Investing in the development of local farmers in Guatemala


73 extensionists graduated from Counterpart International’s Certificate Rural Extension Program in April, the first class since the closing of the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA) extension system and university programs in 1990. 

The extensionists are now certified to work in their communities for the MAGA throughout the Huehuetenango district, providing best farming practices and techniques to improve the overall agriculture productivity.The certification is a part of the USDA-funded Food for Progress program.

The National Extension System in Guatemala disappeared 24 years ago leaving many rural farmers and communities desperate for guidance and support. The new administration in Guatemala has made an effort to re-establish the extension system.

Counterpart is improving the capacity of MAGA’s formal extension agents and certified non-governmental agricultural advisers to provide technical support to agricultural producers for increased productivity and household and market outcomes.

Through the establishment of Rural Development Learning Centers (CADERS in Spanish), Counterpart provided farmer-to-farmer training to the graduated extensionists, one third of which were women.

Counterpart has 10 CADERS in Huehuetenango where training activities took place on soil conservation, water management, horticulture production, food security and nutrition for community members, agricultural promoters, and MAGA extensionists.

The CADERS facilitate a teaching and learning process and provide a place for farmers and teachers to converse on best practices and technology, food and nutritional security, and rural development solutions. After trainings, each farmer is then able to share and replicate what they learned to their community members.

“The transfer of knowledge and skills to farmers and their families is an important extension activity and the extension agent must prepare himself thoroughly,” Country Director Maria Esther Bucaro said. “They must find out which skills or areas of knowledge are lacking among the farmers in his/her area, and then arrange suitable teaching and learning experiences through which the farmers can acquire them and solve their problems. Extension also provides advice and information to assist farmers in making decisions and generally enable them to take action.”

May 7th, 2014 | Tags: agriculture, capacity building, extension agents, Food for Progress, food security, Guatemala, leadership, nutrition | Category: Impact Stories | Leave a comment

Afghanistan’s presidential candidates endorse key policy issues

Afghan Civil Society announces a majority of presidential candidates have pledged to civil society groups that they will prioritize the needs of the people. 

by Kulsoom Rizvi

As a result of a nationwide campaign initiated by Counterpart International’s local civil society partners, nearly all eight presidential candidates from Afghanistan’s 2014 elections earlier this month endorsed five key policy areas, prioritizing the needs of the Afghan people. 952 provincial council candidates also endorsed the pledge letters.

Prior to the April 5 elections, nearly all of the 8 presidential candidates signed or verbally endorsed the pledge letters at a press conference which outlined Afghanistan’s most pressing problems voiced by citizens. The main policy areas included:

  • Peace and Political Stability
  • Humanitarian Development
  • Economic Development
  • Human Rights, Rule of Law & Good Governance
  • Health, Sport and Environment

“I appreciate Afghan civil society for its initiative. I pledge to place your practical and reasonable recommendations in my program and in my future programs as well,” Mohammad Daud Sulltanzoy, one of the 2014 presidential candidates said.

Convening a network of leaders

Counterpart’s Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society (I-PACS II), funded by the U.S. Agency for Development, strengthened the capacity of 13 lead civil society organizations to convene other local leaders and organizations to drive the dialogue and information collecting in preparing the pledge letters.

With Counterpart’s technical support, the civil society leaders facilitated a series of conferences in 29 provinces where locals spoke about their needs and concerns at the provincial level. As a result of these dialogues, 712 provincial council candidates endorsed the people’s key needs in areas like the peace process, quality education and transparency in the recruitment process of civil servants. This formed the basis of the pledge letters presented to the eight candidates running for the 2014 elections.

Following the provincial dialogues, more than 200 civil society activists and leaders gathered in Kabul to map out a more comprehensive list of the country’s critical priorities for presidential candidates to endorse. Five major groups were established with 40 participants in each group to discuss key issues in peace and stability, human development, economic development, human rights and good governance and sports, environment and health.

“It was the first gathering of civil society coming together to discuss the priorities of the people to present to the Presidential candidates. This is showing the new strength of civil society, coordinating for a single goal to better the lives of all Afghans,” Arezo Qanih from the Empowerment Center for Women said.

The 2014 Election for Afghanistan is a turning point, marking a peaceful transfer of power through democratic means for the first time in the country’s history. Identifying and outlining public priorities, allow for the continued engagement and conversation with key government, Parliament and international leaders to ensure stability and peace post-2014.

“Counterpart International is proud to have supported this historic gathering which marked the first time that Afghan CSOs, representing a diverse group of constituencies, entered the national campaign debate to call upon presidential candidates to formally commit to endorsing the civil society agenda.” Lori Yamamoto from Counterpart International said.

May 5th, 2014 | Tags: Afghanistan, civil society, I-PACS II, pledge letters, Presidential Election 2014 | Category: Impact Stories | Leave a comment

Counterpart’s partners prepared to deliver independent disaster relief

John A Heffern, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia at a ceremony celebrating the handover of the disaster packages which will enable local partners to independently respond rapidly in the event of disasters and emergencies.

Counterpart International's government and local partners in four countries will deliver independent disaster relief after receving $3.78 million worth of emergency supplies. The handover was celebrated at a ceremony in Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan in March and April receiving widespread media coverage. 

The Ministry of Emergency Situations in Armenia, the Emergency Management Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Georgia and FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance in Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan will resume responsibility for the disaster packages. 

“The Department of State, as well as Counterpart International, has had strong, impactful relationships with all of these organizations and this transfer has assured that the Department of State disaster packages will continue to be used in an effective manner in support of victims of disasters whenever they occur,” Jerry Oberndorfer, the State Department’s Director for Humanitarian Assistance of the Office of the Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia said.

Counterpart has maintained the U.S. State Department pre-positioneddisaster packages under its Community and Humanitarian Assistance Program (CHAP)from 2006 to 2014 and has a long history of responding to disasters and emergencies in the former Soviet countries. For instance, in Georgia, Counterpart responded to four disasters including the heavy rainstorms in June 2011 in Shida Kartli that triggered mudslides and floods that killed several people and damaged about 1,500 homes. The program also released disaster supplies during civil unrest that broke out in the southern cities of the Kyrgyz Republic in June 2010 and an earthquake in the rural Rasht Valley in Tajikistan in 2007 which damaged and destroyed more than 1,400 homes.

Since 1995, Counterpart has coordinated the distribution of approximately $1 billion worth of humanitarian assistance to individuals in need through its network of local partner organizations.

May 1st, 2014 | Tags: Armenia, CHAP, disaster response, Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan | Category: Impact Stories | Leave a comment

Infographic: Counterpart and coral restoration


About 10 years ago, Counterpart International looked closely at what could be done to address the rapid pace of coral destruction around the communities we serve. Without an intervention, the decline would soon have devastating effects for other marine life as well as the communities who depend on fishing and tourism for their livelihoods.

This urgency led to an innovation in reef restoration, called coral gardeningTM, which Counterpart developed and refined in collaboration with Miami University and the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation.

Here's a look at how Counterpart and its public and private sector partners have taken a community-based approach to building greater awareness, support and action for restoring these natural resources.

Read the full story.


November 20th, 2013 | Tags: capacity building, community engagement, coral gardens, coral reefs, Dominican Republic, Frohring Foundation, infographic, Punta Cana Ecological Foundation, University of Miami | Category: Impact Stories | Leave a comment

Turning civil society realities into policy

by Kulsoom Rizvi
For almost a decade, Counterpart has been working closely with representatives of Afghanistan’s civil society organizations at the local, regional and national levels, building their capacity to become agents for change. The development of civil society organizations has progressed significantly since 2005 with a more visible and vocal civil society sector. 
Through an active lobbying campaign by the Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society II (I-PACS II), a project funded by USAID and implemented by Counterpart and the International Center for not-for-profit Law (ICNL), President Hamid Karzai endorsed the Social Organization Law in early September; one of the final steps prior to official enactment of key legislative initiatives. 
“In order to enable civil society and strengthen their efforts, a supportive legal framework is essential,” Mohammad Maqsood, ICNL advisor to I-PACS II said. “This vision opens a bright future for social organizations in Afghanistan, as it affirms their right to take part in policy making and advocacy programs.”
The new legislation, which governs Afghan civil society organizations, included key amendments advocated by social organizations using critical technical support from I-PACS II and its partner ICNL. This improved legal framework will help insure a more supportive regulatory environment for the 4,000 social organizations registered in Afghanistan and promises a new freedom to operate effectively.
The need for advocacy
Social organizations in Afghanistan have been around since 2002. However, these groups’ ability to contribute to the country’s development was highly constrained due to the absence of a law recognizing their official status. 
The Presidential Decree of 2002, which governed SOs until the passage of the new law, prohibited social organizations from receiving donations from both foreign governments and private organizations, hindering their ability to expand their working environment. But with the new law, such groups have the right to access a diverse range of foreign resources. 
Previously, social organizations were unsure of their ability to participate and advocate in policy debates. Under the new law, social organizations have the right to pursue any objectives articulated in their governing statues without any restrictions – including advocacy. 
“Advocacy is an inseparable part of civil society work in Afghanistan,” Maqsood said. “The role of civil society is very important in the reform process, but reform will not take place if the law restricts. We need a much expanded environment for civil society and an expanded environment must be supported by law,”
These changes are a direct result of the advocacy efforts of Afghan social organizations with support from Counterpart and ICNL, to bring social organizations and parliamentarians to work on a joint commitment of ensuring that the new law complies with international standards. 
Over the past year, Counterpart, ICNL and the advocacy group conducted various advocacy meetings with the Parliament’s Upper and Lower House Commission’s Chairpersons to show how the legal environment contained many constraints for the civil society in Afghanistan.
The Social Organization Advocacy Working Group met with Parliament and presented 33 amendments to the law. Out of the 33 proposed, 29 amendments were passed. I-PACS II can boast an 88 per cent success rate in its campaign, a first in Afghanistan’s legislative history where an advocacy group had such success.
“Civil society is advocating for a lot of positive changes on the public policies and social organizations are looking forward to the benefits of the new law,” Maqsood said.
The I-PACS II program is a three year program, funded by USAID through Counterpart’s Global Civil Society Strengthening Leader with Associates (GCSS LWA). I-PACS II works to create and promote a broader and deeper civil society infrastructure that involves and serves the true needs of the population. Specifically, enabling Afghan citizens to more effectively participate in the political process, solve community problems, and demand good governance from their leaders. 

November 20th, 2013 | Tags: advocacy, Afghanistan, citizen participation, civil society, I-PACS II, social organizations | Category: Impact Stories | Leave a comment

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