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Glamour BoutiqueThere are a number of advancements in legal gender rights across the world. However, social norms still play a large role in preventing women from attaining economic independence. Globally, women are almost three times more likely than men to work in the unpaid sector—namely domestic work and caring for children. When the women who are confined to this lifestyle are able to find paid work, it is often part-time and low-wage. This sets them at a significant financial disadvantage. They must depend on their husbands and families to provide for their basic needs.

The Fix

The Inclusive and Equitable Local Development (IELD) sector of the United Nations Capital Development Fund fights to right these wrongs. They invest in small businesses in developing countries that are largely run by women. Through their investments, these businesses expand, hire more people, increase their consumer market and earn more money. When women achieve financial independence, the reward is multiplied. Economically secure women are likely to invest in education, health and their community.

The Entrepreneur

One of these businesses that the IELD benefits is Glamour Boutique—a fashion business in Jessore, a small town in southwestern Bangladesh.

Glamour Boutique was officially founded in 2007 by Parveen Akhter. Akhter had been kidnapped and forced into child marriage when she was in the ninth grade. Her husband—her kidnapper and a drug addict—made it a habit of abusing her throughout their seventeen-year marriage. Encouragement from her oldest son, 16-years-old at the time, led her to file for divorce and set up the Glamour Boutique House and Training Centre. It was based in her home and capitalized on the embroidery and tailoring skills Akhter had taught herself over the years. Once business picked up, she moved into a rented space.

This is when the IELD stepped in. Akhter had little money, a small market and limited machines. They loaned her nearly 30,000 USD to expand. Since then, Glamour Boutique has employed over 50 women and consistently trains around 20 in tailoring and embroidery.

More than anything, the company is female-friendly. It helps to lift women out of poverty and give them a purpose and community. Additionally, she is sensitive to her employees having outside commitments. She offers short four-hour shifts for women who are enrolled in school, have children or have other situations warranting a flexible schedule.

Mussamad Nafiza, an employee at Glamour Boutique, testifies to the beauty of working there. She describes her own and others’ financial gain and independence as well as her dreams of opening a business similar to Akhter’s. Dipa Monjundar, a friend of Akhter’s and fellow small business owner, commends Akhter’s work and celebrates the economic empowerment of women across Bangladesh.

Next Steps

Although important, investing in women’s businesses is not the only way to help women achieve economic prosperity. Commitments from men and the government are essential. They need to respect, uphold and uplift women’s rights to sustainably change the way communities approach gender disparity.

Jessore’s mayor participated in several gender equality training sessions before starting any major projects. If other community leaders encourage participation in similar training courses, economic gender parity may no longer be a far-fetched dream.

Rebecca Blanke
Photo: Flickr

street vendors As the first country affected by COVID-19, China is now recovering from the pandemic. Businesses are reopening gradually and people are slowly returning to their normal day-to-day life. However, the pandemic triggered an increase in unemployment, rising from 5.7% to 6.2% in February. Since then, the government has been working to address this rapid rise. In addition to the expansion of civil servants and enterprises, the government is encouraging street vendors to help solve the problem of employment.

Economic Disparity

China has a large population of low-income citizens whose vulnerability is increased during times of crisis. This problem is not only an economic problem but also an issue of stability of sovereignty. During last month’s parliament session, Prime Minister Li Keqiang discussed civilian livelihood, reporting that 600 million citizens were still only making a monthly income of around 1,000 yuan ($140). This shows that there is still a large number of people in China who are unable to fill their basic needs without an increase in their income. As a result, China has begun to recognize the importance of developing the street vendor economy, which can help decrease unemployment and drive up higher consumption.

Street Vending in Public Policy

With the target of eliminating poverty by 2020, the approval of street vendors has become a necessary choice. Street stalls were previously thought to clash with the modern urban landscape of cities. However, the Chinese government had a change in attitude following the successful street stall experiment in Chengdu, China. The government found that reintroducing street stalls in Chengdu created 100,000 new jobs and largely increased people’s interest in entrepreneurship. Thus, the policy was implemented across the country.

Additionally, many large companies from a variety of sectors are stepping in and showing their support for street vending. Alibaba is one of the largest online shopping platforms in China. It pledged to sell merchandise to stall owners at a reduced price. Additionally, Dongfeng Motor Group and Jiangling Motors Corp (JMC) said its “vans can be modified to suit vegetable sellers or BBQ street food vendors.”

Effect on Unemployment

In June, unemployment was at  5.7%, which was a decrease of two points from the previous month. At that time, China had also created 5.64 million jobs. The increased use of street vendors is contributing to the stimulation of China’s economy and encouraging cash fl0w. Street vendors are aiding in the absorption of the labor force. They are helping those who have been unable to find work and who have not yet received aid due to the pandemic.

There is still some debate in areas like Bejing as to whether street vendors will help the economy. However, Chengdu created 100,00 jobs in May by opening “tens of thousands of street stalls.” Other local governments are following suit. Lanzhou announced its plans to open 11,000 more vendors with the possibility of providing an additional 300,000 jobs. By July, the unemployment rate had not lowered, but it also did not go up.

In a time when many countries are facing a spike in unemployment, China’s use of innovative solutions sets an encouraging example. By using street vendors as a way to stimulate the economy, China is supporting small businesses and improving consumer confidence. 

Dihan Chen
Photo: Flickr

Rafode
For many years, microfinance was viewed as one of the most successful means of raising individuals and communities out of poverty. In Myanmar, small and medium enterprises made up 99% of the country’s businesses. Most of those were, to no surprise, micro-businesses. In particular, the tool of microfinance was viewed as especially helpful to women. Yet, it turns out that studies found that microloans were not actually as impactful as many wanted them to be. The problem is that, because microloans are often given to those considered high-risk borrowers, high-interest rates are charged, making it difficult for those receiving the loans in the long run. The way to make microloans sustainable is by diverting the focus away from scalability and immediate returns. Rafode, a startup in Kenya, has done just that.

Headquartered in Kisumu, Kenya, Rafode is a “non-deposit taking Microfinance Institution.” With its main focus on women in rural communities, Rafode has successfully distributed over 40,000 loans, all with a value of around 700 million Kenya Shillings or $6.5 million. Relying on technology to deliver its products and services, Rafode has succeeded in reaching rural communities and uplifting both men and women through microloans.

Products and Services

Rafode has eight different products, all in the form of loans for different purposes.

  1. Inuka Business Loan: As a group loan, this is intended to encourage clients to create, upgrade or expand a business. This loan is the first step to receiving an individual loan and can range from 10,000 to 480,000 Kenya shillings.
  2. Masomo Loan: Dedicated to education, this loan is aimed to support a client’s family in receiving an education.
  3. Green Energy Loan: Working with other companies that provide green products, including Burn, Marathoner and Sunking, this group loan provides support for rural clients seeking access to affordable green energy products.
  4. Agribusiness Loan: As the name would suggest, this loan exists to specifically help small scale farmers in the agribusiness industry.
  5. Pamoja Loan: As another group loan, this works to support a group hoping to support its local economy.
  6. Emergency Loan: As an individual loan, the Emergency Loan serves to cater to the client’s emergencies, typically related to their business.
  7. Individual Business Loan: A more selective loan to receive, this loan exists exclusively for clients who already have businesses, and who already have businesses that are stable and have a reliable source of profits.
  8. Asset Loan: This final loan is self-securing. Providing real flexibility to clients, they gain the ability to finance movable assets and free up cash they might not have had before. Like the Individual Business Loan, this exists for clients who already are seeing their business profit, and hope to expand or grow it even more.

The Value of Microfinance

While conventional microloans have not been so effective, researchers have found that by providing microloans with little to no collateral, there are usually better results. Specifically, when given to women, these results are even more effective. This is because, especially in developing countries, microloans are among the only things that increase women’s decision-making power. In other words, microloans undeniably empower women.

So, Rafode’s efforts to give 85% of their microloans to women, focusing on rural communities and offering a plethora of different types of loans, all with very little collateral, have enabled this startup to do extremely impactful work that provides mutual benefits to the clients and back to the company. The most successful microfinance products allow flexible payment periods, individual liability contracts and one of Rafode’s main tools, the use of technology.

By believing in microfinance and adjusting to what will work by trusting in their clients, Rafode has raised individuals and families out of poverty, as well as revitalized economies in the process.

– Olivia Fish
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in CroatiaHunger in Croatia has been a historical plague starting in 1917 when World War I set the country to a two-year famine. The struggle continued through the 2008 recession that increased poverty and unemployment rates by 8%. As in many contexts, Croatia’s economic hardship left many families with insecure food sources, with children being the most vulnerable to malnutrition and stunting. Consequently, in UNICEF’s 2014 report “Children of Recession,” the number of Croatian children living in poverty or at the brink of poverty was at an alarming level.

Fighting Hunger in Croatia by Addressing Poverty

Due to the correlation between poverty and hunger, the Minister of Social Welfare Milanka Opacic launched an initiative in 2015 to combat issues of hunger in Croatia. Part of this initiative included providing free school lunches to all children. As a result of this initiative, the Global Hunger Index in 2015 reported that Croatia, alongside 17 other countries, had reduced the number of people with insecure food sources by half. Furthermore, in 2016, the Global Hunger Index ranked Croatia as being of low concern for hunger.

The Link Between Hunger in Croatia and Agriculture

However, the problem of hunger in Croatia is not solely caused by poverty. Croatia is a country heavily dependent on food imports. Despite the fact that Croatia has quality agricultural land, plenty of water as well and a diverse climate and landscape, it is unable to produce enough food for the consumption needs of citizens. Based on its resources, Croatia should be a major exporter of agricultural goods; instead, Croatia imports 3.5 billion euros worth of food. One main cause of insufficient agriculture production in Croatia is inadequate and ineffective management of land. Due to this mismanagement, Croatian agricultural estates remain small, fragmented, underdeveloped and ultimately unproductive. Croatia suffers from agricultural stunting as a result of depopulated rural areas, a poor market value chain and outdated technology.

These issues will perpetually tie Croatia to food imports and fundamentally prevent the nation from being agriculturally independent. From an economic or trade perspective, this import dependence is not a problem. Every country in the world imports goods that it cannot produce domestically. However, in the era of COVID-19, heavy reliance on imports raises concerns; especially when the import is something as important and life-sustaining as food.

Steps Towards a Secure Croatia

While initiatives combating hunger in Croatia have made great domestic progress through increasing access to impoverished communities, there is still work to do. Experts call on Croatia to extend their hunger policies and focus on investing in domestic agricultural production. Croatia has already proven to be a country prone to hunger and it simply cannot afford to be self-sufficient in the provision of food in order to survive potential events like security threats, natural disasters or resource depletion.

Croatia has indisputably improved remarkably in regards to hunger since the 2008 recession. However, there is still a long way to go. This work requires funding, research and dedication; if successful, these efforts will result in an agriculturally independent and secure Croatia.

Lily Jones
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Chile
Like many other countries, Chile has struggled to ensure its citizens remain out of poverty. Luckily, the country has experienced economic growth over the past few years, now one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America. This success can be seen by looking at how much of the population was impoverished in 2000 compared to 2017. In 2000, 30% of the population was impoverished. By 2017, the country was able to cut that number all the way down to 3.7%. As a result, Chile has grown its economy, helped those in poverty and reduced the poverty rate.

3 Things to Know About Poverty Reduction in Chile

  1. Free-Market: Much of the reason there has been poverty reduction in Chile is due in part to its decision to become a free-market economy in the mid-1980s. This resulted in increased trade with other countries. From 1985 to 1989, Chilean exports doubled. That trend has only continued for the country up into the modern day. By becoming a free-market economy, the country set itself up for a healthier economy.
  2. Chile Solidario: The Chilean government has implemented a multitude of programs to bring aid to those in poverty and bring about poverty reduction in Chile. The Chile Solidario was the first large-scale version of such programs. The program continued throughout the years 2002 and 2009. One of the ways the program met the needs of impoverished people in Chile was by actually sending case workers out to meet with Chilean citizens in poverty and rectify the problems they struggle with. By doing so, the program was able to personalize the aid given to a family depending on the unique problems that family was struggling with. While Chile Solidario did not help with employing Chilean citizens in poverty or improving housing conditions, it did help them use the welfare system within the country to get them through their economic troubles.
  3. Countercyclical policy: A countercyclical policy works opposite to the business cycle rather than along with it. The country instead lowers taxes and increases spending during a periods when the market is not favorable and raises taxes and reduces spending when the market is favorable. During the early 2000s, Chile adopted a countercyclical policy. As a result, public spending remains at the same rate throughout the year. The countercyclical policy has proven effective and reliable in Chile. For example, copper is the most important export to the Chilean economy. During 2009, however, the copper industry suffered quickly and as a result unemployment increased to 10%. The excess money that Chile saved up due to its countercyclical policy was used as a stimulus to help the people. Therefore, this policy can promote poverty reduction in Chile should there be an economic crisis in the future.

Due to the Chilean government’s actions, Chile has reduced poverty and provided a better standard of living for its people. Moving forward, it is essential that the country and other humanitarian organizations continue to focus on poverty reduction and improving livelihoods. If they do, poverty in Chile will hopefully continue to decrease.

– Jacob E. Lee 
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Japan

On the surface, Japan seems to successfully avoid the hardships and setbacks that can plague powerful economies. However, Japan actually employs costly efforts to hide its growing economic struggles. Here’s what you should know about poverty in Japan.

10 Facts About Poverty in Japan

  1. Less than one percent of Japan is homeless. As of 2018, Japan has a population of 126.5 million people. According to the latest Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare statistics, Japan’s current homelessness figure stands below 5,000. This is a steady decline from nearly 26,000 people without homes in 2003. While this appears to be a remarkable feat of social reform, the truth is that the Japanese government commits millions of dollars every year to ensure homelessness remains low. The goal is to ensure that the Japanese economy appears strong. In reality, poverty in Japan is increasing. The dozens of government reforms Japan enacts each year are extremely costly and are approaching unsustainability.
  2. Japan is “the most equal major society” in terms of wealth distribution. According to the Statista Research Department, a total of 92% of the Japanese population has anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million in either assets or wealth. On paper, these figures appear to demonstrate an extremely healthy economy; however, they hide the fact that poverty in Japan is well over 16%. The notion that 92% of Japanese citizens fall into some category of “wealthy” may be misleading, serving as a straw-man statistic booster.
  3. A rising percentage of individuals in Japan are poverty-stricken. Japan has seen a huge and sudden rise in poverty and poor economic conditions, especially since 2012. According to The Guardian, 3.5 million Japanese children live in poverty-stricken homes. Since 1991, poverty has increased as a systemic problem for Japan, reaching 16.3% this past year. This figure is expected to continue to rise dramatically as the working population decreases.
  4. Japan is caught in an economic game of “cat and mouse.” Ever since Japan experienced a major increase in retired citizens, poverty in Japan has become a greater issue. As a result, Japan has had to increase the retirement age to 70, shift focus to labor force participation (which breeds unequal disbursement of employment opportunity), and implement expensive government reforms to cope with the declining workforce population and the increasing retired population.
  5. Japan pours a ton of resources into battling unemployment. Poverty in Japan entered an unprecedented era of severity after a major drop in workforce members in 1991. Before 1991, unemployment hovered just below 2% for decades, then rose drastically to nearly 6% by 2002. In fact, this singular event nearly toppled Japan as a world economic leader. Today, Japan has returned to a nearly 2% unemployment rate, although the country has had to pour a huge amount of financial resources in order to accomplish this stabilization. The country still has not fully recovered.
  6. One-third of Japan is retired, and the government doesn’t know what to do. Currently, around a third of Japan’s population is 65 or over. Japan actually has the oldest population in the world. This is partly why Japan has become one of the slowest growing major economies. Aggressive government spending is needed to care for a huge portion of Japan’s population, and the problem is only getting worse as the population continues to age.
  7. Japan suffers from an imbalanced ratio of employed citizens and recipients of social benefits. Much like the United States, Japan’s social benefits system is increasingly problematic. Japan’s “Baby Boom” generation nearly all receive social security. Meanwhile, the section of the economy that pays for social security benefits is not keeping up with financial demands. Japan’s birth rate is likewise falling behind the number of new social benefit recipients. In fact, Japan is expecting to see an unsustainable ratio of ‘recipient to payer’ in social benefit programs by 2025.
  8. Japanese single mothers carry disproportionately heavy financial burdens. In Japanese culture, if a divorce occurs, the mother receives full child custody in nearly 80% of divorce cases. Right now, there is no enforcement of child support programs — meaning that single mothers in Japan may take on 100% of the financial burden of raising children. As a result, thousands of single mothers are left in poor economic standing and are forced to seek government assistance. Because the subject of single motherhood due to divorce is taboo, thousands of women live without assistance. This leaves many of them in extreme poverty.
  9. Abandoned houses have become a common phenomenon. “Akiya” is a term to define a house that has been vacated or abandoned and remains empty. According to World Habitat, there are currently around 9 million abandoned homes in Japan, with an expected increase of up to 21 million abandoned homes by 2033. This adversely affects poverty in Japan because the government is forced to repurpose and upkeep vacant houses; this is an enormous financial burden.
  10. Japanese poverty affects women differently than men. Japan has made some remarkable advancements towards equality in the workforce in recent years. 71% of women are employed, versus the 58% female employment rate a decade ago. Women in Japan also enjoy long and generous parental leaves. However, despite these progressive advances, the female workforce is facing an uncertain future, with prospective poverty rates for older women expected to reach 25% by 2040. With rapidly declining birthrates and increasing retirement rates, current female employment levels won’t be able to combat another wave of retirement recipients and the social benefit impacts.

Why This Knowledge is Important

The Japanese economy is the third-largest in the world, and Japan is regarded a global example of economic strength and prosperity. However, the hard reality is that Japan is a struggling country that is finding it harder to support its citizens every year. Without aid, Japan may find itself unable to provide and maintain its population without making drastic sacrifices — which would not only decrease the strength of Japan but also impact the wider global economy.

Donovan McDonald

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Costa RicaCosta Rica, officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica, is a Central American country located just south of Nicaragua. Over the past decade, many Central American countries, including Costa Rica, have had struggles with malnourishment. Hunger in Costa Rica was a national issue between 2011-2013. According to a report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 8.2 percent of the population of Costa Rica was “chronically malnourished.”

Poverty in Costa Rica

Costa Rica does not have a problem producing food. When there are foods it cannot produce they are imported. Costa Rica’s food problem is that citizens cannot afford the food they need. Estimates placed the unemployment rate at 18 percent, a bad mix with the fact that Costa Rica already has a high cost of living due to its location.

However, by 2017, there had been massive improvements and reductions in hunger in Costa Rica. The International Food Policy Research Institute found that by 2016, Costa Rica has already reduced its proportion of undernourished citizens to just 3.8 percent.

As mentioned before, the economy was the biggest factor that contributed to hunger in Costa Rica. Costa Rica has focused on building its economy over the past five years. In fact, Costa Rica has grown its economy by 3.5 percent annually at that time.

Increasing Business

One of the ways its economy has grown is to make the business environment more attractive. Costa Rica has reduced its licensing requirements, which will take away some of the hurdles for new business owners. Costa Rica has also focused on growing its trade market. Exports and imports together make up about 72 percent of GDP. The majority of these exports are bananas, coffee and sugar.

Although increasing the economy has helped reduce hunger, a new type of malnourishment is becoming a problem: obesity. Almost a quarter of the adult population is obese, and more than 60.4 percent of people are deemed overweight. Even the adolescent population is suffering from obesity: 8.1 percent of children under five are overweight.

Many Costa Ricans do not view obesity as a problem because being bigger is seen as “normal”. There is a term used called “gordita.” A gordita is a type of Mexican pastry, and the word is used as a slang term used affectionately for someone who is overweight. Costa Rica, as well as the rest of Central America, has a growing problem with obesity. Just like its struggles with hunger, the country will find a solution to this rising problem.

Scott Kesselring
Photo: Pixabay

Life Expectancy in Bahrain
The Kingdom of Bahrain is the island nation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This former British protectorate achieved its independence in 1971. Since the discovery of oil in the mid-20th century, Bahrain’s petroleum industry has been the backbone of the country’s economy and has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world. With its newfound wealth, the Bahraini government invested in public welfare, infrastructure and public sectors. This led to a steady increase in life expectancy in Bahrain.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Bahrain

  1. The life expectancy in Bahrain stood at 79.4 years as of 2019. The average life expectancy for women in Bahrain is 81.8 years, compared to 77.1 years for men. Bahrain ranks 52nd in terms of average life expectancy when compared to the entire world. The U.N. estimates that Bahrain’s life expectancy will increase to 81.16 years by 2050.
  2. The biggest increase in life expectancy in Bahrain occurred during the 1960s. After the country’s discovery of oil in 1931, Bahrain reported strong economic growth in the subsequent decades which positively impacted life expectancy. However, since the 1970s the rate of increase in life expectancy in Bahrain has slowed. The life expectancy in Bahrain is on par with countries such as the U.K., the U.S. and Australia.
  3. Bahrain has both universal and private health care. For Bahraini nationals, comprehensive care is provided free of charge, which contributes to the overall excellent life expectancy in Bahrain. The central government mainly finances the health care system. Still, some citizens prefer to participate in private healthcare options in order to overcome the challenge of longer wait times in public facilities.
  4. Bahrain’s immunization program largely eliminated childhood infectious diseases in the kingdom. The introduction of the measles vaccine in 1974 was the saving grace at a time when measles was the leading cause of death among children. After the introduction of the measles vaccine, the Bahraini government conducted a successful nationwide vaccination campaign. By 1999, more than 90 percent of children in Bahrain received vaccines. In 2009, the measles outbreak included only 0.27 cases per 100,000 compared to 1985 when there were 250 cases per 100,000.
  5. As of 2019, the Bahraini government passed a new law that mandates health insurance coverage for all citizens, residents and visitors. Under the new law, expatriate domestic workers, such as housemaids, drivers, gardeners and nurses, will be covered for free.
  6. The leading cause of death in Bahrain is ischemic heart disease. Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, refers to a heart condition where the major blood vessels to the heart become damaged or diseased. Obesity and smoking are the leading cause of ischemic heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, as of 2016, 27 percent of Bahrain’s population smokes tobacco. WHO also reported that 29 percent of the adults in Bahrain were obese.
  7. The Bahraini government is set to finish the construction of a $32 million long-term health care center. Funded through the Saudi Fund for Development, this 100-bed facility aims to open in 2022. The facility will be equipped to treat patients who are afflicted with ailments that require long-term care.
  8. Bahrain’s suicide rate ranks 138th in the world. Bahrain is ranked relatively low on the suicide rate ranking out of the 183 countries ranked by the WHO. The data in 2016 shows that there were 5.9 people committing suicide for every 100,000 people in Bahrain. However, in 2019, the WHO also reported that Bahrain had the 5th highest rate of suicide among Arab Nations.
  9. In 2019, Bahrain is ranked as the most air-polluted country in the Middle East. Other countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan were among the top 10 countries on the list. Experts stated that emissions of oil refineries, power stations and fuel-powered transportation and burning of waste in open spaces are the major contributors to pollution in Bahrain. These pollutants in the air can cause a variety of respiratory complications.

Life expectancy in Bahrain is very much related to the country’s economy. Since the discovery of oil in the 1930s, the Bahraini government used their newfound wealth to bolster the country’s infrastructure and health care for its citizens. With the help of international funds such as the Saudi Fund for Development, Bahrain is further bolstering its health care system. However, the country’s declining oil industry and the pollution that they cause does give rise to concerns about the future of life expectancy in Bahrain

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

sustainable farmingHunger and food insecurity are major issues in India; the nation is home to 15 percent of the world’s undernourished people. The United Nations’ FAO estimates that every single day, more than 195 million people in India suffer from hunger.

The nation seriously lags behind other major nations like Brazil and China when it comes to crop yield for cereal and rice, which are India’s two key crops. India’s slow and inefficient agricultural sector is the result of limited access to modern technology, inefficient systems for transporting goods and urbanization. And on top of that, 63 percent of agricultural land is dependent on rainfall, so years with low rain devastate crop production. Despite all of this, farmers in India have started movements to utilize more sustainable farming methods and practices that work to make the agricultural system more efficient in order to increase outputs and improves people’s lives.

Sustainable Farming Methods

Sustainable farming practices are used to improve agricultural output and efficiency, which means that more food is produced, less resources are used and more profits are made by farmers. Examples of sustainable farming methods include using a biodegradable mulch film instead of one made from Polyethylene. While Polyethylene films require intense labor to remove, and can affect soil quality and crop growth if done improperly, biodegradable films are naturally absorbed by microorganisms in the soil, and help maintain the quality of soil while reducing costs of labor. Farmers will also use fungicides and insecticides on their seeds in order to improve the health of their crops and enhance their productivity. In addition, due to the fact that agriculture relies so heavily on rainfall, effective sustainable water management is crucial for a successful harvest.

Along with how crops are grown, how they are stored and distributed is a crucial aspect of agriculture. An estimated up to 67 million tons of food are wasted every year in India. Perishable goods end up often rotting as a result of a lack of modern technology, pests, or weather. Sustainable initiatives like using more efficient insulation and special tarpaulins that keep fruits and vegetables at proper temperatures during transportation work to reduce the number of perishables that rot. Reducing the amount of food that rots means that there is more food available to eat, which combats food insecurity and ensure that more food items are available without even increasing crop yield. And of course, combining these efforts with initiatives to produce food more sustainably and efficiently does even more to fight food insecurity.

The Natural Farming Movement

India’s Natural Farming movement plays a massive role in promoting sustainable farming practices that improve health, create jobs, cut labor costs and improve peoples’ overall quality of life. The use of pesticides has devastated farmers across India which has led to the loss of crops, debt, illness and even death. In 2000, villagers from the village of Punukula, Andrha Pradesh, launched a grassroots movement against the use of pesticides, focusing on non-pesticide management techniques that employ natural alternatives like chili pepper and planting trap crops like castor.

Within a year of the start of the movement, farmers saw pesticide-related health issues vanish, expenses drop, and profits increase. In addition, new jobs were created as a result of the need to create repellents from natural products. Villagers reported that the movement improved their quality of life — improving their financial situations, their health and their overall happiness. More villagers began to reject the use of pesticides, and the village declared itself as pesticide-free in 2004.

Zero Budget Natural Farming

A similar natural farming movement is Zero Budget Natural Farming, which began as a grassroots effort led by people in the state of Karnataka. Zero Budget entails that farmers do not spend money on inputs for their crops and that they would rather use resources from nature to grow and tend to their crops instead of chemicals, thus Zero Budget Natural Farming. Using natural products instead of taking out loans to spend on chemicals allows for farmers to save money, which improves their financial stability and allows them to focus more on tending to their crops.

A key aspect of Zero Budget Natural Farming is the use of the fermented microbial culture Jeevamrutha (a mixture of water, cow urine, cow dung, flour, soil, and brown sugar) on soil. Jeevanmrutha acts as a catalyst in promoting earthworm and microorganism activity within the soil, while also providing the soil with additional nutrients. Using natural products instead of taking out loans to spend on chemicals allows for farmers to save money, providing them with more financial stability and thus improving their quality of life.

The Zero Budget Natural Farming movement actually runs training camps that receive support by the state government. These camps last five days, with eight hours of classes per day. Attendance ranges from 300 to 5000 farmers, and topics covered include philosophy, ecology, successful farming practices, and of course, Zero Budget Natural Farming methods.

A Promising Future

The people of India suffer enormously from hunger and food insecurity. India’s weak and inefficient agricultural and food storage and distribution systems, coupled with devastating years of low rain often leads Indian farmers into bad health, hunger, and poverty. However, farmers in India have started a movement towards a more efficient, sustainable, and eco-friendly farming techniques that fight against poverty and hunger. Using these sustainable techniques means that farmers have fewer costs upfront, ensuring that they are able to make higher profits and worry less about having to take loans or to pay off debts. Sustainable farming in India reduces poverty, fights hunger, and changes lives.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr

 

Pros of Immigration

While many view immigration as a cultural crisis, the pros of immigration are significant. Immigration is a point of contention as immigrants change the face of a population and bring their own culture with them. Moreover, immigrants receive criticism if they do not fully integrate, by not speaking the country’s primary language. Some people simply feel there’s no room for immigrants. They fear their jobs will be taken or undercut by the low wages some immigrants are willing to work for.

In spite of these concerns, it is undeniable that immigrants infuse much needed vitality into the economy. They build businesses, create jobs and bring new perspectives. Most importantly, welcoming immigrants supports and promotes an international standard of human rights. Everyone should be able to settle somewhere safe, healthy and stable—especially if their native country is not so.

Below is an immigration case study of sorts, demonstrating the economic benefits of immigration in Japan, the U.S., and Western Europe.

Japan

Plagued by an aging population and declining birth rates, immigration provides Japan with a new source of young workers. The Japanese Health Ministry predicts that by 2060, the country’s population will fall to 86.74 million. This is a 40 million decrease since 2010. Currently, 20 percent of Japan’s population is over 65 years old. As a result, this burdens Japan’s shrinking workforce with the funds for their pensions and healthcare. But immigration into Japan ensures the nation’s economy can maintain itself as people retire.

Japan is historically unwelcoming to immigrants, believing peace and harmony to be rooted in homogeneity. As such, the nation’s immigration policy reflects this. Japan only allows a small number of highly skilled workers into the country. This policy has been in place since 1988 to combat labor shortages. However, this is no longer enough to combat Japan’s worsening economy. In 2018, labor shortages in the nation were the highest they had been in 40 years.

However, the pros of immigration in Japan are clear. Without it, Japan faces an incredibly insecure economic future. With no sign of population growth, the nation’s perpetually shrinking workforce will become unable to support its retired citizens. However, immigrants can round out the workforce in Japan. And they can neutralize any economic woes the nation might face in the future by preventing labor shortages.

USA

The cultural and economic contributions immigrants have made to America are vast, overwhelmingly advantageous and long-lasting.

A study done by economists at Harvard, Yale and the London School of Economics found US counties that accepted more immigrants between 1860 and 1920 are doing better today as a result. These counties have significantly higher incomes, higher educational achievement, less poverty and lower unemployment because immigrants provided the low-skilled labor needed to support rapid industrialization. Undeniably, immigrants have always and still continue to increase economic growth in America.

Similarly, immigrants in the U.S. have been integral to innovation and entrepreneurship. Half of all startups in America worth over a billion dollars have been founded by immigrants. Eleven of these startups employ more than 17,000 people in the U.S. Some of these companies, such as Uber and WeWork, have significantly changed American culture. They modify the way Americans live their daily lives. Therefore, the pros of immigration in the U.S. are grounded in the diversity of thought brought by immigrants, necessary to further American innovation and economic growth.

Western Europe

Like Japan, Western Europe is battling an aging population and declining birth rates. Fertility rates are expected to hit zero in the next decade. Consequently, this region may not be able to sustain its expansive social welfare programs as its workforce shrinks and retired populations grow. In Germany, the median age is 47.1 years, the oldest in Western Europe. This is only slightly younger than Japan’s 47.3 years. Besides convincing its native populations to have more children, immigration is their only alternative.

Immigration into Western Europe is an undeniable win for both the immigrants and the host countries. Many new immigrants in Western Europe have escaped unstable regimes, religious persecution, and economic downturn in North African and Middle Eastern countries. Thus, immigrants give the region a younger workforce that is able to sustain the region’s expensive social benefits. In return, Western Europe provides immigrants with jobs, stability, and a safe place to live.

While still a very divisive topic, the pros of immigration lie in its plethora of economic benefits. It is undeniable that immigration has always been the driver of economic growth, despite all of the criticism. Immigration provides immigrants with an alternative to oppressive regimes and other instability, of course. And the pros of immigration for nations absolutely outweigh the cons.

Jillian Baxter
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