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Tourism in Latin America ReducesLatin America is a vast region with diverse weather, geography, culture and foods. Each year, millions of tourists flock to Latin America to enjoy its natural beauty. A vacation haven, tourism in Latin America is a driving force for economic development in the region. Furthermore, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty.

Tourism in Latin America

From the beaches of Cuba to the Andes mountains in Peru, any traveler can find a destination of their preference. The most visited countries in Latin America are Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. According to the World Bank, more than 113 million tourists traveled to Latin America in 2018, bringing $103 billion worth of revenue. Tourism in Latin America has created more than 15 million jobs, which accounts for 7.6% of all employment. Furthermore, international tourism contributes roughly $348 billion to the GDP of the countries in the region.

Ecotourism in Costa Rica

According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Central America saw a 7.3% growth in its tourism sector, the biggest subregional growth in Latin America. Moreover, the country of Costa Rica has attracted millions of international visitors thanks to its ecotourism. Costa Rica is a leader in preserving its environment while attracting millions to come and enjoy its natural beauty. Beaches, rainforests, volcanoes and wildlife attract tourists which contributes to the economic development of the nation. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences correlates ecotourism with improving the lives of Costa Ricans. The study found those living near protected areas and parks saw a 16% reduction in poverty. Furthermore, tourism in the country accounts for 5% of the GDP.

Poverty Reduction in the Dominican Republic

Punta Cana is the dream destination for many, with captivating views of the ocean and exciting nightlife, the beach town welcomes 60% of all Dominican Republic’s tourists. Moreover, the country has benefited more from international tourism than any other Latin American nation. The tourism industry contributes to 9.5% of the island nation’s GDP. Even though poverty is still an issue for the country, extreme poverty decreased to 1.6% of the population in 2018. Furthermore, malnourishment has also decreased and life expectancy has increased. Tourism has steadily contributed to the well-being of Dominicans.

COVID-19 and Mexico

Mexico’s tourism is very important for its economy. Mexico is dependent on its tourism sector since it accounts for 16.1% of its GDP and employs nearly nine million people. Destinations such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Cabo are very popular for tourists to visit. Furthermore, Mexico’s tourism was thriving until the COVID-19 pandemic brought challenges to the country. The pandemic brought a halt to tourism and hurt the economy of Mexico. Nonetheless, Mexico still manages to keep the industry alive. Mexico began to limit hotel and restaurant capacity to curtail the virus. Mexico is also working with the CDC to ensure U.S. travelers going back to the United States are returning uninfected. Even though tourism has decreased because of the pandemic, flights to the state of Quintana Roo, where Cancun and Tulum are located, were averaging 460 air arrivals compared to an average of 500 pre-pandemic.

Tourism and the Future

Tourism in Latin America has positively impacted many lives across the region. The U.N. acknowledges that tourism is a way for a developing country to economically sustain itself. Moreover, tourism in Latin America reduces poverty. Challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic put a setback to the growing tourism sector. Regardless, Latin America has an abundance of beauty and adventure, thus ensuring tourism will be kept alive once the pandemic is over.

– Andy Calderon Lanza
Photo: Flickr

Madagascar’s PovertyMadagascar, an island country located in the Indian Ocean, is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, with 75% of its population living in poverty in 2019. Due to the country’s insufficient infrastructure, isolated communities and history of political instability, the economy of Madagascar has long been incapacitated and heavily dependent on foreign aid to meet the basic needs of its people, with food being the most urgent. In recent times, Madagascar’s poverty has been further impacted by more crises amid the country’s continued search for economic stability.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Madagascar’s economy has drastically worsened and so has Madagascar’s poverty as a result. With an already frail economic climate before COVID-19, the pandemic has negatively affected both the rural and urban areas of Madagascar, as precautionary measures enforced by the government are obstructing the flow of food and job opportunities, further stifling the already impoverished. Movement restrictions, one of many precautionary measures being enforced by the government, have cornered the most poverty-susceptible households to stay in place versus finding labor opportunities through seasonally migrating. Without the freedom to move about and access markets, these rural households are hard-pressed to find food and urban households are feeling the economic effects of this as well.

Drought in Madagascar

About 1.6 million people in southern Madagascar have suffered from food shortages since 2016. The reason for this food shortage: drought. Ejeda is one of many Madagascar villages that finds its villagers trekking miles away from their homes to dig holes into sand beds around rivers in search of water. If water is found, these villagers are then tasked with transporting it miles back home. Three years of recurrent drought in southern Madagascar has almost entirely eradicated farming and crop yields.

Declining Tourism Industry

Tourism in Madagascar is a significant source of annual revenue for the country. Home to lush national parks and scenic beaches, it is estimated that the fallout of COVID-19 has taken away about half a billion dollars of tourism revenue from the country since the pandemic began. Travel restrictions in Madagascar have gradually been eased but the damage has been done as people are simply not traveling unnecessarily during COVID-19. This loss of tourism revenue has been widely felt as it has added to the people’s ongoing struggle with poverty in Madagascar.

Poverty in Madagascar continues to worsen due to COVID-19, drought and the ensuing loss of tourism. With an already feeble economy before these crises, poverty has been intensified in both rural and urban areas as these crises continue to play out.

The Good News

Madagascar’s poverty has increased but there is good news to be found. A dietician and missionary from Poland named Daniel Kasprowicz recently raised 700,000 PLN through an online fundraiser to build a medical facility for malnourished children. Construction on the building has already started, and as poverty is expected to increase throughout Madagascar for the foreseeable future, it is believed that the facility will be opened and treating the malnourished by February 2021. In a time of crucial need, foreign aid means life or death in Madagascar and no act of assistance goes unnoticed.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

Demining Zimbabwe's National ParkLocated in southeast Zimbabwe, Gonarezhou National Park is home to 11,000 African elephants, which is how it earned its name as the “Place of Elephants.” Unfortunately, it is also the site of thousands of buried landmines. These landmines were placed by the Rhodesian army during Zimbabwe’s Liberation War and have remained there for more than 40 years. Although there have been efforts to remove these mines, they continue to be a constant threat to the people of Zimbabwe and local wildlife. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park will have several benefits for the country.

APOPO: Demining Efforts

The United States has provided a grant of $750,000 to the nonprofit APOPO to demine the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, where a large portion of the undetonated landmines reside. The Sengwe Wildlife Corridor covers a stretch of land that connects the park to South Africa and is used regularly by migrating elephants.

The area that APOPO has been designated to work is one of the largest in the world: 37 kilometers lengthwise and 75 kilometers in width. With almost 6,000 landmines per kilometer, communities in the surrounding area are unable to access potential land for farming and endangered species are at constant risk.

The presence of the minefield prevents the elephant population of the park from migrating and potentially mixing with other elephant populations. This presents a long-term risk of limiting the already shrinking African elephant gene pool.

APOPO has established a five-year plan for demining Zimbabwe’s national park, expecting to remove all undetonated landmines from the area by 2025. It estimates that it will remove more than 15,000 landmines before the end of its operation in the corridor.

The nonprofit will be working in tandem with the Gonarezhou Conservation Trust to maintain that the process will not impede conservation goals for the park.

The project also complements USAID programs to support community-based natural resource management, provide climate-smart agricultural technologies and improve the value chain for communities to sell their products for a fair market price.

Poverty in Zimbabwe and COVID-19

Zimbabwe is currently facing severe economic hardships that have only worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 50% of Zimbabweans experienced food insecurity and 40% faced extreme poverty. This number is projected to increase as conditions worsen with the onset of the pandemic and severe droughts. Inflation in the country has been rampant, with prices of food increasing by 725%, resulting in a severe loss of purchasing power for the poor. The pandemic has impacted the already economically challenged country by decreasing trade and tourism.

Aiding Economic Recovery in Zimbabwe

The United States and APOPO hope that by clearing out the Sengwe Wildlife Corridor, ecotourism in Zimbabwe will begin to thrive. As it stands currently, only 8,000 tourists on average visit Gonarezhou National Park compared to the 1.8 million tourists that visit the neighboring Kruger National Park of South Africa. Demining Zimbabwe’s national park means providing an extended opportunity for increased tourism in the struggling country. The efforts of APOPO, with the support of the United States, may be able to help economic recovery, reduce the impact of the pandemic and uplift communities that are battling poverty.

-Christopher McLean
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in Costa RicaThe country of Costa Rica has an abundance of natural resources available. The particularly abundant renewable resources that Costa Rica uses in great quantity is its wind and hydro energy. Costa Rica has embraced renewable energy and has benefitted from it in a multitude of ways but there are also some less obvious ways it has benefitted from renewable energy.

Renewable Energy in Costa Rica

Renewable energy has helped small business owners and farmers. This would explain why so many of them are supportive of renewable energy. Since deforestation has been largely stopped because of renewable energy, the biodiversity in Costa Rica has been able to remain. Costa Rica’s mass only makes up 0.03% of the Earth. Nonetheless, 6% of the Earth’s natural wealth and biodiversity is located within Costa Rica.

It is this biodiversity that has become so useful to the farmers of Costa Rica. Biodiversity reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides that the farmers would normally use. Other natural resources can be used for farming as well. Cacao shells, for example, can be used for mulch and logs can be used to make the soil richer.

Renewable Energy Helps Tourism

Tourism has also benefitted from renewable energy in Costa Rica. Tourism is an extremely important part of Costa Rica’s economy. Tourism alone brings in about $1 billion to the country and employs around 155,000 people. This is a substantial amount of people in a country home to about four million people. Renewable energy indirectly helps protect tourism in Costa Rica, in particular, ecotourism. By protecting these natural resources, Costa Rica ensures that people will continue to visit the country to see the beauty of its natural and conserved environments.

The Los Santos Wind Power Project

Renewable energy has also helped small and local communities in many ways. Los Santos is one such area that has seen these positive impacts. Los Santos has particularly benefitted from the use of wind energy. The area is one of the windiest regions within Costa Rica. Currently, the Lost Santos Wind Power Project is installing wind turbines in the region.

The project has built enough windmills in the area that the region is able to generate 12.75 MW of wind energy, provide 50,000 inhabitants with the electricity they need and prevent around 15,000 tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere each year. The energy produced by the wind turbines can then be sold to the government. The money that is earned can be used to help the local community. For example, the money made from selling energy that is produced can be used for the construction of new schools. Additionally, the installation of wind turbines will also create new jobs for people. To keep turbines functioning and ensure they receive repairs when needed, technicians must be available to work on them.

Renewable Energy, Renewable Hope

Renewable energy in Costa Rica is beneficial for a multitude of reasons, as set out above. The money from the generation of renewable energy can be used to help small communities. The tourism industry in Costa Rica will continue to thrive and because the environment will remain undamaged so will the amount of biodiversity that helps farmers.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

Tourism, the advantages, disadvantages and how to improve the practice
Around the world, 44 countries rely on tourism for at least 15% of their workforce and national GDP. Many of these countries are island nations or countries that don’t have a highly developed economy or business sector. As the United Nation’s agency, the World Tourism Organization, states, increased tourism can boost developing countries’ local economies, cultural discussion and job opportunities. However, if developing nations solely depend on the tourism sector and dismiss infrastructure development and other essential services, the disadvantages of tourism can outweigh the advantages.

The Advantages

For developing countries, the advantages of tourism tend to be primarily monetary. A large scale tourism industry prevents larger, more harmful businesses from working off the land. Small tourist companies that reign on the land stops large capitalistic corporations from polluting the air or gentrifying people’s homes.

The tourism industry encompasses many different travel areas, which allows the majority of a country’s population to be employed. These employment places include hotels, car rental agencies, restaurants, tour companies, souvenir shops, and equipment shops, among others.

Profit earned from tourism can be reinvested into the country for better infrastructure, education, funding conservation efforts and creating more responsible ways of touring. Without tourism, many countries would not have the same level of access to education and infrastructure. Moreover, tourism allows hosts and visitors to share cultures and meet diverse groups of people. Through respectful interactions, a broader view of the world from both parties can be achieved. By reinvesting the money earned back into the country, tourism and its attractions can grow, creating a positive cycle for the country.

The Disadvantages

With the way the tourism industry is currently run, the disadvantages of tourism may greatly outweigh the advantages in a country. The first factor to take into consideration is environmental damage. When a country has a high tourist attraction, the number of people occupying a space increases immensely. As a result, the release of carbon monoxide gases can increase due to plane and car use affecting the country’s environment. Many countries with ancient ruins or natural attractions are also in danger of destruction or erosion with significant foot traffic and human interaction. Additionally, flora and fauna can decrease in areas or change their growth and migration patterns when there is an overflow of humans interact. Foot traffic and continuous touching can also slowly degrade the stability of ancient structures.

One of the advantages breached upon the sharing of cultures. While this is a great interaction of beliefs and customs, it can become destructive to a host country’s culture. One of the ways cultures can be disrespected is through the commercialization of countries’ cultures. When tourism booms, large industries swoop in and sell figures of the cultures’ icons or traditional wear, disrespecting the countries’ indigenous beliefs and can be harmful to the people living there. Moreover, poor behavior from tourists who don’t respect the spoken or unspoken codes of conduct held by indigenous peoples also undermines the sacred beliefs held within the country.

Also, for many countries, tourism is a seasonal occurrence. For people that work in the tourism industry, their jobs are only viable for a certain number of months, and after the season has ended, many are left without income. Many of these jobs also lack the benefits that other sector jobs supply. Tourism workers are often left without insurance or pension. Not to mention, foreign businesses tend to overtake the companies present in these countries, forcing small businesses to shut down. As a result, foreign businesses keep the majority of profits from tourism, while local businesses lose their income. This hurts small businesses and local economies.

As previously stated, the profit gained from tourism is often reinvested into the industry. However, with unequal infrastructure development, the tourism industry can inadvertently sustain itself without aiding a country’s other vital sectors. As such, many countries end up developing tourism hot spots while the rest of the country suffers. In these countries, there are visible socioeconomic gaps between the wealthy and the poor. Focusing mainly on the tourism industry and places of mass attraction leaves disadvantaged communities at risk of financial instability. Moreover, countries solely invested in tourism are vulnerable to quick economic falls as its working sectors are unevenly balanced. If a natural disaster, political unrest or unprecedented pandemic were to strike, the country would lose a massive income, causing an economic recession that some countries may significantly struggle to bounce back from.

Ways to Respectfully Travel

The most important step to being a respectful tourist is to be an educated tourist. Understanding and respecting the culture and the people of the country is vital. By not undermining tourism countries’ culture and beliefs, the people living there will be more welcoming to tourists, and cultures can flourish without fear of commercialization.

Being environmentally conscious is also important to the survival of these countries. Respecting a country’s land and structures preserve the countries’ beauty and keep the land clean and prepped for further development. Many countries are more environmentally strained, so reducing pollution or your carbon footprint in a foreign country can help ease the strain.

Supporting the small and local businesses found in these countries can help keep local communities employed and support the overall economy.  As local businesses grow, more people will have the opportunity to be employed outside of the tourism sector, and the economy will be able to grow within itself.

By learning the advantages and disadvantages of tourism, and how one can improve the practice of traveling, the tourism industry will be able to change for the better and support the countries that host people from all over the world.

– Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

Cabarete Sostenible
Cabarete Sostenible was assembled as a response to the economic consequences of COVID-19. The Dominican Republic ultimately decided to shut its borders, and this effectively suspended Cabarete’s tourism industry. Cabarete Sostenible provides food to Cabarete’s local population.

Cabarete is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations for surfers, water-skiers, swimmers and even horseback riders. The town draws tourists through its rich culture, natural scenery and of course, its beautiful beaches.

But this idyllic vision of Cabarete tells less than half of the whole story of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic has fought a decades-long war against hunger and poverty. Though, in that time, the country has made significant improvements to its poverty rate and its rate of hunger.

Declining Poverty and Hunger

The Dominican Republic’s Gross Domestic Product increased at an average rate of 5.8% per year between 2011 and 2016. This was the second-highest rate of GDP growth in Latin America in that period. In 2017, the poverty rate was 15.9%, then dropping to 13.8% in 2018.

Similarly, the rate of hunger in the Dominican Republic continued to decrease over the same period of time. The Dominican Republic’s Global Hunger Index score was 12.8 in 2010. By the end of the decade, that score decreased to 9.2.

COVID-19 is a Threat to Continued Improvement

The World Bank has assessed that closures of a majority of the Dominican Republic’s tourism industry will lead to lower household income and higher rates of poverty. Cabarete Sostenible notes that over 65% of Cabarete’s population depends on the tourism industry for resources and food. Although the population is a relatively small 20,000 people, thousands in Cabarete are facing food shortages.

Cabarete Sostenible

A person is food insecure if he or she is without a three-day supply of food at any given time. Roughly 80% of Cabarete’s population is food insecure. Cabarete Sostenible has developed both an immediate and a longer-term solution to address food insecurity and hunger in Cabarete.

In the short term, Cabarete Sostenible provides ration packs to hungry and food-insecure individuals, which contain a week’s worth of nutrition. Ration packs include rice, beans, cooking oil, pasta, soap and bleach, milk, fruit pulp, oranges, spinach and dark, leafy greens. Four-dollar donations feed one person for one week, and 15-dollar donations feed a family of four for one week. All of the donations go directly to purchasing food.

In the long term, Cabarete Sostenible is building sustainable food production facilities. The organization has mobilized local landowners as part of this effort. Their project includes building “community gardens, permaculture farms and food education programs.”

Looking forward

The Dominican Republic locked down national borders because of COVID-19. This led to an economic and humanitarian crisis in Cabarete because over half of the local population depends on tourism for resources and food. As a result, the Dominican Republic will likely experience a regression in its rate of poverty and the rate of hunger because of disruptions to local economies. Cabarete Sostenible provides ration packs to the local population of Cabarete in order to limit further devastation. These ration packs are funded, in large part, by individual donations, or rather individual acts of love and solidarity.

Taylor Pangman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

homelessness in the virgin islandsIn many vacation hotspots, it’s easy to overlook the undeniable poverty, and this includes locations such as the U.S. Virgin Islands. In 2018, approximately 500 individuals were homeless. This may seem like a small number, but the population of the Virgin Islands is minimal, only 100,000 people. It’s time to shed some light on the struggles of the people who are easily overlooked by the beautiful beaches of the Virgin Islands. Here are five facts about homelessness in the Virgin Islands.

5 Facts About Homelessness in the Virgin Islands

  1. Homelessness in Families: Homelessness in the Virgin Islands is seen in families, which directly affects children and their growth. To help low-income families, the Housing Choice Voucher Program, or Section 8, was created. However, it has faced a $3 million reduction causing 26 families to lose housing and government help. Moreover, “for every $1 million dollars cut from the program … 111 families could lose housing.”
  2. Homelessness in Children: Those who are 0-17 years old are in the age range leading homelessness in the Virgin Islands. These children are considered “youths without parents or unaccompanied youths” and these numbers are growing.
  3. Demographics: There are certain groups that are being directly affected by this homelessness, as shown above by the large number of homeless children. Other groups include Black citizens and men. Black citizens made up 90% of the homeless population in 2017. The majority of the homeless population, 96%, is comprised of men. Another group being directly targeted is those who struggle with mental illness or drug dependence.
  4. Economics: The Virgin Islands heavily rely on tourism to boost the economy and to help the average person’s income. Therefore, during off-seasons for travel, most have to pick up other jobs to stay afloat to prevent money from becoming tight. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, travel has been limited, creating more financially unstable families and individuals. The off-season for travel and COVID-19 greatly affects homelessness and the financial standing of persons in the Virgin Islands.
  5. Lack of Action: Most records of homelessness in the Virgin Islands were taken in 2017 or 2018. The most recent record of homelessness was taken in early 2020, showing that the issue has not gone away. In 2020, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. proposed major reforms to the mental health treatment systems in the Virgin Islands. However, the bill has yet to be passed due to a lack of attention in Congress.

Governor Bryan has submitted legislation in order to put an end to the chronic homelessness faced by the citizens of these islands, however, is has been greatly overlooked by Congress. To help the issue of homelessness in the Virgin Islands, constituents should email or call their representatives and senators.

A non-governmental organization that has worked to help the issue of homelessness among youth is the Jermain Defoe Foundation created by English football player Jermain Defoe. It strives to help youth who are poor or are suffering from illness or abuse. This organization was founded because of the lack of attention that was brought to the issues of homelessness and poverty faced by children. It has provided funding and support for the Holy Family Children’s Home, raised funds to build the Rainbow Children’s Home and opened a football academy — all in the Virgin Islands.

– Samira Akbary
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in GrenadaGrenada, an island country in the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beautiful tourist attractions and flourishing spice trade. Unfortunately, poverty in Grenada affects almost one-third of its 107,000 residents.

The World Bank estimates that 32% of Grenada’s residents live below the poverty line. In addition, 13% of the population is considered “extremely poor.”

Dr. Elinor Garely of eTN notes that Grenada’s poorest residents are located in the rural regions of the country. She explains that this is due to inadequate access to the mainstream economy.

The mainstream economy is based on tourism and spice exportation, among other products. Grenada also depends on foreign aid. Without suitable access to the main cities and these economic opportunities, the rural communities suffer.

Youth in Grenada

Grenada’s demographic is quite young, with one-fourth of the population under the age of 14. The poverty in Grenada impacts youth most of all. In fact, Garely explains that 66.4% of the poor are under 24 years of age.

Due to a lack of birth control resources, there are high numbers of teen pregnancy, which often correlates to violence against children.

Physical and sexual abuse have emerged as the main issues facing the children of Grenada. More than one-third of children in Grenada have suffered from sexual violence. Women and children experience significant abuse due to the lack of laws against physical punishment.

Causes of Poverty in Grenada

Poverty in Grenada is linked to a number of different factors. With inadequate defenses against natural disasters, ineffective education and unprepared workers, poverty is “entrenched in the very fiber of the country.”

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, frequently threaten the small island. The last two hurricanes occurred in 2004 and 2005. Hurricane Ivan hit first and devastated the majority of Grenadian homes. A year later, Hurricane Emily swept through the area, furthering the damage not yet repaired from Hurricane Ivan. However, significantly fewer lives were lost, as the Grenadian people took important precautions that had been neglected during Hurricane Ivan.

Education and unprepared workers are two other causes of poverty in Grenada, and they go hand in hand. Without proper education, the youth do not have the necessary skills to get jobs that offer livable pay. The jobs that are available, mainly agricultural, do not appeal to the youth because of “perceived instability, [the youths’] lack of interest in physical labor and very low wages,” according to Garely.

It would be more beneficial for the Grenadian youth to work in the tourism sector, but, unfortunately, it requires skills that many residents lack.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Grenada

The government is making strides to alleviate many of the issues that stem from or cause poverty in Grenada.

While it currently lacks enough funds to be effective, Grenada does have “a system to place orphans and children with domestic problems with other families.” In addition, laws are in place to protect girls from sexual assault. However, boys still remain vulnerable.

The country has taken important steps to defend against natural disasters. Creating a plan for natural disasters became a priority after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Emily. The change was seen immediately in how the people of Grenada reacted differently to Hurricane Emily after experiencing Hurricane Ivan; “the rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when Grenadians took few precautions.”

While Grenada is still improving its ability to defend against natural disasters and internal issues such as violence, it has wonderful potential.

Abbey Lawrence
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in the Paracel Islands
The Paracel Islands is a group of more than 30 islands between the coastlines of Vietnam and China, also called Xisha Islands, the Hoang Sa Archipelago and West Sand Islands. The country is in the South China Sea and some have considered it a flashpoint for regional tensions in East and Southeast Asia. Along with the Spratly and Patras Islands, the maritime territory is “…at risk of becoming Asia’s Palestine…” said the outgoing Secretary-General of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. With this in mind, here are 10 facts about the living conditions in the Paracel Islands.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in the Paracel Islands

  1. Fishing grounds and potential oil and gas reserves surround the Paracel Islands. Although no one has done a reliable estimate on the area, many believe there is a significant hydrocarbon (the chief component in petroleum and natural gas) prize in the region. The mere suspicion of the potential value the islands may have had made China anxious about its occupation.
  2. According to international law, China has sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly Islands by discovery and occupation of said islands. While China faced Japanese aggression in 1930, however, France, as the colonial power in Vietnam, occupied some of the islands upon the argument that those islands were Vietnamese historical territories.
  3. The Japanese invaded the Vietnamese islands as an act of aggression towards China. It was not until the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and the 1952 Sino-Japanese Treaty when Japan renounced all rights to the Paracel Islands, as well as the Spratly Islands, Penghu and Taiwan to China. Because of this, the Paracel Islands are a huge source of international conflict. The People’s Republic of China has tried to keep the occupation of the islands, despite protests from the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Vietnam. In 2012, the People’s Republic of China declared a city named Sansha, located on Woody Island, one of the Paracel Islands, that administers several island groups. The People’s Republic of China is doing everything in its power to support its territorial claims.
  4. Although no one has calculated an exact number, the People’s Republic of China invests millions in the development of the Paracel Islands. More recently, Beijing revealed a $23.5 million contract for a coastguard ship to patrol the Paracel Islands. It has also made advancements in the living conditions on Woody Island.
  5. Woody Island is the most populated of the Paracel Islands with over 1,000 habitats and scattered Chinese garrisons on the surrounding islands. Most people living on the islands are soldiers, construction workers and fishermen. With the recent construction, China has built a school for the 40 children living on the island. It also has a hospital, a postal office, a supermarket and more.
  6. There are many concerns about the militarization of the South China Sea as reports of the presence of missiles on the islands, especially Woody Island, surge. China built a military installation on Woody Island with an airfield and artificial harbor. President Xi Jinping held a private two-day drill in the Paracel Islands as a show of strength in the South China Sea.
  7. There is a limited supply of fresh water on the islands. On most of the islands that China occupies, drinking water comes in barrels with other supplies from small boats, making it as scarce as fuel. Desalination plants have activated in the South China Sea but are not available to all. Many have had to improve their ability to sustain long periods of time without supplies, including drinking water.
  8. There are plans underway to open the Paracel Islands to tourism by granting visa-free travel. The travelers will be able to stay up to 30 days on the islands. For years, tourism was scarce in the islands due to international conflicts but construction has already begun for a tourist area. There is, however, a threat for allowing tourists onto the islands.
  9. One of the biggest sources of income for the habitats in the Paracel Islands are the surrounding fishing grounds. It represents a key part of the living conditions in the Paracel Islands. If tourism opens up in the area, fishing activities will be greatly reduced. Another problem has risen against the fishing grounds: the degradation of coastal habitats. The degradation of coastal habitats has been mostly due to the military bases in construction. Luckily, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme have partnered for the Implementation of the Regional Strategic Action Programme for the South China Sea. Along with rehabilitating the coastal habitats, one of its priority issues is the management failures with respect to the linkage between fish stock and critical habitats. The coastal reefs are a considerable part of the Paracel Islands because they also act as a defense.
  10. A major concern of the Paracel Islands is typhoon season. The islands experience a series of typhoons during the summer months. This natural disaster leads to instability in the islands and the reefs are a critical part in protecting the islands from major harm.

People have given little attention to the poverty the habitants of the Paracel Islands have been facing these past years. These 10 facts about the living conditions in the Paracel Islands should illuminate the subject so the archipelago can improve over time.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Antigua and Barbuda

With people inhabiting the islands as early as 2400 B.C., Antigua and Barbuda have a rich history. First conquered by Spanish and French settlements in the late 15th century, the islands were later established as an English colony in the 1600s and didn’t gain their independence within the British Commonwealth of Nations until 1981. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Antigua and Barbuda.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Antigua and Barbuda

  1. The government spends an estimated 2.5 percent of its GDP on education, with 91 percent of students enrolled completing the primary seven years of mandated education. Males are estimated to spend an average of 12 years in school, and females 13. Interestingly, the ratio of females to males continuing their education past secondary school is two to one.
  2. While the islands are technically independent, they still operate under a constitutional monarchy, meaning that British Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor-General Rodney Williams, is still their head of state. However, there is also a Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, and two legislative houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, which is permitted by the constitution.
  3. Antigua and Barbuda are both destination and transportation countries for human trafficking, both sex trafficking and forced labor. Reports of sex trafficking in the form of prostitution have been described as occurring in bars and brothels, while forced labor is not as easy to spot, often seen in domestic and retail sectors. While the islands are not known for making valiant efforts to eliminate human trafficking, improvements in cases being taken seriously have been made in recent years.
  4. Tourism is a huge source of the islands’ GDP, as is common in the Caribbean region. Making up 60 percent of the roughly $2.4 billion GDP, it should come as no surprise that 80 percent of the labor force is in the service industry.
  5. While colonized by the British, sugarcane became a massive export of Antigua’s. Slavery was used as a means to speed up the exportation process. After the emancipation of these slaves in the nineteenth century, many Antiguan inhabitants developed a desire for self-governance, while others wished to form likenesses with other Caribbean nations.
  6. Driving is the most common form of transportation in Antigua and Barbuda, with taxis used extensively, and many drivers even taking tourists on sightseeing excursions. Bus systems are in place but rarely used. Additionally, local boats and ferries run often, and there are flights between Antigua and Barbuda.
  7. Those native to the islands tend to be relatively healthy, with life expectancies for men at around 75 years, and females 79 years. 5.5 percent of the country’s GDP is spent on health, ensuring that about 91 percent of the population had access to proper sanitation centers as of 2011.
  8. While the unemployment rate across Antigua and Barbuda is 11 percent, those who have stable incomes have become accustomed to modern technology, and are relatively well established. In 2008, it was reported that 97 percent of households had televisions sets, and in 2013, for every 1,000 people, there were 1,271 mobile phone subscriptions.
  9. Aside from tourism, the main labor categories on the island are industry and agriculture. The main agricultural products include cotton, fruits and vegetables, sugarcane and livestock. The main industries include the obvious tourism, construction and light manufacturing of items such as clothing and alcohol.
  10. Antigua and Barbuda have no major international disputes and maintain fairly peaceful. They have a variety of export partners, including Poland, Cameroon, the U.S. and the U.K. They import mainly from the U.S. and Spain.

Bearing these top 10 facts about Antigua and Barbuda in mind, it’s easy to see why so many people are drawn to these Caribbean islands. With such a rich history to delve into, locals are eager to show off the culture and beauty the country has to offer. Without the romanticization of many tourist websites, these top 10 facts about Antigua and Barbuda give a brief overview of different aspects of the islands.

– Emi Cormier
Photo: Google Images