Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Agriculture
Posted on December 9, 2014 by Randy Wood, Resident Country Director, Senegal
I’ve been traveling regularly to the Ngalenka area for four years now, starting in 2010 when the Senegal Compact entered into force and the first design and engineering studies of our irrigation and water management project began. But this time it was different.
In 2010, the soil at Ngalenka was brown and dry; local farmers eked out crops in small plots poised among the scrub brush, watering them with buckets carried laboriously from the Ngalenka Estuary of the Senegal River again and again – work that often fell to the women and girls to do. But over that time, design studies became finalized plans, plans became contracts, and the contracts led to a steady flow of workers, equipment and professionals that made the plans into reality. So imagine my joy and pride this time as we drove out into the center of the Ngalenka irrigated perimeter to see for the first time that the whole site was green with rice!
We lined up on the embankment by the inflow pumping station as President Macky Sall’s convoy arrived. The evening air was finally cool, and the people of Ngalenka and Podor had turned out en masse, dressed in their finest, to celebrate the completed project. Construction of the 1,112-acre system was finished earlier this year, and the farmers had been settled onto their allocated plots and begun farming.
Furthermore, the construction was matched by an ambitious, $4.1 million land tenure program that codified existing occupants’ rights and ensured they would be the ones to benefit from the newly improved lands. That four-year consensual process wasn’t easy, but it led to full agreement on how the land would be shared and managed as well as a community-led decision to attribute 10 percent of the land to women’s groups. It ensured fairness and equity of access to land across multiple family lineages and ethnicities. But despite the difficulty, anyone would agree it was worth it!
Much of northern Senegal experienced a drought in 2014. The surrounding countryside looked parched to me, but the fields of Ngalenka were thick with green blades of rice. And they’ll stay that way through rainy seasons and dry seasons for many years to come.
President Sall threw a lever, and water began to pour from the pump’s gates and flow through the network of canals that nourishes the fields as the people applauded. I thought back to the early days, when MCC’s investments were being chosen and prioritized. Tests had shown the land was fertile and could be used to grow rice – Senegal’s staple crop and the basis of any Senegalese traditional meal – if enough water could be brought onto the fields for irrigation. In fact, the lowland of Ngalenka was just one of five sites identified and studied. Now that Ngalenka has been built and is fully functional, the remaining sites can be easily developed by the Senegalese government and other partners.
Ngalenka is just a small part of a much larger investment in irrigation systems in Senegal’s northern Delta breadbasket. As the water began to seep through the roots of all that rice, it was easy to be excited about just what the $170 million investment in both the Delta and Ngalenka mean: the impact it could have on the estimated 1.2 million beneficiaries who look forward to a meal of warm rice every evening with their families and for whom this project aims to increase food security and open new opportunities to participate in Senegal’s rural economy and reduce poverty.
Posted on September 9, 2014 by Cynthia Berning, Program Officer, Department of Compact Operations
In September 2000, almost 200 countries announced their support for the United Nations Millennium Declaration, promising to help in the fight against poverty and hunger, strengthen access to education and improve health, including combating major diseases by 2015. MCC is one of several U.S. government agencies that help partner countries in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and improve peoples’ lives.
When world leaders convene in New York for the United Nations General Assembly later this month, the MDGs will be a major focus—looking at the progress that has been achieved and establishing a new agenda for development over the coming years. This is the first in a series of blogs highlighting some of MCC’s contributions to supporting the MDGs in the lead-up to the United Nations General Assembly.
MDG 1 sets the target of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Each MCC compact is designed to fight poverty, and many countries have made fighting hunger and food insecurity a priority of their relationship with MCC.
Since its creation in 2004, MCC has committed over $9 billion in programs designed to spur economic growth in 38 countries, and more than half of these investments have been in projects designed to reduce food insecurity. MCC has helped its partner countries improve agricultural productivity, gain greater access to markets and post-harvest facilities, boost agricultural finance, increase land tenure security, improve land governance and land administration and contribute to improved nutrition.
The effects of MCC’s poverty- and hunger-reducing efforts are evident in large-scale irrigation projects in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali. Through these investments, we have provided a reliable source of water for thousands of family farmers who are now able to grow irrigated rice and vegetables—even in the dry season and during periods of drought.
And it’s not just the delivery of water that makes these investments significant. The sustainability of these investments has also been assured through participatory land allocation activities that protect the land rights of existing land users and give farmers a voice in deciding who receives new land rights, and land registration activities that provide secure, well-documented rights to the newly irrigated land.
More secure rights allow them to invest more confidently in making their land more productive and to take the lead in managing shared resources effectively. Community participation in land allocation decisions increases transparency and accountability of leaders and improves local governance structures. These investments should lead to increased income for these farmers, helping them to farm their way to a better life for themselves and their families.
Read more about MCC’s efforts to increase food security in its partner countries.
Posted on April 18, 2014 by Tim Mooney, director, agriculture, and Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture and land
As part of the Mali Compact, MCC invested $252.9 million in the Alatona Irrigation Project to build irrigation infrastructure—but that’s not the whole story. Designing a comprehensive package of complimentary activities to ensure the physical canals would have broad and lasting impacts beyond the compact is the rest of the story.
Though much smaller than the construction in dollar terms, these complementary investments will mean the difference between a well-maintained system that operates decades into the future and a short-lived one that falls into disrepair within a few years.
Integrating various activities was critical to sustainability. Infrastructure without effective land allocation can leave beneficiaries with insecure property rights, reducing the chances people will invest in their property. Allocation of secure land rights without good training in agronomy and farm management could mean production levels that do not reach their potential. And water delivery without organizations in place to manage water flow, collect fees for its use and maintain the system can lead to rapid system degradation. Extensive outreach during the implementation helped beneficiaries understand what they were receiving and their responsibilities for ensuring sustainability.
The project adopted an approach different than the typical “top-down” management of irrigation systems in Mali. Traditionally, a centralized agency would fix water prices and dictate how farmers would use their land.
In the Alatona zone, a federation of nine water-user associations now has the legal authority to set water prices, use proceeds to operate and maintain the secondary and tertiary systems and pay the government irrigation agency to operate and maintain the primary system and deliver water to the perimeter. With the project’s support and USAID providing post-compact assistance, the federation is operating, managing and maintaining the secondary and tertiary systems of the Alatona Perimeter, while the Malian government is responsible for only the primary canal and drain. The beneficiaries now have an active voice in governing the system that provides them with water.
To maximize outcomes, the project was built on incentives and transparency. MCC built upon the Government of Mali's broader goal of decentralizing government to establish a revenue authority responsible for collecting the Alatona farmers’ mortgage payments and using the proceeds to benefit the entire region.
MCC’s investments to build the capacity of the water-user associations and their federation, improve land tenure security, establish the revenue authority, and build irrigation infrastructure work together to sustain economic benefits for farmers in Alatona. USAID’s follow-on support for these critical institutions developed local skills and help the region toward its goal of self-sufficiency.
What are your experiences building local, bottom-up institutions to manage large works that were previously centrally managed? Have you experienced success with water-user associations? What lessons can you share with us to improve the effectiveness of comprehensive, bottom-up approaches to financing irrigation systems?
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Randall Wood, resident country director, Senegal
If Oumou Khairy Fall and Téty Fall are smiling in this picture, it’s because their lives are already better off—economically and socially—since the beginning of MCC’s investment in Senegal. And the work has just begun!
Both come from the northern village of Mboubéne in the Senegal River Valley, part of Africa’s dusty Sahel but the heartland of Senegal’s rice production zone. Production there is expected to increase by 10,500 hectacres by the time MCC’s five-year, $540 million compact ends in September 2015, and the dramatic improvements to irrigation channels, pumps and water conduits will help local rice farmers plant three crops per year instead of one.
That’s big news in a country that imports nearly 70 percent of its rice, Senegal’s main staple food.
Speaking of rice, Oumou and Téty would like to offer you some. They competed and won the right to manage the cafeteria for local contractor Eiffage Senegal, a contractor involved with the construction funded through the compact's $170 million Irrigation and Water Resources Management Project. It’s hot in Senegal’s north this time of year, and construction is hot, sweaty work that stirs up an appetite in a hurry.
Oumou smiles. “These men are always hungry,” she says. “And they come back and back for more.”
“I think they like our food,” laughs Téty.
Oumou and Téty start serving breakfast while the first rays of the sun are still throwing long shadows and the desert air is cool. The day’s heat will arrive in less than an hour as the Eiffage crew lines up for their first meal of the day. “Coffee,” Téty explains, “with lots of powdered milk, fresh bread and some stew.”
While the crew heads out to pour concrete and lay the iron rebar that will eventually bring the additional irrigation waters over the rice fields, Oumou and Téty begin preparing for lunch. When the sun is overhead, the temperature soars to well past 90 degrees. The Senegal River Valley swelters. The workers come back in for some nourishment, camaraderie—and shade. Lunch is a stew of local red beans in tomato sauce, a specialty of the region.
“It seems like no matter how many beans we buy in the market, we need more,” Téty explains. “These men are always hungry, and food is so important.”
Téty has neatly summed up just one way this project itself is important. When construction concludes in 2015, MCC’s investments in rice production and irrigation will help the Senegalese people get closer to meeting their demand for the staple. But it’s paying dividends already in the local economy. With well over $100 million in construction contracts ongoing in Senegal’s north, MCC’s investments are indirectly generating jobs for many hundreds of laborers, drivers, engineers, surveyors, community interpreters, social organizers, technicians, specialists, and more.
The impact these workers are having on the local economy—from food to gas to equipment to haircuts to lodging and more—is rippling through the Senegalese economy. The beans Téty purchases at the local market are just the beginning.
MCC’s program in Senegal places a special emphasis on gender equality from project design to implementation to evaluation, and these two women are an example of that. MCC’s construction contracts stipulate that women be given opportunities to join the workforce in whatever jobs they qualify for and are willing to do. Women are increasingly taking up positions such as flag person, gas station attendant and warehouse overseer. Moreover, if Senegal has any female welders, they are to be given an equal chance to work.
There are many opportunities for women to benefit from the sudden influx of capital and labor in Senegal’s north. This cafeteria is just one of them.
The compact is expected to benefit more than 1.1 million people over the next 20 years. As I finish my scalding hot glass of attaya—sweet, Senegalese tea—I watch Oumou and Téty manage their kitchen as the lunchtime crew cleans their plates and prepares to head back out for the afternoon’s work. I’ll be proud when this program is complete, and the people of Senegal benefit from this investment. But I’m even prouder to see the impact the investment is already having.
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Christopher Davis, Development specialist, Burkina Faso
Scents of onions, tomatoes and damp earth permeated the morning air as we spoke with representatives of women’s associations in the Dî Perimeter, one of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s principal investments in Burkina Faso. My colleagues and I were visiting the construction site to listen to community members who received their newly irrigated land last spring.
Located only a few miles from the country’s border with Mali and near the convergence of the Sourou and Mouhoun rivers, the village of Dî and its namesake 5,535-acre perimeter provide the region’s farmers with irrigation all year. In the past, most of these farmers could cultivate only during the rainy season. The women told us they were grateful to finally have the opportunity to farm land of their own.
“Before the MCC project, women [in this area] didn’t have the right to cultivate on their own land unless they were widows,” said Sayibata Ki, president of Association Benkadi No. 3. “We took care of the kids at home, prepared meals and had little work to do outside of market days. Now we can go out to farm our fields and make our own decisions about which part of our harvest we keep or sell.”
MCC's five-year, $481 million compact with Burkina Faso contains four projects: agriculture, roads, rural land governance, and education. In addition to the irrigation of the Dî Perimeter, the compact’s $141.9 million Agriculture Development Project is working with the Burkinabe to improve water management, diversified agriculture and access to rural finance.
An estimated 4,500 farmers and their families in Dî are expected to be working in the perimeter by the time the compact ends in July, and the trip gave us an opportunity to talk personally with some of them following their first growing season. Preliminary reports indicate that farmers harvested more than 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans and other legumes on the land on which construction had already been completed.
The project included a strong focus on ensuring benefits reach local women, who are often not recognized as landholders and are therefore last in line to receive land security. More than 130 agricultural associations are receiving land in the Dî Perimeter, composed entirely of women and youth from neighboring communities. Each cooperative member receives a plot of about one-tenth of an acre; last year, more than 2,000 individuals formed organizations to be eligible to receive the land.
Cooperative members are receiving kits containing tools, seeds and fertilizers. MCC is also funding trainings on how to plant and apply fertilizers to maximize yields, efficient irrigation methods and ways to increase soil fertility.
Most of the cooperative members are learning these techniques for the first time.
“We were taught how to make compost in our courtyards with things we can easily find around our village,” Ki said. “I give my children a bit of money to go and search for the supplies and then I use the compost on my land. It is much cheaper than buying fertilizer.”
The association members dug canals to deliver water directly to their parcels and learned that they would manage water resources that feed their canals.
“Mastering the irrigation schedule and working well together was very difficult in the beginning,” said Elisabethe Tiama, a member of the Hérakaura cooperative. “[MCA-Burkina Faso contractors] helped us to get organized and we were able to set a five-day watering calendar based on the rotation of the village markets. They also showed us the best ways to grow our corn and onions.”
All of the farmers we spoke with said they were pleased with their yields and looking forward to harvesting the lucrative dry-season cash crops they planted a couple of months ago. I was most impressed with the initiative and ingenuity some of these entrepreneurs exhibited, quickly solving problems and adapting to a more formal and communal irrigation schedule.
By April 2014, these businesswomen will be joined by their neighbors from throughout the region as the full 5,535 acres are delivered to beneficiaries. Additional plots of land will be distributed via a lottery before then.
Ki can’t wait.
“My husband and I both put our names into the land lottery,” she said. “We are ready for more farmland!”
Posted on March 14, 2014 by Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture and land
Developing a clear and well-defined program logic—the chain of events by which a given project is expected to lead to increased household income—is a crucial step in designing MCC projects. The clearer a project’s program logic, the easier it is to design activities, implement them, monitor them, and evaluate results.
As MCC assesses its portfolio from its first 10 years, what’s clear is that projects without well-defined program logics are much more difficult to implement and evaluate.
We also learned that having a clear program logic makes it a lot easier to explain:
- Why we are doing this project?
- What are the results we expect?
- What are the benefits of those results?
- What do we need to do to get there?
When a wide range of stakeholders understand a project and its intended outcomes, they are likely to be more engaged in implementing it and delivering results.
When decision-makers and stakeholders understand “why”, they can better explain the project to others, becoming more supportive advocates and champions. Finally, when decisions need to be made along the way due to budget or timeline issues, the program logic helps the team determine how proposed changes might affect achieving key outcomes and, ultimately, income growth.
MCC’s develops a program logic by:
Step 1: Defining the problem
Farmers’ incomes might be low, land rights might be hard to define or enforce, or rural populations might have limited access to irrigation or financial services. It is important to define the root causes of these problems and the economic challenges they create. For example, why are land rights difficult to enforce? What behaviors are affected by insecure land tenure? Do people invest less in their agricultural production than they might if they were more confident that they would reap the eventual gains? Do they spend an excessive amount of time resolving land-related disputes or attempting to complete land transactions?
Step 2: Identify the links between these problems and incomes
For MCC to make an investment, we need to demonstrate how it will result in higher incomes for beneficiaries. Determining the specific pathways through which incomes will rise is the tricky—but important—part. For example, do we hope that registering property rights will make landholders more secure? Do we envision then that they will make longer-term investments in their land through irrigation equipment, improved tools or perennial crops like fruit trees, increasing their land’s productivity and their incomes? Are there other ways to provide landholders with the security of ownership that might be less costly than registration? Or is the reason people aren’t planting perennial crops related to poor land-use planning in their village rather than insecure rights? Sector experts and economists at MCC and in partner countries must probe questions like these. .
Once we have defined the outcomes that lead to increased income, we must think strategically about the activities that will produce those outcomes. This means focusing on the outcomes that are essential for increased income and avoiding funding activities that matter less. For example, stakeholders might identify lack of credit as a constraint to increasing land productivity; however, the data does not link resolving land tenure problems to resolving the credit problem because there might be other reasons why access to credit is limited. In this example, a credit activity or credit-related outcomes may not be included among the proposed pieces of the project in the program logic.
Step 3: Use program logic to track progress toward results
MCC then uses program logic diagrams as guides in tracking progress on outcomes. The logic diagram will help the team select indicators to monitor throughout the compact and set realistic targets based on assumptions of how long it will take for certain activities to produce outcomes and for those outcomes, in turn, to produce increases in income. By returning often to the program logic, project teams and evaluators can make sure to ask the important questions, measure the right things and gather evaluation data at a time that makes logical sense.
Does your organization use a similar approach—or a completely different methodology—to define program logic and ensure that projects and activities lead to measurable results? Any suggestions to improve MCC’s approach?
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.
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