• Realizing the Dream: September’s Bread for the Preacher

    Did you know that each month the church relations department at Bread for the World produces a resource specifically for pastors? Whether you are searching for inspiration for a sermon you’re writing, or just a lectionary enthusiast, Bread for the Preacher is for you. After reading this introduction, explore this month’s readings on the Bread for the Preacher web page, where you can also sign up to have the resource emailed to you each month. By Rev. Gary Cook A…

  • Indian Farmers Facing Affliction

    Suicide can be defined as the act of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally by an individual driven to despair out of a complex web of motivations. It is estimated that more than a quarter of a million of Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last 16 years. Even while this figure is […]

    The post Indian Farmers Facing Affliction appeared first on The Borgen Project.

  • Home Gardens: Alleviating Hunger in Developing Countries

    Homestead gardening in developing countries is now being viewed as a key to alleviating hunger and providing a source of nutrition for millions of people in developing countries. For low-income families, the quantity of food they consume must also be supplemented by adequate nutrition; research conducted by the Lancet earlier this year concluded that malnutrition […]

    The post Home Gardens: Alleviating Hunger in Developing Countries appeared first on The Borgen Project.

  • Irrigation Could End Poverty

    By now, it is a well known fact that clean water is necessary for drinking and hygiene. About 1.1 billion people go without clean water every day and must rely on polluted or infected supplies to survive. Even more than that go without basic sanitation. But, water is not just for human consumption and cleanliness. […]

    The post Irrigation Could End Poverty appeared first on The Borgen Project.

  • Essay 4: Farmers: The Key to Ending Global Hunger

    The fourth essay in the Bread for the World series, called Development Works, is all about farmers solving problems. 

  • Reality Checks for High Level Panels

    Overcoming the dehumanization produced by a system of consumption, and reinvigorating love in every human being’s heart. Union and harmonious interaction in diversity are the…

5 Ways Bees Reduce Poverty

Bees Reduce PovertyBees are an essential part of global agricultural systems. Additionally, bees reduce poverty around the world as they are responsible for pollinating 80% of the world’s plant species, including 90 different types of crops.

Study by the FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) studied 344 plots of land in parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia. The plots revealed a positive correlation between the number of bees that visited a particular plot of land and its agricultural productivity. For small farms with a landmass of fewer than two hectares, the study concluded that farmers could increase their crop production by an average of 24% by increasing pollinator traffic.

The results of the FAO study could affect approximately two billion farmers worldwide. Because of their importance to agricultural production, increasing the number of bees on agrarian lands could improve global food security. Bees also provide a valuable way to reduce rates of poverty. Bees can be especially valuable to people living in rural poverty, a very important issue to address as approximately 63% of people in poverty worldwide live in rural areas.

5 Ways Bees Reduce Poverty

  1. Beekeeping helps households increase their income. Rural families living in regions with poor agricultural yields may struggle to make ends meet. However, raising bees can help these families earn more money. In addition to potentially increasing their annual crop production, bees produce honey and beeswax which families can sell. For example, Bees Abroad and the Poverty Abroad for the Poor Initiative taught farmers living in extreme poverty how to run bee farms. As a result of this training, 30 of those farmers went on to run their own bee farms afterward, which helped increase their incomes.
  2. Beekeeping creates opportunities for entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs use bee by-products to make commodities such as shoe polish, candles and ointments. More importantly, beekeeping presents opportunities for entrepreneurship, which helps people escape poverty and support themselves and their families. Entrepreneurs are finding ways they can use bees to reduce poverty and improve living conditions.
  3. Food insecurity and poverty are linked. Poverty is the main driving factor behind food insecurity worldwide. Across the world, roughly 80% of chronically undernourished people live in rural areas of developing countries, making food insecurity a particularly important aspect of ending rural poverty. Increasing bee populations can enhance food security by increasing crop yields. By improving food security, bees reduce poverty in a way that is especially beneficial to rural communities.
  4. Beekeeping is an effective form of occupational therapy. Occupational therapy helps people with disabilities accomplish goals such as working and attending school. People with disabilities are disproportionately affected by poverty, which makes addressing their needs critical to reducing poverty. Additionally, inaccessible work and education opportunities are major contributing factors to this problem, which occupational therapy can help address. Fortunately, beekeeping requires little capital and helps occupational therapy participants become financially independent, making it an effective form of occupational therapy.
  5. Protecting the global environment keeps people out of poverty. Environmental degradation can increase levels of poverty. For example, the loss of natural resources to environmental degradation leaves communities with fewer means to support themselves. However, bees are critical pollinators that support ecosystems and natural resources across the globe. Additionally, bees can even improve habitat restoration efforts. So, by preserving and restoring vital resources, bees reduce poverty.

Overall, bees provide unique benefits that have the potential to reduce global poverty. By garnering the help of pollinators, impoverished communities can rise out of poverty.

– Caroline Kuntzman
Photo: Flickr

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The Significance of USADF

The Significance of USADF
Congress established the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), which is an independent U.S. government agency. Its mission is very simple; to fund grassroots groups and entrepreneurs, as well as small and medium-sized businesses throughout Africa. The organization began in 1980 and has helped 7 million people since its origins. Here is some information about the significance of USADF.

About USADF

The significance of USADF is that it focuses on the impoverished while prioritizing people with specific needs such as troubled youth, disabled people and others from different minority groups, such as women. For every $10,000, 79 more people obtain access to electricity, and 25 more people more workers gain jobs. In the last five years, USADF has been a key factor of The Global Food Security Act by contributing $61 million that helped 3.4 million people in 20 African countries.

USADF aids community enterprises by providing grants of up to $250,000. This allows underserved people to participate in Africa’s development story.

USADF also works with communities to understand problems at the root in order to determine the most effective solution. Some of the problems USADF is attempting to deal with are food insecurity and unemployment.

The Significance of USADF in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest energy access rates, with only around half of its population having access to electricity. Approximately 600 million people do not have electricity while 890 million people must utilize traditional fuels so they can cook. USADF’s off-grid energy grants promote market-based solutions that connect people and businesses to electricity. Since 2014, more than 130 off-grid energy projects have received more than $11 million in order to provide people with energy access.

While USADF funds energy projects, it also invests in agriculture. Close to 57% of Africa’s off-grid population works in agriculture. As a result, USADF has worked with businesses in agriculture, in order to provide them with support and reduce food insecurity. For example, through its partnership with the Feed the Future initiative, USADF has implemented projects in six African countries.

Looking Ahead

On June 24, 2021, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) introduced a bipartisan resolution for the continued support of USADF. Since he came to Congress in 2018, Phillips has prioritized sustainable development and peacebuilding as a member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights, as well as the Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance. Now, he is demonstrating his active support of USADF.

“By focusing on grassroots projects and meeting real needs of people at the community level, the U.S. African Development Foundation has pioneered a successful model for development, garnering broad bipartisan support,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa who is co-leading this initiative.

This bill is crucial as it will dictate the future of a foundation that has helped millions of people. Fortunately, the future of USADF looks bright.

– Noya Stessel
Photo: Flickr

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The Hopes of The First Food Systems Summit

Food Systems SummitThe first global Food Systems Summit will take place on September 23, 2021, preceded by a three-day pre-summit in Rome from July 26 to July 28, 2021. The summit is part of the United Nations’ Decade of Action, in which the U.N. aims to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Goals of the Food Systems Summit

The Food Systems Summit will examine how food insecurity, climate and human conflicts intersect. According to the United Nations website, the summit has four main goals including:

  1. Establishing a clearer agenda to achieve the U.N.’s SDGs. This means creating action steps for all levels, from national governments to local representatives and from global companies to individual citizens.
  2. Opening up public discussion about food insecurity and creating more awareness.
  3. Formulating guiding principles for governments as they create their own plans to support the U.N.’s SDGs.
  4. Establishing a system of accountability, follow-up and review to ensure tangible progress.

Activists’ Immediate Demands

The summit has long-term strategic potential, but some activists have more immediate concerns as well. The summit comes at a time when food prices, job insecurity and overall global hunger are all rising. On April 20, 2021, more than 250 aid groups and organizations wrote an open letter to the United Nations demanding $5.5 billion in emergency food assistance funding.

Activists’ Criticisms of the Summit

Many activists have major concerns about the Food Systems Summit, particularly regarding who is involved in the program and the direction that the program aims to take for food production. Although small-scale food suppliers such as fishermen, farmers and Indigenous people provide the vast majority of the world’s food, they do not have a seat at the table at the summit. Many feel that the preparation process has not been transparent enough to allow small-scale producers to participate.

Additionally, other activists have concerns about how the summit will approach food insecurity. Many believe it focuses too much on technological solutions to food insecurity and that supporting other systems is necessary to return self-autonomy to people in poverty. Though new technology can play an important role, alternative solutions must undergo consideration as well. For example, agroecology draws upon historical, cultural and scientific knowledge of specific regions, ensuring more sustainable farming and preserving people’s cultural practices. Activists also worry that some high-tech solutions will tighten corporate control over developing countries’ food systems.

Looking to the Future

Though the Food Systems Summit has received criticism, it is still an important step as it will bring countries together to form a plan to address the pressing crisis of food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “Scientists agree that transforming our food systems is among the most powerful ways to change course and make progress toward all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” With collaboration among governments and citizens, the world can better tackle problems related to food consumption and production.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

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Panera Bread Fights World Hunger

Panera BreadThe Panera Bread Company is a café-style fast food restaurant that originated in the U.S. city of St. Louis, Missouri. Recently, the company made efforts to expand its success to help nonprofit organizations stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes donating unsold baked goods to hunger relief organizations and providing meals to children in Ohio. Not only does Panera Bread make a change domestically but the company has also begun expanding its focus to ending world hunger globally.

The Partnership

In March 2021, the World Central Kitchen (WCK) announced a partnership with Panera Bread in order to increase public understanding of the hunger crisis during the pandemic. The head chefs of the two organizations, José Andrés and Claes Petersson, produced a unique sandwich for Panera Bread to sell to further raise awareness of the partnership. Not only did Panera Bread extend its resources and kitchens to supply base support for the WCK but the restaurant chain also donated a portion of the profits made from each sandwich sold during two weeks in March to the WCK, generating approximately $100,000 for the organization. WCK used the donations to support its programs, which provide meals to the impoverished and train aspiring chefs from Haiti to become professional chefs.

How WCK Uses Donations

Following the 2010 earthquake that occurred in Haiti, José Andrés began to rebuild more than 150 community kitchens in Guatemala and Haiti, which led to the creation of the WCK, and later, the development of chef training and farmer education programs. The WCK has partnered with more than 2,500 restaurants, including Panera Bread. The WCK has provided more than 36 million meals to the impoverished domestically, however, the WCK also uses donations to support its international programs.

For instance, the WCK has trained more than 700 cooks dedicated to feeding students in countries such as Guatemala, Haiti, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. Additionally, 40 students graduate from the Haitian WCK Port-au-Prince culinary arts school each year, pursuing professional careers as chefs in restaurants and hotels.

Furthermore, the WCK’s central goal for its Food Producer Network is to eliminate food insecurity and assist communities in strengthening their skills to combat future disasters that may lead to food insecurity. Operating in Puerto Rico and Guatemala, the network was created following Hurricane Maria and partners with small food businesses, such as farmers and fishermen, to advocate for sustainable food systems and the use of locally-grown foods.

Most food products originate from agricultural farming, including meat, fruit, vegetables, milk and sugar. To further strengthen farmers’ skills and reduce food insecurity, WCK launched a program in 2020 called Apiculture for Farmers. Based in Puerto Rico, the program educates farmers on how beekeeping assists in crop pollination and honey production.

Working Toward a Common Goal

Panera Bread’s donations served to assist WCK in feeding impoverished children in Guatemala, Haiti, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras. Donations have also contributed toward training cooks, assisting aspiring chefs in graduating from the Port-au-Prince culinary school in Haiti, encouraging the consumption of locally-grown foods and educating farmers on the benefits of beekeeping.

Throughout 2020, WCK aimed to boost the restaurant industry to serve as a successful solution to community challenges, such as natural disasters and illnesses. Both Panera Bread and the World Central Kitchen operate under the same belief that delicious and fresh ingredients should be accessible to everyone, which motivates each organization to strive to make a positive change in their community while working to eliminate food insecurity globally.

– Lauren Spiers
Photo: Flickr

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How Crickets Reduce Food Insecurity in Zimbabwe

Reduce Food Insecurity in ZimbabweEsnath Divasoni is changing the game when it comes to how the world thinks about food and sustainability. The 33-year-old rural Zimbabwean “edible-insect farmer” is promoting the cultivation of crickets and other types of insects as a source of nutrition and sustenance that could help reduce food insecurity in Zimbabwe and across sub-Saharan Africa.

Divasoni’s Education

Divasoni’s journey to becoming an insect farming expert is a long and impressive one. Thanks to CAMFED, a pan-African non-governmental organization that campaigns for marginalized females to receive strong educations, Divasoni was able to attend secondary school. CAMFED also enabled her to later attend EARTH University in Costa Rica.

She was the first person from her village to travel abroad to receive an education. EARTH University served as a jumping-off point for Divasoni, who studied agricultural sciences at the school in San José, Costa Rica. There, she discovered the potential of insects in combating food insecurity in developing nations.

Divasoni grew up collecting insects in plastic bags and picking worms from trees around her family’s farm. Loving the taste of insects herself, she began to research how she could turn bugs into a reliable food source. She has since received funding from The Resolution Project, a nonprofit that funds, mentors and supports young leaders with global, innovative ideas, for her project that she calls Jumping Protein.

Why Crickets?

The practice of harvesting crickets brings with it a plethora of benefits, the primary benefit being nutritional value. More protein-rich than beef or chicken and low in fat, 100-200 grams of crickets can feed and nourish a family of four to five. With Divasoni’s market rate of $1 for a 50-gram pack, Divasoni’s cricket endeavor brings in an income to reduce poverty all while aiding those suffering from food insecurity in Zimbabwe.

Unlike locusts, since crickets are incapable of flight and have many natural predators, increasing the number of crickets in a local ecosystem does not pose any biological risks. Locust plagues can decimate crops, a phenomenon well-known in Africa, but with crickets, the risk level is much lower. Cricket farming is both cost and space-efficient, and in addition, cricket excrement can be used as fertilizer.

Divasoni’s cricket farm is now up and running. She has around 20 plastic washing tubs, which she uses as feeding containers for the insects. The bugs take between five and eight weeks to mature, at which point Divasoni collects their eggs for the next cycle before harvesting around one kilogram of crickets per tub.

The Potential Impact

Food insecurity in Zimbabwe is a pressing issue, especially in the country’s rural areas. In 2019, estimates from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee calculated that roughly 5.5 million people in Zimbabwe’s rural areas were food insecure during the countries peak “lean season,” which occurs between planting and harvesting periods.

Through insects, Divasoni hopes to alleviate the hardship of food insecurity that afflicts millions who grow up in rural villages. Since the project is in its earlier stages, data is limited on the full impact of the Jumping Protein initiative. There is plenty of room and opportunity for growth across Zimbabwe and beyond. The “global edible insect market” is estimated to reach close to $8 billion by the year 2030.

Divasoni is multiplying her impact through teaching with the help of CAMFED. She is one of the core trainers in the CAMFED Agricultural Guide program, which has led hundreds of training sessions in eight rural districts across Zimbabwe. These sessions specifically focus on women, empowering them with innovative farming techniques like insect farming. All of the resources needed to start a farm like Divasoni’s are available locally for many Zimbabwean farmers.

Looking to the Future

Practices and innovations like cricket farming could revolutionize the entire concept of agriculture in areas with high food insecurity in Zimbabwe. Thanks to various nonprofits that invest in global aid in underserved areas, Divasoni was able to make Jumping Protein a reality. Through the perfect blend of agricultural education, local knowledge and commitment to her community, this project has the potential to feed an entire nation.

– Sam Dils
Photo: Flickr

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How Affordable Irrigation Technology Helps Farmers

How Affordable Irrigation Technology Helps FarmersSupPlant, an Israeli firm that installs sophisticated irrigation systems for villages facing water scarcity and low yields, wants to improve its system and spread its work to even more people in need. As such, the organization is pioneering affordable irrigation technology by cutting down on the amount of infrastructure its systems need to function.

The Old Ways

Reliable data is crucial to getting the most out of an irrigation system. While practical experience can help some of the world’s most impoverished farmers improve their yields, there is considerable room to improve from the uncertainty of relying on intuition. SupPlant was built on recognizing the potential of making these improvements with the accuracy that only sophisticated data retrieval equipment can provide.

Efforts to improve agricultural income with innovative new techniques have been successful under the startup model of installing small sensors to relay data like climate conditions or plant health. SupPlant’s customers are mainly from farms in South Africa and Venezuela, with additional demand from Australia and Mexico.

Farmers Review Africa reports a successful curve on implementing this system, with a 1,200% increase in demand for SupPlant’s solutions in 2020. However, when it comes to accessing the 450 million farmers that subsist on two hectares or less of productive soil, SupPlant encountered a problem.

Financial Barriers

Until recently, SupPlant has struggled with the cost of serving rural communities. Installing hardware is very expensive for farmers, so wealth is necessary to benefit from this system. Low-income farmers with small parcels of land have “no ability to afford knowledge and technology that is super expensive and very high-end,” says SupPlant CEO Ori Ben Ner in an interview with The Media Line.

If the data from these physical sensors is a fundamental aspect of SupPlant’s agricultural assistance, then providing affordable irrigation technology must preserve this data while eliminating the very hardware that provides it. After $19 million in fundraising from an array of venture capitalists, SupPlant is providing exactly that.

How Does it Work?

Rolling out affordable irrigation technology is a balancing act that requires finding ways to increase efficiency without compromising the benefits of full implementation. The new system adapts its older iteration as the foundation for its improvements. The steps to accomplishing this are as follows:

  1. Cloud computing forms the backbone of this endeavor. Thousands of small farms can grow the same crops under similar conditions. Thus, the data gathered from sensors in a single farm can benefit other farmers after it is uploaded to an easily accessible database.
  2. Collecting this data is only part of the process. Vast amounts of data have limited utility if farmers lack the training to interpret it well enough to make informed decisions. SupPlant employs algorithms based on artificial intelligence to read a constantly updating sensor feed to provide legible recommendations on how to manage irrigation for specific crops and environments.
  3. Once the data is ready, it is up to farmers to do what the algorithm suggests. Many of these directives may be as simple as adjusting water levels based on how much one of the 32 crops in the database requires to stay healthy and resilient. Climatic data may also factor in, reducing water use if there is a high probability of rain.

The net result is not entirely accurate because the data cannot reasonably account for minor variations between different farms. Broad utility at an affordable price nonetheless offsets these considerations in light of what affordable irrigation technology can still accomplish.

Results on the Ground

Even though prohibitive cost leaves only 2% of the world’s farmers able to install sensors on their land, these sensors accumulate enough data to meet the needs of affordable irrigation technology for the other 98%. “We increase yields starting at day one by 20-30% while saving 30-40% water use,” says Ben Ner on the impact of widespread implementation.

Earlier cases of SupPlant’s success in 2020 provide a definitive outline for the potential of making its agricultural assistance available to low-income brackets. South African farmers who could afford these services leveraged superior knowledge to squeeze an extra 41% out of their lemon harvest, while Mexican farmers transformed a 15% reduction in water usage to a 20% increase in their mango yield.

What is Next for SupPlant?

With affordable irrigation technology now a reality through sensorless data, SupPlant aims to breach the poverty line that stopped so many farmers from reaping its benefits. Short-term goals for 2021 deal with expanding services to Kenya, and the company expects 500,000 new farmers by September 2021. More ambitious goals for 2022 anticipate two million new users of sensorless irrigation, counting many African countries and India as the next beneficiaries.

– Samuel Katz
Photo: Flickr

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Pros and Cons of GMOs in Africa

gmos in AfricaScientists created the first genetically modified organism or GMO in 1973, and the FDA approved a GMO product for the first time in 1982. GMOs are crops that have undergone genetic alternation for a specific purpose, such as weather, pest or weed resistance. Such traits can produce larger quantities of crops and make them resilient in different climates.

However, GMOs raise concern for many people, countries and organizations. While they are commonplace in the U.S., Europe largely avoids GMOs. Proponents of GMOs claim that they can help end global hunger, but opponents claim that they will damage both the planet and human health.

In Africa, GMOs are beginning to become a part of modern agriculture, but as of now, only in small ways. As of 2019, just five of Africa’s 47 countries allowed GMO crops to be grown: South Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Egypt and Nigeria. Larger GMO initiatives in Africa could help feed the continent, but resistance to GMOs is large enough that Africa is beginning to use them only slowly and cautiously.

Pros of GMOs in Africa

Pests called stem borers are responsible for a loss of 400,000 tons of maize in Kenya yearly, or about 14% of total maize. Genetically modified maize called Bt maize can make maize crops more resilient to stem borers. Researcher Hugo de Groote says Bt maize will help small farmers in particular because pests affect them the most.

“The major surprise was that, contrary to the usual claims, Bt maize is very likely to benefit poor farmers and small seed companies,” De Groote reported to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

As of 2020, Kenya is near accepting domestic production of Bt maize. The country is also seriously considering allowing GMO imports, which would aid the nearly 1.5 million Kenyans facing acute hunger. However, experts say that in order for Kenyans to benefit from GMO crops long term, they need to start growing them on their own soil.

Many African countries struggle with drought, crop diseases and pests that cause low crop yields. Some GMOs exist to help with these problems, and they could become a part of Africa’s agricultural future. For example, following in Nigeria’s footsteps, Ghana is considering approving the commercialization of some pest-resistant GMO crops including Bt cotton.

Cons of GMOs in Africa

Hesitation to adopt GMOs in Africa stems from concerns for food safety, ethics, environmental risks, loss of biodiversity and lack of regulations. Furthermore, Africa exports a large number of agricultural goods to European nations, and many European consumers prefer to avoid GMOs. Because of this, the majority of African trading partners stick to traditional crop varieties.

GMOs are still a relatively new concept. They may create a risk of long-term environmental damage such as infertile land, biodiversity loss and new GMO-resistant pests. Furthermore, there is some evidence that GMOs can cause cancer and allergies. The American Cancer Society has not found convincing evidence of GMO-caused cancer, but it cautions that more research is necessary.

There are reasons both to support and to suspect GMOs in Africa and across the globe. More research will continue to unveil their benefits and consequences in Africa.

Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The post Pros and Cons of GMOs in Africa appeared first on The Borgen Project.

Pros and Cons of GMOs in Africa

gmos in AfricaScientists created the first genetically modified organism or GMO in 1973, and the FDA approved a GMO product for the first time in 1982. GMOs are crops that have undergone genetic alternation for a specific purpose, such as weather, pest or weed resistance. Such traits can produce larger quantities of crops and make them resilient in different climates.

However, GMOs raise concern for many people, countries and organizations. While they are commonplace in the U.S., Europe largely avoids GMOs. Proponents of GMOs claim that they can help end global hunger, but opponents claim that they will damage both the planet and human health.

In Africa, GMOs are beginning to become a part of modern agriculture, but as of now, only in small ways. As of 2019, just five of Africa’s 47 countries allowed GMO crops to be grown: South Africa, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Egypt and Nigeria. Larger GMO initiatives in Africa could help feed the continent, but resistance to GMOs is large enough that Africa is beginning to use them only slowly and cautiously.

Pros of GMOs in Africa

Pests called stem borers are responsible for a loss of 400,000 tons of maize in Kenya yearly, or about 14% of total maize. Genetically modified maize called Bt maize can make maize crops more resilient to stem borers. Researcher Hugo de Groote says Bt maize will help small farmers in particular because pests affect them the most.

“The major surprise was that, contrary to the usual claims, Bt maize is very likely to benefit poor farmers and small seed companies,” De Groote reported to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.

As of 2020, Kenya is near accepting domestic production of Bt maize. The country is also seriously considering allowing GMO imports, which would aid the nearly 1.5 million Kenyans facing acute hunger. However, experts say that in order for Kenyans to benefit from GMO crops long term, they need to start growing them on their own soil.

Many African countries struggle with drought, crop diseases and pests that cause low crop yields. Some GMOs exist to help with these problems, and they could become a part of Africa’s agricultural future. For example, following in Nigeria’s footsteps, Ghana is considering approving the commercialization of some pest-resistant GMO crops including Bt cotton.

Cons of GMOs in Africa

Hesitation to adopt GMOs in Africa stems from concerns for food safety, ethics, environmental risks, loss of biodiversity and lack of regulations. Furthermore, Africa exports a large number of agricultural goods to European nations, and many European consumers prefer to avoid GMOs. Because of this, the majority of African trading partners stick to traditional crop varieties.

GMOs are still a relatively new concept. They may create a risk of long-term environmental damage such as infertile land, biodiversity loss and new GMO-resistant pests. Furthermore, there is some evidence that GMOs can cause cancer and allergies. The American Cancer Society has not found convincing evidence of GMO-caused cancer, but it cautions that more research is necessary.

There are reasons both to support and to suspect GMOs in Africa and across the globe. More research will continue to unveil their benefits and consequences in Africa.

Sarah Eichstadt
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The post Pros and Cons of GMOs in Africa appeared first on The Borgen Project.

Improving the Quality of Life in Vietnam

quality of life in VietnamThe South Asian country of Vietnam has experienced vast improvements in its quality of life over the years. Proof of these improvements is abundant. In 2016, the Happy Planet Index Report found that Vietnam was the happiest country in Asia. Life expectancy in Vietnam also reflects a positive trend in the quality of life for the country. Life expectancy is at 75.5 years, which is especially impressive when considering the U.S. life expectancy of 77.3 yearsThese are only a few examples of the positive improvements in quality of life in Vietnam. Thanks to the efforts of the Vietnamese government and other supporters abroad, Vietnam has been able to make many other improvements.

Better Healthcare

One indicator of improving the quality of life in Vietnam is healthcare. The maternal mortality rate in Vietnam has reduced four-fold over recent years. The number of children under 5 years old dying has also reduced by half. Progress like this has become possible due to better access to reliable healthcare for Vietnamese people. However, work still needs to occur in many areas.

For example, 100 children still die from preventable diseases every day in Vietnam. Thankfully, UNICEF is providing help to further improve healthcare and, as a result, make the quality of life in Vietnam better. UNICEF provides its services to healthcare personnel throughout Vietnam so that they can provide better care to the Vietnamese people. 

Better Education

A better education system is yet another way of improving the quality of life in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government has seen to this by using numerous methods. One is by holding Vietnamese teachers to a high standard. Teachers in Vietnam must display their skills and knowledge at the standard the country outlines. Teachers also need to display professionalism.

The government of Vietnam takes inspiration from other Asian countries that have exceptional education systems. The education in Singapore and South Korea has especially influenced Vietnam’s school curriculum.

Decreasing Poverty for Minorities

One of the most important ways that quality of life in Vietnam is improving is the reduced poverty amongst its ethnic minorities. Much of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities live in the highland areas of Vietnam. These places are often rural, and about 72% of Vietnam’s low-income citizens live there. Luckily, the poverty rate for this group of people declined by 13% in 2018

Many solutions exist to help further improve the economic situation for the minorities living in the highland areas. One solution is for the ethnic minorities in the highlands to grow crops that will sell for more money than common ones. Many of the people living there are already farmers, but they grow basic crops. Crops like coffee and rubber have higher monetary value, so farmers could start growing these.

All of these improvements help the quality of life in Vietnam in numerous ways. Better healthcare means longer lives for Vietnamese people, better education will lead to better job opportunities and alleviating poverty will help ethnic minorities live better lives. 

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr

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Solar Power Plants in Senegal

solar panels in SenegalIn Senegal, close to a quarter of the total population lacks access to electricity, with rural communities enduring the least access. In May 2021, two new photovoltaic solar plants opened in Kael and Kahone, two towns located in Western Senegal. The plants will provide electricity for 540,000 citizens at a low cost. The addition of the solar power plants form part of the World Bank Group’s Scaling Solar program and are funded by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), European Investment Bank and Proparco. The project estimates that more than 400 jobs in the towns benefit from the existence of the new solar power plants in Senegal. Because Senegal mainly relies on imported oil for electricity, solar power plants offer a more reliable and sustainable green energy source that costs less. Access to electricity is critical for the economy and businesses, improving people’s daily lives in several ways.

Poverty in Senegal

With roughly half of the total population living above the poverty line, significant improvements are needed to lift more people out of poverty. Roughly 75% of the Senegalese population depends on agriculture as their income source. Another primary industry in Senegal is mining. Senegal’s economy rises and falls, following global trends of prices. When export prices fall, farmers suffer the adverse effects since their incomes decrease. Many Senegalese people lack access to education, healthcare and other essential services. As a result of economic hardships, many people migrate from Senegal in hopes of finding better work.

Electricity in Senegal

Access to electricity plays an important role in the economy and contributes to reducing poverty. Senegal relies heavily on oil imports for fuel. Roughly 80% of Senegal’s energy is “oil-based.” The prices of imported oil fluctuate, and recently, prices have been high. The combination of no access to electricity, power cuts and limited electricity infrastructure takes a toll on the economy, especially businesses. Individuals also face hardships in their homes with a lack of lighting and energy to power appliances.

The Solar Power Plants

The solar power plants are located in Kael and Kahone, two small towns that rely on agriculture and have high poverty rates. Lack of electricity access is higher in rural areas similar to Kael and Kahone in comparison to urban areas. The new solar plants in Senegal bring opportunities for employment, improved conditions in workspaces and homes and affordable electricity costs.

Solar power plants in Senegal form part of the strategy for increasing access to electricity, focusing on regenerative sources. Senegal’s government wants to become an emerging economy by 2035 and the energy sector is one of the major components of Senegal’s growth. Rural areas remain the most challenging areas to install power grids. However, with low incomes, rural people struggle to afford the high costs of electricity. Solar energy from the new plants costs less than four euro cents per kilowatt-hour, making the energy more affordable than oil-based electricity and more accessible to rural areas with high poverty rates.

Attracting Investment and Igniting Economic Growth

These renewable energy projects attract potential investors to Senegal, giving the country even more opportunities to increase sustainable energy, including hydro, wind, thermal and off-shore natural gas. Senegal is also home to “the largest solar farm in West Africa,” with many private home-installed solar power systems. More micro-financing options and interest in infrastructure improves economic growth and increases access to electricity for those in low-income areas.

Although poverty rates are high in much of rural Senegal, one solution is growing the energy sector, which will improve the economy. The inability to access electricity puts a major constraint on economic growth. Solar power plants in Senegal bring people much-needed electricity at a low cost. Renewable energy sources are critical as the world is depleting its oil reserves. Bringing sustainable energy solutions to people living in poverty positively affects development indicators such as “health, education, food security, gender equality, livelihoods and poverty reduction.” Senegal is on its way to success as more and more countries switch to earth-friendly energy.

– Madeleine Proffer
Photo: Unsplash

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