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Archives for Latin America and the Caribbean

Public Private Partnership Week: Passion Fruit, Opening the Path for a Brighter Future

Rural farmers in Paraguay are having great success selling their passion fruit through farming associations to a leading corporate juice brand. This is thanks to USAID’s support through Paraguay Productivo, a program that connects small farmers with private sector buyers.

Lucia Santos and her grandson who have benefited from the cooperative with Frutika. Photo Credit: Laura Rodriguez/USAID

Last week, I had the chance to visit some farmers in Paraguay’s Itapúa province and learn about their experiences with Paraguay Productivo and especially the leading local buyer, Frutika. I was thrilled to see the benefits of the program for myself and hear the testimony of small-scale farmer, Lucia Santos, whose life has been transformed through her production work. In the following video she says that she now has enough money to buy necessary items for her family.

USAID/Paraguay Productivo has GDA (Global Development Alliances) agreements with 20 organizations, mainly small farmer cooperatives & private firms and has generated $9.8 million U.S. dollars  in local sales and exports. Paraguay Productivo is working with Cooperatives and associations that have over 100,000 members some of them in production and many others in savings and credits cooperatives.

The program also provides technical support to farmers, including advising them on how to best produce crops. And it has helped them find buyers like Frutika, one of Paraguay’s most successful food processing and distribution companies, which buys passion fruit and other products from small farmers.

This is a win-win arrangement. The company can count on a reliable source of passion fruit and rural producers now have a reliable buyer. Since the initial agreement in 2009, approximately 300 small farmers have joined the program and started producing passion fruit and another 250 farmers are preparing to cultivate more passion fruit.

Some municipalities are joining the effort because they are investing in nursery production for passion fruit. In rural Paraguay where the poverty rate is as high as 48 %, this assistance is really helping to transform people’s lives.

Beneficiary Norma Riveros, credits her passion fruit sales to her participation in Paraguay Productivo, which ensures her and her family a regular income. They can now afford to buy a machine that helps them clear the field and improve crop yield. I also had a chance to speak to 19 year old passion fruit farmer and business student, Rolando Fretes, one of the cooperatives’ young leaders. In this video he talks about his work and explains why Paraguay Productivo is important to his community:

At the end of the day, I visited the production plant at Frutika and saw first-hand the results of the farmers’ hard labor. Frutika is one of the best-selling companies in Paraguay, and the leading provider of juices such as orange juice, passion fruit, and peach. Here, Engineer Celso Cubilla discusses the importance the company’s partnership with Paraguay Productivo to its business goals.

In short, there is no denying that this public private partnership is beneficial to Paraguay’s economy and all the parties involved: USAID, the rural farmers and Frutika.

Picture of the Week: A Social Pharmacy in Paraguay

A woman in Paraguay at a social pharmacy. Photo Credit: Laura Alvarez, USAID/Paraguay.

A woman in Carmen del Paraná, a small town in rural Paraguay works at a social pharmacy program at the local hospital. This program implemented by local health councils with technical assistance from USAID/Paraguay helps pharmacies keep prices for medicine affordable for low-income communities who do not normally have access to medical supplies and often cannot afford regular prices of basic medicines. Money for the pharmacies is channeled through a revolving fund managed by the local health councils in each community, in coordination with the municipal and departmental governments and the departmental health council.

Our Continuing Commitment to the People of Haiti

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to meet Emyl Mil, a rice farmer in Haiti, a focus country for President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative. When I spoke with Mr. Mil, he was excited about the use of a new, innovative approach called System of Rice Intensification.  This new technique has significantly increased rice yields using fewer seeds and less water and fertilizer.  Mr. Mil has even shared the technique with fellow farmers, who are seeing the same results.  This is exactly the kind of work we want to support: providing Haitians with the tools to help themselves and each other in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake.

This type of results-oriented approach to food security addresses a particularly pressing and urgent need in Haiti. Before the earthquake, a lack of infrastructure and organization led to post-harvest losses of 35 percent or more.  We’re helping to change this narrative by supporting country-led plans to transform agriculture, broadening our engagement with local partners, and building capacity that will end the cycle of hunger and food aid.

Under the dedicated leadership of USAID/Haiti Mission Director Carleene Dei, our team in Haiti is implementing new ideas and technologies, selectively focusing its work where we can have the greatest impact.  We’re scaling up programs and innovations across key areas like infrastructure, health, governance and economic security.

Last year, in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we created the Haiti Mobile Money Initiative (HMMI). The HMMI has awarded millions of dollars in prizes to mobile money service providers for investing in mobile banking. The initiative encourages local wealth creation, enabling Haitians to save money and make transactions on cell phones.  We’re on the verge of 1 million mobile money transactions – a movement that is building momentum every day.

Helping rebuild Haiti remains a chief priority.  We know it’s a tough road ahead but together with the Government of Haiti, the international community and local NGOs, we’ve accomplished real gains on which we can build.  Since the earthquake, we’ve all worked together to move more than 4 million cubic meters of rubble (USAID removed 2 million of those cubic meters), clearing the way for redevelopment and enabling families to come home.  We’ve also provided integrated shelter solutions to help Haitians return to safe, sustainable housing. And we’ve helped to immunize more than 1 million Haitians against diseases like polio and diphtheria.

Although the way forward remains challenging, we are committed to finding the most creative, sustainable ways to help the people of Haiti achieve long-term, sustainable development.

See more photos from my visit.

Building Civil Society in Nicaragua

As the leader of an important development project in Latin America, I had the chance to document the experience through video, highlighting aid beneficiaries’ civic passion and pride that characterize the current challenges in Nicaragua.

The video, USAID: Building Civil Society in Nicaragua, captured the activities in Managua while showing scenic footage of the vibrant life of the country overall.

Along with the enormously dedicated project team, we were able to tell a complex story in a way that showed the real stars – the Nicaraguan leaders of several civil society organizations, their dedicated partners and the U.S. government supporters of real democracy in Nicaragua.

The success of the Institutional Strengthening Program’s (ISP) approach entailed meeting organizations where they were, and supporting their efforts to shape and construct a reality that met their institutional vision and mission.

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This Week at USAID – September 12, 2011

Administrator Raj Shah participates in a panel discussion about “Leveraging Malaria Platforms to Improve Family Health” during the The Summit to Save Lives, which is presented by the George W. Bush Institute.

Later in the week, Administrator Shah heads to Haiti to meet with USAID Mission staff and to visit an agricultural training center.

The World at 7 Billion People: Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg speaks at the National Geographic Society Headquarters to raise awareness around global population issues related to women and girls.

Assistant to the Administrator Susan Reichle talks about USAID’s progress towards implementing President Obama’s Policy Directive on Global Development at a town hall hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

World of Fashion Crosses Paths with Haiti’s Rebuilding Efforts

The fashion world and jobs in Haiti aren’t two things you’d normally associate with each other. But an event last week — in Las Vegas of all places — made that connection.

The MAGIC fashion trade event featured a USAID-sponsored “Made in Haiti” exhibit aimed at showcasing Haitian garment manufacturers and creating new business opportunities.

Gina Coles, representing Phenix2, one of the largest Haitian apparel companies, talks to a visitor to the Haiti booth at the MAGIC fashion industry trade show last week in Las Vegas. Photo Credit: Gregor Avril/ADIH

“Our exhibit on Haiti certainly created a lot of buzz as demonstrated by the level of attention our visitors expressed,” said Gregor Avril, executive director of the non-profit Association of Industries of Haiti (ADIH), who was present at MAGIC.

Also on hand to discuss Haiti’s apparel industry were delegates from the country’s largest manufacturing companies, along with representatives from the USAID-supported Haiti Apparel Center, which trains thousands of professionals a year to help meet the need for skilled workers in Haiti’s garment industry.  The Haiti booth showcased shirts, dresses, suits, winter coats, work uniforms, printed T-shirts, blue jeans and even tote bags. The exhibit was part of MAGIC’s AmericasPavilion, hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

As the largest trade event for the textiles and apparel industry in the United States, MAGIC attracted attendees from well-known companies such as Columbia Sportswear, LL Bean, Jockey, Dickies and Harley-Davidson.

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World Summit Celebrates People of African Descent in the Americas

Originally posted on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State official blog.

A warm “Buiti achuluruni” was the Garifuna welcome for the more than 1,000 participants who traveled to La Ceiba, Honduras, to attend the first World Summit of African Descendants. The World Summit of African Descendants: Integral and Sustainable Development with Identity was organized by Organizacion de Desarrollo Etnico Comunitario and the International Civil Society Committee to commemorate the United Nations (UN) and Organization of American States (OAS) International Year for People of African Descent.

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Memories of Schooldays in Panama…

USAID will mark its 50th anniversary in November and as part of the commemoration USAID’s news publication FrontLines will dedicate its next photo contest to a celebration of the Agency’s history.

School children in Anton, Province of Cocle’ Panama dash to their classrooms in the newly inaugurated school. Photo Credit: USAID

FrontLines is looking for photos that illustrate USAID’s development activities and the people who carried them out over the decades.

The contest is open to any FrontLines reader, including USAID employees and alumni; employees of NGOs and contractors; and representatives from universities, foundations and other organizations that have partnered with the Agency over the decades.

The deadline for photos is Aug. 15. More information and guidelines for submission available in Frontlines. The above photo is from Panama. The date is unknown.

Mark Feierstein Visits School in Rio de Janeiro

During his trip to Rio de Janeiro to participate in the World Economic Forum, USAID’s Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mark Feierstein, visited a school participating in the Enter Jovem Plus Program. Feierstein went to State School Tim Lopes, to closely observe the youth employability project. The school is located in Complexo do Alemão, one of the slum areas in Rio recently pacified by the police. USAID/Brazil‘s Mission Director, Lawrence Hardy, and HIV/AIDS Program Coordinator, Nena Lentini, also participated in the visit.

Mark Feierstein surrounded by students in Rio de Janeiro Photo Credit: Instituto Empreender

The Enter Jovem Plus program is conducted in Rio de Janeiro by Instituto Empreender, in partnership with Chevron, Rio’s State Government, and USAID. In his conversation with the students participating in the program, Feierstein stressed the importance of offering young people finishing high school professional training with a focus on employability, information technology, and English language. “We work in various parts of the world to foster development. You are very lucky to be here at this school. Enjoy every moment, work hard and have fun,” he said.

The goal of Enter Jovem Plus for Rio de Janeiro in 2011 is to provide professional training for 1,000 students. So far, approximately 700 students from 23 schools are enrolled. In Rio de Janeiro, the program started in 2010 in 16 public schools, and certified 310 students with ages between 16 and 29 years. This year, the priority is the inclusion of schools located in pacified areas. Students receive training to develop social and professional skills, including notions of tourism, quality of service and entrepreneurship. The program also helps students finding job opportunities.

Chevron’s manager for institutional relations, Lia Blower, U.S. Consulate in Rio de Janeiro’s Public Affairs Officer, Mark Pannell, and representatives of State Government accompanied Mark Feierstein’s visit.

To find out more about our programs in Brazil.

Project in Haiti fights deforestation, commemorates earthquake victims

In the mountains south of Port-au-Prince, there is little evidence of the earthquake that devastated the capital city last year.  The mountains suffer from a different kind of damage: decades of deforestation.

Haitian schoolchildren participating in a USAID project recently hiked into Parc National La Visite on a dual-purpose mission.  About 40 kids, who live in quake-devastated neighborhoods, trekked into one of the country’s last natural habitats to fight deforestation while also commemorating those killed.

USAID is partnering with a non-governmental organization, Fondation Seguin, to plant 300,000 pine and cedar seedlings in the national park.

“This tree-planting project gives the students an opportunity to pay tribute to the more than 300,000 killed in the earthquake while also focusing on the future of Haiti and improving the environment for all,” said Nicole Widdersheim of USAID’S Office of Transition Initiatives, which implemented the project with its partner Chemonics.

The excited students clamored up the dusty mountain road, leaving some of us less-fit adults struggling to reach our destination before rain poured from the clouds which rolled down the hillsides.

The hike ended at a nearly 6,000-foot altitude in La Visite, a crucial watershed for the Cul de Sac and Port-au-Prince areas. Its towering trees were a welcome sight from the barren hillsides that were our vista for the five-hour hike. Haiti’s once-extensive forests have been destroyed by human encroachment, including the cutting down of trees to use as cooking fuel.

Student Esaie Joseph, 15, is dismayed that forests cover less than 2 percent of Haiti.

“I have always noticed that there are no trees around us,” Joseph said. “Therefore I have decided to … support this project because I believe that this is a personal choice one has to make.”

Over the weekend, the students camped out near a mountain lodge. Many were enamored with the lodge’s two dogs, while others screeched as the good-natured mastiffs lumbered up. The kids earnestly discussed reforestation, explored the woods and played games, relishing an escape from the dusty, traffic-clogged city.

Joseph, who has lived in a tent with his mother and siblings since the earthquake destroyed their home, delighted in the mountain air.

“Before sleeping, my friends and I were talking about this place which feels like paradise, because when you live the way we do, a place like this is paradise even though we know that paradise is more beautiful,” he said. “We couldn’t wait for the next morning to plant trees for those who died.”

The children rose early, singing as they carried seedlings to a ceremony in the forest. A large crowd attended, including the Ministry of the Environment, Haitian National Police, U.S. government representatives, some of the 350 workers temporarily employed for the project, and Fondation Seguin, which has a mission to protect the forest.

The non-governmental organization’s ongoing program, Ecole Verte (“Green School”), brings disadvantaged kids into the park to learn about the environment. This was USAID’s first time supporting their initiative.

Richard Cantave, the foundation’s co-founder, emphasized the significance of the 6,000-hectare park, which provides water for about 3 million people.

“We are taking about a lot of importance as a watershed is involved, besides all the biodiversity and all the rare birds and rare plants that exist only here,” he said.

The project includes protective fencing to surround the new trees. In addition, USAID’s WINNER program is funding forest wardens and providing equipment to the Ministry of the Environment to deter arsons and illegal logging.

Joseph, who threw his arms up in victory as he planted his seedlings, hopes others find similar ways to help the environment.

“There are so many other places that could also benefit from this type of activity so that one day Haiti could be filled with trees.”

A photo album is on Flickr.

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