Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Interagency Coordination
Posted on June 18, 2012 by Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Director, Development Policy
One of the positive (if unanticipated) side effects of making changes to the MCC scorecard last year was the volume of interaction our team had with colleagues in other parts of the U.S. Government who are also interested in using indicator data for decision making. While it’s the large raw data producers posting to data.gov that come to mind when people think about data and the government, there are small offices all over the foreign affairs community using—or investigating how to use—global indicator data for internal decision making. After several months of one-on-one conversations with folks at the State Department, Peace Corps and USAID about these different efforts, we thought it made sense to actually gather everyone together.
So we did. A couple of weeks ago, some 20-30 U.S. Government colleagues hunkered down for a few hours at MCC and spent the morning introducing our own data practices to each other. While we (of course) spent some time noting the finer points of being “the data people” inside agencies that may not always love what the data says, it was a really productive morning.
Each of our offices has hit some similar challenges: What do you do when you can’t find globally comparable data? How does data interact with the judgment of human beings? What happens when the data shows decline that no one expected? How do I make findings come to life for decision makers? Why is it so hard to convince people that statistical noise is manageable but not eradicable? And we’ve gone about addressing them in some very different ways. Even hearing how different offices have had to explain the rationale behind data-driven decision making to their colleagues was illuminating.
This was an initial meeting, meant to get to know each other and identify common challenges and interests. Judging from the questions and calls for follow-up conversations, I feel confident that at least some of us will gather again soon. And that’s good news for collective U.S. Government learning on the ins and outs of evidence-based decision making about foreign assistance.
Score: plus one for the data people.
Posted on May 29, 2012 by Jolyne Sanjak, Managing Director, Technical Services Division
MCC and a majority of our partner countries believe that improvements to their agricultural and rural sectors are a crucial part of lifting people out of poverty and to improving food security. MCC’s portfolio includes $4.4 billion of investments in improvements to the agricultural and rural sectors that are relevant to reducing food insecurity. This includes a substantial focus on infrastructure investments in large-scale irrigation schemes to ensure reliable access to water and improved yields, as well as roads and post-harvest storage and packaging facilities to move goods to market more efficiently.
MCC projects also invest in direct assistance to farmers with a focus on smallholders. Training activities help farmers learn about cultivating high-value yields, deal with pests and diseases and manage scarce land resources. Rural credit programs are designed to raise incomes by expanding access to credit to help purchase inputs. Land tenure projects work to create secure land rights and efficient institutions for managing land rights.
In seven years, MCC-funded projects have trained nearly 200,000 farmers and assisted more than 3,500 enterprises worldwide. Roughly 170,000 hectares under production receive MCC support through technical assistance, new or rehabilitated irrigation systems or access to agricultural inputs and credit. Land tenure projects have supported legal and regulatory reform in six countries and the formalization of land rights of more than 1 million hectares of rural land, including farmland, grazing areas and forests.
Just last month, our commitment to food security received high praise from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization. MCC received an “outstanding” evaluation in The 2012 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development, a thorough study of how the U.S. Government is performing in its commitment to improve food security and support agricultural development in regions with the greatest levels of rural poverty and hunger.
“The Millennium Challenge Corporation has demonstrated outstanding leadership in agricultural development in its role as the largest U.S. Government provider of funding for agriculture and food security infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia,” the report said. “It has increased its capacity to disburse funds and complete agreements in a timely fashion.”
The report chose Ghana, one of our partner countries, for a case study of U.S. Government development efforts. It labeled the U.S. Government's actions there as “outstanding” and said the MCC compact's “vital work in agriculture has laid a solid foundation for expanded Feed the Future activities.” The MCC compact also supported innovation in applying land tenure law in Ghana by demonstrating an approach to formally recording rural land rights in the context of strong customary practices.
As project results continue to come in, MCC remains committed to learning and being held accountable for how well these program outputs translate into increased incomes and well-being for program beneficiaries. MCC currently has 16 independent impact evaluations underway to address questions such as the impact of our programs on increased productivity, investment in high-value agriculture and business and marketing opportunities. Ultimately, these evaluations are designed to measure and better understand our impact on incomes and poverty reduction. Just as MCC contributed its leadership and technical skill to the State Department and USAID as the Feed the Future Initiative was developed and moved into implementation, we see our rigorous approach to monitoring progress and evaluating impacts as a source of learning for the whole U.S. Government. Learning from our programs can also contribute lessons for donors worldwide.
At MCC, we are proud of our investments and inspired by the changes we are seeing in people’s lives as a result of our compacts. At the same time, we are humbled by the gravity of poverty and the level of food insecurity in our partner countries, fully realizing that true poverty reduction and economic growth are not easy tasks. They will continue to require full attention and support, including using better evidence as we gain it, to improve and promote effective programs.
This recent report is both an endorsement of MCC’s seven years of work in this field and also a reminder of the urgent need for continued investments in agriculture and food security programs around the world.
Posted on December 1, 2011 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer, MCC, and Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
This post first appeared on DipNote, the official blog of the U.S. Department of State, on November 30, 2011.
Under an initiative called Partnership for Growth, the United States, El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines and Tanzania are pioneering a new approach to long-term, sustainable development.
PFG is designed to transform the character and conduct of our bilateral relationships with a select group of high-performing lower-income countries poised to be this generation's emerging markets. The initiative aims to improve coordination, leverage private investment, and focus political commitment to accelerate and sustain broad-based economic growth. With mechanisms in place to hold us accountable for more effective, efficient development results, PFG puts President Obama's Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development into action.
Today marked the first time we have convened a meeting with the United States and all four PFG partners. The setting is especially significant: we are all gathered in Busan, South Korea for the Fourth High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. Throughout our meetings, we have focused extensively on ways to deliver meaningful results, ensure mutual accountability and empower country ownership.
State Department Counselor and Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills led the meeting with El Salvador Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez, Ghanaian Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Fiifi Kwetey, Philippine Minister of Finance Cesar Purisima, and Tanzanian Minister of Finance Mustafa Haidi Mkulo. After addressing the High Level Forum, Secretary Clinton was also able to join us.
We partnered with these countries based on their demonstrated commitment to democratic principles and good governance, their sound policy performance, their potential for continued economic growth, and their track record of cooperation with the United States.
The PFG is an attempt to approach development differently than we have done in the past. PFG is not about more aid; rather it is about fostering a mature economic partnership to unlock a country's growth potential. Together, we analyze the binding constraints to growth, prioritize a set of clear, measurable actions, and work to overcome those barriers through five-year action plans. Along the way, we review our progress through a formal evaluation process or in more informal meetings, as we did today.
Our PFG partners are all at different stages of this process and have unique insights to share. We had frank discussions about the challenges each country faces, and how the U.S. government can improve coordination to assist these countries in strengthening long-term economic growth. We applaud El Salvador, Ghana, Philippines, and Tanzania for their commitment to taking the difficult steps required through the PFG, and look forward to continuing our close collaboration in the months ahead.
The session represented exactly why we have come to Busan this week: to take a hard look at our efforts, identify areas for strengthened coordination, and -- ultimately -- improve our ability to deliver effective development assistance.
Dr. Rajiv Shah serves as Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and Daniel W. Yohannes is the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).
Posted on November 22, 2011 by Robert Reid, Mongolia Resident Country Director
Earlier this month, seven technical and vocational schools in Mongolia received donations of more than $1.7 million in heavy equipment from the Department of Defense. In return, the students will be trained on usage, maintenance and repair to better prepare them to find jobs. This was the first time Mongolia has received equipment through the program.
MCC’s five-year compact with Mongolia includes $47 million to improve the country’s vocational education system. To leverage these investments, MCA-Mongolia signed a memorandum of understanding in March with the U.S. Department of Defense Excess Property Program, which allows for the donation of non-lethal, excess property to countries that contribute to the U.S. Government’s efforts to promote democratic development and regional stability.
The schools, which often cannot afford to purchase expensive machinery, received 18 pieces of donated machinery frequently used in the mining, road, construction, and agriculture industries.
Donated items include cranes, graders, tractors and scoop loaders. Hands-on training will better prepare students to find jobs after school.
MCC is helping improve Mongolia’s technical and vocational education system through policy reforms, professional development for instructors, the establishment of a labor market information system, and the provision of essential equipment. An estimated 170,000 people are expected to benefit from the project over the next 20 years.
Posted on July 20, 2011 by Sharon Keld, Peace Corps Response Volunteer
As a former Peace Corps volunteer and a 20-year veteran of the corporate marketing world, I’ve seen my fair share of economic development projects. Now, I am in Armenia as part of a program that partners Peace Corps response volunteers with MCC projects. My main responsibility has been assisting the Communication team at MCA-Armenia (the Armenian government entity responsible for implementing the MCC Compact in Armenia) in its efforts. The position has given me a front-row seat to MCC’s investments in Armenia. After observing the dedication and professionalism of everyone involved in this effort, I have concluded that it has been one of my most inspiring experiences yet.
The MCC’s total investment in Armenia’s agricultural and water sector is expected to reach $177 million by the program’s completion in September 2011. The goal of the program is the reduction of rural poverty through the rehabilitation of Armenia’s vital irrigation infrastructure, complemented with extensive technical and financial assistance to rural farmers and to the government irrigation entities that support them.
I can see the difference that MCC and MCA-Armenia are making in the lives of people here. During my time in Armenia, I have been witnessed the opening of a tertiary canal, a nursery visit, and the ribbon-cutting for two pumping stations. But the event that touched me most was a small event honoring Hamazasp Gabrielyan, the 1,000th borrower under an activity designed to expand the accessibility of credit for rural Armenians. With this small loan of approximately $8,000, Hamazasp will build a new cooling facility that will allow him to extend his selling season and increase his income. As I listened to his story, I felt a deep sense of pride and gratitude. Thanks to our investment and contribution, thousands of farmers like him will have access to better irrigation and training in advanced farming techniques. This will improve their incomes and their lives.
Another personal highlight was attending a tree-planting ceremony along with 80 Armenian schoolchildren. As part of its environmental policy, MCA-Armenia is required to compensate for any trees cut down during construction. The launch I attended kicked off a campaign in which MCA-Armenia planted 1,500 trees this spring. As I helped plant a tree outside the village hall, and observed the gratitude and enthusiasm of the community members, I couldn’t help being filled with pride and enthusiasm about my work here and the work of MCC to benefit the Armenian people.
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