Posted on August 29, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I was humbled and inspired to have been invited by the White House to the commemoration ceremony yesterday marking the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As a son of Africa and a proud American, I found it emotionally moving to sit in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial and hear firsthand the heartfelt remarks from so many leaders from all segments of society, who had gathered not only to mark a moment in history 50 years ago but also to challenge us to impact the course of history moving forward in positive ways. Every speaker—from President Obama, to former presidents Carter and Clinton to family members of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—stressed the ongoing need for meaningful change that will usher in a new era of economic freedom, justice and opportunity.
For me, attending this event reaffirmed the power we all possess to lead lives of discipline and grace to make a difference. When I join the exceptional professionals of the Millennium Challenge Corporation each day who have dedicated their extraordinary careers to improving the standard of living for the poor worldwide, I know that our efforts to partner around shared values and common objectives can, indeed, break down barriers to economic growth and create more secure and hopeful futures for individuals, families and communities in some of the world’s poorest places.
I am proud of MCC’s tangible contributions in the global struggle for economic dignity and justice, because, as Dr. King said, “Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” The ever-deepening interdependence of our global community is the reality we face these days. And, it’s this reality that guides our partnerships at MCC in our efforts to replace poverty with sustainable economic prosperity that benefits us all.
Posted on August 9, 2013 by Eliza Keller, Public Affairs Officer
In recent years, demographic changes and the rise of new technologies have positioned youth as drivers of economic and social progress across the world. Youth are key players in MCC’s mission to reduce poverty through economic growth; through engagement in the United States and in our partner countries, MCC works to empower youth with knowledge and economic freedom.
In the United States, MCC partners with universities across the country and includes students in today’s most pressing development issues through research projects, roundtable discussions and speaking engagements. And it’s not just university students getting involved—last week, MCC hosted a group of local high school students at our Washington headquarters. The students, all starting their freshman year, learned about our innovative model and the impact of our programs and engaged in a spirited discussion on emerging trends in development assistance with MCC experts.
Many MCC-funded programs overseas involve youth through investments in education, technical and vocational training and promoting entrepreneurship. In Namibia, for example, the MCC compact includes a program for young professionals to learn a variety of skills related to working in the tourism industry, like language training, communications skills and knowledge of local plant and animal life. With this expertise, young Namibians are better equipped to enter the professional market and lead Namibia’s growing tourism industry.
Youth in today’s global economy face unprecedented challenges—and opportunities. At MCC, we work to provide youth with access to these opportunities, enabling ownership and leadership for a more prosperous future.
Posted on August 5, 2013 by Glenn Lines, Farmer Income Support Project Lead, Mozambique
Sustainable development is a term frequently used in foreign assistance, but it is poorly understood and seldom given the prominence it deserves. Development practitioners often focus on making disbursements and reaching final project targets while neglecting to ensure investments will be maintained and continue to benefit community members after a project ends.
At MCC, we want to ensure that our projects provide the best possible impact by helping boost household incomes after we leave.
In Mozambique, MCC made great strides toward emphasizing sustainability. Like many other development projects, MCC’s Farmer Income Support Project (FISP), a key component of Mozambique’s $506.9 million MCC compact, has taken several innovative steps to advance the principle.
Over the past 3½ years, the project worked to reduce the prevalence and impact of Coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease (CLYD), a deadly disease. CLYD causes affected trees cease producing coconuts and eventually die; the trees must be removed and replaced to stop the spread of the disease.
This involved mass mechanized felling and burning of infected and dead trees; planting new, disease resistant seedlings; community education and awareness programs to assist coconut growers to identify infected trees and prevent the future spread of the disease; and technical assistance for crop diversification.
Now in the last year of implementation, the project largely has met or exceeded its targets. Communities are identifying infected trees and monitoring the spread of the disease. The disease incidence rate has fallen from an estimated 5 percent to 1 percent in project areas. Nurseries are producing disease-resistant seedlings to replace trees lost to the disease. And small-scale coconut producers affected by the disease are diversifying into cash crops.
For example, one smallholder farmer working with FISP produced and marketed more than 500 metric tons of pigeon pea, cow pea, sesame, and groundnuts at regional and international markets last year.
Even with this substantial progress, the question of sustainability remained: How can beneficiaries continue to control disease transmission without mass mechanized tree felling?
The answer lay with affected farmers, who have been felling trees manually for much longer than the life of the compact and putting economic incentives in place to continue promoting farmer-led manual felling.
MCC and MCA-Mozambique asked the project implementation team to modify their focus to reflect this reality. Transitioning from a project-driven, chainsaw-reliant strategy to a more sustainable, community-based felling strategy is well underway now. All mechanized tree felling has stopped. Instead, community felling teams equipped with personal protective equipment and well-stocked first-aid kits are following best practices for manual felling.
Farmers are not only felling dead trees but also actively identifying and removing infected trees and replanting them with disease-resistant varieties using skills they acquired through the project’s training. In the long run, this will help manage the disease incidence rate after the compact closes in September.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspects of the transition has been the way the felling teams have handled the logs harvested from felled trees. The initial plan was for community manual felling teams to sell the logs to local carpentry shops as raw material. However, with additional business training and equipment supplied by the implementing contractor, the felling teams capitalized on market dynamics and are now producing planks and beams to sell to local builders and carpenters, who are producing desks, chairs, tables, doors, and window frames for local schools and homes.
General demand for wood, which is increasing with a growing population, is now effectively linked to community-based CLYD disease surveillance and control. This provides the economic incentives to sustain farmer-led interventions apart from the compact’s project well into the future.