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Guatemala City Garbage DumpGuatemala is characterized by its diverse and vibrant landscapes and equally rich cultural mosaic. However, with an estimated 55% of the population surviving on less than $6.85 a day, poverty frequently drains the color from everyday life there. According to the World Bank, limited access to services and opportunities is one reason why Guatemala’s steady economic growth, which has made the Guatemalan economy the largest in Central America, has yet to lead to significant poverty reduction. The poverty rate is the third highest in Latin America and the Caribbean and nowhere is the issue more visible than in the community surrounding the Guatemala City garbage dump.

Life in Landfill

A country of rolling mountain ranges and lush tropical forests, Guatemala is known as the Land of Eternal Spring. The Guatemala City garbage dump is an open-air landfill. An estimated 60,000 people live in extreme poverty along the periphery of the 40-acre landfill. According to a recent article by the environmental magazine Mongabay, underdeveloped infrastructure allows for build-ups of methane gas that ignites deadly fires, for waste to amass into mountains that shift underfoot. The surrounding neighborhood is rife with dangers and devoid of opportunity. Many inhabitants survive by scavenging through hazardous mounds of waste in search of materials for resale.

How Safe Passage Is Clearing Pathways Out of the Dump

Safe Passage is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that helps families in this community free themselves from cyclical poverty. With the average adult resident having yet to progress beyond the fourth grade, the organization works towards long-term development. This is achieved by providing children with free quality education.

Within its full-day school, Safe Passage employs an experimental methodology called “Expeditionary Learning,” which integrates off-site activities into an immersive curriculum focusing on life skills and citizenship as well as traditional academic disciplines. Creating experiences away from the dump shows students how the knowledge they gather at school can be applied to real life. With this approach designed for maximum engagement, 90% of the organization’s students graduate in the ninth grade. In contrast, the national retention rate between the sixth and 10th grades is estimated at 42%.

Students navigating the transition between school and adult life can access vocational guidance, support with university and job applications, and training and employment opportunities with Safe Passage’s partner organizations through the “Próximo Paso” program. In 2023 alone, 32 students started vocational training and 14 began the university enrolment process. Furthermore, with Guatemalan schools opening for just four hours a day. The “Oportunidades” program offers students from other institutions the opportunity to participate in various extracurricular activities. This, in turn, provides a refuge from the chaos of life in the neighborhood and from the grip of its gangs.

Forging Futures with Creamos

Creamos was established in 2008 as an entrepreneurial initiative when a group of women began selling jewelry made from upcycled materials and were able to leave a life of scavenging in the dump behind them. It has since evolved into an NGO that helps others surmount the systemic barriers facing the community. Although its services extend to all in need of them, Creamos focuses especially on the neighborhood’s women. The women are subject to the converging forces of poverty and gender-based inequalities and violence. On a national level, Guatemala’s female labor force participation rate is the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean at just 32% as of 2018. Similarly, the femicide rate is among the highest in the world, with 1.6 deaths per 100,000 women in 2021.

In 2020, Creamos introduced its Accelerated Education Program. It steers adult learners, many of whom were forced out of school and into work at the dump by a lack of resources, through a compressed academic curriculum and toward a high-school diploma. It also offers flexible scheduling and free childcare. As of 2022, an incredible 434 individuals had re-enrolled in education with Creamos. Furthermore, in 2022, the organization implemented its Workforce Development Program, through which students can access vocational training courses and internships with numerous partner organizations. They can specialize in various sectors, all selected to match current labor trends. In 2022 alone, the program served 250 people.

Holistic Approaches

In alignment with their shared mission of personal and community development, Safe Passage and Creamos provide various health care services. Safe Passage operates an on-site infirmary that treats health complaints and fosters long-term community well-being through education. It also has a social services team and offers pastoral care and a support program for at-risk families.

Epidemic levels of gender-based violence plague the community surrounding the Guatemala City garbage dump. To help address this, Creamos seeks to create safe spaces for vulnerable women. This includes providing a range of emotional care services operated by licensed psychologists, such as specialized support groups and a program designed to fortify family dynamics.

Looking Ahead

Guatemala has a human capital index of 0.46. This indicates that children born there today are projected to attain just 46% of their lifetime potential. However, organizations like Safe Passage and Creamos are working determinedly to equalize access to resources. Safe Passage is guiding children from the fringes of society inward.

Creamos, meaning “we create” in Spanish, began as a jewelry-making initiative but now strives to provide marginalized people with the tools they need to manufacture a life for themselves. Both organizations are creators at their cores: creators of safe spaces, opportunities and hope for a future where all of its people can feel Guatemala’s vitality.

– Leila Powles

Leila is based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK and focuses on Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Innovations in Poverty Eradication in BotswanaAccording to U.N. statistics, 17.2% of the population in Botswana lives in poverty, with an additional 19.7% vulnerable to falling back into poverty. All economic indicators suggest a nation is on an upward trajectory in the global sphere; however, poverty remains a pervasive barrier for a significant portion of the populace. In recognition of this deficiency, the government of Botswana and the international community have formulated initiatives and programs to tackle the disproportionate rates of hardship. After gaining independence in 1966, it was one of the 10 poorest countries in the world. In defiance of this, between 1966 and 2008, economic growth averaged 8.7%, advancing Botswana into the upper-middle-income classification due to excellent governing strategies.

An Aspirational Future

Poverty reduction efforts in Botswana are a major operation despite its economy growing in recent years. Rather than applying general, tried-and-tested methods of addressing poverty, techniques in Botswana have gone further in the endeavor to confront the problem. The government constantly develops schemes and systems to rectify the country’s looming obstacles. By identifying the foundational causes of extreme poverty, the government has developed strategies designed to target the issue at its very root. Many have identified the leading causes of poverty to be unemployment, inequality, lack of education and diseases such as HIV/AIDS, according to the International Journal of Development and Sustainability.

Vision 2036 is an ambitious National Development Plan (NDP) that aims not just to reduce rates of poverty, but to annihilate it by 2036. The government created Vision 2036 in 2016 as a continuation of its predecessor, Vision 2016. The intent behind the initiative is to graduate Botswana from an upper-middle-income country to a high-income country by focusing on human, social and sustainable developments.

One key characteristic of Vision 2036 is a lessened reliance on the diamond trade. Botswana has enormously benefitted from its natural resources, utilizing them to enhance their economic mobility but it has since been a major source of inequality. Innovations in poverty eradication in Botswana such as this one are rich in considered solutions to adversity and join several other government-led projects.

Practical Government Solutions

In 2011, the government launched the Poverty Eradication Program (PEP) to lift citizens out of multidimensional poverty. The program targets those living in abject poverty, aiming to restore dignity to their lives. Citizens of Botswana eligible for PEP must be 18 or older, living on less than $1.25 a day and lacking certain assets such as livestock. The programme focuses on establishing sustainable income for households by promoting entrepreneurship and employment. PEP promotes self-reliance for low-income families that otherwise lack the resources to escape vulnerability, providing vital opportunities for millions of citizens in both rural and urban areas.

Alongside this, a labor-based programme has been in place since 2008. The Ipelegeng initiative provides income to the unemployed poor, targeting unskilled laborers and recruiting them for up to one month to maintain public facilities. While only offering short-term employment, the program takes on 50,000 beneficiaries a month, supplying them and their families with necessary supplementary income, according to the International Journal of Development and Sustainability. The scheme was first introduced as a means to relieve families from economic hardship as a result of droughts, but proved successful and so was adopted as a more permanent government operation. The rates for workers differed depending on the role and were recently increased in 2023: casual laborers are paid $45 a month, and supervisors $51 a month.

Innovations in poverty eradication in Botswana continue to be at the forefront of government sentiment. An awareness by the government of the principal causes has been recognized allowing the country to look towards a healthy, prosperous future.

– Molly Ralph

Molly is based in Bridport, Dorset, UK and focuses on Good News for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in MalawiIn Malawi, a landlocked country in southern Africa, economic inequality persists, hindering significant poverty reduction efforts despite consistent growth. Currently, about 70% of the country’s 20 million residents live on less than $2.15 a day and a considerable portion of national income belong to the top 20% of earners. A major factor explaining the persistent economic inequality in Malawi is the low electrification rate. Currently, only 15% of Malawi has access to electricity, one of the lowest rates worldwide, primarily due to inadequate infrastructure in information, communication and energy technology. Renewable energy in Malawi offers a viable solution to increase access to electricity and support economic growth.

The disparity between rural and urban areas is stark, with only 5% of rural regions having electricity access compared to 42% in urban areas. Additionally, even areas with electricity face inconsistent service. Leo Randall-Brown, a volunteer in Bangwe, noted, “We lose power once a week or so,” remarked Leo Randall-Brown, a volunteer in Bangwe, “but [a few months ago] it was worse.” Despite these challenges, optimism grows around Malawi’s emerging energy sector. Innovative and collaborative efforts in renewable energy present a promising pathway to address disparities and support the nation’s poorest communities.

Hydroelectric Power

Hydroelectric power is a crucial element of Malawi’s energy portfolio, generating 90% of its electricity primarily from the Shire River. Yet, this represents only about 17% of the nation’s potential hydroelectric capacity. Modernization efforts are underway to improve this infrastructure. Notably, the rehabilitation of the Nkula Hydropower Plant, a project undertaken by the Austrian company Andritz Hydro and Portuguese firm Mota Engil, has increased energy generation capacity by 50%. Additionally, projects like the Mpatamanga Hydro, supported by a World Bank-backed Public-Private Partnership (PPP), aim to significantly enhance hydroelectric capacity, marking a robust effort to maximize Malawi’s energy resources.

These ongoing initiatives are crucial for enhancing energy security and alleviating poverty in Malawi. Hydroelectric projects catalyze job creation, providing substantial employment opportunities during the construction and operation phases. They also boost agricultural productivity in downstream villages by improving access to electricity for irrigation and agro-processing activities. The development of hydroelectric power in Malawi thus represents a multifaceted approach to combating poverty, fostering economic growth and empowering local communities to thrive.

Solar Power

With an annual daily mean global solar radiation equivalent to 250 million tonnes of oil, Malawi possesses a vast and sustainable solar energy resource. Solar power, a versatile form of renewable energy, facilitates both household-level and large-scale photovoltaic (PV) cell electrification. Across Malawi, tens of thousands of solar home systems (SHS) have been adopted, providing households with reliable lighting, heating, water pumping and radio usage. Mr. Randall-Brown notes, “We have a small solar panel that charges throughout the day. It acts as a kind of backup generator.”

The 2018 Energy Policy in Malawi emphasizes off-grid electricity, highlighting a cooperative effort between the government and the private sector. Companies such as VITALITE Malawi have capitalized on this policy framework, enhancing public-private partnerships (PPPs) to expand solar home system (SHS) services to an unprecedented number of households and communities. This focus on off-grid electrification significantly benefits the nation’s most vulnerable populations, reducing the need for extensive infrastructure investments while ensuring sustainable and renewable energy in Malawi for all.

Malawi has made notable progress in developing utility-scale solar power plants, exemplified by the completion of projects such as the 60 MW Salima, 20 MW Golomoti and 21 MW Nkhotakota. These projects underscore the government’s commitment to expanding grid infrastructure. Collaborative efforts with USAID and other international partners highlight Malawi’s proactive approach to promoting interconnected sustainable development. These ongoing initiatives are creating new income opportunities for both rural and urban households and enhancing agricultural practices with solar-powered irrigation. This technology is particularly crucial for Malawi, which relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture, marking a transformative era of resilience and prosperity for the nation’s agricultural sector.

Geothermal Power

Geothermal energy holds immense promise for Malawi’s energy future, owing to its location in the East African Rift System (EARS), which endows the country with significant reserves. Approximately 55 geothermal sites dot the landscape, with three major ones—Chiweta, Mwankeja and Nkhotakota—identified for detailed investigation, boasting a combined potential of 200 MW. While geothermal efforts are largely in the exploratory phase, a plant in Nkhotakota is planned for construction.

In a concerted effort to harness the vast potential of geothermal energy, the Malawian government is actively pursuing avenues for both public and private investment.  A notable stride occurred in 2013, when the government-owned energy company EGENCO forged a groundbreaking agreement with Kenya’s Geothermal Development Company, fostering intra-African technological collaboration within the East African Rift System (EARS). Beyond its role in sustainable electricity generation, geothermal energy holds the promise of delivering direct community benefits and catalyzing economic growth and technological advancement.

Looking Forward

Malawi is on the cusp of a transformative era in its energy sector, poised to make significant strides in electrification, sustainable development and poverty alleviation. The country boasts vast untapped potential in renewable energy sources such as hydroelectric, solar and geothermal resources. By harnessing these opportunities through pro-growth domestic policies and integration with foreign entities, Malawi is primed to drive inclusive growth and prosperity. As the nation embraces foreign investment in renewable energy in Malawi, it paves the way for collaborative efforts to unlock the full potential of clean energy and propel Malawi toward a brighter, more sustainable future for all its citizens.

– Matthew Candau

Matthew is based in St. Andrews, Scotland and focuses on Business and Technology for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in EthiopiaEthiopia is a country with a cultural heritage and natural wealth. Yet, it faces high rates of poverty and environmental challenges. Even in this adversarial backdrop, innovative approaches toward a circular economy are emerging as one of the transformative solutions. These efforts shed light on how zero-waste initiatives, resource recovery programs and upcycling enterprises are not only mitigating environmental degradation but also creating economic opportunities and combating poverty in Ethiopia.

Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is among many African countries that face pervasive poverty. According to estimates by the World Bank, more than 20% of Ethiopia’s population lives below the poverty line and has little access to clean water, education and health facilities. Furthermore, rapid population growth and climatic changes raise the difficulty of the already existing challenges, making sustainable development a matter of high priority.

The principles of circular economies stress the use of resources in ways that are more regenerative, wasting little and reaping full value. It is within this argument that the circular economy opens a promising pathway for poverty alleviation in Ethiopia by inspiring economic growth while at the same time protecting the environment.

Zero-Waste Initiatives

Zero-waste initiatives aim to eliminate waste through redesigning production, reusing and promoting responsible consumption. In Ethiopia, organizations like the Zero Waste Ethiopia project pioneered such waste management strategies, with the core of reuse and recycling. By diverting waste away from landfills and incinerators, these initiatives effectively reduce environmental pollution while creating employment opportunities in the waste collection and recycling sectors.

An example of this progress is the Addis Ababa Waste-to-Energy Facility, which commenced operations in 2018. This facility converts municipal solid waste into electricity, offering a sustainable energy source to the capital while reducing methane emissions at landfill sites. In addition, community-based initiatives like the “Clean and Green Ethiopia” campaign encourage citizen participation in waste segregation and recycling, promoting environmental stewardship and community empowerment.

Resource Recovery Programs

Resource recovery programs tap into innovative technologies that release value from waste materials. Such initiatives in Ethiopia include producing biogas from organic waste and wastewater treatment plants, reducing environmental pollution and producing renewable energy and organic fertilizers. These programs empower locals by providing them with access to clean energy sources and enhanced agricultural productivity for poverty reduction.

With the support of international organizations, the Ethiopian Biogas Program began in 2009 and has since installed more than 42,000 biogas digesters in rural households, substituting traditional sources of biomass fuels and hence improving indoor air quality. The same applies to the wastewater treatment plant of the Hawassa Industrial Park, which recycles and treats industrial effluent to prevent water pollution of Lake Hawassa, sustaining the industrial development of the region in an environmentally friendly way.

Upcycled Ventures

Upcycled ventures give otherwise discarded material a high-value new life, creating a circular economy where waste represents a valuable resource. In Ethiopia, social enterprises like Sabahar and SoleRebels typify transformational potential through upcycling. Sabahar produces exquisite textiles from recycled materials, which gives artisans sustainable livelihoods while preserving traditional weaving techniques. Similarly, SoleRebels transforms old tires into fashionable footwear, offering opportunities for employment among marginalized groups while reducing waste in landfills.

These businesses not only help reduce poverty but also promote social inclusion and cultural conservation. These enterprises combine traditional craftsmanship with innovation in design, projecting cultural heritage to the world while generating income for their local communities.

Final Remark on Poverty in Ethiopia

The impacts of circular economy innovations extend into environmental sustainability dimensions, such as social and economic benefits, by creating new markets for recycled materials, employment opportunities and efficiency in resource use that contribute to poverty reduction and inclusive economic growth. However, such scaling up would involve a collaborative partnership among government, private sector and civil society stakeholders, coupled with investment in research, infrastructure and capacity building.

For a country like Ethiopia, which faces huge challenges regarding poverty and environmental issues, embracing circular economy innovations could show the way toward sustainable and inclusive development. The potential of zero-waste initiatives, resource recovery programs and upcycling enterprises can secure resilience in communities, protect natural resources and uplift the most vulnerable populations in Ethiopia. 

– Honorine Lanka Perera

Honorine is based in Highland, NY, USA and focuses on Business and Technology for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the PhilippinesThe Philippines is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia, consisting of more than 7,000 islands. The South China Sea bounds it to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east and the Celebes Sea to the south. The country has made gains in poverty reduction but further reduction is necessary. The future of poverty in the Philippines rests on the country’s economic development and the work of government initiatives. Here is everything you need to know about poverty in the Philippines.

The Extent of Poverty in the Philippines

Poverty in the Philippines declined to 22.4% in 2023, down 1.3% from the same period in 2021. However, despite this decrease, the current state of poverty and inequality is startling. The poverty incidence was 22.4% in the first semester of 2023, affecting approximately 25.24 million Filipinos. The poverty incidence refers to the proportion of Filipinos whose per capita income is insufficient to meet their basic needs. On average, a family of five needs at least PhP 13,797 monthly to cover their basic needs, according to the Philippine News Agency. Additionally, the subsistence incidence or the proportion of Filipinos whose income is insufficient to buy basic food needs stood at 8.7%, meaning approximately 9.79 million Filipinos are unable to fulfil basic food needs.

These statistics demonstrate the extent of poverty in the Philippines and provoke the question of why the Philippines continues to struggle from poverty despite its growing economy. The Philippines struggles with a huge disparity in wealth equality. According to the World Bank, the Philippines holds one of the highest Gini Coefficients in the East Asian and Pacific region, sitting at 40.7% as of 2021. This means that, despite economic improvements, those most susceptible to poverty may not see the benefits of economic growth.

The Affected Population

Poverty affects the unemployed and underemployed and those who lack education most in the Philippines as they are unable to find opportunities or jobs which pay a sufficient wage. Environmental instability is also an issue, in regions most vulnerable to natural disasters schools have to shut down, disrupting education. In April 2024, hundreds of schools in the Philippines had to close due to extreme heat, an issue which annually rising global temperatures will exacerbate.

The World Bank estimates that 60% of the land in the Philippines is vulnerable to multiple natural hazards. This causes severe damage to homes and transport infrastructure, interrupting business and education and costing billions to repair. This has been an issue in Mindanao recently, where flooding caused more than 411,000 people to flee.

The State of the Economy

Despite the pessimism surrounding poverty in the Philippines, there is reason for optimism. The Philippine economy grew by 5.5% in 2023, making it one of the best-performing economies in Asia, according to the Philippine News Agency, but high inflation has offset the benefits of income growth on poverty reduction. To overcome inflation, growth must remain consistently high. Currently, economic growth for 2024-2025 could be at an average of 5.8% if growth in the domestic market is achieved. The World Bank expects this domestic market to grow due to the thriving tourism sector and the information technology-business process outsourcing industry. This indicates a bright future for the Philippine economy. For the poorest Filipinos to benefit from the projected growth in 2024, income gains from economic growth must be guided towards reducing inequality.

Positive Progress in Poverty Alleviation

The reduced poverty rate from 2021 to 2023 is a move in the right direction. The government achieved this through initiatives such as the fuel subsidy and the one-time rice allowance, according to the Philippine News Agency. However, greater income equality must still be strived for if President Marcos wants to reach his goal of a single-digit poverty rate by 2028. The Philippine Development Plan of 2023-2028 is one initiative which can help achieve this goal. This plan aims to bring economic and social transformation by reinvigorating job creation and accelerating poverty reduction. It aims to be the mechanism of implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and includes programmes to improve education and to upskill the workforce. If The Philippines achieves this plan, it can make further poverty reductions by addressing the key areas where inequality thrives.

To relieve the problem of environmental instability, the government is building new infrastructure under The Metro Manila Flood Management Project. This benefits the Metropolitan Manila area but fails to help other areas susceptible to flooding. This only furthers the issue of inequality, benefiting the city of Manila instead of reaching more deprived areas. More deprived areas struggle to recover from natural hazards, weakening their ability to become more prosperous and resistant to annually occurring hazards. Last year, Bulacan was placed under a state of calamity due to the damage that typhoons and subsequent flooding caused.

Looking Ahead

Despite projected economic growth and current initiatives being in place to address poverty, there remains a significant proportion of Filipinos who are vulnerable to poverty. While there is room for improvement, the country has great potential to reduce poverty further. The progress made in 2023 and the current economic growth projections are a testament to this. The persistence of inequality requires greater attention from the government in addressing areas of education and environmental relief. Initiatives to help those most vulnerable to poverty must be used to ensure more people can benefit from the coming economic growth. In this way, the Philippines can continue to progress in reducing poverty.

– Lauren Alkhalil

Lauren is based in London, UK and focuses on Good News and Technology for The Borgen Project

Photo: Unsplash

US Solar CollaborationAs the greater community of nations constantly collaborates for sustainable, alternative energy solutions, one key issue that has been at the forefront of these discussions has been developing nations’ inability to take advantage of the road toward alternative energy. Due to the experimental and expensive nature of alternative energy and the need for more infrastructure, the world leaves developing nations behind in its collective pursuit of new methods of harnessing energy to power the increasingly industrialized planet. The United States (U.S.), particularly U.S. solar companies, can mitigate the absence of resources by expanding its solar power grid and forming a symbiotic relationship with the developing world. U.S. solar collaboration can be an innovative form of global poverty relief that grows the U.S. solar industry and its profits, expands developing nations’ economies and provides the globe with new energy sources.

This crucial shift could transform many nations where access to electricity is greatly underdeveloped. Nations like Cambodia where 75% of the population lives in rural areas could have their livelihoods transformed through American solar collaborative efforts.

Global Solar Expansion and US Opportunity

Developing countries present immense opportunities for U.S. solar collaboration. Since CarbonBrief indicates that developing countries have new driving potential in solar energy output, communities are more open to seeking affordable and sustainable energy sources. As leaders in innovation and technology, U.S. solar companies are in the most strategic position to contribute to this global paradigm shift. Solar Energy International, an organization numerous U.S.-based solar companies attend, is an example of one of the newest trends by U.S. companies, taking advantage of the increasing affordability of solar technology and the growing demand for alternative energy sources. Consequently, U.S. companies have acquired new opportunities to engage with the developing world in this project.

Examples of Successful Collaboration

USAID lists a notable instance of U.S. solar collaboration leading development efforts as partners within the private sector that the agency works with to power Africa. Several U.S. companies have partnered with USAID to support energy growth in Africa, “committing toward more than $40 billion in investments into African energy markets,” including energy grids within sub-Saharan Africa.

Additionally, 60Hertz Energy is a U.S.-based startup that implemented computerized maintenance management software systems to streamline operations and maintenance for solar infrastructure that can withstand extreme environments. As it works to establish itself in sub-Saharan Africa, it has developed a presence in Benin, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda, according to USAID. The work that 60Hertz Energy commits itself to would improve the quality of life for residents and could position the U.S. solar industry as a key player within the emerging alternative fuel paradigm.

In another instance, Acumen, a U.S.-based nonprofit impact investment fund, has invested $88 million into 82 different companies that provide “agricultural inputs, quality education, clean energy, health care services, formal housing, safe drinking water and sanitation services to low-income” recipients in East Africa, West Africa and Latin America, according to USAID. This strategic effort by the U.S.-based fund to finance various companies could make a direct impact by providing a multifaceted approach that can harness results favorable to the African solar power industry and showcase the benefits of cooperation by multiple firms.

Economic Growth and Sustainable Development

Beyond the numerous advantages for U.S. companies, solar infrastructure that originates from the U.S. to assist developing nations can potentially contribute to economic growth and sustainability in other ways. As part of the World Bank’s commitment, recipient nations that achieve affordable, reliable and modern energy services, including alternative energy sources to achieve that objective, could provide a catalyst that improves the living and working conditions for all of humanity. The most vulnerable demographics, particularly those most affected in developing countries without access to modern energy sources, will be most served by transitioning to a net-zero-emissions energy system. Therefore, a sustainable energy grid substantiated by U.S. solar could provide these benefits. In doing so, sustainable communities could create stability across the continent to empower communities and foster entrepreneurship. The U.S. would have a crucial role in building upon its geopolitical status if it were to commit itself to these arrangements.

By embracing the symbiotic framework between the U.S. and its private sector with the opportunities offered by the developing world, U.S. solar could become the forefront of sustainable growth, leading to the global prosperity many of the world’s poor need.

– Arman Ahmed
Photo: Wikimedia

More Than Music: Reggaeton's Global Impact Empowering Latin AmericaIn a world increasingly interconnected by media, few genres have reshaped the cultural and economic landscape as dynamically as reggaeton’s global impact on music. At the forefront stands Bad Bunny, a Puerto Rican artist who rose from bagging groceries in 2016 to becoming the second-most streamed artist globally in 2023. His journey mirrors the genre’s significant influence on societies, particularly in Latin America. Beyond musical rhythms, reggaeton has become a catalyst for economic growth and an amplifier for social change in the region.

Economic Impact

The surge of reggaeton, Latin rap, Latin trap, or música urbana, has elevated Latin music to unparalleled financial heights. Latin music revenue in the U.S. soared to $1.1 billion in 2022, with a remarkable 24% annual increase, outpacing other markets. Major labels and artists are bridging language barriers to engage global audiences, reflecting the genre’s booming popularity. Streaming revenues, accounting for 97% of Latin music earnings, showcase the genre’s dominance, fueled significantly by Bad Bunny’s chart-topping albums. The importance of this revenue lies outside of the United States, where artists and fans in Latin America are fueling economic growth.

Reggaeton has generated a higher demand for popular live experiences in Latin America. Festivals like Estereo Picnic in Bogota and Lollapalooza in Argentina and Chile have seen surging attendance due to these popular artists and the genre’s appeal, turning Latin American countries into exporters of musical talent and generating substantial revenue within these economies.

Social Impact

Beyond economic effectiveness, reggaeton has emerged as a powerful social platform, shedding light on pressing issues. Bad Bunny’s music video for “El Apagón” didn’t merely entertain but served as a voice for Puerto Ricans amid crises like Hurricane Fiona. The video highlighted long-standing injustices, resonating deeply with audiences. Many even became aware of these issues in Puerto Rico thanks to Bad Bunny’s platform.

Notably, artists like Bad Bunny have used their influence to address socio-political matters. When Bad Bunny confronted hate speech from political figures, his stance echoed across continents, demonstrating reggaeton’s global impact. The capacity for stars to leverage their platforms to address millions regarding injustices across governments, within developing nations, or in their home countries, elevates these issues onto a global stage, holding immense significance in raising awareness, mobilizing action and potentially mitigating the effects. 

Global Revolution

Reggaeton’s rise signals a shift in global music dynamics. Artists like J Balvin have paved the way for Spanish-singing artists to resonate internationally without compromising their cultural identity. Balvin’s unprecedented success on streaming platforms showcases the growing acceptance and integration of Latin American music into mainstream culture, without having to adapt to English-speaking audiences.

This global recognition isn’t limited to music alone. Influential figures such as Colombian reggaeton artist J Balvin or Spain’s innovative flamenco fusion singer Rosalía serve as prime examples. Their impact goes beyond music; they’re influencing young people daily on social media, boasting millions of followers. For instance, the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine dedicated to Bad Bunny and J Balvin in June highlighted not just their musical prowess, but also their influence as cultural icons. 

This global recognition isn’t limited to music alone. Investment in Latin American creators across various media, including television, has soared. “Money Heist,” a Spanish series, has become Netflix’s most-watched non-English show, captivating audiences across Argentina, Brazil,and Chile, signifying the expanding influence of Latin American narratives beyond music.

Again, supporting Latin American creators, and Spanish media, is stimulating investment in these markets, increasing the economy and exports.

Future Facing

Reggaeton’s global impact, beyond its contagious beats, represents a shift in global culture and commerce. From empowering Latin American economies to amplifying voices on social issues, the genre and its artists serve as catalysts for change. The journey from bagging groceries to topping global charts isn’t just Bad Bunny’s story; it’s a testament to the genre’s transformative power, paving the way for a more inclusive global cultural landscape.

In essence, the global embrace of reggaeton’s global impact isn’t just a musical phenomenon; it’s a revolution, shaping economies, fostering unity and amplifying voices for change in Latin America and beyond. This outlook emphasizes reggaeton’s global impact on cultural shifts and societal change.

– Kailey Schwinghammer
Photo: Flickr

Cambodian PovertyCambodia is home to nearly 17 million people in Southeastern Asia, nestled between Thailand to the west and Vietnam to the east. The country has a troubled history involving decades of conflict and economic and political instability. Because of these conditions, the Cambodian poverty rate topped 36% as of 2014.

The good news is that in the last eight years, Cambodian has improved significantly, cutting its poverty rate in half even during the pandemic years, which took a massive toll across the globe. The number of people living in poverty has decreased from 5.6 million to 2.8 million, and while there is more work to do, there is tangible evidence that progress is possible.

Steps Toward Improvement

Cambodia is a developing nation where 61% of the population lives in rural areas, and the majority, around 77%, depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. Notably, the country has experienced significant economic growth, particularly in the tourism and construction sectors. The garment industry has also seen expansion, and foreign investments have resulted in increased job opportunities in manufacturing and services, offering better-paying work.

Because of the growth in tourism and garment exports, Cambodia’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in the world. When higher-paying jobs are made available, residents can move away from low-paying agricultural jobs, boosting their earnings and the quality of life around them. The World Bank reports that access to essential services, such as sanitation and education, and access to electricity and water sources has also improved.

USAID is an NGO that has been working diligently to address poverty in Cambodia, spending the last five years helping farmers raise and reinvest earnings to expand the markets where they can sell their products. It has trained 230,000 people on improved nutritional practices and allowed more than 14,000 farmers to access credit. USAID has also been crucial in private sector investments, leveraging more than $20 million to support economic growth and accountable governance.

Cambodian Youth

Children are among the most vulnerable in Cambodia and account for almost 35% of the population as of 2019, which continues to increase. Access to education is on the rise, but many children rely on boats and rivers to attend classes as they commute from rural areas. Cambodia is prone to environmental threats like flash floods, which were responsible for the closure of more than 200 schools in October 2022

Cambodia ranks 46th on the Children’s Climate Risk Index, but the Royal Government of Cambodia has already begun tackling climate change, aiming for net-zero emissions by 2050. As part of this emissions goal, future and existing infrastructure dedicated to solar and hydropower is being climate-proofed. The Royal Government also wants to increase forest cover by 60% in the national land area within six years. These measures will protect the land within Cambodia’s border and secure the future for the next generation of Cambodians.

Looking Ahead

Cambodia offers valuable insights for countries addressing poverty. It collaborates with local NGOs on a well-thought-out plan to combat climate change. The nation prioritizes tourism and garment exports, boosting its economy. These initiatives could leave a lasting impact on Cambodia’s young population, who are the future custodians of their country and people.

– Benett Crim
Photo: Unsplash

Hawaii’s TourismIn recent years, Hawaii’s tourism dilemma has come to the forefront, shedding light on the intricate balance between economic prosperity and environmental and socioeconomic concerns. Local voices have highlighted the trains on resources, rising costs of living and housing and cultural erosion caused by mass tourism. This exploration delves into Hawaii’s tourism dilemma, dissecting its multifaceted impacts and the possibility of a balanced future. 

Strains on Resources 

While tourism breathes life into Hawaii’s economy, it also exerts tremendous pressure on the islands’ resources. The demand for accommodations, water and energy strains already limited supplies. Due to the severe drought and the depletion of water supplies, West Maui residents and Upcountry villages were subject to mandatory water restrictions starting on June 30, 2022. The use of water for non-essential purposes, such as watering lawns or washing cars, might result in a $500 punishment and having their water meters taken away for locals from these regions. However, the tourist sector, which uses 44.7% of Hawaii’s water, is not subject to any water restrictions. This struggle for essential resources often forces residents to contend with water rationing and conservation efforts, affecting their quality of life.

Rising Costs and Widening Poverty Gaps 

The influx of tourists has brought with it rising costs that hit residents hard. The cost of living has surged, particularly in terms of housing and everyday essentials. From 2019 to 2022, Maui County’s housing prices rose by nearly 35%; they had already been rising since the financial crisis. Additionally, based on statistics from the Council for Community and Economic Research, Hawaii had the highest cost of living in 2022

Skyrocketing housing and high cost of living prices have led to displacement for many locals, as investors snatch up properties for vacation rentals. 

Cultural Erosion 

The cultural erosion brought about by mass tourism is a poignant concern. Native Hawaiians, who hold a deep spiritual connection to their land, often feel that their traditions and values are commodified for profit. The influx of visitors seeking superficial representations of Hawaiian culture can overshadow the authentic practices and beliefs of the local community, further eroding the island’s unique identity.

Tackling Hawaii’s tourism dilemma involves recognizing the importance of cultural preservation as a means to both attract visitors and empower local communities.

The Positive Impact 

Despite these challenges, the impact of tourism isn’t entirely negative. It has propelled economic growth, generating jobs, investment opportunities and revenue streams that support local infrastructure and services. A quarter of Hawaii’s GDP comes from the tourism industry. The tourism sector in 2019 supported a total of 216,000 jobs across the state. It also resulted in nearly $17.8 billion in tourist spending and contributed more than $2 billion in tax revenue for the state.  

Moreover, tourism provides a platform to showcase Hawaii’s rich cultural heritage and environmental significance to a global audience. By engaging visitors in educational experiences, the islands can foster a greater appreciation for their unique attributes.

Moving Toward a Balanced Future

Addressing Hawaii’s tourism dilemma requires a multi-faceted approach that takes into account the need to alleviate poverty, preserve culture and ensure a sustainable flow of visitors.

A key pillar to finding effective solutions to Hawaii’s tourism dilemma requires involving local communities in decision-making processes. Residents, who are the heart of Hawaii, possess a profound understanding of the islands’ needs and sensitivities. By giving them a voice in shaping tourism policies and regulations, the industry could become more attuned to the wishes and concerns of those who call Hawaii home. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of ownership and shared responsibility for the islands’ well-being. 

Balancing the scales of tourism also means supporting local businesses and economies. Encouraging visitors to explore lesser-known destinations and engage with off-the-beaten-path experiences redirects economic benefits to smaller communities. Promoting sustainable agriculture and indigenous crafts not only diversifies revenue streams but also safeguards Hawaii’s authenticity against a homogenized tourist culture. Additionally, encouraging tourists to explore less crowded areas will prevent damage to vulnerable cultural and natural sites. 

Dr. Agrusa asked hundreds of participating U.S. tourists what they would be prepared to do to make sure their visits benefited Hawaii and its residents. Around four out of 10 respondents stated they would be willing to pay 10% more at restaurants if it meant that local suppliers would profit more from the food supply chain and pay more during their stay to respect Hawaiian culture. 

Hawaii’s tourism challenge stands at a crossroads, casting both concerns and the need for a balanced future. As mass tourism on the islands causes strains on resources, vanishing cultural roots and increasing poverty levels, embracing community voices and fostering local economies emerges as a solution to foster sustainable tourism. 

– Hannah Klifa
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty In Denmark
Denmark has one of the lowest poverty rates in the world, and it is important to look at what allows the nation to have such a low rate. With aggressive public health programs and a well-rounded social welfare program that
brings aid for unemployment, disability and old age, the people of Denmark can often receive proper help and assistance in times of need.

Social Welfare Aid

Widespread access to welfare in the country stems from a systemically upheld belief that welfare is a right of the people and not a privilege as it is all paid for through taxes. The benefits received by those who are unable to properly support themselves or their children work to lower poverty in Denmark. Furthermore, while the Danish have access to assistance programs, one poll suggests that nearly 60% of respondents believe that the economic gap between the upper and lower classes needs to be reduced.

Social responsibility is a large key ideal held by many people in Denmark. Social responsibility carries into the ideas of the social welfare programs and correlates to funds allocated toward helping members of the community. Because of governmental and social efforts, the level of poverty in Denmark is able to stay relatively low. For instance, funds and programs go to help parents raising new children, allowing a year of paid paternity or maternity leave.

The Poverty Rate

As of 2018, Denmark had a poverty rate of around 0.30%, which was a 0.1% increase from the previous year. Those living with fewer than $5.50 U.S. dollars per day are counted within the poverty figures. This is one of the lowest poverty rates in the world, around 10% less than the United State’s poverty rate in 2020. With a high poverty rate in the late 1980s of around 1.2%, the decline has occurred steadily over the years. While the poverty rate tends to fluctuate from year to year, it remains relatively low. Currently, Denmark is often compared to nations like the Netherlands, Malta, the Czech Republic and Norway. However, changes in social spending correlate to the fact that poverty seems to be been rising despite the high levels of support offered by the system.

Child Poverty

Despite Denmark’s reputation for strong welfare programs, child poverty rose in the country from 2016 to 2017. In the span of that year, the number of children recognized as living in poverty rose from around 40,000 to more than 60,000. Despite the level of social welfare benefits, employment rates have remained largely unchanged among certain groups. Among those affected by reduced social spending are refugees and minority groups in the country. As of 2017, the number of children under the poverty line accounts for more than 5% of the child population. Programs like the Integration Benefit are targeted to those living in extreme poverty in Denmark.

With many different social programs, poverty in Denmark has been able to stay relatively low in recent years, notably due to social programs and community mentalities. Despite the rising poverty rates among those in danger of falling below the poverty line, the Danish government has been implementing programs to try and reduce these issues like the Integration Benefit. Lastly, the programs afforded to parents allow for a stable environment for parents to raise their children. The solutions to these issues through more aid and higher access to aid stand to lower the poverty rate further.

– Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr