USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Economic Growth

Nigeria @ 50: Microenterprises Support Caregiver Families

Like many caregivers in Kano, northern Nigeria, Jamila is responsible for raising her children and caring for relatives affected by HIV/AIDS. Previously, she relied on her husband or other sources for financial support. After her husband lost his job, and with six people in her household, Jamila had to find a means to provide for her family financially.

Jamila and her husband display their peanut butter. Business skills training has empowered many women caregivers to engage in effective business practices. Photo Credit: Fernando Maldonado, USAID/MARKETS

In 2009, Jamila joined about 90 other caregivers from Bauchi, Kano, and Cross River States to attend the MicroEnterprise Fundamentals™ training course offered by USAID through its Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites project. This training equips participants with practical business skills to become successful entrepreneurs.

After the course, Jamila combined her modest savings with a small loan from a community savings and loan group to finance her business. Within a couple of weeks she was able to generate a healthy profit and contribute to her household’s upkeep.

“The most important learning I took from the training was how to plan my business. I now allocate my income between business expenses, personal expenses, and savings,” said Jamila.

Jamila is currently expanding her business. As a result of training on product differentiation, Jamila adds spices to her peanut butter, which she packs in attractive containers. Demand for her product has increased. She has even gained the confidence and financial resources to start a poultry business.

“I am now the main contributor to my household and we make up to $200 in profit each month.”

Like Jamila, many caregivers are reaping the benefits of the USAID training. A recent survey of caregivers trained in 2009 showed that over 50 percent started new businesses, and nearly 100 percent of the respondents reported an increase in income.

Nigeria @ 50: Partnership with USAID

USAID is helping farmers’ organizations, like this group in Kano, Nigeria, to plant and harvest higher-yielding crops. These women have boosted their incomes by producing more cowpeas than in previous years. Photo Credit:Ann Fleuret, USAID/Nigeria

In 1960, the face of Africa changed, as more than a dozen countries seized their futures and became independent nations. Nigeria was one of those countries, and the last half century has seen both successes and challenges. While the country’s economy is growing at a good clip, its healthcare and education still lag, and deeply entrenched poverty and unemployment remain two of the greatest obstacles to Nigeria reaching its full potential for development. USAID works in Nigeria to sustain development in the long term, especially in health, education, and economic growth.

Health

Nigeria is making much slower progress on improving health among mothers and children than most other African countries. A million Nigerian children die each year before their fifth birthday, and the maternal mortality rate is among the highest in the world. Nigeria also has one of the highest tuberculosis burdens in the world, and although the HIV/AIDS infection rate is low compared to other parts of Africa, an estimated 3 million Nigerians are still infected. As a result, Nigeria’s life expectancy has declined significantly: in 1991 the average life expectancy was 54 years for women and 53 years for men; by 2009 these figures had fallen to 48 for women and 46 for men.

Strengthening the health sector and improving overall health for Nigerians are among the most important development issues facing Nigeria. USAID is supporting increased access to quality family planning and reproductive health services. Maternal and child health efforts focus on routine immunization, polio eradication, birth preparedness, maternity services, and obstetric fistula repairs. The United States is increasing access to proven preventive and curative interventions—insecticide-treated bednets and malaria treatment—for children and pregnant women. To reduce death and disability due to TB, especially in the vulnerable co-infected HIV/AIDS population, USAID is working to double the case detection rate and halve the incidence of tuberculosis by 2018.

Education

The state of education in Nigeria is poor. Of the 30 million primary school-aged children in the country, an estimated seven million are not enrolled in school. Of those currently in primary school, less than one in three will attend secondary school. Nigeria has a massive number of out-of-school children and young adults with limited literacy and numeracy skills who have little hope of ever joining the formal workforce.

USAID programs support equitable access to quality basic education through teacher training, support for girls’ learning, infrastructure improvement, and community involvement, focusing on public schools, as well as Islamiyyah schools, which provide both secular and religious education. U.S. assistance also fosters higher education partnerships between American and Nigerian universities, especially those in the north and the volatile Delta regions.

Economic Growth

Nigeria has enjoyed relatively strong economic growth following a series of economic reforms in 2003. Annual agricultural growth rose from 3.5 percent between 1990 and 1999 to nearly 6 percent between 2005 and 2009. Poverty has fallen, but only from 65 percent in 1996 to 60 percent today. Nigeria, once a major food exporter to the West African region, now imports around 15 percent of its basic food requirements. Its agricultural sector is the primary source of livelihood for 70 percent of Nigeria’s people, but the sector is not productive. Only half of Nigeria’s 79 million hectares of fertile land are under cultivation, and over 90 percent of agricultural output comes from farms smaller than five hectares.

USAID programs are accelerating the uptake of proven agricultural production, processing, and marketing technologies and stimulating job creation through agribusiness enterprises. USAID is also helping to develop a policy environment for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises, and expand access to market-driven vocational and technical training linked with private sector employment opportunities. Customs regulations and policy reform will encourage internal and external trade, and the incentives offered by the U.S. African Growth and Opportunity Act develops private sector capacity to meet international trade and export standards.

USAID Eases Hardships of Haiti’s Earthquake Survivors

After the January 12 earthquake in Haiti, an estimated 1.5 million people were displaced from their homes. Approximately 100,000 earthquake survivors fled Port-au-Prince to Haiti’s Central Plateau.

While the area was one of the country’s poorest regions even before the earthquake, it’s seen an influx of survivors who’ve come to live with family and friends, straining already limited resources.

To ease the hardships in the Central Plateau, USAID partner Mercy Corps is providing immediate financial assistance through cash-for-work programs for both the displaced earthquake survivors and the families who took them in.

With USAID/OFDA support, Mercy Corps is providing livelihood opportunities to 2,000 people per week in the Central Plateau. An additional 20,000 people are on track to benefit from the cash-for-work program.

These projects give a member of each household 30 days of employment on a community-selected project geared at improving infrastructure or agricultural production, such as rehabilitating roads, farmland or irrigation systems. Some have used their salary and tools from the programs to start more sustainable small businesses.

Under USAID’s Food Security Program in Haiti, Mercy Corps will also provide food vouchers to 100,000 in the Central Plateau and Lower Artibonite region. This new initiative provides grants, cash or vouchers to buy desperately needed food.

In the town of Mirebalais, Mercy Corps employs Haitians to clear debris from canals and other public spaces to mitigate flooding during hurricane season. Watch a video on this important program.

View photos of Mercy Corps’ work in Mirebalais on Facebook and Flickr.

Building Business Opportunities in Haiti

Submitted by Paul Weisenfeld

USAID's Haiti Task Team Coordinator Paul Weisenfeld discussed opportunities for minority business owners to get involved in Haiti's reconstruction effort. Photo Credit: Ben Edwards

As the U.S. Government works closely with the Government and people of Haiti to rebuild their country, we’re seeing encouraging signs of progress that reflect the resilience of the Haitian people.  For example, together with the Haitian Government and the international community, we’ve removed over 881,000 cubic meters of rubble through programs including cash-for-work and vaccinated over 1 million people against highly contagious diseases like polio.  But we remain realistic about the magnitude of the challenges facing the earthquake-ravaged country – over 1.6 million displaced Haitians and millions of cubic meters of rubble remain.  The U.S. Government is committed to staying with the Haitian people to face these challenges together and build back better.

I was pleased to share this message with a diverse group of minority business owners at the 2010 Minority Enterprise Development Week Conference in Washington D.C.   Partnering with minority-owned businesses is a priority for USAID.  The energy and creativity of the private sector — both U.S. and Haitian — will play a key role in the reconstruction effort.  It’s critical that we work with the Government and people of Haiti to target the four areas where U.S. reconstruction efforts are focused and we believe can have the greatest impact:

  • Increasing agricultural productivity to strengthen food and economic security
  • Improving infrastructure, including housing and electricity
  • Supporting sustainable healthcare and other basic services
  • Making strategic investments in governance, rule of law, and security

PHS, a Hatian American firm, removes rubble at the Truitier landfill in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Photo Credit: Kendra Helmer

One of the first contracts that USAID awarded after the earthquake was to PHS Group, a minority-owned 8(a) firm to manage a debris dump site in Port-au-Prince.   For pictures of PHS working with local Haitians to clear more than 2,000 cubic meters of rubble per-day, including rubble from USAID cash-for-work programs, click here.

The event concluded with an inspiring story from a minority business-owner who was visiting Haiti on business when the earthquake struck.  He described how he partnered with a Haitian business in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy to import 600 portable toilets at a time when sanitation posed a significant risk to Haitians.

“Yes sir, things are difficult,” he said.  “Things are challenging.  But if somebody is persistent, and if you want to work with a local Haitian partner, there is a lot of opportunity.”

He concluded: “If there is persistence, there is a way.”

Apparel Training Center in Haiti Educates Textile Factory Workforce

Forming a Better-Trained Workforce in Haiti
Written By Joanna Stavropoulos, CHF Haiti communications manager

Graduate of USAID-funded garment training center in Haiti

Steve Jean, a graduate of the new USAID-funded Haiti Apparel Center, trains sewing machine operators in Port-au-Prince. Photo by Joanna Stavropoulos/CHF

Steve Jean, 37, grew up in a family of tailors – his mother, father, even his grandfather and before him. When he was a child, more than 100,000 textile workers had jobs in Haiti. Now there are fewer than 20,000.

But USAID is working to change this statistic and bring vitally needed economic development, jobs and investment to Haiti.  On Wednesday, USAID led the inauguration with CHF International for the Haiti Apparel Center (HAC), which will train 2,000 Haitians a year on a wide variety of jobs needed for Haiti to develop its textile manufacturing sector.

Even before HAC’s official opening, Steve graduated from the Center as a trainer for sewing machine operators and has been overseeing workers in apparel factories next door.

Steve’s face shone with pride as he walked me through the 30,000-square-foot freshly refurbished HAC building with its many rows of shiny new sewing machines where he will soon train other Haitians eager to join the textile industry.

“I believe in this, I know it will be a success,” he says with emotion. “There is a future here because Haitians like to work; young people want to work. So if they have the opportunity they will learn and they will prove what they can do.”

Steve explains that it’s difficult to find a family in Haiti without a tailor among its members. “Even if we have 10 or 20 centers like this,” he said, “you will have a lot of people waiting for this opportunity.”

Steve also points out that the sewing machine operators from HAC will learn all the varieties of stitching (single-needle, cover-stitch, lock-stitch and over-lock), which will increase their appeal to a wide variety of potential employers.

The Center will teach virtually the entire spectrum of skills needed by textile manufacturing workers. There will be instruction for sewing machine mechanics, quality control specialists, industrial engineers, supervisors and plant managers. There will even be seminars for top executives and factory owners who wish to further educate themselves about the latest innovations and techniques in the field.

Steve is excited about his job as a trainer. “The main thing that I learned is how to teach,” he says about the three-month long instruction at HAC. “How to explain and when you explain and they don’t understand – how to figure out what you did wrong and become better in the explanation.”

“I very much enjoy teaching,” says Steve, smiling as we stop outside the building. “When you try to figure out what to do to help someone learn and understand, I like that.”

You can see more photos from the HAC inauguration on the USAID Flickr feed.

Great Gains for Tiny Timor-Leste – Reflections from the Road

Development Half a World Away: Arrival and Field Visit Day One
Submitted by Frank Young, USAID Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for Asia

I touched down at the one-building international airport in Dili, Timor-Leste, on July 24 and was met by Mission Director Mark White. As we dashed to his car, he told me that he had determined that Timor-Leste is the farthest USAID Mission in terms of travel time from Washington, D.C. My stiff back concurred.

We left the next day for a two-day field trip outside Dili. First stop was the major coffee-drying operation of the Timor-Leste Coffee Cooperative (CCT), operated by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), which has been building this sector with USAID support since 1994. Acres of green Arabica beans were spread out on plastic sheets—it was the height of the harvest season—as workers used long-handled spreaders to continuously turn them over to dry in the hot sun. It’s labor-intensive work for the almost 3,000 person workforce that earns about $3.50-$5.00/day.

Later, we headed up 5,000 feet into the mountains of central Timor-Leste to the village of Maubissee, where the major collection and washing operation of the coffee cooperative is located. I learned en route that the cooperative will export $11-12 million of green beans this year from Dili’s port to buyers that include Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, and occasionally Caribou Coffee. The operation pumps about $14,000 a day into the local economy through its labor force.

Coffee production is one of USAID’s long-term success stories in Timor-Leste. Our investment is paying dividends now in employment, agricultural development, and economic growth for Timor-Leste. Coffee production has done so well, in fact, that USAID support is no longer needed (the cooperative agreement ends this year). However, we still support several other areas of NCBA’s work in Timor-Leste, as I would see at my next stop.

Late in the afternoon I visited one of CCT’s health clinics and learned that the government of Timor-Leste relies on these clinics in the coffee-growing areas where it is not yet able to deliver services. With USAID’s support, and revenues from coffee operations, the clinics are able to offer free health services to everyone in the coffee-growing regions, not just the members of the cooperative.

The entire staff of the Maubissee clinic gathered, and I told them how impressed I was by what they are able to do for the community in the small but well-equipped clinic and how thankful I was for their dedicated service and passion to serve the people who so badly need what they offer. The Timorese head of the clinic, Ms. Marcy, began to cry. I suddenly felt badly that somehow I had offended them with the few words of Tetum I uttered. No, they tell me; no one had come this far to thank her and the staff personally for the long hours they put in day after day.

Reflections from the Road – Part Two

USAID Supports Armenian Government’s Tourism Efforts to Boost Economic Growth

Submitted by Jonathan Hale, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Europe & Eurasia

I flew out of Moscow’s extreme summer heat to the more arid Yerevan, Armenia. I watched fires and smoke from burning Russian peat bogs and forests out the plane window. The changing climate will clearly have devastating impacts.

I arrived in Yerevan and have been touring the country this week to visit Armenia’s remarkable sites and to see first hand USAID’s innovative work to address development challenges, including economic growth. While in Yerevan I met with business leaders in the tourism sector and learned about the positive impact that USAID programs are having on their growth.

On Sunday, I drove out to the Turkish border to visit the Khor Virap and Noravank monasteries. The massive snow-covered Mount Ararat stood in the background. These are ancient places tied to Armenia’s culture. Mt. Ararat is where tradition says Noah’s ark landed after the flood and the church at Khor Virap is where St. Gregory, who brought Christianity to Armenia in 301 A.D., was imprisoned in a pit for many years.

USAID has supported the Armenian Monuments Awareness Project, which aims to enhance the tourists’ experience at major Armenian historical and cultural sites through road signage, multi-language information boards, printed materials and branded merchandise. I saw USAID supported signs at the monasteries in multiple languages, including in Braille. It was interesting to watch Armenian families reading the signs learning more about their country’s history. Since the launch of the AMAP Project in early 2008, the joint efforts of project implementers have resulted in over 330 information panels and directional signs being installed at 49 monuments throughout Armenia.

On a broader scale, USAID has supported the Armenian government’s efforts to develop tourism for a number of years now. The assistance is aimed at boosting economic growth, developing new markets, improving the skills of the workforce, and creating jobs. The programs also aim to alleviate poverty in rural areas.

Tourism in Armenia has grown strongly overall in the past five years despite the global financial crisis. In 2009, Armenia welcomed 575,281 international tourists. The sector has grown by more than 16% per year for the last five years.

The road to the monasteries wound through breathtaking canyons full of birds and rare trees and flowers. I had lunch in a cave where local people prepared a chicken barbeque and the Armenian flat bread “lavash” over a pit. There is much for visitors to explore and experience in Armenia.

You can check out a map and general information about Armenia and a video that has aired on CNN.

Supporting a Sustainable Economy in Northern Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, USAID is supporting activities that increase economic opportunities, enhance respect for human rights, strengthen rule of law, improve responsive governance, and foster political reconciliation.  In recent years Sri Lanka has gone through major transitions. More than two decades of fighting prevented Sri Lanka from reaching its potential. The goal of this work is to help members of all ethnic groups rebuild their local communities, find jobs, and participate in the country’s development.

Our USAID Mission in Sri Lanka has recently forged four new business alliances with Sri Lankan private companies, under USAID’s Public/Private Alliance (PPA) Program (PDF). These partnerships are expected to create 10,000 full-time jobs in northern Sri Lanka.  By helping to create jobs, USAID is assisting communities who have suffered through decades of conflict to have sustainable income and increased business opportunities.

An alliance between USAID and a Sri Lankan construction consortium will establish seven mobile training centers for construction craftsmen in the Northern Province.  Training will be provided to 5,000 people over a period of six months including three months of on-the-job training.

Another alliance has been established with a leading garment textile firm in Jaffna which manufactures and exports denim textiles.  This alliance will create 1,800 full-time jobs over three years.

To help young people affected by conflict get jobs, build greater capacity and fill workforce gaps, USAID is teaming with leading English language training companies to establish professional IT and English skills development training centers in each of the five districts in the Northern Province.  Courses in Business Process Outsourcing and English Language Skills will be offered at no charge to over 3,000 under- and unemployed students who will then participate in on-the-job training programs with private firms.  This program will be working with the marginalized population in Jaffna who have, for the last 26 years of conflict, not been exposed to even basic IT technology.

USAID is working with a major garment manufacturer to expand its operations to northern Sri Lanka.  This alliance is expected to initially employ 750 full-time staff and market its finished apparel to international clothing firms. Emphasis will be placed on supporting widows, single mothers, and families with disabled members.

“I am confident these new alliances together with the previously established alliances will be significant catalysts to spur development in the North,” says USAID Sri Lanka Mission Director Rebecca Cohn.

Addendum: The USAID-supported project in northern Sri Lanka to provide IT training to under- and unemployed Sri Lankans affected by the country’s long conflict, will not include training in Enterprise Java. USAID’s partner in the project, a Sri Lankan company, initially requested to teach Enterprise Java to students that may qualify. However, after conducting due diligence, the partner found that the training programs must focus on fundamental computer skills, as the majority of prospective trainees lacked even basic experience with computers. Thus, training provided under the USAID-funded project will focus exclusively on building basic IT competencies. The reference to “Enterprise Java” in the Embassy’s press release was inadvertently included as a holdover from initial discussions.

USAID – From the Field

In Egypt USAID is supporting the Ministry of Health (MOH) by providing full, two-year scholarships for a total of 25 ministry employees to attend U.S. – based MBA programs. This program targets a small number of employees who have leadership potential to be change agents to implement Egypt’s health sector reform program; and it responds to the country’s need to develop a cadre of business-minded professionals. In addition to their academic studies, the students are expected to participate in an internship activity during their two years to practically apply the skills they are learning.  Past participants returned to Egypt and are now serving in critical positions in the Ministry of Health, contributing new knowledge and experiences to improve health programs, policies and procedures.  Through this successful partnership USAID is significantly contributing towards improving health coverage of underserved populations and strengthening the technical and managerial capacity of the Egyptian health sector.

In Lebanon the Opening of the “Live Akkar” trade fair that will increase awareness, visibility, and sales of local products and services of Akkar.  This four-day trade fair will open its doors again to visitors from Akkar, the North and all of Lebanon.  This trade fair will increase awareness, visibility, and sales of local products and services of Akkar.  It will also stimulate local enterprises, agriculture, and tourism.  “Live Akkar” will feature around seventy enterprises from Akkar exhibiting agricultural products, local foods, handicrafts, garments, and other items.   Presentations on local production of commodities such as dairy, olive oil and mushrooms will be provided  by experts on a daily basis.  In addition, the trade fair will have cultural and family attractions including  daily performances by popular local artists, puppet shows and traditional music concerts.

In Dominican Republic a press trip to The Salto de Jimenoa, which was recently declared as National Protected Area. The Ministry of Environment and the USAID Environment Protection Program will lead a discussion with media attending the importance of this area and the benefits it provides to surrounding communities. The main highlight is protecting the environment and biodiversity of the area and the importance of hydraulic resources that the Salto de Jimenoa provides.

Pic of the Week

Haitian workers are building a USAID-funded irrigation canal. Photo by Herve Jean-Charles.

As Haiti passes six months since the earthquake, men and women are employed in the USAID-funded reconstruction of an irrigation canal that not only provides a source of water for agriculture and livestock, but also a source of income for Haitians.

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