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Archives for Asia

From the Field in India and Nepal: Tibetan Refugees Grow Household Incomes Via Organic Kitchen Gardens

Kunchok Dolma lives with her 89-year-old husband in a simple house in the Jampaling Tibetan refugee settlement near Pokhara, Nepal. At 68, Kunchok struggled to grow vegetables to feed her family, a fact she attributes to her lack of knowledge about gardening in her new home, which is quite different from what she knew and practiced on the Tibetan Plateau.

“I used to farm using traditional methods, but we are in a different climate here and I didn’t have much idea about what to do when harmful insects attacked our plants,” she says. Kunchok yearned to be able to grow crops again in her new surroundings. “It keeps me going and is necessary for living.”

With organic gardening techniques learned through USAID’s EDOTS project, Kunchok Dolma now produces enough vegetables to feed her family as well as help her save on her monthly expenses. Photo credit: TechnoServe

I learned about Kunchok’s story in New Delhi, where USAID partners recently met to share successes and lessons learned from the Economic Development of Tibetan Settlements in India and Nepal project (EDOTS). The project is improving the economic status of Tibetan settlements through a range of activities that address unemployment and underemployment. By improving livelihood opportunities in the settlements, the hope is that Tibetan youth will find enough opportunities to remain, thus ensuring that Tibetan identity, cultural and linguistic traditions are passed on through the generations.

Kunchok was a keen participant in the EDOTS agriculture outreach activities. Through project funding, she obtained the basic necessities to start a small kitchen garden next to her house and joined a group mushroom growing cooperative as well. More than 50 farmers from Kunchok’s community took part in the EDOTS-sponsored organic gardening and mushroom cultivation workshops.

Kunchok’s garden thrived through both the winter and summer growing seasons, and she was able to improve her family’s diet with the produce harvested, which included tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables and spices. “Now I have a clear idea of jholmol [organic pesticide] techniques for controlling insects and managing a kitchen garden, which makes me more interested in my farming work,” she says.

Finally, she says with emotion, “We, the people of Jampaling, are hard workers. The [USAID EDOTS] project has made us hard workers in agriculture again. This project has restored the culture of farming in Jampaling and has made me and my people great. Thank you.”

Though the EDOTS project is slated to end soon, Kunchok and the other project beneficiaries are upbeat. With their niche, high-value produce in demand at nearby markets and restaurants — especially by tourists — they are confident of their ability to more fully participate in the broader Nepali economy now and in the future.

Photos of the Week: AID in Action: Delivering on Results

Driving human progress is at the core of USAID’s mission, but what do development results look like?

USAID is measuring our leadership in results — not dollars spent — implementing innovative, cost-effective strategies to save lives. Through investments in science, technology and innovation, USAID is harnessing new partners and young minds to transform more lives than ever before. Our new model for development embraces game-changing partnerships that leverage resources, expertise, and science and technology to maximize our impact and deliver real results.

Take a look at the Agency’s top recent and historical achievements in promoting better health; food security; democracy and good governance; education; economic growth, and in providing a helping hand to communities in need around the globe.

Read the stories behind the results in the special edition of FrontLines: Aid in Action: Delivering on Results.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDpubs for ongoing updates on the best of our results!

Video of the Week: Empowering Women Through Horticultural Innovations

The USAID Horticulture Project in Bangladesh aims to educate and train local farmers on innovative agricultural technologies that help diversify crops to increase nutritional value. With our partners the International Potato Center, AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center, BRAC and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), we are working with local farmers to diversify diets and agricultural production systems with potato, orange-fleshed sweet potato, summer tomato, and nutritious indigenous vegetables. Meet some of the women farmers that have benefited from training in grafting tomato and producing sweet potato seedlings.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: USAID Bangladesh.

Like USAID Bangladesh on Facebook and follow @USAID_BD and #MissionofMonth on Twitter for ongoing updates!

From the Field in Timor-Leste: Giving Communities a Voice in Conservation

It was a bright morning as nearly 200 people gathered in Manatuto, Timor-Leste, to share ideas about how to conserve their community’s marine resources with a team from USAID’s Coral Triangle Support Partnership. Being lucky enough to attend, I saw firsthand how this meeting of the minds linked program staff from Conservation International — USAID’s implementing partner — with the perspectives of one coastal community.

Through the Coral Triangle Support Partnership, USAID is supporting Timor-Leste’s efforts to anticipate and adapt to climate change and natural disasters, especially in coastal communities. The Timorese government is creating protected areas, called “no-take zones,” where fishing is prohibited. The goal is for fish to grow to healthy sizes, improving the chances that the species will survive. This is important not only for Timor-Leste’s fisheries, but also global fisheries. The highest fish diversity on the planet is in Southeast Asia.

Ruy Pinto, a representative from the Coral Triangle Support Partnership, shows fisherman Feliz Fernandes how to use dive equipment during a community meeting in Manatuto. Photo credit: Cristovão Guterres, USAID/Timor-Leste

Ruy Pinto, a representative from the Coral Triangle Support Partnership, shows fisherman Feliz Fernandes how to use dive equipment during a community meeting in Manatuto. Photo credit: Cristovão Guterres, USAID/Timor-Leste

Community participation in and support for this process is crucial, because so many people depend on the marine environment for income. At the meeting in Manatuto, fishermen, community leaders, women and representatives from local government raised concerns about what would happen when the fishing areas closed. They needed to be sure they could support their families. Representatives from USAID and Conservation International explained that only certain areas identified for replenishment of fish stocks would be closed, and only for a period of three years, and that during this time other areas would remain open for fishing. By the end of the meeting, there was a mutual understanding that fishing could not happen in these protected areas in order to allow the fish to regain their numbers and remain plentiful for future generations, but that in the meantime, people could still catch fish in other areas to support their families.

Timor-Leste is home to a rich variety of marine life and sits within the Coral Triangle, one of the most important areas in the world for coral and marine biodiversity. Covering just two percent of the global ocean, the Coral Triangle contains 75 percent of all coral species and 35 percent of the world’s coral reefs. In Manatuto, one of the country’s most biologically diverse areas, most people rely on fishing for their livelihoods. Unfortunately, some fishing practices damage the coral reefs and wildlife. Along with the growing effects of climate change, such practices place immense pressure on an already fragile environment.

By acknowledging community concerns and asking for their input, USAID and Conservation International are able to integrate local knowledge and customs into their work with the Timorese government. Discussions like this one strengthen community-government relationships and help establish community-based management systems that align with customary laws, called Tara Bandu, which guide people’s interactions with one another and with the environment. In the Tara Bandu process, communities set out guidelines for harvesting natural resources and the penalties for those who violate them.

“No-take zones” at Nino Koni Santana National Park in Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Cristovão Guterres, USAID/Timor-Leste

“No-take zones” at Nino Koni Santana National Park in Timor-Leste. Photo credit: Cristovão Guterres, USAID/Timor-Leste

As a result, the Timorese government’s National Plan of Action has the support of the people who are central to successful marine management practices. The plan sets out how Timor-Leste government will work contribute to the regional goals of the Coral Triangle Initiative.

One Manatuto fisherman, Feliz Fernandes, shared his excitement with me. “This meeting was very important,” he said, “so that we could hear directly from the teams how to protect our marine resources, so that in the future we can still have new species that may be already gone around the world.” Thinking about the program team’s scuba demonstration, he went on to say that he hopes to someday have his own scuba equipment, “so I can directly go and see the development of our marine resources in the protected areas.”

As a citizen of Timor-Leste, I share Feliz’s outlook. With USAID’s support, I hope my country will continue exploring these ideas to help communities in coastal areas conserve essential natural resources.

Learn more information about the Coral Triangle Support Partnership and USAID’s work in Timor-Leste.

PEER Program Impact: Addressing Global Coral Reef Health through Science and Collaboration

Indonesia lies at the center of the most diverse ecosystems of the world: the Coral Triangle. Covering just two percent of the global ocean, the Coral Triangle contains 75 percent of all coral species and 35 percent of the world’s coral reefs. It serves as a home and breeding ground for hundreds of thousands of fish and animals contributing to the food supply of the people living in the region and global fisheries.

Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries, as well as jobs and businesses that support tourism and recreation. The coral reef structure also buffers shorelines against waves, storms and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage and erosion.

Yellow band disease in Wanci Island. Photo credit: Courtney Couch

Yellow band disease in Wanci Island. Photo credit: Courtney Couch

Often, these coral reefs and sea creatures are referred to as the 21st century medicine cabinets because they are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses and other diseases.

However, in recent years coral reefs have increasingly come under threat from climate change, overfishing, pollution and disease. In this region alone, more than 120 million people rely on reefs for their economic livelihood. Without long-term management of coral reef health, both the ecosystem and its benefactors face an uncertain future.

To tackle complex global issues such as this, USAID is tapping into the vast potential of the science and technology sector. In 2011, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF), USAID announced the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program. The program, administered by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, funds collaborative research partnerships between developing country scientists and NSF-funded American scientists. On behalf of the American people, USAID supports research to help conserve one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and ensure the plants, fish animals and the many important roles of the coral reef are maintained for this and future generations.

Line transect in Wakatobi island. Photo credit: Courtney Couch

Line transect in Wakatobi island. Photo credit: Courtney Couch

PEER project researchers Dr. Jamaluddin Jompa, one of Indonesia’s prominent coral reef scientists and Director of the Center for Coral Reef Research at Hasanuddin University, and U.S. partner Dr. Drew Harvell, Associate Director for Environment at Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, have set out to study the health of Indonesia’s coral reefs. The team measures declines in coral health by the prevalence of coral disease. Coral diseases, which have been on the increase worldwide since the 1970s, sometimes look like mold or rust and other times like the bleached-white bones of skeletons. They are key indicators of whether the reef ecosystem is out of balance.

The project aims to assess the impact of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on reef resilience and coral disease containment. These no-fish reserves, which are areas protected under the Indonesian Government’s Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program (COREMAP), serve as a sanctuary for marine life. This project will provide empirical data to show the importance of these preservation and conservation efforts. “We hope to provide additional evidence that MPAs have high impacts for the future,” said Dr. Jompa.

To ensure the reefs’ health and sustainability, long-term planning and management is key.

Focusing on local, manageable factors such as overfishing and coastal pollution, the team is developing new microbiological methods to better study their impacts—techniques which they hope will become incorporated into the COREMAP survey structure. Dr. Harvell asserts that with their findings, they will be able to evaluate how best to preserve nature while providing sustainable benefits to local communities.

The PEER program aims not only to fund researcher efforts with global impact but also to enhance scientific exchange and engagement. According to Drs. Harvell and Jompa, the collaboration has been very fruitful. For example, PEER mentoring and training has given Indonesian student researchers exposure to international science networks and state-of-the-art techniques while their American counterparts have gained international research experience.

Impacts can be seen in the classroom as well. Data gathered during the project have improved coral health case studies and curriculum in the Marine Science Department at Hasanuddin University. “As more and more students are becoming interested in coral reef education, we are building that knowledge foundation and investing in future generations,” said Dr. Jompa.

This PEER-funded project is part of a much larger effort to establish patterns of coral health worldwide. In conjunction with scientists from Australia, the team has been working on creating a larger Pacific network of coral health with comprehensive sustainability plans. Ultimately, said Dr. Jompa, “As the center of global marine biodiversity, these coral reefs belong not only to Indonesia, but to the world.”

Learn more about the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) in the Philippines, which was held on Aug. 14. 

 

Photo of the Week: Market Linkages in Bangladesh

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USAID creates market linkages to sustain traditional weaving of indigenous women. USAID’s environment activity, the Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CREL), improves diversified livelihoods that are environmentally sustainable and resilient to climate change. USAID has worked with the Government of Bangladesh and local communities to better manage and conserve Bangladesh’s natural resources and biodiversity since 1998. More resilient livelihoods and ecosystems will help Bangladesh meet development goals and move along the path to becoming a healthy, prosperous country. CREL is implemented by Winrock International.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: USAID Bangladesh.

Like USAID Bangladesh on Facebook and follow @USAID_BD and #MissionofMonth on Twitter for ongoing updates!

Doubling Incomes and Impact in Cambodia

Working with USAID over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to see tremendous growth and change in many countries, and that impact has been particularly felt in Cambodia as part of Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future supports countries in developing their own agriculture sectors to generate opportunities for economic growth and trade that help reduce poverty and hunger. Agriculture sector growth has proven to be an effective way of reducing poverty, and Feed the Future’s efforts contribute significantly to President Obama’s goal of ending extreme poverty within two decades. The initiative works with families that rely on agriculture for their livelihood, helping them grow more food, raise their incomes, improve their nutrition, and learn farming techniques that enable sustainable income and production for generations.

Asia Bureau Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck remarks on the changes the Feed the Future HARVEST program has had in Cambodia. Photo credit: Suzana Sorinchan/USAID

Asia Bureau Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck remarks on the changes the Feed the Future HARVEST program has had in Cambodia. Photo credit: Suzana Sorinchan/USAID

During my most recent visit to Cambodia, I was able to see these changes taking place first-hand.  I visited 62-year-old Mrs. Koy Muot, who, through techniques learned via Feed the Future, was able to increase her vegetable production and sell a portion of that as a result.  Her income doubled from one short growing season, illustrating the important felt impact this program is having. Even more compelling was her newfound ability to reinvest in her family by purchasing school books and clothes for her grandson and more seeds for her garden next season.

Mrs. Muot was able to make these changes through Feed the Future’s HARVEST program, which helps Cambodians improve on all aspects of food security, from production and access to nutrition in the country while also helping farmers adapt their production techniques to make them more resilient to climate change.  She learned about drip irrigation, water use and pest management in classes.  She was provided with basic equipment and supplies she would need to implement her newly learned farming practices in exchange for her time, land and labor.  She allowed her land to be used as the demonstration plot, with a garden on one side using traditional techniques and on the other side, a garden using HARVEST techniques.  I have to say, the difference between the two plots was remarkable.  The HARVEST side showed a lush garden full of mouth-watering vegetables, while on the other side sat a choked patch of land struggling to survive.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck examines plants in a traditional garden along with director of USAID’s Cambodia HARVEST project, Dennis Lesnick, at Mrs. Koy Muot’s garden in Veal village, Cambodia. The traditional portion of the garden, which is underperforming, was later compared to the garden where she utilized techniques she learned in seedling transplanting, trellising, and fertilizing to increase her garden’s yields. The new methods doubled her income from the simple household garden from $30 to $66 with the harvest. This income helped purchase school books and clothes for the householder’s grandson, and seeds for her next garden. Photo credit: Suzana Sorinchan/USAID

DAA Greg Beck examines plants in a traditional garden along with director of USAID’s Cambodia HARVEST project, Dennis Lesnick, at Mrs. Koy Muot’s garden in Veal village, Cambodia.  Photo credit: Suzana Sorinchan/USAID

With her newly learned agriculture skills, Mrs. Muot was able to more than double her income, from $30 a year to $66. Now, every year, she can sell as much as 485 lbs (220 kg) of amaranth, morning glory and long-bean, and keep 100 pounds (45 kg) for her and her family to enjoy.

“After I joined the program, I learned new techniques to grow vegetables. The production now is much better than the traditional way. I consume some and sell the rest. Now I can support my children and grandchildren,” said Koy.

The Feed the Future HARVEST program works in four provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom areas of Cambodia with some of the highest rates of poor and food insecure families but some of the best opportunities to address these issues through improved agricultural practices. Together with the help of 22 Cambodian NGOs, USAID has worked with and assisted over 47,000 households and beneficiaries including 102 schools and health centers in more than 461 villages.

I’m proud of the hard work that my colleagues at USAID in Cambodia have done with our partners there to make Mrs. Muot’s life better – and those of generations that follow her.

Learn more about Feed the Future’s work in Cambodia.

Photo of the Week: Agriculture Productivity Improvement in Bangladesh

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Did you know that  granular urea technology,  or popularly know as guti urea, is a cost-effective and environmental-friendly process that increases  vegetable farmers’  yield by 20 percent?

USAID/Bangladesh’s Accelerating Agriculture Productivity Improvement (AAPI) project, will reach 3.5m farmers in Bangladesh with this technique and save the Bangladesh Government US$84 million through improved efficiency in fertilizer input. Photo: USAID’s AAPI project

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: USAID Bangladesh.

Like USAID Bangladesh on Facebook and follow @USAID_BD on Twitter for ongoing updates!

Video of the Week: Improved Potato Farming Yields Results in Bangladesh

Since 2008, farmers in the village of Bokundia in Bangladesh have increased their potato production by 800% and sales more than $500,000. How did they do it? USAID talks about their stories in this video. Stories of associations — association of business with technology, knowledge and markets.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: Bangladesh.

Follow @USAID and @USAID_BD on Twitter throughout August and join the conversation with #MissionofMonth.

Global Tiger Day

Global Tiger Day is an opportunity every July 29th to raise awareness of the need to protect our last remaining tigers for future generations.

A tiger in Nepal. Photo Credit: USAID

The greatest threat to tiger survival is poaching. Trafficking of wildlife is the third largest area of illegal trade after arms and drugs, often for organized crime and terrorist organizations. It also directly harms the environment and natural resources as wildlife populations decline and ecosystems are altered.

USAID is working in several countries across Asia to reverse this devastating trend.

In Indonesia, the United States is partnering with four local NGOs in Sumatra to protect Sumatran tigers from poaching, habitat degradation and conflict with humans – the most serious threats to their survival. We’re also working to preserve habitats for a number of other Sumatran species, including orangutans, elephants and rhinos, through better forestry management. The population of Sumatran tigers is estimated to be as low as 250 tigers.

In Nepal, we’re working to create a new international standard for wildlife conservation by taking conservation genetics to a whole new level. A national DNA database being created with support from USAID catalogues extremely detailed genetic data on the endangered Bengal tigers, so that law enforcement agencies can determine where confiscated parts might have originated and crack down on an entire smuggling operation. And, it helps conservationists and researchers in their work to protect the animals and their habitats.

USAID is also a partner in INTERPOL’s Project Predator initiative. Launched in November 2011, this partnership unites the efforts of police, customs and wildlife officials in support of enhanced governance and law enforcement capacity in the 13 countries in Asia where wild tigers can still be found. Last year during one Project Predator operation in Bhutan, China, India and Nepal, officials arrested over 50 individuals and confiscated big cat skins, body parts and other wildlife products. To learn more, visit INTERPOL’s Project Predator website.

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