Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Compact
Posted on December 3, 2013 by Carolyn Pryor, Program Officer, Mongolia
As I reflect on the three years that I worked on the Mongolia Compact, I am proud to have been a part of such a significant contribution to the country’s development in several crucial sectors—a contribution that will ultimately improve the lives of millions of Mongolians.
I joined MCC in 2010, shortly after MCA-Mongolia and MCC agreed to add two new projects, with only three years remaining in the compact’s life. The new Energy and Environment Project (EEP) was slated to target ever-growing air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, and the new North-South Road Project would pave a critical portion of highway connecting Mongolia to its key trade partners Russia and China. These two projects were particularly aspirational because there were only two construction seasons and two winter seasons remaining in the compact.
With MCA-Mongolia’s diligence and the contractor’s commitment to complete the project, the road was finished on time and on budget, while adhering to international environmental and social standards. The perseverance and ambition of the project team to complete this very difficult task within an extremely limited time frame, and in the severe construction climate contractors experience in Mongolia, is quite an impressive accomplishment.
Additionally, the EEP was able to subsidize nearly 100,000 energy-efficient stoves in just two winter seasons. I was able to meet several beneficiaries, and every single person spoke of the fuel savings for their families because of the new stoves. I also met a female sub-district leader who was involved with the EEP’s Greening Grants initiative. Her sense of ownership and pride shined through her stories. She said that she had always wanted to grow trees on her plot of land in the impoverished ger district in Ulaanbaatar, but she did not know how to sustain the health of the trees and shrubs in the harsh Mongolian winters. Through the initiative, she was able to learn about proper tree maintenance, while teaching others and keeping track of the neighbors who participated in the program. Not only did this initiative enable this woman to become a leader in her community, it also enabled this impoverished district to plant foliage in a sustainable manner.
During a visit to Mongolia in July, I noticed immediately the change among people working to create a smoke-free environment. At restaurants and countryside ger camps, I saw patrons stepping outside of restaurants to smoke. The Health Project’s involvement in creating smoke free provinces—along with the new Tobacco Control Law— drove this effort, and the change in daily life in Ulaanbaatar and the countryside is evident.
Another aspect of the Health Project that was particularly striking was my visit to Shastin Hospital. The state-of-the-art Stroke and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit established under the compact is a profound step forward in the treatment, management and diagnosis of stroke and cardiac disease in Mongolia. The equipment provided by the compact, coupled with training, will save many lives from these diseases and reduce incidences of disabilities. The rehabilitation unit will help patients suffering from these ailments recuperate more quickly. As a daughter of someone who has suffered from multiple heart attacks, this new unit’s ability to save the lives of Mongolian fathers, mothers, daughters, and sons from one of the most prevalent causes of disability and death in Mongolia strikes a personal chord.
The compact’s involvement in the property rights sector also made crucial progress in bringing economic growth to the most impoverished and vulnerable Mongolians. One beneficiary of the urban component of the Property Rights Project personally told me that the registration process she went through for her plot took her two months; previously, it would have taken her a year. I met with a female herder group leader near Baaganuur, who demonstrated her pride in the investments made in her land plot, including a well and winter shelter area for her cattle. She was working as an interlocutor between other local herders and the dairy market, helping promote sustainable economic growth for her industry as well as the herders in the surrounding areas.
Such investments in infrastructure, health, property rights, and the reduction of air pollution were complemented by the Technical and Vocational Education and Training Project, which trained the leaders of tomorrow in the technical skills needed to properly meet the demands of the growing industries in Mongolia. During my visit to the Zarvkhan Vocational Training Production Center, I learned firsthand about new up-to-date training equipment and simulators that teach students to use heavy-duty machinery properly. Students at this center had high employment rates after graduation and were actually teaching their employers about the newest tricks of the trade!
Finally, it is important to note the government’s commitment to sustain the compact’s results. The Ministry of Economic Development and the Cabinet Secretariat have committed to continue managing like MCA-Mongolia—with a program logic based on economic rates of return, projects that uphold international environmental and social standards and diligent monitoring and evaluation.
I congratulate MCA-Mongolia on the successful completion of all the complex compact projects. This impressive accomplishment will benefit Mongolians for decades to come.
Posted on October 3, 2013 by Paul Weinberger, Vice President of Congressional and Public Affairs
After six months at MCC, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to visit a partner country and see for myself the results of the work we are doing. With one of our larger, more ambitious compacts coming to a close in Morocco, the opportunity presented itself—and it turned out to be a memorable trip.
Travelling with former Ambassador Mark Green, one of our private-sector Board members and the President of the Initiative for Global Development (Read his blog on the trip here: http://bit.ly/1aL0YEm), I met a range of beneficiaries and saw a number of successful projects. Our first day there, we took part in a ceremony marking the completion of our microfinance project. Thanks to MCC, mobile banking vehicles will help microfinance institutions reach those Moroccans who currently lack access to financial services because they live in remote, sparsely populated areas. Meeting with beneficiaries and handing out keys to the vehicles were great experiences.
We also visited a new fish landing site at Salé, just across the Bouregreg River from Rabat, where grateful Moroccan fishers will have the facilities and infrastructure they currently lack to unload, store and sell their catches. We toured gleaming new wholesale fish markets in Marrakesh and Rabat with ice-making and storage facilities, and auction halls where fish prices are electronically recorded and displayed, providing the transparency and price discovery that are key to a well-functioning market. And we saw some of the improved irrigation systems and an olive oil processing plant under construction outside Marrakesh that were built as part of Moroccan efforts to boost fruit tree productivity. It was particularly gratifying to see the large sign at every site that reminds beneficiaries that projects result from the generosity of the “peuple américain.”
That same gratitude was apparent in our meetings with Moroccan government officials. What struck me, however, was that while they were very appreciative of the tangible benefits of the compact, they were even more excited about the methodology and know-how that MCC had shared with them. As one official put it, it wasn’t just the work that was done – how it was done was key. Now the Moroccans have the tools they need to make similar progress in other areas. That kind of knowledge sharing is core to MCC’s mission–and experiencing it firsthand was the best part of my trip to Morocco.
Posted on September 30, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
World leaders gathered in New York City last week for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly. I was pleased that, even among the pressing global challenges that compete for their attention, they showed a commitment to the important issue of sustaining development’s positive impacts as indispensable ingredients for peaceful and prosperous societies. Clearly, this meeting creates a valuable space not only for heads of state to converge and chat but also for diverse sectors involved in development to come together and discuss challenges, exchange information, create innovative partnerships, and share solutions.
Enduring results were certainly a key topic as I met with presidents and prime ministers from our partner countries on the margins of the General Assembly. In every conversation, we talked about the challenges and successes of implementation, and ways of leveraging each dollar of our development resources to deliver lasting impact with maximum efficiency.
In my meetings with NGO executives and those I attended at the Clinton Global Initiative, we talked about holding ourselves and our partners accountable to measure, monitor and evaluate the long-term impact of our development investments. Given these challenging economic times and the evolving dynamics between donors and recipients of foreign aid, we increasingly rely on evidence-based decision making to drive real change. That is why we see an increased focus on using data in transparent ways to honestly assess what works and does not work in development so that we can sustain the successes and reengineer the failures.
With former U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Donald Gips moderating, MCC also hosted an investment roundtable with the leaders of Lesotho, Morocco, Mozambique, and Tanzania, our four partner countries in Africa who just completed their respective MCC compacts this month. The roundtable discussion centered on the private sector’s role in building upon and sustaining the successes of our initial projects. As we transition from foreign aid to more trade and investment, the private sector will increasingly power the economic growth necessary to improve the quality of life for millions around the world in enduring ways. And, as U.S. businesses seek new opportunities abroad in these expanding markets, Americans too stand to benefit through new jobs and growth.
Keeping the spotlight on investment sustainability will define the future of MCC’s partnerships and development effectiveness. We want our initial development resources to attract the necessary follow-on and additional investments—from the private sector, for example—that will help our partners break the cycle of aid dependency and springboard toward greater economic growth and prosperity, fueled by their own productivity, ingenuity and innovation. My meetings this week reaffirmed that our partners share this vision, and together we will continue working to make that goal a reality.
Posted on July 27, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
I joined Georgians last week in Tbilisi to mark another milestone in their economic development: the signing of a second MCC compact with Georgia that will invest in the education of the next generation. Government leaders, civil society, the private sector, teachers, and parents attended the signing at the Parliament National Library and demonstrated their clear commitment to the compact’s objective of educating Georgians in the science, technology, engineering, and math skills they need to compete and succeed in a modern economy. I share Ambassador Richard Norland’s sentiments that the compact is further proof of the strong and close ties of cooperation between the United States and Georgia.
Before the signing, I met with the Prime Minister, who serves as the chair of the MCA-Georgia board, and we discussed the exciting opportunities the compact brings to Georgia. I also met with other government representatives and business leaders who see the compact as a way to enhance the quality and competitiveness of human capital in Georgia. They all welcome the compact’s projects as ways to better link the skills demanded by the private sector with what the Georgian workforce can offer. This will generate greater private sector activity in Georgia, which ultimately creates jobs, fuels growth and makes the country a stronger trading, investment and business partner at home, in the region and beyond.
MCC’s investment to educate Georgia’s workforce promises to deliver a number of positive effects that will boost earning potential and productivity. Progress like this will replace development dollars with private sector-led growth in Georgia and open new opportunities for Georgian students. MCC is proud to partner with Georgia toward this more hopeful and prosperous future.
Posted on July 25, 2013 by Tsolmon Begzsuren, MCA Gender Specialists, and Jozefina Cutura, MCC Gender Specialists
As Mongolia enters the final year of its $285 million MCC compact, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia is eager to emphasize and reinforce its commitment to gender equality.
In March, MCA-Mongolia launched the Women’s Leadership in the Economy campaign to inspire and motivate women to achieve and fulfill their leadership potential. Mongolian women are underrepresented in business and government leadership roles despite their strong participation in the labor force. They are also less likely to choose careers such as construction or mining, where job growth prospects are better and pay is higher in Mongolia.
Through this campaign, our goal was to encourage women to pursue leadership roles and to inspire young girls to enter non-traditional careers.
The campaign showcases exemplary work demonstrated by six role models — one from each compact project. There are women who have succeeded in trades in which the workforce has been traditionally male, including road construction, engineering and leading a herder group. One role model, for example, organized a group of neighborhood women into a cooperative and helped them obtain land titles through the project. They’ve used their new titles as collateral to obtain housing loans, build houses and traditional dwellings known as gers and grow vegetables for food production and income generation.
MCA-Mongolia held a public event in Ulaanbaatar on June 20 with stakeholders and civil society representatives to honor these role models. The women spoke about the challenges they’ve faced, while encouraging girls and young women to enter more self-reliant career paths. The event also held an essay and photo competition around the theme “gender equality through my eyes,” which helped draw attention to the gender-related issues in Mongolia.
Both MCC and MCA-Mongolia believe gender inequality can be a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, and together we are committed to ensuring that compact projects consider gender issues throughout design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. As the compact enters its final months, we look forward to supporting this objective in the final months of the compact.
Posted on July 2, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Standing in front of a large gas-fired turbine engine supplied by General Electric—in a modern power plant owned by another American company, Symbion Power—President Barack Obama today discussed Power Africa, a groundbreaking initiative to expand power connectivity in Africa. I was pleased to witness this in Dar es Salaam, as this endeavor reaffirms the power of partnerships to make the promise of energy security a reality.
Symbion first came to Tanzania after winning two contracts through that country’s MCC compact. As you would expect from the private sector, Symbion quickly realized the economic opportunities in a growing market like Tanzania. Since arriving just a few years ago, the company has established itself, with American ingenuity and expertise, as a key player in the Tanzanian energy sector. Just last week in fact, Symbion and GE announced a partnership on yet another investment opportunity in Tanzania. This kind of growth for a U.S. company, after initially working with MCC, is a win-win for the private sector, the people of Tanzania and the United States. And, this is an excellent example of MCC funds serving as a strategic catalyst for additional private sector investment.
But MCC’s portfolio is not limited to one company. Another American company, Pike Electric of Mount Airy, North Carolina, competed for and won a contract financed by MCC to erect more than 800 kilometers of transmission and distribution lines in central Tanzania. Pike completed this project on time and on budget, as part of MCC’s larger partnership with the Tanzanian government to fund a total of nearly 3,000 kilometers of transmission and distribution lines. Millions of Tanzanians are now experiencing the benefits of reliable power. I was also in Tanzania in April to celebrate the inauguration of a 100 megawatt submarine power cable linking Zanzibar to the Tanzanian mainland. Because of this new link, more reliable power is already flowing.
According to a United Nations study, 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa, generate about 30 gigawatts of electricity, which equals the generation capacity just in Argentina. Nearly a quarter of this capacity is not actually available, however, for a number of reasons. This means that sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest electricity access rate at 24 percent; electricity access in rural areas plummets to 8 percent. To meet increasing demand, the study says that Africa’s power sector needs to install approximately 7,000 megawatts of new generation capacity annually. This translates into real market opportunities.
By working with partner countries to create well-functioning energy sectors that build institutional capacity, promote transparency and remove the legal and regulatory roadblocks for doing business, we are creating the right conditions and circumstances to attract more and more private power investments to meet the obvious demand. And, as President Obama noted, creating an enabling environment for greater private sector investment ultimately drives and sustains the economic growth that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Africans and create real opportunities for even more American businesses like Pike Electric, Symbion Power and GE.
Posted on May 10, 2013 by Stacy Alboher, Program Officer for East Africa
Asbestos is a hazardous material that can cause lung cancer, asbestosis and other deadly respiratory diseases. In early 2012, MCC discovered that asbestos-containing materials—very common in older buildings in Africa—were present in the majority of health facilities being renovated under the Lesotho Compact’s Health Sector Project, leading to concerns about potential exposure of both workers and surrounding community members.
Additionally, many of the health facilities under renovation have been operating for decades without a systematic nationwide approach for disposing of the medical waste being generated. This waste was deposited in open pits, burned or buried onsite. It contained syringes, medicine or biological waste. And it had accumulated without any markings to indicate where the waste was located.
When contractors began digging at the health facility sites, they often came into contact with this material. In some cases, their earth-moving activities spread the waste across the sites, creating a bigger potential for exposure and contact.
Over the past year, MCC has been working closely with MCA-Lesotho, the project’s supervisory engineer and the construction contractors to put in place procedures for ensuring that the risks associated with both asbestos-containing materials and medical waste are appropriately mitigated. During a recent trip to Lesotho, we developed this video to document the issue and describe the processes put in place to respond to the challenge.
Through the Lesotho Compact, we are not only addressing the immediate risk related to our project but also helping Lesotho to develop a sustainable process to continue addressing these issues in the future.
Posted on March 1, 2013 by Andria Hayes-Birchler, Senior Development Policy Officer
In addition to the obvious role MCC’s scorecards play in selecting MCC’s partner countries, many people have suggested the scorecards provide an incentive for countries to reform policies, strengthen institutions and improve data quality in order to become more competitive for MCC assistance. This is referred to as the “MCC Effect.”
But does the MCC Effect really exist? And if so, how influential is it? Are there circumstances where it may be more or less influential?
Brad Parks and Zach Rice at the College of William and Mary explore these questions in a recently released paper entitled “Measuring the Policy Influence of the Millennium Challenge Corporation: A Survey Based Approach.” Parks and Rice present results of their survey of 640 MCC stakeholders, including foreign government officials, U.S. Government officials, contractors, civil society, and private sector members. For those of you disinclined to read the full 128-page report (although you should!), the authors also published a brief synopsis of their findings.
The good news for MCC? Parks and Rice find evidence to support the idea that the prospect of MCC eligibility has served as an effective incentive for policy reform. In fact, 92 percent of respondents stated that the MCC scorecards had an impact on reform efforts (ranging from “marginal impact to few important reform efforts” to “instrumental to many reform efforts”), and respondents identified 67 governments that undertook reforms to improve performance of their country on at least one of the MCC eligibility indicators.
Here’s what else the report found: The MCC Effect seems to be particularly strong in Threshold Program countries, where 68 percent of respondents from these countries reported that the MCC eligibility criteria were either “central to a few important reform efforts” or “instrumental to many important reform efforts.” Among respondents from compact countries, 64 percent reported that the MCC eligibility criteria were either “central to a few important reform efforts” or “instrumental to many important reform efforts.”
And among respondents from candidate countries—which have never received a single dollar in MCC assistance—41 percent reported that the MCC eligibility criteria were either “central to a few important reform efforts” or “instrumental to many important reform efforts.”
According to the paper, development stakeholders recognize the MCC scorecard as an influential policy assessment. When asked to identify the three most influential external assessments of government performance from a list of 18 options, respondents repeatedly identified the Millennium Challenge Account eligibility criteria and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
MCC is delighted to see such strong indications of the MCC Effect in the survey data. As the Center for Global Development points out, these findings are based on the perceptions of MCC stakeholders and additional work is needed to ground-truth these perceptions. MCC recently released an issue brief on the MCC Effect , which outlines how MCC defines the MCC effect, highlights additional findings from the Parks and Rice survey and lists illustrative examples of the MCC Effect in action.
We welcome additional examples and empirical research on the topic from MCC stakeholders, independent evaluators and academics; please e-mail me to share or request additional information.
Posted on February 14, 2013 by Alice Riedel, Lesotho Deputy Resident Country Director
I had the honor of taking part in handing over the newly constructed Lesotho Blood Transfusion Services Center last month. MCC invested in the new center—which is expected to collect 5,000 blood units in 2013, compared to 3,381 in 2008—to help improve health services in Lesotho.
The country’s former blood transfusion center was too small; it lacked proper equipment and operated from a rented property in Maseru that was not designed to provide transfusion services. The new center, part of MCC’s five-year, $363 million compact with Lesotho, provides a dedicated central facility for collecting and processing blood to supply nearby hospitals.
MCC also invested in a mobile blood collection vehicle that will collect and transfer blood to the new center for screening.
“The new center is a huge achievement for the Ministry of Health,” said Maleqhoa Nyopa, manager of the Lesotho Blood Transfusion Service.“We have been struggling to implement our activities effectively,” Nyopa said. “Now that we have been given this new building, which is bigger than the one we have been using, our work is going to improve tremendously. The building is large enough to allow us to store as much blood as possible, which will help save lives.”
In addition to this center, the compact’s Health Sector Project is designed to mitigate the negative economic impacts of poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases. MCC is strengthening Lesotho’s health care system through the construction of up to 138 health centers spread across the country, hospital outpatient departments, staff housing, and a central laboratory and residences to accommodate National Health Training College students.
The infrastructure investments are so numerous and complex and cover such a vast geographic area, that it can be difficult to remember the real impact in the lives of individual Basotho. A colleague’s friend who works in a hospital in Lesotho recently shared with me some of the challenges of managing the blood supply here. He told me that having enough blood to serve all patients is extremely challenging because of the testing required, given the 24 percent rate of HIV prevalence. He is confident that the new blood center, along with blood drives, will alleviate some of these challenges.
I am proud to be part of an initiative that is helping improve health care in Lesotho in practical ways like making sure that there is adequate blood supply when a woman needs an emergency operation while giving birth. We are leaving behind tangible results.
Posted on February 14, 2013 by Tim Clary , Director, Division of Technical Services
For decades, most international health projects have focused on addressing communicable diseases that were major causes of morbidity and mortality in developing countries.
But now, many countries are facing a double burden as non-communicable diseases and injuries (NCDIs) have become more prevalent. More than five years ago, when the Government of Mongolia chose to focus on NCDIs as part of its MCC compact, it probably did not foresee that it would become a leader in providing lessons for other countries seeking to address NCDI issues.
The compact’s $39 million Health Project, geographically covers the entire country and 95 percent of the Mongolian population. It addresses the issue of NCDIs through a multi-pronged approach and on several different technical levels.
Last month, I visited Clinical Hospital No. 3 in Ulaanbaatar, where compact funds will be used to refurbish and provide equipment to help the hospital become the nation’s primary center for diagnosing, caring for and treating Mongolians suffering from strokes and acute myocardial infarctions. In Khentii aimag, I visited hospitals that typically provide primary care services and that now provide both secondary and tertiary health care, such as diagnosing cervical cancer and providing ongoing treatment for diabetes and hypertension. At both levels, health care providers have received extensive training on NCDIs, ranging from emergency care to counseling patients on healthy lifestyles and behaviors. This helps the community by preventing diseases which will help them live longer and healthier lives.
Compact funds have also been used to sponsor a small grants program in the community so NGOs, private clinics and non-health organizations (such as elementary and secondary schools) can receive funding for innovative ideas to support the reduction in NCDIs.
Fundamental to the support for health care workers and their patients have been policy changes within the public and private sectors. Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia has worked with the Government of Mongolia to revise tobacco and alcohol laws, as well as establishing a health promotion fund to address NCDIs.
Within the private sector, MCA-Mongolia has worked with organizations such as Talkh-Chikher bakery to reduce the salt content within its Atar bread, Mongolia’s leading brand of bread.
The main lesson from my site visit to the Talkh-Chikher bakery in Ulaanbaatar is that advocacy is bringing change.
Posted on January 8, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Yesterday, I had the great honor of representing the American people at the inauguration of John Dramani Mahama as Ghana’s next president. President Barack Obama asked me to lead our country’s official delegation to the inauguration. It was a privilege to stand alongside the other delegation members--U.S. Ambassador to Ghana Gene Cretz, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Teitelbaum—and witness a peaceful transition of power in Ghana.
Ghanaians traveled from every corner of Ghana to participate in Monday's inauguration; some arrived as early as Sunday night in order to secure a coveted place in Independence Square. In his inauguration speech, President Mahama talked about how a farmer named Tetteh-Quarshie introduced the cocoa bean to Ghana, and today Ghana is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world. The president’s point was that every Ghanaian can contribute in a meaningful way to Ghana’s economic development.
I am proud that MCC too played a part in furthering Ghana’s economic development goals. I had been to Ghana previously to assess progress on MCC’s $547 million compact partnership with the country and later to celebrate that compact’s successful completion. The strong political will to deliver on the compact’s promise for sustainable development that would improve the lives of Ghanaians impressed me from the start. As Ghana continues to work on a second MCC compact under the Mahama administration, I welcome this level of engagement and dynamic leadership.
Meeting with President-elect Mahama right before his inauguration as well as with Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Dr. Kwabena Duffour during my brief stay in Accra reaffirmed such engagement. I remain encouraged and excited by the commitment to inclusive economic growth and self-sufficiency these leaders envision for Ghana. President Mahama said that the U.S.-Ghana relationship is close and he is looking forward to making it even closer. His administration is hoping to keep Ghana’s economy growing at 8 or 9 percent per year between 2013 and 2016. This will require investments in areas such as infrastructure and energy (the focus of a proposed second MCC compact) as well as agriculture (the focus of Ghana’s first MCC compact) in order to create opportunities for Ghana’s youth.
As the United States prepares for our own presidential inauguration later this month, I recognize that the freedom to choose our leaders and hold them accountable is what unites so many of us around the world in a journey toward democratic values, pluralism and civil liberties. Witnessing what happened in Ghana on Monday with President Mahama’s inauguration affirms our common humanity united by such shared principles.
Posted on December 12, 2012 by Courtney Engelke , Director
Many people in the United States and Mongolia refer to Mongolia’s Energy and Environment Project as “the stoves program.” While it is true that the project has successfully supported consumer purchases of more than 90,000 stoves in Ulaanbaatar, did you know that it also supported the purchase of nearly 25,000 other energy-efficient appliances like insulation, vestibules and energy efficient homes? Did you know that the project also supported small grants for greening and air quality research and the replacement of 15 heat only boilers at 10 student and residential sites throughout the city, representing more than 8 megawatts of heating capacity? And did you know that approximately $6.6 million of the project budget is dedicated to infrastructure and other support for the 50-megawatt wind farm now under construction at Salkhit Mountain?
The project recognized early on that it would not be able to resolve the capital city’s air pollution problem by itself, so we planned to make additional contributions beyond stoves in an effort to demonstrate what works. The Energy and Environment Project intends to provide a short term “bridge” to longer term solutions, such as developing a commercial market for energy efficient products, which we hope might be brought about through the application and enforcement of standards, certification and labeling policies, competition, and affordable finance, and providing more permanent housing and municipal infrastructure.
On my most recent visit to Mongolia, I confirmed that 15 heat only boilers were replaced with more efficient technologies and wet scrubbers to control particulate emissions. I also visited the expanded and upgraded Nalaikh substation, and confirmed the installation of a fiber optic cable that links that substation to the National Dispatching Center control system. I was also pleased to see the first three of 31 General Electric turbines installed at the very windy Salkhit site—a major step toward making the planned wind farm a reality.
The Energy and Environment Project will connect the wind farm to the national grid and train electrical dispatchers to manage variable power with the help of a dispatch training simulator. These achievements would have been impossible without the concerted cooperation of MCA-Mongolia, its consultants, contractors, the Ulaanbaatar government, the national grid company, the national dispatching center, and Clean Energy LLC, the sponsor of the Salkhit wind farm.
Each time I visit Mongolia, I increasingly see the positive impact that stoves are having on air quality and the daily lives of Ulaanbaatar’s poor. What I had not seen until this trip was the project’s larger-scale emissions control initiatives, such as the replacement of the boilers and progress toward the displacement of approximately 50 megawatts of thermal generation that will result from the Salkhit wind farm. As our experience has shown, controlling emissions at the household level in the ger districts is an incredible challenge. Single source solutions represented by heat-only boilers and the Salkhit wind farm demonstrate opportunities to control and reduce air pollution at greater scale, which we hope will help Mongolia more rapidly achieve and sustain its air quality goals.
Posted on November 30, 2012 by Marcel Ricou, Program Officer
About 23 percent of Lesotho’s population is infected with HIV/AIDS, one of the highest prevalence rates in the world. In response, MCC has invested $122 million in health infrastructure and to strengthen Lesotho’s health systems. A major portion of the Health Sector Project focuses on rehabilitating 138 health centers across the country, all of which play a pivotal role in providing primary health care to local communities. MCC’s investments leverage those from other donor and U.S. Government programs, including the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
Program officer Marcel Ricou shows us how MCC and the Government of Lesotho are working together to combat HIV/AIDS.
Posted on October 2, 2012 by Patrick Fine, Vice President, Department of Compact Operations
Two weeks ago, MCC was delighted to host a delegation from the Government of Indonesia (GOI) for the signing of a Project Implementation Agreement (PIA), the document that sets out the operational details for implementing MCC’s compact with Indonesia. The compact focuses on investments in renewable energy and sustainable natural resource use, maternal and child nutrition, and public procurement modernization.
The Indonesian delegation was led by Pak Lukita Tuwo, who is the Vice Minister of the Planning Ministry and GOI’s principal representative for the MCC compact. Pak Lukita was accompanied by members of his staff, including Ibu Emmy, the head of the Ministry’s legal bureau, and Pak Kennedy, its director for bilateral foreign funding.
We were also pleased to be joined by Pak Dino Djalal, Indonesia’s Ambassador to the United States, and Ambassador Djani, who is the head of North American and European Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ambassador Djani was in Washington for the semi-annual meeting of the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, where Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Natalegawa announced the signing of the PIA.
The signing, which took place in MCC’s Washington office, was marked by a sense of celebration and anticipation: MCC and GOI expect the compact to enter into force within the next few months. The PIA sets out the terms for the new Millennium Challenge Account – Indonesia (MCA-I), the first institution of its kind in the country and one that we hope will provide a path-breaking model for other development projects in Indonesia.
We’re also seeing other signs of progress as we move toward entry into force: the first meeting of the MCA-I Board of Trustees, the approval of the first disbursement request for funds, and the signing of five major contracts. I’m proud of what the MCC and GOI teams are doing to move this exciting program forward. Expectations are high, especially among the Indonesian people in the provinces, where many of the compact activities will be implemented.
While much hard work and many challenges lie ahead, we’re already seeing the power of partnership and are confident that the compact will not only improve lives of Indonesians, but strengthen the ties between our two nations.
Posted on August 24, 2012 by Oliver Pierson, Resident Country Director
MCC and our counterparts at MCA-Namibia are proud to see that Namibia has been chosen to host the 10th Adventure Travel World Summit (ATWS) taking place in October 2013. The ATWS will draw around 600 delegates and many of the biggest players in the adventure travel tourism industry to Namibia to discuss industry best practices and collaborate on issues facing adventure travel.
MCA-Namibia provided support to the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism in developing Namibia’s bid to host the summit. The MCC-funded tourism project in Namibia, part of the country’s overall $304.5 million compact, is focused around encouraging private investment in the tourism industry, supporting communal conservancies to establish and manage tourism enterprises, and broadening the marketing of Namibia as a tourist destination.
MCC has also worked toward increasing the capacity of Namibia’s tourism industry and improving its management by funding training courses toward the certification of Namibian tour guides. The training courses create new jobs in the sector and work to promote a skilled and educated labor force to cater to the needs of a growing tourist industry. Tourism, already Namibia’s second-most lucrative industry, has the potential to be a strong source of economic growth, helping create more jobs and reduce poverty.
The selection of Namibia, the first African country to host the ATWS, will highlight Namibia’s tourism industry and ideally foster opportunities to build on MCC-funded work in this key sector and drive new private sector investments in tourism.
For more information about the Namibia Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/namibia.
Posted on August 20, 2012 by B. Tsolmon and L. Gerelmaa, Millennium Challenge Account-Mongolia
Severe winter air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, has become a major concern for the city’s 1.3 million residents, which is nearly half the country’s total population. A majority of Ulaanbaatar’s air pollution comes from districts populated with gers, traditional Mongolian houses where lower-income households live.
Women head many of these ger households. They rely on burning raw coal in inefficient stoves to heat the poorly insulated gers—a primary source of the city's air pollution, which fuels environmental and health risks and causes economic impacts. To address this concern, a facility was established within the scope of the compact's Energy and Environment Project to fund financial incentives and technical assistance for adopting cleaner, more efficient technologies for use in heating the gers.
The project’s particular and positive impact on gender issues recently gained international attention with the July 2012 visit of Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, as part of a women’s empowerment conference held in Mongolia.
Ambassador Verveer paid a visit to Norovkhand and her family in the Bayanzurkh district outside Ulaanbaatar. Norovkhand obtained a subsidized energy efficient stove through MCA-Mongolia, the local entity managing compact implementation. Norovkhand, a single mother of three and a grandmother of one, shared her experiences on how much coal she has saved in using her new stove, compared with the traditional stove she used previously.
Most importantly, the energy-efficient stove, she said, simplifies routine housework since it requires less fueling, generates less ash and is easy to clean.
“It is very affordable and accessible especially for female-headed households like us, given the subsidies provided by the project,” she said.
Norovkhand’s family is also among potential beneficiaries of the hashaa (yard) plot privatization and registration activity under the compact’s Property Rights Project. With their land formally registered, Norovkhand’s family and many others will have an opportunity to access bank credit, enabling them to make more productive use of their plots.
MCA-Mongolia is tracking the longer-term impacts of increased asset ownership through its monitoring and evaluation work, which also includes a complementary qualitative survey on how increasing asset ownership among women impacts household dynamics.
To track the difference the compact is making for Mongolians at both household and national levels, a number of gender-responsive actions are underway across the program to ensure that women and men benefit equitably from the compact, which is key for sustainable development and economic growth of benefit for all.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Preston Winter, Deputy Resident Country Director
The event was hosted by Santa Rosa Guachipilín, a small town situated on the newly-constructed Northern Transnational Highway, one of the key projects under the MCC-funded compact with El Salvador. The highway connects remote towns to the rest of the country and provides new economic opportunities for the residents of the Northern Zone. As part of this investment, more than 220 kilometers of road, three large bridges, and 20 smaller bridges have been rehabilitated or constructed in northern El Salvador to help improve connectivity with the rest of the country. Given the mountainous terrain, the highway also happens to be a great place for a downhill skateboarding event, drawing competitors from around Latin America and even the United States.
It was a joy to see so many Salvadorans, both young and old, enjoying the event. More than 45 skateboarders flew down the course at up to 45 mph. The highway, smoothly paved and ideal for such an event, overlooks the green mountains of the Department of Santa Ana. In between heats, we also enjoyed a variety of pupusas, local versions of shaved ice and other food that local vendors offered.
The mayor was very pleased to have such a strong turnout. Before the construction, it would have been rare to have a gathering of Salvadorans from various parts of the country, including many who had never before seen the town. Now it is only a short drive from nearby towns and major highways, opening up opportunities for visitors to enjoy the natural beauty that this region has to offer and attend unique events like this one.
Posted on August 3, 2012 by Molly Glenn, Deputy Resident Country Director
This June, I traveled to Pissila, in the Sanmatega province of Burkina Faso. I was there to attend the closing ceremony for the Burkinabé Response to Improve Girls’ Chances to Succeed (BRIGHT) II Project, funded through the MCC compact with Burkina Faso. Speaking with students, teachers and parents participating in the BRIGHT II Project, I truly experienced firsthand the benefits of MCC’s investment.
The BRIGHT program is a collaborative effort of the United States and Burkina Faso to improve rates of children’s primary school attendance, completion, and promotion to secondary schools. To date, the program, including work performed under the MCC compact, has educated over 27,000 students, including 16,000 girls, and has built 132 primary schools across 10 provinces. The numbers are impressive—but they don’t tell the whole story.
In Pissila, the success and visibility of the BRIGHT program was evident from the high-level participation at the well-attended closing ceremony. The Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, Luc Adolphe Tiao; the Minister of Education and Literacy, Koumba Boly; and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Dougherty were all on hand to share in the celebration. Officials from MCC, USAID, and Plan International were also present. The stars of the show, however, were the 500 students from the BRIGHT school of Pissila, who were as proud as could be to show off their school and accomplishments.
We arrived early on Thursday morning to enthusiastic cheers and waves from students of all ages. Three large tents were set up at the center of the school, flanked by new classrooms, offices and teacher housing. Boys and girls, waving American and Burkinabé flags and proudly wearing their school shirts displaying the BRIGHT II emblem, greeted the prime minister and U.S. ambassador as they arrived. The atmosphere radiated with excitement and joy; students and teachers alike were proud that their school had been selected to host such an event.
The moving speeches and lively performances diverted our attention from the hot Burkina Faso sun and 100+ degree temperatures. Enthralling music and traditional dances had the whole crowd applauding, especially for the youngest dancer in a local troupe who was able to shake the prime minister’s hand. Later, Celia Ella Kafando, a fifth-grader, courageously took to the podium to make a speech on behalf of the students of Pissila.
Though her head barely reached the top of the podium, Celia spoke with a clear and strong voice, thanking MCC and the American people for building her school. To the visible enjoyment of the prime minister, the education minister (one of Burkina Faso’s two female ministers) and the region’s governor (also a woman), Celia shared that many of her fellow students aspired to become governors and ministers thanks to their education. Everyone smiled when the prime minister and education minister were given the “key” to the school, a beautiful, symbolic oversized key made by Burkinabe bronze workers.
The prime minister’s speech was unexpectedly touching and honest. Speaking directly to the students, he admitted that school was not always easy, recognizing that most of them had to move away from home, learn a new language (though French is the official language, over 60 languages are spoken in Burkina Faso) and—perhaps the most universal problem of all—wake up early to get to class. He encouraged the students not to give up and to follow their dreams. Ambassador Dougherty echoed these sentiments in his speech, stating, “We hope each and every BRIGHT school graduate will have success in realizing their potential in the years to come.”
Though two more years remain until the compact’s end, it was encouraging to see such a successful closeout of this project. The Government of Burkina Faso has pledged to maintain the schools and remain committed to supporting girls’ education. In the words of Prime Minister Tiao, “The American people can trust us. We will take care to meet the challenges of underdevelopment.”
For more information about the Burkina Faso Compact, visit www.mcc.gov/burkinafaso.
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 July 17, 2012 by B. Tsolmon, MCA gender specialist and focal point, and L. Gerelmaa, MCA gender specialist and focal point
MCA-Mongolia’s commitment to gender integration in its compact has received praise on both sides of the Pacific.
We represented MCA-Mongolia at the inaugural MCC Forum on Global Development in April for receiving the Country Commitment Award. To commemorate this achievement, the Mongolian prime minister hosted a high-profile event in May to celebrate the accomplishment in our country as well.
“We can now witness a tangible impact on the lives of thousands of Mongolians as a result of the compact,” Prime Minister Sükhbaataryn Batbold said at the event at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.
Not only are stakeholders in the U.S. now aware of the positive strides we’ve made with gender integration, but also ministers, cabinet members, and members of the public and press who attended the event in Ulanbaataar.
A compact beneficiary, Javzan T., shared her experiences and expressed her gratitude to MCC and MCA-Mongolia. Javzan T. is a single mother of eight who benefitted from the compact’s Property Rights Project by having exclusive rights to lease more than 600 hectares of rangeland.
“It is a great opportunity for us to develop our livestock business,” she said. “I would like to express my appreciation to the American people, who have stretched their helping hands to us from such a far place.”
We are very proud to champion the integration of gender considerations across a wide range of operational areas in the Mongolia Compact, including program implementation, communications and monitoring and evaluation. We conducted gender trainings with our program implementation units and contractors and established points of contact on gender issues in each unit. These measures are being reflected in more equitable benefits and have resulted in greater land ownership among women, herder training tailored to both women’s and men’s needs, and health interventions that are mindful of women’s and men’s needs in our communities.
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