Moving local organizations into the driver’s seat

See below for a guest post from Carlos Cardenas, Country Director in Guatemala Save the Children. This is the second post in our field feedback series and part of a new blog series launched by Save the Children as part of its commitment to support effective U.S. foreign assistance.  The series documents recent aid reform efforts drawing upon interviews in 2012 with Save the Children staff working in fifteen countries.  By focusing on one change in one country over time, the stories provide insight into how policies intended to modernize U.S. foreign assistance can result in meaningful change on the ground. This post originally appeared on the Save the Children website.


Sometimes the best way to serve families over the long haul is to step back.  Recent policy changes to U.S. foreign assistance programs are putting more local organizations in the lead on development projects around the world.
In Guatemala, chronic malnutrition keeps half the country’s children from developing properly.  That fuels a vicious cycle of poverty that hurts children in rural, indigenous communities the most.   U.S. investments to break this cycle have helped countless children and families, but new reforms mean Guatemalans will play a bigger, more sustainable role in fighting the worst rate of chronic malnutrition in the Western hemisphere.

Save the Children has worked in Guatemala for 14 years with a variety of public and private funding to help poor populations overcome the impact of poverty and three decades of civil conflict.  As an international nonprofit humanitarian and development agency, we work alongside communities to implement integrated programs that improve health, nutrition, economic opportunities, disaster risk reduction, and democracy and governance. We know that improving farmers’ access to markets leads to greater, steadier income through the year and, critically for children, to improved nutrition for their own families.

For the last five years, Save the Children was the prime recipient of funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to run a major food security project.  In tandem, a local consortium created by Guatemala’s largest export corporations called AGEXPORT was running small scale projects with USAID funds opening up markets for poor rural farmers.

As a result of USAID’s policy called Implementation and Procurement Reform, AGEXPORT is about to move into the driver’s seat.   In a new Feed the Future project called “Rural Value Chains,” USAID required that a local Guatemalan organization be the prime funding recipient.  AGEXPORT has asked Save the Children to play a supportive role by providing key technical support and institutional capacity.

If the project moves ahead as planned, this local Guatemalan organization will bring its expertise with domestic markets to the partnership, while we will bring our experience improving children’s nutrition and food security.

AGEXPORT’s selection as the prime grantee will give the organization the opportunity to build capacity and institutional expertise to lead increasingly large-scale projects.

That bodes well for the future.

In the next grant cycle, I suspect that AGEXPORT may not need Save the Children or any other international NGO to improve conditions for Guatemalan farmers and their children.   And Save the Children can move on to another area where our technical expertise and services are still truly needed.

Working ourselves out of a job is a development success.



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