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Photo of the Week: Typhoon Relief in the Philippines

Typhoon Bopha made landfall in the Philippines on December 4, 2012, affecting more than five million people and wreaking a path of destruction across 30 provinces. USAID responded swiftly by providing more than $4.5 million in assistance to help meet the most critical needs of those affected by the storm.  With staff pre-positioned in the Philippines prior to the storm, USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) was the first on the ground to reach the hardest-hit areas, identify needs, assess humanitarian conditions, and provide assistance in coordination with the Philippine government.  In addition, USAID/OFDA arranged for an airlift of emergency shelter supplies from its warehouse in Dubai to help 20,000 families who had lost their homes.  USAID/OFDA also reached out to the U.S. military to provide additional air support for the immediate transport of relief commodities from Manila to the most affected areas.  USAID/OFDA continues to work with our partners in the Philippines to help communities hit hard by the typhoon.

Video of the Week: Reaching Farmers Where it is Needed Most

In social marketing, we know that visual learning is more likely to engender successful behavior change than many other types of learning. Traditional agricultural extension services are designed to link farmers person-to-person with new information about appropriate farming practices, when and what to plant, and how to use farm technologies. Traditionally, farming associations or other organizations will employ extension agents to visit communities and train others – thus, “showing” farmers new techniques instead of simply “telling.”

But there is a fundamental problem with this model: Too much ground to cover. Because more than 80 percent of the food produced in “developing” places is grown by smallholder farmers, extension services can be expensive, difficult to scale and to sustain.

It is critical to address these issues with whatever tools are at our disposal. One approach is the complementary use of video in a hybrid extension service. A study conducted by India-based NGO Digital Green (originally a Microsoft Research pilot) concluded that money spent on a video service can be up to ten times more effective than a traditional extension service, on a per adoption basis.*

So why does video work better? It’s the Swiss Army knife of communications tools. While modern extension services are highly dependent on the quality of the trainer, a video can be rehearsed until it tells its story effectively, and then used in perpetuity. That enables an organization to articulate and reinforce a message in a uniquely scalable way. Video can also provide tailored and actionable directions to illiterate farmers. Further, the savings and increased convenience for projects can be huge – in terms of human resources, training and travel time and other associated costs.

By the end of 2012, USAID’s FACET project team will have conducted low-cost video workshops for USAID implementing partners, mission staff, agribusinesses and farmer associations in seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Using a participatory workshop model the goal is to catalyze video usage to strengthen agricultural extension.

This photo slideshow is from FACET’s recent October workshop in Dakar, Senegal. Participants included project staff and partners from the USAID‘s Le Projet Croissance Economique, which focuses on Senegal’s agricultural growth, productivity and competitiveness.

Below is a one minute clip of a mock video put together by the FEPROMAS team, a Senegalese farming federation, during the workshop, focusing on best practices in packaging corn for the marketplace.

Read more about the workshop content.

View and download FACET’s Low-Cost Video Toolkit.

Follow @ICTforAg on Twitter and Facebook.

* Gandhi, R.; Veeraraghavan, R.; Toyama, K.; Ramprasad, V. (2009). Participant Video and Mediated Instruction for Agricultural Extension. Digital Green.

Ending Human Trafficking is Within Our Reach

Chris Milligan serves as mission director to USAID Burma. Photo Credit: USAID

This post originally appeared on the Free the Slaves blog.

Editor’s note: The historic anti-slavery concern last weekend in Myanmar, also known as Burma, was made possible by a coalition of organizations, including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). We invited USAID to reflect on what the concert meant for the modern abolition movement. Chris Milligan is USAID’s Mission Director in Burma.

What a year of historic firsts.  In April, Secretary Clinton re-established USAID’s mission in Burma, our first in 24 years.  In November, President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. President to visit the country, and he and Secretary Hillary Clinton officially dedicated USAID’s mission.  And this past Sunday (December 16), in Burma’s first city of Rangoon, the first major international live-event was held in over half a century.

The event was Live in Myanmar, MTV EXIT’s 31st concert to counter trafficking in persons.  Held in Rangoon’s People’s Square, at the base of the country’s iconic Shwedagon Pagoda, over 50,000 people gathered to hear multi Grammy Award-winning singer songwriter Jason Mraz perform.  He was joined by top artists from Burma and Thailand, including Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein and R Zarni, Chan Chan, Sai Sai, Lynn Lynn, Phyo Gyi and Chit Htu Wai, and Slot Machine.  The commitment and work by these local and regional artists was particularly moving.  All performed for enthusiastic fans, and all came with a common purpose: to raise awareness about human trafficking.

The United Nations estimates that at any one point there are 20 million victims of human trafficking worldwide, more than half of these victims are in the Asia Pacific region.  As President Obama said, “The fight against human trafficking is one of the great human rights causes of our time.”  And we know that raising awareness is key to that fight.  Mixing live music and critical messages, the concert organizers and participants shared in-country contact numbers for counter-trafficking police and NGOs, excerpts from two MTV EXIT documentary videos developed in Burma, and personal stories of individual Burmese who were trafficked in Southeast Asia.

MTV Exit's anti-slavery concert in Myanmar attracted more than 50,000 people. Photo Credit: MTV Exit / U.S. State Dept.

U.S. Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell and U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Counter Trafficking Luis CdeBaca both spoke resolutely to the crowd about the U.S. Government’s commitment to combat trafficking in persons globally, and the need for youth to be alert and be educated about trafficking.  USAID has been a dedicated supporter of the MTV EXIT campaign for six years, leveraging the power of music and entertainment as invaluable tools to educate young people about human trafficking.

Most exciting was the Government of Burma’s support and involvement in this effort from start to finish.  Despite the staggering size of crowd, MTV EXIT’s largest to date, the government ensured a safe event without ever losing the celebratory atmosphere of the concert or the seriousness of the issue.  Government representatives spoke passionately and urgently to their youth about personal protection and community awareness, and signed a pledge to work towards the end of human slavery in this generation.  Their determination and commitment gave me hope.

I know that ending human trafficking can feel daunting or at times, even impossible, but on Sunday night, looking out at the crowd, I was inspired that it is within reach.  We know traffickers use technology, like cell phones, and social networking sites to ensnare victims and, yet, there we were, using MTV’s global platform, which reaches 600 million people with lifesaving messages about awareness, protection and support.  As USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah remarked, “As we’ve seen, knowledge can lead to freedom, giving us all the power to end modern slavery.”

Learn more about USAID’s Counter-Trafficking in Persons Policy and Challenge Slavery, a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Campus Challenge that calls on university students globally to develop creative technology solutions to prevent trafficking, enable victims to escape from traffickers, and help survivors recover.

A Record-Breaking Year for Mobilizing Private Capital for Development

Credit guarantees are a cost-effective way to get local, private financing into the hands of creditworthy borrowers. From low-income Haitians seeking to rebuild in Port-au-Prince, to women-owned small businesses in Kabul, to solar companies in Uganda, USAID is enabling private markets in the developing world to provide financing to the people who need it most.

USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) worked with 45 financial institutions in 23 countries in 2012 to unlock up to $525 million in private capital for underserved entrepreneurs in developing countries. The financing, made available through 34 partial credit guarantees, is the most USAID has mobilized in a single year.

Putting Local Wealth to Work: Development Credit Authority 2012 Portfolio. Photo Credit: USAID.

An additional 39,000 small businesses will soon be able to access local financing because of the new USAID credit guarantees, reflecting the Agency’s drive to leverage private sector resources for international development. Thanks to increased employment and other benefits for the families of these small business owners and their workers, these loans will translate into more than a million people whose lives have been improved by increased access to finance.

Learn more about DCA on our website.

 

Interagency Panel on Economic Statecraft to Create Competitive Foreign Markets

Eric Postel is assistant administrator for the Bureau of Economic Growth, Education and Environment.

Last Monday, December 10, I had the opportunity to speak at an interagency panel on the topic of Economic Statecraft and Developing Partnerships with the Private Sector.

Spearheaded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Economic Statecraft is a positioning of economics and market forces at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. The Secretary has stressed that emerging nations are increasingly dealing in economic power rather than military might as their primary means of exercising influence, and the U.S. must be at the forefront, or risk being left behind.

Our USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah, opened the event at the Woodrow Wilson Center, with remarks emphasizing the innovative work of USAID in this area – work which may not be as well-known as those in the areas of Global Health, Education and Food Security.

The panelists speak at the Economic Statecraft event. Photo Credit: Pat Adams, USAID.

USAID plays a central role in helping to create foreign markets that are competitive, transparent and integrated into the rules-based global trading system. The Agency has been successful in spearheading pro-business reforms in the last decade in six of the top 10 performers in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index. Technical assistance and support has been provided to numerous countries including Georgia, Columbia and Vietnam with reforming their laws and regulations. While a direct correlation is perhaps not possible to make, imports increased four-fold in Vietnam following the course of six years of U.S. assistance with business climate reforms.

In the last 10 years, USAID has formed more than 1,600 partnerships with over 3,000 private sector players, leveraging approximately $19 billion in public and private resources, expertise and technologies. In 2012, USAID’s Development Credit Authority was designed to use loan guarantees to unlock large sources of local capital, and approved 38 new partial credit guarantees to mobilize a record $700 million in commercial capital in 23 countries. In practice, this means that 140,000 small scale businesses will be able to access local finance – impacting more than a million people.

One of USAID’s goals is to create opportunities and economic expansion in developing countries. This approach is increasingly becoming a new model for the Obama Administration, and is one that engages far more broadly with the private sector, delivers more dividends after foreign aid is removed, and demands more transparency and good practices overall.

Our work in this area demonstrates the need to work closer than ever with our interagency partners, several of whom were also my co-panelists at the Economic Statecraft event: the Department of State, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). As one example of our interagency coordination, this past Fall, USAID entered into a new global agreement with USTDA. The agreement will enable our missions around the world to perform feasibility studies of energy, transportation, and information and technology projects. Mission Columbia is the first buy-in under the agreement, supporting a feasibility study focusing on smart-grid technologies for large power systems. I anticipate many more partnerships between both the private sector and government, as well as within the government itself in moving forward in this undertaking.

More information can be found on the Wilson Center’s website.

 

Strong Families Equal Strong Nations

Kathleen Strottman is the Executive Director at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Photo Credit: CCAI.

Business giant, Lee Lacocca once said, “The only rock that stays steady, the only institution that works is the family.” This simple, yet profound, principle is one that has not only withstood the test of time but is also the foundation of emerging brain science.

Here is what we know: We know that strong families are the building blocks of strong communities, and strong communities are the building blocks of strong nations. Thanks to leaders like Dr. Jack Shonkoff, we know that relationships with other human beings are not a luxury for children, but an absolute necessity.  But you do not need to be a Nobel Prize-winning economist or a world-renowned neurologist at Harvard to be able to recognize that children do best when raised by loving and protective parents.  For many of us, we need only to reflect on our own life experience to understand the impact that a loving embrace or encouraging words have in times of stress.

Despite these certainties, millions of children in the world are growing up without the care of a protective and permanent family. These children live in institutions or on the streets; they have been torn from their families because of war or disaster; or they have been bought and sold for sex or labor. And worst yet, the number of children who suffer such fates is rising. For this to change, governments of the world need to not only recognize that children have a basic human right to a family; they must also establish and enforce laws and systems to protect this right. It is for this reason that the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) is proud to support the U.S. Government’s Action Plan on Children in Adversity.

Under the plan’s tenets, the millions of children outside of family care will have the opportunity to benefit from programs that prevent them from being separated from their families and quickly reunify them when separation proves inevitable. The Plan also makes the commitment to pursue adoption, foster care, kinship and guardianship for children whose biological families are unable or unwilling to care for them. This is a major step forward and holds promise not only for the futures of children, but the future of nations.

Kathleen Strottman is the Executive Director of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI). Prior to working at CCAI, Kathleen served for nearly eight years as a trusted advisor to Senator Mary Landrieu and then as an associate at Patton Boggs, LLC. As the Senator’s Legislative Director, Kathleen worked to pass legislation such as the No Child Left Behind Act, The Medicare Modernization Act, The Inter-Country Adoption Act, The Child Citizenship Act of 2000, The Adoption Tax Credit and the Family Court Act. Throughout her career, Kathleen has worked to increase the opportunity for positive dialogue and the exchange of best practices between the United States and countries such as China, Romania, Russia, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ethiopia and India. Kathleen regularly presents at national and international child welfare conferences and has appeared on CNN, FOX News, CBS, NBC, C-SPAN, PBS and numerous other media outlets. She is also a regular contributor to Adoption Today magazine.

Boosting Women’s Entrepreneurship Via Mobile Money

This post originally appeared on Devex Impact.  It has also appeared in the Huffington Post and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.

This guest column was authored by Cherie Blair, founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and Maura O’Neill, USAID’s chief innovation officer. It is published here as part of Devex Impact, a global initiative of USAID and Devex that focuses on the intersection of business and global development and connects companies, organizations and professionals to the practical information they need to make an impact.

For Marion, the challenge of starting her own business was not lack of initiative — she had plenty — but rather dearth of startup capital. At 20-years old, Marion dropped out of school because she didn’t have sufficient funds for school fees. In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where she lives, this is a common trend for many women and girls, one that stretches across sub-Saharan Africa and far beyond. But Marion was undeterred.

Thanks to her friend’s suggestion, Marion latched onto an idea of selling prepaid mobile airtime to financially support her parents and four siblings with whom she lives. She started working at a small restaurant as a server, in order to save enough money to break into the business. Marion saved and saved, and began to sell airtime in bits and pieces. Yet by the time she turned 22 and made the decision to do it full-time, she was 70,000 Tanzanian shillings ($43) short of the 100,000 TZS ($62) required to finance the initial capital. Marion had nowhere to turn to make up the difference. And now this shortage of cash is keeping her from pursuing what should be a tangible dream — to become an entrepreneur and move into her own home.

A woman sells prepaid mobile phone airtime credits. Photo Credit: Devex.

Fortunately, new opportunities that will address Marion’s challenges are emerging.

Mobile technology continues to be an enormous growth industry in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where approximately 3.5 million jobs can be attributed to the mobile industry, according to GSMA. With the surge in mobile connections around the world, there is rightly a great deal of interest in using the technology to maximize development outcomes. This includes the delivery of key information and health services, the use of mobile money for those who are unbanked, and the ability to establish social and business networks without having to travel great distances. For women like Marion, this is an enticing pairing of potential long-term employment and enhanced livelihood.

Despite the gains the mobile telecommunications industry has had nationally, there continues to be significant gaps in how much individuals benefit economically from mobile services and applications. This includes the extent to which women have been able to participate in the retail channels of mobile network operators, beyond the sale of top-up cards and accessories that fetch little profit. These retail chains are not only where basic mobile necessities such as airtime and SIM cards are sold and marketed, but they also serve as the frontlines of the rapidly growing mobile financial services industry. This ballooning sector includes mobile payments and savings, insurance purchases and conditional cash transfers, services that are traditionally unavailable for the unbanked — particularly women. The business of selling mobile products and services can be an important income stream but, in most markets, women are not participating on par with their male counterparts.

This leaves Marion and women like her at a distinct and, frankly, unnecessary disadvantage.

The U.S. Agency for International Development and Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, in partnership with leading mobile operator Millicom, or Tigo, have joined forces for an innovative project to correct this trend and maximize mobile financial service opportunities for women entrepreneurs and their communities throughout Tanzania, Rwanda and Ghana. This public-private partnership will showcase a sustainable and scalable approach to increasing the number of women entrepreneurs working as mobile money agents in the retail networks of mobile operators…(continued)

Read the rest of this post on Devex Impact.

Follow Cherie Blair and Maura O’Neill on Twitter.

Changing the World for Children

My life changed on that cold January day. It was the day my husband and I walked away from the orphanage, hand-in-hand with the first two – of our ten total – adopted children, having stepped into a realm where it is often winter and seldom Christmas.

Susan Hillis and her family. Dr. Hillis is a senior advisor for Global Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Photo Credit: Susan Hillis.

That, though, is not what caused “The Change” to which I refer. What changed me is this: I turned around and looked back, to see a sea of faces peering through the chain-linked fence capped by barbed wire.  And this is what their hands were holding: that cold wire fence. That day I decided to do my part to change the world for children – not just my children, but all vulnerable children.

A dream this monumental would only become real if leaders around the world could see it, too. Today, this historic launch of the U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity makes me believe that my dream has become yours, and that, together, we will see our dream become real.

We will see nurture replacing violence; light replacing darkness; hope replacing despair. United with global leaders in governments, civil society and business, we will walk hand-in-hand – devoted to changing the world for children.

Dr. Susan Hillis has served in many roles, including mother, nurse, university professor, government official and scientist. Personally, she and her husband have 10 children, eight of whom were adopted from orphanages at older ages. Her experience suggests that hope transforms the storms of life. Currently she works as a Senior Advisor for Global Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her research over two decades has led to 100 publications addressing topics such as adverse childhood experiences, violence, vulnerability and HIV, in the United States and around the world. 

Taking Risks & Developing Partnerships with Burma

Nisha Biswal is USAID's assistant administrator for Asia. Photo Credit: USAID.

Last week, over 180 representatives from universities, non-governmental organizations and private businesses joined us in Washington to discuss “Opportunities for Higher Education Partnerships in Burma.” Another 140 people joined us via live webcast. The event aimed to share information with prospective applicants to USAID’s recently announced Higher Education Partnerships.

The current reforms underway in Burma, and this new opportunity for partnership, generated a buzz in the packed room that was palpable. The speakers themselves projected this enthusiasm, among them were USAID’s Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah; His Excellency Than Swe, Myanmar Ambassador to the United States; and Joseph Y. Yun, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.

Administrator Shah announces Higher Education Partnerships in Burma. Photo Credit: Pat Adams, USAID.

What’s notably different and exciting about this call for proposals is that concept papers, due January 31, 2013, must not only include a U.S. university but also a Burmese higher education institution and a U.S. business as part of the partnership. Our past experience shows us that these kinds of strategic partnerships plant the seed for long-term results that endure even after our own assistance has ended.

And we are focused on the long game — we’d rather take the time to do it right, and do it well, than do it first. That’s why we are focused on strengthening institutions, building capacity and meeting the needs of the people in a way that is efficient and respectful of their own priorities. Our efforts in Burma reflect new approaches that USAID is bringing to development initiatives. As Dr. Shah remarked, “Today’s launch reflects the new emphasis across our entire agency on innovative high impact and local partnerships that bring new thinking and creative solutions to some of the most challenging development problems we face together.”

His Excellency Than Swe, Myanmar Ambassador to the United States, addresses Higher Education Partners. Photo Credit: Pat Adams, USAID.

The Higher Education Partnerships do just that, recognizing first and foremost the extraordinary resilience, determination and optimism of the Burmese people. As I saw during my trips to Burma in March and November, there is a great desire among the people of Burma to engage with the world, and among Burmese universities to collaborate with their counterparts here in the United States. As Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Joe Yun stated during the event, “Now is the time to take risks and develop partnerships with Burma.”

The announcement of the Higher Education Partnerships APS came on the heels of President Obama’s historic visit to Burma on November 19, 2012, which elevated Burma as a key partner in Asia through the launch of the U.S.-Burma Partnership for Democracy, Peace and Prosperity, a joint U.S.-Burma framework to lay the groundwork for a peaceful and prosperous future for Burma.

The Partnerships are one of many ways that USAID—and U.S. development assistance more broadly—will support the path of development and reform that the people of Burma are undertaking. As President Obama stated during his visit, “The United States wants to be a partner in helping this country, which used to be the rice bowl of Asia, to reestablish its capacity to feed its people and to care for its sick, and educate its children, and build its democratic institutions as you continue down the path of reform.”

Information about the Partnerships and full application details for this funding opportunity are listed at USAID-BURMA-SOL-486-13-000012 on www.grants.gov (search for keyword “Burma” under “Grant Search”). For more information about USAID’s efforts in Burma, please visit our website. A video of the December 12 session is also available online.

Follow Nisha Biswal on Twitter.

Photo of the Week: Reaching out to Youth in Latin America

USAID Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg visits with Honduran youth from Movimiento Jovenes Contra la Violencia at a USAID outreach center. Photo Credit: USAID

Last week, Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg traveled with Assistant Administrator Mark Feierstein to Honduras, Guatemala, and Mexico to visit USAID projects, announce new initiatives, and meet with government officials, civil society, and USAID partners. During December 12th-13th Deputy Administrator Steinberg met with President Porfirio Lobo to discuss USAID’s ongoing work in Honduras, including crime prevention and food security. He also announced a new public-private partnership with TIGO, a regional cell phone company, which will provide internet access, cable TV, and free fixed telephone lines to each of USAID outreach centers for at-risk youth. By 2013, there will be 40 centers in Honduras and 100 throughout Central America as part of the Central America Regional Security Initiative.

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