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Water: A Unifying Issue: USAID’s New Global Water Strategy

Chris Holmes serves as USAID’s Global Water Coordinator.

In late May, when USAID launched its first global water strategy, Administrator Shah, Democrats and Republicans alike agreed on the message: solving the water and sanitation crises is critical. The goal of the USAID Water and Development Strategy is to save lives and improve development in a world where practically 800 million people are without adequate water and 2.5 billion people are without access to adequate sanitation. To achieve its goal, the strategy sets out two overarching strategic objectives: improve global health and strengthen global food security through USAID-supported water programs.

Partnering with faith-based and community organizations—as well as other stakeholders – is critical to meeting these objectives. It is through partnerships that we combine the resources, expertise and wisdom necessary to meet the needs of literally billions of people.

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call hosted by Ms. Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Participants on the call included WASH Advocates, Blood: Water Mission, the Millennium Water Alliance, EROD, PATH, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, World Vision, International Orthodox Christian Charities, Episcopal Relief and Development, Catholic Relief Services, Engineering Ministries International and Lifewater International.  During our call, we covered a wide range of activities—partnerships— to save and improve lives.  One participant noted that it was exciting to see the strategy’s emphasis on women, in particular engaging women in WASH programming and leadership as well as focusing the strategy on countries and regions where we can have greatest impact.  Others on the call addressed such matters as watershed management, evaluation, and the impact on NGOs of channeling development resources through national governments.

Regarding country focus, we discussed how the strategy advances activities consistent with the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 such as establishing criteria to designate high-priority countries for increased investments to support access to safe water and sanitation. We are designing criteria that designate which countries will receive water and sanitation funding. The criteria are based on a combination of factors, such as high childhood mortality rates due to diarrhea, and the capacity of governments to manage and sustain effective programs. Ethiopia is an example of a country that could meet the criteria. It has the requisite infrastructure, governance and institutional experience for USAID water programs that have a transformative impact.

Turning to engaging women in our water programs, we addressed the USAID-supported Somalia School Environment and Education Development Program (SEEDS) which plays an important role in providing water, sanitation and privacy needed to help keep young women in schools, as well as the Afghanistan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project (SWSS) where USAID is building the capacity of the Afghan government and local communities to provide potable water and sanitation facilities and to improve hygiene behavior. An important component of this program is to engage women in the delivery of training.

We also talked about the importance of setting and meeting specific targets. The strategy sets targets for a minimum number of people to be reached over five years: 10 million with sustainable water services and 6 million with sustainable sanitation services. The strategy emphasizes the need for increased investments and expanded attention to sanitation to translate into broader health and economic benefits. In Ethiopia, the USAID- supported Hygiene Improvement program (PDF) facilitated the implementation of the Government’s National Hygiene and Sanitation strategy. More than 5.8 million people in the Amhara region have been reached by hygiene and sanitation promotion activities, and an estimated 2.8 million people have stopped the practice of open defecation and now use a basic pit latrine.

In order to meet our objectives, the strategy relies on partnerships, innovation, and sustainable approaches. An example of USAID’s focus on innovation in the WASH sector is the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV). Through WASH for Life, our partnership with the Gates Foundation, DIV is testing and scaling promising, cost-effective solutions in water, sanitation, and hygiene. DIV recently announced its biggest award yet to the Dispensers for Safe Water program. This approach seeks to scale safe drinking water to more than 5 million, including 1.6 million children, over the next three years. Ensuring long-term sustainability of water and sanitation infrastructure interventions is a central component of the strategy.

Clearly, faith-based and community organizations and our other partners play such a critical role in meeting the needs of millions of people. As was the case in our conference call , we learn a great deal from our partners. In this regard, I would also like to thank USAID’s Office of Faith Based Community Initiatives for its role in linking faith-based and community organizations with USAID’s global water related efforts.

What I Saw and Learned in Southeast Asia and Why I Left Inspired

This originally appeared on the Clinton Foundation Blog

Over last week, I traveled across Southeast Asia, delivering clean water as part of Procter & Gamble’s Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) commitment in Myanmar, attending the Women Deliver conference in Kuala Lumpur and ending my trip in Cambodia, where I saw how the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) is working with the government to fight HIV/AIDS and improve health care delivery at the national level through better supply chain management and at the local level in different hospital and clinic settings.

Chelsea Clinton visits a Clinton Health Access Initiative project. Photo credit: Thu Van Dinh

In Myanmar, I helped Naw Phaw Si Hser and her family turn dirty, unsafe water into clean, drinkable water. Procter & Gamble (P&G) first came to the village a couple of months ago and the families, particularly the mothers, all said their children no longer get sick from the water – and that the water tastes better now too! The liter of water that Naw Phaw Si Hser and her family received marked the six billionth liter of clean water from P&G’s CGI commitment. Through their CGI commitment, P&G aims to save one life every hour, every day, every week, every year by delivering more than two billion liters of clean drinking water every year by 2020, preventing cholera, diarrhea and other water-borne illnesses that still too often bring disease and death around the world.

While I was in Myanmar, P&G announced a new partnership with USAID to improve maternal and child health in Myanmar and provide 200 million more liters of clean drinking water over the next two years, furthering its CGI commitment. It is these types of innovations and partnerships that will continue to save millions of lives and fundamentally change health care in developing countries.

Mission Director for USAID Burma, Chris Milligan, greets children in Burma. Photo credit: Thu Van Dinh

After Myanmar, and a trip to Kuala Lumpur for the Women Deliver conference, where I joined leaders and experts to discuss the health of women and girls, my last stop was in Cambodia – a remarkable country and a model in the fight against HIV/AIDS. CHAI began working in the country in 2005, at a time when only 6,000 patients – including 400 children – were receiving the treatment and care they needed. Today, there is close to universal access for antiretroviral (ARV) treatments for adults and children with HIV/AIDS and I am proud that CHAI has been part of drastically changing the treatment equation in Cambodia. CHAI works in part by helping countries like Cambodia access ARVs at affordable prices, because CHAI and its partners have worked with the pharmaceutical industry to increase supply, and with governments to guarantee demand, which has led to a more than 90 percent drop in ARV prices in the developing world since 2002 when CHAI began. Cambodia is one of the first countries in the world to achieve universal access to ARV treatment for both adults and children and one of the first to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDGs) targets for maternal and child health – truly a leader.

Now, Cambodia is uniquely placed to be one of the first countries to eliminate new pediatric HIV infections, and through collaborative partnerships, I have no doubt Cambodia will be able to reach its goal. Last Thursday, I joined the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs (NCHADS) where they announced, in partnership with CHAI and the government of Cambodia, the Cambodia Strategy 3.0, which aims to reduce HIV transmission between mothers and children to less than five percent by 2015 and less than two percent by 2020, while simultaneously reducing HIV-related mortality among children. The three ultimate goals of Cambodia Strategy 3.0 are no HIV/AIDS deaths, no new infections, and no stigma. Goals we all can and should get behind.

In Phnom Penh, I met with women and children who have benefited from the country’s Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programs, and saw first-hand how their country’s health system has transformed their lives. I saw the technologies, treatment, and direct impact that CHAI is having in this community and communities across the country. Outside Phnom Penh, I met Basil, a little boy my father first met in 2006 when he was a baby and his body was ravaged by AIDS and tuberculosis. Today, he is healthy, in school and as rambunctious as any child should be. I am grateful and proud that CHAI can play a part in the Cambodian government’s efforts to ensure there will be more children with stories like Basil’s in Cambodia’s future.

From reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS to providing clean drinking water to rural communities, these programs are examples of how, when corporations, NGOs, governments, and people work together, incredible strides can be made to challenges that were once thought intractable. These achievements give me hope that other countries will be able to replicate these models and provide similar health care access to individuals – and that, in my lifetime, we’ll achieve an AIDS-free generation and eliminate mortality caused by unclean water.

How the Future of Women & Girls is Tied to Water

Almost 800 million people in the world today lack access to clean water.  Africa and the Middle East are the most water scarce regions in the world. Three hundred million people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in water-scarce environments and every year the number of people under water stress grows larger and larger.

Girl travels by camel in Mongolia Photo Credit: James Orlando

Fresh water scarcity affects everyone, but no one is touched more than women and girls. The consequences of constrained water access for them are dramatic. In much of the world, women and children are primarily responsible for water in their households. Some two-thirds of the households that lack easy access rely on women and girls to get the family’s water. Girls under the age of 15 are twice as likely as boys their age to be the family member responsible for fetching water.

This may not seem so important but about 40 billion hours are spent carrying water each year in Africa alone. Those are hours that could be spent in school or earning an income. They also represent time when women’s and children’s health and safety are threatened. In Asia and Africa, it’s common for women to carry 40 pounds of water on their heads while making a trek than can exceed 20 kilometers each way, especially in times of drought. This increases their risk of violence and sexual assault

In 2010, this reality was brought home to me when I served on USAID drought relief task force for the Horn of Africa. I visited a Kenyan community where under-nourished women and girls were spending the vast majority of their time fetching water; their donkeys had died during the previous drought cycle, leaving them to hand carry water back and forth almost daily for their homes. The need for water to survive subsumed their ability to perform other basic tasks, obliterating any hope for an education and further undermining their nutritional well-being by inhibiting their ability to garden and grow food.

The broader implications of water scarcity can be dramatic too. It has been estimated that, 443 million school days are lost and 700 thousand children die each year due to water related disease and poor sanitation. Poor water and sanitation keep children, especially girls, out of school; inadequate sanitation and the lack of separate toilets in schools particularly reduces girls’ attendance, sometimes pushing them to drop out at puberty. According to the United Nations Development Programme: “every $1 invested in water and sanitation generates on average an $8 return in the form of saved time, increased productivity, and reduce health cost.”

 

While women and children are most burdened by the need to obtain drinking water and basic sanitation, they are often excluded from decision making about water. What’s more, if women were more regularly included in water management it could improve deliberations. They know a lot about the reliability of water supplies, where it can be found, and how availability varies by season. Their personal knowledge can improve water-related management. Community-based organizations that successfully involve women in discussions regarding water access, sanitation, and hygiene, are more likely to result in robust economic growth and improvements in the quality of life. Sustainable economic growth and development goals simply cannot be achieved without a focus on water and gender.

Now that USAID has released its new water strategy, we must remember that while easy access to clean water can have profound implications for the ability of societies to thrive, it can have particular importance for women and girls. Their lives and futures are often inextricably tied to whether or not water is available close by to meet families’ and communities’ basic needs.

 

Clean Hands Inc. – 5 Questions with Bear Valley Ventures

Bear Valley Ventures, a grantee of USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) program, is investigating how to radically improve hand hygiene habits in India, through product innovation. Bear Valley and partners created Clean Hands Inc (CHI) to develop new products for the urban poor that can be used by households with substandard or no sanitation and constrained access to water. With support from DIV, they have launched their pilot. 

Where did the inspiration for your approach come from?

The evidence that improved hand hygiene can have a positive impact on health is clear and there’s increasing interest globally in promoting handwashing with soap. But in the settings we are interested in – urban slums – there are many practical reasons why soap may not always be the best solution. Reasons like water being a valued resource people don’t want to waste and soaps lack of portability when people go to the toilet outside the home.

Youth in India. Photo Credit: Walter Gibson

What makes your approach different?

Like many with an eye on public health around the globe we want to improve hand hygiene at scale in a way that’s sustainable. However, our approach is different in three ways. First, our products are exclusively designed to get hands germ free post-defecation. Not because other moments like before food don’t matter but because we think defecation is a missed opportunity – what soap manufacturer wants their brand associated first and foremost with defecation! Products for post-defecation need a different functionality and positioning, and we think it’s  easier to target than eating in low-income settings as it can be made more routine. Second, we aim to get to scale through a social business model, which no one else is trying to do in this area. And third, not only are our product formats novel but we have a product ingredient that sets us apart, Byotrol®.

What are the first steps you you’ve taken to get your pilot of the ground so far?

As the funding kicked in, our first step was to fly straight to India to meet with research design agency Quicksand, our partner. Together we checked out one of our products – a foam that doesn’t need rinsing – with households in slums in Bangalore; met experts with whom we’ll work over the coming year on issues like distribution, positioning, and packaging; and re-worked our plan for the year. In parallel we’re working with Byotrol Consumer Products Ltd, our technology partner, on product formulations, which will incorporate their unique anti-microbial technology Byotrol®.

What have your biggest challenges been so far? What will be your biggest challenges in the future?

There are so many challenges it’s hard to know where to start! On the hygiene side we’re trying to innovate practices people do habitually and unconsciously. They are not driven by a belief that if I don’t clean my hands properly someone could get sick or die. So we’re not tapping into a desire that exists and will have to create one. On the product side affordability and distribution are huge challenges. And as a team we have to make sure that we use everything that happens over the coming year – including the set backs, to learn and move forward to achieve our vision of improving health through hand hygiene where it matters most.

 

 

 

 

USAID Launches its First Global Water Strategy

This week, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, along with Senator Richard Durbin, Senator Chris Coons, Representative Earl Blumenauer and Representative Ted Poe, launched the first USAID global water strategy in the Agency’s history. Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats represented the State Department.  Lisa Nash, CEO of Blue Planet Network and Gemma Bulos, Founder, A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW) and the contemporary Christian band Jars of  Clay also participated.

I began at USAID almost four decades ago working on international disaster assistance efforts, meeting water, health and food needs in the Sahel. While our planet’s needs for sustainable supplies of water and food have increased, so has our capacity to meet these needs. It’s a privilege to be part of the team that developed – and will now help implement –a water strategy that will do much to meet water, health and food needs for decades to come.

The goal of the USAID Water and Development Strategy is to save lives and improve development in a world where practically 800 million people are without adequate water and 2.5 billion people are without access to adequate sanitation. The strategy sets out two overarching objectives: improve global health and strengthen global food security through USAID-supported water programs.  Here are four projects which represent the kinds of activities we expect to be supported by the strategy:Hygiene Improvement Project (HIP) – Ethiopia;Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Enterprise Development (WaterSHED)Lower Mekong;Water and Development Alliance (WADA) – Senegal; Indonesia Urban Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (IUWASH)

The strategy sets targets for a minimum number of people to be reached over five years: 10 million with sustainable water services and 6 million with sustainable sanitation services. The strategy emphasizes the need for increased investments and expanded attention to sanitation to translate into broader health and economic benefits. In Ethiopia, the USAID- supported Hygiene Improvement programfacilitated the implementation of the Government’s National Hygiene and Sanitation strategy. More than 5.8 million people in the Amhara region have been reached by hygiene and sanitation promotion activities, and an estimated 2.8 million people have stopped the practice of open defecation and now use a basic pit latrine.

Access to safe & clean water saves lives & is vital to a productive future for every man, woman, & child. Photo Credit: USAID

The strategy seeks to manage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security. This will be achieved through increased emphasis on more efficient use of rainfall and improved efficiency and management of existing irrigation systems. The Haiti Watershed Initiative for National Natural Environmental Resources  supports a vertical drip irrigation system, an innovative farming method that will benefit farmers with very small land plots. By planting certain crops vertically using this irrigation system, farmers can produce better yields using less land and water, particularly helpful in this heavily deforested country. In Mali, USAID has worked with farmers on ridge tillage to help increase the efficiency of rainwater capture for improved agricultural production. This has boosted cereal crop yields.

The strategy advances activities consistent with Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 including establishing criteria to designate high-priority countries for increased investments to support access to safe water and sanitation. We have designed criteria that designate which countries will receive water and sanitation services. The criteria are based on a combination of factors, such as high childhood mortality rates due to diarrhea, and the capacity of governments to manage and sustain effective programs. Ethiopia is an example of a country that could meet the criteria. It has the requisite infrastructure, governance and institutional experience for USAID water programs that have a transformative impact.

In order to meet our objectives, the strategy relies on partnerships, innovation, and sustainable approaches to development.

Leveraging partnerships is a key theme. In 2012, USAID joined Sanitation and Water for All, a global partnership of governments, donors, civil society organizations and other development partners working together to use scarce resources more effectively. USAID is partnering with the Coca-Cola Co. to address community water needs in developing countries around the world, with a combined commitment of over $31.5 million. We have partnered with a range of public and private sector organizations, including joining with Rotary International in nearly 250 communities in the Dominican Republic, Ghana and the Philippines to develop water and sanitation projects.

One example of USAID’s focus on innovation in the WASH sector is the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV). Through WASH for Life, a partnership with the Gates Foundation, DIV is testing and scaling promising, cost-effective solutions in water, sanitation, and hygiene. DIV recently announced its biggest award yet to the Dispensers for Safe Water program. This grant will scale safe drinking water to more than 5 million, including 1.6 million children, over the next three years. DIV is one of the ways the Agency is integrating innovative approaches into how we do business.   In another example, USAID has been working with  its Global Development Alliance partner Rotary International to develop and test a tool kit to predict the likely sustainability of WASH interventions.

Ensuring long-term sustainability of water and sanitation infrastructure interventions is a central component of the strategy. The Ghana WASH Project seeks to improve rural and peri-urban communities in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene by linking up with communities, local NGOs, government agencies, as well as international organizations working in the sector. Through a multi-level approach, the project works to build the capacity of local communities and organizations, and not only improve water, sanitation and hygiene, but also empowers the host country to promote sustainability and development well after the project has reached completion.

Looking ahead, we are fortunate to have a great team at USAID , along with highly skilled and valued  partners, who will implement a strategy which will benefit the lives of millions of people throughout the developing world.

Video of the Week: Clean Kumasi: Digital Tools to Transform Urban Waste Management

In the fall of 2012, IDEO.org partnered with Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor to tackle the issue of open defecation. IDEO.org and WSUP were the recipients of a Development Innovation Ventures  Stage One grant to test a hypothesis that the application of digital tools could effectively change behavior related to the management of human waste.

Building off the lessons learned from rural community-led total sanitation efforts, the team worked to adapt that methodology to an urban context.

The team designed a system that allowed community members to report instances of open defecation by calling them in, in response to signs posted around the neighborhood. This information fed into a database of contacts managed by a community organizer who then called the participants to gather for meetings and clean-ups.

This video shows the IDEO.org and WSUP teams in action – from organizing hackathons in San Francisco to conducting field work in Kumasi, Ghana, live prototyping of the mobile platform and technology, and ultimately to the community gatherings and clean-ups.

IDEO.org’s project is supported by the DIV and Gates Foundation WASH for Life Partnership. Read more about the partnership’s new grantees.

Folow @DIVatUSAID  on Twitter and join the conversation with #DIVWash.

Photo of the Week: USAID Launches Water Strategy

Globally, over 780 million people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation. Projections are that by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in severe water stress conditions. To address these global water-related development needs,  Administrator Rajiv Shah will join Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) to release the U.S. Government’s first Water and Development strategy in Washington today. Its purpose is to provide a clear understanding of USAID’s approach to water programming, emphasizing how sustainable use of water is critical to saving lives. The new water strategy has health and food security as priorities, highlighting the critical role of water in saving lives.

Read the entire USAID Water and Development Strategy.

Follow @USAID on Twitter and join the conversation with #WaterStrategy.

Photo of the Week: Pumping Water to Urban Nigeria

Three young boys look to be having some fun while they use a public standpipe in Bauchi town, Nigeria. This is one of the sites where town residents retrieve water since few have water taps at their homes. In December 2011, USAID’s Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Africa project signed an agreement with town officials to help them expand and improve services to residents. Demand for water in urban areas like Bauchi exceeds 200,000 cubic meters per day—nearly four times the volume the town’s water utility is currently able to pump to its customers. Photo is from Emily Mutai, SUWASA.

Read the recently released FrontLines issue to learn how USAID is working to provide safe water to the millions who live without this vital resource, and how unique approaches to wipe out neglected tropical diseases are faring.

In Tajikistan, Little Drops Make the River

This originally appeared on FrontLines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Holistic Approach

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

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

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

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

A Focus on Sustainability

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

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

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

Read the rest of the article on FrontLines.

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Outcomes are Nice, But What About Measuring Them?

This originally appeared on Agrilinks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the outcome stories…

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

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