Posted on May 31, 2012 by Alain Diouf, MCA-Senegal Property Rights and Land Policy Director , and Kent Elbow, MCC Property Rights and Land Policy Specialist
We knew we were on to something in Senegal—that what we learned about the role customary land rights can play in alleviating poverty was worth sharing with the wider land practice community.
In recent years, many African governments have developed legislation to recognize the legitimacy of informal (mostly unwritten) customary rights to land. Governments have introduced a variety of legislative tools to formalize, protect and secure those rights. Each country brings a different approach to this, but in many instances the process helps lay the foundation for increased economic development.
Customary land rights are the starting point of any formalization initiative, which isn’t easy. We need to help contribute to economic objectives while preserving or enhancing the rights and interests of the powerless. We do this in two main ways.
The first task is to identify the holders of customary rights, which requires recognizing categories like individual and collective rights. Analyses of community resources, such as pastures and forests, need to include detailed socio-economic information. Where community land-use plans do not yet exist, we identify various interests and base our approach on the active participation of all parties in working toward a consensus on how existing rights are to be presented and preserved during the formalization process.
The Land Tenure Security Activity, funded by Senegal’s $540 million MCC compact, is working in the Senegal River Valley to determine the boundaries between agriculture and livestock while also accounting for the areas where the two overlap. MCA-Senegal will act upon some of the decisions negotiated during the first phase of the activity—such as the boundaries of cattle trails through agricultural land leading to water points—by planting trees.
The second major element of a successful formalization program is ensuring that fairness remains a dominant principle in ongoing and future land allocation. Formalization is not just identifying rights and issuing corresponding pieces of paper. Mechanisms must be developed and activated to provide for the exchange and reallocation of land rights so resources can be put to their most productive use while ensuring that rights are protected. Governance of land allocation works best when it is transparent, democratic and participatory.
The Land Tenure Security Activity in Senegal is demonstrating that existing customary land rights can be comprehensively identified and documented—if one incorporates careful design and planning, inclusive methodologies, copious work, and adequate time. It is also demonstrating that local land allocation principles and processes can be developed and recognized as legitimate if all stakeholders are given a voice in their development.
Yes, customary land rights are messy—but protecting customary land rights while moving toward a more formal land management system is both fair and economically productive. An even more fundamental goal must be to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the more permanent institutions of land governance. In the Senegal River Valley, land is governed at the community level, and there are positive signs that previously unheard voices are now finding a stage.
“These workshops have changed us as well as our community decision-makers,” the president of a women’s producer group said after a community workshop. “We no longer hesitate to speak our minds and address the Rural Council. This is a new situation for us.”
MCC, the Government of Senegal and MCA-Senegal are excited about the good work that has been accomplished and are committed to continuing to learn and share our learning with land practitioners facing similar challenges around the world.
Posted on May 29, 2012 by Jolyne Sanjak, Managing Director, Technical Services Division
MCC and a majority of our partner countries believe that improvements to their agricultural and rural sectors are a crucial part of lifting people out of poverty and to improving food security. MCC’s portfolio includes $4.4 billion of investments in improvements to the agricultural and rural sectors that are relevant to reducing food insecurity. This includes a substantial focus on infrastructure investments in large-scale irrigation schemes to ensure reliable access to water and improved yields, as well as roads and post-harvest storage and packaging facilities to move goods to market more efficiently.
MCC projects also invest in direct assistance to farmers with a focus on smallholders. Training activities help farmers learn about cultivating high-value yields, deal with pests and diseases and manage scarce land resources. Rural credit programs are designed to raise incomes by expanding access to credit to help purchase inputs. Land tenure projects work to create secure land rights and efficient institutions for managing land rights.
In seven years, MCC-funded projects have trained nearly 200,000 farmers and assisted more than 3,500 enterprises worldwide. Roughly 170,000 hectares under production receive MCC support through technical assistance, new or rehabilitated irrigation systems or access to agricultural inputs and credit. Land tenure projects have supported legal and regulatory reform in six countries and the formalization of land rights of more than 1 million hectares of rural land, including farmland, grazing areas and forests.
Just last month, our commitment to food security received high praise from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization. MCC received an “outstanding” evaluation in The 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, a thorough study of how the U.S. Government is performing in its commitment to improve food security and support agricultural development in regions with the greatest levels of rural poverty and hunger.
“The Millennium Challenge Corporation has demonstrated outstanding leadership in agricultural development in its role as the largest U.S. Government provider of funding for agriculture and food security infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” the report said. “It has increased its capacity to disburse funds and complete agreements in a timely fashion.”
The report chose Ghana, one of our partner countries, for a case study of U.S. Government development efforts. It labeled the U.S. Government's actions there as “outstanding” and said the MCC compact's “vital work in agriculture has laid a solid foundation for expanded Feed the Future activities.” The MCC compact also supported innovation in applying land tenure law in Ghana by demonstrating an approach to formally recording rural land rights in the context of strong customary practices.
As project results continue to come in, MCC remains committed to learning and being held accountable for how well these program outputs translate into increased incomes and well-being for program beneficiaries. MCC currently has 16 independent impact evaluations underway to address questions such as the impact of our programs on increased productivity, investment in high-value agriculture and business and marketing opportunities. Ultimately, these evaluations are designed to measure and better understand our impact on incomes and poverty reduction. Just as MCC contributed its leadership and technical skill to the State Department and USAID as the Feed the Future Initiative was developed and moved into implementation, we see our rigorous approach to monitoring progress and evaluating impacts as a source of learning for the whole U.S. Government. Learning from our programs can also contribute lessons for donors worldwide.
At MCC, we are proud of our investments and inspired by the changes we are seeing in people’s lives as a result of our compacts. At the same time, we are humbled by the gravity of poverty and the level of food insecurity in our partner countries, fully realizing that true poverty reduction and economic growth are not easy tasks. They will continue to require full attention and support, including using better evidence as we gain it, to improve and promote effective programs.
This recent report is both an endorsement of MCC’s seven years of work in this field and also a reminder of the urgent need for continued investments in agriculture and food security programs around the world.
Posted on May 22, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
When countries lead their own development, they put themselves on the path to sustainable economic growth that ultimately breaks the cycle of aid dependence. We repeatedly heard this empowering theme throughout last week’s events surrounding the G-8 summit, particularly from Benin, Ghana and Tanzania, three MCC partner countries who are leveraging assistance to attract private sector-led investment. These African partner countries—each of whom have close bilateral partnerships with the United States—are practicing MCC’s country ownership principle and exemplifying a move toward greater growth and opportunity in Africa today.
President Jayaka Kikwete’s presentation at the Statesmen’s Forum at CSIS on Thursday, and the dialogue we had afterward, drove home these points. His vision for a more food-secure Tanzania, where families and businesses can thrive, reflects Tanzanian priorities for economic development and shares MCC’s vision that the private sector work to replace aid with greater trade and investment.
President Kikwete joined President John Atta-Mills of Ghana at Friday’s high-level symposium on global agriculture and food security to discuss new ways of accelerating growth in Africa’s agricultural sector. As chairperson of the African Union, President Boni Yayi of Benin took part in the conversation too. President Barack Obama’s speech set the tone for the symposium when he confirmed that “…true development involves not only delivering aid, but also promoting… inclusive growth that actually helps nations develop and lifts people out of poverty. The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient… And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it's got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector.”
With over half of our investments—$4.6 billion—related to food security, MCC has been and remains at the forefront of addressing this critical development priority. And, MCC’s partnerships with African countries to promote food security give the private sector another reason to get involved and invest.
To deepen such partnerships, MCC hosted a conversation over dinner with several African leaders and U.S. Administration officials. The discussion focused on how to advance our shared goals, including enhancing long-term food, water and energy security; investing in Africa’s human development through health and education initiatives; and building the infrastructure and partnerships businesses need to succeed. Our African partner countries are leveraging development assistance to attract the private sector and exploring ways for entrepreneurs and enterprises to build on our development successes so as to maximize impact and sustainability.
Our focus on country-led development is key to MCC’s model and essential for replacing the dependence of poverty with the independence of investment. If the positive rhetoric we heard last week is followed up with continued results on the ground in partner countries in Africa and elsewhere, I am confident that we are well on our way to sustainable, life-changing development that will make a difference in the lives of the world’s poor.
Posted on May 9, 2012 by Jonathan Brooks, Managing Director for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America
A community irrigation system created with the help of MCC’s compact with Honduras recently received international recognition—the latest example of how MCC’s investments provide a model for sustainable poverty growth in our partner countries.
The Cosechas de Agua rainwater harvesting project, developed through the compact’s Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility and managed by CHF International, received the Latin American prize for innovative water management projects in the face of climate change at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, on March 15.
Cosechas de Agua harvests rainwater for use in irrigation in the arid southern municipalities of Nacaome, Langue, Goascorán, and Aramecina. It captures rainwater and then uses a system of hydraulic works, dams and pipelines to store and distribute the water to fields. The project aims to introduce complementary irrigation systems for 188 agricultural producers over 98 hectares of land, intended to increase their income.
Access to irrigation and other support through the compact was intended to allow farmers to diversify their crops, increase their yields and expand their access to new customers nationally, regionally and internationally.
The $50,000 prize—sponsored by the Mexican national water authority Conagua, the FEMSA Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean—will be used to develop the project over the next three years. Cosechas de Agua officials will also be invited to present progress on the system's economic, social and environmental impacts at the next World Water Forum in March 2015.
The Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility was part of the $68 million Rural Development Project, which sought to increase the productivity and business skills of farmers who operate small- and medium-size farms, as well as their employees. The project is expected to help more than 357,000 people over the next 20 years and raise their household incomes by $53 million.
Posted on May 2, 2012 by Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Director, Development Policy
[Disclaimer: In a burst of what passes for social media genius in her own mind, your author is taking blatant advantage of both International Press Freedom Day and today’s rather intense Twitter debate on open data to shamelessly promote MCC’s freedom of information index. #MCCFOI #pressfreedom #opendata #shamelessplug ]
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is unapologetically keen on open data, which should be no surprise. Our annual partner country selection process not only relies on third-party data but also creates and publishes country scorecards displaying countries’ relative policy performance across three broad areas: good governance, social investments and economic policy. To date, MCC’s Board of Directors has approved more than $9 billion in compact investments in 25 countries that were identified using a public, data driven selection system. We like data—and we like openness.
Last year, MCC took this one step further. In an effort to incorporate emerging policy areas and new data developed since MCC was established in 2004, we updated the scorecard system. We found creative methodologies and new datasets from the Open Net Initiative and FRINGE Special, which focused on tracking Internet filtering and freedom of information laws, respectively. Combining this data with Freedom House’s assessments of freedom of the press, MCC created a freedom of information indicator.
To our knowledge, the freedom of information indicator represents one of the first efforts to publish a transparent ranking of low- and low-middle-income countries’ commitment to enable or allow information to move freely in society. This was an exciting advance for us; understanding the role governments play in restricting or facilitating information flows can shape how we understand the political and economic environment in these countries. Political scientists know that citizens’ access to information is a key part of accountable government, while economists point to the role of information in efficient market function.
We fully recognize that a first step is just that—a first. We welcome critique and analysis of what practical steps would improve the index. For more information on the methodologies used to assess freedom of the press, Internet freedom and freedom of information laws, please see the Freedom of Information section of our Guide to the Indicators and let us know what you think. 140 or fewer characters with the #MCCFOI hashtag would be nice. Lengthier, complex thoughts would be even better.