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.

Few topics may seem as uninteresting to Caribbean teenagers as market economics, yet few are likely to be as critical to their future. This is why USAID helped sponsor a month-long educational campaign in Guyana in February 2006 that aimed to educate young Guyanese about an important step the Caribbean community had taken: the launching of a single market.

In the 1980’s, the United States passed laws requiring all fresh-caught shrimp sold there to be caught on boats equipped with "turtle excluder devices" known as TEDs. The device helps prevent turtles from being trapped in shrimp nets. A metal grid with openings is attached to the trawling net. Larger animals, such as sea turtles, can easily escape, while the shrimp remain caught.

John is a special program officer and president of the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association’s (GRPA) Youth Advocacy Movement. GRPA is a non-governmental organization funded by USAID. Before taking on this leadership role, John had little experience educating the community about HIV/AIDS.

The poultry market in the Caribbean Community's 15 member countries is valued at an estimated $350 million. The size of this market signals exciting prospects for the growth of Guyana's poultry sector. But, Guyana's poultry farmers cannot begin exporting poultry until they meet strict sanitary and health standards and regulations imposed by other member states.

Over the past twenty years, inefficient systems in the justice sector and underpaid, inexperienced staff have led to a massive backlog of cases before the courts in Guyana. This has significantly increased the length of time between indictment and the actual trial. In many cases, individuals may serve more time in prison waiting to go to trial than the eventual sentence time – not to mention the injustice to those who are acquitted. Currently, there are approximately 15,000 civil and criminal cases before the courts, some pending for more than seven years. In Guyana ‘justice delayed is truly justice denied’ and has spawned widespread dissatisfaction and frustration among citizens.

In the remote Rupununi region of Guyana, peanut farming dominates the local economy. Farmers depend upon the crop as their main source of income, and newer agricultural techniques have boosted production from 1,100 pounds per acre to over 2,500 in four years. With rising production, Guyanese farmers can now supply not just local markets, but also export markets in the Caribbean. However, peanut exports have been constrained by food safety concerns. In particular, the local crop needs to be tested for aflatoxins, a group of carcinogenic toxins that occur in the soil. Guyanese farmers cannot sell peanuts unless they are certified as free of all aflatoxins. Current food safety testing and certification mechanisms cannot keep up with the increased demand for testing, leaving peanut harvests ineligible for export.

“Don” Felician Castellanos, a subsistence farmer in Guatemala, believes it is a miracle that he survived the massacres and disappearances caused by the violent civil war that hit his region. Although he never went to school, don Feliciano knew he wanted to read and write. He taught himself to read at the age of twenty-three using an adult literacy primer.

Some assume that rural indigenous populations are not ready for information technology, that they are not interested in it, and that, in any case, there is not enough basic infrastructure to extend technology from urban to rural areas.

Enlace Quiché, a technology program supported by USAID in the heart of the Quiché region in the Guatemalan highlands, has proven them wrong on every count.

In 2001, drought and the fall of world coffee prices exacerbated the already extreme poverty that afflicted rural Guatemalan families. A hunger crisis struck, forcing the Chortí Mayan women in Jocotán at times to have to decide between food and medicine. Should she pay $3 to transport their sick children to the clinic - or use that money for food? The $5 a month women earned from the sale of palm frond mats in the local market could not even cover their basic needs, much less medicine to help their sick or starving children.

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Last updated: January 12, 2015