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GiveDirectly’s cash transfer projectIn March 2020, GiveDirectly launched The Kenya Emergency Cash Fund to protect vulnerable Kenyan communities by sending recipients cash through mobile wallets. GiveDirectly is a nonprofit organization operating in East Africa that works to alleviate extreme poverty. Since its founding in 2009, GiveDirectly has given over $160 million to 170,000 families in the region, eventually earning a 100% rating from Charity Navigator. GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project is an initiative to help low-income Kenyans, especially during COVID-19.

Kenya Emergency Cash Fund

The Kenya Emergency Cash Fund, also known as the Kenya COVID-19 Fund, was formed in partnership with the Shikilia Initiative, which is a collaboration between the Kenyan private sector and nonprofit organizations. In coordination with GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project, Shikilia’s goal during the pandemic is to provide 200,000 people with monthly transfers of $30 for the next three months.

“We currently have enrolled 11,000 adults into the program and have disbursed around $300 to these recipients,” Director of Recipient Advocacy, Caroline Teti, told The Borgen Project. Teti joined GiveDirectly in 2016. She hopes to put an end to the devastating and disempowering nature of poverty across Africa through innovative projects such as GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project.

GiveDirectly has already launched settlements in Mathare, Kibera, Korogocho, Mukuru and Kawangware. This is crucial since resident families of these settlements live on $2 or less and are therefore expected to take the hardest economic hit as a result of the pandemic. For example, Teti reported that as a result of COVID-19, 95% of people in Mathare are eating less.

Recipients barely had savings before the pandemic. So, without GiveDirectly’s cash transfers made available to low-income communities by the Emergency Cash Fund, Teti believes that “families would have snuck back to the villages, increasing transmission risks to older people living in the countryside.”

Making Cash Transfers Efficient

In order to ensure that these cash transfers made to recipients are efficient, GiveDirectly is partnering with Shining Hope for Communities, a grassroots movement that catalyzes large-scale transformation in urban slums in Kenya.

Methods GiveDirectly and SHOFCO use to reach recipients more rapidly include using existing databases of low-income households, using rosters provided by local vetted NGO partners and using rosters of mobile money subscribers recruited through partner mobile network operators.

Project 100

Though GiveDirectly’s priority is getting cash to hard-hit families in extreme poverty in Kenya, it also organized Project 100 to raise funds for U.S. families impacted by COVID-19. For this project, GiveDirectly partnered with Propel, a company that helps recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program manage their benefits. The project aims to raise a total of $100 million for recipients.

The Road Ahead

According to the World Bank, poverty in Kenya may still remain above 20% by 2030 if it continues on a minimal growth path. More job opportunities for youth and infrastructure investments that improve transportation and service deliveries would be necessary to raise Kenya’s productivity.

Through GiveDirectly’s cash transfer project, an efficient and simple method of delivering cash, small-scale businesses will have the opportunity to grow, especially when food insecurity is no longer an obstacle. As Teti says, “We must rethink recipient empowerment and consider cash as a model for changing the lives of people living in poverty.”

– Joy Arkeh
Photo: Flickr

Exploring the Land Rights for Women in KenyaThe Kenyan Constitution states that men and women are equal under the law. Despite the new legislation, women in Kenya are still discriminated against for exercising their right to own land with their name on it rather than their husbands’ name.

Women’s Land Rights in Kenya

Property and land rights for women recently expanded in Kenya, particularly for married women—a group that was denied land ownership in the past. Passed in 2013, the Matrimonial Property Act states that marriage between a man and a woman rests on a foundation of equality. It recognizes spouses as equal property owners and protects women’s rights to land ownership during marriage, divorce and separation.

The Act follows the repeal of previous gender-discriminatory laws, anointing a new progressive path for the country. Before the Act’s enactment, Kenya’s government enforced the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882, a piece of legislation leftover from the era of British colonization, explained Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Land Alliance (KLA) Faith Alubbe. KLA is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that advocates for equal land access in Kenya.

“For women, land ownership is very important for them to be able to feed their families, for them to be able to access or use land and to control it,” said Alubbe. “As it is right now, most women only access and use land. They rarely control and own it.”

Today, nearly a decade after the Act’s passage, only 10.3% of Kenyan women own land title deeds, according to statistics from KLA. Even with the implementation of this new law, varied customs and traditions that bar women from land ownership exist throughout Kenya’s 47 counties. Without complete and clear access to land titles, the disproportionate impact of homelessness and poverty on Kenyan women could exacerbate further.

Land Advocacy for Kenyan Women

“How come women work on land a lot, use the resources, but they never own or control it?” This was the question Alubbe asked herself that propelled her deeper into land advocacy. Alubbe’s work in human rights and land justice in Kenya stretches back to 2006 when she worked for the Kenya Human Rights Commission, an NGO that promotes democratic change, and for the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA-K), an NGO that extends free legal representation to women in Kenya.

From KLA’s efforts partnered with its network of 50 organizations, Alubbe informs Kenyan communities about their rights and helps individuals secure proper land title documentation to actualize land justice in Kenya and throughout East Africa. While Alubbe worked for FIDA-K, she was a member of the team who pushed for the passage of the 2013 Matrimonial Property Act.

Despite the Act’s intentions of creating greater land equality, as noted in a report by the Human Rights Watch in coordination with FIDA-K, it falls short of total enforcement. The Act does not recognize couples who are unofficially married although many Kenyan couples are not legally registered in their counties, disbarring them from protection under the law.

Justice System vs. Patriarchal Custom

Alubbe also believes the act has only been partly successful. Women rarely exit the court system empty-handed, but getting couples to trial—an expensive and often lengthy process—stands in the way of land justice for women. The financial hardships of covering court fees and paying lawyers can be enough to stop a woman from trying her case in the court system.

“With the precedents that are coming out of court, [The Matrimonial Property Act] has not been as successful as we had hoped it to be because [of] gray areas and a lot of discretion,” said Alubbe.

These “gray areas” could pertain to patriarchal traditions, customary laws and alternative justice systems found in countries that govern Kenyan communities, explained Alubbe. Customary laws—laws that oftentimes discriminate against land ownership for women—control more than 65% of the land in Kenya, according to HRW.

Rather than turning to the justice system, married couples in rural areas undergoing divorce will instead meet with community elders and chiefs for an efficient and affordable alternative. But outside of court systems, customary laws that insist matrimonial property is not entitled to women prevail, potentially leaving women with only their personal belongings and no roof over their heads.

“Those at the community level prefer [alternative justice systems] because it’s accessible and affordable. Though it can be very patriarchal, and since it’s not very regulated, it might also defeat justice,” said Alubbe.

According to customary laws in the Kilifi and Kakamega Kenyan counties, land titles are attributed solely to a woman’s husband or owned by his family. Any acquisitions or improvements made to a couple’s property, regardless if they are made by the wife, do not belong to her. Although 96% of rural Kenyan women are responsible for farming, Oxfam reports, their contributions to the land are theirs only to sow not to reap for personal benefit.

If she can manage the costs, under the Matrimonial Property Act, she must also present proof of monetary or non-monetary contributions to her matrimonial property. But what is classified as substantial evidence is not clearly outlined under the law, explained HRW. Unpaid care work, labor women are predominantly responsible for, can make or break a woman’s case, but it is also dependent on the judge’s interpretation of proof.

Consequences of Patriarchal Land Ownership

Due to ambiguities in legislation and customs that trump a woman’s ownership of land, less than 2% of land in Kenya is owned by women. These gaps in land title enforcement fail to protect women’s rights, intensifying the number of women who face the threat of eviction and poverty.

Separated, divorced and widowed women risk losing their homes to their husbands or their husbands’ families under customary laws. The Kilifi and Kakamega counties, where men are the majority landowners, also possess two of the highest divorce and separation rates in Kenya.

When women in Kenya are disbarred from owning land, which is a significant generator for income, they are prevented from accessing other resources, including credit and agricultural crops. Alubbe added that without disposable income or secure credit, education for women’s children falls through the cracks and malnutrition becomes a stark reality for families.

“Because land is the primary factor of production in Kenya, without land, then the level of poverty is quite high for women,” said Alubbe.

Breaking down poverty by gender, Kenyan women are more likely to fall into poverty than men. For single, divorced and widowed women, this is especially true. Nearly 31% of divorced women fall into poverty, while 38% of widowers fall into poverty, according to the World Bank.

Looking Ahead

Women in Kenya depend on land they can call their own. Law says women finally can—a crucial acknowledgment of Kenyan women’s contributions to their communities. This issue of land ownership extends beyond Kenya’s borders, though. According to the World Bank, only 30% of the world’s population have land titles today. Throughout rural Sub-Saharan Africa, only 10% of the population have land titles.

Yet, Alubbe is personally working to expand access to land titles. This September, she was personally driving herself to Kenya’s counties to train community members and assist with land registration and land rights for women in Kenya. After stopping in Laikipia, she said registration was going well and her key focus is for women to be included in the registration process.

“We are very hopeful because more women are gaining more knowledge,” said Alubbe. “Women themselves are being more sensitized and aware that to be involved, we should own land.”

—Grace Mayer
Photo: Flickr

human milk banksBreastfeeding is the most effective way to maximize infant health and provide the best possible start in life for babies, showing that the common phrase ‘breast is best’ rings true. Not only is breast milk the ideal food for infants but it is also the number one way to ensure their health and survival. Human milk banks allow infants access to neccesary breast milk.

Why Breast is Best

Breast milk provides all the vitamins and nutrients a baby needs during the first months of its life, including important antibodies that can help fight many deadly childhood diseases like acute respiratory infections and diarrhea. Additionally, the preparation of breast milk does not require access to clean water or sanitation (unlike formula) and is cost-free and widely accessible for parents. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued supplementation until 2 years of age. All the benefits of breastfeeding pay off as children who are breastfed have more than six times the chance at surviving than non-breastfed children. They often score higher on intelligence tests, maintain healthier weights and get sick less. In fact, successful breastfeeding of children aged 0-2 has the potential to prevent 13% of all childhood deaths under 5 years old in countries experiencing extreme poverty.

Trouble breastfeeding can be due to a wide range of problems, like cleft palate, low milk supply, trouble latching, malnutrition, disease or lack of support and counseling before, during and after pregnancy. In Kenya, 362 mothers die for every 100,000 live births, leaving many babies without easy access to breastmilk. When infants do not receive the nutrients they need, it is hard for them to survive and thrive.

Human Milk Banks

Human milk banks provide safe and lifesaving breast milk to babies who are unable to nurse from their own mothers. Generous donors provide the breast milk. The donors are screened, the donations are processed and pasteurized, and then, the lifesaving breast milk is redistributed to help babies in need. Children in this category include prematurely born infants, orphans or cases where a mother is unable to provide breast milk. This effective system makes sure that babies safely can get milk that will help them reach their potential. WHO recommends that in cases where babies are unable to nurse from their mothers, donor milk can be utilized, indicating that donated breast milk is safe and effective for babies who need it.

The Pumwani Maternity Hospital

The Technical Working Group decided on Pumwani Maternity Hospital as the first to provide Kenya with a breast milk bank. This hospital is innovative in terms of neonatal care, promoting skin-to-skin (Kangaroo Mother Care) contact, and providing breastfeeding education to parents. In Kenya, the rate of acceptance for breastfeeding is low. One concern with this project was whether mothers would consider breast milk donation an option. Luckily, researchers from PATH have reported that locals are warming up to the idea of the bank, which bodes well for the future of the program.

As of October 2019, the Pumwani Maternity Hospital reported delivering lifesaving breast milk from over 400 donors to 75 infants, a marked success. As a result, the Ministry of Health (MOH) included a recommendation for donated human breast milk to Kenya’s newborn care guidelines. Annually, donor milk has the potential to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of babies. Although there is still a long way to go to achieve widespread access to breast milk for all infants, Pumwani Maternity Hospital is a great example of what can be accomplished with human breast milk banks.

– Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Tennessee Titans’ PlayerIn 2017, Tennessee Titans’ player, Kenny Vaccaro, traveled to Kibera, a division of Kenya, to help build schools. Alongside him was Kansas City Chiefs’ player and friend, Alex Okafor. Together, the two joined the Blessed Hope Project’s mission to make education more readily available to all children in the Kibera slums. Vaccaro’s journey does not stop there, though, as his time in Kibera sparked what is now his personal devotion to creating educational opportunities for African children.

Blessed Hope Project and the Kenny Vaccaro Foundation

The Blessed Hope Project’s roots began in 2012 after Elsa Atieno founded the Blessed Hope Primary School, where she is now the school’s principal.  In 2016, after former New Zealand rugby player, Michael Hobbs, volunteered at the school, the rugby player’s vision for the Blessed Hope Project came to life. Shortly after his visit in 2017, Tennessee Titans’ Vaccaro became an official team member of the Blessed Hope Project. In the same year, Vaccaro founded the Kenny Vaccaro Foundation, which he uses to raise money for various causes but primarily, the Blessed Hope Project. Atieno, Hobbs and Vaccaro jointly make up the Blessed Hope Project’s team.

The goal of Hobbs was to build a higher quality school than the one at which he originally volunteered, which had dirt floors, iron walls and limited space. With the help of the money raised by the Kenny Vaccaro Foundation, the team accomplished this goal in January 2019 and built a solid structured, fully serviced primary school that can accommodate over 300 children. Not only does the Blessed Hope Project team plan to build more schools in Kenya but they have also placed 100% sponsorship of all students and a sports academy on the agenda as well.

Poverty Conditions in Kibera

Atieno recognized that many children from the slums of Kibera were staying at home during the day, sometimes by themselves, rather than attending school. This is not uncommon as Africa has the highest rates of marginalized education in the world. On top of that, Kibera is the largest slum in Africa. Not only are many children excluded from school but their families are living on less than $1 a day. For some children, going to school is how they are ensured a meal for the day. Kibera also faces high unemployment rates.

How Can Education Reduce Poverty?

Increasing high-quality educational access in Kibera can aid in all of the aforementioned issues by providing children with social interaction, food and the teaching of crucial skills for their futures. Specifically for reducing poverty, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) released a policy paper that outlines how the global poverty rate could be cut in half through completion of secondary schooling. As it pertains to the sub-Saharan African and South Asian regions, poverty could be reduced by nearly two-thirds. This prediction comes from UNESCO’s 45-year study on the “average effects of education on growth and poverty reduction in developing countries.”

Humanitarian support like that of the Blessed Hope Project and the Tennessee Titans’ Player, Vaccaro, plays a crucial role in eradicating global poverty as educational opportunities pave the way for families to rise up from poverty all over the world.

Sage Ahrens-Nichols
Photo: Flickr

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