Jack Vaughn says, "I think that this is the first time in history where the U.S. government has gone to NGOs and said, 'we'll follow your lead.'"

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Jack Vaughn: March 1, 1966-April 30, 1969 : Vaughn: Jack Vaughn says, "I think that this is the first time in history where the U.S. government has gone to NGOs and said, 'we'll follow your lead.'"

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, July 14, 2001 - 9:28 pm: Edit Post

Jack Vaughn says, "I think that this is the first time in history where the U.S. government has gone to NGOs and said, 'we'll follow your lead.'"

Jack Vaughn says, "I think that this is the first time in history where the U.S. government has gone to NGOs and said, 'we'll follow your lead.'"

Jack Vaughn says, "I think that this is the first time in history where the U.S. government has gone to NGOs and said, 'we'll follow your lead.'"


SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA, May 11, 1992 -- Not so long ago, many environmentalists laboring in the international arena considered the U.S. Agency for International Development (US-AID) one of the bad guys. The agency, operating around the globe with funds appropriated by Congress, sponsored roads, which usually led to deforestation. It lavished money on Third World government agencies, whose grandiose projects frequently hastened environ- mental deterioration. It helped big farmers get addicted to pesticides and fertilizers, while, critics charged, ignoring the growing multitudes of poor farmers. And it promoted cattle ranching, which many conservationists consider the scourge of the Earth.

Even government agencies can change their stripes. While US-AID still has critics, many environmentalists are taking a second look.

"AID is beginning to come around," says Jane Lyons, an international projects coordinator for the National Audubon Society. "And nowhere is the change more evident than in Central America."

Jack Vaughn, a former director of the Peace Corps and now US-AID's senior natural resources advisor for Central America, recalls that, "The greening of AID has been an evolutionary process, not a sudden or deliberate conversion."

Of course, this evolutionary process was pushed by Congress, which, in turn, was prodded by environmental groups. The Foreign Assistance Act was amended in 1986 to put an emphasis on saving tropical forests and the diversity of life. Last year, a further amendment was proposed to prohibit US-AID from funding activities that "would result in the significant loss of primary tropical forests."

William Baucom, head of US-AID's rural development office in Costa Rica, says, "The change in AID reflects the changes in society. Everybody -- teachers and taxi drivers -- is more environmentally aware now."

From US-AID's regional office in Guatemala, Jack Vaughn says that "green think came in the back door. We all just got wise to the implications of ignoring ecological considerations."

Anne Lewandowski, a natural resources specialist with US-AID in Costa Rica, says that there was "never a malicious attempt to avoid environmental regulation. Since the mid 1970s, we've always done environmental impact reviews for every project ...Final project designs include environmental recommendations."

The Costa Rican AID office is no longer funding new roads, and one US-AID officer now warns, "Don't even mention cows around here."

A principal US-AID planning document contains this conclusion, which could have been written by the National Audubon Society or the World Wildlife Fund: "Development plans for rural Central America will fail unless they contain ambitious measures to replant the region's forests, protect its critical watersheds, rehabilitate its degraded lands, and help its desperately poor small farmers to earn a decent living by sustainable farming measures."

In Costa Rica, Lewandowski manages three projects that meet these criteria. One campaign commits to spending $22.5 million over seven years protecting a string of mountain parks and developing "alternatives to deforestation" in surrounding areas. The program helps small landowners break out of their environmentally destructive and often profitless farming traditions by using more efficient techniques, planting and harvesting trees on a managed basis, and cultivating trees and crops together in an integrated system.

There is a US-AID "mission" in every Central American country. In addition, the agency has a regional office in Guatemala with its own broad programs. One of these is the Regional Environmental and Natural Resources Management Project, a multifaceted, six year, $60 million campaign with various field efforts in every country. Most of the on-the-ground projects are managed by environmental groups, and this signals the greatest change in the way US-AID does business. It is funding and cooperation with citizen groups or "non-governmental organizations" (NGOs).

Jack Vaughn says, "I think that this is the first time in history where the U.S. government has gone to NGOs and said, 'we'll follow your lead.'"

Alfredo Nakatsuma, with the US-AID mission in Guatemala, says, "AID has changed its attitude about NGOs and is using them more and more. It makes sense, because the NGOs have proven capability, dedication and reliability. Instead of charging overhead like for-profit consulting groups, the NGOs are putting in matching funds. This makes it their project as much as ours."

US-AID, Nakatsuma says, has found that NGOs often outlast presidential administrations, and that assistance dollars go farther when they are not absorbed by government bureaucracies.

Four years ago, Nakatsuma was working half-time as the environment and natural resources officer in the Guatemalan US- AID office, when the mission's portfolio in this area was limited to about $2 million annually, mostly for watershed protection. Now he works with a full-time staff of six overseeing a $60 million budget (over five years). About half of this funding comes from the government of Guatemala and NGOs. The agency has a full spectrum of environmental and natural resource programs and partnerships with many local conservation groups.

With the support of Nakatsuma's office, the US-based group Conservation International and local NGOs are looking for income- generating products from Guatemala's tropical forest. The program, centered in the Peten region bordering Mexico, aims to slow deforestation by encouraging "slash and burn" farmers to, instead, collect chicle for chewing gum, allspice (which grows naturally in the forest), or ornamental plants for sale to U.S. or European markets.

Nakatsuma, a young veteran in the rural development field, says, "I think it's a privilege to work here, to be helping poor people. If AID wasn't helping the poor, I wouldn't be here."

Unfortunately, just as US-AID is beginning to effectively address environmental problems and just as world leaders are beginning to understand the connection between ecological health and political stability, the agency's budget is declining. Foreign aid bills always stall in Congress, usually mired in the rancorous politics of family planning assistance. And recession bound Americans are not in a generous mood.

Budgets are especially tight in Latin America as money is diverted to meet the urgent needs and opportunities developing in Eastern Europe. One US-AID officer said, "We're beginning to feel the pinch already. We're down to the funding levels we had 15 years ago." # # #

Contacts: In Guatemala -- Jack H. Vaughn; 502/2-32-0202. Alfredo Nakatsuma-Vaca; 502/2-32-0202. In Costa Rica -- Anne Lewandowski; 506/20-4545. Gary Keith or Tony Prez, USIS,

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Story Source: Forests

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By Vicky Pareja on Saturday, November 23, 2002 - 5:01 pm: Edit Post

I want the e-mail of Brian Allen who served in the peace Corps in San Jose -Costa Rica i 1966

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