Posted on April 23, 2014 by Andrew Ladson, MCC Department of Congressional and Public Affairs
No service. It’s a familiar modern harbinger of imminent frustration. When this message replaces the reassuring presence of three to five bars in the upper left hand corner of a phone’s display, the mental gymnastics of letting go of email, texts and having the Internet at immediate command begin. But for guests of Grootberg Lodge, located in the ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy on the Etkendeka Plateau of Namibia’s Kunene region, this message is a reminder that they’re exactly where they want to be.
Grootberg Lodge is part of the Ecotourism Development in Conservancies Project of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s $304.4 million compact with Namibia,
Established in July 1998 through the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy benefits its more than 3,000 residents with programs that take advantage of the region’s extraordinary natural beauty and wildlife. The conservancy’s innovative approach to addressing such challenges as human-wildlife conflict and rare species poaching has made a remarkable difference in the area. The conservancy makes life better for residents by helping them no longer view wildlife as a nuisance or threat and by generating revenue through ecotourism. Grootberg (which means Big Mountain) Lodge—wholly owned by the conservancy’s residents—is a big part of what is making the difference.
Renovated and expanded in 2012 by Millennium Challenge Account-Namibia (MCA-Namibia), the local organization managing the implementation of Namibia’s MCC compact, the lodge offers guests a wide range of ecotourism activities--including black rhino and elephant tracking, visits to the Himba people (an ancient tribe of nomadic herders) and guided walks through the plateaus overlooking the Klip River Valley—all provided by employees from the local community. Over 95 percent of the lodge’s employees are conservancy and community residents, and their employment provides a livelihood much different from subsistence livestock farming or odd jobs. For employees like Susanna !Hoages and Otniel ‘’Areseb, that employment has blossomed into careers.
Susanna !Hoages, 27, began her employment at Grootberg in 2006 as a waitress, with the lodge providing on-the-job training. After taking an interest in the “back of the house” activities in the kitchen, management transferred Susanna in 2009 to another lodge to serve as an assistant chef trainee. Excelling in this role, Susanna was sent to the Namibian Institute of Culinary Education before returning to Grootberg Lodge to serve as food and beverage manager. Susanna appreciates the difference the lodge has made in her life and that of the community at large.
“Employment at Grootberg Lodge is one of my benefits… as well as [for] the community as a whole and my family. I’m working, I’m earning money… the lodge is earning money—which is a benefit to the community. This money that is produced or the profits that [are] coming into the lodge, it’s shared with the community.”
Otniel ‘’Areseb, 48, helped build Grootgerg Lodge. In November 2004, he was literally in the trenches, digging the paths for the plumbing pipes that serve the 16 lodge chalets, main building and staff quarters.
Upon its opening in June 2005, Otniel was employed as a bartender and later promoted to project manager for maintenance. Otniel now serves as floor manager, which means he is responsible for managing the staff that attends to guests in the main building and restaurant—a role critical to guests’ perceptions of their experience at the lodge. A consistently high level of service is Otniel’s continuing goal:
“We have many guests who are here three, four times. This is what we want to see with our service.”
“No service” might be welcome when escaping the modern grind, but while visiting Grootberg Lodge, it will be confined to a phone’s display during a rhino tracking expedition or a plateau walk (yes, there is wifi in the main lodge). For lodge staff, continuing to raise the service bar for themselves and the lodge is the best way to ensure the benefits for the community’s economic prosperity will continue to grow.
Posted on April 18, 2014 by Tim Mooney, director, agriculture, and Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture and land
As part of the Mali Compact, MCC invested $252.9 million in the Alatona Irrigation Project to build irrigation infrastructure—but that’s not the whole story. Designing a comprehensive package of complimentary activities to ensure the physical canals would have broad and lasting impacts beyond the compact is the rest of the story.
Though much smaller than the construction in dollar terms, these complementary investments will mean the difference between a well-maintained system that operates decades into the future and a short-lived one that falls into disrepair within a few years.
Integrating various activities was critical to sustainability. Infrastructure without effective land allocation can leave beneficiaries with insecure property rights, reducing the chances people will invest in their property. Allocation of secure land rights without good training in agronomy and farm management could mean production levels that do not reach their potential. And water delivery without organizations in place to manage water flow, collect fees for its use and maintain the system can lead to rapid system degradation. Extensive outreach during the implementation helped beneficiaries understand what they were receiving and their responsibilities for ensuring sustainability.
The project adopted an approach different than the typical “top-down” management of irrigation systems in Mali. Traditionally, a centralized agency would fix water prices and dictate how farmers would use their land.
In the Alatona zone, a federation of nine water-user associations now has the legal authority to set water prices, use proceeds to operate and maintain the secondary and tertiary systems and pay the government irrigation agency to operate and maintain the primary system and deliver water to the perimeter. With the project’s support and USAID providing post-compact assistance, the federation is operating, managing and maintaining the secondary and tertiary systems of the Alatona Perimeter, while the Malian government is responsible for only the primary canal and drain. The beneficiaries now have an active voice in governing the system that provides them with water.
To maximize outcomes, the project was built on incentives and transparency. MCC built upon the Government of Mali's broader goal of decentralizing government to establish a revenue authority responsible for collecting the Alatona farmers’ mortgage payments and using the proceeds to benefit the entire region.
MCC’s investments to build the capacity of the water-user associations and their federation, improve land tenure security, establish the revenue authority, and build irrigation infrastructure work together to sustain economic benefits for farmers in Alatona. USAID’s follow-on support for these critical institutions developed local skills and help the region toward its goal of self-sufficiency.
What are your experiences building local, bottom-up institutions to manage large works that were previously centrally managed? Have you experienced success with water-user associations? What lessons can you share with us to improve the effectiveness of comprehensive, bottom-up approaches to financing irrigation systems?
Posted on April 15, 2014 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
This is my last day as MCC’s CEO.
Leading the noble work of this agency in partnership with countries around the world and with the unparalleled professionalism and passion of MCC’s amazing staff and committed Board of Directors has been one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of my career. I thank President Obama, former Secretary Clinton and Secretary Kerry for their confidence and support during my tenure at MCC.
I leave to assume my duties at the U.S. Mission to the OECD in Paris with two thoughts.
First, I am incredibly grateful.
Over the past four years, I have benefited tremendously from the advice and recommendations of our friends from the business, congressional, NGO, and development communities. Their honest feedback has strengthened our programs and impact in our fight to reduce poverty through economic growth as part of U.S. efforts to advance global development. MCC will continue to be well served by listening to and acting on the input of the agency’s stakeholders.
Second, I am deeply hopeful.
From meetings to major events, from managing day-to-day to making the tough decisions, what has touched me most is getting to know the individuals and families in our partner countries whose lives are being changed for the better through our partnerships and projects. School children in Ghana, women farmers in Honduras, fishers in Morocco, business owners in Zanzibar who can now rely on electricity are just some of the beneficiaries who shared with me their hopes for a better, brighter future because of what MCC-funded programs are making possible. These individuals are proof that we can, in fact, make tangible and measurable strides to reduce global poverty. MCC must never lose sight of this specific focus on making a lasting difference in the lives of the world’s poor.
For me, MCC represents the best of America’s values in translating hope into a world of real opportunities that reflect our common humanity and promote our shared prosperity. As MCC continues to thrive under the capable leadership of Sheila Herrling, who will serve as acting CEO, I remain forever thankful for the chance to have served MCC’s mission and look forward to following more of its life-changing work ahead.
Posted on April 11, 2014 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
Could a new U.S. Government development agency select partner countries based primarily on objective, quantifiable indicators of sound economic, social and democratic policies? That was one of the big experiments attached to the Millennium Challenge Corporation when it was created in 2004.
Ten years later, MCC has shown that it works. An evidence- and data-driven system can indeed be used to select partner countries, focus attention on MCC’s mission and inspire policy reform (even before spending money). And I’m so excited to share our learning—what makes it work, what we continue to learn and what’s next—through a new MCC Principles into Practice paper and issue brief. This latest Principle into Practice is yet another in our series to share learning in a very technical space (thank you Andria Hayes-Birchler, our scorecard data architect extraordinaire!) in a very accessible manner (thank you Sarah Jane Staats, senior policy advisor!).
For those who know me, you know how much importance I place on evidence-based decision making. That means, whenever you can, use data and evidence as a base from which you begin your deliberations but recognize the challenges of any data-driven system and allow for responsible discretion in its use. So how do you use both evidence and discretion in a credible manner? Make the system transparent, assess its execution in practice, share your lessons, and evolve to better practice whenever you can.
So, how’d we do? Read the paper, but here’s a teaser:
The big takeaways for us are that MCC’s policy performance data:
- Drives country selection decisions;
- Focuses attention on MCC’s poverty reduction through economic growth mission; and
- Inspires policy reform (even before spending money).
But five critical elements are part of what makes the system work:
- It’s public.
- It’s built on a research-driven technical and mathematical foundation.
- It’s simple, accessible and actionable.
- A credible system selects—and removes—countries
- .It adapts to stay current and cutting edge.
At MCC, we are really proud to show that the experiment works, and we will continue to push ourselves to stay on the cutting edge of policy measurement. We also hope the lessons will be of interest to other donors, including other U.S. Government agencies, and those thinking about a post-2015 data revolution. And we are really excited to use our experience to spur the creation of more and better data for development decision making. The global governance data workshop we are co-hosting with Global Integrity next week is a promising step in that direction (thank you Alicia Phillips Mandaville!).
So please read the paper. Give us your feedback. Share your own lessons and experience in the use of data to base decisions. And for all of you out there pushing for and producing better development data, thank you, thank you, thank you!
Posted on April 7, 2014 by Tamara Heimur, Liberia country team
Each MCC compact is designed to create economic growth. Since the private sector is a key driver for sustainable growth, MCC’s Finance, Investment and Trade team works with partner country colleagues to ensure that companies have input throughout the compact development process.
This work includes consultations with American, Liberian and international businesses to learn firsthand about the challenges they face when considering investment in our partner countries. We then work with our partner countries to design compact grants that address these challenges.
MCC, the Government of Liberia and The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) recently hosted a roundtable meeting in Washington, DC for companies that are active in Liberia or are interested in investing.
At the roundtable, the Government of Liberia (GoL) and MCC presented the Liberia Constraints Analysis, a report outlining the primary constraints to economic growth and investment in Liberia.
Every MCC partner country develops a constraints analysis, which takes an evidence-based approach to identifying the primary factors that limit investment. The analysis clarifies priorities among a country’s many development needs and identifies potential areas of focus for an MCC compact. The Liberia Constraints Analysis identified the lack of roads and electricity as the primary constraints to growth.
After the presentation of the constraints analysis, the Liberian government delegation presented some initial concepts for potential projects in the roads and energy sectors. We invited feedback and questions from attendees, which helped start a conversation that will help the GoL to refine the proposed projects.
This event is part of a series of conversations that MCC and the GoL have hosted since Liberia qualified for MCC assistance in December 2012. In mid-2013, the GoL organized roundtables with businesses in Liberia to learn what is constraining the growth of local companies, and in late 2012, MCC, the GoL and CCA hosted another event for companies in Washington, DC to provide feedback on the proposed compact projects. We expect to continue the dialogue with companies through more events, webinars, email updates, and other forums as the GoL continues its compact development process.
This type of private sector engagement is an important component of the MCC model. Together with our partners in the GoL, we are ensuring the private sector and other stakeholders provide input every step of the way.
We invite additional input and feedback from private sector firms; please contact the following individuals for more information:
Government of Liberia:
- Monie Captan, National Coordinator, National Millennium Challenge Compact Development, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Philip Pleiwon, Private Sector Lead, National Millennium Challenge Compact Development, email@example.com.
Millennium Challenge Corporation:
- Evan Freund, Country Team Lead for Liberia, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tamara Heimur, Private Sector Lead for Liberia, email@example.com.