USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah

U.S.-India Collaboration: Unlocking Opportunities in Agribusiness and Improving Lives

After nearly 60 years of U.S. assistance to India, the two nations are taking development cooperation to new levels. This was one of the core messages President Barack Obama took to his first official state visit to India earlier this month, where he was accompanied by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.

On November 7, a demonstration of this strategic partnership convened in a momentous occasion for USAID — an Agriculture and Food Security Exposition in Mumbai. Administrator Shah had the honor of escorting President Obama, along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, through an array of innovative agricultural exhibits on display at St. Xavier’s College.  The event, co-hosted by USAID, USDA, and the Confederation of Indian Industry, provided an exciting opportunity for the notable trio to visit with Indian farmers who shared how new, pioneering tools and technologies are increasing their productivity.

One farmer demonstrated how he receives crop information on his cell phone, while another showed how he obtains information on market rates at village Internet kiosks, enabling him to better negotiate the sale of his produce.

A woman farmer using a small metal tube to strip corn cobs showcased the work of India’s Central Institute of Agricultural Engineering. The Institute has been working to create more compact, lighter versions of common farming tools to increase the productivity of female farmers. A memorable moment was when the President picked up the tool, turned to the reporters, and said in jest, “Look at this. It’s like an infomercial.  I want one of those!” After a brief chuckle, he commented on the importance of the tool in reducing women’s labor time up to 30 percent.

Alongside the expo, Secretary Vilsack and Dr. Shah hosted a roundtable discussion with Indian agriculture experts, where they heard about the most promising agricultural innovations to address the gaps that remain in India’s agriculture sector.  The take-away: strengthened collaboration will unlock new opportunities for U.S. and Indian agribusiness.

The United States and India plan to extend these innovations to other countries to promote global food security. Their partnership is emblematic of one where peer nations work side by side to develop the kinds of innovations and solutions that can help improve the lives of more and more people, not only in India and the United States, but also around the world. USAID will play a key role.

State Department to Host India Diaspora Conference

When people hear that I am a medical doctor and that I work for USAID, they often say that my heart is in the right place.  I correct them:  actually, my heart is in three places—America first, as I am now an American, but also India and Pakistan, where I grew up.

I was born in Pakistan, but as a young child I contracted polio at the age of ten months and was sent to India for treatment.  I spent much of my childhood and teen years in India. I did recover, but the disabling effects of polio had already set in. I had also discovered my calling in life to help others in need and my focus has been on women and children to improve their health status and survival.  I became a medical doctor and specialized in public health.

I have been fortunate to achieve that dream here in the States and, like so many others in the diaspora, knew I wanted to “give back”—both to my adopted country and to my “home” countries, India and Pakistan.  So I am especially excited that the State Department is hosting a gathering of the Indian American diaspora this afternoon, and I am honored to have been asked to participate in a panel on health.

The theme of today’s U.S.-India People-to-People Conference is “Building the Foundation for a Strong Partnership,” and it is an especially appropriate time given the new relationship that is forming between the U.S. and India.

Diaspora groups are natural partners for USAID.  They have unparalleled insight into their home country, as well as their adopted one.  And they have a passion for seeing good development in their home country, as well as seeing that their U.S. tax dollars are spent effectively and accountably.

It is no secret that, for too long, it has been difficult for small organizations, like many diaspora groups, to navigate the process of applying for USAID grants and contracts.  This is changing, as a result of the reforms currently being instituted at USAID.  As just one example, USAID’s Administrator Rajiv Shah recently launched Development Innovation Ventures, which will enable the Agency to work with a diverse set of partners to identify and scale up innovative solutions to development challenges.

I hope that this conference is the first of many to bring diaspora groups, the private sector, and the government together to address the issues that we all care so much about.

From the Field

In Ghana, media will cover Phase One of the Integrated Coastal and Fisheries Governance (ICFG) program.  The ICFG Program is a four-year program seeking to pilot strategies and actions to sustainably manage resources in the fishing sector, in relation to food security and the Feed the Future initiative in six coastal districts of the Western Region of Ghana.  The proposed activities include interviews with implementing partners and fishermen in communities in Aboadze/Bosumtwi Sam Harbor, Axim Landing and Assini Landing over a two-day period.

In Washington, DC on October 28th, we will support the Indian Diaspora – People to People Conference at the State Department.  Dr. Shah will be providing keynote remarks and Dr. Rushna Ravji (USAID/Global Health) will be leading a panel discussion on Health.

In Burkina Faso, The U.S. Ambassador and Burkina Faso’s Minister of Commerce and Industry will open a week-long series of seminars on increasing the competitiveness of West African handcrafts producers and exporters. SIAO is the world’s largest African handcrafts fair and connects more than 6,000 artisans from across the continent to professional buyers from around the world. Competing successfully in world markets requires sophisticated business knowledge and know-how, which USAID is providing during these workshops.

University of Michigan and the Call to Action that Changed the World: USAID Congratulates Peace Corps

On October 14, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy addressed students from the steps of the University of Michigan Union, challenging them to give two years of their lives to help people in countries of the developing world.

“How many of you who are going to be doctors, are willing to spend your days in Ghana?” the soon-to-be president said. “Technicians or engineers, how many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world? On your willingness to do that, not merely to serve one year or two years in the service, but on your willingness to contribute part of your life to this country, I think will depend the answer whether a free society can compete. I think it can! And I think Americans are willing to contribute. But the effort must be far greater than we have ever made in the past.”

That call to action, 50 years ago today, inspired one of the most successful service projects in American history, the Peace Corps. Since its inception a year later, nearly 200,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps, serving in 139 countries and making a difference every day, promoting shared understanding, peace and prosperity.

The pillars of the Peace Corps — using American expertise to help nations around the world, promoting a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served, and helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans — are noble goals that have impacted countless individuals, communities, and nations over the last half century, including our own.

Next year, both USAID and the Peace Corps will celebrate their 50th anniversaries thanks to President Kennedy’s vision to engage with the world and show American leadership though peace, friendship and compassion—the greatest assets anyone has to offer.

On behalf of all of us at USAID on this historic day, I would like to congratulate this great organization, which continues to inspire some of our country’s best and most dedicated volunteers to help people around the globe build better lives for themselves.

This Week at USAID – October 11, 2010

Administrator Shah opens a weeklong training for over 80 USAID communications staff from USAID Missions all over the world.  These communicators are in Washington, D.C. to engage with senior officials about elevating development, particularly the first-ever national development strategy issued by a U.S. President and “USAID Forward”, the Agency’s change management agenda.  Sessions featured during the week include: a meeting with staff from the National Security Council, a joint session at the annual State Department Public Affairs Officer’s conference, and a panel discussion with leading foreign policy journalists at the Newseum.

Administrator Shah travels to Des Moines, Iowa to speak at the Borlaug Dialogue, which is held each year in conjunction with the awarding of the World Food Prize.  The theme of the conference is: smallholder agriculture, “Take it to the Farmer“.  Dr Shah will focus on how you take interest in fighting poverty to the smallholder farmer.  He will also promote progress under Feed the Future, the Administration’s global hunger and food security initiative.

This Week at USAID – October 4, 2010

USAID joins the global community in recognition of World Habitat Day. The United Nations has designated the first Monday in October as annual World Habitat Day to raise awareness of the need for improved shelter and highlight the connection between human health and housing.  This year’s Habitat theme is “Better City, Better Life.”

Administrator Shah travels to Columbia University to address their Business School’s Social Enterprise Conference.  Dr Shah will focus on how USAID is pursuing innovative models by working with the private sector and leveraging social enterprise.

USAID’s Global Health Bureau along with the George Washington University Center for Global Health will host the 10th Annual Global Health Min-University.  Over 1,000 people will attend more than 50 unique sessions to learn evidence-based best practices and state-of-the-art information across the global health field.

President Issues First-ever Development Policy

This morning, the White House launched the Presidential Policy Directive on Development (PPD). This is really a great moment for the US and for the development community . The PDD establishes development as a strategic, economic, and moral imperative for the United States. It establishes beliefs that I share and that we’ve talked about up here at UNGA in New York, that American leadership on development must be oriented toward transformative and sustainable outcomes, not just addressing immediate or emergency needs.

We want to help countries out of poverty and set in place effective, democratic institutions to create the next generation of emerging markets. We want to see science and technology change the prospects for development across the board: increased crop yields, cures for devastating diseases, and production of clean forms of energy. We want to see governments take on the responsibility for meeting citizens’ basic needs – with the technical know-how, the systems, and the sources of revenue to do it. Ultimately, we want to support the conditions that enable countries to sustain further progress on their own.

This is already happening in Feed the Future, the Global Health Initiative, and Global Climate Change Initiative, the centerpieces of the President’s ambitious commitment.

It was an honor to join the President as he announced it this afternoon at the MDG Summit. Be sure to check out our <!a href=”http://www.usaid.gov/unga/ppd.html” target=”_blank”>fact sheet for more details.

USAID @ UNGA: Harnessing Innovation to Achieve the MDGs

What an amazing week it’s been, with so many people from around the globe gathered in one place, intent on finding ways to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  To do so, we need innovators to dramatically change the way development is done.

Today, at a forum co-hosted with the New York Academy of Sciences, USAID is spotlighting the use of science and technology to solve some of the greatest development problems of our times.  S&T has transformative power and will be key to meeting the MDGs.

Many of the biggest challenges require solutions that cross borders, sectors and disciplines.  It will take all of our insights and creativity to address them in collaboration with partners around the globe.

Facing these shared problems means creating opportunity for people living in extreme poverty:  transforming zones of conflict into zones of opportunity and security;  addressing the reasons why infectious diseases emerge;  strengthening the resilience of nations to adapt to global climatic disruption;  tapping new sources of energy and finding better ways of distributing it;  applying new technologies creatively to traditional development challenges;  narrowing global inequities by expanding markets;  and in the end, giving people the capacity to solve their own problems.

Our S&T Forum stands apart from the standard UN General Assembly event.  Engineers, researchers, and development experts are gathered in one place to demonstrate their work in an interactive science fair featuring innovations that can improve lives and livelihoods throughout the developing world.  The science fair will highlight game changing innovations from more than 20 entrepreneurs  from the U.S. and abroad in the areas of health, water, agriculture, environment, energy, and IT.  Some of their solutions include the Jaipur Knee, a root hydration system that delivers clean water from any source, a technology to generate energy from dirt, and a pedal-powered phone charger.

USAID and our partners are intensely focused on harnessing S&T to tackle the toughest development challenges. We’ll double, even triple, our efforts to integrate the Agency’s use of S&T for development.

We’re thrilled at the growing momentum for S&T in development. It’s great to see the kind of unbridled entrepreneurial spirit that it takes to achieve the changes the world needs and USAID intends to be there leading the way.

USAID @ UNGA: A Conversation with GHI “Plus” Country Leaders

This morning, I had the privilege to meet with leaders from  Global Health Initiative (GHI) “Plus” countries: Ethiopia, Guatemala, Kenya, Mali, Malawi, Nepal and Rwanda.

I was joined by Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control, and Ambassador Eric Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, to discuss how U.S. global health programs will partner with countries to save more lives and do so in a sustainable and efficient manner.

I focused on three of our key objectives: increasing country ownership so that the U.S. is aligned with country health goals; investing in sustainable systems to create a lasting effect on the health of citizens regardless of future disease initiatives; and fostering innovation from vaccine research to trials of new technologies such as microbicides to ensuring that cost-effective and game changing approaches and technologies are being used effectively on the ground.

Countries are at the leading edge of health in development. And as GHI implementation and learning accelerates, we want host country leaders to share lessons and best practices with the entire global health community.

David Mphande, the Malawi’s Health Minister, outlined a serious challenge in his country: every day, 16 women in Malawi die in childbirth because they would have to walk 10 miles or more to reach a clinic or skilled worker.  GHI’s approach will emphasize reaching women and children with health services through training community health workers and engaging community leaders.

Karin Slowing Umaña, Secretary of State for Planning and Programming of Guatemala, noted it would be difficult to meet ambitious targets for improved health outcomes without a strengthened health system.

Richard Sezibera, Minister of Health of Rwanda, told us that Rwanda’s various donors require them to report on more than 650 health indicators.  We are already looking at how we can reduce the reporting demands from the U.S. governments and will coordinate with other donors so that Rwanda can use its resources to oversee its health care, not prepare endless reports.

This morning’s conversation will continue as we work with partner countries to identify greater efficiencies to improve the lives of more people.

USAID at UNGA: How we are Impacting Lives in Pakistan

This week I’m attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, and I’m looking forward to joining a broad and historic international body to discuss the wide spectrum of global issues we face today.  My week at UNGA began with a meeting about a topic of immediate urgency – relief and recovery efforts for the more than 20 million Pakistanis affected by the devastating flooding.

On my recent visit to Pakistan, I witnessed the severe devastation and unimaginable loss experienced by the flood victims.  I’m proud to say that from the beginning, USAID has been at the forefront of the U.S. government response along with our colleagues at the Department of State and Department of Defense.  To date, the swift and immediate response has addressed the wide range of needs in Pakistan, from sending in emergency food supplies and water purification units to ensure safe drinking water, to facilitating waterborne disease warning detection systems and funding anti-malarial medications.

In mid-October, The World Bank and Asian Development Bank will present a Damage and Needs Assessment to give us a more comprehensive picture of the scale of the damage.  Undoubtedly, that picture will be grim and the upcoming months will be daunting, especially as winter descends on Pakistan. But as we face the extreme scale of the disaster, the most critical question we will be asking ourselves is:  How are we improving the lives of Pakistanis? USAID is committed to a long-term relief, recovery, and reconstruction.

USAID will continue responding to these situations on the ground, and work closely with the Government of Pakistan and our partners. We are committed to a long-term relief, recovery and reconstruction effort. This week, on the world stage of the United Nations General Assembly, we will continue to work with the international community and the Government of Pakistan as they rebuild their country.

To find out more about what USAID has done on the floods so far, see USAID’s work in Pakistan.

To contribute to humanitarian and relief operations: www.interaction.org

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