23 posts categorized "Development"
ACDI/VOCA's Kenya Maize Development Program nearly tripled maize yields for small-scale farmers in Kenya, about a third of whom are women. New technologies like improved seeds helped farmers realize these gains. Photo by ACDI/VOCA.
Ambassador Mark Dybul, former U.S. global AIDS coordinator, writes that a battle is brewing in Congress over whether or not to uphold an existing bipartisan consensus on health and development. At issue is U.S. support for self-sufficiency programs in developing countries, setting the goal for those countries to take primary responsibility for their citizens’ health and well-being.
Fortunately, the brewing battle is not between Republications and Democrats.
“The reason for the strong bipartisan agreement is rather simple: it’s the right thing to do for the American taxpayer to save and lift up more lives with the highest return on investment—and that, in turn, is good for our national economy and security,” writes Ambassador Dybul in a recent op-ed in The Hill.
Those who favor this consensus argue that local organizations are closer to the ground and, thus, can accomplish more with less money. The days of paternalistic development are over, say supporters; developing countries no longer welcome support run by foreign governments or development institutions.
Those who are against increased support to self-sufficiency programs often cite corruption as an issue. They also argue that local organizations cannot manage large, complex development projects.
“A change in mindset is needed," writes Ambassador Dybul, a leader of the Consensus on Development Reform (a project of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network). “U.S.-based organizations should begin to shift from being primary implementers of programs to agents of technical support and exchange.”
The result of this battle will affect two major programs, in particular, for which Bread for the World activists advocated—and which they continue to support: the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Both were started by Republicans and continue to be supported by Democrats. Such programs are keys to our efforts to modernize U.S. foreign aid.
Across the United States, people like Pedro Ochoa are raising funds for community projects in poor Mexican towns they left behind when they migrated (watch video below). Ochoa, vice president of the Jamay Jalisco Club in Los Angeles, is part of a vast network of U.S.-based Hometown Associations that send money — remittances — to Mexico and Central America. Ochoa's latest project is getting a school bus to Jamay, Mexico, his hometown, so children there don’t have to walk far to school.
“Our plan is to do what they do here in the States: pick up the kids from wherever they are,” said Ochoa. “I don’t have much family in Jamay but I have my heart to help people in it.”
But while remittances can improve community infrastructure, they rarely result in jobs or investments that give people alternatives to migrating from their countries for work. There’s a growing recognition in the diaspora that there need to be more projects resulting in sustainable income in hometowns. Agencies like the Inter-American Foundation are already working with diaspora investors to support small businesses and agricultural enterprises in high-migration countries like El Salvador. Larger agencies like the Millennium Challenge Corporation and USAID can expand these programs to places like Jamay in Mexico and throughout Central America.
Laura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. Follow her on Twitter @lauraepohl.
In October 2011, Bread for the World hosted a delegation of religious leaders during a visit to three African countries -- Zambia, Malawi, and Tanzania -- that are known as SUN countries for their commitment to "scaling up nutrition." The group was able to witness, first-hand, small but mighty successes on the ground. Rev. Derrick Boykin, Bread's associate for African American leadership outreach, was among the group. In this video reflection on his journey, he asks African-Americans to join him in speaking up for Africa.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Donald M. Payne International Food Assistance Improvement Act of 2012. This bipartisan-supported legislation is one of the first bills to highlight the importance of nutrition during the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child's second birthday.
If passed into law, this bill will significantly benefit women and children in developing countries, especially those in Africa. That this legislation was even introduced demonstrates the growing understanding among congressional leaders that good nutrition is critical to improving the lives of poor people around the world.
African countries are also taking nutrition and development into their own hands. An exciting example of this is the growing number of African leaders who recognize the devastating impact of malnutrition during the 1,000-day window. Twenty African countries have committed to turning the tide on malnutrition by joining the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement — a committed effort to reducing malnutrition in the developing world.
At this year’s G8 Summit, which was chaired by President Obama, the G8 nations committed themselves to maintain this focus on food security and nutrition. But they put new emphasis on the private sector.
International investment in Africa is already increasing rapidly. Ten percent of all the foreign direct investment in the world last year was in Africa. A score of international companies have worked with political leaders in Africa to develop “Grow Africa,” a framework for international investment in African agriculture. These companies have committed themselves to invest in African agriculture in ways that increase production, reduce poverty, and also reduce greenhouse gases.
Then last month, the G8 announced a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. Simultaneously, 45 international companies announced $3 billion in planned investment in Africa. Three African governments – Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Ghana – committed themselves to new private-sector oriented reforms, and the G8 government said that they will focus some of their increased funding for agricultural development in these and other countries that become part of this New Alliance.
In effect, African governments and G8 governments are jointly committing themselves to facilitate a major expansion of private investment in African agriculture.
There’s a lot we don’t yet know about the New Alliance. It will be led by a high-level committee of government and private-sector leaders.
But African leaders, certainly Africa’s ambassadors to the United States, have repeatedly said that what they most want from the U.S. government is help in attracting trade and investment, and this initiative is a major new step in this direction. The planned expansion of investment will presumably also increase trade.
Civil-society groups have important roles to play as this New Alliance takes shape. Some NGOs can help international companies connect with African farmers in ways that really do contribute to development. NGOs will also need to monitor the expansion of international investment in Africa. It can do a lot of good, but it’s also likely to do some harm.
The expansion of international investment in African agriculture is a bit like a gold rush. World demand for agriculture is expanding rapidly, and sixty percent of all the undeveloped arable land in the world is in Africa. Africans can benefit from the expansion of private-sector investment in African agriculture, but civil-society groups will need to monitor what’s going on and be active in advocacy. While I believe this effort to facilitate international private-sector investment in agriculture is an opportunity, it is also a risk, and that is why monitoring and advocacy by civil-society groups will be important.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World. This blog post is taken from remarks that Beckmann made at the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Civil Society Forum about the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
Kaleda Begum holds her friend's child Adia Akter (left), 17 months, and her own daughter, Akkee (right), 18 months, in Char Baria village, Barisal, Bangladesh, on Thursday, April 19, 2012. These children are healthy and overall the rate of stunting fell among Bangladeshi children from 51 percent to 43 percent between 2004 and 2007, according to USAID. However, more than 10 million children under age 5 suffer from malnutrition in Bangladesh. It's an issue being addressed by the Bangladeshi government and donor partners incuding the United States. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World
Mukul Begum, a shasthya shebika (community health worker) for BRAC, stands in front of her home in Barisal, Bangladesh. Begum delivers basic health care, counseling, and treatment to people in her community.
Text by Molly Marsh / Photos by Laura Elizabeth Pohl
BARISAL, BANGLADESH---Mukul Begum reaches into a plastic jar for tuberculosis medicine and brings it to 70-year-old Amjed Ali Sikder, who sits on a bench outside her front door. She pours a glass of water from a clear pitcher, watching closely as he puts the pill in his mouth and swallows it. Satisfied, she gives him the water.
Begum, 37, is a shasthya shebika, one of about 80,000 health workers trained by BRAC, an international nongovernmental organization, to deliver basic health care, counseling, and treatment to people in their communities. BRAC’s social, health, and economic empowerment programs operate in each of Bangladesh’s 64 districts, reaching about 110 million people.
Shasthya shebikas such as Begum are the engines of BRAC’s work—in 2010, they treated 1,650,673 people, the vast majority in rural areas where medical information and care is limited.
For five years, Begum—a formidable but jolly woman—has made door-to-door visits to counsel people in Barisal, a district of Bangladesh, about safe sanitation, basic hygiene, and nutrition. She currently looks after 263 households; 2 percent of these receive what BRAC calls “Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course.” In other words, if Sikder hadn’t come to her house to take his medicine, she would have gone to his to make sure he took it.
People in the community also visit Begum’s house, a low concrete building that sits under a thick canopy of coconut trees, for help with a variety of ailments. Begum listens and then reaches for a shasthya shebika’s constant companion—a small blue plastic bowl that holds medicine for fever, dysentery, diarrhea, gastric ulcers, skin diseases, and allergic reactions. It also contains home pregnancy tests and pills for calcium, vitamin B, and birth control.
Begum purchases the medicine from her local BRAC office, which she can then sell to her patients at a slight profit. She also receives money when pregnant mothers deliver their babies in a hospital or when patients complete treatment—for example, she’ll receive 500 taka (about $6.50) when Sikdar finishes his 6-month treatment for tuberculosis.
Before they embark on their caregiving, shasthya shebikas receive 15 days of training at a BRAC learning center on health basics and communicable diseases. They also gather for refresher classes once a month, in which they and shasthya kormis (health supervisors) review training themes and discuss issues that have arisen in their communities. Shasthya shebikas also meet once a month with a BRAC manager to report their activities.
It’s a role Begum seems to enjoy. “In the community, people believe I’m a doctor,” she said through a translator. She stands in her front doorway; behind her a clothesline stretches down the hallway, filled with colorful clothes. To the left of her house sits a small shack with items for sale, including toilet paper, candy, bread, and snacks.
BRAC’s main health program, called Essential Health Care, targets poor people—especially women and children—with medical care using seven different components. They include programs that focus on malaria, tuberculosis, and vision problems, and on the needs of pregnant mothers, infants, and children.
Shasthya shebikas are critical to each of these efforts, in many cases receiving additional training to be able to diagnose and treat malaria, for example, or identify vision problems. Begum and others are the front line of care in their communities—not just in dispensing medicine but also referring people to clinics when ailments are beyond their expertise.
Molly Marsh is managing editor and Laura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow Laura on Twitter at @lauraepohl.
Tohomina Akter washes pots and dishes in a pond near her home on the morning of Thursday, April 19, 2012, in Char Baria village, Barisal, in southern Bangladesh. Tohomina participates in a maternal and infant nutrition program called Nobo Jibon administered by Helen Keller International. The program stresses proper nutrition in young children.
Photographs by Laura Elizabeth Pohl / Text by Molly Marsh
BARISAL, BANGLADESH---The afternoon hours are Tohomino Akter’s favorite time of day. That’s when she can take a break from her household tasks, rest, and play with her 17-month-old daughter, Adia. Like any toddler, Adia much prefers movement.
Adia runs through the four rooms of their home, her pink sundress and plastic pink shoes contrasting against the gray tin walls. First is her parent’s bedroom, then the room where her father’s parents and brothers sleep. Then a small room that contains clothes and dishes, and finally the kitchen, a skinny corridor that opens to the outside on one end, where her mother prepares their food over a fire.
Adia stops suddenly at the front steps, looking out at the familiar faces of Char Baria, a village in the Barisal district of Bangladesh. In front of her lies Tohomino’s garden, a 25-foot square of spinach, amaranth, chili, and pepper plants, an important source of nutrients for Adia and her family. Spinach and red amarinthe are Adia’s favorites.
Tohomino planted the garden after receiving training in “Nobo Jibon,” a program administered by Helen Keller International, a nongovernmental organization that works in several Bangladesh districts. The vegetables she harvests have increased the nutrients available to her family, especially her daughter. What’s more, the extra money the family earns selling the surplus vegetables goes toward buying additional food for Adia.
In the program, Tohomino learned why a diverse, healthy diet is important, and also about the importance of breast-feeding her daughter. Tohomino attended classes for almost two months, hearing from health workers the benefits of giving Adia only breast milk during her first six months of life.
Tohomino has stuck to that schedule, introducing supplementary foods only after the initial six-month period, and she’ll continue to breast-feed Adia until she is 2.
“I did not do many things [before taking the class],” Tohomino said through a translator. “But after learning, I am keeping things clean and hygienic to prevent diseases, and cooking nutritious foods to keep me and my family healthy.”
Tohomina Akter feeds her 17-month-old daughter Adia. The nutrition programTohomina participates in stresses exclusive breast-feeding until six months and breast-feeding plus supplementary feeding from six months until 24 months.
Molly Marsh is managing editor and Laura Elizabeth Pohl is multimedia manager at Bread for the World. You can follow Laura on Twitter at @lauraepohl.
Photo by Flickr user likeablerodent
Feed the Future has the potential to be a major step forward in U.S. foreign assistance, but it is not the first effort to adopt a country-led development approach. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency, uses a country-led approach in its work with developing countries. The MCC is widely regarded as one of the more innovative examples of U.S. foreign assistance, and it provides a compelling model for establishing a country-led development approach for Feed the Future.
MCC’s approach to country-led development puts participating governments in the lead on both program development and program implementation. To secure U.S. funding, or in MCC parlance to sign an aid “compact,” developing country governments are invited to propose projects that reflect their own development priorities. Partner governments are required to consult with key stakeholders in their country, including civil society groups, the private sector, and communities slated to benefit directly from the assistance. MCC is a partner in the process of developing the compact; its role includes ensuring that proposed investments have good potential to spur growth and reduce poverty, and that the government consults with stakeholders who will benefit from the compact and who can help make the program successful. Just developing and signing the compact can take one to two years.
Before governments submit a project proposal, they must conduct rigorous analysis to identify their country’s key barriers to economic growth and poverty reduction. Based on the analysis, they propose programs to help overcome these barriers, and MCC helps them select and design investments that show greatest promise for increasing incomes among beneficiaries. It’s rare for MCC not to help countries sharpen their proposals. MCC’s objective is not economic growth by any means that works—nor is it to support just any project that will help poor people. The agency will only fund investments that do double duty: stimulating growth and lifting people out of poverty.
An example of how MCC tries to make projects both country-led and successful comes from the Philippines. Water shortages in one district led the government to propose using MCC funding to build a system of reservoirs. Farmers in the district blamed their low productivity on a lack of year-round access to water. When MCC technical specialists analyzed the situation, they determined that the water shortages were caused by inadequate delivery mechanisms rather than storage capacity (which would have required the reservoirs). Thus, MCC did not change the problem identified by the community as a priority, but the solution was adapted based on MCC’s analysis of its causes. MCC’s strengths include its access to such technical expertise. Is this inconsistent with a country-led approach? MCC doesn’t see it that way. Rather, the process works as a partnership, with both parties working to identify the investments with the greatest potential for poverty reduction.
Got any questions about poverty-focused foreign assistance? You're not alone. To help answer your most frequently asked questions, we've put together a nice little questions and answers sheet. Here's an excerpt, but visit our Offering of Letters website for the full document.
I keep hearing that poverty-focused foreign assistance programs address the root causes of poverty. What does that mean?
Addressing the root causes of poverty involves more than simply building a road so farmers can transport their goods to market. It involves teaching a community how to build and maintain that road so it can provide transportation for the harvest of future generations. Building sustainable development takes time, but by investing in programs that serve and partner with communities, we begin to win the battle against hunger and poverty.
Times are tough in the United States. Is now the time to keep investing in poverty-focused foreign assistance?
U.S. investments in developing countries are an important component of our national security and foreign policy. U.S. poverty-focused foreign assistance supports political stability in developing countries and fights the hopelessness that can lead to instability and conflict.
Research shows that economically stable countries are less likely to pose a threat to their neighbors or to the United States. For example, for every 5 percent drop in income growth in a developing country, the likelihood of violent conflict or war within the next year increases by 10 percent.2 In addition, investments in poverty-focused foreign assistance save us from costly interventions later on.
What’s the difference between international food aid and poverty-focused foreign assistance?
Poverty-focused foreign assistance includes a variety of programs that address hunger and poverty, including international food aid programs. International food aid is often an emergency or humanitarian response, while poverty-focused foreign assistance programs seek to address the long-term causes of hunger and poverty.
Photo by Flickr user alexanderdrachmann
Last month, news reports indicated that the food crisis in West Africa’s Sahel region was worsening — at about the same time the United Nations declared the famine over in the Horn of Africa.
The countries in the Sahel, which is just below the Sahara and extends from the Atlantic Coast to the Red Sea, are among the world’s poorest. According to the U.N., nearly 23 million people in Niger, Chad, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Senegal, Nigeria and Cameroon — including 1 million children — could face food shortages this spring. This isn’t a new phenomenon. For years the region has been challenged by droughts, poor harvests, climate change and the impact of overpopulation.
While we can’t control Mother Nature, we can help the people of this region and others who rely on U.S. food assistance by urging Congress to protect food aid funding and to pass a farm bill that improves the nutritional quality of food aid and reduces costs and inefficiencies. Members of Congress will debate and authorize a new farm bill this year.
Congress should consider a bolder approach to how U.S. food and farm policies can meet our global and domestic challenges. Bread for the World Institute’s 2012 Hunger Report recommends that food aid programs should follow the lead of Feed the Future — a new U.S. Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative — by focusing more on improving nutrition for the most vulnerable people, especially pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of 2. This will help achieve the strongest possible nutrition and development outcomes with the limited resources available.
The most critical period in human development is the 1,000 days starting at pregnancy and lasting through a child’s second year. Healthy development, particularly in the brain, depends on getting the right foods during this critical time. Even short bouts of hunger can be catastrophic, because the resulting physical and cognitive damage is lifelong and irreversible. Early hunger and malnutrition is associated with problems later in life, such as chronic illness and poor school attendance and learning.
According to UNICEF (the U.N. children’s fund) more than 1 million children in the Sahel region could experience “severe and life-threatening malnutrition” this year, and more than 300,000 children under the age of 5 in Niger are at risk of severe and acute malnutrition.
The United States should strengthen its leading role as the world’s largest provider of food aid, and also move quickly to improve its nutritional quality. Current regulations should also be restructured and improved to include cash, vouchers and local procurement of food.
New mothers, young children and other vulnerable people — such as those living with HIV/AIDS — can benefit from highly nutritious forms of food aid now available. These cost more than the foods normally included in U.S. food aid, but it is possible to reduce costs by purchasing in or near the countries where the food is needed. By buying food from smallholder farmers in and around the region, we would help reduce poverty, build self-reliant communities and get aid to where it is most needed — more quickly and cheaply.
The longer-term solution to these recurrent food crises is to improve the productivity of farmers in the region, improve the process of getting food from farm to table, and improve access to markets through programs such as Feed the Future.
In crisis situations, food aid is critical. The farm bill gives the United States an opportunity to improve this essential tool and to more effectively help the poorest people in the poorest places, such as West Africa’s Sahel region. Food aid is a crucial tool in combating global malnutrition, and Congress should act before the next famine is declared.
David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.
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