Jargon of the day: Cash for Work

I have always thought the phrase “cash for work” was kind of crazy. Isn’t cash for work called employment? In practice, however, cash for work is a specific kind of disaster relief where people affected by the emergency are paid to engage in reconstruction activities. That might include cleaning or rebuilding schools and hospitals, clearing roads, or digging latrines. If well-designed, cash for work programs support the rebuilding of a community and provide a much-needed cash infusion. If badly designed, they can disempower communities by not giving community residents a stake and a voice in how their own space is restored.

Jargon of the day: FSN

Jargon: FSN

Translation: This is a US embassy acronym that stands for “Foreign Service National.” It’s the term for someone from the host country who works for the US Government.

(Here is something to know. FSNs very often have serious authority. Not soft power, or unofficial power, or the ability to influence someone. Real job-based power to make major decisions about your project. If you are the kind of jerk who assumes that you should focus on the American and not the FSN, I guarantee you will regret it.)

Jargon of the day: CTO

Jargon: CTO

Translation: This is a USAID term, as far as I know. CTO stands for cognizant technical officer. The cognizant technical officer is the representative of the contracting officer and responsible for the day-to-day management of a grant or contract. The CTO approves your workplan, approves your key personnel, and manages the various types of bureaucracy that affect your project. As a rule, you can assume your CTO is on your side and wants your project to succeed and look good doing it. Considering how much time and energy they will put into managing your project, he or she will be as emotionally invested in its success as you are. They will be your advocate with the other actors in the USAID bureaucracy.

Jargon of the day: Women’s time poverty

Jargon: Women’s time poverty

Translation: Women in the developing world tend to have substantially less time than men do, because of the burden of household chores and child care. This means that women have more difficult accessing medical care, for example, because they cannot spare the time to go to a clinic.

Jargon of the Day: Food Aid

Jargon: Food Aid

Translation: This isn’t exactly jargon, because food aid is exactly what it sounds like. Food, given away to people who need it. It may be given in a food-for-work scheme, where the donor has people do work for the common good such as digging latrines or rebuilding schools in return for the food. It may just be distributed according to some criteria about who is sufficiently in need (very often female-headed households).

The thing about food aid, though, is it is almost never locally purchased. It is generally produced in the donor country, and purchased from those domestic farmers, then shipped abroad as food aid. This supports a domestic market and farmers in the donor country. If food is purchased in the recipient country from local markets, we usually don’t call it food aid. We just call it hunger relief, or “an effort to improve food security.”