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.

An estimated 12 million Brazilians lack access to electricity, many of whom live in remote areas of the Amazon rainforest. In recent years, a government program has linked an impressive 1.5 million Brazilians to electricity through grid extension. But as it reaches more remote areas, grid extension becomes more expensive and serves fewer people.

One Friday in July, the residents of Padilla, a remote town in southern rural Bolivia, began their day with a little more spice than usual. It was the first day of their fourth annual International Red Chili Pepper Festival. The event attracted local producers and their families, owners of trade firms, and entrepreneurs from neighboring Argentina and Peru, who gathered together to make contacts and explore business opportunities. As a result, farmers sealed new deals to sell one hundred tons of Bolivian red chili peppers, with a total value of more than $100,000.

Wilma Rocha is a well-respected member of the Nueva Esperanza (New Hope) Mothers’ Club, a community-based organization in the city of El Alto, one of Bolivia’s most conflict-ridden and poorest cities.

Julio Jankoña, a rural Bolivian farmer living in the heart of a major coca-growing region, has a good reason to smile: the government has given him a title that grants him legal ownership of the land that Julio and his family have been working since he was a child.

Daniel Torrico, a construction worker, is proud after having won his first contract to develop basic infrastructure for his local community. Eight other small entrepreneurs like him will receive similar purchase orders from the local government to provide water tanks, irrigation systems, and other small construction projects. This will enhance the overall infrastructure of San Benito, a poor rural municipality located in the highlands of Cochabamba, in the center of Bolivia.

As one of six children, 24-year-old Richard Agramont from the rural town of Machacamarca never dreamed he would be able to attend university. But thanks to a USAID scholarship program, he is now a fourth-year student at Bolivia’s University of Carmen Pampa. For students in the La Paz region who face many barriers to higher education, these scholarships offer them a whole new world.

Located atop the Bolivian Andes, the region of Oruro traditionally has been dependent on its tin mines for its economic well-being. Efforts to break that dependency through agriculture had left Oruro’s farmers among the poorest in Bolivia until recently.

Roman Mamani was a miner in the town of Machacamaraca who was tired of spending long stretches away from his wife and six children just to make ends meet. Now, along with his two sons, he grows organic sweet onions on a parcel of once-barren land five minutes from his home, and his family’s income has doubled.

Bermudes Ramos now has two busy stalls in the open air Los Pocitos market outside of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, but he faced a crisis that could have destroyed all of his hopes for a better future.

“After the market burned to ashes in 2006, we didn’t even have food to eat,” said Bermudes. Fortunately for Bermudes and many of his fellow market vendors, the microfinance provider FIE had been lending to them for several years and understood their situation.

Bolivia’s public primary and secondary schools suffer from chronic underfunding, and a majority of pupils come from low-income families. For the poorest children, the food they receive while in school may be the only meal they receive that day and is important for academic performance as well as a source of nutrition in their diets. In 2001, USAID began introducing bananas into Bolivia’s school feeding program to provide affordable, high-quality and nutritious food to the school system.

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Last updated: January 12, 2015