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Farm Radio International
In 2016, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report stating that most of the world’s poor are small-scale farmers living in rural areas. Without targeted efforts to improve the lives of these rural farmers, “the eradication of poverty by 2030 will be impossible.” Fortunately, many organizations are committed to these targeted efforts. For example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation supports research into drought and flood-resistant crops that can withstand environmental challenges. Additionally, the foundation supports the World Food Program’s (WFP) initiative to purchase excess yields from small-scale farmers. This gives farmers a source of income and allows WFP to provide food aid quicker because their supply is local. Along with these forms of aid, a Candian NGO, Farm Radio International uses radio, a vastly accessible and effective tool, to provide essential information geared towards community development.

Farm Radio International

Farm Radio International focuses its efforts on rural communities in Africa. It has developed broadcasting partners in 41 African countries and has over 100 partners working on radio projects in 11 countries in Africa. In these rural communities, radio is often the primary source of information for small-scale farmers. Farm Radio International recognizes this key avenue of communication and has spent the last 40 years developing radio resources, technologies and projects committed to providing development information to impoverished rural farming communities all over Africa.

Radio is a tremendous tool for development for various reasons. It is widespread and accessible — radio can reach billions of people every year, even rural communities, and it can do so in their native languages. Radios are cheap and convenient. Since they are portable, listeners can work or travel while listening to radio programs. Radio is also often an interactive, allowing listeners to call in and ask questions or provide feedback to broadcasters. Lastly, radio is capable of providing information quickly, making it essential for emergency situations.

Not only does Farm Radio International recognize the usefulness of radio, but it also works to make radio as effective and impactful as possible through three programs: Radio Resources, Radio Innovations and Radio Projects.

Radio Resources

Radio Resources focuses on making broadcasters and their stations the best they can be for small-scale farmers. It provides training and packages for broadcasters to help them improve their stations and connects broadcasters to facilitate online discussions. Radio Resources also relays relevant news to small scale farmers.

Radio Innovations

Radio Innovations develops new technologies that make radio more interactive and a staple in these communities. It uses new technologies to connect audiences and broadcasters. For example, it developed text message alerts to notify farmers when it is time to tune in for the broadcast. The project is working to create a large range of programs to have the greatest impact possible such as cooking series, drama series, farmer development strategies and weather advisory.

Radio Projects

Radio Projects uses on the ground research and consultations to develop radio programs that target specific needs in the community. Some Radio Projects topics include:

  1. Agriculture: Agriculture explores the best farming practices and ways to prevent, control and get rid of pests, such as the fall armyworm.
  2. Environmental Sustainability: Environmental Sustainability teaches sustainable practices such as plowing across the slope, planting cover crops and how to build stone boundaries that prevent runoff and soil erosion.
  3. Gender Equity: Gender Equity addresses the specific needs of women. For example, one program sought to reduce maternal and infant mortality by facilitating conversations about proper nutrition and addressing cultural taboos about breastfeeding.
  4. Health and Nutrition: Health and Nutrition educates about nutritious crops and how to grow them, such as sweet potatoes. Additionally, it encourages the consumption of local nutritious crops and livestock, like teff, sorghum and guinea fowl.

Farm Radio International works directly with communities and individual farmers. For example, in Ghana, Farm Radio International started radio programs addressing the chronic malnutrition found in the country. These programs educated farmers on low-cost and highly effective behavioral changes to increase yields.

One man, Peter Bongkumum, explains the impact of Farm Radio International; he now uses strategies such as planting in rows, using fertilizers and reducing the number of seeds in each hole to have better and cheaper yields.

Bongkumum says, “I am very happy and very proud of myself and my farm… I’m using the higher yield and income to pay my school fees, as I am doing an online learning course on education.”

Farm Radio International is uplifting small-scale farmers, a group disproportionately impacted by global poverty, by putting information and resources directly into their hands. Through interventions like these, global poverty reduction is within reach.

– Paige Wallace
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in Chad
Chad is in the top ten countries for oil production in Africa. However, very little of the revenue of oil sales goes into improving the living conditions and healthcare in Chad.
 In Chad, it is reported that 66% of the population is living in poverty. The World Bank reported in 2018 that 88% of the Chadian population does not have access to electricity. Additionally, it is estimated that 44% of the population does not have access to clean drinking water. These factors create obstacles for the healthcare system. Here is what you need to know about healthcare in Chad.  

Access to Health Services 

Chad has a very low number of healthcare professionals. The World Health Organization reported that there are 3.7 doctors per 100,000 people. This number is well below the global average of 141 doctors per 100,000 people. The number of healthcare professionals remains low in Chad due to the many insecurities the Chadian population faces. Due to ongoing violence, 122,312 people have been internally displaced in Chad. This factor causes an obstacle that inhibits the population from seeking education and training. 

Chad spends approximately $30 per capita on healthcare. Spending on healthcare in Chad fell by $14 per capita from 2014 to 2017. The decrease in funding has caused many healthcare facilities to be poorly equipped and unable to pay healthcare workers, leaving the Chadian population with minimal access to medical services. 

Maternal Health 

Maternal health is considered to be a major indicator of the strength of a healthcare system in a country. Currently, in Chad, 80% of births are not attended by a skilled professional, whereas in the United States, only 1% of births are not attended by a skilled professional. This lack of access to maternal health professionals causes Chad to have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. In 2017, the World Health Organization reported the mortality rate in Chad to be 1,140 deaths per 100,000 live births. This number is far higher than neighboring countries such as Sudan and Libya, who have mortality rates of 295 and 72 deaths per 100,000 live births, respectively.

The lack of access to maternal healthcare in Chad is made more severe by many young teenage girls becoming pregnant in Chad. UNICEF reported that 68% of girls below the age of 18 are married and under five percent of these girls have access to contraception. The World Health Organization cites that maternal complications are the leading cause of death in girls aged 15 to 19 years old. Mothers under 18 years old are also more likely to experience systemic infections and neonatal complications. These complications can become fatal to young mothers in Chad due to the lack of access to maternal health services.  

Malnutrition

Chad experiences some of the highest levels of malnutrition in the world. In the central Chadian town of Borko, almost half of all child deaths are due to malnutrition. Also, 40% of Chadian children experience growth stunting due to a lack of access to food. Chad goes through periods of severe drought causing food insecurity and lack of income for many families. The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) has set up a hospital in Chad. ALIMA reported that the malnutrition ward is overrun and the organization had to expand malnutrition treatment services to cope with the demand. 

The Burden of Diarrheal Disease

Diarrheal disease is among the leading causes of disease burden in developing countries. In 2017, diarrheal disease caused 1.6 million deaths globally and 528,000 of these deaths occurred in children under the age of five. In Chad, mortality due to diarrheal disease is 300 per 100,000 people. Chad’s diarrheal mortality rate is higher than the mortality rate observed in developed countries, which is reported to be 1 per 100,000 people. Diarrheal diseases are perceived to be treatable; however, they are highly fatal in Chad due to the lack of healthcare services.

Healthcare Improvements

Due to the instability in Chad, external organizations are working to improve the living conditions and access to healthcare in Chad. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has partnered with the United Nations to provide immunizations and sanitary facilities to Chadian children. The initiative aims to decrease the mortality rates of diarrheal disease and other communicable diseases such as measles and pneumonia. 

Doctors Without Borders is another organization working to improve the conditions in Chad. The organization is currently running projects in six different areas around Chad. In 2018, these programs conducted 142,400 health consultations. Doctors Without Borders focuses healthcare efforts towards treating and preventing malaria, HIV/AIDS and malnutrition.  

The World Food Programme has established the School Meals Program to help decrease childhood malnutrition. The program ensures that all children at elementary school receive a hot meal throughout the school day. The program also encourages families to send their daughters to school by giving girls in grades five and six a ration of oil to take home. The School Meals Program aims to feed 265,000 elementary-aged children.

Healthcare in Chad faces many challenges regarding the high burden of disease, political instability and low availability of healthcare training. With a heavy reliance on outside organizations, the Chadian healthcare system needs to improve to be able to effectively tackle these challenges. Healthcare in Chad requires foreign aid funding to be able to increase access to healthcare and properly train medical professionals. The United States currently spends less that one-percent of its annual budget on foreign aid. With increased funding, the United States government has the power to increase healthcare for the Chadian population.

Laura Embry

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Algeria
Algeria is located on the Northern coast of Africa and is home to 42.2 million people. The nation adopted a universal single-payer healthcare system in 1984, which allows anyone to access healthcare at no cost to themselves. The nation’s economy is largely reliant on oil prices and sales, but these have proven to be volatile in the past several decades. Due to this economic instability, 23% of the population lives below the poverty line, even though the nation has some of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world. What is even more startling is the 29% youth unemployment rate. Given that such a large segment of the population falls below the poverty line and cannot find work, many Algerians are reliant on their publicly funded healthcare system to provide for them in times of need. Here are five facts about healthcare in Algeria in light of the country’s economic hardship.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Algeria

  1. The Public Healthcare Network has Struggled Recently: In 2019, Algeria’s public healthcare network ranked as the 173rd most secure healthcare network out of 195 nations. This stems from the chronic economic insecurity that dominated the nation due to drops in oil prices. The “breakeven” price for oil in Algeria was $157 per barrel in 2020. However, the price fell to just $20 a barrel, leaving the nation to stumble upon hard times. Yahia Zoubir notes that many Algerian medical professionals have chosen to take their practices out of the nation due to the “chronically insufficient healthcare system.”
  2. A Private Healthcare Sector Exists within Algeria: In 2015, there were 250 operational private clinics, and the government approved plans for the construction of the first private hospital in the nation. Many questioned the utility of the private sector because it fills in the gaps of the public sector, but it can only serve those who could afford it. Essentially, the presence of the private sector heightens disparity in the quality of care that the healthcare system provides to Algerians in different socio-economic classes.
  3. COVID-19 has Highlighted Major Issues with the Public Healthcare Network: As noted before, the national economy took major hits in 2019, and the nation announced a 50% cut in public spending as a result. Due to an inability to provide physicians with the necessary equipment and a general lack of human capital, there were 17 beds per 10,000 Algerians, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015. Because of this limited hospital capacity, COVID-19 patients easily overran public healthcare in Algeria.
  4. Where Health Officials Fail, the People Provide: Throughout the pandemic, government officials were notorious for failing to communicate with the public to slow the spread of the virus. Villages located further away from urban centers encountered these issues most prominently. Despite this, the Algerian people demonstrated resilient and innovative capabilities. The United Nations Development Program notes two distinct ways Algerians are reacting to the pandemic. First, in urban centers, many merchants are turning away from their cash-based system and moving toward e-commerce. E-commerce limits the amount of person-to-person contact involved in economic transitions of all sorts. Meanwhile, villages are working together to limit the spread of the virus themselves. Notably, a village called Tifilkout went into self-confinement to protect its citizens and other villages in the area. This plan originated from the tradition of “wise men” leading the village. These solutions demonstrate that while healthcare in Algeria may be unstable, the people will still assist one another regardless.
  5. The Algerian Struggle has Incited a Global Response: Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have also stepped up to assist in COVID-19 relief. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to donate $20 million to fight COVID-19 in Africa. The money will go towards ensuring that PPE and treatments are available to all who need them, not just those who can pay the most. While these efforts going towards Africa generally, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has demonstrated its commitment to Algeria in the past. In 2002, it joined groups working to fight the spread of malaria, and through its assistance, Algeria was the second nation in Africa to become malaria-free.

Healthcare in Algeria has struggled for years, and the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many of its weaknesses. However, the pandemic has also allowed communities to respond to such weaknesses in full force. While Algerians are working to protect one another through e-commerce and social distancing, the international community is banding together to support the nation as well.

Allison Moss
Photo: Flickr

The Fight Against Locusts
Asia, the Middle East and Africa are in a battle with an entity that threatens the food security of 10% of the population. This problem has come and gone before and goes by the name of the desert locust. These locusts fly in swarms of 10s of billions, in coverage ranging from a square third of a mile to 100 square miles. For reference, a swarm the size of one-third of a square mile could eat the equivalent of 35,000 people.

The leading cause of the sudden outburst of locusts is the months of heavy rain that Africa and Southwest Asia had towards the end of 2019. Locusts thrive in wet conditions when breeding and the rain sparked a massive emergence of the bugs.

The locusts could become the cause of food insecurity for millions of people. The reason for this is the sheer number of insects and also how quickly they can travel. They swarm from one food supply to the next, while moving from one country to the next within days. When they decide to land in a town or city that seems to have an abundance of crops, they will eat anywhere from 50 to 80% of all the plants. This has resulted in many countries and international institutions increasing cooperation, as the locusts do not discriminate against which country they deplete of resources. Below are five of the ways that collaboration has developed in the fight against locusts, which highlights the importance of working together during national emergencies.

5 Cases of International Cooperation in the Fight Against Locusts

  1. The World Bank has put together a $500 million program called The Emergency Locust Response Program to immediately assist farmers in the Middle East and Africa. This will help the citizens of affected countries with cash transfers, and will also go towards investing in agricultural industries. The first four countries that will receive the aid are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. They will collectively receive $160 million of the $500 million total.
  2. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has paired with the United Nations to strengthen technology that tracks locust swarms. The administration typically helps track weather and other changes in the environment, but now will use its resources to help monitor the locusts. It is trying to re-purpose technology to track smoke in order to follow the migration of locusts. This will help prepare countries and cities better, as they will have a more accurate prediction of when the swarms will reach them. These institutions are also developing different types of bio-pesticides, which will have less of an impact on humans and crops.
  3.  India has offered a detailed plan to Pakistan and Iran to team up against the swarms effectively. Pakistan has yet to accept the deal, but if accepted, the countries would “coordinate locust control operations along the border and that India can facilitate the supply of malathion, a pesticide, to Pakistan.” The plan originated in hopes of trying to save some of the estimated $3 billion of lost crops within the affected regions.
  4. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has contributed $19 million to the FAO to fight the locusts in East Africa. The money will go to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, which are three of the worst-hit countries. The aid will help these countries afford airplanes to perform aerial spraying and training for infestation fighters on the ground.
  5. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed another $10 million to the FAO. This money will go towards the same countries as the USAID contribution went to. The countries have gratefully accepted the money, yet still need more support. However, contributions from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are closing the gap between necessary resources and obtained resources.

The cooperation between organizations and countries in the fight against locusts proves to be the silver lining of the infestation. International institutions are effectively planning, tracking and coordinating efforts to minimize the problem for farmers and food-insecure people around the world.

– Aiden Farr
Photo: Pixabay

Hunger in AfricaSub-Saharan Africa is the region in the world that hunger affects the most. In fact, 319 million people experienced undernourishment in 2018. In sub-Saharan Africa, one in four suffers from hunger, and according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 28 countries in Africa are dependent on food aid. Sub-Saharan Africa is a hotbed of chronic hunger largely due to its extreme poverty. However, poverty not only causes widespread hunger in Africa, but it also creates poverty. Malnutrition depletes nations of strength and productivity, effectively keeping the entire nation trapped in poverty. Africa will not escape poverty until it escapes hunger.

Chronic Hunger

Chronic hunger in Africa occurs when the daily energy intake is below what is necessary for a healthy and active life. The word “chronic” implies that it occurs for an extended period of time. While the current state of hunger in Africa may seem bleak, Africa has made progress. Malnutrition has declined by 4% between 2000 and 2014 due to economic growth and smart policies. However, malnutrition still remains a large issue in certain populations.

Hunger in Children

Children are most at risk for hunger in Africa and the hunger crisis particularly impacts them due to the fact that the first 1,000 days of a person’s life are critical in regards to nutrition. When a child does not receive proper food in the first 1,000 days, they can suffer physical and mental developmental delays, disorders, inability to fight disease and high infant mortality rates. Bill Gates noted his experience in African nations where people asked him to guess a child’s age based on their height. Children who Gates thought were 7 or 8 years old were in reality 12 or 13. This is due to the stunting that 28 million children in Africa experience. Malnutrition leads to stunting that not only impacts children’s height but also brain development. Stunted children are more likely to fall behind in school, miss critical reading and math milestones and go on to live a life in poverty.

Multiple Factors

Hunger in Africa is a complex crisis with many root causes. SOS Children’s Villages outlines some key causes of widespread hunger in Africa.

  1. The population continues to increase in sub-Saharan Africa and food production cannot keep up.
  2. Unfair trading structures lead to the European Union (E.U.) and the U.S. subsidizing domestic agriculture, resulting in farmers being unable to compete with cheap food imports.
  3. The high level of debt that characterizes many African nations, combined with poor governance and corruption, impede economic development. This consequently perpetuates mass poverty and hunger.
  4. The disease profile of Africa including AIDS and malaria creates an obstacle to individuals digesting their food properly. It also inhibits the productivity of the labor force leading to food scarcity.
  5. Conflict in Africa breeds economic instability, unproductivity and a growing refugee crisis.

However, the hunger crisis in Africa is not only complex due to its causes, but also because other issues largely interconnect with it and amplify it. For example, climate change creates weather patterns such as droughts that cause food insecurity. Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are all examples of nations facing successive crop failures and poor harvest due to drought, with Southern Africa experiencing its lowest rainfall since 1981.

A lack of access to clean water and sanitation leads to increased rates of disease that create another obstacle to nutrition. Poor health care infrastructure in Africa amplifies the obstacle of disease to malnutrition. A lack of health care stops children from getting vaccines such as the rotavirus vaccine that would lead to children having fewer bouts of diarrhea. Furthermore, health care can provide individuals with supplements and vitamins to make up for key gaps in their diets, as the nutrition strategy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows.

Organizations Working to Aid Africa

The complexity of the hunger crisis makes it incredibly difficult to combat. Fundamentally, Africa needs more research and funding. Bill and Melinda Gates are two people who have done tremendous work in Africa, donating over $600,000 to their Alliance to End Hunger Program. Through his work, Gates recognizes the complexity of hunger and notes that if he had one wish, it would be for the world to better understand malnutrition and how to solve it.

However, the continent is making progress to reduce widespread hunger in Africa. For example, organizations such as the SOS Children’s Villages provide family strengthening programs that give short and long term aid including food, access to medical care, school supplies and support with financial and household management. SOS Children’s Villages also provides emergency relief for the hunger crisis and famine to countries including Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Malawi. SOS Children’s Villages is currently active in 46 African countries, providing aid to 147 villages that would otherwise be in acute danger of malnutrition or starvation. Programs such as these need to not only continue but also to experience amplification via increased funding and research.

– Lily Jones
Photo: Pixabay

Chinese Investment in Africa
China’s rise to economic prominence is unparalleled in modern history. In just 40 years, China has become the manufacturing center of the world, built an enviable infrastructure system and created a robust middle class by lifting 800 million people out of poverty. The regime has also expanded Chinese investments abroad, funding a wide range of projects in far-flung corners of the globe. China’s international strategy has met with skepticism from the West due to allegations of corrupt business practices and sketchy dealings between often authoritarian states. This article will explain the effects of Chinese investment in Africa specifically, exploring the impact through the perspective of the international community, China itself and the receiving African nations.

The Extent

The value of Chinese investment in Africa since 2005 has passed $2 trillion. Chinese investment has many dimensions but primarily focuses on infrastructure and resource extraction. The regime’s plan to extract and ship resources through Chinese-built infrastructure connects more foreign markets to China as part of an ambitious megaproject called the Belt and Road Initiative. In doing so, China benefits by ensuring its supply of material needed to further economic growth and receiving nations benefit through job creation and economic diversification. Additionally, Chinese entrepreneurs own over 10,000 businesses on the continent.

One can only accomplish a proper understanding of foreign influence in Africa comparatively. Chinese interests in Africa are primarily commercial, but raise alarm bells in the West due to the scale of China’s acquisition of hard assets. Meanwhile, the West has had cultural and political interests in Africa for centuries, interests that continue today through the presence of Western military bases, political boundaries and cultural footprints of language and religion.

The Benefits

The ease and effectiveness of Chinese investment have provided many benefits for African nations. From its perspective, China provides fast access to capital and prompt delivery of services and workers. Additionally, Chinese loans do not need receiving nations to meet the ethical restrictions that organizations like the IMF require. The nature of Chinese investment often produces tangible results. Infrastructure projects increase access to transportation, healthcare, education and telecommunication services for ordinary Africans. Resource extraction diversifies the economy and can immediately sell to China’s booming market, as Chinese trade to Africa generally eclipses $100 billion every year.

Outside of investment, China plays an active role in addressing poverty on the continent. In 2018, the regime approved a $60 billion aid package and currently participates in five U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa. In general, African nations view China as a valuable ally with no history of colonialism, but also as an avenue for successful economic development.

The Concerns

While the economic benefits of Chinese investment are numerous, allegations about the regime’s business practices and intentions are of justifiable concern. The lack of accountability measures and regulatory mechanisms on the continent have led corrupt actors to hijack many Chinese-funded projects. In many cases, extraction and infrastructure markets are more concerned with connecting resource markets to China than considering the needs of the population. The influx of Chinese entrepreneurs and cheap goods have also decimated domestic industries such as the Nigerian textile market.

Additionally, Chinese investment projects often lack sustainability regulations and native Chinese laborers frequently dominate them. In fact, every million dollars of Chinese investment only creates 1.78 jobs for African citizens. Chinese lending practices have also received criticism for creating trade imbalances and debt for countries unable to pay them back in time. Finally, Chinese intentions are hard to ascertain, and as their economic influence grows, so does their ability to influence Africa’s diplomatic and political landscape.

The Solutions

Despite the shortcomings of Chinese investment in Africa, there are policy and organizational solutions actively addressing these issues. The findings of international organizations such as the U.N. and WHO can influence the state of Chinese business dealings. In particular, the Ease of Doing Business Index and WHO influence provides international awareness and transparency to Chinese investment projects. African nations have also realized the need to implement more effective regulatory mechanisms in order to combat corrupt dealings.

Additionally, nations such as Nigeria and South Africa have accepted deals from the U.S. and E.U. as a way to mediate Chinese diplomatic influence. China has also sought to improve its image, improving procedural transparency and establishing NGOs throughout Africa. The Beijing Gender Health Education Institute has opened a division in Africa, where it seeks to empower LGBTQ individuals by producing documentaries and spreading visual works. Transnational NGOs with Chinese offices such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the “Free Lunch for Children” campaign have started operating in Africa as well.

Despite uncertainty dominating it, Chinese investment in Africa has provided undeniable benefits to ordinary Africans. Ensuring that Chinese actions receive mediation will take the concerted effort of international institutions and accountability mechanisms. With concentrated reforms and an open diplomatic dialogue, Chinese financial support will be instrumental in helping the international community alleviate global poverty.

– Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr

Ending Youth Unemployment in Africa
There is an issue of youth unemployment in Africa. Young people make up 60% of all unemployed people in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also one of the continents with a changing age demographic from older to younger individuals. An added disconnect is that of those who are working, 82% of them are still in vulnerable employment situations. In addition, wages may not even be enough to survive. If Senegal can get some of the 50,000 talibes, mostly young boys who beg on the streets, then Senegal can continue being a leading economically driven country.

Aspyre Africa

Aspyre Africa is an organization that works in Senegal, specifically Saint-Louis, with young men and women to end youth unemployment in Africa. It is attempting to develop a robust, sustainable and replicable model of services and quality vocational training. As a result, it should be able to secure the futures of countless economically disadvantaged young people in Africa.

Aspyre originally emerged in 2014. It focuses on talibes who are boys on the street with very limited job opportunities due to a lack of formal training.

Aspyre Africa’s Actions

The organization has successfully trained 18 talibes between the ages of 15 to 25 in horticulture. After the initial training, Aspyre Africa continues to support the youth until they have a stable income through various agricultural pursuits. Aspyre is stepping up its assistance in the community by providing a social worker and a career advisor for vulnerable students and alumni at a government-run vocational training center. Also, additional money from the organization is going towards essential equipment and helping talibes set up their own businesses.

Sustainable Livelihoods Project

With the original cohort of 18 talibes having passed their 10-month vocational training at the center, Aspyre Africa began a new venture of constructing a chicken coop. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation provides funding for a project to provide chickens in Sub-Saharan Africa as an agricultural venture to be successful. Chickens can result in a $300 yearly income increase. Chickens are valuable to Sub-Saharan communities because they produce eggs that are an essential key to getting nutrients and protein.

Youth Entrepreneurs Project

The work in Senegal is the perfect example of the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. In this instance, raising loosely means supporting. Aspyre Africa has been able to support 18 talibes by partnering with other organizations in order to secure funding, build the center and chicken coop and train the youth. Through these partnerships, Aspyre has seen how sometimes it can be prohibitive to its ultimate goal of uplifting youth.

Starting out, Aspyre helped provide the training for agriculture and horticulture as well as funding for necessary equipment to end youth unemployment in Africa. After the first cohort of trainees, it saw that other organizations either provided training or financial support for participants to start a business. In the past two years, it has transitioned into implementing a program to provide support from the start of training to the start of an individual’s small business. By regularly following up and tailoring training to youth’s interests and skills, along with 2 hectares of land on loan for 2 years to start their business, Aspyre Africa has ensured that each participant can be successful with continued participation.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Flickr

World Cocoa FoundationSmall plots of land, unsustainable farming practices, forced child labor, a changing climate and chronic farmer poverty are among the many issues that the cocoa industry faces today. “In Côte d’Ivoire – the world’s largest producer of cocoa – a farmer should earn four times his current income in order to reach the global poverty line of $2 a day,” according to Make Chocolate Fair, an international campaign focused on the fair treatment of cocoa farmers. The World Cocoa Foundation is hoping to make the industry sustainable.

Reasons Behind Issues in the Cocoa Industry

Partly to blame is the common practice of sharecropping. In regions where cocoa is most heavily produced, sharecropping restricts farmers’ ability to significantly alter their land for sustainable use. It disincentivizes farmers to make rehabilitation investments. Moreover, monoculture crops – singular crops produced over a large area of land – inhibit crop diversity and make crops more susceptible to pests and diseases.

According to NPR, high rainfall, lower demand for chocolate and price-fixing have also contributed to a decrease in cocoa prices. This has led to an increase in low wages and high debts for cocoa farmers, resulting in chronic poverty. Charlotte Grant, the Communications and Marketing Manager for the World Cocoa Foundation believes that poverty leads to issues such as child labor and deforestation.

“We fear that the well-being of farmers will not improve unless the cocoa supply chain becomes more sustainable,” said Grant. Without any intervention, the global cocoa industry faces an uncertain and unstable future. Fortunately, the World Cocoa Foundation has given cocoa farmers a sense of renewed hope.

A Rich History

The U.S. chocolate industry created the Chocolate Manufacturers Association (CMA) in 1923 to serve cocoa producers by funding research, promoting chocolate consumption and lobbying Congress and government agencies. When the CMA determined a new model for cocoa sustainability was necessary, it formed the International Cocoa Research and Education Foundation in 1995. In 2000, the foundation was renamed the World Cocoa Foundation. Its main focus is on cocoa research and educational programs.

In the late 2000s, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development, WCF began administering large-scale projects that emphasized productivity, higher-wages for farmers, the reduction of child labor, scientific research and community strength. Today, with more than 100 members, the vision of WCF is clear: “A sustainable and thriving cocoa sector – where farmers prosper, cocoa-growing communities are empowered, human rights are respected, and the environment is conserved.”

The Work of WCF

WCF maintains a diverse range of programs across several regions, including program partnerships with other NGOs. Initiatives like CocoaAction, Cocoa and Forests Initiative, Climate Smart Cocoa, Cocoa Livelihoods Program and African Cocoa Initiative II are addressing the specific needs of cocoa-producing communities.

WCF launched the Cocoa Livelihoods Program in 2009. This program works to increase cocoa farmer productivity. Through training and education, CLP advances four primary objectives. It works to advance industry initiatives, provide a “full-package” of services to farmers, promote food crops and empower women.  With more than 15 company partners, CLP serves impacted communities in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Côte d’Ivoire.

With the goal of increased stakeholder collaboration, WCF established the CocoaAction initiative in 2014. CocoaAction offers a Monitoring & Evaluation Guide that provides data collection in communities as well as a Community Development Manual. It provides company partners with an outline for the design and implementation necessary for sustainable Cocoa production.

Making Chocolate Sustainable

In 2019, as part of the Cocoa and Forest Initiatives, 34 chocolate companies, along with the governments of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, released official action plans detailing the new steps they are taking to address climate change and cocoa sustainability. The initiative aims to end deforestation and replace vegetation in impacted forest areas. The Climate Smart Cocoa initiative acknowledges the impact of climate change on cocoa crops. It seeks to examine better risk and investment strategies to strengthen the global cocoa market.

Partnering with USAID and several private sector partners, the African Cocoa Initiative II emphasizes the importance of economically sustainable and economically viable cocoa production. According to the ACI II annual report, more than “two million smallholder farmers” rely on cocoa farming for income. Therefore, “a healthy and sustainable cocoa industry means opportunity for economic growth and poverty alleviation in the region.”

A Sweet and Sustainable Future

In the past two decades, the World Cocoa Foundation has benefited countless farmers and their communities. Through training, education and community partnerships, WCF continues to strengthen the cocoa industry. By becoming more informed about the issues in the cocoa industry and what is currently being done to resolve them, people can make a difference, according to Grant. It is important to research preferred chocolate manufactures and make sure they are using sustainable, fair trade practices. By getting involved and sharing important information about the cocoa industry, consumers can make a difference in cocoa farmers’ lives.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

Although there is a vaccine, Polio is still a global problem. Here are some facts on eradicating Polio in developing countries.
People often think of polio as a disease of the past; but for many in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, it is still a very real threat. Poliomyelitis, more commonly known as Polio, is an infectious disease that can result in base level symptoms similar to the flu, or on the more extreme end, it can invade an individual’s spinal cord or brain causing paralysis. Paralysis is the symptom people most commonly associate with Polio because of how deadly it can be. As the disease progresses slowly, the individual eventually loses function across their body and requires outside assistance to do even the most basic task of breathing. Without medical assistance, the individual will asphyxiate. Here is some information about eradicating Polio in developing countries.

Eliminating Polio

Vaccination is the only way to eradicate Polio. Children’s bodies become prepared to fight the disease more effectively with vaccination. Almost all children or 99 out of 100 will have protection from Polio as long as they receive all recommended courses of the vaccination.

However, sanitation also plays a key role in preventing the spread of Polio in the interim. The virus lives in individuals’ throats and intestines, so open sewage systems can leave a community more vulnerable to the spreading virus. The virus can thrive in feces for weeks before dying, leaving plenty of opportunities for people to come into contact with the virus and spread it.

Eradicating Polio is highly dependent on herd immunization, so it is integral that mass vaccination initiatives go to all corners of a country. By immunizing everyone who can take the vaccine, the risk of the disease spreading and those unable to take the vaccine contracting it reduces.

The Reasons Polio Still Exists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria

Though there have been major advancements in eradicating Polio in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria, they still remain vulnerable due to the fear that the vaccine may cause fainting spells and death in children, which are false claims. Additionally, open sewage systems in rural areas and the difficulty to dispense full courses of vaccination to individuals in rural areas play a role in the continued life of Polio.

There is also the issue of spreading. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the majority of new cases of Polio are often in the tribal areas surrounding the shared border of the two countries. The unchecked border often has people traveling back and forth so they are hard to pin down to receive their full course of vaccinations. This also allows for the virus to spread faster and makes it more difficult to isolate the infected.

Nigeria is doing relatively well with the fight towards eradicating Polio. The country no longer has an active outbreak, but it is at high risk of having an outbreak. This is due to active initiatives within the country to assure widespread vaccination and hygiene education to prevent the spread of the virus.

Mutations

Another massive issue these countries and doctors are having with eradicating Polio is that the virus is mutating. In June 2017, there were 21 cases of vaccine-derived Polio in the world. This has been caused by remnants of the oral vaccine getting loose in the environment where it is regaining strength and infecting people. The oral vaccine is from a weak form of the Poliovirus that allows the recipient’s immune system to fight off the virus and become more adept at fighting the active virus if it ever enters their body.

Many also consider the mutated and strengthened strain of the vaccine-derived disease to be more deadly as it has a higher risk of causing paralysis in those infected.

Solutions

The organization, Global Polio Eradication Initiative, is a public-private partnership working in tandem with national governments and private partners including the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they are attempting to roll out vaccines and education programs to aid in eradicating Polio internationally. The organization works with 200 countries and 20 million volunteers to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live a life free of the pain Polio brings upon individuals and communities.

As of 2019, it has vaccinated over 2.5 billion children, and the number is only growing. This is an incredibly important program, as the alleviation of the threat of infection for every reduces the stress on government health programs. There is also a reduction in the personal and financial burden of contracting and surviving Polio from the shoulders of millions of families.

Through vigilant vaccination distribution and educational programs, the hope is that in the near future, people will be able to live in a world free from the crippling implications of the Poliovirus.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction Advocacy in Pakistan
Pakistan is a South Asian country with a population of approximately 212 million people. According to the World Bank, the population of people living below the national poverty line in Pakistan decreased from 64 percent in 2001 to 24 percent in 2015. However, as of 2015, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) revealed that in rural communities in Pakistan, 35 percent of people lived below the poverty line. This highlights that rural communities in Pakistan need the most aid. However, there are significant examples of poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

IFAD is a U.N. based agency that focuses on helping rural communities. IFAD aids these communities by strengthening food security and local businesses. Southern Punjab, cited as the poorest part of Pakistan, is a major center point for IFAD in the country. In 2010, IFAD initiated the Southern Punjab Alleviation Project and it is still ongoing until 2020. The project seeks to enhance agricultural productivity in Punjab by aiding laborers, farmers and women-led households.

As of May 2019, working with the government of Punjab, IFAD raised approximately $195 million for the project—Punjab governmental and beneficiary donations included. IFAD reported in 2019 that 5,500 new community organizations started in Punjab, with 70 percent of women forming these groups. The report also cited that 50 percent of people became newly or self-employed after receiving vocational training from IFAD. Moreover, as of 2018, IFAD reached 92 percent of women-headed households. IFAD also uploaded a YouTube video in September 2018 to highlight specific people and families in Punjab that benefited from its projects. The organization prominently initiated poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan.

The Ehsaas Program

The Ehsaas Program is a government-led poverty reduction program initiated in 2018. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr. Sania Nishtar are responsible for the program. Ehsaas focuses on economic growth and obtaining sustainable development goals in Pakistan. The program uses a strategy of four pillars that include addressing the elite and making the government system work for equality, as well as providing safety nets, human capital development and jobs and livelihoods.

The Ehsass Program will push to increase social protection funding by providing an additional $80 billion from 2019-2021. The Kafalat program will give around 6 million women financial inclusion through a one woman, one bank account policy. Nutrition initiatives will address malnutrition and health issues impacting stunted children. The Solution Innovation Challenge will address citizen employment by developing micro-credit facilities for daily wages so that those in poverty can afford monthly groceries. The Ehsaas Program plans on developing rickshaw garbage collectors to employ people and benefit the environment and water sanitation simultaneously. The Ehsaas Program also seeks to build 20 centers for physically challenged citizens and create orphanages for 10,000 homeless children. These are just some of the programs Ehsaas plans to initiate to implement poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Ehsaas Program

As of September 2019, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation supported the Ehsaas Program through a Memorandum of Understanding between Bill Gates and Khan. This collaboration prompted the Gates Foundation to plan on spending $200 million toward poverty reduction in Pakistan by 2020. Bill Gates and Dr. Nishtar conducted an interview in September 2019 with the U.N. SDG Action Zone to educate others about the Ehsaas Program and answer questions. This is an example of a multicultural support system toward poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan.

To alleviate poverty in Pakistan, the government recently started initiatives that the people support. Examples such as the IFAD and the Ehsaas programs show that partnerships between governments, organizations and citizens work to tackle poverty. With these organizations and funds in place, poverty reduction advocacy in Pakistan has a positive outlook for the future.

Natalie Casaburi
Photo: Pixabay