Bolivia is a beautiful, mountainous country that is very culturally diverse but which also has many inequities. None are more pronounced that those in education: As of 2004, secondary school completion rates in urban areas were at 65 percent for men and 50 percent for women, whereas rural rates were extremely low at 20 percent for men and 10 percent for women (Ministerio, 2004). Lack of educational attainment disproportionately affects the indigenous poor. According to the National Institute of Statistics, two-thirds of rural dwellers (compared to only 44 percent of urbanites) identify with one of Bolivia’s 38 recognized indigenous groups—the largest of which include the Quechua, Aymará, Guaraní, Afroboliviano, Mosetén, and Chiquitano—and in rural areas 66 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The Unidad Académica Campesina-Carmen Pampa (UAC-CP) is one institution helping to meet this challenge by offering undergraduate degrees to men and women from Bolivia’s rural areas. Read More »
It is important to recognize the challenges facing workers in the food system. These challenges include issues such as fair living wages, better treatment of farm workers, and other basic human rights. According to the 2009 Global Employment Trends report of the International Labour Organization (ILO), over one billion people worldwide are employed in the agricultural sector. Here are nine innovative ways that food workers and organizations are fighting for justice:
1. Coalition of Immokalee Workers: March for Rights, Respect and Fair Food: In March of this year, the CIW took part in the two-week march to the headquarters of one of Florida’s largest grocery chains, Publix. The original March for Dignity, Dialogue & a Fair Wage in 2000 fought for higher, more just workers’ wages, and helped develop the Fair Food Program. The Fair Food Program uses a penny-per-pound increase in the price that growers pay for picked tomatoes to enable farmers to provide crucial benefits to workers, such as a higher wage, shade tents in the field, education on farmer’s rights, and a code of conduct for growers to follow. While many Florida grocers and national restaurants have signed on to the Fair Food Program, Publix has refused to do so. Read More »
South Korea’s development over the past half-century has been one of the biggest successes in the world. Measured in terms of either economic wealth, or the Human Development Index (HDI) which considers factors such as education and life expectancy, South Korea’s rise has been phenomenal. The country which is currently renowned for hi-tech companies such as Samsung, and for being the home of ‘Gangnam Style‘, was, just 50 years ago, suffering from the aftermath of a bloody civil war and had a Gross National Income (GNI) per capita of just US$64.
A brief summary of the South Korea’s recent history sets the scene. Prior to World War II, Korea was ruled by Japanese imperialists. After the war, Japanese rule was replaced by the Soviet Union in the northern part of the country and the United States (U.S.) in the south. The northern rulers invaded the south in 1950, starting the three-year long Korean War which ended in the country being divided into North and South Korea. Kim Il-Sung took up the presidency of North Korea while South Korea came under the dictatorship of President Rhee Seung-Man. A military coup in 1961 led to General Park Chung-Hee taking the rule from President Rhee, and South Korea started the journey to rebuild itself. The results are astonishing: in 2011, the country’s GNI per capita was over US$28,000, putting it in 15th place in the list of world economies, and it also ranked 15 out of 187 countries in the Human Development Index that year. Read More »
Fifty five years ago, archaeologist, engineer and geologist Kenneth Lee discovered the ruins of an ancient civilization in the region of El Beni, in the northeast of Bolivia. The sophisticated technologies that were revealed by the excavated remains fascinated the academic community. One man in particular has spent the past several years developing an ancient agricultural system of camellones, used by this civilization, for modern use. This is a system that uses elevated fields, channels of water and aquaponics (cultivating plants and fish in the same water source) to protect crops from flooding, whilst fertilizing these in a natural way and increasing productivity compared to traditional industrial farming methods. The model has proved so successful in El Beni that the non-governmental organization (NGO) Oxfam has applied it in many African countries.
Today, to kick off Development Roast’s brand new ‘Bolivia’s Best’ interview series, we meet Oscar Saavedra, a Bolivian agroecologist and one of the founders of the Kenneth Lee Foundation who directs the camellones initiative under his own NGO, Amazonia Sostenible (Sustainable Amazonia) as well as his own business, Amazonia Services. Read More »
In 1957 the remains of a civilization from 3,000 years ago were discovered in El Beni, a lowland region in the northeast of Bolivia (see map below). This civilization was found to have a highly productive agricultural system which involved the construction of camellones (ridges). These were elevated fields, built to be above the height of the floodwaters, surrounded by channels. This produced a method of irrigation that protected crops from flooding whilst increasing the fertility of the soil. In the wet season, the rainwater collected in the channels, preventing the crops from being washed away. The water could then be stored and used to water crops in times of drought. This system was designed specifically for the ecosystem of the region which is particularly prone to flooding. Read More »
The honest poor can sometimes forget poverty. The honest rich can never forget it.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Growing up in 1980s and 90s Russia was not easy. For the first few years of my life three generations of my family lived in a tiny two bedroom flat on the fifth floor of a ten story grey Communist monolith. Living in such close proximity, my grandparents on my mum’s side, my parents, and my sister and I shared a lot, except perhaps privacy. With regular state salary payments being rarer than all the world’s blue moons, my mum forwent many meals to keep my sister and I fed. On the flip side, every year, for the best part of the three months that a typical Russian school summer break lasts, my father’s parents inherited the responsibility of taking care of us, the kids. Their apartment, located in a rural town called Gorodovikovsk in the southern Russian Republic of Kalmykia, where my grandmother still lives, was a little roomier, but it lacked many of the amenities that most people living in developed countries take for granted. We used the communal outdoor, hole-in-the-ground latrine, using only old news pages for toilet paper. Meanwhile, on the count of, at best, an unreliable water supply, we filled up every pot and pan in the kitchen with fresh water from the local well, heating just enough every other day to have a quick “bucket wash” (perhaps this explains why I am still unable to take a shower that lasts longer than a minute).
Since entering the world of economics a short while ago I have repeatedly been surprised by some major development institutions’ lack of regard for the country-side and rural activities. In the 2009 the World Development Report the World Bank called on an increase in urbanization, and therefore a reduction in rural employment, as “essential for economic success.” This development policy was adopted by both the World Bank and a number of senior economists after seeing the positive effects that industrialization has had in North America, Western Europe and Northeastern Asia. One underlying view behind this popular urbanization theory is that the countryside is a breeding ground for poverty, which can only be relieved with mass migration to cities where “proper” economic activities in the service and business sectors can be undertaken.
Action Against Hunger UK (ACF UK) recently commissioned INESAD‘s Ioulia Fenton to help write the Guatemala part of a global report on the role of rural-urban linkages in under-nutrition. What this type of research originates from is the growing recognition that people’s lives in developing countries can no longer be neatly compartmentalised into either rural or urban. Someone who lives in a village and has land will also have to get a job in the city selling trinkets to make ends meet. Meanwhile, those who live in the cities will hang on to family land, work on other people’s farms or perhaps grow food in their city dwelling, something called urban agriculture.
Even the urban spaces we live in are also increasingly ambiguous and frequently an urban city can have a very rural face. In fact, depending on whose national standards you use, each country’s urbanity or rurality can look very very different. Read More »
When it comes to development most take sides. I am not talking about of one country over another, or good guys versus the not so good guys. Theorists and practitioners, however, do like to specialise in either ‘rural’ or ‘urban’ development. However, the distinction between the two really isn’t quite so simple. National bench-marks of what is considered urban and what rural certainly don’t help either since, depending on which country’s definition you use, India can be more than 70% or less than 30% rural (1).
Take the city of Sololá, the capital of a municipality and a department of the same name in the highlands of Guatemala. Every municipal capital is considered ‘urban’ by the national statistics office and the city’s latest official population counted 68,120 people residing across four barrios (city sections) (2). Whilst this figure would ‘feel’ far too large to any visitor, warranting further investigation, the image of it built in the mind of a distant reader (and their subsequent analysis of it by students and policy makers alike) will vary greatly depending on which statistic is used by the author: the official city figure or the actual population residing within the ‘urban’ space, which, at 8,851 is barely 13% of that (3). And that isn’t the city’s only rural-urban misconception. Read More »
“Forty-five, maybe fifty, I don’t remember anymore,” seventy one year old Juan Chúl Yaxon tells me through a warming toothless chuckle that causes his leathery skin to crease around his eyes as we talk about his grandchildren. “If they study, they get lazy and do not want to work. There is no use for someone who has an education title but no land or job… and the women, they should cook and do housework.”
Juan makes his assertions over the noisy hustle and bustle of market day in Sololá, the capital of a district of the same name, half an hour North of the volcano-lined lake Atitlán. The plaza of this small rural Guatemalan city is overwhelmingly filled with tipica- (traditionally-) clad indigenous faces curiously watching our interaction. In his eyes, his five sons and three daughters are better off working the land on their family finca. He wants his grandchildren to follow suit. Read More »