Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Completion Ceremony
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 February 15, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I just witnessed an incredible celebration here in Ghana: thousands of people rejoicing at the opening of the long-awaited N1 highway—renamed the George Walker Bush Motorway—which links the capital, Accra, with major ports, the international airport and the country’s major agricultural regions. This has been a Ghanaian dream since 1965, and it’s finally coming true.
As I drove down the road, thousands of people that live along the road greeted us. School children celebrated. People stood on banisters to catch a better glimpse of the celebration, and crowds waved from their nearby apartments.
There was dancing and chanting. The American and Ghanaian flags swayed together. A nearby large banner read, “Thank you, America.” The celebration resonated deeply with me.
MCC helped improve a 14-kilometer stretch of the highway as part of its five-year, $547 million compact. It runs through the heart of the capital city and for decades has been clogged with people and traffic. The need to widen the highway has been in the planning 40 years, but it only became a reality thanks to the Ghana and MCC partnership. It’s not hard to see why people were so excited.
The highway project was Ghana’s largest public works project in decades, and workers labored until the final minutes of compact closeout to ensure project completion. As President John Atta Mills told the crowd, “This is not President Kufuor's compact. This is not my compact. It’s Ghana's compact.”
During closeout speeches, the chief executive officer of Ghana’s MiDA, the entity in charge of implementing Ghana’s MCC compact, said it best: “MCC is the spearhead for development.” In Ghana, we certainly are spearheading a true partnership based on goodwill, trust and collaboration.
The opening of the N1 highway is a major event in Ghana’s development and a highly visible reminder of MCC’s partnership. It’s a milestone that transcends political parties, both in the U.S. and Ghana. And most importantly, it’s a reason all Ghanaians have to celebrate.
Posted on 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 April 22, 2011 by Frances Reid, Senior Investment and Risk Officer
It was a great personal pleasure to participate in the closing ceremonies marking the end of the Compact in Vanuatu, and the completion of the Santo East Coast Road and Efate Ring Road rehabilitation. Vanuatu was one of the first countries selected to receive MCC funding, and it remains the only Pacific island nation to have entered into a compact with MCC. I’ve been extremely impressed with the serious efforts made by the government and the commitment of the people of Vanuatu over the last five years, not only to carry out the requirements of the Compact, but also, and in the long run more importantly, to strive to meet the rigorous policy reform eligibility criteria which MCC considers the key to the sustainability of development. Vanuatu has truly emerged as a model of democracy and commitment to good policy, and as a regional anchor of stability.
In a country which had only 73 kilometers of paved roads before project inception, the Compact has nearly tripled this number to a grand total of over 220 kilometers of paved roads! The rehabilitation of these two national roads, the most important roads in the country and affectionately renamed the Goodwill Highway and the Road of Life, is already improving access to market and providing critical access to social services in the two most critical economic development corridors in Vanuatu.
This project has been the highest priority for everyone involved and it has already made national history. From the precedent of community consultations and community engagement through the commitment to building infrastructure in a culturally respectful way to capacity building at both MCA-Vanuatu and the Engineering Support Unit and Government commitment to good policies for economic growth, this has been a demonstration of country ownership, dedication, and partnership. MCC takes pride in having been part of this effort to lay a foundation for sound, sustainable, country-led economic growth.
The Compact is also a testament to good donor cooperation. New Zealand, in particular, as well as Australia, through their development assistance programs, contributed in critical ways to the completion of the Compact program. Their willingness to work with MCC and the Government of Vanuatu to achieve a common purpose is an excellent example of how donor cooperation is supposed to work.
Posted on October 22, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
Last week marked another milestone moment in MCC’s history—the completion of MCC’s compact with Cape Verde. The last time I was in Cape Verde, I visited the unfinished Port of Praia project being implemented by MCA-Cape Verde with funds from MCC. What a difference eight months makes! Together with Prime Minister Jose Maria Neves, I witnessed the inauguration of Phase I of the Port of Praia. The port is now more efficient, with a new access road, cargo village for storage, and a strengthened security system.
Also on this visit, I traveled to the island of Santo Antao, which has the largest population of farmers in Cape Verde. There, we inaugurated the post-harvest center. At this modern facility, farmers can now have their produce inspected by trained sanitary inspectors and store their agricultural products to maintain freshness and quality.
One of the most moving experiences for me was meeting Cape Verdean farmers. Celso Duarte, a young farmer who leads his farmer association in Paul, told me that, thanks to MCC’s assistance, he received training and acquired the necessary skills to use the new watershed management system. As a result, he now has drip irrigation on his land. Sousa told me how he ensures that he and his fellow farmers are using the technique properly to diversify their crops and get them to market. And he added: “I wanted to personally thank you and the American people for funding my training and giving me and my family the chance to improve our lives.”
Hearing words like this further convinces me that we are making a difference.
Posted on September 17, 2010 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
It’s not every day that a bowl of soup for lunch is an inspiration. But the “sopa de gallina” that we enjoyed with farmers in Ocotal, Honduras was tremendously inspiring.
I arrived in Honduras yesterday to see the early results of the MCC compact and to participate in the closeout commemoration. On my first day here, I had the opportunity to meet farmers, see their crops, hear about their experiences with MCC-funded technical assistance, and then enjoy a soup made out of the vegetables and herbs (yucca, squash, coriander, basil, garlic, tomatoes, and onions) harvested from the fields we had just walked through.
Mrs. Consuelo, the Honduran woman in the accompanying pictures, prepared the soup using all local ingredients that she and fellow farmers produced. She is part of a group of women who received MCC technical assistance and now grows aromatic herbs, such as basil, coriander, and lemongrass, that are in high demand in supermarkets. The group’s inspiring story shows the power that training and collaboration can have in the daily life of citizens, especially women.
One of the farmers I spoke with, Juan Carlos Urquia, is a successful young farmer in his 20s who is now harvesting six times a year, compared to only twice annually before receiving compact assistance. He told me of Ocotal, “MCC’s investments have revolutionized this area.” He says he never imagined growing crops based on market demand and learning techniques like the use of drip irrigation systems. Some of the farmers also have learned how to use the internet to research markets, new seeds, and methods for protecting crops from infestation.
The stories that Mrs. Consuelo and Juan Carlos shared with me are just samples of early compact results here in Honduras. As project work ends, the results phase is just beginning. And so, we embrace the hope and inspiration of these celebratory days, of the delicious “sopa de gallina” and the success it symbolizes. We move forward committed to carefully monitoring and assessing the results of our MCC investment in Honduras and to sustaining the advancements for years to come.
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