Remarks by USAID Mission Director, Leslie Reed

Remarks by
Leslie Reed
USAID Mission Director
At the National Level launch of Livelihoods for Resilience 
Capital Hotel, Addis Ababa
September 21, 2017

(As prepared for delivery)

Good afternoon and welcome!  I want to extend a special welcome to State Minister Ato Damene Darota and to thank him for joining us here today.   I would also like to thank Ato Berhanu Wolde Michael, the Director of the Food Security Coordination Directorate, for his leadership of the Ethiopian Government’s safety net program and for his continuous support of, and engagement with, USAID.  I understand that there are also partners who have joined us from the regions this afternoon.  Thank you for making the journey for this afternoon’s launch, and we look forward to working with you over the next several years.

Lastly, I’d really like to thank the organizers of this afternoon’s gathering, our partners for the Livelihoods for Resilience Program, CARE and CRS!  We are fortunate to have your organizations in the lead for this work, your experience and commitment to improving the lives of vulnerable Ethiopians will help us all to succeed.

Today we are officially marking the beginning of USAID’s Livelihoods for Resilience program.  And while there may have already been local launches around the country with our regional partners, this is our chance to formally launch the program and recognize its importance on the national level and to acknowledge, in advance, all of the hard work that will come in the future.

Livelihoods for Resilience is one of our key Feed the Future activities in Ethiopia.  We see its work as making a contribution to the new US Global Food Security Strategy which is currently under development.  Some of you may know that last month we hosted USAID’s new Administrator, Ambassador Green, in Ethiopia.  Administrator Green announced during his visit that Ethiopia will be one of 12 focus countries under the new US Global Food Security Strategy.

This strategy will focus on long-term sustainable development that gives people the ability to build their own future and to resist the shocks that are brought on by drought and other natural disasters.  We see programs such as Livelihoods for Resilience as playing a role in these efforts.  To quote Administrator Green we are seeking to give countries “a hand up, not a hand out” so that we can eventually work ourselves out of a job.

The program, which we anticipate will be a $60 million investment over the next five years, seeks to build the self-reliance and resilience of Productive Safety Net Program, or “PSNP” beneficiaries in 36 woredas across the Ethiopian Highlands.  We all know that PSNP or “safety net” beneficiaries are some of Ethiopia’s most vulnerable citizens and typically depend on cash or food transfers for survival.  Livelihoods for Resilience will help these people to develop the skills they need to realize their aspirations and enabling them to graduate from the safety net.  This type of assistance helps to build individual, household and community level resilience.

But what does resilience look like or really mean? Some of these households are headed by females.  We will be working with these women to teach them new skills, help them to manage money, and build their confidence.  Eventually, this means that they will be able to obtain loans to successfully start their own small business and then pay those loans back.  This brings independence.

We have seen that often times building resilience leads to collective benefits.  Helping community members to engage with and learn from each other opens up new networks and opportunities.  Households are able to learn from each other and support each other when it comes to changing nutritional behaviors or understanding how erratic weather in the Ethiopian highlands can have a negative impact on their ability to cope.  Working with communities on introducing strategies for adaptation such as small-scale irrigation or drought resistant crops means that households will be able to support and learn from each other.

We believe that building resilience to shocks and introducing individuals and communities to new ideas, skills and opportunities can transform lives.  We have seen how this transformation has empowered households and enabled them to take the necessary steps to grow their assets, increase their income, and eventually graduate from the government safety net.  This is what we call a sustainable pathway out of poverty.

USAID has been a long supporter of livelihoods diversification in Ethiopia.  Livelihoods for Resilience is a follow on to the Graduation with Resilience to Achieve Sustainable Development, or what we called GRAD.  The GRAD model proved that we could successfully build the resilience of Ethiopia’s poor in the Highlands, helping them to learn how to withstand and cope in the face of shocks and to develop and take advantage of new opportunities.  Because of GRAD’s success and impact and its ability to raise the annual income of program beneficiaries by $365 per year on average, USAID was able to secure more funding in order to double the size of this current project from 65,000 households to nearly 130,000 households.

We have deliberately aligned Livelihoods for Resilience with the Government of Ethiopia’s PSNP program.  USAID believes that we can more successfully help safety net beneficiaries to build their assets and increase household income in this way.  The Livelihoods for Resilience program follows the 3 livelihoods pathways were set out for PSNP beneficiaries – on farm, off farm and employment support.  We have prioritized innovation and learning in this program and believe our two lead partners – CARE and CRS have the necessary experience to help Ethiopia’s most vulnerable to become more self-reliant and reach their potential.  Eventually, we hope this means that those 130,000 households will be able to sustainably graduate from the safety net.

We are confident that our partners have what it takes to help individuals and households succeed in this.  I keep a book of stories from our past livelihoods activity on my desk as a reminder of how our support can transform lives.  I want to pause and tell you about one such life, that of Mulu Aberra – a client of our previous program, GRAD.

Mulu’s husband left her with two children.  Their life became very harsh.  Mulu worked as a daily laborer on other people’s farms.  She was barely able to meet the daily needs of her children.  Her children stayed at home alone while she worked.  She left them with a little food for the whole day.  And Mulu just could not see a way out of this life.  She was only able to think about surviving each day…. Then, she was made aware of the GRAD program.  Through GRAD. she learned to manage money and a business.  Eventually, she was able to transform her life and become financially secure.  Mulu has built up her livestock fattening business, built a new house and is now planning to open a shop.  In her words, whether or not she receives assistance, she has the “confidence to keep going and to keep changing.”

Our success depends on partnership – partnership with NGOs such as CARE, CRS and others, partnership with relevant government actors at many levels and partnership with our beneficiaries.  We are asking our NGO partners to be deliberate in collaborating with other USAID and other donor funded activities and to look for ways to concentrate and focus efforts to achieve success.  We are also looking to the Ethiopian government to support us in these efforts so that together we can build the resilience of vulnerable citizens and communities.

We are proud of our activities and confident that this USAID investment will help to transform lives and create opportunities.  For sure, Livelihoods for Resilience is a big and exciting activity, but it is just one of many activities addressing one of many challenges. We know how woredas being covered by this activity suffered during the 2015-2016 drought, and now we’re seeing how lowland regions are struggling with the recent drought and its aftermath, including now, ironically, flooding.

In those areas, we’re working with our partners to help provide humanitarian assistance, and I’m proud to say that the United States has been by far the biggest donor to the lowland drought response. At the same time, through other efforts like our pastoralist resilience activity, we’re trying to help people in the lowlands to develop better ways to cope with drought and also become food secure.

However, these activities, in and of themselves, are still not enough. For broad based economic growth and opportunity to reach Ethiopia’s citizens at the scale that is necessary, Ethiopia itself will have to do more.  Opening up business opportunities and creating an enabling environment for the private sector to enter through are also important for long term success and will help Ethiopia to address its own needs.  Eventually, this will reduce the country’s dependence on emergency as well as development assistance.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the concern we have about the troubling reports of ethnic violence and the large-scale displacement of people living along the border between the Oromia and Somali regions. For the good of the people in that region, and for the whole country, we hope that to see calm and peace restored as soon as possible, those responsible held accountable, and steps taken to address the underlying challenges to ensure that it doesn’t flare up again.   Part of increasing resilience to unexpected shocks, means addressing chronic challenges, whether its chronic food insecurity, economic poverty, or the lack of an inclusive society.   Ethiopia must be able to come together as a country to address those and other challenges standing in the way of a better future for all.

Once again, I am honored to participate in this afternoon’s launch of Livelihoods for Resilience.  I look forward to visiting the program areas in the future, and I am confident that this program will help to transform lives and build the resilience of vulnerable Ethiopians.

Thank you.