When I left office in 2001 to begin my work as a private citizen, America was enjoying its longest period of peace and prosperity in more than a generation, and our world was on the verge of the most interdependent age in history. I knew I wanted to leverage the benefits of this global interdependence to address the biggest challenges of the new century, to build a stronger, more inclusive global community, and to give more people everywhere the chance to live out their dreams.
Eleven years later, thanks to our supporters and partners across the world, the Clinton Foundation has grown faster and touched more lives than any of us thought possible. The inequalities and instabilities of our world still challenge us, but I believe we have reason to be optimistic about our future. This is because today, more than ever before in our history, we have the ability to work together to build a better world. And the Foundation’s story over the past 11 years has been one of people coming together, across sectors and continents and generations, to implement real solutions to the biggest challenges of our time.
Nowhere has this impact been more pronounced than in Africa, a continent rich in resources and ripe with potential but lacking the systems, investment, and opportunity that many of us in the developed world take for granted. Over the course of our work there, we’ve seen how when you build systems and introduce new investment, and work directly in line with governments and communities, dramatic change is possible.
On a trip to Malawi I met a female farmer, Ifijenia Kamlaza, who was relying on groundnut crops for a living. On her small plot of land she was getting about five bags of groundnuts per acre and could barely provide for her family. To help support Ifijenia and other nearby farmers, we established a large commercial farm in the Mchinji District of Malawi that could leverage economies of scale to secure bulk-pricing for soy seed, fertilizer, and other inputs. Through the program, Ifijenia accessed these inputs along with advanced farming techniques for harvesting soy instead of groundnuts. As a result, her yield increased from 5 to 20 bags per acre.
Ifijenia was now earning double what she earned under the old system. And with her extra income, she put a new roof on her home and paid tuition to send her daughters to school. So you can see how this work can change not just an individual life, but the fate of an entire family or the course of an entire community.
Another example is from the nearby Machinga District in Malawi, where our prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) programs have helped reduce HIV transmission rates by 40 percent since 2008. One local woman, Joyce Jalifu, found out she was HIV-positive shortly after becoming pregnant with her first child. But thanks to a program we piloted at her district hospital, Joyce had access to regular checkups, affordable medicines, community support, and post-natal care. And her daughter, Tamanda, was born HIV-negative.
Previously, when HIV-positive women like Joyce became pregnant, they had to walk long distances to get to a clinic while pregnant or nursing, had to wait all day in the hot sun to be seen, and only had a short time with the provider once their turn came. But more and more, we are making it possible for women to receive the care they need, no matter where they live – and slowly defeating one of the key drivers of new infections. Just imagine what an HIV-free generation could mean for Africa’s future.
I’ll be traveling to Africa in a few days, visiting old friends and new and seeing the impact of our work firsthand. I hope you’ll follow my trip on the Foundation website to learn more about the incredible progress we’ve made – and the work we have yet to do. Because for every Ifijenia and Joyce, there’s another individual who hasn’t had the opportunity to earn a decent living, to get the care she needs, to secure her future.
As global citizens it’s crucial that we stay educated, keep ourselves informed, and find our own ways to take action. This blog will be another place where you can connect with us, ask questions, and join us on our journey to a better world.