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Libraries Helping Communities Around the World
Libraries are often the cornerstone of communities. Libraries offer people free internet, resources, events, workshops and books. These resources allow many people to pursue education. In the United States, more people have easy access to libraries than in developing nations. However, there have been libraries helping communities all over the world find creative ways to access the resources a library can provide.

The Zambia Library Service

The Zambia Library Service aims to bring more provincial and public libraries to the country, to improve the libraries in schools and colleges, and to provide more digital resources to educators. This library now has a collection of more than 60,000 books, despite struggling to receive government support. The library service started six provincial libraries that serve about 400,000 individual members and 850,000 institutions every year. Furthermore, it established the Zambia Knowledge Center in 2011 to help provide Zambia’s educators and students with a wealth of online sources from around the globe.

The library continues to advocate for the expansion of copyright laws so that more people can receive access to videos, e-books, audiobooks, journals and websites. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zambia Library Service aims to provide new opportunities for community members to engage with the library. It hosts movie nights, events for International Girl Child Day and a Girl’s Club.

Bangkok’s The Library Train Project

Police Major General Jarumporn Suramanee started The Little Train Project in Bangkok in 1999. He converted two old train cars into a library and education center. These cars have a school area for classroom lessons and a library with books, computers and a television. Suramanee initiated this project because the number of homeless children in the city had been steadily increasing. As such, it was designed to give children an opportunity to receive an education, a place to stay during the day and options for a better future.

Bangkok’s library train features lessons in typical academic subjects and classes on topics such as manners, sports and gardening. Though children are not required to attend class, many enjoy coming to the library to use the resources it has to offer. Furthermore, the library has aided its patrons in other ways, such as helping individuals find a job or helping homeless children find families who want to take them in. It is also intentionally located in the park so it is as accessible as possible.

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos

Norway’s The Bokbåten Epos was a boat that aimed to give books and other cultural resources to small, rural, fjord communities. The ship visited 150 small villages in less than a month after it was built in 1959. The boat was designed to hold 6,000 books, but it often circulated 20,000 books at a time. Furthermore, the ship would often bring other events such as concerts and plays—usually the only cultural events these villages would see in a year.

Unfortunately, The Bokbåten Epos shut down in 2020. This upset many Norwegian citizens. However, the government hopes to find a solution that is more cost-effective, environmentally friendly and that can access more areas. The Bokbåten Epos could also serve as a model for other libraries committed to helping communities.

Zimbabwe’s Donkey-Drawn Libraries

A nonprofit called Rural Libraries and Resources Development Programme (RLRDP) started a mobile library project to help provide more resources to Zimbabwe’s rural schools in 1990. These schools struggled to be acknowledged and receive the needed funding. These 15 mobile libraries can hold up to 1,000 books each. Additionally, four donkeys pull these books along to increase the distance the mobile libraries can travel.

These mobile libraries work with communities to tailor services to people’s needs, such as using bikes to deliver books or making more stops if there are elderly patrons or patrons with disabilities. Additionally, some of these carts have solar electricity and internet access that allow access to e-books and educational resources, as well as make it possible to hold movie events. These mobile libraries have helped nearly 1,600 people and have become an integral part of communities.

Many people who live in impoverished, rural areas do not have access to books or other services that libraries provide. These innovative libraries are focused on helping impoverished communities and have successfully helped thousands of people. Efforts like these around the world have the power to transform education in developing countries.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

Photo: Flickr

3 Ways the UN is Helping Zimbabwe Provide Better Health Care For AllThe country of Zimbabwe has a poverty index of approximately 38%, making it one of Africa’s most impoverished countries. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse, with the virus disproportionately impacting the poor. The novel coronavirus is threatening Zimbabwe’s already-fragile health care system, which has been afflicted by past bouts of HIV and AIDS. The United Nations is working closely with the World Health Organization to educate the citizens of Zimbabwe on COVID-19 and ensure that the country’s residents follow the most up-to-date safety guidelines.

The COVID-19 relief and prevention efforts are representative of a small part of Zimbabwe’s ongoing effort to better its health care. The rural-urban divide marked by the rich-poor split has grown largely along the lines of access to health care and proper medical needs. As such, Zimbabwe and humanitarian organizations, such as the United Nations, are working on ways to better health care for all citizens in Zimbabwe.

3 Ways the UN is Supporting Zimbabwe Provide Better Health Care for All

  1. Fighting misinformation with awareness — In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, combatting misinformation has become a top priority. The UN is working carefully to connect local journalists with government officials to ensure that people are well educated and have relevant information. In addition, the UN is strongly advocating for more broadcast programs geared toward the elderly, disabled and poor as this demographic is most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus and any other pertinent diseases. In keeping with this strategy, the UN brought together 55 Zimbabwe news outlet representatives and journalists to create a strategy to effectively distribute public health information. The move is a large step toward reaching the country’s 14 million residents.
  2. Creating role models — Wearing masks and exercising sanitation practices, such as hand-washing, are a few of the best ways to fight the spread of any disease. The UN aid groups encourage Zimbabwe news outlets to advertise these simple disease-prevention methods in a variety of ways. Firstly, journalists receive protective gear from employers, as well as provide protective equipment to interviewees to set an example for their viewers on television. Additionally, older children who are properly educated in handwashing techniques subsequently teach their peers in village societies. These methods collectively avoid putting increased strain on Zimbabwe’s hospital system, which many doctors argue is badly in need of reform. Currently, the government of Zimbabwe has shown an unwillingness to increase services, staff pay or important funding for doctors. However, recent strikes by health care workers have turned the tide against government inaction and encouraged intervention.
  3. Spreading music — Amid isolation in the time of the COVID-19 and lockdowns, more people are looking to music to alleviate their concerns. Zimbabwean performers have organized virtual concerts through UN support to provide listeners with relief from the struggles of COVID-19. The UN Communications Group oversees these events and plays a large role in their proper functioning. The Communications Group brings together more than 25 UN agencies in Zimbabwe. The message these music groups send has a specific purpose as well. They encircle the cause of ending the pandemic as quickly and effectively as possible while bolstering a sense of national unity.

With new government intervention to increase aid for public health and the tireless work of United Nations’ assistance, Zimbabwe’s health care system is slowly on the rise. The COVID-19 pandemic has only strengthened the resolve of the country to better health care for all. By fighting misinformation, elevating role models and spreading unity through love and music, Zimbabwe has shown how simple initiatives can lead to better living standards and improved national health.

– Mihir Gokhale
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

Women’s Rights in ZimbabweLike many other African nations, there has been an ongoing battle for the women in Zimbabwe to see equal opportunity and protections as men. Traditionally, women are considered dependents of men. Because of this historical reliance, women often find themselves in abusive or harmful relationships and the marriage of girls younger than the legal age often comes from necessity. As of 2019, cases of marriages of girls under 15 have risen to 5.4%, despite laws classifying the act as illegal. However, recent developments evidence that an increase in women’s autonomy is possible in the southern African country. This has come both in the form of laws and activist organizations taking steps to advance women’s rights in Zimbabwe. Forward progress could help to ensure equality and protection for girls and women in the nation.

New Law Ensures Divorced Women a Fair Share of Property

Traditionally in Zimbabwe, in marriage, property ownership rights are to the advantage of males and the husband is considered the owner of the property. This secures a position wherein women are solely dependant on men and sole ownership of property by a female is rare. While men and women are just as likely to enter joint ownership deals, 22% of men are sole landowners compared to only 11% of women.

This could all begin to change after a decision by the Zimbabwe Supreme Court that entitles both partners an equal share of their property upon divorce. Under this decision, women in Zimbabwe can now choose to divorce partners without the risk of giving up all possessions and property that is rightfully theirs. Women in violent or abusive relationships now have more of a chance to move on and provide for themselves and their children after divorce. This large step in women’s land rights signals that women will more commonly be considered independent, countering traditional beliefs in Zimbabwe.

No Expulsion for Pregnant Female Students

In the face of school closings during the COVID-19 outbreak, the Zimbabwean Government is trying to ensure all female students feel safe to return to school once they reopen. Many young women in Zimbabwe find themselves victims of sexual abuse, therefore unexpected pregnancy is not uncommon. Often this will lead to women seeing no options other than early marriage and dropping out of school. In 2018, a study found that nearly 13% of school dropouts were due to unexpected pregnancy or marriage. However, schools have also been known to expel female students due to pregnancy.

In August of 2020, Zimbabwe restrengthened an amendment stating that it is illegal to expel female students due to pregnancy. The amendment, introduced in 1999, has not been strongly backed and many schools continue to punish students rather than give them the further support they need. This insurance to a proper education gives many women an option beyond becoming dependent on an educated man and the opportunity to become more self-reliant. It is also intended for the increased support of female students to reduce the dropout rate. This is a step in the right direction away from reliance on early marriage for the survival of many poor women in Zimbabwe.

18+ and Roots Africa Work to Protect More Women

Several organizations are working in the nation to advocate and work toward increased women’s rights. One such group, 18+, has focused on lowering child marriage in the country as a whole. A study found that in 2019, nearly 25% of young women were married before the age of 18 years old. 18+ is using Zimbabwe’s media to get its message across and is working to provide young women with information and resources on reproductive health and female empowerment.

Roots Africa is another advocacy group working to advance women’s rights in Zimbabwe. Having seen some success in lobbying for legal amendments in the past, the group currently has its sights set on review of the Zimbabwean Termination of Pregnancy Act. This would allow more women access to safe abortions in Zimbabwe. Currently, the only way to legally have an abortion is if the mother or child has a health risk or the mother can prove the pregnancy was a result of rape. Roots Africa has been known to fight the normalcy of domestic abuse against women, supporting legislation such as the Domestic Violence Act in Zimbabwe.

The Future of Women’s Rights in Zimbabwe

The work of women’s rights groups in the country promises a better future for Zimbabwean women. Along with continued support from the Zimbabwean Government, this could mark a turning point for women’s equality in the nation. Though it is currently too soon to note any effect of these new laws, if they are correctly enforced, there will be a significant advancement in women’s rights in Zimbabwe.

– Matthew McKee
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in ZimbabweZimbabwe has high poverty rates with more than half of the country’s population estimated to be living in abject poverty. Child poverty is prevalent in the country as children account for 48% of the population. There are notable efforts being made to address the issue of child poverty in Zimbabwe.

A History of Poverty

Zimbabwe, once known as Rhodesia, attained independence from British rule in 1980. Following the country’s independence was intense political warfare stemming from tensions between the then newly instated president, Robert Mugabe. This period resulted in the deaths of more than 20,000 Zimbabweans. These tensions would continue in Zimbabwe for the next two decades. Multiple uprisings occurred throughout the 1990s and early to mid-2000s, with citizens protesting for a litany of issues, including increased food prices, land ownership and financial plight. Economic turmoil has steadily increased since the country’s independence in 1980. The country broke records with one of the highest rates of hyperinflation in 2008, peaking at 98%. Zimbabwe has had intermittent financial rebounds since this time, however, the country has continued to struggle with stabilizing its economy.

State of Affairs in Zimbabwe

Agriculture plays a prominent role in Zimbabwe’s economy. According to the FAO, 60-70% of the country’s population depend on agricultural-related affairs for employment. The industrial sector relies on agriculture heavily, providing 60% of raw materials. Agriculture also accounts for 40% of export earnings and makes up 17% of the country’s GDP. Droughts have threatened the livelihoods of many Zimbabweans. The country is currently experiencing the most severe droughts in its history. A significant proportion of the population that is dependent upon farming and agriculture for both income and food are placed in jeopardy. Food shortages have become a prevalent issue in Zimbabwe with children being adversely impacted.

UNICEF reports that 4.8 million Zimbabwean children live in poverty and 1.6 million children live in extreme poverty. The most prevalent issues for impoverished children in Zimbabwe include malnutrition, education, sanitation and access to potable water. The FAO reported that less than 10% of Zimbabwean children between 6-24 months of age consume a minimally acceptable diet.

UNICEF Addresses Child Poverty

UNICEF has made several efforts to address child poverty in Zimbabwe. A few noteworthy efforts by UNICEF include providing 6,740 mothers with infant and young child feeding counseling as well as supplying more than 700,000 children with vitamin A in 2016.

UNICEF partnered with U.N. Women and the UNFPA in 2016 and the organizations in cooperation with the Zimbabwean Government were able to successfully support the development of the National Action Plan and the Communication Plan to End Child Marriages. UNICEF has also supported grassroots efforts in Zimbabwe. One being the development of the National Case Management System (NCMS) which provides child protection services, referrals and HIV care and treatment to vulnerable populations throughout Zimbabwe.

The NCMS provided nearly 24,000 Zimbabwean children with legal support in 2016. UNICEF also showed its support in the multi-sectoral system that accompanied the National Case Management System. This multi-sectoral system employs officers specifically tasked with providing support for children who have been victims of physical and sexual abuse. These efforts are major milestones that have contributed to improving the state of child poverty in Zimbabwe.

The Future of Child Poverty in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe has had extensive turmoil in its history and tremendous economic turbulence. But, there still remains potential for growth and development. In this development, children need to be prioritized. With the assistance of organizations, child poverty in Zimbabwe can be reduced.

– Imani Smikle
Photo: Flickr

Schools in Zimbabwe Can No Longer Expel Pregnant SchoolgirlsZimbabwe is a country in southern Africa. It is now illegal for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls in Zimbabwe. This may sound unusual to people from western civilizations. However, it is very common for schools to expel pregnant girls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Countries in sub-Saharan Africa Commonly Expel Pregnant Schoolgirls

It was a common practice in Zimbabwe for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls. It is also common in many African countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania, and Togo. In fact, there are no re-entry policies or laws that protect pregnant schoolgirls’ rights to education in 24 African countries. Some schools in Africa go as far as conducting mandatory pregnancy tests on schoolgirls. This poses a significant challenge for women on the African continent since the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world are found there. Some pregnant schoolgirls resort to procuring unsafe abortions while others drop out upon learning that they’re pregnant.

Part of the problem is that African Union member states centered discussion about this issue around the idea that pregnancy outside of marriage is wrong. These opinions stem from broad interpretations of religious teachings. The view is that if they allow pregnant schoolgirls the opportunity to continue their education, it would normalize pregnancy outside of marriage.

Causes and Consequences of Adolescent Pregnancy

While many use the morality argument to stigmatize pregnant schoolgirls, many factors are outside of these girls’ control. In Africa, the main causes of adolescent pregnancy are sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, poverty and lack of information about reproduction and sexuality. Other main causes are lack of access to birth control and family planning services. Child marriages also play a large role in adolescent pregnancies in Africa. Approximately 38% of girls are married before the age of 18 and 12% are married before age 15 in sub-Saharan Africa.

Since adolescent pregnancy usually stops a girls’ education, poverty is a determinant and a consequence of adolescent pregnancy. Low levels of education can confine girls to low-paying jobs and low socioeconomic status. Additionally, there are socioeconomic consequences and health risks associated with adolescent pregnancy. In Africa, when compared to women aged 20-24, adolescents under the age of 15 are five to seven times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth.

The Benefits of Countries Making it Illegal for Schools to Expel Pregnant Schoolgirls

There are many benefits of countries making it illegal for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls. For starters, education leads to a reduction in poverty. A girl’s future earning potential can increase by up to 25% from only one year of secondary education. On a larger scale, the average gross domestic product of a nation rises by 0.3% when that nation’s female education rate rises by one percentage point.

Educated women tend to have children who are healthier and more educated than children with uneducated mothers. A child is 50% more likely to survive past age five if they are born to a mother that can read. A research found that a child’s life expectancy increases by an average of 0.32 years for every year their mother goes to school. Women who received a quality education were “more than twice as likely to send their children to school.” Therefore, providing women with education has the potential to create a cycle of adolescent education. The education of women can also lead to a reduction in domestic violence. There are connections between fewer years of education and higher risks of intimate partner violence. When women are more aware of their risks and rights, it is easier for women to keep themselves safe.

Now it’s Illegal for Schools to Expel Pregnant Schoolgirls

Due to COVID-19, concerns over the effect of school closures on sexual abuse and unwanted pregnancies have increased. As a result, officials in Zimbabwe have made it illegal for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls. The goal of the legal amendment is to reinforce a 1999 guideline. A guideline that did not sufficiently protect girls’ right to an education. This amendment is arguably overdue since 12.5% of Zimbabwe approximate 57,500 school dropouts were due to pregnancy or marriage reasons in 2018. Women’s rights campaigners have stated that they believe this measure is vital for tackling gender inequality in the classroom. In addition, it will stop many girls from deciding to drop out of school.

Hopefully, Zimbabwe’s overdue amendment will influence other African countries to protect women’s right to an education and make it illegal for schools to expel pregnant schoolgirls.

Araceli Mercer

Photo: Flickr

Economic Empowerment for Women in ZimbabweIn the Shona language, the word “Hamba” means “go.” And this is the exact mission of Mobility for Africa’s new initiative. More specifically, its “Hamba” motorbikes promote economic empowerment for women in Zimbabwe especially those living in rural areas.

A Speedy Solution

The motorbikes are electric-powered three-wheelers or e-tricycles. They are sturdy enough to help Zimbabwean women with farm and domestic work, and reliable enough to transport those in need of healthcare facilities. Mobility for Africa rents out the motorbikes to groups of up to five women. The entire group pays $15 a month for the Hamba, and charging the motorbike’s lithium-ion batteries at a station only costs between $0.50 and $1.

Mobility for Africa’s website lists three key goals: to empower women living in rural Africa through transportation; to improve their quality of life and that of their families; and to create a more sustainable future by developing transportation built on renewable energy.

Economic Empowerment for Women in Zimbabwe

Physical isolation from roads and economic centers can make rural life challenging. The Hamba allows Zimbabwean women to do the following activities, which previously they could not do, or could not do without great difficulty:

  1. Transport produce to more distant markets. The ability to sell their farm products more easily allows women to increase their income. The Hamba allows them to save time and energy reaching their destination.

  2. Collect essential items for the women’s families. These items include medicine and other supplies that are necessary for preventing the spread of COVID-19.

  3. Complete domestic work such as transporting firewood or water. By saving time on tasks like these, women have more opportunities to earn an income or pursue an education.

  4. Transport people to healthcare facilities. This includes both ferrying pregnant women to clinics so they do not have to give birth at home, and taking COVID-19 patients to receive medical attention.

As of June 30, Zimbabwe had only reported 574 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and seven deaths caused by the virus. Despite these low numbers compared to many other countries, the country’s lockdown has had a negative impact on people’s income—especially the income of people working in the informal sector. This includes many women. These economic difficulties make opportunities like the ones the Hamba provides even more important.

The Bigger Picture

According to estimates from the World Bank, extreme poverty in Zimbabwe increased from 29% in 2018 to 34% in 2019. That’s an increase of one million people and the World Bank expects that these numbers will continue to grow through 2020.

The situation is especially dire in rural areas. There, 76.3% of children find themselves in “abject poverty,” and many struggle to find enough to eat. The recent drought brought on by El Niño has contributed to this crisis, and now the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to make matters even worse.

According to the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, Zimbabwe’s food security situation was already critical before the pandemic. With lockdown measures and restricted movement, household incomes have dropped, and more of the country’s population has become food insecure. This grim picture makes expanding economic opportunities essential for Zimbabweans, especially those in rural areas where physical isolation keeps them from many resources.

Overall, the Hamba motorbikes provide many opportunities all geared toward economic empowerment for women in Zimbabwe. With the Hamba, Zimbabwean women are increasing their income, saving time on domestic labor and working to keep their families safe during the pandemic. These are the kinds of results needed to enable them to rise up out of poverty.

– Emily Dexter
Photo: Flickr

Drought in Zimbabwe

There has been a severe, ongoing drought in Zimbabwe for the past few years. Zimbabwe is a particularly sensitive country to drought. Because it already has issues with food security, low amounts of rain and other water sources make the situation even more difficult. Due to the fact that most agriculture in Zimbabwe relies on rainwater, the crop harvests in the region have suffered severely as a result of the drought. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, nearly 5.3 million people in the country (about a third of the country’s full population) face food insecurity due to low rainwater killing crops. With about 63 percent of people in Zimbabwe living below the poverty line, they will feel the impact of this drought the most.

Drought conditions are worse than ever

Temperatures as of late have been several degrees higher than average. The years 2015-2018 were the hottest ever recorded around the globe. These hotter, drier conditions have effected Zimbabwe. The heat intensifies the drought’s impacts on crops and livestock, resulting in a decrease in available food. The main crop which Zimbabwe relies on is maize. Typically, Zimbabwe’s annual maize consumption is about 1.8 million tons. However, due to droughts, the harvest in 2019 may be closer to 1 million, which is nearly half of the usually available amount. Experts say this could be the worst drought Zimbabwe has faced in over 30 years, with the country seeing 15 to 45 percent less than average rainfall.

Zimbabwe Flash Appeal program and other solutions

To combat this issue, the UN has launched the Zimbabwe Flash Appeal program, working to provide 234 million USD in aid. The program offers much-needed resources like food, water, sanitation and overall protection to over 2.2 million people in the country. With food prices increasing as a result of new governmental policies, people will be needing this aid more than ever.

There are other potential solutions to this issue, as well. Dispersing silver iodide into clouds (effectively “seeding” them) causes the clouds to thicken. This makes it more likely for the rain to occur, as water droplets are super-cooled and made heavier. Silver iodide mimics the chemical structure of ice. This causes other water droplets that are already cold enough to freeze to attach themselves and fall as rain.

Zimbabwe is one of 56 countries in the world that uses cloud-seeding technology, budgeting about $400,000 for it in 2018. The science is new and uncertain, and whether it effectively alleviates drought conditions is still disputed. However, it could provide one option to help correct the drought in Zimbabwe.

Another avenue to explore is diversifying crops and livestock in the midst of changing environmental conditions. One adaptation undertaken in some regions is an increased reliance on poultry livestock, such as quail and other indigenous birds.

Despite challenges, local farmers are working together to overcome the challenges in the area due to the drought. Economic and environmental crises are severe, but with efforts by the UN and local people in the country, there is still hope amid the drought in Zimbabwe.

-Jade Follette
Photo: Pixabay

Education and Technology in AfricaAccess to education and literacy are two of the most important tools for positive growth in developing nations. Each new educated, literate and technologically-savvy generation can bring with it a host of innovative solutions and boundless potential for future development. However, in rural or impoverished parts of Africa, access to education – and especially technology – can be limited, making it difficult for the millions of people living there to receive these key resources.

Connecting Rural Africa

Intuitive, driven thinkers are determined to change this; the introduction of the XO Laptop and the Inye computer tablet has changed the face of education in Africa with technology, while the WorldReader program is making literacy more accessible than ever with e-readers. Advancements like this help fuel the growth of developing countries from the inside out by starting grassroots dedication to education that can completely alter the future of impoverished nations.

One of the essential first steps for transforming education in Africa with technology is connecting rural villages to the internet, a vital resource when it comes to both teaching and learning. Internet access isn’t guaranteed in villages without the luxury of cables and Wi-Fi, which meant other solutions had to be explored.

The XO Laptop

Two pieces of technology emerged, providing limitless potential to impoverished children throughout Africa. The first is known as the XO Laptop, a compact, inexpensive personal computer with both built-in internet connectivity as well as a host of other features that make it ideal for use in rural areas. The product has surged in popularity in Kenya.

The Inye Tablet

For adolescent users with more advanced technological understanding, the Inye Computer Tablet is the solution helping to bridge the tech gap between first and third-world countries, such as its origin country of Nigeria. At a price just over 250 dollars, it provides competitive features to mainstream wireless devices for a fraction of the cost. The Inye tablet uses dongles to connect to the internet rather than a wireless connection, making World Wide Web access affordable and easy. The Inye tablet has also opened the market for local programmers to develop apps for needs specific to their communities, often featuring education modules focuses on HIV, clean water, and youth education.

The WorldReader Project

Finally, literacy has gone from dream to reality for millions in impoverished countries worldwide with technological advances and the initiative of NGOs like the WorldReader Project, which provides e-readers stocked with curated libraries to schools in developing nations. WorldReader programs are tailored based on age group and reading experience, and the long-lasting e-readers they rely on can be used in direct sunlight. WorldReader has taken action in nearly 50 countries and expanded its base to include nearly 10 million readers since 2010.

The revolution to improve and expand education in Africa with technology is already underway, and growing every day. With new innovations like the Inye Computer Tablet and WorldReader e-readers becoming available to millions worldwide, lives are changing for the better, and the future is bright for Africa.

– Emmitt Kussrow
Photo: Flickr