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.
USAID launched a small loans project to encourage Ecuadorian banks and financiers to grant credit to these small entrepreneurs. Making small loans available to individuals with business sense and vision, but without a credit history, has proven to be an effective tool in the fight against poverty.
In the Northern Ecuadorian provinces of Imbabura and Carchi, many rural families make a living from dairy farming. For years, these small farmers, each of whom has no more than 20 cows, could not directly access markets to sell milk at fair prices. Instead, they sold through intermediaries who set the prices, kept a portion of the profi ts, and often failed to pay on time. The hard work of the small producers was not reflected in their incomes, and they could not improve their living conditions.
Colombia continues to be one of the world’s largest producers of coca, a plant used to produce cocaine. USAID, in collaboration with Land O’ Lakes, is helping to root out illicit crop production by helping farmers swap coca plants for dairy cows.
The program helps farmers switch to dairy production through a number of initiatives that include improving pastures, strengthening milk producer associations, and helping those associations build milk collection centers.
The mountain municipality of Cajibío, in Colombia’s Cauca region, covers roughly the same area as Los Angeles, California. Most of Cajibío’s 34,000 residents live in rural areas, such as the village of Ortega, long known for violence and insecurity associated with narcotraffickers, paramilitaries, and guerillas. For years, frightened villagers watched as warring groups destroyed their homes and crops. Retaliation and revenge became commonplace. After so many years of fear, Norys Pechinché, a 58-year-old widow and natural leader, decided it was time for a change.
In many parts of rural Colombia small farmers often struggle to make a living from traditional crops. As a result, many turn to illegal coca production. The presence of illicit crops brings violence and illegal armed groups into rural communities. Jairo Palacios was one of these farmers, until he found out there was an alternative.
The number of people displaced by decades of violence in Colombia is estimated at over three million — this is one of the world’s largest populations of people displaced within their own country. Since 2000, USAID has funded a number of economic and social assistance programs for displaced people. Through one of these programs, they are building skills and careers in a blossoming industry in Colombia: flower cultivation.
A group of Afro-Colombian women have made a little imagination go a long way. By turning an everyday object into a thing of beauty, they found a market that no one knew existed. With support from USAID, these women are transforming a simple vegetable — the gourd — into two product lines: food packages (for sweets) and decorative objects for the home.
In Colombia’s Caquetá region, more than 73,000 people have been driven from their homes by criminals and guerillas, usually at gun-point and with threats of violence. Blanca and Alberto were among those people. When forced to flee from their home with their children, they were violently uprooted from their community, family, and business.
“Illegal armed groups came to our house and gave us 24 hours to leave. They threatened to kill us if we went to the police, or if we didn’t leave,” Alberto said.
Last updated: November 22, 2013