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Archives for Europe and Eurasia

Lessons of Financial Independence and Self-Sufficiency in Georgia

Working in 85 communities in 10 target municipalities across Georgia, the USAID/New Economic Opportunities (NEO) initiative enables highly vulnerable individuals to be self-sufficient through vocational training.

“Amazing, but I have to put some of my villagers on the waiting list,” smiles Shalva Grigalashvili, plumber and tile-setter from Kvishkheti community in Khashuri municipality. “More and more people in Kvishkheti feel a need to put appropriate tourism infrastructure in place and start to upgrade their houses to attract more visitors,’” explains Shalva. As a popular tourist destination in Georgia, the income of the Kvishkheti population significantly depends on the tourism revenues accrued each summer.

The twenty-two year old Shalva Grigalashvili was one of 20 students who graduated from the USAID-sponsored plumbing/tile-setting vocational training program at the Khidistavi Orienti Vocational College in Gori in September 2012. Along with other top students in his program, the USAID/New Economic Opportunities Initiative (NEO) awarded plumbing and tile-setting toolkits to encourage graduates like Shalva to start their own businesses and support income generation opportunities.

Shalva Grigalashvili, one of USAID/NEO beneficiaries, tiling a guesthouse bathroom in Kvishkheti village of Khashuri municipality. Photo credit: USAID/NEO

Unlike many of his friends and neighbors who travel to work in Tbilisi, Shalva decided to stay in his own village and help other residents improve their living conditions. After completing his training, Shalva started to renovate his neighbors’ houses in Bulbulistsikhe village in Kvishkheti community. Shalva also decided to help a less successful classmate who because of poor performance did not receive a plumber’s toolkit. Through their joint efforts, Shalva gave his friend the opportunity to build upon his training and better master their profession, gain employment and increase his income.  “Hard work,” Shalva admits, “but well worth the effort. It is so rewarding to have such a highly demanded profession that brings you money and respect.”

Shalva is just one of the 254 vulnerable individuals from NEO target communities in the Shida Kartli, Mtskheta-Mtianeti, Racha-Lechkhumi, and Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti regions of Georgia that benefited from USAID-funded vocational training programs. Within three month of graduation, 168 graduates (66 percent) had already obtained new jobs or improved their employment status. Additional sessions of vocational training for NEO vulnerable beneficiaries in trades such as apparel-making, hair dressing, cooking and construction works are scheduled for early 2013.

Learn more about the USAID/New Economic Opportunities (NEO) initiative in Georgia.

Follow USAID Georgia on Facebook and Twitter.

USAID Promotes Good Farming Practices in Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is proud of its exotic fruits, and the pomegranate is definitely one of them. Pomegranate production has strategic importance for domestic trade and exports.

Azerbaijan’s Pomegranate Festival is a great way for growers to learn new techniques, showcase their products, and build sales networks. Since 2006 it has been a popular autumn festival held in November in the Goychay region of Azerbaijan.

This year, USAID’s Azerbaijan Competitiveness and Trade (ACT) Project set up its own stand at the Festival to provide information about ACT project activities and achievements in the pomegranate sector. The Project’s stand offered training materials on 25 agriculture topics and displayed 100 kgs. of the seven different varieties of pomegranates produced by the farmers who received USAID assistance. Training materials were particularly in demand by Festival attendees. The Project distributed over 2,000 pamphlets and booklets.

A local TV channel interviews USAID’s pomegranate expert at the USAID stand during the annual Pomegranate Festival in Goychay. Photo credit: Anar Azimzade/ACT

For the last couple of years, USAID has been supporting pomegranate farmers and processors with technical assistance and training. The ACT Project has provided training on good agricultural practices to approximately 2,250 farmers who have subsequently rehabilitated about 200 hectares of pomegranate orchards in the Kurdemir, Goychay and Sabirabad regions. This support has resulted in a 33% increase in productivity, a 28% increase in overall production and a 21% increase in farmer profit in the three regions. Azerbaijan’s pomegranates do not compete with U.S. agriculture.

National and local media covering the Festival expressed strong interest in the ACT Project. ELTV, a local TV channel, interviewed the experts, guests and exhibitors for a TV program dedicated specifically to the development of the pomegranate sector in Azerbaijan.

Two farmers from the Goychay region praised the Project’s technical assistance and training in an interview with ELTV. They expressed their gratitude to USAID and proudly displayed high-quality pomegranates at the Festival as fruits of this cooperation.

Video of the Week: Mile the Corn Farmer

In Macedonia, the USAID Small Business Expansion Project is working with corn farmers on growing their businesses through increasing corn yields and connecting them with regional dairy industry leaders, who have agreed to buy livestock feed locally. The project is introducing drip irrigation on several demonstration farms as tried and tested methods of increasing production, and is also providing farmers with seeds that will produce a corn/silage ratio that both meets the needs of the dairy industry and maximize the profits of the farmers.

The Small Business Expansion Project will use these demonstration farms in its campaign to assist and encourage other corn growers in Macedonia to invest in new technology to double or triple their yields, and by doing so, grow their businesses and create new jobs.
Learn more about the Small Business Expansion Project.

Empowering Women – In Kosovo and Beyond

Early this month, we had the great pleasure of participating in the International Women’s Summit – Partnership for Change: Empowering Women­ – hosted by President Atifete Jahjaga of Kosovo with support from USAID and assistance from the National Democratic Institute. The event brought together 200 prominent men and women from all sectors and from all around the globe to engage in a robust and inclusive dialogue about women’s economic empowerment, political participation, access to resources, and security.

The caliber, talent, and enthusiasm that the event attracted are a testament to the importance of gender equality and empowerment. The excitement to work together to tackle the issues on the table was palpable. Government officials, political leaders, business women, entrepreneurs, media representatives, and civil society actors representing a full spectrum of ethnicities, ages, and cultures came together to discuss concrete solutions and models from around the world to improve the standing of women and girls economically, politically, and socially.

We, with all of the participants, agreed to a set of Pristina Principles that set out clear actions to address barriers to the empowerment of women. Please join us in supporting these goals or sharing your own ideas on Facebook or Twitter (#KosovoWomensSummit or #PristinaPrinciples).

And so we, together with women and men from around the world, will work to ensure that all women have economic opportunity, the opportunity to participate in political decision-making, and access to justice and security.

Paige Alexander is the USAID Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia. Carla Koppell is the USAID Senior Coordinator for Gender Equality. Maureen A. Shauket is the USAID/Kosovo Mission Director.

Picture of the Week

Closeup photo of a cow's nose.  Photo credit: Jyldyz Niyazalieva, Kyrgyz Agro-Input Enterprise Development Project

Through the USAID-funded Kyrgyz Agro-Input Enterprise Development Project, production of biofertilizer out of organic waste was organized on a dairy farm in northern Kyrgyzstan. Natural biofertilizer, rich in biologically active substances and microelements, is derived in the process of anaerobic fermentation. This initiative helps to implement environmentally-friendly techniques and promotes organic farming in Kyrgyzstan.

From June 19-June 22, 2012, USAID joins delegations from around the world at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro, to mark the 20th anniversary of the historic Earth Summit.

Photo credit: Jyldyz Niyazalieva, Kyrgyz Agro-Input Enterprise Development Project

U.S. and Russia Explore Cooperation on the Global Fight against Malaria

Last week, I travelled to Russia with Dr. Bernard Nahlen, the Deputy Coordinator of the President’s Malaria Initiative. We had very productive talks with the Russian Ministry of Health and Social Development and the Martinovsky Institute of Medical Parasitology and Tropical Medicine. We discussed potential U.S. – Russian cooperation in the global fight against malaria. USAID has started to work with Russia to address global development challenges around the world. Last year, we agreed to work together to help eradicate polio. We are now exploring how we could cooperate to control malaria in Africa and the Asia Pacific to save children, improve maternal health, improve maternal health, reduce suffering, and promote economic development.

Russia has long and deep experience with malaria. The disease was first reported in Russia in the 14th Century. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Russian and later Soviet scientists were involved in research that led to breakthroughs in malaria diagnostics and control efforts. The Martinovsky Institute was established in 1921 and after many years of effort malaria was eliminated from the former Soviet Union in the 1960’s. As in the U.S., the Soviet military and government continued research into fighting malaria in tropical areas around the world. Today, the Marinovsky Institute carries on this legacy. It even continues to train foreign doctors including some from Africa.

In talks with Russian officials, we discussed collaborating on training and capacity building, evaluation, operational research, advocacy and resource mobilization in support of national malaria control plans in third countries. We are exploring joint participation or co-leadership in international and national forums such as the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Roll Back Malaria Initiative and regional or global health meetings. The Russians are particularly interested in ending preventable child deaths from malaria and reducing the burden of malaria during pregnancy. The talks were fruitful and we should see progress on this cooperation very soon.

Our Continued Common Struggle – World Tuberculosis Day 2012

Last year on this blog, I wrote about why the United States and Eastern Europe and Eurasia need to work together to fight against multi-drug resistant (MDR) – tuberculosis (TB) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) –TB. In the world of modern travel, these diseases are a plane ride away from our shores.

As we commemorate World Tuberculosis Day this year, Eastern Europe and Eurasia continue to have the highest rates of MDR-TB and XDR- TB in the world.  Of the 27 countries with a high burden of M/XDR-TB, 10 are in the Europe/Eurasia region.  MDR-TB is a national security interest and a global health interest for the region and for the world.

Tuberculosis is largely curable but also potentially deadly. It exacts an enormous personal and economic toll, often striking people in their most economically productive years.  Diagnosis and treatment of MDR-TB and XDR-TB are more complicated and expensive.  MDR-TB for example requires 24 months of treatment vs. 6 months for drug-susceptible TB and the treatment is more than 260 times more expensive.  As a result, M/XDR-TB constitute major risks to effective TB control.

Europe and Eurasia are of particular concern because they have shown the world’s highest rates of MDR-TB.  A 2011 USAID-funded survey in Minsk, Belarus found the highest MDR-TB rates recorded to date.  Prior to that, one region in Russia and Baku, Azerbaijan had the highest recorded rates.

The picture of TB in the region is unique, fueled by inadequate diagnostics, poor compliance with treatment and insufficient infection control. The growth of HIV/AIDS further contributes to TB rates.  In addition, TB programs historically have been implemented in a silo fashion separate from the rest of the health care systems, and drug regimens have been improperly prescribed and/or incompletely followed by patients.

In response to alarming new rates of MDR-TB USAID, working in collaboration with national TB programs and the Global Fund, has invested strategically and targeted areas where it can have the highest impact: strengthening surveillance systems, improving the quality of data collection and monitoring, strengthening laboratories, improving infection control, strengthening treatment services,  bolstering drug management practices, and improving policies and protocols.

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Picture of the Week: Helping Newborns in Azerbaijan

Aishan, pictured with her mom Narmina. Photo credit: Arunas Liubsys  USAID Primary Health Care Strengthening Project

Aishan weighed only 1kg when she was born. Narmina’s delivery was a special case, requiring an emergency Cesarean section. Aishan was born premature and required critical care to help her breathe and intravenous feeding to support her growth. Thanks to the quick thinking of the skilled staff at the Azerbaijan Republican Perinatal Center, both mom and baby are healthy and thriving today.

USAID’s support to train the Center’s obstetricians, neonatologists, midwives, and nurses in routine delivery and newborn care and managing complications contributed to the successful outcome. USAID’s partnership with the Ministry of Health and Republican Perinatal Center already has helped save the lives of many babies, including Aishan.

Partnering with Russia and Kyrgyzstan to Help Disabled Children

December 8 marked a big “wheels down” party in Bishkek. Three countries—the United States, Kyrgyzstan, and the Russian Federation—provided quality wheelchairs to dozens of disabled children, helping them to be more mobile and independent.

The wheelchair project was started by former Kyrgyz President Rosa Otunbayeva at a meeting with the Russian Envoy to the Kyrgyz Republic and the Russian and U.S. ambassadors in the summer of 2010.  The Frank Foundation Child Assistance International, an American non-governmental organization, received funding from USAID to procure 90 wheelchairs. Two Russian private companies, Polyus Gold and Russneft, provided funding for an additional 90 wheelchairs.  The Russian government covered costs for air shipment between New York, Moscow, and Bishkek, and the Kyrgyz government arranged free customs clearance and covered some transportation costs.  Special Envoy of the Russian Federation President to the Kyrgyz Republic Vladimir Rushailo played a leading role on the Russian side, leveraging private sector donations as well as organizing the shipment of the wheelchairs.

The day presented a unique opportunity to showcase U.S.-Russian cooperation in Kyrgyzstan.  Former Kyrgyz President Otunbayeva, Special Envoy Rushailo, and U.S. Ambassador Pamela Spratlen stood together to present the 180 wheelchairs to disabled children.  The Russian Ambassador, USAID/Russia Mission Director Charles North, and USAID/Kyrgyzstan representative Carey Gordon also participated.

“A lot of people think these two countries argue.  I would say that here in Kyrgyzstan a lot of things are done together by these two countries.  Look at this wheelchair project!  The two countries united and a good deed was done,” said President Otunbayeva.

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From the Field

In Ukraine, we facilitated a meeting between one of Ukraine’s Federal District Court Judge’s Charles Breyer and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft.  This meeting was arranged at the Judge’s request, through the Fair, Accountable, Independent and Responsible Judiciary Program (FAIR).  The purpose of the FAIR Program is to support legislative, regulatory and institutional reform of judicial institutions in order to build a foundation for a more accountable and independent judiciary.

Also, under the FAIR program, USAID Ukraine held a conference on Strategic Planning for the Judiciary at which the Ambassador made remarks.  He emphasized that, “an independent and effective judiciary is critical to Ukraine’s continued economic development.”  The Ambassador’s remarks can be found here in full.

In Macedonia, to foster the development of the creative industries sector, we held an Artfest.  This activity is part of USAID’s Creative Businesses Project which works to create opportunities for long-term employment and increased income for creative micro and small enterprises.   The main beneficiaries are unemployed youth and women.

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