Posted on May 22, 2013 by Jolyne Sanjak, Deputy Vice President, Department of Compact Operations
I am pleased to unveil MCC’s Knowledge and Innovation Network (KIN) Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.
With over $8.2 billion invested in 21 countries, MCC’s portfolio contains a wealth of learning in the fields of transportation, water supply and sanitation, agriculture, land tenure, education, health, energy, natural resource management, social and gender performance, and private sector engagement. The KIN Journal is prepared twice a year by MCC’s technical staff and implementing partners. Each issue focuses on a particular theme linking MCC’s current implementation experiences with trends in international development.
Through peer-reviewed case studies, lessons learned, technical notes, graphics, and photographs, the KIN Journal helps foster knowledge sharing, where best practices, state-of-the-art techniques, challenges, and opportunities are communicated among MCC staff, implementing partners and the broader development community. Together with MCC’s rigorous independent impact evaluations and monitoring and evaluation procedures, the KIN Journal positions MCC to actively learn within and across the projects it finances. This improves its own and others’ ability to deliver development approaches that work.
The current issue focuses on Local Food Security, Global Markets. Growth in the agriculture sector is recognized as one of the most powerful drivers of poverty reduction. Since 2005, MCC has invested over $4.3 billion across 21 countries to address food insecurity and to strengthen agricultural and rural economies. MCC’s portfolio also represents a significant contribution to Feed the Future, President Obama’s Global Food Security Initiative, which aligns U.S. Government resources around a common strategy to sustainably reduce global poverty and hunger.
MCC’s food security investments in Benin, Ghana, Mali, Moldova, Morocco, and Namibia, for example, are designed to sustain expanded market access for agricultural and rural stakeholders to reduce poverty and hunger. During the Fall of 2012, MCC released impact evaluations of farmer training activities in five countries with completed agricultural projects. These evaluations revealed successes and challenges, providing a lot of learning about farmer training programs and how best to evaluate them. The latest KIN Journal, with its focus on food security, helps MCC staff continue down this critical learning path by identifying innovations in MCC projects and how they matter.
As the articles describe, small-holder farmers, fisher folk and natural product harvesters often face the challenge of uncertain resources, scarce support services, inadequate access to markets, insecure land tenure, impacts on private investments, and limited finance opportunities. MCC investments tackle these market development concerns and boost sector growth by reducing transaction costs and linking farmers more closely with consumers. However, outstanding questions remain as to how to most effectively and sustainably create market access that leads to inclusive sector growth and improves local food security.
The authors who wrote this edition of the KIN Journal shed light on these challenges by sharing their implementation experiences to advance learning in food security for us all.
Posted on May 21, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I believe forging partnerships and a country’s commitment are what ultimately allow MCC to help more people climb out of poverty. On my recent trip to Lesotho, I was impressed again and again with the kinds of partnerships we forge and the strong commitment of the people of Lesotho. Our relationships—with other U.S. Government agencies, international donors and the Government of Lesotho—are maximizing the impact and sustainability of our investments.
My three-day trip to Lesotho was designed to see the progress of MCC’s five-year, $363 million compact, and to hear directly from those benefiting from our investment. I began the trip with a visit to the Samaria Health Center, a beautiful 90-minute drive from the capital of Maseru. I first toured the old health clinic. Its walls were crumbling, and medical personnel relied on a standpipe outside the building to wash their hands. The new health clinic—one of 138 that MCC is building or rehabilitating nationwide—is modern, spacious and properly equipped to provide medical care to the nearby rural community. In the new clinic, I met with patients in the waiting room who thanked us and the generosity of the American people. One woman told me the new clinic was more comfortable and more efficient, and gave her more confidence in the care she would receive.
My next stop, the Botsabelo Health Complex in Maseru, struck me as a perfect example of interagency coordination. MCC invested $12 million to build the National Blood Transfusion Center, the National Reference Laboratory, student dormitories, and staff housing. While we provide the infrastructure and assistance with public health policy reforms, other U.S. Government agencies are complementing our investment with life-saving programs. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, working through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, are supporting complementary public health policies, expanding HIV/AIDS prevention and care, strengthening the country’s health management information systems, and coordinating ongoing training for nurses.
In addition, these agencies are funding comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care programs. This includes training nurses in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS, which will be made easier and more effective through new maternity services offered in MCC-funded health centers. Almost one quarter of Basotho are HIV positive, and I am proud to say that the U.S. Government is responding to the epidemic in these proactive ways.
The following day, I toured the site of the Metolong Dam Water Supply Program, an ambitious $439 million project funded by several donors including MCC, that will provide clean water to 700,000 people—almost one-third of Lesotho's population.
MCC is funding construction of the Metolong Dam’s water treatment facility, command reservoir and associated pipelines, as well as the project’s designs and project management unit. We are working hand-in-hand with donor agencies from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the OPEC countries, the Arab League, and the European Union as well as with the World Bank and the governments of Lesotho and South Africa to build one of Lesotho’s largest infrastructure upgrades since independence.
The residents of my next stop, Ha Janki, were singing and ululating when I arrived in their village. MCC funded the installation of a water system and latrines, meaning members of the community no longer need to walk miles each day to fetch water. With us on this visit was Anne Brewer, a Peace Corps volunteer who provides HIV and gender training in a neighboring community benefiting from our rural water investments.
Speaking the local language, Sesotho, Ms. Brewer told the residents that the people of Lesotho have made her feel at home. After such a warm welcome, I knew exactly how she felt.
On my final day, I attended a private sector breakfast to listen to community members speak about how MCC-funded reforms in the country’s laws governing banking, gender, land, and the judicial system are improving Lesotho’s business climate and what else could help attract investment. Each presenter had a different story to tell, but there was a common theme: Advancements in engaging the private sector were made possible because MCC worked closely with the Government of Lesotho to reform policies.
The government’s contributions don’t stop there. The Government of Lesotho has committed $150 million to complete any projects that are not completed by the time our compact ends in September. That is a tremendous commitment and provides an outstanding example of country ownership.
I left Lesotho with pride about what we achieved and optimism about the future. And when people ask me about the role of partnerships in international development, I will tell them to look at what is being accomplished in Lesotho.
Posted on May 16, 2013 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
On April 29th at the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) unveiled a new evaluation data catalog to house all the data collected through our independent evaluations. Right now, the public can view metadata from agriculture programs in Armenia, Ghana, El Salvador, and the Philippines on the catalog at data.mcc.gov/evaluations, including descriptive statistics for surveys of an estimated 5,000 households in Armenia, 9,300 households in Ghana, 1,700 individuals in El Salvador, and 2,400 households in the Philippines.
The data catalog is designed to contain all of the information that documents and describes MCC-financed independent evaluations, including information on evaluation questions, the types of surveys conducted for the evaluation and the population of interest, questionnaires, sampling methods, and descriptive statistics for household- and individual-level data. The data catalog is fully searchable down to the variable level, allowing for comparison across datasets. In addition, as microdata for each survey is reviewed by MCC’s Disclosure Review Board and is approved for public release, the catalog will host public-use datasets and statistical analyses files for replicating the independent evaluator’s results or conducting separate analysis.
The launch of the catalog is just the beginning of a series of planned data releases. We aim to release as much of our independent evaluation data to the public as possible. We’ve developed an institutional process to enable us to do this over the coming months. It is a labor-intensive effort, but that’s a small price to pay for pushing the boundaries of transparency and accountability to get this huge stock of data into the public domain. And we are delighted to be ahead of the curve on President Obama’s just-released Executive Order on Open Data Policy.
While publishing the data is a big deal in and of itself, the really big deal will come in seeing how others use it. We know – and welcome – that it will be used as another accountability check on us and our partner governments. We hope it also will be used by other investors to learn from our experience on how to increase the impact of the dollars they invest. For example, the agricultural data we are releasing may help us better understand why some farmers adopt improved practices more quickly than others, which can lead to program improvements to maximize impact, increase incomes and expand productivity.
Still, it is the unknown uses – the things we never imagined our data could be used for – that will likely prove to be the most exciting. Finance institutions, for example, looking to spur agricultural growth may gather information needed to develop innovative new products for smallholder farmers. Companies that want to evaluate the risks and benefits of operating in certain locations may find market information that is useful for evaluating risk and catalyzing new investments. Governments and civil society organizations can also analyze this data to drive forward their own complementary development and social programs.
MCC is opening our data because it is the right thing to do: American taxpayers deserve to see this part of their investment. But we are also opening our data because it is the smart thing to do. Information and data are tremendous strategic assets. They can help us enhance policies and practices to more fully contribute to economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, improve the impact of our work, and inspire entrepreneurship, innovation and scientific discovery in the field of development and beyond. Follow our efforts and give us your feedback!
Posted on May 10, 2013 by Stacy Alboher, Program Officer for East Africa
Asbestos is a hazardous material that can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and other deadly respiratory diseases. In early 2012, MCC discovered that asbestos-containing materials—very common in older buildings in Africa—were present in the majority of health facilities being renovated under the Lesotho Compact’s Health Sector Project, leading to concerns about potential exposure of both workers and surrounding community members.
Additionally, many of the health facilities under renovation have been operating for decades without a systematic nationwide approach for disposing of the medical waste being generated. This waste was deposited in open pits, burned or buried onsite. It contained syringes, medicine or biological waste. And it had accumulated without any markings to indicate where the waste was located.
When contractors began digging at the health facility sites, they often came into contact with this material. In some cases, their earth-moving activities spread the waste across the sites, creating a bigger potential for exposure and contact.
Over the past year, MCC has been working closely with MCA-Lesotho, the project’s supervisory engineer and the construction contractors to put in place procedures for ensuring that the risks associated with both asbestos-containing materials and medical waste are appropriately mitigated. During a recent trip to Lesotho, we developed this video to document the issue and describe the processes put in place to respond to the challenge.
Through the Lesotho Compact, we are not only addressing the immediate risk related to our project but also helping Lesotho to develop a sustainable process to continue addressing these issues in the future.
Posted on May 10, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
What will it take to deliver on Africa’s economic promise?
On my way to compact closeout activities in Lesotho, I had the opportunity to attend some sessions at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town to help answer that very question. The energy and excitement generated by 12 heads of state, five former presidents and over 1,000 participants from the private sector, government ministries, nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and development agencies inspired new thinking on unlocking Africa’s promise. And, I am particularly proud that MCC was able to play a part.
MCC participated in key discussions at the Forum that focused on some of the most fundamental building blocks for economic growth. We talked about strengthening land rights and governance. We highlighted the importance of policy reforms in the energy sector as key for sustaining other investments. We emphasized that helping African farmers boost trade regionally and beyond really depends on expanding their productivity to include a competitive range of diverse, high-quality products. MCC continues to be among the largest investors in African infrastructure for trade, but we first need to help equip African farmers and entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to generate the income-producing goods and services that will reach markets via the roads, bridges, ports, and airports we construct.
The World Economic Forum created a unique space to foster the kind of partnerships that can accelerate progress on these and other issues vital for Africa’s sustainable development. By partnering within the U.S. Government on a coordinated energy and trade strategy toward the continent, with African countries who know their development priorities best, and throughout the development and business community, we are working to create tangible opportunities to deliver on Africa’s promise and improve the lives of Africa’s people in meaningful and lasting ways. This commitment reverberated throughout the Forum and will continue to define MCC’s work in Africa.