Sowing Seeds of Resilience, Progress and Dreams

Photo by Morgana Wingard for USAID

Let’s face it: The news headlines often paint a bleak picture of the world around us. Television screens and websites flash images of conflict, complex crises, hunger, disease and disasters. It can be overwhelming. But what isn’t always as visible is progress and the good news that demonstrates that we are not falling behind, but sprinting forward towards a better world.

As 2016 comes to a close, let’s pause to reflect on our shared progress.

Fewer people are dying of preventable diseases.

The U.S. Government has been investing in proven interventions, and as a result 4.6 million children and 200,000 mothers have been saved since 2008. Deaths due to malaria also declined by 6 million since the year 2000, in part due to widespread efforts to combat disease transmission through the President’s Malaria Initiative, an initiative started by former President George W. Bush.

Livelihoods are also improving for many around the globe.

Just last year, 9 million smallholder farmers and other producers used new technologies and practices to improve their harvests through the Feed the Future initiative. As a result, families boosted their incomes by $800 million, helping them access more opportunities for a path out of poverty.

Power is sparking productivity in remote parts of the world.

Nearly two out of three people in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to electricity, making it difficult for people to charge a mobile phone at home or power appliances to run a business. Through the Power Africa program, power sector transactions that will generate more than 5,000 megawatts of electricity have reached financial close. By bringing families and businesses across Africa access to power for the first time, communities can be more productive and efficient.

Private sector partners are also joining the effort to end poverty.

Initiatives led by USAID — Feed the Future and Power Africa among them– have mobilized over $100 billion in private sector commitments. By engaging more partners in a commitment to ending poverty, we’re growing a foundation for sustainable progress

And we continue to respond to crises.

Over the last eight years, USAID has deployed 24 Disaster Assistance Response Teams to coordinate U.S. efforts on major crises. We helped respond to Ebola in West Africa, took on severe food shortages in Ethiopia and Nigeria, and responded to natural disasters in Nepal, Haiti and the Philippines. Whether in Syria, South Sudan, Yemen or Iraq, we are working to save lives and meet urgent needs in the face of extraordinary obstacles.

Behind each number, there is a story. A dream that took root when a seed was planted — a seed that started with a little investment of time, training or resources.

During the holidays and every day, USAID plants seeds of opportunity in the hands of people around the world. We are proud of this partnership and are inspired by the growth and progress that takes root.

Please enjoy our year-end video and take a few minutes to view the stories of people who are growing their dreams.

Monjuara’s Dream

Monjuara is a Bangladeshi mother who wants the best for her children. When Monjuara learned about health, agriculture and nutrition practices through USAID, she was empowered to improve her children’s health and increase her family’s income. To pay it forward, Monjuara trains other people in her community on ways to improve their lives. In Bangladesh, where over 60 million people survive on less than $1.25 per day, USAID is providing millions of parents like Monjuara with the skills to break the cycle of poverty. She can now help move her family forward with dignity.

Hoda’s Forest

The only thing that French teacher Hoda would love more than running would be running through a lush green space. But in Lebanon, where Hoda lives, industry and other human activity have caused 20 percent of the country’s trees to disappear in the past half century. Hoda’s home of Baalbek, in the Beqaa Valley, is especially barren. She dreams it could be full of green trees. As a participant in a USAID-supported reforestation project, Hoda brings the diverse sectors of her community together for a common goal — turning the Beqaa Valley green again and providing hope to the community.

We Do It Together

Usha dreams of a better education for her children. In India, women often do more housework and have fewer opportunities to earn a living than men do. Usha and her husband Karthikeyan work as a team on a USAID-sponsored cashew processing project that not only provides economic opportunities for women, but encourages men to be involved in all aspects of family life. With both incomes, Usha and her family are able to get closer to that dream. By supporting the dreams of entrepreneurs around the world, USAID grows underserved markets around the world and promotes financial independence.

Rula, Miracle Worker

Every day that she goes to work, matters of life and death rest in the capable hands of Palestinian nurse Rula. The 30-year-old works at Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem, nurturing premature babies for months until they reach a healthy weight. The hospital is known as a lifeline for Palestinian women experiencing high-risk pregnancies. In the West Bank and around the world, USAID supports hospitals and nurses like Rula who help people in tough situations. By training doctors, nurses and midwives, and procuring critical medical equipment and infrastructure in underserved areas of the world, USAID is helping communities to prevent, detect and rapidly respond to health challenges, including epidemics.

Girls in the Garage

Sisters Najlae and Rajae have always been obsessed with cars and dream of opening a garage, even though in their native Morocco, it’s rare to see a woman outside of a few traditional fields of work. Faced with serious challenges like high unemployment and lack of access to quality education, these girls are thinking outside of the box. With support from USAID, the aspiring mechanics have received skills and training and are determined to upend expectations. By expanding employment, education and skill-building opportunities for youth, USAID is building the foundation for economic stability and growth in regions challenged by insecurity.

Amani’s Big Idea

Young Palestinian inventor Amani never wanted to play with a Barbie. Instead, she says: “I wanted to open the radio. I wanted to open the TV.” Today the 25-year-old prodigy has invented a device that helps blind children in her community learn to read braille. But she’s not going to stop there. Through USAID, Amani received a scholarship and is now pursuing her quest to transform lives with her ideas.

Fishing for Fortune

Ruma is an entrepreneurial mother and community leader from Bangladesh who will go to no end to ensure her family is healthy and well fed. With the money she earns by selling fish, she now can pay for her son’s education, food, clothes, health care and other expenses.

Wilftred’s Leap of Faith

Wilfred is a farmer and pastor who helped his community grow resilient against drought by building an irrigation system in his village of Mitawa, Malawi. By supporting this infrastructure, Wilfred’s community is able to grow more food with less water. By supporting communities with skills and tools that help them prepare for and rebound from shocks caused by El Niño and other crises, USAID makes communities more resilient in the long term.

An Olive Peace

Ayala ​and ​Khaled are unlikely friends. ​Ayala’s family owns a small olive press ​just outside Nazareth in northern Israel, where she makes organic olive oil and lives in harmony with the land. Khaled — a Palestinian engineer and olive oil mill expert from outside Nablus in the West Bank — has inherited his father’s passion for cultivating the region’s ancient olive trees and their fruit. The two met in 2011 ​through a USAID-backed program that brings together thousands of Israeli and Palestinian growers to share experiences, cultivate better olive oil and promote a peace that makes us all more safe and secure.

Twice The Rice

Taroni is a rice farmer from rural Bangladesh. In 2010, he enrolled in an instructional farmers training program to learn about good agricultural techniques. His rice yields increased, offering him the chance to earn additional income at local markets. With the additional economic means, he is able to give his children educational opportunities that he never had.

Thank you for sharing our stories this year. Happy Holidays from the USAID family to yours!