Trip Report: Counterpart Begins Programming in Chad

This first-person account is part of a regular series of how Counterpart works in the field. This story is by Abiosseh Davis, Program Coordinator for Knowledge Management.

In July 2010, Counterpart was awarded a grant to implement the Promoting Elections, Accountability and Civic Education (PEACE) program in Chad.

I arrived on the ground in late July and promptly commenced the process of establishing Counterpart’s presence in N’Djamena.

The opportunity to help with the start-up a new program was both thrilling and daunting. It was my first start up and I had no idea what to expect. The experience has turned out to be one of the most rewarding of my career to-date.

Gathering information about Chad is difficult; there are few websites that can offer any degree of insight, not even travel sites. Consequently, it is difficult to know what to expect.

What I discovered was a fascinating country with a mix of cultures, languages and religions. At the same time, Chad is struggling to balance an opening economy that has significantly increased investment and a desire for democratic change with the reality of persistent poverty and a legacy of conflict and authoritarian rule.

Through meetings with government officials and other electoral actors, it became clear that the Chadian population has experience voting, but little hope in significant change or oversight on government activities.

Counterpart’s PEACE program, led by the enthusiastic and knowledgeable Chief of Party, Renzo Hettinger, will work to enhance the capacity of the Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) to organize and conduct free and fair elections. Simultaneously, PEACE will support civil society through grants, training, and technical assistance to improve their ability to disseminate information and educate the population about electoral processes and to meaningfully engage the citizens of Chad in future elections.

Learn more about our PEACE program.

September 21st, 2010 | Tags: Abiosseh Davis, Chad, trip report | Category: From the Field | Leave a comment

Counterpart Celebrates Peace Day 2010

Counterpart International HQ Staff Play Bocce for Peace

Today is Peace Day! First recognized by the UN in 1981, Peace Day celebrates non-violence and a temporary ceasefire in all combat zones around the world on September 21st.

Counterpart has developed a partnership with Peace One Day, a UK-based nonprofit organization committed to raising awareness of Peace Day. More information can be found at www.peaceoneday.org.

Counterpart’s staff across the globe are observing and celebrating Peace Day 2010 in the course of their everyday work to help the world’s most vulnerable populations. Today specifically, two of Counterpart’s Small Reconstruction Projects—a maternity hospital and a medical clinic—in Azerbaijan, and a humanitarian aid shipment to Kyrgyzstan were dedicated in honor of Peace Day. [More information to come on those efforts as we get reports from the field.] And staff from Counterpart’s headquarters office convened for a “One Day One Boule” bocce ball game, our version of Peace One Day’s One Day One Goal campaign. (There’s just not enough room to play soccer in front of our Arlington, Virginia office.)

No matter their race, ethnicity, or religion; every person wants to exist in a safe, clean, and healthy community. Unfortunately, the tolls of war, famine, disease and economic instability across the globe often prevent people from realizing these goals. For nearly 50 years, Counterpart has been working in partnership with communities in need to address complex problems related to economic development, food security and nutrition, and building effective governance and institutions. Our dedicated and talented staff works to make peace every day.

Please consider making your own personal commitment to peace in honor of Peace Day on Peace One Day’s Web site.

September 21st, 2010 | Tags: | Category: | Leave a comment

NGO Advocacy Leads to Enforcement of Legislation on Free Eye Exams for Children

An optometrist gives a free eye exam to a local student.
 
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, health officials in the city of Yeghegnadzor, Armenia have seen an increase in the number of children with eye disorders. In many cases, complications from these illnesses lead to blindness and other serious conditions. Since the concept of preventive eye care is not widespread, parents rarely take their children to the optometrist for regular eye exams and problems often go unnoticed. Despite the existing law adopted in 2007 and guaranteeing free yearly eye exams for children under 15, children were not receiving the necessary preventive care.  In addition, some doctors were illegally charging for these eye exams. 

Young Generation NGO, a grantee of the Partnership and Teaching NGO for Civil Society and Education, which administers local advocacy initiative grants on behalf of Counterpart International, sought to address this issue. The NGO successfully convinced the Vayots Dzor Regional State Health Agency (SHA) to pass a decree enabling the NGO to actively participate in monitoring the implementation of the law. As a result, many children today are benefitting from the preventive eye care that they did not receive in the past.

In order to highlight the importance of this issue, Young Generation began an advocacy campaign to raise awareness among community members and foster a culture of preventive eye care. Informational booklets on eye health and the importance of preventive care were published. Posters were also created and placed around town, including in kindergartens and schools. The materials featured local doctors and students so that the audience could better relate to the problem. Educational seminars and public hearings were held for parents, teachers and students on the importance of preventive care and eye exams for children.

To raise awareness about the gap in legislative implementation and urge the SHA to include the NGO in the monitoring activities, the team at Young Generation held individual meetings with representatives of local polyclinics and the SHA. They also engaged the vice mayor of Yeghegnadzor in the process. According to the decree passed, the NGO team is now involved in monitoring the implementation of the law and receives regular updates from the SHA. The NGO has already completed monitoring of the first round of free eye exams to 400 children, administered over the 2008-2009 school year, in four schools and three kindergartens included in the project. About half of these children were found to have some type of eye problem and are now being treated. The NGO will continue to ensure that for each new school year, children receive their free eye exams by visiting local polyclinics. These polyclinics are now aware that they cannot charge for or refuse to offer the service as it is guaranteed under the law. In addition, a nurse at each school will be working directly with teachers to identify problems early on and address them before they become serious.
 
Thus, Young Generation’s efforts have successfully raised awareness among parents, teachers and children of the importance of preventive eye care as well as their right to free eye exams as guaranteed by the law. Among the unexpected outcomes of the project has been a local polyclinic applying for international funding and have carried out renovation and moved their clinic from the second to the first floor to make it more accessible to the public.
 
Learn more about Counterpart's Civic Advocacy Support Program in Armenia.

September 20th, 2010 | Tags: advocacy, Armenia, civil society, eye exams, Yeghegnadzor, Young Generation NGO | Category: Impact Stories | Leave a comment

The Difference an Onion Can Make

Groundbreaking Purchase Agreement Transforms an Industry and Doubles the Income of Individual Farmers

Senegalese onion farmers bag their harvest.

Aboubacry Diallo, an onion farmer, has been planting and cultivating onions along the Senegal River for more than 12 years. Onions, a main ingredient in most Senegalese dishes, have been a particularly important crop in the country. When Aboubacry began farming over a decade ago, the Senegal River Valley was emerging as a major center for onion production, accounting for millions of dollars in annual revenue for Senegalese farmers. Yet, even with fertile soil, irrigation and a booming onion market, life as an onion farmer is tough. But now, as a member of the Senegalese Association of Valley Onion Producers, Aboubacry is beginning to build a better life for himself and his family.

In 2007, as part of its USDA Food for Progress program in Senegal, Counterpart International began working with farmers to improve their onion production. With Counterpart’s technical assistance, the more than 350 farmers in the association began planting a variety of onions called Violet de Galmi, which is resistant to the harsh climate conditions common to Senegal. Our program also focused on improving the quality of the onions through proper fertilization and irrigation,as well as improving the storage of the harvest. This work led to larger, more nutritious and higher quality onion crop yields—nearly 1,600MT worth an estimated $500,000USD in 2010 alone—and thus more money in the hands of the farmers.

In March 2010, with production booming and quality soaring, Counterpart helped facilitate the signing of a groundbreaking purchase agreement between the Senegalese Association of Valley Onion Producers  and the Khar Yalla company’s network of 350 shops around Senegal. Khar Yalla is also the lead member of PRISTA (short for “price stabilization”), a government body, which aims to fight against inflation, shortages, price shocks and speculation on essential staples, like onions. Through the signing, Khar Yalla preordered 500MT of onions from the association, a value of $150,000USD. For the farmers, the agreement guarantees a market for a large portion of their harvest at a good price, even if the government fixes prices. And for Khar Yalla and their customers, the agreement provides a steady supply of quality, nutritious onions, also at a stable price.This purchase agreement is the first of its kind in Senegal, the significance of which was made apparent when Amadou Niang, Senegal’s Minister of Commerce, traveled to Podor to witness the signing and applaud both the association and Khar Yalla.

“Onion farmers in Podor are seeing their income double over a span of one year, thanks to our efforts in linking these farmers to a guaranteed market,” says Josephine Trenchard, Counterpart’s Country Representative in Senegal. “Equipped with improved techniques to produce quality onions and have more access to markets, onions farmers are now able to improve their livelihoods by building homes, investing in their community, providing basic needs and beyond for their family.”

Thanks to this purchase agreement and the technical assistance from Counterpart, Aboubacry will have more than $3,500USD of additional income after next season’s harvest. He intends to invest some of that money into a new company that produces animal feed. He will also buy several acres of land in the nearby village of Thille Boubacar that will allow him to plant a variety of crops and better provide for his family.

Learn more about our Food for Progress program.

September 20th, 2010 | Tags: farmers, Khar Yalla, onion, purchase agreement, Senegal, Senegal River Valley, USDA | Category: | Leave a comment

Small Reconstruction Project in Kyrgyzstan Provides Clean Water

On August 14, 2010, a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Toru-Aigyr village of Kyrgyzstan officially opened the village’s completely renovated water supply system. The project was implemented by Counterpart International under the Department of State-funded Small Reconstruction Project (SRP) initiative, in collaboration with AUB-Charity Foundation. The new water system will provide access to clean drinking water to more than 1,500 residents.

Over half of all Toru-Aigyr village residents did not have access to clean drinking water. The current supply system had never had any major repairs since it was built in 1964. Consequently, two drinking water reservoirs, two deep well pumps and ten water pumps were not functioning; the main pipes of the village drinking water supply system were blocked with sand and some areas of the pipeline were broken; and a fenced sanitary zone around the drinking water reservoirs did not even exist. Of the residents without immediate access to water, many are pre-school aged children, mothers and the elderly.

To begin the project, AUB-Charity Foundation procured all construction materials needed for the repairs. Counterpart then began laying new pipeline, reconstructing two ruined sentry boxes and cleaning water reservoirs. Finally, Counterpart installed new pipes, deep well pumps and a 320 square meter fence around the reservoirs to ensure clean drinking water for all 2,300 residents. Access to potable water will improve overall sanitation and hygiene, as well as the overall living conditions of the 2,300 village residents.

AUB-Charity Foundation aims to provide material and other assistance to socially vulnerable communities, regardless of ethnicity, nationality or religion. The priority directions of the foundation’s activity are long-term projects in the following four fields – education, healthcare, culture and sport.

Counterpart’s team in the Kyrgyz Republic established a partnership with AUB-Charity in 2009. During the two years of cooperation records, six SRP projects have been implemented in Kyrgyzstan.

To learn more about Counterpart’s Small Reconstruction Projects throughout the Former Soviet Union, visit our Web site.

September 7th, 2010 | Tags: AUB Charity, Department of State, DOS, drinking water, Kyrgyzstan, Small Reconstruction Project, SRP, SRP Kyrgyzstan, water, water supply | Category: Impact Stories | Leave a comment

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