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Accelerating Development through Science, Innovation, and Partnership

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator at USAID

On a visit to Rhode Island last month, I toured a factory called Edesia, where fifty employees manufacture a high-energy peanut paste to feed millions of starving children around the world. What is remarkable is that nutrient-packed meal did not exist ten years ago. It is the result of a decade of research backed by USAID to elevate the science behind creating foods that can restore severely malnourished children to health.

America has always led the world in advancing innovation to deliver unprecedented legacies for humanity. Across our proud history, it is when we harness American science and entrepreneurship that we achieve the greatest leaps in social and economic development. For example,  the Green Revolution pulled millions from starvation thanks to high-yield varieties of rice and oral rehydration solutions saved millions of children.

Americans can be proud of USAID’s history of embracing and then advancing science, technology, and innovation to create new solutions for age-old challenges. Today, we are building on this legacy with a renewed sense of focus and energy around the world.

In the last year, twenty USAID missions (see box) have stepped forward to work hand-in-hand with university and private sector partners to harness science, technology, innovation, and partnerships to advance development goals. Imagine them as field labs where we will demonstrate the real impact of new, cost-effective innovations. That means working closely with local communities to invent, test, and apply groundbreaking ideas to help end extreme poverty.

This is a real challenge. But it is achievable if we continue to reach out to the brightest minds on the planet to generate solutions to challenges like providing vitamin-rich food to children in crisis and producing affordable, renewable, off-grid energy.

Through Development Innovation Ventures, for example, we’re investing in a team of young graduates who started a company called EGG-Energy to provide families with rechargeable batteries they can rent to power their homes for five nights at a time. In Tanzania, where 90 percent of people lack access to electricity—but 80 percent live within 5 kilometers of the power grid – this could help a generation of children grow up with light.

Through mobile money platforms like the Better than Cash Alliance, we can accelerate financial inclusion for the 1.8 billion people with access to a phone but not a bank.

Through Global Development Alliances, we’re leveraging private sector resources and expertise to help diasporan entrepreneurs in the U.S. grow their businesses. One such company, Sproxil, developed a prescription medication verification system using a scratch card on each pack of medication revealing a numerical code. By texting the code to a toll-free phone number, you can verify whether the drug is genuine or possibly fake. Today, thanks in part to a seed grant that Sproxil won through the USAID-supported African Diaspora Marketplace, the company has introduced its products in five countries where it reaches over one million consumers.

Our Grand Challenges for Development offer innovators opportunities to apply their scientific and technological expertise to clearly defined development challenges. In the last three years, we’ve launched five challenges, and we have already identified many promising innovations, including the Pratt Pouch, which won our Saving Lives at Birth Grand Challenge. Designed by students at the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke  University, this low-cost foil pouch – similar to a ketchup packet – remains stable without refrigeration and allows mothers who give birth at home or far from a clinic to give their newborns medication to prevent HIV within the critical 48 hour window after birth.

We know that talent is everywhere, while opportunity is not. That is why our Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) is helping to level the playing field for scientists in developing countries. PEER is providing funding and mentoring support to developing country scientists working side-by-side with U.S. researchers who are funded by U.S. research agencies.  Together, these scientists are addressing a wide range of development-related topics, including health, food security, climate change, water, biodiversity, disaster mitigation, and renewable energy.

These are exciting times at USAID, and I’ve seen first-hand that the enthusiasm is contagious – from university halls to board rooms to research labs. Our challenge is to harness this wealth of energy and excitement to build a pathway out of poverty for millions of people around the world.

The 20 USAID Missions harnessing science, technology, innovation, and partnerships to advance development goals are:

Armenia Georgia Kenya RDMA
Bangladesh Haiti Mozambique South Africa
Brazil India Pakistan So. Africa Regional
Colombia Indonesia Peru Uganda
Egypt Jordan Philippines Yemen

 

From the Field in Pakistan: Catch of a Lifetime

When the video team and I started out from Islamabad, Pakistan, early one morning, I didn’t know what, or whose, story awaited us. We were traveling to the remote outskirts of Jamshoro, a city on the banks of the Indus River (about 90 miles northeast of Karachi for a video shoot. It was during our interviews with community members that we met Imran Ali Mallah.

A world away from education, Imran once worked diligently as a fisherman, hauling up nets seven days a week to make ends meet. When we spoke with him, however, he was living a different kind of life.

After learning about a USAID-funded teachers’ education program, former fisherman Imran Ali Mallah decided to study to become a teacher. Photo credit:  USAID Teacher Education Project/EDC

After learning about a USAID-funded teachers’ education program, former fisherman Imran Ali Mallah decided to study to become a teacher. Photo credit: USAID Teacher Education Project/EDC

Weary of the unpredictability of the fishing trade and inspired by an advertisement in the local paper for a USAID initiative offering training, he decided to become a teacher.

“I grew up in poverty,” Imran told me. “I know the pain and suffering that comes along with it.”

Imran enrolled in the two-year ADE teacher training program and committed himself to his new endeavor. He now travels four hours every day from his home in Jamshoro to the Provincial Institute of Teacher Education in Nawabshah. Despite the hardship, he has maintained excellent grades, and will receive his associate’s degree in 2014.

Imran is optimistic about his future, passionate about teaching and financially more secure.  Instead of toiling each day on his boat, he is able to support himself and his studies by teaching children two hours a day. He hopes to help give his students the opportunity for a better future. “Changing children’s mindsets toward learning and success is very important for the citizens of our country,” said Imran. “It enables personal growth. I hope to pass on this beacon of knowledge.”

Thanks to the USAID-funded Associate’s Degree in Education (ADE) program, Imran Ali Mallah is changing his life—and the lives of his students—as he pursues his ambition of becoming a teacher. Photo credit: USAID Teacher Education Project/ EDC

Thanks to the USAID-funded Associate’s Degree in Education (ADE) program, Imran Ali Mallah is changing his life—and the lives of his students—as he pursues his ambition of becoming a teacher. Photo credit: USAID Teacher Education Project/ EDC

Imran credits the USAID education program with his success, “The ADE program has been a source of inspiration. It enabled me to switch my profession from fishing to teaching. With its advanced teaching methods, it has brought classrooms to life, which has made both teachers and students open to change.”

More than 2,600 teacher trainees like Imran are enrolled in the USAID-funded, Government of Pakistan-accredited, two-year ADE program and four-year Bachelors of Education. ADE is one of several USAID projects helping millions of Pakistanis unlock their full potential. In addition to ADE, USAID has launched degree programs in education at 90 teacher colleges and universities, and is building new applied research centers at Pakistani universities that focus on energy, water and agriculture. More than 10,600 low-income students attend college in Pakistan with USAID-funded scholarships.

Learn more about USAID’s work in Pakistan.

Reclaiming Refuse to Help Generate Reliable Power

This originally appeared in Feed the Future newsletter

Energy and agriculture are closely linked: reliable access to affordable power is a key component to developing a country’s agriculture sector and giving agriculture-based businesses a chance to grow. That’s why Feed the Future is working in Liberia to reverse decades of devastating civil conflict and rebuild a sustainable energy infrastructure that can support better market opportunities for smallholder farmers and agricultural processors.

After fourteen years of war, all sectors of Liberia’s economy were heavily damaged. By the end of the conflict in 2003, Liberia was not producing a single kilowatt of electricity for the entire country, and even today, only about 10 percent of the capital city of Monrovia is on the public electric grid. Outlying rural communities depend on privately owned gasoline or diesel-driven generators for their electricity, which makes Liberia one of the most expensive and environmentally unfriendly electricity generation systems in the world.

To address this serious challenge to development, Feed the Future is working to expand the use of renewable energy to rural areas of Liberia where agriculture is concentrated. Since June 2013, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s program to support Liberia’s energy sector and its flagship Feed the Future program in the country have been working with the Government of Liberia and local partners to establish a biomass energy center that can turn palm oil, palm nut and coconut shell byproducts, among other types of organic refuse, into an affordable and reliable supply of electricity. The pilot center is based at the Booker Washington Institute (BWI), Liberia’s first vocational and agricultural school.

Biofuels not only have the potential to displace carbon emissions from fossil fuels that contribute to climate change, but they are also significantly more accessible to smallholder farmers in remote rural areas who are already growing the crops (like palm and coconut) whose byproducts can be converted into fuel through a process called gasifying. With the right infrastructure, organic biomass can supplement the use of fossil fuel to help bring costs down in the agriculture sector. The gasifiers have already allowed BWI to complement its other sources of energy with renewable energy.

This innovative technology shows promise for agricultural processors in particular who cannot regularly afford costly fossil fuel for generators to power processing equipment. As the model is increasingly adopted in Liberia, Feed the Future will promote private sector investment that can expand access to affordable and renewable energy for some of Liberia’s most vulnerable populations.

Resources:

A Renewed Focus on Institutional Strengthening in Kenya

Under its 2010 constitution, Kenya’s major reforms include a devolved government in which civil society organizations (CSOs) have an enhanced contribution to strengthening health and social systems. The reforms are timely, as other donor mandates, such as USAID Forward, also place greater emphasis on country-led, country-driven development assistance, with more direct investment in partner governments and local organizations, and stronger public-private partnerships. To achieve these mandates, local capacity must be developed so that these institutions can play their part.

Lisa McGregor-Mirghani, Local Capacity Team Lead for USAID in Kenya, speaking at the Institutional Strengthening Symposium in Nairobi. Photo credit: USAID

Lisa McGregor-Mirghani, Local Capacity Team Lead for USAID in Kenya, speaking at the Institutional Strengthening Symposium in Nairobi. Photo credit: USAID

At the invitation of the FANIKISHA project, nearly 200 people gathered in Nairobi June 10-12, 2013, for a three-day symposium on institutional strengthening for Kenya’s civil society organizations. This was the first major forum where donors, civil society, and other health stakeholders in Kenya came together to focus on this topic. Presentations made the case for the importance of strong, local CSOs that can compete with and complement their international counterparts and have sustainable impact on the health and well-being of Kenyans. Bringing together major donor agencies fostered the understanding of complementary activities the international community is supporting and presented new opportunities for networking and partnerships. CSO participants left the meeting with concrete plans to strengthen their institution’s capacity across critical domains, from governance and leadership to resource mobilization and advocacy.  They signed on to the “Nairobi Declaration on Institutional Strengthening,” to illustrate the commitment of civil society to fulfill its role in achieving national health priorities.

USAID’s rich history of developing local capacity in Kenya has resulted in a number of successes in strengthening local institutions. One such example comes from the FANIKISHA Institutional Strengthening Project, which works with ten national health CSOs. FANIKISHA has been providing assistance to one of these CSOs—Omega Foundation–to enhance its skills in governance, financial management, human resources, monitoring and evaluation, and communications. In 2011, Omega Foundation was facing all-too-common organizational challenges, including systems and structures that had not kept pace with growth and staffing that did not reflect organizational needs. Having already committed to overcoming these challenges, Omega applied for and received a grant from FANIKISHA to partner in an institutional strengthening program that has helped to transform the organization. Today, Omega Foundation has a revitalized governance system with an active board. Omega has reached out to new donors with renewed confidence, receiving modest funding in new grants from three local banks and another donor to help support existing community programs that include the integration of family planning and HIV services. Improved data collection tools that support evidence-based decision making, as well as a new communications strategy that is reaching more than 600 stakeholders, reinforce this new trust and confidence that donors have in Omega Foundation.

The Omega Foundation story is a good example of the potential that institutional strengthening has for advancing health and development. By supporting the strengthening of local institutions, USAID is helping to realize the vision of sustainable, country-led, and country-driven development in Kenya.

Dr. Daraus Bukenya of Management Sciences for Health is the Chief of Party for the USAID FANIKISHA Institutional Strengthening Project, launched in 2011 to strengthen the capacity of national-level CSOs in Kenya.

Video of the Week: Adapting to Melting Glaciers: A Partnership Approach

Through the USAID-supported High Mountain Partnership (HiMAP), Peru and Nepal are addressing the impacts and risks of rapidly melting glaciers in high mountain areas. The HiMAP brings scientists, governments officials, and local people together to share lessons learned on managing high-risk, high-impact floods caused by rapidly melting glaciers.

Learn more about USAID’s work in climate change and promotion of development based on climate-smart planning and clean technologies.

USAID in the News

Devex featured a piece about USAID’s new approach to tackling urban policy through the use of crowdsourcing. A public comment period will be made available on November 7 as a part of the Sustainable Service Delivery in an Increasingly Urbanized World program. By soliciting public opinion, USAID hopes to find new ways to encourage the formation of local solutions that will allow the agency to partner with city governments and community groups to build on expertise and bolster development efforts.

The Times of India reported on a USAID grant that was awarded to three Indian companies to help them share successful low-cost agricultural innovations with African countries. The grants come through the USAID India-Africa Agriculture Innovations Bridge Program, which seeks to improve food security, nutrition, and long-term sustainability by sharing Indian innovations with farmers in Africa who will benefit from them.

Administrator at at The George Washington University’s Feeding the Planet Summit, where he announced the Feed the Future Innovation Labs. Photo credit: Joslin Isaacson, HarvestPlus

Administrator at at The George Washington University’s Feeding the Planet Summit, where he announced the Feed the Future Innovation Labs. Photo credit: Joslin Isaacson, HarvestPlus

AllAfrica covered USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah’s announcement of 10 new Feed the Future Innovation Labs that will partner with American universities to tackle the world’s most challenging agricultural research problems. A part of the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, these labs will work to address the challenges of climate change in agriculture and research ways to produce food in an environmentally sensitive manner to ensure global access to nutritious and safe foods.

Zawya reported on a joint effort between USAID and the Caterpillar Foundation, which seeks to provide intensive technical training to youth in Jordan. The program equips trainees with the skills to fill technician-level positions in key industrial sectors of the Jordanian economy. Rana Al Turk, the International Youth Foundation (IYF) Jordan Country Director says that the program aims to fill job positions, “while providing youth with a comprehensive employability approach that includes the technical training and soft skills they need to enhance their employment prospects and lead successful lives.”

Citizen News featured a story on a USAID-funded program that provides students in Kenya with laptops to enhance their educational experience. According to Jaribu Primary School headmaster Mohamed Gedi, the project has triggered a spike in the performance of the 300 hundred students that benefit from the laptops.

The Express Tribune reported on USAID’s hand over of a state-of-the-art Expanded Program on Immunization Coordination and Planning Resource Center to the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation, and Coordination in Pakistan. The center is equipped with technology and software that will allow the government to track vaccine supplies throughout the country. USAID Health Office Director Jonathan Ross, who inaugurated the center, reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s commitment to improving health indicators in Pakistan through continued health development assistance.

Celebrating USAID’s 52nd Anniversary

A child eats food delivered by USAID. Photo Credit: USAID

A child eats food delivered by USAID. Photo Credit: USAID

On November 1, we celebrate our 52nd birthday as an agency. Two years ago, we celebrated USAID turning 50. This year, we took a look back at some of our progress and see how our programs will continue to advance in the coming years. This past week, we focused on highlighting our work in the following areas:

  •  Partnerships
  •  Innovation
  •  Energy/Power Africa
  • Resilience
  • Food Aid
  •  Child Survival
  • Ending Extreme Poverty

We publicized our work on on social media using the hashtag: #USAIDProgress. Check out our Storify Feed that shows some of the highlights on social media from the week .

 

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

Paige Alexander serves as assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia

Paige Alexander serves as assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CSIS streamed the event and tweeted highlights.

What Does It Take to Get Contraceptives to Clients in Rural Nigeria?

Many of our clients learn about family planning from routine visits to rural health facilities. The health workers in this facility help patients and their families choose appropriate contraception methods and teach new clients how to use these methods correctly. The same health workers who are responsible for treating patients are often also responsible for monitoring the supply of contraception methods in the facility. When torn between caring for a waiting room full of patients and filling out paperwork to order new supplies, health workers discovered that they were stocking out of essential contraception supplies. This meant that they had to turn away patients—many of whom had traveled considerable distances to get these family planning services. The discouraged clients lost confidence in the health system and were less inclined to seek out family planning services if products they wanted were not available when they needed them.

DDIC truck delivering commodities at a rural health facility in Nigeria. Photo credit: USAID | DELIVER PROJECT

DDIC truck delivering commodities at a rural health facility in Nigeria. Photo credit: USAID | DELIVER PROJECT

To rectify the stock-out situation and improve access and availability to family planning commodities in Nigeria, the USAID|DELIVER PROJECT is piloting a system called Direct Delivery and Information Capture (DDIC) in Ebonyi and Bauchi states. Through DDIC, the project currently delivers 24 public health commodities, including contraceptives, antimalarial medications, and maternal, newborn and child health products to 365 selected service delivery points in the selected states.

The DDIC system utilizes a vendor-managed inventory model, whereby products are delivered from state warehouses directly to the health facilities on trucks that serve as mobile warehouses. The trucks arrive, carrying predetermined quantities of health commodities, based on the facilities’ past consumption data. By investing in reliable transportation, DDIC ensures that truck drivers and team leaders are available to deliver commodities to health facilities according to an established delivery schedule. A team leader traveling with the truck inspects the facilities’ storage space, counts stock-on-hand for the different health commodities, and enters this inventory data into a specifically-designed inventory management database. The database calculates the quantity of products to be issued to the facility to bring the quantity of stock of contraceptives back to the pre-determined levels. Data obtained from each facility are synchronized with a sister software to generate logistics reports that help monitor system performance and prepare for the next resupply period.

Commodities are supplied to the health facilities every two months. After just four consecutive supply trips, the availability of commodities at participating facilities has drastically improved. Stock-out rates of contraceptives and other common health products have been reduced from above 70% before DDIC was implemented to below 5%. Additionally, 100% of the targeted health facilities have received a bi-monthly visit with the team leader. Furthermore, essential logistics data are now readily available for public health supply chain experts to use in future decision making about future health commodity needs.

Though still in the pilot phase, DDIC has improved the availability of contraceptives and other commodities in rural health facilities in supported states. It has also relieved many of the health facility staff of paperwork duties, so they can focus more on providing better quality care to patients. Consequently, clients’ confidence in the health facility’s ability to provide health services is increasing.

So, what does it take to get contraceptives to clients in rural Nigeria?

Through DDIC, USAID is improving availability of contraceptives at rural health facilities on a regular bimonthly delivery schedule, thereby increasing families’ patronage and uptake of family planning services. DDIC has come to the rescue ensuring commodities availability at facilities and data for planning in Nigeria!

Learn more about how USAID is working towards ensuring safe motherhood and healthy families around the world.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: USAID Nigeria. Follow @USAID for ongoing updates in the region and join the conversation with the hashtag #MissionofMonth!

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