USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for USAID

Looking Down Supply Chains to Counter Human Trafficking

Senior Counter-Trafficking in Persons Fellow Marina Colby for DCHA/DRG presents at the Regional Conference on Information Communication Technology to Combat Human Trafficking in Bangkok. / @USAIDAsia Twitter

Senior Counter-Trafficking in Persons Fellow Marina Colby for DCHA/DRG presents at the Regional Conference on Information Communication Technology to Combat Human Trafficking in Bangkok. / @USAIDAsia Twitter

For a Cambodian man living in a rural village with few job opportunities, the promise of a $220 monthly salary to work on a fishing boat in Japan for two years was too good to pass up. He accepted the job offer immediately — without signing a contract.

Next thing the man knew, he was flown to South Africa, had his passport confiscated, and was then forced to work — repairing fishing nets and cleaning the boat — 14 hours a day without pay. He slept in a narrow room with three other workers in bunk beds made of iron and endured the bullying of another crew member.

Unfortunately, reports of migrant workers deceived to work on fishing vessels are far too common. Nearly 21 million people are being forced to work under slave-like conditions, feeding a $21 billion human trafficking industry, according to estimates from the International Labor Organization. Last year, a U.S. Labor Department report on goods produced by child labor or forced labor lists 136 products from 74 countries — from carpets in Nepal to fish in Thailand.

Human trafficking is a global human rights challenge that preys upon the vulnerable, breaks down the rule of law and corrupts global commerce. Much more needs to be done to curb these crimes. But given these daunting figures and the well-established illicit networks benefiting across the globe, where does one begin to intervene?

As the development agency of the U.S. government, USAID sees human trafficking as a fundamental obstacle to our mission, as it impedes health, economic growth, rule of law, women’s empowerment, and lifetime prospects for youth. It undermines the development objectives we hope to accomplish through our programming.

A village committee in Nepal discusses safe migration to counter-human trafficking. / Marina Colby, USAID

A village committee in Nepal discusses safe migration to counter-human trafficking. / Marina Colby, USAID

To fight back, USAID is pioneering a global supply chain approach to better identify and counter human trafficking in sectors rife with these forms of exploitation and abuse. We call this initiative “Supply Unchained” and recently put out a call for ideas via the Global Development Lab’s new Development Innovation Accelerator.

At USAID, we are committed to using our comparative advantage as a development agency at the source of these supply chains by using this new model of development to leverage technology and partnerships to connect individuals and communities in sectors at risk with stakeholders along the supply chain. The ultimate goal of Supply Unchained is to better identify human trafficking risks in order to prevent new cases.

President Obama proclaimed that “our fight against human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights causes of our time” and that human trafficking has no place in our business, at home or abroad.

None of the products we consume on a daily basis should be made by an adult who is forced to produce them, or by a child working under conditions that violate international law. USAID’s Supply Unchained initiative also aligns with an executive order Obama issued in 2012 to ensure that supplies and services obtained through federal contracts are free from practices involving human trafficking.

This map illustrates the journeys of Cambodian fisherman who became victims of human trafficking. Their stories were documented in a report. / Winrock International

This map illustrates the journeys of Cambodian fisherman who became victims of human trafficking. Their stories were documented in a report. / Winrock International

The story of the Cambodian man who was tricked into working on a fishing boat without pay was documented in a report by USAID’s partner Winrock International, along with several other victims of human trafficking; that report ultimately led to a complaint against Giant Ocean International Fishery Company in Cambodia for exploitative recruitment practices.

The man had managed to contact his father back in Cambodia to seek help. His father then reached out to the team working with a USAID-funded program, who got the man repatriated home, provided him with free legal support for his case at Phnom Penh municipal court, and referred him to an NGO for vocational training in motor repair. The man now runs his own shop.

On this World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, we hope to prevent more people from experiencing the nightmare that this Cambodian man endured. We are excited to be engaging with innovative solvers around the globe to create solutions to counter human trafficking in some of the most troubled sectors.

We look forward to bringing in new partners, meeting with interested companies, and continuing to provide a platform for innovation and partnerships. Looking down supply chains, we can now begin to envision a world that is free from slavery.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marina Colby is the Senior Counter-Trafficking in Persons Fellow in USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance. Follow her @marinacolby.

Equipping Africa to Support Its Own Development

Thanks to Power Africa, increasing numbers of Africans can continue working well beyond daylight hours, helping increase their productivity and potential earnings. This Tanzanian man can sew at night thanks to a d.light solar lantern provided through Power Africa. / USAID

Thanks to Power Africa, increasing numbers of Africans can continue working well beyond daylight hours, helping increase their productivity and potential earnings. This Tanzanian man can sew at night when he uses a d.light solar lantern provided through Power Africa. / USAID

Every so often there are moments when you know you are watching history unfold. Events come together that crystallize an important moment of change, and the opportunity to shape those moments has outsize resonance.

Last week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the Third International Financing for Development conference proved one such moment of landmark importance for development with its emphasis on each country’s responsibilities to define, drive and invest in their own development path.

The resulting Addis Ababa Action Agenda is the right agenda for a world in transition – one where each country owns its own development – and to a new model for development predicated on partnership, results and accountability, local ownership, and harnessing innovation.

Since the first international conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey 13 years ago, we’ve seen the rate of extreme poverty around the world cut in half. Yet a billion people still live in extreme poverty, left behind from the incredible advances in life expectancy, access to education and technology, and good governance that has lifted so many.

To succeed with the ambitious new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we must focus increasingly on the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly those in fragile and conflict-affected states where the largest gaps remain in achieving the unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals.

A worker checks equipment at the Geothermal Olkaria Plant in Kenya, a facility supported by Power Africa. / Carole Douglis, USAID

A worker checks equipment at the Geothermal Olkaria Plant in Kenya, a facility supported by Power Africa. / Carole Douglis, USAID

The United States continues to lead the world in official development assistance with nearly $33 billion in 2014 alone. But the most transformational moments occur when our resources are targeted and act as catalysts for much larger trends and pools of resources, like domestic revenues and private sector investment.

Nowhere is responding to these challenges more critical than in sub-Saharan Africa. Despite lowering the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty for the first time on record, the absolute number of people living in extreme poverty in Africa has yet to fall.

Before embarking on a trip to Kenya and Ethiopia this week, President Obama said Africa has the potential to become the next great center for economic growth on the planet. Indeed, seven of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world are in sub-Saharan Africa. The commitment at Addis enables the type of partnerships these countries need to spur inclusive growth and end extreme poverty.

In Addis, we launched and built on several partnerships that represent the best of what U.S. leadership can do to help African nations to achieve. The Addis Tax Initiative will help developing countries better mobilize and effectively use their own resources to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Donors, international organizations and developing countries—including Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Tanzania and Namibia—committed to a set of core principles for domestic resource mobilization, and the donor partners committed to double technical assistance for this purpose.

Domestic resource mobilization not only provides countries with a base of consistent domestic funds for development independent of donor nation budgets, but builds a virtuous cycle of accountability wherein the willingness of citizens to pay taxes is predicated on government service delivery and responsiveness.

This Ethiopian man and a crew of three others pick up milk twice a day thanks to a USAID livestock development project, part of Feed the Future, that focuses on fostering growth and reducing poverty through improving the productivity and competitiveness of Ethiopia’s livestock value chains. / USAID

This Ethiopian man and a crew of three others pick up milk twice a day thanks to a USAID livestock development project, part of Feed the Future, that focuses on fostering growth and reducing poverty through improving the productivity and competitiveness of Ethiopia’s livestock value chains. / USAID

We also doubled down on Power Africa through a partnership with the European Union, which adds $2.8 billion in resources to enhance Power Africa’s work to expand reliable electricity generation across sub-Saharan Africa.

Like the Addis Tax Initiative, this is a commitment at the ground-floor of development; without sustainable energy sources to power economic growth and everyday life, country-led efforts to meet development objectives can’t get far.

That’s why Power Africa seeks to leverage private sector investment and multilateral and bilateral donor commitments, and builds partnerships with African governments committed to making the tough reforms needed to attract that investment to their energy sectors. These efforts will connect people to the grid and bring off-grid energy solutions to those living beyond the grid, providing energy that can fuel economic growth across the continent.

And because Africa’s power sector will not advance without policy reforms and improved governance, our re-commitment in Addis also marks our guarantee to fill critical skills gaps and engage in diplomatic dialogues that drive reform so that the power sector we help build can be managed and maintained for generations to come.

There are many continuing challenges in sub-Saharan Africa, conflict and fragility chief among them. But with the U.S. and our partners working to put African countries in the driver’s seat on their respective development paths, the promise and potential of the SDGs becomes, as in a rear view mirror, much closer than they appear.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Thier is the Assistant to the Administrator in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning. Follow him @Thieristan.

Solar Lamps Shed Light in Rural Communities

Paris Wanjiru, 17, uses a solar-powered light created by M-Kopa to study at night. Before her home had electricity, she was ranked sixth in her class; now, she ranks second. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

Paris Wanjiru, 17, uses a solar-powered light created by M-Kopa to study at night. Before her home had electricity, she was ranked sixth in her class; now, she ranks second. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

When Paris Wanjiru, a 17-year-old student in Muranga, Kenya, first saw the solar-powered lamp her mother bought, she was so excited she stayed up until 1 a.m. studying chemistry. Now that she can study after the sun sets, her grades have improved; she now aspires to study chemistry at Kenya University.

Her mother, Nancy Wambui, 45, had saved for three months to buy the home solar system, providing the family with a personal power supply. Before, the family had relied on kerosene lamps for light, but their fumes are dangerous and they are costly to fuel — off-grid households spend about $200 a year on kerosene.

Off-grid alternatives to energy access benefit more than just families. Farmers who use solar lights to display their crops at evening markets sell more than they otherwise would, says John Njorge, a local solar lamp vendor in Muranga. Even shopkeepers with access to the grid use solar kits to keep their business running during power outages.

Besides providing school‐aged children with reading light, lowering household energy costs, and generating hours of productivity for businesses, these partnerships help generate income for small‐business owners like John.

Paris and John are two of many benefiting from companies selling affordable energy access to people in remote communities in sub‐Saharan Africa where electric lines have not reached. In partnering with the private sector, President Obama’s Power Africa initiative aims to help companies like these realize their potential and scale access to modern lighting across the region — a key ingredient for spurring economic growth.

Here are a few of Power Africa’s Beyond the Grid partners:

1. d.light

John Njorge, a “solar‐preneur,” sells about 60 d.light solar lamps a month at his shop in the small town of Maragua, Kenya. He also uses the lamps to light the shop so he can stay open later. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

John Njorge, a “solar‐preneur,” sells about 60 d.light solar lamps a month at his shop in the small town of Maragua, Kenya. He also uses the lamps to light the shop so he can stay open later. / Morgana Wingard, USAID

The company d.light was co-founded by Sam Goldman, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Benin. After a neighbor severely burned himself from a kerosene lamp spill, Sam says he was determined to find a safer, more reliable way for rural people to light their homes.

After meeting co‐founder Ned Tozun in graduate school, the two developed a prototype LED lamp that ran on solar power, and in 2008 d.light’s first commercial solar power lamp debuted on the market. Today, the company offers five off‐grid solar‐powered products that provide at least twice as much light as kerosene — and they’re cheaper and safe. The most affordable solar lamp goes for $5.

“Just as mobile phones adoption rates skyrocketed in the ‘90s, we see tremendous opportunity in the off‐grid solar market to enable consumers to secure basic energy access and radically improve their lives and opportunities,” Sam says.

Sam says public-private partnerships are key to bringing energy access to the most rural parts of Africa. “Market‐based approaches and policy decisions working together will accelerate efforts to electrify Africa.”

2. Solar Sister

Justina Balankena is a Solar Sister entrepreneur and small business owner in Bomani, Tanzania, where she sells small solar lights and energy-efficient cookstoves. Justina’s store brings the benefits of solar technology right into her town.

Justina Balankena is a Solar Sister entrepreneur and small business owner in Bomani, Tanzania, where she sells small solar lights and energy-efficient cookstoves. Justina’s store brings the benefits of solar technology right into her town.

Solar Sister eradicates energy poverty in Africa by empowering women with job opportunities. The company uses a women-focused sales network, recruiting and training female entrepreneurs to sell solar lamps, mobile phone chargers and fuel-efficient cook stoves.

Women like Justina Balankena, a small business owner in Bomani, Tanzania. At first, Justina’s customers simply weren’t familiar with solar power. When the unreliable grid in town goes out, Justina switches on her solar lamps. Her little kiosk lights up. “When people pass by, they say, ‘There is no power here! How do you have power?’ So they come and ask. That is how we sell,” she explains.

The store provides income for Justina’s family. It also brings her a strong sense of personal pride and independence. “I run the business. The advertisements are even in my name,” she says.

Innovative energy technology, combined with economic opportunity, goes beyond measurable results and really transforms lives.

3. M-KOPA

Lucy Sakuda, 47, uses her M-KOPA solar powered light in her home in Olorien, Kenya to cook at night. Before buying a solar panel, the nearest power source was 15 miles away. She has saved so much from not having to buy kerosene that she was able to get new furniture. / Morgana Wingard

Lucy Sakuda, 47, uses her M-KOPA solar powered light in her home in Olorien, Kenya to cook at night. Before buying a solar panel, the nearest power source was 15 miles away. She has saved so much from not having to buy kerosene that she was able to get new furniture. / Morgana Wingard

M-KOPA helps assure poor families nervous about investing in a new technology that this is a risk worth taking.

Enter June Muli, hired by M­-KOPA with one goal in mind: Establishing a real network of customer service. Raised in Nairobi, June joined as head of customer relations, making her the 10th employee. June is helping M­-KOPA build a spirit of “umiliki” — a Swahili word meaning “ownership” — in their community.

“We work very hard to keep our customers happy,” June says. “You don’t just go to the supermarket and pick it up; someone has to convince you that you should own the responsibility and that the investment is worth it for you and your future.”

M-KOPA boasts a 24-hour call center and uses a pay-as-you-go platform, allowing customers to pay for solar lighting systems over time via mobile phone. More than selling a product, M-­KOPA sells the vision of a better connected, more efficient Africa. “This starts with the human voice of a person and the real human connection,” June says.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rudy Gharib is the head of communications for Power Africa. Follow her @rudygharib and use #PowerAfrica to join the conversation.

First Time Loans Give Grassroots Farmers a Chance to Grow

Carlos Sigue, an agribusiness owner in Mozambique, with his 15-hectare plot where he grows several vegetables, including potatoes, cabbage, and cucumbers. / Scott Haller, USAID

Carlos Sigue, an agribusiness owner in Mozambique, with his 15-hectare plot where he grows several vegetables, including potatoes, cabbage, and cucumbers. / Scott Haller, USAID

Carlos João Tovela Sigue, a small farmer in Maputo, Mozambique, had bigger dreams than the small plot of land where he eked out a living for himself and his family by cultivating potatoes, cabbage, cucumbers and other vegetables.

He dreamed of improving his lot in life by expanding his small farm, but he had to put this dream on hold when he discovered a roadblock ahead. “It is difficult to expand production without a bank loan,” Carlos says.

For many small farmers like Carlos, accessing a loan to buy seeds, fertilizer and other supplies to expand their businesses can be difficult. Most banks assume that lending to farmers like Carlos is very risky, so they often offer limited finance on undesirable terms.

Fortunately for Carlos, he discovered a USAID program that provides a partial guarantee on loans for small farmers through the Agency’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) to reduce risks and encourage local banks to lend to underserved borrowers.

Through a partnership between USAID and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), two banks in Mozambique received DCA guarantees to encourage lending to farmers and entrepreneurs, the main populations that local banks often overlook.

Since receiving a loan backed by USAID and Sida two years ago, Carlos’s farm grew from 3 to 15 hectares. With this financing, Carlos mechanized his farming processes and upgraded his irrigation system. This loan also allowed Carlos to hire more seasonal workers.

Harvesting a return on investment

Carlos Sigue received a loan from Banco Terra with the backing of USAID and Sweden’s development agency. He used the funds to grow a thriving business that won awards for its success. / Scott Haller, USAID

Carlos Sigue received a loan from Banco Terra with the backing of USAID and Sweden’s development agency. He used the funds to grow a thriving business that won awards for its success. / Scott Haller, USAID

Carlos paid off his entire first loan and took out a larger second loan to help him reach bigger goals and greater financial security. With this credit, he plans to farm 350 hectares of family land, accumulate 700 cows, and buy a larger truck for taking crops for sale to the market.

When small businesses and entrepreneurs can access credit, they can create a better economic future for themselves and their communities. Carlos is a case study in success and the Government of Mozambique recognized his excellence in agricultural entrepreneurship with multiple awards.

Many other farmers like Carlos are accessing credit for the first time because of the DCA guarantee program. Since 2006, the DCA program in Mozambique has helped to guarantee 795 loans.

When these borrowers were surveyed regarding the performance of the DCA guarantees in Mozambique, the results were positive. Most borrowers reported that this was their first experience with a financial institution, and about one-third of these first-time borrowers were women. Borrowers said the guaranteed loans helped them expand their businesses, create jobs, and improve the quality of their lives.

“In all interviews, farmers who benefited from the loans mentioned increasing the area [of land] cultivated and…productivity.”

“All farmers mentioned having financial means through the loan to hire additional labor, [which included] mostly women as seasonal labor…more food for the family and having [a] surplus for commercialization purposes.”

—ELIM Serviços Lda, the organization that led the independent evaluation

Everyone wins when development agencies partner with banks to bring financing to promising entrepreneurs. While USAID and Sida continue unlocking private capital for hundreds of borrowers like Carlos in Mozambique, similar DCA partnerships are providing over 160,000 borrowers in 74 countries across the world with much-needed financing.

Scott Haller, a USAID Development Credit Authority portfolio manager, and USAID Communications and Evaluations Analyst Beth Pappas contributed to this story.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire Everhart is the communications specialist for USAID’s Development Credit Authority.

Healing Plants to Feed a Nation

The following is an abridged version of a blog post by Miriam Otipa, a research scientist and leader in Kenya supported by the United States through a fellowship program. Read her full story on the Feed the Future blog.


High res photo Miriam Otipa

Miriam Otipa pursued a degree in science out of a desire to develop solutions for farmers to combat crop losses and help ease their suffering. Today, she does just that as a research scientist and leader at the Kenya Agricultural Livestock Research Organization. / Miriam Otipa

Growing up in a small village in Western Kenya, I often accompanied my mother and other village women on customary weeding expeditions. Whenever we came across sick plants in the fields—which was all too often—my mother would instruct me to pull them out and cast them aside. I did as she asked, but wondered to myself: Why do we simply throw out the plants instead of doing something to make them better?

At times, my mother lost nearly 80 percent of her tomatoes to plant disease. The loss was so bad that she eventually stopped growing tomatoes all together. Yet when one of our cows got sick, my mother would call a veterinarian to come and treat the cow. I wondered: Were there no doctors who could also cure our plants?

I turned this curiosity into a career in science and became the first child in my family to attend university as well as the first woman in my village to earn a science degree. Seeking answers to my childhood questions, I studied botany and zoology as an undergraduate to better understand the diversity of crop and animal pests and diseases afflicting farmers like my mother in Kenya and her peers across Africa.

I wanted nothing more than to find a practical solution. So, I became a plant doctor.

Solutions Through Science

Eager to learn and improve my skills, I applied to the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development Fellowship and was selected as a 2008 fellow. Thanks to this training program, I was on my way to becoming an agent of change in my community by learning how to treat plant pests and diseases.

I was exhilarated to finally have the skills and knowledge to discover and develop solutions using science. With my new grant writing skills, I secured USAID funding to develop environmentally friendly crop protection technologies. Working with partners in the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management was an eye-opener. I used new equipment and learned from the experts around me. During this time, I also had an opportunity to attend Ohio State University as a visiting scholar, where I honed my diagnostics skills and developed Kenya’s first-ever methodology for screening passion fruit for disease at nurseries — to help stop disease before it made its way to farms.

Farmers spread a “mosquito net for plants” over crops to protect them from pests. A Feed the Future Innovation Lab is helping test the effectiveness of this eco-friendly technology and share it with smallholder farmers. / B. Dawson

Farmers spread a “mosquito net for plants” over crops to protect them from pests. A Feed the Future Innovation Lab is helping test the effectiveness of this eco-friendly technology and share it with smallholder farmers. / B. Dawson

Success Spreads Across Kenya

Today, I help farmers properly diagnose plant disease and heal their sick plants. I’m training others to be plant doctors, too. Through the PlantWise program, supported by an international non-profit called CABI, I’ve helped train more than 140 agricultural extension staff to operate 89 “plant clinics” in 13 counties across Kenya. I’ve also jointly trained 45 farmers as “plant nurses,” who regularly visit farms, assist with plant examinations, and encourage farmers to use nearby plant clinics. Farmers can take their diseased plants to these clinics and receive guidance from plant doctors on how to best tackle their plant pest and disease problems.

It is incredibly fulfilling for me to see such progress. Instead of throwing out sick plants, farmers can fight crop losses and adopt new farming practices to boost their harvests and incomes.

I am proud to say that my dream of becoming a “doctor of plants” has come true. I only wish that there were more like me in Kenya. As one of the few female plant doctors in my country, I’m passionate about training the next generation of plant doctors to narrow this deficit.

I am doing my bit to help feed my village and my nation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Miriam Otipa is a principal research scientist and head of the Plant Pathology Department at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization. She is also a former fellow and mentor with the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development program.

3 Myths About Women and Violent Extremism

Members of the Bring Back Our Girls group campaigning for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists march to meet with the Nigerian president in Abuja, on July 8. / Philip Ojisua, AFP

Members of the Bring Back Our Girls group campaigning for the release of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists march to meet with the Nigerian president in Abuja, on July 8. / Philip Ojisua, AFP

When it comes to violent extremism, women are not just victims — they play diverse roles. In some cases, they sign up with extremist groups as recruiters, volunteers and fighters. In others, they seek to protect their people from terrorists as police officers and soldiers and organize communities to fight back. They are not, as one writer put ‘an exotic novelty’ in the fight against terrorism, but a central part of it.

As the involvement of women increases and diversifies, it is vital to understand their role in both propagating and countering violent extremism in order to effectively address it. Because there is so little information available, responses in this area often fall short of meeting the diverse needs of women.

To address this gap, the U.S. Government and the U.S. Institute of Peace are convening an event Tuesday that seeks to inform policy responses and interventions to ensure an inclusive approach. It will contribute directly to the discussion on countering violent extremism during the United Nations General Assembly in September.

As part of this effort in thought leadership, USAID is funding research on the nexus between gender and efforts to counter extremism. One thing is clear, women are not monolithic actors in violent extremism. Here are three myths about women and countering violent extremism.

Myth #1: Women are always victims of violent extremism, men are always perpetrators

Truth: As the introduction states, women play critical roles in limiting the spread of terrorism by challenging and delegitimizing violent extremist narratives. They are not victims but instead powerful agents of change and even play a crucial role in detecting early signs of radicalization and intervening before individuals become violent. The traditional roles ascribed to women in many societies, such as wife, mother and nurturer, can empower them to shape their home, school and social environments to make extremism and violence a less desirable option. We have witnessed this firsthand while working in Pakistan, where women’s groups such as Pamian unite across ethnic and geographic divides to take a stand against terrorism. The group works village by village, meeting mothers and their children to discuss the potential danger of radical group recruitment and looking to create job opportunities for young at-risk men.

A Kurdish female fighter of the Women's Protection Units looks on at a training camp in al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border on Feb. 13. Syrian Kurdish forces have been fighting advances by the Islamic State jihadist group. / Delil Souleiman, AFP

A Kurdish female fighter of the Women’s Protection Units looks on at a training camp in al-Qahtaniyah, near the Syrian-Turkish border on Feb. 13. Syrian Kurdish forces have been fighting advances by the Islamic State jihadist group. / Delil Souleiman, AFP

Myth #2: Anti-recruitment should focus on young disenfranchised men, who are most at risk

Truth: Up to now, the international community has focused on young men and boys in our struggle to identify what is driving recruits to violent extremist organizations. We also have relied on traditional development programs that are gender blind. Traditional assistance in governance, education or economic empowerment have served a mostly male beneficiary base – for the purpose of overcoming diagnosed inequalities for an entire society. In some cases we have missed half the picture. Groups such as Sisters Against Violent Extremism are changing this trend. In Tajikistan, they’ve created ‘mother’s schools’ to work with local women leaders to ensure mothers can identify at-risk youth. Following their lead, we need to better understand gendered motivations to participate in violent extremist groups and develop interventions to counter this trend.

Myth #3: The international community lacks the tools necessary to engage women in countering violent extremism

Truth: U.N. Security Council resolution 1325 laid the groundwork for involving women in all areas of peace and security. This includes engaging women who work within the security sector, where they can improve overall effectiveness of police and judicial systems to respond to diverse (often gendered) needs of those who have been radicalized. Additionally, a more recent resolution addresses foreign terrorist fighters with explicit direction to member states to address gender-related conditions that are conducive to the spread of extremism. The United States National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security is the U.S. Government’s road map to advancing the empowerment and protection of women and girls in crisis and conflict situations, including the full spectrum of its prevention, response, recovery, and transition efforts. Now, we must follow that roadmap to an inclusive response countering violent extremism in countries around the world.

As USAID continues to use development to address unstable environs with shifting and diverse dynamics, engaging women in all areas of countering extremism is a vital component to ensuring our success.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sustainable Finance Key to Health Equity

A newborn in Nigeria. USAID is intensifying efforts to develop, test and scale up simple, low-cost approaches to preventing newborn deaths in lower-income countries. / Amy Fowler, USAID

A newborn in Nigeria. USAID is intensifying efforts to develop, test and scale up simple, low-cost approaches to preventing newborn deaths in lower-income countries. / Amy Fowler, USAID

The world faces an alarming shortfall of funding needed to transform global health. If the world is to end preventable child, adolescent and maternal deaths, we need new forms of development finance to close a $33.3 billion annual funding gap.

A new financing platform announced this week at the Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia aims to do just that. The Global Financing Facility (GFF) is a country-driven financing partnership to accelerate efforts to end preventable maternal, newborn, child and adolescent deaths by 2030.

The launch of the financing platform brings together $12 billion from public and private partners, both domestic and international, to scale up national strategies in four countries particularly in need: the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Their five-year strategies include life-saving interventions based on evidence of what works best that will be expanded to reach those that are most in need.

Why is this financing platform important?

Donor resources alone are not sufficient to reach our targets and meet the Sustainable Development Goals. We need innovative approaches to financing, with increased domestic commitment from countries and regional development banks, as well as more involvement from the private sector. Our core intent is to support countries as they work to provide for the health of their own citizens, and help them along the pathway to sustainable financing.

How is this different from business as usual?

As a financing mechanism, the GFF is an example of how to use official development assistance to catalyze additional private sector funding. The GFF is partnering with the World Bank to raise money from capital markets for countries with significant funding gaps for child, adolescent and maternal survival.

Every $1 invested into the GFF is expected to mobilize between $3 and $5 from the private capital markets. The investments in the GFF are designed to help countries transition to self-financing for maternal and child survival programs.

Who is contributing money?

USAID is investing $50 million, subject to Congressional approval, into the financing platform at the country level to scale up national strategies to end child and maternal deaths in the DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania.

Other donors include Canada, Japan, multilateral organizations, host governments, civil society, and the private sector.

Is it working?

Tanzania is one example of the increased focus on women and children that the GFF can help bring about in country. By blending some of our grant funding through the GFF, we have enabled the Government of Tanzania to significantly increase financing for women’s and children’s survival and health.

A mother in Rwanda with her ​newborn ​daughter. Investing in survival & health can lead to greater individual and national productivity and growth. / Amy Fowler, USAID

A mother in Rwanda with her ​newborn ​daughter. Investing in survival & health can lead to greater individual and national productivity and growth. / Amy Fowler, USAID

Why just these four countries?

Over the next five years, the ultimate goal for the global facility is to support 62 high-burden low- and lower-middle income countries through the GFF. The DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania are part of the first wave of countries. Results from these nations will inform the best way forward for any continued U.S. government funding of the GFF.

The next group of eight countries eligible to benefit from the global trust fund will be Bangladesh, Cameroon, India, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda.

Why invest in global health?

In low-income countries, child mortality is 15 times higher than in high-income countries, and maternal mortality almost 30 times higher. Despite remarkable progress across global health, the brutal fact is the world’s poorest people still pay the most for things like clean water and basic health services.

There is substantial evidence on the “health-to-wealth” pathway, and how investing in survival and health can lead to greater individual and national productivity and growth. Increasing access to health services — especially for the poor – is a sound and sustainable investment that can command great economic returns. To put it simply, people who are healthy are more productive at work.

We have a clear and conclusive case to invest in health. Now we must summon the will to mobilize domestic resources and activate creative co-financing approaches that will transform societies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez was appointed by President Barack Obama to lead the Global Health Bureau at USAID. He is also the Agency’s child and maternal survival coordinator.

Keeping Up with the Times: Local Media Outlets Help Georgia Move Into the Digital Information Age

To help media in Georgia stay ahead of changing trends and technology, the USAID supported New Media Initiative is working with media organizations like the Information Center of Kakheti to  build TV studios for streaming news programming online. / Photo by Gela Mtivlishvili

To help media in Georgia stay ahead of changing trends and technology, the USAID supported New Media Initiative is working with media organizations like the Information Center of Kakheti to build TV studios for streaming news programming online. / Photo by Gela Mtivlishvili

If there is any universal truth, it is that information is power. With the right information, people can make informed decisions to positively affect their lives. A thriving independent media is critical for educating the public and building democratic societies.

In Georgia, many media organizations are struggling to keep pace with the rapid rise of technology.With the expansion of internet to virtually every part of the country, USAID saw an opportunity to help media outlets and journalists reshape how they produce news. So, several years ago, the New Media Initiative took root.

USAID’s New Media Initiative (NMI) works with regional media outlets through trainings, mentoring and individual consulting around four focus areas: multimedia content production, management practices, website design and operation, and new media sales.

Demand for the resources offered through the program is high. During a first round of outreach, 27 media organizations applied to work with NMI. After assessments and interviews of candidate organizations, 12 media outlets were selected to participate in the program based on their capacity to implement new ideas and their level of commitment.

To maximize the benefit to each organization, NMI tailored training plans to the needs of each individual media outlet.

Before participating in the NMI training, Speqtri—an online local news source—posted their stories to a blog platform that limited visual content, interactive features and advertising. With the technical support and trainings provided through USAID, Speqtri created a new webpage that improved the way the newspaper reported and interacted with its readers. The new site incorporates slide modules to generate income through web-based commercials (banners, hyperlinks, portals, etc.), as well as tools for gathering feedback from readers. Multimedia training also enabled the news outlet to complement its written stories with videos, photos, audio clips and infographics.

Journalists for SK News gather around a laptop to learn about online TV broadcasting during a New Media Initiative training Akhaltsikhe, Georgia. / Photo by Nino Narimanashvili

Journalists for SK News gather around a laptop to learn about online TV broadcasting during a New Media Initiative training Akhaltsikhe, Georgia. / Photo by Nino Narimanashvili

Taking multimedia to the field

To support their multimedia training work, NMI invested in laptop computers, cameras, voice recorders, microphones and other audio-visual production accessories. This equipment served as the backbone for workshops conducted in Tbilisi, and at newsrooms across the country. By taking the program on the road, participants could leverage their skills in native environments using the computers and software.

To make multimedia work even more accessible to newsrooms, NMI staff designed a Georgian language software kit for reporters. The kit includes trial and free software programs for recording audio, editing photos and videos, converting files and creating graphics. The kit distributed by DVD also includes tools that allow reporters to conduct Skype interviews, organize archives of materials and even create a schedule that can be shared with colleagues. By selecting free or low cost software, USAID is offering an affordable alternative to expensive software or the illegal download of pirated software.

The New Media Initiative hosted trainings at newsrooms across Georgia to help media learn about ways to produce multimedia and leverage the web to grow audiences. / Infographic by Dachi Grdzelishvili

The New Media Initiative hosted trainings at newsrooms across Georgia to help media learn about ways to produce multimedia and leverage the web to grow audiences. / Infographic by Dachi Grdzelishvili

News worth reading

News spread quickly about NMI. Almost a hundred journalists in Georgia participated in 75 training events during the first year.

In questionnaires conducted after the trainings, journalists reported new mastery of web skills and a 22 percent increase in online ad sales for their news outlets. A survey of Google analytics also showed on average a 79 percent increase in web page traffic for the media outlets who participated in the trainings.

The program also delivered some unexpected benefits. When a group of regional newspaper publishers expressed an interest in live internet video streaming to augment their multimedia content, they turned to NMI staff for support in developing a cooperative group that is now known as the Georgian Publishers ITV Network. NMI helps network partners set up small recording studios, learn how to operate their equipment and provide live, interactive coverage of major events such as elections.

With a new bevy of tools for telling stories, reporters in Georgia are now better equipped than ever to deliver important news to the public. The changes witnessed by the team of trainers at the NMI are inspiring— content quality is on the rise and newsrooms across Georgia are telling stories in interactive new ways. We can’t wait to help even more media organizations in the future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Davit (Dachi) Grdzelishvili is the Senior New Media Manager for the USAID-funded New Media Initiative. Follow Dachi @dachi444 or on Facebook.

Leadership at USAID Q&A: Susan Markham Shares Why Gender Equality Matters

Susan Markham, pictured in her office. / Ellie Van Houtte, USAID

Susan Markham, pictured in her office. / Ellie Van Houtte, USAID

Susan Markham, USAID’s senior coordinator for gender equality and women’s empowerment, recently celebrated her one-year anniversary with the Agency. I sat down to talk with her about her work and how it relates to the Agency’s mission of ending extreme poverty. Follow her @msmarkham.

An Ohio native, Susan went to The Ohio State University, majoring in political science and international relations, and later studied public policy and women’s studies at George Washington University in D.C.

After graduation she became involved in domestic politics. She worked at EMILY’s List recruiting and training state and local women candidates to run in 35 U.S. states. Later, through the National Democratic Institute, she traveled overseas to work with women voters, advocates, candidates and officeholders.

Could you briefly describe what your work involves here?

Little known fact, my position was actually created through a Presidential Memorandum. It recognized that gender equality is both a goal in itself and critical to achieving our country’s global goals. My job is to provide strategic guidance to the USAID Administrator and the agency to ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment is integrated throughout our programming–that it’s woven into the very DNA of the agency.  

How is gender equality and women’s empowerment related to USAID’s mission of ending extreme poverty?

We cannot end extreme poverty without addressing gender. Period. Women are key drivers of economic growth. In order to eradicate extreme poverty and build vibrant economies, women and girls must gain access to and control of capital, land, markets, education, and leadership opportunities.

This isn’t just lip service. Women account for one-half of the potential human capital in any economy. More than half a billion women have joined the world’s work force over the past 30 years, and they make up 40% of the agriculture labor force. These are big numbers showing that women are a powerful force for change that shouldn’t be ignored.

As USAID’s senior coordinator for gender equality and women’s empowerment, Susan advocates for the inclusion of issues affecting women and families into development work. A women and her children prepare food for dinner in the Aldoosh Village in Yemen with food provided through a USAID program. / Mercy Corps

As USAID’s senior coordinator for gender equality and women’s empowerment, Susan advocates for the inclusion of issues affecting women and families into development work. A women and her children prepare food for dinner in the Aldoosh Village in Yemen with food provided through a USAID program. / Mercy Corps

How is gender equality and women’s empowerment connected to other sectors such as education, economic development, health, etc.?  Do you have much interaction with them?

Of course! Development cannot be delivered in a vacuum. From education to health, there is no program or intervention that wouldn’t be more effective if it included gender at its foundation. Women are not only impacted by these issues, they have invaluable insight in how we can best address them.

When women are empowered, they often lead the way in managing the impacts of climate change and disasters. When they play an active role in civil society and politics, governments tend to be more responsive, transparent and democratic. When women are engaged at the negotiating table, peace agreements are more durable. And countries that invest in girls’ education have lower maternal and infant deaths, lower rates of HIV and AIDS, and better child nutrition.

That’s why I work closely with colleagues tackling water, energy, climate change, infrastructure and agriculture. Gender equality is not only in our job descriptions and policy goals, it’s in our best interest as development professionals.

The White House’s Let Girls Learn initiative has been getting a lot of buzz lately–could you touch on USAID’s involvement with that?

Let Girls Learn is really exciting and timely. It’s a United States Government effort to help adolescent girls stay in school. We know it’s not enough to build schools and equip classrooms. Girls in developing countries face complex and sometimes dangerous barriers while trying to get an education. Because USAID works on a range of issues from reproductive health to child marriage, we’re in a unique position to approach the challenge holistically by addressing the whole girl. All girls should have the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and self-confidence to chart their own course.

Susan takes a photo with  participants of a youth council roundtable in West Bank, Gaza. /  Global Communities

Susan takes a photo with participants of a youth council roundtable in West Bank, Gaza. / Global Communities

What are you working on right now that you’re most excited about?

Ha, everything. This is a great gig. That said, I’ve noticed real momentum in two interesting areas. First, countering violent extremism. For too long, women have been seen only as victims. Yet recently a movement began  that recognizes women as potential recruiters and perpetrators, as well as influencers and leaders who can help prevent the growth of terrorist groups and provide critical information on how to counter them. Thanks to this perception shift, USAID is re-examining counterterrorism issues and possible solutions.

Second, USAID’s Global Development Lab. It both confounds and fascinates me, but I know that if we can harness technology, we can close gender gaps more quickly. Women in developing countries are 25 percent less likely to be online than men. 200 million fewer women have access to mobile phones. And a woman is 20 percent less likely than a man to own a bank account. Technology has the power to create connections, foster learning, increase economic growth, and provide life-saving information. It can also help change social norms and stereotypes, and reduce inequality. At USAID, we’re doubling down to make sure women and girls can take full advantage.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Clara Wagner was an intern for USAID’s Bureau of Legislative and Public Affairs working on content and public engagement.

The Power of Africa: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Watts

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a schoolgirl is introduced to Little Sun – her first solar-powered light – and the concept that she can hold power in the palm of her hand. / Merklit Mersha

In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a schoolgirl is introduced to Little Sun – her first solar-powered light – and the concept that she can hold power in the palm of her hand. / Merklit Mersha

Imagine a world without light above a dim path at night or no wall outlet for charging your phone beside your bed. Unfortunately, a world without power is reality for two out of every three people in sub-Saharan Africa.

That is why President Obama launched Power Africa two years ago. He had a vision for bringing power to the 600 million sub-Saharan Africans who live without electricity by encouraging collaboration between leaders in energy, commercial lending, innovation, and trade. The private sector-led initiative aims to not only double access to electricity across sub-Saharan Africa, but also create opportunities for sustainable economic growth.

Since its launch, Power Africa has evolved into an effort that engages a host of multilateral organizations and over 100 private sector partners. In August of 2014, President Obama expanded Power Africa’s reach to all of sub-Saharan Africa and tripled the original goals. Power Africa plans to  generate 30,000 MW of new and cleaner power and increase electricity access with 60 million new connections.

When President Obama visits Kenya and Ethiopia this summer, he’ll find that the foundation for Power Africa’s exponential growth is underway. The Power Africa team and its international partners are working with citizens, entrepreneurs, private sector businesses, the public sector, and our government counterparts in African nations to further advance Africa’s energy sector.

This solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in the hills east of Kigali, Rwanda is the first utility-scale, grid-connected, commercial solar field in East Africa. The 8.5 MW, $23 million project increased Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6%. / Photo by Sameer Halai, SunFunder

This solar field at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village in the hills east of Kigali, Rwanda is the first utility-scale, grid-connected, commercial solar field in East Africa. The 8.5 MW, $23 million project increased Rwanda’s generation capacity by 6%. / Photo by Sameer Halai, SunFunder

Visualizing Power Africa

We see real change  — but, it’s not always easy to show the impact of a signed deal or additional megawatts of power added to a grid. That’s why we asked our partners to show the world what Power Africa looks like by sharing their favorite photos with us in a contest celebrating the project’s two year anniversary.

We asked our partners, our colleagues, and our implementers to answer a simple question with their photos: What does energy innovation look like?

The answers surprised even us. Each of the more than 60 photographs submitted revealed the creativity, vision and innovation that our partners are embracing to increase power access in Africa. This week we announced the eight winning photos of the Power Africa photo contest.

Impact through energy innovation, supported by the Power Africa Beyond the Grid initiative, empowers rural families in Tanzania to extend their productive day well beyond nightfall. / dLight

Impact through energy innovation, supported by the Power Africa Beyond the Grid initiative, empowers rural families in Tanzania to extend their productive day well beyond nightfall. / dLight

Hands-on exercise referring to manual, ASU-led VOCTEC program, all-women training Strathmore University, Nairobi April 2015. / Ambika Adhikar

Hands-on exercise referring to manual, ASU-led VOCTEC program, all-women training Strathmore University, Nairobi April 2015. / Ambika Adhikar

As revealed in the photo entries, access to electricity is more than just a signature on a dotted line when project developers close a deal for project financing. It’s the face of a girl as she holds her first solar lamp, it’s the handshake of two people agreeing to do things differently, it’s a classroom of women taking over an entire sector that was led by men for generations, and it’s a solar field built in a village recovering from genocide.

Whether fostering small-scale energy solutions through Beyond the Grid, early-stage financing, feasibility studies, or policy support, Power Africa is delivering diverse clean energy solutions and more importantly, opportunities for the future.

Over the next month, Africa’s energy challenges will be a popular topic of conversation among world leaders. Power Africa is a case study for how diverse partners can foster innovation and sustainable investment in Africa’s future — one watt at a time.

People, vision, and determination power this movement and we hope that other world leaders will follow our lead to bring a brighter tomorrow to Africa

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Andrew M. Herscowitz is the coordinator for President Barack Obama’s Power Africa and Trade Africa initiatives. Follow Andrew @aherscowitz
Page 1 of 108:1 2 3 4 »Last »