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Summer 2016

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Agriculture Goes Prime Time: Enthralling a TV Audience of Future Farmers

Each Wednesday night, up to 11 million viewers tune into Makutano Junction, a hit TV series that airs on Citizen Television in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. It is the most-watched locally produced program in Kenya, but Makutano Junction is not just any soap opera. Africa Lead II, a Feed the Future program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is helping fund production and craft scripts that deliver a much-needed message: agriculture is cool.


Makutano Junction features protagonist Florence returning from the city to her rural village to go into business. She tackles emotional, social, and business challenges common to young agribusiness entrepreneurs—such as fending off peer pressure, overcoming corrupt officials, and acquiring financing—and emerges a believable, fallible character like many of the millions of young viewers we are trying to motivate. She also emerges a winner, a pop symbol for a new brand of youth who might go into agribusiness and whose families and friends are being converted, too.

We promote Makutano Junction through public relations and interactive SMS messaging campaigns that simultaneously provide potential entrepreneurs with agribusiness tips, such as how to manage money. Viewers can watch previous episodes on YouTube and track plot developments on the show’s Facebook page.

Another youth-focused, agriculture-based series, a reality show called Don’t Lose the Plot, is now in production with assistance from Africa Lead, again working with Mediae, the same Nairobi-based company that produces Makutano Junction. Each organization is capitalizing on its respective strengths: Mediae produces award-winning, popular dramatic educational programming that reaches millions of viewers and listeners; Africa Lead creates leadership curricula, trains emerging agriculture leaders, and builds the capacity of agricultural institutions across Africa.

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Domestic Resource Mobilization Takes Root in El Salvador ... and Beyond?

An encouraging trend in development is gaining speed: more countries want to do more to fund their own development, and donors are on board. At the July 2015 Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, attended by more than 110 heads of state, ministers, and officials from 38 countries, donors pledged a doubling of assistance by 2020 for programs to increase domestic resource mobilization.

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USAID-Backed Fellow Inspires Malaysian Renewable Energy Policy

When people think of solar energy, they often envision banks of solar panels producing electricity that powers lights and household appliances. While the use of photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity can contribute to reducing carbon emissions, another important and simpler use of the sun’s rays often goes overlooked: the generation of usable heat.

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SERVIR Demand Activity: A Key Link in Connecting Space to Village

Alerting rural villages to floods, detecting remote forest fires, and monitoring greenhouse gas emissions are some of the capabilities of SERVIR Global, a collaboration between NASA and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). SERVIR integrates imagery and data from Earth-observing satellites and geospatial technologies to give policy makers around the world critical information on climate-sensitive topics such as natural disasters, agriculture, water, ecosystems, and land use. While the technology from space that SERVIR relies on is impressive, its greatest potential might lie in facilitating human connections down on earth.

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A Good Use of U.S. Taxpayer Money: Helping Countries Mobilize Domestic Resources

Tax Day—April 18 this year in the United States—is a day that sparks controversy for many constituencies. For tax opponents, it is a reminder of the burdens borne by the taxpayer. For foreign aid skeptics, it is an opportunity to bemoan the sums spent on international development. For aid advocates, it is a moment to point out how tiny those sums are in the big picture of government expenditures.

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Spurring the Malawi Judiciary to Re-Hear Death Sentence Cases, Free Prisoners Unjustly Held

In the 2007 case of Kafantayeni and Others v. Attorney General, the Malawi High Court invalidated the mandatory death penalty and ruled that all prisoners given these sentences were entitled to a new sentence hearing. In November 2010, the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal confirmed this right. But by 2013, none of the affected death-row prisoners—188 men and four women—had received their hearing.

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How Savings Groups Assist the Poor and Support Broader Development Goals

In November, DAI inclusive economic growth specialists Colleen Green and Kirsten Weeks attended the SG2015 Savings Groups Conference in Lusaka, Zambia, where approximately 350 practitioners from 44 countries shared experiences and opinions. Green and Weeks recently discussed savings groups and how DAI uses them across its programming with John Jepsen, DAI’s Global Practice Lead for financial services.

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For Thailand’s Civil Society, Capacity Building Now Begins at Home

Well functioning democracies typically rest on three pillars: the state, the market economy, and civil society. Although nongovernmental organizations have existed in Thailand since the Vietnam War, management in the country’s civil society sector has lagged. During Thailand’s modernization and rapid growth, the state and private sectors have dominated development, with universities limited to preparing Thai people for employment in these sectors. Until recently, there were no university programs dedicated to nonprofit management.

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