Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sylva's Aide Decries Widespread Poverty in N-Delta

from all Africa

Vanguard (Lagos)

By Samuel Oyadongha

Special Adviser to Bayelsa State Governor on Political Affairs, Dr. George Fente, yesterday, lamented what he described as the widespread poverty in the rural enclave of the predominantly riverine state blaming past administrations for failing to tackle the menace.

Speaking at a two-day political enlightenment programme in Yenagoa, Dr. Fente noted with sadness that the third tier of government, the pivot of democratic structure has been reduced to perform the duties of salary payment alone with the various communities abandoned to their fate.

Dr. Fente, who said the essence of any responsible government is to strive towards providing good government through effective machinery and facilities that can impact positively on the lives of the governed, however lamented the Bayelsa situation saying his recent tour of the councils speaks volume about the spate of neglect at the rural enclave.

His words, "Past administrations in the state have tried their best to bring about general wellbeing of the average Bayelsans. Sadly enough, the perceived attention paid by previous governments did not seem to have helped much in reversing the hitherto poverty, hunger, starvation and general underdevelopment which had been the lot of the people over the years.

"This unfortunate situation came to the fore during my two weeks tour of the eight local government areas of the state. The report of my painful findings at the third tier of government speaks volume about the spate of neglect at the rural communities.

"The local government administration, the fulcrum of democratic system, has been reduced to perform the duties of salary payment alone while the various communities have been left to their fate."

The governor's aide who reiterated the determination of the present administration to turn around the fortunes of the state said the enlightenment programme "is aimed at showcasing the sustainable political culture that is capable of providing the necessary ingredients and foundation for Bayelsans to fashion out a political future that will enhance and facilitate democratic growth and dividends for the people."

Dr. Fente used the opportunity to call on Bayelsans with ideas that would further help lift the state from its present position to the number one economically, politically and socially urbanized state in the country to rally around the present administration.

He however expressed optimism that the outcome of the workshop will no doubt help the state government and by extension the Niger Delta region to formulate viable policies and programmes that will contribute to political and industrial growth, peace and stability in Bayelsa and therefore end the embarrassing social vices of hostage taking, pipeline vandalisation and unprovoked violence by the youths.

WTO trade talks slanted against poor nations: Brazil

from the Khaleej Times

GENEVA - The long-running Doha round of trade talks cannot succeed unless developing countries get a fair deal reflecting their needs, Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said on Wednesday.

Amorim told a news conference that the talks were still slanted too much in favour of rich countries.

‘I can’t come to a place in which everyone’s sensitivity is taken into account and my own sensitivity is not taken into account,’ he said. ‘That’s not fair and one thing that we’ll be demanding is fairness.’

The Doha round has made faltering progress on the complex and technical rules governing world trade. But the key outlines of any deal are clear.

The United States would cut its trade-distorting farm subsidies and the European Union would cut its farm tariffs, both creating more opportunities for developing countries on the global market for agricultural produce.

In return developing nations would cut tariffs on industrial goods to open their markets to companies from rich countries.
Big gains

As an emerging agricultural superpower, Brazil stands to be one of the big gainers of the Doha round, launched six years ago to free up world trade and help developing countries export their way out of poverty.

But Amorim said the benefits for developing countries were still not clear in the current negotiations, based on compromise texts issued in July by the chairmen of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) talks in agriculture and industry.

‘With the European Union the way the formulas are being calculated we don’t know what we will get. I know what I won’t get—I won’t get opening because the tariff cuts will still be very limited,’ he said.

If rich countries are allowed to treat only 4 percent of products as sensitive, or reserved for special treatment, that would be enough to exclude almost all the products Brazil is interested in selling, he said.

Rich countries say major developing countries like Brazil are resisting meaningful cuts in their industrial tariffs.

But Amorim said that a deal would involve Brazil cutting many of the actual industrial tariffs it applies, not just the maximum potential levels countries agree to bind in the talks.

‘Even when you take the applied rates ... we are offering more in NAMA than the rich countries are offering in terms of trade creation as a proportion of our total trade,’ he said, referring to industry by the WTO term Non-Agricultural Market Access.

Amorim was speaking after meeting the WTO ambassadors of the Group of 20 (G-20) developing countries, which groups major players like China, India and South Africa as well as Brazil.

Brazil has invited G-20 ministers to meet in Geneva on Nov. 15. Amorim said he hoped this would ensure their voice was heard in the revised texts that the WTO negotiating chairmen are issuing in the middle of next month.

Russia Opens Market to Poorest Countries

from All Africa

Inter Press Service (Johannesburg)

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Africans looking to do business in Russia's burgeoning market can now export goods under new preferential trade agreements.

According to a document from the ministry of foreign affairs, seen by IPS, goods from African countries are eligible for preferential tariff treatment.

Products from least developed countries (LDCs), including those in Africa, will be exempted from import duties. This encompasses the bulk of Russia's imports from African states.

The Union of African Diplomats in the Russian Federation called the Russian initiative to exempt African imports from duties commendable and regard it as a step that will strengthen Russian-African trade relations.

"The initiative, which is part of Group of Eight (G-8) compliance measures and corresponds with the World Trade Organisation's Doha development agenda, will create new opportunities in Russian-African trade which is still very low, compared to other regions," head of the Union of African Diplomats in the Russian Federation, Dr Churchill Ewumbue-Monono, told IPS.

Mesag Mulunga, chief trade policy analyst in regional and bilateral trade relations at Namibia's ministry of trade and industry, suggested that African governments "encourage their exporters to take advantage of such market opportunities, first by making them aware of the existence of such preferences, as well as by supporting them to promote their products in such markets."

As Namibia is not classified as an LDC, its exports to Russia do not qualify for the new benefits, he noted.

Still, preferential trade arrangements accorded by developed countries to developing countries or small economies, including Namibia, create an opportunity for these countries to develop their industries and improve their agricultural production.

"This will inevitably contribute to these countries' abilities to create employment and effectively fight the scourge of poverty, hunger and disease. The challenge for the beneficiaries essentially lies in ensuring that their production base becomes competitive and sustainable, even beyond the expiry or erosion of such preferences," he told IPS.

Some are more sceptical about the benefits. On the question whether or not tariff preferences will help African countries to engage in trade with Russia, the answer is "it depends", said Phil Alves, a researcher who tracks "Development through Trade" at the South African Institute of International Affairs at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Among others, said Alves, it depends on whether the preferences are for goods in which African countries have an advantage.

Overall, the track record of trade preferences granted to Africa is poor, as shown by the poor uptake of trade preferences provided by the European Union and the U.S.. "I see no reason to expect a Russian or Chinese version to be any more effective," Alves cautioned.

Ewumbue-Monono is more optimistic, regarding other trade initiatives like the U.S.'s Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the EU's Everything But Arms (EBA) initiative, as well as preferential trade promotion measures by Canada, China and Japan as competition to Russia's initiative.

He pointed out that AGOA, for instance, has increased U.S. trade with sub-Saharan Africa by 242 percent between 2000 and 2006.

However, "it is important to know that market access measures like the Russian initiative are not enough to increase Russian-African trade. Even more important are trade facilitation incentives, ranging from transportation to simplification of import and export procedures," Ewumbue-Monono added.

Moreover, Russian-African trade could be enhanced through investments in capacity-building, market development and industrial cooperation that would enable the local transformation of products in Africa before exportation with added value, he noted.

These issues have been the object of international trade cooperation declarations by the various conferences of African trade ministers in, among others, Kigali (2004), Cairo (2005) and Nairobi (2006), and could provide a better platform for Russian-African trade promotion.

Franklin Cudjoe, a research fellow at Imani University in Accra, Ghana, told IPS that developed countries present bilateral agreements as ensuring tariff-free and quota-free access for African products to rich markets but frequently contain the caveat that African states should open their markets in return.

Economically, African governments and businesspeople should compare deals and use offers to leverage better deals. "If this happens, it would help African economies if products could be exported at lower duties, which would free up money for better education infrastructure, better roads and good healthcare delivery," Cudjoe said.

Preferential agreements can be beneficial as long as they are on a quid pro quo basis, Cudjoe told IPS.

Dr Andrew Reed, a professor of international economics at Moscow's University of Touro, told IPS: "One of the most interesting aspects of the transitional economy in Russia is that until the state defines the relationship it ultimately wants to have with the private sector, it is hard to judge whether individual initiatives such as this one are really consistent with the overall strategy, or just another ad hoc expedient".

A key question is whether practical steps will be taken to reform the bureaucracy in order to transform it from a "woefully inefficient control structure" to a more modest facilitator of private sector activity, he commented.

Reed said it is hard to imagine many good reasons for foreign companies to operate in Russia, other than the underdeveloped state of the market for consumer goods concentrated in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the future potential that may exist but is yet to be unlocked.

Poverty - Still Wearing a Feminine Look

from All Africa

This Day (Lagos)

On October 18, above 1,800,000 Nigerians stood up against poverty, as part of a global call. A record 38 million people worldwide observed the anti-poverty call, eclipsing the 23.5 million figure for 2006. Analysts insist women remain the worst victims of poverty. Abimbola Akosile analyses a key Millennium Development Goal from a local perspective

The 2007 International Poverty Day provided another opportunity to examine the state of poverty and the progress made so far made in efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.

This is more significant as the world crosses the mid-point between September 2000 when 189 world leaders under the United Nations Millennium Summit signed to commit themselves to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.

The eight goals include halving extreme poverty and hunger, eliminating gender inequality, environmental degradation, and HIV/AIDS; improving access to education, health care and clean water and sanitation; and calls for global partnerships on development.

At a joint conference organised by Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) in collaboration with Oxfam in Abuja as part of activities towards the global Stand-Up against poverty campaign by civil society, an intriguing picture emerged.

The widespread belief is that despite government's efforts under the much-publicised 7-point agenda and the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) the eight Millennium goals are far from being met.

Analysts insist that poverty affects women in a multifaceted way more than men; and that government has largely failed in its poverty reduction efforts.

The stand-up campaign was to compel government to tackle poverty and accelerate economic growth and human development for all, as encapsulated in the MDGs.

Key civil society organisations working on poverty reduction and promoting of women's right used the event to collectively speak out on poverty issues, relate their experiences and build public awareness of the negative and multifaceted impact of poverty on women, including proposing urgent measures necessary to address these challenges.

The organisations include: Women Advocates and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Gender and Development Action (GADA), Women Environmental Programme (WEP), ActionAid Nigeria, Women's Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All (CSACEFA), Women's Aid Collective (WACOL) and Oxfam.

Representatives of participating organisations related their experiences on how poverty manifest in the lives of women they work with in such thematic areas as education, environmental and economic rights, violence against women and women's access to justice, political empowerment and legal justice, HIV/AIDS and human right.

Participants noted that poverty is a major obstacle to realisation of women's human rights and one of the most surreptitious forms of violation of such rights. The increasing feminisation of poverty is linked to women's unequal situation in the labour market, their treatment under social welfare systems and their status and power in the family, they said.

They noted that the National Bureau of Statistics estimate that 75% of the 54.4% of Nigeria's 140 million population who live below poverty level, are women, is unsustainable and unacceptable.

In a presentation on 'Women in the Agriculture Sector and Poverty', Oxfam GB's Programme Coordinator, Essential Services and Women in Leadership, Kemi Ndieli, noted that experience has shown that women and children undertake the most tedious, backbreaking work in agricultural production.

Besides, she said they have little or no access to the earnings they contribute to the household. Even the little that women earn go towards the essential needs in the home like food, clothing, shelter, school, health etc.

She added that women suffer more from problems of accessing agricultural support services and inputs such as fertilizer, improved seeds and extension serves. She also identified limited access to credit by women and girls due to formal banking and credit institutions who insists on collateral often not available to women for cultural and legal reasons, as well as the very high interest rates.

Another demonstration of gender inequalities and injustices to women, she said, is in the classification of certain crops as 'women' or 'men' crops in agricultural production and marketing; so called based on the prices they attract.

As such, a crop may 'transit' from a 'women's crop' status to a 'men's crop' when it becomes a 'cash crop'. Women are quickly excluded from such a market and left to the less lucrative crops, Ndieli said.

Also, Executive Director of WARDC, Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, noted that the greatest threat to political empowerment and legal justice for women is poverty, alongside factors such as culture, ideology, pre-determined social roles assigned to women and men and often negative media portrayal of women.

Others are unemployment, illiteracy and limited access to education, the dual burden of domestic task and professional obligation, ignorance, lack of access to information and effects of violence against women.

She disclosed that although the representation of women in the legislative organs of government at state and national levels has improved from about 4% in 2003 to about 9% in 2007, the figure still falls far below the 30% affirmative action, with the result that decisions on how national resources are shared still do not enjoy meaningful input from women.

As a result, gender gaps are visibly widespread in rights, access to and control of resources, in economic opportunities and political voices and access to gender justice within the legal system. The implication of this is that the disparities in rights thus constrain the set of choices available to women in many aspects of life and this profoundly limits their ability to participate in or benefit from development.

Those who spoke at the forum testified and gave statistics on how poverty affect women, where only 34% women as against 66% men access conventional loan facilities.

They also maintained that un-employment, limited access to education, inadequate housing, food, health care, safe and healthy environment, clean water, the dual burden of domestic task and professional obligation, ignorance and lack of access to information, promotes violence against women.

Although Article 43 of the Nigerian Constitution guarantees every Nigerian citizen the right to acquire and own immovable property any where in the country, available records show that over 90% of registered land and property are men (women's access to land is usually through matrimonial or parental affiliation to men).

Out of the estimated 7.3 million Nigerian primary school-aged children who are not in school, 4.3 million (representing 62%) are girls. The national net enrollment ratio is estimated to be 56% for boys and 44% for girls.

Speakers noted that the MDGs sum up the rights, needs and aspirations of women and Nigerian citizens as well. Though global in nature, the goals, they said, embodies the people's day-to-day concerns and the achievement would mark a turning point in the lives of millions of Nigerian women and indeed the whole of Africa who are currently living in extreme poverty.

They therefore proposed a number of policy and programme towards eradication of poverty based on sustained growth, social development, environmental protection and social justice which requires the specific involvement of women in political, economic and social development, as they are strategically placed in families and communities to spread the benefits of poverty reduction initiatives to all.

They called for demonstrated political will by government to commit to and substantially implement the National Poverty Elimination Project, the National Economic and Empowerment Development Strategy and NEEDS 1 & 2, Millennium Development Goals by 2015, with special emphasis in addressing gender dimension of poverty.

Participants sought strategic partnership between government and non-governmental organisations in implementing poverty alleviation initiatives to guarantee impact of the benefits of such initiatives at community levels; and innovative, community driven initiatives that promote women empowerment.

Enforcement of implementation of the policy on gender mainstreaming and development of a monitoring and evaluation system to measure the progress and impact of developments in realisation of the aspirations of Nigeria's National Gender Policy and international regional instruments especially CEDAW and the African Union Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women and the Solemn Declaration on Gender by African Heads of Government were also suggested.

There were calls on all stakeholders to mainstream a gender perspective in all housing, water resource, sanitation and waste management programs and projects; and the creation and funding by governments at all levels of social safety nets for vulnerable women particularly widows, aged and rural women.

Free legal aid services should be provided for women by various tiers of government (LGA/State and the Federal government) in the event of violations of rights and the extension of the mandate of the Legal Aid Council to core interests areas affecting women's access to justice was described as a panacea too.

The Federal Bureau of statistics was enjoined to maintain gender disaggregated data of households and poverty line; and to fast track gender budgeting that focus on economic empowerment of women and addressing inequities.

To the participants, communication of appropriate information through channels acceptable to women is crucial for poverty reduction; while community radio initiatives must be encouraged through public and private partnership.

Government at all levels were called on to give special focus to adult non-formal education and basic education of good quality so that women can benefit from schooling; and to pursue the anti-corruption campaign with more vigour.

No doubt, women focused anti-poverty programmes are the surest ways to lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty as they are better placed to spread the effect to children, families, communities, and the country.

It is hoped that in the years ahead, governments, individuals and organisations will ponder these options to help lift Nigerian women out of the doldrums of poverty.

The International poverty Day should not be turned into a hallow ritual, and the fast-approaching terminal date for the realisation of the eight MDGs should serve as a warning to spur quicker action among all stakeholders.

Any effort geared towards making life better for women in Nigeria has a corresponding ripple effect which will in turn ensure better livelihood for the girl-children, youths and other disadvantaged groups. It is a task for all.

Government bows to pressure to boost aid for Burma

from the Guardian

Tania Branigan, political correspondent

The government has promised to double the amount it gives in aid to Burma after coming under pressure from MPs, but will still provide only half the funding the Tories have pledged.

Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, announced Britain's support for health, education and humanitarian support schemes would rise from £9m this year to £18m by 2010.

But the Conservatives immediately attacked the "disappointing" increase and pledged to raise aid four-fold if they won the next election, in line with the recommendation of a recent Commons report.

Andrew Mitchell, the shadow development secretary, said he was disappointed by the government's failure to act on the international development committee's advice and promised the Tories would quadruple funding by 2013.

He said: "Cambodia is receiving £12m; Vietnam, a country that is storming out of poverty, is receiving £52m from the British taxpayer; and China, which had a trade surplus last month of $24bn, is receiving £40m this year and, I think, next year. We do not think that that set of priorities is correct."

The GDP per capita is only $1,027 in Burma and 15 million of its 52 million citizens are believed to live on less than $1 a day.

All aid is delivered through the United Nations or non-governmental organisations rather than via the military regime, which last month suppressed peaceful protests by monks and pro-democracy demonstrators.

But the Conservatives point out that Department for International Development figures show Burma gets one of the lowest levels of international assistance. In 2002, it received £1 per person in 2002, 10 times less than EU aid to Zimbabwe.

Zoya Phan, an exiled Burmese human rights campaigner who works with the Burma Campaign UK, said he hoped the Tory commitment would "ramp up the pressure on Gordon Brown to do the right thing". Ministers argue that increasing funding must be done with care because of the problems in delivering aid when it cannot be channeled through the regime.

Mr Alexander said yesterday: "Doubling UK aid for Burma will allow us to help more children go to school, treat more people suffering from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV, and tackle humanitarian needs. We will also continue to support civil society groups addressing the development needs of Burma. All our work is monitored carefully to ensure it reaches those most in need.

"The military regime must take this opportunity to embrace national reconciliation. If they are willing to undertake the fundamental reforms sought by their people, then the international community will consider further financial and political support."

That would be likely to include a significant increase in international aid, debt write-offs and support for trade and investment as well as backing for political reform.

This year's funding includes a one-off contribution of £1m to deal with humanitarian problems arising from the human rights protests.

Foundation Partners With SMEDAN On Poverty Reduction

from All Africa

Leadership (Abuja)

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) is to work in partnership with an Abuja-based foundation to reduce poverty.

Mrs Adejoke Roberts, Coordinator, Daughter of Zion Foundation, made this known to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

She said that the two organisations would run "motivational programmes on poverty reduction".

"Our focus will be service to humanity through wealth creation to check the scourge of unemployment.

"The vision is in line with the present administration's seven point agenda which is aimed at making life better for the people," Roberts added.

She said that "government cannot do it alone, so the foundation vision tallies with the global move, which is also in line with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)".

"If poverty is tackled all other goals will fall in line which include HIV and AIDS, education, gender equality and reduction of child mortality," Roberts added.

Roberts said that the foundation in partnership with SMEDAN advised and taught women on how to discover their talents to be self sustaining.

"We lend money ranging from N10,000 to N100,000 to the women without interest to start their businesses.

"We send women to the National Centre for Women Development to acquire skills on catering and fashion designing for a period of one year.

"And we buy machines and ovens for them to start their businesses," she said.

VIDES volunteers teach needy around the world

from My San Antonio

Valentino Lucio

At the beginning of the school year, Andrea Cisneros moved into her new home on the grounds of St. John Bosco School on the West Side. The 22-year-old volunteer lives there with the Salesian Sisters as part of the Volunteers International for Development Education Service (VIDES) program.

After graduating from the University of Delaware in May, Cisneros knew she wanted to volunteer her time to help children in need. After applying to various programs throughout the world, she found the right fit teaching underprivileged kids in the fifth grade in San Antonio.

"I knew when I graduated from college that I wanted to do volunteer work," Cisneros said. "I don't get paid for my service here, but the sisters make sure I get what I need."

"I knew a lot of people that went on to work at high-paying jobs after graduation," she said. "I wouldn't want to trade places with them. I am so inspired by the young kids I teach. And to me, that is fulfilling."

In 1987, the Salesian Sisters started the VIDES program in Italy. During a visit to Rome, Sister Mary Gloria Mar, a former teacher at St. John Bosco, learned about the program and brought its "inspirational message" back to San Antonio. In 1997, she co-founded the first VIDES office in the United States at the school.

"From the beginning, it has been an incredible program," Mar said. "I think young people want to make a difference in the world and help people in need."

The VIDES program has 67 offices in 29 countries, including two offices in the United States — in San Antonio and Kenilworth, N.J. Volunteers, chosen for their individual talents, can decide to stay at their destinations anywhere from one month to two years. People applying to the program are between 18 and 35 and choose their volunteer destinations from more than 50 nations.

Unlike many other mission projects, VIDES not only helps feed, educate and shelter the less fortunate; it also offers vocational training so the people helped can provide for themselves in the future.

"A lot of the kids we help will go from eating trash to attending college," Cisneros said. "Now that's a miracle."

Before the volunteers relocate, they must go through a training program administered by Mar, who teaches them how to deal with cultural differences and poverty. She said she loves her job because she gets to meet so many "beautiful spirits" when they come to train or when she tags along on a mission trip.

"This is the most beautiful job I have ever had," Mar said. "These young people give me life. I have received so much and I want to share what I have."

Another volunteer says he feels the same way.

Paul Alvarez, 32, is currently on a mission trip in Sudan. The former elementary school teacher for Northside Independent School District packed his bags at the beginning of the month and set out on his four-month volunteer mission.

He is stationed in El Obeid in western Sudan. His journey has brought him face to face with poverty.

"Poverty is not a choice to the majority of people who live here," Alvarez said. "It is the only thing that they know."

"Something that I have seen here is that people share their poverty," he said. "As Americans, we give out of our excess, what we have left over. I've come to see people here give out of what they need — out of their necessities."

In El Obeid, Alvarez works to help supply a training camp for 400 displaced youths from the Nuba Mountains and Darfur. Although he hasn't had enough time to get to know the natives because of the language barrier, the stories he shares with those back home in weekly e-mails support his reasoning for being there.

One such story tells of four boys who arrived at the camp in El Obeid on Oct. 23. The trip usually takes five days, he said, and many of the kids arrive on foot. As the children were about to settle in at the camp, one of the boys heard that the Janjaweed, a government-backed militia, attacked and killed six people in a camp, called Kalama, where his family was living. The boy did not confirm whether his family was affected by the attack.

"With such extreme poverty and devastating effects of war, the people here are hopeful," Alvarez said. "When there is no hope, this is a crucial moment to be more hopeful. It is easy to be hopeful when things are easy, but most difficult when things are hard, such as they are here.

"Being here has been difficult to get used to," he continued. "I have come to understand that I have to forget about who I was in the states because that doesn't matter while I'm here. In a certain way, I have to lose myself in order to find myself. It has been a difficult task to do.

"I don't think I am here to change things by implementing my ideas but supporting others who live here."

Local fair trade store opens

from the Charleston City Paper

Radical Retail: Will a new shop awaken Holy City shoppers to fair trade consumerism?


Inside the newly opened fair trade store, Global Awakenings, Maren Anderson looks at the children seated around her and asks, "Everything in here is made by?"

"Hands!" the group of mostly five- to 10-year-olds shout back.

To which Anderson, the owner of the King Street shop, then asks, "Which takes more?"

"Time!" the children yell.

"So they deserve more?"


It's simple for a child to understand what's fair, but for adults, after a lifetime of hearing people tell us that "life isn't fair," our hearts harden and we sometimes forget what true fairness is. Which is probably why many of us ignore the fact that all those cheap goods we buy at the local Mega-Lo-Mart were made by unseen hands, belonging to underfed people living on paltry wages in third-world countries.

However, the growing fair trade movement seeks to ensure that those far-off laborers get paid the wages they deserve by urging retailers to purchase goods from co-ops controlled by artisans and farmers, not from those companies who seek to exploit their hard work for a hearty profit.

As a former third-grade teacher at Goodwin Elementary in North Charleston, Anderson often told her students, many of them poor by average American standards, about her time teaching in an "off the map" village in Costa Rica. "There was no electricity or hot water, so no lights or computers, and the floor was dirt," she recalls. "It was one of the ways I'd pump them up, to explain to them that, 'You are so fortunate,' because a lot of times they didn't feel that way."

Anderson says she could see in the children's eyes that they got it and realized she wanted to share that with an even larger audience. With the help and generosity of family and friends, she secured a spot on upper King Street and spent the summer waiting tables, saving money, and renovating the space. She's been open for a month and works daily as the store's only employee.

Global Awakenings' inventory comes to Charleston through co-ops all over the world. These co-ops pay artisans half the value of their products in advance and arrange the international shipping. After Anderson sells an item, she sends money back to the co-ops, who then redistribute payment to the artisans.

Items in Anderson's store range from wind chimes made from bamboo and recycled television antennas to trendy-looking handbags sewn from cloth and foil candy wrappers. It's like a museum where you can take the exhibits home. Each display is accompanied by pictures and descriptions of the artisans. A rack of brightly dyed linen shirts include the maker's signature on the tag, a far cry from the "Inspected by #42" card you might pull from a new pair of Carhartts.

"The retail aspect of this is not my forte, and I'm having to learn," says Anderson. "I want to talk to every person that comes in about fair trade and environmentally friendly products, but I'm trying to adhere to the fact that some people just want to shop and look around."

Education and community are clearly the store's bottom line. In November, Anderson's hosting a program by Mary Baker, a recently returned Peace Corps volunteer from Guatemala, to talk about the humanitarian issues the nation is facing.

"The people in my village work for virtually nothing, less than $80 a month, and they feed eight children on that," says Baker. She explains that ropa Americana (clothes from the U.S.) are far cheaper than making traditional garments and that creating international markets is a way to keep that part of their culture alive.

The Charleston chapter of Roots and Shoots, a global environmental and humanitarian program for youth started by Jane Goodall, also visited the store on a recent Tuesday afternoon. Using skits and games, children learned about fair trade through the story of Olga, a 12-year-old Dominican girl whose father farms cocoa for a co-op.

"We're trying to give kids the idea that they can recycle things and not waste energy or resources," says Charleston's Roots and Shoots founder Wende Reynolds. "Children naturally care about animals, plants, and other people, and we're just trying to keep that going so they don't turn into little consumer demon teenagers."

Anderson's friend Kate Counts, who often volunteers to help her at the store, says, "Maren's an amazing person. Most people would be afraid to invite a bunch of kids into a brand-new store."

Then, almost as if on cue, the sound of glass crashing to the floor emerges from an area of the store where a group of children have gathered. "That was bound to happen," Anderson says with a smile, and opens another brand-new puzzle for them to play with.

While Anderson claims that an average retail store marks up their items around 240 percent from their cost, her markup isn't half of that. "I don't want people to think that buying fair trade means you have to spend more," she says. "That might get me in trouble, but I'm just trying to make sure it's paying the rent and bills, and maybe, eventually, myself."

Anderson's is a fascinatingly unconventional business model. "I'm not money driven. Global Awakenings' mission is to change the minds of everyday consumers," she says. "The ultimate goal is to make enough that I can go and visit the co-ops, and shake the hands of the artisans. I want to meet them so I can better represent them here, and say, 'I know these people.'"

South Korea Creates Funds to Reduce Poverty

from The Korea Times

WASHINGTON (Yonhap) _ South Korea established two trust funds worth $30 million through the World Bank to help countries combat poverty and develop information and communication technologies (ICT), the global lender said on Tuesday.

The sum will be divided into two $15 million funds, one of which is the Poverty Reduction and Socio-Economic Development Trust Fund for East Asia and Pacific countries. South Korea will provide the money for the first year with further resources available based on progress, the World Bank said in a press release.

The fund will co-finance the World Bank's operations on a grant basis, providing resources for technical assistance and training.

South Korea also established the ICT trust fund to provide $15 million over the next three years to projects worldwide, with the possibility of further contributions depending on progress. This fund is designed to support integration of ICT into the delivery of government services, and to help small- and medium-sized enterprises in developing nations.

"This is a generous and very welcome initiative that will help countries in our region as they strive to overcome poverty and deliver services more effectively for their people," said Jim Adams, vice president for the bank's East Asia and Pacific region.

Keeping Track of Poverty Levels in School

from KFVS

By: CJ Cassidy

It's not just your child who brings home a report card every year. Did you know schools get one too?

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education keeps track of students who come from low income families through the free and reduced cost lunch programs.

School leaders say those numbers help them figure out how many students might need extra help or attention in and out of school.

We asked for a sneak peek of the latest report card from DESE that comes out in December, and the findings might surprise you.

These days everything is high tech; so it's no surprise even students at the elementary level punch in a digital code when they pick up their lunch trays.

Those codes don't just track account balances, they also help school leaders figure out who qualifies for free and reduced lunches...and who comes from low income families.

"Just because a student's on a free and reduced lunch doesn't mean that's a low performing student," said Cape Girardeau Public Schools Superintendent Dave Scala.

Those numbers give school leaders an idea of what parents can and can't do for their kids at home.

"Maybe they can't afford to take children to do enrichment activities. That's why we try to provide mentoring programs after school tutoring, even pre-school programs," he said.

The latest figures show more than half of Cape's student body come from low income families, while neighboring Jackson only has 28.6%.

In Scott County, Kelso has more than 17% of low income students, but Scott City shows more than 40%.

Dave Scala said cities with more diverse populations are likely to show higher numbers of low income students, but educators make sure students in all schools have equal footing.

So how do parents feel about the state keeping track of how much money they have?

"If that's what it took to make a positive impact, they've gotta do what they gotta do," one mom said.

"I think it's good to monitor and keep track to make sure children get what they need," another mom added.

Information on students who get free and reduced lunches is kept strictly confidential.

They qualify based on federal poverty guidelines.

Those new report cards come out December 1st.

Foundations Push Presidential Candidates to Discuss Poverty

from Philanthropy

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, in Baltimore, and the Eos Foundation, in Boston, announced today they have started a project to get the 2008 presidential candidates to give priority to issues related to poverty and hunger—and will enlist other foundations to help.

“Despite considerable evidence of growth and strength in our nation’s overall economy, the problems of poverty along with corrosive gaps in economic opportunity persist in this country with an alarming tenacity,” Douglas W. Nelson, president of the Casey foundation, said at an event in Washington to kick off the effort.

The project, “Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity: Foundations Ask Presidential Candidates What They’ll Do for America,” has created a Web site that is a focal point for groups wanting to get data about poverty and check out the candidates’ views.

The site offers both video and written statements that the presidential hopefuls have made about issues like education, welfare, taxes, jobs, and the minimum wage.

The foundations have also asked all of the candidates five specific questions —including whether their administration would set a numerical goal and timeline for reducing poverty.

So far, five of them—Democrats Christopher Dodd, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and Barack Obama and Republican Tom Tancredo—have responded either in writing or on video.

The Web site also includes articles and commentaries about poverty and the political campaigns; descriptions of research into poverty; and summaries of local, state, and international antipoverty campaigns.

The “Spotlight” project will also sponsor forums for candidates to discuss their views, and after the election press the winners to to fulfill their campaign promises.

The foundations released a report that tracked recent opinion polls that were conducted for Bread for the World, a Christian anti-hunger charity, and a secular affiliate group, Alliance to End Hunger, both in Washington. It found that concern about hunger and poverty is growing among likely voters, with 54 percent of them saying political candidates do not spend enough time talking about those issues.

Andrea Silbert, president of the Eos Foundation, said it was critical for foundations, which are spending billions of dollars to fight poverty, to get involved in public-policy issues. “And in order to do this, we have to start this dialogue with whoever will be our next President,” she added.

Ms. Silbert and Mr. Nelson said they were working to get other foundations involved in the project, and several had expressed interest. Many grant makers are starting to conclude that no matter what their missions, dealing with poverty is a prerequisite for making progress, Mr. Nelson said.

In Africa, a papercraft path out of poverty

from the Christian Science Monitor

Poor Ugandan women turn their lives around by handcrafting for BeadForLife, a small Colorado-based nonprofit group.
By Jessica Scranton | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor

Kampala, Uganda

Paper beads of all shapes and sizes are helping women lift themselves out of the slums of Uganda.

The women, most of whom live in crowded, one-room shanties on the outskirts of Kampala, have few economic opportunities. Most are displaced from the north. Fleeing civil war, they settled near the capital in hope of a brighter future. Instead, they found HIV/AIDS, hunger, and unaffordable housing.

Ngaio Mary, a mother of four, has been diagnosed with HIV. In 2002, she was living on the streets near Kampala, begging for food. In 2004 she joined BeadForLife, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating poverty.

Founded two years ago by Torkin Wakefield, Ginny Jordan, and Devin Hibbard of Colorado, the group is helping African women work their way out of poverty. The women make paper beads and jewelry, which are then sold in North American homes at BeadForLife parties– a hip version of the Tupperware party, but for beaded jewelry.

The success of BeadForLife has been rapid and continues to exceed forecasts, the founders say. When it was formed in 2004, "my sights were modest," says director Ms. Wakefield by phone. "I was hoping to set up a few stores in Kampala and Boulder to sell the beads, where I could slowly build a market. In September 2004, we decided to go ahead for nonprofit status and create a small business, and we have been chasing it ever since."

BeadForLife sprang to life when Ms. Jordan and Wakefield, then living in Uganda, walked through an impoverished dwelling and came upon a woman named Millie Grace Akena. Ms. Akena was sitting on the ground, rolling beads using old magazines. She said she loved working with her hands, but had no market for her jewelry. For money, she did manual labor in the nearby quarry, crushing rocks for less than $1 a day.

Wakefield bought a few necklaces and within days had given them to friends, who admired the bead design. She thought to herself, "What do you mean, 'There are no markets'? There are plenty of markets." Subsequently, a training class was created to improve the quality of the beadwork. Ugandan women flooded the workshops.

Wakefield, Jordan, and their friend Ms. Hibbard asked one another, "OK, what are we going to do with this? It seems like we can help some very impoverished women in Uganda." BeadforLife was born.

The jewelry that Ms. Mary along with the other beaders makes begins as recycled magazines, posters, or donated material that is then cut, rolled, and finished with a waterproof coating. The resulting jewelry ranges from one-strand necklaces of beads the size of a quarter to delicate three-strand bracelets. The average beader earns $850 a year.

And Mary? She's now one of the top beaders. She has saved more than $600 toward the price of a new home and started a bead-supply store. She and her family are eating well, and her health is improving.

Mary is not the only one benefiting: 90 percent of the women in the program are eating better, and 70 percent claim to be in better health, according to the BeadForLife website. "The women are really hard working," Wakefield notes. "No one is here just waiting for something to happen to them. They are up early beading or finding the most beautiful paper.... [They] are aware of the opportunities we are providing for them and taking full advantage of the situation."

About 300 women are enrolled in the BeadForLife program. To qualify, a woman must be very poor, meaning that she either makes less than $2 a month, is living with AIDS, or is a refugee from northern Uganda. Fourteen tribes are represented in the group.

Wakefield ascribes most of their success to the bead parties and the way they engage Americans to help. "One thing Bead­ForLife has done," she says, "is make it easy for people to get involved. We say, 'Hey, come on, it's easy, have a party, wear beaded jewelry, and people relate to this and want to help.'" It's also a cultural experience, with DVDs, photos, stories, and the beads themselves being part of the party. A connection is made between purchaser and beader. "It's a revolutionary idea," Wakefield adds. "Our project has, at the very center of it, a human heart. We make real attempts to help people know each other on two continents."

The program also aims to lift women out of poverty by promoting home ownership and entrepreneurship. BeadFor­Life helps women start businesses, and after two years, they graduate from beadmaking into a small business of their own with limited support from the organization.

BeadForLife also provides training in personal finance, will preparation, and microfinance. They counsel women on ideas for small businesses, such as motorcycle repair, popcorn making, money lending, and healthcare services. The largest triumph thus far has been their partnership with Habitat for Humanity to create a new village for the beaders.

BeadForLife bought 18 acres near Mukono, a prime location on the outskirts of Kampala with access to roads and schools. So far, 37 houses have been completed and two wells dug. A garbage-recycling center and a soccer field have also been built. The goal is to erect 80 to 120 homes in the next two years. Beaders secure plots with an $800 downpayment.

One week before the opening ceremonies for the completion of the first 10 houses, Wakefield escorted a reporter through an almost-finished group of new homes. She was met on the dirt road overlooking the village by a half dozen beaders. They hugged her and smiled. Tears of gratitude welled in their eyes.

The women led Wakefield to their houses, touching the walls and dancing and singing with big smiles on their faces. "It is fantastic, just unbelievable," said Wakefield about the 37 new homes and families in the new village. "[The women] are ecstatic; their children are going to school. They have a clean water supply, the air is clean. They have been reborn."

Wakefield admits that they have not yet proven that their intended self-sustaining system works. The first group to join two years ago will graduate in January. However, she reports that 70 percent of the women have launched small businesses while still part of BeadForLife. "Next year, we will be evaluating where our success and challenges lie, and we feel really good about the progress made thus far.," she says.

And Mary? She was selected to be one of the first to create her house in the new village. She screamed with excitement when she found out she would be able to have her own home. "The village will be good and I will be the happiest there. I will have a small garden and start a tailor shop. No one will knock on my door for rent, and everyone will work together," she says ecstatically.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

African leaders endorse ICT to cut poverty

from Sci Dev

Kennedy Abwao

[KIGALI] African leaders have unanimously agreed to improve access to information communication technology (ICT) to address the continent's development shortfalls and cut poverty by 2012.

The African leaders gathered in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, yesterday (29 October) at the 'Connect Africa Summit' — convened by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) — to discuss ways of ensuring better access to ICT.

In support of this, the World Bank announced at the summit that it will double its financing for African ICT initiatives, to US$2 billion over the next five years.

The ITU secretary-general Hamadoun Toure said the meeting in Kigali is a way to stimulate the implementation of past resolutions agreed at international conferences, such as achieving universal ICT access for Africa.

Information ministers, who met a day before the conference, agreed that all ICT infrastructure initiatives must be interlinked to facilitate delivery of both energy and access to ICTs.

Leaders at the conference emphasised the need to create 'digital villages' so that people in rural areas would be less likely to migrate to urban areas.

Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, said the biggest hindrance to Africa's development has been its lack of ability to provide fast Internet and telecommunications access to the millions of people, such as farmers, who require access to market information to sell their products at the best prices.

"In ten short years, what was once an object of luxury and privilege, the mobile phone, has become a basic necessity in Africa," he said.

Better technologies would also give African farmers access to information on seed varieties and better farming methods, and using new technologies in medical fields could also lead to the expansion of services such as telemedicine.

Senegalese president Abdulaye Wade said the introduction of telemedicine in his country had resulted in a "cultural revolution" which saw doctors operate on a pregnant woman 500 kilometres away.

Senegal is currently introducing new diagnostic technologies to digitally "revolutionise" its entire healthcare system, he said.
Sha Zukang, UN under-secretary general on economic and social affairs said building a knowledge economy in Africa would not happen without adequately trained ICT personnel.

Education Program Provides Skills to Fight Poverty

from the Voice of America

By Faiza Elmasry

Poverty is expensive. Society pays a high price when people who can't afford health care get sick, when they don't earn to their potential and contribute to the economy. In Wisconsin, where more than one in ten people live in poverty, an education program is decreasing that number by investing in people.

The causes of poverty are complex, but among the major factors are a lack of job skills or education that restricts people to unskilled, low-wage jobs. Many caught in poverty's vicious circle put in long hours working at low-paying jobs, so they don't have the time or the resources to improve their qualifications and find a better job. That's where the Skills Enhancement training comes in. It's run by Wisconsin Community Action Program, or WISCAP.

Jonathan Bader Bader says the program offers participants a chance to get out of their poverty trap. "The Skills Enhancement Program started to help low-income households get additional training and education so they could apply for and get better paying jobs with better benefits," CAP's Jonathan Bader says. Participants attend classes at local technical colleges for training in a wide range of occupations.

"About 70 percent of our graduates are looking in healthcare areas," he says. "Many of them are certified nursing assistants. Some are in other specialized health care areas. About 30 percent are in non-health care [fields], which will include things like accounting, truck driving and other areas like that."

For many trying to gain new skills, cost is a big obstacle, so Bader says the program offers participants financial assistance with tuition and books.

"It also provides payment for transportation and for childcare that's needed to attend those classes," he says, adding noting that 90 percent of the participants are women and 80 percent are single parents.

The Skills Enhancement Program began 15 years ago as a pilot social program in one Wisconsin county.

About two years ago, the state of Wisconsin was very impressed with the results and expanded it to cover about two-thirds of the state.

Bader says the program has a significant impact on its graduates' financial prospects.

"What we are finding is that the graduates from the program are earning an additional $10,000 a year," he says, adding that's about a 90 percent increase in their annual earnings.

"We're finding about a 400 percent increase in their access to employer-sponsored health care, compared to when they entered the program. So we make this initial investment in families through their education and training, but the return on this happens year after year after year."

The benefits go beyond improving the participants' financial situation, according to Lori Olson Pink, a community service coordinator in Dodgeville County. Since the program was introduced there two years ago, she says, it has helped over dozen people turn their lives around and set a positive example for their kids.

"We had one young woman who was a single parent of one small child living in subsidized housing," Pink says. "This woman was receiving a full economic assistance package that included daycare assistance, food stamps and [health] care. She was working 13 to 16 hours per week at $6.50 per hour. She really recognized the need to provide a role model for her daughter, as well as eliminate her need to rely on public assistance programs. She completed her skilled-nursing program. She just feels like she got her life back."

Another participant, she says, has also experienced the liberating feeling of being in control of his life, after years of being unable to provide for his family.

"He completed his program, secured a position where he was making $4.50 per hour more," she says. "As a result he was able to take his small family and live independently, and provide for them in a way he had not been able to do for the two years prior to that."

Pink gives the participants credit for the program's success. "They really have to sacrifice a lot in order to complete their training program at the same time they are taking care of a family, at the same time they are working a part-time job. So the success is theirs."

That success has encouraged some private organizations and businesses to sign on to help finance the Skills Enhancement Program.

CAP's Jonathan Bader admits there is no easy solution to poverty. Investing in people, he says, may take a long time, but it pays tremendous dividends both for the individuals given that chance, and the whole community.

Cristina Kirchner To Push For Latin American Integration And Tackle Poverty

from Nasdaq

Cristina Kirchner has said in an interview after getting elected as Argentina's president that tackling poverty and pushing for Latin American integration, especially in energy issues, are among her priorities.

Argentina's first lady told the Todo Noticias network on Monday that her victory in Sunday's election was a recognition of her husband's success as President. Cristina will take over from Nestor Kirchner as head of the nation on December 10.

Riding on the image of her husband, who oversaw Argentina's recovery from the economic crisis of 2001, and the glamour often compared to Hillary Clinton and Eva Peron, Cristina Kirchner won nearly 45% of the vote, ahead of her nearest rival, former MP Elisa Carrio, who received 23%. She acknowledged that Nestor Kirchner had played a major role in her win.
,span class="fullpost">
Christina said she would tackle unemployment and poverty and work to improve health care and education. Equally important is the need for strengthening the regional trade bloc, Mercosur. The consortium consisting of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, has invited oil-rich Venezuela to join.

Answering a question on what Nestor Kirchner will do once he is out of office, Christina said her husband would remain active in the political life of Argentina, indicating the possibility of him returning to run in the 2011 election.

Argentina's first female president-elect said she was happy to be compared to U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, both law graduates, senators, and former first ladies.

"Everything seems to indicate that she is the favorite of the Americans," said Christina Kirchner. "And why not? Another woman wouldn't be bad."

For comments and feedback: contact

World Bank Report Gives Weight to Agricultural-Led Dev't

from All Africa

Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

By Tamrat G. Giorgis

During most of their rule since the early 1990s, and to the dismay of their staunch critics, the Revolutionary Democrats in Ethiopia were fixated in their argument that the only way out of poverty for Ethiopia is their agricultural development-led industrialisation, a.k.a ADLI. It is an economic policy framework that puts much faith and emphasis by concentrating on the 84.2pc of the population that is agrarian.

If there would be any time they should be vindicated of their otherwise controversial policy, it ought to have been last week, following news from Washington DC that they have been right all along. The World Bank, an authoritative multilateral development agency, said last Friday that basing economic policies on agriculture is an "essential component of effective development strategies for most developing countries".

This, it said in a report released a day before the opening of the annual joint meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC, is an important meeting for both. The first just came out from a scandalous past where its previous president, Paul Wolfawitz, had to leave after being accused of favouring his girlfriend when she was transferred from the Bank to the State Department. Morale within the Bank had been at an all-time low that the new president, Robert Zoellick, has been busy in calming "the water before charting across new water."

Nevertheless, Mr. Zoellick said in a press conference he held inside the headquarters of the IMF last Thursday that focusing on states that emerge from conflict and those on the verge of break-up will be his priorities, together with other issues such as knowledge sharing and climate change. He has pledged to funnel 3.5 billion dollars through the International Development Agency (IDA), an amount that is double last year, and will largely be spent on regional projects, according to Mr. Zoellick.

For its sister organisation, the IMF, it is a matter of proving its relevance and legitimacy, following the international financial crises due to the real estate crash in the United States (US), according to analysts.

"Global financial stability is as important today as it was 60 years ago," said Rodrigo de Rato, the departing managing director of the IMF, describing the new challenge to the IMF as legitimacy and the quality of its advises to member countries.

Ethiopia is one of them. Its delegation of 13 led by Finance and Economic Development Minister, Sufian Ahmed is comprised of Neway Gebreab, chief economic advisor to the Prime Minister; Teklewold Atnafu, governor of the central bank; Abi W. Meskel, head of the Federal Investement Agency; and heads of the three state owned banks.

A separate delegation of heads of private banks is also attending.

The World Bank's latest report is seen as the most radical shift for the Bank in 25 years, while Oxfam International called it a correction of "the many years of neglect of the millions of poor people who depend on agriculture."

Indeed, it was in 1982 that the Bank last mentioned agricultural development in its flagship reports issued annually for the past 30 years. Even as recently as 10 years ago, urging by Bank staffers to give attention to the agricultural sector used to be considered a politically incorrect position, according to Bank insiders.

Nevertheless, three of every four people in developing countries live in rural areas, 880 million of them on less than a dollar a day income. Neglect of a sector that feeds such a size of the global population is what Francois Bourguignon, World Bank's chief economist, described as "a major discrepancy."

However, the challenge lays not so much in expanding agriculture as it is in increasing productivity by increasing investments, both from the public and private sectors, according to Robert Zoellick, the newly appointed president of the Bank.

Investment to the sector has indeed diminished over the years, according to data complied by Oxfam International. In 1987, global aid to the agricultural sector was 11.5 billion Br, an amount drastically dropped to 3.5 billion Br in 2005. In Africa, only four per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) has been invested in the agricultural sector.

"Until very recently, governments and donors, including the World Bank, neglected agricultural development in Africa," said a report released by Independent Evaluation Group of the Bank.

The Bank has invested 2.8 billion dollars in the 15 years beginning 1991, an amount representing eight per cent of its total investment lending to the continent.

Not even Ethiopia, one of the 10 largest borrowers of the Bank in Africa, and the staunch advocate of greater investment in the agricultural sector, has done enough, although the sector contributes close to 44pc to GDP. The amount the state spent to the support the sector in 2004 was 930 million dollars, far lower than what a desert country such as Egypt, in which 57.3pc of its population depends on agriculture, had spent the same year, 4.3 billion dollars.

Neither was the amount of official development aid (ODA) given to Ethiopia impressive; for two years beginning 2003, agriculture claims only 6.4pc of the total ODA the country had received, disclosed the 365-page World Development Report for 2008, titled "Agriculture for Development".

It was a report that struck Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, herself a staffer of the World Bank before she was elected to be the president of Liberia. She was the lone head of state to attend the launch of the report on Friday noon, inside the headquarters of the Bank.

"We like the report," she told senior staffers of the Bank and members of the media. "We like the return of the Bank to that basic sector of what we in the developing world are all about."

The World Bank called on its latest report for African countries to place agriculture at the centre of their development agenda, and increase investment to the sector.

"Given where they are and what they do best, promoting agriculture is imperative for meeting the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty and hunger by 2015 and reducing poverty and hunger for several decades thereafter," said the report.

Mr. Zoellick urged African countries to create the policy and regulatory environment that help private sector operators invest in the development of the agricultural sector.

Development experts, however, acknowledge that in spite of their focus on the agricultural sector, countries such as Ethiopia are faced with other challenges such as a growing population, shrinking land size and fragmentations of plots.

"You cannot solve rural poverty with agriculture," said Derek Byerlee, co-team leader of the report, who also worked in Ethiopia few years ago. "You need to develop the non-farm sector and ease exit to those who would like to move out of agriculture."

World Bank President Robert Zoellick at a press conference at the IMF Headquarters October 18, 2007 in Washington, DC. International Monetary Fund.

A holiday in poverty

from The Cold Lake Sun

Tracy Dermott

A couple of students from Assumption Junior Senior High School are going to learn what it’s like to spend the holidays in poverty.

Youth Minister Kelly Henderson, along with a Grade 10 student and a Grade 11 student will be doing a mission in Mexico just days after Christmas. They will be joined by another eight people from Bonnyville.

The group will be travelling to Cuernavaca, Mexico and will be participating in service and social justice missions through the Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue on Development.

"It’s not all about doing service work," Henderson said. "It’s about learning why we have to do the service work. It’s a two-fold program."

Henderson took a couple of students to the same area last Easter. That trip is what prompted this one.

"It’s so fulfilling," Henderson said. "It just makes sense."
She said the mission will help the students learn the facts about why 70 per cent of Mexico’s population is living in poverty.

"It’s also to educate us about what issues are at our own backdoors and in our country," she said.

Grade 11 student Rebecca Sakowich is one of the people going on the mission.
"I’m going because my friend went last year and she told me how much fun it is," she said. "Plus I just really want to go."

She said she’s also interested in learning about Mexico and how people live there.
"It’s going to be a different look on poverty," she said. "I know it exists, but I’ve never seen it in front of me, real-life, to that extent."

She believes the trip will open her eyes to her own situation and how she and the people around her live.

"I think I am going to get a new appreciation for the things that I have and how much I should be truly thankful for what I do have."

Henderson said while the people they visit might be poor financially, they’re rich in happiness.

"It’s because they are thankful for whatever they can give their children," she said.
Henderson said the last trip was a real eye-opening experience, and she was excited about the level of entrepreneurship the people showed.

"The last time we were there, we went to a recycling centre," Henderson remembered. "We saw that they did. It was all volunteers, but they are hoping to make it viable and pay wages to people coming into do work."

She said she was overwhelmed by the response the group received from the communities they visited.

In one town, the service project was to paint a kindergarten school and its playground equipment.

"That was so much fun," she said. "We got to see the children. They came back to the school to see the work we had done and each lunch with us."

The lunch was catered by local families, who brought all of the fixings to the playground and cooked food for the mission group right there.

With her last experience still fresh in her mind, she’s excited about taking these students on this trip.

The group will leave Edmonton for Mexico Dec. 29 and will return Jan. 7, 2008.
"We’re excited about being there for New Year’s," she said. "We’ll be about five blocks from a market square. We’ll be getting a lot of culture when we’re there over New Year’s."

But in order to get there, the group has to do some major fundraising -- the trip costs $2,200 per person.

"We’re getting awesome support," Henderson said of the group’s fundraising efforts so far. They are selling Fair Trade coffee and chocolates to help cover the cost.

They have also received gift certificates and other donations from local businesses and have been creating gift baskets that will be raffled off during a silent auction.
"We’re having a pancake breakfast here at the school Nov. 18 from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.," Henderson said, explaining people will be able to come and make bids on the baskets and a number of other donated items during that time. Bidding will close at 1:30 p.m.

"We have an oil painting, stereo system, DVD player -- a huge variety of items," she said.

In addition to the coffee, chocolates and silent auction, they’ve also held bake sales and are collecting Canadian Tire money.

The Canadian Tire money is to buy sporting equipment, such as soccer balls, which are low on school’s budget priorities.

Anyone who would like to donate to the silent auction, buy chocolates or coffee, or help out in any other way, can contact Henderson at the school at 594-4050.

Poverty link to pregnancy rates

from the BBC

Teenage girls living in the poorest parts of Scotland are four times more likely to become pregnant than those in the country's most affluent areas.

The trend has been revealed in the latest statistics published by the NHS.

Reducing teenage pregnancy rates in deprived areas is a key government target, but there has been little change over the past six years.

More than 9,000 teenage girls became pregnant in Scotland in 2005, including 678 aged under 16.

The figures for 2005 showed a slight drop in the total number of girls under 16 who became pregnant.

The pregnancy rate for that age group has also remained fairly steady over the past six years, despite a government commitment to try to reduce it.

We are aware that we are not on track to meet the target for reducing teenage pregnancies in deprived areas
Shona Robison
Public health minister

Dundee remained Scotland's teen pregnancy capital, with 80 pregnancies for every 1,000 teenage girls.

NHS Tayside had the highest pregnancy rate for all age groups in Scotland, as well as the highest abortion rate.

The statistics showed a staggering difference in pregnancy rates for Scotland's most and least deprived areas.

Almost one in 10 teenage girls living in the poorest areas became pregnant in 2005, compared to one in 40 in the most affluent.

The minister for public health described the high teenage pregnancy rate as "concerning" and said the Scottish Government was working hard to reduce it.

'Good progress'

Shona Robison said: "We are aware that we are not on track to meet the target for reducing teenage pregnancies in deprived areas.

"That is why we are now working even more closely with NHS boards to help them achieve the actions and targets contained within 'Respect and Responsibility', Scotland's national sexual health strategy.

"Reducing unintended teenage pregnancies in girls under 16 is a key aim of the strategy, which promotes the values of mature loving relationships, founded on self respect and respect for others."

Ms Robison added that a total of £15m was being spent on the three-year scheme, which looked set to deliver government targets.

She said: "Since 1995, there has been good progress made towards achieving the 20% reduction in teenage pregnancies in 13-15 year olds by 2010.

"If current trends continue, the 2010 target level will be met.

"All NHS boards now have local action plans in place and are working towards addressing targets."

Drugs, graft, insecurity threaten Afghan progress

from Reuters Alert Net

By Jon Hemming

KABUL, Afghanistan has made achievements in delivering development to its people, but needs to do more to tackle worsening insecurity, drug production and corruption which threaten further progress, the World Bank said on Tuesday.

After nearly three decades of war, Afghanistan's economy is largely propped up by international donations as the government attempts to deal with the revived Taliban insurgency, widespread corruption and record-breaking opium production.

These three main problems form a vicious circle whereby drug production funds the insurgency and encourages official corruption, which both allow more drugs to be produced.

"I am again deeply impressed by how far Afghanistan has come in delivering development benefits for its people," said World Bank Managing Director Graeme Wheeler.

"More girls are at school than at any time in Afghanistan's history, child mortality has been reduced substantially, and the government's national community development program is bringing development to over 18,000 communities," he said.

"I am concerned, however, that increased insecurity, drug production, and corruption are putting at risk further advances in state-building and other areas critical for growth and employment generation," he said in a statement.


In the past year, the number of security incidents is up 24 percent, opium production has risen by 34 percent and Afghanistan had slipped to 172 out of 180 countries in Transparency International's corruption perception index, Wheeler said.

"Tackling the challenges of widespread poverty, rebuilding institutions destroyed by two decades of war, and overcoming problems of security, narcotics, and corruption will require intensified efforts by Afghanistan and its partners for many years," the statement said.

With international military forces partially engaged in reconstruction efforts and more than 100 aid and non-governmental organisations with an annual budget of more than $100 million, Afghanistan has suffered from a lack coordination between donors.

This has meant that some projects overlap, have been ill-conceived, or were not coordinated with the Afghan government which has lacked funds or manpower to staff schools and health clinics, for example, once they have been built.

The World Bank has instead encouraged donors to channel funds to the government through an externally audited reconstruction trust fund it administers, arguing that strengthens state institutions.

"An assessment of Afghanistan's public financial management system based on international standards has been positive," the World Bank said. "Accordingly, donors, including the World Bank, have increased their support channelled through Afghanistan's national budget."

But many donors, including the biggest of all, the United States' economic and development agency, USAID, have remained outside the system.

In India, Poverty Inspires Technology Workers to Altruism

from The New York Times


BANGALORE, India — Manohar Lakshmipathi does not own a computer. In fact, in India workmen like Mr. Manohar, a house painter, are usually forbidden to touch clients’ computers.

So you can imagine Mr. Manohar’s wonder as he sat in a swiveling chair in front of a computer, dictating his date of birth, phone number and work history to a secretary. Afterward, a man took his photo. Then, with a click of a mouse, Mr. Manohar’s page popped onto the World Wide Web, the newest profile on an Indian Web site called

Babajob seeks to bring the social-networking revolution popularized by Facebook and MySpace to people who do not even have computers — the world’s poor. And the start-up is just one example of an unanticipated byproduct of the outsourcing boom: many of the hundreds of multinationals and hundreds of thousands of technology workers who are working here are turning their talents to fighting the grinding poverty that surrounds them.

“In Redmond, you don’t see 7-year-olds begging on the street,” said Sean Blagsvedt, Babajob’s founder, referring to Microsoft’s headquarters in Washington State, where he once worked. “In India, you can’t escape the feeling that you’re really lucky. So you ask, What are you going to do about all the stuff around you? How are you going to use all these skills?”

Perhaps for less altruistic reasons, but often with positive results for the poor, corporations have made India a laboratory for extending modern technological conveniences to those long deprived. Nokia, for instance, develops many of its ultralow-cost cellphones here. Citibank first experimented here with a special A.T.M. that recognizes thumbprints — to help slum dwellers who struggle with PINs. And Microsoft has made India one of the major centers of its global research group studying technologies for the poor, like software that reads to illiterate computer users. Babajob is a quintessential example of how the back-office operations in India have spawned poverty-inspired innovation.

The best-known networking sites in the industry connect computer-savvy elites to one another. Babajob, by contrast, connects India’s elites to the poor at their doorsteps, people who need jobs but lack the connections to find them. Job seekers advertise skills, employers advertise jobs and matches are made through social networks.

For example, if Rajeev and Sanjay are friends, and Sanjay needs a chauffeur, he can view Rajeev’s page, travel to the page of Rajeev’s chauffeur and see which of the chauffeur’s friends are looking for similar work.

Mr. Blagsvedt, now 31, joined Microsoft in Redmond in 1999. Three years ago he was sent to India to help build the local office of Microsoft Research, the company’s in-house policy research arm. The new team worked on many of the same complex problems as their peers in Redmond, but the employees here led very different lives outside the office than their counterparts in Redmond. They had servants and laborers. They read constant newspaper tales of undernourishment and illiteracy.

The company’s Indian employees were not seeing poverty for the first time, but they were now equipped with first-rate computing skills, and many felt newly empowered to help their society.

At the same time, Microsoft was plagued by widespread software piracy, which limited its revenue in India. Among other things, the company looked at low-income consumers as a vast and unexploited commercial opportunity, so it encouraged its engineers’ philanthropic urges.

Poverty became a major focus in Mr. Blagsvedt’s research office. Anthropologists and sociologists were hired to explain things like the effect of the caste system on rural computer usage. In the course of that work, Mr. Blagsvedt stumbled upon an insight by a Duke University economist, Anirudh Krishna.

Mr. Krishna found that many poor Indians in dead-end jobs remain in poverty not because there are no better jobs, but because they lack the connections to find them. Any Bangalorean could confirm the observation: the city teems with laborers desperate for work, and yet wealthy software tycoons complain endlessly about a shortage of maids and cooks.

Mr. Blagsvedt’s epiphany? “We need village LinkedIn!” he recalled saying, alluding to the professional networking site.

He quit Microsoft and, with his stepfather, Ira Weise, and a former Microsoft colleague built a social-networking site to connect Bangalore’s yuppies with its laborers. (The site, which Mr. Blagsvedt started this summer and runs out of his home, focuses on Bangalore now, but he plans to spread it to other Indian cities and maybe globally.)

Building a site meant to reach laborers earning $2 to $3 a day presented special challenges. The workers would be unfamiliar with computers. The wealthy potential employers would be reluctant to let random applicants tend their gardens or their newborns. To deal with the connectivity problem, Babajob pays anyone, from charities to Internet cafe owners, who finds job seekers and registers them online. (Babajob earns its keep from employers’ advertisements, diverting a portion of that to those who register job seekers.) And instead of creating an anonymous job bazaar, Babajob replicates online the process by which Indians hire in real life: through chains of personal connections.

In India, a businessman looking for a chauffeur might ask his friend, who might ask his chauffeur. Such connections provide a kind of quality control. The friend’s chauffeur, for instance, will not recommend a hoodlum, for fear of losing his own job.

To re-create this dynamic online, Babajob pays people to be “connectors” between employer and employee. In the example above, the businessman’s friend and his chauffeur would each earn the equivalent of $2.50 if they connected the businessman with someone he liked.

The model is gaining attention, and praise. A Bangalore venture capitalist, when told of Babajob, immediately asked to be put in touch with Mr. Blagsvedt. And Steve Pogorzelski, president of the international division of, the American jobs site, said, “Wow” when told of the company. “It is an important innovation because it opens up the marketplace to people of socioeconomic levels who may not have the widest array of jobs available to them.”

Mr. Krishna, the Duke economist, called it a “very significant innovation,” but he cautioned that the very poor might not belong to the social networks that would bring them to Babajob, even on the periphery.

In its first few months, the company has drummed up job seekers on its own, sending workers into the streets with fliers promising employment.

To find potential employers, in addition to counting on word of mouth among those desperate for maids and laborers, Babajob is also relying on Babalife, the company’s parallel social networking site for the yuppie elite. People listed on Babalife will automatically be on Babajob, too.

So far, more than 2,000 job seekers have registered. The listings are a portrait of India’s floating underclass, millions and millions seeking a few dollars a day to work as chauffeurs, nannies, gardeners, guards and receptionists.

A woman named Selvi Venkatesh was a typical job seeker. “I am really in need of a job as our residential building collapsed last month in Ejipura,” she said, referring to a building collapse that killed two people, including an infant, in late July, according to The Times of India.

In Mr. Blagsvedt’s apartment one morning, Mr. Manohar, the painter, professed hope.

He earns $100 a month. Jobs come irregularly, so he often spends up to three months of the year idle. Between jobs, he borrows from loan sharks to feed his wife and children. The usurers levy 10 percent monthly interest, enough to make a $100 loan a $314 debt in one year.

Mr. Manohar does not want his children to know his worries, or his life. He wants them to work in a nice office, so he spends nearly half his income on private schools for them. That is why he was at Babajob in a swiveling chair, staring at a computer and dreaming of more work.

Poverty reduction main business of BiD Challenge

from Inquirer

Riza T. Olchondra

MANILA, Philippines--BEING the first business plan competition to address the problem of limited access to investors for the small and medium enterprise (SME) segment, it comes as no surprise that the Philippine BiD Challenge received a warm response in its first year.

The competition encourages the development of business models that generate profit and support poverty reduction by matchmaking the proponents with promising business plans to mentors and potential investors. The 100,000 cash award to the 10 best entries were surely a great draw, but more than the cash, competitors were attracted to the possibility of being mentored by specialists and being matched with prospective investors.

The Philippine Bid Challenge is a satellite search of the International BiD Challenge, which the Business in Development (BiD) Network Foundation initiated to stimulate and support business ideas that are geared toward making profit and improving living standards in developing countries. The program was introduced to the country with the non-profit group Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) spearheading the local effort.

PBSP trustee Marixi Prieto, chairman of the board of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of and one of the jurors for the Philippine Bid Challenge, noted that there was a wide range of entries, which is good for giving various industries more exposure.

By the end of May this year, 221 proposals were submitted, of which 169 met the criteria. Each plan was screened three times by separate professionals in the Philippines. The rating and constructive feedback has been shared with the entrepreneurs.

The 50 Round 2 participants were given the green light to develop a solid and full-fledged business plan by Sept. 3. They were provided with an expert to coach and mentor them during the process.

Out of the 50, only 42 turned in their plans for the Jury of the Philippine BiD Challenge to study. Jurors also interviewed the finalists before selecting the winners.

Finally, in an awards gala on Oct. 22 at the AIM Conference Center in Makati City, the 10 best entries were announced. The top two were named national winners and qualified their respective authors to compete in the worldwide phase in the Netherlands come the first week of December.

The winners were "KingsGrill" by Romy Miranda and Conrado Contreras, and "Tire Recycling" by Gene Bonggo.

Rounding up the top 10 were "Peanut Project" by Raffy Espiritu, "Tenorio Manila" by Brian Tenorio, "Roof Tiles From Lahar" by Adolfo Pinlac, "Promoting Muscovado" by Deborah Sabarre, "Charcoal Production" by Juan Marquez, "Crab Shells" by Alfonso Gamboa, "Lemon Grass Oil" by Aladino Moraca, "Every Home Will Have One" by Macario Galvez.

Each of the winning business plans earned P100,000 for the authors to use as capital. In addition, Miranda, Contreras and Bonggo each won tickets to the Netherlands to join the world competition phase.

But PBSP chairperson David Balangue, a managing partner of SGV & Co., said that he hoped the competitors would continue to work on their respective projects and encourage other socially-oriented entrepreneurs to do the same.

"[They] are all winners, and this is certainly not the end. There is certainly a brighter future ahead for innovative and socially-oriented businesses," he said.

BiD Network Foundation director John van Duursen had something to say to local investors as well, "There was some innovation and good support, and in the future we would like to see a lot more innovation. We encourage investors and financial institutions to adopt socially-oriented business plans so that they can attract foreign investments. This will promote matchmaking and encourage more innovative business centered on poverty reduction. Local investors can take the first step, so that foreign investors can take it a step further. "


1. "TIRE RECYCLING" by Gene Bonggo. Through a simple buffing machine process, scrap tires are made into shredded, reclaimed rubber. International buyers from China and other countries have a large appetite for this and the production is easily (micro-) franchised out. This established businesses wants to expand its operations.

2. "KINGSGRILL" by Romy Miranda & Conrado Contreras. Kingsgrill produces a quick-to-light, biodegradable, environment-friendly, safe and economical source of alternative fuel; it's a charcoal solution, which is a collaboration with CMC Ventures and Filgenuity, Inc. in Scandinavian countries.

3. "PEANUT PROJECT" by Raffy Espiritu. Selling a market-preferred, high-yielding peanut variety to domestic client through seed access, technology extension, post-harvest processing and marketing.

4. "TENORIO MANILA" by Brian Tenorio Philippine-made bespoke designer shoes. Western Inspiration + Eastern Imagination = a Global Understanding of Stylish Footwear.

5. "ROOF TILES" by Adolfo Pinlac. Manufacturing of long lasting, low-cost concrete roof tiles using a proven technology, bringing it to commercial scale.

6. "PROMOTING MUSCOVADO" by Deborah Sabarre. Muscovado is a brown, soft sugar laced with more minerals and trace elements beneficial to the body. Increasing demand for healthy sugar both in the domestic and export markets led some sugarcane farmers' cooperatives in Western Batangas to consolidate and in partnership with IDEALS, develop a Muscovado Sugar Processing enterprise.

7. "CHARCOAL PRODUCTION" by Juan Marquez. The coconut husk charcoal briquettes are a cleaner and cheaper alternative to liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and are easier to prepare. Besides, it provides alternative fertilizer and pesticide.

8. "CRAB SHELLS" by Alfonso Gamboa. For this community enterprise, crab meat is a primary product for export while crab shells were considered waste. Crab shells, fortunately, can be processed into chitin and chitosan, which are widely used in pharmacology, medicine, dietetics, bio-technology, cosmetics, waste water treatment, textile and wood and paper manufacturing.

9. "LEMON GRASS OIL" by Aladino Moraca. Oil extracted from organically grown lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is an active ingredient in perfumes, cosmetics, soap, hair care products and has medical elements. Our three years of past research on the design, management, community organizing approaches and marketing of produce guarantees the smooth operation of an essential oil enterprise.

10. "EVERY HOME WILL HAVE ONE" by Macario Galvez. Profound health education through a popular book, written in the lay person's language. Short "clinical stories." The business aims to translate this book into Filipino and sell it.

UN poverty goals on health out of reach, WHO says

from Reuters UK

By Lindsay Beck

BEIJING, The world is likely to fail to meet the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals related to health, the head of the World Health Organisation said on Monday at a global forum on health research for poor nations.

A rise in funding for research into communicable diseases has not been matched by the power of health systems to deliver, in part because of the failure of governments to invest in the sector, said Margaret Chan.

"We are at the mid-point in the countdown to 2015 ... We have to face the reality. Of all the goals, those directly related to health care are the least likely to be met," Chan told the opening of a conference of the Global Forum for Health Research.

The Millennium Development Goals are a series of social and economic targets formulated by the United Nations that aim to halve extreme poverty by 2015.

Globally, about $125 billion a year is being spent on health research, a four-fold increase over the past 20 years, said Stephen Matlin, the forum's executive director.

"In spite of that increase, a relatively small fraction of the total is devoted to health problems of the poor and to people living in developing countries," he told a news conference.

Meeting the needs of populations in developing countries was also becoming more complicated.

In the past, health in poor countries has focused on diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, but urban lifestyles, pollution and changing diets mean that threats such as cancer, diabetes and strokes are becoming more serious threats.

Health research that resulted in solutions involving expensive drugs, sophisticated technology or the need for myriad specialists would only have limited applicability in poorer countries, he said.

"How much of the technology that's developed is useful or relevant to the poor?" Matlin asked.

The health minister of China, which is hosting the conference, conceded that his country still suffered huge gaps in its ability to provide adequate health care to its 1.3 billion people.

"China still suffers from wide disparities in allocation of health resources," Health Minister Chen Zhu told the forum.

"Big cities in the coastal regions are only part of China. If you go to the middle and particularly the Western parts of China, you may see different things," he said.

Beijing has pledged to provide its population with basic medical care by 2020, but currently the costs of seeing a doctor or staying in the hospital are out of reach for many in the world's fourth-largest economy.

Chan cautioned that advances in health care must keep the poor in mind.

"If we want health care to reduce poverty, we cannot allow the cost of care to drive impoverished households even deeper into poverty," she said.