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Meet Elif Memet

Meet Elif Memet

Pe Elif am 10462987_832213563526891_5167562931171271795_ncunoscut-o vara trecută la selecția Delegaților de Tineret ai României la ONU. Ulterior am desfășurat interviuri cu tinere românce care studiază/lucrează la New York – iar Elif va fi în curând membră a acestui club 🙂

Deși nu i-am luat un interviu, vă invit să o cunoașteți mai bine prin ce scrie – mai jos două texte câștigătoare ale lui Elif – unul despre instrumentele eradicării sărăciei globale, altul despre importanța accesului la apă curată. Read on!

Bianca Dragomir, Delegat de Tineret la ONU

Microfinanțarea inițiativelor antreprenoriale în agricultură

În luna aprilie, Elif a vizitat Congresul American (US House of Representatives), unde a fost invitată să-și prezinte eseul care răspunde întrebării „Cum se poate eradica sărăcia globală de către cetăţenii lumii?“ Soluţia propusă de Elif vizează microfinanţările în agricultură, cu spriijn guvernamental, după modele de creditare deja existente în sistemul bancar. Provocarea a fost lansată de o platformă pentru tineret de la Gulen Institut din Houston, SUA. Dintre cei peste 1.000 concurenţi provenind din 65 de ţări, Elif s-a situat pe primul loc în Europa și pe locul 13 la nivel mondial.

Nu peste mult timp, Elif va trece iar oceanul, de data aceasta în calitate de Science Research Fellow la Columbia University în New York. Acesta e un program universitar de patru ani adresat studenților de elită, dedicați cercetării științifice. Elif e în special atrasă de cercetarea ştiinţifică în mediul înconjurător şi agricultură. În portofoliul său științific se află deja un patent, obținut pentru fertilizatorul organic WMBW Bioforten – însă acesta e doar începutul: Elif și-a propus ca în viitor să-şi înfiinţeze propria companie în România, eventual în domeniul biotehnologiei sau specializată pe probleme de mediu.

Microfinancing Entrepreneurial Initiatives in Agriculture in Poverty-Stricken Areas

„This loan helped me bring my small business idea into reality. I enrolled in a training where I learnt how to better raise goats, bought fences, added 20 more goats to my small farm and therefore started the so-called ‘rational animal-raising’. Additionally, I planted a handful of black grass of which I will benefit this year. For a better harvest, I added a little fertilizer as well. Now that I finished with my first investment, I am thinking about the future. I need 10 ha for a better food supply for the 50 goats that I have. Moreover, I want to buy a pig and add it to my goat farm. The reason is simple: 25% of the pigs’ food comes from the whey ensued from the production of goat cheese! – learned that at the training I mentioned before.”- Petre Porojan, Plopșoru locality, Daia community, Giurgiu county, Romania
This is the statement of a Good Bee Credit beneficiary from one of Romania’s rural areas currently affected by poverty. Good Bee Credit is a non-financial institution, founded in 2008 at the initiative of Erste Bank Group and Erste Foundation, whose goal is to provide micro-credits, up to €50 000, to small-scale farmers, people coming from low-income rural or small urban backgrounds as well as to any Romanian who wants to cross the boundaries of poverty through entrepreneurship in agriculture, commerce or service. Petre Porojan is just one of the many living examples of how microfinance for agricultural purposes, when used and controlled accordingly, could lead to prosperity and economic progress.

Microfinance as a concept is not new, having originated around 1800s when the theorist Lysander Spooner published articles about the benefits of small credits to entrepreneurs and farmers as aids for their escaping poverty. Spooner’s acknowledgement was followed by the European Credit Union, the first cooperative lending bank founded by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, to support farmers in rural Germany. As far as our contemporary society is concerned, its pioneering movements towards microcredits began in 1970s with Muhamad’s Yunus Grameen Bank – the Bangladesh community development bank that serves the rural poor, with a special focus on empowering women.
In order to unlock the potential of not only those privileged by the educational and urban culture background, but the rural disadvantaged ones as well, the government, NGOs or other international organs should back financially the entrepreneurial spirit, the desire of surpassing one’s insufficiencies, the profound wish to demolish the ‘homeland of the poor’ and build a prospering community of achievers instead. And what field is better to direct the investments in than the one for which the rural poor have the necessary natural resources and, concomitantly, which is the root of over 6 billion people’s daily struggle-food security through agriculture? While microfinance may not be a novel term, its application in agriculture in low-income areas is certainly gaining more momentum and, therefore, becomes a way bound to reduce famine and alleviate poverty if it is sustained by finance-managing trainings in which the credit beneficiaries would learn how to attain the best return-on-investments in the long term.
Today little above half of the population in developing countries has an account with a formal financial institution. Since developed market models proved that banks are directly connected to economic growth, providing access to finance to a greater share of the population, especially households and microentrepreneurs, becomes critical in the pursuit of reducing income inequality, as well as enabling more rapid economic growth.
Financial systems, that are inclusive, ultimately free impoverished individuals and small enterprises from the need to rely on their own limited savings and earnings to build their assets safely, reduce risks they face from unexpected events, invest in their education by enrolling in trainings or supporting their offspring to attend school, nurture their entrepreneurial spirit or take advantage of promising growth opportunities. If our public and private sectors fail to provide more households with and exclude small and medium enterprises from accessing the financial services they need, these will act as a barrier to sustainable development. Therefore, unless reforms in financial policies are called upon-sound reforms that would encourage positive competition, provide the right incentives toindividuals, and help underprivileged gain access to finance- global poverty rates will not see reductions, neither will distribution of resources and wealth see greater equitability, nor the world stability. Such reforms towards not only the proliferation of small-scale farmers on the market, but also at least the endorsement of subsistence agriculture, should be made a top priority in the debates inside the decision-making mechanisms.
However, it must be acknowledged that never has the topic of aiding small-scale farmers through microcredits been stressed upon more than in 2014, the year proclaimed by the Food and Agriculture Organization as “The International Year of Family Farming”. As stated in FAO’s State of Food and Agriculture in 2014 report, family farms represent those small or medium-sized farms owned, operated and/or managed at least partly by a member of the household and whose income and harvest are benefitted from the whole members of the family. What is also worth mentioning is that our contemporary society does not realize how dependent we are on the efficiency of family farms. One quick glance at some official FAO figures proves this presumption: of about 570 million farms in the world, the total number of family farms exceeds 500 million.
How do these farms benefit the rest of the society? By using polyculture methods they do not harass the soils, avoiding erosion; by using organic fertilizers they nourish the environment, protecting our most sought-after resources: land, surface- and groundwater.

Thus, it is our duty as citizens to pledge for special attention to women and young farmers, encourage strongly connected producers’ organizations and cooperatives, improve access to using the nexus of land and water, to credit and markets as well as to assure fair prices thorough fair-trade, strengthened links between family farming and local markets to increase local food security and, last but not least, ensure access to basic human rights: education, food and clean water, health and sanitation. What is more, it is the developing countries’ governments’ responsibility to work towards these goals and the developed states’ governments to regulate food industry oligopolies. An easy way to pioneer an international movement towards the proliferation of small-scale farmers is facilitating their access to micro-credits.

Given that in 2010 the World Bank estimated that 45% of the Romanian population lived in rural areas and the poorest citizens found themselves within almost the same percent, the Romanian Government understood that approaching the small-scale farmers community could be the only way to reduce these alarming figures, to offer underprivileged children the chance to blossom out, to ensure that the country develops sustainably as a whole. Therefore, in the same year, the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture saw the benefits of initiatives such as Erste’s Good Bee Credit, and since 2010 has put into practice microfinancing. Now my country lauds itself with offering loans of up to 25 000 euro to small scale farmers. Although microfinancing small-scale agriculture may not have been the only cause, what is indeed flabbergasting is that in just one year, the percentage of people living under the international poverty line halved itself, from an initial of 41.4% percentage in 2010 to a 22.7% in 2011, as stated in CIA World Factbook 2014.
In contrast to the Romanian governmental involvement, in much poorer countries, non-governmental organizations are standing out in this pursuit to enlarge opportunities to those economically disadvantaged. Such a non-profit organization is KIVA – Loans that change lives. Since 2005 when it was founded, KIVA has connected 1 239 527 lenders to poor people living in remote areas who implicitly do not have access to financial services. Its mechanism is very simple: anyone can lend as little as $25 to an impoverished person, whose story and needs underlying the loan are presented on KIVA website. Approximately 300 Field Partners (microfinance institutions) and 450 volunteers work in the field on 5 continents to ensure maximum professionalism and financial assistance. Their thorough work, the labour and intellectual potential of the disadvantaged people resulted in a fascinating repayment rate of 98.78%. In the noble quest to alleviate poverty, Field Partners most usually target geographic locations such as rural villages or urban slums where the population is poorer than the general population.
Other alternatives for reaching poorer populations encompass utilizing poverty assessment tools with each new borrower, plus offering products and services in a manner that attracts poorer borrowers, such as small loan sizes and solidarity groups. Due to the high implementation costs, Kiva does not charge any interest to its Field Partners. Whilst government and private institutions have taken the soundest initiatives in microfinancing

agriculture in Romania, in Mexico, for instance, KIVA has played a critical role in developing rural communities, having facilitated access to $16,749,550 to the poorest citizens of Mexico in their most adventurous entrepreneurial dreams ranging from producing one’s own biogas and organic fertilizer from one’s cows’ manure, purchasing cows to produce milk and meat that the borrower will sell at his butcher shop to buying a truck to transport organic cucumbers. Hence, the governments of countries facing severe poverty should emulate this sort of initiatives, should create such platforms that would promote real and concrete entrepreneurial plans, should ensure that the microloans are used accordingly.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, over 500 million family farms manage the majority of the world’s agricultural land, producing most of the world’s food. Yet, do microloans in agriculture show any promise as a model for implementation on a global scale? Yes they do. But why exactly do we need family farms? For a viable future. To attain global food security. To harness while protecting the natural environment. To end poverty, undernourishment and malnutrition. How can we empower these magnificent tools to alleviate poverty and famine, which are the family farms? While the only sustainable ways remain microfinance and entrepreneurship, agriculture alone cannot help a country escape poverty if its decision-making mechanisms exhibit complete disinterest in promoting traditional farming, investing in performant irrigation systems, in facilitating access to land to those in need, in trusting the powerful longterm impact of such solutions.
– Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World Factbook 2014, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/docs/didyouknow.html

– European Commission. 2014 International Year of small scale sustainable Family Farming, http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/consultations/family-farming/contributions/ecvc_en.pdf
– Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. State of Food and Agriculture 2014, http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4040e.pdf

– Fukuoka, Masanobu. The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming. Emmaus: Rodale Press, 1978.
Kiva Foundation. http://www.kiva.org/

– Nabhan, Gary Paul. Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002.
– The National Agency for Regional Development. Poverty Rates in Buchares-Ilfov, http://www.adrbi.ro/media/8533/2.4.%20Nivel%20de%20saracie.pdf

– Trading Economics. Rural Population Percent in Romania, World Bank Data, http://www.tradingeconomics.com/romania/rural-population-percent-of-total-population-wb-data.html
– World Bank. Improving Access to Financial Services in Indonesia, http://www.bi.go.id/id/perbankan/keuanganinklusif/berita/Documents/World%20Bank%20Report%20-%20Improving%20Access%20to%20Financial%20Services%20in%20Indonesia.pdf

Necesitatea accesului la apă curată

În luna mai, Elif a fost invitată la Bruxelles, la conferința “Our world, our dignity, our future. The post-2015 agenda and the role of youth”, unde tinerii prezenți au putut să-i adreseze întrebări Secretarului General al ONU, Ban Ki-moon. Elif a câstigat această invitație în urma unui exercițiu, în care a răspuns întrebării: “Ce ai face daca ai fi pentru o zi Secretarul General al ONU?”

Access to Clean Water

440 million days which are missed by children due to water related diseases can be spent gaining an education. Millions of miles trekked by women to find the closest water source, only to bring home dirty water, can be transformed into miles of crops harvested from properly watered agricultural land. Millions of harmful bacteria from the wrong disposal of chemicals and toxic waste, when destroyed, can leave room to the vital electrolytes for a healthy body, that the clean water provides.

Governments should aim to spend a minimum of one percent GDP on water and sanitation. In Ethiopia the military budget is 10 times the water and sanitation budget — in Pakistan, 47 times. If I were the Secretary General of the UN for one day, I would “unite the nations” to ensure that access to clean water becomes a human right attained everywhere in the world. This means tackling the underlying problem to extreme poverty and hunger, sanitation, education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability.

What I would do would be an extraordinary meeting with the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund in which we would develop a 10-year plan aimed at galvanizing political action on water access: for 10 years, every country that decreases with 1.5% of GDP its spending on military defense, and instead uses 1% on the improvement of its own water systems and redirects the 0.5% left to a collective fund aiding the regions that are most afflicted by water-shortages, will have its IMF voting power raised accordingly.

US$10 billion a year for global clean water access. As the Secretary-General, I think we can afford giving up on less than five days’ worth of global military spending and less than half what rich countries spend each year on mineral water.

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