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.

On a large padded blanket spread out on the ground, infants lie amongst brightly colored plastic blocks, their mothers dangling toys within their reach. Nearby, toddlers sit at colorful tables connecting blocks or drawing with markers and crayons. They are at the home of Josefina Garcia, participating in an early childhood stimulation program supported by USAID. Twice a week, mothers from the small rural community of La Tejana, Nicaragua, bring their children to Josefina's home, which offers some of the children their only chance to play with toys. Under this program, USAID provides assistance to more than 21,000 families in communities across Nicaragua that are identified as high risk for malnutrition and infant mortality. The complementary food provides an incentive for families to come to the Casa, where they receive counseling on how to improve their diets, especially when the child is ill or undernourished.

With a glut of low quality coffee saturating the world market, coffee prices have plummeted, but the specialty and organic markets, which often pay more than double the price of conventional coffee, offer Nicaragua’s small farmers one way to increase their incomes.

“The crisis is not only over-supply of coffee,” said Byron Corrales, a coffee grower and vice-president of Cafenica, a 6,000-member federation of small growers’ cooperatives. “It’s also about protecting our environment and establishing a relationship between producers, buyers and consumers that will benefit everyone.”

The San Lorenzo Health Center was recently named the best of the six health centers in Nicaragua’s Boaco district. This recognition caps a period of four years without a maternal death in the municipality, following several years of averaging more than three a year. Dr. Horacio Moreno, the municipality’s medical director, credits much of the success to a USAID-supported leadership development program.

The southern state of Rivas is the traditional home for Nicaragua’s plantain fields, where more than 50,000 acres are under cultivation. But neglected fields produced small yields and undersized fruit. And in recent years, local prices have declined, making the U.S. market — with a sales potential of 12 million pounds a year worth $3 million — an attractive alternative that could increase local incomes and provide more jobs.

When Ingrid Cornejo sips a cup of coffee she is now likely to use words like "citric," "chocolaty" or "herbal" to describe the flavor. She also can describe a bad cup of coffee. "If it has a taste like dirt, fermentation, mold or medicine, it's defective."

These are just two of the new skills that Ingrid learned during a USAID-supported course that trained 20 young farmers as junior cuppers — specialists in evaluating the taste and aroma of coffee.

The Rio Lama cattle ranch, located 110 miles northeast of Managua, recently celebrated the birth of its first "organic" calves. Forty-three Nicaraguan cattle ranches, including Rio Lama, now have pastures that have been certified as organic by the International Agriculture and Cattle Organization. The ranch is owned by Daniel Nunez, president of the National Cattle Raising Commission of Nicaragua and a pioneer in promoting organic meat as an excellent market opportunity for Nicaraguan ranchers.

A couple occupies the corner of a room in the emergency department at Zanoel Adidin Hospital in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital of Indonesia's Aceh Province. The young woman on the cot is hooked up to an intravenous drip, and her husband sits on the floor. They speak to each other tenderly as they eat lunch.

The community of El Naranjo, located in the northern coffee-growing region of Madriz, now has a preschool, thanks to a donation by the San Juan del Rio Coco Cooperatives Union.

The members of the Araya family have been farming all their lives. On their 50-hectare farm they have planted a range of different crops — corn, sorghum and sesame. But these low-value products brought little return for the hard-working family. When USAID asked the Arayas if they would like to grow okra for export to the United States, they did not hesitate.

USAID is supporting a program to build Nicaraguan trade by helping thousands of producers like the Arayas diversify crops, improve quality and gain new markets.

Ulises Gonzalez is the co-owner and general manager of Lacteos Santa Martha, a family dairy in Jinotega, a town in the mountainous northern region of Nicaragua. Once a small operation, the dairy now produces a wide range of products — white cheese, string cheese, dulce de leche, manchego — thanks to a USAID capacity building program.


Last updated: August 07, 2014