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Poverty Reduction in Brazil
The COVID-19 pandemic placed a lot of countries in difficult positions regarding their economies and poverty rates. Those already struggling were unable to make progress, and in some cases, poverty rates even increased due to the stress the pandemic placed on society. Brazil is just one of the many countries facing an increase in poverty today. However, five strategies exist to progress poverty reduction in Brazil.

About Poverty in Brazil

Before the pandemic, Brazil already faced difficulties in the country with many lower-class citizens facing extreme poverty. Since 2014, the poverty rate grew steadily, and by the beginning of 2020, almost 11% of the population of Brazil was living on a statistically meager amount every day. Because of the pandemic, about an estimated 13% of Brazil finds itself in poverty as of March 2021. In order to combat the rising poverty rates throughout Brazil, there are certain steps that the country can take. Here are five strategies to progress poverty reduction in Brazil after the COVID-19 pandemic.

5 Strategies to Progress Poverty Reduction in Brazil

  1. A Rise in Vaccination Rates: So far, the vaccination rates in Brazil have remained quite low in comparison to other advanced countries across the globe. Though infection rates in Brazil have not returned to their pandemic peak, cases still tend to rise after they are brought down and the country opens up again. This has proven to be hard on the economy because communities have to continuously lockdown and then reopen time and time again. With a rise in vaccination rates, however, this would no longer have to be the case. As Deloitte Insights pointed out, “Evidence from the United States, for example, shows that consumer sentiment and willingness to spend has gone up with rising vaccinations.”
  2. American Involvement Can Help: The United States is equipped with resources to aid other countries with global poverty relief. Over the past century, other efforts have proved the U.S.’s ability to deliver effective assistance. Kate Schecter wrote for New Security Beat, saying, “There have been notable successes, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which started in 2003.” As the U.S. appears to be recovering financially from the pandemic, it could utilize aid resources to assist other countries’ recoveries as well, including Brazil’s.
  3. A Commitment to Investments Within Local Communities: In order for poverty-stricken communities within Brazil to build themselves up financially, an effort to helping communities create jobs and access to resources remains essential. “These investments can both reduce poverty and mitigate out-migration by reducing ‘push factors,’ such as lack of jobs and food scarcity which force people to leave their homes and seek basic subsistence in other countries,” wrote Schecter.
  4. Open the Economy: Brazil has some of the lowest import and export rates among countries with major economies. In 2017, it recorded a less than 30% GDP sum in terms of imports and exports. International Money Fund (IMF) states that “opening up to more trade is essential to improve competitiveness and could give a much-needed fillip to investment.”
  5. Increased COVID-19 Aid from the Government: During the initial economic blow from the pandemic, the government implemented an emergency aid program to help families in need of financial support. Consequently, poverty levels throughout the country took a dramatic decline. This positively impacted the country, but “the aid program is not sustainable and the positive trend in terms of poverty reduction is likely to reverse once the benefit ends,” based on a study from the think-tank Fundação Getúlio Vargas. A better-supported and considered aid program to mitigate the effects of the pandemic could still reduce the poverty rate with careful planning.

Looking Ahead

The recovery process is still ongoing, but as Brazil continues to improve, it can now look forward to poverty reduction throughout the country. Effectively considering and enacting policies throughout Brazil could alleviate the difficulties of the nation’s poor and reduce poverty broadly.

– Riley Prillwitz
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Vaccinating Maré's favelasDespite Brazil’s largely successful vaccine program, it is only now that Maré, Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of favelas, is experiencing mass vaccination against COVID-19. One thousand professionals vaccinated a significant portion of the population. In schools, “health centers” and other sites, these professionals look to vaccinate upwards of 30,000 people between 18 and 34 throughout the community. Organizer planned to give community members the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was produced by the Fiocruz institute.

Why the Vaccination Drive?

This effort is not permanent and cannot indefinitely supply vaccines. A primary goal of the effort is to conduct a study on the effects of mass vaccinations in such a large complex, which is home to widespread “poverty and violence” and often does not reap the same benefits as wealthier areas of Rio. In Maré, which contains 16 favelas, more than half of the inhabitants are under 30.

Maré has seen about 350 deaths since the pandemic began, but reporting difficulties in many other favelas often means that even official counts are artificially low. The study will utilize genomic sequencing to track variants and will seek to understand vaccine efficacy in the face of the virus evolving. Vaccinating Maré’s favelas stands as a novel move. The study’s uniqueness stems from its size, its target population and its location. Since rapid spreading can lead to a rise in variants, using a favela, rather than a hospital or health unit, is beneficial to research into variants.

Maré’s Social Mobilisation

Along with the program, Maré’s greatest strength in responding to the pandemic has been its social mobilization. Campaigns to reduce the number of deaths work through local media, social networks and word of mouth. The NGO Redes da Maré and the Mare Mobilization Front both work to inform and educate the public.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the COVID-19 in Favelas Unified Dashboard recorded nearly 7,000 COVID-19-related deaths from nearly 100,000 cases. The dashboard focuses on the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. However, cases and deaths are both underreported, and the Unified Dashboard does not cover every favela, meaning that the actual death toll is doubtlessly much greater. For these reasons and more, vaccinating Maré’s favelas remains a key priority.

Understanding the Dashboard

The dashboard began in April 2020 “when grassroots organizations participating in projects organized by Catalytic Communities (CatComm) began to report cases and deaths in virtual meetings of the Sustainable Favela Network (SFN).” CatComm began a reporting initiative through newspapers and word of mouth from community groups themselves. Other methods included individual outreach for data collection, outreach to local health clinics or through WhatsApp, and analysis of available data when accessible.

The initiative gained traction because of a catalyzing unwillingness by the government to “survey favelas.” The dashboard was officially launched on July 7, 2020, according to its website, and has grown with each new press conference surrounding its progress. Campaigns like #VacinaPraFavelaJá have arisen to promote vaccination and have even enlisted figures like cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Looking Forward

While the initiation of the vaccine process is a welcome one to many inhabitants of Maré, it has begun only after countless deaths and governmental neglect. The widespread nature and varied methods of the Unified Dashboard have meanwhile shown how collective action can keep communities afloat even in the absence of sufficient governmental intervention. Moreover, with strong community engagement and growing governmental support, vaccinating Maré’s favelas could lead to a more secure and safe future in due time.

Augustus Bambridge-Sutton
Photo: Unsplash

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Hunger In BrazilBrazil, among other countries, has been ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, suffering one of the highest death tolls in the world at 556,834 people as of August 2021. However, its infection rates are decreasing. The country had 247,830 confirmed cases as of the week of July 26 and more than 133,000,000 vaccine doses administered as of August: a marked improvement from earlier on in the pandemic. Nonetheless, one still-worsening effect of the pandemic in Brazil is hunger.

Hunger in Brazil

Hunger existed in Brazil long before COVID-19 reached the South American nation, where inequality has fueled high rates of poverty and food insecurity. In 2011, despite a relatively high GDP of $10,900 per capita, roughly 16 million Brazilians lived in extreme poverty, and many lacked the income to support an adequate diet.

However, the U.N. World Food Programme’s 2020 Hunger Map, which displays data from 2017-2019, showed positive progress in Brazil. Less than 2.5% of the total population was undernourished, a rate among the lowest in the world.

COVID-19 Worsens Hunger in Brazil

While the U.N. statistics demonstrate positive trends, COVID-19 has exacerbated food insecurity by widening preexisting inequalities in Brazil’s population. For example, the pandemic caused prices of basic food products to increase. Cooking oils, rice and other diet essentials became so expensive that they were essentially impossible to purchase for many families in Brazil. The New York Times pointed out that as of April 2021, a kilogram of rice sold for twice as much as before the pandemic, and cooking oil tripled in price in the same period.

High unemployment rates caused by the pandemic combined with high food prices further increased the rates of hunger. In an interview with Reuters, unemployed worker Rosana de Paula describes the situation among the unemployed. Because of a lack of credit and little to no savings, the sudden disappearance of income from pandemic-related unemployment is devastating, leaving “no way to pay for food,” according to de Paula.

Now, more than a year into the pandemic and with hunger continually worsening in Brazil, the country is back in the “yellow zone” on the U.N.’s Hunger Map. In an interview with The New Humanitarian, the Director of the Center of Excellence Against Hunger said increasing hunger has raised the alarm in Brazil. More than 19 million people, or 9% of the population, are currently food insecure.

Ways the World is Helping Brazil

Despite the hardships the pandemic has created for many Brazilian families, NGOs and other grassroots campaigns have stepped in to alleviate the hunger crisis. Food campaigns across the country have offered support and resources, distributing meals to millions of Brazilian families. Anyone worldwide can donate to these anti-hunger campaigns to help curb the high demand for food and other necessities that the pandemic has exacerbated.

Rebecca Fontana
Photo: Flickr

Brazil's Quilombola communitiesBrazil’s Quilombola communities consist of Africans and Afro-descended people who escaped slavery and established remote mountain communities called quilombos. In 2020, these communities were spread across Brazil and numbered close to 6,000 in total. Brazil brought in more than four million slaves from Africa over the course of its colonial history, only ending the practice when Brazil became the last country in the Americas to ban slavery in 1888. Unfortunately, the legacy of slavery persists as many descendants of enslaved people still live in poverty. Brazil’s Quilombola communities suffer a poverty rate nearly three times that of the country as a whole — 75% compared with about 25% for the country overall, according to 2018 government data.

The Inter-American Foundation in Brazil

The Inter-American Foundation (IAF) began in 1969, giving grants to grassroots projects working to improve poverty, sustainability, resource management, entrepreneurial skills, leadership, civil rights and more across Latin America and the Caribbean. The IAF currently has 343 active projects across 26 countries, investing more than $100 million in these development initiatives.

Brazil is a large beneficiary of IAF grants, with 27 active projects running as of July 2021. Brazil received its first IAF grant in 1972. IAF investment in these projects totals about $7 million and has directly benefited more than 25,700 people in Brazil. The projects work in a variety of areas, from fighting food insecurity and poverty to providing housing and job training to Venezuelan refugees.

AQUIPP and Quilombola Communities

One of the IAF’s many active projects in Brazil is a grant given to the Associação Quilombola do Povoado Patioba (AQUIPP). AQUIPP fulfills a variety of needs for Brazil’s Quilombola communities, especially when it comes to improving the lives of youth. The association provides educational workshops for young Quilombola people that focus on improving their chances of finding employment, leadership roles in the face of discrimination and strengthening their relationships with their Afro-Brazilian heritage. AQUIPP hopes that these young people will go on to become ambassadors outside their local communities, educating others in Brazil and around the world about the importance of Quilombola culture and practices.

AQUIPP and other Quilombola organizations also work in the political and health sectors. As part of their advocacy work on behalf of the Quilombola people, the organizations work with local and national governments to fight discrimination in schools and other public spaces and to protect Quilombola communities’ land rights. In the health sector, AQUIPP plays a key role in providing masks and other personal protective equipment as well as educational information about protection from COVID-19.

The IAF has been supporting AQUIPP’s work in Brazil since 2017. The IAF reports that the efforts of AQUIPP directly benefit 200 people and indirectly benefit an additional 1,000.

Preserving the Future of Quilombola Communities

Brazil’s Quilombola communities remain strong despite centuries of persecution and discrimination both before and after the abolition of slavery in Brazil. Their vibrant Afro-Brazilian traditions of music, dance, clothing, agricultural systems, languages and more, have survived against the odds.

Programs like AQUIPP help amplify Quilombola voices and fight devastatingly high poverty rates in Quilombola communities. With the help of AQUIPP and the IAF’s funding, young Quilombola people can gain access to the education and training they need to acquire well-paying jobs and rise out of poverty.

Julia Welp

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Brazil’s Recent Drought Impacts Coffee and Orange ProductionBrazil is the world’s largest producer of coffee and oranges. The country produces around a third of the world’s coffee and orange supply. In addition, Brazil exports the largest amount of Arabica coffee beans and orange juice. However, with the recent drought in Brazil, the crops that rely on irrigation, such as orange trees and coffee plants, are suffering. Coffee and orange production is declining, impacting the supply chain of both products around the world and putting a heavy burden on Brazilian farmers.

Impact on Coffee and Orange Crops

Brazil is currently facing one of the worst droughts in the country’s history. The agricultural regions in Brazil, particularly the states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais, are generally tropical, but they are suffering from dry soil and scarce water reservoirs. Brazilian farmers started turning on irrigation systems for orange and coffee crops early, in fear of the lack of rainfall and limited water reservoirs with the dry season approaching. However, coffee production is taking even more of a hit due to 2021 being a “limited year.” Coffee production runs on a biennial cycle, meaning while there will be a higher production of coffee during one year, the next year will yield a lower amount of coffee from the same trees.

This year’s crop production indicates that if the drought continues, it will severely impact the orange and coffee supply. The past season’s orange production decreased by 31% in comparison to the last season and estimates project that coffee production for the 2021-2022 crop cycle will drop by the same percentage. More specifically, Arabica coffee may see a decline in production of “between 32.4% and 39.1%.” With coffee trees not receiving enough moisture and orange groves experiencing ripeness inconsistencies, coffee and orange production is decreasing.

Overall Consequences of Drought

With the lack of coffee and orange production, the supply of these crops is limited. Limited supply and high demand are driving up the prices of both products, particularly coffee. The prices going up for these popular crops indicates that the products will be more inaccessible due to expensive price points.  Already, wholesale coffee prices have surged at a record high in comparison to recent years; the rate for Arabica coffee reached almost $1.70 per pound this year, which is a 60% increase from 2020. Along with higher coffee price points, orange prices are expected to rise and there may be an orange juice shortage.

Overall, Brazil is a large agricultural hub, not only producing coffee and oranges but also other vital crops, such as sugar cane and corn. Therefore, “the drought is also hurting key farming states, at a time when the agricultural sector has been driving Brazil’s economic recovery, with growth of 5.7% in the first quarter.” However, the drought not only affects the supply chain but also the farmers themselves. Farmers are selling coffee for very low prices and have had to even renegotiate prices with traders. The drought negatively affects everyone in the supply chain, however, farmers and their families depend on the income they get from selling crops.

The MAIS Program Provides a Solution

While there is no solution to directly combat the drought in Brazil, there are organizations that help farmers with agricultural technology and even an organization that helps farmers when it comes to climate crises. The MAIS Program uses different strategies in order “to help farmers plan for drought-intensive periods.” Some of its initiatives include modules with the ability to provide income to farmers with technical assistance. The organization provides solutions to farmers, including using the Opuntia-ficus cactus “as a substitute for corn and a biophysical water and food storage system” and planting drought-resistant trees. This program is designed to help farmers adapt to changes in weather and ensure food security in Brazil.

Every dollar that goes into the program generates $7 in the Jacuipe Basin of Brazil, among other impacts. Programs like MAIS help farmers deal with the impact of weather on crops, including the drought in Brazil that is affecting coffee and orange production.

– Karuna Lakhiani
Photo: Pixabay

investing in BrazilThere are numerous reasons to invest in foreign aid in general. That can include partaking in growing the global economy, promoting international human rights and opening donor countries to potential investment returns. What makes Brazil a particularly good market to invest in is its promising role in the global economy. There are several reasons why investing in Brazil is beneficial.

COVID-19 Response

As of January 2021, Brazil has the third-most COVID-19 cases worldwide. The Brazilian economy was not in its best shape at the start of the pandemic because it has not fully recovered from the 2014-2015 recession. This made the economy vulnerable to precarious economic shocks that resulted in increased poverty, unemployment and small business fragility.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left countries like Brazil with possible lasting economic damages. Many emerging and developing countries rely heavily on foreign aid for financial and humanitarian support. Offering foreign aid to Brazil will not only help pave the way for a domestic post-COVID recovery but also alleviate some of the negative impacts of the pandemic through humanitarian benefits.

Diversified Opportunities in Emerging Markets

The Brazilian economy is classified as an emerging market. Emerging markets are economies that are transitioning into a developed economy. Since the launch of the MSCI Emerging Market (EM) Index in 1988, which measures portfolio performances of emerging markets, investing in emerging countries proved to create new and diversified opportunities outside of common markets.

Market Expansion and Economic Growth

Since 2016, Brazil has shown an increase in GDP growth with approximately a 1.3% increase. In 2020, Brazil fell back into recession because of COVID-19. However, Brazil’s economy displayed growth and has played an important role in the growth of the Latin American economy as it makes up 35% of the Latin American GDP. It is approximated that the Brazilian market reaches 900 million consumers in just the Americas.

On how quickly the Brazilian economy rebounded, Bloomberg reports boosted domestic demand and exports with a 9.47% rise in economic activity index from July to September of 2020 in comparison to the previous months.

As Brazil recovers from COVID-19’s economic impact, it leaves opportunity for foreign investors to take advantage of Brazil’s growing market, especially with its low interests. Some of Brazil’s profitable sectors include real estate and agricultural goods like coffee, sugar cane, corn and soybean. Participating in these sectors expands Brazil’s domestic market and hence the world market size.

Geographical Location

Especially for the United States, Brazil’s proximity allows easier trade. For other advantages, Brazil’s geographical properties for the agriculture sector also make its commodities attractive. Approximately 28.7% of land is used for agricultural production which makes up more than 4% of the annual Brazilian GDP. Following China, the United States and Australia, Brazil has the fourth-most amount of agricultural land.

Foreign Investment Returns

Encouraging enterprises to invest in foreign aid can ultimately result in great returns. A common type of foreign aid for these corporations is Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Through FDIs, corporations can potentially gain lasting interests, multinational consumers and flexible production costs. This type of foreign aid also brings developing countries like Brazil innovative technology, investment strategies, jobs and infrastructure from investing corporations of developed nations.

Foreign investment is critical to developing and emerging markets. Investing in Brazil promotes development and sustainability and also benefits foreign investors greatly. Furthermore, foreign investment assists economic recovery following unforeseen economic shocks like that of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malala Raharisoa Lin
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Latin America ReducesLatin America is a vast region with diverse weather, geography, culture and foods. Each year, millions of tourists flock to Latin America to enjoy its natural beauty. A vacation haven, tourism in Latin America is a driving force for economic development in the region. Furthermore, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty.

Tourism in Latin America

From the beaches of Cuba to the Andes mountains in Peru, any traveler can find a destination of their preference. The most visited countries in Latin America are Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. According to the World Bank, more than 113 million tourists traveled to Latin America in 2018, bringing $103 billion worth of revenue. Tourism in Latin America has created more than 15 million jobs, which accounts for 7.6% of all employment. Furthermore, international tourism contributes roughly $348 billion to the GDP of the countries in the region.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Central America saw a 7.3% growth in its tourism sector, the biggest subregional growth in Latin America. Moreover, the country of Costa Rica has attracted millions of international visitors thanks to its ecotourism. Costa Rica is a leader in preserving its environment while attracting millions to come and enjoy its natural beauty. Beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and wildlife attract tourists which contributes to the economic development of the nation. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences correlates ecotourism with improving the lives of Costa Ricans. The study found those living near protected areas and parks saw a 16% reduction in poverty. Furthermore, tourism in the country accounts for 5% of the GDP.

Poverty Reduction in the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is the dream destination for many, with captivating views of the ocean and exciting nightlife, the beach town welcomes 60% of all Dominican Republic’s tourists. Moreover, the country has benefited more from international tourism than any other Latin American nation. The tourism industry contributes to 9.5% of the island nation’s GDP. Even though poverty is still an issue for the country, extreme poverty decreased to 1.6% of the population in 2018. Furthermore, malnourishment has also decreased and life expectancy has increased. Tourism has steadily contributed to the well-being of Dominicans.

COVID-19 and Mexico

Mexico’s tourism is very important for its economy. Mexico is dependent on its tourism sector since it accounts for 16.1% of its GDP and employs nearly nine million people. Destinations such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo are very popular for tourists to visit. Furthermore, Mexico’s tourism was thriving until the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to the country. The pandemic brought a halt to tourism and hurt the economy of Mexico. Nonetheless, Mexico still manages to keep the industry alive. Mexico began to limit hotel and restaurant capacity to curtail the virus. Mexico is also working with the CDC to ensure U.S. travelers going back to the United States are returning uninfected. Even though tourism has decreased because of the pandemic, flights to the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun and Tulum are located, were averaging 460 air arrivals compared to an average of 500 pre-pandemic.

Tourism and the Future

Tourism in Latin America has positively impacted many lives across the region. The U.N. acknowledges that tourism is a way for a developing country to economically sustain itself. Moreover, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty. Challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic put a setback to the growing tourism sector. Regardless, Latin America has an abundance of beauty and adventure, thus ensuring tourism will be kept alive once the pandemic is over.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

the Amazon's River PeopleDeforestation is regularly spoken of on a global scale. Most people understand that deforestation, the removal of trees and plants, may seem beneficial to the global economy, but the positive effects disappear in the long term. Climate change is a looming negative externality. It also impacts our health directly. Deforestation correlates with an increase in disease and a decrease in immunity as natural remedies become scarce. One study found that around 30% of disease outbreaks were caused by deforestation of the surrounding areas. The impact of deforestation on a global scale may be hard to calculate. However, the effects of deforestation on the ribereño, the Amazon’s river people, puts deforestation in perspective.

Who Are the Ribereños?

The ribereños, also known as the river people or riverine peasants, live along the riverbanks of the Amazon. Their communities live apart from the rest of civilization in the forests of Peru and Brazil. The Amazon’s river people are self-dependent; they operate their own education, health, food supply and water supply systems. The ribereños are rather adaptable to the behaviors of the Amazon river and forest. Over the years, they have learned how to use their resources sustainably.

The Effects of Deforestation on Ribereños

Unfortunately, deforestation has increased hunger among the Amazon’s river people. These riverine communities rely primarily on fishing during lower tides and hunting during high-water seasons. Both of these resources have decreased over the last decade due to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The removal of the trees decreases natural resources, so hunting and food gathering have become less and less effective in supporting these populations. Furthermore, there is a link between deforestation and more frequent runoffs, baseflow reductions, erosion and pesticide-contaminated water.

Additionally, developers use forest fires for deforestation in Brazil. As a result, the air quality has worsened, putting the Amazon’s river people at higher risk of respiratory disease. In the time of COVID-19, this could be detrimental to the ribereños. Their only way to receive medical treatment is to travel by boat, for hours or even days. Therefore, any new disease or increase in illness has the potential to end in mass deaths.

Fighting Deforestation in Amazonia

The effects of deforestation of the Amazon have changed drastically in recent years. According to Professor Bratman, the author of Governing the Rainforest: Sustainable Development in the Brazilian Amazon, the ribereño population has been rather vocal about their struggles. “Deforestation went hand in hand with threats to their land and livelihood. Ranchers and loggers were moving onto the land on which the ribereños have lived on for generations, claiming that they actually have the right to take it,” explains Bratman. She saw how the Amazon’s river people united against deforestation and caused a spike in media attention. They are not helpless, but they do need the help of others. Bratman stated it is important to help the ribereños “keep the issue in the news. Support the organizations on the ground doing the work. It is important to be environmentally aware because it’s all of our future at stake.”

Thankfully, several organizations are working to help the riverside communities of Amazonia. The main actors are the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature), Environmental Defense Fund and Green Peace. These organizations focus on generally fighting deforestation and on helping the ribereños survive their changing environment.

The Amazon’s river people are staying vocal and so are the organizations helping them. Brazilian deforestation has headlined numerous international newspapers, putting pressure on the Brazilian government. The main way to help the riverside communities of Amazonia is to continue the discussion.

Anna Synakh
Photo: flicker

Poverty in the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rainforest, covering about 40% of Brazil as well as parts of several other South African countries, is the largest, most biodiverse river basin in the world. It used to span nearly 2,300,000 square miles and is the drainage basin for the Amazon River. As Brazil’s population boomed in the 20th century, forest degradation ensued, causing rapid loss of vegetation and animal life. Read on to learn how poverty in the Amazon rainforest plays a major role in historical and contemporary fights for preservation.

The World’s Oldest Garden

Contrary to several outdated misconceptions, the indigenous people who first inhabited the Amazon rainforest were highly intelligent. They built complex structures to sustain cities of millions of people as well as cultivated the forest, much like a garden.

For over 8,000 years, indigenous communities favored certain trees, such as the brazil nut and cocoa bean, eventually domesticating such plants and allowing them to flourish. The soil in the Amazon is not suitable for this sort of cultivation, but indigenous peoples created their own fertilizer. This allowed millions of people to inhabit the forest along major waterways.

The Introduction of Disease

In 1541, Francisco de Orellana explored along the Amazon River, taking detailed notes in his journal about the many advanced civilizations he observed along the riverbanks. Sadly, the civilizations he witnessed were already being wiped out due to European diseases brought over decades before. As more extensive settlement took place a decade later, the civilizations Orellana saw were almost completely gone due to disease.

The settlement and exploitation of the Amazon remained fairly minimal until the rubber boom in the mid-1800s. The rubber boom ushered in an era of enslavement and genocide of the indigenous people, removing almost all of the indigenous communities from the Amazon rainforest.

A President with a Corrupt Agenda

The destruction of the Amazon rainforest directly correlates with the man in power, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro took office in January 2019, and the increase in slash and burn tactics in the forest has skyrocketed since. By August of 2019, Brazil saw nearly two times as many fires in the entirety of 2018. This is the highest level of deforestation the Amazon has seen since 2008. Swaths almost 4,000 square miles larger than Yellowstone Park have burned to the ground because of Bolsonaro’s policies. A large part of his election campaign revolved around the promise of exploiting the Amazon to improve Brazil’s struggling economy.

Circumstances for Unavoidable Poverty

Poverty in the Amazon rainforest has become nearly unavoidable due to conditions created by the people in power. Brazil is the world’s main exporter of beef and the most convenient way to keep up this exportation is to utilize slash and burn agriculture to quickly create spaces for cattle ranchers to take advantage of.

Although this may sound like it stimulates the economy and helps these low-income farmers, the Amazon rainforest provides resources that once depleted, cannot be replaced. These ranchers will never be able to escape their impoverished conditions because the burned forest land becomes useless so quickly. The poor indigenous communities suffer from poverty in the Amazon rainforest as do the poor ranchers. Both groups are trying to get by, but burning down the forest has no substantial or long-lasting benefits.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Although the destruction of the Amazon is daunting, there are several nonprofits working to preserve this biological gem and the people that depend on it. International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs and Amazon Conservation Team both prioritize supporting the indigenous people and environmental activists. Poverty in the Amazon rainforest unfortunately often falls upon the indigenous people, which is why these organizations are so critical in advocacy for the people who need it the most.

Rainforest Trust and Amazon Conservation Association are two more groups that prioritize tree restoration. Amazon Conservation Association has successfully planted more than 275,000 trees to date and Rainforest Trust has saved more than 23 million acres of the Amazon. With such a rich history and international importance, poverty in the Amazon rainforest cannot be ignored.

These are just a few of the many outstanding organizations working to save the rainforest from a corrupt government. Moving forward, it is essential that these organizations continue their work to conserve the Amazon rainforest and help reduce poverty for those living there.

Natalie Tarbox
Photo: Unsplash

Health and Human Rights of RefugeesOne of the most important factors in beating the coronavirus is ensuring that everybody has access to public health. According to The New Humanitarian, this has pushed numerous governments to double down on their efforts to protect the health and human rights of refugees, migrant workers and asylum seekers who may have not been able to afford access to these services pre-COVID.

In March as the worldwide outbreaks quadrupled and human rights organizations around the world urged governments the dangers the coronavirus would impose on refugees and asylum seekers. The World Health Organization, the UNHCR and several other organizations put out a joint press release that pressured governments to release migrants and undocumented individuals from immigration detention centers as well as include them in public health relief efforts. Here are three countries that have prioritized protecting the health and human rights of refugees during COVID-19. They show that these policies could be sustained even beyond the crisis.

Countries Protecting the Health and Human Rights of Refugees During COVID-19

  1. Italy: Italy has one of the highest infection rates with 238,159 confirmed cases and 34,514 deaths. Italy’s fields have also attracted migrant workers from Eastern Europe. On May 13, the Italian government passed an amnesty law allowing around 200,000 migrant workers and undocumented refugees to apply for healthcare and 6-month legal residency permits. The downside of this new step is that the bill only applies to agricultural workers, leaving out many of the workers in the informal sector who perform labor in construction or food services.
  2. Portugal: Migrants and asylum seekers in Portugal with applications that are still in process are now being granted early access to public services that include welfare, rental contracts, bank accounts and national health service. Claudia Veloso, the spokesperson for Portugal’s chapter of the Ministry of International Affairs, told Reuters that “people should not be deprived of their rights to health and public service just because their application has not been processed yet.”
  3. Brazil: Brazil has the highest rate of outbreaks second to the United States, and President Jair Bolsonaro has continuously dismissed the severity of the virus and failed to respond effectively to outbreaks. So, it has fallen to local community organizations, donors and local authorities to enforce these regulations and double down on the effort to get everybody treated. The Paraisópolis community group started running a quarantine center in partnership with health workers, NGOs and medical centers. The center has around 240 volunteers monitoring the health of at least 50 families at a time. It acquired sanitation supplies and personal protection equipment through crowdfunding. The group is providing food and medical aid to undocumented migrants.

Amnesty International stated that in order to fix the refugee crisis “the world urgently needs a new, global plan based on genuine international cooperation and a meaningful and fair sharing of responsibilities.” Policy experts are hopeful that these new policies will help governments to consider new possibilities for a more humane approach to helping displaced migrants and asylum seekers in the future. The health and human rights of refugees need to be protected.

Isabel Corp
Photo: Flickr