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literacy

New data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics states that global literacy rates for youths and adults have been on the rise. Sixty percent of all countries that provided data in 2012 reported overall literacy rates of 95% or higher.

Still, there is a great need for a solution in this regard. The report also said that “An estimated 250 million children around the world cannot read, write, or demonstrate basic arithmetic skills. Many of these children are in developing countries without regular access to quality schools or teachers.”

These statistics ultimately became a project for a nonprofit called XPrize. XPrize runs competitions that aim to produce technology to benefit humankind. An ongoing competition that began in 2014 requires that teams develop an open source software that enables children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic.

XPrize launched a 6-month registration period and all teams have 18 months to develop their own solution. Currently, there are 198 registered teams. The top five finalists with the best results will receive one million dollars. The ultimate grand prizewinner will receive 10 million dollars as the top performing team solution.

Click here for more information on how to get involved and remain updated on the progress of the competition.

XPrize believes that children are a solution to global poverty, and that many of the world’s greatest minds are untapped due to a lack of basic education. “By enabling a child to learn how to learn, that child has opportunity–to live a healthy and productive life, to provide for their family and their community, as well as to contribute toward a peaceful, prosperous and abundant world.”

For the competition’s promotional video, several children  were asked what their ultimate life goals were. So many of those goals have seemed unrealistic due to their location and state of living. However, with support from XPrize, those dreams can become a reality.

Anna Brailow

Sources: Xprize 1, Xprize 2, Tech Crunch, UIS, YouTube
Photo: CNN

Poverty_and_Coffee_Industry
Coffee is the second most valuable export, bringing in $55 billion per year.  The coffee industry is dominated by a few key players—Nestle, Kraft, Proctor & Gamble, and Sara Lee.  Farms tied to these companies often cannot recoup production costs.  There is no shortage of coffee beans, so plantations compete to offer lower and lower prices to the big companies.  In recent years, the supply of coffee has grown even more due to improved coffee cultivation methods in South Asia.

To stay competitive, coffee plantations are notorious for paying subsistence wages and exposing workers to unsafe conditions.  Coffee beans are produced for $2 per kilo, and then sold to middlemen for about 14 cents.  Large companies then buy the beans at this low price, roast them, package them and mark up the price to around $8 per pound.  This “Coffee Paradox” essentially means that big companies win and local plantations lose.

Most coffee farmers struggle to support their families, and cannot afford healthcare or education.  This not only worsens the cycle of poverty, but also shows that coffee farmers have no control over the practices of industries which create these conditions.  In countries like Brazil, where coffee production has long been a cash crop, plantations are forced to grow lower-quality beans like Robusta that sell for cheap, instead of the high-quality Arabica beans the area is known for.

In the long run, coffee plantations around the world need to unionize and demand a fair price for their product.  As consumers, buying fair trade ensures our coffee comes from plantations that treat their workers with respect and do not use child labor.  Some of the proceeds from fair trade products even go back into the plantation community.  Buying higher-quality Arabica beans supports long-standing industries that are struggling to compete with the cheaper alternatives.

– Stephanie Lamm

Sources: Seattle PI
Photo: Media Tree Hugger

quino market
In recent years, international interest in quinoa has exploded—knowledge of the grain’s nutritional dynamism has proliferated, making it a desirable choice in an increasingly health-conscious world. In light of its recent popularity, the UN named 2013 “the international year of quinoa.”

The West, with its new market for quinoa, has largely turned to Bolivia, where the grain has been growing for over 7,000 years in the steppes of the Andes. Originally, the newfound demand for quinoa portended great things for the national economy, which would stand to accrue significant wealth through exporting the super-crop.

However, unforeseen implications of the international quinoa market have engendered a new problem for the Bolivian people: namely, the crop is becoming so expensive that many Bolivians no longer have access to it. In 2000, before the international market for quinoa took off, 100kg of quinoa cost about 80 Bolivianos ($11.60 USD). Today, prices have risen nearly ten-fold: 100 kg of quinoa now costs around 800 Bolivianos ($115 USD), and prices continue to rise.

Tellingly, losing a national dietary staple—particularly one with such prodiguous nutritional value—has devastating effects on local health. Bolivia must work towards intitiatives to subsidize crops for locals, providing them with the invaluable nutritional benefits of quinoa.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: NYTimes , Al Jazeera
Photo: PhotoPin

indian_baby_tiger_poverty_wildlife_animal_resouce_conservation_opt

The debilitating effects of extreme poverty on the citizens of afflicted countries are well-documented. Poverty leads to illness, shame, violence, and overpopulation. Yet poverty is not only detrimental to the human populations of the countries in which it exists, but also the animal populations which coexist alongside it.

It is well known that the earth cannot produce the resources to adequately sustain the current human population, much less at its current rate of growth. We are currently stripping our planet of all its available resources, with little room to maintain ourselves, much less wildlife. The situation is at its most dire in poor, rural villages where people are caught in an uncomfortable co-existence with native wildlife.

Those who still survive by a hunter-gathered lifestyle get food, clothing, and medicine from their surroundings. A research paper by the Department for International Development’s Wildlife and Advisory Group states: “We estimate that wildlife plays a significant role in the lives of up to 150 million poor people. Of the estimated 1.2 billion people who live on less than the equivalent of one dollar a day, about 250 million live in agriculturally marginal areas, and a further 350 million live in or near forests. Wildlife plays some role in the lives of many of these people, and is thought to be a primary livelihood asset in the lives of up to one-eighth of them. Where wildlife is declining or access to wildlife is denied, poor people adapt, but often at a cost to their livelihoods in terms of reduced income, fewer diversification opportunities and increased vulnerability.”

Resources are not the only problem, but also direct competition. Many are often forced into destruction of wildlife, not for a wilful hatred of animals themselves or for recreational purposes, but out of sheer necessity. Tigers in India are often killed by rural communities which fear losing irreplaceable livestock. Poaching is a result of a desperate need for money, as ivory and other endangered animal parts often fetch handsome prices. Better education and greater opportunities for the individuals committing these acts would be far more effective than punishing a crime that the current system inevitably forces them to commit.

What this means is that the existence of poverty and conservation of our wildlife are mutually exclusive. One, by necessity, prevents the other. To conserve wildlife is to rob poor communities of the few resources they have, and to not intervene means the inevitable destruction of our environment and the creatures in it.  We have created a system where, if we do not act, we are choosing to destroy either our fellow humans or our fellow creatures. We cannot currently sustain both.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Wildlife and Poverty Study
Photo: Jukani