Posted on October 14, 2014 by Catherine Marschner, MCC Data Program Manager
What is data?
Data is raw information. When you collect all kinds of data on all kinds of different things, you can put it together to provide reliable information. This structured data can help partner country governments plan the best use of their resources, and it can help the people hold their governments accountable.
Collecting data in a standardized way makes the data even more reliable. In the case of foreign assistance, it leads to transparency, which is a priority for MCC.
So what have we done about it?
Our data team at MCC has worked hard over the last year to improve the quality of the data we share with the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), an international registry that tracks the level of transparency in stakeholder-produced data on foreign aid. We have also made our efforts to produce data more efficient and sustainable. So while we are certainly proud to have been ranked among the top three donors in the 2014 Aid Transparency Index, we are even more proud—and committed to—the substantive improvements we have made and continue to make.
The quality of our data is better because we have added new data and functionality to our programmatic management information system and we’ve added detail for a number of IATI data fields: In our XML file users will find useful information now on
- planned disbursements by year for our compact programs,
- descriptions of our programs and their associated activities,
- and on the results of our work.
In fact, MCC’s data on performance was higher than any other donor ranked in the ATI – in part because we provide results descriptions, performance indicators and links to materials from our independent evaluations.
MCC has also built a more streamlined process for producing our data. We have an integrated team with expertise on the policy, data analysis, finance and technical sides. We also have an ability to pull data from different systems in order to build out an integrated data set in XML that meets the reporting requirements of both the Foreign Assistance Dashboard and IATI.
As we continue to build out our internal data systems, we are paying careful attention to how we link different pieces together. For example, our IATI file this year includes links back to our Evaluation Catalog, where MCC makes all the metadata and microdata from our independent evaluations freely available to the public.
All these strides forward have netted a dataset with a lot of richness – and some very interesting and high quality data! Yet at MCC, we also realized that it was not enough to just put this out there in XML: a format that is far from “human-readable.” Our team knew that for our efforts to become sustainable, we also needed to create an internal demand for this kind of data from our own staff. So we built a tool that visualizes the data so that MCC staff can use it to help them in their everyday work. The response has been enthusiastic so far, and we look forward to building additional analytical components, learning about staff demand, and reporting back on what we are learning!
We would love for all of these efforts to become more demand driven – so we welcome your thoughts and feedback on what we ought to prioritize as we strive to continually improve the quality and quantity of information MCC makes available to the public.
Posted on September 29, 2014 by Tom Haslett, Program Officer
Earlier today, MCC hosted a panel with leaders from Malawi’s key power sector institutions to discuss efforts underway to reform their organizations and the sector to help increase access to reliable electricity for Malawians. This event, part of a U.S. Trade and Development Agency reverse trade mission, comes at an interesting time. President Obama’s Power Africa initiative—a presidential initiative to triple the number of people with access to power in Sub-Saharan Africa—has turned a spotlight on the challenges of bringing electricity to growing economies throughout the continent.
The challenges Malawi faces in developing its power sector are representative of the issues Power Africa is designed to tackle. Only about 8 percent of Malawians are connected to the electricity network. The country has just 351 megawatts of generation capacity, and demand is expected to grow far beyond this level in the next several years.
The challenge is clear. Yet the government and the electricity utility, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), do not have the resources required to invest in generation to give Malawi’s economy the power it needs to grow. Bringing in private investment is a priority, and the country’s power sector institutions are adapting to improve the conditions for this to occur. MCC’s five-year, $350.7 million compact with Malawi—the agency’s first program focused exclusively on the power sector—is designed to help the country overcome these challenges.
Several factors currently limit the prospects for private investment. Any privately funded generation projects must sell electricity to ESCOM to reach consumers. This is because the utility owns all transmission and distribution infrastructure in the country. To date, no deals have been concluded, despite a number of ongoing negotiations. In the past, the utility was not viewed as a creditworthy partner for independent power producers because of concerns about its financial and operational health. However, recent improvements, in part supported by MCC, may help allay these concerns.
Additionally, the Malawian regulatory environment is still in its formative stages, creating uncertainty about key issues like access to the electricity grid and tariffs that independent power producers could receive. Finally, the government and ESCOM lack the experience and an established framework to structure complex power purchase agreements that maximize benefits for the Malawian public while ensuing value for money and minimizing potential risks and liabilities.
Malawi’s MCC compact is addressing these constraints head on. It recognizes the fundamental role that strong sector institutions and an appropriate governing framework must play to attract investment into any growing power sector. Our support includes a comprehensive set of technical assistance services to strengthen ESCOM’s finances and operations.
The compact also includes capacity building for the country’s energy regulator so it can play an effective role delivering reliable electricity service while deepening the confidence of investors and companies considering entering the market. The compact is also providing high-level advisory services to the Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining and supporting the development of a roadmap for restructuring the power market to ensure that roles are clarified as the sector matures.
Collectively, these reforms intend to create a more suitable environment for private sector investment in new electricity generation in Malawi. And the compact’s investments will also strengthen the transmission and distribution infrastructure to facilitate the delivery to customers of any new sources of electricity.
During the panel discussion at MCC today, the CEO of ESCOM, the acting CEO of the energy regulator and the Principal Secretary for Energy described their organizations’ experiences through the compact as well as their own efforts to drive change. Each of them emphasized the need to change the status quo to spur development in Malawi. For example, the Principal Secretary noted that mining is a potential growth avenue but the national grid can’t supply the power they need with the gap currently filled with expensive diesel fuel generators.
The CEO of ESCOM noted that this demand, combined with the ongoing reforms, will attract investors who need to know someone will buy the power they produce. And the CEO of the regulator highlighted the fact that his agency has developed a template for power purchase agreements that they hope to put to use for investors interested in the opportunities the country presents.
Throughout the discussion, one message was clear: Malawi is ready for growth in a power sector that is now open for business—and, with the changes afoot, the future is bright.
Posted on September 16, 2014 by Jennifer Sturdy and Jack Molyneaux, Department of Policy and Evaluation, and Kathy Farley and Kristin Penn, Department of Compact Operations
MCC has just announced its first Open Data Challenge - the call-to-action to any masters and PhD students working in economics, public policy, international development, or other related fields who are interested in exploring how to use publicly available MCC-financed primary data for policy-relevant analysis.
The release of this data is intended to facilitate broader use of the data, above and beyond the scope of the independent evaluations that produced this data. Since the challenge was announced at the end of August, one question to MCC has been – what type of additional learning is the agency interested in?
During the release of MCC’s first five impact evaluations in farmer training, there was a lot of learning and soul searching going on within the agency. Sure, some of the evaluations pointed to positive, expected results, like increases in farm incomes in the El Salvador dairy, Ghana northern farmers’, and Nicaragua farmer training programs, but there were a lot of unexpected results as well. Why didn’t we see increases in farm income in Armenia? What were unique characteristics of farmers selected for training in Honduras? What led to the differential impacts in Ghana? And, the big question, why weren’t the increases in farm income leading to observable increases in household income?
With this in mind, the MCC agriculture team took some time to ask themselves what additional learning they would have liked to see beyond what was analyzed in the independent evaluations. There were three broad categories of additional potential learning:
Understand better what led to observable, realistic impacts. For example, in Ghana the team was left asking:
- Why were impacts positive in the North, while negative overall – was this related to the differing agro-climatic context? Did impacts differ by crop type? Was this a measurement or a timing of measurement problem?
Understand better what led to observable, counter-intuitive impacts. In some of the evaluations, the evaluators found counter-intuitive impacts. For example, in Ghana:
- In the North, crop incomes were up by 78 percent, land under cultivation was up by 32percent, yet there was no significant increase in yields. How is that possible? Did treatment farmers plant a different mix of (higher value) crops than control?
Understand better the impacts on project implementation, secondary outcomes, and positive/negative externalities. In many cases, analysis was limited to the primary evaluation questions and outcomes agreed to for the purpose of the evaluation. However, the initial analysis produced from the evaluations resulted in many questions that could possibly be answered by further analysis of the same data. For example, in Honduras:
- The evaluator makes a strong case that the farmers selected for the program were fundamentally different from the ‘average’ farmer that would have been selected following a random selection process. Additional analysis on who these treatment farmers were and how they differ from the average farmer, and certainly farmers living in the comparison areas where farmer training was not made available, would be useful for understanding and interpreting results of the evaluation.
In all of these evaluations, MCC also recognized the need to explore:
- Gender disaggregated impacts. Many of these evaluations were designed prior to MCC’s policy to require gender and other relevant disaggregation data and impacts. Can the available data be used to produce gender disaggregated impacts in Armenia, El Salvador, Ghana, or Nicaragua?
- Assets and Investments. While overall household incomes did not increase, is the available data able to demonstrate whether or not households increased investments in assets or other investments during the evaluation period?
While the learning from these evaluations cannot be undervalued, MCC is eager to fully explore the potential for more learning from the existing data produced by these evaluations to answer outstanding questions on how to design more effective agricultural investments and improve evaluation of these investments. We hope the Open Data Challenge is one way to motivate external researchers to use available resources to start answering these questions.
Posted on September 9, 2014 by Cynthia Berning, Program Officer, Department of Compact Operations
In September 2000, almost 200 countries announced their support for the United Nations Millennium Declaration, promising to help in the fight against poverty and hunger, strengthen access to education and improve health, including combating major diseases by 2015. MCC is one of several U.S. government agencies that help partner countries in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and improve peoples’ lives.
When world leaders convene in New York for the United Nations General Assembly later this month, the MDGs will be a major focus—looking at the progress that has been achieved and establishing a new agenda for development over the coming years. This is the first in a series of blogs highlighting some of MCC’s contributions to supporting the MDGs in the lead-up to the United Nations General Assembly.
MDG 1 sets the target of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Each MCC compact is designed to fight poverty, and many countries have made fighting hunger and food insecurity a priority of their relationship with MCC.
Since its creation in 2004, MCC has committed over $9 billion in programs designed to spur economic growth in 38 countries, and more than half of these investments have been in projects designed to reduce food insecurity. MCC has helped its partner countries improve agricultural productivity, gain greater access to markets and post-harvest facilities, boost agricultural finance, increase land tenure security, improve land governance and land administration and contribute to improved nutrition.
The effects of MCC’s poverty- and hunger-reducing efforts are evident in large-scale irrigation projects in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali. Through these investments, we have provided a reliable source of water for thousands of family farmers who are now able to grow irrigated rice and vegetables—even in the dry season and during periods of drought.
And it’s not just the delivery of water that makes these investments significant. The sustainability of these investments has also been assured through participatory land allocation activities that protect the land rights of existing land users and give farmers a voice in deciding who receives new land rights, and land registration activities that provide secure, well-documented rights to the newly irrigated land.
More secure rights allow them to invest more confidently in making their land more productive and to take the lead in managing shared resources effectively. Community participation in land allocation decisions increases transparency and accountability of leaders and improves local governance structures. These investments should lead to increased income for these farmers, helping them to farm their way to a better life for themselves and their families.
Read more about MCC’s efforts to increase food security in its partner countries.
Posted on July 10, 2014 by Tom Haslett, Program Officer
Earlier this year, the Principal Secretary of Malawi’s Ministry of Energy convened the first semi-annual review of the country’s five-year, $350.7 million MCC compact. These reviews will be held every six months and provide key stakeholders with an opportunity to assess progress against the agenda for reform in Malawi’s power sector. The compact establishes an ambitious program to revitalize the country’s power sector through investments in critical infrastructure, hydropower plant efficiency and sector institutions.
The centerpiece of the review is a set of indicators focused on the performance of ESCOM, the country’s electricity utility, in areas like asset maintenance, bill collection and efficient provision of electricity. ESCOM’s financial plan establishes targets for these indicators, which are then compared against actual performance at the semi-annual review. This gives stakeholders in attendance and the Malawian public in general a window into what’s going on at ESCOM and with broader power sector reforms aimed at attracting new investment in electricity generation.
Why is this important? ESCOM is the main electricity provider for Malawian households and companies, and its operations are a matter of intense public interest. However, ESCOM’s recent performance has not been strong, and many Malawians lack confidence in the utility’s ability to improve. This was displayed recently as stakeholders spoke out against an increase in tariffs proposed by ESCOM; people asked why they should pay more for unreliable service and encouraged the company to increase efficiency, not raise rates. And in April 2014, the energy regulator approved a tariff increase below the level ESCOM identified as necessary to cover costs while highlighting the need for performance improvements.
ESCOM’s efforts to improve its service have given rise to a chicken-and-egg problem: The company believes a higher, cost-reflective tariff is necessary to improve service. But the public will have trouble accepting significantly higher tariffs until ESCOM’s operations improve.
This is where the semi-annual review can establish a path forward by providing a forum where objective data helps paint a picture of ESCOM’s performance and define corrective actions.
At the same time, emerging issues in the power sector can be jointly reviewed by power sector institutions and representatives of the private sector and civil society.
The review is also a perfect tool for the MCC model. The sustainability of our work in Malawi is based on strengthening ESCOM’s ability to recover costs, invest in service provision and be a viable partner for investors. We’re supporting these goals by introducing a modern management information system and helping build capacity in areas like financial management, procurement and billing efficiency.
The compact also targets policy reforms that can incentivize private investment in new power generation. The semi-annual reviews will allow us to understand if the compact is meeting its goals and provide learning opportunities. In addition, by bringing together stakeholders from across Malawian society, these forums will ensure the public consultations that helped develop the compact continue to inform its implementation.
This first semi-annual review gave concerned stakeholders a chance to better understand current power sector reform goals, progress to date against those goals and how the compact is supporting their achievement. A report that includes data on all key performance indicators discussed in the review will be publicly available soon. And three sub-committees with members drawn from the semi-annual review participants will meet on July 17 to review priority corrective actions to progress against the reform agenda and approve implementation procedures and timelines to address these issues. As our work continues over the coming months months, we’ll look forward to the next review—another opportunity to shed light on how MCC is helping to reform Malawi’s power sector.
Posted on June 23, 2014 by Scott Fontaine, Corporate Copywriter-Editor
MCC’s five-year compact with Burkina Faso ends on July 31. This story is part of a series of blogs and stories that highlights the accomplishments of this compact through the voices of the people who will benefit most from MCC’s investments in Burkina Faso. Read the stories and learn more about the Burkina Faso compact.
Aboubacari Tall has a different approach to raising his cattle.
His neighbors’ herds roam free, but Tall has built a wooden stable just outside his home in northern Burkina Faso.
His neighbors’ herds reproduce naturally, but Tall selects his best cows to undergo artificial insemination, producing a stronger herd.
And his neighbors’ cows feed on whatever grass they can find. Tall, however, wades into a nearby stream to uproot wild vegetation, dry it, and feed his cows on a schedule—a feed mixture for which he is the top contender in his region for a national award.
The hard work is paying off. While many other cows in the region sport loose skin and visible ribcages, Tall’s seven dairy cows are plump and appear healthy.
The difference, he said, is because MCC-funded agricultural agents taught him better ways to take care of his herd.
“Before, I did everything in the traditional way,” said Tall, a father of five children. “The cows just roamed in the fields behind my house. Now I’m using new techniques, and I’m making more money.”
Tall received training on improved livestock techniques as part of MCC’s five-year, $480.9 million compact with Burkina Faso. The $142 million Agriculture Development Project is helping Burkinabé better manage irrigation and water resources, diversify agriculture and improve access to rural finance.
Cattle breeders have already started seeing changes since the beginning of the project. Monitoring data indicates the average weight of their cows jumped from 213 pounds in 2008 to 549 pounds in 2013.
And because of the MCC-funded training, improved techniques and receiving a cow with better genetics, Tall is expecting more than double his daily milk production—a boost that would net Tall another $6 each day, he said.
Tall also collects the cow manure and sells it to his neighbors for fertilizer—a practice that has earned him almost $550 over the past 18 months.
Agricultural agents taught Tall the value of stabling a herd, investing in better feed and using selective breeding. The latter holds great promise for cattle producers in the region, said Stephane Tuina, a veterinarian who trains local farmers on behalf of MCC.
“Before this project, no one in the region knew about artificial insemination,” he said. “But it can be very effective, and people are beginning to learn. [Tall] is really setting the example for his community.”
And Tall’s neighbors are noticing. One of his cows recently gave birth to twins—traditionally a sign of good luck to come for Tall and his community.
Posted on June 23, 2014 by Scott Fontaine, Corporate Copywriter-Editor
MCC’s five-year compact with Burkina Faso ends on July 31. This story is part of a series of blogs and stories to be published during the month of June that highlights the accomplishments of this compact through the voices of the people who will benefit most from MCC’s investments in Burkina Faso. Read the stories and learn more about the Burkina Faso compact.
MCC helped Missita Déme build a henhouse behind her mud-brick home in northern Burkina Faso and trained her on better ways to raise chickens.
Her chickens grew bigger and stayed healthier. Her business grew, and she plowed the profits back into her poultry operation by investing in building separate housing for her chicks and a quarantine area for sick animals. Soon afterwards, she added a third henhouse—this one for chickens ready for sale.
“Life is better,” she said, “and I’m not done yet.”
Déme is an early success of the Agriculture Development Project, part of Burkina Faso’s $480.9 million compact with MCC, which focuses in part on helping livestock producers practice techniques that aim to increase value through improved animal husbandry techniques.
In the 20 months since Déme attended her first training, she has sold nearly 200 improved variety chickens. The hens are selling for as much as $4.25 each, while roosters are selling for more than $5.25.
In addition to her training, MCC provided an incentive kit containing cement for walls, roofing material, vaccinations against deadly Newcastle disease, and an improved-variety rooster. MCC initially planned to provide 350 such kits to producers from the area, but they proved so popular that the program was expanded to another 188 producers, said Stephane Tuina, a veterinarian who works on implementing the project.
Veterinarians and extension agents provide training on improved breeding and flock management, and they follow up in person to answer questions. The Burkinabé government’s animal resources agency will continue providing training after the compact ends in July.
“Since she started working [with chickens], the extra income has really helped support our family,” said Déme’s husband, Yacouba Sanogo, who helped his wife build the three houses. “We can pay bills more easily and really help our kids.”
The couple’s five children all attend school, and they have purchased bikes they can ride to classes each day. The couple recently purchased two sheep for breeding, and they want to plant more valuable crops on land they own outside their village. Additional revenue from her poultry operation also allows them to pay for a visit to a health clinic if a family member falls ill.
“Things are changing for us and our community,” she said. “We’re giving our children a better future.”
Posted on May 5, 2014 by Forrest McKennie, Director of Finance, Investment and Trade
For a rural bank, switching from paper to computerized transaction processing and record keeping isn’t just a leap forward in technology. It also cuts costs, improves security and more quickly puts money in the hands of customers.
As part of the recently completed five-year, $547 million compact with Ghana, MCC helped digitize over 600 branches of 130 banks in remote communities throughout the country through the Ghana Compact I Rural Development Project’s Financial Services Activity. MCC’s $27 million investment in this particular activity provided the necessary infrastructure to enable internal transaction processing and reporting. In addition, the investment funded the installation of satellite dishes and rented satellite space to help banks improve headquarters-to-branch communications, communicate electronically with the national regulator and connect to the country’s payments grid.
MCC also funded the creation of a central data center at the national regulator and a remote disaster recovery site to ensure records and other data wouldn’t be lost.
Many of these banks serve farming communities, the core group who benefit from Ghana’s MCC compact. Bank customers have already seen the average time needed for a check to clear drop from seven days to two, and banks can offer a wider range of services including handling direct remittances and wire transfers.
The Government of Ghana can also more effectively distribute pensions and payments for the goods it purchases from farmers, like cocoa.
MCC’s investments are a win for the banks, too. Before, a disaster could wipe out most of their records, but the new system includes redundancies that more effectively protect data. Banks can also now more effectively access centralized information like credit reporting.
Strengthening rural financial institutions to provide services that complement agriculture and agribusiness is an important step in helping these farming communities across Ghana reduce constraints to economic growth and reduce poverty. By increasing access to more efficient finance, MCC is partnering with Ghanaians on ways to more effectively manage their money now and plan for the future.
Posted on May 5, 2014 by Tom Haslett, Program Officer
Last month, President Armando Guebuza led inaugural ceremonies to celebrate four infrastructure projects in Nampula province: a rehabilitated dam in the booming city of Nacala, an improved water supply system in the city of Nampula and two rehabilitated roads that total 157 miles and form a vital part of Northern Mozambique’s transportation network—all major efforts of the country’s five-year, $507 million compact and a symbol of MCC and a partner country working together to achieve common goals.
These investments will benefit almost 1.3 million people in the region through reduced transportation costs, better access to employment and economic opportunities, increased supply of reliable water, reduced costs to access clean and safe water, and improved health benefits through reduced water-borne diseases.
Local communities celebrated these achievements under sunny skies at a program that included speeches, singing, dancing, and tree-blessing ceremonies. The enthusiasm and joy on display during these events made it easy to forget the hard work required to make these major infrastructure projects a reality. It’s worth recognizing that the Mozambique Compact—which ended in September 2013—saw more challenges than most, from a slow startup to implementation challenges that delayed work. But whenever an obstacle arose, dedicated efforts from the teams at MCA-Mozambique (the local organization implementing the compact) and MCC were essential to pushing forward to fulfill the compact’s goals.
As a result of these coordinated efforts, the Nacala Dam was completed on time and a final push brought the Nampula water supply system and the two roads to near completion. MCC is prohibited from spending funds on projects after five years—but the Government of Mozambique stepped in and spent $25 million of its own money to complete these projects after the compact ended. This represents a substantial commitment that clearly demonstrated the government’s dedication to realizing the compact’s promise for the Mozambican people.
So when President Guebuza, U.S. Ambassador Doug Griffiths, MCC Resident Country Director Steve Marma, and the staff of MCA-Mozambique gathered to inaugurate the projects, they weren’t just celebrating new infrastructure. They were also celebrating a partnership—and that’s what the MCC model is all about.
Posted on April 23, 2014 by Andrew Ladson, MCC Department of Congressional and Public Affairs
Protecting a country’s natural resources can lead to new opportunities for economic growth. The people of the ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy in Namibia are using the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s investment to bring these opportunities to life. Grootberg Lodge is part of the Ecotourism Development in Conservancies Project of MCC’s $304.4 million compact with Namibia.
No service. It’s a familiar modern harbinger of imminent frustration. When this message replaces the reassuring presence of three to five bars in the upper left hand corner of a phone’s display, the mental gymnastics of letting go of email, texts and having the Internet at immediate command begin. But for guests of Grootberg Lodge, located in the ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy on the Etkendeka Plateau of Namibia’s Kunene region, this message is a reminder that they’re exactly where they want to be.
Established in July 1998 through the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism, ≠Khoadi-//Hôas Conservancy benefits its more than 3,000 residents with programs that take advantage of the region’s extraordinary natural beauty and wildlife. The conservancy’s innovative approach to addressing such challenges as human-wildlife conflict and rare species poaching has made a remarkable difference in the area. The conservancy makes life better for residents by helping them no longer view wildlife as a nuisance or threat and by generating revenue through ecotourism. Grootberg (which means Big Mountain) Lodge—wholly owned by the conservancy’s residents—is a big part of what is making the difference.
Renovated and expanded in 2012 by Millennium Challenge Account-Namibia (MCA-Namibia), the local organization managing the implementation of Namibia’s MCC compact, the lodge offers guests a wide range of ecotourism activities--including black rhino and elephant tracking, visits to the Himba people (an ancient tribe of nomadic herders) and guided walks through the plateaus overlooking the Klip River Valley—all provided by employees from the local community. Over 95 percent of the lodge’s employees are conservancy and community residents, and their employment provides a livelihood much different from subsistence livestock farming or odd jobs. For employees like Susanna !Hoages and Otniel ‘’Areseb, that employment has blossomed into careers.
Susanna !Hoages, 27, began her employment at Grootberg in 2006 as a waitress, with the lodge providing on-the-job training. After taking an interest in the “back of the house” activities in the kitchen, management transferred Susanna in 2009 to another lodge to serve as an assistant chef trainee. Excelling in this role, Susanna was sent to the Namibian Institute of Culinary Education before returning to Grootberg Lodge to serve as food and beverage manager. Susanna appreciates the difference the lodge has made in her life and that of the community at large.
“Employment at Grootberg Lodge is one of my benefits… as well as [for] the community as a whole and my family. I’m working, I’m earning money… the lodge is earning money—which is a benefit to the community. This money that is produced or the profits that [are] coming into the lodge, it’s shared with the community.”
Otniel ‘’Areseb, 48, helped build Grootgerg Lodge. In November 2004, he was literally in the trenches, digging the paths for the plumbing pipes that serve the 16 lodge chalets, main building and staff quarters.
Upon its opening in June 2005, Otniel was employed as a bartender and later promoted to project manager for maintenance. Otniel now serves as floor manager, which means he is responsible for managing the staff that attends to guests in the main building and restaurant—a role critical to guests’ perceptions of their experience at the lodge. A consistently high level of service is Otniel’s continuing goal:
“We have many guests who are here three, four times. This is what we want to see with our service.”
“No service” might be welcome when escaping the modern grind, but while visiting Grootberg Lodge, it will be confined to a phone’s display during a rhino tracking expedition or a plateau walk (yes, there is wifi in the main lodge). For lodge staff, continuing to raise the service bar for themselves and the lodge is the best way to ensure the benefits for the community’s economic prosperity will continue to grow.
Posted on April 7, 2014 by Tamara Heimur, Liberia country team
Each MCC compact is designed to create economic growth. Since the private sector is a key driver for sustainable growth, MCC’s Finance, Investment and Trade team works with partner country colleagues to ensure that companies have input throughout the compact development process.
This work includes consultations with American, Liberian and international businesses to learn firsthand about the challenges they face when considering investment in our partner countries. We then work with our partner countries to design compact grants that address these challenges.
MCC, the Government of Liberia and The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) recently hosted a roundtable meeting in Washington, DC for companies that are active in Liberia or are interested in investing.
At the roundtable, the Government of Liberia (GoL) and MCC presented the Liberia Constraints Analysis, a report outlining the primary constraints to economic growth and investment in Liberia.
Every MCC partner country develops a constraints analysis, which takes an evidence-based approach to identifying the primary factors that limit investment. The analysis clarifies priorities among a country’s many development needs and identifies potential areas of focus for an MCC compact. The Liberia Constraints Analysis identified the lack of roads and electricity as the primary constraints to growth.
After the presentation of the constraints analysis, the Liberian government delegation presented some initial concepts for potential projects in the roads and energy sectors. We invited feedback and questions from attendees, which helped start a conversation that will help the GoL to refine the proposed projects.
This event is part of a series of conversations that MCC and the GoL have hosted since Liberia qualified for MCC assistance in December 2012. In mid-2013, the GoL organized roundtables with businesses in Liberia to learn what is constraining the growth of local companies, and in late 2012, MCC, the GoL and CCA hosted another event for companies in Washington, DC to provide feedback on the proposed compact projects. We expect to continue the dialogue with companies through more events, webinars, email updates, and other forums as the GoL continues its compact development process.
This type of private sector engagement is an important component of the MCC model. Together with our partners in the GoL, we are ensuring the private sector and other stakeholders provide input every step of the way.
We invite additional input and feedback from private sector firms; please contact the following individuals for more information:
Government of Liberia:
- Monie Captan, National Coordinator, National Millennium Challenge Compact Development, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Philip Pleiwon, Private Sector Lead, National Millennium Challenge Compact Development, email@example.com.
Millennium Challenge Corporation:
- Evan Freund, Country Team Lead for Liberia, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tamara Heimur, Private Sector Lead for Liberia, email@example.com.
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Randall Wood, resident country director, Senegal
If Oumou Khairy Fall and Téty Fall are smiling in this picture, it’s because their lives are already better off—economically and socially—since the beginning of MCC’s investment in Senegal. And the work has just begun!
Both come from the northern village of Mboubéne in the Senegal River Valley, part of Africa’s dusty Sahel but the heartland of Senegal’s rice production zone. Production there is expected to increase by 10,500 hectacres by the time MCC’s five-year, $540 million compact ends in September 2015, and the dramatic improvements to irrigation channels, pumps and water conduits will help local rice farmers plant three crops per year instead of one.
That’s big news in a country that imports nearly 70 percent of its rice, Senegal’s main staple food.
Speaking of rice, Oumou and Téty would like to offer you some. They competed and won the right to manage the cafeteria for local contractor Eiffage Senegal, a contractor involved with the construction funded through the compact's $170 million Irrigation and Water Resources Management Project. It’s hot in Senegal’s north this time of year, and construction is hot, sweaty work that stirs up an appetite in a hurry.
Oumou smiles. “These men are always hungry,” she says. “And they come back and back for more.”
“I think they like our food,” laughs Téty.
Oumou and Téty start serving breakfast while the first rays of the sun are still throwing long shadows and the desert air is cool. The day’s heat will arrive in less than an hour as the Eiffage crew lines up for their first meal of the day. “Coffee,” Téty explains, “with lots of powdered milk, fresh bread and some stew.”
While the crew heads out to pour concrete and lay the iron rebar that will eventually bring the additional irrigation waters over the rice fields, Oumou and Téty begin preparing for lunch. When the sun is overhead, the temperature soars to well past 90 degrees. The Senegal River Valley swelters. The workers come back in for some nourishment, camaraderie—and shade. Lunch is a stew of local red beans in tomato sauce, a specialty of the region.
“It seems like no matter how many beans we buy in the market, we need more,” Téty explains. “These men are always hungry, and food is so important.”
Téty has neatly summed up just one way this project itself is important. When construction concludes in 2015, MCC’s investments in rice production and irrigation will help the Senegalese people get closer to meeting their demand for the staple. But it’s paying dividends already in the local economy. With well over $100 million in construction contracts ongoing in Senegal’s north, MCC’s investments are indirectly generating jobs for many hundreds of laborers, drivers, engineers, surveyors, community interpreters, social organizers, technicians, specialists, and more.
The impact these workers are having on the local economy—from food to gas to equipment to haircuts to lodging and more—is rippling through the Senegalese economy. The beans Téty purchases at the local market are just the beginning.
MCC’s program in Senegal places a special emphasis on gender equality from project design to implementation to evaluation, and these two women are an example of that. MCC’s construction contracts stipulate that women be given opportunities to join the workforce in whatever jobs they qualify for and are willing to do. Women are increasingly taking up positions such as flag person, gas station attendant and warehouse overseer. Moreover, if Senegal has any female welders, they are to be given an equal chance to work.
There are many opportunities for women to benefit from the sudden influx of capital and labor in Senegal’s north. This cafeteria is just one of them.
The compact is expected to benefit more than 1.1 million people over the next 20 years. As I finish my scalding hot glass of attaya—sweet, Senegalese tea—I watch Oumou and Téty manage their kitchen as the lunchtime crew cleans their plates and prepares to head back out for the afternoon’s work. I’ll be proud when this program is complete, and the people of Senegal benefit from this investment. But I’m even prouder to see the impact the investment is already having.
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Christopher Davis, Development specialist, Burkina Faso
Scents of onions, tomatoes and damp earth permeated the morning air as we spoke with representatives of women’s associations in the Dî Perimeter, one of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s principal investments in Burkina Faso. My colleagues and I were visiting the construction site to listen to community members who received their newly irrigated land last spring.
Located only a few miles from the country’s border with Mali and near the convergence of the Sourou and Mouhoun rivers, the village of Dî and its namesake 5,535-acre perimeter provide the region’s farmers with irrigation all year. In the past, most of these farmers could cultivate only during the rainy season. The women told us they were grateful to finally have the opportunity to farm land of their own.
“Before the MCC project, women [in this area] didn’t have the right to cultivate on their own land unless they were widows,” said Sayibata Ki, president of Association Benkadi No. 3. “We took care of the kids at home, prepared meals and had little work to do outside of market days. Now we can go out to farm our fields and make our own decisions about which part of our harvest we keep or sell.”
MCC's five-year, $481 million compact with Burkina Faso contains four projects: agriculture, roads, rural land governance, and education. In addition to the irrigation of the Dî Perimeter, the compact’s $141.9 million Agriculture Development Project is working with the Burkinabe to improve water management, diversified agriculture and access to rural finance.
An estimated 4,500 farmers and their families in Dî are expected to be working in the perimeter by the time the compact ends in July, and the trip gave us an opportunity to talk personally with some of them following their first growing season. Preliminary reports indicate that farmers harvested more than 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans and other legumes on the land on which construction had already been completed.
The project included a strong focus on ensuring benefits reach local women, who are often not recognized as landholders and are therefore last in line to receive land security. More than 130 agricultural associations are receiving land in the Dî Perimeter, composed entirely of women and youth from neighboring communities. Each cooperative member receives a plot of about one-tenth of an acre; last year, more than 2,000 individuals formed organizations to be eligible to receive the land.
Cooperative members are receiving kits containing tools, seeds and fertilizers. MCC is also funding trainings on how to plant and apply fertilizers to maximize yields, efficient irrigation methods and ways to increase soil fertility.
Most of the cooperative members are learning these techniques for the first time.
“We were taught how to make compost in our courtyards with things we can easily find around our village,” Ki said. “I give my children a bit of money to go and search for the supplies and then I use the compost on my land. It is much cheaper than buying fertilizer.”
The association members dug canals to deliver water directly to their parcels and learned that they would manage water resources that feed their canals.
“Mastering the irrigation schedule and working well together was very difficult in the beginning,” said Elisabethe Tiama, a member of the Hérakaura cooperative. “[MCA-Burkina Faso contractors] helped us to get organized and we were able to set a five-day watering calendar based on the rotation of the village markets. They also showed us the best ways to grow our corn and onions.”
All of the farmers we spoke with said they were pleased with their yields and looking forward to harvesting the lucrative dry-season cash crops they planted a couple of months ago. I was most impressed with the initiative and ingenuity some of these entrepreneurs exhibited, quickly solving problems and adapting to a more formal and communal irrigation schedule.
By April 2014, these businesswomen will be joined by their neighbors from throughout the region as the full 5,535 acres are delivered to beneficiaries. Additional plots of land will be distributed via a lottery before then.
Ki can’t wait.
“My husband and I both put our names into the land lottery,” she said. “We are ready for more farmland!”
Posted on March 28, 2014 by Ben Campbell, Director, Environmental and Social Assessment, Department of Compact Operations
MCC is marking World Water Day with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the sixth in the series.
Population pressures in Malawi have pushed poor and vulnerable farmers up the steep hillsides where they scratch out a living growing maize. Having grown up an Iowa farm boy, I would have never contemplated planting corn on such steep slopes—but of course, we were nowhere near as desperate for land or production as the farmers in Malawi.
Unfortunately, there is a knock-on effect to the poverty-driven hillside planting: Tons of topsoil sediment makes its way into the Shire River, where it flows into and fills the head ponds, damaging the hydroelectric plants. The topsoil’s rich nutrients feed invasive weed blooms which get caught in the turbines, leading to power blackouts all over the country.
The effect represents a real long-term threat to MCC’s Malawi Compact, which includes the rehabilitation of the hydroelectric plant on the Shire River and an upgrade of the electric grid through much of southern and central Malawi.
In response, the project on which we are working in partnership with the Malawians seeks long-term financing to promote better land-use practices in the Upper and Middle Shire Basin, the source of much of the soil runoff. Working with private and government-owned companies, we aim to establish an environmental trust.
These downstream companies that make up the trust—including sugarcane producers, bottlers, water utilities, and the electric company—are affected by the same sediment as the hydroelectric plant. Individually, there is little they can do. Together, though, they can contribute the money needed to provide grants to local non-government and community-based organizations which, in turn, can help farmers improve their methods through conservation agriculture, forestry and soil erosion techniques.
For the farmers, the use of one or all of these practices should lead to improved yields. For the trust companies and the hydroelectric plant, these plans will reduce pressure on the forests and hillsides that are the source of the water.
By linking the land-use interests of the downstream entities with the upstream communities, our project hopes to create long-term funding to support these efforts, even after MCC has left.
Posted on March 28, 2014 by Evan Freund, Deputy Resident Country Director, Mozambique
MCC is marking World Water Day this week with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the fifth in the series.
Nacala, home to Mozambique’s deep water port and access point for trade through much of east and southern Africa, is a city whose rapid growth punctuates the entire country’s challenges with access to a clean and reliable water source.
In the towns and villages surrounding Nacala, and in the city itself, the lack of an element so vital for daily life and commerce is a considerable constraint to economic growth.
The road to Nacala’s port is cluttered with new and expanding businesses – many of which are voracious water consumers – and the coast is increasingly crowded with large container ships, transporting the world’s goods into, and out of, the region. The region’s growth is evident at every turn in Nacala.
The MCC-funded expansion and rehabilitation of the aging, inefficient and undersized bulk water supply dam in Nacala – the principal source of Nacala’s water – was an ambitious and technically complex plan which, in part, helps the city meet the growing demand for water. The project also embodied many of the very best characteristics of the MCC model and the necessary characteristics of good project execution: broad engagement and involvement with community entities and people who have a stake in the project’s success, a planning process that included participation by public and private organizations, and country-led solutions.
Piecing together a collaborative and productive partnership between multiple beneficiaries and participants at the international, national and local levels over a three year period prior to construction was critical to ensuring the safe and timely completion of the project. But it was not without its secondary challenges. The announced promise of more water led to understandable expectations of immediate results, especially among the project’s intended beneficiaries. It was important to explain in clear language that considerable front end work on the project would avoid problems on the back end.
So, led by MCA-Mozambique, countless technical meetings, outreach and educational awareness workshops and discussions took place from 2008 to 2011 in order to ensure a project as technically complex and large as this could go forward with as few problems as possible… and that everyone at each level understood what it was going to take.
With a lot of hard work and a little luck, a tight two-year construction period proceeded smoothly and one of MCC’s most technically sophisticated – and one of Mozambique’s most high profile – projects was delivered as planned. The end result is an expanded dam (from 17 to 19 meters) and a reservoir with increased capacity (4.2 million to 6.6 million cubic meters) that now provide a stable foundation for Nacala’s continued development.
Posted on March 27, 2014 by Joana Brito, Deputy Resident Country Director, Cabo Verde
MCC is marking World Water Day this week with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the fourth in the series.
How do you take a fragmented, poorly run water and sanitation utility in an extremely dry country like Cabo Verde and make it run efficiently enough to bring high-quality service to a half million people?
This question is moving toward a real solution through the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project, part of Cabo Verde’s second compact with MCC. At the start of the project’s design, inefficiencies at the utility level were bad enough to pose significant barriers to economic growth. The problems needed to be tackled aggressively and reforms put in place if people were to benefit from a water utility at all.
The WASH Project aims to sustain the long-term delivery of services and goods through a three-pronged strategy: first, motivating reforms at national policy and regulatory agencies so real change can take place; second, operating utilities more efficiently through best commercial practices; and third, improving the quality and reach of the water and sanitation infrastructure through an accountable system for integrated water resource management.
There are about 19 small utilities spread throughout 22 municipalities of the nine inhabited islands of Cabo Verde, each serving a few thousand people in a population of a half million people. These small utilities, called SAASs, suffer from significant bureaucratic interference by municipal authorities, are over-staffed, have a shortage of technically qualified staff, and are not financially sustainable.
The proposed approaches will make the utilities more efficient and more financially sustainable. These include:
• Grouping nine of the small operators of the island of Santiago, Cabo Verde’s biggest island, into a single corporatized, commercially run operator shielded from political interference;
• Improving operations and management by adopting business practices used by commercial entities; and
• Extending service coverage by decreasing the loss of water through leaky pipes and pumps and making sure the most vulnerable people get service.
This, coupled with a strong public information campaign, will increase awareness of the health benefits of better water and sanitation services as well as hygiene practices. Together, it will prompt consumer willingness to pay for good service.
By focusing on transforming the utilities and the way they do business now, the people of Cabo Verde will enjoy increased access to water and sanitation, with reliable service and improved quality… keys for healthy living.
Posted on March 26, 2014 by Cassandra Q. Butts, Senior Adviser
MCC is marking World Water Day this week with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the third in the series.
In the fight against poverty, investing in innovative approaches, enhanced technologies and new techniques to improve development outcomes or reduce costs are essential. Partnerships between the public and private sectors are not new, but they are key to reaching people with new technologies and models for services, often with greater efficiency and impact than what could be achieved working alone.
I recently traveled to Zambia’s capital of Lusaka to participate in the public launch of an exciting program that will leverage public-private partnerships to better support access to clean water, reliable sanitation and services to improve the functioning of Lusaka’s drainage system, especially in the city’s poorest areas.
The Innovation Grant Program intends to confront pressing issues affecting Lusaka’s water sector and limiting economic growth in Zambia. Through calls for proposals to introduce improved technology, best practices and targeted services, the grant program aims to decrease incidences of disease spread through contaminated water as well as reduce the cost of sanitation services and business losses from flooding. With improved service delivery in targeted areas, people will spend less on health care, be more productive in their work and abilities to care for their families, kids will miss less school, and businesses will not have to close as often during the rainy season. New models of service delivery can also create new employment opportunities, support entrepreneurship in the city and empower women and youth.
This program will offer the private sector, universities and other organizations in Zambia, the United States and throughout the world, an opportunity to compete for funding in a transparent manner to complement and supplement the other investments in infrastructure and institutional strengthening being carried out through Zambia’s five-year, $355million MCC compact. Together with the Government of Zambia, the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company and the Lusaka City Council, MCC’s investment will impact more than one million Zambians.
The promise and potential of the Innovation Grant Program will serve the most vulnerable members of society, ensuring that women, children, the poor, and other disadvantaged groups are able to benefit from access to clean water and sanitation services.
Stay tuned: MCA-Zambia will soon announce when it will start accepting proposals. I am excited to see these advances in action!
Posted on March 21, 2014 by Stephen B. Gaull, Senior Adviser, Finance, Investment and Trade Team
When it comes to water, there is universal agreement that it is vital for life. It is also an essential element for key economic production activities such as power, agriculture and industry. Yet, the reality is, the world’s water supply is scarce – only 2.5 percent of the world’s water is fresh. It is unevenly distributed across and within countries. And it is often poorly managed and inefficiently used. Still, the demand for water is increasing while competition for its finite supply intensifies.
In observance of this year’s World Water Day, MCC will kick off a blog series starting next week, illustrating what we are doing with our partner countries to improve access to clean water and sanitation services, and secure the sustainability of resources into the future. We hope you’ll find these stories as interesting and illuminating as we do …
Water needs for domestic, agricultural and livestock uses create acute sustainability pressures. Climate change and urban sprawl worsen the environmental pressures on water and sanitation supply and quality. All of this creates the need for greater efficiency, management and use of water services.
At MCC, we are keenly aware of these challenges and the imperatives for improved stewardship of this precious resource. We also view water as more than a molecule, and recognize it’s an economic good, whose cost of production requires appropriate pricing to ensure sustainable, high-quality service levels. We also realize the critical social and gender dimensions that must be factored into program designs to achieve the intended goals.
Since 2004, MCC has invested more than $2.1 billion in water. This includes drinking water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); water resources management; and improved water productivity. Our programs have all been defined as priorities by our partner countries, who poignantly understand the challenges and opportunities that water availability presents for economic development and human health. Indeed, we have seen a significant uptick recently in countries requesting MCC assistance with water management, including Cabo Verde, Jordan and Zambia. Countries currently developing MCC compacts are also considering investments in water. In addition to its investments, MCC is playing a leadership role in the development of the U.S. Water Partnership, a public-private platform that mobilizes the best of U.S. expertise to work on global water issues.
Please bookmark this space to read our upcoming blog series on how MCC is partnering to improve water-related services around the world, including at the critical water-energy nexus.
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture
Traditionally, water-related projects have been classified as strictly irrigation, livestock or water and sanitation projects—but in reality, people use water for many uses. People use water for drinking, cooking, washing, livestock watering, agriculture, and business purposes. When development professionals fail to consider these multiple uses, overuse, asset degradation, breakage and the inability of water-management institutions to actually manage these unintended uses have threatened a project’s sustainability.
Instead, project planners should consider all the various needs and uses for water in a community and then attempt to incorporate those needs into project design right from the start. In this way, the project can mitigate risk and provide greater impact.
MCC adopted this approach in several of our irrigation and livestock projects. In Mali, for example, the irrigation project included consideration of animal crossings, drinking troughs alongside the irrigation canals and the drilling of additional watering points for livestock—all based on consultations with pastoralists. In addition, special areas were created for women to wash clothes and perform other domestic tasks so they would not have to use the irrigation canals and risk drowning or catching a water-borne infection.
In Namibia and Burkina Faso, we incorporated the water needs of wild animals; elephants and hippopotamuses in the area had the potential to cause major damage to the project’s water infrastructure. This was done through placement of elephant-only watering holes away from the project, planting hippopotamus-friendly grasses away from infrastructure and creating natural barriers with trees to protect the areas. In Mongolia and Mozambique, some newly installed water points provided separate valves for human and animal use, lowering the risk of contaminating the drinking water supply.
In other MCC projects, a lack of attention to the multiple uses of water led to challenges during implementation. In the Ghana Compact, for example, we discovered that an irrigation project would actually cut off the supply of water to five villages that were using it for drinking and other domestic uses. Though initially flagged as a critical social risk, the team was able to turn this problem into an opportunity to meet both the domestic and agricultural needs of the community by investing in small-scale water treatment plants that would supply solar-treated drinking water. At the same time, cattle watering points were incorporated into the design.
In the end, the communities benefited from improved water for all uses. However, by not incorporating multiple uses into the design from the beginning, the project missed an opportunity to integrate health and hygiene training with agricultural training and water provision.
MCC is committed to making sustainable investments that respond to beneficiaries’ needs. Considering all the various uses for water in a community while planning a project creates a bigger impact for our projects, and it is a goal for the planning of future water projects.
Have you seen water projects used for unintended purposes? Do you have experiences with multiple uses of water being incorporated into a project or being neglected during project design?
Posted on February 25, 2014 by Scott Fontaine, corporate copywriter-editor
The medina of Marrakech in Morocco is a knot of narrow streets crammed with shops selling everything from pet turtles to bright-yellow shoes, open-air merchants selling spices and freshly butchered meat, tourists looking for the perfect trip souvenir, Marrakechis running daily errands, and donkeys carrying a shop’s inventory across the cobblestones.
The streets twist, come to dead ends and bend back onto other streets. For the unaccustomed, the medina can be a maze that’s nearly impossible to navigate, which can be both frustrating and appealing. The universal allure is visiting a neighborhood that dates back to the 11th century and has served as a political, economic and cultural hub of the Muslim world for centuries.
MCC hopes to make the lives of visitors a bit easier and attract new customers to the shops in the medina, boosting the income for the shops’ workers.
As part of MCC’s $95.5 million Artisan and Fez Medina Project, MCC posted 214 signs throughout the medina. These direct visitors along one of five routes designed to showcase the neighborhood’s rich history and put potential customers in front of artisans specializing in leather, woodworking, ironworking, pottery, and textiles. A fifth route showcases the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s unique architecture.
Color-coded signs hang at major intersections to guide visitors. Larger signboards sport QR codes and explain the medina’s rich history in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.
About 6 million people visit the medina each year, said Samira El Argouhi of the Moroccan Ministry of Artisans, and the five tourist routes take visitors past 4,400 shops.
One artisan, Mohamed Chouheir, believes the tourist routes have increased the foot traffic past his leather shop in the Fondouk El Amri. Chouheir—a bit of a local celebrity after winning an artisan’s competition show broadcast on national TV—credits the signs with attracting about 10 percent more customers to his shop.
“When I close the shop at 9 p.m., people are still walking around and reading the signs,” he said. “They’re asking questions about the area. There’s more interest."
Posted on February 14, 2014 by Damiana Astudillo, associate director, agriculture
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
How do you ensure the sustainability of a post-harvest investment after a donor project ends? And how do you incentivize private sector investment without providing giveaways that risk being underutilized or benefiting businesses that are financially better off?
When post-harvest losses were identified as a major cause of inefficiency in Ghana’s agriculture sector, MCC struggled with how to make investments to reverse these losses sustainable and private-sector driven while simultaneously benefiting poor smallholder farmers. One answer involved constructing 10 agribusiness centers throughout the country as part of the country’s five year, $547 million MCC compact. The agribusiness centers have the objective of reducing post-harvest losses by offering processing, drying, storage, and marketing services for staple crops.
Each agribusiness center is jointly owned by a private sector investor (with a 70 percent share) and an agriculture cooperative of about 1,000 smallholder farmers (30 percent share). In exchange for its share, the private investor was required to contribute the land on which the facility was built and about $35,000 in start-up working capital, as well as business plan, documented financial and management capacity and market connections. Each farmer shareholder was required to contribute a 100-pound bag of grain as a membership fee. MCC funds covered the building and basic equipment of the centers and legal support to formally establish the new companies as well as capacity building for the farmer cooperatives. In this way, both the investor and the farmers had a stake in the profitable operation and maintenance of the facility.
Selecting individual investors, selecting and building the capacity of farmer-based organizations (FBOs) and training shareholder members on what it means to hold a share of a business were the most challenging parts of the project. Building trust between the farmers and their FBOs—as well as between the FBOs and individual investors—took time.
The legal technicalities of setting up these ownership arrangements, which were unprecedented in Ghana, required significant legal resources. And to select which businesses would receive the assistance, the Millennium Development Authority of Ghana (the local organization implementing the compact) evaluated proposals from 30 businesses who competed for the 10 partnership opportunities.
Some of the challenges included determining which businesses were most capable of sustaining operations and which private sector investors had the greatest potential of partnering with smallholder farmers. Additionally, assessing which locations made sense as aggregation centers, based on the availability of infrastructure and access to markets, was challenging. The end result is a set of agribusiness centers that will be able to reduce post-harvest losses by 20-30 percent.
Share your experiences! Have you worked on a project that facilitated partnerships between investors and smallholder farmers? How have other projects addressed the problems of losses and under-investment in post-harvest infrastructure? How have projects attracted investors to work with smallholder farmers in various parts of the value chain?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on February 7, 2014 by William Valletta, MCC due diligence officer, Access to Land Project
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
Does having a title to your land lead to increased food security for you and your family?
A rigorous impact evaluation of MCC’s Access to Land Project in Benin hopes to prove it does. Noting unclear property rights can act as a binding constraint to economic growth in Benin, MCC set out to map and formalize land rights throughout the country. In addition to an urban parcel titling program, the project worked with 400 villages to create rural landholding plans, which map the land around each village and define and record the customary rights of possession to each parcel.
These records are archived, creating a system of recording land transactions and settling land disputes. The planned impact evaluation, conducted by the World Bank and projected to be published later this year, asks questions about changes in behavior as a result of participation in this rural landholding planning endeavor:
- Are land rights perceived as more secure?
- Do land markets work more efficiently and is land used more productively long-term?
- Is there an increase in the planting of perennials, tree crops and other agricultural investments?
- Is there an increase in trust in local institutions?
- Are people more engaged in village land management?
- Does paid wage employment change?
- Do women participate more in household decision-making?
- Does the experience of women-headed households differ from that of male-headed households
Though it is too early to answer these questions with statistical data, anecdotal evidence suggests that villages that have formalized their land rights through this process have seen an increase in the active use of fields and the planting of higher-value perennial and tree crops. When the findings of the evaluation are released, positive results will indicate that this model is an effective way to increase investments in the agricultural sector and contribute to food security in rural areas throughout Africa.
Tell us what you think! Have you observed or experienced increases in agricultural investment following the formalization of land rights? What other models of land formalization elsewhere have been successful?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on February 3, 2014 by Oliver Pierson, resident country director, Malawi
MCC and MCA-Malawi staff are working hard to strengthen Malawi’s energy sector. The country's five-year, $350.7 million compact will address its inadequate and unreliable electricity and make a major contribution to the country’s economic growth over the next five to 10 years.
The compact comes after more than five years of development and preparation, and at an event full of high expectations and significant anticipation, more than 100 people gathered at the Sunbird Capital Hotel in Lilongwe late last year to mark the Malawi Compact’s entry into force—when the compact projects officially begin, and the countdown toward the five-year deadline begins. There was excitement about what lies ahead, relief that the compact was finally getting going and a bit of nervousness about all the work that lies ahead.
It took a lot of work to reach this point.
Development was marked by a delay from July 2011 to June 2012 due to the operational hold and suspension resulting from a pattern of actions by the Government of Malawi that was inconsistent with MCC’s eligibility criteria. Since compact reinstatement in June 2012, MCC and the Government of Malawi have worked diligently to both prepare for implementation and meet the conditions both sides agreed upon before the compact would begin; these conditions involved a number of power sector reforms to ensure the compact’s sustainability.
The reforms the Malawian government made were difficult, necessary and showed their strong commitment to the compact.
Access to power is a major issue in Malawi and creates a drag on the nation's economy. Only 6 percent of Malawi’s nearly 14 million people have electricity, and even those with access experience frequent outages and blackouts. What now is underway is fulfilling the compact’s ambitious infrastructure program. This includes constructing a new 400-kilovolt transmission line linking Blantyre to Lilongwe—a distance of about 150 miles or equivalent to the distance from Washington, D.C. to Virginia Beach—that will greatly improve power supply reliability.
The program also includes rehabilitating a hydropower plant to increase generation capacity and the development or rehabilitation of approximately 25 substations to deliver more reliable electricity to the homes and businesses of nearly 1 million Malawians.
The compact aims to reduce the costs of energy for domestic and business uses, and we project the compact will boost household incomes nearly $570 million. And that figure doesn’t include the benefits of improved governance and regulation in the power sector that the compact l helps motivate.
People often ask me when the compact will show some impact in Malawi. I can confidently respond that, with entry into force behind us, the impacts of our investments on Malawi’s power supply should be felt within four years, once our new transmission lines and substations are in place and our work to rehabilitate the Nkula A hydropower plant is complete.
While that may seem like a long time to some, the significant improvements these policy reforms and investments are expected to bring will be worth the wait.
Posted on January 31, 2014 by Leonard Rolfes Jr., senior property rights advisor, MCC, and Alfousseyni Niono, land issues and financial services coordinator, MCA-Mali
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
How can newly irrigated land be allocated to farmers in a way that is fair and transparent and leads to efficient agricultural production while also providing an opportunity for the poor and vulnerable to climb out of poverty? This was one of the big questions that the Alatona Irrigation Project in central Mali set out to answer.
The project—part of MCC’s five-year, $435 million compact with Mali—converted more than 12,000 acres of dry scrub land into rich, productive irrigated land suitable for growing rice and vegetables. Once the irrigation infrastructure was built, the land needed to be allocated to people who would farm it.
MCA-Mali, the local organization implementing the compact, first allocated 12-acreunits if the land to the families who were displaced by the project and who could no longer use the land for grazing and other livelihood activities. For the remaining units, it was necessary that the people who received land had the knowledge and resources to make productive use of it—while trying to correct the deep-rooted inequalities in the region by encouraging the participation of women, the landless and other disadvantaged groups. Every proposed solution risked antagonizing some part of the population who believed they deserved more of the land than they were being allocated.
In the end, a two-step process was used to allocate the remaining land. First, each applicant was evaluated based on their current access to land (the landless received extra points), farming and irrigation experience (more experience equaled more points), proof of having paid water fees in the past (the land had to be purchased and water fees paid), membership in an association or cooperative, access to farming tools and adequate resources, and gender and age (women and youth received extra points). Each applicant was given a point score, and those who passed a minimum point threshold entered the second stage: a lottery.
The lottery was conducted publicly and transparently to ensure that the outcome was fair and accepted by all parties. To maximize women’s access to land, joint-titling was encouraged, allowing land owners to name their spouse as a co-owner of the land, which will prevent women from losing land access in the event of a husband’s death.
The effort required substantial community outreach to make sure residents fully understood the process and criteria for applying for irrigated land. The hope is that this successful model for land allocation and joint titling will be replicated throughout Mali and other countries in West Africa whenever land needs to be allocated.
Tell us what you think! Have you had experiences with land allocation or determining who gets access to land in other development projects? How were criteria determined, and how accepting was the community?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on January 24, 2014 by Dave Cole, Natural Products Activity manager, MCA-Namibia, and Karen Nott, institutional development specialist, MCA-Namibia
Can a spiny little desert plant really contribute to food security? It can in Namibia, where the indigenous medicinal plant known as devil’s claw is harvested, dried and sold to exporters by small producer groups.
Because of MCC’s five-year, $304 million compact, the number of organized producer groups who harvest and sell devil’s claw has already more than tripled. The plant, however, is also protected by Namibian law to prevent its overharvesting, making the balance between conservation and income generation tricky.
With the help of MCC, the Government of Namibia ratified a law in 2010 that allows it to more easily trace the sourcing of indigenous natural products and issue permits to produce and sell a sustainable level of devil’s claw.
The compact helped create a sustainable harvesting model that trains and registers harvesters who apply for a group permit, a traceability system for quality control and record keeping, monitoring of sustainable harvesting methods, a reliable partnership with a local exporter to access markets and market information, and a premium price paid directly to harvesters.
The private sector’s role is fundamental to this model, ensuring the sustainability of the activity long after the compact ends later this year. Meanwhile, MCA-Namibia is encouraging harvesters to form cooperatives and producer groups, giving them a stronger voice in negotiating contracts.
Share your experiences! Have you marketed indigenous natural products or helped to establish sustainable harvesting practices in another value chain? We’d love to read about your experiences and continue this conversation.
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on January 17, 2014 by Charlotte de Fontaubert, senior technical advisor, agriculture and rural economy, and Peter Zara, senior program officer, environmental and social performance
Is it possible to modernize an entire artisanal fishing industry in a way that ensures that benefits will reach the poorest fishers and not be captured entirely by middlemen and traders? And how does one motivate all small-scale fishers to fish sustainably and responsibly, ensuring the lasting health of fish stocks?
MCC’s five-year, $698 million compact with Morocco—which successfully completed in September 2013—grappled with these issues and succeeded in transforming the country’s artisanal fishing industry. Before the compact, many fishers in beneficiary communities operated in a difficult atmosphere. After returning from the sea, they sold their catch to whatever seller happened to be nearby at that time. Some would choose to wait for more sellers, but they often lacked ice or paid a high price for it, leading to spoilage. And many sellers were often middlemen who would advance the money for nets and fuel to the fishermen in exchange for an agreement to purchase the catch at a below-market price.
MCC approached this challenge by tackling inefficiencies throughout the value chain, from landing sites for small fishing boats, to vending and storage facilities on the coast, to wholesale markets in major cities throughout Morocco, and finally to mobile fish vendors who sell fresh fish in remote villages from their refrigerator-equipped motorcycles. Investments in updated infrastructure and training for all those involved in the fish industry will ensure that Moroccans have access to a healthy supply of fish for their diets while dramatically reducing spoilage between the catch and the sale.
Preserving fish stocks that fishers depend on for their livelihood is a challenge around the globe, and marine protected areas are notoriously difficult to enforce. In Morocco’s compact, fishers were involved in discussions from the beginning and were able to see the data collected through underwater surveys, so they understood the logic of the boundaries of the protected areas and felt a strong ownership of the endeavor. Over the course of the project, the fishers committed to voluntary compliance and self-policing.
With the compact completed, it is now up to the Moroccan government to continue to operate and maintain the MCC-funded infrastructure and programs. It also remains to be seen whether middlemen and traders will adapt to the new circumstances where fishers—who previously sold their fish to them at a low price—can directly compete as well.
Join the conversation! What practices have worked in your experiences in setting up marine protected areas, or in formalizing an informal trade in perishable goods?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on January 14, 2014 by Scott Fontaine, corporate copywriter-editor
Abdelhak Krit learned the art of coppersmithing 30 years ago from his father, who learned the craft at the side of his father. Krit’s son has followed him into the industry, and Krit hopes his son’s son will carry on the family tradition.
This generational bond among Morocco's coppersmiths is as durable as the metal they sculpt. So when MCC resettled Krit and hundreds of his colleagues from their cramped, unsafe workspaces in the medina of Fez to a safer, modern building in nearby Ain Nokbi, he wanted to leave a lasting legacy to the agency that provided a more successful future.
When he and 300 others formed a copperworkers’ association in February, they named it the Millennium Challenge Association.
“We want our children and our grandchildren to never forget what MCC has given us,” Krit said.
The members of the association work together to develop their skills and collaborate on larger projects when possible, he said. Many of the associations’ members previously operated from Place Lalla Yeddouna, which had been slated for renovation under MCC’s $95.5 million Artisan and Fez Medina Project.
Place Lalla Yeddouna is in the heart of the medina of Fez, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the 9th century and features narrow, twisting roads that wind between tall buildings in which people create and sell everything from clothing to electronics to an on-the-spot meal.
Despite the picturesque settings, many workers in the medina struggle to get by. Many workshops are outdated and unsafe. Because of the project, the coppersmiths of the Millennium Challenge Association—along with artisans working with pottery, leather, metal, textiles, and wood—now have larger, safer and better ventilated space in Ain Nokbi. The building means improved health for the workers and easier access for wholesalers to purchase their products.
It’s an improvement that should not be forgotten, Krit said.
“We are very, very pleased with what MCC has done for us,” he said. “To translate this love, this passion we have for MCC, we chose a name that will be a legacy.”
Posted on January 7, 2014 by Scott Fontaine, corporate copywriter-editor
Need a new dress? Latifa Benammi can make that.
How about some embroidery to add flair to that new shirt? Benammi has that covered.
Want to show off to dinner guests with a patterned tablecloth? No problem.
"I can sew anything," the 28-year-old Moroccan said with a smile.
And Benammi is hoping that hours of needlework and some help from MCC will mean a better life.
Benammi is one of 22 members of the Association of Handicapped Women, an artisan cooperative that operates in the medina of Marrakech. Members of the cooperative have enrolled in several different training courses offered through MCC’s $95.5 million Artisan and Fez Medina Project.
Benammi, who was born without toes and has difficulty walking, attended MCC-funded vocational training classes. There she learned how to better communicate with customers and more effectively market her services.
Moroccans who work in the medina of Marrakech are in a prime location to boost their incomes from the millions of people who visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site each year. But if these workers don't have the appropriate skills, they won't be able to take full advantage of their situation.
The classes are already helping Benammi sell more products to tourists, who are attracted to her shop by the MCC-funded artisan circuit. This path guides visitors along one of five routes designed to showcase the neighborhood’s rich history and the diverse work of the medina’s artisans. About 10 percent more tourists visit her shop, she said.
Thanks to the training, other cooperative members created websites to advertise their products and showcase their handicrafts at artisan fairs in Morocco and abroad. Others attended functional literacy classes, during which they learn how to read and write while mastering valuable skills for their profession.
Benammi is hoping the boost in income from the various trainings will help her move out of her family’s home and into an apartment of her own. And maybe in a few years, she hopes, she can purchase a house.
“That’s my goal,” she said.
Posted on December 20, 2013 by Anne Brewer, Peace Corps volunteer, Lesotho
The following story is cross-posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog.
Since June 2011, I’ve had the honor of serving as a community health and economic development Peace Corps volunteer and working with Millennium Challenge Account-Lesotho as it implements MCC’s five-year, $363 million compact.
I work under the guidance of and in collaboration with MCA-Lesotho’s environmental and social assessment section. My job is to monitor, assess and mitigate the potential social effects of the compact relating to HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and gender. And with my Basotho counterparts, I have helped to build local capacity to empower the community to identify and proactively address such risks.
As I like to say, my job is to focus on the “human” aspect of MCC’s projects. And I believe that this partnership between the Peace Corps and MCC is helping create real change in the lives of Basotho families.
I live and work in a typical village in the northern Butha-Buthe district: I fetch my clean water at a nearby standpipe, part of a water system similar to the one MCC has provided to communities in rural areas all across Lesotho. Like most rural Basotho communities, my village has no electricity.
I spend about half my time working with the Department of Rural Water Supply, one of the major parties responsible for oversight and implementation of MCC’s rural water and sanitation programs, which have impacted more than 25 different villages across our district. The other half is spent with the local Department of Water Affairs, which supports the compact’s Wetlands Restoration and Conservation Activity.
For both projects, I have had the opportunity to travel to many sites and meet local community members, construction workers, contractors, and other stakeholders. With each visit or meeting, my purpose falls under the same broad category—to ensure that we are uplifting the Basotho in every possible way.
I work to ensure all of the parties entrusted with carrying out the MCC-funded projects are paying attention to the seemingly small details that matter a great deal when it comes to the beneficiaries’ health and safety. I interview the local men and women employed on the project site, as well as the contractor or his representative on-site, to find out if they are complying with MCC’s protocols. For example, are men and women, young and old, being given equal opportunities for employment? Are they being paid on time? Are they provided with all of the appropriate personal safety equipment? Have they been trained on what to do in the event of an emergency or accident, or what to do if they suspect a possible incident of human trafficking?
But my favorite part of the job has also been the most fun, enlightening and at times challenging: getting to stand in front of community members and talking with them about the questions, challenges and fears they face with regard to HIV and AIDS. Nearly one out of every four people in Lesotho is HIV-positive, the third-highest rate in the world. It affects every single community and every single family in Lesotho in one way or another.
Given the stigma and the accompanying fear of even talking about HIV/AIDS, it’s extremely rewarding to see community members open up and allow me to guide them in sometimes surprisingly open, honest discussions of these issues. I have to give the Peace Corps a lot of credit for my success on this front.
Because of the Peace Corps’ emphasis on local language learning, cultural integration and understanding, I have a definite level of credibility with the communities. Many appear to become much more comfortable when I introduce myself in their native language of Sesotho and explain that I am an American who is living as their neighbor for two years. In addition, Peace Corps’ training included in-depth information and background on the HIV epidemic in Lesotho, cultural barriers to behavior change and strategies for dealing with common myths and misconceptions, all of which have informed my work with MCA-Lesotho.
As a true model of cooperation across U.S. Government agencies, Peace Corps’ intensive training I received upon arrival and the ongoing support ever since have put me in a stronger position to carry out MCC’s mission.
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.
Posted on June 28, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
After a number of events and meetings in Morocco that marked the upcoming completion of that country’s MCC compact, I flew to Dakar, Senegal, where I joined President Obama for the first part of his historic trip through Africa. What a magnificent opportunity!
The energy and excitement in our West African partner country were palpable, with signs and banners everywhere welcoming President Obama, the First Lady and our delegation. Alternating Senegalese and American flags lined the boulevard from the airport all the way to the Presidential Palace. From the street, Senegalese of all ages waited patiently for a chance to wave to the motorcade that carried us to meet President Sall.
The Senegalese have good reason to be proud that their country is President Obama’s first stop on the continent. And, I was just as pleased to be part of events that unfolded there, since MCC, through our $540 million strategic investment, is playing a significant role in strengthening Senegalese and American priorities, namely good governance, democracy and food security.
Sound democratic governance and the rule of law throughout Africa are fundamental ingredients for generating and sustaining the economic growth that will provide Africans a future of greater opportunity. They are also key to creating the right conditions to stimulate private sector-led activities and attract greater private investment—all of which fuel the growth necessary for families and communities to prosper. The Senegalese are rightly proud of their democratic traditions, from the fact that government has transitioned peacefully from leader to leader ever since the country’s independence to their role in the sub-region as peacekeepers. And Senegal’s blossoming civil society turned out in droves as President Obama and his family toured historic Gorée Island.
In Africa and elsewhere, MCC continues to set a high standard for governance, partnering only with countries that rule justly and democratically, invest in their people and provide citizens with economic opportunity, as evidenced through our annual country scorecards. African governments are stepping up to meet this challenge by reforming their policies to become eligible for MCC assistance.
President Obama and our delegation, together with the Senegalese, also emphasized joint efforts to advance Africa’s food security through mutually beneficial partnerships with governments, NGOs and the private sector. MCC is playing an essential role in ensuring Senegal furthers its ability to feed its people by investing in major irrigation and road projects that will help farmers in some of the country’s poorest communities expand their agricultural productivity and access markets more easily. At a roundtable attended by agriculture ministers from throughout West Africa, we discussed the importance of an enabling environment, the crucial role played by the private sector and the opportunities that good governance and strategic partnerships can provide in energizing agriculture as well as all the businesses and commercial ventures that result from greater agricultural production. One of the participants at the roundtable summarized the reality best: “Africans don’t want handouts; they want handshakes. Africa is ready for business.”
It has been rewarding to join President Obama during his visit to Senegal. I am proud that the MCC-Senegal partnership stands as one shining example of the kind of work we are doing and the progress we are making to support good governance and advance food security in Africa.
Posted on June 27, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
One of my favorite parts of visiting MCC partner countries is spending time with those who are benefiting from our investments. After three days in Morocco seeing the impact of completed projects as the country’s MCC compact prepares to come to a close this September, I was struck by the optimism and excitement among the Moroccans I met whose lives are changing for the better because of our partnership.
With a just-completed modern landing site in Sidi Abed and innovative motorized bikes with insulated ice chests that allow mobile vendors to preserve the quality of the catch and sell it at higher prices, MCC is helping to make Moroccan fishers more competitive. While touring the site, I met fishers, mobile vendors and members of a women’s cooperative that collects and dries algae and collects and processes sea urchins and sea cucumbers. They shared with me how excited they are about their future economic opportunities and how grateful they are to the American people for making those happen.
With more reliable access to irrigation water, the farmers in Ourika have big plans for their futures. Rather than just grow and sell almonds, olives, figs, and dates in their nearby villages and local markets, they are expanding their horizons to reach more and more consumers in Morocco's larger markets, creating much added value. The Berber farmers I met in Ourika spoke movingly of these new opportunities that are making a big difference in their ability to provide a better standard of living for their families, especially their children. I was also impressed by the women’s cooperatives and their products; the bread, honey and amlou I tasted were delicious and all made from local ingredients. You can see the great pride written all over the women’s faces.
The stories of hope and optimism from these fishers and farmers show how we are creating the right economic opportunities for growth in Morocco through our MCC-funded projects. Equally clear is the commitment to sustaining these results. Time and again, the government ministers I met spoke of Morocco’s support for all components of the MCC model, especially the focus on lasting results and not just outputs. Various ministers shared with me how the MCC approach is increasingly becoming the new standard for many of their own development projects. When I had the privilege of meeting with His Majesty King Mohammed VI, he reiterated his country’s commitment to focusing on results and delivering on the promise of the MCC compact for Morocco’s citizens.
Changing the lives of ordinary Moroccans becomes so much more extraordinary when our vision is shared and supported by the government and executed by institutions, groups and individuals who believe in what they are doing, are committed to tangible results and are prepared to go above and beyond to achieve the goal of poverty reduction through sustainable economic growth. Morocco has already achieved remarkable results through its MCC compact. And, I am convinced that through ongoing close collaboration and effective partnership, we will realize the full promise of the compact by its end. By doing this, we will better the lives and increase the incomes of the hundreds of thousands of small farmers, fishers and artisans in Morocco.
Posted on June 17, 2013 by Rick Gaynor, Lead of MCC’s Property Rights and Land Policy Practice Group
As part of the G-8’s session on trade, tax and transparency, the United States announced a partnership with the Government of Burkina Faso to strengthen land governance and increase transparency of land transactions—and MCC played a major role in making this partnership a reality.
The U.S.-Burkina Faso land partnership builds upon MCC’s $59 million Rural Land Governance Project in Burkina Faso, our largest and perhaps most ambitious land and property rights project to date. The Government of Burkina Faso, like a growing number of countries, recognized the central role that land and property rights play in economic growth and sought MCC’s support to implement its new land policy framework as part of its $481 million compact.
Good land governance and transparency in land transactions are priorities for the G-8 this year, and the U.S. partnership with Burkina Faso is one of several in which G-8 members are pairing with developing countries to promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land.
The partnership builds on momentum created by the United Nations Committee on World Food Security’s adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, the ongoing negotiations on the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment and the session on land governance at the Grow Africa investment summit in May. The G-8’s efforts signify a growing recognition by governments, the private sector, donor agencies, and civil society of the critical importance of land rights and the need to improve land and resource governance to promote economic growth and food security.
MCC is supporting land and property rights programs in 15 of our partner countries to help reduce poverty through economic growth. These programs are serving as models for others and catalyzing support from other donor organizations. The land team at MCC is committed to sharing the results, tools developed and lessons from our programs to encourage improved performance and sustainability in our future work and the work of others.
We thank our colleagues in Burkina Faso for the great progress they have made during the first four years of the compact, and we look forward to working with them as part of this new partnership.
Posted on June 14, 2013 by Scott Fontaine, corporate copywriter-editor
The life of a Moroccan fisherman can be tough.
A boat packed with three or four men will launch well before sunrise. The fishermen occasionally need to stay on the ocean for two or three days until they fill their stores. Bad weather can shorten or cancel trips. When they return, they can face difficulty selling the catch at the peak of freshness or at the right price. Predatory middlemen often collude to keep prices low.
The lifestyle provides erratic income. Fishermen tend to be among the poorest Moroccans yet live on the coasts, where the cost of living is high without much of a safety net. But across the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, improved landing sites stand as a symbol of hope for many of the country’s small-scale fishers.
Eleven improved landing sites are being built or operating as part of MCC’s $120 million Small-Scale Fisheries Project. The sites are gleaming white complexes built on the beach; a typical site contains an auction hall where fishermen can sell directly to distributors, storage units for equipment, a watch tower in case of a waterborne accident, a cafeteria to help fund the newly formed fishing cooperatives, and cold storage units to ensure the catch doesn’t spoil before reaching the marketplace.
About 78,000 people are expected to benefit from the landing sites. Along the Atlantic coast, fishermen in three towns where the sites have not yet opened are optimistic about the future.
In Salé, Samir Wakrim is most hopeful about the fishermen’s association being formed through the project and the medical insurance it will provide. The 33-year old has been fishing for more than two decades but can’t afford to miss work because of illness or injury.
A few years ago, he slid down some concrete steps and hurt his leg. Every day he spent recovering at home meant less and less income.
“For many of us, that’s a very big concern,” he said. “It’s a general problem for fishermen across Morocco.”
In Bhibeh, a fishermen’s cooperative has already formed and includes more than 115 members. For Khalid Lamziouk, days of hard work at sea can lead to despair when buyers aren’t available to purchase the catch.
The fishermen face a difficult choice: Wait for buyers to show up and risk spoilage, or pay for ice and transportation to sell the catch at a nearby town.
With the auction hall and cold storage, Lamziouk believes he can sell more of his fish and save the money he would have spent on ice and transportation costs.
“This is the right equipment at the right time,” he said.
In Tafedna, the prospect of an auction hall where fishermen can sell directly to distributors holds the greatest promise. Currently, middlemen will often advance money for gas and nets to crews of fishermen who agree to sell their catch exclusively to the middlemen at a fixed price.
“It creates a dependency this way,” cooperative president Mohamed Dibe said.
The fishermen in Tafedna have other problems, he said. Because of the town’s remote location, the few buyers collude to keep prices low, Dibe said. Some fishermen have chosen to leave Tafedna to work out of a neighboring, larger market, where there are more buyers and prices can be 50 percent higher.
Dibe is optimistic the auction hall will help fix that.
“The whole village suffered,” he said. “But now, all will benefit: the fishermen, their families, the whole community.”
Posted on June 3, 2013 by Scott Fontaine, corporate copywriter-editor
On a dirt lot just off the Namialo-Rio Lurio section of the N1 highway in northern Mozambique lies the future home of the technicians maintaining the country’s highways.
The prefabricated homes sit in neat rows on a compound about 18 kilometers from the nearest town. Each offers three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. Small office buildings, a cafeteria and a bar are nearby.
Expatriate contractors working on the road rehabilitation—part of the Mozambique Compact’s $176 million Rehabilitation and Construction of Roads Project—live in the compound and will do so until the end of the project, as well as for a yearlong maintenance period following it. After that, MCA-Mozambique will assume ownership of the site and plans to turn it over to the Mozambican government’s National Road Administration.
The National Road Administration will need qualified engineers and other professionals to maintain the roads, but housing near many of the projects is often in short supply and expensive. The solution: the contractor camps.
The government plans to entice young, college-educated professionals to work in the public sector by offering housing on the compounds. It’s also a way to lure young professionals to work in the country’s poorer northern provinces, where jobs typically pay less than they do in the capital, Maputo.
MCA-Mozambique plans to hand over similar contractor residential compounds currently in use for each of the compact’s major infrastructure investments: roads in Nampula province, a dam outside Nacala, water supply stations in Nacala and Nampula, and drainage projects in Nampula and Quelimane.
It’s just one way MCC’s investments during implementation can promote sustainability for years to come.
Posted on May 30, 2013 by Mary Jo Johnson, Procurement Director
MCC, the World Bank and Ghana’s Millennium Development Authority (MiDA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today that will help strengthen public procurement around the world.
The MOU provides professional-level curriculum and modules for the World Bank to use in its education programs worldwide, which will establish a path to stronger procurement practices.
This is an exciting collaboration that allows us to share our experiences and promote procurement professionalization. Strengthening the accountability and administrative functions of governments improves governance, creates greater efficiencies and ultimately helps reduce global poverty.
The modules were first developed under the Procurement Capacity Activity of Ghana’s recently completed $547 MCC compact and were the basis for degree programs to enhance procurement in the public sector. The program represented a new national approach to educate Ghana’s university students and civil service on international procurement standards. About 300 public procurement personnel and students received training, with many others still enrolled; 1,250 students participated in procurement internships at government offices, and 200 of those landed permanent or temporary jobs.
This MOU builds on a previous memorandum signed between the Ghanaian and Liberian governments in 2011—with help from MCC—to provide curriculum and modules to train Liberian procurement professionals. The sharing of best practices is already working; 24 students in Liberia recently graduated with a postgraduate diploma in public procurement.
As my colleague Allan Rotman of the World Bank explained, “The new approach to procurement professionalization developed with MCC assistance builds skills and experience in a critical young procurement profession, and African governments are in need of these scarce skills as they modernize their civil services.”
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 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 April 25, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I had the privilege of appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee today with USAID administrator Raj Shah to answer questions about our agencies’ respective budgets and plans for the upcoming fiscal year.
Appearing before the committee provided a chance to highlight MCC’s model, mission and results, and our place in the U.S. Government’s wider foreign assistance efforts not only to Congress, but also to the American people.
There’s a lot of good news to share.
Nine years after its founding, MCC has produced real results, and remains a cost-effective approach to delivering foreign assistance. We play a crucial role in the U.S. Government’s foreign policy by strengthening the United States’ economy at home and standing abroad.
MCC’s evidence-based approach is at the core of its success. Our partners are rigorously selected countries that have a measurable track record of sound democratic and economic governance. After their selection, we ask our partner countries to prioritize and then develop and implement cost-effective solutions that make a real difference at reducing poverty by stimulating economic growth.
During these tough economic times, Americans deserve to see their tax dollars deliver a high rate of return and the greatest impact. That’s why we select projects with high returns, monitor progress during implementation and require that programs be completed in five years. We cut off funding if governments turn their back on principles of democratic governance. And we evaluate program effectiveness to see what did and did not work—and then make those findings public.
Almost 174 million people from across the world are expected to directly benefit from MCC’s investments. Beyond this benefit for individuals, the policy reforms and targeted investments that result from MCC’s programs foster an enabling environment for businesses to succeed.
With new markets, U.S. companies enjoy greater opportunities to trade, profit and create American jobs.
Many other countries benefit by the “MCC Effect,” when they take concrete steps to improve governance in order to become eligible for MCC assistance. That means more girls are in school, the time to start a business has fallen, more women have equal access to economic opportunities and more children are receiving vaccines because their governments hope to become eligible for a compact—before the American taxpayer ever spends a dime.
MCC is helping millions of poor people across the world pull themselves out of poverty while making the United States stronger, safer and more prosperous. I consider that a win for the American taxpayer. And that’s why I welcomed the opportunity to discuss our model and results with Congress.
Posted on April 19, 2013 by Jonathan Saiger, Senior Director, Infrastructure
The Millennium Challenge Corporation has its country-led development assistance model to work with Benin reduce poverty since its selection as a compact-eligible country. The Government of Benin quickly identified the Port of Cotonou as one key area to reducing poverty, and MCC worked with the Beninese government to develop an effective program towards address that.
The port was highly inefficient. The challenge of making significant improvements in a busy port was just one aspect of a complex investment covering a new wharf, safety and security measures, sedimentation protection, rezoning, and surface transportation improvements. MCC and the Government of Benin consulted with the numerous port users—such as customs officials, port-security entities, shipping lines, public and private stevedores, customers, and fish processors—to minimize the impact of the extensive construction activities. But a key factor to expanding the port’s capacity and reducing transportation costs (an important economic driver to poverty reduction) was creating the environment to attract the needed follow-on investment from a private operator. That could only be accomplished through a transparent concessioning process.
The International Finance Corporation and Infrastructure Journal recently recognized the port’s South Wharf public-private partnership as a “top-40 PPP” and with a “Bronze” award (among sub-Saharan African projects). Gold, silver and bronze projects will be recognized at an awards ceremony this month during the IMF-World Bank spring meetings in Washington, D.C.
MCC invested more than $180 million to improve the Port of Cotonou as part of Benin’s five-year, $307 million compact. To ensure sustainable results and impact, MCC and the Government of Benin agreed the latter should engage a transaction advisor to develop and lead an open and competitive bidding process to select a private container terminal operator for a long-term concession to operate the new South Wharf.
The Government of Benin selected the International Finance Corporation, which brought additional technical resources and acted as the government’s lead advisor. The prospect of a more efficient and modern port attracted the private sector, and the resulting PPP leverages MCC’s investment with an additional $256 million in customized improvements by the operator and more than $200 million of future port fees to Benin.
“The Emerging Partnerships report [which includes the top-40 list] has chosen the most innovative and exciting PPP infrastructure projects from around the world,” said John Kjorstad, editor of Infrastructure Journal. “These projects have improved the daily lives of tens of millions of people by providing new infrastructure services. Increasingly governments are turning to PPPs as an affordable funding method. This comprehensive study of partnerships in emerging markets highlights best practice and will be an inspirational and invaluable tool for decision makers in both governments and the private sector.”
Posted on April 10, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
I participated in a joyous celebration in Zanzibar today. More than 15,000 people gathered in Amani Stadium to mark the installation of the submarine cable that is bringing reliable electricity to Zanzibar. In 2010, there was a power outage that impacted tourism, investments and livelihoods. Through MCC's compact, electricity will be transmitted to Zanzibar from the mainland. And through effective coordination with other donors and partners, that transmission will reach households too.
"We can say goodbye to blackouts,” said Toufiq Turky from Turky's Group of Companies, who owns several hotels and investments in Zanzibar. “I invite you to come back in a couple of years to find a new Zanzibar."
President of Zanzibar Mohammed Shein summarized the day best with a Swahili saying, Hayawi; Hayawi; leo yamekuwa. This means, "It is not going to be; it is not going to be; today it has happened."
This captures the pride of reaching this compact milestone, a feat that seemed at times unachievable.
This was a wonderful day celebrated among beneficiaries, investors, donors—all partners in this project. Such cooperation signaled and reinforced the importance of partnerships and sustainability.
Posted on March 7, 2013 by Joseph Hayuni, Millennium Challenge Account,Tanzania
Two colleagues and I took a trip last year to Tanzania’s Iringa, Mbeya and Rukwa regions to visit compact-funded project sites and meet with potential beneficiaries of the roads and power investments. We observed and assessed the progress of project implementation and the activities of groups that received training under Millennium Challenge Account-Tanzania’s Gender Integration Program (GIP). These experiences highlighted the relevance of the work undertaken by MCC in Tanzania and showed promising signs of impact.
Iringa, Mbeya and Rukwa are considered part of Tanzania’s breadbasket, but production constraints often prevent small businesses from reaching their full potential. We spoke with potential beneficiaries about their obstacles to economic growth, such as a lack of education and limited access to electricity and reliable roads. We talked to cattle owners who need electricity to refrigerate milk and share a long-term goal of building a cooling plant. We met farmers who hope for better roads to improve access to markets. Members of Umoja, a group of women specializing in poultry and tomato cultivation, told us that electricity would enable them to store their produce longer and to sell out-of-season crops. These needs reaffirmed to us the goals of our projects and the rationale behind the compact.
Throughout our trip, we visited saw firsthand the investment MCC is making in the energy and transportation sectors. We viewed new power extension and distribution lines in Iringa and Mbeya. We visited transmission and distribution sites in Kihorogota village, where we saw low-voltage lines soon to be energized and provide power to nearby villages. We also viewed road construction, including bridges and culverts, in Mbeya and Rukwa regions.
In the Kisinga trading area, we could see the installation of the area’s first electrical poles. In Mbeya, American company Symbion Power was busy building transmission and distribution lines and re-surveying communities to confirm locations of planned lines.
We were struck by community members’ positive reaction everywhere we went. People in Kisinga and Kihorogota spoke with excitement about the arrival of electricity, and they told us more than 80 Kisinga residents had already registered their interest to be connected.
During our trip, we met with members of Faraja Women Group—one of many skill-based groups (SBG)—who received training under the Gender Integration Program. SBGs are groups organized around specific business like handicrafts, food sales, animal husbandry, or sewing. They usually work together to tap into benefits like credit facilities or training.
The Gender Integration Program helps groups like these in the areas where the compact activities are implemented; the goal is to maximize their return from the compact through targeted training on the expected benefits of the new infrastructure, access to credit and business-related skills. We met with groups involved in diverse activities, including sunflower-oil extraction, timber processing, cow farming, pig farming, and vegetable cultivation.
Many of these groups have adopted innovative approaches to doing business. For example, Ushirika wa Wafugaji is a group of 52 farmers that is raising a herd of 150 cows; each member keeps his or her cows and works with other members to market their milk. The group has built an office where they meet to share experiences and support each other. They also have mandatory group savings and have already purchased a larger piece of land, where they plan to build a milk processing plant. Our team was excited about the increased potential that the new power and transport infrastructure would provide these dynamic groups.
A continuing priority in MCA-Tanzania’s work will be to fully engage and mobilize the energy behind the economic dynamism displayed during our journey. We want to ensure long-term participation in the expanded economic opportunities that we hope our projects will create so that impacts are distributed equitably throughout communities. It is important that we do not miss key steps in encouraging Tanzania’s producers, and these types of field visits and participatory discussions are crucial for identifying and mitigating gaps.
Back in our offices in Dar es Salaam, we are busy reviewing and compiling project data with the monitoring and evaluation team, as well as further refining the GIP training based on what we learned from the field. As we push forward with our efforts to measure and learn from the successes and challenges of the Tanzania Compact, we keep in mind the names and faces of the men and women we visited.
Our hope is that, in addition to introducing electricity and better connecting Tanzania’s breadbasket, our monitoring and evaluation efforts help us to learn and inform future investments for even stronger economic development.
Posted on February 14, 2013 by Alice Riedel, Lesotho Deputy Resident Country Director
I had the honor of taking part in handing over the newly constructed Lesotho Blood Transfusion Services Center last month. MCC invested in the new center—which is expected to collect 5,000 blood units in 2013, compared to 3,381 in 2008—to help improve health services in Lesotho.
The country’s former blood transfusion center was too small; it lacked proper equipment and operated from a rented property in Maseru that was not designed to provide transfusion services. The new center, part of MCC’s five-year, $363 million compact with Lesotho, provides a dedicated central facility for collecting and processing blood to supply nearby hospitals.
MCC also invested in a mobile blood collection vehicle that will collect and transfer blood to the new center for screening.
“The new center is a huge achievement for the Ministry of Health,” said Maleqhoa Nyopa, manager of the Lesotho Blood Transfusion Service.“We have been struggling to implement our activities effectively,” Nyopa said. “Now that we have been given this new building, which is bigger than the one we have been using, our work is going to improve tremendously. The building is large enough to allow us to store as much blood as possible, which will help save lives.”
In addition to this center, the compact’s Health Sector Project is designed to mitigate the negative economic impacts of poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases. MCC is strengthening Lesotho’s health care system through the construction of up to 138 health centers spread across the country, hospital outpatient departments, staff housing, and a central laboratory and residences to accommodate National Health Training College students.
The infrastructure investments are so numerous and complex and cover such a vast geographic area, that it can be difficult to remember the real impact in the lives of individual Basotho. A colleague’s friend who works in a hospital in Lesotho recently shared with me some of the challenges of managing the blood supply here. He told me that having enough blood to serve all patients is extremely challenging because of the testing required, given the 24 percent rate of HIV prevalence. He is confident that the new blood center, along with blood drives, will alleviate some of these challenges.
I am proud to be part of an initiative that is helping improve health care in Lesotho in practical ways like making sure that there is adequate blood supply when a woman needs an emergency operation while giving birth. We are leaving behind tangible results.
Posted on January 8, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Yesterday, I had the great honor of representing the American people at the inauguration of John Dramani Mahama as Ghana’s next president. President Barack Obama asked me to lead our country’s official delegation to the inauguration. It was a privilege to stand alongside the other delegation members--U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Gene Cretz, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Teitelbaum—and witness a peaceful transition of power in Ghana.
Ghanaians traveled from every corner of Ghana to participate in Monday's inauguration; some arrived as early as Sunday night in order to secure a coveted place in Independence Square. In his inauguration speech, President Mahama talked about how a farmer named Tetteh-Quarshie introduced the cocoa bean to Ghana, and today Ghana is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world. The president’s point was that every Ghanaian can contribute in a meaningful way to Ghana’s economic development.
I am proud that MCC too played a part in furthering Ghana’s economic development goals. I had been to Ghana previously to assess progress on MCC’s $547 million compact partnership with the country and later to celebrate that compact’s successful completion. The strong political will to deliver on the compact’s promise for sustainable development that would improve the lives of Ghanaians impressed me from the start. As Ghana continues to work on a second MCC compact under the Mahama administration, I welcome this level of engagement and dynamic leadership.
Meeting with President-elect Mahama right before his inauguration as well as with Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. Kwabena Duffour during my brief stay in Accra reaffirmed such engagement. I remain encouraged and excited by the commitment to inclusive economic growth and self-sufficiency these leaders envision for Ghana. President Mahama said that the U.S.-Ghana relationship is close and he is looking forward to making it even closer. His administration is hoping to keep Ghana’s economy growing at 8 or 9 percent per year between 2013 and 2016. This will require investments in areas such as infrastructure and energy (the focus of a proposed second MCC compact) as well as agriculture (the focus of Ghana’s first MCC compact) in order to create opportunities for Ghana’s youth.
As the United States prepares for our own presidential inauguration later this month, I recognize that the freedom to choose our leaders and hold them accountable is what unites so many of us around the world in a journey toward democratic values, pluralism and civil liberties. Witnessing what happened in Ghana on Monday with President Mahama’s inauguration affirms our common humanity united by such shared principles.
Posted on December 21, 2012 by Randy Wood, Senegal deputy resident country director
The brightly dressed men on horseback caught my attention first, but then I saw the man leading a camel to the front of the stage.
I was in Ndioum, in northern Senegal, where the Prime Minister Abdoul Mbaye and U.S. Ambassador Lewis Lukens were celebrating the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new bridge built with MCC investments. This is part of MCC’s rehabilitation of two national roads that will create reliable, cost-effective and time-saving means of transporting locally produced agricultural products, as well as stimulate domestic and trans-border traffic and commerce.
The sun was high overhead the Sahel, and there was dust in the air.
Few projects are as breathtaking as the construction of a bridge: Where once rural farmers and their families struggled to cross a swollen river to access schools, hospitals and other services, soon they’ll simply walk across a new bridge. Revolutionary! But the most revolutionary changes are sometimes the simplest: The Ndioum Bridge will not only link one of Senegal’s richest agricultural areas to the mainland, but it also will link the people of the area known as the Ile à Morphile to the rest of their country. It’s a riverine island, with branches of the Senegal River flowing around both sides of the island’s fertile fields.
In finally providing the people of Ndioum with a bridge, MCC is helping fulfill a promise made to the people of Ndioum more than 40 years ago.
It’s a promise the people have waited patiently to see become a reality. The horsemen and the camel herder weren’t elaborate props for the event; they were residents of Ndioum with their steeds, turned out in their finest traditional clothing to witness the groundbreaking and express their gratitude for the work and perseverance that led to overcoming Ndioum’s isolation after so many years.
It’s easy to lose perspective in the paperwork of making these projects a reality: the reports, the collaborative process, the endless email, the calendars and contracts, and the elaborate, technical terms of reference. But then you look up, and hundreds and hundreds of people have come out under the hot noonday sun in a swoon of emotion to express their gratitude for the project, and you realize that it’s not just a project and some deadlines. It’s a bit of infrastructure that is going to revolutionize the lives of Senegal’s poorest.
In two short years, the people of Ndioum won’t need to wait for the wooden canoe to take them across the river, won’t need to worry about flash floods roiling the river’s muddy surface and won’t need to worry if they need a doctor in the middle of the night.
That’s revolutionary. And that’s why we’re here.
Posted on December 3, 2012 by Patrick Fine , Vice President, Compact Operations
As the bottom of our vehicle scraped the rutted, dusty path, I found myself hoping it had protective metal plates on the undercarriage. I was in Namibia to see MCC-financed activities in education, tourism and agriculture development, now in their third year of implementation. We were on our way to Nghishongwa, a remote community in the Ohangwena region of northern Namibia that is participating in the community based rangeland and livestock management (CBRLM) activity of the Agriculture Project, part of MCC’s $304 million compact.
The countryside here is wild and arid. The track we traveled went through a forest of scrubby acacia trees. In contrast to the thick grasslands we had passed in the fenced freehold areas to the south, this communal land looked barren, stripped of almost all vegetation except for the acacia; I wondered how cattle could survive at all. And that’s the point, as Dr. Helmke Sartorius von Bach, a Namibian of German descent whose family has farmed the Namibian veld for three generations and who serves as the MCA-Namibia Director for Agriculture, reminded me. “The communal lands are overgrazed and exhausted. We are working with communities to manage communal grazing areas and to improve animal husbandry so that families can shift from traditional methods to livestock management practices that will increase income and sustainability. There is great potential here but it needs to be managed,” he explained.
After nearly an hour making our way, we emerged into a broad clearing. At one end, there was a collection of mud and wattle huts with thatch roofs. Where, I wondered, did they find thatch in this barren landscape? To the side was a traditional cattle enclosure and not far away, a hand-dug watering hole. Sitting under a tall Marula tree was the chairman of the community association and some members and neighbors. The chairman’s lean frame, wrinkled face and gray head gave him the look of a traditional farmer. Like many Owambo elders, he wore a red and white striped shirt. Although I didn’t ask him, I would guess he did not have the opportunity to go to school, due to the lack of schools in rural parts of Namibia during the apartheid era. His deputy was perhaps 20 years old and held the association’s grazing area management book and was keen to answer my questions about life in the community:
“How far do you have to take the cattle to find grazing?” I asked. “At least two hours in each direction, but with the project’s help we are combining our herds with our neighbors so we can protect some areas,” he replied.
“Is there a general store that sells basic supplies like sugar, flour, tea, and agriculture supplies?” “No,” he said. “The closest store is about 24 kilometers away, down the path that brought you here. That is where the clinic is, too.” With no public transportation and no sign that any of the community members had a vehicle, I could picture community members using a wheelbarrow to carry a sick person down that rutted path to the clinic.
“What about a school?” “Oh, yes,” he said. “It’s not far from here. It goes to grade 6. After that you have to go to the town.” I was impressed by the earnestness of this young man and by the fact that this well-spoken, sincere young person had chosen to stay in this remote community. Curious about him, I asked, “Did you go to high school?” “Yes,” he replied proudly; then he hesitated and looked down at the ground, “I only finished grade 10.”
“Your community is fortunate that you have decided to stay and help them improve their farming. Tell me about what you are doing here.” I felt a deep sense of respect and appreciation for this young man’s contribution to his community. On the drive back to the main road I thought about how often in the development community we talk about the importance of education and building capacity and that what we are talking about are people like this young man who bring new skills and ideas to their communities.
During my trip to Namibia, I was fortunate to meet with a cross section of civil society and government leaders. The ministers of education and agriculture and the deputy director of Etosha National Park were impressive, articulate leaders, as were the heads of local NGOs that work on MCC-financed activities. All are just the type of committed counterparts MCC looks for in its partner countries. And while I gained a lot from the high level meetings, it was the sincerity and determination I saw on my visit with the members of the Nghishongwa community that reminded me why U.S. assistance in poor communities so far away really matters.
As we bumped back down the dirt path, I felt a sense of hope that MCC’s investment in community based livestock management will result in a better life in this distant community and for the association chairman’s kids and grandkids to have opportunities that he didn’t.
Posted on November 30, 2012 by Marcel Ricou, Program Officer
About 23 percent of Lesotho’s population is infected with HIV/AIDS, one of the highest prevalence rates in the world. In response, MCC has invested $122 million in health infrastructure and to strengthen Lesotho’s health systems. A major portion of the Health Sector Project focuses on rehabilitating 138 health centers across the country, all of which play a pivotal role in providing primary health care to local communities. MCC’s investments leverage those from other donor and U.S. Government programs, including the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Program officer Marcel Ricou shows us how MCC and the Government of Lesotho are working together to combat HIV/AIDS.
Posted on November 16, 2012 by Scott Fontaine, corporate copywriter-editor
When Ali Faki Abdalla first heard the proposal—that his mosque might be removed to make way for new power lines—he was adamantly opposed to the idea.
“I did not want to move,” he said. “But I listened to what they had to say. And when I heard what they wanted to do and how they would treat us, it changed my mind.”
Today the faithful of Masjid Raudhwa gather several hundred yards from the site of the old mosque, which was resettled as part of the $207 million Energy Sector Project of Tanzania’s MCC compact. The original site of the mosque fell within the foot print of the MCC-funded 132-kilovolt transmission line from Ras Fumba on the southwestern part of the island to Mtoni substation in the city.
The old mosque, made of plywood and metal sheets, could fit about 800 people. The new building, made of cinderblock, can hold up to 1,400 people—and the building is designed for future expansion.
Abdalla, the imam of Masjid Raudhwa, played a pivotal role in ensuring the successful movement of the mosque. Officials from the mosque, MCA-Tanzania, the Zanzibar Electricity Corporation, and the regional commissioner’s office met several times over the course of a week last year before reaching an agreement.
The imam said he was convinced by the way MCA-Tanzania approaches resettlement, especially a policy of no forced resettlements of houses of worship and a guarantee that a new mosque would be under construction and able to accommodate services before the old building was destroyed.
The importance of the Energy Sector Project—including the laying and installation of a submarine electric transmission cable from the mainland—to Zanzibar’s future also helped him reach his decision.
“I am sure the project will be good for the people of Zanzibar,” he said. “We are thankful for this new energy—and this new mosque.”
Posted on August 24, 2012 by Oliver Pierson, Resident Country Director
MCC and our counterparts at MCA-Namibia are proud to see that Namibia has been chosen to host the 10th Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) taking place in October 2013. The ATWS will draw around 600 delegates and many of the biggest players in the adventure travel tourism industry to Namibia to discuss industry best practices and collaborate on issues facing adventure travel.
MCA-Namibia provided support to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism in developing Namibia’s bid to host the summit. The MCC-funded tourism project in Namibia, part of the country’s overall $304.5 million compact, is focused around encouraging private investment in the tourism industry, supporting communal conservancies to establish and manage tourism enterprises, and broadening the marketing of Namibia as a tourist destination.
MCC has also worked toward increasing the capacity of Namibia’s tourism industry and improving its management by funding training courses toward the certification of Namibian tour guides. The training courses create new jobs in the sector and work to promote a skilled and educated labor force to cater to the needs of a growing tourist industry. Tourism, already Namibia’s second-most lucrative industry, has the potential to be a strong source of economic growth, helping create more jobs and reduce poverty.
The selection of Namibia, the first African country to host the ATWS, will highlight Namibia’s tourism industry and ideally foster opportunities to build on MCC-funded work in this key sector and drive new private sector investments in tourism.
For more information about the Namibia Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/namibia.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director
This June, I traveled to Pissila, in the Sanmatega province of Burkina Faso. I was there to attend the closing ceremony for the Burkinabé Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed (BRIGHT) II Project, funded through the MCC compact with Burkina Faso. Speaking with students, teachers and parents participating in the BRIGHT II Project, I truly experienced firsthand the benefits of MCC’s investment.
The BRIGHT program is a collaborative effort of the United States and Burkina Faso to improve rates of children’s primary school attendance, completion, and promotion to secondary schools. To date, the program, including work performed under the MCC compact, has educated over 27,000 students, including 16,000 girls, and has built 132 primary schools across 10 provinces. The numbers are impressive—but they don’t tell the whole story.
In Pissila, the success and visibility of the BRIGHT program was evident from the high-level participation at the well-attended closing ceremony. The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Luc Adolphe Tiao; the Minister of Education and Literacy, Koumba Boly; and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty were all on hand to share in the celebration. Officials from MCC, USAID, and Plan International were also present. The stars of the show, however, were the 500 students from the BRIGHT school of Pissila, who were as proud as could be to show off their school and accomplishments.
We arrived early on Thursday morning to enthusiastic cheers and waves from students of all ages. Three large tents were set up at the center of the school, flanked by new classrooms, offices and teacher housing. Boys and girls, waving American and Burkinabé flags and proudly wearing their school shirts displaying the BRIGHT II emblem, greeted the prime minister and U.S. ambassador as they arrived. The atmosphere radiated with excitement and joy; students and teachers alike were proud that their school had been selected to host such an event.
The moving speeches and lively performances diverted our attention from the hot Burkina Faso sun and 100+ degree temperatures. Enthralling music and traditional dances had the whole crowd applauding, especially for the youngest dancer in a local troupe who was able to shake the prime minister’s hand. Later, Celia Ella Kafando, a fifth-grader, courageously took to the podium to make a speech on behalf of the students of Pissila.
Though her head barely reached the top of the podium, Celia spoke with a clear and strong voice, thanking MCC and the American people for building her school. To the visible enjoyment of the prime minister, the education minister (one of Burkina Faso’s two female ministers) and the region’s governor (also a woman), Celia shared that many of her fellow students aspired to become governors and ministers thanks to their education. Everyone smiled when the prime minister and education minister were given the “key” to the school, a beautiful, symbolic oversized key made by Burkinabe bronze workers.
The prime minister’s speech was unexpectedly touching and honest. Speaking directly to the students, he admitted that school was not always easy, recognizing that most of them had to move away from home, learn a new language (though French is the official language, over 60 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso) and—perhaps the most universal problem of all—wake up early to get to class. He encouraged the students not to give up and to follow their dreams. Ambassador Dougherty echoed these sentiments in his speech, stating, “We hope each and every BRIGHT school graduate will have success in realizing their potential in the years to come.”
Though two more years remain until the compact’s end, it was encouraging to see such a successful closeout of this project. The Government of Burkina Faso has pledged to maintain the schools and remain committed to supporting girls’ education. In the words of Prime Minister Tiao, “The American people can trust us. We will take care to meet the challenges of underdevelopment.”
For more information about the Burkina Faso Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/burkinafaso.
Posted on July 30, 2012 by Steve Kaufmann, Chief of Staff
While visiting our compact work sites in Senegal last week, I was struck by the ways in which water can both take and support life. My first site visit took me to the village of Ndioum, where MCC is working with MCA-Senegal to build a 160 meter bridge over the Doué River. Now, to get from their homes to their fields, many of the residents must take either pirogues (small canoe-like boats) or a ferry which runs infrequently and is often under repair. Tragically, fatal accidents can occur when pirogues tip due to strong currents or poor weight distribution.
After surveying the work site, my colleagues and I struck up conversation with two village elders. The elders explained that they have been waiting for over 25 years for a bridge to be built. While we were speaking, a young boy named Masseck joined our conversation. He was excited for the bridge to be completed; he told us that his older brother had drowned while crossing the river, and he didn’t want to lose another family member. We knew the river was dangerous, but Masseck’s story reminded us of the urgency of completing construction of the Ndioum Bridge. It will not only save lives, but will improve access to the fertile lands across the river and help farmers get their crops to market.
As we were touring the site, a man approached our car and asked if he could take us to visit the old irrigation pump in the Ngallenka area. We agreed, and upon arrival, our new friend, Mamadou Alanane Hame, began to speak passionately about his experience working with MCC.
Mr. Hame emphasized the participatory decision-making process that allowed him, as an expected beneficiary, to voice his opinions on the project. He remembered that during compact consultations, community members had talked about the importance of irrigation to help assure food security in the region. Now, with improved means to bring critical water to agricultural fields, the local population will plant crops and boost their yields. This unsolicited praise provided strong reinforcement for the importance of MCC’s transparent practices and our commitment to listening to beneficiaries and our partner countries.
Reflecting on my trip, the importance of water is more striking than ever. The agricultural viability of the Sahel, a zone that extends the entire width of Africa from Senegal in the west to Eritrea in the east, is rapidly decreasing as desertification claims an increasingly large amount of previously fertile land every year. As the inhabitants of the Sahel find themselves at greater risk of famine, the difference between food security and insecurity can be the difference between life and death.
MCC has reason to be proud for investing in over 30,000 hectares of irrigated land in Senegal, which is expected to directly benefit more than 250,000 individuals. In partnership with MCA-Senegal and the residents of Ndioum and the Ngallenka area, MCC is implementing water and infrastructure projects that will help to save lives, promote economic growth and reduce poverty.
For more information about the Senegal Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/senegal.
Posted on June 18, 2012 by Jon Anderson , Mali Resident Country Director
For the past five years, MCC has worked with Malian organizations on an ambitious and integrated program to develop more than 5,000 hectares of irrigated land in Mali's Alatona zone. The country-led project included large scale irrigation works, road improvements, rural infrastructure, investments in education and health, land reform and titling, rural financial services, and other activities designed to help almost 650,000 people.
I have lived in Mali for more than 18 years, and I can attest to the meaningful impact the project has had on beneficiaries’ lives.
However in May 2012, the MCC Board of Directors approved termination of the Mali Compact due to an undemocratic change in government and Mali’s non-compliance with MCC’s eligibility criteria. MCC and MCA-Mali are in the process of winding up the projects in Alatona and Bamako, and the compact will be terminated on or before August 31—sooner than would have been the case.
It was a very tough decision to make, but MCC works only with countries that uphold the principles of democratic governance and the rule of law. The military coup and recent events in Mali are in contradiction with those principles. Nevertheless we shouldn’t lose sight of the lives our projects impacted. One resident of the Alatona region, Aburu Sabu Sangare, was so grateful for the work we accomplished in his area that he put his thoughts down on paper in the local language and found a way to pass it along to the U.S. Government.
I wanted to share the letter with you to provide a sense of the accomplishments, the importance, the goodwill, and, frankly, the transformation the Mali Compact helped create.
Thank you MCA-Mali – by Aburu Sabu Sangare
When considering effort, perseverance and keeping one’s word, quality work is better than talk. There is currently a large American organization helping Mali to put an end to poverty, difficulty and suffering in a place called Alatona. Every strong person, give your best effort; every weak person, give your best effort! As for them [MCA-Mali], they have completed what was in their power to do. May God assist us.
In 2007, MCA-Mali sent interviewers to come to our region to ask questions in each village. From door to door, they asked questions of each family. They got along very well with all the inhabitants. No conflict arose between the interviewers and the interviewees. No one argued and the work was peaceful, pleasant, and joyful, without any bad feelings.
After these inquiries, they brought excavators and vehicles. All this equipment arrived and went out to work all over the area. Some machines removed trees. Other machines dug canals. Other vehicles were brought to transport workers back and forth, or to transport rocks and earth to build houses. They recruited masons and brick makers. We were included in the offers of work. When they had gotten the workers, they chose skilled people that they made supervisors. They would say, “Look, see the correct way to do the work, do it like this.” So the work began and the brick makers made good money. They too thank MCA-Mali. The village chiefs are the first in thanking MCA-Mali because they are very, very happy. They say thank you because MCA-Mali gave everyone equal treatment.
Even the Fulfulde teachers benefitted. They gained more learning and much wealth. Anyone you saw who could operate motors or vehicles was happy. Itinerant traders were the happiest of all. They say that no one benefitted from the MCA-Mali project more than they did. They said that even if you had a whole warehouse of food, you would sell it all because there was such abundance of workers. Even goats, sheep and cattle were selling well. Chicken were being bought up more quickly than anything else. Even animal merchants recognized the change in the economy and so did the boat and canoe operators.
The brick makers and builders thank MCA-Mali for giving them baseball caps, shoes, and gloves for the work. When the machines and vehicles started working, they made pile after pile of dirt. These piles were in every direction in the Alatona region. There were so many machines and so many people you could not tell what there were more of. Some people dared to say that Alatona had become Paradise.
Anyone who was able came here, people said that you can get anything you want in Alatona, so much good had come to this place. People who had moved away came back, people who had been traveling came back, people who had emigrated to other countries came back. In fact, after the MCA-Mali project came, even visitors would say that they grew up here. Who did this work? The big American organization called MCC.
Please bear with me, as I have more to tell. After this work was done, they showed us things that made us glad. They invited us to come get plow oxen and plows. Next, they gave us donkey carts, taught us how to plant rice and gave us money for food while we got training. Thank you MCA-Mali for moving us to our new villages in your vehicles and giving us the reimbursement for moving costs. We received good houses, good bathrooms, clean water, schoolhouses, a meeting hall, storehouses for rice and onions, as well as a drainage system. Thank you, MCA-Mali. Firewood was transported and new trees planted. MCA also built markets in the Alatona region.
Thank you MCA-Mali for achieving something that makes all Malians happy. Everyone you hear talking says, “Wow! It’s really great!” Thank you MCA-Mali for all the money you gave. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving five hectares that a person can live on permanently. Two hectares come with a free land title: one must pay only the water fees, not the price of the land. For three hectares, you must pay for both the land and the water fees. One hectare can be farmed both in rainy season and hot season. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving us lots of three different kinds of fertilizer.
Thank you MCA-Mali for giving gardens to the women, along with fertilizer, seeds, hoes, and picks. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving the men lots of onions, and, on top of that, the money needed for working and sacks for the onions.
When MCA-Mali came, we saw things that astonished us because we are country folk. We are not used to machines that knock down trees. We are not used to machines that dig. We are not used to machines that pick up dirt and load it in a truck. We are not used to machines that enter a pit to swallow dirt and come back out and pour it on the ground. We are not used to machines that crawl like lizards. We are not used to earth-piling machines. We are not used to machines that lift metal. We are not used to machines that plow. We are not used to earth-swallowing machines. We are not used to machines that show the road. We are not used to machines that tell whether work is straight or crooked. We are not used to machines that sort things. We are not used to machines that see what has passed. We are not used to machines that sink into the water to scoop mud and move it onto the dry ground.
Thank you MCA-Mali for helping the poor; this continued to when it was time to start farming. They brought money for plowing. They brought money for planting. They brought money for weeding. They brought money for cutting the rice for harvest. All the things I have listed in this letter. On top of all that, they sent experts to explain how to do the work.
The project began in Welingara, Feto, Beeli, Toule B, Toule A, and Tennde in 2008. In 2010 these six villages were farming. And in 2011 Seekadaayi, Sammbawere, Madiina, Danngeere Kaaje, Tchili Kura, Tchili Koro, Seekadahaara, Daande Salaamu, Wuro Daayi, Wotoro Danga, Wuro Yaladi, Ndukala, Sabere Nooda, Wuro Musa, and Dungel. And in 2012 the villages of Feyi 1, Feyi 2, Feyi 3, Tomoni, Motoni, Nencela, Masabougou, Yirwawere, Marabawere, Baaba Neega, Dangere Baaba, and Ndoojiriwere cultivated rice and it grew very well.
Many people bought large motorcycles. People bought cattle, sheep and goats from Feto to Masabougou (the villages at either end of the project area). Each home you visit you think is better than the one before, because you find contentment and happiness and joy and calm and peace and laughter and people eating food they like and as much as they want. How can we say thanks to MCA-Mali who have done something the likes of which has never been seen in Mali since independence? If we have said such things, it is because we have never before seen any project like MCA-Mali. I, the author of this letter, was born in 1961. If I said these things it is because I myself have seen them; and I too, I say thank you, MCA-Mali. We weren’t getting anything until this great gift came. All of Mali knows this: a project has come to Mali. There is no child, no elder, no woman, no man who did not benefit from this project. That’s in all of Mali. And for us, all we can say is “May God repay you.”
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for keeping your promises.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for doing good work.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for this expensive gift.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for making Malians ID cards free of charge.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for making land titles free of charge.
I, Aburu Sabu Sangare, wrote this letter. I come from Nenchela and was born in 1961 in the place called Alatona.
Posted on June 14, 2012 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, MCC should be very flattered by changes happening in Morocco. CEO Daniel Yohannes and I just finished a visit to Morocco to see progress under MCC's $697.5 million compact in agriculture, artisanal fisheries and artisan development. Throughout our visit, one message rang loud and clear: MCC’s approach is changing the way Morocco does business.
At MCC, we talk a lot about a continuum of results, whereby we track the impact of our investments from policy reform and changed business practices to inputs, outputs and, eventually, outcomes largely measured through income gains for program beneficiaries. While we saw representations of the larger outputs achieved to date, we heard something equally interesting but harder to measure--that the Government of Morocco is applying the MCC model--transparency, accountability, results-focus, and standard-setting--to its own operations. Some quick examples cited by government officials:
• The Minister of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries described the Morocco Compact’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project as the Government of Morocco’s model for farmer aggregation, one of two key pillars in its own agricultural development strategy or “Green Morocco Plan.” Like MCC, the Government of Morocco has committed to making agriculture an even greater growth engine in the country by focusing on the organization and professional development of farmers as a principal tool.
• The Minister of Finance and Economy applied MCC’s model when recently presenting the Government of Morocco’s first ever citizen-driven budget. In fact, he credited MCC on several occasions for inspiring participative public consultation in the design and implementation of newer Moroccan government programs.
• The Minister of Handicrafts is bringing MCC's high standards on social and environmental impact assessment to bear in broader Government of Morocco investments.
While we won't know the full impact of MCC's investments until some time after the end of the compact, in the meantime, it was gratifying to hear that MCC’s model is fast becoming the model of choice across the Government of Morocco.
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 April 6, 2012 by Patrick Fine, Vice President for Compact Operations
Nampula Province in central Mozambique is 2,200 kilometers north of the capital Maputo, about the distance from the East Coast to the Mississippi River. The countryside is marked by granite domes that tower hundreds of feet off the lush plains and by isolated mountains that rise up in surreal silhouettes worthy of artist Shane Devries. The land is not heavily populated, and villages are simple collections of traditional thatched-roof rondavels plastered with mud from ubiquitous conical ant hills. Rural electrification has not yet reached most of these villages, roads are simple dirt tracks, most people still fetch water from rivers, and boys stand by the roadside holding out bags of freshly shelled cashews for sale.
You can see signs of growing prosperity, including the results of MCC’s $506 million partnership with Mozambique: Our investment has helped build hundreds of village water points; pave major routes to facilitate agriculture, mining and commerce; and upgrade and expand straining municipal water and sanitation systems.
A year ago, these projects were seriously behind schedule and over budget, causing MCC and the Government of Mozambique to create an action plan to overhaul the approach for completing the work within the five-year deadline. I was impressed by the way Mozambique’s management authority, MCA-Mozambique, had consistently met its implementation milestones since the revised plan was adopted in March 2011.
Last week, with only 18 months remaining in the compact, I visited Nampula to get a firsthand view of what is being accomplished.
I was encouraged by the road and water system construction underway and came away with increased confidence that Mozambique will complete its work on time. In one rural community down a narrow 13 kilometer dirt track, I inaugurated a new borehole and water pump that serves 700 community members and will eliminate the need for women and children to spend up to two hours a day fetching water.
In the town of Nampula, I witnessed the distribution of property titles that give people secure property rights for the first time. The ceremony took place in an open neighborhood square where local officials called out names; the property owners came forward from the large crowd, signed a ledger and took their titles. At the end of the ceremony a number of people started to angrily call out, demanding their titles. The officials explained that the titles would be distributed each day that week. I found this spontaneous demonstration of the demand to have a title a reassuring indication of the value of MCC’s investment.
While my focus was on the MCC-financed projects, what really caught my attention was the extraordinary economic opportunity in Mozambique. Already, Mozambique exports electricity from the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, and it still has unexploited capacity. A Portuguese contractor working on the MCC road project drove up in a Ford Ranger and had American-manufactured scientific equipment in its materials lab. Recently an American company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, announced it had discovered one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas off the northern coast; the center of the country holds huge deposits of coal, and as more exploration takes place it is very likely that other minerals will be found in commercial quantities. Anadarko has plans to invest approximately $20 billion over the next five years! A Brazilian mining company is already shipping coal and has announced a $6 billion expansion.
I see all sorts of opportunities, from village hardware stores, hair salons and groceries to the suppliers and services that new investments in mining will require. Seen in this light, American investments in basic infrastructure are prescient. And a U.S. company is the supervising engineer on the drainage activity in Nampula city—where one of the main customers and beneficiaries of the new water system is Coca-Cola.
But far more important than market opportunities created by individual MCC-financed projects are the market opportunities that will open up for U.S. goods and services if Mozambique’s economy takes off. Road-building and mining equipment, chemicals and a spectrum of products and services will be needed to build this economy. Now is the time for U.S. companies to invest in establishing a presence in the country so that they can be competitive.
The government is implementing business-friendly reforms—such as the MCC financed land reform program—and there is a still-untapped entrepreneurial spirit among the youth. Mozambique’s economy has already been growing at nearly 8 percent per year over the past several years and is on the verge of an economic era that could transform its villages and create prosperity and opportunities not only for one of the world’s poorest populations but for the companies and individuals intrepid enough to join an economy just taking off.
I left Mozambique with the impression that almost everything is in place for it to become the next big growth economy in Africa.
Posted on April 4, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
As Senegal today celebrates the 52nd anniversary of its independence, I just returned from the inauguration of the country’s new president, Macky Sall. Last Thursday, I was honored to receive a call from the White House asking me, on behalf of President Obama, to lead the official U.S. delegation attending his inauguration. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and General Carter Ham, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, joined me on the delegation, which was rounded out on the ground by our U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Lewis Lukens.
The delegation represented agencies which carry out the three “D”s of U.S. foreign policy: diplomacy, defense and development. We share these interests with Senegal, our longstanding ally. Our delegation joined world leaders from across Africa, Europe and beyond to witness the historic inauguration of Senegal’s fourth president. Pride, promise and peace—and a celebratory mood—pervaded the historic transfer of power from former President Wade to President Sall. It was an important moment to witness, and our delegation’s presence affirmed the strong ties of cooperation and friendship between Senegal and the United States.
The inauguration ceremony uptown was well-attended; the chairs and aisles were full. Spectators filled the streets afterward as President Sall met former President Wade at the presidential palace, bringing downtown traffic to a halt. While the delegation presented congratulations on behalf of President Obama, the Senegalese were congratulating each other. One Senegalese would greet another with “felicitations,” French for “congratulations,” to which the other would respond “ño ko bokk,” which means “it [this peaceful democratic transition] is ours collectively to share.” Several Senegalese shared with me their disappointment that this election was viewed as unusually calm, because they think peaceful elections should be the norm, and until they are, much work needs to be done.
In fact, Senegal’s festive occasion unfortunately did not garner as much press attention as the crisis unfolding in neighboring Mali. What a sharp contrast between the march toward democracy and the regression from it. On the one hand, thousands had gathered to celebrate Senegal’s commitment to a strong and mature democracy and to a peaceful and orderly transfer of power, where the needs of the nation and its citizens trump the agenda of individual politicians. On the other hand, the seizure of power by elements of the military in Mali was an unconstitutional, anti-democratic action, which the U.S. Government and the international community have condemned and which prompted MCC to halt operations in the country.
Both in his public speeches and our bilateral meeting, President Sall reiterated Senegal’s commitment to good governance, transparency, economic opportunity, and food security, which align with the country’s MCC compact. These are the same priorities I heard from the Senegalese people as I met with small groups of private sector and civil society representatives.
Although a short trip, Assistant Secretary Carson and Ambassador Lukens joined me to meet briefly with the team implementing our compact. We commended the team’s ongoing work and congratulated them for launching the first work tenders, signaling the end of the design phase and the beginning of the works phase. We reminded the team to stay on top of its game as so many people in the regions of Casamance and St. Louis are counting on the construction of the MCC-financed roads and irrigation infrastructure to unlock agricultural productivity and deliver greater access to markets and services.
Our partnerships thrive with countries committed to democratic governance and the rule of law, and what I saw unfold in Senegal is proof of this commitment. We are encouraged that the Sall administration has prioritized the full implementation of Senegal’s MCC compact. The people of Senegal deserve and expect nothing less. Let’s continue this work that transcends politics and personalities and belongs to the people of Senegal, eager to replace poverty with prosperity and continue forward on a path to greater economic progress.
In Zambia, MCC’s newest compact brings clean water and improved sanitation and drainage services to more than one million residents
Posted on March 26, 2012 by Raja Kaul, MCC Resident Country Director, Zambia
Last Thursday, the MCC Board of Directors approved a $355 million compact with Zambia that focuses on the water sector in Lusaka. MCC investments are expected to have a significant impact on the lives of more than one million Lusaka residents by improving their health and economic productivity and helping the country reduce poverty on a sustainable basis. Fittingly, the Board’s decision fell on the annual UN-designated World Water Day.
This single-sector compact aims to address one of the Zambia’s most binding constraints to economic growth through infrastructure investment in the rapidly urbanizing capital city of Lusaka. It is designed to reduce the incidence and prevalence of water-related disease, decrease the number of productive days lost due to disease and time to collect water, lower costs of water and new sanitation, and reduce flood losses for businesses and residential homes.
In addition to investments in water supply, sanitation and drainage infrastructure, MCC’s integrated investment will also support the government’s ongoing water sector reform efforts by strengthening responsible institutions. The investment is expected to significantly benefit Lusaka’s poor, as 73 percent of the more than one million Zambian beneficiaries currently have incomes below $2 per day.
The Zambia compact will promote key MCC corporate priorities, including gender and social integration, environmental and social impact assessments, and private sector development. In the Zambia compact, social and gender integration is prioritized, and activities are designed to extend project benefits to women and vulnerable groups.
Since its inception in 1993, World Water Day has served to spotlight the global challenge to provide safe water and sanitation services to those living in poverty. So far, MCC has invested $793 million in WASH-related projects in nine partner countries, and MCC’s compacts with Cape Verde, Jordan, and Mozambique, like Zambia, focus primarily on water sector development. Our growing WASH portfolio reflects our partner countries’ recognition of the important role of access to clean, affordable, and reliable water in promoting economic growth.
For more information on MCC’s water and sanitation projects, visit www.mcc.gov/water.
Posted on March 22, 2012 by Steve Marma, Resident Country Director
Mozambique suffers from one of the world’s lowest levels of per-capita water consumption. Mozambican girls and women spend much of their day fetching water instead of attending school or engaging in income-generating activities. But recently I was able to witness two important milestones in MCC’s effort to provide access to some of the country’s poorest people.
During a ceremony filled with optimism for the future of northern Mozambique, Prime Minister Aires Bonifacio Baptista Ali visited Nacala on Feb. 18 to lay the first brick for the area’s new water supply system. Surrounded by dignitaries, MCA-Mozambique employees, and beneficiaries, Prime Minister Ali placed the concrete block into a hole in the red earth. Other dignitaries were on hand to witness this important event, including the governor of Nampula province, the vice minister of public works and habitation and local chiefs. There were speeches, handshakes, dancing, countless smiles, blessings by Christian and Muslim leaders, and a makeya (a traditional ceremony to mark important occasions).
More than 120,000 people in Nacala and the surrounding region will soon have access to improved sources of water because of the project, which includes a treatment plant, transmission mains, a reservoir, and distribution centers. It’s part of the compact’s $207 million Water Supply and Sanitation Project, which is expected to benefit more than 750,000 Mozambicans. Just days after that ceremony, we hit another landmark—albeit with far less fanfare. The first group of people displaced by the project’s activities in the Quelimane area received compensation payments. Almost 140 of the 423 people affected by the project received payments; 26 of them opted to receive new houses, the contracts for which have already been signed. They will likely have greater access to social services as part of a planned community.
The Quelimane activity is designed to improve drainage and reduce flooding, which should lower the rate of diseases like cholera and malaria, as well as allow for the expansion of the road system into the area.
Prime Minister Ali’s brick was the first of many to be laid, and hundreds of others affected by the Quelimane project will soon receive their checks—but this month’s events were huge steps on the path of helping northern Mozambicans escape poverty.
Posted on February 29, 2012 by Jason Bauer, Director, Private Sector Development
Two weeks ago, Ghana successfully completed its five-year MCC compact, a $547 million program designed to improve the agriculture and transportation sectors. Over one million Ghanaians will benefit from the compact. In early 2011, the MCC Board of Directors selected Ghana as eligible to develop a new compact. As part of this compact development process, the Government of Ghana has initiated broad-based consultations with representatives from civil society and the private sector.
On January 24, 2012, MCC partnered with the Initiative for Global Development and the Corporate Council on Africa to host a forum for business firms – some already active in West Africa, some newcomers to opportunities in the region. The forum’s program was designed to help MCC and the Government of Ghana identify opportunities, obstacles, and solutions to private sector participation in Ghana’s power sector. More than 60 participants representing more than 20 companies across the power value chain participated in the day-long session.
Government of Ghana officials, including from the Ministry of Energy, spoke in an open forum about the types of private sector participation Ghana is most interested in attracting. A number of potential investors shared their views, both in group settings and individual meetings, about Ghana’s constraints to foreign investment. Participants also recommended concrete actions the Government of Ghana could take within the proposed new compact to alleviate those constraints.
This event is just one example of MCC’s efforts to enhance engagement with the private sector during program development. Feedback from attendees was encouraging; one noted that it was the first time his company, a U.S.-based energy firm, had engaged with a donor and partner government during the process of defining a proposed grant program.
Once the Government of Ghana completes the concept paper for its proposed second-generation compact, the MCC Board of Directors will review project proposals and vote on compact approval. We look forward to further engaging the private sector to incorporate its innovation, capacity building, capital and expertise to the MCC compact development process.
Posted on February 28, 2012 by Tom Campbell, Senior Director
I served as a panelist today at an event MCC co-hosted with the World Wildlife Fund that focused on strategies, implementation and lessons learned from promoting community-driven approaches to natural resource management and eco-tourism in Namibia. We discussed the ways the Government of Namibia is involving the community in a wide-ranging approach to attract tourists while safeguarding the environment.
MCC hosted this event because of its compact with Namibia: a five-year, $305 million investment that is creating business opportunities and jobs in rural Namibia. Our focus today was the compact’s Tourism Project, which seeks to grow the tourism industry in northern communal areas and increase the income of households living in these communal areas.
To do this, MCC is working closely with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET), conservancies and the private sector to improve the management and infrastructure of Etosha National Park, enhance the marketing of Namibian tourism and develop conservancies’ capacity to sustainably manage their natural resources, attract investments in ecotourism and develop tourism skills.
Three examples illustrate our efforts:
Etosha Management and Infrastructure: MCC and MCA-Namibia are working with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on reforms that will offer tourists a better product, encouraging longer stays and boosting revenues to the ministry and conservancies. MCC is also working with the Government of Namibia to open the western half of Etosha to tourism, which should also help attract additional tourists and revenue.
Conservancy Ecotourism Development: MCC and MCA-Namibia are helping conservancies increase their roles and benefits from tourism, generally through joint ventures with the private sector. MCA-Namibia has contracted with the World Wildlife Fund to provide technical assistance and training to 31 conservancies with high tourism potential. MCC funds are also being used for grants to leverage private sector investment in new tourism businesses. Through these partnerships, conservancies and the private sector develop agreements that lead to increased revenue and employment for the conservancies.
Two community joint venture lodges have already received partial grants, and we hope the compact will lead to as many as seven new lodges.
Marketing Namibian Tourism: To promote Namibia as an attractive tourism destination and to increase the number of tourists to the country, the Namibia Tourism Board has launched a redesigned website.
The Namibian delegation that attended today’s event are in Washington as part of the marketing campaign focused on increasing the number of American businesses that market vacations to Namibia, as well as increasing the number of tourists from the United States and Canada. This effort is already showing results: More than 120 travel agencies now offer trips to Namibia, up from 106 agencies at the beginning of the compact.
If you visit Namibia, you can be assured that your money is contributing to community-driven approaches that help increase incomes for some of the country’s poorest people.
Posted on February 15, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I just witnessed an incredible celebration here in Ghana: thousands of people rejoicing at the opening of the long-awaited N1 highway—renamed the George Walker Bush Motorway—which links the capital, Accra, with major ports, the international airport and the country’s major agricultural regions. This has been a Ghanaian dream since 1965, and it’s finally coming true.
As I drove down the road, thousands of people that live along the road greeted us. School children celebrated. People stood on banisters to catch a better glimpse of the celebration, and crowds waved from their nearby apartments.
There was dancing and chanting. The American and Ghanaian flags swayed together. A nearby large banner read, “Thank you, America.” The celebration resonated deeply with me.
MCC helped improve a 14-kilometer stretch of the highway as part of its five-year, $547 million compact. It runs through the heart of the capital city and for decades has been clogged with people and traffic. The need to widen the highway has been in the planning 40 years, but it only became a reality thanks to the Ghana and MCC partnership. It’s not hard to see why people were so excited.
The highway project was Ghana’s largest public works project in decades, and workers labored until the final minutes of compact closeout to ensure project completion. As President John Atta Mills told the crowd, “This is not President Kufuor's compact. This is not my compact. It’s Ghana's compact.”
During closeout speeches, the chief executive officer of Ghana’s MiDA, the entity in charge of implementing Ghana’s MCC compact, said it best: “MCC is the spearhead for development.” In Ghana, we certainly are spearheading a true partnership based on goodwill, trust and collaboration.
The opening of the N1 highway is a major event in Ghana’s development and a highly visible reminder of MCC’s partnership. It’s a milestone that transcends political parties, both in the U.S. and Ghana. And most importantly, it’s a reason all Ghanaians have to celebrate.
Posted on February 14, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, MCC
A few days ago, I arrived in Cape Verde to sign MCC’s newest compact. Cape Verde is surrounded by ocean, but access to clean, reliable fresh water and sanitation services is a serious problem; only nine percent of poor households are connected to a networked public water supply.
During my trip I stayed in the capital city of Praia, where many residents get their water from communal fountains and lug it back to their homes in large plastic jugs. They use that water for drinking, cooking, and other household functions. Communal fountains are usually only open for one hour each day, and long lines form down the block as people patiently wait their turn at the tap. If the local water utility is experiencing problems the fountain may be shut off for days, forcing local residents to travel farther to reach a functioning water source.
The water utility delivers water to fountains in tanker trucks—an expensive and sometimes unreliable process. While utilities do not profit from water delivery, residents still must pay fees to cover costs. Cape Verde’s water tariffs are some of the highest in Africa.
At the fountain pictured here, users pay 500 escudos, about $6.00, per cubic meter of water, more than five times what I pay in Washington, DC. For a country with nearly 40 percent of the population living on under $2.00 per day, many families cannot afford the water they need. All sectors suffer: health and well-being deteriorate; agricultural crops fail; tourism slows; and economic productivity falters.
The $66.2 million compact that I just signed channels $41 million toward reforming national water policy and regulatory institutions; transforming inefficient utilities into independent corporate entities operating on a sustainable, commercial basis; and improving the quality and reach of water and sanitation infrastructure, benefitting over 250,000 Cape Verdeans.
The compact also includes a $17 million Land Management for Investment Project, which will support the Government of Cape Verde in creating a single reliable, accessible source of land rights and land boundaries information. This project is designed to strengthen Cape Verde’s investment climate and reduce time and costs associated with land registration.
I’m extremely proud of this compact, and of the successful partnership it represents between MCC and Cape Verde. We are looking forward to working with the government and people of Cape Verde to implement this program on time, on budget, and with a constant focus on achieving results.
Posted on February 13, 2012 by Katerina Ntep, Resident Country Director, Ghana
As the Ghana Compact closeout date rushes toward us—less than a week remains to finish the ambitious set of projects we put in motion five years ago—I was honored that seven members of Congress visited West Africa to inspect the progress and impact of the compact, as well as the status of the U.S.-Ghana partnership.
Senator Lindsey Graham, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, and Representative Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, led the delegation, which visited Ghana in early January. Both have the enormous responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent effectively overseas.
Senator John Thune, Senator Kay Hagan, Senator John Barrasso, Senator Mike Johanns, and Senator Richard Burr also joined the delegation. Much of the trip was coordinated with the ONE Campaign; the organization’s founder, Bono, and a board member, Josh Bolten, accompanied the lawmakers.
The delegation inspected progress of the MCC-funded section of the N1 Highway that connects the central region, the country’s main seaport in Tema and the international airport in Accra. The highway improvement is part of the compact's $215 million Transportation Project, which is expected to benefit more than 314,000 people and raise household incomes by $321 million over 20 years.
It is already clear that MCC’s investment will significantly alleviate Accra’s legendary traffic congestion and help small farmers export their crops. The highway improvement—including construction of a six-lane, 14-kilometer motorway in the heart of Accra—has been a massive engineering feat. The workers are laboring around the clock to finish this project before the compact closes.
I was particularly proud that the delegation joined me to cut the ribbon on a newly constructed primary school in Bontrase—a shining example of the 249 rural school blocks MCC has rehabilitated or built as part of the $75 million Rural Development Project. As Senator Graham said, “every child deserves an education,” and MCC-funded schools are providing that access to poor rural children.
Throughout the trip, Bono and Senator Graham stressed that MCC was a different type of foreign assistance program. MCC’s country ownership model means we work with governments to deliver assistance where it is most needed. MCC partner countries identify their constraints to economic growth, and implement solutions to those barriers. Ghana is a perfect example of effective country ownership. In fact, Bono noted MCC was founded in “partnership, not patronage.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Posted on February 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I bought lunch today for the first time from a food truck. From Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, food trucks are transforming how this country eats, offering alternatives for every culinary appetite. In the spirit of creative entrepreneurship, Morocco’s fish vendors leveraged MCC funding to pursue a similar concept and go mobile. That country’s MCC compact is replacing donkey-drawn carts with three-wheeled, heavy-duty motorbikes equipped with insulated ice chests, empowering Moroccan fish venders to sell more fish to more consumers with a focus on quality and freshness. More than this literal parallel, I think MCC and food trucks have a lot in common. Think about it.
Innovation: Both MCC and food trucks are built on innovation. Food trucks offer one or two signature dishes, giving proprietors the opportunity to highlight and celebrate their innovative food specialties, which might otherwise be lost on the full restaurant menu. MCC has taken more than half a century of development practices and incorporated the most innovative principles into our model for development effectiveness, focusing simultaneously on results, country-owned solutions, accountability, and transparency.
Technologically-powered: Because of Twitter, food trucks have proliferated. Technologically-savvy customers are turning to their mobile devices and online communities to track when and where their favorite food trucks will be serving. I saw the same positive use of technology in Armenia, for example, as farmers, benefitting from MCC’s investment in the most extensive modernization of the country’s irrigation system in 30 years, use their cell phones to obtain the latest market prices for their agriculture products to maximize sales. MCC compacts increasingly are leveraging the power of technology to achieve sustainable development and increase incomes, from computerizing banks in Ghana to give rural families and businesses efficient access to financial services, to optimizing global positioning systems in Benin for accurate land mapping to provide individuals with secure title to their property, to using latest breakthroughs to grow, irrigate and harvest quality crops that both promote greater food security a
nd make farmers more competitive in the marketplace.
Customer-driven: Given the long line I stood in, I am struck by how many people are drawn to the food truck experience. There’s obvious market demand. MCC, too, is approached constantly by countries eager to reform their policies and partner with us. The partnerships we do form with a select group of poor, but well-governed, countries are based on shared responsibility and mutual accountability to achieve their homegrown development solutions.
Just as food trucks serve a cornucopia of cuisines from around the world, MCC partners span the globe in a common drive to reduce poverty through economic growth. By opening gateways to opportunity, MCC’s worldwide partnerships help local businesses and entrepreneurs thrive, so that our development dollars, ultimately, can be replaced by economic growth led by the private sector.
I am preparing to travel to Africa this month to sign MCC’s compact with Cape Verde and to mark the completion of Ghana’s MCC compact. Such milestone events in these countries will serve as opportunities to see MCC’s approach to innovation, technology and country-owned development strategies in action. Check back to read my blogs from those upcoming travels. In the meantime, please let me know if there are any food trucks in Cape Verde and Ghana I should sample.
Posted on February 7, 2012 by Jon Anderson , Resident Country Director, Mali
Secure land tenure is a key to poverty reduction. It can improve access to credit, increase incentives for better land management and investment, and allow people the ability to capitalize on their assets.
In some African countries, land “grabs” by large companies are a growing concern for small farmers, many of whom lack formal title to the land their families have used for generations. In the struggle for land resources with big players, poor farmers are often on the losing end.
But in Mali, MCC is helping the government strengthen the land rights of small farmers.
Prior to the MCC-funded Compact in Mali, formal land titling was almost unheard of in rural areas. The Mali Compact’s Alatona Irrigation Project is changing this by employing an integrated approach to agricultural development to bring almost 13,000 acres of intensively irrigated agricultural land into production and provide secure land rights for almost one thousand farming families.
The Project is allocating most of the twelve-acre farms it develops to the people who used or lived on it prior to the Project, with the rest going to small farmers from elsewhere in Mali. In addition, the Project is providing support to ensure that smallholder farmers have what they need to succeed, from infrastructure like housing, markets, latrines, schools, health centers, and wells for potable water, to services like agricultural training and access to credit. An improved road will also provide local families better access to markets in which products can be bought and sold.
The land component of the Project strives to incorporate women into the formal economy partly by providing them with land for market gardens and giving them the chance to be listed as owners on land titles to twelve-acre farms. As a result of this and other efforts to include women in Project activities, women are emerging as a force in the local economy, striving for better lives for their daughters and sons. Some of the highest yields to date have been produced by women farmers.
The Mali Compact serves to enhance the property rights of local families and communities, thus helping the poor and vulnerable to participate in sustainable economic growth. MCC is proud to support such efforts.
Posted on November 9, 2011 by Marc Tkach, Associate Director, Infrastructure
Just out of school on a warm day, these boys take a rest under the shade of an old tree in Morogoro, Tanzania. They sit atop part of the dilapidated Mambogo water treatment plant from which their drinking water flows. Nestled against the Uluguru Mountains in the Tanzanian highlands, Morogoro is one of the largest and most picturesque towns in East Africa. Its water supply system, though, is undersized and the situation is quickly becoming worse as the population booms.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation's investment in Tanzania involves construction of a new water treatment plant to replace the Mambogo plant, rehabilitation of the larger Mafiga plant down the hill, installation of almost two kilometers of water main pipe, and the upgrade of the town’s water storage capacity. Access to reliable, affordable and clean water is a key factor in the reduction of disease and the increase in productivity that will benefit the Morogoro region.
MCC investments also will improve the water supply in the nation’s largest city, Dar es Salaam. An expansion of the Lower Ruvu water treatment plant will lead to an output of 270 million liters per day, an increase of 50 percent.
Learn more at mcc.gov
Posted on September 28, 2011 by Rick Gaynor, Director of Property Rights and Land Policy
Last month, MCC’s project for Place Lalla Yeddouna in the Medina area of Fez, Morocco was awarded an Acknowledgement Prize by the Holcim Awards, a prestigious international competition that recognizes innovative projects, future-oriented concepts, and sustainable construction.
The Medina of Fez, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, home to thousands of artisans who ply their trades as their families have for generations, producing the exquisite pottery, leather, metal, textile and wood crafts for which Morocco has come to be known.
MCC and the Government of Morocco are working to address the poverty, poor working conditions and environmental challenges in the Medina through an ambitious project to revitalize Place Lalla Yeddouna, a public square on the banks of the Fez River where copper workers and other artisans produce and sell their goods. The project aims to stimulate economic growth by redeveloping Place Lalla Yedouna in a way that addresses dangerous working conditions and safety hazards and renovates the Medina into a true center of commerce and community activity.
The Holcim Awards awarded a prize to the MCC-funded project in recognition of its transformation of this unique and previously neglected site on the banks of the Fez River. The Holcim Awards jury believes that improvement of Place Lalla Yeddouna will be a catalyst for development of surrounding areas, with positive social impacts that will extend far beyond the site’s boundaries.
Renovation of Place Lalla Yeddouna was designed by mossessian & partners and Yassir Khalil Studio, architectural offices based in London and Casablanca, respectively. In early 2011, these firms won an MCC-funded international design competition created to solicit original design proposals for the renovation; 176 teams representing over 90 countries submitted proposals.
MCA-Morocco, the Government of Morocco entity implementing the MCC compact, conducted consultations with the people of Fez at various stages – before and after the original design competition – to provide input on the future of Place Lalla Yeddouna and the needs of residents who would be affected by the project. These consultations generated unprecedented communication between civil society and government about the future of the Medina.
Place Lalla Yeddouna is an exciting project that will have a positive and important impact in Fez and Morocco. Construction will begin in spring 2012, and is expected to be completed in fall 2013. We look forwarding to posting project updates here soon. Read more about the Holcim Award.
Posted on August 4, 2011 by Rachel Fredman, MCC Intern Morocco
Driving through the hills near Taounate in Northern Morocco is dizzying at times. With sweeping views of precipitous peaks and groves of olive and fig trees, one feels immediately transported to southern Spain. It’s disorienting to think that only a day before I was in a cool oasis flanked by date palms and sun-scorched desert. This is the geographical diversity of Morocco.
A view of the hills over Taounate.
It is this geographical diversity that yields tremendously varied agriculture. According to the World Bank, the agricultural sector in Morocco employs about 40 percent of the nation's workforce, making it the largest employer in the country and about 15 percent of its total GDP.
About 70 percent of the poor live in rural Morocco, which results in a massive rural exodus toward urban areas like Casablanca or Rabat, or the European Union. Many of these urban economies, however, cannot support this migration and these people often find themselves selling tissue or other goods on the side of the road for lack of better opportunities.
Many of the agricultural practices in Morocco have led to massive amounts of soil erosion, which is often irreversible. In the rainy sections of the northeast of the country, barley, wheat, and other cereals can be raised without irrigation. Farmers default to these crops in many of the areas we are passing through, razing trees on the mountains and planting wheat in their place. Along with overgrazing, this is causing land degradation and serious desertification throughout the country. We often pass by a mountain that, once home to trees and native plants, is now crackling dry from soil erosion. This intense desertification in Morocco also increases water pollution. The loose topsoil causes an increase in runoff, which in turn increases the siltation levels of Moroccan reservoirs and the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The Morocco Compact is addressing these issues with its ambitious Fruit Tree Productivity Project. This Project will rehabilitate about 55,000 hectares of existing rain-fed fruit tree orchards and expand fruit tree production on nearly 62,000 hectares of land. It aims to increase and stabilize the income of poor farmers by shifting to more valuable tree crops – from wheat to rain-fed olive, date and almond trees. Almost 70,000 households will benefit from higher productivity and increased incomes. Moreover, they will be provided training and technical assistance on improved crop husbandry techniques that will increase yields and alleviate soil erosion as well as strengthen links to markets.
We visited one such cooperative in a small village near Taounate to learn more about their program.
Me, in the sunglasses, with a farmer cooperative near Taounate. The cooperative president is in the center, with the hat.
The cooperative consists of about 20 young to middle-aged men who want to stay in this village and farm to earn a better living than they would by moving to the cities. The president of the cooperative is a vibrant man whose former military training has given him the management skills to make this cooperative successful.
The members of this cooperative lead us to their field school where they are experimenting with more sustainable farming practices. A farmer field school is an innovative agricultural development methodology in which a group of farmers gets together in one of their own fields to learn about their crops and things that affect them. They learn how to farm better by observing, analyzing and trying out new ideas on their own fields. Unlike traditional approaches to agricultural extension which rely on extension workers providing advice to farmers, farmer field schools enable groups of farmers to find out the answers for themselves, maximizing their ownership in improving their farming practices. Essentially, the farmers can develop solutions to their own problems.
Farmer field schools are one of many techniques that are being implemented by MCC’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project in Morocco. Farmers are also being trained in integrated pest management, ways to mobilize their existing resources to increase production, and business support through technical assistance, applied research and scientific support. Nearly 33,000 farmers will be provided training. Meeting with this farmer cooperative reinforced in me the vast and sustained impact MCC is having on the rural poor in Morocco.
Posted on June 2, 2011 by Melvin F. Williams, Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) uses 17 independent, transparent indicators to measure countries’ commitment to democratic governance, investments in people, and economic freedom. One of those indicators measures performance on the rule of law, which among other things, measures the effectiveness, independence and predictability of the judiciary; the protection of property rights; and the enforceability of contracts. As MCC’s General Counsel, this is an area of great interest to me, so I was especially pleased to see the rule of law at work in Benin and Mali, two MCC partner countries in West Africa.
I started my visit in Benin, where one part of MCC’s $307 million Compact is designed to boost investment and private sector activity by increasing access to the justice system. During my trip, I visited the new, MCC-funded Legal Information Center (LIC). When completed, the LIC will, for the first time, serve as a center for disseminating court decisions, laws, case records, and other legal information to the people of Benin, which will improve transparency and “demystify” the law for its citizens.
MCC is also financing the construction of five new courthouses, and I was fortunate enough to visit one courthouse under construction.
I also had the opportunity to see another benefit of MCC’s investment: a computerized case management system. These new courthouses and the case management system promise to enhance the rule of law by increasing the speed and efficiency with which cases are processed and adjudicated in Benin. MCC’s compact funding is already delivering results: the average time required for a trial court to reach a decision has been reduced from nine to six months -- for courts of appeal, the time has been reduced from 23 to 10 months.
I then traveled to Mali, where MCC is working with the government on a $461 million Compact that focuses on improvements to the Bamako airport, and a large, highly-integrated agriculture project in the Alatona region on the country. As part of the agriculture project, the Government of Mali is providing land titles to small famers for the first time. (Read American Investments in agricultural productivity and airport renovation lead to growth in Mali.) During my trip, I participated in a ceremony to distribute land titles to small farmers in the Village of Feto. As a measure of MCC’s efforts to improve gender equality, a number of these farmers decided to hold legal title in both the husband’s and wife’s names. A few of the titles were given to women only, which represents a major advance. Providing these farmers with ownership of their land is critical to the continued success of the agricultural project, as farmers who own their land are more likely to maintain and improve it. Moreover, as owners, they can use the land as collateral, which they could not do previously. Also, land ownership is a part of the Government of Mali’s effort to de-centralize authority. Rather than land being controlled from the capital, these land title reforms will empower the people who are actually working the land. This effort is intended to be a model for other areas in Mali.
I’m honored to have seen first-hand the impact of MCC’s investments in Benin and Mali, and how they are strengthening the rule of law.
Posted on May 26, 2011 by Oliver Pierson, Resident Country Director,Namibia
The $304.5 million MCC Compact in Namibia is focused on improving the quality of education and training for underserved populations and use Namibia’s comparative advantages to increase the incomes of Namibians in the northern areas of the country. As Resident Country Director for MCC in Namibia, I provide support and oversight for all aspects of compact implementation. I am also the MCC sector lead on the Tourism Project, one of the key components of our efforts to capitalize on Namibia’s assets -- like its diverse wildlife and landscapes -- to raise incomes and create employment.
In this regard, I am pleased to report that May 6, 2011 was a big day for the Namibia Tourism Board—they won two prestigious awards. The first, an award for Best Tourism Board, was received at INDABA, Africa’s largest tourism fair. The Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) competed against over 315 nominees in 18 different categories; over 300 safari tour operators and product owners, along with about 50 media and press personalities, attended this event. Also on May 6, the NTB won the award for Best Website at the Travel Mole African Web Awards, sponsored by Tourism KwaZulu Natal.http://www.namibiatourism.com.na/
Formally established by an Act of Parliament in 2000, the NTB was formed to regulate the tourism industry and market Namibia as a tourist destination. The NTB is an implementing partner to MCC under the Namibia Compact, and MCC funds are being used to support the development of the award-winning and new NTB website in an effort to promote Namibia as a global destination. The NTB’s new slogan, “Namibia – Endless Horizons,” is setting the stage for this strategic push. The new website also gives consumers the opportunity to thoroughly explore what Namibia has to offer, including the Etosha National park, the Skeleton Coast, and the Fish River Canyon. MCC funds will also help NTB promote Namibian tourism by conducting destination marketing campaigns in strategic target markets and develop and advertise new tourism routes featuring community-based tourism products.
In addition to this marketing support, the MCC-funded Tourism Project aims to improve the management and infrastructure of Etosha National Park and develop the capacity of communal con¬servancies to attract investments in ecotourism and capture a greater share of the revenue generated by tourism. Through these efforts MCC also hopes to promote increased private sector investment in tourism enterprises in and around national parks and conservancies, increase tourist visitation to these sites, and also increase national tourism revenue to the Government of Namibia. Together, these activities will increase incomes and create employment opportunities for some of the poorest populations in Namibia, while conserving the natural resources that serve as the basis for the tourism industry. I’m proud to be a part of this effort, and I look forward to working with the government and the people of Namibia to make it happen.
Posted on May 25, 2011 by Patrick Fine, Vice President, Department of Compact Operations
African countries have been at the forefront of the movement to make development aid more effective. Many of the visionary leaders behind the path breaking Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness were African and it was no coincidence that the follow up Call to Action was held in Accra in 2008. African experience, lessons and frustrations have been pivotal not only in shaping the aid effectiveness agenda – and institutionalizing a consensus around the importance of country ownership, accountability for results, and harmonized joint action to achieve country priorities – but also in testing how to put these principles into practice in the real world. For example, Tanzania – one of MCC’s partner countries - led the way in the early 2000s experimenting with new mechanisms for donor coordination such as basket funding, donor sector leads, and direct budget support.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) was born out of these aspirations for more effective and authentic partnerships between wealthy and poor countries. MCC embodies a non-traditional approach to U.S. assistance that starts from the premise that aid works best in those countries committed to their own development. MCC is the first U.S. agency to rigorously apply principles of 1) country selection based on policy performance; 2) a primary focus on economic growth and empirical results measured in terms of beneficiaries’ increased income; and 3) country ownership that makes partner countries responsible for defining investments and implementing agreed upon programs. These features have produced remarkable responses from African countries determined to demonstrate their willingness and ability to make good use of donor resources to reduce poverty through sustainable investments in national and social infrastructure.
When considering the role that African nations played in the movement for aid effectiveness and MCC’s emergence as a practical manifestation of this movement, it should come as no surprise that Africa makes up over half of MCC’s portfolio; two-thirds of MCC’s $8 billion in investments is in good performing African countries. Already there are impressive results across the continent that range from policy reforms, to new ports, roads, and power systems, to an increased emphasis on gender integration and equality in development. We are proud of our partnerships in Africa and proud that our partner countries have shown that principles such as selectivity, country ownership, and accountability really do work.
On this Africa Day, MCC wishes all African nations well and promises to continue to respect the ingenuity, hard work and vision that we see in their efforts to build prosperous, well-governed nations.
Posted on March 15, 2011 by Matthew Kavanagh, Deputy Resident Country Director, Tanzania
At $698.1 million, MCC’s compact with Tanzania is the largest and most ambitious yet, targeting infrastructure investments in the transportation, energy and water sectors. The teams have achieved some impressive milestones in the early days of implementation, including awarding over $550 million in contracts over a 12-month period. After two years of preparatory studies, responsible resettlement and environmental certification, construction is now underway. This is an exciting time for all of us, especially the people of Tanzania.
We are also excited about the dramatic impact a partnership with the private sector can have on our efforts to promote economic growth in Tanzania.
Two American companies, Symbion Power and Pike Electric, competed for and won a significant portion of the Tanzania Compact’s $206 million energy portfolio. In partnership, these two companies will be installing nearly 1,600 kilometers of power lines in six regions, providing electricity to over 330 communities previously without power. Symbion Power has also partnered with Alstom Grid to provide substations in these same six regions, as well as Zanzibar. Inconsistent electricity and power spikes are a source of frustration and lost revenue for many productive businesses in these targeted regions. This combined transmission and distribution investment will have a major impact on both households and businesses by providing a more reliable and higher quality source of electricity.
As Symbion and Pike finalize preparations for construction, they are using their own Corporate Social Responsibility funds, separate from their contractual Compact responsibilities, to implement a unique training plan for construction workers. Symbion and Pike have identified and sent three senior Tanzanian workers to Northwest Lineman College (NLC) in Meridian, Idaho, where they are learning about electrical systems, accident prevention, and construction methods during a 60-day “train the trainer” program. Symbion and Pike also plan to establish a similar training facility in Morogoro, Tanzania, for over 200 Tanzanians who will work on the construction crews on the MCC-funded transmission and distribution activity. NLC will work with Symbion, Pike and their three Tanzanian trainers to get the Morogoro school up and running by April.
Last month I had the privilege of meeting the (future) Tanzanian trainers and seeing them in action at the Northwest Lineman College, along with Ambassador Mwanaidi Majaar (Tanzania’s Ambassador to the United States), Ambassador Joe Wilson (Symbion Power’s Chairman for Africa), Paul Hinks (CEO of Symbion Power), Eric Pike (CEO of Pike Electric), Ken Flechler (Vice President of Pike Electric) and Chris Camponovo (Symbion Power Country Director in Tanzania). Representatives from NLC provided an impressive overview of the school’s mission and how their model has been adapted for Symbion/Pike employees in an overseas context, including by creating a training manual in Swahili and English.
The NLC is considered one of the best institutions in the country for this kind of technical training, and they clearly go above and beyond minimum requirements, especially when it comes to safety and professionalism. Lineman work is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the United States, and in Tanzania it is even more so given generally poor safety standards (e.g., climbing poles with makeshift ladders, instead of safer harnesses). The Tanzanian Symbion/Pike crews will be wearing safety equipment considered to be the gold standard in the industry; not even all American utility companies require this level of protection despite data that indicates it contributes to reductions in workplace accidents.
Symbion and Pike’s partnership with the NLC with a focus on safety is just one example of their impressive commitment to successfully implementing the MCC Compact projects and establishing their companies in Tanzania. They are also using their own resources to fund social projects in the communities in which they work, including HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention and education initiatives, and planned construction of an innovative secondary school.
Their efforts go beyond putting poles in the ground and stringing electrical lines. They are building key relationships in local communities and making long-term, sustainable investments by building the capacity of their Tanzanian workers and creating what will be the best-trained lineman workforce in Africa.
In the 13 years since I first started working in Africa, including over five years with MCC, this is one of the most impressive initiatives that I have been associated with. It is also exactly the kind of partnership with the private sector – especially the U.S. private sector – that MCC is focused on creating.
We have high hopes for the energy project and look forward to working with Pike and Symbion in meeting our shared goals.
Posted on December 8, 2010 by Jon Anderson , Resident Country Director, Mali
Many people have heard of Timbuktu as a legendary place that symbolizes the end of the world. While it may no longer be the greatest university city of its time, Timbuktu still thrives as a major town in northern Mali.
The country of Mali in West Africa may seem like a long way from the United States. In some senses, it is. Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and is located on a distant continent in an unstable region, far from any seacoast. But there are good moral, economic, social, and cultural reasons to be interested in Mali.
Like Americans, Malians are proud of their history and proud of their rights and liberties. Through its $461 million MCC Compact, Malians are taking ownership and responsibility to develop their economy and reduce poverty in a manner that is sustainable and that reflects local priorities.
MCC Compact activities are increasing agricultural production and productivity, the backbone of the Malian economy, through two projects that will stimulate long-term economic growth.
The first consists of a large-scale integrated agriculture project that is providing not only road and irrigation canal construction to improve production and access to markets but also agricultural and financial services, community development, and social services and land rights. Through MCA-Mali, the Malian-run agency implementing the MCC Compact, the area is undergoing a physical, social and economical transformation. About 5,200 hectares of low productivity arid farming and grazing areas are being transformed into highly productive irrigated farms. Schools, clinics and wells for potable water are being constructed, and the foundation is being built for more and better farming through physical and policy improvements. Land titles will be provided to small farmers for the first time, providing incentives to invest and opportunities to get credit. People have accounts at micro-finance institutions for the first time.
The second major Compact project focuses on Mali’s airport. Because Mali is landlocked and its one major airport has one of the shortest and oldest runways in West Africa, the volume of goods that can be safely transported in and out of the country is severely limited. The project is rehabilitating and extending the runway as well as building a new terminal and associated infrastructure. These improvements, together with management system improvements and private-sector partnerships, will improve airport security and efficiency while allowing for new small-business airport concessions that will create jobs and increase revenue. It will also allow thousands of small farmers greater access to lucrative markets. The airport-based MCC-funded projects are expected to result in increased economic growth through greater trade and tourism.
These activities, based upon the sound principles of effective and results-focused development, are helping the people of Mali transition out of poverty. America’s security and prosperity are inextricably linked to the security and prosperity of other nations, including the world’s poorest. Mali may be far from the United States, but U.S. investments in there will ultimately benefit Americans through increased trade and enhanced prosperity in Mali and West Africa.
Timbuktu may sound mythical but U.S. investments are having real impact and achieving real progress.
Posted on October 8, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
During a week that showcased MCC’s commitment to Africa’s economic growth and development, I joined Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), to sign an agreement today under which MCC and AfDB will work together in promoting economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa.
AfDB and MCC will share their core competencies and expertise to support country-led economic development initiatives, focusing on such key sectors as infrastructure, water and sanitation, land, agriculture, transportation, environment, health, and gender integration. AfDB and MCC are already finalizing the details of our first collaboration: a pilot project in water and sanitation infrastructure in Mozambique.
When President Obama announced his new U.S. Global Development Policy last month in New York, he called for working with foundations, the private sector, NGOs, and multilaterals to maximize the impact of U.S. foreign assistance. The President emphasized that development “cannot be the work of governments alone.” Smart and deliberate collaboration with AfDB is one way MCC is implementing this new approach to development. This continues MCC’s commitment to broadening the scope of our engagement with a range of traditional and non-traditional partners to achieve sustainable development and deliver results in the fight against global poverty.
Posted on July 14, 2010 by Cassandra Butts, MCC Senior Advisor
Last week I was fortunate to represent MCC at a signing ceremony kicking off MCC’s $15 million Threshold Program with the Government of Liberia. Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and a bipartisan U.S. congressional delegation led by Rep. David Price and Rep. David Dreier, representing the U.S. House Democracy Partnership, also attended the signing ceremony, which took place in Monrovia. We were also pleased to have Rep. Donald Payne participate in the ceremony as a long-time supporter of African development and MCC.
The visit marked my first time back to Liberia since a 1999 trip as a member of a congressional staff delegation reviewing the status of refugees in what was then a conflict-riven region. What I saw on my recent trip provided considerable hope that Liberia, under the leadership of President Johnson Sirleaf, is well positioned to translate MCC’s Threshold Program investment in land access and policy, girls’ primary education, and trade policy into successfully- implemented programs that will meaningfully contribute to Liberia’s future development.
While all three components of Liberia’s Threshold Program were identified by Liberians as a part of their national development strategy and are designed to improve Liberia’s performance in the policy areas measured by MCC eligibility criteria, the girls’ primary education program has a particular resonance for me as MCC’s point person for the integration of gender equality in the programs we fund. This is a priority that I share with President Johnson Sirleaf as we, and many others, recognize, without question, that educating girls is crucial to a country’s long-term economic development.
There is no question that the road ahead will be challenging for Liberia, but the country continues to make significant strides in demonstrating a commitment to policy reform and responsible leadership under President Johnson Sirleaf that made our Threshold Program partnership possible in the first place. We look forward to working with the Government of Liberia and USAID, the U.S. Government agency that will administer the Threshold Program, to ensure the delivery of results that will improve the policy environment in the targeted sectors and contribute to the long-term growth and prosperity of the people of Liberia.
Posted on April 30, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
“Africa’s future is up to Africans,” said President Barack Obama during his historic first visit to sub-Saharan Africa. By partnering effectively with African countries on their homegrown antipoverty strategies, MCC puts this powerful truth into practice. With over 70 percent of MCC’s portfolio benefiting the people of Africa, we are investing in solutions for long-term prosperity that Africans themselves are designing. These include building transportation networks, increasing agricultural productivity throughout the entire value chain, improving water supply and sanitation, expanding health, education, and community services, and broadening access to finance for greater enterprise development.
On Tuesday, I met on Capitol Hill with members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC). Congressman Donald Payne and Congresswoman Barbara Lee hosted the gathering, which focused primarily on MCC’s work in Africa. I shared with them how we are currently working with Malawi and Zambia to develop initial compacts and with Cape Verde to pursue a second compact. MCC’s Board of Directors will also be considering a threshold program proposal from Liberia. CBC’s support will help MCC broaden our investments in Africa and forge new partnerships.
My meeting on Wednesday with the African Diplomatic Corps provided a forum to emphasize the importance of sound policy performance to long-term development. MCC seeks partners committed to good governance, the rule of law, fighting corruption, economic freedoms, and the health and education of their citizens. We welcome the difficult steps so many African partners are taking to reform their policies and embrace the policy changes necessary for sustainability.
And, yesterday, I joined OPIC, the U.S. Commerce Department, EXIM Bank, and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency at the Corporate Council on Africa’s infrastructure conference for a discussion on trade and development. MCC helps to create strong, stable, growing markets in the developing world, which, in turn, helps to create jobs here at home. By working with African partner countries to remove internal barriers to trade, enhance institutional capacity in areas such as customs and national standards, develop trade-related skills, and build the infrastructure needed to enable trade, MCC is deepening Africa’s capacity to trade and attract private sector investment.
With ongoing guidance from congressional supporters, with countries willing to do their part to practice good policies, and with the private sector’s growing role in fostering trade and development, Africa is poised to fully maximize its partnerships with MCC. This will deliver meaningful and sustainable change in the lives of the continent’s poor.
Posted on April 27, 2010 by Oliver Pierson, Deputy Resident Country Director, Namibia
Namibia’s MCC compact, signed in July 2008, includes MCC’s largest education project, which is designed to improve the quality of Namibia’s education system. One of the substantial challenges Namibia is trying to address is a lack of textbooks for many of its students, particularly those in rural areas, where as many as five students share one textbook. It was with much pleasure and pride that the first textbooks were transferred to the Namibian Ministry of Education this past Saturday, April 24th. The event was even more significant as the U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns was present to hand the books over on behalf of the U.S. Government.
In a ceremony marked by a great turnout from the Namibian government and people, Undersecretary Burns described how the books will improve the textbook ratio for Namibian students in grades 5 to 12 to one book per student in English, Math, and Science. To make this possible, MCC funds were used to conduct a textbook inventory of elementary schools and to identify all the gaps. This tranche of textbooks will fill the identified gaps, and in the later years of the compact, an entire new set of textbooks will be purchased with MCC funds for all students in Namibia in grades 5 to 12.
The delivery of textbooks is just one small aspect of the MCC-funded Education Project in Namibia. The delivery of these books is part of a much broader project that also includes expanding and renovating 47 schools, constructing regional libraries and vocational training centers, and training teachers. Undersecretary Burns referred to some of the upcoming challenges in his remarks, “Now comes the hard part. It will be up to teachers and students to make good use of these materials.” MCC will help address those challenges as well by providing training for teachers on how to use the textbooks to improve the quality of their lesson plans. They will also be trained on ways to improve the textbook ordering and distribution systems.
On that sunny Saturday morning in Windhoek, MCC, MCA-Namibia, the local entity in change of implementing the MCC compact, and Namibian government officials were pleased to recognize that an initial milestone had been reached and that the compact was beginning to show tangible results. But no one was happier than the 30 to 40 students present, who got a first glimpse of what students across Namibia will be seeing in their classroom on a daily basis. Almost 700,000 textbooks will be delivered to 1,000 Namibian elementary schools starting in May, and by the end of June, all these books should be in the hands of Namibia’s next generation.
Namibia’s Minister of Education Abraham Iyambo best described the impact of the MCC Education Project when he said, “In the long-term, this support will contribute to the aspiration of our country’s national development plans for productive and competitive human resources and institutions.” While he is setting the bar very high, the MCA Namibia team and our partners are ready to meet the challenge. Already, we are eagerly awaiting the next milestone in the Education Project, which will be the start of renovation, expansion, and construction work at some elementary schools with the greatest need.
Posted on March 22, 2010 by Omar Hopkins, P.D., Associate Director for Infrastructure
When World Water Day was first celebrated in 1993, some 5.3 billion people lived on the planet. Of these, 512 million lived in sub-Saharan Africa, where only 49 and 26 percent, respectively, had access to an improved water source and sanitation facility. Today, on the seventeenth World Water Day, the global population includes 6.7 billion people, of whom 818 million live in sub-Saharan Africa, where 58 and 31 percent, respectively, now have access to water supply and sanitation services. This is a moment to celebrate the additional 223 million sub-Saharan Africans who have access to a water supply and the 120 million who now can access sanitation, but we should also focus on the continuing low rates of access. While tremendous accomplishments have been made, a great deal of work remains undone. Given the tremendous unmet demand for water supply and sanitation, what is being done to facilitate change and accelerate the rate at which these critical services are provided to a billion or so people globally who lack these critical services? A difficult problem like this requires innovation, experimentation, and a willingness to take risks to find better solutions. MCC was created as a new approach to development assistance: a firm five-year window for implementation, full commitment of the funds upon compact signing, untied assistance, and host country ownership, including proposal development and implementation. This approach reflects the best thinking about development assistance, as articulated in the Paris Declaration. In this, MCCs seventh year, we are looking at some important lessons learned, like carefully integrating social and environmental factors into project design and implementation, identifying innovative contracting approaches that accelerate the project life cycle without sacrificing quality, and promoting private sector participation. MCC works closely with partner countries to identify high value water supply and sanitation projects and water resource management and productivity projects that respond to the countries development priorities. MCC programs in Lesotho, Mozambique, and Tanzania include MCCs three largest water supply and sanitation projects, covering rural and urban water and sanitation, non-revenue water management, and source development. In addition, Mali, Burkina Faso, Armenia, Senegal, and Moldova are pursuing major irrigation and water resource management projects. To date, MCC programs have funded approximately $528 million in water supply and sanitation and $769 million in water resource management and irrigation. MCC partnered with the Government of Mozambique to target a traditionally underserved area: water and sanitation investments in urban areas and small towns. Secondary urban areas are particularly difficult environments in which to build sustainable water supply and sanitation systems because, by definition, they lack economies of scale, are more remote, have higher costs, have difficulty attracting and retaining staff, and are typically less affluent—all of which have negative implications for sustainability. Yet, a majority of world population growth will occur in urban areas and much of that will occur in these secondary urban areas. Addressing the projected water supply and sanitation needs of these communities will be one of the sectors most pressing challenges in the coming decades. In advancing MCC’s mission of global poverty reduction through economic growth, we will continue to work with partners committed to expanding access to water and sanitation.
Posted on March 4, 2010 by Jason Bauer, Director of Private Sector Initiatives
This week more than 167 companies attended a procurement conference and heard about contracting opportunities arising from projects funded by Millennium Challenge Corporation compacts. Supported by Business Unity South Africa, Standard Bank, and the U.S. Embassy, the conference was hosted at the Development Bank of Southern Africa in Midrand, South Africa. Country teams from Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Tanzania discussed over $3 billion in procurement opportunities, ranging from building roads and water systems to building health centers and schools. The compact in Ghana and compacts still being developed with the governments of Malawi and Zambia were also discussed.
The conference highlighted the business opportunities that ultimately support MCC’s mission of reducing poverty through economic growth. The conferences key themes included the openness and transparency of the procurement processes, the ability for international companies to bid on compact projects and the unique opportunities for U.S. and international suppliers.
Companies attending the conference included those focusing on infrastructure engineering, design, and construction, as well as those providing project management and technical assistance. The resounding message: MCC partner countries throughout Africa are open for business.
Posted on November 30, 2009 by Patricia Moser, Director of Health
Tomorrow, we mark the 21st commemoration of World AIDS Day. In 1988, the World Health Organization designated December 1st to raise awareness about and focus attention on the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. There is a link between HIV/AIDS and the work of MCC, particularly in southern Africa where high HIV/AIDS rates constrain economic growth and compound human misery through early deaths, illness, and orphaned children.
Lesotho’s MCC compact signed in 2007, for example, recognizes the economic and human toll of HIV/AIDS. Thirty-four percent of the compact is dedicated to assisting Lesotho’s Ministry of Health and Social Work and the non-governmental sector expand access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and response. The compact provides financing to improve health infrastructure and to strengthen health systems nationwide.
The compact is renovating clinics and staff housing at up to 139 primary health centers throughout the country in an effort to improve the working and living conditions of health staff. The program is also reconfiguring the out-patient departments of 14 of the 19 secondary hospitals in order to provide needed space for integrating HIV/AIDS activities into these departments. Particular attention is being paid during these renovations to reducing the potential spread of tuberculosis in waiting rooms and clinical spaces, providing greater occupational safety for health workers, and decreasing the level of deadly tuberculosis co-infection of HIV positive patients.
In addition to infrastructure improvements, the compact is working to strengthen health systems by funding efforts to improve health care waste management. This reduces the level of infectious medical wastes at health facilities and in communities. It is also improving management systems and capacities for community health, district health management, and hospital out-patient departments. On-the-ground coordination between MCC, MCAthe local entity implementing Lesotho’s MCC compact—USAID, and the Centers for Diseases Control (both implementing agencies for the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, funds) has been exceptionally strong, including the co-location of U.S. Government health-related staff and regular coordination of programming and implementation issues.
Moreover, MCC is looking at issues related to HIV/AIDS issues beyond the health sector. Construction activities in all high prevalence countries require HIV/AIDS mitigation efforts, including HIV/AIDS awareness and education for workers and communities to prevent the spread of HIV, especially as a result of labor migration. MCC compacts in Tanzania and Namibia, and compact development activities in Malawi, pay special attention to HIV/AIDS prevention and mitigation in non-health sector activities.
December 1st is an important reminder of global HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, and MCC is committed to working with partner countries to help provide better access to health services and treatment to ensure a better future for those affected.
Posted on September 16, 2009 by Darius Mans, Acting Chief Executive Officer
Today, I had the distinct privilege of joining President Abdoulaye Wade and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for the signing of Senegal’s $540 million MCC compact. Senegal’s Minister of Economy and Finance Abdoulaye Diop and I signed the compact during a ceremony at the State Department. This grant, which reflects Senegalese development priorities, will rehabilitate two major roads and expand a major irrigation and water resources management system. These investments will be critical to boosting agricultural productivity, economic growth, trade, and food security. This marks the first MCC compact to be signed during the Obama Administration, reflecting the Presidents clear commitment to helping countries help themselves with a focus on transparency and accountability.
In fact, as I participated in todays signing, it was clear that Senegal is already proof of President Obamas words that Africas future is up to Africans. The signing of Senegals MCC compact demonstrates the countrys commitment to lead its own development, build its capacity, and strengthen its institutions - - doing its part to make a difference in the lives of its citizens. This compact resulted from extensive nationwide consultations with government agencies, donors, NGOs, civil society, womens groups, and private sector associations, making its projects truly by and for the people of Senegal. Senegal invested $20 million of its own resources to prepare its MCC compact, including conducting detailed feasibility and design studies for all projects.
As a result of such upfront, homegrown commitment, the Senegal compact we signed today is a strong roadmap for long-term economic growth. It reminds us that country-led developmentof helping countries already working to help themselves ensures a smart and effective investment of American assistance. I am proud of the MCC-Senegal partnership and the real potential it holds for poverty reduction and economic growth.
Now, the hard work of building roads and irrigating farmland begins. I am confident that Senegal’s diligence in developing its compact will be matched by its resolve to implement it with transparency and accountability, as well as by its tangible actions to combat corruption. This is one sure way to unlock Senegal’s potential and deliver the sustainable results the Senegalese are expecting.
Posted on June 22, 2009 by Aaron Sherinian, Managing Director, Public Affairs
MCC, together with friends from the ONE Campaign and (RED), witnessed the reality of what can happen when people come together to fight poverty. At the Bawjiase Junior Secondary School, hundreds of students, teachers and parents welcomed us to view the renovated classrooms where education has an improved, better home in this community. The words of the Head Mistress were a moving tribute to what positive things the peoples of the United States and Ghana are accomplishing together.
The decision of the ONE and (RED) delegations to visit MCC programs was a visible signal of the commitment of diverse groups to foster innovative approaches to reduce poverty in Africa and around the globe. They asked the men, women and children they met about their hopes for their future and the biggest obstacles to economic growth in their homes and communities. One thing that was clear from the conversations I witnessed was that integrated approaches—programs that tackle the problem of poverty from all angles, including infrastructure, education, agricultural training, trade, and policy—are the best way to ensure lasting, tangible results. We at MCC are grateful for the commitment of groups like ONE and (RED), who want to see poverty reduction programs in action and experience first-hand the challenges and the exciting headway we are making with partners like Ghana.
From the N1 Highway that MCC is helping rehabilitate to the farmer training programs to the renovated classrooms in Bawjiase, it was inspiring to see the U.S. Government’s $547 million compact with Ghana helping to fortify our strong relationship as friends while ensuring that the next generation of Ghanaians can take advantage of the potential and promise of their future.
Posted on June 3, 2009 by Ken Hackett, Member of MCC's Board of Directors and President of Catholic Relief Services
During a recent trip to Niger, I had the opportunity and privilege of meeting with those coordinating this West African country’s MCC Threshold Program. I came away impressed with their energy and dedication as they work in a challenging environment.
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking near the bottom of the United Nations’ Human Development Index. It has bounced from drought to coup to famine for centuries. Nonetheless, its people persevere with dignity and fortitude in this country nearly twice the size of Texas.
And the MCC, in partnership with the government and people of Niger, have identified an important way to foster long-term progress and sustainable development: promoting the education of girls. Building upon its innovative program in Burkina Faso, the Niger Threshold Program is funding the IMAGINE (Improve the Education of Girls in Niger) project, which includes the building of 68 ““girl friendly”” schools in seven regions throughout the country. These school complexes will include three-classroom buildings with sufficient desks for all students, separate latrines for boys and girls, a water source, housing for female teachers and a school canteen.
Throughout the developing world, there are many obstacles that prevent children, especially girls, from going to school. Those barriers include long walking distances from school, hunger, early and forced marriages, and time-consuming chores at home. The result is that the cycle of poverty is continued over generations. Conversely, education is a powerful tool in fighting poverty, unleashing the potential of a whole segment of the population unaccustomed to having the opportunity to earn their own livelihoods. Research shows that providing girls one extra year of education beyond the average can boost eventual wages by 10-20 percent.
Over the long term, we believe that these kinds of programs aimed at improving the education of girls will lead to increased food security. This is because girls in school receive the knowledge and develop the skills that will enable them to better manage resources for themselves and their families.
Better education for girls also contributes to improvements in the nutrition, health and education of future generations. This knowledge will bolster other assistance efforts being carried out by organizations like my own, Catholic Relief Services. For example, we are implementing a nationwide effort in Niger to encourage the use of mosquito nets to prevent malaria. Better educated women will be more likely to see the benefits of using the nets and will make sure their families do so.
Posted on March 28, 2008 by Rodney Bent, Deputy Chief Executive Officer
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per capita income of $260 a person, and a troublesome ranking of just three from the bottom in the UN’s Human Development Index (174 out of 177). Ive just returned from a trip to the country where I represented MCC during the signing of a $23 million threshold agreement. The bulk of the threshold program$18 million or sois to help Niger improve its low rate of girls’ primary school completion. Niger is in the bottom 5 percentile of low income countries and has a bright red score on MCC’s index for this category. Red, in terms of MCC’s “scorecards” of performance, is not good.
The threshold program has been put together with a notion of helping up to 200 schools become more “girl-friendly.” Its one drop in an enormous bucket of educational needs, but the Minister of Education, Monsieur Samba Mamadou, shared with me his excitement about the threshold program. The morning after the signing ceremony, he joined me, the US Ambassador to Niger Bernadette Allen, local USAID representative Mark Wentling, and USAID regional Mission Director Henderson Patrick, who flew up from Accra for the occasion. We set off in a dusty caravan of vehicles for the province of Tillaberi to visit some of these schools and talk to our local partners about their needs and challenges.
We bounced for dozens of kilometers along a mix of paved and sandy roads—a reminder of the overwhelming needs of so many countries where we work. The driver of our car had to flip on the wipers constantly to blow away the dust on the windshield. I asked the Minister of Education about Niger’s education needs during the trip. “Everything” was the short answer to the question, with the most critical component being trained teachers, followed by school buildings, notebooks for students (cahiers), textbooks, blackboards, desks—you name it. We talked at length about the discrepancy between boys’ and girls’ enrollment rates. He cited the reasons as cultural, social, and economic. Many parents need help in hauling water for the families’ use during the day. Other daughters are married when they’re 13 or 14. The minister made it clear that he, like so many others, understands full well the importance of having girls remain in schools and wants to help make it a reality.
After we drove several dozen more kilometers on the western side of the Niger River, we arrived at the first school. The school buildings are one story tall, built of tan bricks. There was no electricity that I could see, but there were dozens and dozens of people, adults, teachers, local officials and three Peace Corps volunteers at this first site. The school rooms I saw were simple, sometimes with a blackboard, but always packed with kids. In one school room, they’re wearing paper hats with Niger-MCC-USA written around the bands. They sang and clapped as we ducked to enter the school room and wish them well. On the black board, in one corner, someone had written the number of garcons and jeunne filles that were in attendance that day. That particular day, in that classroom, the girls outnumbered the boys. This was great news. The governor assured me that the word was getting out to the local officials, tribal leaders and families about the importance of encouraging their daughters to come to school. The need for new classrooms to accommodate the students was evidenced by a lean-to, with a primitive stick roof, that serves as a classroom for 30 or more children, who appeared to be about five or six years-old. There were no chairs and no desks. The head of the school talked to us about the need for latrines, and for places to feed the children. A “cafeteria” would probably be too grand a name for what will likely be a new room for this purpose, possibly with a stove and water. I asked some Peace Corps volunteers, who are working in schools further away from this one, what they needed. Everything again was the simple answer. MCC’s Niger Threshold Program certainly isn’t everything, but it is at least a start.