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Archives for Economic Growth

USAID Seizes Development Opportunities in Ukraine

I arrived in Ukraine on Columbus Day to discuss challenges in Ukraine and how our programs are addressing those issues, as well as to visit our projects to see the real impact American aid has on the ground.

On Tuesday we met with the U.S. Embassy, USAID Mission, and implementing organizations in Kyiv to discuss our programs in Ukraine, the upcoming municipal elections, and financial reform programs. Since regional issues have long torn Ukraine’s regions apart, it was interesting to see those areas where Ukrainians had common perspectives – particularly on the devastating impact of the global economic crisis (which caused Ukraine’s GDP growth to fall from +8 percent in 2007 to -15 per cent in 2009).

Roberta Mahoney and others discuss the results of the USAID Municipal Heating Reform project with city and hospital officials. Photo Credit: USAID/Ukraine

I then traveled to Crimea accompanied by the USAID Mission Director, Janina Jaruzelski, State’s Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe & Eurasia (ACE), Dan Rosenblum, and several other State, USAID, and Embassy staff.

On our first morning in Crimea, we visited a number of hospitals that have received some 2,800 pieces (filling 96 trucks!) of medical equipment from a project of ACE’s Humanitarian Affairs section.

In the afternoon, we met a cross-section of young leaders in Crimea’s NGO community working to address issues from minority and prisoner rights to the media and the rights of persons with disabilities.  The group, which received leadership training through the USAID Ukrainian Strengthening Civil Society Organizations (UNITER) project, was remarkably perceptive about their capacity to influence policy and politics, the need to represent and motivate their members, and the real need to focus in sustained and creative ways on financial sustainability.

Thursday took us to a different Crimean city, Yevpatoria, where we met with the dynamic mayor about his comprehensive plan for the revitalization of the city’s economy. We then visited another hospital, this time from the outside, and watched as Ukrainian workers retrofitted the exterior of the hospital’s walls and attics with insulation with assistance from the USAID Municipal Heating Reform (MHR) project, which is also working in four other towns in Crimea.

The hospital will be able to increase heat generating efficiency in this cold region from roughly 64 to 99 percent, which will save the hospital money and improve conservation of critical resources.  Such a dramatic reduction in energy waste is one example of the positive impact MHR can have on Global Climate Change.

The highlight of the day, however, still lay ahead: meeting with NGOs and businesses devoted to promoting Crimea to the rest of the world!  We discussed the opportunities and challenges of promoting Crimean tourism with a significant representation of Crimean tourism businesses.

During a tour of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, we learned that Yevpatoria’s last multi-domed mosque was designed by Sinan, the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire, who took inspiration from the domes of Haghia Sophia in Istanbul in creating Yevpatoria’s impressive Turkish-style mosque.  Sinan had also designed many other Istanbul mosques.

Yevpatoria is home to the Qaraim, an ancient community closely linked to Judaism that is arguably the smallest ethnic group on earth, numbering some 2,000 individuals.  During the Russian Civil War, Mr. Duvan, the town’s mayor and one of the most illustrious members of the Qaraim community who had fled the Russian Revolution for exile in France, sent a shipload of wheat to the city to help his former citizens survive.

One last stop remained — the one stop business center. Hailed as a success by the business community, citizens, and the government, the office brings all the actors together under one roof to significantly reduce the time it takes to register a new business and limit opportunities for bribery and corruption during the process. It was a fitting end to a successful visit, as we came away assured of the capacity of Crimeans to establish businesses to share the beauty, history, and bounty of the peninsula with the world, while providing hope and jobs for its citizens.

In all we’ve had a very successful visit, gaining exposure and insight to the breadth of the USAID’s program and accomplishments and the challenges that remain in Ukraine, from democracy and governance to health, energy, and the economy.

Picture of the Week: Women Increasing Incomes in Guatemala

Women preparing vegetables at San Judas, Guatemala.Women preparing vegetables at San Judas packing plant to sell to grocery stores in Guatemala. The San Judas company is participating in a USAID Global Development Alliance program with partners Wal-Mart, Mercy Corps, and Fundación AGIL. Photo is from Eduardo Smith/ PrensaLibre 2008.

Cultural Festival in Haiti Kicks Off USAID’s New Development Projects and Promotes Civic Pride

Funky beats and roaring laughter echoed through Cap Haitien’s town square as local dancers, poets, comedians, and musicians performed at the city’s cultural festival over the weekend. Thousands of Haitians attending the festival danced, sang and laughed as performances stretched into the wee hours of the morning.

USAID cohosted the two-day festival with local authorities to boost civic pride and mark a renewed focus on economic growth in Cap Haitien.  The festival fell on a holiday dedicated to King Henri Christophe, Cap Haitien’s most well-known historical figure, and featured some of Haiti’s most popular performers.  Kompa band Tropicana, comedian Jesifra and dance troop Dahomey were among the audience favorites.

Despite a heavy storm that flooded the streets, Haitians rushed into the town square as the rain let up and the water receded.  Locals called the festival Cap Haitien’s biggest event in recent memory and estimated that three to four thousand residents attended.

Some Haitians set up shop on the square’s perimeter to sell steaming food, frosty drinks and hand-made crafts.  Others climbed trees or sat atop cars to get a better view of the stage.

The hopeful tenor of the audience showed Haitians’ resilience in spite of their hardships. Extreme poverty was commonplace for Cap Haitien residents even before the earthquake nine months ago.  The northern port city lies far outside the range of the earthquake, but many Haitians sought refuge in Cap Haitien after their homes were destroyed in and around Port-au-Prince.  As a result, Cap Haitien’s population swelled in the disaster’s aftermath, straining the city’s already sparse resources.

The Government of Haiti and international community see an opportunity to reinvest in Cap Haitien. A number of USAID projects are already in the works.  USAID partner, Development Alternatives Inc., is implementing many of those projects including cash-for-work programs that provide short-term employment for women, agriculture projects that boost incomes from farming, and infrastructure projects that increase the number of students attending school.

I arrived in Haiti just two days before the cultural festival, and the weekend-long celebration shaped my first impression of the country.  I witnessed many struggles in Haiti, but I also witnessed proud, hopeful Haitians working hard to overcome these challenges.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Expanding Our Toolkit in the Fight Against Global Hunger

This orginally appeared on DipNote.

I am halfway around the world from Washington, and on October 6, I participated in the Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum. I traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia this week to discuss trade, investment, entrepreneurship, energy, and of course, agriculture. I am proud to be part of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s renewed commitment to political, economic, and educational engagement with dynamic emerging economies like Indonesia. I am especially pleased to be back in Indonesia after my successful visit this past spring, during which we discussed the issues of post-harvest loss and agricultural biotechnology.

The Indonesia Joint Agriculture and Investment Forum builds on that work by including many distinguished participants to chart a course for the future. Dr. Bayu Krishnamurti, Indonesian Vice Minister of Agriculture, Ambassador Eric Bost of the Borlaug Institute, and many other luminaries in the field have come together to discuss new agricultural technologies, investment in post-harvest infrastructure, and expanded cooperation at research universities.

Ultimately, we are all here to reaffirm our commitment to fight global hunger. While there are no magic bullets in this battle, we must look to new technologies, including biotechnology, for the role that they can play in the “new green revolution.’ I believe that biotechnology, and the improved crops it can develop, will prove to be an important new element in our traditional package of tools to increase productivity and address head-on the challenges of hunger and climate change.

To that end, we are renewing several key partnerships in the area of biotechnology. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will work with the Indonesian government and the Program for Biosafety Systems to develop a new and fully functional biosafety framework in Indonesia.

We are also building on long-standing partnerships with international agriculture research centers. USAID will be supporting collaboration between the International Rice Research Institute and the Indonesian Agency for Agricultural Research and Development, and other partners to roll-out Golden Rice, an important food-based approach to alleviating Vitamin A deficiency and associated serious health issues in Indonesia.

In the face of one child dying of malnutrition every six seconds, our greatest tool is increased cooperation and collaboration to develop and share the best solutions possible.

Food Security Month @ USAID: Linking Agriculture, Economic Growth, and Nutrition

Throughout October USAID will be highlighting our broad-based work in food security – which spans from emergency food aid assistance through the Food for Peace Program to the game-changing global hunger initiative called Feed the Future. Our development programs overseas are linking vulnerable populations to opportunities for economic growth and linking agricultural benefits to nutrition elements in new, innovative ways. This month we will feature how we are working across the U.S. Government to reduce global hunger and improve lives.

The Obama Administration’s $3.5 billion commitment to tackle food security through Feed the Future and its announcement of the first-ever global policy directive on development demonstrates a renewed focus and investment to address hunger. As USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah has stated, “We know food security facilitates stable communities and resilient nations. We know agricultural development growth is more effective at reducing poverty than general economic growth. And we know children need nutrition to learn and grow, especially in those critical early years of their lives.”

Next week, the Borlaug Dialogue will bring together hundreds of global leaders on agriculture, food and development to discuss food security themes in Des Moines, Iowa. The annual conference includes announcing the World Food Prize winner and will focus on “Take it to the Farmer: Reaching the World’s Smallholders”. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will be a keynote speaker at the event and will announce new USAID programs that will increase capacity and incomes of smallholder farmers across the globe.

October also includes World Food Day, a worldwide event to unite and inspire year-round action to alleviate hunger. We will join many of our partner organizations on this day of awareness and understanding by highlighting the urgent need to reduce hunger with the strong global will and partnership it requires.

Personally, I am honored to be a part of the Feed the Future team. It is a whole-of-government approach that invests in plans that are country-led and country-owned. Our cross-cutting themes of gender, nutrition, private sector, and research recognize that we must take a holistic approach to get this right. Much like the Green Revolution nearly 50 years ago, the renewed global focus on agriculture has the ability to transform agriculture and, ultimately, reduce the number of hungry in the world.

Miller Finds Fortune in Rice Cultivation

Joseph Ununu, 45, learned early in life to grow rice; it was a family vocation. But a pest infestation of rice fields in Abakaliki, Eastern Nigeria, in the 1990s, took away his zeal. The pests devastated his four-hectare rice farm, forcing him to shift attention to milling, which only earned marginal income for his family.

In 2006, USAID’s Maximizing Agricultural Revenue and Key Enterprises in Targeted Sites (MARKETS) program changed the fortunes of many rice farmers and processors in the area—including Ununu. They were introduced to best practices in rice farming, high-yielding rice varieties, and use and application of herbicides.

Even though Ununu participated in these training sessions on rice cultivation, he was not enthusiastic initially; he stayed focused on milling.

However, after hearing from other farmers who benefited from USAID’s program, in 2009 he returned to rice farming on 12 hectares of dispersed farmlands in Abakaliki. With careful application of what he had learned, Ununu says that he was amazed at the growth rate of his crops. “I had to leave the four rice mills for my family to manage, and focused attention on nurturing my rice farms,’’ he says.

Ununu’s yields have earned him substantial income. He harvested more than 330 bags of paddy rice of 100 kilograms each, earning $2,000 to purchase two modern processing machines designed to mill long-grain rice. He also earned more than $3,000 from another sale which enabled him to send his first son to university and meet other family needs. Ununu still has more than 70 bags of paddy rice in his warehouse. He employs 30 people in his rice mill and engages more than 60 farmhands on his rice fields. Last year, Ununu earned more than $13,000 from growing rice.

“Thanks to USAID, I am a proud member of my community and an employer of labor,’’ he says.

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.”

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