Posted on September 17, 2013 by Cassandra Butts, Senior Advisor
I was fortunate to visit Mongolia last week to attend closeout celebrations for the country’s MCC compact, whose projects finished on budget and on time with impressive results. Every celebration showcased a sampling of Mongolia’s traditions and culture that are deeply intertwined with daily life—like drinking mare’s milk, eating cheese curds and listening to the sounds of fiddles and throat singers.
I first attended the inauguration of the 176-kilometer road that MCC rehabilitated. There was a series of dirt tracks previously that were extremely dusty because of their proximity to the Gobi Desert, littered with huge and dangerous potholes. Now, Mongolians have a smooth and safer road that connects them to markets in Mongolia, China and Russia.
I took this road to the city of Choir, the site of a training center MCC funded as part of the Vocational Education Project. Students from across the country benefit from the school’s excellent training for mining careers. I saw the hands-on training modules that companies like Wagner Asia have developed. I heard immense satisfaction from both teachers and students, who are now prepared to enter a challenging workforce with the right skills that are in demand by employers.
On our way back to Ulaanbaatar, we stopped by the wind farm that MCC helped connect to the national grid. This is the country’s first wind farm, funded through a public-private partnership between the Mongolian government, General Electric and Newcom. MCC played a small but key role in this effort, and it was encouraging to see how green technologies, along with our investment in providing energy-efficient products such as cook stoves, are helping Mongolians enjoy cleaner air.
I also saw the widespread benefits of the health project for all of Mongolia. I count myself among the beneficiaries as I tasted skim milk, saw designated smoking areas and ate less salt in staple foods such as bread—all thanks to the project’s nationwide advocacy for healthier living. I visited one of the hospitals that received state-of-art equipment, including computer tomography and angiography machines, as well as an intensive care and rehabilitation unit for heart attack and stroke patients. Having these tools in place is vital in a country where cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death and one of the four major causes of disability. “I have never seen such a comprehensive investment in health in my past 20 years in the field,” one doctor told me.
Finally, one of the most gratifying successes across all projects is a deeper awareness of the importance of gender equality. The Mongolia Compact has been a model for incorporating gender integration into funded activities consistent with MCC’s gender policy. I met Ms. Javshan, a herder who participated in the Property Rights Project. She is the head of her household and a role model for her eight children and 20 grandchildren. MCC-funded training taught her more about sustainable grazing and land management, and she believes that she is now able to make better informed investments in her land because of this knowledge and the security of the property lease she received though the project. The compact created opportunities for her family that she never thought possible, and she has become a real leader in her community as a result.
During this trip, I saw the past, present and future of Mongolia—from gers and herders to wind farms and clean cook stoves to women leaders and technically-trained professionals.
I am proud of the contributions Mongolia’s MCC compact has made to help realize the vision for a healthier and more prosperous future for the people from the land of the eternal blue sky.