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USAID Rallies During Final 1,000 Days of Millennium Development Goals

On April 5, USAID joined UN Foundation’s Momentum 1000 and millions around the globe in a digital rally to mark the 1,000 day milestone until the 2015 target date to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): A promise made to free people from extreme poverty and extend hope and opportunity to the millions living in developing regions. 189 nations are striving together to meet the MDGs. The digital rally encouraged partners around the globe to continue their commitment to end extreme poverty and build a better world for all.

In commemoration of the April 5 milestone, USAID hosted a Twitter chat with Policy Director Steve Feldstein, who discussed USAID efforts to meet President Obama’s to end extreme poverty within the next two decades.

GAIN moderated a live discussion on Google Hangout to address progress on food security with guests USAID and GAIN on April 5. Photo credit: USAID

In addition, USAID participated in a Google Hangout, hosted by US News and GAIN, to discuss progress made on global food security and nutrition as well as overall efforts to create a more nourished, food secure world.

Lastly, USAID Global Health hosted a Twitter chat with global health advisor Kamiar Khajavi on USAID’s work with meeting MDG #4, which is to reduce child mortality.

For a snapshot of the digital conversation, take a look at our Storify feed.

How is USAID working towards achieving all 8 MDGs?

  1. End extreme poverty and hunger;

  2. Achieve universal primary education;

  3. Promote gender equality;

  4. Reduce child mortality;

  5. Improve maternal health;

  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases;

  7. Ensure environmental sustainability; and

  8. Develop a global partnership for development.

Join the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #MDGMomentum!

In Tajikistan, Little Drops Make the River

This originally appeared on FrontLines.

In Tajikistan, there is a familiar proverb: “In every drop of water, there is a grain of gold.” Water is the most precious resource in this mountainous, landlocked nation that is slightly smaller than Wisconsin.

More than 70 years of Soviet industrialization depleted water resources; moreover, many of the collective farms that maintained irrigation systems were dissolved 20 years ago and water systems have fallen into disrepair. For villages that have water, it is often contaminated. About half of all Tajik rural households do not have access to safe, potable water. In many instances, polluted irrigation water is the only source of water for household use.

School children in Khatlon enjoy their first taste of drinking water outside their school. Photo credit: USAID

According to the World Health Organization, waterborne diseases in Tajikistan account for 60 percent of gastroenteritic disorders such as diarrhea, dysentery, cholera and typhoid. Repeated illnesses linked to poor quality water not only keep children out of school and contribute to poor health outcomes, including stunted growth, but it is estimated that, in recent years, one in six deaths among children under age 5 in Tajikistan were linked to waterborne diseases.

Previous local efforts to build or maintain water systems were unsuccessful due to a cumbersome legal framework, lack of clarity over management responsibilities and lack of funding. Operators of small water systems often did not have training, and local residents had low awareness of the dangers of waterborne illnesses.

But, as communities begin to understand the value of steady access to clean water, they are coming together with USAID and other partners to install and maintain pipe networks. These new networks, often co-funded by local communities and built by local citizens, are proving sustainable in ways that earlier networks never were.

A Holistic Approach

USAID recognized that any solution would have to be multi-faceted and cross multiple technical sectors. To be successful, the safe drinking water program would need to build the skills of engineers, increase community awareness on water and health, and partner with local governments to democratically maintain the water systems. In addition, through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s flagship food security initiative, USAID is partnering with local government officials in their efforts to increase the role and effectiveness of community-based water users’ associations and increase household consumption of nutritious food.

Jamoliddin Gulomov, chairman of Novobod Township, was eager to partner with USAID. His village in the southern province of Khatlon has never had access to clean water. Residents relied on the river, but the high price of fuel kept most people from boiling water before using it. USAID trained township specialists to maintain and repair the pipe network. The project also trained local peer educators to teach residents about health and hygiene practices. Finally, to ensure that the system was financially sound and sustainable, the Agency provided technical assistance and training to the local government to develop a transparent scheme for user fees.

Community members spoke up at local government meetings to set user fees, dug the pipeline, installed the pump station and, finally, celebrated the opening of the new system.

In addition to reporting a dramatic decline in the incidence of gastroenteritic diseases, Gulomov said, “We now have proven that the local government and citizens can cooperate to make life better for everyone.”

A Focus on Sustainability

Gulomov’s experience mirrors that of other communities involved in this project. Priority areas for this program were those that had received the least donor assistance and that had the worst health indicators. Local townships applied and were selected based partly on their capacity to sustain the improvements.

USAID partnered with a local university to train engineers in maintaining the new water systems. Students received internships to practice their engineering skills. Communities formed water, sanitation and hygiene committees to create a community health index report of baseline data and develop community health action plans based on the results.

Over the past three years, USAID has invested more than $1.7 million in improving 57 drinking water systems that provide access to clean drinking water to 150,000 people in Tajikistan…[continued]

Read the rest of the article on FrontLines.

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Accelerating Progress with LGBT Global Development Partnership

Dr. Maura O’Neill is the chief innovation officer and senior counselor to the administrator at USAID.

Last weekend we joyfully celebrated the engagement of our white son to an African-American woman. It wasn’t that many years ago in our country that they would be thrown in jail for dating, let alone wanting to marry. As a mom I can’t imagine how I would survive the phone call Judy Shepard received letting her know that her beloved son Matthew, a University of Wyoming student had been tortured and beaten. Just because he was gay. Around the world this story is too common, robbing people of dignity and opportunity  and our communities of the tremendous contributions that people who are free to be who they are can make.

Frank Mugisha from Uganda wrote to us after he learned that Claire Lucas and Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg at USAID were committed to conceiving a way to create a different future- now- for the hundreds of millions of LGBT globally. “I get phone calls everyday about people being abused by their own families, threatened by neighbors, refused health services, expelled from schools, all because they are LGBT.”

Frank knows firsthand the hardships LGBT individuals face in many countries. In 2011, his friend and fellow advocate at the organization Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) was murdered after having won a lawsuit against a magazine that had identified him as gay and called for his execution.

In 2011, the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report outlining in detail the global pattern of human rights abuses against LGBT individuals. The report found that in every region of the world, LGBT individuals are subject to hate-motivated violence—including murder, so-called “corrective” rape, and torture—as well as discrimination in jobs, health care, and education.

To make matters worse, governments are often complicit in supporting such discrimination. In fact, 85 countries and territories criminalize LGBT behavior. And seven countries have a death penalty for same-sex sexual activity.

Fortunately, people around the world are recognizing that such violence, discrimination and governmental intolerance are no longer acceptable. In 2011 the United Nations passed a historic resolution endorsing LGBT human rights. President Obama issued a mandate that agencies involved in foreign aid and development, “enhance their ongoing efforts with governments, citizens, civil society, and the private sector in order to build respect for the human rights of LGBT persons.”

At United States Agency for International Development (USAID), we know that progress is accelerated and lasting when we partner. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute (GLVI), the Williams Institute, and Olivia Companies joined us in creating the LGBT Global Development Partnership.

The LGBT Global Development Partnership is the largest initiative in the world to further LGBT equality in developing and emerging market countries. It works to strengthen LGBT civil society organizations, enhance LGBT participation in democratic processes and undertake research on the economic impact of LGBT discrimination.

As former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in her 2011 address to the United Nations, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” I couldn’t agree more.

The LGBT Global Development Partnership has the potential to make a huge difference in the daily lives of LGBT individuals around the world and the communities in which they live. Because in countries where LGBT individuals can be legally evicted from their homes or arrested simply for being themselves, building connections and a community of empowered LGBT leaders is absolutely critical. I hope you will take a moment to watch the rest of the message from Frank, just one of the millions of committed LGBT advocates out there literally putting their lives on the line to create a better future for all of our children.

Learn more on how USAID is moving forward on LGBT equality.

Video of the Week: Delivering Clear, Compelling, Measurable Results

Last month, Adminstrator Rajiv Shah discussed the results of the 2013 USAID Forward Progress Report in Washington. The Administrator iterated  the Agency’s “north star” as creating conditions so aid is not necessary in the future, and delivering “clear, compelling and measurable results”. In this segment, he offers examples of how USAID is meeting these objectives through partnerships around the world. The event was co-hosted by American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Center for American Progress (CAP). Watch the full video.

Learn more about USAID Forward. Join the conversation on Twitter using #USAIDForward.

Outcomes are Nice, But What About Measuring Them?

This originally appeared on Agrilinks.

This post, written by Alain Vidal, is cross-posted from the CGIAR Agriculture and Ecosystems Blog and the Challenge Program on Water and Food’s (CPWF) Director’s Blog.

This week we are publishing thirteen CPWF outcome stories. Just a few days after the groundbreaking ceremony of the CGIAR Headquarters in Montpellier, where French authorities were told how the new CGIAR was “big, bold and beautiful,” these outcome stories may look small, even tiny. “Islands of success” in the middle of an ambitious “ocean of change.”

What we in CPWF have learnt over the last ten years is that it is not so easy to “get people to do things differently.”  We cannot just provide ‘evidence.’ Science lays the foundation by providing deeper understanding of the problems, better ways to target interventions or new solutions (also called “innovations,” “interventions,” “strategies” or “alternatives”).  But in order to influence stakeholder behavior and achieve outcomes we need to go one step further and engage stakeholders in the process of research itself. It is through their own learning processes that people begin to change or alter how they make decisions.

But let’s consider them more carefully, because outcomes – the new paradigm for the whole CGIAR, which our program was entrusted to test at its creation ten years ago – come in all shapes and sizes. Indeed, outcomes can be defined as changes in stakeholders’ behaviors through shifts in their practice, investments or decision-making processes. They are more about change than about size.

Cambodian woman and man with irrigation drip-kits. Photo credit: WLE

For instance, in Cambodia, the story of drip irrigation farming linked to market opportunities demonstrates how improved water efficiency, primarily in the form of irrigation drip-kits, resulted in water savings, lower labor requirements and improved yields. Income of the target farmers more than doubled.

Another outcome, related to benefit sharing mechanisms in the Rio Ubate / Fuquene lake watershed in Colombia, shows how different stakeholders changed their attitudes towards one another. Combining conservation agriculture with Payment for Environmental Services, partners set up a revolving fund program managed by farmers’ associations. The fund provided smallholder farmers with credit to make an initial investment in conservation agriculture. So far, 100% of the first round of loans have been recovered. From 2006 to 2009, more than 180 hectares of land were brought under conservation agriculture, which in turn increased farmers income by 17%.

These outcomes are not the end of the road. In both instances, the initiatives further innovated and led to new outcomes. In Cambodia IDE is continuing to improve service delivery and diversify markets. The work in Colombia has continued under the guidance of CIAT in the Andes.

The main lesson that we have learned is that outcomes take time to generate, are iterative and not linear. There are not magic bullet solutions in getting to outcomes.

Over the coming months CPWF will be capitalizing on its ten-year research for development experience. Identifying ways to achieve ‘islands of success’, in all their shapes and sizes, is just one way CPWF can contribute to CGIAR’s envisioned ‘ocean of change.’  In its quest to reach millions, CGIAR must focus on the essentials: working through partnershipsengaging with development actors, building trust and listening to the problems at hand rather than just identifying big science-based solutions. What other lessons can we offer to help contribute to this change?

Read the outcome stories…

Learn more about what USAID is doing to meet CGIAR objectives.

USAID in the News

Following up on his recent trip to Bangkok, Thailand, Deputy Administrator spoke to the Bangkok Post for an interview dedicated to LGBT issues. During the Q&A session, Steinberg explained that the agency is launching the “Being LGBT in Asia” project. The project, the first of its kind, “is a comprehensive research initiative focusing on six countries – China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines- to reach out to LGBT communities to find out from them what their priorities are or what kinds of discrimination they face and how we can most support their efforts to join the political, economic and social mainstreams of their countries.”

Deputy Administrator Steinberg speaks at gender equality event in Bangladesh. Photo Credit: USAID/Bangladesh

In an op-ed featured in Politico co-authored by Shelly Esque, President of the Intel Foundation, and USAID’s own Maura O’Neill, Chief Innovation Officer and Senior Counselor to the Administrator, the authors emphasize the need for affordable broadband in the developing world. Comparing the same barrier of phone lines and electricity to rural America, Esque and O’Neill iterate that the same phenomenon could close the digital divide through the expansion of mobile broadband. “Much research has proven broadband to be a catalyst to transformation in economic growth, social inclusion and the delivery of essential services like education and health care when coupled with strategic economic and social development policies.”

The Pakistan Observer reported this week on the Entrepreneurs Project in Pakistan. Through the project, USAID will train 26,000 women embellishers across Pakistan to improve their skills and ultimately increase their income. “Through this project, USAID provides female artisans with the skills to improve their products, access better markets, and increase their incomes.” Already, one participant exclaimed: “Now I don’t have to think about what I will feed my children anymore. Instead, I can think about my children going to school and learning things I don’t know.”

 

What’s new in USAID’s 2013 GDA Annual Program Statement?

This originally appeared on Devex Impact.

Since it first released the Global Development Alliance mechanism in 2001, the U.S. Agency for International Development has contracted more than 1,600 public-private partnerships. Each year, it releases a new Annual Program Statement (APS) (PDF), which governs the nature of these partnerships.

To understand what’s new and relevant for companies and implementers interested in creating new partnerships with USAID, Devex Impact caught up with Ken Lee, a senior alliance advisor with USAID’s office of global partnerships.

First of all, what is an Annual Program Statement, and how does it relate to public-private partnerships?

USAID uses Annual Program Statements to invite and support creative and innovative solutions to challenging problems in developing countries. Think of it as a global invitation to bring us great ideas and work with us to make the world a better place.

Gabi Zedlmayer, vice president of Hewlett-Packard’s Office of Global Social Innovation, signs the memorandum of understanding with Maura O’Neill, chief innovation officer at USAID. Photo credit: USAID/CC BY-NC-SA

For us, public-private partnerships are projects that advance development outcomes in areas like health, food security, and climate change while addressing core business issues for companies. These partnerships include efforts like working with agribusiness firms to help them source from small-holder farmers or partnering with technology companies to train youth in ICT skills.

The Global Development Alliance Annual Program Statement focuses that invitation on the private sector and others who are interested in building public-private partnerships. We want to work with private sector companies to identify complementary interests and concerns and then figure out ways we can work together to achieve those interests and address those concerns.

We believe that by working together, we can engage markets and market forces in ways that increase the reach, efficiency, effectiveness and sustainable impact of our development investments. As Administrator [Rajiv] Shah has noted, working with private firms is key to encouraging truly sustainable, broad-based economic growth in developing countries. The GDA APS is our invitation to private sector companies – and traditional implementing partners who work with the private sector–to expand the scope and quality of our collaboration.

What is different about this new APS?

Whenever we issue the latest version of the GDA APS, we try to incorporate changes that address various questions, creative suggestions, and lessons learned that emerged in the previous year. Input from our private sector partners, implementing partners, and agency colleagues is critical to improving the APS from one year to the next.

Three of this year’s most important changes are:

  • Improved ease of use for private companies: The 2013 GDA APS allows certain types of “nontraditional partners,” such as private companies, to submit a one-to-two page letter of interest in lieu of the standard five-page concept paper. The APS also showcases a special type of agreement – a “collaboration agreement”–that can be used with these nontraditional partners.
  • Increased information about alliance development: The 2013 APS tries to clarify the alliance development process. For example, we’ve included more information on the timing and types of discussions available to USAID and prospective alliance partners both prior to and after they submit ideas under the GDA APS.
  • Enhanced descriptions of private sector resource mobilization or “leverage”: We’ve provided much more thorough information on what we’re looking for in terms of private sector engagement and private sector resource mobilization (what we call leverage).

In addition, we’re using the 2013 GDA APS to pilot an approach that will allow USAID–under certain limited circumstance–to consider equity and loans as possible sources of leverage.

What do you want private sector companies to know about the new APS?

We’re open for business! We really want to hear from private sector companies. Even if your company doesn’t know whether or how it wants to collaborate with USAID, come talk to us. The first few pages of the APS highlight several value propositions for the private sector. If anything in those pages is even remotely interesting or intriguing, send us an email so we can arrange for a meeting and learn more about your business and the challenges you’re encountering in developing countries. We are eager to find ways in which our collaboration with you can significantly improve the results of our respective efforts and investments.

What do you want nonprofits and implementers to know?

We’re open for business! For more than 50 years, the expertise and talents of our implementing partners have been absolutely essential to the success of USAID’s work. With regard to Global Development Alliances, our implementing partners have identified private companies, developed alliance ideas, and designed and delivered core alliance activities.

If you are a nonprofit or implementer and you are able to effectively engage the private sector as a core partner in the definition of key challenges in developing countries and the development of high-impact solutions to those challenges, please contact us. We are very interested in working with you and your private sector partners to explore alliance opportunities under the GDA APS.

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The Final 1,000 Days of the MDGs: Accelerating Progress and Working to End Extreme Poverty

Today we  mark an important milestone: 1,000 days left until the end date of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs, agreed to at the UN in 2000, constitute the world’s first global development agenda. Together, world leaders committed to tangible, ambitious targets for reducing poverty and hunger, expanding primary education, ensuring gender equality, improving the health of mothers and children, halting the spread of infectious diseases, promoting environmental sustainability, and coming together in partnership to achieve these important goals.

The MDGs and the broader development agenda are a work in progress, for sure—but it’s important to recognize what they have achieved so far, and remember these critical commitments we made.

The United States is committed to the MDGs and, broadly, to improving wellbeing, promoting prosperity, and tackling some of the world’s gravest challenges, like poverty, hunger, morbidity, and inequality. In 2010, President Obama announced the U.S. Global Development Policy, the first of its kind by any administration. The policy outlined key development objectives—broad-based economic growth, democratic governance, game-changing innovations, and sustainable systems for meeting basic human needs—that feed directly into the MDGs. This year, in his State of the Union address, President Obama reiterated the U.S.’s commitment to a core tenet of the MDGs: poverty reduction. We are now in a position, the President said, to eradicate extreme poverty within a generation. USAID and its partners are working towards this important end—by connecting people to the global economy, empowering women, saving children from preventable death, ending the scourge of AIDS, and helping communities to feed, power, and educate themselves.

Joytara, one of the women whose life has been changed for the better through Bangladesh’s “Jita” Rural Sales Programme, which generates income and employment opportunities for the rural poor. The program is one of the ways USAID is meeting MDG 1 to end extreme poverty and hunger. Photo credit: Kathryn Richards, CARE

Working together, we have made substantial progress (PDF) since the Millennium Declaration was signed 13 years ago. For the first time since we’ve measured world poverty, the number of people living on less than $1.25/day is falling in every developing region—including sub-Saharan Africa. In 1990, more than 43% of people in developing countries lived in extreme poverty; as of 2008, this proportion had dropped to 23%. Estimates suggest that the MDG 1 target to halve extreme poverty was met in 2010. During this period, more than 600 million people have risen above the $1.25/day line.

We have made important gains on other MDGs, as well. The enrollment ratio of girls to boys in primary school rose, from 91% in 1990 to 97% by 2010—that’s within the margin of error of complete parity, the target for MDG 3. The incidence of tuberculosis has fallen since 2002, and, since 2006, this decline has outpaced global population growth—achieving part of the MDG 6 target to reverse the spread of infectious disease. And more than 200 million people living in urban slums gained access to improved water sources, sanitation facilities, and housing, more than doubling the MDG 7 target.

Elsewhere, though, we have more work to do. Today, 1.2 billion people still live in extreme poverty, and 870 million people suffer from hunger—we expect the proportion of undernourished to drop to 12.5% by 2015. This, however, falls short of MDG 1 target of 11.6% (half of the 1990 level). Globally, primary enrollment is at 90%, up from 82% in 1999. But that remains below the MDG 2 target for universal primary education. While we’re within the margin of error for gender parity in primary schools, progress on secondary education has been slower. Although we cut under-five mortality by more than a third, we are still only halfway to the MDG 4 target of a two-thirds reduction. And although maternal mortality has been halved since 1990, this is far from the MDG 5 target of a three-quarters reduction. The number of AIDS-related deaths fell to 1.7 million in 2011, a decline of 24% from the peak in 2005—but this lower mortality also means that, today, more people than ever are living with HIV/AIDS.

The MDGs touch on issues across the development spectrum. USAID’s programs reflect this broad array of efforts—and others as well, like promoting human rights and democratic governance, managing and mitigating conflict, investing in renewable energy and infrastructure, building resilience to recurrent crisis, combating climate change, and more. USAID Forward (for which the 2013 Progress Report, PDF, was just released) and the USAID Policy Framework (2011 – 2015) (PDF) outline this comprehensive approach to development.

In recent years, USAID and its partners have made substantial contributions towards MDG achievements. In these final 1,000 days, though, there is much more we can accomplish—and USAID is looking to accelerate progress as we near the finish line. Through Feed the Future and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, for instance, we are catalyzing private sector investment and expanding our reach to smallholder farmers, to help them increase productivity, adopt modern technologies, connect to wider markets, and access financial services and products. Together, these initiatives can help lift 50 million people out of poverty in the next 10 years. And in cooperation with UNICEF and the governments of India and Ethiopia, we are spearheading a global effort to reduce under-five mortality to less than 20/1,000 births in every country by 2035.

USAID is also looking towards the future of development—and towards finding new ways to address some of our most intractable challenges, such as helping fragile states realize peace, stability, and long-term prosperity. We also recently released policies and strategies to address some of the most pressing issues we face, like building resilience to recurrent crisis (PDF), the development response to violent extremism and insurgency (PDF), promoting gender equality and female empowerment (PDF), engaging and empowering youth in development (PDF), and adapting to and mitigating climate change (PDF).

The global community has also begun a discussion about “post-2015″.  What will the next set of MDGs look like?  USAID has been deeply involved in this dialogue. The UN Secretary General’s High-level Panel and the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, for instance, will both issue recommendations in the coming months. We are grateful for the leadership of these two bodies and the many contributions from a diversity of voices around the world—and are looking forward to continuing the conversation.

While we work to accelerate progress in these final 1,000 days, we also hope these interlinked and collaborative efforts will produce a new development agenda, for beyond 2015, that builds on the impressive and historic successes of the MDGs.

Learn more about how USAID is working towards achieving the MDGs.

Global Dialogue on Rights to Land, Resources Advancing Rapidly

My travels to Rome, Brussels, Ottawa, Tokyo and East Africa over the past year have focused on promoting a broad discussion on the necessity for good land governance to promote food security. Partners have repeatedly stressed to me the importance of land governance systems to promote investment and more transparent land transactions. These conversations are taking place parallel to increased media coverage of land issues, the G8 and G20’s focus on land and property rights, the UN Committee on World Food Security’s adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (commonly referred to as the VGs), the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda planning, and the forthcoming negotiations for the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment. Together, these highlight a clear message: property rights are central and vitally important to global development.

Two women in the village of Abeye, Ethiopia obtained land certificates through a USAID program. By establishing rights to the land they occupy, they were able to make investments to increase their food production. Photo credit: Anthony Piaskowy,USAID

As a global leader on supporting resource governance rights, USAID is out in front on this issue. Along with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the State Department and other U.S. Government agencies, we are working together with many stakeholders to improve land and resource governance systems in many countries. While USAID and MCC’s investment of more than $800 million in 32 countries are among the largest in the donor community, we seek to coordinate our efforts with partners so that the maximum benefit can be realized.

An important step in coordinating and refining our efforts will occur next week at the World Bank’s annual Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington D.C. Over 800 participants from governments, donors, academia, the media, the private sector and civil society will gather for an intense week of conversations focused on research and policy solutions to strengthen property rights for many of world’s poorest people.

In order to eradicate extreme poverty, address global climate change, and increase food security, we must secure property rights for all producers and create conditions that enable private investment to take place so that small, medium, and large producers can benefit from their investments. USAID will advance this position and play a key role next week to lead the global community towards implementing programs that reflect best practice and greater stakeholder coordination.

To follow the proceedings from next week’s conference, I welcome you to follow my comments and reactions to the more than 300 papers and presentations through my personal twitter handle, @Gregorywmyers. Additionally, you may follow reactions to the conference from our many partners by searching #landrights on Twitter.

Water from a Stone: Jordanians Stretch Meager Resources to Sustain Syrian Refugees

This originally appeared on FrontLines

Zaatari village lies just south of Jordan’s border with Syria, where small villages are interspersed with livestock, olive farms, dairies and food factories. In 2009, Ahmed Al Khaldi received a $1,700, USAID-funded revolving loan from his village cooperative to install a 30-cubic-meter cistern to store rainwater harvested off his roof. The 51-year-old retired police officer knew it would give his family peace of mind during recurring periods of water scarcity.

Jordan is among the driest countries in the world. Rapid population growth has reduced the amount of fresh water available to the average Jordanian to less than 158 cubic meters per year—10 times less than the average U.S. citizen consumes. The renewable water supply—the water that is replenished each year by rainfall—only meets about half of total water consumption.  The rest of the water used in Jordan comes primarily from aquifers that are slowly being depleted; alternative sources such as desalination are very expensive.

Girls in Jerash pose in front of their school’s storage tank that is painted to look like an aquarium. Photo credit: Alysia Mueller

As is typical across the country, municipal water was delivered infrequently in Zaatari. If the storage tank ran out, the Al Khaldi family had to buy expensive truckloads of water from local businessmen. “With the cistern, I feel secure. Every time I need water, I just pump it from the cistern,” he says. “We can even share with neighbors if they run out of water.”

The cistern does not meet all the water needs of the Al Khaldi family. But it does provide important support for three generations of Al Khaldi’s immediate family—15 members in all—living under one roof.

Al Khaldi also couldn’t imagine that this cistern would eventually help him throw a lifeline to relatives living hundreds of kilometers away in Homs, Syria. Like many Jordanians in the north, his tribe lives on both sides of the border. In 2011, his Syrian cousin, Ahmad Swaidan, fled to Jordan with his wife and five children and his brother’s five children. “The shelling threatened our lives daily,” Swaidan says.

Like 200 other families in Zaatari, the Al Khaldis took in their Syrian relatives, housing them in an adjacent family property. By local estimates, the village’s Jordanian population of 8,000 had absorbed 2,000 Syrian refugees by November 2012. Al Khaldi says “it’s not easy” to support an additional 12 people on his monthly pension of $500 and the modest army salaries of his three sons—two of them married. “But we share,” he says…[continued]

Read the rest of the article on FrontLines.

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