Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Irrigation
Posted on September 9, 2014 by Cynthia Berning, Program Officer, Department of Compact Operations
In September 2000, almost 200 countries announced their support for the United Nations Millennium Declaration, promising to help in the fight against poverty and hunger, strengthen access to education and improve health, including combating major diseases by 2015. MCC is one of several U.S. government agencies that help partner countries in their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and improve peoples’ lives.
When world leaders convene in New York for the United Nations General Assembly later this month, the MDGs will be a major focus—looking at the progress that has been achieved and establishing a new agenda for development over the coming years. This is the first in a series of blogs highlighting some of MCC’s contributions to supporting the MDGs in the lead-up to the United Nations General Assembly.
MDG 1 sets the target of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Each MCC compact is designed to fight poverty, and many countries have made fighting hunger and food insecurity a priority of their relationship with MCC.
Since its creation in 2004, MCC has committed over $9 billion in programs designed to spur economic growth in 38 countries, and more than half of these investments have been in projects designed to reduce food insecurity. MCC has helped its partner countries improve agricultural productivity, gain greater access to markets and post-harvest facilities, boost agricultural finance, increase land tenure security, improve land governance and land administration and contribute to improved nutrition.
The effects of MCC’s poverty- and hunger-reducing efforts are evident in large-scale irrigation projects in Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali. Through these investments, we have provided a reliable source of water for thousands of family farmers who are now able to grow irrigated rice and vegetables—even in the dry season and during periods of drought.
And it’s not just the delivery of water that makes these investments significant. The sustainability of these investments has also been assured through participatory land allocation activities that protect the land rights of existing land users and give farmers a voice in deciding who receives new land rights, and land registration activities that provide secure, well-documented rights to the newly irrigated land.
More secure rights allow them to invest more confidently in making their land more productive and to take the lead in managing shared resources effectively. Community participation in land allocation decisions increases transparency and accountability of leaders and improves local governance structures. These investments should lead to increased income for these farmers, helping them to farm their way to a better life for themselves and their families.
Read more about MCC’s efforts to increase food security in its partner countries.
Posted on April 18, 2014 by Tim Mooney, director, agriculture, and Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture and land
As part of the Mali Compact, MCC invested $252.9 million in the Alatona Irrigation Project to build irrigation infrastructure—but that’s not the whole story. Designing a comprehensive package of complimentary activities to ensure the physical canals would have broad and lasting impacts beyond the compact is the rest of the story.
Though much smaller than the construction in dollar terms, these complementary investments will mean the difference between a well-maintained system that operates decades into the future and a short-lived one that falls into disrepair within a few years.
Integrating various activities was critical to sustainability. Infrastructure without effective land allocation can leave beneficiaries with insecure property rights, reducing the chances people will invest in their property. Allocation of secure land rights without good training in agronomy and farm management could mean production levels that do not reach their potential. And water delivery without organizations in place to manage water flow, collect fees for its use and maintain the system can lead to rapid system degradation. Extensive outreach during the implementation helped beneficiaries understand what they were receiving and their responsibilities for ensuring sustainability.
The project adopted an approach different than the typical “top-down” management of irrigation systems in Mali. Traditionally, a centralized agency would fix water prices and dictate how farmers would use their land.
In the Alatona zone, a federation of nine water-user associations now has the legal authority to set water prices, use proceeds to operate and maintain the secondary and tertiary systems and pay the government irrigation agency to operate and maintain the primary system and deliver water to the perimeter. With the project’s support and USAID providing post-compact assistance, the federation is operating, managing and maintaining the secondary and tertiary systems of the Alatona Perimeter, while the Malian government is responsible for only the primary canal and drain. The beneficiaries now have an active voice in governing the system that provides them with water.
To maximize outcomes, the project was built on incentives and transparency. MCC built upon the Government of Mali's broader goal of decentralizing government to establish a revenue authority responsible for collecting the Alatona farmers’ mortgage payments and using the proceeds to benefit the entire region.
MCC’s investments to build the capacity of the water-user associations and their federation, improve land tenure security, establish the revenue authority, and build irrigation infrastructure work together to sustain economic benefits for farmers in Alatona. USAID’s follow-on support for these critical institutions developed local skills and help the region toward its goal of self-sufficiency.
What are your experiences building local, bottom-up institutions to manage large works that were previously centrally managed? Have you experienced success with water-user associations? What lessons can you share with us to improve the effectiveness of comprehensive, bottom-up approaches to financing irrigation systems?
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Randall Wood, resident country director, Senegal
If Oumou Khairy Fall and Téty Fall are smiling in this picture, it’s because their lives are already better off—economically and socially—since the beginning of MCC’s investment in Senegal. And the work has just begun!
Both come from the northern village of Mboubéne in the Senegal River Valley, part of Africa’s dusty Sahel but the heartland of Senegal’s rice production zone. Production there is expected to increase by 10,500 hectacres by the time MCC’s five-year, $540 million compact ends in September 2015, and the dramatic improvements to irrigation channels, pumps and water conduits will help local rice farmers plant three crops per year instead of one.
That’s big news in a country that imports nearly 70 percent of its rice, Senegal’s main staple food.
Speaking of rice, Oumou and Téty would like to offer you some. They competed and won the right to manage the cafeteria for local contractor Eiffage Senegal, a contractor involved with the construction funded through the compact's $170 million Irrigation and Water Resources Management Project. It’s hot in Senegal’s north this time of year, and construction is hot, sweaty work that stirs up an appetite in a hurry.
Oumou smiles. “These men are always hungry,” she says. “And they come back and back for more.”
“I think they like our food,” laughs Téty.
Oumou and Téty start serving breakfast while the first rays of the sun are still throwing long shadows and the desert air is cool. The day’s heat will arrive in less than an hour as the Eiffage crew lines up for their first meal of the day. “Coffee,” Téty explains, “with lots of powdered milk, fresh bread and some stew.”
While the crew heads out to pour concrete and lay the iron rebar that will eventually bring the additional irrigation waters over the rice fields, Oumou and Téty begin preparing for lunch. When the sun is overhead, the temperature soars to well past 90 degrees. The Senegal River Valley swelters. The workers come back in for some nourishment, camaraderie—and shade. Lunch is a stew of local red beans in tomato sauce, a specialty of the region.
“It seems like no matter how many beans we buy in the market, we need more,” Téty explains. “These men are always hungry, and food is so important.”
Téty has neatly summed up just one way this project itself is important. When construction concludes in 2015, MCC’s investments in rice production and irrigation will help the Senegalese people get closer to meeting their demand for the staple. But it’s paying dividends already in the local economy. With well over $100 million in construction contracts ongoing in Senegal’s north, MCC’s investments are indirectly generating jobs for many hundreds of laborers, drivers, engineers, surveyors, community interpreters, social organizers, technicians, specialists, and more.
The impact these workers are having on the local economy—from food to gas to equipment to haircuts to lodging and more—is rippling through the Senegalese economy. The beans Téty purchases at the local market are just the beginning.
MCC’s program in Senegal places a special emphasis on gender equality from project design to implementation to evaluation, and these two women are an example of that. MCC’s construction contracts stipulate that women be given opportunities to join the workforce in whatever jobs they qualify for and are willing to do. Women are increasingly taking up positions such as flag person, gas station attendant and warehouse overseer. Moreover, if Senegal has any female welders, they are to be given an equal chance to work.
There are many opportunities for women to benefit from the sudden influx of capital and labor in Senegal’s north. This cafeteria is just one of them.
The compact is expected to benefit more than 1.1 million people over the next 20 years. As I finish my scalding hot glass of attaya—sweet, Senegalese tea—I watch Oumou and Téty manage their kitchen as the lunchtime crew cleans their plates and prepares to head back out for the afternoon’s work. I’ll be proud when this program is complete, and the people of Senegal benefit from this investment. But I’m even prouder to see the impact the investment is already having.
Posted on March 31, 2014 by Christopher Davis, Development specialist, Burkina Faso
Scents of onions, tomatoes and damp earth permeated the morning air as we spoke with representatives of women’s associations in the Dî Perimeter, one of the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s principal investments in Burkina Faso. My colleagues and I were visiting the construction site to listen to community members who received their newly irrigated land last spring.
Located only a few miles from the country’s border with Mali and near the convergence of the Sourou and Mouhoun rivers, the village of Dî and its namesake 5,535-acre perimeter provide the region’s farmers with irrigation all year. In the past, most of these farmers could cultivate only during the rainy season. The women told us they were grateful to finally have the opportunity to farm land of their own.
“Before the MCC project, women [in this area] didn’t have the right to cultivate on their own land unless they were widows,” said Sayibata Ki, president of Association Benkadi No. 3. “We took care of the kids at home, prepared meals and had little work to do outside of market days. Now we can go out to farm our fields and make our own decisions about which part of our harvest we keep or sell.”
MCC's five-year, $481 million compact with Burkina Faso contains four projects: agriculture, roads, rural land governance, and education. In addition to the irrigation of the Dî Perimeter, the compact’s $141.9 million Agriculture Development Project is working with the Burkinabe to improve water management, diversified agriculture and access to rural finance.
An estimated 4,500 farmers and their families in Dî are expected to be working in the perimeter by the time the compact ends in July, and the trip gave us an opportunity to talk personally with some of them following their first growing season. Preliminary reports indicate that farmers harvested more than 1,800 acres of corn, soybeans and other legumes on the land on which construction had already been completed.
The project included a strong focus on ensuring benefits reach local women, who are often not recognized as landholders and are therefore last in line to receive land security. More than 130 agricultural associations are receiving land in the Dî Perimeter, composed entirely of women and youth from neighboring communities. Each cooperative member receives a plot of about one-tenth of an acre; last year, more than 2,000 individuals formed organizations to be eligible to receive the land.
Cooperative members are receiving kits containing tools, seeds and fertilizers. MCC is also funding trainings on how to plant and apply fertilizers to maximize yields, efficient irrigation methods and ways to increase soil fertility.
Most of the cooperative members are learning these techniques for the first time.
“We were taught how to make compost in our courtyards with things we can easily find around our village,” Ki said. “I give my children a bit of money to go and search for the supplies and then I use the compost on my land. It is much cheaper than buying fertilizer.”
The association members dug canals to deliver water directly to their parcels and learned that they would manage water resources that feed their canals.
“Mastering the irrigation schedule and working well together was very difficult in the beginning,” said Elisabethe Tiama, a member of the Hérakaura cooperative. “[MCA-Burkina Faso contractors] helped us to get organized and we were able to set a five-day watering calendar based on the rotation of the village markets. They also showed us the best ways to grow our corn and onions.”
All of the farmers we spoke with said they were pleased with their yields and looking forward to harvesting the lucrative dry-season cash crops they planted a couple of months ago. I was most impressed with the initiative and ingenuity some of these entrepreneurs exhibited, quickly solving problems and adapting to a more formal and communal irrigation schedule.
By April 2014, these businesswomen will be joined by their neighbors from throughout the region as the full 5,535 acres are delivered to beneficiaries. Additional plots of land will be distributed via a lottery before then.
Ki can’t wait.
“My husband and I both put our names into the land lottery,” she said. “We are ready for more farmland!”
Posted on March 14, 2014 by Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture and land
Developing a clear and well-defined program logic—the chain of events by which a given project is expected to lead to increased household income—is a crucial step in designing MCC projects. The clearer a project’s program logic, the easier it is to design activities, implement them, monitor them, and evaluate results.
As MCC assesses its portfolio from its first 10 years, what’s clear is that projects without well-defined program logics are much more difficult to implement and evaluate.
We also learned that having a clear program logic makes it a lot easier to explain:
- Why we are doing this project?
- What are the results we expect?
- What are the benefits of those results?
- What do we need to do to get there?
When a wide range of stakeholders understand a project and its intended outcomes, they are likely to be more engaged in implementing it and delivering results.
When decision-makers and stakeholders understand “why”, they can better explain the project to others, becoming more supportive advocates and champions. Finally, when decisions need to be made along the way due to budget or timeline issues, the program logic helps the team determine how proposed changes might affect achieving key outcomes and, ultimately, income growth.
MCC’s develops a program logic by:
Step 1: Defining the problem
Farmers’ incomes might be low, land rights might be hard to define or enforce, or rural populations might have limited access to irrigation or financial services. It is important to define the root causes of these problems and the economic challenges they create. For example, why are land rights difficult to enforce? What behaviors are affected by insecure land tenure? Do people invest less in their agricultural production than they might if they were more confident that they would reap the eventual gains? Do they spend an excessive amount of time resolving land-related disputes or attempting to complete land transactions?
Step 2: Identify the links between these problems and incomes
For MCC to make an investment, we need to demonstrate how it will result in higher incomes for beneficiaries. Determining the specific pathways through which incomes will rise is the tricky—but important—part. For example, do we hope that registering property rights will make landholders more secure? Do we envision then that they will make longer-term investments in their land through irrigation equipment, improved tools or perennial crops like fruit trees, increasing their land’s productivity and their incomes? Are there other ways to provide landholders with the security of ownership that might be less costly than registration? Or is the reason people aren’t planting perennial crops related to poor land-use planning in their village rather than insecure rights? Sector experts and economists at MCC and in partner countries must probe questions like these. .
Once we have defined the outcomes that lead to increased income, we must think strategically about the activities that will produce those outcomes. This means focusing on the outcomes that are essential for increased income and avoiding funding activities that matter less. For example, stakeholders might identify lack of credit as a constraint to increasing land productivity; however, the data does not link resolving land tenure problems to resolving the credit problem because there might be other reasons why access to credit is limited. In this example, a credit activity or credit-related outcomes may not be included among the proposed pieces of the project in the program logic.
Step 3: Use program logic to track progress toward results
MCC then uses program logic diagrams as guides in tracking progress on outcomes. The logic diagram will help the team select indicators to monitor throughout the compact and set realistic targets based on assumptions of how long it will take for certain activities to produce outcomes and for those outcomes, in turn, to produce increases in income. By returning often to the program logic, project teams and evaluators can make sure to ask the important questions, measure the right things and gather evaluation data at a time that makes logical sense.
Does your organization use a similar approach—or a completely different methodology—to define program logic and ensure that projects and activities lead to measurable results? Any suggestions to improve MCC’s approach?
Posted on February 28, 2014 by Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture
Traditionally, water-related projects have been classified as strictly irrigation, livestock or water and sanitation projects—but in reality, people use water for many uses. People use water for drinking, cooking, washing, livestock watering, agriculture, and business purposes. When development professionals fail to consider these multiple uses, overuse, asset degradation, breakage and the inability of water-management institutions to actually manage these unintended uses have threatened a project’s sustainability.
Instead, project planners should consider all the various needs and uses for water in a community and then attempt to incorporate those needs into project design right from the start. In this way, the project can mitigate risk and provide greater impact.
MCC adopted this approach in several of our irrigation and livestock projects. In Mali, for example, the irrigation project included consideration of animal crossings, drinking troughs alongside the irrigation canals and the drilling of additional watering points for livestock—all based on consultations with pastoralists. In addition, special areas were created for women to wash clothes and perform other domestic tasks so they would not have to use the irrigation canals and risk drowning or catching a water-borne infection.
In Namibia and Burkina Faso, we incorporated the water needs of wild animals; elephants and hippopotamuses in the area had the potential to cause major damage to the project’s water infrastructure. This was done through placement of elephant-only watering holes away from the project, planting hippopotamus-friendly grasses away from infrastructure and creating natural barriers with trees to protect the areas. In Mongolia and Mozambique, some newly installed water points provided separate valves for human and animal use, lowering the risk of contaminating the drinking water supply.
In other MCC projects, a lack of attention to the multiple uses of water led to challenges during implementation. In the Ghana Compact, for example, we discovered that an irrigation project would actually cut off the supply of water to five villages that were using it for drinking and other domestic uses. Though initially flagged as a critical social risk, the team was able to turn this problem into an opportunity to meet both the domestic and agricultural needs of the community by investing in small-scale water treatment plants that would supply solar-treated drinking water. At the same time, cattle watering points were incorporated into the design.
In the end, the communities benefited from improved water for all uses. However, by not incorporating multiple uses into the design from the beginning, the project missed an opportunity to integrate health and hygiene training with agricultural training and water provision.
MCC is committed to making sustainable investments that respond to beneficiaries’ needs. Considering all the various uses for water in a community while planning a project creates a bigger impact for our projects, and it is a goal for the planning of future water projects.
Have you seen water projects used for unintended purposes? Do you have experiences with multiple uses of water being incorporated into a project or being neglected during project design?
Posted on January 10, 2014 by Jennifer Lappin, former Moldova deputy resident country director, and Cynthia Berning, program officer, agriculture
(This is the first post of an ongoing series focusing on food security and is adapted from the Winter/Spring 2012-13 issue of Knowledge and Innovation Network Journal, a technical publication featuring lessons, innovations, ideas, and thinking behind MCC’s poverty reduction investments around the world.)
How do you revive an agricultural sector that is still trying to function as part of a decades-old collapsed system? MCC is trying to do just that in Moldova, a country once dubbed the “orchard of the Soviet Union.”
Following the fall of communism, Moldova’s vast orchards and vineyards were privatized into thousands of tiny plots. The centralized irrigation systems soon failed, and farmers transitioned to low-value rain-fed grain crops. The farmers who continue to grow fruits and vegetables often ship them unsorted, in bulk and in open trucks to the low-quality Russian wholesale markets—the same way they’ve been doing for decades.
These practices ultimately lead to lower prices for Moldovan farmers, who are struggling to compete in regional markets against firms from neighboring countries that employ improved practices and offer higher-quality products.
To tackle this problem, MCC and USAID partnered on a jointly-funded five-year program to target specific weak links in agricultural value chains. For example, programs trained growers of high-value crops in quality-improving practices, helped Moldovan sanitary/phytosanitary control offices more efficiently certify produce destined for export, linked exporters with buyers through international trade fairs, and developed a national brand for Moldovan produce.
Moldova is the poorest country in Europe; its five-year, $262 million compact invests irrigation reconstruction, access to agricultural finance, and the rehabilitation of an integral section of the country’s national road network—all with the aim of allowing Moldova to become more regionally competitive.
The challenge is bringing an outdated sector up to speed fast enough to recapture some of the market share Moldova lost in recent years to Poland and other regional neighbors. While there’s a risk that Moldova’s prominence in European markets can never be regained, Moldovans believe differently and are leveraging their MCC partnership to give their little country—with its rich soil, perched between eastern Europe and the European Union—the nudge it needs to climb back onto the world fruit and vegetable stage.
Tell us what you think! What else can we do to expedite the transition to higher-value, export-quality fruits and vegetables among Moldovan farmers?
Click here to read the full article.
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