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Inuit Poverty
The Inuit are a group of Aboriginal peoples who have occupied the Arctic lowlands for the past 5,000 years. They have a robust history and culture but suffer from one of the highest levels of poverty in the world. In Northern Canada, Inuit live in four regions that comprise the Inuit Nunangat: Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, northern Quebec and northern Labrador. The Inuit Nunangat, where most of the 65,000 Canadian Inuit live, is a territory that includes the land, water and ice all integral elements of Inuit culture. This region spans 53 communities and ultimately makes up 35% of Canada’s landmass. Given the significant presence of Inuit throughout the country, some are giving much attention to the poverty that this group has faced. Here are five contributions to Inuit poverty in Northern Canada.

5 Contributions to Inuit Poverty

  1. Colonization. Inuit poverty in Northern Canada stems from European colonization. In the 1700s, European whalers and fur traders entered the Arctic region to hunt and barter with the Inuit. While trade brought new technologies into Inuit communities, this era left the land depleted of seals, whales and fish. Later, missionaries and the Canadian government entered Inuit society as well. Following that, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami wrote that: “many but certainly not all of the traditions, values, skills and knowledge that bound us together as Inuit gave way in response to the demands placed on us from the outside.” This culminated in pressure for Inuit societies to adopt Western culture and begin engaging in the world economy.
  2. Economy. The “Inuit Great Depression” occurred due to contentions over the commercial seal trade, a primary source of income for many Inuit communities. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) successfully mobilized public opinion against Inuit seal hunting and in 1983 the European Economic Community placed a ban on the importation of fur and seal skins. Despite the written exemption for indigenous Inuit hunters, markets across the Arctic crashed and the Inuit economy suffered immensely. During this ban, the average income of an Inuit hunter fell from $54,000 CAD to $1,000 CAD. An estimated 18 out of 20 Inuit villages lost at least 60% of their income. Today, Inuit regions have some of the highest unemployment rates in Canada along with the highest suicide rates globally. The second ban by the E.U. in 2010 further exacerbated Inuit poverty. The need to work also takes time away from hunting, as well as limits Inuit access to traditional natural resources like food.
  3. Food. Due to geographic location, Inuit sustenance relies on hunting. The Inuit have less access to goods readily available throughout the rest of Canada since grocery stores struggle to supply food to remote Arctic regions. Depending on the season, planes cannot deliver fresh produce. Environmental changes diminish access and availability of traditional food, and store-bought alternatives are extremely expensive. A healthy diet for a four-person Inuit family costs an estimated $18,200-$23,400 per year, while the median yearly income is less than $17,000. The increased reliance on processed food leads to poor nutrition and health problems.
  4. Health. Health is another major challenge to Inuit people. According to UNICEF, “[Inuit] experience higher infant mortality rates, lower child immunization rates, poorer nutritional status and endemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases.” More than this, they “suffer higher rates of suicide, depression, substance abuse and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and their representation in the welfare and justice systems is generally higher than in the non-Aboriginal population.” Housing exacerbates these health conditions.
  5. Shelter. Inuit communities suffer some of the worst living conditions in Canada. The close living quarters allow communicable diseases like viruses and pneumonia to spread quickly, making Inuit children less likely than non-Aboriginal children to receive medical treatment. In fact, 31% of Inuit live in crowded homes due to housing shortages throughout their communities. UNICEF reports that approximately 28% of Inuit live in homes needing major repairs. Deteriorating housing poses a great risk to Inuit health and safety.

To combat some of the economic burdens that the Inuit bear and to mend relations with indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada initiated an act in 2019 to provide Inuit with economic opportunity and lifelong prosperity. The Indigenous Skills and Employment Training (ISET) Program, in partnership with the Kakivak Association, offers community needs-based skills training and development programs. While Canada needs to do much work to right the wrongs toward Indigenous peoples, it is making progress to help end Inuit poverty in Northern Canada.

– Rochelle Gluzman
Photo: Flickr

Decrease Poverty in Benin

Tourism is the second-fastest-growing industry in the world, but it is an untapped resource in many countries, including Benin. Benin is a small West African country and one of the poorest in Africa, but it does have one of the best wildlife reserves in West Africa. As a result, the country has exceptional tourism potential, which can help decrease poverty in Benin. However, protecting its wildlife is essential to achieving that goal.

Benin’s Potential for Tourism

Around 40 percent of Benin’s population lives in poverty. Tourism can thus help because it does not only increase gross domestic product. According to the World Bank, Benin’s natural landscapes and cultural attractions give them an advantage by both creating jobs across a range of skill sets and opening new markets for various businesses and entrepreneurs. This helps decrease poverty in Benin by further developing the country and generating shared wealth.

However, tourism and national parks in Africa are nearly symbiotic. Poaching doesn’t just threaten wildlife, it threatens tourism. Popular tourist destinations and National Parks in Africa tend to be East African countries, such as Tanzania’s Serengeti or Botswana’s Kalahari Desert. Botswana’s tourism sector makes up 8.9 percent of the country’s job market, creating 84,000 jobs, and generating $2.52 billion in 2018. Benin has one of the highest conservation land ratios in Africa, but Benin’s Pendjari National Park is one of the last intact and richest wildlife reserves in West Africa.

The park is home to lions, elephants and leopards as well as endangered species, such as the giant pangolin, African wild dogs and the Jabiru Senegal. However, tourism in Benin accounts for only 0.7 percent of the country’s GDP, generating well below its potential at $197 million, and making up 5.6 percent of the job market. Instead, Benin’s economy relies on agriculture, accounting for 26.1 percent of the country’s GDP, although the weather in Benin can be unpredictable.

Plans to Expand Tourism

To expand economic development and decrease poverty in Benin, the Beninese government started the Government Action Program (GAP) in 2016 and passed a public-private partnership law in 2017 to attract foreign investors. The goal is to improve infrastructure, education, agriculture and tourism. Through seven major tourism projects under GAP, Benin plans to increase its tourism GDP to 10 percent by 2021. One project includes protecting and rehabilitating Pendjari Park.

In partnership with African Parks, a nongovernmental organization that manages 11 national parks and reserves in eight African countries, the Beninese government plans to double the wildlife population in Pendjari Park and increase the average six-thousand visitors to nine thousand, but the task is only possible if Benin can protect its wildlife from poachers.

Canine Heroes

Throughout West Africa, poachers kill rhinos, pangolins and elephants to smuggle to Asian and European markets. This is where canines play a vital role in combating poaching and therefore protecting wildlife, tourism and the economy to decrease poverty in Benin.

In Tanzania, tracker dogs are used to combat poaching by finding wounded animals and tracking down poachers. Botswana has been a prime example of wildlife conservation, winning the war against poachers with their Canines for Conservation program and some of the harshest anti-poaching laws, which helped mitigate elephant losses seen in neighboring countries. Elephants from Angola, Namibia and Zambia were seen retreating to Botswana for safety, but when the government disarmed anti-poaching units in 2018, the country lost 87 elephants and five white rhinos to poachers just months later. Poaching in Botswana has been on the rise ever since, not only threatening wildlife but potentially tourism in Botswana.

One of the biggest animal welfare and conservation charities, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), helped establish the Sniffer Dog Project in Benin to help stop poaching in Benin. These dogs are trained to detect animal parts at prime smuggling locations, such as airports, border crossings and the border of protected habitats. Before IFAW, there were no established dog detection training programs in West Africa; now there are eight canine detection units.

In January 2018, African Parks, National Geographic, the Beninese Government and the Wyss Foundation—a charity dedicated to protecting natural habitats—invested $23.4 million to protect Pendjari Park. Because of the vast potential of Benin’s tourism industry, decreasing poverty in Benin lies not only in agriculture, education and technology, but its rich history, iconic landscapes and wildlife.

– Emma Uk
Photo: Google Images