Development Needs Students’ Ideas, USAID’s Shah Says

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah speaks to students at the University of Arkansas.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah speaks to students at the University of Arkansas.

By Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
September 11, 2013

Students’ ideas for solutions are needed to help meet the world’s development challenges, says the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Rajiv Shah.

Shah also said that university faculty, nonprofits, governments, scientists, businesses and entrepreneurs are other sources of ideas “that can transform the world.” “We all play a role,” he told students at the University of Arkansas September 9.

Shah noted that the university, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, has a history of agricultural research. In 1951, it was the first U.S. land grant institution to send scientists and students to work in agriculture in a developing country. In Panama, they helped develop the country’s farm extension and research programs, created methods for storing fragile seeds in humid climates and introduced new farming tools, such as plows.

“Decades later we use that basic model of American partnership based on science, technology and respect for local conditions and an understanding of local partners to transform the face of hunger, poverty, growth and opportunity in many parts of the world,” Shah said.


Earlier in the day, Shah and the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. agreed to apply the company’s business capabilities to help get food from farm to table and help small-scale farmers move out of poverty in countries where USAID works.

“If we can help make sure that perishable crops make it to market without being wasted or spoiled or lost in supply chains even when rains make roads seemingly impassable … then we’re helping improve rural incomes for families,” Shah said.

The USAID chief added that Wal-Mart’s expertise in logistics will extend to the delivery of humanitarian aid from the agency’s emergency distribution centers located around the world and of lifesaving medicines and vaccines to rural clinics.

“We’re going to rely on Wal-Mart’s ingenuity and knowledge of faster, cheaper, safer supply chains and logistics management to help improve the efficiency of that enterprise,” he said.


Shah leads the Feed the Future program, the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative that focuses on 19 countries that have committed to expand their investments in agriculture, to reform their regulations so businesses can thrive and to fight corruption. “When countries do that, the United States will make significant investments [in the countries],” Shah said.


Continuing on the theme of innovation, Shah told the students that while in Africa with President Obama in June, he saw a demonstration of a soccer ball lookalike called a “socket ball.” When kicked around for about 30 minutes, the ball, invented by two students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, can power a mobile device for up to eight hours, he said.

“Those are the new inventions, technologies that can be the next phase of university and student partnerships with the biggest development challenges around the world,” he said.

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