USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Environment

Southern Sudan’s Wildlife Thrives

Many readers of this month’s National Geographic magazine were surprised to find that the world’s second largest—possibly even the largest—wildlife migration travels through the formerly war-torn region of southern Sudan. According to a USAID-supported study by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the annual movement of the white-eared kob—a type of antelope—through Sudan’s Boma-Jonglei landscape rivals the famed wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. Despite two decades of a brutal civil war, the area has become a thriving habitat for an amazing diversity of familiar African wildlife, like elephants, giraffes, lions, and buffalo, as well as lesser known species, like the tiang and Mongalla gazelle.

Staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society and Government of Southern Sudan Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism collar an adult male elephant with GPS satellite tag in Nimule Park in southern Sudan. Photo Credit: Paul Elkan, WCS

WCS had surveyed southern Sudan’s wildlife in 1982, but by the time the war ended in 2005, no one knew how many animals remained. After seeing wildlife populations devastated by the wars in Angola and Mozambique, many scientists assumed the worst. WCS teamed up with USAID, the Government of Southern Sudan, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assess the damage—and were amazed at what they found. “I have never seen wildlife in such numbers, not even when flying over the mass migrations of the Serengeti,” said J. Michael Fay, a WCS field scientist and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who conducted the surveys. Fay said that the numbers of wildlife they found were akin to a gold miner who “found El Dorado.”

So how did these animals survive? It seems that the isolation brought on by the conflict actually ended up protecting the animals. National Geographic explains:

As bombs and land mines exploded, humans who didn’t flee into surrounding countries hid in the bush. So did elephants and other migratory beasts; some fell to hunters, but many evaded gunfire by finding refuge in hard-to-reach places. They became, in the minds of the southern Sudanese, fellow displaced victims of war…. Soldiers hunted and ate the animals, but they also had rules: They would not shoot males, and they would try to avoid hunting any species to extinction.

Today, as Sudan prepares for its January referenda on self-determination, there is a critical window to take action to ensure that southern Sudan’s future development plans protect the region’s stunning biodiversity and prioritize natural resource management.

Check out the amazing photos of Sudan’s wildlife on the National Geographic website.

Related: National Geographic featured a story on Madagascar’s environment in its September 2010 issue that highlighted many of the findings in the USAID-funded report: Paradise Lost? Lessons from 25 Years of Environment Programs in Madagascar.

Haitian Farmers Seeing Sprouts of Success

Cherilien raised a potato into the sunlight for a gathering crowd of Haitian farmers and visitors to see. Cherilien explained that he normally produces 110 pounds of potatoes each year, but this year he produced 440 pounds.

Cherilien disappeared into the group of farmers as another Haitian farmer, Marisette, chimed in, “We used to not have good yields, but now we have good yields.”

Cherilien, Marisette, and other farmers joined representatives from USAID and the government of Haiti at the Wynne Farm, a mountaintop training facility for farmers in Haiti, to discuss their successful Spring 2010 crop season. USAID announced that crops averaged an increase of 75 percent over the previous year for sorghum, corn, beans and potatoes.

The good news is giving farmers hope despite the recent decline in Haiti’s agricultural sector. Sixty percent of Haitians are employed in agriculture, and still, a whopping 23 percent of Haitian imports are food. Experts cite many reasons for the struggling sector from erosion and deforestation to Haiti’s mountainous geography.

A photo taken at Wynne farm by my colleague, Kendra Helmer, shows rows of vegetables wrapped around a mountain ridge. The landscape looks like something out of a Salvador Dali painting, and one can imagine that farming these steep slopes challenges even the most sure-footed agrarians.

So, how did the farmers who gathered at Wynne Farm defy the odds? Because they are hard working, of course, but also because they are participating in the Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources program. WINNER, for short, is a five-year, $126 million program funded by USAID to increase productivity in the country’s ailing agricultural sector.

WINNER advisers at Wynne Farm work with Haitians to teach them innovative farming techniques, strengthen farmer associations, and provide access to expertise and vital supplies (seeds, fertilizers, credit and tools). Among the more impressive features of Wynne Farm is the greenhouse, the training ground for farmers to learn innovative techniques like vertical agriculture.

WINNER works in other parts of the country, too, with more than 250 community-based organizations that represent 50,000 small farmers. The program is increasing food productivity, dredging and widening rivers, constructing small dams and water catchments, treating ravines, and reforesting the land.

Mark Feierstein, USAID’s new Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, was present at Wynne Farm to announce the exciting news about WINNER’s increased productivity, but truth be told, he seemed more interested in hearing from farmers like Cherilien and Marisette than talking himself. One thing he made clear was that agriculture will remain a priority for USAID’s work in Haiti – a sentiment that seemed to conjure a sense of relief and hope among the farmers.

Greenhouses Changing Lives in Gaza

USAID West Bank and Gaza recently delivered and installed the first set of greenhouses to residents in the Gaza strip. The greenhouses are helping compensate for the ongoing shortage of fresh vegetables and produce in the region. They are also helping residents by providing extra income.

Mariam Mohammed Abu Jara, a 57-year old widower who lives with her three sons and two daughters, is one of the recipients of the new greenhouses.  As the greenhouse was being installed, she said “I used to plant corn and strawberries on my land and the income was barely enough for my family’s expenses. Now, I’m going to plant all types of vegetables in the greenhouse, it will be more than enough for my family and I’m going to sell the rest of the crops in the market.”

Mariam Mohammad Abu Jarad during greenhouse installation Photo Credit: Jamila Al Za’anin, Save the Children Gaza.

Many residents like Abu Jarad have struggled to make ends meet, but with the installation of the new USAID greenhouses, she and her family will benefit from access to more regular income and better sustenance.

USAID, through the Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion project (EDIP), designed the greenhouses to suit local conditions to meet the pressing humanitarian needs.  They also identified beneficiaries to receive the greenhouses, which were selected based on plot quality, farming skills, marginalization, family size, and income

Through the EDIP project, USAID has installed 86 greenhouses in Gaza.

USAID – From the Field

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

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

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

Long-Term Investments to Bring Real-Life Improvements to People of Pakistan

A summary map on the activities announced or underway in Pakistan.

During Dr. Raj Shah’s whirlwind two-day visit to Pakistan with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the ongoing Strategic Dialogue between the two countries, the U.S. announced more than $500 million in new development assistance for Pakistan. 

The new projects include the completion of two hydroelectric dams in South Waziristan and Gilgit-Baltistan that will supply more than 34 megawatts of additional power to 280,000 residents in those areas, the renovation and construction of three medical facilities, economic growth programs and seven projects to improve water distribution and efficiency in the country. Much of the assistance will be delivered by USAID.

The United States shares with Pakistan a vision of a future in which all people can live safe, healthy, and productive lives. Dr. Shah spoke with press about USAID’s role in Pakistan, saying that “Our commitment is broad and deep,” and one that encompasses programs ranging from health and energy to economic growth and agriculture. 

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USAID Testifies on Agent Orange in Vietnam

On Thursday, Dr. John Wilson, Director for the Office of Technical Support in USAID’s Bureaus for Asia and the Middle East, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment on “Agent Orange in Vietnam:  Recent Developments in Remediation”.

Dioxin contamination, associated with the use of Agent Orange, is one of the last vestiges of the Vietnam War and remains an obstacle to further strengthening relations between the United States and Vietnam. USAID is the lead implementer for dioxin remediation in Vietnam working collaboratively with the Department of State, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Defense.

For more information on USAID programs in Vietnam.

From the Field

In Lebanon Haigazian University will be presented with $450,081 to directly support its student financial aid program. 356 Haigazian University students with demonstrable financial need from all over Lebanon will be given scholarships with these U.S. funds, made available through USAID. Without this assistance, these students would not be able to study at Haigazian University. Lebanese American University (LAU) will be presented with $1,178,122 to support its Financial Aid & Scholarships Fund for both campuses in Jbeil and Beirut. 249 qualified Lebanese students benefit from this program.

In Albania USAID will open a Public Information Office in one of Albania’s District Courts. To tackle corruption in Albania’s judicial system, USAID’s Rule of Law program works with a set of pilot courts to improve their performance and accountability to citizens. One of several accountability measures introduced by USAID, public information offices serve as one-stop shops where citizens have quick and easy access to information on court proceedings and their legal rights.

In El Salvador a signing ceremony for the Global Development Alliance (GDA) with the Salvadoran Foundation for Health and Human Development (FUSAL). USAID will help expand FUSAL’s Libras de Amor program to two additional municipalities in Sonsonate to combat poor eating habits and malnutrition.

In Jakarta a forum will present eight finalists – that represent the finest – of more than 75 projects which entered a competition in Asia, organized by Climate Technology Initiative (CTI), and sponsored by USAID. Eight clean energy competition finalists, reps from more than 150 energy professionals, entrepreneurs, donors, banks, partners, project developers from Indonesia and Asia. The forum is a means to bridge the financial gap between creative innovators in clean energy with private investors who are willing to fund these opportunities.

USAID in the News June 28 – July 2

submitted by Amanda Parsons

For USAID Afghanistan civilian aid worker Laura Mendelson, tough negotiations with tribal leaders, anger from villagers and constant enemy fire are all in a days work. A Sunday Washington Post Magazine article outlines her efforts, the progress made and struggles faced by all aid providers on the ground in the war torn country.

After spending decades in exile, Saad Mohseni returned to become one of the most powerful influencers in Afghanistan. Today, he owns radio and television networks, an advertising agency, and a movie production company, among other businesses. Realizing that media messaging would be one of the most effective ways to responsibly rebuild the nation, USAID issued grants to help fund Mohseni’s work to build free press. The New Yorker and NPR profile the burgeoning media mogul and his recent successes thanks to United States support.

“Father of the Green Revolution,” Norman Borlaug established the World Food Prize in 1968. The international award recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. As 2010’s winners were announced Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, together with US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, announced the creation of the Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative—a cooperative venture of USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that, as Voice of America reports, will combine the two agencies’ resources, knowledge, commitment and expertise to work together for the realization of Borlaug’s dream of feeding the world.

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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.

Russians are Committed to Improving Energy Efficiency and Protecting their Environment

by Jonathan Hale

Energy and environmental issues have been a key focus of my visit to Russia this week.  I had the great opportunity to meet with officials at the Ministry of Energy, which is responsible for improving energy efficiency in Russia, as well as with civic leaders from environmental groups and the Institute for Sustainable Development of the Public Chamber, an entity that serves as an intermediary between Russian citizens and the government.  Across the board, my Russian counterparts expressed a strong interest in collaborating with the U.S. to improve energy efficiency and protect the environment.

Far Eastern leopard

Two American wildlife experts examine the health of a female Far Eastern leopard in Primorskiy Krai, Russia. With a population of only 30-40 confined to a thin stretch of forest along the Russian-Chinese border, this leopard is one of the world’s rarest and most endangered cats. USAID is supporting a joint US-Russian effort to better understand their ecology and protect their habitat. (Photo by Andrew Harrington, Wildlife Conservation Society)

President Medvedev has identified inefficient use of energy – and its impact on the country’s economy and environment – as an issue of critical importance and has called for reducing the energy intensity of the Russian economy by half by 2020.  Today, Russian energy losses due to inefficiency are equal to the annual energy consumption in France! But it’s estimated that Russia could save 45% of consumed energy through innovation and modern technology, which will also help Russia better address climate change. In my meetings here this week, we discussed the challenges of improving energy efficiency in Russia and the substantial impact USAID programs have had in other countries.

At the Public Chamber, I was especially pleased to meet some of the Russian scientists and activists who are a driving force behind environmental protection here. Organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia and Greenpeace Russia are led by impressive Russian experts – such as Dr. Ivan Blokov, who also serves as the interim Head of Greenpeace International’s Research Unit.  I heard their concerns about pollution and its impact on human health. They also offered their insight on how USAID can continue to partner with Russia to improve the stewardship of its forests – the largest in the world. Together, we can ensure that Russian forests continue to serve as one of the world’s most important carbon sinks and as home to unique ecosystems that include amazing animals like the Amur tiger, the Far Eastern leopard, and the Baikal seal.  We also spoke about the Arctic.

Why should this matter to Americans? Russia’s forests and ecosystems make up 22% of the world’s territory so protection in Russia is essential to maintaining a balanced biosphere worldwide. The passion that I have seen this week has energized me even more to find new and exciting ways for USAID to partner and cooperate with Russia on energy efficiency and the environment.

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