USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Economic Growth

USAID Helps Put Albanian Products on the Road to Markets

Mr. Ruzhdi Koni, owner of AgroKoni Trading Company, sends off his first shipment of watermelons to a distributor in Lithuania. With USAID support, Albanian farmers and traders like Mr. Koni, are able to find lucrative international markets.

Albania is a country that produces a wealth of high-quality agricultural products and because of its geography and climate it can enter produce markets in the region and in the European Union earlier in a given year for premium prices. But that potential has not been fully met because Albania’s agriculture sector does not have adequate technological and business sophistication to be competitive.

Albanian farms are usually small, family-run operations, many of which cannot meet large purchase orders nor send their products to distant markets. Helping Albanian farmers overcome these difficulties would have an impact on reducing poverty and supporting economic development in rural areas where the poverty levels are much higher than the national average.

With USAID support, Albanian farmers, processors and traders are gaining the knowledge and skills they need to better reach regional and even international markets. Last week, USAID helped Agro-Koni, an Albanian producer of improved seedlings and consolidator, export 10 containers of early-season watermelons to Lithuania, valued at over US$50,000. The sale marks a milestone in a year-long process, where USAID’s assistance enabled Mr. Ruzhdi Koni, owner of AgroKoni, to navigate the complex process of establishing trade links with a regional buyer. Koni is preparing for two additional shipments in the coming weeks that would provide his company more than $100,000 in sales.

USAID’s five-year, Albanian Agriculture Competitiveness program is working with farmers, processors, suppliers and traders to build an integrated value-chain network that will increase the competitiveness of Albanian agriculture. Since it began in 2007, the project has had increased domestic and export sales by over 65% for assisted clients.

USAID has also published the first Albania’s Buyer Guide, a user-friendly directory with contacts for companies interested in purchasing Albanian products.

Changing Tides

Ifikhtar Ahmed is the marketing manager of I.A. Khan Enterprises, a home-based business that produces local delicacies like tangy pickles and sohan halwa, a popular dessert, in this central Punjabi city of four million.

And while Ifikhtar’s position as a manager would be considered normal by even the most traditional in Pakistan, what makes his role unusual is that the company’s managing director is his wife, Amna.

In this socially conservative country, few women venture into the mainstream workforce and contribute to the country’s economic growth. Most Pakistani husbands will not entertain the idea of ceding authority to make decisions, business or otherwise, to their wives. (Read more here.)

From the Field

In Jordan, the Petra New Wonder of the World Celebration, the third anniversary of Petra being selected as a New 7th Wonder of the world. The USAID Tourism project will celebrate this with an evening of entertainment in the park itself. The project will use this occasion to provide background and build support for critical development plans at this beautiful and historic site. The event will be attended by the Prime Minister of Jordan and other senior ministers, and in addition to the celebration, they will learn about the challenges and opportunities at Petra.

In Ukraine, a Conference on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) and International Accounting Standards (IAS). The United States Government has worked to develop Ukraine’s financial markets for nearly 15 years. Since 2007, USAID/Capital Markets Project has been working with the Ukrainian Securities Commission and market participants to develop the Electronic System of Comprehensive Information Disclosure (ESCRIN) for issuers of publicly listed companies. ESCRIN, has two major advantages: the information required by ESCRIN is much more comprehensive and allows the information to become public immediately on the regulator’s Web site, helping to move the country toward internationally accepted standards of disclosure. ESCRIN is now ready to be transferred and operational. The Securities Commission is about to receive final ministerial approval of a regulation that makes the system mandatory. 250 experts and professionals on investment projects, management, financial reporting, etc. from 30 countries worldwide will attend.

In Egypt, an event to present the best practices of the partnership between the USAID’s Technology for Improved Learning Outcomes (TILO) project and the Discovery Channel Global Education Partnership (DCGEP). This partnership works on introducing 150 educational video segments to 60 Egyptian primary schools; teachers are trained on how to integrate the videos into their lesson planning. Attendees will include 90 school teachers who were trained under USAID’s program, as well as the Ministries of Education, Communication and Information Technology, and the Governor of Beni Suef.

4 People Who Can Change Ghana

submitted by Amanda Parsons

Henry Adobor Aceritas will start raising Boer goats for the local market. Tenu Awoonor is going to build Student Card Limited, a company designed to provide cashless payments for school fees and student lunches with the use of a multifunctional identification card. Paul Ansah’s ANSA Systems Limited will work to provide reliable utility power for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) facilities. Kojo Taylor’s MicroClinics will work on improving access to primary healthcare and essential drugs in rural communities.

What do these four people have in common?

All are recipients of African Diaspora Marketplace grants. USAID and Western Union sponsored the program in which recipients receive as much as $100,000 in grant funding to better their communities in Ghana. The (ADM) finalists were chosen by an independent panel of volunteer judges from business, non-governmental organizations, diaspora development organizations and academia in an effort to increase opportunity in Sub-Saharan Africa through fostering sustainable start-ups and established enterprises. Fourteen candidates–all who presented business plans and work with African diaspora throughout the world to help guide them as they set up their businesses–were chosen from a pool of 733 applicants.

Read the rest of this entry »

Insecticide-treated Mosquito Nets Save Lives

Men ferry bales of ITNs across a river during a net distribution campaign in Nimba County, Liberia. PMI has purchased millions of nets for distribution throughout Africa.

In Africa, malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes that bite predominantly at night. Therefore, sleeping under an insecticide-treated net (ITN) can greatly reduce the risk of infection because ITNs repel mosquitoes and kill those that land on them. Increasing ownership and use of ITNs is a key component of President Malaria Initiative’s (PMI’s) prevention strategy. Launched in 2005, PMI is led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented together with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). PMI is a key part of the Administration’s Global Health Initiative to help partner countries achieve major advances in health by working smarter, building on past successes and learning from past challenges. 

Read the rest of this entry »

USAID – From the Field

submitted by Abby Sugrue

In Kazakhstan: An event to raise awareness about the risks of drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and TB among at-risk youth – the event will include an awards ceremony for a drawing competition, a football match, and educational sessions on prevention of drug-use, HIV/AIDS and TB.  Local NGOs, youth groups and local media are invited.

In Armenia: An Amerenian Eye Care Project, and an international conference on the Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding eye disorder that primarily affects premature infants.  A group of very well known ROP and retina specialists from the US and Australia will be traveling to Yerevan to train and teach the Armenian specialists to launch the program.  Attendees will include neonatologists, pediatric & regional ophthalmologists, clinical residents and neonatal nurses.

In Serbia: “Agribusiness & Renewable Energy Sources,” a conference to inform investors and agricultural producers on possibilities of production and the need for the use of sustainable sources of energy, in order to lower the emission of  pollutants and dependency on import of fossil fuels.  Attendees will include Senior representatives of Serbian Ministry of Agriculture and Mining and energy, Special Advisor to the Ministry of Environment, and Agbiz project companies and clients.

In Egypt: The inauguration of El Akarmeya clinic.  Outreach is focused on Egyptian beneficiaries in disadvantaged areas, especially women and children.  An integral part of the process involves The Integrated Reproductive Health Services Project (Takamol), which provides technical assistance to the Egyptian Government to include Maternal-Child Health, Family Planning, and Reproductive (MCH/FP/RH ) services.

USAID Supports Rural Pakistani Women Farmers

USAID is supporting rural Pakistani women farmers to increase crop and livestock productivity.

The Rural Livelihood Development Program in Balochistan built the capacity of 50 female community organizations to increase crop and livestock productivity, improve on-farm water management, and foster improved market linkages for agricultural inputs and outputs.

The program also provides institutional capacity building to 200 community organizations which train women in entrepreneurial skills, improved marketing, and agricultural-related technical training.  The program will enable 40,000 women and girls to increase their income by 20 percent.

Rural Pakistani women do the majority of livestock and agriculture management, frequently in the form of unpaid “family” work.  The USAID agriculture programs will develop skills and techniques of female farmers while strengthening women’s control over the financial resources generated by their work.

Balochistan faces debilitating drought and severe water scarcity which negatively affects production and value addition in crop and livestock development.  To address this issue, efficient water use and management is integral to USG livelihood activities in horticulture and livestock development.  Forty percent of sheep in Pakistan come from Balochistan.  Through the introduction of wool grading and a site visit to the Ghazi Wool Industry in Southern Punjab, USAID helped farmers gain from an increased sale price of $11 for 40kg of raw wool to $20 for graded white wool. Read more about the economic growth program.

Home-based Garment Brand Links Women to Better Markets

Customer Natasha De Sousa, a video producer, said “I was very impressed with the designs and the quality.”

Women in Pakistan have strong embroidery and garment embellishment skills, passing local traditional styles and techniques from generation to generation.  Yet due to their limited mobility, these women have had to accept low compensation for their products at local markets or through sales to intermediaries who buy low and profit from resale in higher-value urban markets. Either way, village artisans earn only small amounts for their painstakingly elaborate creations.Read how these women surpassed social and cultural restrictions to develop their product collections, learning in a hands-on environment how to expand their businesses with USAID support.Key components of USAID’s economic growth program include creating jobs, improving the competitiveness of Pakistani small and medium enterprises, addressing agricultural policy, infrastructure and productivity constraints; and significantly increasing women’s access to microfinance.The U.S. is working with the Government of Pakistan to promote the rule of law and equality under the law; build public awareness of the benefits of educating girls and of providing them with economic opportunity and health care as well as of the benefits of changing societal attitudes.

BRINGING MOBILE BANKING TO HAITI

One of the lesser-known victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake last January was the country’s financial system. Banks were closed for more than a week. Remittances through Fonkoze, a leading transfer agent, ground to a halt and were only restored when a U.S. inter-agency effort flew in more than $2 million. But even as the US, the international community, and the Government of Haiti help these traditional institutions get back on the feet, a critical roadblock to progress remains: less than 10% of Haitians have ever used a commercial bank.

That’s why we’re thrilled to announce today an innovative partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to incentivize the development of financial services by mobile phone in Haiti. In short, these services are quicker, safer, and cheaper than traditional banking and could play a major role in helping to lift Haitians out of poverty and facilitating the country’s rebuilding process.

As part of the program, our friends at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will provide $10 million for a fund to provide cash awards to companies that initiate mobile financial services in Haiti. USAID will offer technical and management assistance and other funding totaling approximately $5 million through one of our projects, the Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprise (HIFIVE), already underway to improve access to financial services for the underserved. We’re working with Haitian companies in this effort in order to maximize our impact and address a critical need that had not been met through traditional approaches to development.

This type of program represents the approach I’m deeply committed to promoting here at USAID: cutting-edge technologies and programs deployed in new and unique ways to deliver optimal improvement. I’m very optimistic about what this program can do for Haiti and the short and long-term benefits it can deliver.

Because so few Haitians use commercial banks, savings are limited and insecure, employers must rely on sometimes-risky cash distributions, and remittance transfers (which account for about half of the country’s total income) are slowed. This problem is particularly problematic in rural areas and contributes to the over-concentration of Haitians in Port-au-Prince.

With the development of a mobile banking system, Haitians across the country could send, receive, and store money using their cell phones, better connecting them with relatives abroad who send money, employers who want to quickly and easily pay them, and goods and services they want to purchase. Here at USAID, we hope to be able to use mobile banking to pay workers through our cash-for-work programs, which currently employ about 24,000 people every day to do rubble removal and mitigation activities.

As we near the six month commemoration of the January 12th earthquake that devastated Haiti, we’re more focused than ever on helping the people of Haiti tackle the indescribably immense challenges that the earthquake posed. We’re working tirelessly with the international community and the Government of Haiti to address in new and innovative ways—such as through this mobile banking initiative–the problems that existed before the quake and that the disaster has only exacerbated. In this way, I am hopeful that we’ll finally be able to turn a corner on Haiti’s development challenges and put it on a path to a better future.

Click here to read our press release on the announcement.

Forging New Careers: USAID program seeks to train 100,000 Pakistani youth for in-demand jobs

Najeeb focuses during welding training. He is among 100,000 underemployed Pakistani youth USAID is training and helping with job placement under its Economic Growth program.

Holding an electric arc in his right hand, and a steel and glass helmet in front of his face with his left, Najeeb Ahmed bears down on a sheet of metal, focusing intensely as he heats a straight line across a forge under the watchful eye of an experienced ironworker.

Like millions of young Pakistanis, the 30-year-old Najeeb is ambitious and eager to work yet is nonetheless unemployed.  Becoming a welder may be his last chance to provide a good life for his family of six.

USAID is facilitating the placement of 100,000 Pakistanis – at least half women – in skill-matched jobs through training and placement
centers that establish linkages with the businesses, complementing other USAID programs such as education, health, and economic growth initiatives.

USAID is helping people find new economic options that offer hope for themselves and their children.  Growing job opportunities in key emerging sectors, such as food processing, construction, educational and health services, and marble, gems and jewelry will offer a way out of the cycle of poverty and violence currently afflicting much of Pakistan, particularly in the rural parts of the country.

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