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Solve Rural PovertyThe head of the United Nations International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder, praised China’s efforts to meet its goal to solve rural poverty by the end of 2020 despite the socioeconomic complications brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He further highlighted the importance of China’s work toward achieving the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development goal of eradicating extreme poverty worldwide.

Transitional Monitoring Period

The relief campaign, which began in 2013, will remain in place after achieving the intended poverty reduction goals. Officials plan to institute a transitional period to monitor economic progress and prevent backsliding among those most recently lifted out of rural poverty. The transition period is also meant to introduce a shift from addressing absolute poverty to the wider goal of assisting poor agricultural regions.

Access for All: Digital Transformation

Advances in digital infrastructure have transformed internet access nationwide. In 2018, China’s Information Technology Ministry announced its goal to expand internet access to 98% of underprivileged areas. China achieved this goal in August 2019, resulting in an 8% increase in the number of internet users. Moreover, rural and urban regions enjoy the same internet quality and speed. This improvement in internet access has spurred new technological development projects, including 5G, blockchain and advanced logistics systems in rural areas.

E-commerce for the Rural Poor

As a result of this trend, consumption through e-commerce has been a key tool in aiding the rural poor. The China E-commerce Poverty Alleviation Alliance consists of 29 e-commerce platforms that allow Chinese farmers, who otherwise struggle to turn a profit, to list their products for sale online. E-commerce tools with the alliance have resulted in nearly $300 million USD worth of sales of agricultural products from underprivileged regions. Live streaming platforms are another increasingly effective method for rural farmers to increase the visibility of their products and reach out to new customers nationwide.

Rural Resettlements

Another prominent program to solve rural poverty is the rural resettlement program. This system relocates populations who live in ecologically dangerous or remote areas closer to urban regions to grant them access to better job opportunities, quality healthcare and formal education in cities.

One example is the resettlement of the Yi ethnic minority in Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in Sichuan province. Atule’er, also known as Cliff Village, is the mountainous and underdeveloped home of the Yi people, fostering little tourist attention or economic activity. The local government has resettled a large portion of the village to the more developed Zhaojue province and given villagers subsidized apartments.

Relocation Program Flaws

This relocation program and the rural poverty alleviation campaign as a whole, are not without flaws. Some relocated residents are unable to find work opportunities in their new city and must move back to their village since they can not afford the high cost of living. Even if some do gain access to economic opportunity in the city, many are concerned about what these relocations mean for minority cultures. Forced industrialization and urbanization is seen as a tool for the state to force non-Han ethnic minorities to assimilate and leave behind their traditional customs.

National-level disorganization has also drawn criticism. About 60% of citizens who should qualify for poverty-stricken status based on their income to receive welfare payments and subsidized housing from the state were not given the designation. Many other citizens were incorrectly recorded as poverty-stricken as a result of bureaucratic errors, misdirecting the benefits away from the millions of unaided rural poor.

China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation

Aside from state-led initiatives, which tend to draw the most controversy, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also committed to solve rural poverty in China. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (CFPA) is one such NGO that aided 4.19 million people and raised over 580 million yuan, about $91 million, in 2017 alone. One notable project is the “New Great Wall” Program which promoted increased access to education by providing scholarships and financial assistance to students from underprivileged backgrounds. The CFPA also engaged in the “Beautiful Countryside” Program to repair damaged houses, roads and infrastructure, both improve living conditions and promoting tourism in otherwise economically underdeveloped regions.

The Road Ahead

Despite China’s extensive steps, there is much room for improvement regarding respecting minority cultures and ensuring that the progress achieved thus far will be lasting. Thus, NGOs that build relationships with the local communities themselves are proving to be essential in the fight toward eradicating rural poverty.

– Neval Mulaomerovic
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in PanamaPanama — the narrow bridge of land that connects North and South America. The tropical country is renowned for its natural beauty and diverse plant, animal and bird life. Yet, all that sparkles, is not glitter. Panama’s economy is highly unequal and there’s a wide gap between the rich and the poor. Poverty in Panama is as much of a prominent feature of the country as its landscape.

Rural Poverty

Ethnicity and geographic location determine one’s poverty in Panama. Panamanians who live in rural areas do not have adequate access to resources, such as hospitals and schools. This is a result of the lack of professional doctors and teachers or mentors in rural areas.

Panama is the second worst in income distribution in Latin America, which leads to sector-specific poverty. Unpaved roads in the country make it are especially difficult for farmers. Accordingly, they do not end up selling their crops in big cities where they can earn a large income. Thus, begins a chain of poverty in Panama that devolves into poor hygiene, sanitation, child labor, malnutrition and eventually yet another generation submerged in loans.

Child Poverty

About 27.7% of Panamanian children live in poverty and 12% experience malnutrition. Failure to register children at birth causes many to go without citizenship. Thus, the government is ignorant on its exact child population and cannot justly allocate money to the “nonexistent.”

Around 15% of children are victims to early marriages. The legal age to marry in Panama is 16 for boys and 14 for girls. However, most of these children are not registered with the government, so kids are married off at ages as young as 10.

The minimum age for working in Panama is 15. Even with this being the case, 5-year-old children can be seen carrying bricks in construction sites. Severally underage workers — child laborers — even appear in big cities like Panama City and Tocumen. To earn a few dollars more, families force their children to work. However, it’s at the cost of children being mentally and physically exploited.

The Rays of Light

Panama has done much to fight poverty. From 2015-2017, poverty in Panama declined from 15.4%  to 14.1%. In the same time span, extreme poverty decreased from 6.7% to 6.6%. Additionally, there are currently multiple NGOs working to help poverty and other problems in Panama. One is to Educate Women in Panama. The organization’s goal is to help lower poverty in the future through more women and girls getting their education. Education will help these women find jobs easier, lowering the poverty rate.

The country, with aid of NGOs and the government, has the potential to bridge the income inequality gap and make itself an equitable society for all, regardless of class, region or ethnicity. Panama can be as bright and colorful as its beaches for not only the urbanites but also the rurals.

Riddhi Bhattacharya
Photo: Flickr

Drones in ChinaChina is a major industrial leader with a booming economy and population. However, upon closer examination, one finds that China has a rampant problem of poverty in its rural regions. Ironically, the areas most impacted are those that tout agricultural prowess. In fact, around five of China’s most impoverished counties are major cotton-producing areas. To help combat this, new and unconventional technologies are providing the solution to low agricultural yields and unsustainable farming practices. Meet drones — the latest in portable flying technology used to aid in the fight against poverty in rural China.

Here are three ways that drones and other networking and communication technologies have taken root in impoverished Chinese communities:

  1. Drones and satellite imagery: Drones monitor the well-being of crops from the sky and assist in spraying chemicals and other supplements. Drones can also take photos of crop fields and relay these images back to farmers. The photos can determine the exact amount of soil, water and other resources needed for their agriculture to thrive. This practice is dubbed as “precision agriculture.” With the help of technology, this technique is increasingly applied to crops like corn and soy in subsistence-based China. More than 55,000 agricultural drones are currently in use in China. They have sprayed pesticides over an estimated 30 million hectares of land, according to the director of the China Agrotech Extension Association.
  2. Boosting yield and incomes: In 2019, nearly 4,500 drones in the Chinese province of Xinjiang accomplished agricultural productivity for 65% of the cotton fields in the region. Although it may seem as though drones are stealing jobs from the average working farmer, their subsequent introduction actually raised Xinjiang’s cotton output by 400,000 tons. An increase of $430 million in revenue is another result of the use of drones. Furthermore, one drone can do the work of sixty farmers in one hour and can spray pesticides 50 to 80 times faster than traditional farming. Thus, an efficient agricultural and harvesting environment is created. Drones essentially stimulate economic growth and support the rural working class in China by removing time and labor costs from the equation, helping farmers escape poverty.
  3. New networks: Drones are well-suited to the rugged farming environment in China. They can fly high above a grassy region or traverse difficult terrains often found within rural regions. These drones have easy adaptability and control through cell phones. This is especially useful for farmers who cannot entirely survey those areas individually. Additionally, farming data from drones has allowed farmers to access weather and disaster warnings, allowing them to prepare in advance. Those features inspired the government to conjure up a new idea: internet towers. China’s Ministry of Commerce employed a widespread plan to apply e-business to over 80% of its villages to combat poverty. Farmers utilize so-called e-commerce service stations, with the help of these newly created network and cable signals, to reach new markets to sell their products. In fact, online retail sales of agriculture have seen a significant yearly increase of 25.3%, with rural areas constituting a majority of this percentage.

The innovative and real-life applications of drones are virtually limitless and present a new way of combating global poverty. This Chinese experiment shows positive results and could soon become emblematic of drone-based agriculture on a much larger scale. In turn, this will help farmers that struggle with low agricultural yields, integrate them into an increasingly tech-based economic environment and lift them out of poverty.

– Mihir Gokhale
Photo: Pixabay

reducing Rural Poverty In ChinaChina has made significant strides in poverty reduction in the previous three decades due to a combination of economic reforms and national poverty reduction programs. Experiencing a significant growth in the nation’s GDP that resulted in the rise from a low-income country to an upper-middle-income country, the percentage of individuals living below the poverty line has decreased from 88% in 1981 to 1.7% in 2018. However, in 2016, 43% of the rural population lived below the national poverty line, many of them smallholder farmers. Recognizing the importance of agricultural development opportunities among rural populations, the Chinese government approved IPRAD-SN, (Innovative Poverty Reduction Programme: Specialised Agribusiness Development) in Sichuan and Ningxia in 2018, as part of its initiative to eliminate rural poverty. The action plan delineates development strategies for increasing agricultural capacity, thus reducing rural poverty in China.

Constraints for Rural Chinese Farmers

Living in the Sichuan or Ningxia province provides pristine mountain views and unparalleled landscapes but it also presents constraints. Approximately 6.5 million individuals in Sichuan and 840,000 in Ningxia live below the national poverty line. Infrastructure problems concerning irrigation, drainage, cattle sheds and roads, inhibit farmers from increasing their production capacity and quality. For instance, in the Ningxia village of Naihe, livestock buildings or cattle sheds offer limited space for farmers to raise their animals. This prohibits any increase in livestock quantity, which in turn constrains profit growth and renders farmers unable to generate sufficient funds to build improved infrastructure. Lack of access to market, value chain and financial resources also threaten ambitions for economic expansion in these rural, remote regions. Each of these variables contributes to the difficulties in reducing rural poverty in China.

Innovative Poverty Reduction Programme: (IPRAD-SN)

China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs joined with the United Nations’ International Fund for Agricultural Development in order to formulate the six-year IPRAD-SN program that strives to directly improve the lives of 198,847 individuals in Sichuan and Ningxia. The program prioritizes local empowerment with the following two focuses that assist in reducing rural poverty in China: infrastructure and sustainability and value chain inclusion.

  • Infrastructure and Sustainability: Adequate supply systems are an essential component of spurring economic growth in these communities. Providing electricity, potable water, irrigation for crops and durable roads are important aspects of the plan’s infrastructure component. In addition, the program incorporates land restoration and climate-conscious agricultural techniques in order to ensure sustainability.
  • Value Chain Inclusion: By increasing market capacity, asset availability and access to financial services, the plan strives to incorporate smallholder farmers, cooperatives and agro-enterprises into “pro-poor” value chains. Strategies include enhancing the technological and organizational skills of cooperatives, funding business plans that target poverty reduction and helping local financial institutions cater their services to the needs of the community.

Tracking Success

IPRAD-SN aspires to lift 50% of the provinces’ impoverished out of poverty upon its completion. In order to ascertain progress, the plan delineates key factors to account for during monitoring intervals. These factors include gross per capita income levels, beneficiary totals, women-led cooperatives, breadth and quality of road networks, production levels, sustainable farming practitioners and individuals with access to post-production amenities.

In the Ningxia province, the implementation of this plan has already modernized irrigation systems and improved water access for livestock. Additionally, silos have been constructed in order to ensure weather-resistant protection for crops and animal feed and livestock provisions such as cattle sheds have been refurbished. In improving the care of livestock, farmers are better equipped to breed and sell their animals. Each of these developments places farmers in a position to improve agricultural quality and quantity and thus increase profit generation.

Agriculture is a vital component of China’s economy, accounting for 9% of the nation’s GDP and 33% of employment. Providing tools at the local level enables farmers to cater the plan’s strategies to their needs and create effective projects. By investing in these individuals, IPRAD-SN is making advancements in reducing rural poverty in China.

– Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in TogoPoverty in Togo is a widespread issue. The nation is one of the world’s top five producers of phosphates, which are widely used in making fertilizers. However, Togo remains poor. Although Togo’s overall economy and GDP have improved in recent years, many worry that the rate of poverty in Togo is not declining fast enough. The disparity is especially notable in Togo’s agricultural sector, in which the majority of Togo’s population are employed. These issues leave many wondering, “What can be done to aid the people of Togo?”

Poverty in Rural Areas

Togo is a presidential republic in West Africa. Formerly known as French Togoland, Togo achieved its independence from France in 1960. A few years later, in 1967 General Gnassingbe Eyadema installed a military rule. After President Gnassingbe’s nearly four-decade-long rule, the military placed Faure Gnassignbe, the son of the former president, into office. Since then, Togo has been moving toward gradual reform to its democratic system. However, the Togolese’s frustration with the slow pace of this reform sometimes results in violent outbursts of political demonstrations.

According to the CIA World Facebook, 55.1% of Togo’s population lived below the poverty line in 2015. Rural poverty is especially concerning as more than half of Togo’s population resides in rural areas. In the World Bank’s estimation, the 2015 rate of poverty was worse for Togo’s rural areas, where 69% of the households lived below the poverty line.

These rural residents, the majority of whom are farmers, make up 65% of the Togolese workforce. Recognizing the vital role that the agricultural sector plays in Togo’s economy, many organizations and experts are focusing on revitalizing Togo’s agricultural sector. According to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), a multi-donor trust fund provides food security in the world’s poorest countries, Togo’s food yields from agriculture have been consistently low.

The Link Between Rural Poverty and Agriculture

The yields of Togo’s major export crops, such as cotton, coffee and cocoa, have been declining for some time. In order to make up for the food deficit, Togo still relies on foreign imports for some basic food items. Upon closer inspection, industry experts stated that some of the barriers to agriculture improvement in rural Togo include:

  • A lack of effective policies that assure provisions of inputs (seeds and fertilizers)
  • Underdeveloped markets for agricultural goods
  • The absence of farming and transportation infrastructure

To address Togo’s rural poverty, GAFSA and the World Bank implemented the Togo Agriculture Sector Support Project (PASA) in 2017. PASA, a $19 million project, aimed to improve Togo’s agricultural output and foster an institutional environment that can encourage agricultural investment. According to GAFSA’s report, PASA brought numerous changes to Togo’s agricultural sector. Under PASA, Togo’s rice yields increased by 30%, farm employment opportunities in rural areas for the youth rose and numerous coffee farms and cocoa farms were rehabilitated. PASA rehabilitated 17,174 hectares of coffee farms and 11,578 hectares of cocoa plantations by implementing improved planting materials and improving coffee and cocoa value chains. PASA is reported to have helped 877,191 Togolese citizens.

Poverty in Togo has a close relationship with the performance of Togo’s agricultural sector. As the greatest source of employment for Togolese workers, the improvement of Togo’s agricultural sector is paramount to ensure a more stable economic future for Togo. While Togo’s economic potential is becoming a reality through steady improvement, there is still a long road ahead for Togo. The Togolese government and many other international experts recognize the importance of bolstering the country’s economy through the improvement of the agricultural sector. Organizations such as the World Bank and GAFSA are already implementing measures to alleviate poverty in Togo.

 

Although there are still many improvements to be made from agriculture to political stability, Togo has the ability to lift itself from poverty in the near future.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

poverty in TajikistanNestled in between Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan sits in Central Asia among its sprawling mountain range. In the past decade, major oil and natural gas reserves have been found in Tajikistan which has kindled the hope of stimulating the nation’s struggling economy and of shifting their economic power back to them. As of 2018, around 27.4% of the population in Tajikistan lived below the national poverty line. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Tajikistan:

10 facts about poverty in Tajikistan

  1. Not all regions of the country are grappling with poverty to the same extent. In the northwest region of Sugd, the poverty rate was 17.5% in 2018. In the region just below, the Districts of Republican Subordination, that rate was almost doubled at 33.2%.
  2. Poverty seems to affect rural areas of Tajikistan more severely than urban areas. Farming cotton, one of Tajikistan’s main cash crops, has been shown to do very little for mitigating poverty levels or maneuvering individuals out of poverty. Those with non-agricultural jobs, however, in urban areas like the capital, Dushanbe, can go to Russia to find work. This is a common occurrence. As of 2018, the poverty rate in urban Tajikistan stood at about 21.5%, whereas the rate for rural Tajikistan was at 30.2%.
  3. The rate of poverty reduction in Tajikistan has decreased. From 2000 to 2015, the rate of poverty dropped from 83% to 31%. Since 2014, the national poverty rate has slowed to dropping by 1% each year.
  4. This slowing rate of poverty reduction can be attributed to a lack of job creation and stagnating wage growth. With a lack of new and improved jobs to stimulate the economy, much of the workforce turns to employment in Russia; this does little to stimulate Tajikistan’s own economy.
  5. A reported 75% of households have concerns about meeting their family’s basic necessities over the next year. Tajikistan is the poorest and most distant of the independent former Soviet Union states. In the first nationally conducted survey since the war ceased and Tajikistan gained its independence, studies found that more than 95% of households failed to meet the minimum amount of food consumption to be considered appropriately sustained.
  6. Tajikistan has a prevalence of child malnutrition and stunting; this has been attributed to inconsistent access to clean water and food. Many households spend more than they can truly afford to obtain drinking water. For the 64% of people in Tajikistan living below the national poverty line, this means incurring extra expenses while already making under $2 a day.
  7. For every 1000 inhabitants, there are only 163 places to live. Tajikistan has the lowest housing stock in the Europe and Central Asia regions at 1.23 million units. This can largely be attributed to the government no longer being able to provide public housing, while private owners have no extra money to invest in or maintain the upkeep of properties.
  8. 35% of Tajikistan’s population is under the age of 15. In the world’s wealthier nations, this number hovers at about 17%. A disproportionate amount of youth in the population means more problems for the burgeoning workforce as they struggle to earn an income: especially in a place where the economy may not be ready to respond. This could further the stagnation of Tajikistan’s economy, with frustrated young workers leaving to find work in other nations, as many are already doing.
  9. As many as 40% of Tajiks in Russia may be working illegally. Tajikistan relies on remittances from Russia. This is paired with Russia’s increasingly strict administrative processes for foreigners seeking work. Due to these two conditions, The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ reported number of one million Tajiks working in Russia per year is questionably low. Between 30% and 40% of households in Tajikistan have at least one member of the family working abroad.
  10. The literacy rate in Tajikistan is 99.8% as of 2015. Primary education is compulsory and literacy is high, though the skill level in youths has been decreasing. This is due to economic needs calling the younger population away from their education in search of an income to help meet their daily needs.

Tajikistan has been climbing its way out of poverty since it has gained its independence in 1991. However, the nation’s over-reliance on remittances has allowed for its own economy to stagnate. This has resulted in a hungry workforce and few jobs to supply them. Groups like Gurdofarid work to try and empower the Tajik workforce; they teach women vocational skills that are needed for them to become employed in their own country.

-Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

roads in Zimbabwe

In developing countries like Zimbabwe where more than 67 percent of the population lives in rural areas, adequate roadways are essential for communities in the countryside to have access to education, jobs and health care. However, even those city roads in Zimbabwe that are paved, are filled with potholes while others have totally washed away. Rural areas have largely remained unlinked by asphalt roads, and the Zimbabwean government has historically lacked the necessary funds to launch an infrastructure overhaul that would not only maintain urban roads but also expand the transportation network to rural areas as well.

Road Improvements

However, improvements for roads in Zimbabwe are now underway. Extensive infrastructure developments have begun as of February 2019 to create more adequate highways to facilitate increases in traffic and create a safer environment for drivers. These developments will help ensure the quicker movement of goods and people across the region and are expected to help spur further economic development in the country. Regional connectivity will also improve, as the project has been planned in conjunction with Mozambique and South Africa. Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has already opened the newly-refurbished Tanganda-Ngundu Highway that connects the eastern part of Zimbabwe to South Africa.

The revamping of these roads is in line with Vision 2030 — a development initiative launched by the Zimbabwean government to upgrade the country to an upper-middle-class economy by 2030. The project has already created a spike in employment due to the rapid infrastructure overhaul construction operations, reflected in the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (ZINARA) minister’s statement calling everyone who wants money to come help build the roads, “Those who are ready to work on the roads come and get your money.”

While the renovation of highways and other essential roads in Zimbabwe is of utmost importance, rural communities are seeing significantly less attention. But that does not mean they are forgotten. In January 2019, the Zimbabwean government expressed interest with local officials of Kanyemba to expand updated roads to the rural province. Kanyemba is a largely underdeveloped province in northern Zimbabwe, and under the new infrastructure developments, the province officially received township status.

Looking Forward

With the expected economic growth after the road infrastructure improvements have been completed, rural areas are likely to develop as well. Once the government has more capital to put into its infrastructure services, it will be able to implement more extensive road network programs to reach beyond its main cities and highways to regions like Kanyemba. Zimbabwe’s future development, once rural roads are improved and/or created, will likely bring adequate jobs, health care and education to the more remote corners of the country. If all these expectations come to light, Zimbabwe has a great chance at realizing its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2030 in accordance with Vision 2030.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Regional Inequality
China’s regional inequality has historically been an issue. It is common for developed countries to have regional wealth and income disparity between rural and urban areas. Enormous wealth inequality exists between rural and urban regions of China with 90 percent of all poverty being rural poverty.

The Current State of Regional Inequality in China

Along with China’s regional poverty, an educational disparity has widened within China. The government has supported and subsidized education in urban centers but neglected to invest in opportunities for rural education. Since the 1950s, rural attendance at the Universities of Tsinghua and Peking has declined from over 50 percent to less than 20 percent in 2005 despite the rural population making up the majority of China’s population at that time. The lack of educational opportunities in rural communities in China has fed into the downward spiral of stagnation for such regions, as an educated populace is a crucial asset for creating economic growth.

Previous Efforts to Combat Regional Inequality in China

Recently, the Chinese government has recognized the need to address the growing problem of China’s regional inequality and has enacted a series of relatively new but ambitious policies to tackle the crisis.

China proposed the first of these in 1999. The Great Western Development Strategy is a $1 trillion (Chinese Yuan) development plan that aims at investing in development and growth in the inland Western Regions of the country. The plan slowly began in the early 2000s with spending on infrastructure projects in the west.

One of the most major projects was the construction of the West-East gas pipeline which began in 2002 and ended in 2005. This was a very ambitious project that created numerous jobs and revenue for the west while also benefitting the east coast. Other energy initiatives focused largely on the creation of hydropower plants throughout the region. Other infrastructure projects have focused on transportation. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and the Southern Xinjiang Railway finished in the mid-2000s as a part of the strategy. These new railways employed many people and improved transportation substantially in their respective regions.

The Great Western Development Strategy also hopes to entice foreign investments in the region. The primary strategies for this objective are environmental conservation and improvement in educational opportunities. The plan has waived tuition fees for compulsory education in west China in hopes of improving the overall education of its citizens. Huge ecological conservation policies, such as Returning Grazing Land to Grassland seek to convert vast swaths of farmland into natural grasslands, as well as protect and expand forestry.

Recent Efforts to Combat Regional Inequality in China

The Northeast Revitalization Plan aims to rebuild traditional industries in the northeast, but with added economic and environmental regulations. The plan has also abolished taxes on agricultural workers and farmers, hoping this policy will be favorable towards the regions declining agricultural industry.

The new proposal, the Rise of Central China Plan, focusses on improving China’s agricultural heartland. Many often refer to Central China as “China’s Breadbasket.” The region has experienced only a fraction of the growth that coastal regions have undergone. As of 2002, the region’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was only 75 percent the national average. The Rise of Central China Plan will promote investment in advancements in agricultural techniques and technology with the hopes of increasing farming efficiency and creating larger yields in the region.

This is especially important for China as the issue of food security has risen for the highly populated nation. The Rise of Central China Plan also focuses on the development of transportation infrastructure in central China. A huge reason for central China’s economic stagnation has been lack of sufficient transportation, which has stifled its growth despite the region’s abundance of natural resources such as coal and its massive population.

Regional inequality in China has deep roots in past policies. The rural-urban divide has prompted a wave of bold new reforms aimed at combatting rural poverty and though the effort has just begun, these programs are showing promising results.

Karl Haider
Photo: Flickr

Women in Tajikistan
For a small country in Central Asia, Tajikistan makes U.S. news relatively frequently, often because the lives of women there differ from the U.S. norm. Those living in the area have suffered from political turmoil and poverty. While the news often focuses on the modern oppression of women, the mistreatment of women in Tajikistan stems from a larger injustice, centuries of poverty in the country that has affected women more than men.

Religious Oppression for Women in Tajikistan

Recently, the news has highlighted that Tajikistan’s Ministry of Culture published a “Book of Recommendations” for women’s attire. In the book, models display what the country deems appropriate attire for many occasions, setting standards for work and many social events.

What particularly incited opposition from many was the book’s overt advisement against Muslim and Islamic clothing, like the hijab, as well as Western clothing, which was deemed too scandalous. Furthermore, in 2017, the Tajikistan government instituted a policy of texting women reminders about wearing traditional clothing. This followed the government’s efforts in 2016 to close shops selling women’s religious clothing.

Additionally, the Tajikistan government created a law requiring traditional attire and culture at important events, such as weddings and funerals, officially banning “nontraditional dress and alien garments.” In August, the month it became law, 8,000 women wearing hijabs were stopped by government officials and told to remove their religious garments.

Maternal Mortality Rates for Women in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is one of the world’s poorest countries. Thirty-two percent of Tajiks live in poverty, but in rural areas, that number rises to 75 percent. Consequentially, women face staggering maternal mortality rates with 65 women out of every thousand dying from pregnancy or childbirth. In fact, mortality rates for both mother and infant are higher than any other country in Central Asia, a region already significantly behind Western standards.

This lag correlates with the upheaval faced by Tajiks since the responsibility for healthcare had changed hands so many times in the past. Tajikistan was part of the Soviet Union from 1929 to 1991. Then, shortly after gaining independence in 1991, Tajikistan suffered from a brutal civil war that not only claimed tens of thousands of Tajik lives but also crippled the healthcare system, contributing to such high maternal mortality rates.

Caring for the Home and Family

Political upheaval abruptly caused women to become household managers without any aid, leaving them to struggle with poverty. The civil war crippled industrial and agricultural production, the latter of which the country’s economy depended on almost entirely. Since then, nearly 1.5 million Tajik men have left the country to seek employment elsewhere, often leaving wives in charge of the home and children. But, unfortunately, households headed by women are significantly poorer than those headed by men.

Representation and Education for Women in Tajikistan

Female representation in government has remained below international standards because of the poverty caused by political upheaval. Only 12 of the 62 legislators in Tajikistan are women. Those who do make it into politics are often stuck in the lower ranks with little to no opportunity to rise to levels where they can create change.

Private Muslim schools educated the majority of the country’s population from early 1800 until the 1920s when The Soviet Union secularized education. However, with independence came a decreased government budget for education as the private funds disappeared. Moreover, women either have to marry young or are too busy working and, therefore, do not have an opportunity to receive an education.

Improvements Being Made For Women in Tajikistan

Due to The Soviet Union’s systemized education, literacy rates grew, and that shift in norms has continued to benefit men and women in Tajikistan. Additionally, in the two decades following independence, poverty rates have dropped, suggesting a growing stability. In fact, in 1999, 81 percent of the country lived in poverty, and in ten years that number has almost halved to 47 percent. Additionally, extreme poverty decreased from 73 percent in 1999 to 14 percent in 2013.

The U.N. has been working in Tajikistan to improve conditions for women since 1999 by empowering women and promoting gender equality. Furthermore, local and international stakeholders have been given a way to provide activities for women, such as the Rapid Emergency Assessment and Coordination Team (REACT), which helps train women to respond in disaster situations.

Hope for a Better Future

Therefore, beyond the uproar over women’s clothing being regulated by the government lies a deeper historical injustice due to poverty. Women have had little control over Tajikistan’s laws that have targeted them and a lack of access to education that prevents this fact from changing.

Despite concerning media coverage, possible improvements for the lives of women in Tajikistan exist. As stability grows, the potential exists to improve the budget for healthcare and education and, therefore, reduce poverty. Backed with proper healthcare and educational opportunities, women will have the ability to gain access and opportunities to dictate the laws of their country, such as those about their clothing, by becoming more active in the political sphere.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Flickr

 

Facts About Poverty in Somalia
Located in one of the most poverty-stricken regions in the world, Somalia is one of the poorest countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty in Somalia has been an enormous issue for more than a century but has recently been slightly alleviated due to increased foreign aid and government stability. Here are ten key facts about poverty in Somalia.

10 Facts About Poverty in Somalia

  1. Severe droughts and extreme weather make life for people living in poverty in Somalia even more difficult. Historically, food security in the country has been an issue due to limited rainfall and extreme drought. In 2017, nearly six million people in the country were considered acutely food insecure. Around a quarter of a million people have been displaced due to the most recent drought.
  2. Somalia is one of the least developed countries in Africa. Somalia lags behind the rest of Africa when it comes to the availability of basic infrastructure. Only around half of the country’s population has access to fresh drinking water and this number is significantly lower in rural areas.
  3. Poor people who live in rural areas of the country are relatively left behind when it comes to education compared to urban areas. The literacy rate in rural areas drops around 10 percent compared to urban areas. Less access to education in rural areas means a more challenging path out of poverty for poor people.
  4. Four out of five children in Somalia are lacking at least one basic necessity. Around 85 percent of youth in Somalia do not have access to at least one dimension. The more common of which is lack of access to clean drinking water. Another dimension that a substantial amount of children lack is access to information.
  5. Children in Somalia are likely not attending school. Experts believe education is fundamental in giving children a path to escaping poverty. Without education, it is near impossible for children to improve their future. Currently, only half of the country’s youth are receiving and education. This number increases dramatically in rural areas.
  6. The country’s per capita income is around $400. This number is one of the lowest in the region and is a huge reason for poverty in Somalia. Lacking infrastructure in the country affects the number of good jobs and means that most people work on agricultural land.
  7. Somalia’s parliament recently adopted the National Development Plan. The NDP aims to build up the county’s infrastructure and begin to reduce the amount of poverty in Somalia. It also aims to make the country more secure and oust remaining terrorist cells.
  8. Donor grants doubled in 2017 compared to 2016. In 2016, the country received nearly $55.3 million in grants while in 2017 that number grew to over $103.6 million.
  9. About 73 percent of the country lives on less than $2 a day. The percentage of people living on less than $1 a day is around 24 percent, but this number increases to 53 percent in rural areas.
  10. Somalia is one of the worst countries in the world to be a woman. Not only does the country have a terribly high child mortality rate, Somalian women also have limited access to maternal health resources and education.

Although Somalia is still one of the poorest countries in the world, progress is being made to help change the status quo. Increased government stability is leading to improved infrastructure and security. The government is already pushing initiatives that will help mitigate some of these facts about poverty in Somalia. This coupled with an increase in foreign aid dollars flowing into Somalia should bring a brighter future for the struggling country.

– Thomas Fernandez
Photo: Flickr