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the Economy of the Republic of BuryatiaIn the Far East of the Russian Federation lies a vast region characterized by a diversity of topographical features and a rich ancient history. The remote Republic of Buryatia increasingly serves as a regional economic powerhouse, rich in natural resources and human capital. Below are 10 facts about the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.

10 Facts About the Economy of the Republic of Buryatia

  1. The Republic of Buryatia is seeing a gradual decline in absolute population numbers. A 2016 census recorded 983,209 people in the republic in 2017. This is down from a total population of 1.02 million in 1997. A shrinking population may lead to adverse consequences for the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.
  2. Both industrial and agrarian means of production are well represented in the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Forestry, food production, fuel and power, construction, the paper industry and the processing of both metal and wood account for the vast majority of industrial production. Mining operations explore, develop and extract coal, gold and non-magnetic metals. Agricultural operations feed much of the Russian Far East by producing dairy, meat, flour, cereals and animal feed.
  3. The cumulative value of exports from the Republic of Buryatia for the second quarter of 2017 measured approximately $374 million. A persistent decline in revenues from total exports began in 2012 though it has been subject to significant oscillations. In contrast, the republic imports $28 million worth of goods. The value of imports year to year exhibits some instability but still indicates a general decline over five successive years.
  4. The energy sector of the Republic of Buryatia relies greatly upon the region’s abundant coal reserves. Balance reserves totaling approximately 2.6 billion tons alongside deposit reserves of more than 1.1 billion tons may adequately supply the regional economy for another half-century. The government’s asset records attest to 13 brown and hard coal deposits subject to processing with another six undergoing development. 
  5. Despite the vitality of the coal sector, a decline in the demand for electricity may hinder the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Power plants satisfy local requirements so much so that the republic exports electricity to neighboring regions like Mongolia. However, electricity consumption by the republic’s forestry and agricultural sectors remains low compared to the transport, communications and power plant sectors. Electricity use in 2017 was substantially lower than in the 1990s.
  6. In 2017, the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent of the population in Russia. That same year, unemployment in the Republic of Buryatia affected 9.6 percent of the region’s population. But this most recent statistic is part of a systematic downward trend in the region’s unemployment rate. From a high of 17.8 percent unemployment in 2003, the decline to a 9.6 percent employment rate in 2017 attests to a steady improvement in this sphere of the economy of the Republic of Buryatia.
  7. The poverty rate in the Republic of Buryatia significantly oscillates year to year, yet data indicates a general decline in poverty. In 2015, 17.9 percent of the republic’s population lived beneath the poverty line. According to data collected in 2014, the average impoverished person in the Republic of Buryatia requires an income increase of 1.9 percent to meet minimum subsistence levels. 
  8. The freshwater reservoir Lake Baikal plays an essential role in the economy of the Republic of Buryatia. Measuring 636 kilometers across and 80 kilometers wide, Lake Baikal hosts an estimated 250 unique animal species out of an approximate total of 2,500 local species. Besides the diverse biome, rich mineral deposits abound. Half a century of development in the Lake Baikal region yielded more than 700 mineral reserves. 
  9. Individually-owned farms comprise 83 percent of the Republic of Buryatia’s total crop production. By contrast, only 57 percent of the total crop production of the Russian Federation emerges from farm households. However, only 11 percent of the total land of the republic belongs to individually-owned agricultural operations.
  10. In 2015, the rural demographic of the Republic of Buryatia numbered 402,520 people. The following year, the rural demographic rose 0.29 percent to 403,698 people. The urban demographic consisted of 579,511 people in 2016, a 0.28 percent increase from the previous year. Though comprising 58.9 percent of the republic’s population, data indicates a steady decline in the urban population from 1997 onward.

Though some data indicates that the economy of the Republic of Buryatia faces considerable obstacles, the general picture of the region is one of economic vitality. As a resource-rich region with a productive population, the future may bode well for this remote corner of the Russian Federation.

Philip Daniel Glass
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 Reduction
Cooperatives are critical to 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, or co-ops, 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?

Co-ops 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 co-ops 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. Co-ops 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. Co-ops 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. Co-ops 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 co-ops 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 co-ops 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 co-ops 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. Co-ops 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. Co-ops not only provide positive outcomes for its members, but also excite local markets as a whole.
  1. Multi-purpose and credit co-ops 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 co-ops 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

Co-ops 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. Co-ops 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 Mongolia
From 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 Poverty
In 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

Hunger in Puerto Rico
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 governments 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 of 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 a 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 guard, 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, he 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 on 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

Livestock vaccination in MosulIt has been four months since Iraq’s successful recapture of their second-largest city, Mosul, from Islamic forces. After being under siege for three years, Iraq now has the opportunity to implement livestock vaccination in Mosul. Livestock is the second largest form of agricultural income for Mosul residents and approximately 12 million Iraqis depend on agriculture to live securely.

Since Mosul’s recapture in July 2017, thousands of families who had fled during the conflict returned to their homes to find their farms desecrated. Water supplies were contaminated, agricultural supplies destroyed and any surviving livestock had not been vaccinated since 2014. The lack of livestock vaccinations poses a threat of epidemic diseases that can spread to local residents and neighboring countries.

The United Nations and Iraq have come together to implement an emergency animal health campaign to vaccinate all livestock in the hopes it will end the fear and possibility of being exposed to an epidemic disease. Nearly one million sheep, goats, cattle and buffalo are said to be vaccinated. The Iraq Humanitarian Fund will provide the funds for the vaccinations in partnership with Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture. In addition, around 60,000 animals will be provided with nutrient-dense food.

The destruction of agriculture will evidently put a delay in the rehabilitation process, as it will take both time and money to rebuild the land. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) released a statement seeking $74.5 million to assist 1.39 million Iraqis. The costs will include agricultural rehabilitation, vaccination and feeding of livestock and expansion of income-generating work and activities for the Iraqi people.

“FAO is committed to ensuring that livelihoods are protected, to promote people’s self-reliance and dignity, and reduce dependence on food assistance,” says Iraq FAO representative Fadel El-Zubi.

With the success of infrastructure restoration and livestock vaccination in Mosul, residents will rely less on humanitarian aid and will have access to producing and selling their own food. By next year, 200,000 Iraqi people should be able to begin earning an income from their agriculture again.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr