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Access to Water Empowers Women in Morocco’s Middle Atlas

I recently returned from Outerbate, a village high in the Atlas Mountains in central Morocco, where USAID broke ground on a new water supply system. In this Amazigh, or Berber village, the water supply system is more than 80 years old and serves only a handful of the village’s 300 homes.

I met Fatima Mazrou, a woman in her late 70s, who shared, “When we look for water, we sometimes get frozen and sick because the weather can go to below 10 degrees. It takes me at least one hour lining up to get water. Water and bread are critical to our survival.”

Increased access to water changes women and girls' lives in Morocco. Photo credit: USAID

Increased access to water changes women and girls’ lives in Morocco. Photo credit: USAID

I was surprised to see that women do most of the hard work of filling buckets to provide their families with water. The challenge is that the village’s 1,200 inhabitants must fill buckets and water containers at a common tap, and the task disproportionately falls to the village’s women and girls.

During the summer months, the tap frequently runs dry. Water-related health problems are common. In the winter, this arduous trek up the mountain in freezing weather and back to the village carrying heavy pails of water leads to health problems for women, including miscarriages.

The time and work involved collecting water also means reduced primary school attendance by the village’s girls. Kuba Hamou, a sheep herder, told me that “having better access to water would eventually free women to pursue income-generating activities and help keep our daughters enrolled in school.”

Financed by USAID’s Development Grants Program, the Outerbate water system is being installed to address some of these challenges. Implemented by a local NGO, Al Kheir, the program will provide clean drinking water to every home in the village, ending the current practice of women and girls filling water containers at a common tap. With the introduction of the new system, girls’ attendance in schools should also increase and hundreds of families will have access to water and improved sanitation conditions in their homes, schools and public areas.

In addition, we have been able to work with Al Kheir in other life-improving ways. We helped the village set up a thriving artisan business selling locally produced honey and apple juice. And within Al Kheir, two young women are now on the association’s board of directors – the first time a woman or a youth has served in this capacity. Since this project began, Al Kheir has begun working with European and Japanese donors on other projects.

“None of this would have been possible without the engagement of USAID. We appreciate their support and its effects on our village,” said Haddou Maadid, Al Kheir’s president.

At the heart of USAID Forward is a belief that our results are always better when we partner directly with local institutions since they are empowered to take control of their future. In Outerbate, we are helping a village access safe water. By working directly with local partners, our assistance is amplified far beyond the water tap.

Why the Arts and Youth Matter for LGBT Global Development

Last month, I had the opportunity to join Urooj Arshad of Advocates for Youth in a conversation following a performance of The Laramie Project, Moises Kaufman’s play about Matthew Shepard at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. As I watched characters like the Muslim Bangladeshi-American university student and a skeptical university student slowly learning about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, I was reminded of the importance of the arts and youth in international development.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah dances with a Family Ayara Youth Foundation dancer in a trip to Bogota, Colombia in April 2013. Photo credit: USAID

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah dances with a Family Ayara Youth Foundation dancer in a trip to Bogota, Colombia in April 2013. Photo credit: USAID

The power of images and storytelling moves people and societies. USAID has been at the forefront of using the arts as a tool for social change in countries where we work:

  • In Lebanon, USAID supported youth in photography, painting, writing, and drama as a way to express fear about “the other” and find a way to understand those different from themselves.

  • Most recently, in Colombia, the Canal Capital television network broadcast a one-hour documentary on LGBT issues and the diversity of families in Colombia. Local television networks throughout the country are re-broadcasting this documentary, contributing to increased awareness of LGBT families in Colombia. Promoting LGBT issues is a core part of USAID’s efforts to help civil society build a culture of human rights in Colombia.

USAID’s efforts to protect and promote the rights of LGBT persons in Colombia is not unique. We take hate crimes and the vulnerability of LGBT persons seriously by focusing on the resilience and power of LGBT persons as change agents.

These efforts are part of USAID’s overall focus on inclusive development. We believe that men, boys, girls and women, persons with disabilities and the LGBT community, internally displaced persons, indigenous peoples, ethnic and religious minorities, and youth, are an integral part of the development process. USAID’s suite of policies include the first ever Agency-wide Youth in Development Policy, as well as Gender Equality and Female Empowerment Policy (PDF), U.S. Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Gender-Based Violence Globally (PDF), and U.S. Government Action Plan on Children in Adversity. Our Youth in Development policy highlights many of the challenges and opportunities facing youth as a specific population group and simultaneously emphasizes the fact that youth are not a homogeneous group.

Based on data in the U.S. and anecdotal evidence in my travels worldwide, we know that LGBT youth are at increased risk for being abandoned by their families and rejected, barred, or deterred from accessing schools, all of which undermine their ability to learn and develop the skills that are necessary for a productive life. In an online survey sponsored by Vietnam’s Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population showed that 77% of LGBT youth experienced verbal abuse and 44% experienced physical assault in school. 42% of these youth lost interest in school, 33% skipped school, and 6% abandoned school.

The Laramie Project and data on LGBT youth underscore the importance of ensuring marginalized youth have a voice and are able to engage in policy-making processes in their communities. Focusing on LGBT youth is critical to global development.

The data may be daunting; however, based on a track record ranging from the arts to inclusive development to human rights programming and our expertise on NGO organizational development, USAID is leading in addressing the challenge of integrating vulnerable populations, particularly youth and LGBT persons in our programming.

Strengthening the Philippines through USAID Relief

The sheer destruction caused by Typhoon Haiyan (known locally in the Philippines as Yolanda) is mind-boggling. Thousands have been killed, countless homes have been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of Filipinos left homeless. Americans, and indeed people all over the world, have been shocked by arresting images of a destroyed landscape and desperate people whose lives have been ruptured. While nothing can undo the damage wrought by the storm, the U.S. Government has mounted a swift, large, and coordinated relief effort using all of the tools at our disposal, with USAID leading that humanitarian response.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eric Chiarito, from Hyde Park, N.Y., left, and Marine Sgt. Jonathan Thornton, from Lake Havasu, Ariz., load supplies to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Photo credit: U.S. Navy.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Eric Chiarito, from Hyde Park, N.Y., left, and Marine Sgt. Jonathan Thornton, from Lake Havasu, Ariz., load supplies to assist the Philippine government in response to the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. Photo credit: U.S. Navy.

While this is the fifth time since 2009 that USAID has been called to respond to a significant typhoon in the Philippines, this is by far the most devastating. It is also the first major disaster in my short tenure as Director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and I have been encouraged to see how the present effort is beginning to make a tangible difference in the lives of ordinary Filipinos. As aid begins to reach tens of thousands of survivors, we are proud of our assistance to the Filipino people even as we are humbled by the breadth of the devastation. A few observations from the past week:

  • Preparedness and rapid response was critical. USAID/OFDA’s hydro-meteorological expert had sounded the alarm about the storm well in advance, and so we were able to pre-position a disaster response advance team in Manila ahead of the typhoon. That team reached Leyte Island, the epicenter of the crisis, within 24 hours of the typhoon’s passage. That team was on the first commercial vessel to reach the affected area and rapidly began to assess the areas hit by the storm and pinpoint the major priority needs. We found the immediate needs to be emergency shelter, water, and food and we have been working closely with our military colleagues to deliver much-needed assistance.

  • The damage is heartwrenching. Roughly 90 percent of structures are visibly damaged, including office buildings, hospitals, and homes. We saw severe damage to infrastructure systems, making access to water systems, communications systems, and transportation systems difficult. 
Weaker structures were totally destroyed but even hardened concrete structure suffered major damage in the ferocious storm surge.

  • Much more help will be needed. Immediately after Haiyan hit, the United States offered $20 million in humanitarian assistance, which allowed us to distribute emergency shelter kits and family hygiene kits to the region. This is enabling us to reach 20,000 families with plastic sheeting for their homes, soap, toothbrushes, toilet paper, and sanitary supplies. Additionally, with the help of World Food Program, USAID has sent 55 metric tons of food, including highly nutritious bars and paste–containing a day’s worth of calories–to nourish approximately 20,000 children and 15,000 adults for roughly four to five days.

This is a first step, and we will do more in the coming weeks to help families meet their basic needs, regroup, and begin to recover. It has been incredible to witness the unity of communities to offer help where they can. We are already beginning to see a major uptick in the volume of international aid to the Philippines as the global aid response reaches full capacity. As more and more aid from the U.S. and many others – from countries to charities to individual donors – begins to reach the Philippines, we are optimistic that the response effort is turning a corner.

Get the latest news and updates on Typhoon Haiyan.

Human Resources for Health: Foundation for Universal Health Coverage

Many USAID staff from Washington and the field gathered in Recife, Brazil this week for the 3rd Global Forum on Human Resources for Health (HRH), joining over 2,000 HRH policymakers, experts, advocates and frontline health workers from 57 countries. The Global Health Workforce Alliance convened the forum to find solutions to address the health workforce crisis. The global shortage of skilled, motivated and supported health workers is a major development challenge and a barrier to meeting health goals.  A strong HRH strategy ensures that new healthcare graduates are absorbed by the health system, and then well supervised and supported throughout their careers. Therefore, investment in HRH is essential for the delivery of high-quality health services and for countries to achieve and sustain universal health coverage (UHC).

A Yezura Zenna, or volunteer health aide, is ready to work in Ghana with his project bicycle and pharmaceutical bag.  Photo credit: James E. Phillips, courtesy of Photoshare.

A Yezura Zenna, or volunteer health aide, is ready to work in Ghana with his project bicycle and pharmaceutical bag. Photo credit: James E. Phillips, courtesy of Photoshare.

This year’s forum focused on HRH as the foundation for universal health coverage and the post-2015 agenda. USAID co-sponsored the forum and our Assistant Administrator for Global Health, Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, led the U.S. Government delegation that included participants from the State Department and Health and Human Services. Many PEPFAR-supported USAID projects, including CapacityPlus, ASSIST, Leadership Management and Governance, and Health Finance and Governance also showcased their investments in human resources for health.

We took away several key lessons from our participation in the forum. Foremost, there must be better integration of HRH into the broader dialogue about health system strengthening and development goals and challenges. As Dr. Pablos-Méndez emphasized, the economic transition occurring in many countries is impacting HRH and should inform human resources planning so that health goals can be realized. Finally, we must build a new generation of leaders to help carry the HRH agenda forward.

USAID will continue to support health workforce strengthening in order to improve access to and quality of health services for the most at-need populations.  Our approach to HRH is comprehensive, focusing on the availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of a country’s health workforce.  In addition to strong health systems, USAID supports the development and needs of all cadres that make up a country’s health workforce, including doctors, nurses, midwives, paraprofessionals and community health workers.

A community health worker counts the respiratory rate of a young child in Dhanusha, Nepal.  Photo credit: Dillip Chandra Poudel, courtesy of Photoshare.

A community health worker counts the respiratory rate of a young child in Dhanusha, Nepal. Photo credit: Dillip Chandra Poudel, courtesy of Photoshare.

USAID’s strong relationships with the Global Health Workforce Alliance and its members have enabled valuable collaboration on the global HRH agenda.  The notable willingness of donors and countries to join in partnership to tackle HRH challenges with country-appropriate interventions has led to a significant increase in investment for HRH at the country level.  This alignment will be instrumental in moving the HRH agenda forward in the post-2015 era.

Forest Success Stories Draw Crowd at U.N. Climate Talks in Warsaw

More than 100 people packed into the U.S. Center at U.N. climate talks in Warsaw this week to hear experts from four continents describe their successes and challenges in advancing forest conservation under emerging global policy rules to curb climate change.

Forestry and development experts from the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia and Germany talked about their progress Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+), in their own countries and in other forest nations, such as Brazil.  USAID Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Education and Environment Eric Postel led the panel, and Trigg Talley, the Department of State’s lead U.S. negotiator at U.N. climate talks, kicked things off with some words about REDD+’s role in climate negotiations.

Victor Kabengele Wa Kadulu, National REDD+ Coordinator for the DRC answers audience questions at U.S. Center. Germany’s Christiane Ehringhaus looks on. Photo credit: USAID

Victor Kabengele Wa Kadulu, National REDD+ Coordinator for the DRC answers audience questions at U.S. Center. Germany’s Christiane Ehringhaus looks on. Photo credit: USAID

REDD+ is a policy approach that emerged from U.N. climate talks. It would provide incentives for countries and communities who reduce deforestation and related carbon emissions.

Forests are natural storehouses for carbon, and their destruction contributes as much as a sixth of the emissions causing climate change. This means forest conservation protects the global climate – in addition to watersheds, biodiversity, and livelihoods for the more than 1 billion people who depend on forests.

In Warsaw, REDD+ experts described the successes and challenges they have faced protecting forests. Victor Kabengele Wa Kadulu, National REDD+ Coordinator for the DRC, talked about deforestation pressures that cross national borders. Ivan Dario Valencia Rodriguez, from Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, talked about protecting remote areas sparsely populated by indigenous peoples.

Alejandrino Sibucao, from Philippines’ Department of Environment, discussed advances in mapping national forests and deforestation rates. And Christiane Ehringhaus, from Germany’s KfW Development Bank, described her work with state-level efforts to curb deforestation in Brazil.

The United States has participated in climate talks since the early 1990s. Today, 195 nations participate, and – not surprisingly – sometimes progress toward a global treaty seems slow.  But success stories coming from REDD+ can demonstrate just how much progress is happening on the ground.

Forest protection provides many benefits in addition to protecting the earth’s climate.  Gathering evidence of successful approaches for mitigating climate change has increased interest in natural carbon storehouses like forests – and in the idea of providing incentives so that people will safeguard them. This has opened up new avenues of exploration and action for forest protection – and for sharing the benefits with communities who protect them.

Video of the Week: POTUS on Typhoon Haiyan

This originally appeared on whitehouse.gov/typhoon.

On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan—known as Yolanda in the Philippines—made landfall in the central Philippines, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that have resulted in flooding, landslides, and widespread damage.

According to USAID, the storm affected an estimated 9.7 million people, and damaged or destroyed approximately 23,200 houses, as well as public infrastructure and agricultural land. Those numbers are expected to increase in the coming days as more information becomes available.

Learn more about how you can help and the Statement from USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah on Super Typhoon Haiyan.

Resources:

Click on the image view USAID's latest fact sheet on response and recovery efforts.

Click on the image view USAID’s latest fact sheet on response and recovery efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Click on the map to view areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

 

 

USAID in the News

The Huffington Post featured a piece about the work that USAID is doing to help Jordan deal with a massive influx of Syrian refugees in the country, which is straining local economies, municipal services, and natural resources, particularly in Jordan’s southern region. The USAID Community Engagement Project (CEP) is soliciting local opinions to target initiatives to strengthen communities’ ability to cope the demands that the refugees are creating, and in the process improving life for both Jordanians and Syrian refugees.

The Express Tribune of Pakistan reported on the USAID-backed Training for Pakistan Project, which will offer practical educational opportunities to more than 6,000 Pakistani professionals over the next four years. Training services provided by the initiative will include assistance with program design and implementation, participant recruitment and selection, and monitoring and evaluation. The program will also create a USAID alumni association of participants who can be tapped to discuss the country’s development and share their experiences.

The website Inc. covered USAID’s announcement of its annual Grand Challenge, which makes available $25 million in grants that can be won by innovators to help them develop solutions for this year’s theme, “Securing Water for Food.” This year, USAID is seeking candidates who have discovered ways to improve water efficiency and reuse wastewater, capture and store water, or reduce water salinity. “We think water scarcity is one of the most pressing development challenges of the 21st century,” says Chris Holmes, USAID’s global water coordinator.

Ventures Africa reported that USAID, Western Union, and Nigeria’s Bank of Industry will come together in Lagos for the second Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Live Banking Panel, which will provide the opportunity for the business leaders of more than 100 SMEs to pitch business plans to Nigerian and pan-African banks. The event aims to expand access to financing opportunities for African entrepreneurs and training for capacity development.

The Libya Herald featured a story on USAID’s Libya Diaspora Marketplace Entrepreneurship Competition, which selected three winning business plan submissions to receive a grant from $25,000 to $50,000 to help them bring their plans to fruition. The projects will be monitored and the grants disbursed based on the projects meeting development milestones, and project leaders will be connected with other entrepreneurs to share valuable lessons and best practices. The chosen projects represent the agribusiness, information and communications technology, and transportation sectors.

The Wayne Independent reported on a $5 million USAID grant that will go towards establishing a Feed the Future Lab for Climate-Resilient Beans at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Those researching at the lab will employ new techniques to accelerate common bean breeding programs with the goal of cultivating traits that will increase crop yield under heat and drought stress, which could increase food safety and reduce hunger. Trials of the plants will eventually be conducted in the U.S., Mozambique, Columbia, and Honduras.

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:

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