Posted on October 28, 2011 by Thomas Schehl, MCC Senior Sustainability Officer
MCC promotes environmental sustainability as a core principle of economic growth in its partner countries. At our headquarters in Washington, DC, we've embraced environmental sustainability in our policies and operations as a key component of responsible stewardship of taxpayer dollars.
MCC is a relatively small government agency. We have fewer than 300 federal employees in Washington, DC, and our commitment to country ownership translates to a minimal presence in partner countries abroad. Nonetheless, we're committed to creating a sustainability-conscious operating environment for all of our employees and continuously improving policies and practices to enhance our environmental performance.
In October 2009, President Obama signed an executive order requiring federal agencies to develop, implement and annually update a formal Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan. Every agency's plan prioritizes actions based on a positive return on investment for the American taxpayer and meets energy, water, and waste reduction targets.
MCC developed its Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan in 2010 in response to President Obama's executive order. This year, in our Fiscal Year 2011 Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan [PDF], we assess what we've achieved as an agency and determine how we can build on those achievements for increased sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
This week, the Office of Management and Budget formally approved the FY 2011 Performance Plan.
This year’s plan highlights MCC’s new flexible work policy, expected to contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions; environmentally conscious procurement activities; electricity conservation efforts; a space consolidation analysis; new policies favoring bicycle commuters; money-saving paper reduction procedures; and an internal communications plan that builds on previous years’ substantial “greening” initiatives.
We're proud of our sustainability record, and will continue to assess and improve our policies in the coming year.
Posted on October 23, 2011 by Daniel W.Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
My travels as MCC CEO bring me to many memorable places, but it’s the people who inspire me the most. Nicolas Kinsou Ahouandjiinou is one such person who I met in the Beninese village of Djeregbe.
Nicolas was born in Djeregbe and his father was a traditional healer in the village. Nicolas earned degrees from the University of Benin and the Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, and had been travelling the world as an agronomist. One day, more than 20 years ago, Nicolas’s father called him home with a request: use your degrees to adapt the use of native medicinal plants to the modern world.
During their conversation, Nicholas’s father gave him a 200-page notebook that contained his acquired knowledge of the medicinal properties of West African plants, including eucalyptus, lemongrass, laurel, chayote, and ginger. Paging through the notebook, Nicolas knew that he had to return to Djeregbe to realize his father’s dream.
After years of research and trial and error, Nicholas invented a process -- which he believes to be the first of its kind -- to mix the essential oils of traditional African medicinal plants with water to produce a flavored, bottled water. Having successfully mixed oil and water, and devised a way to modernize his father’s age-old practices, Nicholas then faced one more challenge: inadequate access to capital to grow his business, DETAREN SARL.
That’s where MCC came in. With grant support from our Access to Financial Services Project, DETAREN SARL purchased new machinery to produce and bottle the water. According to Nicolas, production has already increased from 1,200 to 8,000 bottles a day. The flavored water, which Nicolas named “Eau Noble,” is now sold in Benin and limited quantities are exported to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo. With his new capacity, Nicolas plans to double his staff to 15, and increase sales by expanding his distribution network to all of West Africa.
MCC has provided DETAREN SARL, and other members of the GATID consortium it has joined, with the assets and credibility they need to gain the attention of financial institutions like Bank of Africa and Oikocredit, which are working with the consortium to provide credit. Nicolas knows that access to credit is essential to growing his business and realizing his dreams -- and the dreams of his father.
Nicolas’s story shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Benin. DETAREN SARL exemplifies the transformation that is happening all over Africa as old traditions give rise to new ways of thinking and new ways of doing business. MCC is proud to be working with entrepreneurs and innovators like Nicolas who are trailblazing Africa’s path to prosperity in the 21st century.
Posted on October 14, 2011 by Cassandra Butts, MCC Senior Advisor
It is fitting that this past Monday the Mo Ibrahim Foundation ended its two-year hiatus in awarding its prestigious Ibrahim Prize, which is reserved for African leaders who demonstrate a commitment to democracy, by recognizing former Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires. While President Pires deserves recognition for his years of leadership in various positions since Cape Verde’s independence in 1975, it is his most recent act of leadership in stepping down from office at the end of his second term to pave the way for the peaceful election of opposition candidate Jorge Carlos Fonseca that merits attention.
On a recent visit to Cape Verde to review progress towards MCC’s second compact development, I participated in the inauguration of newly elected President Fonseca. While there, I was one of a few hundred guests to experience a very rare event in Africa: the beginning of shared government with representation from Cape Verde's two major parties.
President Fonseca described his victory in the August 21, 2011 run-off election (against ruling party candidate Manuel Inocencio Sousa) as a victory “for democracy, for the dignity of the Cape Verdean people.” While the inauguration ceremony lacked the fanfare sometimes typical of such events, it made up for it through careful attention to the details of a constitutional transfer of power and through the enthusiasm of those in attendance.
The ceremony and the internationally recognized free and fair election that preceded it highlight why Cape Verde has succeeded as an MCC partner country, and why it has qualified for second compact consideration. By creating a stable political environment to achieve key policy reforms in the areas of economic development and social investment, Cape Verde has become a model for governing maturity in West Africa.
The recent presidential election is yet another indication of how Cape Verde embraces the just and democratic governance principles at the heart of the MCC country selection process. It remains to be seen how Cape Verde will function under shared government, yet we have every reason to believe that it will continue to lay the groundwork for good governance that is deserving of recognition by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, MCC, and others.
Posted on October 14, 2011 by Tanya Young, Program Officer, El Salvador
Despite progress made in recent years, development in El Salvador’s northern zone has been hampered by gaps in education and training. The Education and Training Activity in the Compact between the Government of El Salvador and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) aims to address some of these limitations. However, increasing the quality and capacity of formal and non-formal vocational programs only partially addressed some of the impediments to poverty reduction in El Salvador. MCC and FOMILENIO, the entity the Government of El Salvador created to implement the Compact, recognized that it would also be necessary to link students to the workforce in order to promote economic growth.
Recently, MCC’s Deputy Resident Country Director, Kenneth Miller, and FOMILENIO’s Executive Director, José Angel Quirós, were joined by Minister of Labor, Humberto Centeno, and a large audience of mayors, government officials, teachers, and students at the launch of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship and Labor Insertion Plan Program (also known as “PILAS”). The PILAS Program is an innovative approach to improving the incomes and real employment opportunities for 9,000+ participants in FOMILENIO’s Education and Training Activity.
By the end of the Compact, MCC expects to have invested over $30 million to promote quality education in the northern zone of El Salvador. To date, the infrastructure of 20 schools has been rehabilitated, a new state-of-the-art technical & vocational facility, the Technological Institute in Chalatenango “ITCHA,” has been built, over $3 million in scholarships has been awarded to over 3,000 deserving students, 500+ instructors have been trained and schools have been equipped with learning tools such as computers and software. To complement these efforts, the PILAS Program aims to link students and trainees with employers and opportunities for entrepreneurship. The $2 million dedicated to supporting this job placement initiative is expected to help ensure the sustainability of the education and training activity. Working together with local employment service agencies and regional NGOs, FOMILENIO has begun to connect the large youth population of the region with employment opportunities across the country.