This post originally appeared on the Save the Children Blog.
We like to think of development as a team sport requiring all players to work together toward the same goal. The game gets particularly exciting when you add new players to the team at half time.
Save the Children has served children and families in Nicaragua for almost 80 years. Three years ago, we began partnering with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR), based in Vermont, on a project to increase the income and food security for families of workers on coffee farms. By helping families to diversify their crops, improve storage techniques, and bring crops to market, they can better withstand periods of food scarcity during the months between coffee harvests.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) joined the partnership two years ago, adding an ambitious health component through their regional “4th Sector Health” project. Implemented by Abt Associates, 4thSector Health develops public-private partnerships and supports exchanges between countries to advance development through health in Latin America and the Caribbean. In Nicaragua, 4th Sector Health is working with Save the Children and GMCR, along with local civil society partners, to boost maternal and child health and nutrition for the same coffee-growing communities.
USAID’s 4th Sector Health also recently funded an experience sharing trip for Save the Children staff from five Latin American countries, who were involved in implementing GMCR-funded projects. The participants learned from each other’s experiences and are replicating best practices in their own programs, serving to increase their impact and sustainability.
The alliance between USAID, Save the Children, and GMCR is intended to maximize the use of resources and help identify new solutions to challenges affecting these communities. Sometimes the alliance organizations face challenges of their own — coordinating work plans, reporting on technical outcomes, and carrying out their separate missions.
Public-private partnerships, otherwise known as the “Golden Triangle,” are a hot topic in the field of international development. Donors like USAID have invested millions of dollars in partnerships with the private sector, yet some development experts have questioned the development impact of such partnerships in achieving real benefits for the poor and marginalized in developing countries.
As part of its recent reform efforts, USAID has put more attention towards improving its public-private partnership model. For one, USAID is including technical experts in health and nutrition such as Save the Children in some partnerships, recognizing that U.S. civil society groups lend valuable expertise in maternal-child health and other technical areas. Moreover, USAID is steering the private sector towards achievement of concrete development targets through their partnerships, as well as ensuring that companies are held to certain standards, such as respect for workers and environmental stewardship.
From my perspective, this alliance between Save the Children Nicaragua, USAID, and GMCR, is having a transformative impact on the communities in which it operates.
Martha Lorena Diaz is one of many enterprising women working with us,whose partner, Jose Manuel Benavidez, is a coffee farmer on a cooperative that sells to GMCR. Martha was initially given five hens and now keeps 40 in her small business, earning about one dollar a day from selling the eggs and chickens. Save the Children project training sessions have helped Martha to identify nutritious sources of food for her three children, particularly during the lean months when she struggles to provide enough food for them. Martha now makes a corn flour drink to boost her childrens’ daily vitamin intake. Moreover, health promoters, trained by Save the Children, visit her neighborhood and others to monitor child health and nutrition and treat sick children in their communities, which are often far from the closest health center.
Successful partnerships, such as the one between USAID, GMCR, and Save the Children Nicaragua, are critical to achieving lasting results in the communities that we all serve. With an increase in USAID’s partnerships with private sector and NGO players, who are committed to making a real difference in the lives of families in Nicaragua and elsewhere, I believe our team will prevail.