Public, Private, and Civil Society Partnerships in Action

Yasmina padillaYasmina Padilla, Food Security Project Coordinator

Managua, Nicaragua

January 11, 2013

We like to think of development as a team
sport requiring all players to work together toward the same goal. The game gets particularly exciting when you
add new players to the team at half time. 

Save the Children has served children and
families in Nicaragua for almost 80 years. Three years ago, we began partnering
with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. (GMCR), based in Vermont, on a
project to increasethe income and food security for families of workers on
coffee farms. By helping families to diversify
their crops, improve storage techniques, and bring crops to market, they can
better withstand periods of food scarcity during the months between coffee

The United States Agency for International
(USAID) joined the partnership two years ago, adding an ambitious
health component through their regional “4th Sector Health” project. Implemented by Abt Associates, 4th
Sector Health develops public-private partnerships and supports exchanges
between countries to advance development through health in Latin America and
the Caribbean. In Nicaragua, 4th
Sector Health is working with Save the Children and GMCR, along with local civil
society partners, to boost maternal and child health and nutrition for the same
coffee-growing communities.

USAID’s 4th Sector Health also
recently funded an experience sharing trip for Save the Children staff from five
Latin American countries, who were involved in implementing GMCR-funded
projects. The participants learned from each other’s experiences and are
replicating best practices in their own programs, serving to increase their
impact and sustainability.

The alliance between USAID, Save the Children,
and GMCR is intended to maximize the use of resources and help identify new
solutions to challenges affecting these communities. Sometimes the alliance
organizations face challenges of their own — coordinating work plans, reporting
on technical outcomes, and carrying out their separate missions. 

Public-private partnerships, otherwise known
as the “Golden Triangle,”are a hot topic in the field of international
development. Donors like USAID have
invested millions of dollars in partnerships with the private sector, yet some
development experts have questioned the development impact of such partnerships in
achieving real benefits for the poor and marginalized in developing countries.

As part of its recent reform efforts, USAID has
put more attention towards improving its public-private
partnership model. For one, USAID is including technical experts
in health and nutrition such as Save the Children in some partnerships,
recognizing that U.S. civil society groups lend valuable expertise in
maternal-child health and other technical areas. Moreover, USAID is steering the private sector
towards achievement of concrete development targets through their partnerships,
as well as ensuring that companies are held to certain standards, such as
respect for workers and environmental stewardship.

From my perspective, this alliance between Save the Children
Nicaragua, USAID, and GMCR, is having a transformative impact on the
communities in which it operates.

Photo Credit: Gerardo Aráuz

Photo Credit: Gerardo Aráuz

Martha Lorena Diaz is one of many
enterprising women working with us,whose partner, Jose Manuel Benavidez, is a
coffee farmer on a cooperative that sells to GMCR. Martha was initially given five
hens and now keeps 40 in her small business, earning about one dollar a day
from selling the eggs and chickens. Save
the Children project training sessions have helped Martha to identify nutritious
sources of food for her three children, particularly during the lean months when
she struggles to provide enough food for them. Martha now makes a corn flour drink to boost
her childrens’ daily vitamin intake. Moreover, health promoters, trained by
Save the Children, visit her neighborhood and others to monitor child health
and nutrition and treat sick children in their communities, which are often far
from the closest health center.

Successful partnerships, such as the one
between USAID, GMCR, and Save the Children Nicaragua, are critical to achieving
lasting results in the communities that we all serve. With an increase in
USAID’s partnerships with private sector and NGO players, who are committed to
making a real difference in the lives of families in Nicaragua and elsewhere, I
believe our team will prevail.