Electricity Access in Sub-Saharan Africa
The Africa Minigrids Program is an effort that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) led to improve electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. Using solar mini-grids, the program will work with 21 African countries up until 2027 to solve the energy crisis through renewable energy.

Energy Access and Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), sub-Saharan African nations have some of the world’s lowest energy access rates. In fact, the agency notes that “Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the global population without access to electricity rose to 77% from 74% before the pandemic.” The most recently available IEA data states that less than half of the region’s population, some 48.5%, have access to electricity as of 2019.

That being said, the lack of access to electricity intertwines with poverty in the region. According to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2022, sub-Saharan Africa not only has the lowest electricity access rates but also holds the highest concentration of impoverished people.

Additionally, a 2018 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report says that policy solutions in 2018 did not “recognize the transformative potential of solar off-grid and mini-grid solutions to deliver clean energy access.” This is set to change with UNDP’s Africa Minigrids Program, which plans on using these methods to improve electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa.

How the Program Works

According to the Africa Minigrids Program’s website, the initiative will help improve electricity access across 21 sub-Saharan partner countries by “increasing the financial viability of, and promoting scaled-up investment in renewable energy minigrids in Africa, with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.” By doing this, the program would also impact socio-economic development in the region since industries such as agriculture, health care and education require stable and consistent electricity access to see successful outcomes.

The UNDP is not alone in affecting change in electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) financially supports the project with funding that will help the UNDP and its program partners, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the African Development Bank (ADB), implement the program, starting with an initial phase of supporting 11 out of 21 partner countries.

According to the program brochure, the first phase began in 2022, with the subsequent two phases expected to begin in 2023. Combined, the 21 countries are home to “more than two-thirds of the total unelectrified population of Africa,” with a total combined population of 396 million individuals without electricity. The program estimates that more than 200,000 schools and clinics will gain access to electricity as a result of the program along with upward of 900,000 businesses.

Benefits of the Program

Without a doubt, the electricity that the Africa Minigrids Project provides will have a significant impact on the impoverished populations of the 21 AMP countries. According to the World Bank, improving access to electricity is “key to boosting economic activity and contributes to improving human capital, which, in turn, is an investment in a country’s potential.”

Electricity in the region would help power schools, medical facilities and businesses, allowing millions a chance to improve their lives and move one step closer to living a life free of poverty. The Africa Minigrids Program presents a transformative approach to improving electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, one that will positively affect millions of people currently living in poverty.

– Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cote d’Ivoire
The breakout of COVID-19 in 2020 had dramatic consequences on the economy of Cote d’Ivoire. Closing public spaces, quarantines and curfews helped to limit the spread of COVID-19 but created a rise in unemployment. Consequently, there has been a significant impact on poverty in Cote d’Ivoire due to COVID-19.

The Increase in Extreme Poverty After the COVID-19 Outbreak

As a result of measures to counter COVID-19, 85% of the informal workers in the country lost their jobs. Furthermore, COVID-19 measures have destroyed more than 1.3 million jobs and 71.7% of the households have a lower income than before the health crisis.

However, the poorest people of Cote d’Ivoire were the ones who suffered the most from the consequences of anti-COVID policies. In fact, 1.37 million households went under the poverty line and the poorest people lost on average more than 30% of their revenues, the UNDP reported.

According to the UNDP, extreme poverty in the country increased by four between 2019 and 2020 due to the COVID-19 consequences on the economy. Then, between 2020 and 2021, the share of the population living with less than $1.90 per day went from 18.3% to 20.2%. It shows how urgent it is to counter the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Cote d’Ivoire.

New Measures to Fight Against Extreme Poverty

The government developed policies and programs in 2020 to help the economy recover as well as to reduce as much as possible extreme poverty. As a matter of fact, the country’s budget increased from $14.8 billion in 2021 to $16 billion in order to increase the number of anti-poverty policies and strengthen the health sector.

Furthermore, as 93% of the labor force works in the informal sector, many policies have been implemented to support this critical economic sector and to avoid more poverty among the workers in this sector. Indeed, starting from March 2020, workers from the informal sector are benefiting from the same social security through the Social Regime for the Self-Employed (RSTI).

The Informal Sector Support Fund (FASI)

In addition to the RSTI, which Cote d’Ivoire adopted before the pandemic, the government launched the Informal Sector Support Fund (FASI) in May 2020 to financially support the companies and the workers of the informal sector which suffered heavily from the economic consequences of COVID-19. The implementation plan of the FASI has four phases. Between June and August 2020, the first phase aimed to identify potential beneficiaries and grant subsidies and loans. The second phase between September 2020 and February 2021 was about training and follow-up support for beneficiaries to avoid bankruptcy and the destruction of jobs following the COVID-19 outbreak.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Solidarity and Fight Against Poverty started its research on extreme poverty in October 2021. This research provided a better view of extreme poverty with detailed statistics and determinants of extreme poverty within all the regions of Cote d’Ivoire in the period following the COVID-19 crisis.

Conclusion of the Study

This study helped increase the efficiency of the National Register for poor and vulnerable households. Since the launching of its operational phase in 2019, the register is one of the most important policies the government implemented to tackle poverty in Cote d’Ivoire. Indeed, this unique database currently helps to examine the social needs that come from the consequences of COVID-19 on the economy and provide social programs to the ones who need them with high efficiency. This is because the database informs governments of exactly where and for what they need to send help.

The United Nations agencies, and especially the UNDP which provided $1.8 million to Cote d’Ivoire, are supporting on a daily basis the government of Cote d’Ivoire in their fight against COVID-19 consequences.

With such ambitious policies, the government is facing the impact of COVID-19 on the economy of Cote d’Ivoire, hoping to eradicate extreme poverty and allow an even brighter future for the country at the same time.

– Evan Da Costa Marques
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Poverty Eradication in Palestine
Palestine, located in Western Asia/the Middle East, consists of Gaza and the West Bank. While facing years of conflict with Israel, Palestine battles increasing poverty and unemployment rates as well as a lack of resources. Below are some programs that UNDP has put into place to help promote poverty eradication in Palestine.

The Context

Palestine has cities with some of the highest population densities and population growth rates while suffering from both limited financial resources and space for efficient growth. Despite the prominence of urban cities with flourishing economies, like Ramallah, Rawabi and Gaza City, Palestine is also centered in a fragile, conflict-afflicted area and this placement has contributed to the increase in poverty. The conflict has weakened government power, caused damage to infrastructure, broken social networks due to forced displacement of families and increased youth unemployment. All of these factors lend themselves to poverty.

The poverty rate in Palestine is 25% and unemployment reached about 29% across the board. For youth ages 15–24, however, unemployment reached 42% in both Gaza and the West Bank, placing Palestine as the country with the eighth-highest youth unemployment rate. This is mostly due to the rapid population growth, the deteriorating economy and the lack of Palestinian students with degrees or vocational training. In addition to these high rates of unemployment, more than 1 million children in Palestine require some form of humanitarian assistance. These conditions have influenced the United Nations to request organizations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to implement programs centered around innovative ways to reduce and potentially eradicate poverty in Palestine through economic empowerment.

UNDP’s Successful Initiatives

Among these programs is the Deprived Families Economic Empowerment Programme (DEEP). Emerging in 2006, DEEP aims to create interventions that target families who have enough community connections to flourish, through small businesses. This program has helped more than 23,756 households and is working on developing new strategic approaches for economic empowerment such as “community mobilization” and targeting youth employment and group projects. DEEP generated 9,560 family businesses and 23,000 paid and long-term jobs. This newly generated income supports 215,000 people, many of whom are children. Most importantly, this program helped 79% of these families close the poverty gap by more than 50%.

Another successful approach to reducing poverty in Palestine is through the Integrated Agricultural and Rural Development Programme which emerged in 2014. This initiative promotes agricultural production for consumption and seeks to reform the existing infrastructure. The program combats the lack of resources and high unemployment rate by constructing agricultural roads, water storage units, planting trees and installing electricity. All of these activities generate employment and supply the locals with fresh foods such as olives and other fruit. This program also aims to make at least 4,000 hectares of agricultural land suitable for production and support farmers with cultivating and utilizing an additional 7,000 hectares.

The Three-pillar Strategy Against COVID-19

In recent months, the UNDP of Palestine has also implemented programs to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the restricted access to resources, the pre-existing high levels of unemployment and poverty and the decades of political aggression and occupation — the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a harder toll. However, the UNDP is coordinating with the Ministry of Health to bring forth a proper response to the crisis. This response is framed by a three-pillar strategy that includes increasing healthcare staff, disinfecting facilities, supporting livelihoods, promoting businesses and aiding in government responses that fight misinformation and foster discussion through media outlets. All of these efforts aid in ensuring economic empowerment while responding to the crisis.

A Hopeful Outlook

The poverty and unemployment rates in Palestine remain high as political tensions rise. However, the programs that UNDP has actively put into effect contribute to the progression of the economy and the eradication of poverty in Palestine. Through UNDP’s tremendous efforts alongside the humanitarian assistance that various organizations like UNICEF and UNRWA provide, Palestine should be able to decrease its poverty and unemployment rates and restore its economy.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Land ManagementSettled in the South Pacific between New Zealand and Hawaii, Samoa is a tropical Polynesian island country known for its crystal-clear waters and stunning beaches. However, increasing land degradation and drought threaten the future of Samoa’s inhabitants, posing a serious threat to the food, water and energy security of Samoa’s population. The Strengthening Multi-Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes (SMSMCL) project establishes sustainable land management to combat degradation and improve agricultural and forest land quality. In particular, the project focuses on shifting Samoa’s farms from mono-cropping to mixed-use, as well as introducing resilient crops.

The History of Land Degradation in Samoa

Climate change, deforestation and agricultural expansion have resulted in extensive vegetation and forest deterioration. Additionally, as part of the Samoan government’s initiative to increase exports in the 1970s, many forests were cleared to make way for agricultural land. The intensive farming of crop commodities like coconut, taro, bananas and cocoa robbed Samoa’s soil of key nutrients and threatened the health of the agricultural sector. Agriculture accounts for 90% of Samoa’s exports and makes up a significant portion of the nation’s GDP, although profits rarely return to local communities. Land degradation affects the livelihoods of small-village and farming communities. As land resource insecurity rises, communities fear that future generations will be left with little to no development opportunities.

The SMSMCL Project

The Strengthening Multi-Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes (SMSMCL) Project works to counter the land degradation problem by introducing sustainable land management strategies that improve food, water and energy security in Samoa. Funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and implemented by the Government of Samoa, the project works to protect and sustainably manage productive landscapes from 2013-2018 in an effort to reduce poverty and combat the effects of climate change.

The SMSMCL Project takes a multifaceted approach to solving the problem. It encourages the use of nitrogen-rich plants like legumes to restore nutrients in critical landscapes and introduces climate-resilient food and tree crops to withstand environmental fluctuations. In addition, the project encourages a shift from mono-cropping to mixed-cropping. In the past, most of Samoa’s agricultural lands only cultivated traditional crops such as taro, a starchy root vegetable. The mono-cropping of taro deteriorated soil health, and the reliance on the crop devastated Samoa’s agricultural industry during a taro-leaf blight of the 1990s. By diversifying traditional food crops, the SMSMCL project improves agricultural productivity and strengthens crop resilience to prevent infectious crop diseases from devastating farmers’ livelihoods.

The SMSMCL Project involves village communities in every step of the process to educate Samoans on sustainable land and water management. Farmers, community organizations, students and church groups have responded enthusiastically to embrace sustainable land-management practices and encourage nature conservation.

Encouraging Results

Already, 126 villages throughout Samoa have benefited from the Strengthening Multi-Sectoral Management of Critical Landscapes project, and over 16,760 hectares of agricultural and forest land have been restored. Embracing sustainable land management strategies has improved the food security of Samoa’s population, helping communities cultivate their lands efficiently and secure opportunities for future generations.

Claire Brenner
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cuba
Although the Cuban Communist Party has relaxed some aspects of the nation’s government-directed socialist economic policies, Cuba remains one of the world’s only communist states. Cubans face many economic challenges due to their somewhat politically isolated status, especially since the dissolution of the Soviet Union and subsequent loss of Soviet aid. Despite this, Cuba perseveres and continues to address domestic quality of life concerns. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Cuba.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Cuba

  1. Water Shortages: The extreme drought in 2017 highlighted the limitations of Cuba’s outdated water infrastructure and revealed the Cuban government’s inability to quickly mitigate water shortages. Urban residents without water could request government water delivery, but the overburdened government struggled to respond adequately. Instead, citizens often turned to the black market to acquire water.
  2. National Hydraulics Program: The second point among these 10 facts about sanitation in Cuba is that the country’s ancient water pipelines are prone to leakage and inconsistent water flow, often resulting in flooded streets and homes without running water. Even in periods of drought, water loss and inefficient water distribution are more of an obstacle than a straight lack of water. To correct these problems, Cuba implemented a national hydraulics program funded with loans from OPEC, Saudi Arabia, China and others. So far, workers have installed 227,000 new water meters and cut water loss by 10 percent.
  3. Water and Sanitation Improvements: As of 2015, access to drinking water and sanitation facilities had improved drastically. Many (94.9 percent) of the population has improved access to drinking water sources in the form of safely piped water, clean public taps and rainwater collection while 93.2 percent have better access to sanitation facilities. These improvements are more apparent in urban settings, as 96.4 percent of city-dwellers and only 89.8 percent of the rural populace have benefited from refurbished water infrastructure. Droughts have disrupted the available and consistent delivery of clean water, but Cuba continues to revamp its water and sanitation infrastructure.
  4. Environmental Challenges and UNESCO: Decades of periodic oil spills and the release of wastewater into the historic Bay of Cienfuegos has harmed Cuba’s fishing industry, damaged the environment and threatened tourism. UNESCO’s designation of the bay as a protected World Heritage site spurred some environmental recovery efforts. Cuba’s government estimates that restoration will cost approximately 1 million pesos.
  5. Class and Demographics: Despite frequent shortages and infrastructure issues, Cuba’s drinking water supply is safe in most parts of the country. However, there are class and demographic divides in water access as the urban poor and rural populations are the most likely to go without, while Cuba often caters to tourists. The goal of Cuba’s hydraulics program is to completely supply the entire population with adequate amounts of clean water so that the Cuban government actively engages itself in fixing these problems.
  6. Water Treatment Facilities: Cuba’s surface water treatment facilities use rapid sand filtration methods, which are not always effective due to a shortage of chemicals and equipment. Consequently, only 62 percent of Cuban citizens have access to clean water. Aiding domestic efforts aimed at fixing Cuba’s water issues, China installed fourteen water purification plants in central Cuba.
  7. Water Affordability: Although clean water is not as readily available as Cubans might desire, it is always affordable. As is the case with most social institutions in Cuba, water utilities receive government subsidies and are therefore cheap. As of 2018, a household of four paid less than $0.25 USD for water service.
  8. Sanitation Infrastructure Improvements: Much of Cuba’s sanitation infrastructure is decades old and does not serve most of the rural population. Cuba is in the process of modernizing its wastewater treatment facilities with assistance from the United Nations Development Program. Additionally, Italy’s TECOFIL is responsible for opening 300 functional and environmentally sustainable wastewater treatment plants.
  9. Benefits of Tourism: Tourism is a critical component of Cuba’s economic activity, so the nation sometimes caters to tourists at the expense of the native populace. While tourists have ready access to clean bottled water, ongoing droughts and other troubles sometimes leave the locals rationing a limited supply of available drinking water. On the bright side, tourism brings international attention to Cuba and may lead to beneficial foreign enterprise along the lines of TECOFIL’s operations.
  10. The EU and UNDP: The EU pledged 600,000 Euros to Cuba in order to combat the effects of the 2017 drought. This fund is to preserve Cuba’s capacity for agricultural production and maintain drinking water supplies. Between 2014 and 2018, the UNDP spent 25.4 million Euros on 46 environmental and biodiversity focused projects in Cuba, including improvements to water quality and quantity. The UNDP plans to intensify its efforts in this regard.

These 10 facts about sanitation show that although the country struggles to provide its citizens with adequate sanitation facilities and consistent clean water supply, the government is taking concrete steps towards improving the status quo. Economic reform and continued foreign investment will contribute to Cuba’s progress.

– Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr