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.

In September 2013, the marginalized northern population of Sri Lanka will experience a historic event—the opportunity to vote in the first Northern Provincial Council Elections. But a significant hurdle exists. An estimated 85,000 registered voters lack a National Identity Card (NIC), which must be presented at the polling station on Election Day. 

Many lost their NICs while displaced during the country's 30-year civil war. Others never had one because they were living under a rebel administration.

Ethiopian designer Fikirte Addis feels like she is "ready to fly.” A one-time child psychologist with a passion for design, Addis took a risk in 2009 by launching her own fashion brand—Yefikir Design. Since then, she has won a design competition in Mauritius, received standing ovations at African Fashion Week in New York, and joined the ethical fashion scene—a movement akin to fair trade—in Paris. 

Najiba’s family did not fully appreciate its benefits when they reluctantly allowed her to participate in livestock extension training. The 19-year-old helped her father raise karakul, the sheep whose wool is used to make hats and coats. But Afghan karakul did not usually command high prices internationally. And Najiba and her father struggled to support their family of nine.

A unique exercise is underway at Alberoni University in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province. A small demonstration plot has been prepared and 170 agriculture students are being trained in modern farming techniques. It is part of USAID’s Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East and West (IDEA-NEW) program to update the students’ knowledge and skills and compensate for the lack of practical training at most Afghan universities.

Koko Shirin is looking to literally grow her business. She cultivates off-season vegetables in the greenhouse in her backyard. Each harvest brings in good money, a key consideration for a woman who is her family’s sole provider.

Farming just got easier and more rewarding for Hazrat Gul. He and other farmers in Behsud district in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, have been linked up with certified agricultural depots, from where they can buy reasonably priced, high-quality seeds.

Two USAID projects - Financial Access for Investing in the Development of Afghanistan and Agriculture Credit Enhancement-Agriculture Development Fund - supported Qarizada owner Said Aref’s search for financing. A 2012 loan enabled Mr Aref to buy machinery and contract with 800 farmers in Baghlan and Balkh for a steady supply of tomatoes.

After two of her children were killed in a Taliban attack in Kabul, a distraught Rihilla tried to commit suicide. She tried to hang herself; took a drug overdose; slit her wrists. Her vigilant family thwarted each suicide attempt but Rihilla’s distress remained acute. “I kept wondering how much pain my sons felt (when they died),” she says, “once, I put my hand in the oven and another time in the fire, to feel how they suffered.”

Bashar fled his village in the east of volatile Helmand province after two of his sons were killed in the fighting. Like thousands of other people, the 70-year-old farmer and his family headed to the provincial capital Lashkargah. There, they received help from the World Food Progam (WFP), USAID and other agencies. But Bashar worries about feeding his wife and 13 children. “I have a large family. This food will last us only a short time. We have nothing,” he says.

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Last updated: January 16, 2015