Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Agriculture
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture
Traditionally, water-related projects have been classified as strictly irrigation, livestock or water and sanitation projects—but in reality, people use water for many uses. People use water for drinking, cooking, washing, livestock watering, agriculture, and business purposes. When development professionals fail to consider these multiple uses, overuse, asset degradation, breakage and the inability of water-management institutions to actually manage these unintended uses have threatened a project’s sustainability.
Instead, project planners should consider all the various needs and uses for water in a community and then attempt to incorporate those needs into project design right from the start. In this way, the project can mitigate risk and provide greater impact.
MCC adopted this approach in several of our irrigation and livestock projects. In Mali, for example, the irrigation project included consideration of animal crossings, drinking troughs alongside the irrigation canals and the drilling of additional watering points for livestock—all based on consultations with pastoralists. In addition, special areas were created for women to wash clothes and perform other domestic tasks so they would not have to use the irrigation canals and risk drowning or catching a water-borne infection.
In Namibia and Burkina Faso, we incorporated the water needs of wild animals; elephants and hippopotamuses in the area had the potential to cause major damage to the project’s water infrastructure. This was done through placement of elephant-only watering holes away from the project, planting hippopotamus-friendly grasses away from infrastructure and creating natural barriers with trees to protect the areas. In Mongolia and Mozambique, some newly installed water points provided separate valves for human and animal use, lowering the risk of contaminating the drinking water supply.
In other MCC projects, a lack of attention to the multiple uses of water led to challenges during implementation. In the Ghana Compact, for example, we discovered that an irrigation project would actually cut off the supply of water to five villages that were using it for drinking and other domestic uses. Though initially flagged as a critical social risk, the team was able to turn this problem into an opportunity to meet both the domestic and agricultural needs of the community by investing in small-scale water treatment plants that would supply solar-treated drinking water. At the same time, cattle watering points were incorporated into the design.
In the end, the communities benefited from improved water for all uses. However, by not incorporating multiple uses into the design from the beginning, the project missed an opportunity to integrate health and hygiene training with agricultural training and water provision.
MCC is committed to making sustainable investments that respond to beneficiaries’ needs. Considering all the various uses for water in a community while planning a project creates a bigger impact for our projects, and it is a goal for the planning of future water projects.
Have you seen water projects used for unintended purposes? Do you have experiences with multiple uses of water being incorporated into a project or being neglected during project design?
Posted on February 24, 2014 by Brian Foster, agribusiness consultant
Farmer cooperatives, particularly in the dairy industry, form a very important and successful part of American agriculture. The model gives small farmers the benefits of professional storage facilities, processing equipment and reliable demand for their products that would be out of reach if they had to work on their own.
The cooperative model is a risky and challenging approach that requires a lot more effort than working with private enterprises. Members need to build trust and agree on roles, responsibilities, decision-making authority, and other difficult issues—but the results can be transformational for an entire community if it is done well.
MCC set out to make the same model work in El Salvador through the $71.8 million Productive Development Project, implemented from 2007 to 2012. The project worked with one new and two existing farmer co-ops in the dairy and horticulture fields as a way to contribute to rural economic development—but with mixed results.
The most challenging issue facing all three co-ops in El Salvador was obtaining loans to support ongoing operations as the end of the compact approached. Each co-op attempted to resolve the issue in a different way:
- The existing but failed dairy co-op owned a plant and equipment from a previous project, so its strategy was to approach commercial banks and attempt to secure financing using the equipment as collateral. The organization secured financing but ultimately failed for business reasons.
- The other existing dairy co-op had the advantage of being part of the Salvadoran government’s school milk program, guaranteeing a steady demand for fresh milk and timely payments. The risk, of course, was that a change in government or a significant reduction in the government’s support for the school milk program could put them out of business. Their main solution was to diversify their market for milk and look for a second large firm to buy fresh milk.
- The most perplexing challenge was with the start-up horticulture co-op, which had a lot going for it: It was well-managed, had firm supply deals with well-established retail supermarket chains and seemed to have loyal members dedicated to the “cooperative ideal.” The problem was that payment from the retailers was often delayed, causing severe cash flow problems. The co-op had very few assets to use as collateral, so bank financing was a challenge. Eventually, it managed to secure some loans, but at a high interest rate, and was attempting to raise funding internally from members.
The experiences with these three agricultural cooperatives in El Salvador presented an important lesson: The ability to access finance is paramount to sustainability and needed to be addressed at the start of the project. We must consider that once a co-op is organized (or resurrected) with a solid business model, good management, a competitive product mix, and plenty of capital at its creation, it will likely still need additional access to financing. In this project, access to working capital was the key stumbling block for steady growth among the three Salvadoran agricultural co-ops.
Have you had any experiences setting up agricultural co-ops as part of development projects? How have other projects addressed challenges around finance?
Posted on February 14, 2014 by Damiana Astudillo, associate director, agriculture
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
How do you ensure the sustainability of a post-harvest investment after a donor project ends? And how do you incentivize private sector investment without providing giveaways that risk being underutilized or benefiting businesses that are financially better off?
When post-harvest losses were identified as a major cause of inefficiency in Ghana’s agriculture sector, MCC struggled with how to make investments to reverse these losses sustainable and private-sector driven while simultaneously benefiting poor smallholder farmers. One answer involved constructing 10 agribusiness centers throughout the country as part of the country’s five year, $547 million MCC compact. The agribusiness centers have the objective of reducing post-harvest losses by offering processing, drying, storage, and marketing services for staple crops.
Each agribusiness center is jointly owned by a private sector investor (with a 70 percent share) and an agriculture cooperative of about 1,000 smallholder farmers (30 percent share). In exchange for its share, the private investor was required to contribute the land on which the facility was built and about $35,000 in start-up working capital, as well as business plan, documented financial and management capacity and market connections. Each farmer shareholder was required to contribute a 100-pound bag of grain as a membership fee. MCC funds covered the building and basic equipment of the centers and legal support to formally establish the new companies as well as capacity building for the farmer cooperatives. In this way, both the investor and the farmers had a stake in the profitable operation and maintenance of the facility.
Selecting individual investors, selecting and building the capacity of farmer-based organizations (FBOs) and training shareholder members on what it means to hold a share of a business were the most challenging parts of the project. Building trust between the farmers and their FBOs—as well as between the FBOs and individual investors—took time.
The legal technicalities of setting up these ownership arrangements, which were unprecedented in Ghana, required significant legal resources. And to select which businesses would receive the assistance, the Millennium Development Authority of Ghana (the local organization implementing the compact) evaluated proposals from 30 businesses who competed for the 10 partnership opportunities.
Some of the challenges included determining which businesses were most capable of sustaining operations and which private sector investors had the greatest potential of partnering with smallholder farmers. Additionally, assessing which locations made sense as aggregation centers, based on the availability of infrastructure and access to markets, was challenging. The end result is a set of agribusiness centers that will be able to reduce post-harvest losses by 20-30 percent.
Share your experiences! Have you worked on a project that facilitated partnerships between investors and smallholder farmers? How have other projects addressed the problems of losses and under-investment in post-harvest infrastructure? How have projects attracted investors to work with smallholder farmers in various parts of the value chain?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on February 7, 2014 by William Valletta, MCC due diligence officer, Access to Land Project
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
Does having a title to your land lead to increased food security for you and your family?
A rigorous impact evaluation of MCC’s Access to Land Project in Benin hopes to prove it does. Noting unclear property rights can act as a binding constraint to economic growth in Benin, MCC set out to map and formalize land rights throughout the country. In addition to an urban parcel titling program, the project worked with 400 villages to create rural landholding plans, which map the land around each village and define and record the customary rights of possession to each parcel.
These records are archived, creating a system of recording land transactions and settling land disputes. The planned impact evaluation, conducted by the World Bank and projected to be published later this year, asks questions about changes in behavior as a result of participation in this rural landholding planning endeavor:
- Are land rights perceived as more secure?
- Do land markets work more efficiently and is land used more productively long-term?
- Is there an increase in the planting of perennials, tree crops and other agricultural investments?
- Is there an increase in trust in local institutions?
- Are people more engaged in village land management?
- Does paid wage employment change?
- Do women participate more in household decision-making?
- Does the experience of women-headed households differ from that of male-headed households
Though it is too early to answer these questions with statistical data, anecdotal evidence suggests that villages that have formalized their land rights through this process have seen an increase in the active use of fields and the planting of higher-value perennial and tree crops. When the findings of the evaluation are released, positive results will indicate that this model is an effective way to increase investments in the agricultural sector and contribute to food security in rural areas throughout Africa.
Tell us what you think! Have you observed or experienced increases in agricultural investment following the formalization of land rights? What other models of land formalization elsewhere have been successful?
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on January 24, 2014 by Dave Cole, Natural Products Activity manager, MCA-Namibia, and Karen Nott, institutional development specialist, MCA-Namibia
(This post is part of an ongoing series on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
Can a spiny little desert plant really contribute to food security? It can in Namibia, where the indigenous medicinal plant known as devil’s claw is harvested, dried and sold to exporters by small producer groups.
Because of MCC’s five-year, $304 million compact, the number of organized producer groups who harvest and sell devil’s claw has already more than tripled. The plant, however, is also protected by Namibian law to prevent its overharvesting, making the balance between conservation and income generation tricky.
With the help of MCC, the Government of Namibia ratified a law in 2010 that allows it to more easily trace the sourcing of indigenous natural products and issue permits to produce and sell a sustainable level of devil’s claw.
The compact helped create a sustainable harvesting model that trains and registers harvesters who apply for a group permit, a traceability system for quality control and record keeping, monitoring of sustainable harvesting methods, a reliable partnership with a local exporter to access markets and market information, and a premium price paid directly to harvesters.
The private sector’s role is fundamental to this model, ensuring the sustainability of the activity long after the compact ends later this year. Meanwhile, MCA-Namibia is encouraging harvesters to form cooperatives and producer groups, giving them a stronger voice in negotiating contracts.
Share your experiences! Have you marketed indigenous natural products or helped to establish sustainable harvesting practices in another value chain? We’d love to read about your experiences and continue this conversation.
Click here to read the full article.
Posted on January 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 August 5, 2013 by Glenn Lines, Farmer Income Support Project Lead, Mozambique
Sustainable development is a term frequently used in foreign assistance, but it is poorly understood and seldom given the prominence it deserves. Development practitioners often focus on making disbursements and reaching final project targets while neglecting to ensure investments will be maintained and continue to benefit community members after a project ends.
At MCC, we want to ensure that our projects provide the best possible impact by helping boost household incomes after we leave.
In Mozambique, MCC made great strides toward emphasizing sustainability. Like many other development projects, MCC’s Farmer Income Support Project (FISP), a key component of Mozambique’s $506.9 million MCC compact, has taken several innovative steps to advance the principle.
Over the past 3½ years, the project worked to reduce the prevalence and impact of Coconut Lethal Yellowing Disease (CLYD), a deadly disease. CLYD causes affected trees cease producing coconuts and eventually die; the trees must be removed and replaced to stop the spread of the disease.
This involved mass mechanized felling and burning of infected and dead trees; planting new, disease resistant seedlings; community education and awareness programs to assist coconut growers to identify infected trees and prevent the future spread of the disease; and technical assistance for crop diversification.
Now in the last year of implementation, the project largely has met or exceeded its targets. Communities are identifying infected trees and monitoring the spread of the disease. The disease incidence rate has fallen from an estimated 5 percent to 1 percent in project areas. Nurseries are producing disease-resistant seedlings to replace trees lost to the disease. And small-scale coconut producers affected by the disease are diversifying into cash crops.
For example, one smallholder farmer working with FISP produced and marketed more than 500 metric tons of pigeon pea, cow pea, sesame, and groundnuts at regional and international markets last year.
Even with this substantial progress, the question of sustainability remained: How can beneficiaries continue to control disease transmission without mass mechanized tree felling?
The answer lay with affected farmers, who have been felling trees manually for much longer than the life of the compact and putting economic incentives in place to continue promoting farmer-led manual felling.
MCC and MCA-Mozambique asked the project implementation team to modify their focus to reflect this reality. Transitioning from a project-driven, chainsaw-reliant strategy to a more sustainable, community-based felling strategy is well underway now. All mechanized tree felling has stopped. Instead, community felling teams equipped with personal protective equipment and well-stocked first-aid kits are following best practices for manual felling.
Farmers are not only felling dead trees but also actively identifying and removing infected trees and replanting them with disease-resistant varieties using skills they acquired through the project’s training. In the long run, this will help manage the disease incidence rate after the compact closes in September.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspects of the transition has been the way the felling teams have handled the logs harvested from felled trees. The initial plan was for community manual felling teams to sell the logs to local carpentry shops as raw material. However, with additional business training and equipment supplied by the implementing contractor, the felling teams capitalized on market dynamics and are now producing planks and beams to sell to local builders and carpenters, who are producing desks, chairs, tables, doors, and window frames for local schools and homes.
General demand for wood, which is increasing with a growing population, is now effectively linked to community-based CLYD disease surveillance and control. This provides the economic incentives to sustain farmer-led interventions apart from the compact’s project well into the future.
Posted on May 16, 2013 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
On April 29th at the G8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) unveiled a new evaluation data catalog to house all the data collected through our independent evaluations. Right now, the public can view metadata from agriculture programs in Armenia, Ghana, El Salvador, and the Philippines on the catalog at data.mcc.gov/evaluations, including descriptive statistics for surveys of an estimated 5,000 households in Armenia, 9,300 households in Ghana, 1,700 individuals in El Salvador, and 2,400 households in the Philippines.
The data catalog is designed to contain all of the information that documents and describes MCC-financed independent evaluations, including information on evaluation questions, the types of surveys conducted for the evaluation and the population of interest, questionnaires, sampling methods, and descriptive statistics for household- and individual-level data. The data catalog is fully searchable down to the variable level, allowing for comparison across datasets. In addition, as microdata for each survey is reviewed by MCC’s Disclosure Review Board and is approved for public release, the catalog will host public-use datasets and statistical analyses files for replicating the independent evaluator’s results or conducting separate analysis.
The launch of the catalog is just the beginning of a series of planned data releases. We aim to release as much of our independent evaluation data to the public as possible. We’ve developed an institutional process to enable us to do this over the coming months. It is a labor-intensive effort, but that’s a small price to pay for pushing the boundaries of transparency and accountability to get this huge stock of data into the public domain. And we are delighted to be ahead of the curve on President Obama’s just-released Executive Order on Open Data Policy.
While publishing the data is a big deal in and of itself, the really big deal will come in seeing how others use it. We know – and welcome – that it will be used as another accountability check on us and our partner governments. We hope it also will be used by other investors to learn from our experience on how to increase the impact of the dollars they invest. For example, the agricultural data we are releasing may help us better understand why some farmers adopt improved practices more quickly than others, which can lead to program improvements to maximize impact, increase incomes and expand productivity.
Still, it is the unknown uses – the things we never imagined our data could be used for – that will likely prove to be the most exciting. Finance institutions, for example, looking to spur agricultural growth may gather information needed to develop innovative new products for smallholder farmers. Companies that want to evaluate the risks and benefits of operating in certain locations may find market information that is useful for evaluating risk and catalyzing new investments. Governments and civil society organizations can also analyze this data to drive forward their own complementary development and social programs.
MCC is opening our data because it is the right thing to do: American taxpayers deserve to see this part of their investment. But we are also opening our data because it is the smart thing to do. Information and data are tremendous strategic assets. They can help us enhance policies and practices to more fully contribute to economic growth, strengthen democratic institutions, improve the impact of our work, and inspire entrepreneurship, innovation and scientific discovery in the field of development and beyond. Follow our efforts and give us your feedback!
Posted on December 6, 2012 by Howard W. Buffett, Executive Director, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation
The role of philanthropy is changing for the better, and with the October 24th release of its first five impact evaluations, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is helping lead that change. For too long, funding for development – both private and public – has not been held accountable on measuring real impact. There are many reasons for this. It can be challenging, time-consuming and expensive to determine precisely which elements of complex aid packages are reducing poverty, and it can be even more difficult to justify investing in building evidence for what works when resources are scarce and the development need is so great. Any philanthropist constantly faces this tension, and we have found that it becomes tempting to look only at easily measurable activities like farmer training or direct measures of success like improving farmer yields – areas where we can directly observe how we are addressing poverty. The truth is, this approach both inhibits creative solutions and confines long-term decision-making. In the end, until we know what really works and why, we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past and run the risk of missing enormous opportunities to build support for the real “game changers.”
I learned firsthand about MCC’s work when I served in government, and I often find myself gaining new insights from their experiences. Their recent release of the analysis of their impact evaluation is one of those moments. In fact, of the five impact evaluations just released, The Howard G. Buffett Foundation’s interests overlap with four of them: we also do smallholder farming training in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Ghana. Given the scale at which MCC works, we contacted them to learn as much as we could from their experience.
MCC has some important lessons for the development community – other U.S. agencies, donors, multinational corporations working in emerging markets, and philanthropies alike stand to learn a great deal. In the recently released “Impact Evaluations of Agriculture Projects,” part of MCC’s compelling Principles into Practice series, they have identified five key maxims that should be taken into account by all of us:
- Define early the program logic and objectives of the evaluation, and how to integrate the two.
- Engage early and communicate often.
- Foster joint ownership by aligning incentives.
- Match evaluation methodology and program design.
- Focus on long-term impacts but be prepared to show early results.
Gaining these important insights has taken time, expertise and resiliency. As MCC has been bold to admit, in a refreshingly forthright and transparent fashion, it also takes occasional failures. As our foundation has learned, mistakes are unavoidable, but they only truly become mistakes when you fail to learn from them. Our foundation has spent the last 15 years and over $300 million across more than 70 countries, and we have made our fair share of errors along the way. Without rigorous evaluations to understand why goals are not always fully achieved, we can miss out on learning from those mistakes and miss the opportunity to share that learning with others.
MCC’s first set of independent impact evaluations raises some interesting questions about training farmers and how to measure the most important impact we all want to achieve: fostering prosperity and improving livelihoods. For example, in the three projects where MCC’s investments in training and improved inputs led to increased farmer incomes, these increases did not also result in increased income for the household as a whole. How can this be true? MCC has several theories: small farmer households typically derive income from a number of sources and it may be that increased farm income reduces the pressure to produce income elsewhere; it may be a data collection problem where current measures of household income are not accurately capturing reality; or it may be some other reason. MCC does not yet have a definitive answer, but by identifying the question, they can better guide their analysis of existing data and improve the data collection for the pipeline of project evaluations that are in process to find the answer. This will in turn inform program design, which will help all of us investing in farmer training. MCC’s approach and knowledge base has already encouraged our foundation to make a larger investment in agriculture in El Salvador, and it has informed the design of a new initiative that we are beginning in Ghana.
Learning lessons in the absence of a strong evaluation mechanism is a painful, time-consuming and expensive way to learn, but it is not uncommon in development. By focusing on learning as much as we have focused on doing, we can all become smarter, more efficient and more focused on ideas that actually have more lasting impact in the long run. That’s why MCC’s approach is effective: they invest in accountability and transparency upfront so they can learn faster and improve their work more quickly and cost-effectively over the long-run. By sharing that knowledge with all of us, we all have the opportunity to learn.
This transparency and honesty sets an example for our sector, and we all stand to benefit by being more efficient in our investments. MCC’s first five impact evaluations are a landmark step toward smarter, better and more accountable development around the world –and at a time when it could not be needed more.
Posted on July 30, 2012 by Steve Kaufmann, Chief of Staff
While visiting our compact work sites in Senegal last week, I was struck by the ways in which water can both take and support life. My first site visit took me to the village of Ndioum, where MCC is working with MCA-Senegal to build a 160 meter bridge over the Doué River. Now, to get from their homes to their fields, many of the residents must take either pirogues (small canoe-like boats) or a ferry which runs infrequently and is often under repair. Tragically, fatal accidents can occur when pirogues tip due to strong currents or poor weight distribution.
After surveying the work site, my colleagues and I struck up conversation with two village elders. The elders explained that they have been waiting for over 25 years for a bridge to be built. While we were speaking, a young boy named Masseck joined our conversation. He was excited for the bridge to be completed; he told us that his older brother had drowned while crossing the river, and he didn’t want to lose another family member. We knew the river was dangerous, but Masseck’s story reminded us of the urgency of completing construction of the Ndioum Bridge. It will not only save lives, but will improve access to the fertile lands across the river and help farmers get their crops to market.
As we were touring the site, a man approached our car and asked if he could take us to visit the old irrigation pump in the Ngallenka area. We agreed, and upon arrival, our new friend, Mamadou Alanane Hame, began to speak passionately about his experience working with MCC.
Mr. Hame emphasized the participatory decision-making process that allowed him, as an expected beneficiary, to voice his opinions on the project. He remembered that during compact consultations, community members had talked about the importance of irrigation to help assure food security in the region. Now, with improved means to bring critical water to agricultural fields, the local population will plant crops and boost their yields. This unsolicited praise provided strong reinforcement for the importance of MCC’s transparent practices and our commitment to listening to beneficiaries and our partner countries.
Reflecting on my trip, the importance of water is more striking than ever. The agricultural viability of the Sahel, a zone that extends the entire width of Africa from Senegal in the west to Eritrea in the east, is rapidly decreasing as desertification claims an increasingly large amount of previously fertile land every year. As the inhabitants of the Sahel find themselves at greater risk of famine, the difference between food security and insecurity can be the difference between life and death.
MCC has reason to be proud for investing in over 30,000 hectares of irrigated land in Senegal, which is expected to directly benefit more than 250,000 individuals. In partnership with MCA-Senegal and the residents of Ndioum and the Ngallenka area, MCC is implementing water and infrastructure projects that will help to save lives, promote economic growth and reduce poverty.
For more information about the Senegal Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/senegal.
Posted on June 18, 2012 by Jon Anderson , Mali Resident Country Director
For the past five years, MCC has worked with Malian organizations on an ambitious and integrated program to develop more than 5,000 hectares of irrigated land in Mali's Alatona zone. The country-led project included large scale irrigation works, road improvements, rural infrastructure, investments in education and health, land reform and titling, rural financial services, and other activities designed to help almost 650,000 people.
I have lived in Mali for more than 18 years, and I can attest to the meaningful impact the project has had on beneficiaries’ lives.
However in May 2012, the MCC Board of Directors approved termination of the Mali Compact due to an undemocratic change in government and Mali’s non-compliance with MCC’s eligibility criteria. MCC and MCA-Mali are in the process of winding up the projects in Alatona and Bamako, and the compact will be terminated on or before August 31—sooner than would have been the case.
It was a very tough decision to make, but MCC works only with countries that uphold the principles of democratic governance and the rule of law. The military coup and recent events in Mali are in contradiction with those principles. Nevertheless we shouldn’t lose sight of the lives our projects impacted. One resident of the Alatona region, Aburu Sabu Sangare, was so grateful for the work we accomplished in his area that he put his thoughts down on paper in the local language and found a way to pass it along to the U.S. Government.
I wanted to share the letter with you to provide a sense of the accomplishments, the importance, the goodwill, and, frankly, the transformation the Mali Compact helped create.
Thank you MCA-Mali – by Aburu Sabu Sangare
When considering effort, perseverance and keeping one’s word, quality work is better than talk. There is currently a large American organization helping Mali to put an end to poverty, difficulty and suffering in a place called Alatona. Every strong person, give your best effort; every weak person, give your best effort! As for them [MCA-Mali], they have completed what was in their power to do. May God assist us.
In 2007, MCA-Mali sent interviewers to come to our region to ask questions in each village. From door to door, they asked questions of each family. They got along very well with all the inhabitants. No conflict arose between the interviewers and the interviewees. No one argued and the work was peaceful, pleasant, and joyful, without any bad feelings.
After these inquiries, they brought excavators and vehicles. All this equipment arrived and went out to work all over the area. Some machines removed trees. Other machines dug canals. Other vehicles were brought to transport workers back and forth, or to transport rocks and earth to build houses. They recruited masons and brick makers. We were included in the offers of work. When they had gotten the workers, they chose skilled people that they made supervisors. They would say, “Look, see the correct way to do the work, do it like this.” So the work began and the brick makers made good money. They too thank MCA-Mali. The village chiefs are the first in thanking MCA-Mali because they are very, very happy. They say thank you because MCA-Mali gave everyone equal treatment.
Even the Fulfulde teachers benefitted. They gained more learning and much wealth. Anyone you saw who could operate motors or vehicles was happy. Itinerant traders were the happiest of all. They say that no one benefitted from the MCA-Mali project more than they did. They said that even if you had a whole warehouse of food, you would sell it all because there was such abundance of workers. Even goats, sheep and cattle were selling well. Chicken were being bought up more quickly than anything else. Even animal merchants recognized the change in the economy and so did the boat and canoe operators.
The brick makers and builders thank MCA-Mali for giving them baseball caps, shoes, and gloves for the work. When the machines and vehicles started working, they made pile after pile of dirt. These piles were in every direction in the Alatona region. There were so many machines and so many people you could not tell what there were more of. Some people dared to say that Alatona had become Paradise.
Anyone who was able came here, people said that you can get anything you want in Alatona, so much good had come to this place. People who had moved away came back, people who had been traveling came back, people who had emigrated to other countries came back. In fact, after the MCA-Mali project came, even visitors would say that they grew up here. Who did this work? The big American organization called MCC.
Please bear with me, as I have more to tell. After this work was done, they showed us things that made us glad. They invited us to come get plow oxen and plows. Next, they gave us donkey carts, taught us how to plant rice and gave us money for food while we got training. Thank you MCA-Mali for moving us to our new villages in your vehicles and giving us the reimbursement for moving costs. We received good houses, good bathrooms, clean water, schoolhouses, a meeting hall, storehouses for rice and onions, as well as a drainage system. Thank you, MCA-Mali. Firewood was transported and new trees planted. MCA also built markets in the Alatona region.
Thank you MCA-Mali for achieving something that makes all Malians happy. Everyone you hear talking says, “Wow! It’s really great!” Thank you MCA-Mali for all the money you gave. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving five hectares that a person can live on permanently. Two hectares come with a free land title: one must pay only the water fees, not the price of the land. For three hectares, you must pay for both the land and the water fees. One hectare can be farmed both in rainy season and hot season. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving us lots of three different kinds of fertilizer.
Thank you MCA-Mali for giving gardens to the women, along with fertilizer, seeds, hoes, and picks. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving the men lots of onions, and, on top of that, the money needed for working and sacks for the onions.
When MCA-Mali came, we saw things that astonished us because we are country folk. We are not used to machines that knock down trees. We are not used to machines that dig. We are not used to machines that pick up dirt and load it in a truck. We are not used to machines that enter a pit to swallow dirt and come back out and pour it on the ground. We are not used to machines that crawl like lizards. We are not used to earth-piling machines. We are not used to machines that lift metal. We are not used to machines that plow. We are not used to earth-swallowing machines. We are not used to machines that show the road. We are not used to machines that tell whether work is straight or crooked. We are not used to machines that sort things. We are not used to machines that see what has passed. We are not used to machines that sink into the water to scoop mud and move it onto the dry ground.
Thank you MCA-Mali for helping the poor; this continued to when it was time to start farming. They brought money for plowing. They brought money for planting. They brought money for weeding. They brought money for cutting the rice for harvest. All the things I have listed in this letter. On top of all that, they sent experts to explain how to do the work.
The project began in Welingara, Feto, Beeli, Toule B, Toule A, and Tennde in 2008. In 2010 these six villages were farming. And in 2011 Seekadaayi, Sammbawere, Madiina, Danngeere Kaaje, Tchili Kura, Tchili Koro, Seekadahaara, Daande Salaamu, Wuro Daayi, Wotoro Danga, Wuro Yaladi, Ndukala, Sabere Nooda, Wuro Musa, and Dungel. And in 2012 the villages of Feyi 1, Feyi 2, Feyi 3, Tomoni, Motoni, Nencela, Masabougou, Yirwawere, Marabawere, Baaba Neega, Dangere Baaba, and Ndoojiriwere cultivated rice and it grew very well.
Many people bought large motorcycles. People bought cattle, sheep and goats from Feto to Masabougou (the villages at either end of the project area). Each home you visit you think is better than the one before, because you find contentment and happiness and joy and calm and peace and laughter and people eating food they like and as much as they want. How can we say thanks to MCA-Mali who have done something the likes of which has never been seen in Mali since independence? If we have said such things, it is because we have never before seen any project like MCA-Mali. I, the author of this letter, was born in 1961. If I said these things it is because I myself have seen them; and I too, I say thank you, MCA-Mali. We weren’t getting anything until this great gift came. All of Mali knows this: a project has come to Mali. There is no child, no elder, no woman, no man who did not benefit from this project. That’s in all of Mali. And for us, all we can say is “May God repay you.”
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for keeping your promises.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for doing good work.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for this expensive gift.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for making Malians ID cards free of charge.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for making land titles free of charge.
I, Aburu Sabu Sangare, wrote this letter. I come from Nenchela and was born in 1961 in the place called Alatona.
Posted on June 14, 2012 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, MCC should be very flattered by changes happening in Morocco. CEO Daniel Yohannes and I just finished a visit to Morocco to see progress under MCC's $697.5 million compact in agriculture, artisanal fisheries and artisan development. Throughout our visit, one message rang loud and clear: MCC’s approach is changing the way Morocco does business.
At MCC, we talk a lot about a continuum of results, whereby we track the impact of our investments from policy reform and changed business practices to inputs, outputs and, eventually, outcomes largely measured through income gains for program beneficiaries. While we saw representations of the larger outputs achieved to date, we heard something equally interesting but harder to measure--that the Government of Morocco is applying the MCC model--transparency, accountability, results-focus, and standard-setting--to its own operations. Some quick examples cited by government officials:
• The Minister of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries described the Morocco Compact’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project as the Government of Morocco’s model for farmer aggregation, one of two key pillars in its own agricultural development strategy or “Green Morocco Plan.” Like MCC, the Government of Morocco has committed to making agriculture an even greater growth engine in the country by focusing on the organization and professional development of farmers as a principal tool.
• The Minister of Finance and Economy applied MCC’s model when recently presenting the Government of Morocco’s first ever citizen-driven budget. In fact, he credited MCC on several occasions for inspiring participative public consultation in the design and implementation of newer Moroccan government programs.
• The Minister of Handicrafts is bringing MCC's high standards on social and environmental impact assessment to bear in broader Government of Morocco investments.
While we won't know the full impact of MCC's investments until some time after the end of the compact, in the meantime, it was gratifying to hear that MCC’s model is fast becoming the model of choice across the Government of Morocco.
Posted on May 29, 2012 by Jolyne Sanjak, Managing Director, Technical Services Division
MCC and a majority of our partner countries believe that improvements to their agricultural and rural sectors are a crucial part of lifting people out of poverty and to improving food security. MCC’s portfolio includes $4.4 billion of investments in improvements to the agricultural and rural sectors that are relevant to reducing food insecurity. This includes a substantial focus on infrastructure investments in large-scale irrigation schemes to ensure reliable access to water and improved yields, as well as roads and post-harvest storage and packaging facilities to move goods to market more efficiently.
MCC projects also invest in direct assistance to farmers with a focus on smallholders. Training activities help farmers learn about cultivating high-value yields, deal with pests and diseases and manage scarce land resources. Rural credit programs are designed to raise incomes by expanding access to credit to help purchase inputs. Land tenure projects work to create secure land rights and efficient institutions for managing land rights.
In seven years, MCC-funded projects have trained nearly 200,000 farmers and assisted more than 3,500 enterprises worldwide. Roughly 170,000 hectares under production receive MCC support through technical assistance, new or rehabilitated irrigation systems or access to agricultural inputs and credit. Land tenure projects have supported legal and regulatory reform in six countries and the formalization of land rights of more than 1 million hectares of rural land, including farmland, grazing areas and forests.
Just last month, our commitment to food security received high praise from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization. MCC received an “outstanding” evaluation in The 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, a thorough study of how the U.S. Government is performing in its commitment to improve food security and support agricultural development in regions with the greatest levels of rural poverty and hunger.
“The Millennium Challenge Corporation has demonstrated outstanding leadership in agricultural development in its role as the largest U.S. Government provider of funding for agriculture and food security infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” the report said. “It has increased its capacity to disburse funds and complete agreements in a timely fashion.”
The report chose Ghana, one of our partner countries, for a case study of U.S. Government development efforts. It labeled the U.S. Government's actions there as “outstanding” and said the MCC compact's “vital work in agriculture has laid a solid foundation for expanded Feed the Future activities.” The MCC compact also supported innovation in applying land tenure law in Ghana by demonstrating an approach to formally recording rural land rights in the context of strong customary practices.
As project results continue to come in, MCC remains committed to learning and being held accountable for how well these program outputs translate into increased incomes and well-being for program beneficiaries. MCC currently has 16 independent impact evaluations underway to address questions such as the impact of our programs on increased productivity, investment in high-value agriculture and business and marketing opportunities. Ultimately, these evaluations are designed to measure and better understand our impact on incomes and poverty reduction. Just as MCC contributed its leadership and technical skill to the State Department and USAID as the Feed the Future Initiative was developed and moved into implementation, we see our rigorous approach to monitoring progress and evaluating impacts as a source of learning for the whole U.S. Government. Learning from our programs can also contribute lessons for donors worldwide.
At MCC, we are proud of our investments and inspired by the changes we are seeing in people’s lives as a result of our compacts. At the same time, we are humbled by the gravity of poverty and the level of food insecurity in our partner countries, fully realizing that true poverty reduction and economic growth are not easy tasks. They will continue to require full attention and support, including using better evidence as we gain it, to improve and promote effective programs.
This recent report is both an endorsement of MCC’s seven years of work in this field and also a reminder of the urgent need for continued investments in agriculture and food security programs around the world.
Posted on May 9, 2012 by Jonathan Brooks, Managing Director for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America
A community irrigation system created with the help of MCC’s compact with Honduras recently received international recognition—the latest example of how MCC’s investments provide a model for sustainable poverty growth in our partner countries.
The Cosechas de Agua rainwater harvesting project, developed through the compact’s Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility and managed by CHF International, received the Latin American prize for innovative water management projects in the face of climate change at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, on March 15.
Cosechas de Agua harvests rainwater for use in irrigation in the arid southern municipalities of Nacaome, Langue, Goascorán, and Aramecina. It captures rainwater and then uses a system of hydraulic works, dams and pipelines to store and distribute the water to fields. The project aims to introduce complementary irrigation systems for 188 agricultural producers over 98 hectares of land, intended to increase their income.
Access to irrigation and other support through the compact was intended to allow farmers to diversify their crops, increase their yields and expand their access to new customers nationally, regionally and internationally.
The $50,000 prize—sponsored by the Mexican national water authority Conagua, the FEMSA Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean—will be used to develop the project over the next three years. Cosechas de Agua officials will also be invited to present progress on the system's economic, social and environmental impacts at the next World Water Forum in March 2015.
The Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility was part of the $68 million Rural Development Project, which sought to increase the productivity and business skills of farmers who operate small- and medium-size farms, as well as their employees. The project is expected to help more than 357,000 people over the next 20 years and raise their household incomes by $53 million.
Posted on April 4, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
As Senegal today celebrates the 52nd anniversary of its independence, I just returned from the inauguration of the country’s new president, Macky Sall. Last Thursday, I was honored to receive a call from the White House asking me, on behalf of President Obama, to lead the official U.S. delegation attending his inauguration. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and General Carter Ham, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, joined me on the delegation, which was rounded out on the ground by our U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Lewis Lukens.
The delegation represented agencies which carry out the three “D”s of U.S. foreign policy: diplomacy, defense and development. We share these interests with Senegal, our longstanding ally. Our delegation joined world leaders from across Africa, Europe and beyond to witness the historic inauguration of Senegal’s fourth president. Pride, promise and peace—and a celebratory mood—pervaded the historic transfer of power from former President Wade to President Sall. It was an important moment to witness, and our delegation’s presence affirmed the strong ties of cooperation and friendship between Senegal and the United States.
The inauguration ceremony uptown was well-attended; the chairs and aisles were full. Spectators filled the streets afterward as President Sall met former President Wade at the presidential palace, bringing downtown traffic to a halt. While the delegation presented congratulations on behalf of President Obama, the Senegalese were congratulating each other. One Senegalese would greet another with “felicitations,” French for “congratulations,” to which the other would respond “ño ko bokk,” which means “it [this peaceful democratic transition] is ours collectively to share.” Several Senegalese shared with me their disappointment that this election was viewed as unusually calm, because they think peaceful elections should be the norm, and until they are, much work needs to be done.
In fact, Senegal’s festive occasion unfortunately did not garner as much press attention as the crisis unfolding in neighboring Mali. What a sharp contrast between the march toward democracy and the regression from it. On the one hand, thousands had gathered to celebrate Senegal’s commitment to a strong and mature democracy and to a peaceful and orderly transfer of power, where the needs of the nation and its citizens trump the agenda of individual politicians. On the other hand, the seizure of power by elements of the military in Mali was an unconstitutional, anti-democratic action, which the U.S. Government and the international community have condemned and which prompted MCC to halt operations in the country.
Both in his public speeches and our bilateral meeting, President Sall reiterated Senegal’s commitment to good governance, transparency, economic opportunity, and food security, which align with the country’s MCC compact. These are the same priorities I heard from the Senegalese people as I met with small groups of private sector and civil society representatives.
Although a short trip, Assistant Secretary Carson and Ambassador Lukens joined me to meet briefly with the team implementing our compact. We commended the team’s ongoing work and congratulated them for launching the first work tenders, signaling the end of the design phase and the beginning of the works phase. We reminded the team to stay on top of its game as so many people in the regions of Casamance and St. Louis are counting on the construction of the MCC-financed roads and irrigation infrastructure to unlock agricultural productivity and deliver greater access to markets and services.
Our partnerships thrive with countries committed to democratic governance and the rule of law, and what I saw unfold in Senegal is proof of this commitment. We are encouraged that the Sall administration has prioritized the full implementation of Senegal’s MCC compact. The people of Senegal deserve and expect nothing less. Let’s continue this work that transcends politics and personalities and belongs to the people of Senegal, eager to replace poverty with prosperity and continue forward on a path to greater economic progress.
Posted on March 30, 2012 by Daniel Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Today’s release of MCC’s 2011 Annual Report, appropriately titled Gateway to Opportunity, captures the milestones of the past year and articulates clear priorities moving forward. In the report, you can read about the significant strides we have made in delivering results, forging partnerships with countries and civil society, and championing policy reforms to create opportunities for sustainable economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries. This foundation allows us now to expand our work not just to help poor countries rise out of poverty and break the cycle of aid dependency but also to create stable trading and investment partners for the United States, which means more jobs here at home.
By incentivizing the right policy conditions and generating an enabling environment for growth, MCC builds a Gateway to Opportunity for American businesses interested in exporting to or doing business in these next generation emerging markets as they climb out of poverty. Because of this, MCC’s mission is key to Secretary of State Clinton’s 21st century economic statecraft and President Obama’s efforts to put in place an American economy that is “built to last.” MCC is pushing the envelope on development effectiveness and sustainability through our commitment to transparency, accountability, results, policy reform, and country-driven solutions.
MCC’s approach has not gone unnoticed. A November 2011 Fortune Magazine article concludes that MCC “certainly gives the taxpayer real bang for the buck.” A recent MarketWatch commentary by Thomas Kostigen arguing for a robust MCC budget sums up the impact best: “MCC deserves its fair share so the U.S. can gain its fair share in the emerging markets. The global impact of these investments comes back to us all in the form of food, jobs, more open markets for trade, and doing good and right by others. It’s a boomerang effect.”
We agree, and we’re committed to showcasing even more investment and procurement opportunities for U.S. businesses in the months ahead to ensure the full “boomerang effect” of positive impact for the world’s poor as well as American businesses and workers.
Posted on March 29, 2012 by Jonathan Brooks, Managing Director for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America
Although MCC's compact with Armenia closed at the end of September, the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan is ensuring the lessons we learned during our five-year partnership can improve the country’s future development projects.
The embassy’s new MCC Resource Center makes information regarding MCC’s $177 million investment available as a reference for future U.S. Government development projects, Armenians from the diaspora interested in building upon compact projects and others. The center includes an array of documents like farmer-training maps, public outreach documents, quarterly bulletins, and training materials.
The MCC Resource Center also provides embassy staff and visitors with information on MCA-Armenia’s successor, the Foreign Financed Projects Management Center (FFPMC). An FFPMC team led the compact development process, and we are pleased that they are involved again by helping monitor MCC’s investments over the next few years.
Posted on February 15, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I just witnessed an incredible celebration here in Ghana: thousands of people rejoicing at the opening of the long-awaited N1 highway—renamed the George Walker Bush Motorway—which links the capital, Accra, with major ports, the international airport and the country’s major agricultural regions. This has been a Ghanaian dream since 1965, and it’s finally coming true.
As I drove down the road, thousands of people that live along the road greeted us. School children celebrated. People stood on banisters to catch a better glimpse of the celebration, and crowds waved from their nearby apartments.
There was dancing and chanting. The American and Ghanaian flags swayed together. A nearby large banner read, “Thank you, America.” The celebration resonated deeply with me.
MCC helped improve a 14-kilometer stretch of the highway as part of its five-year, $547 million compact. It runs through the heart of the capital city and for decades has been clogged with people and traffic. The need to widen the highway has been in the planning 40 years, but it only became a reality thanks to the Ghana and MCC partnership. It’s not hard to see why people were so excited.
The highway project was Ghana’s largest public works project in decades, and workers labored until the final minutes of compact closeout to ensure project completion. As President John Atta Mills told the crowd, “This is not President Kufuor's compact. This is not my compact. It’s Ghana's compact.”
During closeout speeches, the chief executive officer of Ghana’s MiDA, the entity in charge of implementing Ghana’s MCC compact, said it best: “MCC is the spearhead for development.” In Ghana, we certainly are spearheading a true partnership based on goodwill, trust and collaboration.
The opening of the N1 highway is a major event in Ghana’s development and a highly visible reminder of MCC’s partnership. It’s a milestone that transcends political parties, both in the U.S. and Ghana. And most importantly, it’s a reason all Ghanaians have to celebrate.
Posted on February 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 October 23, 2011 by Daniel W.Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
My travels as MCC CEO bring me to many memorable places, but it’s the people who inspire me the most. Nicolas Kinsou Ahouandjiinou is one such person who I met in the Beninese village of Djeregbe.
Nicolas was born in Djeregbe and his father was a traditional healer in the village. Nicolas earned degrees from the University of Benin and the Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Nigeria, and had been travelling the world as an agronomist. One day, more than 20 years ago, Nicolas’s father called him home with a request: use your degrees to adapt the use of native medicinal plants to the modern world.
During their conversation, Nicholas’s father gave him a 200-page notebook that contained his acquired knowledge of the medicinal properties of West African plants, including eucalyptus, lemongrass, laurel, chayote, and ginger. Paging through the notebook, Nicolas knew that he had to return to Djeregbe to realize his father’s dream.
After years of research and trial and error, Nicholas invented a process -- which he believes to be the first of its kind -- to mix the essential oils of traditional African medicinal plants with water to produce a flavored, bottled water. Having successfully mixed oil and water, and devised a way to modernize his father’s age-old practices, Nicholas then faced one more challenge: inadequate access to capital to grow his business, DETAREN SARL.
That’s where MCC came in. With grant support from our Access to Financial Services Project, DETAREN SARL purchased new machinery to produce and bottle the water. According to Nicolas, production has already increased from 1,200 to 8,000 bottles a day. The flavored water, which Nicolas named “Eau Noble,” is now sold in Benin and limited quantities are exported to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo. With his new capacity, Nicolas plans to double his staff to 15, and increase sales by expanding his distribution network to all of West Africa.
MCC has provided DETAREN SARL, and other members of the GATID consortium it has joined, with the assets and credibility they need to gain the attention of financial institutions like Bank of Africa and Oikocredit, which are working with the consortium to provide credit. Nicolas knows that access to credit is essential to growing his business and realizing his dreams -- and the dreams of his father.
Nicolas’s story shows that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Benin. DETAREN SARL exemplifies the transformation that is happening all over Africa as old traditions give rise to new ways of thinking and new ways of doing business. MCC is proud to be working with entrepreneurs and innovators like Nicolas who are trailblazing Africa’s path to prosperity in the 21st century.
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