USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Women

Photo of the Week: Women Sing in West Africa

Women sing

Community members sing at the opening of a border information center in West Africa. In the continuing effort to facilitate West Africa inter-regional trade, USAID has supported the opening of several Border Information Centers. The Centers, located at the borders of Ghana and Togo; Ghana and Burkina Faso; and now Benin and Nigeria, bring transport information and assistance to traders, and truck drivers, and allows them to more easily transport goods and needed commodities across borders.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: Nigeria and USAID’s work in the region.

Read some stories about how we’ve transformed lives in Nigeria.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDAfrica on Twitter and join the conversation with #MissionofMonth! 

 

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!

From the Field in Madagascar: USAID Food Security Program Improves Livelihoods

As part of USAID’s 52nd birthday celebration, USAID/Madagascar shares a story of one woman who has benefited from a food security project. 

Sitting in the shade of an old mango tree, a group of villagers is intently listening to a middle-aged woman reading aloud from a booklet in her hands. The woman is Philomène, the ‘Treasurer’ of the local Village Savings and Loans association, and she is making her weekly report to the members.

Philomène (4th from left) volunteered to keep the VSL association’s books Photo credit: CARE International/Madagascar

Philomène (4th from left) volunteered to keep the VSL association’s books
Photo credit: CARE International/Madagascar

We heard about Philomène during a field visit to a food security project implemented by our partner CRS. The team was in a small village called Ampasimbola, in eastern Madagascar. Philomène is a farmer and she has been tilling the land for as long as she can remember. She is a single mother of six children, four of which are still in school.

Although Philomène puts a lot of effort into her work, she hardly produced enough food to feed her family. It was a challenge for her to make ends meet; on occasion, her children missed school to stay home and help her do farm work, her only source of income.

When USAID’s food security program started in Ampasimbola in 2010, Philomène did not think twice about joining the Village Savings and Loans association. She even volunteered to keep the books for the group. These village-level savings banks allow members to contribute some amount on a regular basis. They can then request loans with soft repayment terms and conditions. Philomène seized the opportunity to take out a loan and start a small restaurant offering doughnuts, coffee, fish, and even second-hand clothes to increase her income.

With hard work, Philomène’s restaurant quickly thrived. She soon had to choose between continuing farm work that brought home hardly any money, or focusing on a more lucrative and rewarding activity. She decided to drop farming— a savvy decision, because not only did she make substantial profits from the sale of food but she also received payments of interest from investing her savings back into the Village Savings and Loans association.

Philomène’s livelihood has improved and she is now able to send her children to school regularly, and pay for the annual school fees, Ariary 43,000 or about $22 dollars without any problem. The hungry season, which she had earlier coped with eight out of the twelve months per year, is today but a bad dream. Thanks to her contribution to the Village Savings and Loans association, Philomène extended her hut after two years and added a kitchen and a bathroom. She proudly bought new kitchen utensils and other household equipment, and was able to decorate her home.

I’m no longer alone. In our VSL group, we’re like brothers and sisters. We counsel one another, and we share knowledge and experiences. It’s a real new life for me!” says a proud Philomène.  In her spare time, Philomène engages in development and other social activities, and the community seeks her help for advice or assistance when visitors come to the village and seek accommodation for the night. Philomène can help because her hut is now large enough to put up guests. She is now, more than ever, an important member of the community.

Follow USAID Madagascar on Facebook and Twitter for ongoing updates in the region.

Join the #USAIDProgress conversation on Twitter and learn about our other successes!

Empowering Africa’s Next Generation Through Education

Education, equal opportunity, empowering women and youth, these ideas form the foundation of our program in the Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad. In a recent trip with two of my colleagues to South Africa, we experienced firsthand how powerful a marriage of American and African ideas and values can be in propelling not only South Africa, but the entire continent forward.

The American writer and historian, James Truslow Adams described the American dream as one where, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone,” and while that is part of the American dream, is it part of the African dream as well? Half an hour outside the bustling city of Johannesburg, the African Leadership Academy (ALA) is instilling American values by providing its students the base for becoming entrepreneurial leaders. Each year, 100 gifted students between the ages of 15 to 19, from over 40 African countries, are accepted into ALA where they are empowered and given the tools to become the next generation of African leaders.

Bonga, a recent graduate, discusses his time at the Academy. Photo credit: Caitlin Callahan, USAID

Bonga, a recent graduate, discusses his time at the Academy. Photo credit: Caitlin Callahan, USAID

My colleagues and I were lucky to spend part of our morning with Bonga, a recent ALA graduate. It was evident in the way Bonga spoke how central the African Leadership Academy was in motivating him to continue his education, innovate, and bring economic prosperity to his community. Bonga, like most of his peers, plans to attend a four-year university and dreams of an integrated and affluent Africa. USAID assistance helps improve campus security, purchase learning resources for its library, and upgrade dormitories for student housing to prepare students like Bonga for success.

Encouraging hands on experience and service to the community, the Academy provides students with the tools and knowledge base to work towards transforming the African continent.  ALA harnesses the entrepreneurial spirit and encourages its students to create and manage their own business ventures in a safe and comfortable environment. Since its inception in 2008, graduates of ALA have started 38 non-profit and for profit enterprises, addressing community challenges while furthering Africa’s long term stability and economic prosperity.  In support of USAID goals to promote inclusive development, this fall, the majority of students enrolled at ALA will be female. Educating a girl means that as a woman, she is empowered and more likely to participate in development efforts in political and economic decision-making.  It has also been shown that with each ten percent increase in the number of girls who attend school, a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increases on average by 3 percent.

Through its innovative approach and integration of American ideas, the African Leadership Academy is well on its way to making a difference in Africa and USAID is proud to be a supporter. Watch the video below to learn more.

MCHIP Spurs Action to Protect Women from Excessive Bleeding After Childbirth

Dr. Vikas Yadav, the National Program Manager for Jhpiego’s India program, described his frustration during visits to birthing rooms in health facilities early in his career: “Lifesaving drugs were not correctly used or, in some cases, not used at all.” During childbirth, women may suffer from potentially life-threatening conditions, such as excessive bleeding. Known as postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), excessive bleeding can be prevented with a uterotonic—a drug to make the uterus contract.

According to Dr. Yadav, “You would see health care staff that didn’t know which uterotonic to use and when, because they lacked clear guidance. It is such a simple intervention, yet these staff didn’t have needed information to properly use drugs that could save lives.” Oxytocin is the uterotonic of choice for preventing PPH, but in certain situations, such as home birth, another uterotonic drug known as misoprostol has been recommended.

Women waiting for newborn care at a nursery. Photo credit: MCHIP

Women waiting for newborn care at a nursery. Photo credit: MCHIP

Dr. Yadav was happy to report that the situation has improved quite a bit in Jharkhand State since those early days. In fact, maternal deaths have decreased dramatically in recent years thanks to the increasing focus of the government and its development partners on training health facility staff and improving the quality of maternal care.

Despite recent improvements, PPH still causes 35% of maternal deaths in the State. And while providing uterotonic drugs is a well-known intervention to prevent PPH, the number of births that receive this intervention is unknown. As in most developing countries, there is no regular or reliable data available on whether uterotonic drugs are provided to women.

It was in part due to this lack of information that staff from USAID’s flagship Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) partnered with the Directorate of Health Services in Jharkhand state to pilot an innovative approach for estimating the number of women who use a uterotonic drug after birth to protect them from PPH.

Dr. Jeffrey Smith, MCHIP Maternal Health Team Leader, helped the team estimate uterotonic coverage in the State. “In many developing countries, there is more reliable data to measure whether children are receiving lifesaving drugs,” he said. With this knowledge, health experts can design better programs. “Why can’t we also track which women are receiving uterotonic drugs when so many are dying of PPH?” Dr. Smith asked.

Dr. Yadav welcomed the chance to participate in this valuable activity. During a stakeholder meeting, maternal health experts, officials from the state Ministry of Health, private and public hospitals, nongovernmental organizations, development partners, and key policy makers came to a consensus about their estimate after careful discussion and analysis. Using the guidance and worksheets developed by MCHIP, many were surprised to learn that relatively few women—only 43.5%—were protected from excessive bleeding. “This exercise was eye opening for program managers, since they realized that many women were not getting the care they are supposed to get,” Dr. Yadav said.

Oxytocin can be kept at room temperature for only a couple of months before it loses potency. Unlike oxytocin, misoprostol does not require refrigeration and it has also been proven effective at preventing excessive bleeding. Additionally, misoprostol comes in pill form and does not need to be injected using a needle and syringe by a skilled provider. As such, misoprostol is ideally suited for preventing PPH at home births and in resource-poor settings like Jharkhand due to its stability, ease of use, effectiveness and safety.

Distributing misoprostol to women in advance of the birth, enabling them to take it just after delivery, is known to be an effective method of PPH prevention. However, there is currently no program in Jharkhand State that ensures women who give birth at home receive misoprostol. And despite recent increases in facility births, there is still a sizeable portion of women (more than 45%) who choose to give birth at home. Sadly, when women give birth at home, they often do not have assistance from skilled health care workers or access to lifesaving drugs like oxytocin, and are therefore more likely to die of complications.

This estimation exercise came at the ideal time, as the government of India is currently developing guidelines for advanced distribution of misoprostol for women who give birth at home. Given the large population in Jharkhand State, efforts to make misoprostol widely available for use at the community level—especially if adopted nationally—could protect thousands of women from PPH.

USAID/MCHIP’s innovative estimation tool makes it possible to build an accurate picture of whether a country is doing everything it should to stop women from dying of this preventable condition. If there is strong political leadership, as in Jharkhand State and places like Mozambique, this estimation tool has the potential to help governments’ strengthen programs to prevent PPH. Such programs would ensure that oxytocin is available to women who give birth with trained health care workers, and that misoprostol is available to women who give birth at home. These combined efforts could save the lives of countless women, no matter where they give birth.

USAID in the News

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

Food distribution in Haiti. Photo credit:  Osterman

Food distribution in Haiti. Photo credit: Osterman

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

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

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

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

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

This originally appeared on the Mobile Alliance for Maternal Action Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empowering Mothers to Save Lives

Leading global health soap brand Lifebuoy is harnessing the power of women to make handwashing with soap an everyday habit. Mothers, health providers and birth attendants can be influential advocates. In particular, motherhood is one of the most profound and lifechanging events in a woman’s life irrespective of culture or geography. Mothers hold the key to instilling positive handwashing behaviours in their homes and communities.

Children benefit from handwashing. Photo credit: Lifebuoy

Children benefit from handwashing. Photo credit: Lifebuoy

Lifebuoy joined forces with the U.S. Agency for International Development  and its Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program (MCHIP) to create a neonatal programme to raise awareness of the link between newborn survival and handwashing with soap.  Help a Child Reach 5 uses innovative videos to share the importance of handwashing.

Lifebuoy has an ambitious target of changing the handwashing behaviour of one billion people by 2015, thereby reducing preventable deaths of children under 5 from diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia. It is this profound cause that helps us to get persuasive advocates- distinguished Indian actress Kajol supports the cause of handwashing with soap and Help a Child Reach 5. She is calling on people, governments, UN agencies and policymakers to scale up handwashing as the most cost effective intervention to save child lives.

Over 40% of under-five deaths occur within the first 28 days of a child’s life, the neonatal period. Simple, low-cost health interventions – such as handwashing with soap at key occasions- can reduce this figure by up to 70 per cent. Despite this, handwashing with soap is not universally practiced. We know that a simple solution- handwashing with soap- can make a drastic difference in stopping preventable newborn deaths. Lifebuoy is passionate about saving child lives and has the global scale to do something about it.

The program targets new mothers and birth attendants through antenatal clinics and health workers. We communicate the potential of handwashing with soap to reduce neonatal infections, but do not stop there. The Help a Child Reach 5 campaign makes a health appeal to the most powerful of all emotions- the maternal instinct. ‘Helping your child survive’ – is the sole message to initiate long lasting changes. Handwashing messages are delivered to generate awareness, but also get commitment to handwash, habitual routine practice of handwashing, and positive reinforcement for handwashing. It builds in the motivators of behaviour change among new mothers such as the desire to nurture and for social recognition. It empowers mothers to keep their babies protected, which is of ultimate emotional significance to mothers.

Public private partnerships are critical to deliver messages to new mothers. Health organizations and governments have on the ground expertise to ensure health workers deliver the messages to new mothers in a scalable and sustainable way. This programme draws on Lifebuoy’s marketing and consumer expertise as well as MCHIP’s ability to reach and scale up outreach to millions of new mothers achieve maximum impact.

Building healthy habits among mothers means changing behaviours and choices. Lifebuoy aims to be much more than just a soap and stand in women’s minds as something positive and meaningful for life. Once a new mother’s mindset is changed, habitual handwashing with soap will become a naturally ingrained behaviour. This can have a ripple effect to other new mothers and the entire community and will help fulfil Lifebuoy’s vision of bringing health and hygiene to 1 billion people.

Learn more about USAID’s work in water, sanitation, and hygiene.

For more information on the Help a Child Reach 5 campaign, please watch some of these videos: www.youtube.com/helpachildreach5

Communities in Cote d’Ivoire Benefit from USAID’s Investments

USAID is helping communities in rural Cote d’Ivoire develop economic resiliency. Through our partners SAVE the Children and AVSI, we are supporting several types of economic strengthening activities, all of which increase the productive resources available for families. Through this work, we target the families and caregivers of children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.

As they gathered for their savings group meeting, group members met us with a traditional welcome. Andrea Halverson. Photo credit: Andrea Halverson, USAID

As they gathered for their savings group meeting, group members met us with a traditional welcome. Photo credit: Andrea Halverson, USAID

In the mountainous, western city of Man, near Cote d’Ivoire’s border with Liberia, we met women gathering for their regular community savings group meeting. This region was one of the hardest hit during Cote d’Ivoire’s civil unrest. With poverty rates increasing over the past decade, savings groups combat a common problem in developing countries: lack of access to credit. Through these self-selected groups, members (usually all-women) will share a small portion of their money at each bi-monthly meeting, and are eligible to take loans, with interest, from this shared pool. At the end of the group sharing cycle, the amount saved is paid out to the group members. The additional money is making a difference in their lives and the lives of their children. Almost every woman uses her savings for school fees and school uniforms for her children.

Children watch as the community members cook the Attiéké, the final step in its production. Photo credit: Andrea Halverson, USAID

Children watch as the community members cook the Attiéké, the final step in its production. Photo credit: Andrea Halverson, USAID

In addition to savings groups, we also visited a community who had received start-up capital to fund a small business activity, producing a local delicacy called attiéké. Similar to couscous, attiéké is a fermented Ivoiran side dish, highly sought after in the region. Through the donation of a mill and a creative cassava partnership, the women had what they needed to start their small business. They are now making and selling attiéké. With pride, women told us of their informal distribution channels that stretched all the way to Mali. These and other investments are helping shape the future of Cote d’Ivoire, and reducing the vulnerability of Ivorian children by using profits to ensure they can enroll in school.

Meeting the President: How the United States is Helping Women Farmers in Senegal

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog

When I learned that I had been chosen to present my work with women farmers in Senegal to the president of the United States, the first thing I did was cry.

A minute later my thoughts cleared.

I have important things to tell President Obama, I said to myself, about how women farmers have benefited enormously from partnership with the United States.

Since 2002, I have been a member of a farmer organization of some 600 members—two thirds of whom are women—that works in 52 villages in the rural community of Mampatim, Senegal. I also work for a nongovernmental organization, supported by USAID through the Feed the Future initiative, that helps the group’s members succeed.

Anna Gaye prepares to demonstrate rice milling to President Obama in Senegal in June 2013. Photo credit: Stephane Tourné

Anna Gaye prepares to demonstrate rice milling to President Obama in Senegal in June 2013. Photo credit: Stephane Tourné

Farming in the valley

Since upland farming areas are traditionally farmed by men, our women members are obliged to work in the valleys, often under difficult conditions due to flooding. With little organization, many of these women worked very hard with negligible results.

Membership in our organization, known as an economic interest group, affords members like me legal recognition through which we can obtain credit. Historically, our group, called Kissal Patim, enabled us to cultivate small garden patches near village wells that provide off-season vegetables for market, as well as larger half-acre rice plots that yielded perhaps 200 kilograms during the rainy season.

But our partnership with Feed the Future got us to think much bigger. Feed the Future introduced members of Kissal Patim to several recently developed strains of seed that can produce yields as much as three times greater while using less water!

Meeting the president

On the big day, my mouth was dry as President Obama approached the booth we had set up to exhibit our activities, but he put me at ease right away. First, I demonstrated a traditional method of rice processing. I tried not to smile as he took the heavy ram from my hands and started pounding the pestle himself. “That’s painful!” the president said through his translator, examining his hands a minute later.

“That’s what women lived with every day before our partnership with Feed the Future,” I said.

That partnership brought, among other benefits, a portable, electric rice mill, which was also on display. The mill takes only 20 minutes to separate 40 kilograms of rice, which previously would take an entire day. The president was curious as to who actually owned the machine, and I explained our group manages it for our common use.

The mill, I explained, was very important to our progress. My fellow farmers and I were initially reluctant to grow more rice since the task of having to pound so much more would be huge. Our acquisition of the milling machines changed all that. We were free from the drudgery of the pestle.

The time saved also gives us more time to engage in commercial activities, such as the production and sale of palm oil and nutritious rice porridge made ​​with peanuts, not to mention time to prepare for the next growing season.

President Obama congratulated and encouraged us.

The visit was like a dream. The president of the United States! As soon as it was over, I was eager to get back to Mampatim and tell the story to my fellow women producers.

The visit had a positive impact on all our work: I feel more courageous and ambitious, and the photos I showed my colleagues inspired them to redouble their efforts in their production plots. It has created a spirit of competition among them all!

Begun in 2010, this partnership with Feed the Future through USAID’s Economic Growth Project has helped women access several new varieties of high-yielding rice, as well as introduce fertilizers that have further increased yields. Some of the plots have grown fourfold, up to an entire hectare, each of which yields and average of four-and-a-half tons. In the future, we hope to manage even larger plots.

(Translated from French by Zack Taylor)

This post is part of a series of posts by marketplace participants who met Obama in June 2013.

Additional Resources: 

Page 5 of 25:« First« 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 »Last »