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NASA Congratulates USAID on Education Strategy with Video from Space for International Literacy Day

World of Fashion Crosses Paths with Haiti’s Rebuilding Efforts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Home Sweet Home: How my Youth Journey around the World Brought me to our Nation’s Capital

Last November when I was appointed the first ever UN Youth Champion I had no idea what to expect. Now, the International Year of Youth is coming to a close and I’m astonished at how far it’s taken me. I traveled to 24 different countries in 6 months, spoke with thousands of youth, met with numerous government officials, volunteered with tons of NGOs, and raised awareness of youth issues among millions through major multi media outlets.

But, all of my efforts were validated a week ago when Nicole Goldin, Senior Advisor of USAID invited me to share my experience with Agency staff (and especially the team that is currently working to create their first ever policy on youth development). I was thrilled to meet some of USAID’s biggest youth champions, including Administrator Shah himself! My home country became my 25th and final stop on the Gimme Mo global tour, and the beginning of a new journey to support and engage with Americans to promote the global youth agenda.

Monique Coleman, actress and singer and UN Youth Champion. Photo Credit:

In the afternoon, UN Foundation hosted a dynamic discussion led by Aaron Sherinian, VP for Communications and Public Relations at UNF.  I was joined by Dr. Nicole Goldin and Ashok Regmi, director of Youth Action Net, an initiative of the International Youth Foundation. Basically, I had geniuses on all sides! Nicole shared some her experiences with our first lady Michelle Obama in South Africa and gave us insight into many USAID projects. She also made an interesting case for empowering girls while not neglecting or excluding boys.  Ashok encouraged us to look at youth as assets and invest in them. He also challenged us to redefine the role of technology. He expressed that technology shouldn’t be the basis of our thought or the core of change. People are agents of change, technology is simply a tool. Aaron, our host, kept us honest and thinking. He posed great questions, formed interesting connections, and helped us to think about youth in a new way.

At one point, Aaron said “philanthroteen” and I almost fell out of my seat. All around it was an inspiring, enlightening, and lively panel. I hope everyone who attended was as impacted by the day as I was.

I’m excited to continue the conversations and support the efforts of UN Foundation and USAID, and of course young people themselves at home and abroad!

Happy International Youth Day! Remember, YOUth are our world’s present AND future.

Stay connected to USAID on our Youth Impact page, and using the hashtag #USAIDyouth on Twitter.

You can follow Monique on Twitter.

Day Two: On the Ground in the Horn of Africa

Earlier this week, I visited the world’s largest refugee camp in Kenya, where thousands of exhausted and starving refugees have sought food, water and medical care after fleeing from famine-stricken lands in southern Somalia. The United States is providing life-saving help for millions of people across the eastern Horn of Africa, as the region experiences its worst drought in 60 years.

Although we will always provide aid in times of urgent need, emergency assistance is not a long-term solution. To address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, we need to invest in agriculture, build strong markets and harness advances in science and technology. Spearheaded by USAID, President Obama’s food security initiative—Feed the Future—is helping countries develop their own agricultural sectors so they can feed themselves.

Together with Dr. Jill Biden and Senator Bill Frist, I had the opportunity to see some of the innovative work Kenyan scientists and researchers are doing to help transform agriculture in the region. At the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI), we saw new drought-resistant seed varieties of sorghum, millet and beans, as well as a gigantic cassava root and the orange-fleshed sweet potato. Unlike other kinds of sweet potato common to the region, the orange-fleshed sweet potato is rich in vitamin A and helps children build resistance to river blindness. We also saw irrigation systems in affordable greenhouses that are designed expressly for smallholder famers.

Since pastoralist communities throughout the region rely on livestock for their livelihoods, we are helping protect animal herds through vaccine programs and accessible veterinary care. In Ethiopia, we are supporting a government-led safety net program that builds boreholes for water, constructs health clinics and educates vulnerable communities about nutrition.

These programs are already making a difference.  That is why—even though this is the worst drought in 60 years—it is not the worst famine in 60 years.

The circumstances are still dire, however. In Kenya, I heard from families whose crops and livestock had withered in front of them and who themselves were barely surviving. I know that there is another way. Feed the Future is making smart, cost-effective investments in agriculture to ensure we address many of the root causes of today’s crisis.  Together, we can shape a better, safer future for the region’s families.

Innovation at USAID

Innovation is critical to the future of USAID, and our ability to reach development goals effectively.  The first-ever Global Development Policy calls on USAID to, “increase our investments and engagement in development-focused innovation by seeking and scaling up potential game-changing development technologies.”  As the term innovation becomes more common in the international and American dialogue, and given our focus on innovation in USAID Forward, I’d like to spell out clearly what innovation means for USAID.

99% cost-reduced Pre-Eclampsia test. Photo Credit:Jhpiego

At USAID, we use “innovation” to refer to novel business or organizational models, operational or production processes, or products or services that lead to substantial improvements (not incremental ones) in executing against  development challenges.  Innovations can involve everything from novel science and technology programs, like a new disease diagnostic that is far cheaper than previous tests, to original ways of engaging the private sector as an efficient distribution channel, to new ways of financing the outcomes or obtain far more leverage than the Agency normally gets through our traditional partnerships.  To be meaningful, innovation has to be mean more than anything new, interesting, or exciting.  That’s why we link innovation to producing improvements that are well beyond incremental, in terms of cost, impact, beneficiaries reached, time saved, etc.  We are used to achieving these breakthroughs with pharmaceuticals but not for much of the rest of our work.

Innovation is not new to USAID.  Over the course of USAID’s history, the Agency has adopted numerous business processes and helped identify and support development practices that drastically improved our delivery of development outcomes.  As Administrator Shah has pointed out, USAID “helped develop the innovations that produced the Green Revolution and pioneered Oral Rehydration Therapy in Bangladesh.”

But we need to recognize innovation more often and could use more systematic ways to test and scale promising breakthroughs – from inside and outside the Agency.  By making innovation a pillar of the USAID Forward effort, we want to create mechanisms that more systematically seek, test, incubate, and mainstream innovative development solutions, encouraging innovation among our own staff and business processes through efforts like procurement reform, training (innovation can absolutely be fostered), and rewarding innovative practices across the Agency more regularly. We want USAID to be an agency that busts through institutional barriers to innovation, including our own.

Talking with America’s Youth

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak with American youth from the White House about the importance of getting involved in international development. Kalpen Modi, the Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, invited me to answer questions from a room full of young innovators and the Twitter and Facebook online communities.

I found this experience especially meaningful because I believe that young people today have a deeper and more thoughtful understanding of global development and its ties to our nation’s prosperity, security and values than at any time in our history. Through the power of social media and political advocacy, as well their ground efforts, they have gained a profound appreciation of the difficulties developing countries face and the interests our nation has in alleviating them.

A few weeks ago in Southern Sudan, I met a group of kids who are learning English and math in a USAID-supported primary education program.  The students ranged in ages from four to fourteen years old. Many of the older students have lived through a period of violence and suffering and have not yet had the opportunity for even a basic education. When you see American taxpayer money being effectively used to provide education in a way that improves the lives of these children and contributes to the peaceful founding of a new nation—the 196th country in the world—you get a genuine sense for the significance of this work.

More than ever before, young people recognize the importance of sustainable, long-term development and are getting directly involved in issues like education, hunger, climate change, and global health. They understand that a world in which hunger is beaten, diseases are eradicated, the planet is protected, markets are free and people are equal is a world that makes us safer, enhances our prosperity and reflects our values as Americans.

Today, the opportunities exist for young people to steer their talents towards serving those in greatest need, no matter what professions or degrees they choose. Whether you’re a teacher, investment banker, or engineer, you have valuable skills that can help drive meaningful change around the world. Visit our website to learn more, stay connected and tell us about the global development issues that concern you.

Stay tuned for more blog posts with additional answers to your specific development questions.

USAID and Intel Meeting Affirms Partnership; Expands Collaboration

By: Cecilia Brady, Alliance Advisor

Earlier this month, USAID and Intel Corporation held their annual management review meeting to analyze the achievements of the longstanding collaboration between the two organizations, and to discuss expanding their cooperation.

Tour guide in Vietnam now uses broadband internet access to communicate with clients and head office. Photo credit: Intel® Corporation

Intel, a global technology company based in California, is perhaps best known for its microprocessors that are ubiquitous in personal computers; the company also manufactures integrated circuits, flash memory and other technology-based products and devices.  Intel’s stated vision over the next decade is “to create and extend computing technology to connect and enrich the lives of every person on earth” – a good fit with USAID’s goal of mobilizing the ideas, expertise and resources of the private sector to achieve development objectives.

USAID began its relationship with Intel in2004, and in 2006 signed a global agreement to partner on three issues: improving education with information and communications technologies (ICT), enabling last-mile Internet connectivity, and supporting ICT usage by small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).  This strategic partnership has allowed USAID to utilize Intel’s technology to deepen the impact of our development projects, and to access the deep expertise and innovative thinking within one of the world’s leading technology companies.

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Notes from the Field: We Can Feed the Future

Julie A. Howard is the U.S. Government Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future

My job as the Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future is to champion the cause for global food security. It’s good for health, it supports economic growth, and it promotes global stability. For as much as I value the work I do in Washington, it is opportunities to visit our programs in the field that really reinforce for me what a difference investments in food security can make.

I am in Zambia this week for the tenth annual African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) forum. Earlier today, I was with United States Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk when he announced a U.S. commitment of up to $30 million per year for four years to support trade expansion in Africa. This will facilitate U.S.-Africa trade and intra-regional trade. It will also leverage private sector resources and investments by other donors.

Following the day’s events at AGOA, I saw firsthand how this can work. USTR Kirk and I joined U.S. Ambassador Mark Storella for a visit to the Freshpikt canning factory – the only one of its kind in Zambia. Over the past several years, investments from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have helped the factory to source produce from smallholder farmers, which raises their incomes. In turn, this has provided consumers throughout the region the option to purchase high-quality, locally canned goods that are competing favorably against imported products. They are also being exported, which helps the Zambian economy.

During our visit, Freshpikt and PS International – a U.S.-based company specializing in international trade of bulk agricultural commodities – signed a letter signifying PS International’s intent to invest up to $30 million to increase Freshpikt’s capacity to can tomatoes for regional markets.

A main objective of Feed the Future, the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, is to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and rural incomes through diversification and private sector development. Today’s visit was inspiring. I’m looking forward to spending the next few days in Zambia!

Partnering to Respond to Disasters & Emergencies

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has a long history of responding to global disasters and emergency situations. Taking even just a cursory look at the news and you will see stories about how the Agency is responding to the complex emergencies and humanitarian crises in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire and the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Not to mention that USAID is engaged in recovery and reconstruction efforts from the earthquake in Haiti and flooding in Pakistan.

At the Aid & International Development Forum (AIDF) before a packed audience of over 120 people, I had the privilege of talking about how USAID utilizes partnerships with the private sector to support our disaster and emergency response activities around the globe. Joining me in this discussion were my colleagues, Carolyn Brehm from Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Ted Okada from Microsoft, who work with the GDA regularly to manage and expand our global partnerships.

In all areas of disaster and emergency response, USAID leverages the financial resources, technical expertise, training capacity, transportation networks, and technology many private sector companies can provide in a crisis. By combining USAID’s own experience in humanitarian and disaster assistance, public-private partnerships can bring a wealth of experience and technical assistance to bear to alleviate human suffering and save millions of lives.

The focus of my remarks were grounded in our Emergencies Sector Guide – part of a series of guides on how USAID does business with the private sector – which focuses on how USAID has formed alliances in all five phases of responding to disasters and crises: preparedness and mitigation; acute response; recovery; reconstruction; and transition. This guide points to the important contributions our private sector partners, such as P&G and Microsoft, can provide in times of crises.

As emphasized by my private sector colleagues, companies are working in partnership not only with USAID, but also other donor organizations, local NGOs in disaster affected countries and other partners to provide humanitarian assistance.  Carolyn indicated that with over 4.2 billion customers and rising, P&G has focused its philanthropic activities around its core business objectives through its Live, Learn and Thrive initiative, which focuses on the health, education and skill needs of children during the first 13 years of life. The primary area USAID has partnered with P&G is around their Children’s Safe Drinking Water program that reaches people through PUR packets, a water purifying technology developed by P&G and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One small PUR packet quickly turns 10 liters of dirty, potentially deadly water into clean, drinkable water. The packets can be used anywhere in the world, including areas affected by natural disaster.

USAID also has a long standing relationship with Microsoft, having worked together in over 70 partnerships around the globe to help expand ICT education and opportunities for local entrepreneurs to generate income and develop their local economies.  At AIDF, Microsoft presented a moving short video describing activities underway in Haiti to help introduce technology and training to schools as the country rebuilds. Through its partnership with NetHope, (supported by USAID) Microsoft is providing equipment, training and technical assistance to over 40 schools to help them leap into the 21st Century.

USAID and its private sector partners are working together to help meet the needs of millions around the globe, recognizing that in this day and age, we cannot solve the challenges facing the global community alone.

Food Security: Progress and a Way Forward

Today I have the privilege to participate in a discussion as part of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security: Progress to Date and Strategies for Success. The Chicago Council’s efforts have been instrumental in elevating global food security as a U.S. policy priority.  We are grateful to them for the opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made so far and remaining challenges we all face in tackling this issue.

At a time when food prices are reaching all-time highs, drawing millions into poverty and undermining global stability, it is critical that we maintain our focus on establishing long-term agriculture-driven economic development. And that’s just what Feed the Future, the U.S. Government initiative to address global hunger and poverty, is about.

In 2009, President Obama pledged $3.5 billion through 2012 for food security, signaling a new era of U.S. investments in agricultural development and elevating its importance. I am proud to say we are on track to meeting that pledge. We are:

  • Responding to country-driven priorities to maximize impact and sustainability.  We have supported focus countries as they have analyzed the evidence and consulted with stakeholders to determine their own investment priorities and developed solid strategic investment plans.
  • Launching innovative private sector partnerships.  We are partnering with major companies like Pepsico to source  products from farms in focus countries; working with retailers such as Walmart to establish supply chains for developing country crops; and collaborating with millions of smallholder farmers—the ultimate small business—to improve  yields, increase incomes and create markets . In Tanzania, for example, we are facilitating investments along the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor, a public-private partnership that will promote clusters of agribusinesses with major benefits for smallholders and local communities across one-third of mainland Tanzania.
  • Strengthening partnerships with U.S.  universities to address  critical research challenges to food security, including wheat stem rust, a disease that threatens wheat productivity worldwide. We are also supporting long-term partnerships to strengthen African agricultural universities and enable them to train the next  generations of researchers, extension workers and agribusinessmen and women.  

Investing in agricultural development and food security is critical to economic growth. It is also the right thing to do. From my perspective — as an agricultural economist, a civil servant, and as an American — that’s the kind of investment I am proud of.

This post and a number of other posts providing expert commentary on food security were crossposted on Global Food for Thought the official blog of the Global Agricultural Development Initiative.  Be sure to check it out!


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