Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Benin
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?
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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 December 1, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, MCC
The Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness took place this week as government leaders from over 150 countries gathered to discuss progress made on donor promises to tackle global poverty. These discussions started with the Paris Declaration in 2004, then the Accra Agenda for Action in 2008 and continued in Busan. Delegates talked about “ownership,” “mutual accountability” and “outcomes.” Ownership is about countries determining and driving their own development priorities. Mutual accountability means we work in partnership—as donor and recipient countries—to achieve development solutions and share responsibility for successes and failures. And as partners, we are committed to delivering tangible outcomes and meaningful impacts–the ultimate result of any assistance.
MCC's Sheila Herrling, Daniel W. Yohannes, and David Weld participate in discussions at this week's 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness.
Achieving results was a major theme that weaved through discussions at Busan. Results-focused aid is a shared objective. Yet, an interesting set of questions around “how” and “for whom” remains. Who defines results? How are they obtained? Do process results no longer matter? Are we measuring results for donors, for recipients or for both? MCC brings much to the table in terms of putting a results-focused assistance program into practice. As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in her speech at the forum’s opening ceremony, MCC is a pioneer in measuring results. Some thoughts based on our experience at MCC:
First, how we pursue a results-focused approach matters. Country ownership is bigger and deeper than consultations around a national development strategy. As MCC Vice President Sheila Herrling mentioned during Tuesday’s Results Thematic Session, a big part of that ownership is how countries include civil society in results setting and results monitoring, and how countries and donors find ways to share that information transparently and accessibly with the public. During my remarks at the Results Plenary, I stressed that inclusive, country-driven development must embrace the voices of women because we know gender equality is key to development effectiveness. Efforts to more purposefully examine how a results agenda can strengthen country systems and institutions will ultimately lead to better and more sustainable outcomes.
Second, focusing on outcomes and impact is absolutely the right approach. That said, we should not lose sight of monitoring and evaluating policy reforms and intermediate targets, which help us establish the path to outcomes and impact. At MCC, we embrace an innovative “continuum of results” — tracking, measuring and publicly communicating results along the entire lifecycle of each country-determined program we fund, from inputs, to outputs, to policy reforms, and ultimately to measurable outcomes for beneficiaries. We count interim milestones met along the way because each one brings us a step closer to reaching the program goal. MCC’s continuum of results also includes post-program impact evaluations to help us improve accountability, determine if observed outcomes are attributable to MCC’s investments and to learn whether programs were designed correctly. Because MCC’s continuum of results is built on transparency and critical learning, it becomes a tool for assessing what works and does not work in development and what can be improved for the future.
Third, the question of “results for whom” got a lot of play in Busan. To be accountable to their own citizens, partner countries must answer this often difficult question and demonstrate how development resources are used and what results they achieve. As we discuss our drive for positive results, we must never lose sight of what an actual result means for ordinary men and women around the world. Ayesha Otibo, the chairwoman of a farmer-based organization comprised of 50 female rice processors in Ghana, received training on ways to develop her business and increase crop production. Ghanaian pineapple farmers, like Tony Botchway, used MCC support to seek new markets. Andre Soui-Guidi, a business owner in Benin, is now able to access credit in order to expand his operations and create more jobs for his fellow citizens. At the same time, we cannot and should not ignore the fact that results matter also for the taxpayers of donor countries who, even during these challenging economic times, want to continue funding for development. Our ability to demonstrate that their investments are paying off—that developing countries are improving governance and democratic rights, assistance is reaching the poor, and investments are yielding positive returns--is critical to sustaining strong development cooperation.
Lastly, international events like Busan tend to focus on what hasn’t been achieved. That’s fine in terms of accountability and the need to keep progressing toward commitments. But, let’s remember the real advancements made, including by the United States. Major U.S. development efforts—from the multilateral development banks, to Feed the Future, to Partnership for Growth, to MCC—all emphasize inclusive, country-led, outcomes-focused approaches. For MCC’s part, we look forward to continuing our work to break new ground in advancing and innovating on development effectiveness, and putting principles in this area into practice.
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 22, 2011 by Valeria R. McFarren , Implementation Communications Officer
The Port of Cotonou is often described as the lungs of Benin: It breathes in revenue that gives life to Benin’s economy. In fact, 50 percent of Benin’s state income and 85 percent of all customs income originates there.
The port is also a gateway to landlocked West African countries. Ninety percent of all imports arrive through the port, with approximately 54 percent of them destined for hinterland countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger. However, high shipping costs, low efficiency, and poor logistical facilities have limited the Port of Cotonou from becoming an even more important trade route, affecting its competitiveness as a springboard to neighboring countries. In 2006, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Benin, in recognition that an efficient port is a driver of GDP growth, embarked on an investment program of $188 million in port improvements. This $188 million project is part of Benin’s $307 million MCC compact.
I was in Benin two weeks ago visiting the port, and was impressed by the size and magnitude of this MCC/MCA-Benin project. To design and implement major infrastructure improvements and tackle institutional reform in Benin’s only port – within MCC’s five-year timeline – is a significant undertaking.
As the project concludes, port improvements will surely be visible, but all the sweat, tears, and hard work behind it may be forgotten. This is my tribute to process: a behind-the-scenes look at the Port of Cotonou.
- According to independent reports from the International Finance Corporation, around 450 people were employed for port reconstruction over the last two years.• 360,000 tons of rocks were hauled in to extend the jetty, a structure used to prevent the build-up of sediment in the port, by 300 meters. This barrier significantly reduces the amount of sand in the port entrance channel area, reducing maintenance costs for dredging of the port. Construction was completed in December 2010, six months ahead of schedule.
- The railway from Cotonou to Parakou, which had been non-functional for six years, was put back to work bringing rocks for construction to the port. This required approximately 30 trips.
- Most of the rocks were supplied by truck. Approximately 100 to 120 trucks per day were loaded with rocks, each weighing one to three tons, and made the 150-kilometer trip from the quarry to the port.
- Three teams of trained divers were brought in to install scour protection at the base of the new quay wall. This protects the sea floor from forming destabilizing holes and ensures that more boats can continue using the port.
- One and half months of construction took place underwater.
- Rigorous safety protocols and environmental safeguards were in place—several months of staff time were dedicated to providing educational briefings about construction safety hazards and HIV/AIDS awareness.
- Approximately 150,000 tons of concrete were used to build the three-foot-thick quay walls, parking areas, and over five kilometers of roads, including a three-kilometer road around the port.
- In coordination with the MCC/MCA-Benin project, the Government of Benin successfully negotiated a concession agreement with the French company Bolloré, who will manage a new container terminal at the port’s new quay for 25 years after the compact ends. The agreement includes $200 million in concession fees during the first eight years of operation, and investment in operating equipment and civil works of $256 million over the life of the concession.
- Dredging the port is almost complete. This project will increase the depth of the port basin from 12 meters to 15 meters, allowing up to 250-meter-long container vessels access to the new quay berth. Bigger boats mean more containers per boat, increasing volume of imports and exports.
MCC always operates with the bottom line in mind: How does this port contribute to economic growth? The answer is that a more efficient, higher capacity, and safer port reduces ships’ waiting time at anchor, waiting time at berth, and customs clearance times, which reduces shipping costs. For imports, this reduces the cost of goods to Benin and its neighbors. For exports, the reduction in shipping costs and time makes Benin – and its neighbors using the port -- more competitive and spurs their growth.
According to Henning Stehli, the port advisor hired by MCA-Benin, approximately 50,000 people earn a living off the port, both directly and indirectly. A few examples include fishermen, truckers, longshoremen, those buying and selling goods, and those involved in insurance and security. For instance, the dockers tend to be responsible not only for their immediate families but also those who live with them: children, parents, siblings, and extended families. Each docker’s income maintains a household of an average of 10 people. Even being conservative with figures, Henning sees at least half a million Beninese depending on the port for survival on a daily basis.
Henning sums it up nicely: “The MCC gift came to the right place... It is having and will have a great impact. However, excellent management is needed – the Government of Benin must gift its people back by making sure they take care and make good use of this investment.”
Posted on June 2, 2011 by Melvin F. Williams, Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) uses 17 independent, transparent indicators to measure countries’ commitment to democratic governance, investments in people, and economic freedom. One of those indicators measures performance on the rule of law, which among other things, measures the effectiveness, independence and predictability of the judiciary; the protection of property rights; and the enforceability of contracts. As MCC’s General Counsel, this is an area of great interest to me, so I was especially pleased to see the rule of law at work in Benin and Mali, two MCC partner countries in West Africa.
I started my visit in Benin, where one part of MCC’s $307 million Compact is designed to boost investment and private sector activity by increasing access to the justice system. During my trip, I visited the new, MCC-funded Legal Information Center (LIC). When completed, the LIC will, for the first time, serve as a center for disseminating court decisions, laws, case records, and other legal information to the people of Benin, which will improve transparency and “demystify” the law for its citizens.
MCC is also financing the construction of five new courthouses, and I was fortunate enough to visit one courthouse under construction.
I also had the opportunity to see another benefit of MCC’s investment: a computerized case management system. These new courthouses and the case management system promise to enhance the rule of law by increasing the speed and efficiency with which cases are processed and adjudicated in Benin. MCC’s compact funding is already delivering results: the average time required for a trial court to reach a decision has been reduced from nine to six months -- for courts of appeal, the time has been reduced from 23 to 10 months.
I then traveled to Mali, where MCC is working with the government on a $461 million Compact that focuses on improvements to the Bamako airport, and a large, highly-integrated agriculture project in the Alatona region on the country. As part of the agriculture project, the Government of Mali is providing land titles to small famers for the first time. (Read American Investments in agricultural productivity and airport renovation lead to growth in Mali.) During my trip, I participated in a ceremony to distribute land titles to small farmers in the Village of Feto. As a measure of MCC’s efforts to improve gender equality, a number of these farmers decided to hold legal title in both the husband’s and wife’s names. A few of the titles were given to women only, which represents a major advance. Providing these farmers with ownership of their land is critical to the continued success of the agricultural project, as farmers who own their land are more likely to maintain and improve it. Moreover, as owners, they can use the land as collateral, which they could not do previously. Also, land ownership is a part of the Government of Mali’s effort to de-centralize authority. Rather than land being controlled from the capital, these land title reforms will empower the people who are actually working the land. This effort is intended to be a model for other areas in Mali.
I’m honored to have seen first-hand the impact of MCC’s investments in Benin and Mali, and how they are strengthening the rule of law.
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