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Archives for Economic Growth

A “Whole” Lot of Success for Ghanaian Pineapples

If you live in the Southeast region of the United States, next time you walk into a Whole Foods Market and pick out the perfect pineapple, your purchase could support a Ghanaian-based small business.

Ghanaian pineapples on display at a Whole Foods Market. Credit: Michael Griffin, Sardis Enterprises

Ghanaian pineapples on display at a Whole Foods Market. Credit: Michael Griffin, Sardis Enterprises

Beginning in January, a number of Whole Foods Markets in the United States began stocking Ashanti pineapple grown on the central coast of Ghana. A unique partnership between Sardis Enterprises L.T.D, a Ghana-based small business; the African Diaspora Marketplace, a program of the United States Agency for International Development; and Western Union made the export of this delicious tropical fruit to Whole Foods Market possible.

Recognizing the opportunity, Sardis Enterprises is now pursuing a certification process to acquire a national account with Whole Foods Market and expand its distribution chain to the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast, Southeast and eventually all regions of the United States. The farmers and cooperatives that sell to Sardis differentiate themselves by using natural fertilizing methods and not using chemicals before, during, or after harvest. The company is currently certifying its suppliers’ farms and cooperatives as organic. “African Diaspora Marketplace gave us the support we needed to lay the groundwork for our company’s current growth trajectory and we are very excited for the opportunity to link Ghanaian farmers with Whole Foods’ network in the U.S.” said Michael Griffin, CEO of Sardis Enterprises.

But the success doesn’t end with Sardis. This partnership is just 1 of 17 awardees of the Second African Diaspora Marketplace, an initiative that encourages sustainable economic growth and employment by supporting U.S.-based African Diaspora and other entrepreneurs through grant funding and technical assistance. These entrepreneurs are individuals with demonstrable connections to or experience in Africa, and who have innovative and high-impact start-ups or established businesses on the continent. The African Diaspora Marketplace selects the most promising small and medium sized businesses across Africa and provides them with capital and managerial support to help grow.

The success of Sardis and other awardees demonstrates the value in supporting promising start-ups in Africa. The company has big plans for the future. They are building the Ashanti Pineapples brand and pursuing partnerships to develop their distribution channels in large export markets such as the US. “Our aim is to build a strong brand for the Ashanti line of produce and thereby help farmers in our cooperatives access valuable export opportunities that can help increase their income and have an overall positive impact on their livelihoods”, said Griffin.

Crafting Economic Empowerment for Women in North Lebanon

On a sunny October morning, I was blinking back tears of pride as 39 women, hailing from poor families, some with Down syndrome, gathered on a terrace to receive certificates celebrating their completion of a handicraft and soap making training workshop supported by USAID. Atayeb el Rif (Rural Delights), a cooperative that specializes in local gourmet foods and delicacies, organized the training as part of a grant it received under the USAID Lebanon Industry Value Chain Development (LIVCD) project to enhance the economic status of women in North Lebanon.

The USAID LIVCD project is a five-year project that provides income-generating opportunities for small businesses while creating jobs for rural populations, in particular women and youth.

The USAID LIVCD project is a five-year project that provides income-generating opportunities for small businesses while creating jobs for rural populations, in particular women and youth. Photo Credit: DAI

North Lebanon, an area that has seen a large influx of Syrian refugees, had already been facing many economic challenges, most notably loss of income due to scarce employment opportunities. USAID has intensified efforts in this region to help Lebanese communities hosting Syrian refugees through targeted assistance. The grant, launched in May 2012, helps provide economic opportunities for women and youth in rural areas, and thereby decrease migration to already over populated urban areas and improve Lebanon’s economic stability. As part of the grant, a six-day training workshop, related to accessories, needle work, soap making, and soap decoration skills, was provided to 120 women in three areas in North Lebanon, Batroun, Koura, and Donnieh. In addition to the training, each woman also received a tool kit containing $150 worth of supplies, tools, beads, molds, and threads to enable them to start their own small production home-based enterprises.

I was impressed by the array of handicrafts on display, ranging from beautifully decorated soaps to beaded fabrics, done with meticulous attention to detail and most of all passion. In fact, it was easy to sense that passion as the women enthusiastically shared their stories with us. “This training opened new opportunities. I will start producing accessories soon, and I hope to be able to open my own little shop to sell them. I also plan to benefit from the project’s assistance in marketing and to attend exhibitions and fairs to display my handicrafts,” commented one of the participants. But it was a 23-year old participant with Down syndrome, whose testimonial touched all attendees as she spoke with courage and pride about the prospects of this opportunity in ensuring a better income for her family.

The USAID Lebanon Industry Value Chain Development continued support to the women after their training graduation by providing ongoing coaching. USAID also facilitated the women’s access to markets by helping them to rent space at holiday events and fairs to sell their products to generate additional income. The USAID LIVCD project is a five-year project that provides income-generating opportunities for small businesses while creating jobs for rural populations, in particular women and youth.

I walked away with a basket of beautiful soap accessories that I can hang around the house for a profusion of scents. But most of all, I walked away inspired by the determination of these women to go beyond their potential in order to be the catalysts for change and growth in their community and country.

Participants receiving their certificate of attendance. Photo Credit: DAI

Participants receiving their certificate of attendance. Photo Credit: DAI

Doing Business in Mozambique Just Got Easier

USAID supports the Government of Mozambique with streamlining construction permitting process

Mozambique has historically struggled with the process of issuing construction permits. The slow issuing process was identified by the private sector as a major obstacle impeding businesses. However, things are starting to change for the better. The latest World Bank Doing Business 2014 report shows a substantial improvement in the country’s construction permit indicator, jumping 46 places to 77th from 123rd in the most recent rankings. The country overall improved in rank by 7 places, from 146th last year to 139th this year, out of the 189 economies in the overall Doing Business country ranking. The World Bank Doing Business report is comprised of 11 indicators that measure a country’s business regulations, property rights, tax burdens, access to credit, and the cost of exporting and importing.

U.S. Ambassador Douglas Griffiths delivers IT equipment to Maputo Mayor, David Simango; this equipment will enable the Municipality to further streamline construction permits

U.S. Ambassador Douglas Griffiths delivers IT equipment to Maputo Mayor, David Simango; this equipment will enable the Municipality to further streamline construction permits. Credit: C. Miranda/USAID Mozambique

The USAID Support Program for Economic and Enterprise Development played an important role in this recent success. The program began working with the municipality of Maputo in October 2011 to simplify the process of obtaining construction permits.

The program provided extensive technical assistance to map out the improved processes. This was followed by in-kind grant support comprised of technology equipment to the Department of Urbanization and Construction and two consultants to design a working business process management system and a database that supports a file tracking system. A statistics consultant was also hired to analyze the amount of time required to get a license before and after the technology was introduced.

According to the latest Doing Business estimates, these efforts contributed to a savings of approximately 247 days in the process for obtaining a license, resulting in substantial savings to the private sector, increased investment, and employment. The program estimates indicate that the private sector saved approximately $3.7 million and created nearly 2,600 jobs over the course of the year as more licenses were processed, allowing construction projects to start sooner.

“This effort shows that a dynamic, committed partner can make real change happen over a short period of time, even in a difficult environment,” said Brigit Helms, the Program’s Chief of Party. The World Bank’s recognition of Mozambique offers further encouragement to continue work with the municipality on monitoring the implementation of other recommended reforms.

Open Data and Entrepreneurship – The Best of Both Worlds

The benefits of open data and transparency are uniquely visible within the entrepreneurial world. Data is what fuels innovators’ work; the more data available for them to use, the easier it is for them to create new tools, apps, projects, and programs, all of which can be geared towards boosting entrepreneurship. With this in mind, it is important for us to promote the idea that fusing the two – open data and entrepreneurship – will result in more positive, impactful results, and right now, the Presidential Innovation Fellows (PIF) program is doing a great job combining the best of both worlds.

The White House PIF program pairs top innovators from non-profits, academia, and the private sector with top innovators in government to develop solutions that can save lives, increase effectiveness, and drive job creation. Each fellow is a part of the program for 6-13 months, working with the government on specific projects ranging from disaster response and recovery to cyber-physical systems to open data for development, and more.

USAID's Presidential Innovation Fellow Robert Baker presents on Open Data at Tech Camp. London, October 2013. Photo Credit: TechCamp Global

USAID’s Presidential Innovation Fellow Robert Baker presents on Open Data at Tech Camp. London, October 2013. Photo Credit: TechCamp Global

This year, fourteen fellows are working on open data initiatives across the federal government with three focusing on global development. Erin Maneri Akred, working with the Department of Agriculture (USDA), is a data and analytics specialist who most recently worked at Accenture Technology Labs where she led efforts to build analytical capabilities used in healthcare applications. Vidya Spandana, working with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), is a paradigm example of an entrepreneur who made her business enterprise successful with open data; as a college undergraduate she co-founded the govtech startup DMV.org, a web platform that provides about 110 million Americans with government data and information. And USAID’s Rob Baker, on leave from his role as Operations Manager at Ushahidi and before that a developer at Oxfam, has founded and configured a free and open source platform to host and share data that can be used by any federal agency, and others.

The fellows work with innovators in government to lead open data initiatives to get government open and host challenges and events to engage other entrepreneurs.  These include the Food Security Open Data Challenge, Global Development Data Jam, and most recently, the Open Data TechCamp held in London and organized in partnership with Department of State, USAID, Ernst&Young, USDA, and MCC. The TechCamp connected civil society organizations from around the world with new and emerging technology resources, and provided a forum for the PIFs to connect with entrepreneurs and government officials passionate about using open data for global development.

USDA and MCC’s Presidential Innovation Fellows Erin Maneri Akred and Vidya Spandana consult with Eric Nelson, Director of the Department of State's Office of eDiplomacy. London, October 2013 Photo Credit: TechCamp Global

USDA and MCC’s Presidential Innovation Fellows Erin Maneri Akred and Vidya Spandana consult with Eric Nelson, Director of the Department of State’s Office of eDiplomacy.
London, October 2013
Photo Credit: TechCamp Global

The question that USAID and other development agencies are asking is how can open data relevant to development be made more accessible, useable, and knowable to entrepreneurs that can build out their organizations for their own development solutions?  Spandana provides the example of one project in Botswana that uses a mobile SMS tracking system to keep track of Rhino poachers. Because Botswana’s economy is so dependent on tourism and natural resources, poaching has become a huge problem, especially for those entrepreneurs and people whose businesses rely on those sectors in order to thrive. Thus, those involved in the project were inspired to use open data to map out where poachers might be in an attempt to reduce poaching from occurring.

The goal of the PIF program’s open data initiatives is to show why data is impactful – not only for entrepreneurs but for others as well – and make sure users are aware of its benefits.

“We want to evangelize open data globally,” said Akred, “and we are stronger and more effective when we work together across fields and disciplines.”

Click here to learn more the PIFs program, and if you’d like more information about the PIFs program and future rounds, feel free to send your inquiries here.

Follow @WhiteHouseOSTP to get the latest news and updates.

Building the Foundation for a Two-State Solution

Last month I visited USAID’s West Bank and Gaza Mission and witnessed how our diverse programs bring tangible benefits to the lives of Palestinians. I came away from another whirlwind visit certain that USAID’s work helps build the foundation for peace.

The Palestinian hi-tech industry, for example, now consists of more than 250 mostly small-sized companies, where few existed only a couple of years ago. USAID helped spur this growth by holding competitions, seeking prototype solutions, and awarding subcontracts to help innovative entrepreneurs develop their startups and products. The “Hi-Tech Hub” event I attended in Ramallah showcased newly developed gaming and tourism apps under a USAID competition. The innovative spirit on display during that event was electrifying, and I look forward to seeing which final products will go forward to be developed. I also met with Palestinian students enrolled in a mini-MBA program offered jointly by Northwestern and Tel Aviv Universities. Not only does the program impart the exceptionally bright students with tools that will help them build their businesses and the Palestinian economy, it also builds bridges between Israeli and Palestinian academics and future entrepreneurs.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Romanowski and Administrator Rajiv Shah play soccer with a student at the Az Zeer school in Harmala.  Click to view more photos from their visit to the Middle East

Deputy Assistant Administrator Romanowski and Administrator Rajiv Shah play soccer with a student at the Az Zeer school in Harmala.

During my visit, I also met with a range of businesspeople, including Palestinian business leaders. We discussed the Palestinian economy, focusing on which sectors are ready for expansion and investment. They stressed the need for a business enabling environment with proper regulations. I also met with representatives from global hi-tech companies, including Cisco, Qualcomm, iMesh and Amital. I encouraged them to develop and expand partnerships with Palestinian tech firms to take advantage of the untapped potential within that sector, thus increasing employment, exports and revenues.

One of the highlights of my trip was accompanying Secretary of State John Kerry during his visit to Bethlehem, which reminded everyone that the city has tremendous potential as a tourism center. We toured a USAID road renovation project that will not only enhance driver and pedestrian safety, but will also link Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity to the city of Bethlehem itself. It was during our visit to Manger Square that Secretary Kerry announced an additional $75 million in support to the Palestinian Authority’s High Impact Micro-Infrastructure Initiative (HIMII), bringing the total U.S. Government commitment to $100 million. USAID’s role in implementing HIMII will be critical, as we continue to create jobs, upgrade basic infrastructure, and deliver tangible improvements in the lives of Palestinians.

While at Manger Square, I also saw the positive outcomes of USAID’s engagement with youth. I spoke with representatives from USAID-sponsored Youth Shadow Local Councils and learned about their experiences working in their local communities on projects ranging from job fairs to providing food assistance and beautifying parks and roads. I also visited students at the Az Zeer Elementary School in Harmala, near Bethlehem. There, I saw how hundreds of students are benefiting from a USAID school renovation project that provided students with access to more facilities and classrooms.

My visit also reconfirmed the importance of agriculture to Palestinian society. During a meeting with Palestinian agribusiness representatives, I learned about the challenges they face and the ways in which USAID is helping them overcome obstacles to export their products. If the olive oil, dates and vegetables I sampled were an indication of excellent food products, we would all stand to benefit from greater access to these products in our own grocery stores and markets.

My interactions highlighted the importance of our activities in building the future for the Palestinian people. With all our partners and government counterparts working together, we continue to move forward to implement sustainable development projects that benefit the Palestinian people and promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

View photos from Deputy Assistant Administrator Alina Romanowski’s recent visit to the Middle East on USAID’s Flickr site

Entrepreneurs Spur Sustainable Growth and Contribute to Development Outcomes

Today, USAID celebrates National Entrepreneurship Day.

Entrepreneurs, both large and small, create jobs and spur sustainable growth that delivers benefits to people in the United States and around the world. Having spent part of my early career working to encourage investment in promising entrepreneurs throughout Africa, I’ve seen firsthand the transformations that can take place in peoples’ lives and communities when we help foster strong cultures of entrepreneurship.

In the lead up to Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide celebration of innovators and job creators, USAID has partnered with other U.S. Government agencies to highlight the ways we can work with entrepreneurs to help them realize success. Every day, entrepreneurs in developing countries drive economic growth, create jobs, and contribute to development outcomes in USAID priority sectors including food security, global health, and access to energy.

Development Innovation Ventures grantee Off-Grid: Electric's entrepreneurs are lighting up Tanzania through more reliable, affordable, and sustainable electrical services. Photo Credit: Matthieu Young

Development Innovation Ventures grantee Off-Grid: Electric’s entrepreneurs are lighting up Tanzania through more reliable, affordable, and sustainable electrical services. Photo Credit: Matthieu Young

USAID recognizes the value in supporting entrepreneurs who advance market-based solutions using sustainable business models. Particularly in this current fiscal climate, enabling entrepreneurs to deliver development results that are sustainable beyond ongoing donor support is one of the best ways to leverage USAID funding. As a donor, our role is to help remove barriers that stand in the way of entrepreneurs starting and scaling their businesses, while also addressing market failures that limit the inclusion of poor and vulnerable populations. Our investments address common challenges facing entrepreneurs such as a lack of access to capital; limited availability of technical assistance, mentoring and peer networks; and a lack of awareness among investors regarding investment-ready enterprises.

Since 2010, the United States has budgeted about $4 billion annually to support programs related to entrepreneurship globally. USAID—particularly the Office of Innovation and Development Alliance, or what we call IDEA—has been proud to be a part of this ongoing commitment.

For instance, USAID is launching the Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative to support entrepreneurial ventures that have the potential to lift some of the poorest communities in the world out of poverty. USAID will direct up to $10 million over the next three years to help develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem and scale enterprises in developing countries that offer market-based solutions in areas like food security, global health, and energy access. Today, USAID launched an open call for partnership concept papers (PDF) , inviting organizations to submit ideas on ways to partner and co-invest with USAID.

USAID also recently announced a new $4.1 million Global Development Alliance with Echoing Green, Newman’s Own Foundation, General Atlantic, Pershing Square Foundation, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. Called “Priming the Pump,” the partnership will invest in young social entrepreneurs in developing countries who are pioneering innovative new solutions to major development challenges.

These are just two examples of some of the USAID initiatives designed to harness the power of entrepreneurs to advance global development that we have forthcoming. Additional fantastic entrepreneurship efforts coming out of USAID include:

  • USAID’s forthcoming partnership with Yunus Social Business (YSB) to promote entrepreneurship and the development of “social businesses” in vulnerable and underserved communities around the world and to collaborate on the development of social business incubator funds in a targeted set of developing countries
  • The USAID-Skoll Innovation Investment Alliance, a Global Development Alliance with the Skoll Foundation and Mercy Corps, identifies and invests in innovative social entrepreneurs to enable them to scale up their business models for delivering sustainable impact in areas such as education, climate change, water, and food security.  The first organization supported through the partnership, Imazon, uses the latest mapping technology and satellite imagery to help local governments in Brazil stop illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
  • Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) is an investment platform that finds, tests, and scales new solutions to development challenges around the world.  DIV is currently investing in over 80 entrepreneurial solutions in eight sectors and 27 countries around the world. Many of these solutions are almost elegant in their simplicity. For example, DIV is supporting Georgetown University researchers who are using stickers, like the kind my daughters are always putting on their notebooks, to reduce road deaths in Kenya. DIV is also working with the U.K.’s Department for International Development (DFID) on a multilateral global investment platform called GDIV that builds on DIV’s success in supporting breakthrough solutions to global development challenges.

As we embark on Global Entrepreneurship Week, I look forward to not only learning about the impactful work of emerging social enterprises, but continuing to develop new ways USAID and the U.S. Government can partner to bring these game changers to scale.

Learn more about USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) initiative.

Visit USAID on LinkedIn to read “My First Job” stories from USAID employees, partners and beneficiaries. Share your story on Twitter using #GEW2013!

Photo of the Week: Women Sing in West Africa

Women sing

Community members sing at the opening of a border information center in West Africa. In the continuing effort to facilitate West Africa inter-regional trade, USAID has supported the opening of several Border Information Centers. The Centers, located at the borders of Ghana and Togo; Ghana and Burkina Faso; and now Benin and Nigeria, bring transport information and assistance to traders, and truck drivers, and allows them to more easily transport goods and needed commodities across borders.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: Nigeria and USAID’s work in the region.

Read some stories about how we’ve transformed lives in Nigeria.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDAfrica on Twitter and join the conversation with #MissionofMonth! 

 

Making it Easier for Small and Medium-size Enterprises to Do Business

Paige Alexander serves as assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia

Paige Alexander serves as assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia

This morning I spoke at an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as part of the launch of the 2014 World Bank Doing Business report. Doing Business 2014 is the 11th in a series of annual reports benchmarking the regulations that affect private sector firms, focused on regulations that impact on small and medium-size enterprises.

USAID has been a proud advocate and partner for the Doing Business report since it began, and we supported more than twenty countries in implementing the reforms documented in this year’s report – including in a majority of the top reforming countries.

Improving the business environment in our partner countries is demonstrating real impact and benefits for businesses. Numerous USAID Missions and projects around the world contributed to these reforms, benefiting millions of entrepreneurs who can now spend more of their time and money investing in their businesses—the engines of growth and employment around the world—rather than struggling to navigate a maze of unnecessary red tape.

Take the example of Iraq.  In Iraq, it used to take three months to start a new business. Entrepreneurs had to make separate trips to the provincial Chamber of Commerce, federal Chamber of Commerce, and a bank.  It took days just to determine whether a company name was already in use. Now, the entire process takes just 24 days. USAID helped Iraq’s Ministry of Trade establish a one-stop shop for Iraqis to register a business, reserve a name, and fulfill capital requirements. The Chamber of Commerce created an online database to check whether a trade name is already taken.

USAID has decades of experience with commercial law and regulatory reforms, particularly from the remarkable transition to vibrant, free-market democracies that are implementing the Doing Business reform agenda across Eastern Europe. From the beginning of Doing Business, we advised top-reforming countries on legal and regulatory changes, and on the more difficult issues of implementation.

For example, USAID partnered with this year’s top reformer, Ukraine, on credit, customs, and construction permits, supporting Ukraine as it moved up 28 spots to #112. While Ukraine’s ranking remains far below that of other economically developed nations, and the country still faces major issues in terms of its business climate–especially in protection of investors’ rights and contract enforcement–this year’s progress demonstrated that putting political will behind reform can yield results.

We are working with reformers in the Government of Kosovo, the #4 reformer worldwide, on reducing capital requirement for starting a business, registration fees, and the time to register a business. Since 2010 Kosovo has reduced the number of procedures required by a third, reduced the time required by 22 days, and reduced the cost by 16%.

USAID success extends far beyond the Europe and Eurasia region. In Burundi, USAID helped with revision of the land code, supporting a national education campaign about land registration and supporting implementing ministries in the new registration process. Since 2004, the time to register property has declined by 38%. USAID provided technical assistance to streamline cargo processing times and reduce border delays in Rwanda, decreasing the time to export by 57% since 2006. In Guatemala, USAID supported online business registration, decreasing the time to register a business by 50% since 2004.

USAID is proud of our record of support for legal and regulatory reforms–but indicators only tell part of the story. As echoed by my fellow panelists, reform implementation–the key to achieving the intended development impact–remains incomplete. To transform aid recipient countries into attractive investment destinations, governments must implement and enforce broader and deeper reforms that extend beyond technical solutions and also embrace greater transparency, increased interaction between civil society and government, and improved governance–factors that are so closely correlated with economic growth.

USAID will continue our work to make it easier to do business, while also focusing on integrating increased stakeholder participation and good governance as essential components of our reform programs, as well as supporting the implementation of reforms to create conditions for sustainable economic growth.

CSIS streamed the event and tweeted highlights.

From the Field in Madagascar: USAID Food Security Program Improves Livelihoods

As part of USAID’s 52nd birthday celebration, USAID/Madagascar shares a story of one woman who has benefited from a food security project. 

Sitting in the shade of an old mango tree, a group of villagers is intently listening to a middle-aged woman reading aloud from a booklet in her hands. The woman is Philomène, the ‘Treasurer’ of the local Village Savings and Loans association, and she is making her weekly report to the members.

Philomène (4th from left) volunteered to keep the VSL association’s books Photo credit: CARE International/Madagascar

Philomène (4th from left) volunteered to keep the VSL association’s books
Photo credit: CARE International/Madagascar

We heard about Philomène during a field visit to a food security project implemented by our partner CRS. The team was in a small village called Ampasimbola, in eastern Madagascar. Philomène is a farmer and she has been tilling the land for as long as she can remember. She is a single mother of six children, four of which are still in school.

Although Philomène puts a lot of effort into her work, she hardly produced enough food to feed her family. It was a challenge for her to make ends meet; on occasion, her children missed school to stay home and help her do farm work, her only source of income.

When USAID’s food security program started in Ampasimbola in 2010, Philomène did not think twice about joining the Village Savings and Loans association. She even volunteered to keep the books for the group. These village-level savings banks allow members to contribute some amount on a regular basis. They can then request loans with soft repayment terms and conditions. Philomène seized the opportunity to take out a loan and start a small restaurant offering doughnuts, coffee, fish, and even second-hand clothes to increase her income.

With hard work, Philomène’s restaurant quickly thrived. She soon had to choose between continuing farm work that brought home hardly any money, or focusing on a more lucrative and rewarding activity. She decided to drop farming— a savvy decision, because not only did she make substantial profits from the sale of food but she also received payments of interest from investing her savings back into the Village Savings and Loans association.

Philomène’s livelihood has improved and she is now able to send her children to school regularly, and pay for the annual school fees, Ariary 43,000 or about $22 dollars without any problem. The hungry season, which she had earlier coped with eight out of the twelve months per year, is today but a bad dream. Thanks to her contribution to the Village Savings and Loans association, Philomène extended her hut after two years and added a kitchen and a bathroom. She proudly bought new kitchen utensils and other household equipment, and was able to decorate her home.

I’m no longer alone. In our VSL group, we’re like brothers and sisters. We counsel one another, and we share knowledge and experiences. It’s a real new life for me!” says a proud Philomène.  In her spare time, Philomène engages in development and other social activities, and the community seeks her help for advice or assistance when visitors come to the village and seek accommodation for the night. Philomène can help because her hut is now large enough to put up guests. She is now, more than ever, an important member of the community.

Follow USAID Madagascar on Facebook and Twitter for ongoing updates in the region.

Join the #USAIDProgress conversation on Twitter and learn about our other successes!

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