Posted on January 25, 2010 by Vince Ruddy, Resident Country Director, El Salvador, and Rebecca Tunstall, Associate Director for Monitoring and Evaluation
In December, 1,000 students in El Salvador were assigned scholarships for the 2010 school year. The scholarships will provide money for students who attend technical schools for books, uniforms, room and board, and transportation. These scholarships are designed to keep teenagers in school when they cant afford it on their own. This program is especially important for students in the Northern Zone of El Salvador since the average level of schooling is only 4.3 years, which is more than 1.5 years lower than the rest of the country. Plus, a technical education is estimated to increase students employability and raise their incomes by more than 30 percent.
FOMILENIO (the entity managing El Salvador’s $460.9 million MCC compact) started publicizing the scholarships and recruiting students months ago. Almost 1,900 applications were received. Of those, 1,500 applicants met the minimum requirements, but FOMILENIO could not provide all of them with scholarships. Therefore, it was decided that the scholarship recipients would be selected randomly at a public event. By selecting students to receive scholarships randomly, every student had the same chance of being selected through this fair process. By conducting the selection publicly and providing an internet link for remote viewers, FOMILENIO’s process was both open and transparent. The final list of selected scholarship recipients was handed out to school directors and published on FOMILENIOs web site.
In addition to the benefits of fairness and transparency, a random selection of scholarship recipients allowed for a rigorous evaluation of the programs impact. The students who were not selected will be tracked and compared with the students who were selected. Because the students were selected at random, the two groups should be the same on average now and any change in their future income can likely be attributed to the scholarship. This type of evaluation methodology is considered a best practice and one that MCC is using in a variety of programs and countries around the world to assess the impact made to promote sustainable poverty reduction and economic growth.
Posted on January 22, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
We’re off to an exciting 2010 here at MCC. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton started the New Year with a groundbreaking speech on development in which she highlighted the promising role MCC is playing to help countries build their own future. The Secretary said,
“Under MCC compacts, we provide funding and technical support; the country provides the plan and leads the way toward achieving it… This approach points to the difference between aid and investment. Through aid, we supply what is needed to the people who need it… But through investment, we seek to break the cycle of dependence that aid can create by helping countries build their own institutions and their own capacity to deliver essential services. Aid chases need; investment chases opportunity.”
Today, Secretary Clinton and Prime Minister Vladimir Filat of Moldova presided as Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs Iurie Leancă and I signed Moldova’s $262 million MCC compact. This is an investment in opportunity, designed to reduce poverty and stimulate growth. Moldova’s compact will rehabilitate irrigation systems, help farmers diversify into high-value agriculture, and build modern and safe roads to markets that will generate new opportunities for private sector investment, which is the engine of growth and jobs. The Moldovan people are working toward the complete realization of this compact’s potential to increase their incomes and create a better future. MCC is proud to partner with Moldova.
Over recent weeks, I have been meeting with colleagues throughout the development community. Listening to stakeholders from the Center for Global Development, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, ONE, InterAction, and the Corporate Council on Africa, as well as ambassadors from partner countries worldwide, is proving incredibly valuable in assessing the key constraints we face at MCC and how we can effectively address them. I’m committed to deepening our dialogue by listening to and learning from those who share our determination to improve the lives of the world’s poor.
At the end of the month, I’m looking forward to visiting Cape Verde and Ghana. I am going to these MCC partner countries to see the progress underway and gain perspective on the challenges of program implementation.
I’m very excited about what lies ahead for MCC, and I look forward to deepening our impact through increased innovation, private sector engagement, partnerships, and focus on results. That’s how we will raise the standard of living for the world’s poor in sustainable and meaningful ways.
Posted on January 21, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
As we have all seen, a week ago Haiti experienced one of the most devastating earthquakes in its history, leaving hundreds of thousands believed dead, tens of thousands homeless or orphaned, and many families still trying to reconnect with loved ones. Although MCC does not provide humanitarian assistance, many partner U.S. Government agencies are diligently working and coordinating on the ground to provide desperately-needed help to the Haitian people. USAID, for one, is spearheading the U.S. Government’s relief effort, led by Administrator Rajiv Shah, an MCC Board member. Another MCC Board member, Senator Bill Frist, is also on the ground in Haiti, contributing to the relief efforts through his Hope Through Healing Hands Foundation. Please take a moment to read his first-hand accounts of his experience.
Posted on January 11, 2010 by Chelsea Coakley, Program Analyst, Department of Compact Implementation
Investments in agricultural development are integral to MCC’s commitment to sustainable poverty reduction in rural Georgia. The Millennium Challenge Georgia Fund (MCG), implementing Georgia’s $395 million MCC compact, is nearing completion of the Agribusiness Development Activity (ADA), a $20 million program designed to strengthen commercial linkages among agricultural service providers, producers, processors, wholesalers/distributors, and markets. The 287 targeted matching grants already awarded to Georgian agribusinesses and farmers are supporting sustainable, long-term growth.
In addition to providing grants focused on enterprise and value chain development, MCG responded to a request from the Georgian Ministry of Agriculture to support the introduction of new agricultural machinery into the country by developing a new ADA component. The inability of small farmers to access machinery has been cited as a major constraint to agricultural development in Georgia. To meet the needs of Georgian farmers for increased mechanization of their agricultural techniques, MCG is providing grants up to $150,000 to a number of farm service centers. Over the past 4.5 years, ADA has focused, in part, on the creation of a privately-owned retail network of farm service centers to provide a complete range of agricultural goods and services for Georgian farmers.
USAID has also responded to the need for new agricultural machinery in Georgia. In early December 2009, USAID launched the Access to Mechanization Program, a $5.1 million program that will provide similar grants, in combination with a number of other funding mechanisms, to establish 25 to 30 machinery service centers throughout the country. The MCC and USAID programs complement each other and maximize impact by promoting a commercially-sustainable model of agribusiness that benefits farmers as well as the owners and employees of farm service centers and machinery service centers throughout Georgia.
As a result of MCC-funded farm machinery grants and USAID’s newly-launched Access to Mechanization Program, beneficiary farmers will now be able to plant, cultivate, and harvest their crops far more efficiently. Georgian farmers are motivated to move toward greater mechanization, as they expect the effect to be transformative. By increasing productivity and improving the quality of their existing crops, farmers will be able to generate greater income and secure necessary capital for upcoming seasons.