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Want to empower women in agriculture? Use technology.

It’s very difficult to effectively manage responsibilities if you have neither the authority over nor access to the required skills, networks, resources, or decision-making power needed to complete critical tasks. Yet, that is the situation women in Tanzania’s agricultural sector face.

According to research from the World Bank, women form the majority of Tanzania’s agriculture work force – particularly in rural areas, where 98 percent of economically-active women are involved in agriculture. They prepare, plant, weed, harvest, transport, store, and process their farms’ products. In addition to these time and labor-intensive activities, women also cook meals and perform other household management tasks. These are crucial in a country where 42 percent of children under 5 years old suffer from stunted growth, due to malnutrition, and 16 percent are underweight.

Tanzanian women are keenly aware of their responsibilities and the challenges embedded therein. Limited decision-making power, unfavorable regulations, and biased sociocultural norms reduce their access to finance, land, technical training, labor-saving equipment and other productive resources. As a result, barriers are stifling their potential to be leaders of technological invention, entrepreneurship, and legal and regulatory change throughout the agriculture sector. But these challenges are not insurmountable.

In fact, with a little help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, farmers are developing their own solutions.

The Innovations in Gender Equality (IGE) to Promote Household Food Security program, in close coordination with Feed the Future projects in southern Tanzania, is helping farmers address constraints they face when working in agriculture.

This project is a partnership between Land O’ Lakes International Development , the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Development Lab (MIT D-Lab), and USAID.

It offers community-centered technology design training to smallholder farmer groups in the Southern Agricultural Corridor of Tanzania. Trainees, the majority of whom are women, develop prototypes in group settings and receive in-depth coaching from MIT D-Lab trainers.

What do the results of these technology design trainings look like?

  • Time and labor burdens are reduced. These technologies – developed by farmers, for farmers – save time and reduce drudgery, freeing up women’s availability to engage in alternative income-generating opportunities.
  • What’s impossible alone becomes possible together. When we ask IGE farmer-inventors why they never developed the technology design prototypes before that they are designing now, one answer is constant: they couldn’t do it alone. D-Lab’s community-centered design philosophy fosters teamwork from the start, which farmers credit for bringing to life the culture of innovation and invention in their villages.
  • Men and women are working together. Women’s empowerment is a community-wide endeavor, with men’s active involvement and support being a critical factor. The technologies farmers are developing are transforming women’s-only agricultural tasks into tasks in which husbands and wives work together, producing a greater overall benefit for themselves and their families.

What technologies are farmers developing?

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Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Mwanahamisi Goha’s palm oil technology design group, called Jitegeme group, consists of two women and three men. They collectively developed the palm oil extracting machine prototype pictured above, which can extract 20 liters of palm oil in 30 minutes. This is a major improvement, because standard models typically take four hours to extract the same amount of palm oil (a popular product on local markets) and require two people to operate instead of one. This new prototype also allows operators to sit instead of stand.

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Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Arafa Mwingiliera and Habiba Njaa’s peanut sheller group, Ukombozi, in Morogoro, grinds nuts using a prototype they developed with three other group members. This technology can shell up to 20 kilograms of peanuts in just five minutes – an amount of work that used to take an entire day when shelled peanuts using their bare hands. Women in southern Tanzania often sell peanuts as snacks along the roadside to passers-by and use them in place of cooking oil to season vegetables. Peanuts are high in protein and calories, making them a good source of nutrition and energy, especially for young children.

Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Amina Hussein, Veronica Hogo and other members of the rice thresher technology design group, Lupiro, test their prototype, which they designed using locally available and affordable materials. This technology can thresh 15 to 20 100 kilogram bags of rice per day without crop loss due to spillage (which occurs when farmers thresh rice by hand). The productivity levels achieved by this prototype are a massive improvement compared to traditional hand threshing, from which farmers yield only two to three 100 kilogram bags of rice per day with up to 5 percent of crops lost to spillage. Rice is one of the main staple crops of Tanzania, and, along with maize and horticulture, is one of the Feed the Future target value chains. These value chains are essential to Tanzania’s food security, which has motivated many farmer technology design groups to develop prototypes that bolster their productivity.

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Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Stella Malangu, a member of the rice winnower technology design group, Jitambue, in Morogoro, smiles after using the prototype she helped design and build. It generates wind to separate rice from chaff and other unwanted particles and pests before storage. When farmers in this group winnowed rice using traditional methods, which required them to stand and be in constant motion, they were able to clean one 100 kilogram bag of rice per day. With their new prototype, these farmers can now winnow six 100 kilogram bags of rice in just three hours. This technology has dramatically reduced time and labor burdens! And it has even led male community members to become involved in what was previously only women’s work.

What’s next?

Every technology needs investors. Even in cases where inventors have designed functional prototypes, they still require:

  • Resources and skills to transform prototypes into successful commercial products
  • Media attention to accelerate the time it takes for locally popular products to become nationally and regionally renowned and adopted
  • Policy change to address major constraints for women working in Tanzania’s agriculture sector

IGE is working in each of these areas to ensure technology continues to help transform the lives of smallholder farmers in Tanzania. For more information on how you can get involved, visit our website.

The Power of Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES) to Inform Evidence-Based Nutrition Interventions and Policies

Understanding food consumption patterns and nutrient intakes is essential for informing evidence-based food and nutrition policies. The international food and nutrition community, however, faces a lack of accurate and reliable data.

Conducting Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES)

Though individual dietary surveys, such as 24‐hour recall and observed-weighed food records, are typically viewed as the gold standards for measuring food consumption, they carry prohibitive costs and their methods are complex. For example, during a 24-hour recall, interviewers must exhaustively ask respondents to report the amounts of all foods and beverages consumed by each household member in the previous 24 hours and provide detailed information on the ingredients and preparation methods of mixed dishes. Few of these surveys have been conducted in developing countries and most at only a small scale, calling into question their validity in formulating national nutrition policies.

Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES)—a collective term for multipurpose household surveys—are being increasingly recognized as an inexpensive and more readily available alternative for tracking food consumption patterns. More than 700 surveys have been conducted, covering over one million households in 116 low- and middle-income countries. HCES generally collect food consumption information using the recall method and a predetermined list of food items (potentially leaving out important foods). Interviewers ask respondents whether each food item was consumed during a given recall period (typically the last 7 or 14 days) and if so, how much was consumed. While HCES may be less precise than individual diet surveys by design, their relative costs and benefits make them a practical tool for enacting national policies and identifying communities where nutritional interventions are highly needed.

Among their strengths, HCES are:

  1. Routine: HCES are typically conducted every three to five years
  2. Low-cost: HCES are processed and paid for by institutions outside the health/nutrition sector, and thus relatively inexpensive to use for secondary analysis
  3. Representative: HCES are statistically representative at the national, and usually subnational, level
  4. Comprehensive: HCES contain detailed household food consumption and acquisition information and allow direct observation of the agriculture and nutrition nexus, through markets, value chains, and other such pathways

Since 2012, USAID’s Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project has focused efforts on improving HCES as a source of more relevant and precise food and nutrition data. Recently, SPRING provided technical guidance in using HCES for designing and monitoring food fortification programs—the process of adding micronutrients to food. SPRING presented the economic feasibility of maize flour fortification in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia using HCES data at a meeting with the World Health Organization. SPRING has guided discussions on introducing a fortification monitoring module and identifying standard indicators to use in current or planned HCES at a workshop with the East, Central, and Southern Africa Health Community Technical Working Group on Monitoring and Evaluation. SPRING is also sponsoring a symposium on HCES at this year’s Micronutrient Forum Global Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference is expected to draw hundreds of policymakers, program managers, and scientists from around the world.

The use of HCES data constitutes an exciting and unexploited opportunity to address food consumption information gaps. SPRING will continue to work with USAID and partner organizations to repurpose HCES to make them more attuned to countries’ nutrition policy needs and strategies. Country programs and funders are eager to adapt these tools and use the information they provide to improve policies, programs, resource allocation, and ultimately, nutrition outcomes.

SPRING is funded by USAID under a five-year cooperative agreement. SPRING’s experienced implementation team consists of experts from JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc., Helen Keller International, The International Food Policy Research Institute, Save the Children, and The Manoff Group. For more information about SPRING’s work in HCES, visit http://www.spring-nutrition.org/.

Human-Centered Design and the Last Mile

This is an excerpt from a blog post that originally appeared on Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Community health workers demonstrate a storage and inventory management system for commodities, diagnostic tools, and medicines. (Image courtesy of frog design</em>

Community health workers demonstrate a storage and inventory management system for commodities, diagnostic tools, and medicines.
Image courtesy of frog design

Despite many challenges, Uganda’s village health teams deliver care to some of the nearly 85 percent of Ugandans who live in remote, hard-to-reach corners of the country, or the “last mile.” During some months, these committed volunteers know that they will have the medicines necessary to treat children dying of pneumonia, malaria, and diarrhea. But during others, the teams are less sure. They’ve also come to expect inconsistent supervision and training.

The situation in Uganda is not unique—community health worker (CHW) programs throughout the world struggle from limited resources and sub-optimal design, often devolving from a national strategy into a patchwork of nonprofit programs and activity.

Why is this? The global health community understands that these same programs are important for reaching Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4)—to reduce mortality among children under five from the current level of 6.6 million deaths per year to 4.3 million by the end of 2015. Yet many perceive CHWs as inadequate replacements for trained health professionals such as doctors and nurses.

We can flip this logic on its head and take a new approach by placing these workers at the center of our design strategies, recognizing that they provide a vital link between communities and the health system. We need a holistic framework that motivates and empowers them.

At the core of this framework, we would need integrated community case management (iCCM), which offers a systematic approach to delivering and expanding access to life-saving medicines. CHWs form the backbone of this approach; they can ensure that sick and vulnerable populations are correctly diagnosed and treated. If fully funded and implemented, it is estimated that iCCM delivered through CHWs could save up to 250,000 lives by the end of 2015. Accomplishing this would require a few important tools:

  1. Increased access to commodities, diagnostic tools, and medicines. Specifically, this would need to include malaria rapid diagnostic tests and respiratory timers for pneumonia, artemisinin-based combination therapies to treat malaria, antibiotics such as amoxicillin dispersible tablets for pneumonia, and ORS/Zinc to treat diarrhea.
  2. A solid community-based service delivery platform. The platform would have front-line CHWs at the center, with the necessary systems support for them to function effectively and efficiently. Support would include training and deployment (including retention and incentives), an effective supply chain that reaches the most peripheral levels, supportive supervision, and monitoring to maintain quality and skills.

With this in mind, in 2012, UNICEF, MDG Health Alliance, and Save the Children reached out to several other partner organizations, including USAID, with the goal of developing a holistic CHW system that could:

  • Serve as an assessment tool for existing country-level CHW programs
  • Outline a menu of best practices and innovations from across the globe while encouraging idea-sharing
  • Empower, recognize, and motivate CHW programs to serve as platforms for programs beyond iCCM—including newborn and maternal health programs

The team partnered with the innovation consulting firm frog design, which engaged more than 60 organizations—including global health experts, private sector corporations, and program implementers across Africa and Asia—and led the team through sessions and immersion exercises in Uganda and Senegal over 12 weeks…

To continue, please see the full blog post at Stanford Social Innovation Review.

FrontLines: Energy/Infrastructure

FrontLines January/February 2014: Energy / Infrastructure

Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to see how the Agency invests in energy and infrastructure projects around the world. Some highlights:

An Ethiopian-born entrepreneur from Canada was hoping to operate a mining facility in his homeland, but his plans were thwarted by one thing — a lack of energy to power the mine. Read how Nejib Abba Biya and the Ethiopian Government, with support from the United States, are working to use the country’s natural geothermal energy as a reliable, renewable power source.

Electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week is the new — and welcome — normal for residents living in Haiti’s Caracol Village.

Waiting and waiting and waiting for a web page to load — that is so 1990s. Just ask the residents and aid workers at the refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya, where high-speed Internet access is only a click away.

It’s Sri Lanka’s version of “Back to the Future” as some of its citizens embrace rainwater harvesting, a practice dating back to the 5th century that today has a 21st century, enviro-friendly appeal.

If you want an e-mail reminder in your inbox when the latest issue of FrontLines has been posted online, subscribe here.

New Report Highlights the Hardships and Hard-Won Victories for LGBT People in the Europe and Eurasia Region

 

A demonstrator holds a rainbow flag in Bratislava

A demonstrator holds a rainbow flag in Bratislava on September 21,2013, during the Rainbow Pride Parade, a march for the human rights of non-heterosexual people and the celebration of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) pride in Slovakia. AFP PHOTO/SAM

As the recent winter Olympics in Sochi illustrated all too well, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia face tremendous hurdles in their everyday lives, including openly hostile laws and an extremely difficult working environment for the grassroots organizations that advocate for social change in the face of grave personal risks. The situation in Russia is unfortunately not unique, with LGBT people facing increasing hostility, discriminatory laws, and escalating threats of violence in many countries around the world, whether in Uganda, Nigeria, or Eurasia.

The U.S. government and USAID are strong supporters of LGBT rights. The Agency’s new mission statement places a premium on the inclusion and the empowerment of marginalized people through our work across the globe. Our missions in the Europe and Eurasia (E&E) region have stepped up their efforts to ensure that LGBT issues are addressed through development projects and that LGBT people are able to participate fully and effectively in all that we do. Testing the Waters: LGBT People in the Europe and Eurasia Region, a new report that was just released by USAID today, was designed to support these efforts by comprehensively documenting the status of LGBT people across the region and describing in detail the challenges they face in seeking to claim their human rights and role as full participants in their communities and societies.

The challenges that the report reveals are daunting. Across the region, attitudes towards LGBT people are very negative, with openly derogatory remarks and homophobic sentiments commonly expressed in public and in private. LGBT people are not legally protected from discrimination in the region, and they frequently suffer physical attacks and intimidation.  Gathering places and offices of grassroots LGBT advocacy groups have been ransacked and destroyed. Harassment at home, in school, and at the workplace is a common feature of everyday life. Not surprisingly, many LGBT people in the region choose not to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity, even to families and friends.

Despite all of these challenges, the report also makes it clear that LGBT people across the region are speaking up and making a difference. Grassroots organizations advocate for LGBT rights in every E&E country, provide safe spaces for LGBT people, and offer support and much-needed social services. Many people take on great personal and professional risks in their efforts to ensure that the societies they live in are accepting of all people, regardless of who they love or how they express their gender identity.

I hope you will take the time to read this report  and to think about what you too can do to ensure that no-one is left out of our joint efforts to create a world in which everyone is treated fairly and equally.

No Birth Should Be Left Up To Chance

Giving birth ranks among the scariest moments for any mother. It certainly was for me. I was living in Hong Kong at the time when my second child was born. And he was born in a hurry. He came so fast that I actually thought I’d give birth in our car on the way to the hospital! Fortunately, that didn’t happen and I safely delivered my son Patrick surrounded by a team of well-trained doctors and nurses, not to mention my loving (and relieved!) husband by my side.

Mozambican mother holds her newborn. Photo credit: MCHIP

Mozambican mother holds her newborn. Photo credit: MCHIP

But I’m one of the lucky ones.

As new research released today by Save the Children reveals, 40 million women give birth without any trained help whatsoever. What’s more, two million women give birth entirely alone.

I met one of those women in Nepal about five years ago. I was there visiting our programs in the south of the country and stopped in to see a mom who had given birth a month prior. She sat with us and talked quite matter-of-factly about how when she went into labor with her third child, she didn’t panic. She merely laid down in a clean part of her house, caught the baby when she came out, cut the umbilical cord and wrapped her to keep her warm.

When she had finished telling her story, and I had stopped shaking my head in amazement, I couldn’t help but compare her experience to mine. After all, both of our children came into the world faster than we had anticipated. However, while my husband was there to drive me—fast—to a first-class hospital, this woman had no one. Her husband was away in India on business and her two daughters were in the next village. Even if she could manage to get herself to the nearest clinic, which was 2 kilometers away, she would have had to travel on foot. So she did the next best thing; she left it up to chance.

Fortunately for this mom both she and her newborn survived. But for too many women in the same situation, the outcome is much more tragic.

So many things can go wrong when a mother gives birth without a skilled birth attendant (SBA). Things such as prolonged labor, pre-eclampsia and infection—which are perfectly manageable when an SBA is present—can mean a death sentence in the absence of one.

For this reason, Save the Children is partnering with world leaders, philanthropists and the private sector to commit to ensuring that by 2025 every birth is attended by trained and equipped health workers who can deliver essential health interventions for both the mother and the newborn.

Because no birth should be left up to chance.

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

Pounds of Prevention – Focus on Peru

Community members living in high-altitude neighborhoods of Puno map hazards and emergency response actions.

Community members living in high-altitude neighborhoods of Puno map hazards and emergency response actions.

In this next installment in the Pounds of Prevention series, we travel to the southeastern regions of Puno and Cusco in Peru. Here USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance has been working through its partners with the government and the private sector to help communities prepare for future disasters. Villages that never before received local weather information now benefit from daily forecasts as well as early warnings and alerts to severe weather. These same communities received disaster preparedness training and may even one day benefit from the work to design climate-appropriate transitional shelters should the need arise.

Benjamin Franklin is famous for the adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Today, we are faced with great challenges brought about by increasing population and urbanization, a changing climate, and a demonstrated increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters. To continue to tackle these challenges, what has become clear is this: We need more than an ounce of prevention; we need pounds of prevention! Read more >>

Satellite Data for the People: USAID Supports Launch of New Forest Watch Tool

How is the latest U.S. satellite and mobile technology helping 350 million of the world’s poorest people – including 60 million indigenous people – safeguard their homes and livelihoods?

More than 300 development experts heard the answer at today’s launch of the new high-tech Global Forest Watch tropical forest monitoring tool, developed by World Resources Institute with support from USAID, Google, Norway and other partners.

“Global Forest Watch is democratizing information,” USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah told a full house at the Newseum’s Knight Conference Center in Washington DC. Juan Carlos Jintiach, a leader of Ecuador’s Shuar Nation of peoples, agreed. “Global Forest Watch is a way to share our voices and histories,” he told the crowd.

But Global Forest Watch does much more than share stories. This powerful new tool combines satellite imagery and overlay maps with the latest open data and crowd-sourcing technologies to open up near-real-time information about the state of tropical forests to anyone with an internet connection. Currently, tropical forests are being destroyed at a rate of about 50 field soccer fields per minute.

Dr. Raj Shah voices USAID's support for innovative new technology working to dramatically reduce tropical deforestation

Dr. Raj Shah voices USAID’s support for innovative new technology working to dramatically reduce tropical deforestation. Photo Credit: Ralph Alswang

The loss of tropical forests is a big problem for the earth’s climate, causing up to a fifth of the carbon pollution linked to climate change. It’s also an immediate threat to the health and well-being of an estimated 1 billion people around the world, who depend on forests for food or livelihood activities.

Worse still, for more than 350 million of the world’s very poorest people – those who use forests intensively for subsistence and survival – forest destruction can mean life or death. This number includes some 60 million indigenous people, among them a small number of tribes in the deepest reaches of forest who have yet to be contacted by modern civilization.

Global Forest Watch unites more than 40 government, business and civil society partners to curb forest destruction by putting free and transparent information in the hands of people who care most about forests. Anyone with an internet connection can visit the GFW website and upload information about what is happening in their section of forest. And any government can visit the GFW website and find near-real-time information about what is happening in their forest territory, in near real time, on the ground.

“Now governments and people will have access to the same information [as private companies],” said Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s former president, who spoke at the February 20 GFW launch.

GFW partners and supporters include many of the same partners of the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a private-public partnership kicked off by the United States and the Consumer Goods Forum network of more than 400 global businesses in 2012. USAID contributed $5.5 million to GFW, in the process helping to mobilize more than $30 million.

Thinking and Working Politically

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a workshop hosted by the Australia-based Developmental Leadership Program with the fanciful title of Thinking and Working Politically.  This was the second meeting of this ad hoc group of donors, think tankers and implementers. The first meeting took place in New Delhi in November and Oxfam’s Duncan Green enthusiastically blogged about the first meeting and the second meeting, which I attended.

Larry Garber

Larry Garber serves Senior Advisor to the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning

The workshop provided a useful forum for sharing perspectives among those advocating a more political orientation to donor development programming and for identifying the challenges that we face in making this effort a reality.  This subject has seen an academic rejuvenation during the past year, inspired by Tom Carothers and Diane De Gramont’s 2013 book, “Development Aid Confronts Politics: The Almost Revolution,” and more recently a book edited by Verena Fritz, Brian Levy and Rachel Ort in 2014, “Problem Driven Political Economy Analysis: The World Bank’s Experience.”

As Carothers and De Gramont describe, many development practitioners implicitly recognize the need to understand the political context of the societies in which they are working, but often shy away from acknowledging that they are operating “politically.” Even at USAID, where we were the first bilateral donor to explicitly embrace political work through the creation of a Center of Excellence for Democracy and Governance in 1994, we debate whether we should substitute the word “contextually” for “politically.” And yet, understanding political context is essential for maximizing the results of our development investments whether our specific objective is increasing economic growth, spreading the availability of water and energy supplies, or improving health and education outcomes.

At USAID, we are seeking to help staff think and work politically through several initiatives.  The new Strategy on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance (DRG) issued in June 2013 emphasizes the importance of applying political economy analysis (PEA) across all of USAID’s programming sectors.  USAID is currently in the process of developing a tool to guide all USAID staff in the conduct of a PEA and will support pilots of the new tool as well as training programs for staff across the Agency.  The Agency is also looking to integrate inclusive growth diagnostics, which seek to prioritize constraints to growth, with PEA into a unified analytic approach for identifying the specific constraints to achieving sustainable development outcomes in particular country settings.

A USAID-funded example of applying a “thinking and working politically” approach is documented in The Asia Foundation’s 2013 publication, “Built on Dreams Grounded in Reality: Economic Policy Reforms in the Philippines.” The book traces the political battles involved in promoting reform in several key sectors including telecommunications, civil aviation and sea transport. According to the authors, USAID-funded activities contributed to several of the positive outcomes by carefully analyzing local political context, relying on local leaders who assume personal responsibility for achieving development outcomes, seizing opportunities as they emerge and exercising perseverance over time.

We are collecting other real-world examples of USAID consciously applying a “thinking and working politically” approach and invite readers of this blog to comment on their experiences.  Moreover, as we pursue this agenda within USAID, we are mindful that other donors have been considering these issues for several years and we will continue to participate in donor gatherings where we can learn from others while sharing our experiences and perspectives.

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