Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Morocco
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 June 14, 2012 by Sheila Herrling, Vice President for Policy and Evaluation
If imitation is the greatest form of flattery, MCC should be very flattered by changes happening in Morocco. CEO Daniel Yohannes and I just finished a visit to Morocco to see progress under MCC's $697.5 million compact in agriculture, artisanal fisheries and artisan development. Throughout our visit, one message rang loud and clear: MCC’s approach is changing the way Morocco does business.
At MCC, we talk a lot about a continuum of results, whereby we track the impact of our investments from policy reform and changed business practices to inputs, outputs and, eventually, outcomes largely measured through income gains for program beneficiaries. While we saw representations of the larger outputs achieved to date, we heard something equally interesting but harder to measure--that the Government of Morocco is applying the MCC model--transparency, accountability, results-focus, and standard-setting--to its own operations. Some quick examples cited by government officials:
• The Minister of Agriculture and Maritime Fisheries described the Morocco Compact’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project as the Government of Morocco’s model for farmer aggregation, one of two key pillars in its own agricultural development strategy or “Green Morocco Plan.” Like MCC, the Government of Morocco has committed to making agriculture an even greater growth engine in the country by focusing on the organization and professional development of farmers as a principal tool.
• The Minister of Finance and Economy applied MCC’s model when recently presenting the Government of Morocco’s first ever citizen-driven budget. In fact, he credited MCC on several occasions for inspiring participative public consultation in the design and implementation of newer Moroccan government programs.
• The Minister of Handicrafts is bringing MCC's high standards on social and environmental impact assessment to bear in broader Government of Morocco investments.
While we won't know the full impact of MCC's investments until some time after the end of the compact, in the meantime, it was gratifying to hear that MCC’s model is fast becoming the model of choice across the Government of Morocco.
Posted on February 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I bought lunch today for the first time from a food truck. From Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, food trucks are transforming how this country eats, offering alternatives for every culinary appetite. In the spirit of creative entrepreneurship, Morocco’s fish vendors leveraged MCC funding to pursue a similar concept and go mobile. That country’s MCC compact is replacing donkey-drawn carts with three-wheeled, heavy-duty motorbikes equipped with insulated ice chests, empowering Moroccan fish venders to sell more fish to more consumers with a focus on quality and freshness. More than this literal parallel, I think MCC and food trucks have a lot in common. Think about it.
Innovation: Both MCC and food trucks are built on innovation. Food trucks offer one or two signature dishes, giving proprietors the opportunity to highlight and celebrate their innovative food specialties, which might otherwise be lost on the full restaurant menu. MCC has taken more than half a century of development practices and incorporated the most innovative principles into our model for development effectiveness, focusing simultaneously on results, country-owned solutions, accountability, and transparency.
Technologically-powered: Because of Twitter, food trucks have proliferated. Technologically-savvy customers are turning to their mobile devices and online communities to track when and where their favorite food trucks will be serving. I saw the same positive use of technology in Armenia, for example, as farmers, benefitting from MCC’s investment in the most extensive modernization of the country’s irrigation system in 30 years, use their cell phones to obtain the latest market prices for their agriculture products to maximize sales. MCC compacts increasingly are leveraging the power of technology to achieve sustainable development and increase incomes, from computerizing banks in Ghana to give rural families and businesses efficient access to financial services, to optimizing global positioning systems in Benin for accurate land mapping to provide individuals with secure title to their property, to using latest breakthroughs to grow, irrigate and harvest quality crops that both promote greater food security a
nd make farmers more competitive in the marketplace.
Customer-driven: Given the long line I stood in, I am struck by how many people are drawn to the food truck experience. There’s obvious market demand. MCC, too, is approached constantly by countries eager to reform their policies and partner with us. The partnerships we do form with a select group of poor, but well-governed, countries are based on shared responsibility and mutual accountability to achieve their homegrown development solutions.
Just as food trucks serve a cornucopia of cuisines from around the world, MCC partners span the globe in a common drive to reduce poverty through economic growth. By opening gateways to opportunity, MCC’s worldwide partnerships help local businesses and entrepreneurs thrive, so that our development dollars, ultimately, can be replaced by economic growth led by the private sector.
I am preparing to travel to Africa this month to sign MCC’s compact with Cape Verde and to mark the completion of Ghana’s MCC compact. Such milestone events in these countries will serve as opportunities to see MCC’s approach to innovation, technology and country-owned development strategies in action. Check back to read my blogs from those upcoming travels. In the meantime, please let me know if there are any food trucks in Cape Verde and Ghana I should sample.
Posted on September 28, 2011 by Rick Gaynor, Director of Property Rights and Land Policy
Last month, MCC’s project for Place Lalla Yeddouna in the Medina area of Fez, Morocco was awarded an Acknowledgement Prize by the Holcim Awards, a prestigious international competition that recognizes innovative projects, future-oriented concepts, and sustainable construction.
The Medina of Fez, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, home to thousands of artisans who ply their trades as their families have for generations, producing the exquisite pottery, leather, metal, textile and wood crafts for which Morocco has come to be known.
MCC and the Government of Morocco are working to address the poverty, poor working conditions and environmental challenges in the Medina through an ambitious project to revitalize Place Lalla Yeddouna, a public square on the banks of the Fez River where copper workers and other artisans produce and sell their goods. The project aims to stimulate economic growth by redeveloping Place Lalla Yedouna in a way that addresses dangerous working conditions and safety hazards and renovates the Medina into a true center of commerce and community activity.
The Holcim Awards awarded a prize to the MCC-funded project in recognition of its transformation of this unique and previously neglected site on the banks of the Fez River. The Holcim Awards jury believes that improvement of Place Lalla Yeddouna will be a catalyst for development of surrounding areas, with positive social impacts that will extend far beyond the site’s boundaries.
Renovation of Place Lalla Yeddouna was designed by mossessian & partners and Yassir Khalil Studio, architectural offices based in London and Casablanca, respectively. In early 2011, these firms won an MCC-funded international design competition created to solicit original design proposals for the renovation; 176 teams representing over 90 countries submitted proposals.
MCA-Morocco, the Government of Morocco entity implementing the MCC compact, conducted consultations with the people of Fez at various stages – before and after the original design competition – to provide input on the future of Place Lalla Yeddouna and the needs of residents who would be affected by the project. These consultations generated unprecedented communication between civil society and government about the future of the Medina.
Place Lalla Yeddouna is an exciting project that will have a positive and important impact in Fez and Morocco. Construction will begin in spring 2012, and is expected to be completed in fall 2013. We look forwarding to posting project updates here soon. Read more about the Holcim Award.
Posted on August 4, 2011 by Rachel Fredman, MCC Intern Morocco
Driving through the hills near Taounate in Northern Morocco is dizzying at times. With sweeping views of precipitous peaks and groves of olive and fig trees, one feels immediately transported to southern Spain. It’s disorienting to think that only a day before I was in a cool oasis flanked by date palms and sun-scorched desert. This is the geographical diversity of Morocco.
A view of the hills over Taounate.
It is this geographical diversity that yields tremendously varied agriculture. According to the World Bank, the agricultural sector in Morocco employs about 40 percent of the nation's workforce, making it the largest employer in the country and about 15 percent of its total GDP.
About 70 percent of the poor live in rural Morocco, which results in a massive rural exodus toward urban areas like Casablanca or Rabat, or the European Union. Many of these urban economies, however, cannot support this migration and these people often find themselves selling tissue or other goods on the side of the road for lack of better opportunities.
Many of the agricultural practices in Morocco have led to massive amounts of soil erosion, which is often irreversible. In the rainy sections of the northeast of the country, barley, wheat, and other cereals can be raised without irrigation. Farmers default to these crops in many of the areas we are passing through, razing trees on the mountains and planting wheat in their place. Along with overgrazing, this is causing land degradation and serious desertification throughout the country. We often pass by a mountain that, once home to trees and native plants, is now crackling dry from soil erosion. This intense desertification in Morocco also increases water pollution. The loose topsoil causes an increase in runoff, which in turn increases the siltation levels of Moroccan reservoirs and the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean.
The Morocco Compact is addressing these issues with its ambitious Fruit Tree Productivity Project. This Project will rehabilitate about 55,000 hectares of existing rain-fed fruit tree orchards and expand fruit tree production on nearly 62,000 hectares of land. It aims to increase and stabilize the income of poor farmers by shifting to more valuable tree crops – from wheat to rain-fed olive, date and almond trees. Almost 70,000 households will benefit from higher productivity and increased incomes. Moreover, they will be provided training and technical assistance on improved crop husbandry techniques that will increase yields and alleviate soil erosion as well as strengthen links to markets.
We visited one such cooperative in a small village near Taounate to learn more about their program.
Me, in the sunglasses, with a farmer cooperative near Taounate. The cooperative president is in the center, with the hat.
The cooperative consists of about 20 young to middle-aged men who want to stay in this village and farm to earn a better living than they would by moving to the cities. The president of the cooperative is a vibrant man whose former military training has given him the management skills to make this cooperative successful.
The members of this cooperative lead us to their field school where they are experimenting with more sustainable farming practices. A farmer field school is an innovative agricultural development methodology in which a group of farmers gets together in one of their own fields to learn about their crops and things that affect them. They learn how to farm better by observing, analyzing and trying out new ideas on their own fields. Unlike traditional approaches to agricultural extension which rely on extension workers providing advice to farmers, farmer field schools enable groups of farmers to find out the answers for themselves, maximizing their ownership in improving their farming practices. Essentially, the farmers can develop solutions to their own problems.
Farmer field schools are one of many techniques that are being implemented by MCC’s Fruit Tree Productivity Project in Morocco. Farmers are also being trained in integrated pest management, ways to mobilize their existing resources to increase production, and business support through technical assistance, applied research and scientific support. Nearly 33,000 farmers will be provided training. Meeting with this farmer cooperative reinforced in me the vast and sustained impact MCC is having on the rural poor in Morocco.
Posted on April 20, 2011 by Rick Gaynor, Director of Property Rights and Land Policy
Each time I step into the ancient Medina of Fez, I feel as if I am traveling back in time. The Medina (which means “city” in Arabic) was founded in the ninth century and is considered by many to be the educational, religious, cultural and artisan heart of Morocco. Today it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, home to thousands of artisans who continue to ply their trades as they have for generations, producing the exquisite pottery, leather, metal, textile and wood crafts for which Morocco has come to be known. I never tire of getting lost in the Medina’s narrow pathways, dodging donkeys, pushcarts and crowds of people, and taking in the sights, smells and sounds of this ancient, living, breathing city that is home to over 100,00 people. It’s easy to see why Fez is a UNESCO World Heritage site—there is truly nowhere like it in the world.
However, much of the Medina has fallen into disrepair from lack of investment. It is common to see wooden beams braced between crumbling buildings to prevent them from collapsing. Approximately 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Over half the Medina’s residents are said to be linked to the artisan sector. These artisans typically work in small, cold, dark and unsafe workshops and I’m constantly amazed that they can produce such beautiful artwork under such conditions. The Medina also faces serious environmental degradation. The Jawahir River (the name means “the River of Jewels” in Arabic), which bisects the Medina, has become highly polluted from years of being used as an open conduit for wastewater and toxic chemicals used in artisan production.
MCC and the Government of Morocco are working to address the poverty, poor working conditions and environmental challenges through an ambitious project to revitalize Place Lalla Yeddouna (PLY), a public square in the Medina where copper workers and other artisans produce and sell their goods. The project aims to stimulate economic growth by launching a redevelopment project that addresses the dangerous working conditions and safety hazards and makes PLY the center of commerce and community activity that it should be.
MCC and the Government of Morocco launched an open, anonymous International Design competition in September 2010 and selected a winner in March 2011. We were thrilled that 176 teams from over 90 countries registered for the competition. The people of Fez were consulted at various stages, before and during the competition, to provide input on the future of Place Lalla Yeddouna and the needs of residents who would be affected by the project. This led to a conversation about the future of the Medina that was unprecedented in Morocco.
On March 18, 2011, a panel of expert jurors representing all the stakeholder institutions and including a group of renowned international architects selected the design of mossessian & partners, an architectural firm based in London, as the winner. Mossessian’s proposal shows extreme sensitivity to the Medina’s urban context and architecture, using cues from the patterns, geometry and repetition that characterize Islamic design, while introducing innovations like re-connecting Place Lalla Yeddouna to the riverfront and creating a pedestrian route along the river. Outdoor galleries and public spaces will be connected through pathways that echo the Medina’s narrow streets and will be decorated with colorful tiles produced by local artisans, giving each space a distinct identity. Historically important buildings will be rehabilitated and preserved while new buildings will replace less-significant buildings that have fallen into disrepair or are inconsistent with the new uses surrounding the square. The project has already caused the Municipality of Fez to take steps to clean up the river, and additional improvements are planned so that Place Lalla Yedounna can realize its full potential as community center and driver of economic development.
There still remains a lot to be done prior to construction, such as resettling some artisans and cleaning up the polluted river. However, the International Design Competition was an exciting event for the City of Fez and an important milestone for the project. We are on our way to realizing the goal of improving the lives of the people of the Medina, and moving this community closer to a revitalized future.
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Posted on November 16, 2009 by Van Crowder, Director of Education
International Education Week 2009 (Nov 16-20) is an occasion to celebrate the benefits of worldwide learning and exchange. International cooperation prepares citizens in every country to live, work and compete in the global economy. MCC is working with partner nations to improve their education and training systems so that students learn the skills to get good jobs and boost economic growth in their countries and communities.
Youth development is central to a healthy, skilled and productive workforce. Investing in human capital through education and training is critical for improving productivity and economic growth and for reducing poverty and unemployment. About 36 percent of MCCs $358 million direct investment in education is focused on youth development through technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
In El Salvador, working through FOMILENIO (which is the government entity accountable for compact implementation), MCC is helping to renovate 20 middle technical schools, revise curricula, train instructors, and provide scholarships to deserving students, who will get jobs in agronomy, tourism and information technology—all areas crucial to the development of the country’s northern zone.
In Mongolia, MCC’s investment is helping to reform the TVET legal and policy framework so that schools are financially sustainable and can respond effectively to labor market demand. Competency-based curricula are being developed in key sectors like mining and construction. Selected schools are being renovated and equipped with modern technology and teachers trained in its use.
In Namibia, MCC supports community-based resource and study centers to provide basic job skills and information services for unemployed youth and low-skilled adults. Also, the MCC investment is helping the National Training Authority develop demand-led programs, and a National Training Fund will ensure that the TVET system is financially viable.
In Morocco, TVET focuses on key artisan trades (leather, wood, metal, pottery, and textiles) whose products are in demand in the home, export and tourist markets. About 15 schools will be renovated and equipped with facilities to teach students the skills needed by employers and the market.
International Education Week is a great moment for MCC, partner countries and agencies to highlight the strategic importance of youth development. The links between education and economic growth, income distribution and poverty reduction are well established. Income, productivity and growth are closely linked to educational opportunity. Strengthened TVET programs are particularly valuable for developing countries with large youth populations in need of the skills that lead to decent jobs, which in turn drive growth and reduce poverty.
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