Poverty in Rural IndiaIn India, one of the world’s most culturally diverse and populous countries, one-fifth of the population lives below the poverty line. Many of India’s poor live in rural areas, where a lack of access to basic resources and social services, high rates of illiteracy and inadequate healthcare contribute to high poverty rates.

The NM Sadguru Water and Development Foundation works to empower those living in nearby rural communities and reduce poverty through sustainable development. The nonprofit works to provide education and training for farmers, implement environmentally-sound structures and build community through farmer organizations and cooperatives.

Before the organization began its work that now spans more than 500 villages throughout the states of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, farming in the semi-arid, drought-prone region could only occur during the three-month monsoon period. The only crop farmers could grow was corn, and they had to migrate with their families to other areas in India to find work as laborers to supplement their income. Making only a few thousand rupees per year, they lived in extreme poverty.

The area transformed when the NM Sadguru Foundation constructed check dams and lift irrigation systems to slow water from nearby rivers, conserve rainwater and distribute the water to various sites through gravitational force. This new system eliminated farmers’ need to walk long distances to find water, which made it possible to farm year-round and enabled farmers to plant a more diverse set of crops.

Farmers who once were only able to grow corn now grow eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, beets, pointed gourd, onions, papaya, mangoes, potatoes, wheat, chickpeas, rice, cilantro and garlic. While the new crops greatly increase their incomes, farmers and their families are now also much healthier. Many farmers have even turned to floriculture, earning six times more harvesting chrysanthemums, marigolds and roses than their income from farming corn.

With an increased profit, farmers and their families are able to do things they never dreamed possible before Sadguru, such as build better homes, buy and raise healthier livestock and even send their children to school.

Aside from improving access to water, the NM Sadguru Foundation also provides sustainable farming education to farmers and even trains them to become community leaders. Farmers can then supervise their villages and surrounding areas, providing training and support to all those in the community.

While this spreads knowledge of the best farming practices quickly, it also empowers rural people who may have been on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder previously. For example, some women have transformed their entire villages through introducing and developing fruit orchards in their communities.

The NM Sadguru Foundation’s work shows that it doesn’t take much to lift many people out of poverty. Improving access to basic needs creates a ripple effect that expands to impact health, security, income, education and so many other factors. With the right solutions and the proper support to maintain growth, eliminating poverty is something that can be achieved.

Cassie Lipp

Photo: Flickr

Rabies outbreaks in poor rural areas
Rabies occurs in more than 150 countries in the world. The disease is present on all continents with the exception of Antarctica. Each year, tens of thousands of people die from the infection it causes.

Most of the areas that are affected are in Asia and Africa and account for over 95% of human rabies deaths. The disease occurs mainly in remote rural communities. Rabies outbreaks are rampant among impoverished and vulnerable populations.

Rabies is a zoonotic disease. It is caused by a virus that allows the disease to be transmitted to humans from animals. The disease may affect domestic and wild animals, known carriers include foxes, raccoons, skunks, jackals, mongooses and other wild carnivore host species. However, dogs are the primary sources of human rabies deaths. Rabies is spread to people through close contact with an infectious substance such as bites, saliva or scratches. Most people usually become infected after a deep bite or scratch by an infected animal. Upon the onset of the disease developing, the disease is nearly always fatal.

Prevalence in rural areas is due to the lack of vaccinations. There is low vaccination coverage of dogs, and an inability to finance the costs of vaccination for humans. Other factors include poor management of dogs, and in particular the free movement of dogs, which increases their risk of contracting rabies from wildlife.

In terms of policy, rabies is lacking policy formulations to combat rabies throughout developing countries. As a result of the poor level of political commitment and effort to control rabies, there is a lack of understanding of how rabies impacts public health and socioeconomic affairs.

Rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral disease. Each year over 14 million people receive a post-exposure vaccination to prevent the disease. This vaccination prevents hundreds of thousands of rabies deaths. Other strategies to control the disease consist of controlling the dog population, vaccinating domesticated animals and education about prevention to reduce the number of animal bites. After a bite, immediately cleaning the wound, and immunization within a few hours after contact with the animal can prevent the onset of rabies.

The World Health Organization promotes human rabies prevention through the elimination of rabies in dogs. Their target is for the elimination of human and dog rabies in all Latin American countries by 2015, and South-East Asia by 2020.

Erika Wright

Sources: Iowa State University, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, NIH, WHO
Photo: CNN

Indonesia Poverty
The economy of Indonesia has been steadily growing in recent years, causing the poverty rate to decline from 17 percent in 2004 to 12.5 percent in 2011. However, due to the financial crisis of 1997, poverty still dominates regions of Indonesia and separates the city of Jakarta into upper and lower classes. As the gap between the rich and the poor widens, many find it difficult to escape the harsh reality of poverty in Indonesia.

In order to recover from the economic crisis of 1997, a variety of urban alleviation programs were implemented, including social safety net programs. These programs have been able to reduce the number of poor people in Indonesia, particularly for those in urban areas.

It is a different story for those living in rural areas. Approximately 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas, where agriculture is the main source of income. Poverty tends to be higher in these areas; 16.6 per cent of rural people are poor compared with 9.9 percent of urban populations. Millions of small farmers, farm workers and fishermen are materially and financially unable to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the economic growth. They are often geographically isolated and lack access to agricultural extension services, markets and financial services.

According to the World Bank, approximately 65 million people in Indonesia live just above the poverty line, making them vulnerable to falling into poverty. Millions lack basic human needs, such as food, clean water, shelter, sanitary environments and education. In fact, few families living in poverty have their own bathrooms. Most communities share a communal bathing facility, often located miles from villages. Many of the poorest people cannot read or write.

Indonesian women in particular are vulnerable to poverty; they have less access to education, they earn less than men, and are subject to discrimination and exclusion. Many children are forced to stay home from school to tend to household duties or work at the family business.

The Indonesian government is working hard to reduce poverty and meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, which aim to cut the proportion of people living on less than one U.S. dollar a day by half by the end of 2015.

Kecuk Suhariyanto, the Director of Analysis and Statistic Development at Indonesia’s Central Bureau of Statistics, said that Indonesia’s poverty figure last year was a “significant improvement from the 39.3 million recorded in 2006, although the country has a different definition for poverty from most international agencies.”

– Alaina Grote

Sources: World Bank, Xinhuanet, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Flickr

hunger_in_samoaLocated in the South Pacific Ocean, Samoa is not a particularly well-known country. Split between two islands called Savai’i and ­Upolu, it spans a grand total of 1,097 square miles. Made famous by Robert Louis Stevenson, who spent his last years in a house on the latter island, its people have been the subjects of many genetic, linguistic and anthropological studies. Apart from studies though, the developed world seems to have left Samoa behind. Below are five factors contributing to hunger in Samoa.

1. Food Dependence

The people of Samoa depend upon foods that they receive from other countries. Additionally, access to these foods is unequal, so the Samoans who do have access to the imported foods tend to eat all of it. For lack of complete meals, a large percentage of the population becomes obese.

2. Nutritional Imbalance

In Samoa, the top five food group shares in its total food supply, as of 2011, are as follows:
Cereals – 18.5 percent
Roots – 10.2 percent
Meat – 16.3 percent
Vegetable oils and animal fats – 9 percent
Sugars and honey – 8.6 percent
What’s missing? Vegetables and fruits. The people of Samoa become obese in large part because healthy foods are not made available to them in large enough amounts to provide an adequate diet to the overwhelming majority.

3. Inadequate Reporting

In April 2013, Samoa Observer released an article titled, “Samoa praised for ‘cutting hunger’ in half”. However, upon closer research, an astute Samoan writer named Mata’afa Keni Lesa discovered that the story was inaccurate. The article claimed to have met the first of the Millennium Development Goals, but Lesa pointed out that the other two had gone unmet. These goals are:

Target 1.a: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is below the basic needs poverty line

Target 1.B: Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.

The 2012 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report states, “…the increase in the level and depth of hardship was significant for the rural areas, especially Savai’I, which accounts for a quarter of the poor in Samoa.” With such a high percentage of Samoans below the poverty line, how can they possibly have enough income or resources to get their dietary needs met?

4. Demographics

As of 2014, 80.73 percent of the Samoan population lives in rural regions, meaning that about 81 percent of Samoans do not have easy access to trade routes,  This percentage has only increased from 1999, when it was 78.16 percent.

5. Geographical Breakdown

Only a small percentage of their land, less than 5 percent, is arable. On top of this, their access to machines like agricultural tractors is improbable, averaging 2.14 tractors per 1000 hectares of arable land. In 2012, unsafe fertilizers were banned from farming techniques.

– Leah Zazofsky

Sources: Faostat,  Samoa Observer,  Food Anthro

Photo: Google Images

Child Marriage: A Promise of Poverty

The average teenager worries about hanging out with friends, getting good grades, and fitting in with a group of people—not marrying a stranger and creating a home.

However, child marriage is a reality in the world’s 51 least-developed countries.  Half of all girls living in these countries are married before the age of 18, according to the United Nations. Parents arrange the marriage, and the groom can be more than twice the bride’s age.  Girls are ripped from their communities and forced into social isolation. These abrupt marriages sever a girl from her support network—a group of people necessary for helping the girl face the physical and emotional challenges of marriage.

Many cultures view girls as economic burdens, subservient individuals, or family mistakes. Marrying girls off as soon as possible alleviates the household expenses and restores the family’s reputation.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) established that the minimum age of marriage is 18 years old. This is considered the upper limit of childhood, and the individual is fit to decide whether to be married.  Many countries continue to practice child marriage despite proven physical and psychological effects.

World Vision reported that child marriages are increasing due to the increase in global poverty crises. 14 million girls under the age of 18 are married each year.  Child marriages are most prevalent in rural, poor areas and are associated with areas of low education and healthcare.  Polygamy is common, and these marriages are bargaining chips between two parties.

South Asia (46%) and Central Africa (41%) are the top areas for child marriages.  These regions do not monitor the age of spouses carefully.  Girls who live in countries with humanitarian crises are most likely to be subjected to child marriages. Fear of rape, unwanted pre-marital pregnancies, family shame, and hunger are the main motivators for child marriage. Poverty, weak legislation, gender discrimination, and lack of alternative opportunities reinforce these motivations.

Anti-poverty organizations, such as CARE, are working in various countries to combat child marriage.  According to CARE, “As levels of education and economic opportunities increase, so does the average age of marriage.”  CARE mobilizes community organizers, parents, and tribal and religious leaders to lobby against the child marriage law in Ethiopia. Leaders are constructing savings and loans groups to empower families financially. Though child marriage still exists, this will eliminate one major cause of child marriage. Community forums now focus on the elimination of bride price, bride abduction, and child marriage.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: NBC News