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.

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.

Piracy of intellectual property occurs with great frequency in Bolivia, including the illegal copying of musical compact discs, video and DVD movies, and computer software.  Bolivia’s continued privileges under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Enforcement Act are contingent upon its accession to the Intellectual Property Rights Treaty and its enforcement of corresponding law.
Chagas disease is transmitted by triatomine bugs that live in poorly constructed huts and bite unsuspecting inhabitants as they sleep. Chagas’ chronic symptoms develop ten to twenty years after infection, with an enlarged heart or heart failure as the most common complications.

In the mountain valleys on the Bolivian Andes’ eastern slope, most of Bolivia’s horticultural crops are grown though agricultural conditions which are largely unfavorable. In the Chuquisaca state high valleys, farmers make up the poorest people of Bolivia, with an average annual income of only $350. Families struggle to live on remote, arid land where roads are few and in poor condition, soil is poor, and the temperature fluctuations are extreme. People live in adobe houses and mostly cultivate low value potatoes and forage corn.

The Yungas - a mountainous, tropical region northwest of the capital La Paz - is where for centuries indigenous peoples have grown coca leaf for chewing and for religious purposes. In recognition of this tradition, Bolivian law permits up to 12,000 hectares of coca only in this region. In recent times, however, additional coca has been planted that often ends up in the cocaine production circuit. Given the political and cultural sensitivities surrounding coca cultivation in the Yungas, the Bolivian Government does not rely on forced eradication to reduce the excess coca. Instead, Yungas farmers are offered community improvements, development projects and technical assistance in cultivating other crops in exchange for uprooting excess coca or for not planting it in the first place.

The City of El Alto in Bolivia has become a focal point for social and political unrest. Much of the discontent arises from poor living conditions, low incomes, and inadequate social services. For example, recent surveys indicated that only 68% of children under one year of age in El Alto had received the third required dose of a vaccine to protect them against pertussis, tetanus, polio, hepatitis B, and Hemophilus influenza B meningitis.


Last updated: January 12, 2015