A boost to wildlife in Bolivia and to child welfare in Nigeria

1. Bolivia

A Bolivian mountain route known as “death road” transformed into a wildlife haven. Dating back to the 1930s, the path winds along steep cliffs in the country’s Andes Mountains, connecting the capital La Paz to the Amazon rainforest.

Following thousands of deadly vehicle accidents, Bolivia opened an alternate route for transport in 2007, leaving the original path for bikers, curiosity seekers, and wildlife.

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In our progress roundup, change comes to a notoriously dangerous road in Bolivia, child marriage rates drop in Nigeria, and Belgian city centers prioritize safety for people.

Animals had been virtually absent from the area, due to the pollution and noise of 24-hour-a-day traffic. But once heavy haul trucks relocated, biodiversity flourished. Using camera trap data, the Wildlife Conservation Society has since documented 94 species of wild birds, including hummingbirds, toucans, and parrots, and 16 species of mammals in the area.
Sources: Reuters, Ecología en Bolivia

Juan Karita/AP/File
A participant runs the 2017 Sky Race in Bolivia, on a scenic Andean road once known for vehicle accidents.

2. United States

Students now have access to free menstrual products at California schools. As of the 2022-2023 school year, all public schools serving sixth through 12th grades and public colleges and universities must stock menstrual pads and tampons in women’s and all-gender bathrooms, and at least one men’s restroom, thanks to a bill signed last fall.

Nearly 1 in 4 students in the U.S. struggles to afford period products, according to the National Education Association. “Much like food, school supplies and other basic necessities, students often are too embarrassed to admit that one, there’s a lack of such things in their own homes and two, they need assistance acquiring them,” said teacher Yurii Camacho, who used to stock period products for students herself.

Rich Pedroncelli/AP/File
California Assembly member Cristina Garcia introduced the Menstrual Equity for All Act, which passed in October 2021.

The law expands on a 2017 bill that required many low-income schools to offer menstrual products. “Just as toilet paper and paper towels are provided in virtually every public bathroom, so should menstrual products,” said Assembly member Cristina Garcia. Over a dozen other states have enacted similar legislation, including Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, and New York.
Sources: The Associated Press, National Education Association

3. Belgium

Belgian cities are prioritizing bikes and pedestrians, adding to livability and reducing emissions. Studies show that minimizing the number of cars on the road reduces traffic injuries and makes it safer for environmentally friendly forms of transportation. In the university town of Leuven, for instance, cycling increased by 40% in the five years since the city approved a people-centered mobility plan.

Similar changes are taking place in the country’s capital. As part of a plan that went into effect last month, Brussels added new bike lanes and low-speed zones, pedestrianized certain streets, and created one-way streets to ease traffic, while expanding investment in public transportation. Cars that before would pass through the city to go other places are diverted to a ring road.

Less than one-fourth of the people who live or work in the center of Brussels use cars, according to Bart Dhondt, the city’s deputy mayor of mobility. “We’re leaving behind the Brussels of the 1960s and ’70s, when everything was built for cars, and moving toward a completely different direction in which the city is for people,” he said.
Sources: Euronews, Politico, European Cyclists’ Federation

4. Nepal

Seed banks across Nepal are reviving native varieties of food crops. These community-run banks have emerged as a way to safeguard crops that are particularly resilient to extreme weather and pests. While over 90% of vegetable seeds grown in Nepal are imported, seed banks are making it easier for farmers to access local varieties, which have been going extinct around the world for over a century. Today, over 50 community-run seed banks operate across the country, according to the government’s Center for Crop Development and Agro Bio-diversity Conservation.

Residents of Maramche in western Nepal, for example, established a seed bank in 2020 after local farmer Krishna Adhikari attended a national meeting for community seed banks in Kathmandu. The town’s new seed bank preserves 12 native crop varieties such as rice, cucumber, and maize. These organizations and their farmers face challenges, from limited financial support in the short term to the migration of younger generations into cities. Despite the uncertainty, “we know we are playing our part in the conservation of our heritage,” said Mr. Adhikari. “That’s what matters for now.”
Source: Mongabay

5. Nigeria

Child marriage dropped 14 percentage points in five years in Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the countries with the highest rates of child marriage in Africa. In 2016, some 44% of Nigerian women reported getting married under the age of 18, according to a national report. That figure fell to 30% by 2021, with a higher percentage of underage girls married in rural areas as compared with urban areas.

Sunday Alamba/AP/File
A woman protests underage marriage in Lagos, Nigeria.

Girls who marry before adulthood are less likely to continue their education and more likely to experience domestic abuse, according to UNICEF. Nigeria’s Child Rights Act outlawed the practice in 2003, but the legislation has not been adopted in 11 states. The report also showed improvements in the rates of child mortality, birth registration, and breastfeeding. “While there has been some good progress – and we should celebrate that – we still have a long way to go towards ensuring the well-being of children in Nigeria,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative.
Sources: Premium Times, UNICEF

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