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5 Women Fighting Poverty in Latin America
Around the world, women bear the brunt of poverty. Specifically in developing countries, women hold the responsibility of household welfare and the gendered division of labor; in their attempt to manage both, women face the absence of autonomy and economic opportunities.

Here are five women fighting poverty in Latin America. These women are working hard to ensure their rights and the rights of thousands of people in their countries who are living in poverty.

Mariana Costa Checa

A businesswoman from Peru, Mariana Costa Checa is the brain behind Laboratoria. Laboratoria is a web-based education startup that uses online boot camps and corporate training programs to train women in the tech industry. The goal of the company is to enable women of all income levels to train for and connect with and work at tech jobs that have an impact at the systematic level. By providing women with a source of income and the knowledge to pursue various careers, Mariana has established a company that has the potential to draw hundreds of women, and their households, out of poverty.

Claudia López

Another one of the women fighting poverty in Latin America is Claudia López, who was elected as mayor of Bogotá in Colombia’s October 2019 election. This event marked a historic first for the country as Claudia López is the first woman, and the first gay woman, elected as mayor. In Colombia, the mayor of Bogotá holds a high position, often considered the second most important politician in the country after the president. López has reached a milestone for women, and she promises to continue fighting for women by providing educational opportunities and opening up more job opportunities.

López also prioritizes fighting corruption, ending child labor and putting more police officers on the streets. With her victory, the country has a chance to put an end to some of its most ongoing and pressing issues.

Erika Herrero

As the chief executive officer of Belcorp, Erika Herrero Bettarel has been making waves in the beauty industry and the community of women. Belcorp is a multi-brand corporation that specializes in beauty products and services based in numerous countries around Latin America. Belcorp believes that women are a major driver of positive social change, and the company aims to bring women closer to their idea of beauty and fulfillment. With Erika’s help, Belcorp has been able to help support over 1 million women in terms of receiving income, flexible working hours, appropriate training, social protection and micro-life insurance.

Belcorp has also facilitated over 1,600 scholarships for young Latin American girls and trained over 18,400 low-income adult women in areas of personal development, violence prevention and economic development. Erika Herrero says that by capitalizing on the importance of the beauty industry, she is able to use Belcorp to open up more networks and job opportunities for women in Latin America, promising women a better future by helping to end their poverty.

Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco

Co-founders of Pro Mujer, Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco, are leading women’s development through social entrepreneurship. Patterson and Carmen’s work has provided women in Latin American with health, microfinance and training services that are typically out of reach to women of low-income families. Pro Mujer works with over 277,000 women across five Latin American countries to help diagnose and treat health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Individuals in poverty are at high risk for these chronic diseases due to economic problems.

When individuals in poverty are struck with illnesses that go untreated, their condition further deteriorates, perpetuating the cycle. Pro Mujer promotes healthy behavior among clients by holding meetings, offering health counseling and education and using innovative and financially sustainable health models to diagnose and treat illnesses. By offering below-market prices for its services, Pro Mujer is giving sophisticated health care to those in poverty.

 

Women may still carry the weight of poverty, but there are many women fighting poverty in Latin America. Mariana Checa, Claudia López, Erika Herrero, Lynne Patterson, Carmen Velasco and countless others are making a significant difference with their work. As women continue to make progress in Latin America, the region has high hopes of economic growth.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay

Moyee Coffee is Helping Farmers in Ethiopia
The days of poor coffee farmers in Ethiopia receiving underpayment for hard work may soon be over as Moyee Coffee is helping farmers in the country. Moyee, a Dutch coffee brand, is transforming supply chains with blockchain. Moyee begins this process by creating unique digital identities for its coffee producers. Next, it sets prices at 20 percent over the market rate. Buyers can view these prices and choose to support the livelihood of farmers in Ethiopia. The coffee company is also creating an app that allows customers to tip farmers. These business decisions are what make Moyee the first multinational coffee company based in Ethiopia.

Why Coffee is Such a Tough Business

People consume billions of cups of coffee every day and the coffee industry is worth almost $100 billion, yet the producers of the coffee bean are among the world’s poor. Approximately 90 million people who help produce coffee live on less than $2 a day. To put that into perspective, most Americans spend more than $2 a day on a cup of coffee.

A lot of the problems associated with coffee farming and poverty have to do with climate change and price fluctuation. Climate change has altered growing seasons making it difficult to produce good quality crops. Species of coffee are dying out because of deforestation and soon farmlands may become unsuitable to grow coffee. Prices fluctuate often because of supply and demand. The problem is that when climate change damages crop yield, prices can be low which means farmers earn less than they should for their product.

How Blockchain Increases Profits for Farmers in Ethiopia

This is when Fairchain comes in. Fairchain is a version of blockchain that Moyee created. It is a digital supply chain that is completely transparent. The supply chain tracks every transaction from the coffee bean to the coffee cup. This allows blockchain to cut out the middleman and help control price fluctuations. When the supply chain is transparent, people and companies can see how much each chain in the line received to keep prices fair. This is what helps farmers when prices fluctuate dramatically because they get a fair price even when demand is low.

How Moyee Coffee is Helping Farmers

Moyee gives coffee farmers mobile wallets, tap cards, identification numbers and barcodes that allow them to receive payments directly. Moyee also allows customers who buy its coffee to support farmers by using a QR code. The code allows customers to tip the farmer or fund small programs that aid farmers like microloans or training.

The Moyee Brand has a growing impact in Ethiopia by using blockchain to increase profits for coffee farmers. The use of technology has allowed for supply chains to become more transparent. Transparency is key because customers are often unaware of where their product is coming from and how much the producer receives. The increase in profits can help farmers in a variety of ways. Their product yields could increase and they could live a more sustainable lifestyle. Middlemen used to take advantage of farmers and cut their profits, but Moyee is changing that and hopefully, it will serve as a model for other multinational corporations.

Gaurav Shetty
Photo: Flickr

Skills GapMany individuals have heard of the wage gap—the pay disparity based on gender as well as the one of the low-paid workers in developing countries. Not as many people know about the skills gap. The skills gap refers to the distinction between the skills that are required for a job and the skills that an employee has.

The skills gap is detrimental for individuals’ ability to find work in developing countries. It may affect the ability for households to rise above the poverty line since securing work is one of the main mechanisms for lifting people out of poverty.

The number of unfilled jobs around the world is exorbitant. In the U.S., there were about 5.6 million unfilled jobs in 2015. Other countries, such as Germany and Canada, are experiencing similarly high amounts of job openings. When juxtaposed against the 2016 world unemployment rate, which was approximately 5.75 percent, a solution to unemployment begins to emerge.

Granted, decreasing the skills gap is not the “end-all” solution to unemployment in developing countries. However, there does appear to be a distinction, especially in developing countries, that shows that the skills gap is keeping people from being able to fill jobs.

The best solution to the skills gap is training. Certain new and innovative training techniques such as impact sourcing are seeking to solve the skills gap problem. Impact sourcing is similar to outsourcing, but it primarily helps the impoverished find work. Businesses train future employees on the skills required for them to do their work.

Training employees, and not simply looking for someone who already has the skills required to do a job, is instrumental in helping to lessen the skills gap problem in developing countries. Companies will often look to decrease money allocated to training when looking to trim their budget. An article by the Cornell HR Review stated that in 2008, following the financial crisis, companies cut an average of six percent from their training budgets.

Another solution to the skills gap problem is identified in the Cornell article. This solution is companies engaging in “external partnerships to develop talent sources.” A humanitarian approach is definitely possible. These talent sources can be found in developing countries, as Cornell is alluding to the concept of impact sourcing.

The skills gap is not an easily solved problem, but it is one that needs increased attention. Its negative effects on developing countries will only be exacerbated if left unchecked. Fortunately, scores of researchers and organizations are taking up the quest for knowledge and solutions to the problem.

Rebeca Ilisoi

Photo: Pixabay

Job-Training Programs in RwandaNew job-training programs in Rwanda are helping unemployed youth gain practical skills that allow them to find meaningful work. The Educational Development Center (EDC), a nonprofit founded by MIT researchers, recently announced its newest project, called “Huguka Dukore.” The five-year program offers job-skills training, provides internship opportunities and helps with job placement to 40,000 Rwandan youth.

For these young men and women, having skills that give them access to the job market is essential. In Rwanda, men and women under the age of 30 make up 60 percent of the country’s population. Many of them live on less than $1.75 a day, and the vast majority of them will never attend college. Additionally, those who go to work right out of high school find the job search extremely difficult.

USAID gave $20.5 million in funding for Huguka Dukore, which means “Get trained, let’s work” in Rwanda’s most widely-spoken language, Kinyarwanda. More than 200 government and business leaders support the initiative, hoping these new jobs will contribute to Rwanda’s growing economy.

Huguka Dukore follows on the heels of another EDC project in Rwanda, the Akazi Kanoze Youth Livelihoods Project, which has trained 21,000 Rwandan youth since its launch in 2009. Graduates became entrepreneurs, worked as certified caregivers for children or worked for a Rwandan company. Consequently, over half found employment within six months of completing their training.

Not all job-training programs in Rwanda are strictly technical; some have a creative side. For example, the nonprofit Indego Africa runs a vocational training program that teaches Rwandan women artisanal work. Started in February of 2016, the program is split into two main focuses: artisanal training and business instruction.

For three days a week over the course of six months, the class of 45 women learns sweetgrass basket weaving, banana-leaf weaving, beading and sewing. They craft hats, bags, baskets and stuffed animals designed by a team in New York City and sell them online. On the other two days, the women go to Kigali, the capital, to learn computer skills, bookkeeping and budgeting. Consequently, taining young women allows the artisan collectives to continue to grow, even as the founding members age.

This new focus on job-training programs in Rwanda is part of Rwanda’s Vision 2020, as outlined by the UNDP. The country aims to shift dependence away from farming, a traditionally low-income lifestyle. They plan on creating 2.2 million jobs in industry and services. Consequently, Rwanda is making sure that its youngest population of adults receives preparation to work in the business sector.

Emilia Otte

Photo: Flickr


Fewer people in poverty creates more jobs by spurring economic growth and instigating human development. Strategic solutions for combating poverty, including education and increasing labor demand for industries, help to develop employment opportunities for developing countries.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to cut the absolute poverty rate to 9 percent by 2020 and 3 percent by 2030. The SDGs include supporting quality education, good health, well-being, self-sufficiency and quality environments for countries to thrive.

Having fewer people in poverty create more jobs as the economy grows and generates a higher demand for labor. The Department for International Development (DFID) states, “Strong growth in the global economy over the past ten years means that the majority of the world’s working-age population is now in employment.”

However, youth unemployment is a major issue across the world. DFID finds that children comprise up to 25 percent of the working population but 47 percent of the unemployed. Employment opportunities encourage families to send their children to school to better their futures and avoid poverty later in life.

Fewer people in poverty creates more jobs through greater levels of education. With educational opportunities available to learn business skills, people not only make themselves marketable for employment but use their newly developed skill sets as entrepreneurs. As more people work, they fulfill labor demands and increase the consumer base, stimulating the economy.

DFID claims education promotes the number of entrepreneurs in poverty-stricken regions. USAID also states that entrepreneurs are critical to fueling the economy and creating jobs. Both of these factors contribute to ending extreme poverty.

USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) Initiative brings private capital to early-stage entrepreneurs and makes investing easier. PACE’s 40 incubators, accelerators, and investors address obstacles entrepreneurs face to grow businesses, create jobs and improve access to goods and services for underserved populations. According to USAID, 78 percent of employment in low-income countries comes from small and medium enterprises.

USAID also facilitates training and placement centers for 100,000 Pakistanis, at least half of whom are women. Najeeb Ahmed participated in 2010 and learned to weld at age 30 under an experienced ironworker.  This skillset allowed him to provide a comfortable life for his family of six. By cultivating job opportunities in emerging sectors (i.e. food processing, construction, educational and health services and jewelry), USAID helps Pakistani families such as Ahmed’s to escape poverty.  With education programs offering job skill training and resources, individuals can improve their quality of living.

Nonprofit organization Sorenson / Unitus Ultra Poor Initiative recognizes that loans are not enough to help the impoverished of India outside of meeting their most basic food and healthcare needs. The nonprofit works with Indian NGOs to create opportunities for the countries poor which allow them to earn a stable income and pay for their food, healthcare, and other services.

Creating conditions that foster education and opportunities for self-sufficiency help mobilize the poor to achieve financial stability as well as human development. Economic growth is key to alleviating poverty, even for individuals residing in the most impoverished areas. Fewer people in poverty creates more jobs, giving greater opportunities for citizens and countries to thrive.

– Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Micronesia
Poverty in Micronesia? The lush beauty of the tropical island group known as Micronesia implies a paradise of plenty, yet the Federated States of Micronesia remains a nation burdened by poverty. Here are five facts about poverty in Micronesia:

  1. Nearly one in five people live on less than $2 a day. Though the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of an impressive 607 separate islands across its four major states of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae, the population totals approximately 100,000. As of 2013, over 17 percent of the population lived on just $1.90 a day, well below the poverty line.
  2. Malnutrition is a major contributing factor. A lack of variety in available foods results in hunger, especially among children, and impedes the opportunity for citizens to rise above poverty in Micronesia. Many families rely on a local diet full of processed meats, canned fish, and carbohydrate-heavy produce such as breadfruit and yams, resulting in malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, more than 20 percent of pregnant women are anemic in the broader Pacific Island region where Micronesia lies. Sadly, 29 of every 1,000 babies born in Micronesia currently do not survive past their first year.
  3. The global definition of poverty may not apply. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielagaoi went on public record in September 2016 criticizing the United Nations’ current formula to measure poverty across the globe. This criticism stems from his consideration of the practical realities of life in the Pacific, in which it is common for young adults to have many children. He went so far as to say the existing figure of poverty, which is defined by an individual earning less than $400 per week, was “very stupid.” In response, the Pacific Island Forum Leaders Group has appointed a dedicated committee to create a more appropriate replacement.
  4. A manufactured scarcity of resources is a leading cause. A drought in early 2016 caused the Asian Development Bank to lower the GDP projection for the Federated States of Micronesia to a mere two percent. Meanwhile, a broader problem of persistent societal disruption contributes to this slowing of growth. Initially examined in a 2004 study known as the Jenrok Report, life in the Pacific was described as a myriad of deficiencies. Overcrowding, contaminated ground wells and a lack of many home connections to a central water system cause sickness and contributed to poverty. Yet the Pacific governments consistently fail to spend all funds provided by other countries in foreign aid. This false scarcity shows that substantial improvement must be done at the administrative and infrastructural levels to provide for the people of Micronesia.
  5. Work is being done to improve it. The Salvation Army has worked tirelessly for more than two decades in the states of Pohnpei and Chuuk to reduce poverty, providing direct aid by supplying food and establishing social and spiritual development services. Another nonprofit organization, the USEAO, is headquartered in Seattle and was founded in 2013. They are similarly dedicated to improving the lives of citizens in Micronesia by contributing direct aid and concentrating on solving the problem of infant malnutrition.

Thanks in part to the efforts of organizations such as the Salvation Army and the USEAO, poverty-relief in Micronesia is improving. The Asian Development Bank GDP projection for the coming year is higher than 2016, and efforts to increase tourism in the Federated States of Micronesia show promise for a future where poverty is a thing of the past.

Dan Krajewski

Photo: Flickr

IBM is investing $70 million in building digital, cloud, and cognitive IT skills among youth in Africa in order to support a 21st-century workforce. The initiative, “IBM Digital – Nation Africa,” will provide a cloud-based learning platform offering free skills development programs for up to 25 million African youth over the next five years. The IBM investment is part of their global push to equip the next generation with the skills needed for “New Collar” careers, a term used by IBM to describe non-traditional careers that require sought-after skills in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, data science, cloud and more, rather than a traditional four-year college degree.

The IBM investment will offer programs ranging from basic IT literacy to advanced IT skills development to enable digital competence and sprout innovation in Africa. The platform is geared to raise overall digital literacy, increase the number of developers able to tap into cognitive engines and enable entrepreneurs to grow businesses around new digital solutions.

The program will run through a free, cloud-based online learning environment delivered on IBM Bluemix and will allow users to learn a wide range of skills, from basic IT literacy to highly sought-after advanced IT skills. Users will even have access to career-oriented topics including programming, cybersecurity and data science. The initiative aims to empower African citizens by giving them the educational tools to design, develop and launch their own digital solutions. The program will run in English and is completely free of charge.

In Africa, just 25% of people have a bank account, but 75% have access to a mobile phone. There is no doubt that technology plays a huge part in Africa’s future development, and that with this much-needed technological revolution will come an influx of job opportunities. Programs such as that from the IBM investment will ensure that the youth of Africa are equipped for such opportunities that are quickly arising.

Mayan Derhy

Photo: Flickr

Youth Skills Gap
On July 15, the U.N. celebrated World Youth Skills Day. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for sustained investment in youth skills to help achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Across the world, a huge generation of young people is entering the workforce.

Unfortunately, many of them lack the skills necessary to have successful and engaging careers or even to be gainfully employed. Those aged 15-24 make up 40% of those unemployed worldwide, even though they only make up 18% of the global population. Many of those who are lucky enough to be employed are working jobs that provide little in the way of remuneration or protection.

The inability of young people to find good jobs is a major contributor to continuing poverty. This poverty, in turn, plays a powerful role in breeding both localized violence and global extremism. Addressing this situation calls for many responses, one of which is attacking the global youth skills gap.

In today’s economy, digital and communicative skills are in demand but schooling, especially in poorer countries, often emphasizes traditional skills, meaning that educational models that may have been successful in the past are in danger of becoming outmoded. According to a survey from the Asian Development Bank, communicative and language skills are seen as being most valuable. More broadly, in many places, there is a significant mismatch between the skills needed for work and the skills that people have.

Fortunately, there are many steps that can be taken to address the youth skills gap head-on. According to the World Economic Forum, social and emotional learning (SEL) provides children with the framework they need to adapt to a wide array of situations in their future careers. Training children to adapt to different situations, rather than over-focusing on specific skills that may or may not be useful, increases their readiness to participate in a wide range of careers.

The World Bank has sought to address the issues of the youth skills gap and youth unemployment head-on through a variety of individual programs. From the Caribbean to South Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa, these programs have helped increase employment and provided youth with skills of lasting value.

Efforts to improve the effectiveness of education, direct job training projects and job-search assistance are just a sampling of the work being done to bridge the gap.

Like so many contributors to global poverty, the youth skills gap is anything but an intractable problem. Rather, with the concerted effort of individuals, governments, businesses and multilateral organizations it can become less and less of an obstacle to shared prosperity.

Jonathan Hall-Eastman

Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Energy Fund for AfricaWith increased global interest in the use of renewable energy resources, the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa is working to channel Africa’s clean energy potential into promoting employment and economic growth.

According to an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report, renewable energy is expected to quadruple by 2030.

The IRENA reports that “renewable energy-related employment remains low in Africa except in a few counties, like Kenya Morocco and South Africa.” Nevertheless, the Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA) is combining the resources of the African Development Bank with those of the governments of Denmark and the United States. This is being done in order to provide both monetary and structural support to develop infrastructure for renewable energy sources.

The proposed plan consists of three main parts: project preparation, equity investments, and enabling environment.

Project Preparation provides funding and technical assistance for “private project developers/promoters” who intend to engage in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. SEFA screens all proposals for such projects prior to getting involved in them.

The Equity Investments segment focuses on facilitating the growth and stabilization of “small-and-medium-sized projects” that are geared toward developing solar, wind, biomass, hydro, or geothermal energy sources. This financing window, as AfDB terms it, provides assistance specifically for development on a smaller scale.

The Enabling Environment program provides grants to public sector activities that are involved in creating a viable atmosphere for the successful development of private sector sustainable energy spaces. Such measures include financial, regulatory, structural, and operational support.

One of the largest grants was provided by Italy as it joined the SEFA coalition and contributed $8 million to the program. Additionally, at the beginning of 2016, Rwanda received a SEFA grant of $840,000 specifically designated for the construction of green mini-grids. The mini-grid is one of the many modern forms of renewable energy that are expected to enormously expand economic and employment opportunities.

Liz Pudel

Sources: African Development Bank Group, Forbes, IRENA
Photo: Flickr

Soda_Coca_Cola_Africa
In order to expand and diversify, Coca-Cola has joined the African market in partnership with Chi Ltd, Nigeria’s largest juice and dairy maker. According to the African Business Review, U.S. consumption of soda has dropped by 25 percent, whereas Africa’s consumption of juice and soda has grown by 21 percent. Thus, it is no surprise that Coca-Cola wants to expand in Africa and open itself to non-soda markets in the process.

The merging of Coca-Cola and Chi Ltd will provide new employment opportunities, as well as increase investments into the Nigerian economy. Business Wire claims, “The agreement will allow both companies to leverage their respective investments and expertise to further drive innovation, optimize efficiency and strengthen route-to-market to accelerate growth and increase consumer availability and choice.”

Coca-Cola’s desire to diversify and join the African market is also based partly on the fact that the brand has come under fire recently for allegedly contributing to the obesity crisis. The World Health Organization has encouraged governments to place a tax on sugary drinks, similar to Mexico’s 10 percent tax.

However, by partnering with Chi Ltd, Coca-Cola can transform their market and adopt a new high-growth value dairy category. Nathan Kalumbu, president of Coca-Cola’s Eurasia & Africa Group, is thankful for this opportunity and states, “For more than 30 years Chi’s leadership has built a greatly admired business that has quickly grown to become Nigeria’s leading producer and distributor of value-added dairy and juice products and we are delighted to enter the next phase of our growth journey together.”

Coca-Cola wants to gain back the trust of consumers and Chi Ltd is one of Nigeria’s most admired companies in the domain of food and beverages. Chi Ltd’s products help cater to the diverse needs and palates of every segment of Africa’s dynamic population. Through the African market, Coca-Cola has a fresh start and Chi Ltd has the resources and connections necessary to succeed and expand.

Megan Hadley

Sources: Business Wire, African Business Review
Photo: Flickr