Vaccinating Rural Communities
There are logistical differences between distributing vaccines to heavily populated urban centers and poorer outlying areas. These differences require attention to ensure equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccinating rural communities, which are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, requires special attention. 

The Geographic Information System (GIS) is a tool for vaccinating rural communities to ensure equitable distribution. This system of maps allows civic authorities to access a comprehensive source of data and translate it into actionable information on the optimal places for setting up relief operations of any kind.

Information on socioeconomic conditions combined with an overlay of physical terrain provides the tools for determining who is most in need of immunization. This ensures that vaccine site planners make the most of a decentralized distribution plan when deciding how to provide for rural areas efficiently.

What Is It?

It is best to view GIS as a method of overlapping different types of data on a given location so that an interested party can view it in light of whatever context they might need. GIS users can filter out whatever data they do not find relevant to their task.

National Geographic adds that the system operates through entering relevant information such as topography and housing distribution in a process called “data capture.” This stores information in snapshots that can inform viewers of how recent their data is and illustrate changes through certain date ranges.

These data stem from multiple sources, involving images from an aerial scan and/or records of human activity. So, the value of GIS in vaccinating rural communities stems from the clear picture it offers distributors on where they can have the most impact. Pandemic frontline workers can make informed decisions wherever they are by pulling up relevant data from their maps on areas of interest.

Who Does It Help?

GIS, with its ability to keep people up-to-date on the condition of areas in need, provides the means to supplement efforts with additional pre-planning. Aside from working around the capacity of available healthcare centers by choosing areas with sufficient personnel and space for vaccinating rural communities, there are more benefits of GIS. These include:

  1. Once GIS creates fairness in planning for nationwide immunity, its information on demographics helps at managing vaccine distribution by relative need based on their vulnerability to COVID-19. On a broad scale, this can mean selecting a cluster of people based on relatively low access to healthcare or a high concentration of infirmities. On a smaller scale, this might involve isolating demographic groups such as the homeless or discriminated minorities.
  2. Keeping track of vaccine stockpiles becomes more important when a larger distribution range requires storing vaccines closer to rural areas. In cases where a country is using vaccines that require two doses, timely delivery is crucial. By storing vaccines in the countryside, distributors find a median between shortening the logistical tail and allowing for the distance necessary for reaching impoverished areas without such hospitals.

Who Is Using GIS?

South Africa quickly adopted GIS as a means of vaccinating rural communities in situations where income gaps between different municipalities impacted travel times to the nearest hospital.

“Reaching South Africans in remote places has begun using mobile teams and mobile pharmacies to ensure that the vaccination program covers ‘the last mile,’” writes Luis Monzon on work the South African government did with volunteers from health NGO Right to Care. Right To Care’s mobile pharmacies regularly use their access to digital maps for tasks as routine as locating the optimal route to their destinations.

An earlier success story is that of Nigeria’s experience using GIS in its efforts to eradicate polio when it was discovered that hand-drawn maps did not accurately reflect resources on the ground. This realization and the use of geospatial data served as the basis for fine-tuning the Nigerian government’s strategy. In having the foundation for a distribution strategy before receiving 16 million doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca’s vaccine, government projections indicate a 40% immunization rate by the end of 2021.

Equal Opportunity Efficiency

Widespread adoption of GIS ensures that a country’s disaster response strategy can protect even the most remote areas from the destabilizing influence of a national crisis. Future applications of this technology likewise stand to benefit as its pool of experienced users broadens.

Whether the responsibility of vaccinating rural communities is in response to a national health crisis or other disruption to normalcy, GIS ensures the fastest possible response in mitigating the impact of a disaster. Expanding access to such comprehensive data serves as a further step in building a self-sufficient network for disaster-preparedness beyond the scope of a pandemic.

– Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

women for bees programAngelina Jolie is widely considered one of the film industry’s most successful and famous stars. In 2020, she was the second-highest-paid Hollywood actress, earning more than $35 million for her work in films such as Marvel Studio’s “Eternals.” Additionally, Jolie’s humanitarian work has received a lot of attention, partnering with the U.N. Refugee Agency and launching the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative. She built her reputation as an advocate for global human rights and women empowerment. Recently, the actress joined forces with UNESCO and French perfume company Guerlain to jumpstart the Women for Bees program.

Women for Bees Program

Beginning on June 21, 2021, the global “female beekeeping entrepreneurship” program will send 10 women each year “to a 30-day accelerated training course” in beekeeping at the Observatoire Français d’Apidologie’s (OFA) Domaine de la Sainte-Baume in Provence, France. After five years, the 50 total course participants will have gained a solid foundation of beekeeping skills.

Participants will also form a strong global network of fellow female beekeepers. Furthermore, participants will all be able to run their own professional apiaries, bringing in an income to sustain themselves for years to come. Jolie was appointed “godmother” of the Women for Bees program and will track the progress of the beekeepers. The collaboration between UNESCO, Guerlain and Jolie aims to promote biodiversity and support bees’ crucial role as pollinators while simultaneously empowering women in female entrepreneurship. According to UNESCO, the program “aims to enable women’s social emancipation through an expertise-driven sustainable professional activity.”

As the female participants progress through the Women for Bees program, they will be able to gain critical skills for long-term economic enhancement for both themselves and their larger communities. The initiative will involve UNESCO’s biosphere reserves located in areas such as Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, France, Italy, Russia, Rwanda and Slovenia. About 2,500 hives are set to be built within 25 UNESCO biosphere reserves in the next four years.

World Bee Day

On World Bee Day, Jolie generated buzz for the Women for Bees program by partaking in a National Geographic photoshoot with bees roaming her face. Dan Winters took the portraits as a photographer and amateur beekeeper himself. The photos aim to raise awareness of the importance of bees and the ability of the beekeeping industry to contribute to economic growth. During her interview with National Geographic, Jolie spoke about the connection between saving bees and supporting women’s entrepreneurship. Jolie explains that pollinating insects are “an indispensable pillar of our food supply.” Therefore, bees contribute to global food security. The Women for Bees program protects bees while “empowering women in their livelihoods.”

Jolie’s collaboration with the Women for Bees program is a strong example of a celebrity utilizing their social influence to promote social good. Her efforts with the Women for Bees program are sure to help the environment, global food security and the livelihoods of the many women involved.

– Nina Lehr
Photo: Unsplash

Plastic Pollution and Poverty in the SundarbansFrom space, the “Beautiful Forest,” or the Sundarbans, looks like a dreamscape — dark mangrove forests nestled among a lacy lattice of luminous streams that snake into the Bay of Bengal. Zooming closer reveals grimmer realities. The Sundarbans are a part of the world’s largest delta, the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta, covering most of Bangladesh and large amounts of West Bengal in India. Home to more than 100 million people, it is one of the most densely populated regions globally and faces extreme poverty and plastic pollution.

Fringed by the large arc of the Bay of Bengal, the coastal population here relies on the ocean, upstream rivers, rich delta soils, monsoons and mangrove forests for its livelihood. Primary industries are marine and freshwater fishing, rice farming and tourism. Life here teeters on a fragile balance with nature. Annual monsoons cause floods and rising ocean levels threaten to submerge the lands. However, they also bring fertility and rich aquatic life that are vital to the livelihood of millions.

A particularly grave human-made threat to this delicate coastal ecosystem is plastics. Plastics pour into the bay from upstream rivers and neighboring areas and choke the coastal lands with the locally generated waste.

Impact of Plastic Pollution in the Sundarbans

The plastic in the food supply chain gravely impacts the fishery industry of the delta region, as evident in its clogged mangroves and plastic-choked fish farms. Plastic also pollutes the population’s primary food source: fish and other aquatic life. As plastics disintegrate into fundamental particles, they make their way into the biota and eventually into humans, causing many health issues.

The area’s waste-blanketed beaches also deter tourism. Accumulations of plastic mar beautiful coastlines due to poor infrastructure and waste management.

Additionally, increasing plastic use by ever-growing populations depletes natural resources and poisons life-giving food sources. This creates conditions for poverty and unsustainable living in the Sundarbans. Reducing plastic accumulation in the ocean and coastal areas of the Bay of Bengal is critical and needing concerted, multi-pronged actions.

Addressing the Plastic Pollution Issues at the Source

Measuring and identifying pollution problems upstream, as with the National Geographic-led Ganges Sea to Source Expedition project, will be vital to deploying preventive solutions closer to their source. Projects such as this one seek to understand the plastics’ journey in the river, tracking the patterns, volumes and trajectory into the ocean. The Ganges, one of the world’s largest rivers, is a principal source of water into the Bay of Bengal and a principal source of its plastics. The Ganges and two other rivers are estimated to empty one to three billion microplastics into the Bay of Bengal each day.

Waste Management Programs

Waste management programs to reduce plastic in the ocean and neighboring coastlines are critical in this fight against poverty and plastic pollution. Such programs can include installing waterway bins and collectors in the bay and plastic collection programs in coastal areas. Such programs have the added benefit of employing local labor in building these infrastructures. However, solutions such as installing obstructive bins in the ocean have their limitations. A push to longer-term restructuring and design will be necessary while relying on short-term solutions.

Awareness and Innovative Products

Large-scale education campaigns on anti-littering and plastic-use awareness are also crucial to addressing current pollution challenges. Encouraging reuse, responsible disposal of wastes and moving to environment-friendly alternatives in daily life can help slow the current plastic pollution rates.

In the long term, establishing programs that focus on bio-friendly products and innovations offers the best route out of the current predicament. Boosting programs and research in topics that rethink current practices and modes of plastic-dependent systems can also stimulate the local economy and employment while generating viable solutions. Levying taxes to deter plastic use should also be considered within a broader governance and policy framework.

As gloomy as the Sundarbans’ current pollution circumstances seem, there are many paths to reversing plastic’s impacts in the Bay of Bengal while boosting labor in local populations with innovation, research and collective action.

– Mala Rajamani
Photo: Flickr

Facing Energy Poverty
What if one could help solve two problems with just one solution? Well, Croatia has managed to do just that with the implementation of a new policy. Croatia, a country in southeastern Europe, launched an ambitious new initiative on September 1, 2020. The goal of this initiative is to help alleviate those who are facing energy poverty and mitigate the environmental crisis. Croatia’s Fund for Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency allocated 203 million Kuna to renovate the energy facilities in people’s homes, specifically renewable energy sources. Houses that families own account for more than half of all households in Croatia and consume around 40% of energy in the country. Here is some information about energy poverty in Croatia and efforts to alleviate it.

Homes in Croatia

Many family-owned properties underwent construction in the late 1980s and are not energy efficient. These homes consume around 70% of the energy related to utilities. Croatia believes that these homes’ energy consumption can become closer to approximately 40%. Croatians facing energy poverty will have all the funding necessary to exit it through the government. In fact, the Croatian government has allocated 32 million kunas in the 203 million kuna budget for Croatians facing energy poverty.

The Issue of Energy Poverty in Croatia

Currently, many Croatians are victims of energy poverty. Back in 2018, 17.5% of Croatians were not able to afford their utility bill. In comparison, only around 6.6% of people in the European Union faced this challenge. The issue of energy poverty can seriously stress a family’s budget, especially as Croatians facing energy poverty are more likely to be in poverty.

The numbers are even more drastic in “social housing,” where about one-third of the people in social housing owe money for their utility bills. High utility bills are because of Croatia’s chilly climate, which means families will want to spend more money on heating to ensure their homes are comfortable in the winter. Thus, Croatians pay a significantly higher amount for the same energy. This forces many families into energy poverty. The poorest one-fifth of Croatians spend about 12% of their earnings on energy-related bills, whereas the poorest one-fifth spend only about 7% in the European Union.

Eradicating Energy Poverty in Croatia

Croatia’s new energy initiative will work to lift people out of energy poverty. However, the policy would also have incredible environmental benefits. An integral part of the plan will replace current energy facilities with renewable options. As a result, Croatia will be actively working to reduce the adverse effects of changing weather. Renewable energy is great for the environment because it emits less toxic material into the air like carbon pollution. Natural gas emits around 0.6 to 2 pounds of carbon. In comparison, popular forms of renewable energy like wind emit at most 0.04 pounds, and solar emits only 0.07 to 0.2 pounds of carbon.

Croatia’s plan would even have some economic benefits. By investing in renewable energy, Croatia is opening up a new sector of the economy by creating more jobs for Croatians. Many Croatians will benefit from the government’s new initiative, allowing for a better livelihood for all.

Overall, Croatia’s new initiative demonstrates how innovative solutions can help make strides in many different sectors. It can also help improve thousands of lives. Its new policy could help inspire other countries to take similar strides to alleviate energy poverty and aid in helping the environment at the same time.

– Anushka Somani
Photo: Flickr

Coffee Production
Partnering with the nongovernmental organization (NGO) TechnoServe, Swiss coffee company Nespresso has worked in East Africa since 2015. It works to boost sustainability in coffee production and power small coffee farmers. The company also looks to increase sustainability by working with the Rainforest Alliance, another NGO. In 2018, Nespresso launched its AAA Sustainability Program in Zimbabwe. It focuses on training farmers and providing technical expertise and agronomic advice. Although it has found multiple programs worldwide, Zimbabwe was chosen explicitly after droughts and economic instability destroyed its capabilities to cultivate the cash crop.

The Economy of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy saw a 231 million percent inflation in July 2008 after a land reform program passed, causing its economy to crash. According to the World Bank, Zimbabwe’s GDP fell by 8.1% in 2019 and has continued to fall due to COVID-19. In 2019, 6.6 million of Zimbabwe’s residents were extremely poor and food poverty was prevalent.

However, around 17% of Zimbabwe’s GDP is agricultural, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Coffee is a vital crop to the GDP. At peak production in 1989, Zimbabwe produced 15,000 tons of coffee. It sunk to 500 tons in 2017, according to the Telegraph. The loss of this significant part of the economy pushed millions into poverty and took away many jobs.

Understanding the Country’s Environment

Zimbabwe’s environment is ideal for cultivating coffee. It has cold temperatures, lots of rainfall and fertile lands. Coffee production has fallen mostly due to a lack of knowledge about growing the plant and droughts brought on by global warming. Coffee is a delicate tree, taking between two and three years to start flowering and nine months following this to have harvestable cherries. This is why Nespresso’s programs work to educate on sustainability and provide raw funds for farmers to use amongst economic instability.

In training, the main points of contention are drilling holes to plant trees, shading the trees properly and pruning branches. They also include eliminating bugs and disease, watching soil deficiencies and crop hygiene, according to National Geographic. The temperamental nature of coffee makes it essential to know exactly how to sustain it in the best way using efficient machinery and methods.

The Benefits of Nespresso

Nespresso plans to invest 1.3 million euros. It pays farmers in U.S. dollars instead of the Bond Notes that many use instead of currency. This allows them to buy better products and services globally. This will not only work to revitalize the economy through spending, but it will increase agricultural exports. The program currently works with over 2,000 farmers, training them on how to grow and paying them above-market rates for the coffee.

Since Nespresso has started working with these farmers, there was a 7% increase in production. Also, quality has risen by 51%. According to the Telegraph, Zimbabwe could soon double its coffee production, reaching 10,000 tons of coffee shortly. Furthermore, AAA programs have specifically targeted female farmers to provide equal opportunities, with 47% of the farmers being female.

In the long term, increased coffee production could help the country in multiple ways. Along with a GDP boost and increased jobs, the stimulation of coffee products helps put more children in school, provide healthcare access, increase efficiency and equipment and preserve biodiversity.

Overall, for those living in poverty in Zimbabwe, the rise of the crop that once drove the economy will provide immense relief. By bringing stability, jobs and globalization, the door to better opportunities starts with coffee. Nespresso’s program has opened that door to many small farmers in Zimbabwe.

– Nitya Marimuthu
Photo: Pixabay

Global Poverty FilmsGlobal poverty is a worldwide issue that is still prevalent today. According to UNICEF, one billion children worldwide are living in poverty and 22,000 children die every day due to poverty. However, many people do not know the extent of global poverty and how big the issue really is. That is why films realistically showing global poverty are important to today’s society, as these films that can spread awareness about the issues being presented along with a compelling story. These are five top global poverty films that help shine a spotlight on social causes around the world.

Top 5 Global Poverty Films

  1. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
    Set in India, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old boy raised in the slums of Mumbai. The film depicted many hard to watch, yet realistic, scenes of poverty in India, including children being recruited to beg on the street for food, and children living in extreme poverty being forced into labor to survive. The film was widely acclaimed and became extremely popular; in 2009, it was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight of them, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won seven BAFTA Awards, five Critics’ Choice Awards and four Golden Globes.
  2. Queen of Katwe (2016)
    Queen of Katwe is a film based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe. The movie follows her journey as she learns and begins to excel at chess, with the goal of lifting her family out of poverty. Queen of Katwe was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN films, receiving praise from critics as a realistic portrayal of poverty in Africa. In a review by Angela Watercutter for WIRED, she writes, “it is a very Disney movie in that it centers around a family and has a happy ending, but it is a very un-Disney story in that it unblinkingly examines the poverty, violence and racism its protagonists face every day.” It also had a high profile cast—starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga, which helped to raise even more awareness for poverty in Uganda.
  3. The First Grader (2010)
    The First Grader is based on a true story about Kimani Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan villager and farmer who enrolls in elementary school after the Kenyan government announced free universal primary education in 2003. The film shows a realistic depiction of rural and urban Kenya, as well as many issues that those living in extreme poverty in Kenya had to face both at that time and in the present, such as lack of access to schooling, being separated from family and having to suffer in work and prison camps at the hands of the British. The film raised a lot of awareness of how big the issue of lack of schooling and access to education is in Kenya and Africa. National Geographic described its impact as “a triumphant testimony to the transforming force of education.”
  4. Neria (1993)
    Neria, made in Zimbabwe’s golden age of “Zollywood,” is a story about a rural woman who becomes a widow, and loses her farm and livelihood. Neria became the most critically-acclaimed film of the decade and highest-grossing film of all time from Zimbabwe. Part of its popularity came from the fact Zimbabwe’s biggest cultural icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, made the soundtrack. This star power gained global attention, with major U.S. newspapers reporting about it, leading to much more awareness about global poverty and poverty in Africa.
  5. Girl Rising (2013)
    Girl Rising is a documentary-style film that follows the stories of nine girls from Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan on their journey to education. The film highlighted issues surrounding girls’ educations around the world and promoted the organization Girl Rising, which works to ensure that girls around the world are educated and empowered. Girl Rising has partnered with Michelle Obama by producing the documentary special We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World, which has become one of CNN’s highest-rated documentary specials.

These five films show how film can be an amazing medium for spreading messages and garnering worldwide attention. That is why films surrounding global poverty are so important, as they are able to raise awareness for a number of prevalent issues.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Creative Commons

10 facts about plastic waste in southeast asia
The Philippines recently made headlines when they sent nearly 70 cargoes of imported refuse from Canada. But the Philippines is not alone in their rejection of plastic waste from the developed world. Countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand have followed in China’s footsteps to establish a total ban on plastic imports. What is the broader story behind these import bans? What will Canada do with their 70 cargoes of waste? To answer these questions, here are 10 facts about plastic waste in Southeast Asia.

10 Facts About Plastic Waste in Southeast Asia

  1. Worldwide Production: Worldwide production of plastics reached 381 million tons of plastics in 2015, nearly doubling from 213 million tons of plastics in 2000. The packaging industry accounts for nearly 141 million tons of plastic production.
  2. Low Recycling Rates: Only 9% of all plastic is recycled, while 79% heads straight to landfills. Another 12% is incinerated. This means that of the estimated 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic existing in the natural world or in landfills worldwide, only 500 million tons are recycled.
  3. Waste per Capita: China ranks the highest in overall plastic waste disposal, generating an average of around 59.08 million tons of plastic per year. Other Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines dispose between 2.5 and 5 million tons of plastic. Comparably, the United States produces an astounding 37.83 million tons of plastic waste, making it the country with the highest political waste per capita ratio. This fact, among these 10 facts about plastic waste in Southeast Asia, highlights that waste management cannot be considered a purely regional issue. It is a global issue.
  4. Plastic Management: Countries in Southeast Asia, Africa, and other low-income countries have the highest shares of plastic waste that is deemed inadequately mismanaged. Just five countries–China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam–produce half of all plastic waste in the world’s oceans.
  5. Growing Alarm: The growing amount of plastic is alarming for many reasons. According to a WasteAid report, nearly 9 million people die each year from diseases related to waste pollutants. There is also a growing concern that microplastics found in the tissues of fish could be dangerous to human health. Additionally, tons of plastic are diverted to dumpsites, which could contribute to 8-10% of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
  6. Huge Imports: While Southeast Asian countries are culpable for mismanaged plastic waste and contamination of the worlds’ oceans, they also import more plastic waste than any other region in the world. Before its ban on plastic, China imported 6.4 million tons of plastic waste in 2017. In the last quarter of 2018, the UK alone exported nearly 18,000 tons of plastic waste to Malaysia.
  7. The US Plays a Key Role: Plastic waste and pollution particularly in Southeast Asia is a problem of poverty and represents a broader dynamic between the developed and developing world. In 2018, the United States sent an equivalent of 68,000 shipping containers of plastic to developing countries who already mismanaged 70% of plastic waste. Workers in places like Vietnam sort contaminated, hazardous plastic waste from the U.S. in poor working conditions for meager pay.
  8. Impact of a Total Ban: With the recent rollbacks on plastic imports to the poorly regulated shores of Southeast Asia, researchers believe China’s ban alone displaced 120 million tons of plastic in 2017. Thailand has followed suit, stating that it will enforce a total ban on plastics by 2021. The introduction of these bans ironically has Australia, Canada, and European countries, facing growing piles of low-quality plastic scraps, a problem they can no longer export away.
  9. World Bank Initiatives: The World Bank has confronted poverty and lack of infrastructure as one of the main ways to address the colossal problem of plastic waste and its relationship to poverty and poor regulations in developing countries. The World Bank has committed $4.7 billion to more than 340 solid waste management programs to improve waste disposal methods in predominantly developing countries. They particularly seek to bolster waste disposal infrastructure, legal regulations, and health and safety, among others.
  10. A Shifting Paradigm: In the developed world, import bans have forced countries like the U.S. to renew investments in recycling infrastructure and public education on issues of plastic waste. Some states have imposed strict regulations on plastic production and consumption, and with more public awareness and subsequent political pressure, more states can follow. On a corporate level, companies like Intel, Eaton, and Texas Instruments recycle more than 85% of their waste, hopefully, with more to follow.

In developed countries, one of the main ways to mitigate this issue is to limit the consumption of plastic products and review the laws that have allowed the harmful trade of plastic waste to places like the Philippines. In developing countries, banning contaminated plastic waste the first step in ensuring that every country takes responsibility for their own waste. These 10 facts about plastic waste in Southeast Asia highlight the numerous components in this growing crisis.

Luke Kwong
Photo: Flickr

To an outsider, Haiti is often synonymous with natural disaster and despair. FotoKonbit is determined, however, to show that Haiti’s society is much more rich and complex than its façade of poverty and turmoil. As a grassroots nonprofit organization, FotoKonbit is a photography workshop designed to give Haitians the freedom to tell their stories through images.

Popular media defines Haiti as a nation in crisis, which isn’t far off from the truth. According to the World Food Programme, even before the earthquake 1.9 million people were ‘food insecure,’ meaning they needed assistance to ward off hunger. Some 55 percent of the nation’s nine million people live below the poverty line of U.S. $1 a day.

Though the statistics are undeniable, the founders of FotoKonbit claim that while Haiti certainly faces challenges, it has a beautiful yet untold culture and history. They have thus made it their mission to ensure that this story is told.

In 2010, a group of American and Haitian educators, photographers and artists founded the organization. The project began in Northern Haiti with a group of adult participants, both men and women, from around the region. With a camera in hand, these citizens used skills acquired from the workshop to capture a story of their culture, still unexposed to the outside world. Noelle Therard, one of the founders, took students to various historical sites to snap photos of the grounds on which Haitian heroes fought for independence.

Since its establishment, FotoKonbit has worked with over one hundred students from nine different communities. They are currently working with five diverse communities: a group of adults in the southern agricultural town of Camp Perrin, adults in the fishing village of Labadie, children in the cities of Jacmel and Cap Haitien and a weekly class at the Zoranje school just outside of Port-au-Prince.

Photos taken by students have been featured on National Geographic’s Instagram account, an achievement that the founders did not foresee. However, this type of renowned coverage is exactly what the organization’s founders had envisioned. The stories of local villages, of Haitian fishermen and farmers, are now accessible to a global audience. With the power of social media, FotoKonbit has a bright future.

Images now have a certain potency that they never once had: they can reach millions of people around the globe within seconds. FotoKonbit is painting an alternative history of Haiti for the world to see – one that is indubitably stricken with poverty, but rich with a resilient population.

– Samantha Scheetz

Sources: Kickstarter, FotoKonbit, World Food Programme
Photo: Kickstarter

National Geographic Big Cat Initiative Lion Cheetah Snow Leopard Panther Poacher Endangered Species
Throughout Africa, the fate of the world’s dwindling big cat populations remains uncertain. A once prolific and wide-ranging group of animals, the big cat family–lions, cheetahs, leopards, and jaguars–used to range from the depths of Africa to regions as far as Israel, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, and even India. Just 2,000 years ago, there were over a million big cats in the world. Now, estimates show that there could be as few as 20,000 cats remaining, all of whom face grave danger.

The diminishing population of big cats in Africa has a variety of explanations, though all seem to circle around notions of modernity and urbanization. Perhaps the most tangible reason for big cat endangerment is the omnipotent danger of poachers, who ruthlessly search for big cats in order to sell their pelts and other body parts on the very lucrative international black market.

On a broader scale, the increase in urbanization–and the subsequent loss of forests and jungles–has greatly threatened the lives of the big cats. Without their natural habitats, the cats suffer from a loss of protection and heightened difficulty in finding their prey. Slash-and-burn techniques also contribute to habitat loss, as non-sustainable farming practices are perpetuated in order to gain a quick return on crops.

Sadly, the combination of these threats has created an environment that is fairly hostile to the once prolific big cat family. Population declines have thus been rapid, and the world remains on the brink of losing these graceful and significant animals.

Naturally, the big cat family encapsulates many of the majestic wonders of animal life. From the incredible celerity of a cheetah racing through the jungle to the absolutely powerful roar of the quintessential African lion, the astonishing diversity of the big cat family is undeniable. If populations of big cats ultimately disappear, however, the environment will suffer an enormous loss that it cannot recover.

In response to this incredible danger, National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative is actively attempting to stop the irreparable destruction being done to the big cat family, a population loss that would deleteriously diminish the world’s fragile biodiversity. To begin, the initiative has focused its goals on the cats most in danger today: lions. By 2015, the initiative hopes to have halted decreases in lion populations, and then, ultimately to restore populations to their original levels.

– Anna Purcell

Sources: Mother Nature Network
Photo: Flickr

Sometimes all it takes motivate someone to make a difference is a magazine article. For Brad Gautney, founder of the nonprofit Global Health Innovations, a National Geographic article on poverty in Haiti he read during his senior year of college changed his life aspirations and lead him to dedicate many years following to providing health services to Haiti as well as Kenya, Malawi, Ghana, and Liberia.

It all started when Gautney interned at a pediatric HIV ward in Haiti. He found the work so rewarding, and the need so great, that he spent the next 10 years returning to Haiti to donate his services. He even brought his family to live there for four years to run a clinic, school and nutrition program. Eventually Gautney’s work expanded to other African countries in need, making Global Health Innovations what it is today.

Now, the organization has 6 board of directors and is making more of an impact than ever. Global Health Innovations’ biggest feat so far is what it dubs the “HITSystem” which gives aid to pregnant HIV positive mothers to ensure that they can do everything in their power to prevent passing on the disease to their child, and providing treatment if a child is infected. The system is designed to combat poor treatment systems like in Kenya, where women are all too often discouraged from bringing their children back to the hospital for testing and treatment due to poor communication.

The organization also works to distribute mosquito nets to prevent malaria, one of the leading causes of death in all of the countries the organization works in. They have handed out more than 7,000 nets in Malawi as part of their “Under the Net” campaign. According to a video posted on the organizations website, providing nets to the entire population would reduce the spread of malaria by 90%.

In addition, they have provided disaster relief in Port-au-Prince Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake. Gautney went back to the clinic where he originally began working, and set his team up to provide medical services within 36 hours of the disaster.

Gautney’s faith plays a big part in his work. He says on the organization’s website that he has seen “lives transformed by the healing power of God’s love, and in the process, [his] life was transformed by God’s love as well.”

– Emma McKay

Sources: Abilene Christian University
Photo: CNN