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the urban-rural poverty gap in morocco

Though Morocco’s economic and political status has improved as a result of King Muhammad VI’s reign, the North African nation remains impoverished. Specifically, the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco is one of the nation’s most complex issues. Morocco’s larger cities, namely Casablanca and Rabat, are evolving into flourishing economic centers, attracting companies and tourists from around the world. Simultaneously, Morocco’s rural and agrarian communities–the Amazigh people–have found themselves stuck living with little access to modern commodities.

A First-Hand Account

Sophie Boyd, an undergraduate student majoring in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Colgate University, studied abroad in Rabat last summer. Boyd provided the Borgen Project some insight into the poverty situation in the North African nation. “There was a huge disparity between the living conditions of Moroccans in cities compared to the rural Amazigh villages we visited,” Boyd said. “You could be wandering around the enormous shopping mall in Casablanca and still only be an hour drive away from people who live with almost no electricity. This extreme gap was unfortunate to see and these neglected and impoverished people desperately need more accessible resources and aid.”

The Amazigh People

Unfortunately, Boyd’s observations were fairly accurate and realistic, as Morocco’s Amazigh population has faced hardship and poverty for decades. Though there are about 19 million Amazigh people living in Morocco, which makes up approximately 52 percent of the nation’s population. Their language, known as Tamazight, was not even recognized as an official language of Morocco until 2011. Not only do the Amazigh people who occupy these rural communities not have adequate means to subsist on, but they had also lost their representative voice in the Moroccan government until recently.

Urban Gains

A 2017 study conducted by the World Bank and the Morocco High Commission for Planning found that poverty was actually decreasing at a much faster rate in urban areas than in rural communities. This makes sense considering there is more room for economic growth and consumption in urban centers. Still, this phenomenon contributes to the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco and creates an even more drastic inequality between rural and urban communities.

Poverty Rising

Another aspect of the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco that has continued to develop over time is the concept of subjective poverty. The subjective poverty rate refers to the percentage of people, in this case, Moroccans, who consider themselves to be poor or impoverished. The aforementioned World Bank study found that from 2007 to 2014, the subjective poverty rate in rural areas increased from 15 percent to 54 percent. This drastic increase can be partially attributed to the recent economic growth in urban areas. However, it may also have to do with the daily living conditions of the rural Amazigh communities. For example, CIA World Factbook states that only 68.5 percent of Moroccans are literate. This can make life for rural people trying to emerge from poverty increasingly difficult, compounding with other factors such as the infertile, arid land.

A Hopeful Future, Still

The Moroccan government has made it a point to address the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco. The nation has already demonstrated its interest in resolving this gap through initiatives such as the National Initiative for Human Development Support Project, a plan launched in 2005 to try and close the poverty gap. Morocco will have to continue to work toward better living conditions in its rural communities. If the nation can fix issues like illiteracy and decrease the subjective poverty rate, then it will be well on its way toward closing the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

USAID's Power Africa Initiative

Within the entire continent of Africa, 57 percent of people have no access to electricity. In places like South Sudan, that percentage skyrockets to 97 percent. Power Africa, an initiative started by the USAID, is working to change this.

Power Africa has the goal of adding over 30,000 megawatts of clean energy capacity to African homes and businesses. These goals are achieved through partnerships with American private businesses. Power Africa works to facilitate private sector transactions and cultivate optimal investment climates. These partnerships help to further African development while saving U.S. taxpayer dollars and creating jobs here at home.

More specifically, as Power Africa notes in its annual report, “Applying U.S. Government resources in support of U.S. business growth in Africa, Power Africa has a hand in developing multi-million and billion dollar projects that are producing returns for U.S. investors and supporting job growth at home.”

So, far Power Africa has added 7,200 megawatts of energy. This means that 53 million people have access to electricity today who did not have access prior to the launch of the initiative. By 2020, that number is expected to more than double.

The work Power Africa is doing is vital. Access to electricity can be viewed as a stepping stone to lasting development. With electricity, people can run more efficient businesses, provide better health care and improve education for citizens. And the simple act of providing a community with electricity can be hugely empowering.

This is especially apparent in the story of Regina Tembo, a Zambian woman who is the manager of her local micro-grid. Members of Tembo’s community can purchase electricity from her. Tembo makes sure that her neighbors and local businesses are provided energy tailored to their needs. Not only is she providing her fellow Zambians with much-needed electricity, but Tembo also feels empowered. “Being a Standard Microgrid Manager has increased my status in the community and enabled me to share knowledge with people in different countries,” she told USAID.

Of course, Power Africa still has a long way to go. In the near future, Power Africa hopes to provide larger systems, like micro-grids and solar home systems. These systems allow people to power larger appliances.

USAID’s Power Africa goals may be ambitious, but they’re achievable. Building a brighter Africa will help to reduce poverty, increase development and create jobs here at home.

Adesuwa Agbonile

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate in NicaraguaWhile the poverty rate in Nicaragua has declined in recent years, approximately 30 percent of the population currently lives on less than $2 per day. Nicaragua’s poverty resides predominately in rural areas where resources and employment are limited.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

According to the National Survey of Measurement of Life, extreme poverty fell from 8.3 to 6.9 percent in Nicaragua, and the Gini Coefficient of Inequality improved from 0.38 to 0.33 percent.

Nicaragua’s rising economic growth, supported by agricultural and commercial activity, indicates that its policies are working to fight poverty and create jobs and incomes for families. However, Nicaragua still has the lowest level of GDP per capita in Central America.

BCN President Ovidio Reyes says: “We know that we face a great challenge and that there is still a long way to go. The country needs to improve its per capita income even more, which can be achieved through higher rates of economic growth that allow the creation of jobs and more Income for families.”

The Need for Focus on Rural Areas

To continue fighting extreme poverty, Nicaragua must focus on its rural areas, where 50 percent of households live in extreme poverty. Finding innovative methods for economic stimulation and helping the poorest families improve their livelihoods and incomes will spur increased economic growth.

In rural areas, limited access to good schools and job opportunities cause Nicaraguan families to farm for earning a living and food. Yet, the dry land is unsuitable for agriculture and worsens their struggle instead of alleviating it. The land supplies limited natural resources, including water. With 80 percent of the rural poor depending on agriculture, the environment suffers. Recent droughts also affect food security and sources of income, and the fragile ecosystem and isolated location make productivity an obstacle.

Unemployment, which averages 12 percent for the country, exceeds 20 percent among poor rural families and many migrate to urban areas or abroad for work. One in five Nicaraguan families rely on remittances as a source of income, accounting for 20 percent of GDP. The unemployment rate, along with the poverty rate in Nicaragua captures the unparalleled plight of the rural poor.

Without employment opportunities and adequate infrastructure, the poor do not improve their incomes and well being. Since the poor then face many limitations, including natural resources, isolation and low productivity of soils, they do not have the means to access markets and public services such as education, health and legal services. Ultimately, productivity is stalled.

Nicaragua’s poverty rate may be declining, but to achieve sustainable economic growth, the country must focus on rural areas where poverty is most extreme.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr

breastfeeding
It has been proven that the first 6 months of a child’s life are amongst the most crucial for establishing their longstanding health immunities and development of antibodies. However, in the rural areas of northern India, UNICEF estimates that only 46 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed during this time. Furthermore, it is believed that approximately 2 million Indian children die each year before the age of 5.

A 2009 study was conducted at the Pravara Rural Hospital in Loni, Uttar Pradesh. Three hundred mothers of children between ages 0 and 5 were surveyed regarding socio-demographics, religious affiliations and breastfeeding practices. In like manner, the children themselves were clinically examined to determine the severity, if any, of their malnutrition.

These data sets were examined, compared and analyzed to determine any patterns or similarities. Male and female children surveyed were split approximately 60 percent to 40 percent, respectively, but there were no indications implying the biological sex was a factor in nourishment.

The data did not reveal a correlation regarding religion, which would imply that the various faith teachings did not object to breastfeeding. It was found that socio-economic and educational status were the primary indicators of malnourishment. Ninety-seven percent of the mothers surveyed were under the age of 30. Additionally, of the 300 mothers, 147 had completed high school or less and had malnourished children.

While the sample size is very small, it is certainly representative of rural breastfeeding habits and conditions during the first few months. Children of young, uneducated mothers in rural areas appear to be at most risk. Initially, this would indicate a lack of understanding regarding the benefits of breastfeeding. Although there appeared to be a common understanding of necessary benefits, the prevalence of this knowledge does not correlate to perfect practice in reality.

Responses revealed an absence of any scheduled patterns for breastfeeding other than as a means to stop the child’s crying. The lack of an organized routine and the late start for breastfeeding practices are central contributors to malnutrition in rural India.

In rural communities, there is also a belief that colostrum, the nutrient milk produced directly after delivery, is unhealthy for children. In many communities, goat’s milk is traditionally provided as a substitute. For these reasons, 80 percent of the mothers surveyed began periodically breastfeeding their children between 4 and 8 months old.

In an effort to encourage earlier, more consistent breastfeeding habits, UNICEF has partnered with local organizations in the northern states to provide home visits to encourage earlier breastfeeding and to dispel any false notions. Durowpadi Bedia, a health worker in the Northern state of Assam says, “Whenever we go on home visits, we talk to all members of the family – the parents, the grandparents, adolescent girls…They have faith in what I am saying.”

“When they come and talk in our own language, I understand better. I feel comfortable with them,” said Monika Bedi, a young mother. Home visits are scheduled with expectant mothers 3 to 4 times per month in the third trimester of their pregnancy. Jeroo Master, UNICEF’s Chief of Field Officer in Assam states, “Now mothers understand how vital breast milk is to the health of their babies…having health and nutrition workers actively promoting breastfeeding at the village level will ensure each child has the best start possible in life.”

Dr. Victor Aguayo, UNICEF India’s Chief of Child Nutrition and Development states, “Unquestionable global evidence demonstrates that breastfeeding counseling and support is the most important child-survival intervention.”

Frasier Petersen

Sources: Research Gate, UNICEF, NIC
Photo: Baby Center

rural morocco
Who?

Over 30 million people live in Morocco. The population is disproportionately young, and 4 million of the people are impoverished. Almost half, or 43 percent, of the population lives in rural areas. The rural population is made up of “people engaged in artisanal fishing, landless people, rural wage earners, unemployed young people and women in all categories.”

What?

Morocco has an income disparity between the richest 20 percent and the poorest 20 percent. The income disparity between rural and urban areas is also very significant. The poverty rate is almost 15 percent in rural areas, but in urban areas, the poverty rate is a third of that. Furthermore, illiteracy rates are nearly twice as high in rural areas as in urban areas.

Between 2003 and 2004, 12 percent of the rural population was underweight; this is double that of the urban population.

Maternal mortality rate is 130 per 100,000 live births, and the maternal mortality rate is almost twice as high in rural areas. A very small number of rural children receive an education. Compared to the 44 percent of urban children who attend secondary school, 16 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys attend secondary school. Amongst this percentage, over 300,000 children drop out every year, and almost half of the children must repeat a year.

However, the status of Morocco is rapidly improving. From 2000 to 2010, the poor population decreased by nearly half. A slowed population growth, improved economic growth, infrastructure development, microcredit and contributions from non-government organizations have reduced poverty rates.

When?

From the 1990s until the early 2000s, the Moroccan government engaged in economic reform and deregulation of the economy. Over 100 companies were privatized by 1998, resulting in a significant growth in the country’s gross domestic product. However, the population in rural areas still experiences high rates of poverty, which results in high levels of migration to urban areas.

Where?

The high poverty rates, as evidenced, are seen mostly in rural areas. Coastal regions tend to have lower poverty rates, while Morocco’s mountain and south regions have the highest poverty rates.

Why?

As detailed by the gaps in education and maternal mortality rate statistics, the cycle of poverty rages on in rural Morocco. According to the Carnegie Papers, Morocco faces high illiteracy, and its economic growth is inconsistent. If the economy continues to improve and extend development programs to the rural population, the rates of poverty will decline. Should access to education or economic opportunity decrease, rates of poverty, particularly in rural areas, will increase.

– Tara Wilson 

Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, UNICEF, Third World Centre for Water Management, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Photo: AdventureCompany


Poverty in Zimbabwe seems like a fact of life. However, Zimbabwe used to have some of the best health and education statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, political and economic crises in recent years have exacerbated poverty and brought with it a host of social problems.  Between 1990 and 2003 the poverty rate rose from 25 % to 63%.  Deterioration of infrastructure has isolated rural communities and led to a high poverty rate in these rural areas.  This isolation has also contributed to a decrease in farm income and production as a result of inaccessibility to markets.  As such, food shortages  in the country are rising.  HIV infection, though declining, remains at 18 percent, one of the highest rates of infection in the world.

As a result of the poverty in Zimbabwe, which is concentrated in the Matabeleland North where 70 percent of inhabitants are classified as poor, migration of male heads-of-household has increased the number of female-led families.  Since women typically have less access to economic opportunity and credit, these households are incredibly disadvantaged, as many of them are also in arid areas without irrigation.

Before independence and the shift towards smallholder agriculture in the country, Zimbabwe relied upon two sectors of agriculture: large scale commercial cash crops and small scale food production.  But land reforms by the government have forced a transition to small scale agriculture across the board, which has led to much unemployment and a difficult changeover process.  Capital investment is almost nonexistent in Zimbabwe because of sanctions and economic crises, further hindering economic growth.

One key to fighting poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating agricultural growth through investment in basic infrastructure.  Nearly 40 percent of the country’s roads are in poor condition; fixing them will provide rural areas with better access to water, seeds, fertilizer and other basic agricultural supplies. Such a move would also give the country’s farmers better access to markets.  Other infrastructure investments along this line could include irrigation systems, water sanitation, and railway access.

Like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe needs to become more politically and economically stable if any progress is to be achieved in the region.  Ultimately, if political stability is achieved there, new investments in infrastructure could be made, stimulating economic growth and helping to decrease poverty rates. Western markets could also begin to reap the benefits of raw materials from one of the most resource-rich regions in the world.

– Martin Drake

Source: Rural Poverty Project, World Bank
Photo: Action Aid

Women Farmers Get Help From USAID Dairy ProjectPakistan’s rural economy has been growing in part due to a USAID-funded Dairy Project.  The project works to help women farmers increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods.  With the project, USAID has trained a group of 5,000 female livestock workers who are available to provide veterinary services and advice on the care and feeding of cattle.  These livestock workers are trained locally and speak the language.  Aside from providing education, the USAID project also provides supplies for animals such as feed, vitamins, and medicine.  The hope is that the USAID Dairy Project will create new jobs and improve the lifestyle of rural farmers throughout Pakistan.

Rural women farmers are a huge part of the workforce in Pakistan. One resident told of how her husband used to work but due to an illness had to quit leaving her as the sole income source for their family.  She was educated through the 12th grade and was able to get a position as one of the livestock extension workers and help both her family and her village.  The hope she will be able to bring to her children and her family is just one of the positive results of the USAID project.

The USAID Dairy Project began in July of 2011 and employs rural women with a high school diploma. They are trained in basic animal health skills and entrepreneurship.  The program has trained 2,470 unemployed women since it began and helps them to earn an average of 2,500 rupees a month. The program aims to train additional 2,530 farmers.  The USAID project has connected rural farmers to livestock experts and pharmaceutical companies and helped them gain additional knowledge and skills.  One of the women involved has been able to treat around 6,000 animals and earn 46,000 rupees. Her household is growing and she is able to reinvest in her own agricultural business.

Dairy and livestock sectors contribute around 11% to the gross domestic project (GDP) of Pakistan. The USAID Dairy Program is helping rural women contribute to the improvement of the sector and earn an income to better provide for their families.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: Pakistan Observer

namibia
According to a recent Namibia Population and Housing Census Basic report, approximately 80 percent of all Namibian households have access to clean drinking water. However, a great disparity is seen when urban and rural areas of Namibia are separated. Access to clean drinking water in urban areas rises to about 98 percent whereas the percentage of households with such water access drops to about 59 percent in rural areas.

The government of Namibia is now working on bridging this disparity, spending 2.6 billion Namibian dollars, which is approximately 283 million USD, to improve rural water access and sanitation. This will be done by providing households in rural areas access to toilet facilities (like flush toilets), as well as building a second desalination plant along the coast. A desalination plant removes the salt from seawater making it a useable water source.

As of now, approximately 16 percent of rural households utilize unsafe water from local water supplies, such as streams and rivers, while another 13 percent utilize unsafe water from wells. Lowering or eliminating these percentages is the goal and primary subject of the $2.6 billion Namibian investment into improving rural sanitation and water supplies. Through improving access to safe water, improvements in health and the decrease in the spread of disease will also occur. Eliminating these conditions will lead to major improvements in health, even helping combat the prominence of diseases such as diarrhea and cholera.

– Angela Hooks

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: Guardian