Topics covering about USAID

The Cambodian Fish Industry
The Cambodian fish industry is vital to the nation’s food security and economy. Recent support that USAID provided has bolstered the skills, knowledge and resources of those engaged in the fish market. This action provides positive assistance to strengthen a vital system within an impoverished country.

The Importance of the Cambodian Fish Industry

Cambodia depends on the strength of its fishing industry, both for the economy and for the nourishment of the general population. It is estimated that its fisheries produce around 2.1 million tonnes of fish per year. According to Open Development Cambodia, “The country holds two world records: the highest catch of inland fisheries per capita and the highest consumption of freshwater fish per capita.” Since seafood is so ingrained in Cambodian society, growths within this field have the ability to reduce poverty and raise the quality of living for inhabitants. As of 2019, 17.8% of the population lived below the poverty line. Two separate projects that USAID produced are fostering positive growth within the Cambodian fishing industry, showing promising implications for future success.

New Fishway Development

The first of these projects reached completion on August 24, 2022. USAID funded the creation of two new fishways to increase accessibility to fishing in the Pursat Province. Prior to the official construction of the new fishways, two demonstrative fish passes were constructed in 2019 and 2021 to act as proof of concept. Because the passes correctly showed the possible impact of the final plan, USAID moved forward with the project shortly after.

These new routes will allow fish to avoid irrigation structures and travel upstream, touching communities in otherwise unreachable areas. USAID states that “These fishways also demonstrate that small-scale fish passes are a feasible, relatively inexpensive solution to the problem of declining fish stocks,” which provides a sense of optimism for future use of similar ventures. The new fishways will allow growth within the crucial Cambodian fish industry.

Nutritional Information Database

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, is another USAID program. A Cambodian researcher by the name of Chakriya Chum has been collecting fish samples across the country for more than a year, for the sole purpose of creating a nutritional database focused on the fishing industry. Feed the Future has supported her work in the hopes of spreading dietary knowledge across Columbia.

Because the population is so highly reliant on fish, it is important for citizens to understand the differences between each type. Chum stated that “Knowledge and research [generated with and] transferred to the community will improve health, fish processing and their livelihood.” The database includes information about best practices for preservation, which will hopefully increase national food security. In addition to the general population, policymakers and farmers can utilize this information to help them create more productive practices.

Both USAID projects provide support for the Cambodian fish industry, an important factor in national food security and economic matters. In the coming years, these programs may be able to expand to neighboring areas and expand in size to create greater change on an international level.

– Hailey Dooley
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in ZimbabweSince Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, USAID has provided the country with over $3.2 billion in developmental assistance. USAID programs in Zimbabwe have focused on building the country’s health infrastructure, strengthening democratic processes and boosting economic growth. With alarming rates of HIV/AIDS, alongside hindered economic development over the past 30 years, USAID programs like Feed the Future’s FARM Initiative and investments in U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, are proving to be especially significant in developmental progress. 

HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe

In 1991, HIV rates in Zimbabwe reached as high as 49.6% of citizens aged 15-49. This means that, just 32 years ago, about half of Zimbabwe’s adult population was HIV-positive.

While the statistic has dramatically improved to 2.4% in 2021, HIV remains a pressing health concern in the country.  According to WHO (World Health Organization), HIV infection rates were the same in 2021 as in 2020, with as many as “4,000 new infections every day in 2021.” Under PEPFAR (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), USAID’s investment is changing lives for Zimbabweans. WHO also reported that, of these new infections, there seemed to be “key populations”: sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons, and transgender people.” Based on these statistics, PEPFAR has begun releasing and administering Cabotegravir (CAB-LA), a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention — with a focus on delivery to those “sidelined from access to health care because of laws and societal segregation.”

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) approved the long-acting injectable in November of 2022, Zimbabwe being the first country in Africa to approve it.

Agriculture in Zimbabwe

Another way USAID is contributing to Zimbabwe’s development is through agricultural support. Through its Feed the Future program, USAID has offered assistance in rural employment, agricultural productivity and economic development to over 200,000 smallholder farmers.

Zimbabwe’s Fostering Agribusiness for Resilient Markers Activity (FARM), another USAID assistance program, has also had a major involvement in farming development. Established in 2020 and designed to run through June 30, 2025, FARM aims to support Zimbabweans through “climate-smart increased production, productivity, and market linkages,” essentially protecting and commercializing smallholder farmers to facilitate long-term growth. Two ways FARM aims to accomplish this goal, according to USAID, is through:

  1. “Livelihoods opportunities and incomes diversified and expanded through establishing resilient and sustainable market linkages; increased off-farm income opportunities; increased agricultural production and productivity; increased access to appropriate finance; increased adoption of good animal husbandry practices (GAHPs), good agricultural practices (GAPs) and climate-smart technologies and increased investments along the targeted value chains.”

  2. “Improved hygiene- and nutrition-related behaviors through increasing nutrition-sensitive agricultural production and productivity and increased incomes coupled with training and technical assistance on good household nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation practices.”

Thus, USAID’s agricultural assistance programs not only support farmers but equip smallholder farmers with the resources they need to sustain agricultural commerce.

Democracy Building in Zimbabwe

USAID also focuses on democracy, human rights and governance in Zimbabwe. The agency’s work in this regard started in November 1999 in order to assist with a peaceful transition of power amid recent elections. Overall, USAID “strengthens accountability systems by assisting Parliament to increase their independence and effectiveness, improves inclusive electoral processes to better reflect citizen voices, expands access to information, and activates mechanisms for citizen advocacy and oversight.”

Looking Forward

With developmental assistance through USAID’s programs in Zimbabwe, life-threatening diseases like HIV are on the decline, and the economy is growing far more independent through agricultural development assistance. By providing life-saving medicine and prevention practices, alongside crucial agricultural developmental support and democracy building, USAID is aiding Zimbabwe in building a healthy future for all. 

– Micaella Balderrama
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in Yemen
Since 2014, a multilateral civil war that has brought about a near-total socio-economic collapse has engulfed Yemen. The country has faced widespread famines due to the lack of necessary infrastructure and socio-political decay. In the absence of proper access to water, sanitation, hygiene services and food, millions have either died or faced issues like displacement. Without aid, the famine in Yemen could evolve into the worst in 100 years. Fortunately, USAID programs in Yemen have targeted the most pressing issues to combat the spread of disease and fund activities that promote stable governance.

Effects of the War

The problems in Yemen have led to approximately 150,000 deaths from the war alone, with additional deaths due to famine and inadequate access to basic necessities. Predictions have determined that by 2030, total deaths could reach 1.3 million. Overall, approximately 23.4 million people — including 13 million children — are in need of assistance. Among these are 17.8 million people who lack access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services.

In 2022, the U.S. pledged $431 million to Yemen in humanitarian assistance – bringing the total U.S. contribution to Yemen to $1 billion. A large portion of this contribution aims to promote governmental stability, which is essential to all Yemeni citizens’ long-term prosperity.

Disease

Although armed conflict and access to food and water are the most discussed issues, a related problem is the ease of transmission of diseases among the most vulnerable within Yemen. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened public health concerns. While the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Program (COVAX) committed 4.2 million vaccine doses to Yemen, as of August 2022, less than 3% of the population received two doses.

Fortunately, there has been some level of intervention. USAID programs in Yemen have provided humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Yemenis through the department of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food for Peace, which focuses on providing food assistance, medical treatment, support for children, emergency services for women, hygiene kits and water treatment supplies. Most of this assistance aims to limit the spread of disease and combat the problem posed by famine.

Laying Sturdier Foundations: Helping Yemen, Help Itself

Fundamentally, although humanitarian assistance in dollars and additional food and water is of the utmost importance to prevent the famine and death total from escalating, it will not bring about tangible and necessary forms of change required to help the people of Yemen in the long term. Unless Yemen achieves absolute institutional and governmental level stability, thousands, if not millions, of Yemenis will perish. As a result, USAID programs in Yemen have taken more proactive measures to help Yemen through developmental aid. Such activities aim to not only help those in need but “strengthen the ability of Yemeni institutions to meet citizens’ needs and build a stronger foundation for durable peace and prosperity,” USAID reported on its website.

– Christopher Maddocks
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in India
USAID programs in India began with the signing of the Emergency Food Assistance Act in 1951 and have since transitioned from emergency food aid to “infrastructure development, capacity building of key Indian institutions, support for the opening of the Indian economy and more,” according to the USAID website. USAID programs in India have helped the nation progress in several areas, including health care, economic development, gender equality and infrastructure building.

USAID-THALI Project

The USAID-THALI (Tuberculosis Health Action Learning Initiative) became a necessity because, in 2016, India held the highest burden of tuberculosis globally with 2.7 million cases. In 2017, India’s TB notification rate, defined as the diagnosis and reporting of TB, for new patients stood at about 2.15 million. To strengthen TB control efforts and facilitate the growth of the TB notification rate, USAID/India launched the USAID-THALI project in 2016.

USAID-THALI took “a holistic approach to TB control efforts,” initially beginning with three states — Karnataka, Telangana and West Bengal. The goal was to “identify, apply and scale up successful, innovative approaches to addressing TB and multi-drug resistant TB.”

The four-year USAID-THALI program eventually expanded its target to nine states across India. World Health Partners (WHP) led efforts in western and northern India and the Karnataka Health Promotion Trust (KHPT) led efforts in the south of India.

Positive Outcomes

WHP’s website reports positive program outcomes. During the four-year span of THALI, the program has raised awareness of TB “among 3 million rural, tribal, urban slum and vulnerable populations.” Furthermore, “more than 60,000 notified TB patients received support for contact tracing, treatment adherence and counseling across all project geographies.”

The Mitchell Group and its local partner New Concept Information Systems performed a 10-week-long assessment of THALI’s successes and shortcomings. In the first phase of THALI (2016-2017), the program succeeded in increasing “private sector notifications for presumptive TB cases in urban slums in the targeted cities of Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Kolkata.” During the second phase (2018-2019), THALI was able to provide more than 9,400 TB patients in Northern India and more than 12,400 patients in Southern India with “patient-centered services.” In 2019, TB notification rates in India rose by 16%.

Mariam Begum, a slum-dweller in Hyderabad, is one of USAID-THALI’s success stories. At the age of about 17, she began experiencing TB symptoms. She reached out to a THALI health worker named Subhadra, who took her to a hospital for diagnosis and treatment. Due to malnourishment, Begum struggled with the TB treatment but followed through and recovered. Now, she uses her personal story as motivation for others to seek treatment and follow through.

USAID POWER

In 2019, USAID founded the “Producer Owned Women Enterprises (POWER)” project. POWER’s purpose is to improve the livelihoods of women in India and facilitate gender equality and independence in India by allowing the growth of employment opportunities for marginalized women.

USAID’s collaboration with the Industree Crafts Foundation under the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative has positively impacted women across India through the POWER project. The project helps to establish female producer-owned enterprises to facilitate the economic independence of women.

By helping women to become micro-entrepreneurs, rural women are able to earn a steady income to rise out of poverty. “POWER also addresses restrictive social norms to increase support for women as entrepreneurs, working toward establishing their collective prosperity and dignity,” according to the Industree Crafts Foundation Facebook page.

The Times of India said that “the project is a great example of the U.S. government’s strong commitment [to the] economic empowerment of women in India…”

A child bride at the age of 14, Kavita is one of the many women benefiting from POWER. Greenkraft, a producer-owned company supported by POWER, initially employed Kavita as a production line worker. Greenkraft promoted Kavita to quality control just three months later because of her exceptional attention to detail and innovative ideas to help improve production.

USAID programs in India, like the POWER initiative, have transformed the lives of women like Kavita. She can now contribute financially “to rent farmland and pay for her children’s education,” the USAID website says.

Looking Forward

USAID programs in India such as USAID-THALI and USAID POWER are among a handful of programs that are helping India alleviate poverty and improve quality of life through a focus on health interventions and employment opportunities for the marginalized.

– Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

Aid to MozambiqueOn July 20, 2022, the U.S. pledged to provide $116 million of aid to Mozambique for the 800,000 refugees currently displaced. This amount of money is part of the United States’ plan to send $2 billion to the Horn of Africa because of its humanitarian crises. Along with the U.S., other partners of USAID have also pledged to deliver resources to Mozambique.

Recent Conflicts in Mozambique

Since 2017, the terrorist group al-Shabaab has been destroying Mozambique’s northern province, Cabo Delgado. Cabo Delgado contains much of Mozambique’s rich natural gas supply, which is vital to its economy. Al-Shabaab has committed several violent acts toward the people who live there such as destroying schools and hospitals, kidnapping children and killing numerous people. In March 2022, 88,000 people fled the town of Palma because of a terrorist attack. This destruction has threatened the continuation of many gas fields in the province.

Along with the terrorism, cyclone Gombe wreaked havoc on the country in March 2022. This was only one of three natural disasters that struck Mozambique during its cyclonic season. The hurricane affected approximately 736,015 people or 148,253 families and displaced around 23,000 people. Additionally, Gombe destroyed an estimated 91,000 hectares (approximately 225,000 acres) of crops.

In total, because of these issues, more than 800,000 people have experienced displacement. Mozambique has not been able to recover from the damage of these two problems it has faced, especially with the current Russia-Ukraine war and the food insecurity it has caused.

Relief to Mozambique

The United States has a history of giving foreign aid to African countries. In 2019, the U.S. donated an estimated total of $7.1 billion to sub-Saharan Africa. This aid went towards addressing health and humanitarian issues. The U.S. is also Mozambique’s biggest donor as it provides more than $560 million annually.

Currently, in Africa, there are 27.1 million refugees and 53 million internally displaced people, and 800,000 of them are located in Mozambique.

In addition to the $592 million already pledged to countries in the Horn of Africa, the U.S. has committed $116 million in aid to Mozambique. This funding is part of Biden’s plan to provide a total of $2 billion to African nations and those affected by the Russian-Ukrainian war. Feed the Future, an organization that President Obama established, has labeled Mozambique as one of the eight countries the organization will target to increase its support and stop its humanitarian issues. Other partners of USAID have also pledged to send other resources to help with the food, water, sanitary, hygienic and agricultural needs.

Aid to Improve Mozambique’s Infrastructure

In addition to the $116 million aid package to Mozambique, the U.S. plans to invest $10 million to help address the country’s infrastructure and development needs. Some of this money will go toward helping smallholder farmers develop sustainable farming practices while also allowing them to access a wide variety of crops to grow.

The U.S. is hard at work ensuring that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine affected receive assistance. Its donation of $116 million to aid Mozambique is just a portion of its end goal of donating $2 billion to countries affected by this war. Millions across these countries will receive aid and relief, helping alleviate some of the damage that the Russian-Ukrainian war caused. Mozambique specifically will greatly benefit from this money, and the 800,000 displaced persons will receive resources to help their situation.

 Janae O’Connell
Photo: Wikimedia

USAID Programs in KenyaDuring the closing weeks of July 2022, most of the world experienced a global heatwave that brought about soaring temperatures. Even many cities in the United States experienced temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. However, while many Americans enjoyed their indoor air conditioning, the same cannot be said for those living in poverty across the globe.

Effects of the Global Heatwave

The abnormally high temperatures that the world experienced in July were only a taste of what countries in eastern Africa have been experiencing for the last several months. This extreme heat can have detrimental effects on people living in developing countries as it significantly hampers food production and crop yield from farming. Kenya is experiencing some of the worst droughts, with many farmers losing 70% of their crops since May and more than 2 million livestock deaths.

Extreme Heat and Sickness

Extremely hot temperatures can also lead directly to sickness, especially in children. Many pathogens thrive better in hot water and food which can cause illnesses. Furthermore, reduced livestock production due to heat-related deaths means that children cannot consume high protein meals which further contributes to rising malnutrition levels.

Extreme heat experienced by children was shown to increase the rate of chronic malnutrition by 12% according to a study at Princeton University.

Other Issues Affecting The Food Supply

There are other issues affecting food supply and crop production besides extreme heat waves. The International Rescue Committee recently updated its Emergency Watchlist indicating that many countries in Eastern Africa could be facing imminent catastrophe if they do not receive international aid soon. Countries like Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are on the precipice of a devastating famine that could affect millions.

This famine comes as a result of a drastic decrease in food production in Ukraine due to the nation’s recent conflict with Russia. Nearly 90% of East Africa’s wheat consumption came from Ukraine and Russia. This coupled with the severe droughts already crippling food production within their own countries, east Africa is in a dire situation.

USAID Programs in Kenya

Although the outlook for Kenya appears bleak, many countries are taking up the mantle to support these struggling nations. The United States through its USAID agency has promised to provide Kenya with $235 million dollars to help alleviate the hunger of nearly 900,000 children living through severe malnutrition, according to its website. This money will provide emergency food, nutritional aid, support for farmers and clean water to more than 1 million people in Kenya. This program may prove to be pivotal in preventing the worst famine of the 21st century.

Preventing a Food Crisis

Although Kenya is on a path toward famine, many countries like the United States have made significant contributions toward preventing this famine in Eastern Africa. Despite extreme heatwaves and droughts, as well as reduced global food production, millions of lives can be saved thanks to the efforts of USAID programs in Kenya providing emergency monetary relief.

The International Rescue Committee has made it clear that these countries are in desperate need of more emergency relief lest they face a famine crisis. Hopefully, the precedent set by the United States will encourage more relief for the millions struggling in Kenya and Eastern Africa.

Declan Harkness
Photo: Unsplash

USAID Programs in Brazil
Having existed for more than 60 years, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has close and successful ties with the Brazilian government. The cooperation between the two institutions has taken on a variety of forms, including health, poverty and emergency relief. In particular, its focus on combating deforestation in the Amazon and its effort in fighting COVID-19 are noteworthy as lasting successes. These efforts speak to the dynamic nature of USAID programs in Brazil and the multiple roles they can embody.

Preserving the Amazon Rainforest

One of the primary roles of USAID in Brazil is working to preserve the Amazon rainforest. Although it is the largest source of biodiversity in the world, it is under threat from groups looking to extract its abundant natural resources. The organization works closely with the Brazilian government to give those living near the Amazon the tools to sustainably use its materials and prevent incidents like forest fires.

A possible concern of the project is that it harms local businesses. However, USAID works to combine environmental and economic sustainability. Critics of these conservation efforts in the Amazon include Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who has said that the environmental regulations are “biased against agriculture and economic development.” However, USAID programs in Brazil show that both goals can coexist. These programs look to “ensure the integrity and conservation of the Brazilian Amazon ecosystem over the next 20 years” while also protecting economic viability, according to USAID. USAID does this by providing grants to sustainable local businesses and promoting private sector involvement in conservation. By focusing on sustainable economic growth, USAID lifts many in Brazil’s poorest region out of poverty while ensuring that their businesses are viable in the long term.

Mitigating the Impacts of the Pandemic

In addition, USAID programs in Brazil played an important part in mitigating the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. In February 2021, USAID spent upwards of $2.1 million on relief, garnering an additional $3.5 million from the private sector. The program also distributed hundreds of thousands of masks, trained health professionals and worked to mitigate the economic impacts of the virus. Given that Brazil is the third country based on the case fatality ratio cases and has the largest death rate per 100,000 people, USAID’s relief spending targeted one of the most Coronavirus-afflicted countries in the world.

An essential part of the USAID’s COVID-19 relief plan for Brazil involves providing long-term medical assistance. Focusing primarily on the poorest region of the country, the northeast, USAID shipped more than 200 ventilators to Brazil at a time when ventilators were still highly scarce. Supplements to the ventilators included a field hospital in Bacanal, Maranhão as well as stretchers, beds and supplies. In doing so, USAID ensured that its operation would be effective in the short term, but equipped health officials in the region with the tools to combat future coronavirus surges.

Mitigating the Impact of Heavy Rainfall

USAID programs in Brazil also work to mitigate the impact of sudden crises. In February 2022, heavy rainfall affected nearly 800,000 people, displacing more than 73,000 in the state of Bahia. USAID responded by sending $100,000 in relief to the affected areas and providing temporary shelter and emergency supplies to the region. Given Bahia is one of the country’s largest and poorest states, the emergency aid prevents thousands of permanent displacements and economic upheaval.

Other forms of emergency aid include food, financial and job opportunities for Venezuelans migrating following the country’s economic collapse in 2014. This aid ensures that Venezuelans entering Brazil do not stay in poverty, while also alleviating the strain that such a massive migration places on the local economy.

In this light, the various forms of aid provided by the United States encompass a changing approach to international assistance and soft power. Through ecological, economic and emergency relief, USAID programs in Brazil have shown how to gradually adapt to the needs of a developing nation as well as immediate issues. It also shows how the successful implementation of aid is possible at both a large regional level and the smaller local level.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in Timor-Leste
In 1975, Timor-Leste declared independence from Portugal. In the same year, Indonesia launched a military invasion and annexed the fledgling state. In 1999, 78% of Timor-Leste’s population voted for independence from Indonesia, and in 2002, Timor-Leste finally gained full independence. The nation’s road to independence was anything but smooth, especially considering that anti-independence Indonesian militias conducted a scorched earth campaign in 1999, which led to the deaths of 2,600 civilians and the displacement of 30,000 locals. Despite these setbacks, Timor-Leste has grown into a strong democracy with multiple peaceful transfers of power.

While Timor-Leste has consolidated its political institutions, the Global Hunger Index describes the hunger level in Timor-Leste as “serious” in 2021, ranking the nation 108th out of 116 countries in terms of hunger severity. In addition, Timor-Leste ranks 121st out of 190 countries in nominal GDP per capita at $2,377 as of 2017. USAID programs in Timor-Leste continue to support Timor-Leste’s democratic institutions while also working to address Timor-Leste’s economic and infrastructural setbacks.

USAID’s Tourism for All

Launched in 2018, USAID’s Tourism for All initiative aims to promote Timor-Leste as an internationally competitive tourism destination. The project goal is to “diversify [Timor-Leste’s] economy by promoting eco-friendly tourism based on the country’s rich heritage” and promote sustainable investments from the private sector by locals, international institutions and NGOs.

One accomplishment of the Tourism for All initiative in promoting sustainability and independence from assistance is training local Timor-Leste citizens. USAID gave 611 participants in the private and public sector more than 11,000 hours of job training in hospitality, tourism and food safety. This training aims to foster a new generation of Timor-Leste locals to continue sustaining Timor-Leste’s tourism industry independent of external assistance.

In 2019 and 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to Timor-Leste’s tourism industry. However, the local Timor-Leste “Ha’u Nia Timor-Leste” campaign and USAID’s Tourism for All initiative helped pivot Timor-Leste’s tourism industry from focusing on foreign tourism to placing a greater emphasis on domestic tourism.

This partnership is based on the idea of national love for Timor-Leste and solidarity with the struggling tourism industry in the face of the pandemic. USAID describes one of the objectives of this campaign as “inspiring Timorese people to engage in recreational travel on a more regular basis and to consider taking up leisure activities such as scuba diving.”

USAID Customs Reform Project

To address Timor-Leste’s financial issues, the USAID Customs Reform Project, which began in 2017, seeks to make trade easier with Timor-Leste by implementing standard customs clearance and transit procedures. This initiative has provided Timor-Leste with technical assistance and reformed Timor-Leste’s customs process to better facilitate trade and increase domestic revenues. One way the USAID Customs Reform Project is making transit into Timor-Leste more efficient is through the development of the Inter-Ministerial Despacho in 2019 to standardize and integrate the operating hours between customs authority and other government agencies.

To further facilitate transit into Timor-Leste, the Customs Reform Project has been implementing anti-corruption measures. In 2019, the USAID team began to develop training material for a Code of Conduct. Furthermore, during the same year, the USAID Customs Reform Project developed an Interests, Assets and Liabilities Declaration form that any customs authority staff must complete. These employees must declare their own and their direct family’s financial interests, assets, liabilities and any potential conflicts of interest. These drafted reforms intend to stifle corruption while ensuring the more efficient transit of goods in Timor-Leste.

Looking Ahead

USAID programs in Timor-Leste promote economic investment, anti-corruption measures and the elimination of unnecessary trade barriers. While Timor-Leste has come a long way since its independence from Portugal and Indonesia, economic issues and oil dependency still plague Timor-Leste. USAID programs in Timor-Leste continue to play an important role in addressing and mitigating these issues.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in South SudanSouth Sudan is an East African nation with a population of more than 11 million people. After decades of civil war, South Sudan declared independence in 2011 and is now a war-torn nation with failing institutions, a corrupt and violent security force and a population in abject poverty. The fledgling nation quickly descended back into civil war, further hindering any efforts at reconstruction. Since South Sudan’s independence, USAID programs in South Sudan have been providing humanitarian aid to alleviate human suffering, foster sustainable economic growth and mitigate conflict.

Food Security in South Sudan

Food security is one of the largest issues plaguing South Sudan, and as of February 2022, 8.3 million South Sudanese out of a population of 11 million are severely food insecure. To address the crisis of food insecurity, USAID launched a program initially to operate between 2017 to 2020, which was then extended to August 2022, called Sustainable Agriculture for Economic Resiliency Program in South Sudan (SAFER). The SAFER project ultimately seeks to increase the productive capacities and sustainability of South Sudan’s agriculture sector.

In 2018, the SAFER program promoted sustainable crop production by conducting “community-based participatory planning” exercises to identify production constraints and propose interventions to remedy those constraints. During the same reporting period, the SAFER also provided technical assistance and training to lead farmers, village facilitators and NGOs in micro-irrigation, water management and seed production.

In addition to providing direct agricultural assistance, this program also trains local farmers in basic financial literacy, bookkeeping and marketing plans. In 2021, the SAFER program helped facilitate 25 agricultural enterprise groups to develop business plans regarding leadership structure, finances and marketing strategies.

Conflict Mitigation in South Sudan

South Sudan is a remarkably diverse nation with 64 different ethnic groups. Since 2013, South Sudan has become a nation embroiled in civil war and violence with different groups of people taking different sides for different goals. With a precedence of violence and civil war, USAID programs in South Sudan need to mitigate communal conflicts and rising tensions in order to promote stability, thereby also reducing South Sudanese poverty.

The active USAID Viable Support to Transition and Stability (VISTAS) program is a conflict mitigation program that started in 2013 “to promote peaceful coexistence,” foster “a more informed community” and facilitate a greater degree of trauma awareness to advance reconciliation between diverse communities. In 2018, the program hosted a conference in Jebel Boma County with traditional authority representatives, women leaders and youth leaders from Jie, Murle, Kachipo and Toposa to converse on key issues plaguing South Sudan regarding child abduction, gender-based violence, cattle raids and road ambushes.

Dissipating Ethnic Conflicts and Misinformation

Despite the remote locations and conflicts between the Jie, Murle, Kachipo and Toposa ethnic groups, the conference did lead to the development of resolutions and action plans to address inter-community conflicts. VISTAS has also provided technical assistance to media outlets to decrease potentially conflict-inducing miscommunication and misinformation while promoting interdependency through livestock and trade and conducting 196 trauma awareness sessions in 2018.

One of the most important facets of VISTAS is promoting a more well-informed society to prevent conflict through decreasing information asymmetry. To this end, VISTAS has assisted the development of independent media outlets, trained local journalists and set up community learning centers. USAID supplied these community centers with laptops, books and internet access to allow people with little formal education to educate themselves. While the independent media environment continues to face setbacks from the government and security forces, VISTAS has enabled the Juba Monitor and Radio Tamazuj to continue operating as the media outlets both represent large independent media networks designed to deliver information in an objective manner.

The Necessity of USAID Programs

With a poverty rate of 82%, according to the World Bank, today, more than 50% of South Sudan “still depends on emergency aid to survive” and millions are now displaced from the ongoing violence. USAID programs in South Sudan, while not enough to address the root causes of South Sudanese poverty, are necessary to alleviate abject poverty, ensure the survival of millions and develop a plan for long-term stability.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in Mexico
Despite Mexico’s social and economic developments over the past decades, the country still confronts serious issues of corruption, a high violent crime rate and unsteady public trust in its institutions. These issues impact those experiencing poverty the hardest because they are often targets of crime and frequently find public assistance to be unreliable. Addressing concerns relating to human rights, violence prevention and environmental sustainability will benefit the most vulnerable members of society. There are several USAID-sponsored programs in Mexico with these objectives in mind.

5 USAID-Sponsored Programs in Mexico

  1. Violence Prevention and Reduction Activity (USAID/PREVI). In recent years, Mexico experienced a significant increase in crime partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, USAID sponsored the PREVI activity. Its purpose is to increase the capacity of local Mexican governments to respond to and resolve crimes. USAID/PREVI partnered municipal authorities will intervene in low-level crime with a reduced focus on imprisonment and a greater focus on community policing and solutions that build public trust in institutions. The activity also calls for the establishment of public hearings, increased communication within the criminal justice system and solutions that address the imprisonment of at-risk youth. USAID provided $19.4 million to the program and will continue support until 2024.
  2. Mexico Border Investigative Reporting Hub (International Center for Journalists). This program, which the International Center for Journalists runs, seeks to reduce corruption in Mexico’s northern border states by improving journalists’ investigative skillset. The idea is that improved reporting on issues of corruption will increase civilian oversight and government accountability of public resources. USAID contributed $6 million to the program and expects to continue support until 2023.
  3. Human Rights Accountability Activity (Chemonics). This is another USAID-sponsored activity that addresses crime in Mexico, though with an increased focus on human rights abuses. Its goal is to support the Government of Mexico’s plans to combat torture and disappearance-related crimes, increase cooperation among agencies and help build the institutional capacity to address those human rights concerns. As part of this effort, the project also lends the Mexican government technical assistance in reducing backed-up forensic cases in five key states. USAID committed $24 million to the activity and will continue support until 2025.
  4. Alliances for Analysis and Communication (Mexico Evalua). This activity aims to increase the transparency of the judicial system in Mexico. Historically, institutions of Mexican justice have not been very open to people from outside of those bodies. To remedy this, Alliances for Analysis and Communication seeks to increase the accessibility of justice sector data among members of Mexican civil society. Members of the general public, the private sector and academia could then play a larger role in oversight. USAID contributed more than $2.3 million to this activity and plans to continue support until 2024.
  5. Sustainable Landscapes Ventures (Conservation International Foundation). There are a number of USAID programs in Mexico that focus on sustainable business, though this one works to make landscape practices more profitable for small farmers. The program will link small producers with buyers and investors to produce partnerships that generate profit through practices that fight deforestation and forest degradation. USAID contributed $10 million with continued support until 2025.

These USAID-sponsored programs in Mexico help build connections between influential state institutions and civil society. The expectation is that this will benefit all members of Mexican society, especially those living in poverty.

– Gonzalo Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr