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John Deere Foundation Helps FarmersJohn Deere is recognized worldwide for its agricultural and construction equipment and machinery. From tractors in the countryside to lawnmowers in the suburbs, most people are familiar with the brand and recognize their logo. What many might not realize, however, is the global presence and philanthropy of the brand through their efforts with their charitable division, The John Deere Foundation (JDF). In 2017 alone, the John Deere Foundation made $33.4 million in charitable contributions and recorded 160,688 employee volunteer hours. The John Deere Foundation has made tremendous strides in combating world hunger, developing communities and increasing access to education in developing countries through their grants, sponsorships and volunteerism.

What They Do

A primary focus of the John Deere Foundation is addressing world hunger by helping smallholder farmers in developing countries build profitable businesses. They offer agricultural training, teach entrepreneurial and financial skills and introduce mechanized farming. Their grants invest in partnerships with rent-to-own contractors who provide the machines needed to take smallholder farmers beyond a hand-to-mouth business.

The John Deere Foundation also focuses on helping at-risk youth and adults receive an education, particularly in agriculture, and offers scholarship opportunities, improvement of school infrastructure and teacher training. They also help develop communities by contributing to the development of their business environments and providing such things as sanitation facilities, health awareness and access to more jobs.

The John Deere Foundation Helps Farmers in Africa

The John Deere Foundation has had a powerful global impact, especially in Africa and Asia. They have contributed millions in grant money to NGOs that fight global hunger in Africa. Since 2013, the John Deere Foundation has partnered with the nonprofit TechnoServe to assist farmers in Kenya and Ghana. The partnership with TechnoServe greatly increased the impact of the John Deere Foundation in these countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, farmers traditionally own only a few acres of land and produce barely enough to make a living. TechnoServe’s Mobile Training Unit offers videos on the sides of box trucks that travel across rural communities in Kenya and Ghana to help dairy and grain farmers. They visit these communities several times throughout the year in accordance with their growing cycles. TechnoServe creates videos to help farmers learn new skills and encourage good agricultural and conservation practices. They have exceeded their expectations and helped more than 47,000 farmers develop their businesses through their mobile training unit and demonstration plots.

The John Deere Foundation Helps Farmers in Asia

In 2014, the John Deere Foundation partnered with Mercy Corps to create the POWER (Promoting Organizations that Work to Empower Rice Farmers) program in Indonesia to help rice farmers connect with resources to grow their businesses and earn more profit. The John Deere Foundation believes Indonesia’s rice farmers are vital players in addressing world hunger. Residents in the country consume an estimated 300 pounds of rice per person annually, and the population is projected to increase by 360 million by 2050. As the smallholder farmers struggled to meet the increasing demands of the population, the POWER program was implemented to help them increase their productivity without increasing their workload. POWER assessed the specific needs of Indonesian rice farmers, such as a lack of access to high-quality seeds and fertilizer and market opportunities. They developed a three-year program to train local farmers to become entrepreneurs. It has helped more than 8,310 smallholder rice farmers and increased the average household income by 13 percent.

The impact of the John Deere Foundation was recognized in 2017 when it received the Best Community Improvement Award for its work with the JIVA (Joint Initiative for Global Advancement) program in India. Developed in partnership with PYXERA Global, the John Deere Foundation volunteers worked side-by-side with local farmers and helped introduce new farming techniques, such as line sowing and vermicomposting, a practice of using various species of worms to create more healthy soil for crops.

JIVA also played a major role in improving education. Their community-first approach recognized a need to address the integral relationship between education and prosperity at large in these communities. Their work resulted in a 90 percent pass rate for 10th grade students and an increase in overall household income by nearly 1.5 million dollars across the communities they served. In addition, JIVA developed infrastructure projects that gave farmers such things as drip irrigation and supplied toilets in local schools. As farmers began to profit from their labor, they invested more in education as well.

These are only a few examples that highlight the significant impact of the John Deere Foundation. Their grants and partnership with organizations across the globe have made an immeasurable difference in the lives of farmers and at-risk communities in developing countries. By 2020, the John Deere Foundation hopes to have one million recorded volunteer hours. The combination of expert knowledge and altruism has resulted in a foundation that has made great strides to combat world hunger and will continue to do so more and more each year.

– Christina Laucello
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Developing Countries
In the modern world having efficient energy infrastructure is vital for a country to find social and economic success. Lack of a proper energy infrastructure is one of the major factors that can hinder a developing country’s economic development. Many countries in the developing world at this moment are suffering from frequent power outages and insufficient power supply access, which are having negative consequences for their populations.

There is a misconception around the cost-effectiveness of renewable energy sources. The erroneous view contends that renewable energy sources are an expensive luxury only affordable to developed countries. In reality, the proper implementation of renewable energy sources in developing countries could reduce their dependence on natural gas and oil, and investments in renewable energy technologies would be more cost-effective than fossil fuels.

The Effects of Energy Poverty

Lack of access to a reliable energy source and energy services is commonly known as energy poverty, which affects more than 1 billion people in the world. Energy provides all of the basic necessities for human beings. Energy is utilized to provide human needs such as lighting, heat and proper water services. Indeed, there is a proven link between many of the markers of poverty, such as illiteracy, infant mortality, lower life expectancy and higher fertility rates, and only having access to inadequate energy services. This doesn’t surprise politicians, as modern public services and businesses, such as health care, education and communications are dependent on energy to properly function. Doctors need proper lighting to operate, vaccinations and blood cannot be properly stored without a cooling system, and medical equipment, such as X-rays need power to operate.

Benefits of Alternative Power Sources

Adoption and installation of renewable energy sources can offer numerous benefits for a country. Most forms of renewable energy are usually more cost-effective than fossil fuels. Renewable energy in most circumstances comes from a domestic source and therefore reduces the cost of foreign imports. Typically, the fuel for the energy usually comes in an abundance. In recent years, as the globe is seeing a major increase in renewable energy usage, a large number of jobs are being created by renewable energy advances.

Advances in technology related to solar power are becoming increasingly efficient in function. Solar technology is seeing a persistent increase in energy output efficiency and is easily capable of functioning in a variety of locales. Solar energy is viable because many developing countries are located in regions where access to the sun’s rays is optimal and are applicable to both homes and villages. Solar power can also help countries gain energy independence, meaning countries can reduce or eliminate dependence on energy imports. A reduction of energy imports can be extremely cost-effective as demonstrated by the Ukraine which has saved $3 billion on energy imports from Russia by going solar.

Wind power is one of the most cost-effective power sources available because it is sold at a fixed price and its fuel is free, making it vital for developing countries. Wind is a local source of energy with an abundant supply that is inexhaustible. In the developed world wind energy is creating an abundance of jobs with 100,000 people being employed in the United States by the U.S. wind sector. With unemployment being a major cause of poverty in many developing countries, the adoption of wind power could create a large number of jobs for these countries.

New Renewable Technology

As the market for renewable energy continues to grow, innovation has lead to the birth of new technology that generates energy through alternative means.

In the 21st century, smart grids are becoming increasingly common in the developing world. They are of vital use because of their cost efficiency, reliability and ability to manage energy consumption. Currently, developing countries such as China, India and Brazil have been world leaders in smart grid design and usage. Over the past 20 years, the number of photovoltaics (PV) installed has increased so significantly that it is now the third most important renewable energy source behind hydro and wind power. Solar PV systems are viable because they can operate for long periods of time with minimal maintenance making operating costs low after the initial installment.

Current Implementation of Renewable Energy and Future Progress

Renewable energy is already making a positive mark in the developing world with many developing countries already using renewable energy sources. As of now, Kenya is the world’s leader in the number of solar energy systems per capita with more than 30,000 PVs sold in Kenya each year. Countries such as Costa Rica and Brazil use renewable energy as their primary energy sources. Renewable energy accounts for 85 percent of Brazil’s energy supply and 90 percent of Costa Rica’s energy supply.

Proper investment in renewable energy can assist countries in providing adequate energy services to their populations. With the jobs it creates and the positive contributions renewable energy has to a nation’s energy infrastructure, developing countries could utilize it to alleviate poverty within their societies.

– Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Burkina FasoBurkina Faso is seeing an uptick in development with projects planned in numerous sectors across the country. Recognized as one of West Africa’s least developed nations, Burkina Faso has been plagued in recent years by droughts and military coups.

Primarily known as a hub for gold reserves, Burkina Faso has become attractive to investment in recent years by private sector companies contributing to the enhanced forms of solar power, cotton and other agro-economic development poles. The investment announced in recent weeks comes from the African Development Bank (AfDB), which has decided to invest approximately $910 million in Burkina Faso over the next five years.

The project, targeted towards the power and agricultural sectors, has been praised by numerous high-level politicians, who claim that such an investment would reap large profits and be beneficial towards the Country Strategy Document (DSP).

The Burkinabe government elaborated on the collaboration between both parties by stating that such an agreement is designed to “reduce the large disparity between urban and rural regions in relation to the power sector, through improving electrical appliances, as well as supporting the agricultural sector in order to reduce poverty in rural areas”.

Other models of development have taken different forms in terms of education outreach in order to target children who lack the appropriate resources in school. The company, Longhorn Publishers, which is promoting its digital publications across the continent, is mainly targeting primary school computerization programs.

Such investments are critical for the progression in the economic situation in Burkina Faso. The approach towards refinement in both the agricultural and power sectors aims at reducing inequalities. With the increasing engagement in both the public and private sectors, the government will also look towards community-based self-help programs that will be working towards reducing global poverty.

Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr

Bringing Power Back to Puerto RicoTowards the end of this past summer, a series of hurricanes swept across the Caribbean and Southeastern U.S., damaging communities in Houston, Miami and – in particular – Puerto Rico.

Not only was Hurricane Irma also followed by Hurricane Maria, another devastating storm, but the disaster response from the White House has been rather slow to provide relief, during a time when over one million people are struggling with – or even entirely incapable of – accessing electricity. Needless to say, bringing power back to Puerto Rico is no small task. However, Puerto Rico may have found an unlikely ally: Elon Musk’s Tesla Corporation.

Tesla is primarily famous for its manufacturing of electric cars and spaceship equipment (through its sister company, SpaceX). However, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, has recently stated on Twitter that there may be a possibility of Tesla bringing power back to Puerto Rico. “The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too,” wrote Musk on the social media site.

But are Musk’s goals realistic, or even possible at all? According to National Geographic, a solar panel-based subsidiary of Tesla – SolarCity – managed to single-handedly switch a small island in the American Samoa from diesel fuel to solar power. The island, known as Ta’u, not only managed to switch over completely to an extremely eco-friendly energy source, but did so in the aftermath of a Category 5 hurricane – and the solar panels in place on the island have been specially built to deal with such powerful winds and flooding.

Of course, Puerto Rico’s population of three million is far more than Ta’u’s modest population of less than 600, and therefore rebuilding the Puerto Rican infrastructure is a far greater task to undertake. Furthermore, the U.S. government has had a dubious past with intervening in Puerto Rican affairs, including early testing of birth control pills on women. Musk has, however, pointed out that any efforts made in solar power installation in Puerto Rico “must truly be led by the Puerto Rican people.”

After weeks of recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, however, Musk’s comments about not only bringing power back to Puerto Rico, but reinforcing it both ecologically and structurally to withstand future storms, are ideas welcomed by many. Nevertheless, the plan is still in its embryonic stages and there is much more discussion that must take place before Tesla can spring into action.

Brad Tait

Photo: Flickr


Women in developing countries are one of the most vulnerable and oppressed groups in the world. But even in the face of challenges such as disproportionate violence, child marriages, teenage pregnancy and minimal education, many women are fighting back. The Borgen Project highlights five powerful women in poor countries who are asserting their power against fierce adversity.

  1. Malala Yousafzai
    This international icon has been an inspiration to girls everywhere since she survived a Taliban attack in 2012. The Pakistani teenager was targeted by the extremist group for her advocacy in support of girls’ education rights. Since her miraculous recovery, Yousafzai has continued her fight against gender inequality by founding the Malala Fund. This organization advocates for and invests in girls’ education in the poorest and most unequal countries in the world. At age 17, she became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Her story of resistance has made her one of the most powerful women in poor countries.
  2. Eqbal Dauqan
    This Yemeni scientist is breaking cultural barriers and scientific boundaries despite hardship and discrimination. Like Malala, she has been physically attacked for defiance of her culture’s strict gender roles. She was forced to flee to Malaysia from civil war in her native Yemen. In the face of these extreme obstacles, Dauqan has managed to become an awarded chemist. In a country where many women need a man’s permission to leave the house, Dauqan earned a college degree and a PhD in biochemistry. She has gone on to publish a popular book, earn international awards for her scientific contributions and be named assistant professor and head of her department at Al Saeed University. It is no wonder that NPR calls her “unstoppable.”
  3. Majd Al-Asharawy
    This Palestinian inventor created Green Cake, a revolutionary new building block made from ashes. In her war-torn home of Gaza, resources are limited and many buildings are in ruins. Al-Asharawy researched for six months to develop her special brick out of the resources available in Gaza. Green Cake is environmentally friendly and fire-resistant, weighs half what a concrete block does and costs half the price. This inspiring young inventor is yet another woman utilizing her limited resources to revolutionize the world around her.
  4. Ishita Sharma
    India is one of the most rapidly improving countries in the developing world, but gender equality in the country is not up to pace. Ninety-two women are raped in India every day. After being harassed by men on the street, Sharma teamed up with a kung fu coach to offer free self-defense classes to underprivileged girls. By working with parents and teachers in the girls’ communities, she has built up a small army of girls with the skills and confidence to defend themselves. Sharma is helping to equip more powerful women in poor countries to stand up to violence and sexual harassment.
  5. Drukpa Order “Kung Fu” Nuns
    In Southeast Asia, the human trafficking of young girls is rampant. Five hundred Buddhist nuns from India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet are fighting this practice through a 4,000-kilometer bike trip. For the fourth time, the nuns biked from Kathmandu to Leh, India to raise awareness of human trafficking and promote messages of gender equality. Along the way, they met with local officials, provided food to poor communities and helped marginalized people access medical care. They are even trained in martial arts to defend themselves against male harassment. These powerful women in poor countries are blazing a new trail for girls in Southeast Asia.

There is still a lot of work to be done by the international community and local governments to support gender equality in the developing world. But these powerful women in poor countries are proving that they are far from powerless.

Bret Anne Serbin

Photo: Flickr


Many companies use technology to make farmers’ work easier, especially in rural, underdeveloped places where millions of people depend on agriculture to survive. A new company named Agsol has joined this cause. Agsol brings power to poor farmers with its line of solar-powered agro-processing machines. Agsol aims to change the livelihoods and lives of some of the 1.1 billion people living off the power grid.

Agsol founders Matt Carr and Greg Denn created several small mills that can turn harvested crops, such maize and rice, into marketable products. Agsol’s solar-powered products include rice polishers and hullers, coconut scrapers and cassava scrapers.

Agsol currently works with Project Support Services, which provides Agsol’s products to customers in Papa New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. According to the supplier’s website, Agsol’s machines are “built strong for harsh environments…have zero fuel costs, require little maintenance, have a long life and are easy to use.” In this way, the products drive food production efficiency.

The machines save farm families from performing backbreaking, repetitive manual labor. In minutes they do what would have taken much longer before. The machines’ speed and efficiency mean farmers can prepare more products for the market, increasing their incomes and allowing them to rise out of poverty.

When rural farmers can grow and sell more, others also benefit. A 10 percent increase in farm yields contributes to a seven percent poverty reduction in Africa and a five percent reduction in Asia.

Agsol’s agro-processing machines also solve energy needs by producing electricity. “It could power a water purifier, a fridge, or even a community office server for computers,” Carr stated, as reported in Anthill, an Australian magazine that highlights innovation and entrepreneurship.

Providing energy to smallholder farmers and rural communities can further alleviate poverty. The energy created by Agsol’s machines could power a medical clinic, which would help decrease the rate and severity of illnesses. It could also power a school, enabling children to receive a quality education. Even something as simple as a smartphone charger could allow a farmer to communicate with other farmers about current local conditions and share tips for success.

Agsol was one of five companies that recently graduated from The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s “ON [email protected],” an eight-week experience for small businesses to gain connections and knowledge to further develop their businesses.

The training Agsol received has set it on pace to sell around 800 machines in 2017. With each machine sold, Agsol brings power to poor farmers: the power to improve farm yields, incomes and communities.

Kristen Reesor

Photo: Flickr


A new solar plant in the Jordanian camp Azraq, built in cooperation with the UNHCR, the IKEA Foundation and the Jordanian solar company Mustakbal, will boost living standards by extending refugees’ access to power and reduce spending as well as Carbon dioxide emissions.

After the camp’s foundation in 2014, its residents lacked access to electricity for two years and were without any means to preserve food or cool their shelters in the heat of the Northern Jordanian desert. But in early 2017, a foundation introduced electricity to these areas for the first time.

The new $9.6 million solar plant, financed by the IKEA foundation’s Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign, supplies 20,000 of the camp’s residents with clean energy. In 2018, the UNHCR plans to extend the access to energy from the solar plant to all 36,000 Syrian refugees living in Azraq.

Access to power allows for the use of refrigerators, fans, washing machines and cell phones, all of which largely improve the quality of everyday life in the camp. Additionally, Azraq can now be lit up at night – providing a safer environment, and allowing for life to go on after the sun has gone down.

The Jordanian solar company Mustakbal supervised the construction of the plant, with the help of over 50 employees from the refugee community. This provided the refugees with an opportunity to gain income and skills. Some will continue to work with the maintenance of the plant in the future.

When the solar plant generates surplus energy, the plant funnels back to the national grid of Jordan for free. This is not only a financial relief for the state but also an important contribution to plans to switch to entirely green energy by 2020.

The UNHCR estimates that by using the solar plant to ensure refugees’ access to power, it will save $1.5 million annually; money that can be invested elsewhere in the camp. For instance, the money can be used to improve sanitation and shelters, and to organize activities for the camp’s residents.

Lena Riebl

Photo: Flickr

Legislature
Within the legislature of the federal government, there are two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Senators and Congressman work within these two lawmaking bodies. Both are representative voices for their constituents, but their roles differ in terms of  length, power and apportionment. Here are some key facts on the differences between Senators and Congressmen.

House of Representatives

  1. Each state represented in Congress is entitled to at least one representative, but the number per state is determined according to population. Under the constitutional rule regarding the size of the House, “the number of Representatives shall not exceed one of every thirty Thousand.”
  2. There are currently 435 Congressional seats.
  3. A Congressperson’s term lasts two years.
  4. The minimum age for a member of the House is 25 and the elected official must have been a U.S. citizen for at least seven years.
  5. The six non-voting members in Congress are the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands. Although these districts are unable to vote, they may vote in a House committee and introduce legislation.
  6. In the legislature, only the House of Representatives can introduce spending bills.

Senate

  1. Each state has a total of two senators, regardless of the state’s size. For this reason, there are always 100 senators during a given period.
  2. A senator’s term lasts six years. Only one-third of the Senate seats are elected every two years. That way, only 33 or 34 seats are up for election at a given time.
  3. The minimum age for a senator is 30, and that person must be a U.S. citizen for at least nine years.
  4. The Senate has sole power of approval for foreign treatises and cabinet and judicial nominations, including appointments to the Supreme Court.
  5. The Senate is headed by the Vice President, who only votes in case of a tie.

Nora Harless

Sources: Diffen.com, USGovInfo
Photo: Flickr

Electrify AfricaPresident Obama has signed into law the Electrify Africa Act of 2015, which will bring electricity to millions in Africa.

About two-thirds of people in Africa do not have access to reliable power, according to BBC News. The Electrify Africa Act will establish a strategy to help sub-Saharan countries implement power solutions to promote economic growth and reduce poverty.

For people without electricity, simple tasks such as cooking or reading are complicated without a light source at night. Many people in Africa are also unable to use modern technologies, like cell phones or computers, or do basic tasks such as refrigerating food and medicine.

The lack of electricity causes some families in Africa to use fossil fuels or charcoal, which has a negative effect on the environment and health.

According to BBC News, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce stated that this initiative will “improve the lives of millions in sub-Saharan Africa by helping to reduce reliance on charcoal and other toxic fuel sources that produce fumes that kill more than HIV/Aids and malaria combined.”

Electrify AfricaPower Africa was launched by President Obama in 2013. It took nearly two years for it to pass through the Senate and House of Representatives and become the Electrify Africa Act of 2015.

The U.S. initially invested $7 billion in the project but that number has since risen to nearly $43 billion. According to Voice of America, the high cost of energy in sub-Saharan Africa makes producing exports impossible, so it would be beneficial to the U.S. to help Africa become a major trading partner.

In addition to the U.S. government, African governments and private companies are involved in the development of the Power Africa initiative. The Electrify Africa Act provides a framework for companies to invest in African energy solutions.

The long-term goal is to double the amount of electricity available to people in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing electricity to 50 million people in the region by 2020.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: BBC, Christian Science Monitor, Voice of America

Most Powerful Women
Each year Forbes compiles a list of the top 100 most powerful women who are contributing the most through donations, media momentum, and impact on society. These women work in a variety of areas–the list includes celebrities, businesswomen, women in politics, and social activists–and they are from all areas of the world. These women are demonstrating that power comes in a variety of forms and can be used in a variety of ways. Here is a short list of the top 10 most powerful women.

10. Indra Nooyi – CEO of Pepsico, United States

9. Sonia Gandhi – President of Indian National Congress

8. Janet Napolitano – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, United States

7. Christine Lagarde – Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, France

6. Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook, United States

5. Hillary Clinton – Politician and Philanthropist, United States

4. Michelle Obama – First Lady of the United States

3. Melinda Gates – Co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, United States

2. Dilma Rousseff- President of Brazil

1. Angela Merkel – Chancellor of Germany

Katie Brockman

Source: Forbes