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10 facts about living conditions in equatorial guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a small nation on the west coast of Africa. While Equatorial Guinea is one of Africa’s largest oil producers it also faces many challenges associated with living conditions. Living conditions are poor, due to problems ranging from corrupt politics to low education rates. These 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea shed light on the major issues the country faces.

10 Facts about Living Conditions in Equatorial Guinea

  1. The same president since 1979: Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has been in power for over 37 years and is currently the worlds longest running non-Royal head of state. Opposition to his office has cited the governments use of intimidation and irregular procedures to remain in power. When his son Teodorin was accused of laundering money by the French government, Mbasogo appointed Teodorin as Vice President and accused the French of violating draconian government laws. Some rights organizations have accused Mbasogo and his predecessors as some of the worst abusers of human rights in Africa.
  2. Highest per capita growth rate in Africa, one of the lowest Human Development Indexes: Equatorial Guinea makes most of its income through oil and is one of the highest oil producers in Sub- Saharan Africa. However, it ranks 141 out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index, its HDI currently is 0.591. The country’s per capita gross national income was $21,056 in 2014, giving Equatorial Guinea the biggest difference between per capita wealth and human development score in the world.
  3. Few basic services and malnutrition: In 2011 it was found that about half of Equatorial Guinea’s population had access to clean water. Twenty-Six percent of children suffered from malnutrition, and their growth was considered stunted. The country also has some of the lowest vaccinations in the world, with 25 percent of children unvaccinated.
  4. Low Education rates: Equatorial Guinea has some of the lowest education rates in the world, and even those in school do not remain for long. According to UNICEF, as of 2016, A staggering 42 percent of children do not attend primary school, making the country’s rates the seventh lowest in the world. To compound the issue, only half of the students in these primary schools finish or graduate.
  5. Agricultural Economy: Even though Equatorial Guinea makes most of its revenue through Petroleum, 71 percent of the population is agricultural. Some are subsistence farmers, who clear land by burning away other plant life in order to grow the crops that sustain them. Cocoa still remains a significant export, as it has been since before the country became an independent country in 1968.
  6. Large Youth Population: About 60 percent of the population of Equatorial Guinea is under the age of 25. Because of the pervasiveness of the oil-industry, job creation in other sectors of the economy is very limited.  Many young people are having trouble entering the market as they do not have the skills needed because of the low education rates in the country.
  7. Roads and Infrastructure: In the early 2000s,  less than a sixth of the roads in the country were paved. In some islands like Bioko, the systems are of a higher standard. Using tar as pavement, the city can better accommodate traffic. The country also does not benefit from a single railway or track. In the 1980s, multiple ports were modernized to accommodate the country’s increasing commerce.
  8. No Private Media: One of the most pressing of the 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea is that all media outlets there are closely controlled by the government. There are no privately owned or independent papers or websites. As such, it is impossible to criticize the president or the security forces in the country. This, of course, makes it hard for word of Equatorial Guinea’s issues to reach other countries. However, it has been found the internet is being used for people to speak out against the government. The country had about 181,000 internet users out of its 1.2 million population.
  9. Plans to move forward: The World Bank’s presence in Equatorial Guinea has helped it move forward. The country’s economic plan, Horizon 2020, which will develop the country’s economic, national, and social standing, is being partly overseen by The World Bank. The Bank is providing technical services to strengthen the government’s public investment management systems. The first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s improvement plan was completed in 2012 and dubbed a success by the World Bank.
  10. No longer a “Least Developed Country”: In June of 2017, Guinea graduated from its status as an LDC or Least Developed country. Its national income is growing rapidly, and in recent years the infant mortality rate of the country has fallen by 43 percent.

Overall, there is hope on the horizon for Equatorial Guinea. Despite years of problems and issues, many which still remain, the country has seen improvement from many of its sectors. Most importantly, the country is now getting attention from multiple aid groups, who are doing what they can to improve conditions there. With support and attention, perhaps the worse of these 10 facts about living conditions in Equatorial Guinea can be nothing but history.

Owen Zinkweg
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Mali
Mali is a West African nation that is abundantly rich with culture and history; however, it is ranked at 16 out of the world’s 20 poorest countries. As a result of a vulnerable economy, the citizens of this vibrant nation have endured continuous economic hardships. Listed below are details regarding the top 10 facts about living conditions in Mali.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Mali

  1. A large number of people in Mali have epilepsy. In Mali, It is estimated that fifteen out of 1,000 people are afflicted with epilepsy, including young children. Unfortunately, in developing countries, only 6 percent of those with epilepsy receive sufficient medical treatment. The poor living conditions in Mali for these individuals is caused by social stigmas and supernatural ideologies that have remained prevalent in Africa despite advances in clinical treatment. The Ministries of Health and Education are collaborating with traditional healers to create educational campaigns that oppose the spreading of misinformation about epilepsy.
  2. Rural women have a harder time accessing health care services. Approximately 90 percent of Mali’s destitute population lives in rural areas. A majority of women living in rural areas are unable to afford modern preventive and maternal health care. Alternatively, they resort to using traditional medicines. During illness or pregnancy, women in these communities depend on social support from their daughters and mothers-in-law. Furthermore, the husband is responsible for gathering financial assistance from his family to support his ailing wife.
  3. Malnutrition causes significant health risks for children. Predicted increases in hunger could have disastrous impacts on the well-being of Mali’s youngest citizens. Children between the ages of six and 59 months are more at risk for anemia, with a prevalence of 82 percent. Out of the 16,391 children surveyed for malnutrition, 376 were suffering from severe to acute malnutrition and another 1,646 with moderate acute malnutrition in 2013-13.
    Policymakers may concentrate on implementing adaptive measures that focus on projected areas of climate change and food vulnerability that could reduce the financial and health repercussions of climate change in Mali.
  4. Hazardous conditions are affecting adolescents. Adolescents in Mali are at risk for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) associated diseases. Approximately 2.8 billion cases of diarrhea affect children annually. Furthermore, infections associated with WASH often lead to a decline in academic achievements. The Ministry of Primary Education has reported that only 44 percent of primary schools in Mali have access to a water point, and a bathroom was only installed in 58 percent of the schools. The WASH program was implemented to provide hygiene improvements such as establishing water points, toilets and providing hygiene products to schools.
  5. There are significantly low educational completion rates. In 2006 through 2007, the completion rate for primary education in Mali was only 54 percent. Educational obstacles are especially severe for children living in rural areas. It is estimated that more than 890,000 children in Mali from ages seven to 12 are not enrolled in school; that is four out of 10 children who are not receiving a basic elementary education. Educational improvements and increased education funding are important factors in improving the living conditions in Mali. However, in 2006, only 8.5 percent of all international aid was allocated to Mali’s education sector.
  6. Household income doesn’t translate to child well-being. The living conditions in Mali are generally assessed by the poverty level of each individual household. However, the unique needs of children are not always addressed by household level incomes. For example, regions such as Tombouctou have poverty rates below the average at 33 percent, but a child deprivation level of 72 percent. Whereas, in Sikasso, where the poverty rates are at 86 percent, 37 percent of the children are not deprived. Prospective analyses of Mali’s child poverty levels can serve as potential intervention guides.
  7. Extreme poverty is on the decline. An individual living on less than $1.90 a day is considered to be in extreme poverty. Between 2011 and 2013, the extreme poverty rate in Mali increased from 47.8 percent to 50.4 percent. However, as a result of successful agricultural production, the rate fell to 42.7 percent in 2017. Industrialized agriculture is imperative to improving the living conditions in Mali.
  8. Mali’s agricultural outlook is positive. Nearly two-thirds of Mali is covered by the Saharan desert. However, despite the geographical barriers, Mali has the highest agricultural potential of the Sahel Region where 80 percent of Malians rely on rain-fed agriculture to make a living.
  9. The economy is improving. The living conditions in Mali have been significantly influenced by economic and monetary changes. Mali’s economic climate is improving; since 2014, Mali has had a 5 percent increase in economic growth every year. Furthermore, Local banks are starting to expand their lending portfolios, and the investment climate is profiting from the monetary and economic improvements due to an increase in foreign investment.
  10. Rural citizens adapt to climate variability. Mali has undergone significant environmental, cultural and economic changes. Citizens in rural areas often depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Therefore, to cope with the climate changes that affect their resources, citizens along with development planners are adapting strategies to support sustainable local investments.

The living conditions in Mali are based on an intricate junction of resource scarcity and economic mobility. With the support of global investors and the contributions of scientific researchers, improvements in industrial, educational and agricultural disparities are being made and better living conditions are being improved. However, further legislative conversations must occur in order to ensure the preservation of intervention programs and foreign investment continues.

– Sabia Combrie
Photo: Flickr

Florence
It’s no coincidence that there is a new natural disaster in the news every day around the world — the earthquake and tsunami that just hit Indonesia; Typhoon Mangkhut in East Asia; Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas; monsoon flooding in Bangladesh; and Hurricane Michael in the Florida Panhandle are just a few of the storms that saturate our daily media sources.

Scientists agree that rising sea levels and sea temperatures as a result of climate change are increasing the frequency and intensity of such disasters. Research shows that climate-change-related natural disasters will disproportionately affect the world’s poorest countries and citizens. These environmental events are just one example of the many ways that sea changes are hurting the world’s poor.

Rising Sea Levels Hurt Agriculture

According to a 2015 World Bank report, “agriculture is one of the most important economic sectors in many poor countries. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most sensitive to climate change, given its dependence on weather conditions: from temperature, sun and rain, through climate-dependent stressors (pests, epidemics, and sea level rise).” This effect is felt by farmers — usually the poorer citizens of poor countries — who find their livelihoods threatened by natural disasters and the heavy flooding that wipes out their crops.

When agriculture suffers, the price of food skyrockets. This change then leaves families who already struggle to acquire adequate nutrition in an even more dire situation. Statistics show that poor families already spend a huge percentage of their income on food, and the World Bank predicts there may be 73 million people pushed into extreme poverty by 2030 from the rising costs of food alone.

Rising Sea Temperatures Breed Disease

The World Bank report says a small rise in sea temperatures “could increase the number of people at risk for malaria by up to 5 percent, or more than 150 million more people affected. Diarrhea would be more prevalent, and increased water scarcity would have an effect on water quality and hygiene.”

People who don’t have access to clean water, generally people living in poverty, would be at the greatest risk of developing diseases and they often lack the resources to treat infectious or bug-borne diseases once a family member is infected. The report, which called for climate-informed development, concludes by saying that poverty reduction and climate change can’t be treated separately, as the two go hand-in-hand.

Refugees

There are over 1600 confirmed deaths in Indonesia after an earthquake and tsunami hit the island of Sulawesi on October 5th, 2018. In fact, the U.N. stated that over 190,000 people are in need of urgent help — aftershocks have caused the destruction of 2,000 homes due to mudslides and makeshift refugee camps are being set up. At the most basic level, these events are pushing already poor people into extreme poverty through the destruction of their homes, forcing them to resettle elsewhere.

A 2017 Cornell study found that rising seas could cause 2 billion refugees by the year 2100 (these are truly climate change refugees).  This means that around one-fifth of the world’s population will be made homeless by climate change. The effects will be felt most strongly by people living on coastlines, and those in the world’s poorest countries will suffer the most.

As the seas warm and rise, research shows that the frequency and intensity of these disasters will rise as well, forcing more and more people to abandon their homes.

Sea Changes and the Poor

Rising sea temperatures are a result of global warming’s effects on ocean habitats and the human communities that depend on them.

The authors of an article about how poor countries and fisheries are the most negatively impacted by warming seas found that, “despite having some of the world’s smallest carbon footprints, small island developing states and the world’s least-developed countries will be among the places most vulnerable to climate change’s impacts on marine life.”

Actions for the Future

Andrew King, a climate researcher at the University of Melbourne in Australia and the author of a study from the AGU on global warming, argues that: “The results are a stark example of the inequalities that come with global warming…the richest countries that produced the most emissions are the least affected by heat when average temperatures climb to just 2 degrees Celsius [3.6 degrees Fahrenheit] while poorer nations bear the brunt of changing local climates and the consequences that come with them.”

There are ideas for how to better protect these places in the future to be prepared for these sea changes. Long term, the solution will be tackling climate change head-on.

-Evann Orleck-Jetter

Photo: Flickr

Drone
No technology is inherently good or bad; rather, it is humanity’s use of that technology that can be evil or virtuous.  Certain modern tools seem only capable of carrying out despicable or ultimately evil deeds as controversy surrounds them, and their names evoke fear. Artificial intelligence (AI) and drones are two of the most widely commented on and feared applications of modern science. Despite the prevailing negative perceptions, AI and drones are also used for a good cause: combatting poverty.

Unequal Scenes

Although drones, or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), are often used in violent attacks and warfare, they and their human operators are doing wonderful things across the world. Photographer Jonny Miller used drones to capture cityscapes and the line dividing the rich and the poor. He captured images of lush, green golf courses directly up against dirt roads and shack neighborhoods. Giant mansions can be seen with trees and acres of grass next door to brown areas with buildings packed into a small plot. Miller’s project “Unequal Scenes” is raising awareness about poverty and inequality which would be impossible without drone photography.

The Problem of Land Ownership

More than half of the world’s population, usually women, cannot prove that they own their land. This is especially problematic in the country of Kosovo, where most of the men and boys were murdered during the Balkan wars of the 1990s. The women who remained have worked tirelessly to rebuild their homes and communities, but they face an enormous roadblock: the inability to use their vast land resources to provide for themselves economically. These women do not have any sort of documentation for their lands once owned by their husbands. One woman explained that she had applied for loans to build her business but was repeatedly turned down because she lacked what the government called “property documents to put down as a guarantee.”

These communities do not have the means to hire land surveyors necessary for official registration. Property owners with potentially good, profitable land are powerless without official documentation. However, drones are helping these women. The World Bank Group’s Global Land and Geospatial unit dispatches drones to map out land plots. Drones survey and map for a fraction of the cost of traditional means, giving the Kosovan women the ability to register their lands and ultimately invest in their own property.

The Positive Impacts of AI

Artificial intelligence (AI, also referred to as “machine learning”) refers to a machine’s ability to imitate intelligent human behavior. AI is often associated with 1980s movies about robots destroying humanity based on a real fear that one day the machines will become self-aware and grow tired of serving humanity; “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” warned Stephen Hawking in 2014. Despite this apparent destructive potential of AI, it is currently transforming agriculture and changing the African business environment in the real world.

One writer argues that Africa is amid the “fourth industrial revolution … ushered in by the power of AI.” Many innovative African business leaders have embraced AI to improve productivity and efficiency. One example is a Moroccan company which uses AI to perform analytics on data sent from devices on motorcycle helmets. This improves riding habits and provides more accurate insurance premiums, reducing costs and improving safety for riders. Another instance involves an Egyptian manufacturer using AI to automate certain processes and reduce overall error while improving quality of service, which ultimately reduces the cost to the consumer. Finally, one Algerian firm helps local doctors provide cancer detection and treatment for their patients. The firm uses AI to create models that can diagnose those who are unable to visit hospitals for formal examinations. This has the potential to save the lives of many who don’t have the means to get regular checkups and screenings.

In addition to previous models, AI is also reducing overall costs for farmers and helping to improve their yields in India. Certain Indian dairy cows are given radio-frequency identification tags that transmit important information about the cows’ diets and overall health to cloud storage where it is “AI-analyzed.” The farmers receive alerts about any potential issues of the cows that require their attention. This can reduce costs and increase efficiency for the farmers.

These are just some of the ways that technology often labeled as “bad” is being used for good, especially in the fight against poverty. Cases like these prove that technology cannot be inherently evil and that there are good uses for AI and drones. While some individuals use modern equipment to destroy the world, there are plenty of men and women using the same tools to improve it.

– Sarah Stanley

Photo: Flickr

7 Reasons Why Cooperatives Are Important To Poverty ReductionCooperatives are important in reducing poverty. All cooperatives, social or economic, are mechanisms that ensure the growth and prosperity of communities. In developing and transitioning countries that lack access to capital, education, and training, cooperative structures allow communities to pool together their resources to solve problems, identify common goals and target the causes and symptoms of poverty.

What Are Cooperatives?

Cooperatives are organizations of all types that address a wide range of issues — from food producers and consumers in sub-Saharan Africa, to credit and hybrid cooperatives all around the globe.

Anytime people have common concerns, face similar struggles or are looking for solutions bigger than they alone can accomplish, cooperatives offer an answer via strength in numbers. This is why cooperatives are important to poverty reduction.

When Did Cooperatives Begin?

Cooperatives date back to the 1840s when the Rochdale Society of Equitable Partners came together after losing their jobs to industrialization. This group decided to band its resources together and open a store that provided goods they all needed, but couldn’t afford on their own.

Out of their individual experiences, we were left with the Rochdale Principles — a set of operations still in use today that helped the pioneering group manage the realities of poverty in an organized and productive manner.

What Are Cooperatives Core Principles?

The success of cooperatives depends upon seven core principles of cooperative development:

  • Voluntary and open membership
  • Democratic member control
  • Member economic participation
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Education, training and information
  • Cooperation among cooperative
  • Concern for community

More than 760 million people around the world are a part of the cooperative movement. Here are seven reasons why cooperatives are important to successful poverty reduction.

7 Reasons Cooperatives are Important to Poverty Reduction

  1. Cooperatives directly answer community needs, adjusted to local concerns. They are anchors that distribute, recycle and multiply local expertise, resources and capital. Autonomous cooperatives reach the poorest people in the community, offering upward mobility and basic infrastructure ignored by large businesses. Consumer Cooperatives, like Rochdale play a vital role in distributing food and basic resources in poor and rural areas. Profits and benefits also circulate within the same community.
  1. Cooperatives help build peaceful societies. In the process of transforming poverty-ridden communities into vibrant economies, cooperatives contribute to skill-development and education. They bolster gender equality and improve the health and living standards of an entire community. Cooperatives have been instrumental in meeting the Millenium Development Goals, as nations are more likely to stay peaceful by escaping the poverty trap.
  1. Cooperatives enable farmers to obtain higher returns. Agricultural and fishing cooperatives support its members by providing training, credit and resources. Rural cooperatives, dependant on agriculture, don’t have to look to international companies to grow. In impoverished communities with low inputs, it is unlikely they can produce the quality and quantity desired to make profitable margins. Combining supply purchases, sales and other expenses can help cooperatives operate at lower cost-per-unit than their individual farmer counterparts. This can allow for an entire community to re-market their product at a higher price.
  1. Worker cooperatives promote collaborative entrepreneurship and economic growth. Cooperatives reduce individual risk in much-needed business ventures and create a culture of shared productivity, decision-making and creative problem-solving. Only 10 percent of cooperatives fail while 60 to 80 percent of businesses fail; in fact, cooperatives can revive communities by allocating funds to rising workers with vested interests. Credit cooperatives also supply money to start a new business or repair current ones. Profits from sales can then support larger community projects that help each member and the community as a whole to survive.
  1. Cooperatives create competition within local markets. Since services come at a cost to members, pricing adjustments occur to benefit members and impact other organizations in order to compete at the same efficiency. Purchasing cooperatives, in particular, help businesses compete with large, national retailers. Cooperatives not only provide positive outcomes for its members, but also excite local markets as a whole.
  1. Multi-purpose and credit cooperatives provide small loans to their members. These loans go to self-employment, offering an opportunity for better wages through retail shopkeeping, farming or livestock. This allocation of funds can go towards building needed community infrastructure projects and financing small businesses that help local economies grow.
  1. Industrial and craft cooperatives help members produce marketable products. In addition to training, shared facilities allow members to access raw materials and technical machinery otherwise unavailable in rural areas. These cooperatives can provide an additional source of income for families and allow them to grow in their communities, rather than travel to urban centers at a high cost.

Empowerment and Collaboration

Cooperatives organize all over the world because they can help in almost every circumstance. Both developing and developed countries depend on cooperatives because they are an empowering model that promotes collaborative social change.

While foreign aid and investments drastically help impoverished communities, external remedies are only half the battle. Cooperatives provide a grassroots initiative and social structure to address all symptoms of poverty.

Cooperatives also make aid and assistance all the more powerful. With strong communities and the right foreign assistance, eradication of extreme poverty becomes all the more feasible.

– Joseph Ventura
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in MongoliaFrom a single party rule to a multi-party democracy, Mongolia has sought to accommodate more of its people’s demands, particularly in the advancement of girls’ education.

In 2000, the average time spent by girls in school was 9.4 years, but by 2010, it had increased to 14.6 years. The government’s effort in funding the development of more rural classrooms and educational resources has been inspired by the hope of reducing the high rate of teen pregnancies, as about a third of the population lives in rural areas that lack access to reproductive healthcare and education.

Improving Girls’ Education in Mongolia to Spur Economic Growth

As with decreasing global poverty, decreasing discrimination against women is also an investment in accelerating economic growth. The United Nations Development Programme, along with its U.N. partners, has worked towards closing gender disparities, such as in primary education. Approximately a third of Mongolia’s labor force consists of livestock herders, but higher access to education has increased young girls’ opportunities to seek jobs in other sectors.

These efforts have been fruitful: the number of women working in non-agricultural sectors has increased from 35 percent in 1990 to 41 percent today. As reported in 2014 by the World Bank, women own or partially own almost 40 percent of Mongolian firms.

 The State of Progress in Girls’ Education  in Mongolian

Although Mongolia can now boast of its position at 53 out of 159 countries in gender inequality globally, the gender disparities in the workforce still run particularly deep, as exhibited through women’s limited access to economic opportunities, unequal salaries, and their higher rate of inclination towards unreliable, informal work away from entrepreneurial sectors. The full benefits of the progress made in girls’ education in Mongolia have been limited by such inequalities.

To maximize the advantages of increasing girls’ education in Mongolia, other factors that commonly require a woman’s time and attention should be considered. Females are traditionally assigned the role of nurturing family; therefore, increasing construction of more eldercare and childcare facilities would provide more girls the chance to prioritize their education or job. More access to early-childhood education will also yield the same empowering effect for women, especially those living in rural towns.

Teenage fertility is especially high in Mongolia, at 40.4 childbirths for every 1000 girls between the ages of 15 to 19. Unwanted pregnancies are also relatively high in this age range as 14.1 percent of pregnant girls have abortions. These factors, left often unattended, limit the educational opportunities that girls can now seek.

Location also plays a huge role in determining the level of access to education for young girls. About 55 percent of students achieve secondary education, but this holds true for only 45 percent of students in rural areas. Children from rural areas must often confront inhibitions to accessing education, such as seasonal challenges and poor infrastructure.

Support of Girls’ Educational Opportunities in the Sciences

In 2010 the Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation, partnered with The Asian Foundation and the Zorig Foundation, introduced a university scholarship program for Mongolian girls that would pay for four years at the National University of Mongolia and the Mongolian University of Science and Technology for 60 girls from low-income families. This program is geared towards providing girls with opportunities in the sciences since Mongolian girls are largely underrepresented in those fields.

Even though more than 60 percent of university students are female, there remains a large discrepancy in the number of men and women in the sectors related to science and technology. By focusing on improving education for girls in this subject, Mongolia is expanding its labor force to fields beyond agriculture, which has consistently faced major setbacks due to natural disasters.

In 2010, Mongolia suffered a dzud, which is a national disaster of a drought in the summer followed by a severe winter, and lost almost 20 percent of the nation’s herds. One-third of Mongolia, whose livelihoods rely on herding, could no longer afford university tuition for their children, so this scholarship program would succeed in providing an education for specifically poor, rural girls.

The country is currently focused on its development through its minerals sector. Major infrastructure projects in developing mines are underway, and skilled workers are in high demand. Investing in girls’ education, so that more girls may access a job in this sector, is also an investment in Mongolia’s economic development as the country gravitates towards a more stable means of income.

By accounting for these factors in improving gender parity, developments in areas such as location and rethinking traditional gender norms and attitudes, Mongolia can improve education for girls and yield more long-term sustainable change. As women are more likely to pursue tertiary education, Mongolia will only benefit from addressing these different factors in helping women achieve educational success, and subsequently, inclusion in sectors significant to Mongolia’s economic prosperity. The butterfly effect of these developments in empowering women will continue to ripple throughout Mongolia’s poverty-reducing progress.

– Alice Lieu
Photo: Flickr

Sack Farming in KenyaAs of 2015, 153 million African citizens reported being impacted by food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as a state of living where one is unable or has limited access to obtain consistent, nutritionally valued food to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Current Issues in Africa

The average per capita income of sub-Saharan African is approximately three times lower than that of the rest of the world. One of the main sources of income in Africa is agriculture which can easily be impacted by the quality of soil, a stable water source, temperature and use of fertilizer.

That being said, in areas such as Kenya, 42 percent of the population (44 million people) live below the poverty line. Agriculture is one of the top sources of income and a major boon to the nation’s economy. In fact, it gives work to 70 percent of the workforce and contributes to 25 percent of Kenya’s annual gross domestic product.

Kibera, Nairobi, one of Kenya’s largest slums, suffers from a lack of resources such as water, land space and labor. With a consistent rising population (4.1 percent annually in Nairobi), more food is needed to sustain life. An upcoming technique to combat this problem, being implemented not only in Kenya but in surrounding nations such as Uganda, is sack farming.

Combating Food Scarcity with Sack Farming

Sack farming is the process of utilizing ordinary scrap sacks as the foundation for producing crops such as potatoes, carrots and spinach. By implementing sack farming in Kenya, food insecurity throughout the country can be tackled. All that is needed for this form of planting is the sack, manure, soil, small stones for drainage and the desired seeds.

Beginning with the necessary equipment, sacks of any size and texture can be used, from burlap encasings to plastic bags. Fertilizer can be made from composted food and waste. As for labor, the younger communities in Kenya have stepped up to take responsibility.

Effects of Sack Farming in Kenya

Depending on the size of the sacks, one sack has the ability to grow up to 45 seedlings. In terms of income, if a household is able to afford three sacks with 30 seedlings each, the production would be substantial. This would increase the household’s income, therefore increasing the ability to purchase other products ranging from electricity to eggs and milk.

Sack farming in Kenya has the ability to produce crops such as spinach, lettuce, beets, arugula, potatoes, carrots and onions. Not only does this impact the economy, but families will finally be able to have access to a stable food source. This means fewer chances of developing nutritional deficiencies, especially in younger children.

Sack farming in Kenya is a more convenient and realistic way of feeding one’s family and community, especially when living in a rural or slum area. The process is an inexpensive, simple way to produce nutritious foods, combating the issue of food insecurity in areas throughout Africa.

– Jessica Ramtahal
Photo: Flickr

The Accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence in Alleviating PovertyIn the first half of the twentieth century, Artificial Intelligence (AI) revolved around just science fiction movies but it has come a long way since then. From presenting targeted ads based on one’s Google search history to SIRI and self-driving cars, AI has made progress in various socioeconomic issues as well.

Medical Accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence

One of the most remarkable breakthroughs of AI and machine learning is in healthcare applications. People are using various apps to learn more about themselves and lead a happier and healthier life.

  1. Autism & Beyond App: Recent research shows autism can be detected as early as 18 months old using AI, while previously the disease could not be detected before five years of age. The app Autism & Beyond can study a child’s emotions and behavior from their expressions and understand a child much better to provide early effective treatment.
  2. EpiWatch: This app has been very helpful for patients with epilepsy as it accurately helps measure the body’s vitals during the onset and duration of a seizure in real time. EpiWatch then learns from this data and can predict whether such seizures are imminent. Once the accelerometer and heart rate sensors are triggered, the caregiver or a family member is alerted so there is enough time for the patient to receive immediate help.
  3. Concussion Tracker: This app helps monitor a head injury for a consecutive six weeks by tracking the heart rate and recording other physiological and cognitive functions. It helps to figure out how fatal the concussion is and its possible consequences.
  4. Tumor Detection: Doctors can easily detect a tumor in the brain but quantifying exactly how big it has long been difficult. Microsoft’s Inner Eye has made this possible and has helped accelerate the time of the treatment.

Advancements in AI for Agriculture

Apart from Medical Science, accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence in the fields of agriculture have become widespread. Agriculture is not just old school farming anymore. High tech agriculture starts with variable rate planting equipment that helps identify where a seed will grow best and in what soil conditions it will grow better, thus making farming more efficient than it has ever been. Various AI-based robotic harvesting equipment has also been invented which helps to harvest crops like fruits and berries.

Global Fishing Watch is also one of the many accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence, which has helped stopped illegal fishing across the ocean. Over three billion people depend on seafood for protein in their diets. The global economy loses $83 billion every year to illegal fishing and poor fishery management.

Global Fishing Watch has brought more transparency on the fishing location and behaviors of commercial fishing fleets from every corner of the ocean through processed data sets and fishing activity maps with 95 percent accuracy. Indonesia is the first nation to show its results and, already, multibillion-dollar fines have been charged from the evidence gathered.

AI Combating Global Poverty

Artificial Intelligence has also been a game changer to help predict poverty and fight hunger. Tracking poverty in various places through household survey-based data collection was expensive so AI came to the rescue. In recent years, scientists have tried to identify rich or poor regions by studying nighttime satellite photos on the basis of which places glow brightly.

However, this approach came with a limitation: it could not differentiate between places suffering from near-poverty and those with absolute poverty. A research group at Stanford University recently fed the computer both nighttime and high-resolution daytime satellite images of five countries in Africa along with the household survey data. The device found features like concrete buildings, well-developed roads, agricultural regions and urban areas which helped predict poor places with 81 to 99 percent accuracy. United Nations claims this to be one of the biggest accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence.

Many times, the media focuses on the negative sides of AI but scientists are hopeful that the accomplishments of Artificial Intelligence will do more good than bad. With many more advancements to come, the socioeconomic status of the world is sure to change for the better.

– Shweta Roy
Photo: Google

Poverty in Afghanistan facts
In recent memory, people often think of Afghanistan as the nation of the Taliban, who provided sanctuary to terrorists like Osama bin Laden. However, they do not tend to think about how a country falls into the grip of such extremism. Often, when poverty is widespread, terrorism and instability take hold. Poverty in Afghanistan has been a serious problem for nearly three decades, starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

This instability can make poverty alleviation an uphill battle. According to the World Bank’s 2017 Poverty Status Update Report regarding socioeconomic progress in Afghanistan, the 15 years of growth that the country has seen are now jeopardized by a recent rise in insecurity. The World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, Shubham Chaudhuri, explains that with poverty rising from 36 to 39 percent of the Afghan population, there need to be reinforcements to guarantee that economic growth reaches Afghan families. For further information about the living conditions of the Afghan people, here are 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Afghanistan

  1. According to Aryana Aid, poverty in Afghanistan stems from two factors: “food insecurity and the lack of a social security net.” As a result, 50 percent of Afghan children are stunted and 20 percent of Afghan women of child-bearing age are underweight.
  2. Food is distributed unequally throughout the country, going mainly to areas where there is heavy fighting. This puts more strain on people in other areas and contributes to the ongoing food insecurity,
  3. Furthermore, half of the people living in both rural and urban regions have no access to clean water.
  4. The government’s strategy to address food insecurity has been to focus on adequate calorie intake, but this has left people susceptible to food price shocks, meaning they lower the quality of their diet in order to afford food.
  5. The war in Afghanistan is one of the main contributing factors to poverty; 55 to 75 percent of the Afghan population is living in poverty in the worst-hit regions, whereas as other regions have lower poverty rates.
  6. According to Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, the poverty rate in Afghanistan has remained stagnant since the outbreak of war in 2001, even with increases in foreign aid.
  7. Only 28 percent of the entire Afghan population 15 years and older is literate.
  8. Because of the lack of water and other necessities, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world.
  9. Approximately 70,792 Afghan families are taking refuge in unclean makeshift camps; 25 percent of those families have been living there for more than ten years.
  10. Unemployment is a significant challenge in relocating these and other internally displaced people, as they are reluctant to return to rural areas where there are no jobs available.

To help bring some relief to these issues, Aryana Aid has been providing food packages to the people of Afghanistan since 2009. In early 2018, USAID’s Office of Food For Peace provided $25 million to the World Food Programme; an estimated 547,000 malnourished Afghan people were provided with emergency aid from local and regional marketplaces.

The World Bank projected economic growth for Afghanistan in 2017, by 2.6 percent compared to 2.2 percent in 2016. The progression is predicted to continue in 2018 with a 3.2 percent growth, which will help cure the many problems listed on the top 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

– Christopher Shipman

Photo: Flickr


The causes of hunger in Puerto Rico range from a number of significant and complex problems, but nothing is worsening the problem faster than its economic conditions and more recently, natural causes.

In 1898, the Spanish-American War brought an end to nearly four centuries of colonial rule. The United States acquired the island of Puerto Rico, now regarded as a U.S. territory. In 1917, Puerto Ricans gained U.S. citizenship, and similarly to inhabitants of states in the U.S., they hold democratic elections for local and state government and have their own constitution.

In recent years, Puerto Ricans have dealt with deteriorating infrastructure, a 45 percent poverty rate, severe water pollution, lack of educational resources and a massive public debt crisis. A byproduct from most of these problems is the prevailing issue of hunger in Puerto Rico.

Economic Turmoil

Puerto Rico is more than $70 billion in debt and as of 2016, public debt accounted for 92.5 percent of their entire GDP. These circumstances are unique: understanding how they acquired such debt requires understanding the basic history of their economic policy as well as few key events that have taken place over the last century. What has transpired can be compared to that of a domino effect.

The first “domino” to fall, by and large, was government overspending. Unlike states in the U.S. that are mandated to create and present balanced budgets, Puerto Rico is not. This resulted in overall spending significantly exceeding that of its tax-generated revenue.

Puerto Rico’s tax collection is one of the lowest in the world, deriving just 9.5 percent of its GDP from taxes in 2016. The CIA World Factbook report ranked the island 215 out of 220 countries in terms of taxation revenue, ranking only above Sudan, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia and Syria.

Secondly, for decades, due to its lack of statehood, the island was able to serve as a tax shelter for U.S. businesses, particularly pharmaceutical companies. During this time, economic prosperity reached a peak for the island. However, as of 2006, Congress eliminated these tax breaks entirely, resulting in total economic devastation for the island after most businesses moved back to the mainland.

There is also a rapid rate of skilled professionals leaving the island for the U.S. Many estimates assert that almost one doctor per day leaves the island, sometimes as many as two or three.

The economy has contracted each year since and recovery is unlikely. The GDP real growth rate has become one of the slowest in the world, at 0 percent in 2015 and then falling to -1.8 percent in 2016.

The final, and perhaps largest, hurdle the island must resolve in regards to its debt is that unlike other U.S. states, Puerto Rico cannot legally file for Chapter Nine Bankruptcy. This means that they are not only, by all definitions of the word, bankrupt, but that they also have no safety net or alternative resolution.

Agriculture, Trade and Commerce

Historically, agriculture has only accounted for 0.8 percent of Puerto Rico’s GDP. However, following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, it is estimated that it only took the storm a few hours to destroy $780 million worth of crops or about 80 percent of the island’s total supply. This prompted immediate food shortages and inflated food prices, causing poverty and hunger in Puerto Rico to instantly become a new reality for thousands of residents.

Trade and commerce, as well as the supply of aid, were affected in the aftermath of the storm, specifically in relation to the Jones Act of 1920. The act mandates that all goods shipped to and from the island (or between any two U.S. ports) must be on guarded, U.S. vessels that are operated by Americans. As a result, foreign logistics companies wishing to do such business have to pay a special tariff.

When considering Puerto Rico’s poverty rate, this is devastating to those experiencing hunger in Puerto Rico. Inevitably, Puerto Ricans will continue to pay significantly more for consumer goods and services than those who live on the U.S. mainland.

Hurricane Maria’s Role in Puerto Rico Hunger

Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017.  The death toll reached 48 as of October 14, 2017, with 117 individuals remaining unaccounted for. In addition, an estimated 85 percent of the island remains without power, about 1.2 million people are without access to clean drinking water and the preexisting issue of hunger in Puerto Rico is only becoming worse.

Since then, President Donald Trump and his administration have maintained that all relief efforts are being exhausted to the fullest extent possible. This narrative conflicts with many accounts from Puerto Rican government officials, who have said the response at the federal level has been slow moving and inadequate.

Governor Ricardo Rossello has publicly stated on multiple occasions that the territory is in desperate need of further federal assistance, describing the situation as a “humanitarian crisis.” Carmen Yulin Cruz, the Mayor of San Juan, has also made headlines in the recent weeks following her televised plea to the federal government, saying “I am begging, begging anyone who can hear us to save us from dying … you are killing us with the inefficiency.”

Initially, Mr. Trump cited geographical concerns that present significant logistical problems to be the cause of this. “This is an island, surrounded by water, big water. Ocean water,” Trump said in a September 2017 speech in Washington, D.C.

However, during a press conference while visiting the island, was quick to cite the island’s budget crisis, saying, “I hate to tell you Puerto Rico, but you have thrown our budget a little out of whack. We have spent a lot of money on Puerto Rico.”

Additionally, while the administration did temporarily exempt the territory from the Jones Act, this exemption expired October 8, 2017.

In a recent survey conducted by the New York Times, just over half of the U.S. population is unaware that individuals born in Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. Fortunately, many informed U.S. citizens support providing aid to Puerto Rico: among those who are aware that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, 81 percent think aid should be provided.

Hunter Mcferrin

Photo: Flickr