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.

Mayor Aniceto P. Lopez Jr. of Maasim, a town in Sarangani province in Mindanao, had a dream: he wanted his people to become economically productive and lead peaceful lives. He knew that the area’s abundant natural resources could play a major role in helping him achieve this dream. However, the lush forests that once covered the area had all but disappeared, and fields that could have been used for farming had instead served as a battleground between government soldiers and rebels.

In Mindanao, the second-larges island of the Philippines, the minority Muslim population has historically suffered from poverty. The 1960s witnessed the emergence of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a militant group which fought for greater autonomy for the Muslim minority. In 1996, the MNLF and the Government of the Philippines signed a peace agreement. USAID, along with the Philippine Government and the MNLF, has been working to try to encourage faster economic development in the region to consolidate the peace.

Years ago, the Muntinlupa Market was a muddy and messy public market with acrid odors created by 1,235 stalls selling everything from meat and fish to vegetables. The market’s eateries, toilets, and the stall sections generated wastewater that polluted a tributary creek of Laguna Lake, one of the most vital inland bodies of water in the Philippines and a source of drinking water and freshwater fish for Metro Manila.

For many years, Nasirin “Kah Nas” Taraji and other fishers in the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi occupied one of the area’s best sites for collecting fish with “fish pens” or “corrals”. They enjoyed relatively good yields, but elsewhere in their town, fish catches were declining at a rate fast enough to alarm local officials and the fishing communities.

Population growth, urbanization and industrialization have created enormous pressures on the environment and life support systems upon which all Filipinos depend. Air pollution from vehicles and industry is a major public health concern. Nearly 2.5 million tons of hazardous waste is generated each year, and only forty percent of solid waste is collected while the rest is dumped into waterways and open spaces. Although major legislation on clean air, solid waste, and clean water has been passed, enforcement remains a challenge. Under these conditions, voluntary private initiatives are often the most effective way to reduce pollution and conserve energy.

Bhim Bahadur, a poor farmer in the rural Kaski district of Nepal, had given up hope that his life would ever improve. The yield from his small piece of land earned him so meager an income that he could not support his family of eight. His annual income amounted to just $57.

“When I come to visit the village, women say ‘Mira is coming, she must have something new for us,’” says Mira Sunar, a female community health worker, describing her relationship with the villagers of Ramnagar, Nepal. “I feel proud and empowered by my popularity and recognition in the village.”

Man Maya Lama and her husband own a small tea shop in Manikapur village in Nepal's mid-western Banke district, but they struggle to earn enough to feed their two children. When USAID's Flood Recovery Program started its income-generation activities in their district, Lama jumped at the opportunity to get involved. She desperately wanted to improve her family's finances, and the only solution apparent to her was optimizing the use of the family-owned land. The acreage was small but that wasn't the main problem; her agricultural skills and knowledge were rudimentary and obsolete.

Unlike their male counterparts, it is difficult for female students in Afghanistan to hold part-time jobs where they can apply their education in real-life experiences. A fourth year architecture student explained, “Being a woman, we face lots of challenges in this field. The most common problem for women is that we have less opportunity for site visits and meeting professional people.”


Last updated: January 20, 2015