For the first time since 1981, poverty has declined in all six regions of the developing world, according to a new report released by the World Bank on Wednesday. The World Bank defines poverty as living on less than $1.25 a day.
Photo by Russell Powell,
courtesy of Heifer International
The greatest strides were seen in East Asia where 14 percent of the population is currently living in poverty. That’s down from more than 77 percent in the early 1980s. Similarly, poverty is at an all-time low in South Asia at 36 percent, and in sub-Saharan Africa less than half the population is now characterized as impoverished.
The World Bank surveyed households in the regions of East Asia and Pacific, China, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa.
This is great news, but it’s also confusing. How is it that the number of people living with hunger—a typical outcome of poverty—has held steady at about 1 billion people? That can be attributed to the rise in the world’s population.
This reaffirms the necessity to work with smallholder farmers to increase food production in the next few years. Heifer has a proven model that can dramatically enhance agricultural production to benefit all of us, and you can bet we’ll be working harder and faster to bring those numbers down even farther.
Between the social boundaries and the planetary boundaries lies an area shaped like a donut, which is both safe and just space for humanity. And if global economic development is socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable, it would bring humanity into this space and allow it to thrive here.
If you’re already familiar with Heifer’s work, I imagine you’ll agree: Thissounds just like Heifer.
Our mission isn’t only to end hunger and poverty. It is also to care for the Earth. Our methods have proven to be both beneficial to our project participants and, at the very least, protective of the environment. We often go beyond protecting the environment when project communities live in landscapes in need of restoration.
Heifer International President and CEO Pierre Ferrari is visiting our projects in Haiti that will bring improved nutrition and income for rural Haitians. In the video below, he shares his thoughts about the beautiful and complex landscape, and Haiti’s potential to overcome poverty.
One third of the world’s population lives on less than $1.25a day. It’s an oft-mentioned stat that’s hard to argue with. Poverty ismeasured by the poverty threshold, also known as the poverty line, which is theabsolute minimum level of income considered sufficient for an individual tosurvive on in any given country.
There are varying degrees of poverty. The World Bank, aninternational standard, defines it in absolute terms and extreme poverty isdefined as living on less than $1.25 a day. In the past the poverty line wasdefined as living on less than a $1 a day but was recalibrated to $1.25 a dayin 2008.These calculations are made yearly and are done so by taking into account allthe essential resources the average adult consumes in one year.
The World Bank uses purchasing power parity (PPP) to measureand update the poverty threshold. In a nutshell, PPP is the amount needed ofone country’s currency to buy the same amount of goods and services in thatcountry as one U.S. dollar would buy in the US. So when you hear that oneperson is living on less than $1.25 a day it means that they are living on the equivalent of what a $1.25 would buy youin the US, not what it buys you in their native country.
Working towards a world without poverty takes time and commitment but is not impossible. In 2000, 189 countries pledged to eradicate poverty and hunger in the world by 2015. This pledge is known as the Millenium Development Goals.
The number of people living under the international poverty line of $1.25 a day declined from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion between 1990 and 2005.
The proportion of people living in extreme poverty in developing regions dropped from 46 per cent to 27 per cent — on track to meet the target globally.
The economic crisis is expected to push an estimated 64 million more people into extreme poverty in 2010.
About one in four children under the age of five is underweight in the developing world, down from almost one in three in 1990.
Sadly, it’s going to take a few more years to bring the population living in extreme poverty down to zero. Even though the UN’s Millennium Development Goals are on track, by 2015, about 920 million people will still be living under the poverty line.
Editor’s note: In Context is a new series designed to inform and educate you on Heifer’s work in each country we have a presence. Every two weeks we’ll tackle a different country and examine unique situations related to hunger and poverty, how Heifer works to address them as well as take some time to explore local culture and traditions.
Cambodia, nicknamed the Kingdom of Wonder, is located on theGulf of Thailand in Southeast Asia between Vietnam, Laos and Thailand; thecountry’s landscape is made up of low lying central plains, low mountains andthe upper reaches of the Mekong Delta.
It’s a land in recovery. Rich in history and naturalresources, Cambodia is influenced by decades of war and conflict. Ranked 139thout of the world’s 196 countries on the 2011 HumanDevelopment Index, it’s considered one of the poorest countries in theworld.
Despite recent socio-economics progress, 31% of thecountry’s estimated 14.8 million people live on less than $1.25 a day—that’s 4.6million men, women and children. To add a little perspective, it would be as ifevery person in South Carolina (population 4.6 million) had only $1.25 a day totake care of all necessary expenses—we’re talking basic food, water andshelter.
In Cambodia, 80% of the population lives in rural areas andhalf of the workforce is employed in agriculture, the country’s major industry.Rice farming is huge and many villagers raise cattle and pigs. However, due toslow growth and high mortality rates combined with a lack of education and accessto new technologies, productivity is slow and many families can only produceenough food for a few months out of the year. When food is in short supply, manyfarmers end up borrowing money from lenders, usually with interest rates ashigh as 10%.
Adding fuel to the fire, malnutrition rates in Cambodiansare among the highest in Asia. Nearly 40% of children are chronicallymalnourished and have deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and iodine.
Fish is the most common source of protein for Cambodians butfarmers lack adequate experience in aquaculture. The daily catch almost alwayscomes from natural ponds, canals and rice fields, contributing to a declining fish population.
It’s not all bleak though, in the last decade, the economyhas seen progress. While still low, the per capita income is slowly increasingthanks in part to the growth of agriculture.
Livestock Portfolio:Cows, Buffalo, goats, chickens, ducks, pigs and fish fingerlings
Technology portfolio:Organic farming, biogas and composting
Issues addressed:Income generation, migration, adult literacy, women and leadership,environment, HIV/AIDS and domestic violence
To address the challenges of income deficiency, lack ofnutritional food options and small farmer education, Heifer Cambodia uses a holisticdevelopment approach that encourages rural families to become involved in thecommunity development process. To begin with, families receive a package ofagricultural inputs, like a cow or two piglets, fish fingerlings, fodder,vegetable seeds and cassava stems, apply the HeiferCornerstones, receive education and training in technical skills so thatthey are able to improve and diversify their food production in a sustainablemanner. This process builds up self-confidence and provides a way to beself-reliant for a better future.
Heifer Cambodia works with small farmers to improve productivityand provide access to markets. Heifer enables limited-resource farm families toimprove the quality of their lives and equips them to assist others, providingopportunities for families to produce and share food and income from their ownresources in ways that are economically and ecologically sound. Based onHeifer’s best practice on internalized holistic development, the participatingfamilies form and work as self help groups, which encourages fullparticipation.
Since 1999, Heifer Cambodia has assisted 10,926 families