Scuba Diving Can Alleviate Poverty
Scuba diving is the practice of underwater diving with a SCUBA, an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The United States Special Force’s frogmen initially used this during the Second World War. Through this technology, divers can go underwater without connecting to a surface oxygen supply. The main aim for many scuba divers today is dive tourism, with marine conservation trailing closely behind. It is through these conservation efforts and tourism businesses in coastal areas that plenty of communities have found themselves being alleviated from poverty. Scuba diving can alleviate poverty due to the new employment opportunities that arise through environmental efforts, as well as the work scuba diving training businesses provide.

Although the Earth’s equatorial belt possesses 75 percent of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs, this area is home to over 275 million individuals living under poverty. These are individuals who depend directly on coral reefs, fish and marine resources for their food, security and income.

According to Judi Lowe, Ph.D. in Dive Tourism, these incredible bio-diverse coral reefs have immense potential for dive tourism. However, conflicts are currently present between dive operators and local communities due to a limited supply of essential resources. If businesses in the diving industry turned to greener practices and focused on indigenous local communities, they could achieve marine conservation, along with poverty alleviation.

Integrated Framework Coastal Management and Poverty Alleviation

Without a doubt, efforts to preserve the marine environment must include local communities to preserve the marine environment. By including people whose livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture into recreational scuba diving, there will be greater benefits for the community and the environment. One of the pre-existing frameworks that ensure this mutual symbiosis is the integrated framework of coastal management.

Integrated framework coastal management is a tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. Through this model, locals integrate into the administration and the use of natural resources in several water-based industries. Supplemental payments and employment within other businesses create employment opportunities, should fish bans or similar legislative actions displace primary jobs. This has occurred in Northern Mozambique and Kenya.

Scuba Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country with a history of the slave trade, colonization and 15 years of civil war. Nevertheless, it is a nation in the equatorial belt that has significant tourism potential. After the civil war, tourism was its quickest growing industry. Forty-five percent of the country’s population participates in the tourism industry.

Poverty is lowest in the province of Ponta do Ouro, located in the southern-most area of Mozambique. Ponta do Ouro is home to the greatest levels of marine tourism, where tourists and locals collaborate to participate in water-based activities such as scuba diving. The area particularly favors scuba diving due to the presence of bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. It also has year-round warm water and is home to humpback whales from August through November. As it holds pristine marine biodiversity, the area is a marine protected area (MPA).

Scuba activities in Ponta do Ouro mainly happen within scuba diving management areas that follow the diver code of conduct. Most diving in the area is done to maintain the biophysical environment through the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health and management of marine pollution by maintaining low levels of plastic pollution that accumulates in the bays along the coastline.

Not only can scuba diving alleviate poverty through dive tourism, but MPAs have also been influential. For example, MPAs have helped promote and facilitate the involvement of Mozambicans to monitor their fisheries, map different user groups that can overlay with physical and biological data and conduct research. All of these actions help locals find employment and elevate their living standards.

In the future, a greater exploration of the Mozambican Indian Ocean should be explored and strategic planning to maintain the attractiveness of the area and avoid loss of biodiversity is imperative. This will open up greater possibilities for locals to set up dive sites and cultivate diving enterprises, conserve the biological species and obtain greater income.

SPACES, Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

The Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) Project is a collaborative initiative funded by the U.K. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) and SwedBio. The project aims to uncover the scientific knowledge on the complex relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and human wellbeing. The project studies sites in Mozambique and Kenya.

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) that the project uses determined that humans derive great benefits from ecosystems. People can apply these benefits to environmental conservation, human well-being and poverty alleviation. People can also use them to inform and develop interventions. If people implement the integrated framework coastal management, there is a large possibility for ecosystem services to inform the development of ES interventions that contribute to poverty alleviation through entrepreneurial activities. If locals cultivate diving enterprises, these communities would reap the benefits of the cash-based livelihood that many diving businesses currently possess.

Lobster Diving in Honduras

In Honduras, diving has been a primary livelihood. In the Central American country that shares its borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, lobster diving serves as a way of living, particularly in the indigenous community of Miskito. Mosquita is one of the most impoverished areas of Latin America.

Despite the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) setting safe standard diving techniques, one that calls for a gradual ascent to the surface and a limit to the number of dives a person can make in one day, the divers of Mosquita dive deeply, surface quickly and go back for more. They race to collect as much lobster as possible, fishing to take their families and themselves out of poverty. These conditions make them prone to nitrogen decompression sickness, a sickness that disabled over 1,200 Miskitos since 1980.

Nevertheless, a diver receives $3 for every pound of lobster they get and 28 cents for every sea cucumber. This is a significant amount of money for the area and for that reason, many take the risk. The boats where the divers spend their time between dives also only have rudimentary safety equipment, using aging tanks and masks. These divers need to do their jobs to raise themselves out of poverty. Until the government implements necessary training to divers, as well as health insurance provisions, divers will remain at risk. Lobster diving has great potential for promoting marine biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal development; however, health precautions must be a priority as well in order for lobster diving to be a truly sustainable solution.  

Looking Forward

Scuba diving can alleviate poverty with its safety practices and dedication for marine conservation, which opens up many opportunities for technological and economic advances through educational, conservation and entrepreneurship potential. Aside from igniting passion and dedication to fighting for the underwater environment, scuba diving urges divers to fight for their survival, their protection and their businesses as well. It is therefore understandable why many have come to value scuba diving as one of the most potent ways to educate society about environmental conservation, and with it, help increase living standards for coastal communities.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr


U.S. Benefits from Foreign Aid to American SamoaAmerican Samoa is a small group of islands in the Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii. As a U.S. territory, American Samoa upholds the fundamental rights of the constitution, and its citizens are considered U.S. nationals.  The territory status of American Samoa keeps it from receiving foreign aid from other developed nations as the U.S. is the only nation to send foreign aid. The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to American Samoa in many ways such as:

  1. Dedication to the reduction of carbon emissions
  2. Rebuilding coral reefs
  3. Economic growth through trade

Reduction of Carbon Emissions

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to American Samoa as the territory works diligently to improve environmental conditions.

In January 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a total of $10.7 million to the American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency. The aid provided will go to strengthening its capacity to protect human health, the environment and vital water infrastructure. American Samoa has many projects to utilize the aid, benefiting and improving the lives of U.S. citizens as well as the U.S. nationals living on the islands.

American Samoa plans on severely reducing its carbon emissions and the emissions from diesel fuels, aiming for 100 percent renewable energy generation for the outer islands’ electric power system by 2040. In an interconnected world, the reduction of one nation’s carbon emissions can improve the air and water quality of the entire world in a global strategy for combatting climate change.

The Paris Agreement, currently supported by 175 countries, highlights the importance of every nation reducing carbon emissions. According to the U.N., carbon emissions from human activities are driving climate change which now affects every nation on the planet through: changing weather patterns, rising sea level, and the increased presence of more extreme weather events.

Health of Coral Reefs

The importance of coral reefs to the ecosystem and every human being’s quality of life cannot be understated. Often overlooked, coral reefs are responsible for protecting coastlines from flooding during tropical storms, providing vital marine life with shelter and assisting in carbon and nitrogen fixing.

The diversity of sea life is essential to the fishing industry in the United States. Many fish spawn in coral reefs. Juvenile fish spend a large portion of their time there before making their way to the open sea. Without coral reefs, the global economy would suffer huge losses of $375 billion annually from Australia to Florida.

Without the presence of thriving coral reefs, it is expected that more than 4,000 species of marine life that call the reef home face extinction. Among the multitude of species at risk are tuna, sea turtles, spiny lobsters and dolphins.

The U.S. benefits from foreign aid to American Samoa as American Samoa plans to use substantial portions of the foreign aid to revitalize these essential marine life and ocean ecosystems directly benefiting the lives of all U.S. citizens.

Economy and Trade

The economy of American Samoa is intricately linked with the U.S. economy. American Samoa conducts most of its commerce with the U.S. through imports and exports. American Samoa today is one of the world’s largest exporters of canned tuna, canned pet food and fish meal.

Home to the Chicken of the Sea and Starkist Samoa tuna canneries, American Samoa faces nearly zero tariffs when importing goods to the United States. This effectively works to keep costs low for consumers. Furthermore, American Samoa is exempt from the federal law prohibiting foreign commercial fishing vessels from offloading tuna at U.S. ports. It is estimated the tuna canning supplied to the U.S. is worth $500 million a year.

The economy of the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to American Samoa in more than just exports. American Samoa is also a consumer of U.S. goods generating $27.9 million in imports for 2016. Including American Samoa, the U.S. accounts for more than 25 percent of Samoan exports, while 10 percent of Samoa and American Samoa’s imports come from the United States.

The benefits of foreign aid are symbiotic. Through providing funds to empower American Samoa to take on environmental initiatives, grow local businesses and create valuable trade partnerships, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to American Samoa.

– Kelilani Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Kenya
With a concurrent poverty rate of 44 percent and a population of 44 million, Kenya has been the epicenter of mass migration in East Africa. Unfortunately, poor infrastructure, sanitation and absolute poverty have pervaded the country for many years. Even so, tourism in Kenya remains its crowning jewel as it is a microcosm of the country’s cultural and religious diversity.

The country is a haven for all manners of flora and fauna that have recently seen the advent of a new era of ecotourism. Over 62,800 visited Kenya in the month of May 2016 alone.

Kenya made headlines recently with a report by American-based luxury travel network Virtuso declaring that Kenya has topped the world in tourist bookings. This figure is also predicted to rise by a staggering 17 percent in the future.

As a result, tourism in Kenya has played a significant role in the 5.6 percent growth rate the country has experienced recently. Tourism has been a boon in Kenya as it has singularly contributed to 1.6 percent of this growth while bringing in employment opportunities.

Moreover, tourism has been a boon in Kenya because it has pumped more Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the country. This paves the way for more opportunities to enterprise and market. Daily Nation reported that Kenya experienced the highest exponential rise in FDI in both Africa and the Middle East.

Consequently, tourism has been a boon for Kenya as it is an integral aspect of this rise because of the investment power that it entails. The capital invested in Kenya’s infrastructure services is also a synergic endeavor that will bolster the tourism sector.

This has resulted in the growth of numerous safari businesses that have sprouted all over. The existence of rich biodiversity and diverse tribes in Kenya has helped these businesses flourish. The dawn of these industries can create great entrepreneurship opportunities for many communities.

The Kenyan Tourism Board (KTB) decided to expand into new markets in Asia to diversify its market. Eyeing the massive great potential of Kenya’s tourism sector, travel trade investors from the Middle East have agreed to invest in Kenya’s tourist sector in Kenya.

Additionally, the Sixth International Conference of African Development is being convened in Kenya, with the focus and objective to advance hotel and accommodation facilities significantly. Forty heads of states, 100 firms and Japanese delegations will discuss opportunities and incentives in Kenya with regard to the development for the further growth of tourism.

The appointment of Joseph Cherutoi as the head of The Tourism Fund and Tourism Finance Corporation is also essential to note, as it will lead the way for a new and successful era in tourism. However, with an influx of over 500,000 tourists to Kenya every year, the people feel that preservation is imperative to safeguard one of the major backbones of their country. Thus, the inception of the concept of ecotourism has ushered in a new dimension of tourism in Kenya.

Ecotourism has spearheaded this movement by involving community-based organizations (CBOs) that are run by the local people, corporate organizations and individuals to aid in initiating improvements and engaging in conservation to ensure a sustainable form of tourism development in Kenya. This has led to a higher propensity to enterprise among the people and has brought many communities together.

Tourism has been a boon for Kenya owing to the manifold opportunities that it will offer the country and the people. Its development is a good sign for the people, the country’s progression and equitable growth.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Popularity of Quinoa

Prior to quinoa’s surge in popularity, few Americans had heard of this South American grain. U.S. imports alone quadrupled between 2006 and 2010 as quinoa’s virtues of versatility and high protein content spread.

Negative Speculations

Unbeknownst to the public, quinoa production had a direct impact on the levels of poverty in Peru. So, soon after quinoa “took off,” a slew of inflammatory articles in 2013 reprimanded quinoa consumers for raising the demand and price of the nutritious food, which restricted access for poor Andean people.

Poverty in Peru and Bolivia affects over 50 percent of people in the Andean region. Many suffer from lack of education, food insecurity, poor health care and a life expectancy 20 years lower than people in Lima.

Due to conditions in this region, “foreign quinoa consumption is keeping locals from a staple grain” is a serious accusation. However, the popularity of this protein-rich food has provided many economic benefits for the area. A NPR study showed how living conditions drastically improved for people in the Andes during the boom in quinoa sales.

In 2013, the Guardian published an inflammatory article called, “Can Vegans Stomach the Unpalatable Truth About Quinoa?” claiming that fame has driven the prices so high that locals can no longer afford it. The argument seemed sound as poverty in Peru is a major issue. It seemed though, that the Guardian brought up a touchy subject–droves of articles then began cropping up both defending and debunking this argument.

Positive Effects

The good news is that quinoa prices are still within reach for Peruvians. A recent article from NPR explains two different studies focusing on the super grain: one found that the people in quinoa-growing regions, farmer or otherwise, experienced an economic flourishing that favored farmers and generally overcame any additional quinoa costs; the second study focused on quinoa consumption in the Puno region where 80 percent of Peruvian quinoa is grown.

The author of the second study, a Berkeley graduate student, discovered that people in the Puno region consumed a similar amount of the grain without cutting any valuable nutrients from their diets.

While quinoa is culturally important, it is not a staple crop like rice or maize. On average, only between 0.5 and 4 percent of an average Peruvian family’s budget is spent on quinoa–thus the extra cost is not debilitating. In fact, quite the opposite of debilitation occurred: domestic quinoa consumption tripled in 2013.

While the positive economic effects continue to boost the region, there are reasonable concerns about the sustainability or longevity of quinoa production. Demand has caused farmers to decrease the amount of quinoa varieties grown, as well as reduce llama farming which used to provide fertilizer.

Degradation of soil and biodiversity are also risks of extensive quinoa production. Unfortunately, quinoa’s popularity also attracts competitors, and as other countries began to grow the super grain and supply increases, Peruvian demand falls. Prices are sinking, which is great for frugal, health conscious shoppers but very concerning for Bolivian quinoa farmers.

Sustaining Success

While unclear how long benefits will last, quinoa’s popularity proves extremely beneficial towards alleviating rural poverty in Peru and Bolivia. In order to extend the grain’s benefits, some organizations are trying to encourage the sale of more varieties of quinoa to conserve biodiversity and renew interest in South American grown grains.

On the positive side, quinoa has provided some temporary relief for those facing poverty in Peru.

Jeanette I. Burke

Photo: Pixabay

Why We Should Value Biodiversity-TBP
The loss of biodiversity around the globe is an imminent problem that poses a serious danger to the health and livelihoods of many people.

A report from the World Health Organization identifies poor water quality, air pollution and climate change as central causes to the decline in biodiversity, the variety of plants and animals on the planet.

Biodiversity is important for:

  1. Food and nutrition security
  2. Development of medicine
  3. Human health
  4. Economic prosperity

Today, the central problems related to food and nutrition security are the inequitable distribution of food and the lack of diversification of crops grown. According to the World Farmer’s Organization, “over 2 billion people… suffer from a lack of essential micro-nutrients such as vitamin A and iron”. With the agricultural focus on quantity of staple crops such as millet, corn, and wheat, the value of crop diversity for nutrient sources has been dismissed.

The loss of biodiversity also has implications for the extinction of plants that are currently used in medical practices, or that may have potential to cure diseases in the future. When habitats are changed or over-harvested, plant species are vulnerable to extinction. The Convention on Biological diversity states that, “an estimated 60,000 species are used for their medicinal, nutritional, and aromatic properties”. The trade of these species also has a high economic value that should be considered.

Human health is impacted by a lack of nutrition security and medicinal development associated with loss of biodiversity. In addition, poor water quality from the destruction of wetlands, that filter water, can negatively impact health.

Lastly, many people sustain their livelihoods directly from the land and the biodiversity that it provides. Biodiversity is critical to the health of the environment, and with its destruction there will be an inevitable economic cost.

The good news is that is not too late to preserve biodiversity. If we can understand why biodiversity has an intrinsic value, more resources will be devoted to protecting the environment. While some connections may seem less direct, every person relies on the environment for health and economic growth. It is in everyone’s best interest to protect biodiversity.

– Iliana Lang

Sources: Convention on Biological Diversity, World Farmers’ Organization
Photo: Good Housekeeping

BiodiversityGlobal warming, pollution and the extinction of thousands of animals have severely imperiled biodiversity. The harm this causes affects the environment as well as people living in rural areas. In poorer countries, livestock and crops not only feed people, but they also provide income for the farmers that distribute these goods. When farmers face the impacts of climate change, they experience the loss of biodiversity and higher levels of food and water insecurity. As the world’s poorest countries struggle with these challenges, the World Bank and the United Nations are working to improve conditions.

The World Bank has invested millions to end deforestation as this has a strong influence on the emission of greenhouse gases. The World Bank’s Amazon Region Protected Areas program, or ARPA, keeps forests in Brazil safe from being destroyed. “The program has helped protect around 70 million hectares of rainforest…with a 37% decrease in deforestation between 2004 and 2009,” according to the World Bank.

The World Bank also works closely to protect wildlife and oceans. The loss of biodiversity has influenced the organization’s investment of millions into many countries. In Honduras, the World Bank has protected a species of hummingbirds by stopping the construction of certain roadways. In Namibia, the organization has invested $4.9 million “to help establish a strong platform for governance of the coastal land and seascape and for development of a National Policy on Coastal Management.”

The U.N.’s sustainable development goals find that biodiversity is crucial. “Protecting ecosystems and ensuring access to ecosystem services by poor and vulnerable groups are essential to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. The U.N. brings awareness to these issues by celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22.

Another way the U.N. is taking action is by tackling proper energy use. Utilizing wind energy and solar power eliminates greenhouse gases and pollution. “Powering the Future We Want offers a grant in the amount of one million U.S. dollars to fund future capacity development activities in energy for sustainable development,” according to the U.N. Together, these programs will bring the world closer to creating a sustainable world.

– Kimberly Quitzon

Sources: The World Bank, Shanghai Daily UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Photo: Marty’s Market

In her 2013 TED Talk, marine biologist Jackie Savitz opened the discussion by explaining how, “Saving the ocean is more than an ecological desire, more than an economic pursuit. Saving the ocean can feed the world.”

Savitz recognized the relationship between protecting biodiversity and human life. Fish, according to Savitz, are the most cost-effective food source, require less fresh water than irrigating livestock farms, have an extremely low carbon footprint and require the least amount of land. In addition, fish are a source of protein, especially for people who are malnourished.

In order to utilize fish, however, overfishing must first be combated. The world catch continues to decrease every year due to equipment that destroys habitats and increases bycatch. Furthermore, there are a lack of quotas and habitat sanctuaries for fish to reproduce.

In 2012, after reading a publication in The Boston Globe about seafood fraud, Sen. Edward Markey was inspired to address the issue.

In March of 2013, Markey proposed the Safety and Fraud Enforcement Act, or SAFE Seafood Act, to Congress.

This Act, which has been largely championed by Oceana, would implement efforts to ensure the traceability of fish such as increased inspections, standardized naming and better interagency coordination.

Just before the legislation was proposed, Oceana released a study finding that one-third of the 1,215 fish samples they tested were mislabeled.

In addition to mislabeling, over fishing is a huge problem that Savitz suggested needs to be addressed as the solution for world hunger.

Savitz believed that environmental work and humanitarian work are not competing forces but rather complimentary to one another. By focusing on saving the oceans and replenishing fish, food availability would also be increased for a growing population of malnourished people.

Savitz said that saving the ocean can in fact save the world’s hungry.

To create awareness surrounding the bill, Oceana introduced a petition that several celebrity chefs, such as Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali, signed.

Oceana is still extremely dedicated to passing the bill, as it will not only better the earth, but also those who inhabit it and suffer from hunger.

– Heather Klosterman

Sources: TED Talks, Oceana 1, Oceana 2
Photo: The Animals

As the world’s population rises, food security declines. The lack of nutrient-rich foods persists across the globe, as land cannot support certain crops due to rising temperatures and unsustainable practices.

In United States grocery stores, the lack of diversity in fruits and vegetables mirrors the lack of diversity globally. “Biodiversity warrior” Cary Fowler reports that 7,100 varieties of apples existed in the U.S. in the 1800’s;  today, 6800 of these species are now extinct.

Why not save the best varieties of crops?

Certain crops could offer traits adaptable to climate change, but may not seem economically viable now. However, in this era of climate change, such options become necessary.

Crop diversity serves as the biological foundation of food; however, this foundation collapses as temperatures rise. To protect this foundation, Fowler and other researchers collect and preserve seeds in a “seed bank” for plant researchers.

Research on these preserved seeds must continue in order to place crops ready for climate change in the fields. In recent years, however, conflict in regions like Iraq and Afghanistan threatened the security of seed banks.

Who bears the burden of climate change?

According to Fowler, the coldest growing seasons will become significantly hotter than the hottest in the past. Climate change affects sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia more than any other regions. Consequently, the burden of rising temperatures falls on the most impoverished regions in the world. At this time, crops in these regions cannot adopt to these mounting burdens of climate change.

In addition, greater variability in precipitation and the delayed onset of seasons induce “climate shocks.” These shocks could threaten plant growth and, consequently, the food security of families across Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Fowler predicts a 30% decrease in the production of maize in South Africa by 2030. Maize provides 50% of the nutrition in South Africa currently.

The “mass extinction” of biodiversity does not garner the attention it needs, notes Fowler, because biodiversity seems like an environmental issue, not a human one. However, with climate change posing a significant threat to the biodiversity of crops, food production may need to increase by 70% globally–and nearly 100% in developing countries–by 2050.

Fowler asserts that if crop diversity is not addressed, “we will watch children starve to death on television.”

– Ellery Spahr

Sources: National Geographic Magazine, TED, Scientific and Development Network
Photo: HPJC

Swaziland, a small landlocked country in Southeast Africa, is considered a lower middle-income country. However, poverty is rampant in its rural areas, where two-thirds of the population are unable to meet their basic food needs and per capita income is four times lower than in urban areas. Wealth distribution is also severely skewed. The top 10% of the population account for almost half of overall consumption, and this discrepancy is growing.

The government and aid organizations have found that supporting small-scale farmers helps combat rural poverty in Swaziland. The country’s economy is largely based in agriculture, though the nature of the industry is dichotomous. On on hand, there are TDL (Title Deed Land) farms: large-scale, privately owned commercial farms that specialize in cash crops such as sugarcane, citrus fruits, and timber. On the other hand, there are SNL (Swazi Nation Land) farms. These small-scale farms are made up of land owned by the government, which the King grants to regional Chiefs who distribute it as they see fit. They are almost all subsistence farms of about one hectare and make up the large majority of Swazi farmland.

The heavy dependence on subsistence farming renders the stability of the country and the well-being of its citizens reliant on weather conditions, which are unpredictable and recently unkind. Major droughts in 2004, 2005 and 2007 led to severe food insecurity in Swaziland. This insecurity could be minimized if small farms became more profitable by diversifying the crops they grow and farming more efficiently. Because SNL farms are largely subsistence-based, they usually grow only maize. While this provides food to the farmer’s family, it does not yield as much income for the family as perennial products or market vegetables would. Even when growing maize, more efficient techniques could be used to increase yield on these small-scale farms.

There are a few obstacles when is comes to the development of SNLs. For example, SNL farmers are hesitant to invest heavily into their farms because they do not actually own the land, and Chiefs have the right to take it from them as they see fit. Even if these farmers are willing to invest in their land, financing is difficult to come by. Formal financing programs often leave small farmers out of the equation, so they don’t have access to the necessary funds to invest in their land. Another complication concerns the way cattle are treated in Swazi culture. Cattle are given free rein of the land around them. They roam liberally and may graze anywhere without direct cost to the cattle owner. This leads to overgrazing, which create problems like soil erosion and land degradation — all of these make life difficult for farmers.

The Swazi government’s Ministry of Agriculture is working to revamp the country’s agricultural system with support from the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development. The commercialization of Swazi agriculture is seen as a means to decrease poverty and increase food security, especially in rural areas. Another goal of this policy is to create a more equal balance of wealth between the country’s rich and poor. They plan to complete this overhaul of the agricultural sector of the economy by writing and enforcing necessary legislation, and commercializing and diversifying smaller farms. As these smaller farms become more efficient and profitable, they would then hire more workers and be in need of transport and trading services. In these ways, the growing farms would further contribute to Swaziland’s overall economy.

While the development of SNL farms is not expected to solve Swaziland’s rural poverty problem completely, it is an excellent example of a poverty-reducing measure that empowers the people.

– Katie Fullerton

Source: IFAD Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank, IFAD Rural Poverty in Swaziland, IFPRI
Photo: The Prisma

Development and the Environment

A new project, initiated by UNDP with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been launched in Cambodia in order to better integrate biodiversity conservation into tourism, forestry, agriculture, fishing, and hunting.

Currently, In the northern plains of Cambodia, biodiversity faces threats from overexploitation, in particular from uncontrolled commercial hunting, logging, and destructive fishing practices. Rural communities depend on ecosystem goods and services as a means for financial sustenance, and as biodiversity comes under threat from the overexploitation, the survival and well-being of the communities are left at risk.

In partnership with the Royal Government of Cambodia and Wildlife Conservation Society (WSC), the UNDP and the GEF are utilizing the project to promote eco-tourism initiatives that generate income for local communities. One project that is part of the initiative is the Tmatboey project, which focuses on a community-managed approach to eco-tourism. The northern plains of Cambodia play host to a community of large mammals and wetland birds that are found nowhere else in the world. By using the endangered and extremely rare giant and White-shouldered ibis birds as a tourist attraction, the program has established a local tourism enterprise that is using the revenue as an incentive for the local community to protect the wildlife.

WCS drew up land-use guidelines. Locals agreed not to hunt the birds, and in return, they would receive assistance with developing tourism. Yin Sary, a former poacher who now works as a tour guide in the Tmatboey project, said, “Eating a bird, I can only fill my family’s stomach once, but guiding tourists to see the bird I get $5 each time. Our community is earning thousands of dollars showing the same birds over and over again.”

With the Tmatboey project, WCS and local NGO partners established a training program for community members that taught them how to work as a tour guide and maintain accommodations. As tourism bookings increased more than 25% annually over the first four years, there were major reductions in the hunting and trade of wildlife species. The income that the village has received from tourism has benefitted the entire community, through investments in community development projects, agricultural support, road improvements and the construction of new wells.

As a result of its huge success, the Tmatboey Ibis project won the Wild Asia Foundation’s prize as the best community-based eco-tourism initiative. Cambodia’s Ministry of Environment has subsequently requested that another six sites be sourced and developed for nature-based tourism.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: UNDP, WCS
Photo: The Richest