Demining Zimbabwe's National ParkLocated in southeast Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park is home to 11,000 African elephants, which is how it earned its name as the “Place of Elephants.” Unfortunately, it is also the site of thousands of buried landmines. These landmines were placed by the Rhodesian army during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War and have remained there for more than 40 years. Although there have been efforts to remove these mines, they continue to be a constant threat to the people of Zimbabwe and local wildlife. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park will have several benefits for the country.

APOPO: Demining Efforts

The United States has provided a grant of $750,000 to the nonprofit APOPO to demine the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, where a large portion of the undetonated landmines reside. The Sengwe Wildlife Corridor covers a stretch of land that connects the park to South Africa and is used regularly by migrating elephants.

The area that APOPO has been designated to work is one of the largest in the world: 37 kilometers lengthwise and 75 kilometers in width. With almost 6,000 landmines per kilometer, communities in the surrounding area are unable to access potential land for farming and endangered species are at constant risk.

The presence of the minefield prevents the elephant population of the park from migrating and potentially mixing with other elephant populations. This presents a long-term risk of limiting the already shrinking African elephant gene pool.

APOPO has established a five-year plan for demining Zimbabwe’s national park, expecting to remove all undetonated landmines from the area by 2025. It estimates that it will remove more than 15,000 landmines before the end of its operation in the corridor.

The nonprofit will be working in tandem with the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust to maintain that the process will not impede conservation goals for the park.

The project also complements USAID programs to support community-based natural resource management, provide climate-smart agricultural technologies and improve the value chain for communities to sell their products for a fair market price.

Poverty in Zimbabwe and COVID-19

Zimbabwe is currently facing severe economic hardships that have only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 50% of Zimbabweans experienced food insecurity and 40% faced extreme poverty. This number is projected to increase as conditions worsen with the onset of the pandemic and severe droughts. Inflation in the country has been rampant, with prices of food increasing by 725%, resulting in a severe loss of purchasing power for the poor. The pandemic has impacted the already economically challenged country by decreasing trade and tourism.

Aiding Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe

The United States and APOPO hope that by clearing out the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, ecotourism in Zimbabwe will begin to thrive. As it stands currently, only 8,000 tourists on average visit Gonarezhou National Park compared to the 1.8 million tourists that visit the neighboring Kruger National Park of South Africa. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park means providing an extended opportunity for increased tourism in the struggling country. The efforts of APOPO, with the support of the United States, may be able to help economic recovery, reduce the impact of the pandemic and uplift communities that are battling poverty.

-Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

cause of hungerThe COVID-19 pandemic is deemed a global health crisis that has resulted in an economic crisis and a hunger crisis too. In the Dominican Republic, Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger.

Unemployment Due to COVID-19

Cabarete, Dominican Republic, prides itself on being one of the watersports capitals of the world. Nearly two-thirds of Cabarete’s population depends on the local tourism industry for work and income. These jobs mostly fall under the informal economy.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 60% of the world’s working population were employed in the informal economy. The informal economy is defined by hourly jobs that offer neither a salary nor employee benefits. The pandemic left many people without a regular source of income and without health insurance.

Compared with the bailout packages that the governments of wealthy nations were able to provide to their citizens, the governments of impoverished nations were unable to provide citizens with such economic support. Around the world, NGOs have attempted to assist in providing the support that impoverished governments are unable to provide.

Cabarete Sostenible Addresses the Root Cause of Hunger

Moraima Capellán Pichardo, a citizen of Cabarete, is a supporter of the concept of food sovereignty. The Borgen Project spoke with Capellán Pichardo about the origins of Cabarete Sostenible and the organization’s long-term goals. Food sovereignty, the principle that individual self-actualization is dependent on having enough to eat, is at the heart of Cabarete Sostenible’s mission.

Capellán Pichardo told The Borgen Project that individual NGOs in Cabarete were working independently of each other when the COVID-19 pandemic began. These separate organizations had a common goal so they came together to form a coalition and increase their impact. This coalition became the nonprofit organization, Cabarete Sostenible. Everyone who works with Cabarete Sostenible is a volunteer. The organization works with local food distributors and organic farms and distributes the foodstuff that it receives to struggling families and individuals in Cabarete. This forms the organization’s first response to the hunger crisis.

Although it began as a method to address an acute crisis, Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger. Capellán Pichardo indicated that food sovereignty has been on the minds of Cabarete Sostenible’s volunteers and organizers since its inception. “Very early on, we sat down to discuss where we thought Cabarete Sostenible was going in the future. For us, we wanted to make sure that we did not just stick to giving out food because that does not really address the root problem.”

The Concept of Food Sovereignty

Food insecurity means being without reliable access to sufficient and nutritious supplies of food at any given time and is a common reality for citizens of Cabarete. On the other hand, food sovereignty, organizing society in such a manner that every individual has access to producing his or her own food, is a possible solution to food insecurity. “Food sovereignty is tied to land access,” Capellán Pichardo says. “For us, it is important that the first mission that Cabarete Sostenible focuses on is food sovereignty: access to healthy and appropriate food and using the native agricultural land to provide that.”

Food Sovereignty Addresses Food Insecurity

Since COVID-19, many factors have contributed to a rise in food insecurity and extreme poverty worldwide. Mass rates of unemployment have threatened access to food as even the poorest households spend close to three-fourths of their income on food.

Widespread unemployment, combined with unexpected drops in agricultural production, has created an unprecedented crisis. Because of supply line disruptions and trade barriers, often the result of increased health precautions, citizens of the world’s poorest nations are left without access to food. Some of the suffering caused by such disruptions can be mitigated by food sovereignty policies. Perhaps, a societal approach may be modeled after Cabarete Sostenible’s efforts to address the root causes of hunger.

Sustainable Community Solutions to Hunger

Capellán Pichardo is optimistic about the road ahead as she details how the organization has worked with local landowners to collaborate on solutions. The organization has opened the first community garden and is working to partner up to create a community-style farm. All this is work toward creating a social business model. Cabarete Sostenible seeks to address the root cause of hunger by helping to create a sustainable way of living, where food shortages are less likely and future hunger crises are averted.

– Taylor Pangman
Photo: Flickr

During the financial crisis seven years ago, while many countries were struggling to stay afloat, Iceland was already at the bottom of the sea. A tiny country with a population of only 320,000, Iceland experienced near-total bank failure in the span of three days and a 95% decrease in stock. While monetary policies in the United States and Europe let large amounts of cash flow into the economy, Iceland let enormous amounts of dollars flow through. When the Icelandic krona crashed in 2008, the country’s three biggest banks had amassed wealth more than 10 times the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As a result of this “loose money” policy, 85% of the economy tanked. The lack of cash flow regulation in the economy led to its downfall and hindered the rebuilding process.

Iceland’s attempts at becoming an international banking powerhouse also factored into its demise. With very high interest rates, international investors could borrow dollars at 5%, exchange them for krona, and buy Icelandic stock at 9% interest. They would profit off the difference in interest rates. Without any governmental controls on the flow of money, all cash could have exited the country, further depressing the economy. However, with help from the International Monetary Fund, the Icelandic government began to impose strict capital controls, barring krona from leaving the country or residents from buying foreign currency or international stock. In the years immediately following the crash, the government raised taxes and provided debt relief to mortgage holders, but not to social services.

It also did something most developed countries have failed to do: jail bankers.

International hedge funds purchased claims for pennies at the height of the crash. Once financial recovery started, their assets grew, giving them a large share of power over the financial system. Due to continued cash control policy, this control affected the lives of Iceland’s residents as well. Residents were especially limited in the amount of foreign cash they could spend, which became a problem when traveling abroad or investing in international stock. “You have a feeling that there’s a system watching you and telling you what you can do with your money,” noted Gudmundur Kristjansson, a fisherman.

However, cash flow restriction and the devaluation that resulted posed some benefits for the economy as well. Exports became cheaper and imports more expensive, allowing residents to produce more goods rather than depend on foreign manufacturers. Devaluation caused wages to fall, so unemployment did not reach the soaring heights it did in Europe. Tourism increased as more people began to travel to Iceland for its cheap prices and its currency independence from less developed European countries.

However, the bars that once held Iceland in restricted success must soon be lifted. “We are enjoying the longest sustainable growth period in recent history,” commented Minister of Finance Bjarni Benediktsson, but cited lacking international investment and competing foreign companies as reasons for lifting the restrictions that helped foster the country’s success for so many years. “[Such controls] are not a sustainable situation for an economy,” said Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson.

Today, unemployment in Iceland is at 4%, GDP is expected to grow by 4.1% in 2015, and tourism is a flourishing industry. Despite the uncertain future of the country’s economy, it is certainly faring better than other European countries that suffered under the crash. For Greece, whose citizens voted against a deal with creditors and potentially face a future of exiting the Eurozone and financial security, tight monetary restrictions would not be a likely solution. It has a population of 11 million to Iceland’s 320,000, and a GDP 16 times that of the tiny island. When Iceland was preventing its people from spending money, Greece was throwing it around in all directions. Yet Iceland serves as an example of how unorthodox financial practices—controlling the cash flow, granting influence to international hedge funds—can unfreeze a nation and help it rebuild. Restoring a country to financial security is a process of understanding its government, citizens and industries. For Greece and other struggling countries, it will be a struggle, but not a failure.

Jenny Wheeler

Sources: IMF, New York Times
Photo: The Automatic Earth

The economic down turn of 2008, which was a result of the global recession in that same year, hit some European nations hard. Greece’s debt to GDP ratio was dangerously close, markets collapsed, and jobs were lost, needing a strong bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Reports have shown that the nation is starting to tiptoe out into capital markets once again, with help from other European nations and even more assistance from the IMF. Though this is not the first time Greece has shown an interest in trading or rejoining the international market or promise of growth, this particular instance seems to be more permanent.

However, with youth unemployment the highest in all of Europe at 58 percent, and unemployment still at astronomical numbers at over 28 percent, along with other negative economic indicators, many are understandably cautious about Greece’s re-entry. Amidst all the people who are still unemployed and even more who have migrated to other countries all together to find work, Greece has made this move most likely as a way to alert the world that although they have a long way to go, the world should not completely forget about them.

The European Commission expects a turnaround and “robust growth” in 2015, which is probably the reason for Greece’s reemergence, to establish new relationships and connections before the actual growth occurs.

The nation still owes a substantial debt to investors. With their bonds still wavering around junk bond level yields, Greece still has a way to go. But their situation is a lot like a patient in physical therapy. In order to walk again, no matter how grievous the injury, the road to recovery is actually getting up and attempting to put one foot in front of the other.

– Matthew Price

Sources: CNN Money, CNN
Photo: RTE News

South Korea has come a long way since it emerged from the Korean War in 1953 as an underdeveloped United States client state. Once a top receiver in foreign assistance, South Korea is now leading the charge in aiding underdeveloped countries.

Recently, Prime Minister Jung Hong-won committed to investing $2 billion worth of official development assistance (ODA) in 2014, in an effort to aid recipient countries by fast-tracking development programs and campaigns. This committed funding is an 11 percent increase from last year’s efforts and another progressive step forward in South Korea’s storied history.

Minho Cho, the deputy government director of ODA, stated that the majority of South Korea’s funds will be used to build and improve upon social and economic infrastructures.

Other development plans include the building of water treatment, education, healthcare and energy facilities in underdeveloped countries from Asia to Africa. “We are taking efforts to increase steadily the size of our ODA for several years and we are planning to increase [assistance] going forward,” said Cho.

South Korea’s foreign assistance programs will also focus on better suited developmental projects in underdeveloped countries in hopes of making aid more effective and transparent. “This year’s [development] policy priority is, first, we like to push for what we call a win-win ODA which means that both [the Korean government] and the recipient countries receiving aid are benefitting,” said Cho.

A portion of this funding will also go towards funding volunteers and their missions in developing countries to further display South Korea’s developmental footprint globally.

Further cementing South Korea’s footprint of aiding the poor is the announcement of a new World Bank office in Incheon, South Korea. World Bank country director, Klaus Rohland spoke about how other countries can benefit from the country’s storied past, “[South] Korea is an exceptional example of an aid recipient turned donor…and developing countries in Africa and elsewhere can learn from its experience. The new office will help expand partnerships…focusing on finance, private sector development, green growth and other priorities to accelerate poverty reduction and build shared prosperity.”

South Korea’s first woman president, Park Geun-hye, also announced expanded economic ties with India in an effort to add more depth to their existing partnership.

Being Asia’s fourth largest economy, South Korea is making a point to form lasting relationships with neighbors in their area. India and South Korea will be focusing their energy in promoting space technology, greater trade investments and defense industries. They will also be promoting their Korean model of growth in different parts of Africa.

While many countries are currently suffering from crippling poverty and food insecurity, South Korea is doing all they can to help lift the burden for those countries. Ranking near the top of all major donors, South Korea is also hoping to make foreign aid 25 percent of the country’s Gross National Income by 2015. The success of South Korea is a prime illustration of how it’s possible for underdeveloped countries to overcome adversity and achieve prosperity in this lifetime.

Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: Mizo News, Devex, Devex
Photo: KOICA