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Disability-inclusive COVID-19 ResponsesFor those living in developing countries, there is a direct link between poverty and disability, as each factor has the potential to influence the other. The World Bank estimates that 20% of the world’s poorest “have some kind of disability.” As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate existing problems faced by marginalized groups, and particularly people living with disabilities, it is important that developing countries around the world implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses.

Throughout the entire world, roughly one billion people –15% of the total population– live with some form of disability. Within this figure, 80% of people living with disabilities reside in a developing country. People living with disabilities often face adversities such as “less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.”

Impact of COVID-19 On People With Disabilities

Through a policy brief, the United Nations found that people with disabilities face greater risks of contracting COVID-19. They risk developing severe and sometimes fatal conditions from the virus as well as health care discrimination. People with disabilities are often reliant on physical touch for support, which is difficult considering the importance of remaining socially distant and using hand-washing facilities. Additionally, people with disabilities often face secondary health conditions that are worsened by COVID-19.

Resource-rationing in healthcare facilities is often guided by ableist ideas on “quality or value of life based on disability,” making people with disabilities a lower priority with regard to life-saving resources. People living with disabilities face even worse conditions when living in poverty, particularly in the areas of education, health and transportation. Not only are some health care services inaccessible, but important information on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 is rarely provided by way of Braille, captions or sign-language interpretation.

Approximately 90% of children who live with a disability in developing countries are not in school, and school-shutdown mandates leave these children with even fewer resources. Without school, many are unable to receive resources such as sanitation, water and meal programs. Lastly, those who rely on public transportation for medical appointments or fundamental necessities are unable to travel. These adversities contribute to the global need for disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses.

Disability-Inclusive Responses to COVID-19

Although people with disabilities are often left out of global crisis responses, efforts to implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses continue. The Peruvian government implemented Legislative Decree No. 1468, which establishes protective measures for people with disabilities as prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this decree, the state recognizes people with disabilities as having the right to “personal security” and priority access to any services provided by the state. Although some Peruvians with disabilities still feel as though there are barriers that limit their access to resources, the government’s efforts still offer many benefits.

Inclusion International, a network that advocates for the human rights of those with intellectual disabilities, reported on a growing trend. Various regional networks are unifying to “identify, document, and advocate against the discrimination and exclusion that people with intellectual disabilities are facing in their region.” These efforts include the European COVID Impact report and Pan-African advocacy. Members of Inclusion International currently work to collect data and experiences about the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in Latin America. This project, known as the Latin American Project, aims to identify the key factors that obstruct disability-inclusive responses to COVID-19. It includes countries such as Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Bolivia.

Work remains to implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses, especially in developing countries. However, efforts to address the adversities of people with disabilities are certainly on the rise. With this work continuing into the future, inclusive advocacy will soon be the standard, not the goal.

Cory Utsey
Photo: Unsplash

How Heritage Preservation Reduces PovertyCultural heritage preservation means keeping the artifacts and traditions of a community intact against factors trying to change them or wear them away. Some common examples are restoring historical buildings, passing on an ancient craft or recording traditional tales. Cultural heritage is crucial for communities. It gives them a way to look back on their history in a way that informs their present-day identity. It also provides the communities with new chances to thrive.

Many people behind cultural conservation programs prioritize staying local and helping their communities as much as possible. Often, people living in poverty or those on the outskirts of society are the ones first offered these opportunities. In this sense, heritage preservation reduces poverty and helps communities by giving people employment and education.

Heritage Tourism

Cultural heritage preservation encourages as well as utilizes tourism. Heritage Tourism is one of the major ways preserving cultural heritage can reduce poverty in a community. It often boosts a community’s economy and can become one of its major industries. Many tourists visit cultural sites and partake in culturally-enriching activities while traveling and tend to stay longer at these places.

As tourism increases, so do jobs for local community members directly involved in tourist activities (such as museum guides or re-enactors) and those not associated with tourism (such as the food industry or local shops). Employers can then afford to pay their employees more as they receive more and more business. People also become encouraged to start their own businesses or move their businesses to these small communities upon seeing the economy emerge and grow. A Pakistan-based study published in February 2020 shows that increases in tourism noticeably improve a community overall. A 1% increase in tourism can enhance the GPD by 0.051%, agricultural development by 0.26%, direct foreign investment by nearly 2.65% and potentially decrease poverty by 0.51%.

Examples of Cultural Heritage Preservation

An example of a cultural heritage preservation project that has greatly helped a small, rural community is the Rural Revitalization Drama Festival. It occurs in Shixia Village in China and showcases traditional Chinese Opera. Though Shixia was an impoverished village in 2010, the tourism created by the festival has provided more jobs. It has created more opportunities for extra income, encouraged people who previously left the village to return and urged people to start businesses there. The festival has also highlighted other cultural treasures in the area that promoted even more preservation projects and tourism. By 2019, they were able to purchase the technology needed to process their own millet crops; whereas, they previously had to outsource production to other places.

These disciplines and practices are culturally important, but they also give many people the chances of employment and education. For example, in the Philippines, Escuela Taller has created education programs in different traditional disciplines, such as carpentry and metalwork. In Peru, local women were trained in creating traditional textiles in order to support themselves and their families. This project was created by Centro de Textiles Tradicionale del Cusco in 1996 with the support of JoinTrafalgar and the TreadRight Foundation.

How Heritage Preservation Reduces Poverty

Cultural heritage preservation reduces poverty and helps communities by passing down ancient, artisan crafts to new generations. Preserving cultural heritage is a way of declaring to others that the people and the communities housing these museums, historical buildings and traditions are important and worth protecting. With people empathizing with a community, it can encourage them to fight against the destruction of land or buildings. It can inspire people to donate and even start charities and nonprofits. Preserving cultural heritage reduces poverty by promoting the visibility and the empowerment of communities. It can at first seem to only be about showcasing a country’s history but it runs deeper. Cultural heritage preservation gives modern people a chance at a prosperous future.

– Mikayla Burton

Photo: Flickr

Quinoa Supports Farmers in PeruQuinoa is a species of goosefoot original to the Andes of Peru and Bolivia. For more than 6,000 years, Peruvians and Bolivians considered quinoa a sacred crop because of its resistance to high altitudes, heat, frost and aridness. Because of its sudden rise in worldwide popularity, the U.N. declared 2013 the “International Year of Quinoa” to recognize the indigenous people of the Andes, who continue to preserve quinoa for present and future generations. Quinoa supports farmers and livelihoods in Peru.

History of Peru’s Quinoa

Due to its high nutritional qualities, quinoa has been grown and consumed as a staple crop by people throughout the Andean region. However, when the Spanish arrived in the late 1500s and sent farmers to gold mines in Peru and Bolivia, quinoa production declined sharply. The year 2013 marked a turning point in quinoa-producing countries. The crop surged in popularity because of its superb nutritional value, containing all eight essential amino acids. It is also low in carbohydrates but high in unsaturated fats, fiber, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. The sudden demand for Quinoa from the U.S. and Europe increased the price of the grain from $3 in 2010 to $6.75 in 2014.

The Quinoa Market Boom

Today, quinoa supports farmers in Peru, as Peru is one of the world leaders in quinoa production and exports. In 2016, Peru produced 80,000 tons of the crop, about 53.3% of the world’s volume, with 47% of quinoa exports worldwide.

In 2012, Peru exported $31 million worth of quinoa. Two years later, the export value of quinoa was six times that amount, at $197 million. In 2016, however, the export value dropped to $104 million. This was reflected in the average price of quinoa worldwide. In 2012, a kilo of quinoa cost $3.15. In 2014, the price shot up to $6.74 per kilo. By 2017, however, the price had dropped dramatically to $1.66 per kilo.

The demand and price fluctuations had several negative effects, including reducing the welfare of households. When quinoa prices fell, total household food consumption decreased by 10% and wages fell by 5%.

Though traditionally grown for household consumption only, the global demand for quinoa encouraged farmers to use their fields for quinoa production only. The monocropping negatively affects the overall health of the fields, as nutrients do not get replenished as they would by rotating crops.

5 Ways Quinoa Supports Farmers in Peru

With the help of several U.N. agencies and national and local governments within Peru, a program called “Andean Grains” was implemented in Ayacucho and Puno – rural areas with high levels of poverty, where 78% of Peru’s quinoa is produced, to create a value chain of quinoa production to increase the welfare of farmers. Through the program, quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways:

  1. Income of rural quinoa producers increased by 22%. By focusing on producing organic quinoa and fulfilling a niche market demand, rural Peruvian farmers remain competitive in the global market. The program trained more than 2,000 producers in cooperative management and financial education and certified several farmers for organic production.
  2. The production, promotion and consumption of Quinoa improved. By implementing technological alternatives, including establishing technical standards for producing organic fertilizer, farmers increased their crop yields, improving the food quality and nutrition of the grain and making the crop more available to local communities. In Puno alone, yields increased by 13% through the organic certification program.
  3. More farmers joined cooperatives, increasing their market power. The program taught farmers about selecting suppliers, managing credit, how to negotiate when signing a contract and how to commercialize their organic quinoa. By standardizing the production of organic quinoa, poor farmers could negotiate better market prices under a collective brand. The cooperatives also promoted the national consumption of quinoa and helped sustainable development of the quinoa value chain.
  4. The program empowered female farmers. Women make up 31% of agricultural producers and more than 50% of participants in the program were women. They were able to accumulate up to $4,800 through Unions of Credit and Savings, which they used to buy natural fertilizers to protect their lands from desertification.
  5. The program participants’ welfare increased. In areas of Peru where quinoa was consumed before the boom, a 10% increase in the price of the quinoa increased the welfare of the average household by 0.7%. The additional income to quinoa producers in turn allowed them to spend more. Household consumption also increased by 46%.

Quinoa supports farmers in Peru in several ways. After the implementation of the U.N. “Andean Grains” program, the income and wealth of Peruvian farmers increased. By joining cooperatives, both male and female producers compete in the global competitive market. Today, quinoa continues to be celebrated as a vital part of Peru’s economy and culture.

Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

How the Wawa Laptop Project is Helping Peru's Remote EducationAs the COVID-19 pandemic keeps schools in many countries closed and kids at home, it also highlights the inequality of education worldwide. The quality of education for children in Peru, a nation with one of the highest virus mortality rates, is based largely on the wealth of the family. This disparity in opportunity will only grow larger with remote schooling, where more of the burden is put on the parents and home to provide for the students. For families who cannot afford personal tutors or often-expensive education technology and the internet, they currently have no access to quality education for their children. Many organizations and companies in Latin America have been able to assist in this burden, creating new ways to provide education to poor students. School broadcasts on television and affordable curriculum education have been highly-praised, but some companies have been trying to make the technology itself more attainable for students. The Wawa Laptop Project is one example of this, creating laptops out of recycled materials and forming an initiative to donate laptops to Peruvian students in need.

Unequal Education in Peru

According to a UNICEF study, nearly 463 students across the world are without access to proper education, as well as television, internet or additional services. This leaves students out entirely, with no access to any form of education. This issue is impacting children in Peru, where children are allotted only one hour outside of the home a day.

Throughout Latin America, it is reported that only an average of 67% of the population has access to the internet, with that number closer to 10% in the poorest nations. In Peru, around one in three homes have access to a computer, meaning that a majority of the population is left without easy access to the internet. The harsh reality of this is that, at least for impoverished children in Peru, remote learning is simply impossible as it currently exists.

The government of Peru has become involved, ensuring that class lessons will be available on television broadcast until 2021, but this would still leave out a portion of the population with access to education. This inability to accommodate all students seems to mean that, until the schools can safely reopen, impoverished children will be left behind from their more wealthy classmates.

Wawa Laptops and Eco-friendly Tech Amid COVID-19

Wawa Laptops were created a year ago as an attempt to provide technology to the most vulnerable children in Peru. However, following the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiative shifted to responding to the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak in impoverished regions. Solar-powered and running on Linux operating systems, the laptops are also constructed using recycled materials, meaning that they are far more affordable for impoverished families. The laptops are said to last as long as 15 years, and before the outbreak, the Wawa Laptops had been successfully given to hundreds of Peruvian children in need.

As the COVID-19 crisis continues, Wawa Laptops seem to be an affordable solution to some of the issues many children in Peru are facing. As a response, the company has launched the “Donate a Wawa Laptop, Educate a child” campaign, in which people can donate a laptop to a child in need. This donation will allow children who would otherwise be left out of a year of school to keep up with their fellow students. While not a total solution to the education divide in the country, the Wawa Laptop Project provides impoverished Peruvian children with quality education.

While students in Peru as well as the rest of the developing world are sure to face continued struggles in this year of remote learning, organizations like Wawa Laptop Project are supporting the most vulnerable young people. Access to technology and opportunity will be one of the main determinators for schooling in the COVID-19 age. With the support and ongoing donations, Wawa Laptops will allow children in Peru to stay focused on school amid the unprecedented international crisis.

– Matthew McKee
Photo: Flickr

BetterTogether ChallengeSince 2015, roughly five million people have left Venezuela in hopes of finding a better life. This marks the largest displacement of people in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Its economic collapse has rendered the local currency practically worthless and thrown Venezuelans into rampant poverty and hunger. The average Venezuelan lost about 25 pounds of weight in 2017 when 80% of the population lacked reliable access to food. The BetterTogether Challenge aims to support struggling Venezuelans.

The Collapse of the Venezuelan economy

Despite having one of the largest oil reserves in the world, the Venezuelan government’s mismanagement of its resources and economy led to a cataclysmic collapse. When measured by income, 96% of Venezuelans live in poverty and the average citizen lives off a paltry 72 cents a day. The 2019-2020 National Survey of Living Conditions found that 65% of Venezuelans live in multidimensional poverty, an increase of 13% from the previous year. Multidimensional poverty incorporates measurements such as access to health care and education, in addition to income.

A Mass Exodus of Venezuelans

The abject poverty Venezuelans have experienced has led to mass emigration to neighboring countries. Colombia and Peru collectively have had over two million Venezuelan immigrants. The integration of Venezuelans and their culture has been abrasive in countries such as Peru, where negative attitudes persist toward Venezuelans.

The displacement of millions of Venezuelans has disrupted a highly educated generation. A whole 57% of Venezuelans living in Peru have received higher education and roughly 25% have university degrees.

While negative views of Venezuelan immigration have limited the number of incoming Venezuelans, neighboring countries would be wise to recognize the inherent value possessed by the Venezuelan people. The displaced Venezuelans carry massive potential, which if properly harnessed, can have a substantial impact on local economies and innovation. Furthermore, the integration of Venezuelans into the labor markets of their host communities would provide additional cash flow that could boost local economies.

BetterTogether Challenge Empowers Venezuelan Innovation

As a strong and steady champion against poverty, USAID has partnered with the InterAmerican Development Bank to create the BetterTogether Challenge to support Venezuelans. The goal of the challenge is to fund innovative solutions from Venezuelans to support their resilience, test solutions to be integrated and promote communication between Venezuelans and their new communities. In August 2020, the BetterTogether Challenge Award winners in South American countries were collectively awarded $2.97 million.

The BetterTogether Challenge awardees are focused on increasing social cohesion, fighting xenophobia, empowering women, improving employment opportunities and improving access to health care, education and food. These solutions are crucial to rebuilding Venezuela and reducing poverty in their communities.

International Rescue Committee in Colombia

One of the most impactful organizations chosen for funding was the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Colombia. Nearly 1.5 million Venezuelans have found refuge in Colombia, with roughly 35,000 crossing into Colombia daily to purchase supplies. The IRC supports Venezuelans in Colombia by providing safety, access to healthcare and economic assistance while protecting the women and children that may be disproportionately vulnerable. A key initiative launched by the IRC is the Families Make A Difference Program, which provides essential management and support to children who have been harmed and educates families to prevent harm.

Supporting organizations such as the IRC are vital for fortifying Venezuelan resilience and providing people with life-changing resources during times of need. Furthermore, initiatives like the BetterTogether Challenge empower Venezuelans while addressing poverty.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Cafe Femenino FoundationEstimates place women’s involvement in coffee production at as high as 70% of all the labor, making women an integral part of the coffee industry. However, women face high levels of gender discrimination within the industry in terms of access to “land, credit and information”, resulting in lower incomes and crop yields when compared to men. The Cafe Femenino Foundation looks to change this.

Cafe Femenino Foundation

Noticing the inequity, Garth and Gay Smith founded the Cafe Femenino Foundation in 2004 to empower women working in the coffee industry. The nonprofit organization provides grants to women’s coffee collectives in nine countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Rwanda and Sumatra. The grants can be used for a vast range of initiatives including food security, income diversification and health, to empower women socially, politically and economically.

Food Security Initiatives

Cafe Femenino Foundation provides grants to combat food insecurity in multiple countries’ coffee-growing regions, which also helps women earn extra income. In Peru, training sessions teach women how to preserve fruits to prevent spoiling and extend the period during which they can be eaten. Preserved fruit can also be sold at markets when the supply of fresh fruit is diminished, allowing the women to sell for higher prices. Women who participated in the training sessions went home with 10 cans of each fruit they preserved, which is credited with helping lower rates of child malnutrition in the regions.

Similarly, in the Dominican Republic, Cafe Femenino Foundation grants supported women’s coffee collectives to start growing passionfruit and breed both cows and goats. Passionfruit is used in many foods and drinks, making it popular among the women themselves and at the markets. Since 2009, more than 200 women and their family members have benefitted from access to passionfruit. The goat and cow breeding initiatives provide women with milk and meat to feed their families and to sell for additional income. As of 2013, almost 30 women participated in the animal breeding programs.

Health Initiatives

In Colombia, grants have been given by Cafe Femenino Foundation to the COSURCA coffee cooperative to improve women’s health through kitchen remodeling. Since kitchens are traditionally women’s spaces, they are often not remodeled and are constructed of poor materials with dirt floors. The kitchens of 18 women have been remodeled as of 2013 to include outdoor ventilation that prevents smoke inhalation and running water to improve cleanliness and hygiene.

Cafe Femenino Foundation has provided similar grants in Peru to improve health conditions by improving stoves. The new stoves decrease smoke inhalation and respiratory illnesses that occur as a result.

Women’s Empowerment Initiatives

Also in Peru, Cafe Femenino Foundation grants have supported the building of community safe spaces, called Casa Cafe Femenino, for women in multiple coffee-growing communities. These spaces provide women with opportunities to meet and talk in places that are not “borrowed from the men”, promoting women’s independence and agency. Casa Cafe Femeninos are also able to act as temporary shelters for women facing domestic violence. As of 2013, these spaces benefitted more than 800 women from two coffee collectives.

Cafe Femenino Foundation also supports the education of women. In Peru, the nonprofit helped five women complete training to be promoted to the role of internal coffee inspector, giving these women more power within the coffee industry. In the early years of the nonprofit, a grant provided scholarships for 600 girls, all of who were the daughters of coffee producers, to attend school.

Equality in the Coffee Industry

The coffee industry is made up largely of women yet these women face gender discrimination and inequality. Cafe Femenino Foundation strives to eliminate the gender gap in coffee production by providing grants to women’s coffee collectives in a range of areas, including food security, health and women’s empowerment based on the needs of the women. The projects, while benefitting the women, also help to teach leadership and problem-solving skills through a democratic process of distribution, furthering women’s empowerment.

– Sydney Leiter
Photo: pixabay

healthcare in peruPeru carries a heavy history of periodic instability that has made the establishment of an accessible healthcare system perilous. The country suffers from an inequitable distribution of healthcare workers. It also struggles with the partition between private and governmentally-sponsored healthcare, the provisions of which skew inequitably toward the wealthy. Peru’s wealth gap shows the richest 20% in the nation controlling nearly half of its income and the poorest 20% earning less than 5%. This inequality is quite literally killing Peruvians. According to the 2007 National Census of Indigenous Peoples conducted by the Peruvian government, over 50% of census-interviewed communities did not have access to any form of health care facility.

Healthcare in Peru by the Numbers

  • The life expectancy in Peru is 74 years, landing the country at 126 out of 224 countries.
  • The probability of a child in Peru dying before the age of five is 1.4%, compared to 0.1% in the United States.
  • Peru spends 5.5% of its GDP on healthcare, compared to the U.S.’s 17.1%, ranking the country at 128 out of 224 countries.
  • In Peru, there are one and a half hospital beds available per 1,000 individuals. This is a number that is especially dire during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Peru clocks in at just under one and one-quarter of a physician per every 1,000 Peruvians in need of medical care.

Structure of Healthcare in Peru

Due in part to fluctuating governmental structures and rulers, Peru currently operates with a decentralized health care system administered by five entities. Two of these entities provide 90% of the nation’s healthcare services publicly, while three provide 10% of the nation’s healthcare in the private sector. This distribution results in considerable overlap and little coordination, depleting the healthcare system of resources and providers. In fact, many healthcare providers in Peru work an assortment of jobs across different subsectors.

As healthcare is a necessary sector of the economy, Peru’s healthcare worker density is increasing, even as health worker outmigration also increases. But since these workers are not equitably distributed, coastal and urban areas monopolize the majority of these providers. Lima and tourist coasts boast the highest distribution of healthcare workers, while rural and remote areas such as Piura and Loreto are home to few health providers.

Impact of the Healthcare Structure on Women

The detrimental effects of inequitable healthcare distribution are most visible in the country’s astonishing maternal mortality rate. The World Bank’s 2017 data showed that 88 out of 100,000 mothers in Peru die from pregnancy-related causes. However, Peru’s efforts have substantially reduced the number from 10 years before when the maternal mortality rate in Peru was 112 per 100,000 mothers in 2007.

The burden of maternal mortality rests squarely upon the shoulders of poor, rural, and Indigenous women. They are dying from largely preventable causes in a massive breach of human rights. These women disproportionately face countless barriers to pregnancy wellness and birth healthcare, including a dearth of emergency obstetric and neonatal services, language barriers and a lack of information regarding maternal health. Peru has implemented policies in recent years to reduce the rate of maternal mortality, such as the increase of maternal waiting houses for rural pregnant women to reside in as they approach birth.

The only cause of premature death that precedes neonatal disorders as a result of inadequate neonatal obstetrics is lower respiratory infections. This type of infection is the most likely cause of premature death, and it has remained so since 2007. This illness, too, disproportionately impacts women and children. They are the most likely groups to die from household air pollution, a type of pollution caused by the burning of solid fuels for cooking and heating purposes. In Peru, 429 out of an estimated 1,110 yearly childhood deaths are caused by acute lower respiratory infections resulting from household air pollution. Combined, neonatal disorders and lower respiratory infections cause more death and disability than any other factor in Peru. These are shortening the lives of Peruvian women and children by almost 20%.

Moving Forward with Healthcare in Peru

The healthcare system in Peru is one that suffers many flaws. It is straining to support its people, especially in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. While the going is slow, the country is striving to reform its healthcare system. Peru is doing this by reforming its healthcare system in the direction of universal coverage – an achievable but certainly strenuous goal. Since vigorously implementing healthcare reform in the late 90s, Peru reports coverage of 80% of its population with some form of health services. While this number is far from ideal, it is evidence that the Peruvian government is not only cognizant of but concerned about its healthcare failures, and it is striving for a fuller coverage future.

– Annie Iezzi
Photo: NeedPix

Plant Powered Lamps Light Up Peruvian VillagesPeru is a developing country in Latin America. It has one of the region’s best economies with a 50% growth in per capita income in a decade. Despite the country’s growing success, there is a considerable gap in electricity access between rural and urban parts of the city. Only about 62% of people in rural areas have access to electricity. Fortunately, a group of students and professors from a Peruvian university are developing a solution to combat the issue. The plantalámpara is a lamp powered solely by plants that will light up Peruvian villages.

How Did the Idea Come About?

A hurricane occurred in the Amazon rainforest area of Peru that left 173 inhabitants of the Nuevo Saposoa region without electricity. Also, about 42% of the rural population did not have electricity at all. The Nuevo Saposoa village is remote and isolated from nearby cities. It is a five-hour boat ride from the nearest town, so the village could not receive reliable access to electricity after floods from the hurricane destroyed power lines.

Consequently, the inhabitants could not perform daily tasks after sunset, like studying and cooking. A professor and group of students at the UTEC University in Lima developed the plantalámpara to solve the issue of the lack of electricity. The plantalámpara lights up Peruvian villages. The developers encourage people to get back to their normal lives.

The plantalámpara is made in a box filled with a grid of electrodes and a plant growing inside. Photosynthesis, or the capturing of sunlight energy by plants, powers the box. When the plant goes through photosynthesis, its waste decomposes in the soul and produces electrons. As a result, the lamp captures those electrons and converts the energy into battery power. It can light up a 50-watt bulb for up to two hours.

Benefits of the Plantalámpara

The lamp provides clean and sustainable energy to forest villages without using gas, oil, or dirty fossil fuels. The plant-based light is entirely pollution-free. Additionally, plants offer 100% renewable energy at a low cost. According to a lead professor of the project, any plant can be used for the lamp, though some work better than others. The plantalámpara protects the beautiful rainforest, lights up Peruvian villages, and provides the Nuevo Saposoa community with more opportunities and a better quality of life.

It also gives Peruvian residents the possibility to work on schoolwork and other tasks past sunset. UTEC intended to put the digital community in the shoes (or eyes) of a forest dweller to understand how a lack of light can affect daily actions. The team originally provided 10 of the lamp prototypes to Nuevo Saposoa. The hope is that these lamps will eventually replace gas and oil lamps.

The plantalámpara serves as a crucial part of reducing the gap between rural and urban areas of Peru. Its amazing eco-friendly technology helps to light up Peruvian villages while not harming the environment at the same time. With this invention and more, Peru will continue to grow and expand, as more opportunities become available to all.

Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

While it may have been one of the first nations in the Americas to take significant preventative actions against the coronavirus, Peru is still reporting over 208,000 COVID-19 cases, and is now ranked as the second most impacted South American country behind Brazil. After the implementation of stay-at-home orders, curfews and boarder closings, it is strange to see both the number of cases and deaths continuing to rise. One explanation as to why Peru is continuing to deal with more cases is that Peru’s poor do not have the luxury to stay at home and Peruvian food markets can be a hub for spreading coronavirus.

The Necessity of Food Markets

Why venture out? Work, food and banking transactions are all done on the streets of Peru and not in the comfort of one’s home. Only 49% of Peruvian households have access to a refrigerator or freezer, meaning that daily excursions to Peruvian food markets are necessary in order to keep food on the table.

Furthermore, the Peruvian food markets provide another challenge, maintaining social distancing. On April 14, CNN affiliate TV Peru captured images of a Lima food market where shoppers waited for hours in lines or in masses while wearing masks but not practicing social distancing. This scene was then replicated outside of banks as people queued up in an attempt to access coronavirus relief funds. Peruvian food markets have quickly become hot spots for contagion, not just for shoppers but also for vendors.

Proving to be an Issue

In a local market, just outside the San Martín de Porres district, “163 merchants tested positive for the virus, after 842 rapid tests.” In response to the rising cases, the Peruvian government implemented more bans and lockdowns to try and stop the sudden influx of cases and extended the state of emergency until June 30. This solution, however, does not address all circumstances across Peru. The fact still remains that the nation’s poor often have no choice but to venture out daily to access the resources they need.

Entrepreneurs feel Economic Strain

Despite the dangers surrounding vendors and shoppers, Peruvian food markets are only half of the equation. The global pandemic has also wreaked havoc on small producers and entrepreneurs.

People who work in small scale production don’t always have easy access to local markets which can lead to two things:

  1. The producers are unable to sell their products in the cities and thus receive less income than they normally would.
  2. Markets will begin to see a decline in produce and goods, which will result in crowded markets and higher prices.

Although Peru is starting to grant transit permits to these small producers, the process has been slowed down due to the coronavirus. While numerous solutions have been proposed by the Peruvian government, only a few actions are igniting real change in providing help for citizens living below the poverty line.

One such solution is being enacted through the German partnership program: Welthungerhilfe. The international relief program focuses on ending food insecurity across the globe. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has dedicated relief efforts to communities most heavily impacted. In Peru, this can be seen in the community of Húanuco. Working with the Peruvian Institute of Development and Environment (Instituto de Desarrollo y Medio Ambiente), Welthungerhilfe implemented a delivery service, to connect local farmers and producers with markets and consumers in more urban areas. This effort will keep locally owned farms employed during the crisis and fight the food scarcity affecting local markets.

For the Peruvian people living in poverty, COVID-19 has uncovered many of the nation’s shortcomings including food insecurity. Producers, vendors and shoppers alike are struggling to operate within new health regulations and provide for their families in the crowded streets of Peruvian food markets. As a result, international relief agencies, like Welthungerhilfe, have been emerging to help those in need.

– Elizabeth Price
Photo: Pixabay

scholarships
Lack of educational opportunity is one of the principal reasons why people may get stuck in the cycle of poverty. In many places, people are at least required to have a high-school level of education to get a minimum wage job. Most high-paying positions, however, expect people to have a college degree education, something that for many low-income Peruvians, is very hard to obtain.

In the year 2015, Peru ranked 64 out of 70 on the International Programme for Student Assessments: A standardized test that measures student’s performance on academics. The problems don’t lie within the lack of teachers or a good infrastructure; it lies within the fact that most Peruvians don’t have access to a decent education. Most of the most competitive schools and colleges are in major cities, and with usually high tuition costs.

This difference is prevalent in the countryside where some children have to walk for hours to go to school. In the Peruvian Andes, children are less likely to go beyond high-school education and much less pursue a college degree. As of the year 2017, only 16 percent of young adults were pursuing a college degree, principally because of the inability to pay the high tuition. Fortunately, a governmental program called Beca 18 (Scholarship 18) may soon change that.

The Story of Beca 18

Beca 18 is not the first program that has given scholarships to well-deserved students. The National Institute of Scholarships and Educational Loans, was founded in 1972 and lasted until 2007. While they did offer necessary scholarships and loan payments, they only centered in Lima. After 2007, the new Office of Scholarships and Educational Loan opened, with a more polished selection of students and with a clear focus on trying to reach scholars located on problematic areas of the country, but by all merit have achieved academic excellence.

The Office of Scholarships and Educational Loan worked until 2012, the year on which the former president Ollanta Humala “upgraded” it, becoming the National Program of Scholarships and Educational Loans, also known as Beca 18. The program works as an administrative unit of the Peruvian Ministry of Education with 24 regional offices, giving around 52 236 scholarships around 25 regions from 2012 to 2016. Most of the students that benefited were living in extreme poverty.

How the Program Works

The first thing that applicants have to know is if they meet all the appropriate requirements. For Beca 18, a student’s living conditions have to be below the poverty line, attending the last year of high school or have recently graduated and been on the honor roll. The Scholarship has other ramifications that cater to different students, like Beca Albergue, that centers around students that lived in foster care.

After meeting the requirements, the next step is applying to the National Exam, which can be done by just accessing the scholarships webpage during the call-up time, that happens around December each year. Each student needs to present their essential legal documentation; however, depending on what portion of Beca 18 the student is interested in they may submit additional paperwork. After taking the exam, hosted by many public and private schools around the country, each student receives guidance to get into their desired college. Once accepted, the process of applying for the Scholarship can begin, only students with satisfactory grades on both the National Exam and their college entrance exam, are granted the scholarships.

What Costs Are Covered

Depending on each of the holder’s family and economic situations, the scholarships cover the costs of the admissions exam, full tuition and other work materials, such as a laptop. If needed, the awards include accommodations, transportation, and pocket money. A private tutor is also an option but only for public universities, as privates often offer that service to its students. These, of course, help students that either came from the Andean of Rainforest Regions of the country or lived in an extreme poverty situation.

Famous Recipients

As mentioned before, Beca 18 is an excellent opportunity for many people that couldn’t afford higher education but had exceptional academic abilities. Like Omar Quispe, a recipient that now is a developer for ElectroPeru. He is currently working on a project that could bring good quality electricity to his native Huaylas, a district surrounded by extreme poverty. Another famous case is of Abel Rojas Pozo, that upon graduation started to help local guinea pig farmers spend their business. These efforts were to make his hometown one of the centers of guinea pig exports.

With an educated population, the chances of escaping poverty are higher. And like the recipients of Beca 18, they can use their new-found knowledge to help their families and their communities.

Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Wapa