When I was a child I lived in two worlds. The first world was a creative one, filled with music, a teeming treasure of sounds that stretched from church to nature. It included thunderous organ chords, melodious tube fiddles, and raspy frog choruses, to name a few. The other world I inhabited was more sober in nature, marked with political instability, hardships, and poverty. These two worlds came together in a loud cacophony that is my home country, Uganda.
Various scholars have indulged tremendous resources to study poverty. Amartya Sen is among such scholars. He used the ideas of Adams Smith as his building blocks and looked at poverty as lacking the basics that one needs in order to co-exist in the society. The World Bank estimates that 4 out of 10 Kenyans live in poverty. Consequently, several approaches to reduce poverty have been tried and tested in Kenya. In most cases, these approaches have been a blend of various theories, which have been opined by various scholars. However, it is my belief that just like cancer – which requires a combination of chemotherapy and proper nutrition – poverty cannot be fought using a single approach.
Sustainable energy access is vital to the eradication of poverty. I believe that by providing access to affordable energy, it triggers the domino effect of bringing light, clean water, tools of communication and learning, improving health, and allowing for the establishment and growth of small businesses. World Bank President Jim Yong Kim stated when joining the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in 2012, “Ending poverty and ensuring sustainability are the defining challenges of our time. Energy is central to both of them.”
Last month, in Mauritania, I stopped by a village just north of the Senegal river. As we drank tea under a patchy old tent, an old man pointed to the surrounding savannah – grassland with the odd acacia tree.
For far too long, women and girls in Africa have faced discrimination and inequalities in the workforce which have not only hurt them, but their families, communities and their countries as a whole. As we begin 2015, the African Union’s Year of Women’s Empowerment, one thing is clear: we will not reduce poverty without working to achieve gender equality.
While most governments in Africa acknowledge that empowering women and girls is a key contributor to economic development, the fertility transition in Africa ─ an important factor in sustained economic growth ─ has been much slower than in other regions of the world. Access to family planning and maternal health services – as well as education for girls – typically results in improved economic opportunity for women and lower fertility. Some governments in Africa are seeking innovative ways to accelerate the demographic transition. In Niger, for example, where the fertility rate (7.6 children per woman) is among the highest in the world, “School for Husbands”, an education program delivered by trusted, traditional community leaders are flourishing across the country and highlighting the benefits of family planning and reproductive health.
When I heard Aminata Bangura’s story, it sent a shiver through my spine.
The five-year-old recently lost both of her parents to the Ebola virus, and she is now going back to an empty home, not sure whether her extended family members will ever be as kind to her as her real parents, whether her playmates will ever play with her again or whether she will ever have the chance to go to school again.
The highlands of Ethiopia, especially Tigray, were notorious for their severely degraded land. High population density, unchanged agricultural practices, climate change, the steep topography and intermittent and extreme rainfalls are the main causes of land degradation in the area.