Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Agriculture
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 April 22, 2013 by ,
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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.
Posted on August 4, 2011 by Rachel Fredman, MCC Intern Morocco
Driving through the hills near Taounate in Northern Morocco is dizzying at times. With sweeping views of precipitous peaks and groves of olive and fig trees, one feels immediately transported to southern Spain. It’s disorienting to think that only a day before I was in a cool oasis flanked by date palms and sun-scorched desert. This is the geographical diversity of Morocco.
A view of the hills over Taounate.
It is this geographical diversity that yields tremendously varied agriculture. According to the World Bank, the agricultural sector in Morocco employs about 40 percent of the nation's workforce, making it the largest employer in the country and about 15 percent of its total GDP.
About 70 percent of the poor live in rural Morocco, which results in a massive rural exodus toward urban areas like Casablanca or Rabat, or the European Union. Many of these urban economies, however, cannot support this migration and these people often find themselves selling tissue or other goods on the side of the road for lack of better opportunities.
Many of the agricultural practices in Morocco have led to massive amounts of soil erosion, which is often irreversible. In the rainy sections of the northeast of the country, barley, wheat, and other cereals can be raised without irrigation. Farmers default to these crops in many of the areas we are passing through, razing trees on the mountains and planting wheat in their place. Along with overgrazing, this is causing land degradation and serious desertification throughout the country. We often pass by a mountain that, once home to trees and native plants, is now crackling dry from soil erosion. This intense desertification in Morocco also increases water pollution. The loose topsoil causes an increase in runoff, which in turn increases the siltation levels of Moroccan reservoirs and the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The Morocco Compact is addressing these issues with its ambitious Fruit Tree Productivity Project. This Project will rehabilitate about 55,000 hectares of existing rain-fed fruit tree orchards and expand fruit tree production on nearly 62,000 hectares of land. It aims to increase and stabilize the income of poor farmers by shifting to more valuable tree crops – from wheat to rain-fed olive, date and almond trees. Almost 70,000 households will benefit from higher productivity and increased incomes. Moreover, they will be provided training and technical assistance on improved crop husbandry techniques that will increase yields and alleviate soil erosion as well as strengthen links to markets.
We visited one such cooperative in a small village near Taounate to learn more about their program.
Me, in the sunglasses, with a farmer cooperative near Taounate. The cooperative president is in the center, with the hat.
The cooperative consists of about 20 young to middle-aged men who want to stay in this village and farm to earn a better living than they would by moving to the cities. The president of the cooperative is a vibrant man whose former military training has given him the management skills to make this cooperative successful.
The members of this cooperative lead us to their field school where they are experimenting with more sustainable farming practices. A farmer field school is an innovative agricultural development methodology in which a group of farmers gets together in one of their own fields to learn about their crops and things that affect them. They learn how to farm better by observing, analyzing and trying out new ideas on their own fields. Unlike traditional approaches to agricultural extension which rely on extension workers providing advice to farmers, farmer field schools enable groups of farmers to find out the answers for themselves, maximizing their ownership in improving their farming practices. Essentially, the farmers can develop solutions to their own problems.
Farmer field schools are one of many techniques that are being implemented by MCC’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project in Morocco. Farmers are also being trained in integrated pest management, ways to mobilize their existing resources to increase production, and business support through technical assistance, applied research and scientific support. Nearly 33,000 farmers will be provided training. Meeting with this farmer cooperative reinforced in me the vast and sustained impact MCC is having on the rural poor in Morocco.
Posted on July 20, 2011 by Sharon Keld, Peace Corps Response Volunteer
As a former Peace Corps volunteer and a 20-year veteran of the corporate marketing world, I’ve seen my fair share of economic development projects. Now, I am in Armenia as part of a program that partners Peace Corps response volunteers with MCC projects. My main responsibility has been assisting the Communication team at MCA-Armenia (the Armenian government entity responsible for implementing the MCC Compact in Armenia) in its efforts. The position has given me a front-row seat to MCC’s investments in Armenia. After observing the dedication and professionalism of everyone involved in this effort, I have concluded that it has been one of my most inspiring experiences yet.
The MCC’s total investment in Armenia’s agricultural and water sector is expected to reach $177 million by the program’s completion in September 2011. The goal of the program is the reduction of rural poverty through the rehabilitation of Armenia’s vital irrigation infrastructure, complemented with extensive technical and financial assistance to rural farmers and to the government irrigation entities that support them.
I can see the difference that MCC and MCA-Armenia are making in the lives of people here. During my time in Armenia, I have been witnessed the opening of a tertiary canal, a nursery visit, and the ribbon-cutting for two pumping stations. But the event that touched me most was a small event honoring Hamazasp Gabrielyan, the 1,000th borrower under an activity designed to expand the accessibility of credit for rural Armenians. With this small loan of approximately $8,000, Hamazasp will build a new cooling facility that will allow him to extend his selling season and increase his income. As I listened to his story, I felt a deep sense of pride and gratitude. Thanks to our investment and contribution, thousands of farmers like him will have access to better irrigation and training in advanced farming techniques. This will improve their incomes and their lives.
Another personal highlight was attending a tree-planting ceremony along with 80 Armenian schoolchildren. As part of its environmental policy, MCA-Armenia is required to compensate for any trees cut down during construction. The launch I attended kicked off a campaign in which MCA-Armenia planted 1,500 trees this spring. As I helped plant a tree outside the village hall, and observed the gratitude and enthusiasm of the community members, I couldn’t help being filled with pride and enthusiasm about my work here and the work of MCC to benefit the Armenian people.
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 June 23, 2010 by Patrick Fine, Vice President for Compact Implementation
Earlier this month, I spent three days getting a firsthand look at MCC’s investments in Honduras. The MCC-funded program there will end in September, so most activities are almost finished. In fact, Honduras will be the first country to complete its five-year MCC compact. I was impressed by what I saw both in terms of the development impact and in terms of how the program has been managed toward a successful conclusion.
The program has two principal components: (1) a transport project that is widening and repaving 105 kilometers of the main highway through the country; 68 kilometers of paved secondary roads; and about 500 kilometers of dirt feeder roads; and (2) a rural development project that includes a training program to move small farmers from traditional methods into greater commercial activity by selling high-value horticultural crops.
I particularly liked seeing the direct link between the compact’s investments and increased income. The program works with approximately 7,400 farmers who previously were earning $350-$400 per hectare growing maize and beans using traditional methods. 6,000 of these farmers are now earning at least $2,000 and, on average, $4,000 per hectare per year growing vegetables using modern methods that include drip irrigation. Not only is there a clear and large boost in the income of program participants, but they, in turn, have created new jobs, most part-time, in their communities.
Many participants have used the increased income to improve their farms and homes and buy motorcycles or cars and, in some cases, trucks to haul their produce. Signs of increased prosperity were visible in the communities I visited. These two projects are clearly linked together. Roads are being built in productive areas where many of the farmers are being trained, to facilitate getting their produce to market.
In addition to seeing how the MCC compact program has helped to increase incomes in rural Honduras, I also saw the potential of the program’s CA-5 road project bring lasting and positive improvements to Honduras’ transport sector. The CA-5 highway runs through mountains and the construction is making cuts and fills to create a broad, safe and modern road bed. The new road beds will have a lasting improvement. The paved secondary roads also looked like they would bring long-term improvements to local communities.
A final part of this program worth commenting on is capacity building. Because this tends to be intangible, it is one of the more difficult benefits to convey. From conversations, it was clear to me that the MCA-Honduras staff feel like the program is building on their expertise and institutions. Small grants to local institutions have resulted in impressive work on biological pest control and on developing new strains of coffee (programs also tightly linked to raising rural incomes), and have introduced renewable technology, such as some innovative water wheels used to supply irrigation systems.
Many Hondurans I met noted that the program’s resettlement policies set a new standard in Honduras, and some saw this as “game changing” with respect to future resettlement. It is clear that the processes and safeguards enforced by the program benefited affected communities and provide an example of best practices. Whether this example drives future practice remains to be seen, but authorities seemed impressed by the MCC experience.
Good management underlies most successful programs, and the MCC experience in Honduras is no exception. MCC’s Honduras team and MCA-Honduras enjoy a strong, professional relationship that provides a basis for problem identification and solving. Based on my visit, I am proud of what has been accomplished, and I would describe the program as a success.
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