Posted on February 3, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
For my first official trip as MCC’s CEO, I chose to look at MCC projects in two African partner countries, Ghana and Cape Verde. Both countries are well into their compacts, and I wanted to come and see the impact our funds are having on the lives of the men and women here.
I just completed the Ghana portion of the trip and am very excited about this country’s future. MCC is investing $547 million into making agriculture more productive, building schools, and paving roads. The numbers are impressive enough, but until you see the progress on the ground, it is hard to truly understand how complex, integrated, and successful this compact is.
Much of the credit for the success goes to the Ghanaians themselves, who set up an entity called MiDA that will exist and foster economic development long after the MCC compact is over. I also want to acknowledge MCC’s resident mission, led by Jim Bednar, Resident Country Director, and Katerina Ntep, Deputy Resident Country Director, who are working with the Ghanaians to oversee implementation.
As a child of Africa, I was thrilled to meet some of the boys and girls who now sit in classrooms for their lessons, instead of under trees. The Ghanaians identified lack of education as a constraint to their country’s economic growth, and MCC is proud to help address this challenge by funding the building of 310 schools, of which 65 are already finished. We have seen enrollment increase substantially. The number of girls in just the two schools I visited has doubled. This project is also an important example of collaboration and coordination with our partners at USAID, who are training teachers for the schools we are building.
In addition to the schools I visited, I was able to inspect progress on some of the rural roads our funds are paving, talk to pineapple farmers about how MCC-funded investments in cold storage are helping them export their crops, and meet a number of people who now have full rights and title to their property, thanks to the MCC-funded land titling project.
All of these elements are critical to successfully driving sustainable economic growth in Ghana through increased agriculture productivity. MCC’s five year program, therefore, works up and down the value chain. It starts with training the small farmer, works with banks to ensure he or she has access to credit, supports cooperative farming, and develops the roads to get products to markets.
I was honored to be part of the group who passed out land title certificates to about 30 people, half women. MCC is funding new offices and surveys to provide these official land titles to a total of about 5,000 Ghanaians. As the many government ministers in attendance said, these titles are an absolutely critical step in ensuring economic growth. If people have title to their land, they can use that asset to access credit and have the security they need to expand production. I was particularly happy to see so many women obtaining titles in their names.
Before we left, I met with representatives of both the local and international private sector, who are also very excited about Ghana’s future and MCC’s role in addressing economic constraints. I met one farmer who was able to increase her yield from five bags of rice a season to more than 140 bags after a MCC-funded training program, and another farmer who increased his income from around $60 a year to over $1,070 by changing his crops to line up with international market demand. In Ghana, we have literally hundreds of stories of men and women like these who now “see their farms as businesses and not just as an occupation,” as one program participant said.
I also had a good meeting with Ghanaian President John Atta-Mills, who, like many Ghanaians I met, was keenly interested in learning how Ghana could qualify for a second compact when the current compact finishes in two years. The president reaffirmed his commitment to making sure the projects finish on time, with transparency, accountability, and measured results.
It is clear to me that there is real opportunity in Ghana. I look forward to the next half of my trip to see the progress unfolding in Cape Verde.