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USAID Goal: Build Capacity, Not Dependence
March 15, 2012

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer

A girl in a blue dress wins a race at the tape
One focus of USAID programs is promoting gender equality.


The Obama administration’s fiscal 2013 budget request for the U.S. Agency for International Development, if approved, would allow the agency to feed, provide medial care and educate people in developing countries while engaging the private sector and faith-based groups, said Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator.

The requested funds also would allow the agency to support research in health, agriculture and innovative technologies, Shah said March 14 before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee.

“Our goal is to build capacity, not dependence,” he said.

Shah added that the requested funds also would allow USAID to help countries in transition increase their stability and economic growth and counter violent extremism. It would support “those who struggle for self-determination and democracy” and empower women and girls, he said.

He said USAID plans to spend more on helping recipient countries build their capacity for financial oversight, accountability and transparency “to make sure the money we invest in foreign governments is not lost due to poor financial management or corruption.”

If approved by the subcommittee, the budget will go to the full Appropriations Committee, then to the full Senate for consideration. If the Senate and the House of Representatives pass different versions of the bill, representatives from each would negotiate for agreement on a final bill before it could be sent to the president for signature or veto.

Shah said USAID’s investments are working. He highlighted USAID’s accomplishment in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, USAID established an initiative to reduce the layers of subcontracting and enhance project oversight. As a result, by investing directly in Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health instead of contractors, USAID was able to save $6 million, he said.

In Pakistan, USAID projects have helped to provide electricity to 7 million households, training to more than 70,000 women in business finance and management, and construction on 215 kilometers of road in South Waziristan. U.S. economic assistance has led to domestic revenue taking the place of aid in Iraq, Shah said.

Along with more investments by partner countries and greater efficiencies, USAID’s Global Health initiative is on track to provide life-saving assistance to more people than ever before, Shah said. In addition, USAID increasingly is providing treatment for pregnant mothers with HIV/AIDS “so we can ensure their children are born healthy,” he said. The administration’s request of $1 billion for its Feed the Future program would help improve the productivity of poor farmers in partner countries and help millions break out of poverty, he said. Feed the Future is the administration’s food security and nutrition initiative.

Since 2008, investments in better seeds, irrigation and fertilizers have led the 20 countries targeted by the Feed the Future program to increase their agricultural production by an average of 5.8 percent, more than eight times higher than the global average increase, Shah said. And a program to increase rice yields around Port-au- Prince, Haiti, using fewer seeds and less water resulted in farmers increasing their harvest by nearly 190 percent, he said. The program is expanding to reach farmers throughout the country.

Investment by USAID to build resilience to crises in the Horn of Africa helped save millions from the worst effects of the drought in 2011. And since 1995, USAID’s top recipients of education aid have increased primary school enrollment by 15 percent, Shah said.