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saltwater into clean drinking waterAccess to clean drinking water is a major issue that continues to affect individuals around the world. Further, an estimated 35% of the entire world population lacks access to “improved sanitation,” for which, access to water (generally speaking) is imperative. The CDC estimates that more than 700 million people live without direct access to an “improved water source,” which includes drinking water, proper household plumbing and wells. As of 2018, new solar-powered technology can now supply individuals with direct access to drinkable water by transforming saltwater into clean drinking water. Innovative technology, it seems, may play a pivotal role in helping to solve yet another global challenge.

GivePower & Solar-Powered Technology

GivePower is an innovative nonprofit behind solar, saltwater farms. Comprised of 20-foot-tall containers and accompanied by solar-powered panels and water pumps, these farms are designed to supply deficient countries with safe, drinkable water. The containers hold 75,000 liters of saltwater, every day. Through clean solar energy, this saltwater is converted into safe drinking water and delivered to surrounding villages. Such technology is relatively new, as saltwater is difficult to convert into freshwater. This is due to its makeup and strong chemical bonds. Therefore, saltwater’s conversion into clean water takes a large amount of energy and money to fund. GivePower, however, can cut the costs by using solar energy to powers its saltwater farms.

In 2018, GivePower built its first saltwater farm in Kiunga, Kenya. An extreme drought had caused Kiunga to experience a major shortage of potable water for cleaning, drinking and cooking. At this time, the city’s only source of water came from saltwater from the Indian Ocean. Individuals living in Kiunga would often contract harmful diseases due to this lack of clean water. GivePower acknowledged this issue and intervened by using its technology to convert the abundance of saltwater into safe, usable water. Not only does the saltwater filtration technology provide more water than typical wells — but it also has a lower impact on the environment through the use of renewable, solar energy.

A Global Impact

This technology has helped to address the water crisis in other countries as well. In many developing countries, it is common to have an abundance of saltwater and a lack of clean water. Due to its high sodium content, individuals consuming large amounts of this saltwater can become very sick. Waterborne diseases such as Vibrio and E. coli can contaminate saltwater, causing severe symptoms and in extreme cases, death. By turning contaminated saltwater into clean drinking water, many communities cannot only increase the availability of clean water but decrease the prevalence of waterborne diseases as well.

Through the innovative technology of GivePower, over 19,000 gallons of safe drinking water has been provided to 25,000 individuals per day within the Kiunga community. Although the company started in Kenya, GivePower has already extended to communities around the world by supplying over 2,000 solar-powered systems to schools, villages and facilities in need of freshwater.

The Path Ahead

As GivePower and other organizations continue to develop technology to turn saltwater into clean drinking water — thousands of individuals around the world can obtain direct access to safe water.

– Olivia Eaker
Photo: Google Images

The Value of Small Nonprofits: Maasai American Organization
Lea Pellet, one of the delegates at the 1996 United Nations Women’s Conference in China, was very interested when nonprofit success was discussed. “One of the issues that came forth there was the recognition that big organizations were doing phenomenal work throughout the world, but there were a lot of pieces that really could only be handled by small groups. A church to a church, a school to a school, a women’s group to another women’s group.” With that thought, the Maasai American Organization (MAO) was born. Starting with domestic needs and then transitioning to international aid in health and education, MAO has flipped the script regarding non-profits.

Founder of MAO

Lea Pellet is a Wisconsin native and holder of multiple sociology and social work degrees from the College of William and Mary, Hampton University, Norfolk State University and Old Dominion University. She has served as a chair of the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology at Christopher Newport University from 1970 to 2006 and has also spent time as an Anthropology Field School Coordinator. Pellet founded the Maasai American Organization in 2000 and since then, the non-profit has worked with countries around the world. The organization’s name however, comes from their focus on helping the Maasai people of Kenya.

Domestic to International Efforts

The Maasai American Organization is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit originally run through Christopher Newport University in Virginia. As the program grew, it began to focus on international interests; this began with a grant from the School of Public Health of Mexico. The budding  idea was to find indigenous groups with a handful of educated or skilled people within the community, like teachers and doctors. MAO would then pair these people with groups from the United States in a fashion that values person to person interaction and connection.

On a trip to Kenya with her husband, Pellet met a woman who was once part of a UN program. Pellet asked her to consider setting her sights on the Maasai people by providing them with both aid and education. Pellet went with a team into the most remote areas of the Maasai territory and encountered their incredible pieces of art. Later, it was sold to African American museums in the United States. From there, Pellet got serious about becoming an NGO (instead of remaining university-based) and renamed the organization the Maasai American Organization.

Maasai Communities of Kenya

MAO put 300 Maasai girls through primary and secondary school in a culture that has historically not approved of education for girls. The organization’s focus was on educating girls who would return to the Maasai Mara and help improve their communities. Many of these girls would become nurses, teachers, entrepreneurs and social workers. MAO also helped build 10 preschools in remote areas, allowing some of the 300 graduated girls to be hired there as teachers. Most of the children coming to school have never heard Kiswahili or English. The children are typically taught by teachers from the urban area who have never heard KiMaa, the Maasai language. To eradicate language barriers, MAO teaches teachers to begin in native languages and then bridge to national languages if possible.

Most Maasai women were walking more than two hours to gather water from polluted streams. As a result, MAO put additional focus on the community’s acquisition of clean water. The organization installed deep wells where feasible and taught water purification techniques if wells could not be dug. Those wells made it possible for women to plant crops and even raise small herds of goats. Consequently, these changes improved the nutrition and health of children. MAO also constructed and staffed three family clinics, providing health officials until the educated girls were ready to take over.

Mayan Communities of Guatemala

Alongside her focus on Kenyan communities, Pellet felt the need to bring her work to Guatemala. MAO focused on educating Mayan girls to help build and staff health clinics. It also focused on developing markets for indigenous craft products and teaching women how to operate group craft businesses. The organization has built and supported a preschool and have moved approximately 50 Mayan girls on to successful school careers. One of the most significant contributions has been moving 80-100 women into entrepreneurship as glass bead weavers and jewelry makers.

Pellet personally oversees the most recent projects in Guatemala. She makes yearly trips there with a team to implicate different initiatives and work with the education and healthcare projects there. Her efforts have halted with the pandemic. She hopes to resume in the future when it is safe to do so.

Advantages of Small-Scale Nonprofits

Small nonprofits can have an incredible impact when working with low-resource communities. Here are a few ways that small initiatives like the Maasai American Organization can differentiate themselves from larger organizations:

  • Unique message or incentive
  • Flexibility and innovation
  • Less red tape
  • Cost-effective
  • Personal presence
  • Community-driven
  • Proximity

There are many situations where personal interaction and one-on-one aid is more helpful than sending a dollar amount. Lea Pellet’s Maasai American Organization is a great example of a small nonprofit that has made a world of difference in the past, present and future of the Maasai and Mayan peoples.

Savannah Gardner
Photo: Flickr

HGSF Programs
At 310 million, nearly half the world’s schoolchildren in low- and middle-income countries eat a daily meal at school. The benefits of school feeding include increasing enrollment and course completion, as well as promoting a nutritious diet for children. Governments have since evolved this model into Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF), which integrates local smallholder farmers and community members. This added step secures local food systems, encourages economies and delivers fresh, diverse food to schoolchildren. In all, Home-Grown School Feeding is an intertwined, multifaceted approach to the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Opportunities for Smallholder Farmers

Smallholders produce roughly 80% of the food consumed in low- and middle-income countries. Yet, farmers in these areas still lack the educational opportunities and resources to bring them out of complete poverty. Two major obstacles they face include price volatility and unpredictable markets, both of which Home-Grown School Feeding programs help to alleviate.

HGSF programs provide a stable market demand. This aids farmers with the unpredictability of growing seasons, amounts of food needed and the type of product that is likely to sell. Through careful organization and planning, smallholder farmers can fully understand the needs of each school and thoroughly prepare beforehand. This means less wastage, reduced risk of investments and more opportunity for farmers to expand their capacities. When farmers receive a stable income following their initial investment into Home-Grown School Feeding programs, they can produce quality and more diversified products. In turn, this gives them access to additional markets.

Structured markets resulting from HGSF programs also encourage cooperative associations between smallholder farmers. This has the potential to reduce farmers’ reliance on local traders who may hold bargaining power over them. By creating an organization together, smallholder farmers are able to share knowledge, monitor food for quality and value and get access to credit. Social protection and promotion through established organizations is thus a major benefit of Home-Grown School Feeding.

Local Community Benefits

A strong HGSF program encompasses a whole community and food production process, from growing to preparing and eating food. Replacing school meals with the HGSF model can support a whole group of people along with the students.

Job creation is one particular benefit for local communities, from delivery drivers to cooks. However, there are also chances for rural businesses to provide nutritious products to schools. In addition, more people than farmers profit from the added access to markets, which increases income and prevents economic stress.

With careful planning and implementation, governments can also use HGSF programs to promote gender equality and decrease discrimination against vulnerable groups. This model can support different groups’ participation in farming and cooking and generally promote skill training and self-confidence. At first, compensation for their work might be food or services, but their work will evolve into paid positions.

Kenya’s Successful Use of HGSF Programs

Kenya’s Home-Grown School Feeding model reaches 1.5 million children every school day. The model benefits students, whose hot lunches provide the nutrients needed to focus in school. However, it also benefits the agricultural sector, who benefit from the predictable market demand.

To maintain a transparent, flexible model, Kenya uses a decentralized HGSF approach and incorporates multiple members of the local community. Once the government sends funds to schools, school meal committees carry out a public tender process and procure food from local farmers and traders. The committee, made up of parents, teachers and community members, assure the ministry of health checks the food for quality. Once it is cleared, the committee employs community cooks to prepare the food.

Kenya’s HGSF model has experienced some problems, particularly in arid and semi-arid rural regions. Among other obstacles, lack of infrastructure and water scarcity in rural communities mean that smallholder farmers don’t necessarily have the capacity to meet the demands of schools. This leads school committees to procure food from traders, who may not be local. In this way, rural smallholder farmers aren’t always receiving sufficient benefits from HGSF intended to alleviate poverty and meet the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Nonetheless, necessary adaptions and policy implementation to the HGSF model can be made by the government to include more smallholder farmers. Rural agriculture incentives and rural development policies would provide support for farmers, but these often cost a lot of time and money. Less costly strategies include linking smallholder farmers to schools and informing them of program requirements or preparing in-depth documents for schools, which outline procedures and implementations.

The Potential of HGSF

Home-Grown School Feeding programs have the potential to combine benefits in health, education, agriculture, economic development and social well-being. The model acts as a catch-all solution for preventing poverty. By taking the investment in school meals further by investing in HGSF programs, local economies thrive and food systems become sustainable. Ultimately, HGSF’s intertwined nature becomes a viable strategy to achieve the Zero Hunger Challenge.

Anastasia Clausen
Photo: Flickr

Ethiopia's Hydroelectric Expansion
Ethiopia is a young, developing country that is currently investing in hydroelectricity to meet the energy demands of a growing population. Currently, only 44% of Ethiopians have access to electricity. As the population continues to grow within the country, citizens’ access to electricity will be a cause for great concern. Ethiopia’s hydroelectric expansion is addressing the energy crisis and powering the country’s economic growth, at the same time.

Naturally Sourced

Ethiopia is well situated to harness the natural, kinetic energy of water because the Nile River runs through the northern part of the country. However, hydroelectricity does require the construction of costly dams. In this same vein, Ethiopia recently built one costing $1.8 billion. While expensive, once built, these dams provide an abundance of energy for many generations. Currently, Ethiopia’s hydroelectric expansion has achieved a 3,813-MW capacity for a population of roughly 108 million people.

As the Blue Nile begins in Ethiopia, the country does not have to worry about other nations damming the river upstream and thus, (hypothetically) cutting off its supply of water. Ethiopia’s geographic advantage thereby increases its energy autonomy. Additionally, hydroelectric energy is renewable and reliable because it is not dependent on variable weather conditions as is the case with other renewable, energy resources.

Growing Demand

Ethiopia’s population is growing at a staggering rate of 2.56% per year. Notably, less than 50% of the population has access to hydroelectricity. To help people escape poverty in the modern age, they must have access to an electrical grid. Access to electricity does not guarantee prosperity, but the lack of electricity almost ensures poverty.

Ethiopia is one of the leading African nations in hydroelectric energy and is continuing to invest in more dams. In 2016, Ethiopia embarked on a joint venture with China and built one of the largest roller-compacted dams in the world. Although dams are vulnerable to droughts — they provide clean, renewable energy that is not dependent on highly variable weather patterns, such as wind and sunlight. Ethiopia cannot solely depend on hydroelectricity and instead, must continue to increase its energy supply to meet an ever-growing demand. Nearly 40% of Ethiopia’s population is younger than 14-years-old. As this population matures, it will further increase the demand for energy within the country. The booming population will continue to slip into poverty if it does not invest in a hydroelectric infrastructure that can support such a population growth rate.

Positive Growth

Hydroelectricity provides abundant energy. Yet, it requires an electrical grid to transport that energy across the country and perhaps equally as important, from an economic standpoint — into neighboring countries. Not only has Ethiopia built more hydroelectric dams, but it has also expanded its entire energy infrastructure. Ethiopia strives to become an energy hub for Africa as it exports electricity to Sudan, Djibouti and Kenya. Although 29.6% of Ethiopia’s population lives below the poverty line, there is a great reason to hope that this number will decrease as the economy further develops. Ethiopia currently has the 13th highest industrial growth rate at 10.5%, annually. The economy is rapidly growing, largely supported by Ethiopia’s hydroelectric expansion.

Noah Kleinert
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ecovillage ProjectsEcovillages focus on the regeneration of the social, cultural, ecological and economic aspects of communities around the world. It is an approach that aims to achieve sustainable development goals by eradicating poverty. Every Ecovillage is conceived and planned by the people living within the community; therefore, each development fits the area’s unique circumstances, customs, traditions and values. Ecovillage projects are constantly operating and developing as they seek to rehabilitate the environment and reconstruct communities’ very conceptions of social interaction.

Global Ecovillage Network

Founded in 1995, the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) is an alliance of communities and individuals committed to sustainability and eco-restoration. Through this network, Ecovillages and those working on Ecovillage projects exchange education, technology, information and plans. Although GEN has multiple goals, all of its initiatives are centered around restoration through interactions with people and the environment.

Some of GEN’s main focus areas include human rights, global interaction, cultural inclusion, local influence and the shift to restoration and sustainability. Ecovillages are centered around community action, and GEN is committed to helping members of those communities become influential decision-makers in the issues that affect them.

3 Ecovillage Projects Changing the Face of Poverty

Many villages have developed to represent the diverse circumstances under which an Ecovillage lifestyle can thrive. In fact, some have even earned titles as recipients of the Hildur Jackson Award. This recognition is named after one of the founders of GEN, and provides $3,000 in recognition of Ecovillage projects that have been especially influential in their impact, permanence and scope. Here are three such Ecovillage projects changing the face of poverty.

  1. Colombia. The Nashira Ecovillage in rural Colombia is a matriarchal society composed of many families. Born from victims of domestic violence and displacement, the members of Nashira Ecovillage have eradicated crime and violence by removing all male violators and creating an environment concentrated on support and combined effort. Each member of the community is appointed into one of eight units that contribute to the daily life and welfare of their environments and the people living within them. These units take on tasks such as cultivating local organic crops or working in solar-powered kitchens. The village is equipped with a recycling center, bike-powered showers and composting toilets, and leisure time is spent enjoying sustainable activities like pottery.
  2. Mexico. Bioreconstruye, one Ecovillage in Mexico, prioritizes collective interests and participation from local communities to respond to post-disaster hardships such as the 2017 Puebla Earthquake that damaged families and homes. This initiative reconstructs communities by implementing building techniques with minimal environmental impact to provide strong and resilient homes, whether they be temporary or permanent. Community centers are also a large focus of development for Bioreconstruye: in addition to providing workshops for the community, these facilities serve as a temporary shelter for refugees.
  3. Kenya. The Organic Technology Extension and Promotion of Initiative Centre (OTEPIC) implemented an Ecovillage project aiming to reduce maternal deaths in Sabwani, Kenya. This initiative helps build birth centers that provide a financially accessible and safe method of giving birth. At-home births remain high-risk, and some women face impeding accessibility barriers when considering hospital wards. The community’s Ecovillage project has enabled women to give birth in the presence of a midwife while surrounded by their loved ones. OTEPIC also provides special pre- and post-natal training, such as safe food preparation for mother and child.

The Global Ecovillage Network poses the question “How can we live high quality, low impact, lifestyles that heal and restore, rather than destroy our environment?” As demonstrated by the Ecovillage projects in these three countries, communities worldwide have already taken steps to answer this question and are providing hope for a poverty-free, resilient and sustainable world.

– Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Mobile BankingMobile banking is a clear step toward financial literacy and freedom. It allows users to access and manage accounts without needing physical access to a bank. It is a huge asset and accepted norm in countries like the United States, where it is used by over three-quarters of the population. By 2021, there will be an estimated 7 billion mobile banking users. But in countries where much of the population doesn’t have access to financial institutions, mobile banks presents an option that allows users to gain the financial freedom they wouldn’t otherwise have. Traditionally, without access to banks, there is no access to bank accounts. This makes it not only difficult to save and protect money but also nearly impossible to access loans. Below are three countries where going mobile improves financial inclusion.

Kenya

In 2011, around 80% of the Kenyan population didn’t have a bank account. This was revolutionized by the introduction of mobile banking, resulting in an incredible increase in financial accounts up to 75% in 2014. The percentage of Kenyan’s with a mobile account has since jumped to around 80% in 2019, with that number still growing. Though mobile banking is taking hold in many African countries, Kenya leads the charge of mobile adaption. This success is evident through the country’s recent economic growth, averaging 5.7% in 2019, one of the fastest-growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile banking has been succeeded so rapidly and fruitfully in Kenya due to its incredibly low cost and user ease. After the infrastructure is created, all that’s needed is an old flip phone and a banking SIM card. These products are relatively easy and inexpensive to get, even in countries with fewer resources. Mobile banking has allowed Kenyan’s to save money, send and receive it with ease, apply for loans, and has led to financial inclusion. Kenya acts as a clear leader in developmental growth through mobile banking.

India

In 2017, India had the second largest unbanked population, second only to China, with 190 million of its citizens left without access. In the same year, around 48% of India’s banks were inactive, only adding to the inaccessibility. Despite such a large number of citizens left without a bank account, over 50% of these individuals do have a mobile phone. With the proper infrastructure, mobile banking could revolutionize the way Indians send, receive and save their money. For low-income populations in India, most financial transactions occur in cash, a method that is not conducive to economic growth for poor families. With more universal access to banking, low-income populations could receive their income through direct deposit and pay their bills directly from their account, using their phone. This system promotes saving and also allows tracking of financial habits, producing an easier system for low-income individuals to amass credit and become eligible for loans. As the internet becomes increasingly accessible in India, mobile banking is expected to rise, and with it, financial inclusion.

Indonesia

In opposition to the other nations discussed, Indonesia has a much lower prevalence of mobile banking, but just as it has in Kenya and India, going mobile could revolutionize financial inclusion in Indonesia. Only about 20% of Indonesian’s currently have a bank account, but almost 40% of the population have mobile subscriptions, suggesting mobile banking has huge potential in the country. In 2020, an unexpected source has begun to jumpstart the exponential growth of mobile banking in Indonesia. In the wake of COVID-19, many physical banks are closed, and even those who previously had access are unable to interact with their finances. One bank, namely Bank Rayat Indonesia has even seen a 10% month to month increase in mobile banking, an unprecedented growth. Indonesia presents as a nearly perfect candidate for a “mobile revolution” given its high mobile penetration, low banking rate, and the recent inability of traditional banks to function. Despite the many challenges and tragedies COVID-19 has caused, it could be the driving force for a mobile revolution in Indonesia

— Jazmin Johnson

Photo: Flickr

Innovating Global Healthcare
Access to adequate healthcare remains a challenge for people around the globe living in poverty. Continuously increasing healthcare costs exacerbate this issue and the final result is that more people in need are suffering as a consequence. The term “catastrophic health spending” refers to a person who spends more than 10% of their income on “out-of-pocket,” healthcare expenses. According to a report from the World Health Organization, 926.6 million people dealt with catastrophic health spending of at least 10% of their income in 2015. Furthermore, 208.7 million people endured health costs that were more than 25% of their income. These figures may indicate a need for innovating global healthcare, going forward.

Medtronic Improving Global Health Conditions

As part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the third goal focuses on improving health conditions. Specifically, section 3.8 aims to reduce cost barriers to life-saving treatments and medicine. Medtronic understands the value of this mission and is one company leading the way for innovations in global healthcare. As part of the company’s commitment to “alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life,” Medtronic continues to combine technology and patient-centered care to improve access to health services and resources for vulnerable populations, worldwide.

Medtronic invests heavily in finding solutions for noncommunicable diseases (NCD), i.e. diseases that cannot spread from one individual to another. Often these are chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even hearing loss. In 2012, 68% of global deaths were caused by an NCD and while organizations are fighting to lower that number — approximately half of the global population are unable to access critical care.

3 Ways to Combat NCDs

An important part of Medtronic’s innovations in global healthcare stems from the idea of evolving medical practices. In the company’s efforts to combat NCDs, it concentrates on three areas: (1) capacity building, (2) community engagement and (3) sustaining programs. The capacity building portion of Medtronic’s commitment ensures that healthcare workers are well-equipped to understand their roles and responsibilities in the healthcare system. Moreover, it advocates for up-to-date training and professional feedback for workers. Medtronic’s community engagement aspect connects various organizations to broaden resources for populations in need of services. In this way, Medtronic scales back some of the barriers to care that many people face. Lastly, by gearing toward sustainable programming, Medtronic dedicates time to working with governments and policymakers to cultivate lasting change within the healthcare system itself.

Breaking Down Barriers with Programs & Patents

Medtronic has served more than 75 million people in more than 150 countries, since its start. It also has licenses to 47,800 patents — embracing the potential of new technologies to break down certain barriers. Patents for Humanity is a program of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and celebrates companies that use inventions to address humanitarian issues. In 2018, the program recognized Medtronic for its progress in innovating global healthcare. The patent in question was for a “portable, low-water kidney dialysis machine” that can be used for those who normally would not have access to traditional dialysis treatments.

Medtronic has also launched programs that integrate its technologies, combined with compassionate business models. Empower Health is one such program — utilizing a mobile tablet, an automated blood pressure machine, a glucometer and a new software application. The program allows healthcare workers to remotely monitor diabetic patients located in Ghana and Kenya. Through the software, clinicians can keep current on their patients’ status and can even send messages and write prescriptions.

While many challenges still face vulnerable populations all over the world, Medtronic is fostering new and exciting developments in the realm of global health.

– Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr


Kenya, a country in East Africa, has made strides in battling poverty by reforming childhood education. In 2003 Kenya established a free primary school education program meant to ensure that young children receive a basic education. However, the Kenyan school system still has challenges to overcome. Teachers often lack proper training and support, and students often do not have enough school supplies. These obstacles ultimately contribute to low learning outcomes for students. Tusome, which means “let’s read” in Kiswahili, is a national literacy program powering childhood learning in Kenya that attempts to address these education shortfalls.

Origins of The Tusome National Literacy Program

Despite previous efforts to improve childhood learning outcomes by the Kenyan government, assessments from the years 2010-2014 showed no significant change in literacy and 40% of primary grade students could not understand their reading material. Tusome was built on this prior research and “was one of the first experiences of taking a piloted literacy program to national scale through government systems.” Tusome is funded by both the Kenyan government’s Ministry of Education and the USAID organization. The program was implemented in January of 2015 and will run until 2020 with a goal of improving reading for 6.7 million students.

Training and Support of Faculty

Two of Tusome’s key goals are to address the need for faculty training and support in the Kenyan school system. Tusome educates teachers, administrators, coaches, and support staff on the Ministry of Education’s expected learning outcomes. The program also provides Curriculum Support Officers that regularly visit schools to coach and monitor teachers in learning outcomes, though these are not professionals trained in general classroom instruction. Youth associations are also working to help to tutor children and develop a reading culture in their area.

School Supplies and Integration of Technology

One of the Tusome program’s notable achievements is that is has provided 26 million textbooks and supplementary materials for primary school students, ensuring that each student has a textbook of their own. Tusome also offers its students tablets with digitized learning materials, which can also provide feedback and progress monitoring for teachers. The performance of each student is uploaded to a cloud-based network system which is meant to promote greater responsibility within the school system.

Conclusion

Tusome has been able to improve teacher support, training and availability of school materials in Kenyan primary schools. This is, in part, due to the integration of technology in the form of digital materials, tablets and cloud-based technology. Learning outcomes have been promising, even in the early pilot phase. In 1,384 schools, children who reached the Tusome standard for an understanding of the English language increased from 8.6% to 43.7%. Overall, Tusome is considered a successful example of large-scale governmental implementation of a national program that can power childhood learning in Kenya, and serve as a model to education systems around the world.


– Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Apps that aid in healthcare in developing countries It can sometimes be difficult for people in developing countries to access healthcare, specifically those living in poverty. In order to address this problem, healthcare apps are being used to provide greater access. Here are 10 healthcare aid apps that are impacting access in developing countries.

10 Apps That Aid Healthcare in Developing Countries

  1. Peek has its sights set on helping people with vision impairment issues and blindness, a problem exacerbated in developing countries by a lack of resources. Peek can identify people with vision problems. The app then works with healthcare providers to pinpoint an economically feasible way to supply the treatment they need, before allocating the appropriate resources. Currently, Peek is being used by the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is administering a population-based survey of blindness and visual impairments in Cambodia.
  2. SASAdoctor focuses on making healthcare consultations more accessible in Kenya. In the country, only 12% of people are insured. About 8 million are reliant on the National Hospital Insurance Fund, leaving 35 million Kenyans uninsured. Available to all Kenyans with an Android smartphone or tablet (65% of Kenyans have one), SASAdoctor decreases the cost of an in-person consultation for the uninsured and makes it free for those with insurance. Patients will have their medical history, list of medications and other such medical notes in their ‘file’ on the app, so that whoever tele-consults with them will have the information they need to create an informed medical opinion. SASAdoctor can decrease the cost of uninsured visits with a doctor to Kes 495 (the equivalent of $4.66) for a projected 80% of Kenyans who are predicted to have smartphones in the next few years.
  3. iWander allows people to keep track of Alzheimer’s patients. Set with tracking technology that can be discretely worn by the patient, it offers whoever uses the app several options on how to deal with situations involving the patient. Solutions can range from a group calling session to making an emergency medical call or summoning a caregiver. iWander gives families more control over the care of a loved one, which can have a positive impact in countries where healthcare may be less accessible. In the US, the average cost of care for a single person is $174,000 annually. About 7 out of 10 individuals with dementia remain at home to receive care, where 75% of the costs fall to the family to pay. In helping families be proactive instead of reactive to crises, iWander can help in cutting these costs, especially in poorer countries, where many families are struggling to keep up with the high costs of at-home care.
  4. Kenek O2 allows the user to monitor their oxygen and heart rate while they sleep. Kenek O2, built for the iPhone, also requires a pulse oximeter which connects to the phone and retrieves the data to be stored in the app. Together, the cost for these two items is around $100, compared to the price of a regular hospital oximeter and other similar products, which could easily cost more than $500. Having effectively been used in North America, South America, Asia and Africa, Kenek O2 is currently working on developing a special COVID-19 device to watch for early signs of hypoxia, or the deficiency of oxygen reaching tissues.
  5. First Derm is an app that requires a smartphone-connected device, called a dermatoscope. This allows detailed pictures to be taken of skin conditions and lesions to better allow for remote, teleconsultations. In places where doctors are few and far between, and public transport is less reliable, this can make getting a second medical opinion much easier. So far, First Derm has helped in more than 15,000 cases from Sweden, Chile, China, Australia and Ghana, ranging from ages of just 3 days old to 98 years. Of these cases, 70% could be treated without a doctor, most often by over-the-counter treatments available at local pharmacies.
  6. Ada takes user-input symptoms and provides appropriate measures to take as a result, like a personal health assistant. It’s intended to assist those who don’t have the means to seek an in-person consultation right away. The app has been released in several languages, which makes it more accessible. Currently, 10 million people around the world are using Ada for symptom evaluation.
  7. Babylon is intended to mitigate the obstacle of going to see a doctor in person by allowing users to input symptoms or solve common health problems via teleconsultation with a doctor. Babylon specializes in non-emergent medicine, allowing patients to skip a trip to the doctor’s office entirely if their condition allows it. This is beneficial in places where doctors are sparse, or the patient lacks the financial means or a method of transportation in getting to the hospital. Babylon caters to users across the U.S., U.K., Canada, Rwanda and several countries across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. The app aims to expand to more countries in the upcoming years.
  8. MobiSante, through its ultrasound device, allows versatility in diagnostic imaging by bringing the ultrasound to the patient. This allows quality, diagnostic imaging to be done outside the confines of a hospital or clinic. As a result, it provides more holistic and informed treatment where people may need it most but have previously struggled in accessing a healthcare center with the necessary technology. While having a computer at home with a desk is much less common in developing countries, the world’s increasing reliance on the internet is shifting the status of internet technology from a luxury to a basic necessity. This means that technology such as smartphones are becoming somewhat of a necessity in impoverished countries, making an app like MobiSante effective in using smartphones to make diagnostic imaging more accessible.
  9. Go.Data is a tool released by the WHO. It is specifically for collecting data during global health emergencies. During the Ebola outbreak in Africa, Go.Data was praised for tracing points of contact. The app also tracked infection trends and helped in arranging post-contact follow up.
  10. Mobile Midwife is a digital charting app that stores information in a cloud so that healthcare workers have access to all pertinent patient information. It works even in cases of power outages, or home births where internet connection may be less reliable. This app can help in areas where mother and infant mortality is higher, ensuring that healthcare providers can efficiently access patient information to ensure the best care. It can also cut the extra time it takes to find records that could otherwise make procedures more dangerous for both mother and child.

Bridging healthcare accessibility with smartphone apps isn’t a perfect solution, as it comes with accessibility issues of its own. However, these healthcare aid apps can help people without insurance, or who are physically unable to visit a physician, access health consultations. As a result, more people are provided access to healthcare, empowering a healthier (and more health-conscious) population.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Hydroponics Fight Hunger
In the past 40 years, droughts have impacted more of the world’s population than any other natural disaster. Their intensity and occurrence have increased, and the developing world bears the brunt of consequences including hunger, environmental damage and economic and social instability. Agriculture, in particular, a sector that supports 40% of the world population’s primary livelihoods, suffers from worsening droughts. In Eastern and Central Africa water scarcity and population growth dually affect food security to an increasing degree. The CEO and founder of Hydroponics Africa LLC, Peter Chege, is helping introduce the innovative and cost-effective method of hydroponic farming in Africa to help improve food security.

How Hydroponic Farming Fights Hunger

Hydroponic systems rely on dissolved nutrient additives to grow food in contained water structures rather than soil. These systems use water 90% more efficiently than traditional agricultural production methods because the closed systems recycle water. Using this method of production, farmers can precisely control pH and nutrient levels in the water to optimize plant growth. Furthermore, vertically stacked hydroponic systems can increase crop growth density and production rates.

Hydroponic systems support crop growth in drought-stricken areas with poor soil conditions that would typically prohibit productive farming. The potential for greater crop output means hydroponics fight hunger by combatting food-insecurity and improve the livelihoods of low-income farmers.

Introducing Hydroponics to African Countries

Chege, a chemist out of the University of Nairobi, founded Hydroponics Kenya in 2012 to market hydroponic systems to Kenyan farmers as an affordable alternative to purchasing livestock feed. His company was the first to market hydroponics in East Africa. Since its foundation, his company expanded into Hydroponics Africa LLC and began to produce and install crop-and fodder-growing hydroponic systems in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. Additionally, there has been growing governmental support to increase the overall use of hydroponic farming in Africa.

Hydroponics Africa partners with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). It receives support from Kenya’s Water Resource Management Authority (WARMA) and the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture. The Kenya Climate Innovation Center (KCIC)—an organization that aims to improve the productivity of small farms and promote water management technologies—has also issued Hydroponics Africa a “proof of concept grant” to help hydroponics fight hunger in Kenya.

Hydroponics Africa has sold more than 365 greenhouse units and 700 fodder units, which have helped to save 500 million liters of water and support 6,000 tons of crop yields. The company has also trained over 20,000 people on hydroponic farming techniques.

The Benefit to Low-Income Farmers

Hydroponics Africa LLC creates customizable hydroponic systems using local materials and markets them toward small- and mid-size farms. The systems require no previous user experience, no thermostat nor electricity and minimal user input. The system prices currently range from $100 to $4,800. Additionally, the company is working with local banks to make these systems accessible to low-income farmers through loans. For example, payment options include 0-20% upfront costs and a monthly payment plan per system. The costs are justified by the increased crop yields for subsistence and sale that the hydroponic method promises.

Hydroponic farming helps fight hunger in areas poorly suited to traditional agriculture. Companies like Hydroponics Africa LLC have the potential to revolutionize agriculture for low-income farmers in drought-stricken countries. The emergence of hydroponic technology may be a life-changing solution to food insecurity exacerbated by population growth and drought.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr