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African Sleeping Sickness, also known as African Trypanosomiasis, is common in rural Africa. It is spread by the tsetse fly, which is only found in 36 sub-Saharan countries, with about 70 percent of cases occurring within the Democratic Republic of the Congo. When the tsetse fly bites, a sore develops and within weeks hosts suffer from fever, severe headaches, irritability, extreme fatigue, joint pain and skin rashes. As the disease progresses and invades the nervous system, people face confusion, personality changes and ultimately sleeplessness. African Sleeping Sickness can prove to be fatal within months, if not treated.

Due to regional differences, there is both an East African Sleeping Sickness and West African Sleeping Sickness. The Eastern disease is caused by the parasite Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, with a couple hundred cases reported each year by the World Health Organization (WHO). The West African Sleeping Sickness on the other hand is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma brucei gambiense, with nearly 10,000 cases reported annually by the WHO.

The Span of the Disease

Unfortunately, due to the lack of medicine and awareness in these rural African regions, there is minimal caution taken to avoid the disease. The African Sleeping Sickness is often neglected by other countries due to its limited region. A majority of those in affected regions have minimal access to health care or knowledge of disease prevention and treatment. Due to overcrowding and poverty, transmission increases among both animals and people. In fact, 40,000 cases were reported in 1998 from the WHO, but researchers estimate that at least 300,000 cases were left undiagnosed that year. The fear with this is that the disease will be allowed to escalate. There have been cases in which the patients have attacked their own family members, experienced frightening hallucinations or have screamed in gut-wrenching pain.

Treatments

The limited research and knowledge of this disease puts the victims at a heavy disadvantage. While there are a few drugs available for both East and West African Sleeping Sickness, at the moment there is no cure or vaccine. The most commonly used drug, pentamidine, is often used for first stage West African Sleeping Sickness, with other CDC approved drugs being uramin, melarsoprol, eflornithine and nifurtimox. However, these approved drugs can also have negative side effects, with melarsoprol found to have reactions that can prove to be fatal, and pentamidine causing stomach issues. The disease, if left untreated, can lead to meningoencephalitis, coma or death.

Organizational Support

Despite the grim standings of the disease, organizations are making efforts to change the status quo. The WHO is working to supply technical aid to national programs in Africa and are having volunteers deliver anti-Trypanosoma medicines for free. In 2009, the WHO established a biological specimens bank for researchers to conduct studies regarding new drugs and treatments. When attention towards the disease began to fade, the WHO developed a coordination network for victims of the disease to secure and maintain efforts against it. Starting in 2002, Bayer, supplied 10,000 vials of suramin treatment annually for an entire decade. Bayer took steps to expedite the fight against the disease in 2013 by funding and supporting mobile intervention teams in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through combined efforts, non-profit organizations as well as private companies are taking great strides against the deadly African Sleeping Sickness.

Haarika Gurivireddygari
Photo: Flickr

The Malawi Project

Malawi Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3), Christian, nonprofit, humanitarian organization that focuses primarily on improving the physical and spiritual health of men, women and children in Malawi. Founded in 1999 and headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, the Malawi Project has provided aid to Malawi in areas as diverse as education, medicine, famine relief, agriculture and community development. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to speak with Richard Stephens, co-founder of the organization about the Malawi Project’s impact to date.

The Borgen Project: Is the Malawi Project the biggest provider of humanitarian aid to Malawi?

Richard Stephens: First, allow me to give some background about the nation and people of Malawi. According to USAID, More than one-half of the country’s 17 million people live below the poverty line, and more than one-third consume less than the required daily calories, contributing to the stunting of nearly one-half of children under 5 years of age.

The agency notes, “Malawi continues to score poorly on major health indicators for maternal, infant and under-5 mortality. Eighty-five percent of households engage in agricultural activities and most rely almost exclusively on rain-fed subsistence farming that is particularly vulnerable to cyclical droughts.

These challenges are compounded by threats from the highest rates of deforestation and population growth in the region.” Only 50 percent of children complete primary school, and of those, only 60 percent successfully pass the exam to access public secondary school; only 15 percent of girls are enrolled in secondary school.” However, the Malawi Project would not be the largest provider of humanitarian aid to Malawi.

TBP: What is the organization’s biggest accomplishment?

RS: According to Dambisa Moyo, a recognized Zambian economist, in her book “Dead Aid,” developed nations delivered over $1 trillion in aid to Africa over the past 50 years. The result? Moyo notes that from 1970 to 1998 when that aid was at its peak, the unemployment picture went from a low of 11 percent in 1970 to a high of 66 percent in 1998. 

Obviously, something was wrong in the way aid was administered. The Malawi Project is proud of its stance of supplying its aid packages in such a way as to inspire creative thinking among the recipients, development of oversight and management by in-country local management, and the creation of an infrastructure to carry out their own work with little or no outside oversight or management.

The Project supports grassroots development of businesses, churches and community groups that will build up and develop the nation from within. Action for Progress is an example. Made up of business, church and community leaders from all three regions of Malawi, this not-for-project organization is taking the lead in the identification of specific need areas and the successful distribution and follow up reporting on nearly all of the aid currently being delivered to Malawi by the Malawi Project.

In the past 26 years, more than 375 forty-foot shipping containers have delivered over $300 million in aid from the Malawi Project. This aid has been delivered to every region, every religion and every walk of life. Additionally, more than 800 people have traveled to Malawi with Project teams to assist the citizens.

More than $3 million in cash infusion has been delivered in the form of locally purchased food, and through a food processing plant constructed under the sponsorship of [our organization] employing more than 100 people, purchasing raw food materials from over 1,000 Malawi farmers, and feeding over 60,000 people a day — as well as an agricultural village, inspired by the Malawi Project, is training 50 farm families a year in current agricultural practices. Additionally, a five-building, 110-bed medical complex serves the needs of people north of the capital and a 27-building childcare center takes care of more than 160 parentless children. These programs are now working independently of support from the Malawi Project and many others are in the development stage of creating this same independent approach to their future.

TBP: Does the Malawi Project ever collaborate with other humanitarian organizations? If so, could you provide some examples?

RS: Yes, the Malawi Project has teamed up with Feed the Children, Nourish the Children, USAID and the governments of Canada, Sweden, Israel, Holland and Germany to supply food and medical assistance to Malawi. Organizations such as Universal Aid and Compassionate Resources in Canada, World Emergency Relief, Amigo International, Breedlove Foods in the U.S. have supplied food, medical assistance and agricultural assistance through the Malawi Project. Hoffnung fur kinder in Germany, Children’s Hope Fund in Hong Kong and Aid to Africa in Washington D.C. have all given financial assistance. Healing Hands International has supplied technical expertise in areas of food processing and agricultural development. Proctor and Gamble, Adidas and Nike are but a sampling of corporations that have extended assistance through the donations of various products.

TBP: How many Malawians have been helped by the Malawi Project?

RS: “The number would be impossible to estimate, but one can note that medical supplies have gone into every district of the nation, to some 600 medical facilities, and school supplies and textbooks have been delivered to well over 1,000 schools and colleges throughout the nation.”

The scope of the Malawi Project work and the impact it has made in Malawi make it an excellent humanitarian organization. In fact, GreatNonprofits recognized the organization as a top-rated nonprofit in both 2017 and 2018. Yet, Stephens’ answers reveal that there is still great need throughout Malawi. Thus, he and the rest of the Malawi Project have no desire to end their work in this country any time soon.

– Jacob Stubbs
Photo: Wikimedia

china's investment
For those seeking investment, look no further than the continent of Africa. While the continent has had a tumultuous couple of decades, plagued by health crises such as Ebola, and political unrest is it also gushing with economic, diplomatic, and political potential – and China is taking notice.

Government Involvement

Just last year (August 2018), President Xi of China, speaking at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, has pledged to invest a major sum of $60 billion in commercial loans to the African continent. This investment in Africa, as well as a plethora of other nations scattered across the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia, are all apart of China’s overall global strategy – what they are calling the Belt Road Initiative (BRI). Under this daring economic, political and diplomatic strategy, China is investing large sums of money to mainly developing nations as a way to not only benefit China’s economic interests but to cement its role in the world as a dominating global superpower.

A Welcoming Environment

Also, when it comes to large Chinese investments, Africa is more than welcoming. In addition to the overall loans that China is dedicating to forming some friendships, these investments, especially in infrastructure, may be a godsend. At the time of this writing, Africa has a $900 billion infrastructure deficit. The much-needed cash flow from China will not only allow many African nations to lay the groundwork for basic infrastructure projects, but it will also afford children the opportunities required to gain an education and for local businesses to trade.

In addition to the major pillars of the BRI, China is also establishing what it is calling a “Maritime Silk Road” – a chain of seaports from the South China Sea to Africa. With the construction of these ports will come: oil refineries, industrial parks, and fiber optic networks, all designed to make a trade with China easier and mutually beneficial – and thus far it seems to be accomplishing China’s goal of breathing new life into its infamous ancient Silk Road.

And while these projects are beneficial to the recipient countries, China does add that part of the developments will be helped by Chinese labor and companies, thus allowing China to take a slice of the economic cake as it were. But while many Chinese companies are profiting off BRI contracts, the projects being funded are benefiting local communities and provide steady work and cash flow to otherwise struggling areas of Africa. Economic benefits aside, this partnership is allowing many African nations to forge diplomatic relations with a world power as well.

Economic and Political Ramifications

China’s investment in Africa does, however, come with a few pitfalls. While Chinese companies become more prominent in Africa, so will “Made in China” products. This will come with some obvious knock-on effects, for example, for the last couple of decades these products have had a devastating effect on what was once a thriving South African textile industry. But, the pendulum does swing the other way as well. Ethiopia has seen positive outcomes from Chinese investments.

Investment in Africa began as an opening of windows of opportunity around the globe for China. The United States has been the worlds primary loan superpower for the last several decades – investing billions of dollars in foreign aid and development projects through USAID and starting working establishment programs in various nations. But with loans from the West coming with strings attached – mainly strict ethical standards – China saw a chance to offer billions in loans with fewer conditions.

Due to China’s willingness to loan large sums of money to nations torn apart by conflict and instability, the global community has raised concerns. These nations will eventually need to pay back these loans, and the worlds less than reliable recipients could threaten global economic stability if they default.

However, China isn’t necessarily concerned if these countries can’t pay them back, in the literal sense. In exchange for the economic clout that comes with Chinese investments, nations such as South Africa’s Djibouti are lending naval ports as a means of reciprocation – forming a “String of Pearls” which gives China a foothold in the naval Indian ocean. But while some of these loans may be risky investments on the continent of Africa, China understands the cost-benefit analysis and is treating Africa as a new frontier.

A Positive Outcome

China’s investment in Africa, while risky, may end up paying off. With Africa’s willingness to accept loans from China, and listening with open ears to China’s overtures for stronger diplomatic relations, Africa is in a good position to begin funding its own economic and development programs. Programs that will address issues of poverty, inequality, and education.

Connor Dobson
Photo: Flickr

NGOs aiming to end poverty
Hunger and poverty are problems millions of people face around the globe. According to The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people were chronically undernourished in 2016. However, in the past few decades, the world has made major progress in terms of alleviating hunger and poverty overall. Between 1990-92 and 2012-14, the global undernourished population reduced by 42 percent. There are several non-governmental and nonprofit organizations continuing on that trend to eradicate world hunger and poverty through several different methods. Below are five NGOs aiming to end poverty and hunger.

Akshaya Patra

Akshaya Patra is a nonprofit organization that began in Bengaluru, India. Since the year 2000, the organization has been providing poor children with fresh and nutritious meals at schools. The aim of the organization is to eliminate malnutrition in children, as well as support the right to education for children whose families cannot afford it. When the organization started out, it was a very small-scale project that focused on local schools in rural regions. Initially, the organization began with feeding 1,500 children locally. Today, Akshaya Patra partners with the Indian government and multiple state governments. Additionally, it feeds 1.7 million children across the country. This makes it the largest mid-day meal program in the world and one of the most successful nationwide NGOs aiming to end poverty.

Green Shoots Foundation

Green Shoots is an organization that emerged in 2010. The organization approaches poverty through microfinance, sustainable development and holistic programs. The main aim of the organization is to improve access to education and access to medical aid in developing Asian and African countries. There are multiple programs that the foundation has implemented based on the specific needs of each region. Some of these programs include Education Loans and Social Entrepreneurship (ELSE), Food Agriculture and Social Entrepreneurship (FASE) and Medical Assistance and Medical Education (MAME). Countries that the Green Shoots Foundation has worked in include Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger is an organization that focuses on ending hunger around the globe. The organization focuses on families with young children. So far, Action Against Hunger has contributed to providing aid in over 45 countries to over 21 million people. Its main aim is to double the number of children it is aiding by 2020, due to the fact that millions of children around the globe still remain undernourished. The organization deals with problems that stem from or worsen hunger as well, including nutrition and health, water and sanitation, food security and livelihoods and emergency response.

BRAC

BRAC is a non-governmental organization from Bangladesh. The organization mainly aims to end poverty but also focuses on several other issues that people living in rural or poor communities face. Its main social development goals include eliminating extreme poverty, increasing financial opportunities and choices, developing skills for employment and investing in education. BRAC emerged in 1972, and has since positively impacted the lives of over 100 million people globally. The program focuses on developing and improving conditions in 11 major countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. Today, BRAC is the largest development organization in the world.

Water School

Water School is an organization with the aim to provide clean water and make it easily accessible to rural and poor communities in Uganda. It also educates such communities on sanitary practices involving water, health and education. Water school believes that health and education go hand in hand, and therefore focusses on improving conditions for both issues in poor communities.

Hunger and poverty are extremely large scale global issues that will take time, global effort and multiple solutions to solve. The examples of the non-governmental and nonprofit organizations above show that though progress is slow, it is steadily progressing.

These five NGOs aiming to end poverty have made significant progress on their own. Several similar organizations across the globe are working towards meeting multiple hunger and poverty goals as well.

– Nupur Vachharajani
Photo: Flickr


Nearly 63 percent of people living in Africa lack internet access. In contrast, 11 percent of North Americans, 13 percent of Europeans and 48 percent of Asians lack internet access. In response to this issue, Africa50, an infrastructure investment organization, has launched an innovation challenge asking for modern innovators to submit their original ideas on how to provide internet to under-served areas in Africa.

The Africa50 Innovation Challenge began May 14, after it was announced at the Transform Africa Summit held in Kigali, Rwanda the same month.

The submitted solutions will be piloted in Rwanda, which Africa50 CEO Alain Ebobissé said was the ideal place to implement and test the solutions.

Rwanda: A Country Evolving in ICT

Ebobissé described the country as having a thriving Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) sector. Cooperation between the challenge and the co-development of the Kigali Innovation City, a project Africa50 invested $400 million in 2018, is evidence of this ICT boom.

Rwanda has increased its internet access to 29 percent, as of 2019. The increase is a marked improvement compared to the less than 1 percent who had access in 2000. This development can, in part, be accredited to the National Information Communication Infrastructure (NICI) policy the country adopted in 2000.

The policy defines four separate stages of increasing internet and communication in Rwanda. The country has already prepared the ICT groundwork and is currently in the fourth and final stage; enhancing the infrastructure and improving the service delivery.

The goal of the final stage is to increase technological skills, develop the community and private sector and enhance the government’s use of the internet and cyber-security. The policy is planned to end in 2020.

The ideas will be implemented more broadly across the continent once the pilot phase in Rwanda is complete.

Winning Criteria and Perks

The judges will be looking for six main criteria in the proposals submitted to the Africa50 Innovation Challenge:

  • Innovation and originality
  • Ability to be implemented on a large scale
  • Affordability for both implementors and consumers
  • Sustainability for the environment
  • Readiness to be piloted in Rwanda
  • Adaptability of the solution for a variety of circumstances

The finalists will be announced mid-October and they will present their solutions at AfricaCom the following month.  Those selected will be announced at the 2020 Transform Africa Summit, but the organization does not specify how many winners will be chosen.

The winners will be awarded a cash prize or project development funding, connections to investors and exposure as an innovator.

If these solutions are implemented, economic growth and job creation are a few of the newfound benefits that may come to these countries. Companies can grow and have an improved role in the competitive market if they have access to the internet.  As a result, these solutions allow them to reach more consumers, labor pools and raw materials, according to a 2012 report by the International Telecommunication Union.

ICT Progress in Other African Countries

There will certainly be interesting proposals from this year’s Africa50 Innovation Challenge entries,  but there are already solutions that have worked in other African countries.

For example, Kenya has had a considerable jump in their internet speed and bandwidth — which increased 43 percent from 2016 to 2017. This increase can be attributed to the National Broadband Strategy for Kenya. Additionally, Nigeria has increased its number of internet users from 72 million in 2017, to 92 million in 2018.

Nigeria’s fiber network, 21st Century, is partnering with Google Station and anticipates the installation of 200 Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of 2019, according to Fortune.

Africa50 aims to spread high-speed internet and improve opportunities for those living in under-served communities, whatever the solution.

– Makenna Hall
Photo: Flickr

NEPADThe New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) aims to reduce poverty through sustainable development and empowering women. In 2001, African Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) adopted NEPAD. A year later, the African Union ratified the framework for pan-African socio-economic development.

In 2008, the United Nations drafted a resolution to ensure that the Member States were committing to addressing and assisting with the developmental needs of Africa. The resolution includes specific recommendations on addressing and implementing these commitments.

Main Goals of NEPAD

There are six “themes” to these recommendations, and since the implementation, several changes have been made, significantly improving life for millions across Africa. The themes and some of their benefits are as follows:

  1. Improving agriculture and food security- At the 24th summit of the African Union, held in 2014, NEPAD committed to doubling agricultural productivity on the continent. At the same summit, NEPAD launched the Africa Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance. This program aims to help 25 million farmers learn about sustainable agricultural practices.
  2. Managing natural resources NEPAD has given $1.2 billion to help preserve land in Africa. Since the launch of this partnership, half of all African countries have pledged to conserve and protect at least 10 percent of their land. This helps provide environmental stability in various regions. In fact, two-thirds of African countries have either completed an action plan to ensure environmental stability or are in the process of completing it. This will lead to a decrease in natural disasters and hope for integration and infrastructure.
  3. Integrating the region and expanding infrastructure- NEPAD has given over 70 grants to improve transportation, energy, technology, and water management. The plan is to connect Niger, Nigeria, Benin and Burkina Faso, as well as Burundi and Rwanda, Benin, Togo and Ghana, Kenya and Uganda and many more. This would make it significantly easier for states to interact with each other and exchange goods.
  4. Increasing human development- NEPAD is investing in improving access to health care and treatment of HIV/AIDS. This is being facilitated by making information about the diseases more readily available and by providing nevirapine, a life-saving medication for prevention and treatment of the diseases. The future of Africa lies with its children, therefore it is critical to improving access to education. NEPAD is working to redistribute government funds ensuring that children and schools remain a priority. It also aids in equipping schools with clean water and sanitation systems.
  5. Protecting economic growth and fair governance- Over the past decade, several diverse partners have joined in efforts to improve the African economy. Since the implementation of NEPAD, African economies have begun receiving significant financial aid globally. Aid comes from countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China, Korea and Turkey. The Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg and Norway are huge supporters of NEPAD. These countries invest 0.7 percent of their gross national income towards U.N.-led development efforts. NEPAD has set the standard that 70 percent of the population in any given African country must view its governments as impartial and free of corruption.
  6. Assisting with cross-cutting issues (like creating gender parity, capacity development and technology)- sub-Saharan Africa was reported to have some of the lowest rates of gender parity in the world. However, NEPAD implements programs focusing on reforming laws, making education more accessible to women and women, social and economic justice. Through these programs, thousands of women have become politically active and aware in all areas of their lives. In addition, thousands of aspiring scientists have been able to receive a higher education thanks to NEPAD funds. This is critical to the future of the continent, as increasing knowledge of technology can allow for cut back on reliance on natural resources; therefore allowing them to compete with more developed nations.

Charlie Fiske, a former officer with the Peace Corps, praises the efforts of NEPAD, especially in its investments in infrastructure. However, he also stresses the importance of expanding upon these efforts. Fiske told The Borgen Project, “NEPAD is an excellent start to creating sustained stability in Africa, but it’s not nearly enough. I cannot stress enough how important it is to provide aid to the people of Africa. There are over a billion people on that continent, a billion lives that could be just drastically improved by some simple funding.”

– Gillian Buckley
Photo: Flickr

Disabilities in Liberia

Liberia is a West African country comprised of 4.98 million people. Exact statistics about disability in Liberia are out of date but according to a UNICEF study from 1997, 16 percent of the population has a disability. Of that 16 percent, 61 percent struggle with mobility, 24 percent are visually impaired, seven percent are deaf and eight percent have an intellectual or psychosocial disability. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), estimated in 2014 that due to the devastating civil war that ended in 2003 and the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the population of people with disabilities in Liberia is likely closer to 20 percent.

Background

People with disabilities tend to be marginalized, stigmatized and excluded from education, skills training and income-generating opportunities. Because they have a limited voice in politics and society, their issues are not included in national policies, especially in poverty reduction initiatives causing their living conditions to continue to deteriorate in a “vicious cycle”. According to SIDA, 99 percent of people with disabilities in Liberia live in extreme poverty.

Liberia is taking steps to improve the lives of those living with disabilities. In 2012, the nation signed and ratified the U.N. Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as other treaties that reference the rights of people with disabilities like the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It also formed a national commission on disability and is reviewing its constitution to address the rights of people with disabilities. While the country is working to improve their rights and conditions, there is still much to be done. The lives and health of people with disabilities in Liberia can be improved in three key-ways: education, mental health and job opportunities.

Education

One important tool for lifting people out of poverty is education. The Liberian government has free and compulsory education for children but students with disabilities are often left behind. In 2009, even though an estimated 92,000 of 600,000 school-age children have disabilities, only four percent was allocated for children with disabilities. While there are schools for the visually impaired and the hearing impaired, they mostly reach a small urban population. Rural areas are lacking in resources for their students with disabilities.

There are, however, organizations working to improve access to education. AIFO-Liberia, for example, is working to ensure that people affected by leprosy can receive their educations, largely through a Community Based Rehabilitation strategy.

Mental Health

The Liberian people have been through much in the past 50 years. Approximately 40 percent of its citizens suffer from post-traumatic disorder from the civil war and there is only one practicing psychiatrist in the country. While not all people with disabilities have a mental illness, mental illness itself can become a disability. Those who have mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression are often stigmatized as witches.

The Carter Foundation is working to train 450 mental health professionals and create an anti-stigma campaign to improve understanding of mental illnesses. Meanwhile, AIFO-Liberia implemented a program that provides psychosocial support for those affected by the Ebola virus in addition to a destigmatizing campaign to improve mental health.

Job Opportunities

People with disabilities in Liberia are often excluded from job skills training, work, and income-generating opportunities. While the Liberian government and activists are working to put accommodation and anti-discrimination laws on the books, disability is often seen as divine retribution for a person’s misdeeds. Organizations like AIFO-Liberia have implemented a startup project that will increase job opportunities and improve social inclusiveness. Ending the social stigma, working to improve health care access and workplace accommodations, will help lift people with disabilities in Liberia out of poverty.

While the country has made great legislative strides in signing on to international commitments and in creating legislation, it still has a long way to go in improving the state of people with disabilities in Liberia. The stigma around these conditions prevents people with disabilities from having a voice and escaping extreme poverty. With the help of activists, NGO’s, and the Liberian government, the lives of people with disabilities can be improved.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Coding in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is primarily an agricultural country, with more than 80 percent of its citizens living in rural areas. More than 108.4 million people call Ethiopia home, making it Africa’s second-largest nation in terms of population. However, other production areas have become major players in Ethiopia’s economy. As of 2017, Ethiopia had an estimated gross domestic product of $200.6 billion with the main product coming from other sources than agriculture.

Today, 1.2 million Ethiopians have access to fixed telephone lines, while 62.6 million own cell phones. The country broadcasts six public TV stations and 10 public radio shows nationally. 2016 data showed that over 15 million Ethiopians have internet access. While 15 percent of the population may not seem significant, it is a sharp increase in comparison to the mere one percent of the population with Internet access just two years prior.

Coding in Ethiopia: One Girl’s Success Story

Despite its technologically-limited environment, young tech-savvy Ethiopians are beginning to forge their own destiny and pave the way for further technological improvements. One such pioneer is teenager Betelhem Dessie. At only 19, Dessie has spent the last three years traveling Ethiopia and teaching more than 20,000 young people how to code and patenting a few new software programs along the way.

On her website, Dessie recounts some of the major milestones she’s achieved as it relates to coding in Ethiopia:

  • 2006 – she got her first computer
  • 2011- she presented her projects to government officials at age 11
  • 2013-she co-founded a company, EBAGD, whose goals were to modernize Ethiopia’s education sector by converting Ethiopian textbooks into audio and visual materials for the students.
  • 2014-Dessie started the “codeacademy” of Bahir Dar University and taught in the STEM center at the university.

United States Collaboration

Her impressive accomplishments continue today. More recently, Dessie has teamed up with the “Girls Can Code” initiative—a U.S. Embassy implemented a project that focuses on encouraging girls to study STEM. According to Dessie, “Girls Can Code” will “empower and inspire young girls to increase their performance and pursue STEM education.”

In 2016, Dessie helped train 40 girls from public and governmental schools in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia how to code over the course of nine months. During those nine months, Dessie helped her students develop a number of programs and projects. One major project was a website where students can, according to Dessie, “practice the previous National examinations like SAT prep sites would do.” This allows students to take practice tests “anywhere, anytime.” In 2018, UNESCO expanded a similar project by the same name to include all 10 regions in Ghana, helping to make technology accessible to more Africans than ever before.

With the continuation of programs like “Girls Can Code” and the ambition of young coders everywhere, access to technology will give girls opportunities to participate in STEM, thereby closing the technology gender gap in developing countries. Increased STEM participation will only serve to aid struggling nations in becoming globally competitive by boosting their education systems and helping them become more connected to the world in the 21st century.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Development in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small mountainous country in South Africa with a population of around 1,962,461. The expanding population puts pressure of settlement on many areas which results in “overgrazing, severe soil erosion and soil exhaustion; desertification; Highlands Water Project controls, stores, and redirects water to South Africa.” Agriculture used to be a major component of Lesotho’s GDP, but its contribution decreased in the 1990s due to drought.

Currently, only one-tenth of the country is fertile. Despite this fact, a large part of Lesotho’s rural population practices subsistence agriculture. The most common crops are corn (maize), sorghum, wheat and beans. Unfortunately, due to drought, it has become necessary to import foodstuffs.

Agricultural projects such as the World Bank’s Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) are working to improve agricultural development in Lesotho.

Smallholder Agriculture Development Project

On November 11, 2011, the first SADP was approved in order to promote and improve agricultural development in Lesotho. The dates for the implementation of the project were from 2011 to 2018, however, it was extended to 2020. The World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) partnered to direct a support mission for the SADP. The SADP project is meant to “support smallholder farmers to exploit opportunities to increase their productivity and diversify into market-oriented agriculture.” The project area covers four out of the 10 districts in Lesotho and focuses on: “increasing agricultural market opportunities, increasing market-oriented smallholder production, identifying commercially viable activities that can be replicated and successfully scaled up and project management”

The first SADP is ongoing, however, on May 30, 2019, the World Bank approved the Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Project-II. The second SADP leans toward the technological side as it was implemented to “support increased adoption of climate-smart agricultural (CSA) technologies in Lesotho’s agriculture, enhanced commercialization, and improved dietary diversity among targeted beneficiaries.”

The SADPs will improve agricultural development in Lesotho by minimizing the possible effects of climate change on produce. The project will promote and support the increase of climate-smart agricultural technologies as well as enhance commercialization and improve dietary diversity. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) defines climate-smart agriculture based on “three pillars: increasing productivity and incomes, enhancing resilience of livelihoods and ecosystems and reducing and removing greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere.”

Incentives for Farmers

Farmers and agro-processors who finance investments will receive matching grants for increasing productivity and post-harvest infrastructure and management. Paul Noumba Um, World Bank Country Director for seven South African countries, stated that the project will help the Government of Lesotho “improve the country’s food security, employment opportunities, rural livelihoods and nutrition and increased commercialization through mainstreaming climate and environment considerations into agriculture to enhance climate resilience.”

Since the 1990s, Lesotho has been experiencing droughts and population pressure that put constraints on its agricultural production. Agriculture used to play a large part in the country’s GDP, but its role has been steadily decreasing. Efforts to improve agricultural development in Lesotho have been made through projects such as the SADPs. By increasing the rate and quality of agricultural production, there are hopes that food security, employment opportunities, rural livelihoods and nutrition will increase throughout the country as well.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Wikimedia