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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!

Cultivating Entrepreneurial Spirits in Youth to End Extreme Poverty

After attending the World Bank’s Global Youth Summit  and participating in several discussions on young change makers and the post-2015 development agenda, I was left with an impression that the global community is at the precipice of truly elevating the youth platform on major issues in development. This year’s summit theme was on “Youth Entrepreneurship: Cultivating an innovative spirit to alleviate global youth unemployment” and included a case competition in addition to a series of discussion panels.

Dillon Roseen (far left) is an intern in the Legislative and Public Affairs Bureau at USAID. He is pictured here at the World Bank Youth Summit with a few other participants. Photo credit: USAID

Dillon Roseen (far left) is an intern in the Legislative and Public Affairs Bureau at USAID. He is pictured here at the World Bank Youth Summit with a few other participants. Photo credit: USAID

Young professionals at USAID had the chance to engage with our international colleagues on issues facing young entrepreneurs, particularly in developing nations. We actively shared USAID resources relevant to our young colleagues on programs like the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV), Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), Fall Semester, and USAID’s Youth in Development policy which has the goal to “improve the capacities and enable the aspira­tions of youth so that they can contribute to and benefit from more stable, democratic, and prosperous communities and nations.” At the summit, my “brothers and sisters” in development, as one panelist put it, joined us via livestream from Mexico City, Freetown, Addis Ababa, Bucharest, Juba, and many other cities around the world. Perhaps what I was most impressed with the entire day was the enthusiasm and tenacity with which these international change agents engaged the panelists during the Q&A, often jockeying for a turn to ask their potent and thought-provoking questions regarding corruption, political engagement, and technical infrastructure. Seeing their passion to contribute to and enliven the discussion proves that young people are catalyzers for changing the world and ending extreme poverty within our lifetime.

Even still, for my generation, which currently account for almost ¼ of the world’s population, there are many barriers and limitations for youth involvement, especially in developing countries. UN Envoy on Youth, 29 year-old Ahmad Alhendawi, noted that the average age for the general African population is 18 whereas the average age of politicians is over 60. With this discrepancy, it’s no wonder youth concerns appear to go unheeded. Corruption, poor infrastructure, and lack of capital, all major obstacles for young entrepreneurs across the developing world, are unfortunate and unacceptable realities that must be addressed by our leaders.

My major take away from the Summit was this: much is being done to shift conversation towards youth engagement, but there is still much to be done to translate this talk into action. I challenge the leaders in the development world to take the first step by following the example of the UN. Aid agencies and members of the international development world should appoint a designated Youth Coordinator for their respective organizations, someone who can concentrate the organization’s efforts to respond to the needs of young people so they are equipped with the knowledge and resources needed to advance the global community. To do this, he or she must work to arm young leaders not just with resumes and CVs, but with business plans and investment opportunities. Barriers must be reduced for political involvement and entrepreneurial spirits must be encouraged. USAID’s Youth in Development policy commits the Agency to do just that.

As I left the Summit, I mulled over a quote from John F. Kennedy that Global Poverty Project Co-Founder and CEO Hugh Evans shared with us:

“We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask why not.”

What struck me the most about this quote was the realization that my brothers and sisters across the world, despite the limitations we may face, are not only living by this quote but are inspiring others to join them. I hope you’ll join me and other young leaders as our generation fights to end extreme poverty.

Video of the Week: Partnering to Feed the Future in Ethiopia

As part of USAID’s 52nd birthday celebration, we highlight a Feed the Future partnership that is helping to improve nutrition in Ethiopia. 

Ethiopia has the highest cattle population in Africa, at 52 million, including 10.5 million dairy cattle.

In 2011-2012, Ethiopia produced 3.3 billion liters of milk but only about five percent of it was sold in commercial markets. Despite an active dairy sector, individual consumption of milk in Ethiopia is only 19 liters per year and child undernutrition rates are among the highest in the world.

About an hour and half drive outside of Addis Ababa, Project Mercy, a faith-based relief and development organization, owns a 350-acre dairy farm in Cha Cha, Amhara Regional State. Through its Dairy Cattle Breeding Program, Project Mercy has a vision to help improve the nutritional status of men, women and children and generate new incomes by cross breeding Ethiopian indigenous cattle with the local British Jersey breed.

Currently, Ethiopian indigenous cattle only produce one to two quarts of milk per day, which is not enough for the typical Ethiopian family of eight. As a result, the majority of children in Ethiopia do not consume milk, leading to malnourishment and other complications such as stunted growth.

As part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the USAID Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development project is partnering with Project Mercy to help the organization achieve its vision.

Through this partnership, the project is providing technical assistance to beneficiaries before and after the dairy cows are transferred to local families. Technical assistance includes activities such as developing a farm management plan, hosting training sessions and improving animal feed production. All of these ensure that the crossbreed will achieve its highest levels of production and will increase milk production up to 12 quarts per day. In addition, the project is linking targeted households to new markets where families will be able to sell their milk products.

This project contributes to the goals of Feed the Future, which works to reduce poverty, hunger and undernutrition in 19 focus countries around the world. USAID is the lead agency for this whole-of-government initiative.

Watch the short video below to learn more about this partnership.

Harnessing S&T for Global Development

This originally appeared on the White House Blog

Recently, I interviewed Dr. Andrew Sisson, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director in Indonesia, who is leveraging science and technology (S&T) and innovation to help tackle development challenges in Indonesia.

Why is USAID focusing on S&T and innovation in Indonesia? What are some of the economic and societal challenges that S&T can help address?

Science, technology, and innovation have the potential to solve important global development problems. S&T can help communities and governments control the impact and spread of infectious diseases; protect marine environments; strengthen resilience to natural disasters and climate change; and much more. In just one example, we are working with the Indonesia National Tuberculosis Program (NTP) to test a new, simple and rapid tuberculosis (TB) diagnostic called GeneXpert. The goal of this technology is to increase the rapid detection and treatment of TB in HIV patients. The results of pilot testing in 17 locations across Indonesia will be published soon and, with support from the Global Fund and TB REACH, the Indonesia NTP has already expanded  use of the new diagnostic to private-sector hospitals.

Indonesia Laboratory technical at Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung (West Java) performs multi-drug resistant TB tests using GeneXpert as part of a pilot project supported by USAID. Photo credit: Roni Chandra

Indonesia Laboratory technical at Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung (West Java) performs multi-drug resistant TB tests using GeneXpert as part of a pilot project supported by USAID. Photo credit: Roni Chandra

What is the mission’s strategy around S&T over the next few years?

USAID is partnering with the Government of Indonesia to use new and innovative approaches to achieve Indonesia-specific development goals. We’ve also decided together to focus part of our investment on developing components of Indonesia’s “scientific ecosystem,” including by developing merit-based research systems and strengthening the scientific evidence-to-policymaking cycle. Our joint work also includes scholarship opportunities, joint research between Indonesian and American scientists, and private-sector partnerships to adopt advanced technologies for development goals.

What are some opportunities to strengthen collaboration between Indonesian and American scientists?

Indonesia and the United States have many overlapping scientific interests: climate change, marine conservation, healthcare diagnostics, renewable energy, disaster risk reduction, and more. And so we’d like to open more doors for scientific collaborations to take root in these areas. The State Department has established an official dialogue with Indonesia on making scientific exchanges a top priority. But, it can’t only be a government-to-government effort. For scientific collaboration to flourish we’ve got to place it in the hands of our top scientists and students – and so networking among students and universities in both countries has also been a promising area of partnership.

Can you give an example of an individual or project that exemplifies USAID and Indonesia’s collaborative work in S&T?

What’s been incredible to see is how quickly an international network of scientists can come together to create something big when given the opportunity. One great example is the broad network for biodiversity research that has been created by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Udayana University in Bali, and the State University of Papua through the support of USAID and the National Science Foundation. Some of the researchers that are part of this network converge at the Indonesian Biodiversity Research Center – a facility in Indonesia where American and Indonesian students come together every summer to get trained in the latest genetic techniques for applications in marine biodiversity and conservation.

What advice do you have for other USAID Missions that are interested in elevating S&T efforts?

We’re still on the early part of the curve so there is a lot to learn, but we’re eager to share as we move forward. What’s been very important in our strategy development are the ongoing conversations and consultations with Indonesian counterparts who are helping define what areas of science and technology we can work on together. For this to be a successful and sustainable part of the U.S.-Indonesia long-term relationship means that Indonesia will be an equal partner each step of the way, as a collaborator and co-investor – and I believe we are making good progress down that path together.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OSTP

Photo of the Week: USAID Celebrates 52 Years of Progress

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On November 1, USAID will celebrate its 52nd birthday! Two years ago, we celebrated our 50th anniversary. This year, we will take a look back at some of our programs and see what we have accomplished and how we plan to move forward.

We’ll be highlighting our work in innovation, energy (including Power Africa), building resilience to recurrent crisis, supplying food aid to curb malnutrition, ending preventable child deaths, and our overall mission to end extreme poverty within the next two decades. We’d like to take this opportunity to applaud the dedication of our partners and those working tirelessly at USAID missions around the world who have helped us achieve ongoing progress.

Celerate with us and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter using hashtag #USAIDprogress!

USAID in the News

Carribbean 360 detailed a new program launched by USAID to improve nutrition and access to locally produced foods in an effort to prevent hunger in the most vulnerable households in Haiti. A large focus of the program, which is a part of the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, will be on developing the agriculture sector in Haiti. Combined with the use of food vouchers, improved nutrition education, and better quality health and nutrition services, the program is expected to reach 250,000 households.

Food distribution in Haiti. Photo credit:  Osterman

Food distribution in Haiti. Photo credit: Osterman

Nehanda Radio featured a story on the $10 million increase in food assistance granted to Zimbabwe by USAID’s Office for Food and Peace. This funding will go to feeding the 2.2 million people who require food assistance in Zimbabwe, particularly during the hunger season, which is expected to affect 32% more people than it did last year. Melissa Williams, the USAID Mission Director in Zimbabwe said about the project, “Although the U.S. Government and other major donors are transitioning assistance in Zimbabwe from humanitarian relief to promoting sustainable development, humanitarian assessments continue to indicate that significant numbers of people in Zimbabwe still require seasonal assistance to meet their minimum food needs.”

The Nation (Pakistan) reported on a meeting between the Pakistani Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, Prof. Ahsan Iqbal, and USAID Mission Director for Pakistan, Gregory Gottleib, where the Federal Minister praised USAID for economic and social support in the country and discussed important areas of study and focus to address as the partnership moves forward.

News Medical covered two five-year awards from USAID to International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM) to advance new HIV prevention tools for women and ensure that they will be available to the countries where they are most needed. “Women urgently need a range of new tools that are tailored to their needs, and to the complex social, cultural and behavioral realities they face,” said Dr. Lee Claypool, USAID Biologist. “To beat the epidemic, we must continuously invest in innovative HIV prevention tools for women.”

CarDekho reported on a certificate of recognition given to Volkswagen India at the USAID-organized International Conference on Promoting Water Use Efficiency in Urban Sector to Address Climate Change. Volkswagen India received the recognition for eco-friendly measures they have taken to minimize their impact on the environment. Many of Volkswagen India’s initiatives have focused on adopting measures to reduce the consumption in fresh water, with scarcity being a problem in the area.

Pounds of Prevention: Focus on India

Assistance in India after two cyclones hit the regionIn October 1999, two cyclones hit the eastern coast of India, and the impact was devastating with nearly 10,000 lives lost. This October, another strong cyclone, Phailin, hit the country and the death toll has been reported at about 50. In this installment of USAID’s Pounds of Prevention series, we explore what happened in the intervening years to bring about such a different result to two seemingly similar events and how USAID played a key role.

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!

Photo is courtesy of the National Society for Earthquake Technology-Nepal.

FrontLines: What is Open Development?

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Read the latest edition of USAID’s FrontLines to learn how the Agency is embracing open development to further its work. Also in this issue, read about some of the places where USAID’s interests intersect with those of the U.S. military. Some highlights:

 

  • “What we are trying to do is be a global one-stop shop for a good idea.” Jeff Brown has more to say about the projects USAID’s three-year-old Development Innovation Ventures is backing and how those projects are faring in countries around the world.
  • Diving for lobster in Honduras’s Miskito Coast has left more than 1,000 divers disabled or dead since the 1970s and 1980s when the crustacean became popular on dinner menus. However, a large American restaurant chain is doing its part to ensure that practice ends alongside more than 80 local and international groups, businesses and government agencies
  • What’s next for USAID’s Saving Lives at Birth million dollar winners? Four inspired doctors talk about the innovations they’ve helped devise and their hopes for saving new moms’ lives as a result. 
  • A bustling secondary school farm in Jamaica can trace its roots of success to a collaboration between local police, U.S. soldiers and a group of determined parents and educators.
  • With half of Afghans living in a disaster belt studded with earthquakes, landslides and flooding, USAID and the U.S. military are helping the country’s citizens acquire the skills they need to survive natural disasters and save the lives of their neighbors.

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

Knowledge-Sharing in MHealth is Critical to Providing Life-Saving Solutions for Moms

This originally appeared on the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action Blog

Every minute at least one woman dies from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth and every year 6.6 million children die before the age of five. We know what interventions make a difference on maternal and infant mortality. We now know that one billion women in low to middle-income countries own a mobile phone – a tool that can be used to engage, educate, and empower mothers. In order for mobile to be scaled to address health issues, global communities must come together to openly share lessons learned, failures, best practices and introduce new solutions to help underserved populations – women in developing countries.

Participants looking pleased with access to health information on their mobile phones. Photo credit: Living Goods

Participants looking pleased with access to health information on their mobile phones. Photo credit: Living Goods

Mobile health (mHealth) is a solution for women, providing immediate, life-saving services to address dire maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) challenges. This emerging field – a global movement – is reaching mothers, who need health services the most. No one organization, ministry of health, or company can do it alone, which is why knowledge-sharing through a global, mobile community is needed more than ever.

In a new report, Sparking a Global Movement with MAMA (PDF), commissioned by Johnson & Johnson, a partner of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA), over 230 organizations, from almost 60 countries downloaded MAMA’s free, adaptable vital health mobile messages. Organizations continue to use these messages to guide mothers through pregnancy and now up to their baby’s third birthday.  As a result, more organizations using these messages are sharing back their key findings and translated the messages in 20 languages. Because of these organizations, which include social enterprises, health organizations, and governments, we all have a new resource in the mHealth space focused on MNCH. MAMA, founded by USAID, Johnson & Johnson, UN Foundation, BabyCenter and mHealth Alliance, is getting critical health information out to mothers through partnerships around the world.

Having access to these culturally sensitive, vital health mobile messages is like “having a hospital at home,” said Nahura Sharon, a new mother in Uganda, receives mobile messages through Living Goods, an organization that empowers women and operates networks of micro-entrepreneurs, who provide life-changing products and services.

Other organizations like Liga Inan in Timor-Leste translated mobile messages in Tetum, a local language and are reaching mothers, family members and community health workers. In Tanzania, Wazazi Nipendeni, a national multi-media campaign on health pregnancy, is using vital health mobile messages in partnership with the Ministry of Health. In less than six months, Wazazi Nipendeni reached 150,000 active subscribers and delivered over nine million text messages.

The desire for knowledge-sharing continues to grow as well as the need for mobile content like messages for family planning and for mothers with children ages 1-3 years old.

This report and other knowledge-sharing resources help foster global learning and build alliances with a growing community interested in working together, aiming to save lives through mobile technology.

Kirsten Gagnaire is the Global Director of the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action (MAMA). Prior to MAMA, Gagnaire was the Ghana Country Director for the Grameen Foundation and led the initial implementation of MOTECH.  She was the Founder of the Social Enterprise Group (SEG) and Sustayne, and has a depth of experience and passion for addressing social and environmental issues through profitable business ventures. Gagnaire was a consultant with KPMG Peat Marwick, specializing in management, technology, and organizational development consulting for health and human service agencies.

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