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Global Startup Awards Recognize Top Technology InnovatorsThe Global Startup Awards (GSA) Africa is an initiative spotlighting the top technology innovators across the continent. African citizens from all 55 states will participate in the world’s largest independent startup competition for the first time.

GSA Africa is rapidly growing its community by bringing local tech innovators together from all regions within the continent. This includes Southern, Northern, Eastern, Central and Western Africa. The expansion is possible due to the accelerating progress of Africa’s tech ecosystem. According to Partech’s Africa Tech Venture Capital Report, activity grew by approximately half in 2020 despite the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Contributing to the Tech Startup Ecosystem

Africa is experiencing monumental changes in the tech industry. More startup companies are being recognized for innovative methods. Startups have been finding solutions in food security, food production and farming methods that will strengthen industries throughout Africa. Caitlin Nash is the co-founder of the Global Innovation Initiation Group which hosts the GSA. She aims to showcase Africa’s innovative community on a global stage. Additionally, she shares the benefits of global exposure. Startups have an opportunity to gain access to a global network and collaborate across borders.

The GSA will reward participants in all aspects of the startup. This includes the startup itself, the people behind the startups and the organizations that support the creators. The GSA’s mission is to feed, industrialize and integrate Africa. This ties into the goal of improving the lives of people living in Africa. With rapid technological developments happening across the world, many countries are more capable of taking those opportunities to keep up. However, this leaves most developing countries behind in these innovations. Thus, these awards shed light on the importance of technological development in those nations.

According to the U.N.’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021, frontier technologies represent a $350 billion market that can potentially grow to $3.2 trillion in 2025. However, developing areas like sub-Saharan Africa are unprepared to adopt and adapt to these technological changes. The GSA will bring forward the innovations needed to help developing countries in Africa and around the world stabilize resources and improve the lives of citizens.

The Contest Categories

The Global Startup Awards will present 12 categories for the 2021 contest. Women in Tech represents tech startups owned and founded by women. AgriTech will award solutions in food security, production, farming methods and nutrition. In addition, HealthTech recognizes startups initiating medical innovations in BioTech, HealthTech, wellness and telemedicine (virtual care for patients) to improve the quality of life. CommerceTech will award the startup that works on using technology to enable commerce in Africa. This will range from mobile commerce to blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Another category is IndustrialTech. This category provides Africa’s industrialization with solutions for safety, mining, manufacturing, production, logistics, mobility and supply chain management. ESG Tech, or environment, social and governance tech, will award startups aiming to improve environmental, social impact and social government solutions. These solutions include areas like renewable energy, sustainability, recycling, water and sanitation. Startup of the Year will award the startup that is making the biggest impact on the economy and the world.

The Best Newcomer category will recognize a startup less than two years old that is already making a big impact within the tech industry. Moreover, Founder of the Year will award a startup founder or co-founder making progress with their leadership skills. It will highlight a role model for the next generation of founders. VC of the Year will recognize those achieving financial success while investing in innovative companies that can positively impact the economy and the world.

Finally, Best Accelerator and Incubator Program will recognize programs that help empower entrepreneurs to grow their craft by providing tools and resources to thrive. The Best Co-Working Space category will award a co-working space that provides services, support and resources to create an environment that fosters innovation.

Moving Forward

The Global Startup Awards will find, recognize and connect new innovators around the world. These startups have the potential to better the lives of people living in developing countries, and the GSA will help bring these companies to life.

– Nia Owens
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Data TrafficMany poverty-stricken individuals do not have access to the internet, creating a digital divide. The COVID-19 pandemic has revolutionized mobile data traffic around the globe, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Mobile broadband supports access to education, work, healthcare, goods and services. It plays an imperative role in reducing poverty. With nearly 800 million people in the region still without access to the mobile internet, it has never been more urgent to close the digital divide.

The Need for Mobile Broadband

According to Fadi Pharaon, president of Ericsson Middle East and Africa, the increasing demand for mobile broadband provides an unprecedented chance to improve economic conditions for Africa. Currently, Africa is one of the quickest growing technology markets.

In addition to younger populations requiring technology to develop practical computer skills, during the COVID-19 pandemic, access to the internet is also crucial for remote learning and remote work to continue development and economic progression.

In response to the pandemic, sub-Saharan African countries that were able to implement telework adaptations had considerably greater access to the internet, as much as 28 % of the population, as opposed to countries that were not implementing telework, at 17 %.

Due to the increase of digitalization during the pandemic, these developments are expected to positively contribute to the region’s economic recovery post-pandemic. Research suggests that expanding internet access to cover an additional 10% of the region’s population has the ability to increase gross domestic product (GDP) growth by one to four percentage points.

The Mobile Broadband Demand

Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) delivered over 4G or 5G is a more affordable alternative to providing broadband in areas with limited access. By 2025, FWA connections are expected to reach 160 million, accounting for 25% of global mobile data traffic.

The estimated total growth of mobile data traffic is from 0.87EB per month in 2020 to 5.6EB by 2026, an increase of 6.5 times the current figures.

To keep up with the demand, service providers are predicted to continue upgrading their networks to meet their customers’ evolving needs.

Additionally, networks expect to see an increase in customers purchasing mobile data subscriptions. Long-term evolution (LTE) was predicted to amount to 15% of subscriptions at the conclusion of 2020.

Novissi Digital Cash Transfers

The Novissi cash transfer program in Togo is an example of why mobile broadband access is important in developing countries. To support struggling people in Togo during COVID-19, instant mobile cash payments were made to their mobile phones to address urgent needs. The program provided more than half a million people with financial assistance during a crisis.

Closing the Digital Divide Reduces Poverty

Experts suggest that funding infrastructure, increasing electricity access and developing approaches to support digital businesses will aid in economic recovery and continue to close the digital divide. While sub-Saharan Africa has seen an acceleration of mobile data traffic during COVID-19, more action still needs to be taken to support its citizens post-pandemic. Providing affordable access to mobile phones, mobile broadband subscriptions and internet access will help support the recovering economy and alleviate poverty in the region.

Diana Dopheide
Photo:Flickr

How Airtel Helped Millions of Africans Get ConnectedPrior to Airtel’s arrival, implementing and maintaining a large scale telecommunications company in Sub-Saharan Africa seemed unthinkable. But in 2009, when Airtel set up shop in Africa, the cell phone, once a luxury available only to the upper-class, became a simple and affordable tool for the average person. With 99 million subscribers, the company represents a game-changing shift in the accessibility of mobile connections in Africa, as well as providing employment to 1.6 million people across the continent. When its first major operation in Sub-Saharan Africa began in 2008 with the acquisition and transformation of smaller telecommunications companies within the continent, the face of the average African cellphone user began to shift dramatically.

Airtel: Providing Affordable Mobile Access

While it is difficult to measure the number of unique users of mobile phones, as of 2019, there were 747 million SIM connections in Sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 75% of the population. The increased accessibility of cell phone access in this region is largely credited to Airtel’s groundbreakingly affordable prices, with a basic handset, SIM card and prepaid credit voucher available for just $20.

A portion of Airtel’s impact is also attributed to the company’s radical construction of cell phone towers across sub-Saharan Africa. Airtel has targeted the capitals of all 14 countries in which they operate, with 4G live in each city, and plans to expand to rural areas as well. The company’s largest investment has been Nigeria, with the construction of 30,000 towers across the nation. From 2008 to 2018, rates of Nigerian cell phone subscriptions rose from two million to 172 million.

One of the most significant causes of the rise of mobile connection in Africa can be found in Kenya, where rates of cell phone ownership rose from just 1% in 2002 to 39% in 2014. The effects of increased mobile connections in Kenya are exemplified by the development of its online economy through developments such as Kenya Internet Exchange Point, an international axis for the country’s mobile technology. Today, urban Kenya serves as a hub for novel advancements in information technology that serves populations across the globe.

Additionally, thanks to increased rates of cell phone usage, mobile banking in Kenya has become more widely available than ever before. The accessibility of online banking allows those abroad to easily send remittances to underserved populations in rural areas, without the hefty fees that once came with international money transfer. This cash flow allows rural populations to lead improved lives, bolster the local economy and help fill the gap between developed and developing nations.

Mobile Access Improving Education

Evidently, cell phones in Sub-Saharan Africa have also come to fill an important role in the world of education. In one 2015 field study, smartphones were found to be utilized by students and teachers alike as multipurpose tools for education.

At the student level, 37.5% of surveyed students in Ghana, 36.9% in Malawi and 60.9% in South Africa reported receiving funding for their education, including uniforms, books and lunches through their smartphones. Aside from a source of mobile money, school children also used smartphones for their calculator applications, internet search abilities and as a light source in areas with little to no electricity. In other words, smartphones fill crucial gaps for students with limited access to educational resources in and outside the classroom.

Likewise, in all three countries surveyed, teachers reported using their smartphones to access more detailed information in the classroom. As one teacher in Ghana reports, “I try to get current issues for illustration in class.” In short, the mobile connection in Africa represents radical economic growth that allows those stuck in poverty to become upwardly mobile and create better lives for themselves and their communities. By working to allow the average, often underserved person, to easily access a cell phone connection, Airtel has created a new world of possibilities for the future of development in Africa.

Jane Dangel
Photo: Flickr

Rainwater harvestingTechnology has played a significant role in the reduction of global poverty. Two particular areas technology has improved impoverished communities are water access and water quality. For instance, a newly developed piece of technology showcases the potential for enhancing water security throughout Africa. The key is effective rainwater harvesting.

Water Supply Threats

In Africa, increasing water access and sanitation has become a top priority. Consequently, many organizations — the United Nations, the African Union, and the African Development Bank — have come together to solve the water crisis by sponsoring The Africa Water Vision for 2025. It warns that African water resources are threatened by pollution, environmental degradation, and a lack of responsible protection and development.

A New Smartphone App

Despite these threats, a new smartphone app has empowered Africans to efficiently procure their own water. Rainwater Harvesting Africa (RHA) is a smartphone app that the U.N. Environment Programme and the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization jointly developed. It enables Africans to use rainwater harvesting systems to obtain their own water.

Usually, rainwater is harvested through the construction of a central water tank that connects to various downspouts. But, with this app, households are able to capture rain runoff for essential personal use.

RWH Africa utilizes real-time meteorological data to track rain patterns throughout Africa. App users can input their location, the area measurement of their rooftop, the number of people living in their household, and how much water they use per day. The app uses this information to calculate how much water can be harvested at a given time for the needs of the user. Additionally, the app provides images and directions detailing how to construct rainwater harvesting systems with locally available materials.

Promising Factors

In addition, RWH Africa has built-in resources that can improve access to water throughout Africa. They can capitalize on increased technological infrastructure to expand its user base. GSMA estimates that 475 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa alone will become mobile internet users within the next five years, and 27% of their mobile internet connections will be on 4G. With increased smartphone usage throughout the continent, more Africans will be able to access this powerful tool of water procurement.

Although Africa needs to increase its internet capacities to maximize the app’s effectiveness, it has a more than sufficient water supply. In 2006, the U.N. Environment Programme and World Agroforestry Centre issued a report indicating that Africa alone receives enough rainfall each year to meet the needs of nine billion people. According to the report, Africa is not water-scarce, but the continent is just poorly equipped to harvest its water resources adequately and safely. RWH Africa gives Africans the knowledge they need to personally capture these vast water resources.

Furthermore, rainwater harvesting is low-cost and easy to maintain, making it widely accessible. According to The Water Project, a household rainwater harvesting system can hold up to 100,000 liters of water. This is enough to allow communities to decouple from centralized water systems that are subject to incompetent or corrupt management. Rainwater harvesting hence enables individuals to take matters into their own hands and decrease their reliance on undependable municipal water sources.

Technology Can Beat Poverty

As internet connection and smartphone usage expand, new solutions to poverty issues, such as water insecurity, will reach more people. RWH Africa serves as an educational and practical tool for rainwater harvesting and thus can be used as an example for similar future efforts. It signifies a positive outcome of increased cooperation between international organizations and local communities in combating global poverty.

John Andrikos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Healthcare Apps in Sub-Saharan Africa
Although sub-Saharan Africa accounts for nearly 11% of the world’s population, it carries approximately 24% of the global disease burden. The region spends less than 1% on global health expenditure and lacks a strong infrastructure to address its citizens’ healthcare necessities.

Advancements in technology may be the solution to this crisis. The mobile industry in sub-Saharan Africa is growing rapidly. In 2012, only 32% of the population had access to a mobile subscription. By 2018, the mobile industry saw a 12% increase in mobile penetration rates. As a result, innovative healthcare apps are being released on the market, allowing individuals to access medical services remotely. This article will focus on three innovative healthcare apps in sub-Saharan Africa that can be accessed through a mobile device.

Hello Doctor: Providing Remote Medical Assistance

Hello Doctor is a mobile healthcare app that was developed in South Africa. It is currently one of the most popular mobile healthcare apps on the market and is available in 10 different countries. The app allows patients to have healthcare that is accessible, affordable and personalized.

The app requires a subscription of $3 per month. It allows a subscriber to “carry a doctor in their pocket.” After filing a request, subscribers are connected with a doctor via text message or phone call. All requests are responded to within an hour. All doctors accessed through the application are registered medical professionals.

The app also has a symptom checker in which patients can note their concerns and are provided with a list of potential diagnoses. It is also updated daily with new content to provide fundamental healthcare advice to patients. This app is most beneficial to citizens who may not be able to easily travel to their nearest healthcare clinic.

Pelebox: Delivering Essential Medication

Communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDs remain a growing problem in sub-Saharan Africa. These chronic diseases must be treated with medication that is picked up from the clinic. However, the limited number of clinics, a shortage of healthcare professionals and a high patient volume create excessive wait times for patients.

Pelebox, a South African app, manages smart lockers that dispense refills of prescriptions to patients. Instead of waiting hours to be seen in the clinic, patients can retrieve their prescriptions within a matter of seconds. Pelebox’s goal is to reduce the burden on hospital staff so that they can focus their attention on patients in critical care.

Here is how the app works. The patient is enrolled in the clinic’s collection program, the prescription is issued and the medication is placed into the locker. Clients will receive a one-time-pin via text message from the system. Patients enter their phone number and PIN at the self-service interface and retrieve their prescriptions from the cubicle. The cubicle is accessible at any time. Through its innovative approach in delivering essential medication, Pelebox has reached approximately 3,000 patients. The company is also planning to set up an additional 30 units in the next five years to continue to expand its reach.

MedAfrica: An All-in-One Healthcare App

MedAfrica, a product of Shimba Mobile, is one of the most popular healthcare apps in sub-Saharan Africa. It was first launched in Kenya in November 2011. By March 2012, it had approximately 70,000 users and was released into several other countries.

The app was created to make healthcare more accessible, affordable and safer. The app is free to use and works on any operating system. It is an all-in-one healthcare app that has various features. It provides users with a directory of qualified doctors and hospitals that are nearby. It also has a symptom checker available to its users so they can decide whether they’d like to pursue further medical advice or treatment. After the diagnosis, they can easily connect with the proper specialist. Users also receive first-aid advice and health updates from local hospitals.

Advancements in Healthcare Through Apps

An underfunded infrastructure, shortage of medical professionals and high patient volumes make for a fragile healthcare system. The surge of healthcare apps in sub-Saharan Africa is a great start to combating these issues. The innovative technologies that are being released for consumer use may be the key to granting much-needed healthcare access to individuals who need it the most.

Jasmine Daniel
Photo: Flickr

Crops That Are Fighting PovertyAcross the world, agriculture remains one of the primary sources of income for those living in poverty. A 2019 report by The World Bank reported that 80% of those living in extreme poverty reside in rural regions, and a large majority of these individuals rely upon agriculture for their livelihood. The World Bank also notes that developing agriculture is one of the most effective ways to alleviate poverty, reduce food insecurity and enhance the general well-being of those living in a community. Potatoes in China, cassava in sub-Saharan Africa, rice in Sierra Leone, pearl millet in India and bananas in Costa Rica are five examples of crops that are fighting poverty.

5 Crops That Are Fighting Poverty

  1. Potatoes in China: In 2019, China was the world’s number one potato-producing country. With a rural population of 45.23%, the nation greatly relies upon agriculture to provide food as well as income to its citizens. In Ulanqub, otherwise known as the “potato city” of China, potato farming is one of the primary means for farmers to rise out of poverty. Due to the fact that viruses have the potential to destroy up to 80% of potato crops, potato engineers in Ulanqub have developed seeds that are more impervious to viruses. These engineers place a sterile potato stem into a solution filled with nutrients to create “virus-free breeder seeds.” The seeds are then planted and produce potatoes of higher quality, ensuring that farmers are able to generate sufficient income and climb out of poverty.
  2. Cassava in sub-Saharan Africa: Cassava is a principal source of calories for 40% of Africans. This crop has traditionally been important during times of famine and low rainfall because it is drought-resistant, requires easily-accessible tools and is easily harvestable by one family. The organization NextGen utilizes genomic technology to isolate beneficial cassava traits that increase plant viability, root quality and yield quantity. By analyzing crop DNA and statistically predicting performance, NextGen is creating cassava crops that are fighting poverty.
  3. Rice in Sierra Leone: Agriculture accounts for 57% of Sierra Leone’s GDP, with rice reigning as the primary staple crop. However, in 2011, the nation was a net rice importer due to struggles with planting efficiency. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) was developed to increase rice crop yield and decrease the labor necessary for upkeep. This method requires the use of organic fertilizers, tighter regulations for watering quantities, greater spacing between seeds to decrease plant competition and rotary hoes for weeding. As of 2014, 10,865 individuals had implemented this strategy in Sierra Leone. SRI has enabled rice to become one of the crops that is fighting poverty by increasing crop production from two to six tons per hectare.
  4. Pearl Millet in India: In India, agriculture employs 59% of the nation’s workforce, with 82% of farmers operating small farms that are highly susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change. As temperatures rise to a scorching 114℉, crops that are able to survive extreme heat are becoming necessary. Wild pearl millet, a relative of domestic pearl millet, is one crop that can withstand such temperatures. Researchers in India are breeding wild pearl millet seeds with domestic pearl millet in order to enhance resistance to heat and the common “blast” disease. With breeding innovations, pearl millet is one of the crops that are fighting poverty.
  5. Bananas in Costa Rica: One out of every 10 bananas produced in 2015 hailed from Costa Rica, the globe’s third-largest banana producer. This industry generated $ 1.1 billion in 2017 and provides jobs for 100,000 Costa Ricans. However, approximately 90% of banana crops across the nation are at risk of nutrient deprivation from a pest known as nematode, which has the potential to obliterate entire plantations. An article by CropLife International reported that a sustainable pesticide has been created by plant scientists in order to mitigate poverty-inducing crop loss and provide environmentally-conscious methods for banana farmers to ward off pests.

Developing crop viability and agricultural technology is important for poverty alleviation as agriculture possesses twice the likelihood of creating financial growth than other economic sectors. Innovations in crop production that decrease the likelihood of failure from drought, disease and changing weather patterns are important for the well-being of rural communities across the globe. Potatoes, cassava, rice, pearl millet and bananas are just five examples of crops that are fighting poverty, but improvements in different facets of agriculture have the potential to enhance the livelihoods of those who provide the world’s food.

Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

South African PovertyThe battle against poverty has always been a difficult one, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has presented many new challenges. Actions currently being taken to combat South African poverty and COVID-19 have proven that, with new options and renewed commitments, there is still much that can be done to alleviate poverty. Impoverished people around the world need aid now more than ever.

An Ongoing Struggle

Historically, South Africa has struggled to aid its most economically vulnerable citizens. According to the most recent government analysis, almost half of the adult population is living under the poverty line—an alarming figure. It seems apparent that this South African poverty crisis would be seen on nearly every level of society. Sadly, this widespread poverty has had a notable impact on which necessary resources are available to people. While electricity infrastructure is fairly widespread, between 28% and 30% of poor households lack access to water and sanitation services. As is relatively common in cases of inequality, the most vulnerable frequently lack access to basic necessities, making their struggles far more urgent.

COVID-19 Developments

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is poised to exacerbate South African poverty. The World Bank has predicted that while the pandemic will increase poverty worldwide, the hardest-hit region will be Sub-Saharan Africa. Although South Africa has been relatively spared from the worst of COVID-19 on a health level, the poverty-inducing effects of the pandemic are daunting—it is projected that some 23 million South Africans will be pushed into poverty in 2020. Beyond the immediate tragedy, this decline will present new challenges. In order to protect them, governments will need to find new ways to offer meaningful support throughout the crisis.

Innovation Brings Hope

Fortunately, the government of South Africa has begun to take steps to properly aid its impoverished citizens during this time. They have rolled out a new, easily accessible digital tool called HealthCheck in order to provide self-assessment resources. Members of the public can download the program, which will ask them a few simple questions and then provide a COVID-19 risk prediction along with a pertinent guideline and suggested actions.

While HealthCheck is designed to be available to the entirety of the South African populace, it aids low-income South Africans in particular. Although only a third of the population uses smartphones, feature phones enjoy more widespread use, so a lack of hardware is not necessarily an issue. For many impoverished people in South Africa—and across the world—receiving the proper healthcare needed to determine a risk of infection may be difficult or outright impossible.

Partnerships Increase Access

To further alleviate this issue, the South African government has coordinated with network operators MTN, Vodacom and Telekom, to have facilitate free access to the USSD line. This way, South Africans who could not typically afford cellular or wi-fi services can make use of the HealthCheck tool. As a matter of fact, they have—authorities have reported that so far, over one million members of the public have used HealthCheck.

The digital tool has been utilized in conjunction with NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.  The NGO has worked to fill the gap in fighting South African poverty by creating impromptu field hospitals in otherwise-ignored townships. In Khayelitsha, it has opened up 70 additional beds in a basketball arena in order to serve as many people as possible in the area. This was part of a broader government plan to have over 1,400 extra beds ready as needed. Providing aid such as this is an important part of the battle against poverty.

Just a Start

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the growth of the continental African economy, and threatens its growing middle class. Across the entire continent, nearly eight million people are predicted to fall into poverty, in many cases due to the lack of a social safety net. By providing essential resources, NGOs like Doctors Without Borders are working to limit the economic burden that falls on the South African populace.

While it’s just a start in terms of supporting the impoverished population, these initiatives have clearly provided accessible ways for low-income citizens to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. There are still many hurdles to overcome in the fight against South African poverty, but these recent initiatives have shown that we can still work to effectively aid the poor.

Aidan O’Halloran
Photo: Flickr

Pest ControlAgriculture is often crucial to the economies of lower-income nations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of the population is smallholding farmers and about 23% of the GDP comes from agriculture. Because of the importance of this industry, pest control can become a major issue in a lot of countries.

Influence of Pesticides

When pests are not properly handled, produce is damaged, which leads to reduced yields and profits. If crops are drastically damaged, it can lead to a decrease in food supply and an increase in prices. When pesticides were first introduced to farmers in Africa, it seemed to be a quick and easy form of pest control to fix their infestation problems. Pesticides increased yields, which led to higher household incomes and more trading. However, pesticides present their own set of obstacles. When mishandled, pesticides can be very dangerous. Many farmers lack the proper knowledge and equipment to safely administer the chemicals. This can cause health problems among farmers, contaminate soil and water sources, and result in pesticide-resistant insects.

Pesticidal Pollution in Kenya

A study conducted in 2016 that tested the water quality of Lake Victoria in Kenya revealed the negative impact pesticides had on the environment in the area.In May 1999, the European Union imposed a fish import ban on all fish from Lake Victoria when it was discovered 0rganochlorine pesticides were being used to fish in the lake. This ban resulted in an estimated $300 million loss for Kenya.

Organochlorine pesticides are mostly banned in high-income nations, but they are still used illegally in East Africa. Sometimes organochlorine pesticides are also used in East Africa for “public health vector control,” meaning to control the population of pests that spread diseases. The continued use of these pesticides is cited as a reason why pesticidal pollution was still found in Lake Victoria in 2016. Testing the water revealed that the pesticide concentrations in the lake were higher during the rainy seasons compared to the dry seasons. This led to the conclusion that the pesticides were entering the lake from contaminated runoff from surrounding farms. Those conducting the study concluded that the lake contaminations presented an immediate danger to the animals and humans relying on the lake as a food and water supply, due to the pesticide bioaccumulation entering the food chain.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Cases such as Lake Victoria’s are why the government, academic and public agricultural agencies have been promoting the use of IPM. IPM is a system that aims to decrease the need for pesticides by “incorporating non-chemical techniques, such as pruning strategies or soil amendments that make plants less inviting to pests, using insect traps that monitor pest populations so growers can be more precise with chemical sprays or adopting pest-resistant crop varieties.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have all supported the IPM process. Still, IMP has been slower to spread to the low-income nations of the world.

Whereas pesticides are made to be harmful and heavy-handed, IPM requires more finesse and care. IPM requires farmers to possess significant pest management knowledge in order to be effective. They must closely monitor their crops and keep detailed records. This is a difficult change for a farmer to make, especially when failure can have dire consequences, as they rely on their farms for food and income. However, with proper training and knowledge, IPM can present a good alternative for pest control to farmers who lack easy access to pesticides or can’t afford them.

The FAO has been using the Farmer Field School program to try to teach IPM and other sustainable farming practices to farmers in low-income nations. Programs like these are likely the most effective way to teach farmers about alternatives to pesticides. They may be able to help farmers in low-income nations find the resources necessary for safe and successful pest control.

Agriculture is often very important to the economies of lower-income nations. Improper use of pesticides, due to a lack of resources, can end up negatively impacting the environment in those areas where people are trying to grow crops. Programs like the Farmer Field School Program may be able to help lower-income nations transition to safer pesticide methods, such as IPM.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child LaborDespite a 38% global reduction of child labor between 2000 and 2016, hundreds of millions of children remain in exploitative labor conditions. Work deprives children of their formative childhoods and educational experiences, while potentially harming them physically and psychologically. So, how are people and organizations working to end child labor around the world?

Living in poverty is the main reason children work, whether by circumstance or force. However, child labor creates a cycle of poverty. Some children have to work to survive and help support their families. These children, therefore, do not have the time to receive an education. Education is considered a key to escape poverty; without it, children do not have many options other than continuing to work.

Most child labor is in agriculture; more than 75% of child laborers work the fields, but others work in factories or the service industry. Out of the 170 million child laborers, 6 million children are forced into labor. These children often become child soldiers or are sold into prostitution or slavery. The United Nations calls for an end to child labor in all forms by 2025, a mere five years away. Here are three U.N. solutions to achieve their goal to end child labor:

3 UN Solutions to End Child Labor

  1. 2021 is the International Year for Ending Child Labour. The United Nations General Assembly wants to draw attention to the millions of children working in fields, mines and factories during 2021. Member states of the International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the U.N., will raise awareness of the importance of ending child labor and share successful projects. These projects include initiatives to reduce poverty, educate children, offer support services and enforce minimum age requirements, among other solutions. As the steady decrease in child labor tapered off in 2016, the hope is that this effort will renew the global community’s interest in eradicating child labor.
  2. The Clear Cotton Project plans to have sustainable cotton industries without child labor. With the rise of fast fashion, cotton is one of the most valuable supply chain commodities. Because of its high demand, the cotton industry is notorious for its use of child labor, now embedded into the supply chain. Children work long, often excruciating, hours picking cotton, weeding and transferring pollen in the fields. In factories and workshops, child workers spin the cotton and have various tasks, from sewing buttons to embroidering fabric. All of this work is often underpaid if compensated at all. The Clear Cotton Project wants its partner countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Pakistan and Peru to create sustainable cotton industries without child labor. The program, which started in 2018 and will end in 2022, has two strategies aimed at ending child labor. The first includes editing, strengthening and enforcing policy, legal and regulatory framework against child labor in accordance with ILO standards. The second strategy works to support local governments and public service providers. This strategy aims to increase access to education, create youth and women employment schemes and strengthen worker unions so workers can both recognize their rights and monitor their working conditions
  3. Ending child labor in African supply chains is receiving special attention. While the rest of the world saw a decrease in child labor between 2012 and 2016, Sub-Saharan Africa observed an increase. Child labor is most prevalent in supply chains, especially in cacao, cotton, gold and tea. In the tea industry alone, around 14% of children are working as laborers in Uganda. Even more children work in Malawi—38% of all children from ages 5-17. Producing tea is labor-intensive, from preparing the land for planting to harvesting to preparing the leaves for export. Children are involved at every level. To combat this, ACCEL Africa, a four-year program, began in 2018 to “accelerate action for the elimination of child labor in supply chains.” Partnered with the Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, the program aims to address the problems that cause institutionalized child labor in supply chains. These countries will also improve their child labor policies and legal framework and enforce the revisions to stop child labor.

While the U.N. has set a challenging goal, with increased awareness, commitment and cooperation, the global community can succeed in its programs, ending child labor by 2025. With a real childhood, education and a brighter future, these children will have a chance to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Unsplash

Himalayan Cataract ProjectIn 1995, Dr. Geoff Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit launched the Himalayan Cataract Project to eliminate curable and preventable blindness in under-resourced Himalayan communities. The two founded their innovative campaign after recognizing that cataracts account for 70% of unnecessary blindness in Nepal. Cataracts, or cloudy, opaque areas in the eye that block light entry, occur naturally with age. Poor water quality, malnutrition and disease tend to exacerbate the issue in developing countries.

For years, Dr. Tabin and Dr. Ruit had seen Nepalese villagers take blindness as a death sentence. “It was just accepted that you get old, your hair turns white, your eyes turn white, you go blind and you die,” Dr. Tabin told the Stanford Medicine magazine. But after Dutch teams arrived in Nepal to perform cataract surgery, he explained, “People came back to life. It was amazing.”

The Strategy

The Himalayan Cataract Project delivers sight-restoring cataract surgery at a low cost. Dr. Ruit’s groundbreaking procedure lasts 10 minutes and costs just $25. Today the organization has succeeded in providing permanent refractive correction for well over 500,000 people.

In an effort to leave a more sustainable impact, the project works from a “train the trainer” model that empowers community health providers and enhances local eye care centers. Rather than simply treating patients in need, specialists introduce new methods and technology to strengthen the practices of existing clinics.

As a result of these and other advances, the blindness rate in Nepal has plummeted to 0.24%, similar to that of Western countries. The Himalayan Cataract Project now operates in India, Tibet and Myanmar. Dr. Tabin has also initiated training programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ethiopia. He hopes to see the same successes here as achieved in Asia.

The Link Between Blindness and Poverty

Addressing blindness is a critical step in the fight against poverty. Blindness prevents able-bodied workers from supporting themselves, shortens lives and reduces the workforce. Children of blind parents often stay home from school as they scramble to fulfill the duties of household caregivers and providers. In short, blindness worsens poverty, while poverty magnifies the risk of blindness.

The Himalayan Cataract Project aims to break the cycle of blindness and poverty. Studies have shown a 400% return on every dollar that the organization invests in eradicating curable and preventable blindness. Their procedures stimulate the economy by helping patients get back to work.

Individual success stories continue to power the organization. Adjoe, a 40-year-old mother from Togo, traveled to Ghana for surgery when she determined that her blind eye was hurting business. As a street vendor selling beans, she saw customers avoid her stand for fear of contagion. She consulted Dr. Boteng Wiafe, a partner of the Himalayan Cataract Project, who performed oculoplastic surgery and gave her a prosthetic eye. Carefully matching the prosthetic to the size, color and shape of her good eye, Dr. Wiafe ensured that Adjoe could return home to provide for her family once again.

Response to COVID-19

In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a halt to live clinical training and elective surgeries, but the backlog of blindness continues to grow worldwide. Meanwhile, concerns about the virus may dissuade blind patients from seeking treatment for the next several years.

While eye care has been suspended, the Himalayan Cataract Project is using this time to redesign and restructure their programs so as to emerge even stronger than before. The organization is also working to equip partner clinics with information and resources to keep their patients safe. Some communities have even taken part in the shift to remote education and implemented a virtual training system.

Despite the uncertainty of the months ahead, the Himalayan Cataract Project remains firm in its commitment to fighting blindness and poverty. Its partner clinics around the globe have been tireless in their efforts to affirm that the poor and vulnerable will receive the eye care they need once patients can receive in-person treatment again.

Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr