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Where is the Northern Triangle?
With a long history of political and economic instability, the Northern Triangle has provided little reason for citizens to stay. Where is the Northern Triangle? This emigration haven lies in Central America and comprises of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Causes of Emigration

In short, the main emigration drivers in the NTCA involve political corruption (due to past wars and ongoing greed), economic instability (due to droughts and poor trade practices), gang violence (related to lack of educational and rehabilitation programs) and family matters (attributed to desired remittance and reunification with distant family).

The NTCA’s past, current and potential (up-for-office) political officials consistently squander the countries’ limited funds for personal advancement at the cost of its people. These authoritarian countries recently switched to democratic rule, but its leaders lack the experience and morale necessary to implement a well-running democracy. Low tax rates and lack of direction prevent subsidization of social, civil, health-related and educational programs and protection agencies vital to the NTCA’s transition to a safe, thriving region.

Since 2014, the U.S.A.’s Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has collaborated with the NTCA to fund over $315 million of specialized programs improving tax administration, youth workforce and public-private markets across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Efforts from the MCC help the 25 percent of youth who do not work or attend school in these countries. As of 2017, nearly 60 percent of youth who do work do so informally or unregulated by the government.

Crime Management, Informal Work and Gangs

Beyond educational and vocational pitfalls, these countries possess poor crime management. NTCA homicide rates have decreased since 2014, but they remain higher than the global average. The Atlantic Council reports 75 percent of NTCA citizens as doubting their judicial systems’ ability to protect them. This primarily stems from the nearly active gang violence and 95 percent of homicides that go unsolved in these countries. According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, six children flee to the U.S. per every 10 homicides in the Northern Triangle. This leads to the separation of families and greater difficulty in establishing long-lasting labor practices in these countries.

Informal work is another causal factor of emigration as people search for better financial opportunities. The U.S. is such a major destination for these emigrants, it is no wonder many U.S. Americans might ask “Where is the Northern Triangle?” In fact, in the first five months of FY2019, authorities apprehended about 26,937 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) and 136,150 families at the U.S.-Mexican border, with nearly 47 percent of UACs and 49 percent of families, 25 percent of UACs and 38 percent of families and 11.5 percent of UACs and 9 percent of families coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, respectively. These emigrants inadvertently create financial burdens, safety threats and attention deficits in the U.S.

UACs pose a huge threat to U.S. borders because of their use by gang members. U.S. immigration legislation, like Obama’s catch-and-release policy and the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), allow gangs to get around policies involving UACs. Gangs make about $1,500 per smuggled child in border regions that they control and oftentimes convert UACs into gang members once they settle in U.S. territory. In return, alien-driven crime and the U.S. opioid epidemic continue to implode. Furthermore, transnational government corruption with cartel commerce continues.

According to U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA), the State Department gave Congress an incomplete watch-list of criminal Northern Triangle government officials as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 required. Thus, skepticism surrounds U.S. and NTCA political ties in criminal activity. Overall, government corruption and U.S. immigration policy loopholes remain pressing obstacles to boosting the workforce and prosperity of the Northern Triangle.

US Humanitarian Efforts

Fortunately, many U.S. humanitarian efforts positively impact life in the Northern Triangle. Notably, in the Plan Columbia (PC) of 1999, the U.S. gave Columbia $10 billion for economic and anti-narcoterrorist efforts. In return, Columbia acts as a key trader with the U.S. and a facilitator of progression tactics in NTCA. Similarly, the U.S. derived the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) of 2006 that supports Northern Triangle involvement in commerce and exposure to retail chains.

The U.S. also works with the Inter-American Development Bank to fund a billion-dollar improvement strategy written by the NTCA presidents. Within this strategy, called the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, the three presidents provide strategic pillars and action plans to put outside funds to effective use. Additionally, the U.S. works with Mexican and Northern Triangle governments through the U.S.-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act to improve security at the NTCA-Mexico border.

Outside of government action, several international organizations aid in Central American projects that chip away at NTCA poverty and political issues. Action Aid largely focuses on anti-poverty efforts in the NTCA. Care International, CHF International and Center for International Private Enterprise assist the NTCA with crime reduction and community support, youth education and empowerment and educated civilian political involvement, respectively.

Assistance from humanitarian groups and relationships with American countries help NTCA leaders impose more effective government policies and citizen-focused programs. With expertise and financial aid from more developed countries, the new democratic leaders can grow with the young workforce to build a long-lasting, more-trusting culture in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

In return, a reduction in emigration, the ongoing gang turmoil and behind-the-scenes narco relations can help lead to a more sustainable Northern Triangle. Increased focus on the source of NTCA emigration and continued assistance might alleviate the inquisitive question, “Where is the Northern Triangle?”

– Caroline Bell
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Global Poverty with Affordable HousingA home serves as protection from the weather. It is the place from which individuals, families and communities grow. Sometimes it is the only four walls where people can let down their guards and be themselves. It is where they can afford to dream. Yet, 1.6 billion people across the globe cannot afford a safe place to live. They may have some semblance of a house, but they do not have a home. Without adequate, affordable housing, global poverty projects can only go so far. Here are five incredible organizations fighting global poverty with affordable housing, from the ground up.

5 Organizations Providing Affordable Housing in Vulnerable Areas

  1. New Story: A Home in 24 Hours
    New Story is a San Francisco-based nonprofit determined to end global homelessness. Since 2015, the organization has helped build 2,200 homes across Latin America. But for New Story, this wasn’t fast enough. The nonprofit partnered with ICON, a construction technology company. This partnership created a 3-D home printer that can build a house in 24 hours for roughly $4,000. For 80 percent of Salvadorans who lack adequate housing and are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and flooding, this technology could transform their lives. New Story and ICON plan to build the first printed community in El Salvador, bringing safe housing to over 400 individuals.
  2. CARE International: Rebuilding After Disaster
    In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan killed approximately 6,430 Filipinos and destroyed one million homes. Depending on the year, millions of people worldwide become homeless due to natural disasters. Despite such destruction, the only choice is to rebuild. CARE, a humanitarian organization operating in 93 countries, stepped in after Typhoon Haiyan to help Filipinos reconstruct their lives. Over the course of three years, CARE helped over 15,500 homeless families rebuild their communities.
  3. EarthEnable: Safe Housing From the Ground Up
    Fighting global poverty with affordable housing requires a different approach in each country. Though people may have access to affordable housing (defined as less than 30 percent of one’s income), that housing may not even be safe. The nonprofit EarthEnable focuses on the adequate side of affordable housing, making sub-standard homes more standard. Three out of four Rwandans and one billion people worldwide live in homes with dirt floors that house parasites and disease. These are conditions which cause diarrhea, respiratory illness and other serious health conditions. EarthEnable employs Rwandans and teaches them how to replace dirt floors with earthen floors, which are waterproof, sanitary and cost 75 percent less than concrete flooring. So far, earthen floors have been installed in 2,300 homes in Rwanda. This is yet another way that people are coming together and fighting global poverty with affordable housing.
  4. World Habitat: Advocating for Change
    World Habitat is an advocacy organization based in the U.K. charity that together global institutions, national governments, grassroots organizations and local communities to figure out solutions to affordable housing. Every year, the nonprofit hosts the World Habitat Awards, which highlight and celebrate innovative housing solutions. Additionally, the event gifts two winners with $10,000. It is imperative to be on the ground, building affordable houses and rebuilding after a disaster, but it is also necessary to raise awareness and foster housing collaboration across the globe. “There is no shortage of housing problems,” explains World Habitat founder Peter Elderfield. “What is needed are solutions.”
  5. TECHO: Cities that Benefit Everyone
    In 1997, TECHO was a group of students committed to eradicating poverty in Chilean slums. Over 20 years later, TECHO has mobilized over one million volunteers. In fact, TECHO has built 115,000 houses across Latin America. According to U.N.-Habitat estimates, 80 percent of Latin Americans live in cities Of that population, 104 million live in informal settlements or slums. TECHO’s youth-led, community-based approach has been extremely effective. The nonprofit works with individual communities to address their specific needs, whether it be better access to basic services, safe and adequate housing, land ownership support or all of the above.

Making Access to Affordable Housing a Human Right

Fighting global poverty with affordable housing requires solutions at all levels, from local communities to humanitarian organizations and national governments. These five organizations illustrate that adequate, affordable housing is at the crux of global poverty issues. Not only must affordable housing become a priority, but it must also be a basic human right.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Flickr

CARE International

From Europe to Everywhere

CARE International is one of the foremost aid organizations in the world. It has a long and distinguished history, having been established in 1945 to help survivors of World War II in Europe. Today, CARE operates in more than 90 countries, runs 1,033 projects that serve more than 80 million people, and holds more than $584,161 in financial resources.

The beginnings of CARE were very different than the organization that exists today. Many people today may not realize that the term care package, now part of the everyday English lexicon, began as a registered trademark of CARE—an acronym that originally stood for “Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe.”

But CARE—which now stands for “Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere”—has changed dramatically over its more than 70 years of operation. Not only has it grown in size, but it has also changed focus. While CARE started by sending commodities to hungry people in Europe, it has evolved into an organization that is both more global and more local, both broader and more focused.

International and Local

One of the biggest changes CARE has undergone since its inception is a change in scale. In 1979, CARE changed its name to Care International and transitioned from a U.S. organization to an international organization with 14 branches around the world. While the largest branch is CARE USA in Atlanta, CARE International’s central headquarters is in Geneva.

At the same time, CARE International has moved away from one-size-fits-all aid, like the CARE package, and toward locally focused aid. It makes an effort to hire employees from the localities that receive the benefits of aid projects, so the people tasked with implementing programs have a deep understanding of local needs and obstacles.

In the words of CARE USA’s previous CEO, Helene Gayle, “Now instead of just focusing on the consequences of poverty and lack of access to basic needs, we also focus on the underlying causes… We look at how you have a longer-term impact on the lives of the communities in which we work… and we work not only on relief and emergency situations but continuing from relief to recovery to development, and building resiliency so communities that are affected from time to time by emergencies are able to respond and bounce back better.”

Helping Women and Girls

Gayle, as CEO of CARE USA, ushered in another major change, this one a change of focus. Under her leadership, CARE starting focusing its efforts on women and girls.

This is because, in Gayle’s view, “Girls and women bear the brunt of poverty around the world.” She explains elsewhere, “if women and girls have an opportunity, there’s this catalytic effect. A girl who is educated is more likely to marry later, have fewer children, have a greater economic future for her children, get them into school, etc.”

CARE’s focus on the wellbeing of women and girls has generated impressive results. For instance, in one CARE program in Bangladesh designed to reduce malnutrition in children, aid workers realized that the program was most effective “when households also participated in activities that contributed to women’s empowerment.” CARE began by creating programs to increase educational access to women and fight domestic violence, and the nutrition benefits followed.

CARE International is a storied organization that could have continued along the path it started in 1945. In order to have an impact on a changing world, though, the organization decided to change. In the process, it has provided a lesson in flexible, dynamic global aid work in the 21st century.

-Eric Rosenbaum
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in NigerWomen living in Niger face great adversity due to a lack of education, a prevalence in child marriages, and challenges stemming from conflict. Fortunately, many women are taking steps to ensure a better future for their daughters.

Women and girls in Niger are some of the least educated in the world. Less than a quarter are literate and less than a tenth ever attend secondary school. This is a big deal considering that attending secondary school for a year can mean as much as a 25 percent increase in a woman’s earnings later in life.

Niger has the highest rate of child marriages in the world. Three in four girls under the age of 18 are married. The legal age for marriage in Niger is 15, but various women’s organizations and groups are hoping for the passage of a proposed law that would change the legal age to 18 years.

Aminata Gba Kamara, aged 19, said “Girls in our country need so many things. They need psychological support, they need counseling. Their esteem is very low.” Many women think husbands are needed for protection, and life outside the home is not given much thought, said Kamara.

Protection is a real concern for many, as conflict is a daily fact of life. In the past three years, over 100,000 women and girls have been forced to leave their homes in order to flee from violence perpetrated by the Boko Haram. There are shelters and places of refuge, but women forced into seeking these often fall victim to a cycle of poverty. Most women fleeing from Boko Haram have been traumatized by physical and sexual violence. There is a normalization of discrimination and violence against women and girls on a daily basis.

Even with all these challenges, there are feasible solutions and women’s empowerment in Niger is a large part of it. Change is being implemented from the ground up, and youth are driving it forward. Campaigns have been formed to raise awareness about the issue and boost the self-esteem of women and girls. Tackling the problem of child marriage is important for Niger, as it will increase the number of citizens attending school rather than staying at home.

There are rays of hope for women’s financial empowerment in Niger as well. For instance, a recent push by CARE to help Nigerien women become financially independent via combined insurance policies and female financial groups has been fruitful. The savings groups, called Village Savings and Loan Associations have been a major factor behind women’s financial empowerment, and serves as a base for improving inclusion, health, nutrition, and agricultural productivity.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Vanuatu

Vanuatu is a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, home to just under 300,000 people. From the outside, Vanuatu’s beaches resemble a real-life paradise. However, certain problems plague the nation. The economy is based primarily on small-scale agriculture, as the industry is how roughly two-thirds of Vanuatu’s people earn their living. Finances are a common problem for these people: Vanuatu is one of the least wealthy countries in the world. The problems in Vanuatu are plentiful, but organizations such as CARE are providing a method of how to help people in Vanuatu.

Before one can learn how to help people in Vanuatu, one must have an understanding of the issues. Some of the most important issues that need to be addressed in Vanuatu are poor access to necessities, prevalent discrimination and issues of climate change.

Clean, safe water is one of the necessities that the people of Vanuatu are all too often forced to live without. Two main causes of this problem are that the majority of the population lives in rural areas and that the most recent El Niño in 2016 caused prodigious water shortages. Fortunately, CARE is working to improve the situation. According to their website, “Our water, sanitation and hygiene program rehabilitates community water systems and helps communities with drinking and water planning.” This work is of the utmost importance. Clean water does not simply give people something to drink, it unlocks opportunities in the workplace and education as well.

To help the people of Vanuatu, an effort must be made to end the widespread discrimination that currently exists in the nation. Women are widely discriminated against, like the statistic that over 60 percent of women in Vanuatu have experienced physical or sexual violence shows. CARE is once again working to improve the situation in Vanuatu. To combat this gender discrimination, CARE has started a program to help women obtain the information and resources necessary to increase their self-confidence and be a more active part of Vanuatu’s society. One of the ultimate goals of this program is to help women learn to earn their income and be able to support their families independently without having to rely on men.

CARE is doing a lot of important work in Vanuatu, but there is still a lot left to be accomplished. One way to help the people of Vanuatu is to get involved with CARE. The organization accepts donations, and volunteering at one of the organization’s events, participating in the Walk in Her Shoe challenge or organizing a fundraising event are all highly valuable ways to help the people in Vanuatu.

As people utilize CARE as a means for how to help the people in Vanuatu, the situation should only improve.

Adam Braunstein

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in KosovoThe Republic of Kosovo is a disputed Southeastern European territory nestled in the Balkan Peninsula. Over the last two decades, the country has battled intense civil wars, horrific ethnic cleansings and a fight for freedom that finally culminated in its independence from Serbia (previously Yugoslavia) in 2008. In the early years of its autonomy, Kosovo’s poor economic conditions led the international community to brainstorm ways of how to help people in Kosovo.

As a result, Kosovo was under supervised independence by the International Steering Group until 2012. After 2012, the new country’s economy finally established some semblance of equilibrium. Kosovo held its own elections in 2013 and 2014 for the first time. Since then, their GDP has steadily been on the incline.

Although things are starting to look up for Kosovo, the country is still grappling to stabilize its workforce and job creation. In fact, 30 percent of the population still lives in poverty, 10 percent of which live off less than $1 per day. These discouraging numbers make sense considering the current growth model relies heavily on the remittance of citizens that fled during the war.

However, this strategy cannot be sustained over the long term, especially when the number of migrants leaving Kosovo for neighboring countries is still quite high. Thankfully, there are many charitable organizations and governmental efforts strategizing how to help people in Kosovo. Below are but a few that are doing spectacular things to bolster the Kosovo economy.

The Stabilization Association Agreement

The Stabilization Association Agreement (SAA) could perhaps be the single most influential document in Kosovo’s membership in the European Union. Negotiated in 2013 and 2014, the SAA was signed in 2015 and finally implemented the following year.

The agreement represents a new phase of Kosovo’s relationship with the E.U. and will pave the way for a more stable and prosperous Kosovo by implementing democratic principles and a variety of reforms set in accordance with E.U. standards. These restructurings will not only increase Kosovo’s wealth, but they will also bring the country closer to its goal of joining the European Union.

CARE International

Care International is a nonprofit organization that fights poverty around the world. They also have a specific focus on empowering women and girls. The organization has been working in the Balkans since 1993, providing humanitarian assistance during the worst of the conflict between the Serbs and Albanians. More recently, CARE has been initiating programs to build sustainable peace and development. These programs help to integrate minorities and youth into the job market, two of the largest unemployed groups in the county.

Anyone interested in learning how to help people in Kosovo through CARE need only visit their website, where the organization has a variety of strategies that the average person can act on today to join the fight against global poverty. These strategies include: signing petitions to help protect U.S. foreign aid; information on how to volunteer; and ways to raise money for the world’s most vulnerable populations.

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Established more than 90 years ago by businessman and philanthropist Charles Mott, the foundation’s original purpose was to address the growing economic problems facing Flint, Michigan. As the organization built traction, however, it expanded its efforts to include international initiatives, as well.

For the last several decades, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has been providing assistance to the western Balkans, including Kosovo, through its Civil Society program. In 2008, Mott provided Kosovo with a two-year $50,000 grant to the Kosovo Women’s Network in support of its efforts to ensure that women play an active role in Kosovo’s key political policies.

Although Kosovo is still struggling with high rates of unemployment and fluctuating markets, the nation has demonstrated economic expansion every year since establishing its statehood in 2008. It has been able to accomplish this in part through its constitutional rule of keeping public debt below unsustainable levels and maintaining competitively low corporate tax rates.

The admirable efforts of the governmental reforms and non-profit organizations listed above, and many others like them, also reveal powerful ways of how to help people in Kosovo. Hopefully in the coming years, the combination of these factors will thrust Kosovo into a time of much-deserved economic growth, leaving its painful recent history to fade.

Micaela Fischer

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Asia
According to UNICEF, “In 2015, more than half of all stunted children under five lived in Asia.” Further, the organization notes that the wasting rate in Southern Asia is close to being “a critical public health emergency.” In light of these concerning statistics, research has illuminated how an interdisciplinary female-focused approach to fighting hunger in Asia is the key to success for both child nutrition and the overall health of the community.

Gender inequality is more prevalent in South Asia than other parts of the continent, with a gender inequality index measuring .0536. This is on a scale from 0 being completely equal to 1 being not equal — the ratings in Singapore and The Republic of Korea are 0.088 and 0.125 respectively. Data suggests that improvements in women’s equality may hold the key to reducing South Asia’s current child undernutrition rate of 36%.

Groundbreaking research carried out in 1998 by the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., showed that gender inequality plays a large role in malnutrition.

While analyzing global data, the authors Smith and Haddad showed that improvement in women’s status and improvement in women’s enrollment in secondary education was responsible for over half of the reductions in child malnutrition.

Other major factors, such as food availability and improvements in a health environment, contributed to only 26% and 19% of the malnutrition reductions, respectively.

Further publications such as the World Bank Global Monitoring Report of 2007 highlight how creating diverse opportunities for women can directly combat hunger in Asia. Education benefits child nutrition by increasing access to information for expectant and current mothers and child malnutrition decreases when women have more control of the household’s resources.

Nutrition is not only important for child growth but is also an investment in preventative health. The danger of not supporting female-focused initiatives is potent, due to the foundational importance of nutrition on well-being.

Over 5 million individuals are currently living with HIV in Asia, according to UNAIDS, with 19,000 new infections in children in 2015 alone. In malnourished patients, HIV quickly progresses toward AIDS due to the immune system’s lack of essential nutrients.

Other opportunistic infections, such as tuberculosis, which is present in its “latent” non-active form in one-third of the world’s population, can then thrive in the absence of a functional immune system and can threaten entire communities.

However, focused efforts are being made to improve nutrition with an interdisciplinary approach. CARE International, a U.K. based company, sponsored the Shouhardo Project in Bangladesh to fight child malnutrition through women’s empowerment.

By implementing community initiatives to confront early marriage, prevent violence against women, give more power to women in business transactions and have more political power in the local sphere, outcomes changed.

Before the project began, less than 25% of women reported being involved in decisions to buy or sell family assets, or use savings. At the end of the study period, almost 50% of women were included in such decisions. As a result, the data collected showed a 30% drop in child stunting.

More initiatives in Asia are focusing on women’s role in child well-being, such as the Every Woman Every Child movement, which recently launched a campaign to use mobile phones to educate women on nutrition for their children in India.

India’s Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) has partnered with the Food and Agriculture organization of the U.N. to boost economic opportunities for women in rural areas, with the direct goal of fighting nutrition through such avenues.

These programs are evidence of why female leadership is so important, especially in an area where gender inequality is prominent. As such initiatives develop and are supported, communities will see unprecedented gains in the fight against hunger.

Patrick Tolosky
Photo: Flickr

Refugee Children Demonstrate Hope
“You are not alone, we are with you,” Somali students in the Dadaab refugee camp remind Syrian refugee children in Jordan through an encouraging video made by CARE International.

February of 2014 Care organized a pen pal exchange between Somali and Syrian refugee students, creating hope and messages of solidarity for the children.

According to CARE Kenya employee Mary Muia, Many of the children at the Dadaab refugee camp have been there since birth and know no different than to be a refugee.

Dadaab refugee students have endured refugee life and hold on to hope through the education and support they have received through organizations like CARE International. The Dadaab refugee camp is the largest refugee camp in the world today, with over 423,496 refugees as of April 2013.

Letters Syrian children received from Dadaab refugees included a picture of the student who wrote the letter. These letters all shared common themes of working hard in school and helping one another. One Dadaab student offered several points of advice to his Syrian pen pal, including, “be patient, respect your leaders, and work hard.” Many of the students began their letters with “Dear brother or sister,” and ended with “we are praying for Peace in Syria.”

According to CARE International, “more than 2.5 million people have fled the three-year conflict in Syria.” The Dadaab refugee students understand these children’s experience and the hardship that comes from being a refugee.

Syrian children will write back to their Dadaab pen pals and hopefully maintain relationships with one another thanks to Care International’s work with both refugee camps.

In his letter, Dahir Mohamed wrote, “Be the stars and new presidents of Syria.” Abshir Hussein wrote, “Try to start a new life which is better than before,” and Zahra Dahir Ali reminds her pen pal “without education, it is like you are in a dark place.”

CARE interviews with Syrian refugees revealed that one out of ten families expressed need for support to “cope with the experience of conflict, flight, and displacement.” There is great power and hope that comes from a simple, “you are not alone in this.” Messages of solidarity from those who understand what it means to be a refugee are not only comforting but also empowering to Syrian children.

As Bill Bailey once said, “without unity, we are victims.” With education, community, and belief in hope, the refugees at Dadaab are refusing to be victims and encouraging Syrian children to do the same.

– Heather Klosterman

 

Sources: CARE (1), BBC, The Huffington Post, CARE (2)
Photo: Murray Moerman

Home Gardens
Home gardens in developing countries is now being viewed as a key to alleviating hunger and providing a source of nutrition for millions of people in developing countries. The quantity of food that low-income families consume must also be supplemented by adequate nutrition; research conducted by the Lancet earlier this year concluded that malnutrition kills 3.1 million children annually, and caused stunting in 165 million in 2011.

In countries where women are traditionally responsible for providing their families with food, the disparity in access to land between men and women can often cause problems. According to the FAO, women receive only 5% of agricultural extension services globally making it difficult for them to grow food, especially food rich in essential micronutrients such as vitamin A, iron, and zinc. Therefore, several development organizations have taken the step to help women make better use of the space they can control–their home gardens.

In 2009, Care International launched the EU-funded Food Security for the Ultra-Poor (FSUP), which aimed to support 55,000 women living in the northeast region of Bangladesh in providing food. The project addresses the underlying causes of social and economic exclusion and seasonal imbalances in food availability and affordability in order to achieve sustainable improvement in food access and utilization. One element of the program included homestead gardening.

Women were taught to grow crops such as cucumber, gourds, red amaranth, spinach, papaya, carrots, tomatoes, and beans. The program taught women how to use various gardening tools and how to identify space in their houses that could be utilized for growing vegetables. They were then provided with vegetable seed packets to start their own gardens. While these harvests were not huge, they did provide families with crucial nutrients in regions where people would otherwise rely heavily on rice.

For these women, and for their families in Bangladesh, access to vegetables and fruits has not only increased but has also given them a surplus of produce which they are then able to sell to the community. A sample of 1,614 families participating in FSUP showed that between December 2012 and March 2013, households produced an average of 53kg of vegetables and fruits of which they consumed an average of 36kg and sold an average of 18kg.

As women begin to make an income they are able to make financial choices that positively impact their families. Larissa Pelham, food security adviser at Care International UK, said “when women have control over household resources, they are likely to spend it on the wellbeing of the household overall.” Other organizations have built on the success of this program and have included the additional element of combining gardening training with support in maternal health, nutrition, immunization, and financial services to women. This holistic approach is empowering women in developing countries, allowing them to use the land they own to build a better future for themselves and for their families.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: The Guardian, Care

Cooa_program_Côte d'Ivoire

In a press release published on PR Newswire, the world’s biggest chocolate company, Mondelez International, Inc. recently announced an agreement that it made with the Ivorian government’s Conseil du Cafe Cacao (CCC) to aid farmers with more sustainable production of cocoa.

Mondelez International is known for producing delightful, globally well-known, and billion-dollar chocolate brands such as Toblerone and Cadbury. The CCC agreement also covered building “thriving communities” in Cote d’Ivoire. Thus, the non-profit organization, CARE International, which tackles poverty and injustice in 87 countries, will lead the program Cocoa Life in Ivorian cocoa communities through 2016.

Sustainability is the key goal of this program and in order to achieve that, partnership is essential. Thus, Mondelez is teaming up with CARE International and the Ivorian government to create and maintain a sustainable production and supply of cocoa, and to empower cocoa farming families to “create the kind of communities they and their children want to live in, while promoting gender equality.”

As a result of this goal, Cocoa Life and CARE International initiated a program in Cote d’Ivoire working in 11 villages helping approximately 4,000 farmers with production of cocoa, and improving 40,000 lives. Both organizations set up meetings where farming families discuss what they need and achieve desired development results through “Community Action Plans.” In addition to meetings, and in honor of preserving gender equality, meetings were held for women specifically to enable them to voice their opinions and concerns. The press release also mentions how Cocoa Life plans to involve women in farmer training and community life all together.

The Country Director of CARE International in Cote d’Ivoire, Balla Sidibe, mentioned how business plays a key role in fighting poverty and injustice, and in order to better facilitate that, Mondelez must incorporate farmers and communities as the central part of the supply chain. And finally, the press release includes last November’s achievements in Cote d’Ivoire where Mondelez International made a 100 million dollar commitment to aid 75,000 farmers increase productivity. The Cocoa Life program is a $400 million ten year commitment to “improve the livelihoods and living conditions of more than 200,000 cocoa farmers and about one million people in cocoa farming communities around the world.”

– Leen Abdallah

Source: PR Newswire