Poverty Reduction Blog Tag: Roads
Posted on December 21, 2012 by Randy Wood, Senegal deputy resident country director
The brightly dressed men on horseback caught my attention first, but then I saw the man leading a camel to the front of the stage.
I was in Ndioum, in northern Senegal, where the Prime Minister Abdoul Mbaye and U.S. Ambassador Lewis Lukens were celebrating the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of a new bridge built with MCC investments. This is part of MCC’s rehabilitation of two national roads that will create reliable, cost-effective and time-saving means of transporting locally produced agricultural products, as well as stimulate domestic and trans-border traffic and commerce.
The sun was high overhead the Sahel, and there was dust in the air.
Few projects are as breathtaking as the construction of a bridge: Where once rural farmers and their families struggled to cross a swollen river to access schools, hospitals and other services, soon they’ll simply walk across a new bridge. Revolutionary! But the most revolutionary changes are sometimes the simplest: The Ndioum Bridge will not only link one of Senegal’s richest agricultural areas to the mainland, but it also will link the people of the area known as the Ile à Morphile to the rest of their country. It’s a riverine island, with branches of the Senegal River flowing around both sides of the island’s fertile fields.
In finally providing the people of Ndioum with a bridge, MCC is helping fulfill a promise made to the people of Ndioum more than 40 years ago.
It’s a promise the people have waited patiently to see become a reality. The horsemen and the camel herder weren’t elaborate props for the event; they were residents of Ndioum with their steeds, turned out in their finest traditional clothing to witness the groundbreaking and express their gratitude for the work and perseverance that led to overcoming Ndioum’s isolation after so many years.
It’s easy to lose perspective in the paperwork of making these projects a reality: the reports, the collaborative process, the endless email, the calendars and contracts, and the elaborate, technical terms of reference. But then you look up, and hundreds and hundreds of people have come out under the hot noonday sun in a swoon of emotion to express their gratitude for the project, and you realize that it’s not just a project and some deadlines. It’s a bit of infrastructure that is going to revolutionize the lives of Senegal’s poorest.
In two short years, the people of Ndioum won’t need to wait for the wooden canoe to take them across the river, won’t need to worry about flash floods roiling the river’s muddy surface and won’t need to worry if they need a doctor in the middle of the night.
That’s revolutionary. And that’s why we’re here.
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 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 April 6, 2012 by Patrick Fine, Vice President for Compact Operations
Nampula Province in central Mozambique is 2,200 kilometers north of the capital Maputo, about the distance from the East Coast to the Mississippi River. The countryside is marked by granite domes that tower hundreds of feet off the lush plains and by isolated mountains that rise up in surreal silhouettes worthy of artist Shane Devries. The land is not heavily populated, and villages are simple collections of traditional thatched-roof rondavels plastered with mud from ubiquitous conical ant hills. Rural electrification has not yet reached most of these villages, roads are simple dirt tracks, most people still fetch water from rivers, and boys stand by the roadside holding out bags of freshly shelled cashews for sale.
You can see signs of growing prosperity, including the results of MCC’s $506 million partnership with Mozambique: Our investment has helped build hundreds of village water points; pave major routes to facilitate agriculture, mining and commerce; and upgrade and expand straining municipal water and sanitation systems.
A year ago, these projects were seriously behind schedule and over budget, causing MCC and the Government of Mozambique to create an action plan to overhaul the approach for completing the work within the five-year deadline. I was impressed by the way Mozambique’s management authority, MCA-Mozambique, had consistently met its implementation milestones since the revised plan was adopted in March 2011.
Last week, with only 18 months remaining in the compact, I visited Nampula to get a firsthand view of what is being accomplished.
I was encouraged by the road and water system construction underway and came away with increased confidence that Mozambique will complete its work on time. In one rural community down a narrow 13 kilometer dirt track, I inaugurated a new borehole and water pump that serves 700 community members and will eliminate the need for women and children to spend up to two hours a day fetching water.
In the town of Nampula, I witnessed the distribution of property titles that give people secure property rights for the first time. The ceremony took place in an open neighborhood square where local officials called out names; the property owners came forward from the large crowd, signed a ledger and took their titles. At the end of the ceremony a number of people started to angrily call out, demanding their titles. The officials explained that the titles would be distributed each day that week. I found this spontaneous demonstration of the demand to have a title a reassuring indication of the value of MCC’s investment.
While my focus was on the MCC-financed projects, what really caught my attention was the extraordinary economic opportunity in Mozambique. Already, Mozambique exports electricity from the largest hydroelectric dam in Africa, and it still has unexploited capacity. A Portuguese contractor working on the MCC road project drove up in a Ford Ranger and had American-manufactured scientific equipment in its materials lab. Recently an American company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, announced it had discovered one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas off the northern coast; the center of the country holds huge deposits of coal, and as more exploration takes place it is very likely that other minerals will be found in commercial quantities. Anadarko has plans to invest approximately $20 billion over the next five years! A Brazilian mining company is already shipping coal and has announced a $6 billion expansion.
I see all sorts of opportunities, from village hardware stores, hair salons and groceries to the suppliers and services that new investments in mining will require. Seen in this light, American investments in basic infrastructure are prescient. And a U.S. company is the supervising engineer on the drainage activity in Nampula city—where one of the main customers and beneficiaries of the new water system is Coca-Cola.
But far more important than market opportunities created by individual MCC-financed projects are the market opportunities that will open up for U.S. goods and services if Mozambique’s economy takes off. Road-building and mining equipment, chemicals and a spectrum of products and services will be needed to build this economy. Now is the time for U.S. companies to invest in establishing a presence in the country so that they can be competitive.
The government is implementing business-friendly reforms—such as the MCC financed land reform program—and there is a still-untapped entrepreneurial spirit among the youth. Mozambique’s economy has already been growing at nearly 8 percent per year over the past several years and is on the verge of an economic era that could transform its villages and create prosperity and opportunities not only for one of the world’s poorest populations but for the companies and individuals intrepid enough to join an economy just taking off.
I left Mozambique with the impression that almost everything is in place for it to become the next big growth economy in Africa.
Posted on April 4, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
As Senegal today celebrates the 52nd anniversary of its independence, I just returned from the inauguration of the country’s new president, Macky Sall. Last Thursday, I was honored to receive a call from the White House asking me, on behalf of President Obama, to lead the official U.S. delegation attending his inauguration. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and General Carter Ham, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, joined me on the delegation, which was rounded out on the ground by our U.S. Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, Lewis Lukens.
The delegation represented agencies which carry out the three “D”s of U.S. foreign policy: diplomacy, defense and development. We share these interests with Senegal, our longstanding ally. Our delegation joined world leaders from across Africa, Europe and beyond to witness the historic inauguration of Senegal’s fourth president. Pride, promise and peace—and a celebratory mood—pervaded the historic transfer of power from former President Wade to President Sall. It was an important moment to witness, and our delegation’s presence affirmed the strong ties of cooperation and friendship between Senegal and the United States.
The inauguration ceremony uptown was well-attended; the chairs and aisles were full. Spectators filled the streets afterward as President Sall met former President Wade at the presidential palace, bringing downtown traffic to a halt. While the delegation presented congratulations on behalf of President Obama, the Senegalese were congratulating each other. One Senegalese would greet another with “felicitations,” French for “congratulations,” to which the other would respond “ño ko bokk,” which means “it [this peaceful democratic transition] is ours collectively to share.” Several Senegalese shared with me their disappointment that this election was viewed as unusually calm, because they think peaceful elections should be the norm, and until they are, much work needs to be done.
In fact, Senegal’s festive occasion unfortunately did not garner as much press attention as the crisis unfolding in neighboring Mali. What a sharp contrast between the march toward democracy and the regression from it. On the one hand, thousands had gathered to celebrate Senegal’s commitment to a strong and mature democracy and to a peaceful and orderly transfer of power, where the needs of the nation and its citizens trump the agenda of individual politicians. On the other hand, the seizure of power by elements of the military in Mali was an unconstitutional, anti-democratic action, which the U.S. Government and the international community have condemned and which prompted MCC to halt operations in the country.
Both in his public speeches and our bilateral meeting, President Sall reiterated Senegal’s commitment to good governance, transparency, economic opportunity, and food security, which align with the country’s MCC compact. These are the same priorities I heard from the Senegalese people as I met with small groups of private sector and civil society representatives.
Although a short trip, Assistant Secretary Carson and Ambassador Lukens joined me to meet briefly with the team implementing our compact. We commended the team’s ongoing work and congratulated them for launching the first work tenders, signaling the end of the design phase and the beginning of the works phase. We reminded the team to stay on top of its game as so many people in the regions of Casamance and St. Louis are counting on the construction of the MCC-financed roads and irrigation infrastructure to unlock agricultural productivity and deliver greater access to markets and services.
Our partnerships thrive with countries committed to democratic governance and the rule of law, and what I saw unfold in Senegal is proof of this commitment. We are encouraged that the Sall administration has prioritized the full implementation of Senegal’s MCC compact. The people of Senegal deserve and expect nothing less. Let’s continue this work that transcends politics and personalities and belongs to the people of Senegal, eager to replace poverty with prosperity and continue forward on a path to greater economic progress.
Posted on March 30, 2012 by Daniel Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
Today’s release of MCC’s 2011 Annual Report, appropriately titled Gateway to Opportunity, captures the milestones of the past year and articulates clear priorities moving forward. In the report, you can read about the significant strides we have made in delivering results, forging partnerships with countries and civil society, and championing policy reforms to create opportunities for sustainable economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries. This foundation allows us now to expand our work not just to help poor countries rise out of poverty and break the cycle of aid dependency but also to create stable trading and investment partners for the United States, which means more jobs here at home.
By incentivizing the right policy conditions and generating an enabling environment for growth, MCC builds a Gateway to Opportunity for American businesses interested in exporting to or doing business in these next generation emerging markets as they climb out of poverty. Because of this, MCC’s mission is key to Secretary of State Clinton’s 21st century economic statecraft and President Obama’s efforts to put in place an American economy that is “built to last.” MCC is pushing the envelope on development effectiveness and sustainability through our commitment to transparency, accountability, results, policy reform, and country-driven solutions.
MCC’s approach has not gone unnoticed. A November 2011 Fortune Magazine article concludes that MCC “certainly gives the taxpayer real bang for the buck.” A recent MarketWatch commentary by Thomas Kostigen arguing for a robust MCC budget sums up the impact best: “MCC deserves its fair share so the U.S. can gain its fair share in the emerging markets. The global impact of these investments comes back to us all in the form of food, jobs, more open markets for trade, and doing good and right by others. It’s a boomerang effect.”
We agree, and we’re committed to showcasing even more investment and procurement opportunities for U.S. businesses in the months ahead to ensure the full “boomerang effect” of positive impact for the world’s poor as well as American businesses and workers.
Posted on February 15, 2012 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
I just witnessed an incredible celebration here in Ghana: thousands of people rejoicing at the opening of the long-awaited N1 highway—renamed the George Walker Bush Motorway—which links the capital, Accra, with major ports, the international airport and the country’s major agricultural regions. This has been a Ghanaian dream since 1965, and it’s finally coming true.
As I drove down the road, thousands of people that live along the road greeted us. School children celebrated. People stood on banisters to catch a better glimpse of the celebration, and crowds waved from their nearby apartments.
There was dancing and chanting. The American and Ghanaian flags swayed together. A nearby large banner read, “Thank you, America.” The celebration resonated deeply with me.
MCC helped improve a 14-kilometer stretch of the highway as part of its five-year, $547 million compact. It runs through the heart of the capital city and for decades has been clogged with people and traffic. The need to widen the highway has been in the planning 40 years, but it only became a reality thanks to the Ghana and MCC partnership. It’s not hard to see why people were so excited.
The highway project was Ghana’s largest public works project in decades, and workers labored until the final minutes of compact closeout to ensure project completion. As President John Atta Mills told the crowd, “This is not President Kufuor's compact. This is not my compact. It’s Ghana's compact.”
During closeout speeches, the chief executive officer of Ghana’s MiDA, the entity in charge of implementing Ghana’s MCC compact, said it best: “MCC is the spearhead for development.” In Ghana, we certainly are spearheading a true partnership based on goodwill, trust and collaboration.
The opening of the N1 highway is a major event in Ghana’s development and a highly visible reminder of MCC’s partnership. It’s a milestone that transcends political parties, both in the U.S. and Ghana. And most importantly, it’s a reason all Ghanaians have to celebrate.
Posted on April 22, 2011 by Frances Reid, Senior Investment and Risk Officer
It was a great personal pleasure to participate in the closing ceremonies marking the end of the Compact in Vanuatu, and the completion of the Santo East Coast Road and Efate Ring Road rehabilitation. Vanuatu was one of the first countries selected to receive MCC funding, and it remains the only Pacific island nation to have entered into a compact with MCC. I’ve been extremely impressed with the serious efforts made by the government and the commitment of the people of Vanuatu over the last five years, not only to carry out the requirements of the Compact, but also, and in the long run more importantly, to strive to meet the rigorous policy reform eligibility criteria which MCC considers the key to the sustainability of development. Vanuatu has truly emerged as a model of democracy and commitment to good policy, and as a regional anchor of stability.
In a country which had only 73 kilometers of paved roads before project inception, the Compact has nearly tripled this number to a grand total of over 220 kilometers of paved roads! The rehabilitation of these two national roads, the most important roads in the country and affectionately renamed the Goodwill Highway and the Road of Life, is already improving access to market and providing critical access to social services in the two most critical economic development corridors in Vanuatu.
This project has been the highest priority for everyone involved and it has already made national history. From the precedent of community consultations and community engagement through the commitment to building infrastructure in a culturally respectful way to capacity building at both MCA-Vanuatu and the Engineering Support Unit and Government commitment to good policies for economic growth, this has been a demonstration of country ownership, dedication, and partnership. MCC takes pride in having been part of this effort to lay a foundation for sound, sustainable, country-led economic growth.
The Compact is also a testament to good donor cooperation. New Zealand, in particular, as well as Australia, through their development assistance programs, contributed in critical ways to the completion of the Compact program. Their willingness to work with MCC and the Government of Vanuatu to achieve a common purpose is an excellent example of how donor cooperation is supposed to work.
Posted on March 9, 2011 by Chelsea Coakley, Program Officer Tanzania
During a recent trip to Tanzania, I traveled with MCA-Tanzania’s Gender Specialist, Deborah Sungusia, to observe a day-long training session in Tanga, about five hours north of Dar es Salaam. The seaport city of Tanga marks the starting point of the Tanga-Horohoro Road, one of the Tanzania Compact’s road investments (approximately 65 km/$49 million). This investment includes the rehabilitation of a key transportation route between the port of Tanga and the border town of Horohoro, which will create an improved linkage to the port city of Mombasa, Kenya - a major port of trade for East Africa.This road rehabilitation project is expected to increase trade and development between Tanzania and Kenya, create jobs, reduce transportation costs, increase access to vital community services for the people of this region, and will also help small subsistence farmers to more easily access local and regional markets.
In order to ensure that both women and men have equitable access to the economic benefits associated with this road project and others in the Compact, MCA-Tanzania developed a national Gender Integration Program (GIP). In collaboration with MCC and local stakeholders, MCA-T recognized that gender inequality was a significant constraint to economic growth and poverty reduction, identified priority areas for intervention to address this issue, and is currently utilizing an existing network of trained Gender Focal Points (GFPs) throughout the country to implement their program.
MCA-Tanzania is funding targeted trainings to help raise awareness amongst women and men throughout the implementation of each MCC Compact project in the transport, energy, and water sectors. The training program was also designed to increase understanding of the concept of gender and differential benefits experienced by men and women in economic development projects, and to cultivate the skills and economic potential of new or already existing entrepreneurial groups at each Compact project site.
The training I attended in December was a two-day follow-up training session designed to provide knowledge, skills and resources for effective management of entrepreneurial groups from the Tanga region. The group consisted of both direct and indirect beneficiaries of the Tanga-Horohoro road project. Each participant received comprehensive training on topics such as microfinance, access to loans and credit, bookkeeping, mobilization/management of group membership, and hygiene/sanitation education. Approximately ten skill-based groups from eight different villages, and 12 different wards (sub-village level) in the Tanga and nearby Mkinga region were represented at this training.
There were approximately 15 men and 25 women present at the training. Their skill sets ranged from cooking services to masonry, and from small-scale farming to security services provision. Through group discussion and mock problem-solving, feedback from peers and Gender Focal Points, and selected presentations to all participants, it was clear that all attendees were able to brainstorm with like-minded community members, practice their presentation skills, and gain a much deeper understanding about how to access increased economic opportunities that exist while the road is under construction, and new opportunities to expand their businesses, once the road is finished.
Before leaving Tanga, I was able to speak with a number of participants and it became quite clear to me that many of these dynamic men and women would most likely return to their cities, villages, and wards to share their new entrepreneurial knowledge, and become champions of their families’, communities’ and country’s development—teaching others to access new opportunities for growth along the Tanga-Horohoro road. I am looking forward to seeing the impact of this program on the ground over the next year.
Posted on February 8, 2011 by Jonathan Brooks, Resident Country Director for Honduras
The community at Colonia Milenio Pumas has been dear to MCC’s heart. Nestled on a hill about 30 km north of Comayagua along the CA-5 highway, it is the largest and among the earliest resettlement communities set up as part of the highway construction (nearly 30 families). We followed the community’s progress throughout the years as it slowly changed from a group of people linked only by one of the poorest stretches of the CA-5 highway, into neighbors who formed a true community.
January 25th was special. Overcoming some initial difficulties, MCA-Honduras, the Honduran entity which implemented the compact, established a water system to guarantee water access though both the dry and rainy spells of the year. We were invited to join in the inauguration of the water system as well as the naming of the community school. In a touching tribute to one of our colleagues who worked with dedication on the resettlement effort, the community named their new school, “Escuela Jonathan Nash.”
There was much clapping and giggling from the school children who joined in the naming of their new school, and there was even louder applause from the entire community when they witnessed the rush of water that flowed from a faucet in the school yard as part of the dedication. The water flowed into a clay jug which had been set aside for the occasion. As I saw the water line begin to fill the jug, I was reminded of what many Hondurans have pointed to as one of the legacies of the program: the belief that their lives can improve. As I stood and smiled with the community as the water flowed, I realized that they had come to see their own jug as half full.
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