Transforming Lives

Every day, all over the world, USAID brings peace to those who endure violence, health to those who struggle with sickness, and prosperity to those who live in poverty. It is these individuals — these uncounted thousands of lives — that are the true measure of USAID’s successes and the true face of USAID's programs.

María Leisa Rodríguez used sustainable agricultural practices for the first time after participating in a USAID-sponsored training program for subsistence farmers in the Panama Canal Watershed. She was one of thirteen women who attended the training, out of a total 30 participants.

A group of Junior High School students from the Brader School of Panama visited a USAID-funded installation run by the Peregrine Fund on Panama’s National Bird — the Harpy Eagle. The exhibit, which examined the bird’s risk of extinction as well as USAID-sponsored conservation efforts, inspired the students to create a group to educate their peers on the need to protect the eagle: Mission Harpy Eagle.

Ana Matilde Gómez was astonished. Having served as Attorney General of Panama for only a few months, she was surprised to meet with a top-level foreign prosecutor, who came to plead for her bureau’s support in investigating more than $50 million transferred, presumably illegally, to Panama by a high profile politician from his country. For Gómez, her bureau’s support was a given, but the visit exposed a larger problem — a lack of regular communications channels at this level between government bodies in Central American countries.

Following an extensive legislative review, the Panamanian government approved a new criminal code designed to modernize the administration of penal justice in Panama and bring it in line with the principles of the rule of law. USAID coordinated a cross sectoral effort aimed at endorsing the adoption of international standards to criminalize corruption as called for by international conventions. This resulted in insertions and/or adjustments to 26 articles of the code’s chapter on crimes against public administration.

Panama is facing a major challenge in the Panama Canal Watershed. Next to the backdrop of gigantic, modern cargo ships transiting the Canal, lies an area of extreme poverty, where much of the population scrapes a meager living off small farms. Like many people in the Canal Watershed, Yadira Martinez and her family live in a shack with earthen floors and a thatched roof. They are often unable to meet basic needs, such as adequate nutrition. USAID's sustainable agriculture programs are reaching out to people like Yadira to teach them more effective agricultural techniques.

Located in San Lorenzo National Park in the Panama Canal watershed, El Achiote is a world-renown site for bird watching. According to Audubon Society records, it holds the most bird sightings for a given period. In addition to birds, it boasts a diversity of flora and fauna.

The community of El Achiote has been working to ensure that it preserves its status as a premier birdwatching site for generations to come: they have built a sustainable tourism infrastructure that is not only protecting the natural resources they depend on, but also improving their quality of life.

By her own account, nineteen year-old Margarita Flores is no longer the shy young woman she was before participating in a USAID training program on sustainable agriculture for soil and water conservation. Margarita’s brother, Rodrigo, encouraged her to attend the training workshop on improving farming techniques. The training provided farmers with the tools and know-how to improve yield and diversify crops on small farms, while reducing soil erosion in the sensitive Panama Canal Watershed area. Now, in spite of her youth, she feels empowered as an agent of change.

Lexania Marín is a self-described coffee addict, who has been drinking coffee all her life. Now she gets to do it for a living. Through a USAID-supported program to boost Nicaragua’s coffee industry, the university student from a small coffee farm in Dipilto Viejo, Nicaragua, has become a cupper — a specialist in evaluating the taste and aroma of coffee.

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Last updated: January 03, 2014