Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Poverty Reduction
Posted on March 28, 2014 by Michelle Adato, Director, Social and Gender Assessment, Department of Compact Operations
MCC is marking World Water Day with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the seventh and final blog in the series.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation’s $354.7 million compact in Zambia will build water, sanitation and drainage infrastructure in greater Lusaka’s poor communities. The challenge, though, is ensuring that the projected benefits reach the poor. Recognizing that this means addressing the complex social dimensions in those vulnerable communities, MCC is putting great effort and resources into a holistic approach to these projects.
MCC’s Lusaka Water Supply, Sanitation, and Drainage (LWSSD) project must address not only the engineering complexities of building water and sewer networks in dense, under-planned neighborhoods, but also the social and economic complexities of getting people connected, keeping them connected and bringing about the behavior changes necessary to enable and sustain the intended benefits.
The cases of the “white elephants,” as referred to by one Zambian water and sanitation regulator – where water or sewer networks are built but lie unused because people do not connect or stay connected – happen because not enough focus is placed on the importance of social dimensions of planning for water and sanitation service delivery.
A global literature review commissioned by MCC found that the rate of household network connections is significantly increased when infrastructure is combined with well-designed and executed information and education campaigns that address the why and how of connecting, accompanied by policies that make connections affordable, such as pre-financing and permitting repayment over time. A tariff structure that addresses affordability and social equity principles is also important.
The LWSSD project involves mostly infrastructure but is also strengthened on the institutional side with initiatives that improve the long-term ability of the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company to manage aspects of service planning and delivery. Some of these aspects include developing policies and planning tools that ensure the integration of social and gender inclusion across the utility, and improving the utility’s capacity to design and implement information and education campaigns on connecting and staying connected; household water management; care and maintenance of facilities; hygiene; keeping drains clean and safe; and employment opportunities in the sector. The goal is to support the utility in adopting best-practices, so that Zambia’s most vulnerable populations can access affordable services and be able to rely on these services into the future.
While the challenges are immense, the ultimate ability of the infrastructure project in Zambia to meet its objectives is dependent on addressing these social dimensions.
Posted on March 28, 2014 by Ben Campbell, Director, Environmental and Social Assessment, Department of Compact Operations
MCC is marking World Water Day with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the sixth in the series.
Population pressures in Malawi have pushed poor and vulnerable farmers up the steep hillsides where they scratch out a living growing maize. Having grown up an Iowa farm boy, I would have never contemplated planting corn on such steep slopes—but of course, we were nowhere near as desperate for land or production as the farmers in Malawi.
Unfortunately, there is a knock-on effect to the poverty-driven hillside planting: Tons of topsoil sediment makes its way into the Shire River, where it flows into and fills the head ponds, damaging the hydroelectric plants. The topsoil’s rich nutrients feed invasive weed blooms which get caught in the turbines, leading to power blackouts all over the country.
The effect represents a real long-term threat to MCC’s Malawi Compact, which includes the rehabilitation of the hydroelectric plant on the Shire River and an upgrade of the electric grid through much of southern and central Malawi.
In response, the project on which we are working in partnership with the Malawians seeks long-term financing to promote better land-use practices in the Upper and Middle Shire Basin, the source of much of the soil runoff. Working with private and government-owned companies, we aim to establish an environmental trust.
These downstream companies that make up the trust—including sugarcane producers, bottlers, water utilities, and the electric company—are affected by the same sediment as the hydroelectric plant. Individually, there is little they can do. Together, though, they can contribute the money needed to provide grants to local non-government and community-based organizations which, in turn, can help farmers improve their methods through conservation agriculture, forestry and soil erosion techniques.
For the farmers, the use of one or all of these practices should lead to improved yields. For the trust companies and the hydroelectric plant, these plans will reduce pressure on the forests and hillsides that are the source of the water.
By linking the land-use interests of the downstream entities with the upstream communities, our project hopes to create long-term funding to support these efforts, even after MCC has left.
Posted on March 28, 2014 by Evan Freund, Deputy Resident Country Director, Mozambique
MCC is marking World Water Day this week with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the fifth in the series.
Nacala, home to Mozambique’s deep water port and access point for trade through much of east and southern Africa, is a city whose rapid growth punctuates the entire country’s challenges with access to a clean and reliable water source.
In the towns and villages surrounding Nacala, and in the city itself, the lack of an element so vital for daily life and commerce is a considerable constraint to economic growth.
The road to Nacala’s port is cluttered with new and expanding businesses – many of which are voracious water consumers – and the coast is increasingly crowded with large container ships, transporting the world’s goods into, and out of, the region. The region’s growth is evident at every turn in Nacala.
The MCC-funded expansion and rehabilitation of the aging, inefficient and undersized bulk water supply dam in Nacala – the principal source of Nacala’s water – was an ambitious and technically complex plan which, in part, helps the city meet the growing demand for water. The project also embodied many of the very best characteristics of the MCC model and the necessary characteristics of good project execution: broad engagement and involvement with community entities and people who have a stake in the project’s success, a planning process that included participation by public and private organizations, and country-led solutions.
Piecing together a collaborative and productive partnership between multiple beneficiaries and participants at the international, national and local levels over a three year period prior to construction was critical to ensuring the safe and timely completion of the project. But it was not without its secondary challenges. The announced promise of more water led to understandable expectations of immediate results, especially among the project’s intended beneficiaries. It was important to explain in clear language that considerable front end work on the project would avoid problems on the back end.
So, led by MCA-Mozambique, countless technical meetings, outreach and educational awareness workshops and discussions took place from 2008 to 2011 in order to ensure a project as technically complex and large as this could go forward with as few problems as possible… and that everyone at each level understood what it was going to take.
With a lot of hard work and a little luck, a tight two-year construction period proceeded smoothly and one of MCC’s most technically sophisticated – and one of Mozambique’s most high profile – projects was delivered as planned. The end result is an expanded dam (from 17 to 19 meters) and a reservoir with increased capacity (4.2 million to 6.6 million cubic meters) that now provide a stable foundation for Nacala’s continued development.
Posted on March 27, 2014 by Joana Brito, Deputy Resident Country Director, Cabo Verde
MCC is marking World Water Day this week with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the fourth in the series.
How do you take a fragmented, poorly run water and sanitation utility in an extremely dry country like Cabo Verde and make it run efficiently enough to bring high-quality service to a half million people?
This question is moving toward a real solution through the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project, part of Cabo Verde’s second compact with MCC. At the start of the project’s design, inefficiencies at the utility level were bad enough to pose significant barriers to economic growth. The problems needed to be tackled aggressively and reforms put in place if people were to benefit from a water utility at all.
The WASH Project aims to sustain the long-term delivery of services and goods through a three-pronged strategy: first, motivating reforms at national policy and regulatory agencies so real change can take place; second, operating utilities more efficiently through best commercial practices; and third, improving the quality and reach of the water and sanitation infrastructure through an accountable system for integrated water resource management.
There are about 19 small utilities spread throughout 22 municipalities of the nine inhabited islands of Cabo Verde, each serving a few thousand people in a population of a half million people. These small utilities, called SAASs, suffer from significant bureaucratic interference by municipal authorities, are over-staffed, have a shortage of technically qualified staff, and are not financially sustainable.
The proposed approaches will make the utilities more efficient and more financially sustainable. These include:
• Grouping nine of the small operators of the island of Santiago, Cabo Verde’s biggest island, into a single corporatized, commercially run operator shielded from political interference;
• Improving operations and management by adopting business practices used by commercial entities; and
• Extending service coverage by decreasing the loss of water through leaky pipes and pumps and making sure the most vulnerable people get service.
This, coupled with a strong public information campaign, will increase awareness of the health benefits of better water and sanitation services as well as hygiene practices. Together, it will prompt consumer willingness to pay for good service.
By focusing on transforming the utilities and the way they do business now, the people of Cabo Verde will enjoy increased access to water and sanitation, with reliable service and improved quality… keys for healthy living.
Posted on March 26, 2014 by Cassandra Q. Butts, Senior Adviser
MCC is marking World Water Day this week with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the third in the series.
In the fight against poverty, investing in innovative approaches, enhanced technologies and new techniques to improve development outcomes or reduce costs are essential. Partnerships between the public and private sectors are not new, but they are key to reaching people with new technologies and models for services, often with greater efficiency and impact than what could be achieved working alone.
I recently traveled to Zambia’s capital of Lusaka to participate in the public launch of an exciting program that will leverage public-private partnerships to better support access to clean water, reliable sanitation and services to improve the functioning of Lusaka’s drainage system, especially in the city’s poorest areas.
The Innovation Grant Program intends to confront pressing issues affecting Lusaka’s water sector and limiting economic growth in Zambia. Through calls for proposals to introduce improved technology, best practices and targeted services, the grant program aims to decrease incidences of disease spread through contaminated water as well as reduce the cost of sanitation services and business losses from flooding. With improved service delivery in targeted areas, people will spend less on health care, be more productive in their work and abilities to care for their families, kids will miss less school, and businesses will not have to close as often during the rainy season. New models of service delivery can also create new employment opportunities, support entrepreneurship in the city and empower women and youth.
This program will offer the private sector, universities and other organizations in Zambia, the United States and throughout the world, an opportunity to compete for funding in a transparent manner to complement and supplement the other investments in infrastructure and institutional strengthening being carried out through Zambia’s five-year, $355million MCC compact. Together with the Government of Zambia, the Lusaka Water and Sewerage Company and the Lusaka City Council, MCC’s investment will impact more than one million Zambians.
The promise and potential of the Innovation Grant Program will serve the most vulnerable members of society, ensuring that women, children, the poor, and other disadvantaged groups are able to benefit from access to clean water and sanitation services.
Stay tuned: MCA-Zambia will soon announce when it will start accepting proposals. I am excited to see these advances in action!
Posted on March 25, 2014 by By Erin S. Ansell, Associate Director for Infrastructure, Department of Compact Operations
MCC is marking World Water Day this week with a blog series on our investments in the delivery of clean water, effective sanitation services and long-term solutions that help build economic growth. This is the second in the series.
Most people have a passing familiarity with what is known as the hydrologic cycle. For those who don’t know the term, it’s the process by which water falls to earth as rain, drains to streams and rivers and eventually makes its way into surface water bodies such as lakes and oceans. From there, water evaporates and makes its way back into the earth’s atmosphere, and the process begins again.
But this process only describes the hydrologic cycle in nature, in areas devoid of human dwellings and influence. In fact, most water is used in some way by humans during this cycle, mostly in urban areas. There is, one might say, an urban hydrologic cycle through which potable water from groundwater wells, desalination plants, reservoirs, or other sources, is transported into homes, businesses and industries, where it gets used. From there, it is piped into a centralized wastewater collection system where it heads to a wastewater treatment plant and is discharged back into the natural system. In water-poor countries, such as Jordan, using water efficiently during this urban hydrologic cycle is critical to making the most of a limited natural resource.
Jordan is a highly urbanized Middle Eastern country of some 6 million people and, because of its limited access to surface water or naturally recharged aquifers, ranks among the world’s five most water-poor countries.
MCC’s compact with Jordan addresses the entire urban hydrologic cycle in a heavily populated, poor region of the country called Zarqa Governorate. First, the compact focuses on increasing the effective supply of potable water by repairing and rehabilitating the pipes and pumps in the potable water network that reaches end users.
Once the water is used at household or commercial levels, expansion and repairs in the wastewater collection system network make it possible to increase the quantity of wastewater that is sent to the As-Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant, the largest in Jordan. The plant itself is also being expanded to accommodate the increased volume. This, in turn, generates additional supplies of high-quality treated water appropriate for use in irrigated agriculture in the Jordan Valley, which allows more freshwater to be diverted to higher-value uses in urban areas.
When that treated wastewater is used for irrigation in the Jordan Valley, the same amount of freshwater can be diverted to higher value uses in the urban areas. This arrangement effectively allows two uses for each unit of water. In this way, the compact is designed to enhance economic growth by increasing the availability of fresh water for individual households, small businesses in urban areas and the vibrant service sector, including tourism facilities. It also reduces the need to develop increasingly expensive sources of water, decreases unsustainable off-take levels from Jordan’s aquifers and eases pressures that could erode household and business incomes over time.
Finally, the program helps poor households get more water through the water distribution network at reasonable prices. By designing a program that addresses each phase of the urban hydrologic cycle, MCC and Jordan are working holistically to protect and preserve a limited natural resource.
Posted on January 29, 2014 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
With great excitement and pride, I join MCC’s friends here at home and around the world to celebrate a milestone in our history: our 10th anniversary. Through the promise of our words and the reality of our actions, MCC has partnered with the world’s poor to create new opportunities for a more hopeful, prosperous future.
Over the past decade, MCC changed the conversation when it comes to how the business of development is done. It’s been said that MCC was created to put into practice the principles that many in development long viewed as essential for delivering sustainable solutions for reducing poverty and generating economic growth:
- Selectively working with countries that make tough policy and institutional reforms;
- Development not as aid but as investments that follow fundamental business logic, with sound economic returns that lead to raising the incomes of the poor and fueling the engine of private sector-led growth;
- Partnership that replaces patronage and demands mutual responsibility to achieve measurable targets and results during a strict, time-limited engagement;
- Actively embracing monitoring and evaluation to assess performance, make course corrections as needed and contribute to the body of evidence and learning that maximizes the effectiveness and impact of our investments to help the poor; and
- Accountability and transparency so that the light shines on all we do.
And it’s magnificent to see what our partnerships have accomplished because of how we operate.
- We built roads and bridges around the world, from Vanuatu to Mongolia to El Salvador.
- We improved irrigation canals in Armenia and repaired the gas pipeline in Georgia.
- We delivered land titles in Mozambique, including in the joint names of husbands and wives.
- We made health care, education, electricity, and clean energy possible with health clinics in Lesotho, schools in Ghana, a functional literacy program in Morocco, electrical connections in Zanzibar, and cookstoves in Mongolia.
- We helped farmers and mobile fish vendors make a living with agricultural business centers in Ghana and motorized bikes with ice chests in Morocco.
In these ways and more—including pushing policy reforms; insisting on high environmental, social, fiscal, and procurement standards; advancing gender equality; and engaging the private sector—we are changing the lives of many of the world’s poor for the better.
Building on our strong foundation, I want to see MCC continue to excel as we embark on a second decade of success. I believe doing this means focusing on the evidence. Our commitment to evidence-based decision making helps us learn, share that learning, improve, and maximize the impact of our programs for the world’s poor. Our next 10 years will be defined by how well we accept the challenge to be both role models for what works in development based on the evidence as well as change agents eager to think and act boldly to make development as effective as possible.
If the last 10 years give us any insights, I am confident that MCC will meet the challenges ahead and continue to lead the way in the fight against global poverty.
Check back regularly throughout the year for details on anniversary activities and special publications marking MCC’s 10th.
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 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 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 June 18, 2012 by Jon Anderson , Mali Resident Country Director
For the past five years, MCC has worked with Malian organizations on an ambitious and integrated program to develop more than 5,000 hectares of irrigated land in Mali's Alatona zone. The country-led project included large scale irrigation works, road improvements, rural infrastructure, investments in education and health, land reform and titling, rural financial services, and other activities designed to help almost 650,000 people.
I have lived in Mali for more than 18 years, and I can attest to the meaningful impact the project has had on beneficiaries’ lives.
However in May 2012, the MCC Board of Directors approved termination of the Mali Compact due to an undemocratic change in government and Mali’s non-compliance with MCC’s eligibility criteria. MCC and MCA-Mali are in the process of winding up the projects in Alatona and Bamako, and the compact will be terminated on or before August 31—sooner than would have been the case.
It was a very tough decision to make, but MCC works only with countries that uphold the principles of democratic governance and the rule of law. The military coup and recent events in Mali are in contradiction with those principles. Nevertheless we shouldn’t lose sight of the lives our projects impacted. One resident of the Alatona region, Aburu Sabu Sangare, was so grateful for the work we accomplished in his area that he put his thoughts down on paper in the local language and found a way to pass it along to the U.S. Government.
I wanted to share the letter with you to provide a sense of the accomplishments, the importance, the goodwill, and, frankly, the transformation the Mali Compact helped create.
Thank you MCA-Mali – by Aburu Sabu Sangare
When considering effort, perseverance and keeping one’s word, quality work is better than talk. There is currently a large American organization helping Mali to put an end to poverty, difficulty and suffering in a place called Alatona. Every strong person, give your best effort; every weak person, give your best effort! As for them [MCA-Mali], they have completed what was in their power to do. May God assist us.
In 2007, MCA-Mali sent interviewers to come to our region to ask questions in each village. From door to door, they asked questions of each family. They got along very well with all the inhabitants. No conflict arose between the interviewers and the interviewees. No one argued and the work was peaceful, pleasant, and joyful, without any bad feelings.
After these inquiries, they brought excavators and vehicles. All this equipment arrived and went out to work all over the area. Some machines removed trees. Other machines dug canals. Other vehicles were brought to transport workers back and forth, or to transport rocks and earth to build houses. They recruited masons and brick makers. We were included in the offers of work. When they had gotten the workers, they chose skilled people that they made supervisors. They would say, “Look, see the correct way to do the work, do it like this.” So the work began and the brick makers made good money. They too thank MCA-Mali. The village chiefs are the first in thanking MCA-Mali because they are very, very happy. They say thank you because MCA-Mali gave everyone equal treatment.
Even the Fulfulde teachers benefitted. They gained more learning and much wealth. Anyone you saw who could operate motors or vehicles was happy. Itinerant traders were the happiest of all. They say that no one benefitted from the MCA-Mali project more than they did. They said that even if you had a whole warehouse of food, you would sell it all because there was such abundance of workers. Even goats, sheep and cattle were selling well. Chicken were being bought up more quickly than anything else. Even animal merchants recognized the change in the economy and so did the boat and canoe operators.
The brick makers and builders thank MCA-Mali for giving them baseball caps, shoes, and gloves for the work. When the machines and vehicles started working, they made pile after pile of dirt. These piles were in every direction in the Alatona region. There were so many machines and so many people you could not tell what there were more of. Some people dared to say that Alatona had become Paradise.
Anyone who was able came here, people said that you can get anything you want in Alatona, so much good had come to this place. People who had moved away came back, people who had been traveling came back, people who had emigrated to other countries came back. In fact, after the MCA-Mali project came, even visitors would say that they grew up here. Who did this work? The big American organization called MCC.
Please bear with me, as I have more to tell. After this work was done, they showed us things that made us glad. They invited us to come get plow oxen and plows. Next, they gave us donkey carts, taught us how to plant rice and gave us money for food while we got training. Thank you MCA-Mali for moving us to our new villages in your vehicles and giving us the reimbursement for moving costs. We received good houses, good bathrooms, clean water, schoolhouses, a meeting hall, storehouses for rice and onions, as well as a drainage system. Thank you, MCA-Mali. Firewood was transported and new trees planted. MCA also built markets in the Alatona region.
Thank you MCA-Mali for achieving something that makes all Malians happy. Everyone you hear talking says, “Wow! It’s really great!” Thank you MCA-Mali for all the money you gave. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving five hectares that a person can live on permanently. Two hectares come with a free land title: one must pay only the water fees, not the price of the land. For three hectares, you must pay for both the land and the water fees. One hectare can be farmed both in rainy season and hot season. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving us lots of three different kinds of fertilizer.
Thank you MCA-Mali for giving gardens to the women, along with fertilizer, seeds, hoes, and picks. Thank you MCA-Mali for giving the men lots of onions, and, on top of that, the money needed for working and sacks for the onions.
When MCA-Mali came, we saw things that astonished us because we are country folk. We are not used to machines that knock down trees. We are not used to machines that dig. We are not used to machines that pick up dirt and load it in a truck. We are not used to machines that enter a pit to swallow dirt and come back out and pour it on the ground. We are not used to machines that crawl like lizards. We are not used to earth-piling machines. We are not used to machines that lift metal. We are not used to machines that plow. We are not used to earth-swallowing machines. We are not used to machines that show the road. We are not used to machines that tell whether work is straight or crooked. We are not used to machines that sort things. We are not used to machines that see what has passed. We are not used to machines that sink into the water to scoop mud and move it onto the dry ground.
Thank you MCA-Mali for helping the poor; this continued to when it was time to start farming. They brought money for plowing. They brought money for planting. They brought money for weeding. They brought money for cutting the rice for harvest. All the things I have listed in this letter. On top of all that, they sent experts to explain how to do the work.
The project began in Welingara, Feto, Beeli, Toule B, Toule A, and Tennde in 2008. In 2010 these six villages were farming. And in 2011 Seekadaayi, Sammbawere, Madiina, Danngeere Kaaje, Tchili Kura, Tchili Koro, Seekadahaara, Daande Salaamu, Wuro Daayi, Wotoro Danga, Wuro Yaladi, Ndukala, Sabere Nooda, Wuro Musa, and Dungel. And in 2012 the villages of Feyi 1, Feyi 2, Feyi 3, Tomoni, Motoni, Nencela, Masabougou, Yirwawere, Marabawere, Baaba Neega, Dangere Baaba, and Ndoojiriwere cultivated rice and it grew very well.
Many people bought large motorcycles. People bought cattle, sheep and goats from Feto to Masabougou (the villages at either end of the project area). Each home you visit you think is better than the one before, because you find contentment and happiness and joy and calm and peace and laughter and people eating food they like and as much as they want. How can we say thanks to MCA-Mali who have done something the likes of which has never been seen in Mali since independence? If we have said such things, it is because we have never before seen any project like MCA-Mali. I, the author of this letter, was born in 1961. If I said these things it is because I myself have seen them; and I too, I say thank you, MCA-Mali. We weren’t getting anything until this great gift came. All of Mali knows this: a project has come to Mali. There is no child, no elder, no woman, no man who did not benefit from this project. That’s in all of Mali. And for us, all we can say is “May God repay you.”
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for keeping your promises.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for doing good work.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for this expensive gift.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for making Malians ID cards free of charge.
Thank you, MCA-Mali, for making land titles free of charge.
I, Aburu Sabu Sangare, wrote this letter. I come from Nenchela and was born in 1961 in the place called Alatona.
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 June 7, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
I am in Jordan, one of the world's driest countries, where severe water scarcity impacts every aspect of daily life.
I met with Fatima Ali, a widow, whose entire income is spent on rent. The water pipes to Fatima's home leak and the wastewater pipes overflow regularly. When water does flow in, Fatima uses old paint cans to store it because she does not have proper water storage containers. Fatima's neighbor, Sulaiman Ali (no relation to Fatima), has similar challenges. The diabetic father of three lacks proper water storage capabilities, and the inconsistent water supply makes operating his dialysis equipment extremely difficult.
MCC's $275 million compact with the Government of Jordan is designed to address some of these challenges.
Through the repair and replacement of broken or leaking pipes and the installation of proper water storage tanks, MCC will increase water availability and quality in poor neighborhoods like the one where Fatima and Sulaiman live. MCC's grant will also extend modern sewers to urban neighborhoods, improving wastewater collection and decommissioning the use of cesspits.
Today, I presided over the signing of a critical private sector agreement, a major step toward expanding the As Samra wastewater treatment plant. Originally built with help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the As Samra wastewater treatment plant, once completed, will be one of the largest in the region. Approximately half of the financing for this expansion is being provided through private sector partners, proving once again that when governments create the right atmosphere for investment, the private sector will respond.
Together, these activities will benefit approximately 3 million Jordanians. For Fatima and Sulaiman, it means a better quality of life. For MCC, it means economic growth and development for a critical partner country in the Middle East. Truly, when water flows, prosperity follows.
Posted on May 31, 2012 by Alain Diouf, MCA-Senegal Property Rights and Land Policy Director , and Kent Elbow, MCC Property Rights and Land Policy Specialist
We knew we were on to something in Senegal—that what we learned about the role customary land rights can play in alleviating poverty was worth sharing with the wider land practice community.
In recent years, many African governments have developed legislation to recognize the legitimacy of informal (mostly unwritten) customary rights to land. Governments have introduced a variety of legislative tools to formalize, protect and secure those rights. Each country brings a different approach to this, but in many instances the process helps lay the foundation for increased economic development.
Customary land rights are the starting point of any formalization initiative, which isn’t easy. We need to help contribute to economic objectives while preserving or enhancing the rights and interests of the powerless. We do this in two main ways.
The first task is to identify the holders of customary rights, which requires recognizing categories like individual and collective rights. Analyses of community resources, such as pastures and forests, need to include detailed socio-economic information. Where community land-use plans do not yet exist, we identify various interests and base our approach on the active participation of all parties in working toward a consensus on how existing rights are to be presented and preserved during the formalization process.
The Land Tenure Security Activity, funded by Senegal’s $540 million MCC compact, is working in the Senegal River Valley to determine the boundaries between agriculture and livestock while also accounting for the areas where the two overlap. MCA-Senegal will act upon some of the decisions negotiated during the first phase of the activity—such as the boundaries of cattle trails through agricultural land leading to water points—by planting trees.
The second major element of a successful formalization program is ensuring that fairness remains a dominant principle in ongoing and future land allocation. Formalization is not just identifying rights and issuing corresponding pieces of paper. Mechanisms must be developed and activated to provide for the exchange and reallocation of land rights so resources can be put to their most productive use while ensuring that rights are protected. Governance of land allocation works best when it is transparent, democratic and participatory.
The Land Tenure Security Activity in Senegal is demonstrating that existing customary land rights can be comprehensively identified and documented—if one incorporates careful design and planning, inclusive methodologies, copious work, and adequate time. It is also demonstrating that local land allocation principles and processes can be developed and recognized as legitimate if all stakeholders are given a voice in their development.
Yes, customary land rights are messy—but protecting customary land rights while moving toward a more formal land management system is both fair and economically productive. An even more fundamental goal must be to ensure that all stakeholders have a voice in the more permanent institutions of land governance. In the Senegal River Valley, land is governed at the community level, and there are positive signs that previously unheard voices are now finding a stage.
“These workshops have changed us as well as our community decision-makers,” the president of a women’s producer group said after a community workshop. “We no longer hesitate to speak our minds and address the Rural Council. This is a new situation for us.”
MCC, the Government of Senegal and MCA-Senegal are excited about the good work that has been accomplished and are committed to continuing to learn and share our learning with land practitioners facing similar challenges around the world.
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 May 9, 2012 by Jonathan Brooks, Managing Director for Europe, Asia, Pacific, and Latin America
A community irrigation system created with the help of MCC’s compact with Honduras recently received international recognition—the latest example of how MCC’s investments provide a model for sustainable poverty growth in our partner countries.
The Cosechas de Agua rainwater harvesting project, developed through the compact’s Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility and managed by CHF International, received the Latin American prize for innovative water management projects in the face of climate change at the World Water Forum in Marseille, France, on March 15.
Cosechas de Agua harvests rainwater for use in irrigation in the arid southern municipalities of Nacaome, Langue, Goascorán, and Aramecina. It captures rainwater and then uses a system of hydraulic works, dams and pipelines to store and distribute the water to fields. The project aims to introduce complementary irrigation systems for 188 agricultural producers over 98 hectares of land, intended to increase their income.
Access to irrigation and other support through the compact was intended to allow farmers to diversify their crops, increase their yields and expand their access to new customers nationally, regionally and internationally.
The $50,000 prize—sponsored by the Mexican national water authority Conagua, the FEMSA Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Water Center for Latin America and the Caribbean—will be used to develop the project over the next three years. Cosechas de Agua officials will also be invited to present progress on the system's economic, social and environmental impacts at the next World Water Forum in March 2015.
The Agricultural Public Goods Grant Facility was part of the $68 million Rural Development Project, which sought to increase the productivity and business skills of farmers who operate small- and medium-size farms, as well as their employees. The project is expected to help more than 357,000 people over the next 20 years and raise their household incomes by $53 million.
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