Posted on December 5, 2014 by Dr. Minarto, MCA-Indonesia Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project Director
Last month’s Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Gathering and the Second International Conference on Nutrition provided unique learning experiences. The SUN Global Gathering reflected on the accomplishments of the SUN movement in various countries to improve nutrition around the world. It has worked with various stakeholders—on global, regional and national scales—to make nutrition a priority on their development agendas. Malnutrition, especially stunting, is understood to be a common nutritional problem that must be addressed, not only because of its prevalence in many countries but also because of its negative impact on quality of life and public health.
Part of the discussion centered on what kinds of investments we need more of to boost nutrition. One major area of importance is hygiene and sanitation; poor hygiene and sanitation are major contributing factors to undernutrition and stunting.
Another area of importance is the role men play in household decision making. Because stunting occurs at the household level, working with men and women will help families make better decisions about allocating resources and caring for pregnant women and children.
A third important area is support for academia. Success at the local level requires the use of scientific evidence to formulate policies at the local level. Academia can help deliver the research results to improve policy and programming.
All of this is relevant to the Community-Based Health and Nutrition to Reduce Stunting Project, which I manage as part of my country’s compact with MCC.
This project is specifically designed to reduce the prevalence of stunting among children under age five. It is the main vehicle for SUN implementation in Indonesia. Together, MCC and MCA-Indonesia are working to improve nutrition by empowering communities through knowledge and local capacity building. This involves increasing the capacity and skills of nutrition and health care providers to provide better quality services. It also involves improving communication to help change nutrition-related behaviors.
Learning from the SUN Global Gathering, we believe there are four ways we can make the project even more effective:
- Finalize and strengthen the design of hygiene and sanitation investments. All health workers—especially midwives, nutritionists and sanitation officers—should be able to describe the importance of good hygiene and sanitation practices and provide counselling on how to achieve them.
- Develop a clear agenda to improve the role of men in household decision making and empower both women and men to improve nutrition, hygiene and sanitation.
- Strengthen a monitoring and evaluation system to generate timely reporting on selected indicators from all project locations.
- Effectively design the Private Sector Response Activity to avoid conflict of interest issues.
The project in Indonesia is off to a great start, and because of lessons from SUN across the world, it’s now poised to be even more effective.
Posted on October 23, 2014 by Natalia Ionel, Communications and Program Specialist, Moldova
More than 100 cyclists—professionals and amateurs, Americans and Moldovans, diplomats and local residents—took part in a bike ride earlier this week to help showcase MCC’s work renovating the Sarateni-Soroca road in northeastern Moldova.
Starting in near-freezing temperatures, more than 100 cyclists traversed 46 miles of the smooth asphalt of the road, which was recently completely rehabilitated through MCC's five-year, $262 million compact with Moldova. U.S. Ambassador to Moldova William H. Moser and Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca joined the ride, as did 47 professionals competing in a 25-mile race.
Leanca—wearing a cycling jersey emblazoned with the national flag and riding a bike with an American flag tied to the handlebars—called the race a “fantastic event.”
The compact’s Road Rehabilitation Project included more than 58 miles of a strategic international thoroughfare, including full reconstruction of 38 miles of roadway, renovation and new construction of 14 bridges, the addition of 13.6 miles of sidewalks in 14 villages, lighting along 12½ miles of the road, installation of seven miles of iron guardrails, 2,113 road signs and more than 9,000 road reflectors. The project pioneered the country’s first environmentally beneficial use of cold-recycling of asphalt and was the first road in Moldova to introduce enhanced road safety measures, such as road reflectors at road crossings and curbs.
It was a major accomplishment, and the road race was just one way MCC and MCA-Moldova (the local organization implementing the compact) are helping draw attention to the project.
“This road is a gift from the American people to the Moldovan people, and the bike ride was the perfect way to celebrate the dedication of this road for the people, by the people, and of the people that will benefit every day from the rehabilitation of this road,” Ambassador Moser said.
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 May 29, 2014 by M. Thomas Duggan, Peace Corps Response Volunteer
This story is cross-posted on the Peace Corps Passport blog.
In December 2013, after three immeasurably rewarding years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, I closed my service. I thought it was time for a healthy dose of rest and reflection, but I found rest impossible. Just a few weeks earlier, the country I had come to care so deeply about had been ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan, and I found the idea of leaving my newest friends behind in such a time of need completely unfathomable. So two weeks after ending one form of Peace Corps service, I began another when I was sworn into the Peace Corps Response program to assist with the rehabilitation efforts being made by the Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Since signing the Compact in 2010, MCC’s five-year, $434 million compact has been providing the Philippines with financial assistance for several projects, including one to train select communities in a variety of disciplines related to development. One of the three projects is the $120 million Kalahi-CIDDS community-driven development project. In this project, after various social preparation activities where communities assess and prioritize their greatest need and develop a proposal for a sub-project to address that need, the community puts their new knowledge into practice by designing and implementing a project, usually a small, basic infrastructure project, depending on their development priorities. This can be anything from a farm to market road or a rural health center, to a three-classroom school building. On the morning of November 8, 2013, Haiyan severely damaged the fruits of so many communities’ learning and labors.
My current role is to help guide and inform the process behind MCC’s rehabilitation of these essential community facilities. By utilizing my educational background in visual arts, my camera equipment, and the knowledge of local dialects and geography that I acquired during my three years of Peace Corps service, I can capture the experiences of Filipinos and share it with those who need to understand the damage and the incredible resilience of the affected people.
For every perceived win, there is at least one challenge to complement it and vice versa. Instead of hand-washing my laundry outside of my bamboo hut, I was wearing a headlamp inside of a cramped, electricity-free hotel room. My daily commute is no longer a few minutes on a bicycle; now it’s five-hour van rides to different islands or two-hour hikes in tropical heat to remote communities where people, who know nothing about me other than that I am trying to help rebuild their children's school, display rare, unheard of forms of kindness. After hours of teeth-grinding efforts to translate sentence after sentence of a survivor’s interview, I can play it from the beginning and hear a full story of perseverance, familial compassion and hope.
I hope that MCC will be able to use my documentation as a tool to rebuild infrastructure and support communities following calamities. In the process, I know that I am learning more about the power of photography. Images have the power to illustrate people's needs, to be a tool in the generation and distribution of aide, to provide voices for those who need most to be heard but don't have a soapbox from which to speak. As a result of my experience, I vowed here to dedicate myself to sharing stories and hope in this way.
Posted on April 28, 2014 by Kumar Ranganathan, MCC Senior Director/Practice Lead, Water, Irrigation and Sanitation
“Rise, Philippines” is a special three-part blog series that takes a look back at the crushing blow dealt by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, the resiliency of Filipinos and MCC’s continuing work in promoting poverty reduction in the Philippines through economic growth. Learn how MCC is helping with recovery and read about the status of our compact.
When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines last November, MCC-funded work was already underway on a major road project on Samar Island.
We all witnessed the devastation that one of the strongest typhoons on record had on Samar and other eastern islands. Buildings were torn apart, bridges were knocked down and roads crumpled like ribbon. But I am proud that the 12-mile stretch of road that MCC-funded contractors had completed withstood the damage, and MCC is working with its compact partners to accelerate construction and provide a vital lifeline to the island.
MCC included the Secondary National Roads Development Project as part of its five-year, $433.9 million compact with the Philippines to help improve the lives of people in Samar by reducing transportation costs and improving access to markets and social services. The project’s 136 miles of coastal and mountainous roads and 62 bridges will expand commerce and ultimately increase incomes on Samar Island.
We expected the road would be vital to the region; we just didn’t realize it would happen so quickly.
Shortly after the typhoon struck land, MCC and MCA-Philippines collaborated to accelerate the project schedule to ensure the road’s timely completion as a way to directly support and facilitate other ongoing aid and reconstruction efforts in Eastern Samar. MCC-funded contractors voluntarily made their equipment and materials available to clear the roads in Samar so that food, water and medicine were brought to the people quickly to prevent further devastation and loss of lives.
We can credit the road’s survival to strong design and measures to climate-proof it. The region experiences the landfall of about nine typhoons per year, and MCC used the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change model during design to predict project risks and climate proof the road where possible.
Some of the key climate-proofing measures included developing project-specific design criteria for drainage infrastructure and sea level variations, improving hydraulic capacity and embankment protection at bridges, improving drainage and culvert capacity to fit within the roadway corridor, roadway pavement and shoulder design to withstand flooding, improving closed drainage systems, and stabilizing slopes in mountainous areas.
Because of careful planning and risk management, MCC helped build a road that withstood one of the strongest typhoons in history and will play a vital role in the region’s recovery. This is an accomplishment in which Americans and Filipinos alike should take pride.
Posted on April 28, 2014 by John Polk, Acting Resident Country Director, MCC Philippines
“Rise, Philippines” is a special three-part blog series that takes a look back at the crushing blow dealt by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, the resiliency of Filipinos and MCC’s continuing work in promoting poverty reduction in the Philippines through economic growth. Learn how MCC is helping with recovery and read about the status of our compact.
I remember my first trip to Tacloban and Samar about three years ago, particularly the scenery as the plane made its swooping approach for landing at the airport. The colors stood out to me: vibrant green fields and mountains, silver and rusted-red tin roofs dotting the landscape, a sea that treads a fine line between blue and turquoise. The colors are tranquil and deep, portraying a benevolent and humble neighbor to the chaotic Tacloban cityscape.
As the plane descended on my most recent trip to visit the Philippines Compact’s Samar Road investment a few weeks ago, I was struck once again by the colors as we landed in Tacloban. This time however, much of the vibrant green had turned brown: Stubs of tree trunks and barren limbs dotted inundated fields, once radiant with productive promise but now scattered with salted ponds from the stagnant remnants of a storm surge of historic proportions. The turquoise sea, with the stories of storm surge in every account of Typhoon Haiyan—the storm that devastated parts of the Philippines in November and killed more than 6,000 people—appeared now more like a wolf in sheep's clothing.
But the most prominent color of this visit was blue. Not sky blue, or the semi-blue of the sea, no, nothing natural; it was a bright, Lego kind of blue, something manufactured by machines. In many places, this blue took the place of the shiny silver or rusted-red roofs of before. In others, it formed all four walls of makeshift homes. In another, it spanned the mangled steel joists of a covered basketball court, providing shade from the hot sun as sandal-clad school kids chucked up three-pointers during an afternoon game.
Many structures in Tacloban that once housed a family, a business, dreams have been reduced to their basic elements—stripped and rusted steel, wooden beams and columns, rock rubble. As a stark contrast to these remnants that were installed with every intention of lasting forever, the -prevalent blue tarps will have surpassed their use if they are still up a year from now. They have aided in providing some relief and protection from the harsh elements of nature for more than 431,000 households that needed emergency shelter, but ebbing and flowing in the breeze, their temporary relief can't be disguised.
Their presence, however, is an enduring reminder of the multinational effort that ramped up in the months after the typhoon to help a neighbor in need.
Upon landing and making our way along the highway to visit the Samar Road, I realized that while the blue tarps stood out most prominently due to their color, their number paled in comparison to the innumerable white and tan tents and tarps that appeared around every bend with logos of all kinds on them. Shiny, brand-new SUVs with logos plastered on their doors are conspicuous recent additions to the normal traffic of buses and motorized tricycles that we would see along the road during previous trips. In fact, logos seem to be everywhere. All of these logos—whether on the newly built child-friendly safe-havens, the temporary schools or on vehicles carrying personnel and supplies to areas affected by the typhoon—represent the attention and presence of groups from other areas of the Philippines or from international partners. It is overwhelming to think that something from almost every corner of the globe is represented in those few hundred kilometers from Tacloban to Guiuan, where a few months ago the same roads were as remote and removed as any I had ever been on.
Tarps and tents—whether blue, tan or white—are not what this country needs for the long haul. Residents of Leyte and Samar need investment in permanence; materials, structures, and even policies and institutions that are meant to last. Built upon solid foundations, they will hopefully become the legacy of the reconstruction effort. It is heartening to know that MCC and MCA-Philippines experienced almost no interruption in compact investments in many of the areas hardest hit by the typhoon.
Compact partners have worked together to help clear debris along the Samar Road and from nearby communities. They have collaborated with local organizations and international donors to reinforce vigilance against human trafficking—historically, a large percentage of victims of human trafficking in the Philippines have come from Samar and now that population will be even more vulnerable as many social safety nets were washed away by the storm. A massive tree re-planting effort will soon begin, supplemented by an agreement by several government agencies.
There are many relief and reconstruction activities underway in Tacloban, Leyte and Samar. As with any effort so diverse and involving so many different entities, it is difficult to see organization in all of these moving efforts, but yet, I see progress. Communities are moving forward. Children have returned to playgrounds. Families have picked up the pieces and are putting them back into place.
As the plane took off for my return to Manila, the blue tarps faded away but the images and emotion of this trip will remain forever. Passing through billowy white clouds, and seeing sun-glistened waves below, I was reminded that every storm will pass and the gifts we share will see us through.
A Wave of Serenity
a ray of light
A giant wave
like none before.
Posted on April 28, 2014 by Andres B. Saracho, Communications Director, MCA-Philippines
“Rise, Philippines” is a special three-part blog series that takes a look back at the crushing blow dealt by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013, the resiliency of Filipinos and MCC’s continuing work in promoting poverty reduction in the Philippines through economic growth. Learn how MCC is helping with recovery and read about the status of our compact.
Days before Typhoon Haiyan made its first landfall in the Philippines, my colleagues and I at MCA-Philippines were as terrified and scared as every Filipino at the thought of being on the receiving end of the strongest typhoon in history to hit land. What we did not imagine was how Haiyan would wreak havoc in areas along its path.
On that fateful Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, work in Manila was suspended. At home, I was glued to the television from early morning until night, watching newscasts on the supertyphoon ravaging Eastern Visayas . The sound of howling winds and the sight of rising floods in familiar areas in Leyte—where MCA-Philippines is implementing a range of small-scale, community-driven infrastructure projects—sent chills down my spine. My thoughts were with the colleagues, friends and acquaintances in Tacloban and nearby towns.
On the morning of Nov. 9, I woke up to the horrific television views of the devastation that befell Tacloban. It was inconceivable, unimaginable. We have seen and experienced many typhoons in the past, especially within the past three years with more and stronger typhoons. None, however, equaled the magnitude of the destruction that Haiyan brought to our country.
When we returned to the office on Nov. 11, we immediately mobilized a team to assess the situation in our project areas and the impact on our road project. The plan was put on hold, however, as Eastern Visayas remained isolated and inaccessible. Food was becoming scarce. Communication lines were cut off, and the airport was totally unusable for commercial flights.
We learned that our road contractors quickly responded to calls of assistance by deploying their trucks and heavy equipment to Tacloban and the towns of Eastern Samar for road-clearing operations. Contractors also lent their trucks to local governments or provided fuel to other vehicles to pick up and deliver relief goods to the region’s devastated areas.
On Nov. 13, MCA-Philippines issued a statement of solidarity and support for the typhoon victims. Our call was simple: Bangon, Pilipinas! or “Rise, Philippines!”
We launched our own campaign to solicit donations from MCA-Philippines employees and the public. We set up donation boxes in our office lobby for clothes, bedding, towels, and toys. We decided to forgo our annual Christmas party, opting for a simple dinner instead. The money that was supposed to have been spent for the party was donated to our two drivers at the project site as well as to road contractors and employees of our partner agencies, the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The in-kind donations were sent to the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s regional office for the typhoon victims in Tacloban.
On Dec. 8, exactly a month after Haiyan hit the Philippines, I flew to our road project site in Eastern Samar to get stories for a feature in a local magazine. My heart bled from what I saw. The images were more horrific than what appeared on TV. What I saw looked like scenes from war movies. Dreadful. Heartbreaking. After my return to Manila, I had to be debriefed—a form of therapy to help me cope with the trauma I witnessed personally during my trip to Leyte and Eastern Samar.
The Filipino people will be forever grateful for the international community’s assistance . The quick response by the United States to ferry survivors out of Tacloban, the pouring in of relief goods to evacuation centers, the arrival of medical teams from all over the world, and the deluge of financial pledges from international organizations and individuals gave a flicker of hope to the hungry, the homeless and even the dying among those who survived the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan.
Many are still hungry, with their source of livelihood swept away by the floods. Many are still homeless, with only tents protecting them from the elements of nature. But Filipinos are more than resilient. We are survivors who can weather even the strongest supertyphoon. When I visited Eastern Visayas, I saw a few houses being rebuilt. Trees are beginning to turn green again. People’s confidence is still shaken, but they are slowly recovering from their catastrophic experience.
In the province of Aklan in Central Visayas, which I visited on Feb. 25, 2014, a health station in Barangay Ochando in the municipality of New Washington still stands strong despite the destruction Haiyan hailed on other nearby structures. The MCC-funded health station was completed less than a year earlier. When Haiyan was ravaging New Washington, at least 12 families used the health station as an evacuation station, with a few of them in need of temporary shelter staying there for weeks afterward..
In nearby Barangay Pinamuk-an, the chair of the Barangay Sub-Project Monitoring Committee that supervised the construction of the day care center recalled that her family was one of 15 families that sought refuge in the facility. Many other health stations, day care centers and school buildings proved their strength—and the high quality put into them by the community—at the height of the supertyphoon.
For us at MCA-Philippines, the need to finish the compact projects has become even more significant to help rebuild the areas devastated by Haiyan. We have shown that, through the compact projects, we can make a difference in the lives of our fellow Filipinos for their reconstruction and rehabilitation and, eventual recovery toward economic growth.
Posted on March 25, 2014 by By Erin S. Ansell, Associate Director for Infrastructure, Department of Compact Operations
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 second in the series.
Most people have a passing familiarity with what is known as the hydrologic cycle. For those who don’t know the term, it’s the process by which water falls to earth as rain, drains to streams and rivers and eventually makes its way into surface water bodies such as lakes and oceans. From there, water evaporates and makes its way back into the earth’s atmosphere, and the process begins again.
But this process only describes the hydrologic cycle in nature, in areas devoid of human dwellings and influence. In fact, most water is used in some way by humans during this cycle, mostly in urban areas. There is, one might say, an urban hydrologic cycle through which potable water from groundwater wells, desalination plants, reservoirs, or other sources, is transported into homes, businesses and industries, where it gets used. From there, it is piped into a centralized wastewater collection system where it heads to a wastewater treatment plant and is discharged back into the natural system. In water-poor countries, such as Jordan, using water efficiently during this urban hydrologic cycle is critical to making the most of a limited natural resource.
Jordan is a highly urbanized Middle Eastern country of some 6 million people and, because of its limited access to surface water or naturally recharged aquifers, ranks among the world’s five most water-poor countries.
MCC’s compact with Jordan addresses the entire urban hydrologic cycle in a heavily populated, poor region of the country called Zarqa Governorate. First, the compact focuses on increasing the effective supply of potable water by repairing and rehabilitating the pipes and pumps in the potable water network that reaches end users.
Once the water is used at household or commercial levels, expansion and repairs in the wastewater collection system network make it possible to increase the quantity of wastewater that is sent to the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant, the largest in Jordan. The plant itself is also being expanded to accommodate the increased volume. This, in turn, generates additional supplies of high-quality treated water appropriate for use in irrigated agriculture in the Jordan Valley, which allows more freshwater to be diverted to higher-value uses in urban areas.
When that treated wastewater is used for irrigation in the Jordan Valley, the same amount of freshwater can be diverted to higher value uses in the urban areas. This arrangement effectively allows two uses for each unit of water. In this way, the compact is designed to enhance economic growth by increasing the availability of fresh water for individual households, small businesses in urban areas and the vibrant service sector, including tourism facilities. It also reduces the need to develop increasingly expensive sources of water, decreases unsustainable off-take levels from Jordan’s aquifers and eases pressures that could erode household and business incomes over time.
Finally, the program helps poor households get more water through the water distribution network at reasonable prices. By designing a program that addresses each phase of the urban hydrologic cycle, MCC and Jordan are working holistically to protect and preserve a limited natural resource.
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 5, 2014 by Burak C. InanÃ§, acting resident country director, Mongolia
MCC’s five-year, $285 million compact with Mongolia came to an end in September—but our cutting-edge approach to development will live on.
The Government of Mongolia recently announced an initiative that validates MCC’s model: It will integrate management and business practices from MCA-Mongolia into its National Reformation Committee (NRC) to help sustain compact projects, as well as develop and oversee the implementation of future development projects.
The Government of Mongolia recently decided to invest $1.5 billion to further develop such sectors as transportation, agriculture, land, natural resources, health, vocational education, energy, technology, and green development to spur economic growth. These national programs require forward-thinking design and implementation, and the Mongolian government recognized that our model is a good example of smart development programming. MCC emphasizes pro-investment policies, solution-led approaches and innovation.
Building upon MCC and MCA-Mongolia’s example, the government plans to base new development projects on sound economic logic, using the economic rates of return analysis championed by MCC, as well as implement transparent and competitive procurement processes. Mongolia is also adopting MCC guidelines for gender integration, environmental and social assessment and rigorous monitoring and evaluation of projects.
Moreover, Batbaatar Bayangerel, the MCA-Mongolia Acting Chief Executive Officer, accepted a leadership role within NRC and will help oversee its new approach to development.
This kind of influence often doesn’t receive as much attention as other facets of our relationship with partner countries, but it is just as important. By adopting MCC’s approach, countries position themselves to make their future development more beneficial to their citizens and to sustain the impact. And for MCC, it means one of our core principles—helping countries be the drivers of their own development—will continue to have an impact long after we leave.
Posted on February 4, 2014 by Valeria McFarren, former MCC senior communications officer
In 2012, I had the opportunity to visit Ms. Javshan and meet her family at their house in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Her grandson Esuhei followed his grandma everywhere. He was curious and fearless, helping herd cows and horses that are 10 times his size.
Javshan is an admirable woman who heads several herder groups in her community. As part of MCC’s five-year, $285 million compact, she received training on animal care and proper grazing. She proudly displayed all her learning materials and showed how she frequently refers to her books, in which she has highlighted the most important sections.
Previously, she had been grazing land and constantly moving, as herders usually do. However, given the number of herders that have moved closer to the city—part of a larger urbanization trend throughout the country in which pastoral traditions are intermingling with city living—MCC and the Government of Mongolia worked together to provide leases and training to help avoid overgrazing and maximize land efficiency. Her training allows her to properly graze the pastureland she leased from the local government, ultimately boosting her family's long-term economic potential.
I returned to Mongolia last September to help mark the closeout of the compact and was lucky to visit Javshan and Esuhei again. Javshan is happier than before; her cows and sheep are living longer and doing better through the very long and cold winter thanks to the MCC-funded training. Javshan and her family have the knowledge and tools to continue their herding lifestyle and create opportunities for a more prosperous future.
Esuhei, now 4, has four siblings and 15 cousins, and the older ones are attending school and learning English because of the extra income their grandmother is earning from new successes in agriculture and livestock. When I asked Esuhei what he wants to do when he grows up, he said, “I want to be a herder like my oldest brother—the one who has taught me how to ride a horse and herd animals and not like my other brother who can’t ride a horse well.”
When I asked if he wanted some candy that I was about to eat, he looked at me and said, “That rots your teeth,” and rejected my offer. He taught me a lesson.
Javshan and her family now have the knowledge and tools to continue their herding lifestyle—and, with the help of MCC, create opportunities for a better future.
Posted on January 28, 2014 by Dr. Ruhul Amin, Chief of Party, USAID-MCC Immunization Protects Children Project
It was a lovely, bright morning as I walked beside the broad, blue river that passes through the district town of Viqueque in Timor-Leste. Kids were heading to school in their colorful uniforms, shouting "Bondia!” (“Good morning!”) to me. It made me smile to see them going to school to make their lives and their young country better. At the same time, I worried about the many challenges they face in a country with one of the world’s poorest populations.
Timor-Leste is just 11 years old. Its health and development indicators, including immunization coverage, are among the worst in Asia. About 23 percent of 1-year-old children did not receive any immunizations, and the country has experienced several outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases in recent years. For example, more than 800 people contracted measles—and eight people died—during a nationwide outbreak in 2011.
As I walked to the district health center in Viqueque where the staff of the immunization project that I lead helps the Ministry of Health to improve immunization services, I wondered if the school kids in the group were fully immunized. Some of the diseases that we treat successfully through immunization in the United States can be deadly in Timor-Leste.
Timor-Leste’s $10.5 million Threshold Program focuses on anti-corruption initiatives and immunization. Under the $2.6 million immunization component, MCC is helping address the country’s low immunization rates by working with USAID and the Timorese Ministry of Health to increase coverage of the measles vaccine and the third dose of the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) vaccine. The project targets seven of the country's 13 districts, focusing on areas where more than 75 percent of under-immunized Timorese children under 5 years of age live.
The program provides technical assistance to the Ministry to improve the effectiveness, quality and accessibility of immunization services. This involves training staff, developing and applying new tools, providing staff and transport assistance, and coordinating community engagement activities, better reporting, mentoring, and supervision. Project implementers have been working hard to reach hard-to-reach communities by whatever means necessary—on foot, on horseback, by boat, and once by U.S. Navy helicopters.
In Timor-Leste, families often lack the basics, including proper nutrition, clean water and sanitation and fundamental health services. Delivering health services is one of the biggest challenges that the Ministry of Health faces. The average walking distance from a household to the nearest health facility is more than an hour, and during the wet season even short distances become impassable. Although health services from public health facilities are free, parents still lose a day’s wages on transport costs. Most parents follow traditional beliefs and practices and do not seek care from a health facility except for the most serious problems.
The immunization program has already produced some impressive results. DPT3 coverage in Baucau, the country’s second largest city, increased from 74 percent when the program began in January 2011 to 100 percent by June 2013.
The program’s success goes beyond Baucau. The Ministry of Health reports a significant increase in immunization coverage in Timor-Leste. DTP3 coverage nationwide increased from 67 percent in 2011 to 78 percent in 2013. The districts that are the focus of the MCC-funded program saw immunization coverage reach 84 percent.
Challenges remain in providing adequate immunization coverage throughout the country. Essential drugs and immunizations are sometimes out of stock. Deliveries of fuel for cold-chain refrigerators are delayed. Vehicles sometimes don't have enough fuel to travel to remote communities. But the Government of Timor-Leste has been working diligently to overcome these obstacles, and I'm happy that I am part of the effort to provide all Timorese a healthier future.
Posted on January 10, 2014 by Jennifer Lappin, former Moldova deputy resident country director, and Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture
(This is the first post of an ongoing series focusing 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 revive an agricultural sector that is still trying to function as part of a decades-old collapsed system? MCC is trying to do just that in Moldova, a country once dubbed the “orchard of the Soviet Union.”
Following the fall of communism, Moldova’s vast orchards and vineyards were privatized into thousands of tiny plots. The centralized irrigation systems soon failed, and farmers transitioned to low-value rain-fed grain crops. The farmers who continue to grow fruits and vegetables often ship them unsorted, in bulk and in open trucks to the low-quality Russian wholesale markets—the same way they’ve been doing for decades.
These practices ultimately lead to lower prices for Moldovan farmers, who are struggling to compete in regional markets against firms from neighboring countries that employ improved practices and offer higher-quality products.
To tackle this problem, MCC and USAID partnered on a jointly-funded five-year program to target specific weak links in agricultural value chains. For example, programs trained growers of high-value crops in quality-improving practices, helped Moldovan sanitary/phytosanitary control offices more efficiently certify produce destined for export, linked exporters with buyers through international trade fairs, and developed a national brand for Moldovan produce.
Moldova is the poorest country in Europe; its five-year, $262 million compact invests irrigation reconstruction, access to agricultural finance, and the rehabilitation of an integral section of the country’s national road network—all with the aim of allowing Moldova to become more regionally competitive.
The challenge is bringing an outdated sector up to speed fast enough to recapture some of the market share Moldova lost in recent years to Poland and other regional neighbors. While there’s a risk that Moldova’s prominence in European markets can never be regained, Moldovans believe differently and are leveraging their MCC partnership to give their little country—with its rich soil, perched between eastern Europe and the European Union—the nudge it needs to climb back onto the world fruit and vegetable stage.
Tell us what you think! What else can we do to expedite the transition to higher-value, export-quality fruits and vegetables among Moldovan farmers?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on December 30, 2013 by Piper Anne Wind Campbell, U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia
At the opening ceremony near the town of Ayrag in Dornogobi province on September 5, the American and Mongolian governments celebrated a major milestone—the successful completion of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s North-South Road Project connecting the cities of Choir and Sainshand.
Building on the success of the MCC project, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) completed a separate road project between Sainshand and Zamyn-Uud on November 20. For the first time in history, these developments allow Mongolians to easily travel across their country on an all-weather paved road, connecting them to their two neighbors, Russia and China.
MCC’s North-South Road Project—funded by the U.S. Government and implemented by Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia (MCA-Mongolia)—constructed 174 kilometers of road to reach key national and regional markets. Two link roads were also built to connect thousands of Mongolians to the main corridor, and the project provided road maintenance equipment to the Ministry of Roads and Transportation for the sustainable upkeep of the newly built road.
I’m proud of this project because it finished on schedule and will ultimately benefit more than 150,000 Mongolians. It is also an example of strong partnership and coordination: MCC and MCA-Mongolia collaborated with the ADB to assess road maintenance needs and received initial designs for the Choir-Sainshand road from the ADB.
In fact, I’m proud of all the good work produced during MCC’s five-year, $285 million compact, which I’ve seen unfold firsthand during my 1½ years as the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia. I've spoken with herders and urban beneficiaries who are receiving land titles for the first time, met students who intend to use their MCC-funded vocational education to find better-paying jobs and toured the newly equipped Cardiac and Stroke Intensive Care and Diagnostic Unit at Shastin Hospital in the capital, Ulaanbaatar.
The completion of the North-South Road Project is particularly impressive given the limited construction timeline. Implementation began halfway through the five-year Mongolia Compact, following a major restructuring. Adding to these challenges, the initial construction contractor experienced financial insolvency at a time when there were only two construction seasons remaining in the compact’s terms.
Mongolia’s harsh winters mean construction can only occur from April through September, and MCA-Mongolia worked diligently to keep the subcontractors from the initial contractor working to avoid losing a valuable construction season. After rebidding the contract, the two new contractors worked long hours to get work done on time, while adhering to the strict environmental and social standards set by MCC and MCA-Mongolia.
The road is also a remarkable achievement because it reflects high quality standards. Many Mongolians view the road as the best ever built in their country because of its international-standard quality and technical specifications. In its funding, design and construction, the North-South Road Project is an example of what international efforts and cooperation among various donors and contractors can achieve.
In all these ways, the road is more than pavement. It is a corridor to the new opportunities of economic development and growth. And, it will long be a symbol of a Mongolia on the rise and a testament to the power of partnerships to reduce poverty and replace it with prosperity.
Posted on November 18, 2013 by Matt Bohn, Philippines Resident Country Director
On November 8, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the Philippines and devastated several areas, including Leyte and Samar, where MCC is funding projects through its $434 million compact.
I joined a team from the U.S. Embassy that flew to the city of Tacloban last week to assess the scale of the damage and see where we could help. As we surveyed the area around the airport, I was able to see firsthand the true scale of the devastation wrought by one of the most powerful storms on record.
The devastation was unimaginable and heartbreaking. Many villages in Eastern Visayas—particularly along the coast—have been flattened, resulting in staggering losses of human life and possessions. Cities and villages in Leyte and Samar were unprepared for winds that reached more than 150 mph and a 10-15-foot storm surge that leveled homes and buildings where the local population sought refuge.
It is truly a shocking tragedy with profound human impact. However, in the depth of this human tragedy, the goodness and resilience of the Filipino people, the Philippine government, the U.S. Government, and the international community are rising above it all. I am in awe as I witness the rapid and large-scale international relief effort underway with the U.S. Government and U.S. military playing lead roles in coordinating and delivering relief supplies, medical assistance and basic services to affected communities.
I’m also grateful that MCC-funded contractors were able to join the relief effort by quickly clearing an important 222-kilometer road segment in Samar, currently under construction through our compact, so relief supplies can get through to remote villages in some of the hardest-hit areas. I also was heartened to learn that some of the MCC-funded Kalahi-CIDDS schools and day-care centers were used as shelters to protect individuals and families during the storm.
MCC’s compact with the Philippines will now take on even greater significance in the affected areas, particularly in Leyte and Samar. MCC-funded infrastructure such as roads, schools, day-care centers, health stations, and water systems will contribute to the long-term reconstruction and prosperity of the region.
The humanitarian response of the United States provides a beacon of good news amid the fog of wreckage. And while the damage left by Haiyan is difficult to describe, my MCA-Philippines colleague Andy Saracho said it best: “We are wounded. We are down. But as a nation, we will rise again.”
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 July 27, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
I joined Georgians last week in Tbilisi to mark another milestone in their economic development: the signing of a second MCC compact with Georgia that will invest in the education of the next generation. Government leaders, civil society, the private sector, teachers, and parents attended the signing at the Parliament National Library and demonstrated their clear commitment to the compact’s objective of educating Georgians in the science, technology, engineering, and math skills they need to compete and succeed in a modern economy. I share Ambassador Richard Norland’s sentiments that the compact is further proof of the strong and close ties of cooperation between the United States and Georgia.
Before the signing, I met with the Prime Minister, who serves as the chair of the MCA-Georgia board, and we discussed the exciting opportunities the compact brings to Georgia. I also met with other government representatives and business leaders who see the compact as a way to enhance the quality and competitiveness of human capital in Georgia. They all welcome the compact’s projects as ways to better link the skills demanded by the private sector with what the Georgian workforce can offer. This will generate greater private sector activity in Georgia, which ultimately creates jobs, fuels growth and makes the country a stronger trading, investment and business partner at home, in the region and beyond.
MCC’s investment to educate Georgia’s workforce promises to deliver a number of positive effects that will boost earning potential and productivity. Progress like this will replace development dollars with private sector-led growth in Georgia and open new opportunities for Georgian students. MCC is proud to partner with Georgia toward this more hopeful and prosperous future.
Posted on July 25, 2013 by Tsolmon Begzsuren, MCA Gender Specialists, and Jozefina Cutura, MCC Gender Specialists
As Mongolia enters the final year of its $285 million MCC compact, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia is eager to emphasize and reinforce its commitment to gender equality.
In March, MCA-Mongolia launched the Women’s Leadership in the Economy campaign to inspire and motivate women to achieve and fulfill their leadership potential. Mongolian women are underrepresented in business and government leadership roles despite their strong participation in the labor force. They are also less likely to choose careers such as construction or mining, where job growth prospects are better and pay is higher in Mongolia.
Through this campaign, our goal was to encourage women to pursue leadership roles and to inspire young girls to enter non-traditional careers.
The campaign showcases exemplary work demonstrated by six role models — one from each compact project. There are women who have succeeded in trades in which the workforce has been traditionally male, including road construction, engineering and leading a herder group. One role model, for example, organized a group of neighborhood women into a cooperative and helped them obtain land titles through the project. They’ve used their new titles as collateral to obtain housing loans, build houses and traditional dwellings known as gers and grow vegetables for food production and income generation.
MCA-Mongolia held a public event in Ulaanbaatar on June 20 with stakeholders and civil society representatives to honor these role models. The women spoke about the challenges they’ve faced, while encouraging girls and young women to enter more self-reliant career paths. The event also held an essay and photo competition around the theme “gender equality through my eyes,” which helped draw attention to the gender-related issues in Mongolia.
Both MCC and MCA-Mongolia believe gender inequality can be a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, and together we are committed to ensuring that compact projects consider gender issues throughout design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. As the compact enters its final months, we look forward to supporting this objective in the final months of the compact.
Posted on June 18, 2013 by Morton H. Halperin, Member of MCC’s Board of Directors
As a new MCC Board member, I was excited at the possibility of visiting MCC projects in Mongolia. One of our fiduciary responsibilities as board members is to ensure that MCC’s investments are a wise use of U.S. tax dollars. What I saw in Mongolia is encouraging evidence that MCC’s investments are making an effective difference.
MCC’s partnership with Mongolia focuses on five key areas: securing land titles and sustainably managing rangelands in peri-urban areas; expanding vocational and technical training; improving health; promoting clean, renewable energy; and rehabilitating a critical north-south road that will increase economic activity throughout Mongolia.
I saw progress in all of these areas. For example, I visited a family in Chingeltei in their traditional house, or ger. The family owns an energy efficient stove subsidized by the compact’s Energy and Environment Project, which is helping nearly 100,000 families in Ulaanbaatar. I also handed out land ownership certificates to beneficiaries from five different districts as part of the Property Rights Project. I heard from Ambassador Piper Campbell about the importance of the 176.4 kilometer Road Project that will give Mongolia its first fully paved road connecting the country’s north and south. And, I also learned about non-communicable diseases, an issue of increasing attention around the world, through a visit to a family clinic in Sukhbaatar. Thanks to MCC’s investment, Mongolians are changing their behaviors to prevent non-communicable diseases and injuries such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is improving their productive years in the labor force.
When the $285 million compact partnership is completed this September, Mongolia will be in a better position to generate greater private sector activity, which is the engine of long-term growth, through improved infrastructure and a healthier, more productive workforce ready to meet the skills demanded by private industry.
Seeing these projects clarified and reinforced that our tax dollars are improving the lives of Mongolians. The results are real; I saw them with my own eyes. And Mongolians themselves are taking the necessary steps to maintain these efforts well beyond the life of MCC’s compact. This strong commitment to sustainability gives me even more reason to believe in a prosperous and healthy future for Mongolians.
My work, on behalf of the Open Society Foundations, has focused on improving human rights and strengthening democracy, and I am encouraged by MCC’s work in Mongolia. With a commitment to democratic governance, sustainability, gender equality, and improving access to economic opportunities and health care, the MCC compact is working to reduce poverty though economic growth, help move Mongolia down the path toward self-sufficiency and deepen its democracy.
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 March 21, 2013 by Alex Russin, Resident Country Director, Jordan
How does the Millennium Challenge Corporation more than double the value of its investment while helping to ensure years of sustainability? Work closely with government and the private sector through innovative financing as showcased with the successful 2012 build-operate-transfer (BOT) financing deal for expanding the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant in Jordan.
But don’t take my word on this. Last month, MCC and its partners were recognized with an award for innovative financing from the Water and Energy Exchange (WEX), a specialist international water conference for companies that provide products and services in water and energy.
The description of the award-winning project states in part that, “The As-Samra expansion would not have happened without the MCC grant…This BOT transaction is the first project financing of 2012 to have closed in Jordan. It is also the first major project financing in which MCC has ever taken part anywhere in the world. MCC clearly intends to implement this model in other countries.”
The $223 million As-Samra expansion and refinancing is comprised of $93 million in grant funding from MCC, $20 million from the Government of Jordan and $110 million from private debt and equity sources. The As-Samra expansion will improve Jordan’s environmental conditions by increasing the country’s capacity to treat growing volumes of wastewater from the Amman and Zarqa governorates. The facility will be operated by a private company and will provide much needed, high-quality treated water for agricultural production equivalent to more than 10 percent of Jordan’s total water resources.
Working in conjunction with the private sector to finance environmentally-friendly and sustainable investments, such as the As-Samra expansion, is precisely the kind of economic growth impact MCC wants to deliver.
Posted on February 14, 2013 by Tim Clary , Director, Division of Technical Services
For decades, most international health projects have focused on addressing communicable diseases that were major causes of morbidity and mortality in developing countries.
But now, many countries are facing a double burden as non-communicable diseases and injuries (NCDIs) have become more prevalent. More than five years ago, when the Government of Mongolia chose to focus on NCDIs as part of its MCC compact, it probably did not foresee that it would become a leader in providing lessons for other countries seeking to address NCDI issues.
The compact’s $39 million Health Project, geographically covers the entire country and 95 percent of the Mongolian population. It addresses the issue of NCDIs through a multi-pronged approach and on several different technical levels.
Last month, I visited Clinical Hospital No. 3 in Ulaanbaatar, where compact funds will be used to refurbish and provide equipment to help the hospital become the nation’s primary center for diagnosing, caring for and treating Mongolians suffering from strokes and acute myocardial infarctions. In Khentii aimag, I visited hospitals that typically provide primary care services and that now provide both secondary and tertiary health care, such as diagnosing cervical cancer and providing ongoing treatment for diabetes and hypertension. At both levels, health care providers have received extensive training on NCDIs, ranging from emergency care to counseling patients on healthy lifestyles and behaviors. This helps the community by preventing diseases which will help them live longer and healthier lives.
Compact funds have also been used to sponsor a small grants program in the community so NGOs, private clinics and non-health organizations (such as elementary and secondary schools) can receive funding for innovative ideas to support the reduction in NCDIs.
Fundamental to the support for health care workers and their patients have been policy changes within the public and private sectors. Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia has worked with the Government of Mongolia to revise tobacco and alcohol laws, as well as establishing a health promotion fund to address NCDIs.
Within the private sector, MCA-Mongolia has worked with organizations such as Talkh-Chikher bakery to reduce the salt content within its Atar bread, Mongolia’s leading brand of bread.
The main lesson from my site visit to the Talkh-Chikher bakery in Ulaanbaatar is that advocacy is bringing change.
Posted on December 12, 2012 by Courtney Engelke , Director
Many people in the United States and Mongolia refer to Mongolia’s Energy and Environment Project as “the stoves program.” While it is true that the project has successfully supported consumer purchases of more than 90,000 stoves in Ulaanbaatar, did you know that it also supported the purchase of nearly 25,000 other energy-efficient appliances like insulation, vestibules and energy efficient homes? Did you know that the project also supported small grants for greening and air quality research and the replacement of 15 heat only boilers at 10 student and residential sites throughout the city, representing more than 8 megawatts of heating capacity? And did you know that approximately $6.6 million of the project budget is dedicated to infrastructure and other support for the 50-megawatt wind farm now under construction at Salkhit Mountain?
The project recognized early on that it would not be able to resolve the capital city’s air pollution problem by itself, so we planned to make additional contributions beyond stoves in an effort to demonstrate what works. The Energy and Environment Project intends to provide a short term “bridge” to longer term solutions, such as developing a commercial market for energy efficient products, which we hope might be brought about through the application and enforcement of standards, certification and labeling policies, competition, and affordable finance, and providing more permanent housing and municipal infrastructure.
On my most recent visit to Mongolia, I confirmed that 15 heat only boilers were replaced with more efficient technologies and wet scrubbers to control particulate emissions. I also visited the expanded and upgraded Nalaikh substation, and confirmed the installation of a fiber optic cable that links that substation to the National Dispatching Center control system. I was also pleased to see the first three of 31 General Electric turbines installed at the very windy Salkhit site—a major step toward making the planned wind farm a reality.
The Energy and Environment Project will connect the wind farm to the national grid and train electrical dispatchers to manage variable power with the help of a dispatch training simulator. These achievements would have been impossible without the concerted cooperation of MCA-Mongolia, its consultants, contractors, the Ulaanbaatar government, the national grid company, the national dispatching center, and Clean Energy LLC, the sponsor of the Salkhit wind farm.
Each time I visit Mongolia, I increasingly see the positive impact that stoves are having on air quality and the daily lives of Ulaanbaatar’s poor. What I had not seen until this trip was the project’s larger-scale emissions control initiatives, such as the replacement of the boilers and progress toward the displacement of approximately 50 megawatts of thermal generation that will result from the Salkhit wind farm. As our experience has shown, controlling emissions at the household level in the ger districts is an incredible challenge. Single source solutions represented by heat-only boilers and the Salkhit wind farm demonstrate opportunities to control and reduce air pollution at greater scale, which we hope will help Mongolia more rapidly achieve and sustain its air quality goals.
Posted on September 11, 2012 by D. Chuluuntsetseg, MCA-Mongolia, and Ch. Tserenkhand, The Asia Foundation
Last year, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia and The Asia Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding that brings the latest medical and technical information to Mongolia’s future doctors, engineers, computer programmers, and other skilled workers.
Under the agreement, the foundation’s Books for Asia program delivered 10,000 new technical, vocational and medical books, CDs and DVDs to students and health centers benefitting from MCC's five-year, $285 million compact with Mongolia.
Many publishers generously contributed to the initiative, including McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, Oxford University Press, W.W. Norton & Company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Books of Discovery, and Island Press.
Highly motivated teachers and students put the books to practical use. Ms. Dorjderem, an assistant teacher of English at the School of Health Technology, currently uses Hole's Essentials of Human Anatomy and Physiology-Laboratory Manual to prepare class lectures. She also uses Medical Language for Modern Health Care in her classes to improve her students’ medical English proficiency.
Dorjderem also established the school’s first English reading club, using donated books. The club has become a popular place among teachers, students and nurses to improve their English, teaching and learning skills.
One student, B. Banzragch, significantly improved his English skills and was able to enroll in a course at a Japanese university.
“The books from America helped me a lot in gaining knowledge and language skills to achieve my goals,” he said. “These books are really wonderful in terms of giving systemic knowledge and are well-designed and very user-friendly.”
As the legendary Mongolian poet, D. Natsagdorj said, “books are windows to the world.”
Posted on August 20, 2012 by B. Tsolmon and L. Gerelmaa, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia
Severe winter air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has become a major concern for the city’s 1.3 million residents, which is nearly half the country’s total population. A majority of Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution comes from districts populated with gers, traditional Mongolian houses where lower-income households live.
Women head many of these ger households. They rely on burning raw coal in inefficient stoves to heat the poorly insulated gers—a primary source of the city's air pollution, which fuels environmental and health risks and causes economic impacts. To address this concern, a facility was established within the scope of the compact's Energy and Environment Project to fund financial incentives and technical assistance for adopting cleaner, more efficient technologies for use in heating the gers.
The project’s particular and positive impact on gender issues recently gained international attention with the July 2012 visit of Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, as part of a women’s empowerment conference held in Mongolia.
Ambassador Verveer paid a visit to Norovkhand and her family in the Bayanzurkh district outside Ulaanbaatar. Norovkhand obtained a subsidized energy efficient stove through MCA-Mongolia, the local entity managing compact implementation. Norovkhand, a single mother of three and a grandmother of one, shared her experiences on how much coal she has saved in using her new stove, compared with the traditional stove she used previously.
Most importantly, the energy-efficient stove, she said, simplifies routine housework since it requires less fueling, generates less ash and is easy to clean.
“It is very affordable and accessible especially for female-headed households like us, given the subsidies provided by the project,” she said.
Norovkhand’s family is also among potential beneficiaries of the hashaa (yard) plot privatization and registration activity under the compact’s Property Rights Project. With their land formally registered, Norovkhand’s family and many others will have an opportunity to access bank credit, enabling them to make more productive use of their plots.
MCA-Mongolia is tracking the longer-term impacts of increased asset ownership through its monitoring and evaluation work, which also includes a complementary qualitative survey on how increasing asset ownership among women impacts household dynamics.
To track the difference the compact is making for Mongolians at both household and national levels, a number of gender-responsive actions are underway across the program to ensure that women and men benefit equitably from the compact, which is key for sustainable development and economic growth of benefit for all.
Posted on July 17, 2012 by B. Tsolmon, MCA gender specialist and focal point, and L. Gerelmaa, MCA gender specialist and focal point
MCA-Mongolia’s commitment to gender integration in its compact has received praise on both sides of the Pacific.
We represented MCA-Mongolia at the inaugural MCC Forum on Global Development in April for receiving the Country Commitment Award. To commemorate this achievement, the Mongolian prime minister hosted a high-profile event in May to celebrate the accomplishment in our country as well.
“We can now witness a tangible impact on the lives of thousands of Mongolians as a result of the compact,” Prime Minister Sükhbaataryn Batbold said at the event at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.
Not only are stakeholders in the U.S. now aware of the positive strides we’ve made with gender integration, but also ministers, cabinet members, and members of the public and press who attended the event in Ulanbaataar.
A compact beneficiary, Javzan T., shared her experiences and expressed her gratitude to MCC and MCA-Mongolia. Javzan T. is a single mother of eight who benefitted from the compact’s Property Rights Project by having exclusive rights to lease more than 600 hectares of rangeland.
“It is a great opportunity for us to develop our livestock business,” she said. “I would like to express my appreciation to the American people, who have stretched their helping hands to us from such a far place.”
We are very proud to champion the integration of gender considerations across a wide range of operational areas in the Mongolia Compact, including program implementation, communications and monitoring and evaluation. We conducted gender trainings with our program implementation units and contractors and established points of contact on gender issues in each unit. These measures are being reflected in more equitable benefits and have resulted in greater land ownership among women, herder training tailored to both women’s and men’s needs, and health interventions that are mindful of women’s and men’s needs in our communities.
Posted on June 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
I am in Jordan, one of the world's driest countries, where severe water scarcity impacts every aspect of daily life.
I met with Fatima Ali, a widow, whose entire income is spent on rent. The water pipes to Fatima's home leak and the wastewater pipes overflow regularly. When water does flow in, Fatima uses old paint cans to store it because she does not have proper water storage containers. Fatima's neighbor, Sulaiman Ali (no relation to Fatima), has similar challenges. The diabetic father of three lacks proper water storage capabilities, and the inconsistent water supply makes operating his dialysis equipment extremely difficult.
MCC's $275 million compact with the Government of Jordan is designed to address some of these challenges.
Through the repair and replacement of broken or leaking pipes and the installation of proper water storage tanks, MCC will increase water availability and quality in poor neighborhoods like the one where Fatima and Sulaiman live. MCC's grant will also extend modern sewers to urban neighborhoods, improving wastewater collection and decommissioning the use of cesspits.
Today, I presided over the signing of a critical private sector agreement, a major step toward expanding the As Samra wastewater treatment plant. Originally built with help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the As Samra wastewater treatment plant, once completed, will be one of the largest in the region. Approximately half of the financing for this expansion is being provided through private sector partners, proving once again that when governments create the right atmosphere for investment, the private sector will respond.
Together, these activities will benefit approximately 3 million Jordanians. For Fatima and Sulaiman, it means a better quality of life. For MCC, it means economic growth and development for a critical partner country in the Middle East. Truly, when water flows, prosperity follows.
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 November 22, 2011 by Robert Reid, Mongolia Resident Country Director
Earlier this month, seven technical and vocational schools in Mongolia received donations of more than $1.7 million in heavy equipment from the Department of Defense. In return, the students will be trained on usage, maintenance and repair to better prepare them to find jobs. This was the first time Mongolia has received equipment through the program.
MCC’s five-year compact with Mongolia includes $47 million to improve the country’s vocational education system. To leverage these investments, MCA-Mongolia signed a memorandum of understanding in March with the U.S. Department of Defense Excess Property Program, which allows for the donation of non-lethal, excess property to countries that contribute to the U.S. Government’s efforts to promote democratic development and regional stability.
The schools, which often cannot afford to purchase expensive machinery, received 18 pieces of donated machinery frequently used in the mining, road, construction, and agriculture industries.
Donated items include cranes, graders, tractors and scoop loaders. Hands-on training will better prepare students to find jobs after school.
MCC is helping improve Mongolia’s technical and vocational education system through policy reforms, professional development for instructors, the establishment of a labor market information system, and the provision of essential equipment. An estimated 170,000 people are expected to benefit from the project over the next 20 years.
Posted on August 18, 2011 by Bruce Kay, Director of Threshold Programs for Europe, Asia, the Pacific, and Latin America
MCC completed its first $13.85 million Threshold Program in Albania in 2008. As a result of the success of the program, MCC approved a $15.7 million Stage II Threshold Program, building upon the accomplishments of the first.
The Stage II Threshold Program in Albania ended last month. The results of the Threshold Program in Albania should be a source of pride for all who worked to make it a success.
Already we can see a number of remarkable achievements that have modernized government operations, cut down on red tape for businesses and entrepreneurs, and strengthened governance and the rule of law in Albania.
Our partners at USAID, the agency administering the program on MCC’s behalf, recently released a series of web videos that highlight some of the successes of the Stage I and Stage II Threshold Programs. The videos, in Albanian with English subtitles, focus on the establishment of an e-governance system, improvements to tax administration, the new business licensing and registration centers, and engagement with civil society.
These videos reflect Albania’s tremendous progress. Thanks to MCC support under the Threshold Program, Albania now has an integrated e-governance system serving to make public administration more efficient and less susceptible to corruption.
The system’s main features include:
- A United Nations award-winning e-procurement system, which has expanded competition and reduced costs, and is now used for all government purchases over $4,000 in value;
- A tax e-filing and e-payment system now used by two-thirds of all taxpayers, which has increased the public revenue while slashing corruption opportunities;
- A one-stop-shop business registration system, which has decreased economic informality and, according to the World Bank/IFC’s Doing Business magazine (2009, 2010), improved Albania’s business climate by more than 70 places in the global ranking;
- A single-window licensing system now used by most Albanian professionals and businesses to obtain their licenses; and
- functioning joint investigative units that are now investigating and prosecuting dozens of organized crime and corruption cases, including one case involving a former deputy Prime Minister.
The Stage II Threshold Program also developed a National Planning Registry, used now to manage and track building permit applications in five cities. It bolstered civic watchdog groups and helped them hold the Government of Albania accountable for maintaining the reforms ushered in by the Threshold Program.
It also created a myriad of now-functioning institutions that protect the interests of businesses and citizens alike, including a National Registration Center and branch offices in most cities, a National Licensing Center with branch offices, a Public Procurement Advocate, and a Taxpayers Advocate.
When Albania launched its initial Threshold Program in 2006, it was classified by the World Bank as a low-income country. In a sign of progress, the country jumped to the upper middle-income category in 2010.
Albania’s income status now precludes the country from being a candidate for MCC assistance, but MCC recognizes the tremendous progress made through the two Threshold Programs implemented in Albania.
As noted above, USAID administered the program on MCC’s behalf, with further assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice. USAID/Albania and the Government of Albania were critical partners, and the Department of Justice OPDAT program deserves kudos for its work bolstering law enforcement mechanisms, now used with great effect.
For more information on Albania’s initial and Stage II Threshold Programs, visit MCC’s Albania page.
Posted on April 22, 2011 by Frances Reid, Senior Investment and Risk Officer
It was a great personal pleasure to participate in the closing ceremonies marking the end of the Compact in Vanuatu, and the completion of the Santo East Coast Road and Efate Ring Road rehabilitation. Vanuatu was one of the first countries selected to receive MCC funding, and it remains the only Pacific island nation to have entered into a compact with MCC. I’ve been extremely impressed with the serious efforts made by the government and the commitment of the people of Vanuatu over the last five years, not only to carry out the requirements of the Compact, but also, and in the long run more importantly, to strive to meet the rigorous policy reform eligibility criteria which MCC considers the key to the sustainability of development. Vanuatu has truly emerged as a model of democracy and commitment to good policy, and as a regional anchor of stability.
In a country which had only 73 kilometers of paved roads before project inception, the Compact has nearly tripled this number to a grand total of over 220 kilometers of paved roads! The rehabilitation of these two national roads, the most important roads in the country and affectionately renamed the Goodwill Highway and the Road of Life, is already improving access to market and providing critical access to social services in the two most critical economic development corridors in Vanuatu.
This project has been the highest priority for everyone involved and it has already made national history. From the precedent of community consultations and community engagement through the commitment to building infrastructure in a culturally respectful way to capacity building at both MCA-Vanuatu and the Engineering Support Unit and Government commitment to good policies for economic growth, this has been a demonstration of country ownership, dedication, and partnership. MCC takes pride in having been part of this effort to lay a foundation for sound, sustainable, country-led economic growth.
The Compact is also a testament to good donor cooperation. New Zealand, in particular, as well as Australia, through their development assistance programs, contributed in critical ways to the completion of the Compact program. Their willingness to work with MCC and the Government of Vanuatu to achieve a common purpose is an excellent example of how donor cooperation is supposed to work.
Posted on January 25, 2011 by Courtney Engelke , Director, and Burak Inanc, Deputy Resident Country Director Mongolia
Wintertime air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is among the worst in the world. In Ulaanbaatar, the coldest capital city in the world, coal-fired heating and cooking stoves in traditional “ger” (or circular felt) dwellings emit a toxic brew of pollution. While Mongolia is becoming an increasingly attractive investment and tourist destination, businesspeople and tourists generally steer clear of the capital city during winter months, in part because of the pervasive air pollution. Unfortunately, the over 600,000 residents living in Ulaanbaatar’s “ger districts” don’t have that option.
MCA-Mongolia’s Energy and Environment Project (EEP) aims to reduce air pollution by providing financial incentives to encourage residents to become more energy efficient and use lower-emission heating devices and stoves. In December, the EEP launched an Affordable Energy Efficiency Home Design Contest to spur innovation in modern housing.
The EEP also hosted an International Energy Efficiency Exhibition to introduce energy-efficient products to consumers. This exhibition, the second held since the project’s inception, included nearly 50 domestic and international suppliers from the United States, Korea, and Turkey, among other nations. The event also served to increase the pipeline of innovative and appropriate products that are being considered for financial support by the EEP.
The EEP Project Director, the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy, and the City Government’s Air Quality Office opened the exhibition with impassioned remarks about the importance of clean energy to the health and well-being of city residents. A group of popular Mongolian rock singers then performed an original “clean air” song, penned for the occasion, to fervent applause. Suppliers enthusiastically exhibited energy-efficient home products, energy-efficient building materials, ger home insulation, electric heaters, liquefied petroleum gas heaters, pellet heaters, and air filtration systems to consumers who were eager to listen and learn. Compelling photos documenting the impact of air pollution from a student competition were on display, and awards were announced for the photos and a related essay contest.
Perhaps most inspiring, however, was the strength of the public and private-sector collaboration to find affordable solutions to this serious public health problem. The wide variety of products and ideas on display was encouraging—the prospects for sustainable market-based solutions appear to be growing by the day.
The Energy and Environment Project has added some of the products showcased in the exhibition to its analytical pipeline, and some of the producers have now organized to advocate for energy efficiency. At the same time, MCC is working hard to support MCA-Mongolia in its efforts—and we can’t seem to stop humming that Mongolian “clean air” song.
Posted on December 17, 2010 by Jim McNicholas, Resident Country Director, Georgia
On November 29, 2010, Millennium Challenge Georgia (MCG) hosted a closing ceremony and exhibition for its agribusiness development program. To celebrate this milestone, 60 of the program’s 283 agribusiness projects showcased their products at an Agri-Food Expo, with Georgian government officials as well as bankers and supermarket chains in attendance.
Since 2006, MCG and its implementing partner, CNFA, a U.S. non-profit, have co-financed 182 primary producers, 43 businesses projects that provide services to farmers, and 58 businesses that enable value-added and value-chain production. MCG has invested $15.9 million in this program and, according to CNFA, Georgian citizens have invested $20 million more. As of early autumn 2010, MCG reported that 2,613 jobs had been created as a result of agribusiness development program activities.
At the Agri-Food Expo, Mamuka Tskioridze and Malkhaz Gabunia displayed their orange persimmons neatly packed in wooden boxes, alongside fresh salad greens and herbs. With their company’s 1:1 matching investment and MCG’s $149,000 co-financing, these entrepreneurs have expanded their greens export business both in terms of volume and the types of products being offered to Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine. “In the past, every product we bought from farmers we had to pack and ship that day because if not we would lose the product,” said Mr. Tskioridze. “With the cold storage warehouse [which was also co-financed by MCG] we now have time to collect more products from our farmers and export using fewer trips.”
One of the most successful projects to emerge from MCG’s agribusiness program was the establishment of 33 for-profit, privately owned, Farm Service Centers throughout Georgia. Before the centers were opened, farmers had to get their supplies from stalls in various local markets. These decentralized transactions made it difficult for farmers and their suppliers to build relationships and communicate with each other. Now, one-stop Farm Service Centers have been established in every region in Georgia and have generated 100,000 transactions. In addition to serving as a commercial exchange, the centers also provide opportunities for the exchange of information — knowledge warehouses where the Ministry of Agriculture, various Community Based Organizations, and individual farmers can showcase new farming techniques and relay important announcements.
Georgia’s Prime Minister, Nika Gilauri, closed the Agri-Food Expo by noting several program results, “More than 2,600 jobs have been created and these jobs are not just short-term jobs; they have long-term perspectives and provide long term opportunities… Millennium Challenge Georgia proved that investments can be made in this sector and be successful.”
Posted on November 4, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Late last month, I surveyed progress in two MCC partner countries: Moldova, which is just beginning the implementation of its compact, and Georgia, which is on track to bring its compact to a successful close in the next six months.
In Moldova, I was impressed with the farmers I met in Slobozia-Dusca, a village not far from the capital of Chisinau. These farmers will benefit from MCC-funded irrigation projects and are already talking about the impact a centralized irrigation system will have on their livelihoods, as it will lower operating costs and allow them to diversify into high-value crop production and increase their yields. I was particularly moved by my conversation with Iurie Stahi. He told me he was grateful for America’s assistance from the bottom of his heart, and he explained that, as a result of MCC’s planned investments in the agriculture sector, he intends to plant apple orchards and sell his apples during the winter when they command a higher price, as well as during the summer and autumn seasons. I’m looking forward to following Iurie’s progress as the Moldova compact ramps up implementation.
In Georgia, I was deeply impressed with the transformative power of a road. I traveled the Samtske-Javakheti road, which Georgia is rehabilitating with MCC compact funds, from Tbilisi to where it nears Georgia’s border with Turkey and Armenia. What I saw and whom I met along the way showed me exactly how paving a reliable road is essential for generating economic opportunities.
I first witnessed this when I met Valodia Mestvirishvili at his trout farm in Algeti, just off the Samtske-Javakheti road. The agricultural development activity of Georgia’s compact supplied hatchery equipment, oxygen tanks, a transportation vehicle, and veterinary supplies to his farm to raise the trout, and the road rehabilitation funded by the compact provides him much-needed access to markets to sell his product to Georgian retailers and consumers. Valodia shared with me that his annual trout yield has skyrocketed from 5 to 12 tons. I am proud of the fact that MCC funding has provided this hardworking entrepreneur the tools he needs to succeed.
My road trip took me past Georgia’s Lake Sagamo, a place of serene natural beauty. Against a mountainous backdrop, as the sun was setting and the moon was rising, I planted trees along the Samtske-Javakheti road. These trees are critical; they provide proper landscaping and better wind protection and they help advance the sustainability of the MCC-funded road. Tree planting also reaffirms that sound environmental stewardship protecting natural resources goes hand-in-hand with economic development.
I was particularly pleased to see that MCC’s funding of the Samtske-Javakheti road has enhanced the Georgian people’s accessibility of Vardzia. Vardzia is home to a cave monastery, an unforgettable historic treasure of great cultural and religious significance dating back to the 12th century. I learned that, for too long, this part of Georgia was lost to outsiders; the trip to reach Vardzia was treacherous and the roads were literally impassible in some sections. Buses risked overturning on the dangerously unpaved roads. Now, the rehabilitated Samtske-Javakheti road is reconnecting Georgians with Vardzia and their heritage, and opening up this area to tourists. Boosting tourism in this otherwise underdeveloped area is generating economic development and growth vital to the prosperity of Georgians.
The MCC-funded Samtske-Javakheti road also nears Georgia’s border with Armenia and Turkey in the town of Akhalkalaki. This once quiet outpost is now bustling with activity, which will increase as a bridge, currently under construction, is completed. New shops are already opening, and the prospects for increased trade and commerce create further opportunities for Georgians to prosper.
In all these ways, Georgia proves that the MCC model is working well. Our partnership is creating conditions for sustainable economic growth that are increasing incomes. As the compact moves toward completion, I am looking forward to the independent evaluations that will assess the impact of our investment. True to President Obama’s new vision for U.S. global development, what I saw in both Georgia and Moldova already reaffirms for me that MCC practices the principles essential for long-term impact: investing in economic growth, promoting country-led development, demanding accountability and transparency, and delivering sustainable results that matter in the lives of the poor.
Posted on September 24, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
As world leaders gathered this week in New York City for the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the United Nations General Assembly, MCC’s mission and work took center stage.
I listened to President Obama unveil the first-ever development policy issued by a U.S. president. His groundbreaking MDG Summit speech outlined development’s heightened role in U.S. global engagement as a strategic, economic, and moral imperative. The President emphasized that economic growth is the centerpiece of his new development policy, because growth is the fundamental force that will transform the developing world and eradicate poverty. He talked about empowering and partnering with countries committed to taking responsibility for their own development. And, he stressed that America’s development investments can have maximum impact in partner countries that set in place high standards of transparency, good governance, and accountability.
I am proud that MCC is already putting the President’s core development principles into practice, like investing in economic growth, promoting country-led development, demanding accountability, and focusing on transparency and results. MCC’s experiences have informed many aspects of the President’s new policy. We are integral to the policy moving forward by sharing what we have learned, including our leadership on rigorous evidence-based evaluations to drive policy decisions and ensure aid effectiveness.
The principles of effective development outlined in President Obama’s policy were repeated by the presidents and prime ministers from a number of partner countries I met with this week to discuss progress on the implementation of their MCC compacts. They spoke about reforming their policies, building homegrown capacity and more responsive institutions, and delivering the results their citizens expect. These themes were also featured at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting. I was particularly struck by CGI’s emphasis on strengthening market-based solutions and empowering girls and women, which are also clear priorities for MCC’s work in partner countries worldwide and for achieving the economic growth underpinning the Obama administration’s global development policy.
Moreover, the President’s development policy embraces partnership as essential to success, and each MCC event in New York sought ways to mobilize the power of partnerships. I met President Benigno Aquino to sign a $434 million MCC compact with the Philippines. This compact will fight corruption by streamlining processes at the Bureau of Internal Review; strengthen local accountability through the Kalahi-CIDSS rural development program; and improve access to markets and community services through the construction and repair of 220 kilometers of Samar Road. The Philippines’s MCC compact is another example of how we partner with countries committed to sound political, economic, and social policies vital for sustainable development to deliver the progress and results the poor expect.
To further engage with the private sector as vital partners in development, Cape Verde’s Prime Minister José Maria Neves, the Executive Vice President and CEO of the International Finance Corporation Lars Thunell, and AES Corporation’s Global Chief Operating Officer Andres Gluski joined me in addressing a private sector gathering. These gentlemen shared their first-hand perspectives on the power of private enterprise to augment and accelerate public efforts to stimulate economic growth. Businesses, foundations, NGOs, and partner countries discussed strategies to align their activities with sustainable development objectives. One of my top priorities at MCC, like the President’s policy advocates, is to increase development impact by broadening our partnerships with the private sector and non-traditional actors, such as philanthropic foundations.
MCC also partnered with other leaders in the field for a breakfast roundtable on gender. The discussion was co-hosted with the White House Council on Women and Girls and highlighted ways we can effectively integrate gender equality in development plans to ensure long-term sustainability. We recognize that expanding opportunities for women and girls in developing communities reduces poverty. MCC Senior Advisor Cassandra Butts spoke more about MCC’s gender policy at a high-level luncheon with heads of state later that day.
Now, we will build upon the conversations, relationships, and partnerships we forged and deepened this week to further MCC’s mission. MCC’s policies, practices, and results will continue to contribute to President Obama’s vision for development and serve as critical building blocks for a new era of global poverty reduction and sustainable economic growth.
Posted on July 30, 2010 by Chris Cookson, MCC Vanuatu Country Manager
Out in the Pacific Ocean is a country that has held close ties with the United States for 70 years. America’s friendship with Vanuatu began during World War II when American service men and women came to set up bases in Vanuatu. During this time, thousands of soldiers were based in the islands. Proud of the relationship, Vanuatu still boasts three man-made hills that spell out the letters U-S-A, which can be seen by plane.
In 2006, Vanuatu received a $66 million grant from the United States to support the restoration of roads on two of the country’s major islands – Efate and Espiritu Santo. These two road projects are much more than repairing and paving old, tired roads. They are providing the gifts of time, income opportunities, education and medical access.
You don’t have to look hard to find the roads’ impact among the people of Vanuatu. The road on Efate Island – which wraps around its coastline – allows bus, taxi and truck drivers to work without the consequences of excess damage to their vehicles or major repairs. Villagers are able to deliver firewood, flowers and produce to market several times a day rather than a few times a week. There are school children who no longer need to board at their campuses because of the decrease in travel time, and parents who are now able to take their babies to the hospital in minutes instead of hours.
On Espiritu Santo Island, the restoration of the East Coast Road is giving coconut and cattle farmers the chance to export more frequently – and without the risk of damaging produce in transit from rough and washed-out roads. Natural heritage sites such as lagoons, waterfalls, geothermal hot springs, and “blue holes” (indigo-colored underwater sinkholes) are now easily accessible to paying visitors and tourists interested in Vanuatu’s unique environment and ecosystem.
Capitalizing on MCC’s principle of country ownership, the Provincial Government for Efate has financed new village markets alongside the new, blacktop roads. These markets, managed by village women, are helping generate income, opportunities and local investments. Some women have also benefitted from the road construction by selling rice and fish lunches to road workers.
With support from the MCC program, Vanuatu has established community contracts, which empower villages to preserve sections of roads that pass through their jurisdiction. These activities, such as clearing debris from drains and removing low-value vegetation from the road, have cultivated an enormous amount of pride within the communities.
Vanuatu’s MCC grant does much more than build roads; it’s a partnership with the people and the government that provide them with the means to develop their own paths to prosperity. And as the roads near completion – and Vanuatu prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary of independence – the country has plenty to celebrate.
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 November 16, 2009 by Van Crowder, Director of Education
International Education Week 2009 (Nov 16-20) is an occasion to celebrate the benefits of worldwide learning and exchange. International cooperation prepares citizens in every country to live, work and compete in the global economy. MCC is working with partner nations to improve their education and training systems so that students learn the skills to get good jobs and boost economic growth in their countries and communities.
Youth development is central to a healthy, skilled and productive workforce. Investing in human capital through education and training is critical for improving productivity and economic growth and for reducing poverty and unemployment. About 36 percent of MCCs $358 million direct investment in education is focused on youth development through technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
In El Salvador, working through FOMILENIO (which is the government entity accountable for compact implementation), MCC is helping to renovate 20 middle technical schools, revise curricula, train instructors, and provide scholarships to deserving students, who will get jobs in agronomy, tourism and information technology—all areas crucial to the development of the country’s northern zone.
In Mongolia, MCC’s investment is helping to reform the TVET legal and policy framework so that schools are financially sustainable and can respond effectively to labor market demand. Competency-based curricula are being developed in key sectors like mining and construction. Selected schools are being renovated and equipped with modern technology and teachers trained in its use.
In Namibia, MCC supports community-based resource and study centers to provide basic job skills and information services for unemployed youth and low-skilled adults. Also, the MCC investment is helping the National Training Authority develop demand-led programs, and a National Training Fund will ensure that the TVET system is financially viable.
In Morocco, TVET focuses on key artisan trades (leather, wood, metal, pottery, and textiles) whose products are in demand in the home, export and tourist markets. About 15 schools will be renovated and equipped with facilities to teach students the skills needed by employers and the market.
International Education Week is a great moment for MCC, partner countries and agencies to highlight the strategic importance of youth development. The links between education and economic growth, income distribution and poverty reduction are well established. Income, productivity and growth are closely linked to educational opportunity. Strengthened TVET programs are particularly valuable for developing countries with large youth populations in need of the skills that lead to decent jobs, which in turn drive growth and reduce poverty.