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Ethiopia
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West Bank
Hungary Mexico
United States
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Ethiopia
The oldest independent country in Africa, and one of the oldest in the world, Ethiopia boasts the distinction of being the only African nation to maintain its freedom from colonial rule. It has governed itself independently for at least 2000 years, with the exception of a short period of Italian occupation from 1936 to 1941.

Since the military overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, Ethiopia has been plagued by coups, uprisings, drought, and refugee problems. A coalition of rebel groups took over the military junta in 1991, and in 1994 a constitution was adopted. The following year, the first multiparty elections were held. A 2-1/2 year border war with neighboring Eritrea ended in December 2000, which strengthened the ruling coalition, but huge economic problems remain.

A bit less than twice the size of Texas, landlocked Ethiopia lies just north of the equator in eastern Africa. It has high plateau topography with a central mountain range that's divided by the Great Rift Valley.

Only 12 percent of the terrain is arable, and only 1 percent is in permanent crops, yet agriculture represents 90 percent of the country's exports and 80 percent of its total employment. Coffee is critical to the Ethiopian economy; 25 percent of the population depend on the coffee sector for their income. Frequent drought and poor cultivation practices force 4.6 million Ethiopians to seek food assistance annually.



Ghana
In 1957, Ghana became the first country in colonial Africa to gain its independence. A long series of coups resulted in the suspension of its constitution in 1981 and the subsequent banning of political parties. A new constitution, restoring multiparty politics, was approved in 1992.

Located in Western Africa, it borders the Gulf of Guinea, between Cote d'Ivoire and Togo. A small country, not even as large as Oregon, it has a total area of 238,540 square kilometers, including 539 kilometers of coastline.

Their climate is tropical and warm, comparatively dry along the southeast coast, hot and humid in the southwest, and hot and dry in northern areas. Low plains with dissected plateau in the south-central region comprise the terrain. At an elevation of just 880 meters, Mount Afadjato is the highest point. Gold, timber, industrial diamonds, bauxite, manganese, fish, rubber, and hydropower are included in the country’s natural resources.

Recent droughts in the north have severely affected agricultural activities, while deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, poaching and habitat destruction have threatened wildlife populations and the environment. Widespread water pollution has resulted in inadequate supplies of potable water.

Just under 20 million, this population is threatened by excess mortality due to AIDS. The life expectancy averages less than 58 years, and roughly four children are born to each woman. English is the official, while African languages, including Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, and Ga, are also spoken. Seventy-five percent of the men are literate, while only 53 percent of all women over the age of 15 can read and write.

With significant natural resources, Ghana has twice the per capita compared to poorer neighbors throughout West Africa. Still, they continue to be highly dependent on foreign assistance in financial and technical matters.



Madagascar
Madagascar, the fourth-largest island in the world, sits in the Indian Ocean off the eastern coast of mainland Africa. Over the past 1,000 years people from almost every continent have called Madagascar home. Southeast Asians-not Africans-first settled the island, followed by Arabs, Africans, and finally Europeans, creating a unique mix of cultures. The island's population was estimated at 15,982,563 in July 2001.

After centuries as an independent kingdom, Madagascar was a French colony from 1886 until 1960, when it regained its independence. During 1992-93, free elections were held, ending 17 years of single-party rule.

Agriculture, fishing, and forestry are the mainstays of the economy. Textile manufacturing and the processing of agricultural products are the major industrial activities. Graphite, chromite, coal, bauxite, salt, quartz, tar sands, semiprecious stones, mica, fish, and hydropower are important natural resources.

The island spent 200 million years developing in isolation, to create a unique ecosystem with species of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world. Yet soil erosion and desertification resulting from deforestation and overgrazing, and surface water contaminated with raw sewage and other organic wastes, threatens several of these unique species with extinction.



Morocco
Morocco is located just south of Spain and North of Algeria, bordered by the North Atlantic Ocean to the west and, to the north, the Mediterranean Sea.

Slightly larger than California, it has a population of roughly 30 million, according to ODCI's 2001 estimates. A developing nation, its government is working to reduce constraints on private enterprise and foreign trade in order to achieve sustainable economic growth.

Production, export, and sale of the quality, handcrafted creations you'll find on our site not only help to support traditional arts, but also assist in the growth of local economy.



Mozambique
With the end of Marxism in 1989 and a UN-negotiated peace agreement, Mozambique is working toward a free market economy. Located in Southern Africa, it’s bordered by the country of South Africa and Tanzania. With an area of just over 800,000 square kilometers, it’s almost twice as large as the state of California.

Their climate ranges from tropical to subtropical, with a terrain comprised mostly of coastal lowlands, with uplands in the center, high plateaus to the northwest, and mountains out west. Monte Binga, with an elevation of 2,436 meters, is the country’s highest point.

Severe droughts and floods throughout the central and southern provinces, along with devastating cyclones, impact the people, crops, and productivity. The population of roughly 16 million is also effected by excess mortality due to AIDS. Their life expectancy averages only 37.5 years, and it’s one of the few countries where men typically live longer than women (38.3 years versus 36.7, respectively.) The fertility rate is considerably high, with each woman giving birth to an estimated five children.

Portuguese is the official language, though indigenous dialects are commonly spoken across the nation. Over half the population religiously honors indigenous beliefs. Christianity is a growing faith, currently practiced by 30 percent of the people. Only 40 percent of all Mozambique’s people over the age of 15 are literate.



South Africa
Located in southernmost Africa, South Africa has a diverse landscape with high plateaus in the interior and mountains dividing the interior from the coastline. Its nine provinces encompass an area of 470,693 square miles. Rich in natural resources, minerals, salt, platinum, gold, and diamonds were the catalyst for the country’s strong (though costly) mining industry. Gold is mined to depths below 3,000 meters (10,000 feet), a challenging and expensive effort.

The climate is warm and temperate, with nominal, unpredictable rainfall and plentiful sunshine, much like summer in Utah. Just over 30 percent of the country has an annual rainfall of more 25 inches. About half the land has an average of well under 24 inches (sometimes as little as 8.) Most rain falls during the summer months (October through April.) However, the Mediterranean climate of the country’s extreme southwest experiences strong westerly winds off the Atlantic, with winter rainfall between June and September.

Plant life is very diverse, harboring over 20,000 native species. Most plateau areas are treeless and covered in prairie-like grasslands. Savanna vegetation (grassland with sparse trees and bushes) is found in the central Bush Veld. Coarse golden tufts of desert grasses grow in the Karoo, turning green only after the rare instances of rain. The desertous landscape of the Northern Cape comes alive once spring rains encourage a blanket of wildflowers across its Namaqualand region.

British settlers arrived in South Africa in the early 1800s. According to 1991 census figures, the total population increased 11 percent over the that of 1985. The current population is estimated at 44 million. About 93 people occupy each square mile on the average, though rural populations are the densest, numerically speaking. There are 11 official languages, including English, Zulu, Pedi, Swazi, Tsonga, and others.

The life expectancy is only 48 years on average, and the nation’s fertility rate is 2.4. Almost 20 percent of all South Africa’s people are HIV positive, a statistic that drastically impacts mortality and quality of life. Eighty-two percent, including women and men, are literate, evidencing the people’s high regard for education.



Zimbabwe
This landlocked country is surrounded by Mozambique, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa. Its climate is tropical, with a predominantly high plateau terrain. Limited natural resources include coal, ore, gold, nickel, and copper. Recurring droughts make it next to impossible to sustain permanent crops. Work is scarce, a fact that is reflected in the 50 percent unemployment rate. The country’s population of 11,342,251 is experiencing excess mortality due to AIDS. At this time, the average life expectancy is less than 38 years.
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Cambodia
With a coalition government, newly formed through 1998 elections, Cambodia is seeing renewed political stability after years of unrest. Bordered by Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and the Gulf of Thailand, this diminutive country is slightly smaller than Oklahoma.

The climate is tropical, with a rainy monsoon season from May through November, a dry season between December and April, and minor seasonal temperature variations. Their terrain is predominantly low with flat plains, though some mountains are found in the southwest and far north. Phnum Aoral is the highest point at just 1,810 meters.

Excess mortality due to AIDS effects the 12,212,306 population. The average life expectancy at this time is 56.5 years, and the fertility rate is somewhat higher than average at 4.82 per woman. Their literacy rate is a low 35 percent (less than 50 percent of males and just 22 percent of females over age 15 can read and write). Khmer is the language of 95 percent of the citizens, with French and English spoken amongst the remaining five percent.

As of 1998, the labor force was estimated at six million and a more recent statistic reflects an unemployment rate of under three percent. Thirty-six percent of the population lived below the poverty line as of 1997, though continuously improving political and economic conditions are helping that figure to drop. Garments, rice milling, fishing, wood products, rubber, gem mining, and textiles are among the major industries.



India
Slightly larger than one-third the size of the U.S., India dominates the map of southern Asia. It lies between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, Burma and Pakistan. The altitude rises from sea level at the Indian Ocean to over 28,000 feet at the peak of Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas.

India's climate varies as much as its altitude--tropical monsoons in the south to a temperate climate with severe winters and milder summers in the northern highlands. Many artisans make use of their lands' natural resources to create practical and artistic works. Handicrafts are an important contributor to the Indian economy.



Indonesia
Indonesia is the world’s largest archipelago. A land rich in religion, natural beauty, and culture there is little wonder how the area’s artisans find their creative inspiration. Dance, music, ceramics, and art are a way of life in this beautiful region. Skilled craftspeople strive to express their creativity while simultaneously increasing the standard of living for their communities. The average life expectancy here is a well-lived 68 years, and most women count a reasonable 2.6 children among their unique creations. An 84-percent literacy rate reflects the population’s appreciation for the art of writing.

Despite its small size, Bali, is one of the most popular islands in Indonesia. In Tenganan, a remote village on the island of Bali, Aga heritage remains in the hearts of the people. Like the Hindu majority on the island, these villagers have a high degree of respect for dancers, artists, and craftspeople. Most production of their handcrafted items, such as the intricately woven baskets found on our site, takes place in homes or courtyards, created by groups of artisans who share both expertise and lively stories. Ate (pronounced Ah-tay), the grass used to weave these practical works of art, is a creeping plant harvested from the nearly ten hectares of forest that surround the village.



Israel
Long troubled by territorial disputes, Israel is located in the Middle East, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Egypt, and Lebanon. A small country, its 20,770 square kilometer area is not quite as large as New Jersey. The climate is generally temperate, with hot, dry conditions in the southern and eastern desert areas.

Israel’s terrain includes the Negev desert in the south, a low coastal plain, central mountains, and the Jordan Rift Valley. Timber, copper ore, natural gas, phosphate rock, magnesium bromide, clay, sand, and oil are the region’s most beneficial resources. Environmental challenges are posed by limited arable land and lack of natural fresh water resources.

The population of roughly six million includes an estimated 176,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank, 20,000 in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, about 6,900 in the Gaza Strip, and 173,000 in East Jerusalem. Their average life expectancy is almost 79 years, and 2.57 children are born to each woman.

Ethnically and religiously, the people are over 80 percent Jewish. Hebrew is the official language and English is their most commonly used foreign language. An extremely literate nation, 95 percent are able to read and write.

They have a technologically advanced market economy with substantial government participation. Despite the country’s limited natural resources, they’ve developed both agricultural and industrial sectors over the past two decades. With the exception of grain production, Israel is largely self-sufficient in food production. Diamonds, high-tech equipment, fruits, and vegetables are leading exports.

Approximately half of the government's external debt is owed to the U.S, its major source of economic and military aid. The influx of Jewish immigrants from the former USSR exceeded 740,000 between 1989 and 1999, bringing in scientific and professional expertise of substantial value for the economy's future. This growth, along with newly opened markets at the end of the Cold War, energized Israel's economy in the early 1990s. The nation’s current unemployment rate is at nine percent.



Jordan
For over four decades (1953 through 1999), Jordan was ruled by the practical King Hussein. Located in the Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia, this small country has a total area of just over 89,000 square kilometers. Only 329 square kilometers of that is water. The climate is primarily arid desert, though there is a mild rainy season, from November to April, in the west.

The terrain is dominated by desert plateau, with a highland area out west. The Great Rift Valley separates the East and West Banks of the Jordan River. Jabal Ram, with an elevation of 1,734 meters, is the highest point. The few natural resources include phosphates, potash, and shale oil. Environmental issues are the lack of fresh water resources, as is common in this region, deforestation, overgrazing and soil erosion.

According to year 2,000 estimates, the population is just under five million. Most citizens live an average of 77.36 years, and the fertility rate is 3.4 children per woman. While Arabic is the official language, English is commonly understood among the upper and middle classes. Over 86 percent of the people are literate.

Thirty percent of the country’s families live below the poverty line, and the unemployment rate is considerably high at 15 percent. King Abdallah, Jordan’s current ruler, is working toward some economic reform, allowing partial privatization of limited state owned enterprises and entry to the World Trade Organization.



Nepal
Located in southern Asia, between China and India, Nepal is just slightly larger than the state of Arkansas. Its northern region has cool summers and severe winters, while the south has mild winters and steamy, subtropical summer weather. The terrain combines the south flat river plain of the Ganges with a central hill region and rugged Himalayas to the north.

Natural resources include quartz, water, timber, hydropower, and famed scenic beauty. The life expectancy is less than 58 years, and natural hazards are presented by severe thunderstorms, flooding, drought, landslides, and famine. Almost five children are born to each woman, and an estimated 42 percent of the country’s 24 million residents live below the poverty level.

There is a substantial lack of skilled labor and substantial underemployment amongst the work force of 10 million. Tourism, carpets and textiles are the major industries.



South Korea
Located in Eastern Asia, South Korea sits at the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, bordering the Sea of Japan, as well as the Yellow Sea. The usually temperate climate, with its heavy summer rains, is occasionally disrupted by typhoons that bring high winds and floods. Some low-level seismic activity is common in the southwest.

Their population at this time is almost 48 million, according to the CIA's online 'Fact book.' According to the CIA's site, a large percent (98!) of the population is literate, and, while Korean is of course the official language, English is also taught in most junior high and high schools. Export commodities include electronic products, machinery and equipment, motor vehicles, steel, ships, textiles, clothing, footwear, and fish.



Thailand
Home to many skilled artisans, Thailand, a unified kingdom established in the mid-14th century, was known as Siam until 1939. Their primary export during that period was cats. Today, the textiles and garment industry, along with tourism, are thriving in this colorful and culturally rich land. The unemployment is just 4.5 percent and their literacy rate is at 94 percent. English is the common second language of the elite.

Roughly twice the size of Wyoming, Thailand is bordered by Burma, Cambodia, Laos, and Malaysia. The climate is tropical, warm, and rainy, with natural resources that include rubber, tin, timber, lead, and fish. A relatively healthy region, the average life expectancy is 68.5 years.



Vietnam
With a complicated and diverse history, northern Vietnam is just beginning to make a name for itself in international markets.

France occupied the entire country by 1884, though independence was declared after World War II. The French continued to rule until 1954, when they were defeated by communist forces under Ho Chi Minh, who took control of the north. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam continued through the 1960s, but was forced to withdraw after a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the south.

Economic reconstruction of the reunited country has been slow and challenging, though party leaders have begun the reforms necessary for a free market.

The climate varies from the north, where it is rainy and monsoonal, to the south, which has more tropical weather. The population of almost 79 million has an average life expectancy of over 69 years. When last surveyed in 1995, the unemployment rate was at 25 percent.



West Bank
With an area less than 5,900 square kilometers, this Middle Eastern country (located just west of Jordan) is even smaller than the state of Delaware.

The climate is generally temperate, with varying temperatures and precipitation dependent upon altitude. Summers are typically warm to hot and winters are cool to mild. The terrain is rather rugged, dissected in the upland region with some vegetation in the west. Eastern areas are barren.

Environmental challenges are posed by frequent droughts, an inadequate fresh water supply, and substandard sewage treatment. The current population of 2,090,713 has an average life expectancy of 72.28 years and a fertility rate of 4.9 children per woman.

The religious population is predominantly Muslim (75 percent), with 17 percent Jewish, and Christians making up most of the remaining 8 percent. Arabic is the predominant language, though Israeli settlers and many Palestinians speak Hebrew. English is also widely understood. The latest unemployment statistics are a substantial 40 percent, including those in the Gaza Strip.
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Hungary
Located to the northwest of Romania, Hungary is also bordered by Austria, Croatia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Ukraine. Its landlocked locale has a temperate climate with cold, cloudy, humid winters and warm summers. The terrain is rather flat with rolling plains and a few low mountains along the Slovakian border. Kekes, at 1,014 meters, is the highest point.

In addition to the red clay of Hungary’s southern Great Plain region, coal, natural gas, fertile soils, and arable land are the area’s other natural resources.

The average life expectancy is over 71 years, with women outlasting men, as is common in North America. The average fertility rate is 1.25 children per woman.

Unemployment is relatively high (10 percent) amongst the 4.2 million-person work force. Mining, construction materials, processed foods, textiles, and pharmaceuticals comprise their major industries at this time.

In Hungary’s southern Great Plain region, there’s a great reverence for tradition. Many things are done today much like they were a hundred years ago. Wide expanses of prairie and farmland still support small farms and herds of livestock.

One of the region’s greatest natural resources is red clay. It’s ideal for producing the high-quality ceramics that are created by this area’s talented artisans.
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Mexico
Amidst ongoing social and economic concerns, Mexico is making a remarkable recovery after its devastating recession in 1994, triggered by the devaluation of the peso. While citizens continue to experience considerable underemployment, there is an unemployment rate of just 2.5 percent in the urban environments. Most of the 38.6 million work force is employed in service professions, agriculture, or industry.

Health care and birth control are improving, as indicated in the 72-year life expectancy and 2.67 fertility rate. The current population is at roughly 100,400,000 with a growth rate of 1.53 percent.

Located in Middle America, Mexico borders the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, between Belize and the U.S., and borders the North Pacific Ocean between Guatemala and the United States. Its climate varies from tropical to desert and the terrain includes high, rugged mountains, low coast plains, plateaus, and desert. Natural resources include petroleum, silver, copper, gold, lead, zinc, natural gas, and timber.
United States of America
Land of the free, home of the brave, the U.S. became the world’s first modern democracy when it broke from British rule in 1776 and adopted its own constitution. An exceedingly generous nation, this country has helped to lift Germany and Japan, and, to some extent, Britain and Italy from the ruins of war. American wealth, in currency, compassion, and technology, has been shared throughout foreign nations, with billions of dollars sent to assist discouraged countries.

The grand country of Canada is located to the north, while Mexico sits at the southern border. North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans are located on the eastern and western shores of the United States, respectively. With a total area of 9,629,091 kilometers, this United States is about half the size of Russia and slightly larger than China.

A temperate climate is found in a good portion of the country, though it is more tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, and semi-arid in the great western plains. The terrain varies, with a vast central plain, rugged mountains and broad river valleys throughout majestic Alaska, hills and low mountains to the east, and mountainous regions out west. The highest point is Alaska’s Mt. McKinley at 6,194 meters.

The population of 276 million has an average life expectancy rate of just over 77 years (74 for men, 80 for women), with a fertility rate of 2.06 children. At this time, the literacy rate is 97 percent amongst both genders. English is the official language, though a sizable minority also speaks Spanish.

Over 139 million people comprise the labor force. Almost five percent of U.S. citizens are unemployed according to 2001 statistics, and roughly 13 percent live below the poverty line. Major industries include industrial power, diversified and advanced technology, petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, lumber, mining, food processing, and consumer goods.
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Costa Rica
Undoubtedly the most successful country in Central America, Costa Rica has had only two brief periods of violence since the late 19th century. A predominantly agricultural area, it enjoys democratic leadership, a comfortable standard of living, and widespread land ownership.

Located in Middle America, Costa Rica borders the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean between Nicaragua and Panama. Slightly smaller than West Virginia, it has almost 1,300 kilometers of coastline and a total area of roughly 51,000 square kilometers. Occasional earthquakes, hurricanes along the Atlantic coast, volcanoes, and lowland flooding during the rainy season are natural hazards of the nation.

The population, as estimated in late 2000, was over 3,700,000. The life expectancy rate is roughly 76 years, and each woman gives birth to an average of 2.52 children. Almost 95 percent of Costa Ricans are literate, with Spanish being the official language. English is prevalent in the area of Puerto Limon.

At this time, the unemployment rate, at 5.5 percent, is just slightly higher than that in the U.S. Major industries include microprocessors, food processing, textiles and clothing, construction materials, fertilizer, and plastic products. Communication systems are very good, with Internet service readily available and microwave, fiber-optic, and coaxial cable link phone lines. Mobile cellular phones have been common since the early 90's. The country has six television broadcast stations and over 100 radio stations.

Transportation is also highly effective and readily accessible in Costa Rica. They have 28 paved-runway airports, 127 with unpaved runways, six major ports and harbors, almost 8,000 kilometers of paved highways, and 950 kilometers of railway.


Guatemala
Located roughly 51 miles northeast of the North Pacific Ocean, Guatemala is also bordered by Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea.

This Central American country is just slightly smaller that the State of Tennessee. Its terrain is mostly mountainous with narrow coastal plains. The current population is approximately 13 million, according to the CIA's World Fact Book. Guatemala's export commodities include coffee, sugar, bananas, fruit, and vegetables.

The socially responsible products you'll find on our site are created by Guatemalan artisans who strive to sustain traditional crafts and local economy. Their creations help provide opportunity for developing communities.


Haiti
Small and struggling Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, plagued by political violence for most of its history. Located in the Caribbean, it’s bordered by the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Dominican Republic. Its total area is less than 28,000 square kilometers (smaller than Maryland.)

The climate is tropical, with semi-arid regions where the eastern mountains cut off trade winds. Its terrain, mostly rough and mountainous, is challenged by hurricanes and severe storms from June to October, with occasional flooding, earthquakes, and periodic droughts. Extensive deforestation (most forest land is being cleared for agriculture and fuel use), erosion of the soil, and lack of potable water pose environmental difficulties.

The current population of 6.9 million is faced with widespread infection of AIDS, resulting in a lower life expectancy (it’s currently 49 years) and higher infant mortality. The fertility rate remains high, with an average of 4.5 children born to each woman (based on year 2000 estimates.) A high number of those babies are born HIV positive.

Though the majority of the citizens are Christian (80 percent Roman Catholic, 16 percent Protestant), roughly half the population also practices Voodoo. Official languages are both French and Creole, and fewer than half (45 percent) are literate.

An unusually large percentage of the people exist in abject poverty (80 percent by recent accounts). Most of them depend on the agriculture sector, and the country has experienced practically no job creation since early 1996. Seventy percent are unemployed. What little industry there is consists of sugar refining, textiles, cement, tourism, flour milling, and light assembly with imported components. Some income is generated from the limited export of mangoes, coffee, sugarcane, rice, corn, and wood.


Nicaragua
This small country (almost as large as New York) is bordered by Costa Rica, Honduras, and 910 kilometers of coastline. With a tropical climate in the lowlands and cool temperatures in the highlands, it counts gold, silver, copper, tungsten steel, zinc, lead, timber, and fish amongst its natural resources, as well as an abundance of pine trees on the beautiful northern ridge.

Their slowly recovering economy was hard hit by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, and the land is plagued by recurrent and destructive earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and hurricanes.

At last count the population approached five million and the life expectancy averages almost 69 years. Most women create 3.27 children and 50 percent of all families live below the poverty line. With a work force of 1.7 million, the unemployment rate is 10.5 percent and there is considerable underemployment.
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Argentina
Argentina, something of a democracy since 1983, is located along the South Atlantic Ocean of Southern South America, between Chile and Uruguay. With a land area of just under three million square kilometers, it has a rather temperate climate, with arid regions in the southeast.

Their terrain is comprised of plains in the northern half with the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia to the south. The rugged Andes Mountains run along Argentina’s western border. Fertile plains of the pampas, lead, zinc, tin, copper, iron ore, manganese, petroleum, and uranium are among the nation’s most beneficial natural resources.
Illegal drugs continue to be a serious problem in this country, with increasing transshipment of cocaine to Europe and the U.S., and high domestic drug consumption. It is also increasingly used as a money-laundering center.

The second-largest country in South America (after Brazil), Argentina has a population of almost 37 million. The average life expectancy is over 75 years, and the fertility rate is at 2.47, not much higher than that in the U.S. The majority of people (almost 97 percent) are literate, though a significant number (36 percent) live below the poverty line. Fourteen percent of the workforce is currently unemployed.


Bolivia
Democratic civilian rule was established in Bolivia in the 1980s, though leaders continue to face problems of poverty, social unrest, and drug production. Attracting foreign investment, strengthening the educational system, and an anti-corruption campaign are at the head of the government’s goals.

Located in Central South America, southwest of Brazil, it’s a relatively large country with a total area of over one million square kilometers. It’s bordered by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Peru. The climate varies with altitude, from humid and tropical to cold and semi-arid. The terrain is rugged through the Andes Mountains, with a highland plateau, rolling hills, and lowland plains in the Amazon Basin. Tin, natural gas, petroleum, zinc, tungsten, antimony, silver, iron, lead, gold, and timber are the primary natural resources.

At just over eight million, the population has an average life expectancy of almost 64 years. Each woman has 3.6 children, and 83 percent of the people are literate. Ninety-five percent are Roman Catholic, with the remainder being Evangelical Methodist. Spanish is the official language, along with Quechua and Aymara. An incredibly large percentage (70) live below the poverty line, and unemployment is at 11.4 percent.


Brazil
Home to artisans recognized for their skilled workmanship, creativity, and bold contemporary designs, this country is rich in resources of gold, silver, nickel, platinum, and semiprecious stones.

The mostly flat terrain is accented by some rolling northern lowlands, plains, hills, a mountain or two, and a narrow, 7,491-kilometer coastal belt. While the climate is primarily tropical, it is often temperate in the south, making that region a rather attractive spot for tourism.

The population includes almost 173 million citizens with an average life expectancy of roughly 65 years. Each woman gives birth to an average of 2.13 children and the country’s unemployment rate is an almost manageable 7 percent. Industries include textiles, iron ore, chemicals, aircraft, motor vehicles, and other machinery.


Peru
Slightly smaller than Alaska, this creative country is bordered by Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, and Ecuador. With over 2,400 meters of coastline, its climate varies from tropical in the east to dry and desert-like out west, while temperatures up in the Andes are temperate to frigid.

With a coastline along the Pacific Ocean, Peru sits amidst the Andes, and has long been known for the advanced pre-Columbian cultures, which thrived both in the mountains and along the coastal areas. The most well-known culture was that of the Incas, yet several others existed and are recognized today for their artistic and practical contributions. The Moche culture of 100 AD to 1000 AD left elaborate tombs, underground catacombs, and signs of a well-organized urban existence, such as the invention of combining rich chocolate, milk, and strong coffee. Gold, semiprecious gemstones, woven textiles, and fine drawings were discovered only 50 years ago in the tombs of the rulers and nobility of these cultures.

Natural resources, in addition to alpaca and their versatile wool, include copper, silver, gold, timber, and fish. Earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding, landslides, and volcanic activity present occasional obstacles to success.

The population of over 27 million enjoys an average life expectancy of over 70 years and the fertility rate is 3.04 children per woman. Unfortunately, 54 percent of the nation’s families live below the poverty line and 7.7 percent are unemployed. Of the 7.6 million-person work force, an excessive number are underemployed, working primarily in mining, fishing, textiles, food processing, and metal fabrication.

Andes Mountains of Peru

Stretching nearly 5,000 miles, from Venezuela in the northern part of South America to Patagonia at the south end of the continent, the Andes Mountains are one of the greatest geographic formations in the Americas.

In the middle of the range, the highland plateau snakes across Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, with barren plains, rocky ridges, and several volcanoes dotting its wind-ravaged landscape. For generations, rural families in the Andes Mountains of Peru have raised alpaca and sheep for their beautiful warm wool.

Under the harsh conditions of this rough terrain, native herdsmen shear the alpaca, which produce only a precious small amount of fleece. It’s skillfully cleaned and spun into exquisite and durable wool. Complementing the alpaca production, sheep wool is also used to create traditional clothing, rugs, and tapestries.

Many of these artisans have endured civil wars, forced migration to urban areas (in their search for work and a sustainable living), and the impact of fluctuating prices on wool fiber. Despite the many obstacles in their daily lives, they continue to produce wonderful and unique products using time honored skills and techniques.

An important source of income for this fragile economy is the production of fine sweaters, blankets, and coats made from natural wool. Sales of these products bring new income and opportunity, help preserve local alpaca, and support an ancient tradition of craft and production that can improve living conditions and make a difference in a rugged part of the world.
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