USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for USAID

Why Investing in Entrepreneurs Reaps Big Rewards

Vava Angwenyi of Vava Coffee shares coffee with a coffee farmer and supplier in Kenya. Vava’s social enterprise is being supported by USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative through partner Intellecap. /Vava Coffee

Vava Angwenyi of Vava Coffee shares coffee with a coffee farmer and supplier in Kenya. Vava’s social enterprise is being supported by USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative through partner Intellecap. /Vava Coffee

“The biggest challenge is access to funding—it’s that simple.” I have heard this refrain from entrepreneurs for years. This time, I was listening to Vava Angwenyi—an entrepreneur who started the Kenya-based social enterprise Vava Coffee seven years ago—speak about the most difficult obstacle in growing her business.

USAID believes entrepreneurs are critical drivers of inclusive economic growth and job creation—key to ending extreme poverty. Small and medium enterprises generate 78 percent of jobs in low-income countries and are particularly important sources of livelihoods in poor and rural communities. It’s entrepreneurs like Vava—people who create jobs, drive economic growth, and innovate to improve lives through market-based solutions—who have the power to address the world’s most challenging problems.

Yet so many of these entrepreneurs in developing countries struggle to succeed—not because they don’t have good ideas or lack the drive, but because they are working in challenging ecosystems with limited access to financial resources and business development services. At the same time, impact investors—who are looking to deploy their capital for both financial and social returns—are often unable to find “investment-ready” enterprises.

Vava Coffee provides employment and sustainable revenues to various groups that make packaging for the brand, including the handmade colorful bags the coffee is sold in, made by the women of Nairobi's informal settlements. /Vava Coffee

Vava Coffee provides employment and sustainable revenues to various groups that make packaging for the brand, including the handmade colorful bags the coffee is sold in, made by the women of Nairobi’s informal settlements. /Vava Coffee

To address this gap between entrepreneurs and impact investors, USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship (PACE) Initiative is bringing more private capital to early-stage entrepreneurs and making impact investing easier. We work along all stages of the investment cycle—from sourcing, vetting and due diligence, to consulting support, technical assistance, and investment—to connect entrepreneurs and investors.

Since 2013, PACE has created a network of more than 40 incubators, accelerators and investors to address the obstacles that entrepreneurs around the world face so that entrepreneurs can grow their businesses, create jobs in their communities, and provide life-changing goods and services to underserved populations.

For example, Intellecap, a PACE partner that provides business solutions to social enterprises, worked with Vava to help her grow. “We helped her articulate the business and the scale up strategy through numbers and a crisp business plan,” says Stefanie Bauer, associate vice president of Intellecap. “Vava is much more confident about explaining the economics behind her business after she has gone through the financial modeling exercise with us.”

Beyond providing technical assistance to help Vava prepare her business to become more investment ready, Intellecap also helped Vava build her network and facilitated connections with investors.

Vava Angwenyi of Vava Coffee inspects a coffee beans processing plant in Kenya. Vava’s social enterprise is being supported by USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative through partner Intellecap. /Vava Coffee

Vava Angwenyi of Vava Coffee inspects a coffee beans processing plant in Kenya. Vava’s social enterprise is being supported by USAID’s Partnering to Accelerate Entrepreneurship Initiative through partner Intellecap. /Vava Coffee

Today, Vava Coffee has received global recognition for both the quality of its coffee and its social impact. Vava Coffee’s fair trade model provides a sustainable livelihood for their 30,000 smallholder farmers, whose income has increased by 16 times. In addition, Vava Coffee is working to expand access to credit and financial training for smallholder coffee farmers in Kenya and beyond, with a goal of reaching 130,000 farmers by 2018.

Vava still faces challenges ahead, and so do entrepreneurs who hope to follow in her footsteps. But she hopes that initiatives like PACE continue to “break down the barriers of access to funding, and make it easier for entrepreneurs that are doing good, changing lives, and eradicating poverty.”

The PACE Initiative continues to pilot and test new approaches for supporting entrepreneurs, like using guarantees from high net worth individuals to allow impact investors like MCE Social Capital to access bank capital that can then be lent to small and growing businesses, or leveraging local talent and local capital through regional impact investing funds with I&P.

I agree with Vava that there is still room for growth. And while I am proud of what PACE has accomplished—catalyzing more than $100 million of private investment that would have otherwise not happened—impact investments still represent only 0.02 percent of the $294 trillion in global financial markets.

Imagine what could be done with just a fraction more.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rob Schneider is division chief, Global Partnerships, at USAID’s Center for Transformational Partnerships. Follow him at @RMHS360.

RELATED LINKS

Lighting the Career Path for Girls in the Energy Sector

A live line crew member at work for Kenya Power and Lighting Co. /Ellen Dragotto, USAID

A live line crew member at work for Kenya Power and Lighting Co. /Clare Novak, Energy Markets Group

Where does a girl dream about working as an engineer and running her country’s power facility? It certainly was not the first career choice for Queen Esther, a Nigerian schoolgirl who had always dreamed of becoming a fashion designer.

But after spending a day at her father’s workplace, Nigeria’s main electricity utility, EkoElectricity Distribution Co., she became excited about new job possibilities. “Now I want to become an engineer because it’s really cool!” she said.

Cynthia Wanja, a Kenyan student, hadn’t thought of working in a power station either until she visited her father’s job at the Kenya Power and Lighting Co. and thought it was “awesome.” “I never knew there is work for civil engineers at power stations,” she said. “It sounds very interesting.”

At EkoElectricty Power Distribution Co. in Nigeria, girls learn about principles of electricity. /EkoElectricity Power Distribution Co.

At EkoElectricity Power Distribution Co. in Nigeria, girls learn about principles of electricity. /EkoElectricity

And for Sarah, one of the 44 Jordanian girls visiting their parents’ company, the experience was empowering. “The future is in the girls’ hands and they will help build the country,” she said enthusiastically after touring the Electricity Distribution Co.

These three girls and dozens of others in Nigeria, Kenya, Jordan and Macedonia participated in Bring Your Daughter to Work Day events, the first of their kind at their respective countries’ power utility and, for many of the girls, the first visit to their parents’ workplace.

Girls visit a substation at Kenya Power and Lighting Co.’s Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. /Ellen Dragotto, USAID

Girls visit a substation at Kenya Power and Lighting Co.’s Bring Your Daughter to Work Day. /Clare Novak, Energy Markets Group

The events, supported by USAID’s Engendering Utilities program, expose girls to the many job options in the power sector.

Women worldwide have traditionally been underrepresented and often excluded from employment opportunities in the energy sector. Compared to eight other global industries, the energy sector ranks last for gender diversity of corporate boards. Only 16 percent of board members at the world’s 200 largest electric utilities are women.

In Jordan, for instance, women are still a minority in the workforce, and those employed commonly choose jobs in health and education, fields perceived as more appropriate for women. The USAID program aims to better understand the challenges that women working in the energy sector face, while improving their employment opportunities at power utilities.

As part of the program, Bring Your Daughter to Work Day events were designed to enhance girls’ interest in the energy sector early on.

While Queen Esther and 35 other Nigerian girls learned about lighting and energy conservation and how energy is generated through hydropower and transmitted to light city streets, they were also encouraged to continue to study and think about their futures without gender limitations.

“Promoting gender equality is fundamental to our company,” engineer Oladele Amoda, the general manager and CEO of EkoElectricity, told the girls during their visit. “Already, women hold four out of our company’s six top management positions.” In Nigeria, where women are disadvantaged in most aspects of livelihood and well-being—including employment, income and health—the Nigerian electric utility provides a positive example for others to follow.

Girls learn about wind generators during Bring Your Daughter to Work Day at Jordan's Electricity Distribution Co. /Ellen Dragotto, USAID

Girls learn about wind generators during Bring Your Daughter to Work Day at Jordan’s Electricity Distribution Co. /Ellen Dragotto, USAID

Having women join the energy sector is a win for everyone. Studies in other business sectors have shown that investing in girls and women has a positive impact on productivity and sustainable growth. And including women in a company’s management team can result in a richer set of ideas and more comprehensive solutions to challenges.

Energy companies are often among the largest employers in a country. Improving women’s access to jobs in electric power companies leads to improved development outcomes beyond the energy sector, including increased economic growth and better lives for families.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ellen Dragotto is a senior energy specialist in USAID’s Office of Energy and Infrastructure and manages the Engendering Utilities program.


RELATED LINKS

 

Improving—and Sustaining—Food and Nutrition Security for the Most Vulnerable: A New Food for Peace Strategy

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, merchants such as Belleus Pierre, 31, used T-Cash to sell basic food staples to families benefiting from the USAID-funded food assistance program implemented by Mercy Corps. Her participation in the program meant she had a steady flow of customers to her store, providing her own family with much needed income. /Lisa Hoashi, Mercy Corps

After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, merchants such as Belleus Pierre, 31, used T-Cash to sell basic food staples to families benefiting from the USAID-funded food assistance program implemented by Mercy Corps. Her participation in the program meant she had a steady flow of customers to her store, providing her own family with much needed income. /Lisa Hoashi, Mercy Corps

Next week, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace (FFP), the largest provider of food assistance in the world, is marking a milestone—we’re issuing a new 10-year food assistance and food security strategy. An office unique within USAID for its dual relief and development mandate, FFP’s new strategy focuses on getting results for millions of vulnerable people living in areas characterized by extreme poverty and deprivation.

The strategy draws on the full range of tools available to us, from much needed American food commodities and specialized nutrition products, to market-based interventions that allow populations affected by conflict and natural disaster to select healthful foods available locally. Its programmatic theory of change is steeped in evidence-based learning about what works to protect and enhance the lives and livelihoods of the most vulnerable.

A woman receives USAID commodities at Bambasi refugee camp in Ethiopia. /Kiyori Ueno, WFP

A woman receives USAID commodities at Bambasi refugee camp in Ethiopia. /Kiyori Ueno, WFP

Building on our 2006-2010 strategy, this one focuses more deeply on strengthening systems and institutions to sustain success, elevating governance, social cohesion and conflict sensitivity. It places a central emphasis on understanding local context and adapting to changing circumstances to remain relevant and effective. It re-embraces our long commitment to gender equity and acknowledges the importance of engaging youth to advance sustained food and nutrition security.

The new strategy captures the best of what we currently do, but challenges FFP and our partners to strive for greater impact with greater efficiency and sustainability. It also embraces “nutrition security”—deliberately signaling the importance of a wide range of nutrition, sanitation and health factors that contribute to improved food security outcomes.

The need for our work has never been more important, whether we consider the growing impact of humanitarian crises that have displaced more people than any time on record, or the more subtle but equally intractable issue of chronic poverty and recurrent crisis which today preclude millions of people from achieving their potential.

Armed with new health, agriculture and nutrition practices she learned from USAID, Monjuara can continue to dream of a better life for her family and is paying it forward in her community. In Bangladesh, where over 60 million people survive on less than $1.25 per day, USAID is arming millions of parents like Monjuara with the skills to break the cycle of poverty. /Josh Estey for USAID

Armed with new health, agriculture and nutrition practices she learned from USAID, Monjuara can continue to dream of a better life for her family and is paying it forward in her community. In Bangladesh, where over 60 million people survive on less than $1.25 per day, USAID is arming millions of parents like Monjuara with the skills to break the cycle of poverty. /Josh Estey for USAID

While the challenge is great, so too is our commitment. There is unprecedented consensus that building the resilience of vulnerable communities, including their food and nutrition security, is key to our larger goals of ending extreme poverty, enhancing stability and spurring economic growth. The communities we work with, driven to improve their lives—as well as the committed governments, NGOs, United Nations agencies, and private sector actors that support them—agree on the urgency of this agenda.

Since its establishment in 1954, Food for Peace has reached more than 4 billion people. And today, with an annual budget that tops $2 billion, we and our partners have an outsized role to play in the global development community’s goal to end hunger in our time.

We extend our thanks to the U.S. Congress and the American people for their sustained support of our global efforts. And to all of our partners, whose expertise and tireless efforts in some of the most challenging environments in the world shaped this forward-looking strategy.

Despite the challenging times in which we live, we look to the future with a positive vision and a passion to make that vision a reality.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dina Esposito is the director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. Follow her on @DEsposito_FFP.

RELATED LINKS

Check out more on USAID’s food assistance programs.
Read more on how we can #endhunger by looking beyond food.
Learn more about the new Food for Peace food assistance and food security strategy.
Follow @USAIDFFP; @DEsposito_FFP

Tracking Rumors to Contain Disease: The Case of DeySay in Liberia’s Ebola Outbreak

Ambulances at the site of an Ebola flare-up in Margibi County, Liberia. /Kate Thomas

Ambulances at the site of an Ebola flare-up in Margibi County, Liberia. /Kate Thomas

Rumors spread misinformation, fuel mistrust, cause panic and sometimes even prompt irrational behaviors. This is particularly true in the context of a health emergency when accurate information about a disease—how to prevent, detect, contain and treat it—can mean the difference between staying healthy or becoming infected and, in the worst case scenario, dying from it.

When the Ebola epidemic began to rapidly spread in West Africa, some people thought that the bleach sprayed by health workers to sanitize the environment was the actual cause of the disease. Others believed Ebola was the result of black magic. Suspicion and fear grew fast across Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the three most affected countries, sometimes leading to horrible incidents like the murder of a group of health workers, local officials and journalists in Guinea in September 2014.

Responders who were on the frontlines in the three hardest hit Ebola countries soon became aware that the epidemic was driven as much by misinformation as it was by weak health systems.

To address the rumors and lack of accurate information, USAID’s Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) initiative was designed to bring in-depth expertise in social and behavior change communication to manage the epidemic.

A sign informs people about the dangers of Ebola. /Ida Jooste, Internews

A sign informs people about the dangers of Ebola. /Ida Jooste, Internews

“Rumors often started far away from the capital and would grow out of control very quickly, generally through word of mouth, SMS and social media,” says Anahi Ayala Iacucci, former team leader for Internews in Liberia, an HC3 implementing partner.

Infection prevention and control, isolation of patients, contact tracing, and safe burials were critical practices for stopping the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa. Yet most of these required people to change their behaviors significantly when caring for sick family members.

“This chaotic information landscape consisted mainly of information ‘going out,’ with little opportunity for community dialogue,” says Iacucci.

Not surprisingly, local people struggled to understand why they needed to stop doing what they were used to doing and started to question information they were receiving. Information dissemination thus resulted in a plethora of poorly targeted and coordinated messages. The lack of dialogue fueled rumors and increased suspicion toward all first responders, including local and national governments.

“This chaotic information landscape consisted mainly of information ‘going out,’ with little opportunity for community dialogue.”

That is when the USAID-funded Information Saves Lives program in Liberia took off. Its goals were to investigate and respond to public rumors about Ebola, train and empower journalists to report accurately about health issues, and stimulate the exchange of information during the Ebola crisis. With technical support from UNICEF, HC3 developed the DeySay SMS system, which used text messages to monitor, track and report rumors about Ebola across different counties in Liberia.

“The DeySay rumor tracker was successful in responding to the information gaps that fed the rumors circulating, providing an opportunity to determine more localized communication responses,” says Anna Helland, HC3 country director in Liberia. “This, along with an increased emphasis on community engagement and community-led responses, provided needed vehicles for two-way rather than one-way communication as the situation continued to change and evolve.”

A radio host prepares to go live on an Ebola-related talk show. /Ida Jooste, Internews

A radio host prepares to go live on an Ebola-related talk show. /Ida Jooste, Internews

Another important aspect of this program was working with those who were already trusted sources of information like journalists, community leaders, and local health workers as a more effective way to foster dialogue and two-way conversations.

Rumors mapped through the tracker were addressed through a variety of outreach channels, including local radio stations where audiences had a chance to call in and share their concerns.

“Tracking rumors is pretty central to understanding public concern around these flare-ups and all health issues,” says Kate Thomas, an Information Saves Lives adviser with HC3 in Liberia.

With the goal of building long-term capacity for quality health reporting, this activity also provided small grants, training and mentoring opportunities to the most committed journalists. While the first phase of the project focused on delivering accurate information by identifying information gaps, the second phase will focus on capacity strengthening, according to Helland.

Although the DeySay Ebola rumor tracker is no longer in use, it has paved the way for innovative tools in a post-Ebola scenario.

Community engagement and social mobilization have been included as core components of USAID’s response strategy to Zika in Latin America. Because if there is one thing the Ebola outbreak taught us, it is that two-way engagement with affected communities is essential for sustainable behavior change. And blasting messages out without engaging in an ongoing dialogue will invariably fail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beatrice M. Spadacini is a senior communications adviser in USAID’s Bureau for Global Health.


RELATED LINKS

How Vocational Training Is Changing the Destinies of Morocco’s Youth

Youth participate in a morning sewing class at the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. /USAID

Youth participate in a morning sewing class at the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. /USAID

Moroccan youth, who make up a third of their country’s population, represent a massive pool of untapped talent and potential. However, with 40 percent of Morocco’s youth out of school or out of work, many feel lost and unsupported by their communities. These youth can become susceptible to the world of crime, drugs and radicalization.

To help provide them with an alternative, USAID and its partners in Morocco are working together to provide sustainable opportunities for youth. I recently had the chance to visit USAID activities in Morocco that provide young people with the skills they need to enter the workforce, and connect them to jobs in high-demand sectors.

USAID’s Favorable Opportunities to Reinforce Self-Advancement for Today’s Youth activity works with at-risk youth in underprivileged neighborhoods in the north of Morocco. Since 2012, the activity has improved the lives of over 12,000 at-risk youth in the cities of Tangiers and Tetouan by increasing confidence and community engagement, and providing professional skills training, academic support and tutoring.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Maria Longi witnesses the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association to increase youth employability. / USAID Morocco

Deputy Assistant Administrator Maria Longi witnesses the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association to increase youth employability. /USAID

Working with local civil society organizations, this USAID project addresses the challenges that push young Moroccans down hazardous paths. It improves their access to quality education and job opportunities and increases their community involvement through vocational training and career services—giving young people more positive options for their future.

I saw this firsthand when I visited the Chifae Association, a USAID-supported NGO providing vocational training to local youth in an impoverished urban neighborhood in Tangiers. I had the opportunity to observe a morning sewing class, where young men and women sat at rows of sewing machines testing stitches on colorful fabric scraps.

The students I spoke to at the Chifae Association told me how the USAID project is helping them find themselves. I was moved by their sense of ambition as we talked about their personal challenges and aspirations. They are learning new skills that will help them get a job and become excited about their future. One student told me that if it wasn’t for this program, he would most certainly be on the street selling drugs.

From the Chifae Association, we headed straight to Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many of the graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. Nova Moda 2 provides these graduates with good salaries that allow them to support themselves and their families. With this new sense of purpose, Moroccan youth gain self-esteem and feel more respected in their neighborhoods.

Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. /USAID

Nova Moda 2, a clothing factory where many graduates from USAID-supported vocational training centers like the Chifae Association become interns or employees. /USAID

I also attended the signing of a partnership agreement between the Nova Moda 2 clothing company and the Chifae Association. This agreement made official what was already apparent: Everyone participating in this program—students, teachers and company managers—is committed to working toward a common goal of youth employability.

Through dedicated partnerships like this, students who complete the vocational training program have a clear vision of how their newly acquired skills can be applied in a viable profession, and with that, a hope for their future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maria Longi is the deputy assistant administrator for USAID’s Middle East Bureau.


RELATED LINKS

How USAID and the Military Are Building Resilience in the Asia-Pacific

As part of the Groundwater Modeling Workshop, participants visited the Batheay district of Kampong Cham province in Cambodia, where they examined groundwater pumping wells, like the one pictured, and discussed methods for determining groundwater flow direction. /Cambodian Ministry of Environment

As part of the Groundwater Modeling Workshop, participants visited the Batheay district of Kampong Cham province in Cambodia, where they examined groundwater pumping wells, like the one pictured, and discussed methods for determining groundwater flow direction. /Cambodian Ministry of Environment

‘A’ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia. (No task is too big when done together by all.)—Hawaiian saying

As members of the International Union for Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress gather in Hawaii this week to shape the direction of conservation and sustainable development, USAID celebrates its partnership with U.S. Pacific Command and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the livelihoods of families in the Asia-Pacific.

Collaboration between USAID and the Department of Defense (DOD) is decades strong. While both organizations have very different missions, we often find ourselves in the same spaces, in places where the most vulnerable live, and during times of complex crises that require a “whole-of-government” approach to save more lives, end extreme poverty around the globe, and build resilient democratic societies.

Richard Byess, program officer at USAID/Cambodia; Natalie Freeman, USAID senior development adviser at U.S. Pacific Command; and John Daley, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers liaison officer in USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, offer their on-the-ground perspectives on what can be achieved when a spirit of civilian-military cooperation thrives in places like Cambodia and Bangladesh.

Q: Why is the Asia-Pacific region a natural space for cooperation and collaboration between USAID and the Department of Defense?

Freeman: The Asia-Pacific is home to more than 50 percent of the world’s population and composed of countries and thousands of islands that take up half of the earth’s surface. For the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), Asia is an exciting and pivotal time for U.S. policy in the region. In the past 30 years, we’ve seen a boost in prosperity, propelling hundreds of millions out of extreme poverty, and a growing middle class.

But despite this, there is a possibility that the region’s prosperity may be derailed because we have yet to address complex development challenges, such as governance in certain countries that inhibit marginalized societies from reaching their full potential, which impact not only our partner nations, but also PACOM, and U.S. national security. This is why USAID is working with PACOM and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to ensure that the progress we gain together will be sustained for the long term.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Cambodian Ministry of Environment study tools that could be used to evaluate the effects of climate change on groundwater resources in Cambodia, August 2016. /Cambodian Ministry of Environment

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Cambodian Ministry of Environment study tools that could be used to evaluate the effects of climate change on groundwater resources in Cambodia, August 2016. /Cambodian Ministry of Environment

Q: What does civilian-military cooperation look like “on the ground”?

Byess: In the past five years in Cambodia, USAID has worked with the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC) on some 58 civilian-military activities, most of which have improved learning conditions for children and have provided access to health services for local residents. Together, USAID and ODC have also rehabilitated schools and health clinics, much of which was possible through the State Partnership Program with the Idaho National Guard.

There are also numerous water programs that USAID, PACOM and USACE have collaborated on throughout the Asia-Pacific that have helped people adopt more resourceful and efficient ways of accessing and managing groundwater resources.

 

Q: How is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers working with USAID to help families in the Asia-Pacific, especially in the face of climate change?

Daley: A recent example of collaborative USAID/DOD programs in the Asia-Pacific is the Groundwater Modeling Workshop, held in August 2016 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for multiple ministries and local civil society organizations. The workshop was requested by the Cambodian Ministry of Environment to explore the effects of climate change on the depletion of groundwater sources in Cambodia. USACE provided groundwater modeling instruction, and at the workshop’s end, participants walked away with tools and concepts to better understand the impacts of climate change, and other influences, on Cambodia’s rivers and waterways. The workshop was funded by PACOM and supported by USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation.

Freeman: Climate change is one of those areas that make sense to work together on because it impacts all of us. In Bangladesh, for example, USAID and USACE have been working together since 2011 as partners in a $40.5 million multipurpose cyclone shelter project to help prepare Bangladeshis for future tropical cyclones. So far, 60 to 70 cyclone shelters have been constructed, and the project is anticipated to be completed in December 2017, with a goal of constructing 100 safe havens for up to 180,000 people.

Q: What advice would you give to other USAID mission staff when working with the military?

Byess: It is USAID’s policy to cooperate with DOD in order to support the Agency’s mission and advance development objectives. Our interagency partners can be most effectively brought in when we avoid duplication of effort and resources.

Freeman: Cooperation is necessary at the policy level. At USAID, we are working to institutionalize the sharing of USAID country development cooperation strategies with DOD while in draft. We also encourage DOD to welcome USAID input into DOD policies, strategies and plans that impact our shared space. This exchange is critical for our partnership and allows it to have lasting impact.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kristen Byrne is a strategic communications and outreach specialist with USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation.

 

Giving Birth in Ukraine: So Different From My Parents’ Experience

Getting ready to become a mom. /Olya Myrtsalo, USAID/Christian Kitschenberg

Getting ready to become a mom. /Olya Myrtsalo, USAID/Christian Kitschenberg

In my 13 years working in outreach and communications for the USAID mission in Ukraine, I’ve had a chance to visit many USAID projects and to hear and write many success stories on how what we do has impacted people’s lives. But one project made my heart beat especially fast.

Every time I visited the maternity wards of hospitals cooperating with the USAID Maternal and Infant Health Project, no matter whether in Simferopol or Luhansk, Lviv or Lutsk, I always experienced a warm feeling of happiness for families that had taken advantage of a unique opportunity to experience the birth of their child in an individual family-friendly room, forming a lifelong connection by sharing an important moment.

My parents were not so lucky. Back in Soviet times, my mother delivered me in a very different environment. She shared the birth of her child in a common room with another woman in labor, in a cold, bare, spouse-free environment, on a proletarian Rakhmanov delivery chair while in labor for 24 hours.

When I was finally born, I was immediately whisked away to a separate nursery for newborns. A nurse brought me to my mother on schedule to be fed and then immediately taken away, ostensibly to prevent infections. Visitors were forbidden, including my father.

Standing outside the hospital on a cold winter day, my father tried to get a glimpse of his newborn daughter by looking at a bundle of humanity my mom was holding at the window on a fifth-floor delivery room, some 50 meters away. Hearing my parents recount this story, I felt so sorry for my lonely and scared mother, for my distanced and confused father, and for myself—for being separated from my family at such a critical, early hour of my life.

Thinking about having my own children, I often thought: “I better hurry up and find a maternity hospital before the USAID project ends.”

Father-son bonding. Levko is warmed on his father’s chest for two hours to prevent hypothermia as his mother recovers from a C-section. /Olya Myrtsalo, USAID/Christian Kitschenberg

Father-son bonding. Levko is warmed on his father’s chest for two hours to prevent hypothermia as his mother recovers from a C-section. /Olya Myrtsalo, USAID/Christian Kitschenberg

My son decided to come into this world three years after the project ended. Nevertheless, when it came to choosing a delivery hospital, I turned to maternity staff and wards that had worked with USAID.

The Zhytomyr Oblast Perinatal Center was among the first to join the USAID Maternal and Infant Health Project and was dubbed a project “champion.” It was among the leaders in breaking from Soviet practices and embracing World Health Organization-endorsed, evidence-based prenatal practices.

Headed by the dedicated Dr. Yuriy Vaisberg, the Zhytomyr maternity hospital quickly earned numerous quality awards. More importantly, it became a hospital where women and their families from neighboring cities and oblasts chose to deliver their babies, despite the distance they had to travel.

While I saw the benefit of giving birth at this facility, it took Christian, my partner and father of our child, longer to come around. He couldn’t understand why I decided to travel 100 kilometers outside of Kyiv to check out a maternity hospital.

When we arrived for a visit in April 2015, I found the hospital as I remembered it. The walls still displayed the project posters explaining all the stages of labor, the multiple delivery positions to choose from, the benefits of breastfeeding, and the danger and causes of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It also continued to provide courses on breastfeeding and antenatal and postpartum counseling to women and their families.

Our little Levko came into this world on a beautiful sunny day on June 18 at a sturdy 9 pounds, 5 ounces, and 22.4 inches in length. As I had undergone a C-section, Levko was put on his father’s chest for two hours to prevent hypothermia. Whoever came up with this procedure should receive a great prize because it creates an incredible bond between the parent and child. As Christian explained, he felt a strong bond with Levko from the first touch.

After two hours of this, Levko was medically examined and then brought back to me for his first breastfeeding. The three of us spent the next five days together in a hospital room which looked more like a room in any home rather than a hospital ward. I could see and hold my son whenever I wanted and feed him whenever he was hungry or needed comfort. Christian helped change Levko’s diapers, held and calmed him whenever he was cranky, and cared for me as I recovered from the C-section.

Getting ready to go home. /Olya Myrtsalo, USAID/Christian Kitschenberg

Getting ready to go home. /Olya Myrtsalo, USAID/Christian Kitschenberg

As we left the hospital, I couldn’t help but compare how different our delivery experience was from that of my parents. I am grateful to the Center for valuing the importance of these necessary new practices recommended by the USAID project and continuing to offer them. The training and equipment that USAID provided made it possible for these dedicated nurses and doctors to continue to help women give birth safely and comfortably. I hope that, in the not too distant future, all of Ukraine’s maternity hospitals will adopt similar practices.

USAID’s Maternal and Infant Health Project, which ran from 2003 to 2012, provided technical assistance for maternal and child care to 20 regions in Ukraine. More than 50 percent of births in the country today directly benefit from those perinatal technologies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olya Myrtsalo is a senior development and communication officer in USAID’s regional mission for Ukraine, Belarus and Moldova.

If Fighting Hunger Were an Olympic Event

Emmanuel Ngulube visits programs in the field. /USAID

Emmanuel Ngulube visits programs in the field. /USAID

It’s been a bad two-year stretch in Malawi: The southeast African nation has suffered back-to-back devastating natural disasters. In 2015, record-breaking flooding left tens of thousands stranded in southern Malawi, and this year El Niño brought historic drought and widespread crop failures, pushing 6.5 million people into dangerous levels of food insecurity.

One of USAID’s best weapons for fighting hunger in Malawi is Emmanuel Ngulube, an officer with the Agency’s Office of Food for Peace who has dedicated his entire career to fighting hunger across Africa.

Emmanuel grew up in Zambia and remembers the effects of drought in the 1980s. “We were lucky,” he said, “My father worked for the mines and he could afford to buy food imported by the government, but others relied on emergency food assistance.”

Before beginning his career with USAID 10 years ago, Emmanuel was already heavily involved in food security issues as a planner in the Office of the Minister of Agriculture in Zambia, as well as a manager in Zambia’s Food Reserve Agency.

As a program specialist for Food for Peace in the USAID mission in Zambia, Emmanuel spent four years deepening his passion for helping rural communities find long-term solutions to hunger. That fervor traveled with him when he relocated to Malawi to help communities recover from crises and develop lasting food security.

On the banks of Shire River in Nsanje district, Malawi /Emmanuel Ngulube

On the banks of Shire River in Nsanje district, Malawi /Emmanuel Ngulube

Reflecting on his career, Emmanuel said, “The more years I work in food security, the deeper my roots grow and I become more passionate about it.”

Emmanuel’s favorite part of his job is getting out into the rural communities to meet with people, work together and see the fruits of his work flourish. He says he’s always impressed at how many ideas the communities contribute to become more resilient and break the chronic cycle of hunger and poverty.

One woman’s innovative idea in particular stands out to Emmanuel: Ezelyn Kazamira participated in a USAID-funded Village Savings and Loan group and used her dividend to purchase and rent out a motorized pump to farmers in her village to assist with irrigation.

According to Emmanuel, “Not letting development gains be eroded by recurrent floods and drought or climate change is the biggest challenge [to USAID’s efforts to improve food security].”

He’s referring to disasters such as the historic floods in 2015, during which Emmanuel helped USAID and the U.N. World Food Program successfully preposition stocks of food in order to reach the communities hit hardest. Or regional disasters like the Ebola outbreak—Emmanuel’s most memorable and biggest emergency to date. He, alongside others in USAID’s disaster assistance response team, made sure families could still access food, despite closed borders, limited movement and depleted markets.


In the midst of the Ebola crisis, another less visible crisis arose–a food crisis. / USAID

Despite these food security challenges, food insecure families are in good hands with Emmanuel on the ground. For the last 10 years, he has been championing both emergency and development food assistance efforts. And if food assistance were an Olympic event, Emmanuel Ngulube would win a gold medal.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emma Fredieu is an information officer for USAID’s Office of Food For Peace. Follow FFP’s tweets @USAIDFFP.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at What It Takes to Deploy with the World’s Only International Volcano Response Team

On Christmas Eve 2008, I got a phone call that turned into a professional and personal opportunity of a lifetime. On the other end of the line: the acting director of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).

The Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano in Tanzania had been erupting explosively since 2007, and the Government of Tanzania was requesting assistance from the U.S. to determine how much of a threat “the Mountain of God”—in local Maasai language—posed to people living nearby.

Standing in Target, in the midst of last-minute shopping, my first thought was “Can this wait for a few days?” But I knew all too well that the approximately 1,500 potentially active volcanoes around the world never take a vacation.

Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano means “Mountain of God” in local Maasia language. Photo taken February 4, 2008/ George Seielstad

Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano means “Mountain of God” in local Maasia language. Photo taken February 4, 2008/ George Seielstad

USAID’s Volcano Disaster Assistance Program (VDAP) has responded either in-country or remotely to hundreds of potential volcanic events, trained scientists and others in 23 countries to respond to potential eruptions, and helped partner organizations save tens of thousands of lives.

It is the only international response team that deploys around the world to help prevent eruptions from becoming disasters. And this year, we’re celebrating 30 years.

The program began in 1986 in response to the tragic eruption of Nevado del Ruiz Volcano in Colombia, which killed more than 23,000 people from volcanic mudflows. Today, at the request of affected governments, VDAP teams help fellow scientists monitor volcanic activity, assess hazards, generate eruption forecasts, and develop early warning capabilities to get people out of harm’s way.

I work for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), but for the past 12 years I’ve been on loan to OFDA, where one of my duties is monitoring the latest reports of volcanic activity to evaluate the risks they pose and make recommendations on how we should respond.

Gari Mayberry (right) with a guide in front of Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano in January 2009. / Thomas Casadevall, USGS

Gari Mayberry (right) with a guide in front of Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano in January 2009. / Thomas Casadevall, USGS

And shortly after that New Year’s Day in 2009, I got on a plane to Tanzania with two other members of the VDAP team—putting those skills to use on the ground.

VDAP team and scientists from the Geological Survey of Tanzania respond to Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano in Tanzania. / Gari Mayberry, USAID/USGS

VDAP team and scientists from the Geological Survey of Tanzania respond to Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano in Tanzania. / Gari Mayberry, USAID/USGS

My first VDAP deployment was an incredible experience. Ol Dionyo Lengai is a one-of-a-kind volcano that spews a unique natrocarbonatite lava that erupts black but turns white when it cools and has a much lower temperature than other types of lava.

Naiyobi village, located about 15 km west of Ol Dionyo Lengai, had been most affected by eruptions with ash falling repeatedly in the village. / Gari Mayberry, USAID/USGS

Naiyobi village, located about 15 km west of Ol Dionyo Lengai, had been most affected by eruptions with ash falling repeatedly in the village. / Gari Mayberry, USAID/USGS

But is the volcano safe? To figure that out, we worked with geologists from the Geological Survey of Tanzania and the University of Dar es Salaam to conduct hazard assessments.

It may sound mundane, but it was hands-on work. Scientists dug into ash deposits to get an idea of how much volcanic material had erupted and could impact populated areas. We hiked for miles around the volcano looking at past deposits to try to piece together the mystery of its previous eruptions, to give us a better idea of what it is capable of doing in the future.

Our research found that the location of the village, up on a ledge, in full view of the volcano, would provide protection from pyroclastic flows—fast-moving currents of hot gas and rock— and other deadly hazards should an eruption occur.

A VDAP team member consults with scientists from the Geological Survey of Tanzania while children observe. / Thomas Casadevall, USGS

A VDAP team member consults with scientists from the Geological Survey of Tanzania while children observe. / Thomas Casadevall, USGS

I love this volcano. It’s very off the beaten path, usually dwarfed in popularity by neighboring Mt. Kilimanjaro, and immersed in amazing wildlife. Working among the people who live around the volcano and make it part of their lives was magical.

After assessing hazards at Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano in Tanzania as part of a VDAP team, geologist Gari Mayberry briefed Tanzanian President Kikwete at the President’s Office in 2009. / Embassy staff

After assessing hazards at Ol Dionyo Lengai Volcano in Tanzania as part of a VDAP team, geologist Gari Mayberry briefed Tanzanian President Kikwete at the President’s Office in 2009. / Embassy staff

You might think: Who would want to live near a volcano? But traveling to the villages and seeing the stunning contrast between the dry, bareness of the volcano against the lush, green land of nearby Naiyobi village, you could see why people make their homes there. It’s simply beautiful.

I feel really proud working with this amazing VDAP team. As an African-American scientist, I know that while volcanology is fairly well represented by women, there aren’t that many minorities working in the field. It’s probably why Tanzanians found it interesting that someone who looked like them was coming from America to work with their scientists.

9Sbs9B35P9ABpm4IIH6jOsA2brurNM_LvX_9A-Quvzk__KvXtdnMhab8YBm8pMpv_Na9_w=s2048

Working side-by-side with local scientists helps VDAP further its unofficial mission: Make connections and build relationships worldwide, which are integral to the work we do. It’s what we like to call science diplomacy.

It has been nearly eight years since that incredible experience, and I continue to work as the liaison between USGS and USAID, and to focus on reducing the risk from geological hazards, including evaluating the risk from volcanoes.

One thing has changed however. Now I am a mother to two young children. I hope I get the opportunity to take them to Tanzania to see my favorite volcano someday and meet the amazing scientists who deal with its threats.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

U.S. Army War College Students See International Development in Action to Rebuild Haiti

An international development class at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. Photo by Mark White, USAID

An international development class at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince. (Mark White / USAID)

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”

Those were my exact sentiments when I escorted 16 graduate students from the U.S. Army War College to Port-au-Prince, Haiti , earlier this year. These students had signed up for an international development class under the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) at the War College, a course I lead as USAID’s assigned faculty to the college. This trip allowed these students an opportunity to witness on-the-ground, whole-of-government coordination to rebuild the lives of Haitian families affected by the 2010 earthquake.

Why Haiti? The United States has supported the strengthening of democracy in Haiti for several decades. Even prior to the earthquake, Haiti faced a variety of challenges, including being the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

The country is a priority for the U.S. Government and other donor nations following the 2010 earthquake that shattered economic stability in the country. To aid those affected by the quake, the United States committed $4.2 billion in assistance to help Haiti transition from disaster relief to a long-term development plan. Key advancements have been made in such areas as health services, economic growth, and investments in the agriculture sector.

Yet much of Haiti remains fragile and gains in some areas have been difficult to sustain. Obstacles to Haiti’s progress include lack of government capacity and vulnerability to natural disasters as well as challenges related to Haitians’ access to many basic services.

Haiti is one of the most illustrative examples of the possibilities and challenges of development assistance. I took my students to Haiti because I wanted them to see where and how international assistance makes positive impacts. The trip also encouraged dialogue among the students and with the people of Haiti so we could together discuss areas where assistance efforts could be improved.

“The trip brought international development to life. It took the learning from the classroom into a multidimensional opportunity to see defense, diplomacy and development in action,” said Rebecca VanNess, a student in my class.

USAID partners with Department of Defense (DOD) academic institutions, such as PKSOI, to educate DOD staff on USAID’s mission and to encourage open dialogue on how best we can work together to build a more secure and peaceful world. The international development course at PKSOI is part of USAID’s long-term training program that sends USAID staff to DOD academic institutions to foster mutual learning between the two agencies.

“For the first time, I understood why the Army spends its time and money to send its best senior leaders to the War College. Haiti provides a microcosm of all the facets of the [international development course] curriculum,” said Kim Colton of USAID.

I am a firm believer that learning through immersion is one of the greatest tools we can use when educating students about a place with a different culture and language than our own. My goal for organizing the trip was to allow students to get out of their comfort zones, to take what they have learned in an academic setting and see the realities in Haiti, and to come up with plausible solutions that incorporate a development perspective.

During the visit, the students had a chance to meet with representatives of local NGOs and members of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The students also participated in discussions at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince with U.S. Ambassador Peter F. Mulrean, who offered frank discussions on the complexities of working in Haiti.

I was honored to have Professor Grace Stettenbauer, a senior Foreign Service Officer from the Department of State, accompany the class to Haiti. Stettenbauer shared her perspectives on applications of the U.S. national security policy and strategy to the real-world situations students encountered in Haiti.

My students departed Haiti feeling optimistic about its future, agreeing with the commonly repeated expression  that “Haiti is too rich (in resources) to be considered poor.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark White was the former deputy mission director of USAID/Haiti and is currently assigned as the USAID representative and professor at the Peacekeeping & Stability Operations Institute at the U.S. Army War College.
Page 2 of 117:« 1 2 3 4 5 »Last »