Drones Can Address Poverty

Technology is not inherently good or bad; it’s how it’s used. From music videos to saving lives, drone operations span the spectrum of ethics and morality. Drones are able to travel in minutes to places that would normally take hours or days by traditional methods. As a result, social entrepreneurs and humanitarian organizations are utilizing drones to deliver medical supplies, survey the aftermath of natural disasters and even plant trees to combat deforestation. In developing countries, drones can be used to save countless lives. Here are five ways drones can address poverty across the world:

5 Ways Drones Can Address Poverty

  1. Delivering Medical Supplies
    Over one billion people in low-income countries do not have access to reliable roads, jeopardizing their access to proper medical care. Enter drones. Companies like Matternet are creating UAV supply highways that can quickly reach people in remote areas. By partnering with organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Matternet is running trials in Papua New Guinea and Haiti. These are trials to reinvent healthcare access and battle tuberculosis epidemics.
    Drones are also being used by the United Nations Population Fund to deliver contraceptives to remote regions of Ghana. This is a place where was almost no access to birth control. Approximately 225 million women in developing countries are in need of birth control but do not have access to it. Drones can cut contraceptive delivery times down from two days to 30 minutes.
  2. Reforesting (and Protecting) the Planet
    Approximately 1.6 billion people rely on forest resources for food, fuel, shelter, clothing and medicine. Yet, 15 billion trees are cut down every year.
    To reverse deforestation, drones are being used by companies like BioCarbon Engineering. They do this by planting tree seedlings, along with other microorganisms and fungi, to increase soil health. For instance, in just one day, BioCarbon planted 5,000 trees in Dungog, Australia, a region ravaged by coal mining. BioCarbon has planted 25,000 trees since the company’s inception. Additionally, it is working towards a goal of planting one billion trees every year.
    Not only can drones restore forest ecosystems, but they can also catch illegal loggers from destroying them in the first place. Indigenous communities in the Amazon and southern Guyana have employed drones to document illegal loggers and miners, using the proof to demand public officials to take action. In this way, drones can address poverty and also improve the planet.
  3. Assisting in Search and Rescue
    Search and rescue missions are one of the five ways drones can address poverty. In 2015, during the European migrant crisis, an estimated 5,000 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean. Certainly, many organizations found this completely unacceptable.
    The start-up NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) began employing drones in 2015 to find boats carrying refugees lost at sea. Christopher Catrambone, the founder of MOAS, has stated that drones are responsible for locating five of the eight boats that MOAS rescued in 2015. “Prior to using the drones, we felt like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” explained Catrambone.
  4. Providing Disaster Relief
    Another way that drones can address poverty is in how they are incredible tools for disaster relief. They allow organizations to map out the aftermath and locate target areas for immediate aid. After Super Typhoon Haiyan killed over 6,000 Filipinos and destroyed approximately one million homes, drones were deployed by aid organizations to assess the damage and bring relief.
    When every minute could be a life saved, drones can begin assessing disaster aftermath in three minutes. Helicopters, on the other hand, take up to an hour. From locating mines displaced after the Balkan floods in 2014 to functioning as mini-ambulances, equipped with defibrillators and EMS supplies, drones have the capability of saving countless lives.
  5. Helping Farmers and Local Businesses
    Drones are helping farmers around the world monitor the health of their crops by taking multi-spectral aerial images. Combine this information with weather data, and farmers can better understand how water, fertilizer and types of soil positively or negatively affect their crops.

Drones Testing in Malawi

USAID has been funding a project in Malawi. The project is employing drones to help farmers increase crop production and fight hunger. Malawi has also recently opened a Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor. This attracts industries, universities and individuals who want to test their drones for humanitarian and development work.

Fighting Poverty in China with Drones

In China, rural communities are being uplifted by being drones are being used to uplift rural communities by connecting them with the larger economy. Many villages are located in rough terrain, making it difficult and time-consuming to transport products to outside markets. JD, one of China’s biggest online retailers, has been using drones to help people deliver their products within a 150-mile radius. In fact, this method has a top speed of 62 miles per hour. JD is committed to fighting poverty. Additionally, it is operating in over 30 villages.

Positive Impact of Drones

These five ways drones can address poverty highlight what is possible when technology, social entrepreneurship and humanitarian issues collide. But at the end of the day, drones are one tool in the fight against poverty. However, they do have inevitable drawbacks and limitations.

Drone strikes have traumatized many communities. They may even invariably associate UAVs with the military. It is also important to be aware of the structure of privilege and deep-seated inequalities that continue to determine access to technology around the world. Overall, drones are little without people. Yet in the fight against poverty and inequality, it’s people who must embody change.

– Kate McIntosh
Photo: Pixabay

Cotton in Haiti

At the beginning of February, smallholder farmers in Gonaives, Haiti, along with three representatives of the outdoor apparel company Timberland, worked together to bring about the first cotton harvest the country had seen in nearly 30 years. Before the 1980s, cotton was the fourth largest crop in Haiti; however, due to politics and sinking cotton prices, cotton harvests were gradually decreasing for years before finally stopping altogether in 1987. Now, thanks to the work of the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and the support of Timberland, it seems that the Haitian cotton industry may be making a comeback.

Timberland and the SFA

This first harvest was a test run for Timberland. Several different varieties of cotton were planted and harvested in order to see which will be the most lucrative. After analysis, a larger quantity of the most productive strain of cotton will be planted this coming August. Timberland has already pledged to source one-third of the cotton it uses in its products from farmers in Haiti if all goes well.

In addition, the company has begun working with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance to involve other potential buyers in the apparel industry, including other companies under Timberland’s parent company, the VF Corporation. The footwear company Vans, another brand under the VF Corporation, also participated in funding the project to bring the cotton industry back to Haiti.

The cotton harvest is only the newest development in a long line of agricultural and humanitarian feats performed by the partnership of Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance. In 2010, the American clothing company began working with the SFA to create a business model for sustainable and environmentally friendly agriculture. At the same time, Timberland began investing in one of the SFA’s most ambitious projects: the reforestation of Haiti.

The SFA and Reforestation in Haiti

For Haiti, the promise provided by the SFA’s reforestation project could not be more necessary. With an estimated 1.5 percent tree cover, Haiti is one of the most severely deforested countries in the world. The environmental effects of deforestation have been devastating. A survey done in 2018 suggests that anywhere from dozens to hundreds of species native to Haiti may lose their habitats if deforestation continues.

In addition, deforested areas are at a greater risk for landslides and flooding, and the country has already become increasingly susceptible to flooding in recent years. In a country that is already vulnerable to tropical storms and floods every year, deforestation only exacerbates the potential damage to its population and its infrastructure. Hundreds of Haitians are killed or displaced every year by flooding.

Today, the main culprit for deforestation in Haiti is the economy of most rural areas. For decades, rural families made room for their farms by clearing away Haiti’s natural forests. In addition, the trees that were cut fueled the lucrative charcoal trade, as many rural families make a living by burning charcoal and selling it in urban areas. Millions of Haitians rely on charcoal for energy. The charcoal industry counts for 20 percent of the rural economy and at least 70 percent of the entire country’s energy supply. Between the country’s history of deforestation and the modern need for land and charcoal, not much is left of Haiti’s forests.

Tree Currency and Reforestation

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that smallholder farmers in Haiti are the ones responsible for the project of reforestation. Within the tree currency model, which was created by the Smallholder Farmers Alliance and sponsored by Timberland, smallholder farmers plant and tend to tree nurseries in order to earn tree credits. These credits can be exchanged for a variety of goods and services, ranging from seeds to training to new equipment and livestock. In addition, taking part in tree planting and tending makes farmers eligible to receive microloans, participate in local seed banks and get help with planting and harvest from work crews comprised of local volunteers.

Since the beginning of Timberland and the SFA’s partnership in 2010, more than 6.5 million trees have been planted by some 6,000 smallholder farmers in Haiti. In turn, those farmers have reaped the benefits of the tree currency model. Crop yields among farmers who participate in the reforestation project increased by an average of 40 percent while household income has gone up by 50 to 100 percent.

Through the tree currency model, Timberland and the SFA are healing Haiti’s forests and revitalizing agriculture at the same time. And now, with the return of the cotton crop in Haiti, they may have brought back the crop that used to be the cornerstone of Haiti’s economy while also creating a new source of organic and sustainable cotton for Timberland and other companies in the textile industry.

New Hope in Hait

During the harvest in Gonaives, many of the people present commented on the new hope brought by the cotton crop. Some older farmers remembered a time when their parents had produced their own successful cotton harvests and expressed gratitude that they and their children would be able to do the same. However, the implications of this harvest, which was funded by an attempt to reforest the country, go beyond cotton and even beyond Haiti.

The partnership between Timberland and the Smallholder Farmers Alliance goes to show that economic and ecological concerns don’t always have to be in conflict with one another and that big business can be successful on a basis of cooperation and reciprocity of the those who support it and not through exploitation. Who knows what could happen if more companies began following Timberland and gave back more?

Keira Charles

Photo: Timberland

Younger Generation Helps
Felix Finkbeiner, a German 19-year-old, has created a global youth movement, Plant For The Planet, in hopes of saving communities all over the world and eventually building a suitable place for everyone to live. Younger generation helps protect the world with the ambitious Finkbeiner, and they show how little actions can make huge differences for the better.

The Younger Generation Cares About the World

At nine years old, Felix Finkbeiner had the goal of protecting land by increasing the number of trees. Finkbeiner successfully motivated 75,000 children to become climate ambassadors with Plant For The Planet, and over 15 billion saplings have been planted.

Finkbeiner spoke at the United Nations and European Parliament. Due to his hard work, Finkbeiner has gained traction for Plant for the Planet from the World Wildlife Fund. Since 2006, about 15.2 billion trees were planted by individual people, governments and businesses.

The movement’s founder is prepared to reach his goal of helping save the world by being knowledgeable about what matters. Through research, he found that there is enough land in the world to plant 589 billion mature trees harmlessly.

Finkbeiner explains, “We need to plant at least a trillion trees to get 600 billion, since many will not survive. Additionally, we must protect the 170 billion trees in imminent risk of destruction.” Younger generation helps contribute to positive changes in the world following the example of Finkbeiner.

The Positive Impact of Planting More Trees

Plant for the Planet has planted trees in 200 countries including:

  • China with 2,859,664,407 trees planted
  • Mexico with 789,303,868 trees planted
  • Afghanistan with 34,019,233 trees planted
  • Nicaragua with 6,425,810 trees planted

Plant for the Planet bought a 33,359-acre ranch near Cancun, Mexico in 2014 that employs 78 people. The ranch strives to plant ten million trees on the land by 2020 because its land was deforested. 

More Trees, Less Global Issues

The following countries are supportive of planting more trees to help with the reforestation of saving land all over the world: Ethiopia, Niger, Mali many other African countries and Latin American countries. Plant for The Planet has planted more than 14 billion trees in more than 130 nations and set the goal of planting one trillion trees in the next thirty years, with the Trillion Tree Campaign.

More trees can help solve many global issues by providing a healthier living environment for people. In fact, the planting of one trillion trees can collect an extra ten billion tons of carbon dioxide yearly.

The younger generation helps to make the world a better place by involving themselves in solving global issues. This population knows that there is not much time to stop these global problems from getting worse for their children, so Finkbeiner and the younger generation are taking action-oriented steps to help alleviate global poverty — one tree at a time.

Kelly Kipfer
Photo: Flickr

One of the primary causes of poverty in Haiti is deforestation. Only 2% of the Haitian side of the island is covered by forest, one of the lowest rates in the world and less than a fifth of the global average. Satellite images show a striking contrast between the forested Dominican Republic and the barren Haiti. Severe deforestation leads to poor soil quality and water scarcity, both of which reduce agricultural yields. Additionally, natural disasters are worsened with the instability of bare soil, increasing the threat of mudslides and the damage caused by earthquakes.

This issue is not a new one in Haiti. Deforestation began on a massive scale in colonial times, when land was cleared for sugar plantations. Since then though it has continued, with as many as 40 million trees felled annually for cooking fuel. However, a recent government initiative marks a turning point. The government of President Michel Martelly is beginning a push to reforest Haiti, committing to planting 50 million trees a year. The goal is to double forest cover by 2016, and then to continue to improve on that gain. Until now, reforestation programs have all been carried out by non-government organizations, the majority of which are foreign operated.

To further the actual planting of trees, the campaign will include various methods of educating the populace. The initiative’s success requires readjusting the view all Haitians have towards deforestation. Radio programs will be used as educational tools, as well as pamphlets and the addition of environmental studies to the school curriculum. Gas-powered stoves will be promoted as efficient alternatives to the burning of wood and charcoal for cooking.

In order to be successful, this initiative will require a lot of effort from the government. In addition to education and the actual reforestation process, a concerted effort will need to be made to enforce legislation and prevent illegal logging in protected areas. The project is only just beginning, but if it is successful, we will see significant benefits in just a few years.

– David M. Wilson

Sources: The Guardian, Botanic Gardens Conservation International
Photo: UNDP