diseases and pests that cause low crop yields. Some GMOs exist to help with these problems, and they could become a part of Africa’s agricultural future. For example, following in Nigeria’s footsteps, Ghana is considering approving the commercialization of some pest-resistant GMO crops including Bt cotton.

Cons of GMOs in Africa

Hesitation to adopt GMOs in Africa stems from concerns for food safety, ethics, environmental risks, loss of biodiversity and lack of regulations. Furthermore, Africa exports a large number of agricultural goods to European nations, and many European consumers prefer to avoid GMOs. Because of this, the majority of African trading partners stick to traditional crop varieties.

GMOs are still a relatively new concept. They may create a risk of long-term environmental damage such as infertile land, biodiversity loss and new GMO-resistant pests. Furthermore, there is some evidence that GMOs can cause cancer and allergies. The American Cancer Society has not found convincing evidence of GMO-caused cancer, but it cautions that more research is necessary.

There are reasons both to support and to suspect GMOs in Africa and across the globe. More research will continue to unveil their benefits and consequences in Africa.

Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Global Startup Awards Recognize Top Technology InnovatorsThe Global Startup Awards (GSA) Africa is an initiative spotlighting the top technology innovators across the continent. African citizens from all 55 states will participate in the world’s largest independent startup competition for the first time.

GSA Africa is rapidly growing its community by bringing local tech innovators together from all regions within the continent. This includes Southern, Northern, Eastern, Central and Western Africa. The expansion is possible due to the accelerating progress of Africa’s tech ecosystem. According to Partech’s Africa Tech Venture Capital Report, activity grew by approximately half in 2020 despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Contributing to the Tech Startup Ecosystem

Africa is experiencing monumental changes in the tech industry. More startup companies are being recognized for innovative methods. Startups have been finding solutions in food security, food production and farming methods that will strengthen industries throughout Africa. Caitlin Nash is the co-founder of the Global Innovation Initiation Group which hosts the GSA. She aims to showcase Africa’s innovative community on a global stage. Additionally, she shares the benefits of global exposure. Startups have an opportunity to gain access to a global network and collaborate across borders.

The GSA will reward participants in all aspects of the startup. This includes the startup itself, the people behind the startups and the organizations that support the creators. The GSA’s mission is to feed, industrialize and integrate Africa. This ties into the goal of improving the lives of people living in Africa. With rapid technological developments happening across the world, many countries are more capable of taking those opportunities to keep up. However, this leaves most developing countries behind in these innovations. Thus, these awards shed light on the importance of technological development in those nations.

According to the U.N.’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021, frontier technologies represent a $350 billion market that can potentially grow to $3.2 trillion in 2025. However, developing areas like sub-Saharan Africa are unprepared to adopt and adapt to these technological changes. The GSA will bring forward the innovations needed to help developing countries in Africa and around the world stabilize resources and improve the lives of citizens.

The Contest Categories

The Global Startup Awards will present 12 categories for the 2021 contest. Women in Tech represents tech startups owned and founded by women. AgriTech will award solutions in food security, production, farming methods and nutrition. In addition, HealthTech recognizes startups initiating medical innovations in BioTech, HealthTech, wellness and telemedicine (virtual care for patients) to improve the quality of life. CommerceTech will award the startup that works on using technology to enable commerce in Africa. This will range from mobile commerce to blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Another category is IndustrialTech. This category provides Africa’s industrialization with solutions for safety, mining, manufacturing, production, logistics, mobility and supply chain management. ESG Tech, or environment, social and governance tech, will award startups aiming to improve environmental, social impact and social government solutions. These solutions include areas like renewable energy, sustainability, recycling, water and sanitation. Startup of the Year will award the startup that is making the biggest impact on the economy and the world.

The Best Newcomer category will recognize a startup less than two years old that is already making a big impact within the tech industry. Moreover, Founder of the Year will award a startup founder or co-founder making progress with their leadership skills. It will highlight a role model for the next generation of founders. VC of the Year will recognize those achieving financial success while investing in innovative companies that can positively impact the economy and the world.

Finally, Best Accelerator and Incubator Program will recognize programs that help empower entrepreneurs to grow their craft by providing tools and resources to thrive. The Best Co-Working Space category will award a co-working space that provides services, support and resources to create an environment that fosters innovation.

Moving Forward

The Global Startup Awards will find, recognize and connect new innovators around the world. These startups have the potential to better the lives of people living in developing countries, and the GSA will help bring these companies to life.

– Nia Owens
Photo: Flickr