MASERU, Lesotho (May 12, 2022) – The U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho signed the $300 million Lesotho Health and Horticulture Compact today at the Manthabiseng National Convention Centre, marking the second time the countries have partnered to build sustainable and inclusive economic growth for the people of Lesotho.
The MCC Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Alice Albright, and the Lesotho Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, the Honorable Matsepo-Molise Ramakoae, served as the compact signatories and were joined by the U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho, Maria E. Brewer, the Lesotho Prime Minister, the Honorable Dr. Moeketsi Majoro, and more than 200 government, civil society, international community, and private-sector leaders from across the country.
“Through our longstanding partnership, we have expanded access to healthcare and will now focus on improving the quality of healthcare provided to the people of Lesotho, because we know that a healthy workforce is critical to a thriving economy,” said CEO Albright. “One of the things that excites me the most about this compact is its focus on women’s empowerment and the potential for MCC’s investment in horticulture to reduce Lesotho’s reliance on food imports.”
The Government of Lesotho has committed to passing several key reforms that will help make this compact successful, including reforms that address gender equality, working conditions and worker safety, as well as land and water rights. Once complete, the Lesotho Health and Horticulture Compact is expected to benefit 2.5 million people over the next 20-years.
“This day marks one of the greatest achievements this country has witnessed during my tenure in office,” said Prime Minister Majoro. “The second Compact will be the most transformative program since it addresses underlying challenges that wear down effectiveness and efficiency of Government to stimulate and sustain private-sector led, poverty-reducing growth. I would like to thank our Compact Development teams from LMDA and MCC for their tireless efforts to make this happen! Most importantly, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to MCC and the people of the United States of America for their support and friendship to the Kingdom of Lesotho. Signing the compact paves way for the beginning of a five-year journey of Compact implementation! Let us together press on towards that milestone.”
The Lesotho Health and Horticulture Compact seeks to ensure greater access to quality healthcare, create equitable business development opportunities, and invest in high-value crop production by, in part, providing better legal protections in land tenure, skills training and addressing some of the unique challenges faced by women and youth in Lesotho. The compact is comprised of three projects:
- The Health Systems Strengthening (HSS) project aims to improve primary healthcare services and standards of care, improve healthcare financial and management systems, and work with the Ministry of Health to modernize health data systems.
- The Market Driven Irrigated Horticulture (MDIH) Project aims to increase rural incomes through investing in climate-smart irrigation infrastructure and attracting commercial farmers to collaborate with local small-holder famers to produce high-value crops and build strong value chains. The MDIH project will also support government reforms and capacity to sustain inclusive and sustainable growth of the horticulture sector.
- The Business Environment and Technical Assistance (BETA) project plans to increase profits for high-growth potential firms, including enterprises owned by women and youth and firms in rural areas. The project will work across key productive sectors like agriculture, creative industries, manufacturing, and tourism to support the growth of existing and new firms through technical assistance, business development services and linkages to financing opportunities. Grant funding will be available for select women- and youth-owned businesses to purchase equipment, goods, and facilitate business plan implementation.
“This ceremony is a special day for the people of Lesotho because of what this compact will mean for the country’s economic development,” said Ambassador Brewer. “All three projects under the second MCC compact represent a tremendous investment in the people of Lesotho, in particular women, youth, and rural communities. We intend for the projects to create tens of thousands of jobs and encourage public-private development.”
The Lesotho Health and Horticulture Compact will build on the success of MCC’s first compact with the Government of Lesotho — a $362.5 million grant that closed in September 2013. That grant helped fund one of the largest infrastructure improvement projects in Lesotho’s history, the Metolong Dam, expanding access to clean water for the people of Lesotho. The compact is also providing an estimated 752,000 people access to basic healthcare through the construction and rehabilitation of 138 health facilities and 14 outpatient departments — representing 90% of the health facilities throughout the country. Those facilities are a platform for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to mitigate the negative economic impacts of poor maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other diseases.
“There are a number of changes that were brought by the MCC [grant], said Mohapi Khunyane, the Health Clinic Nurse-in-Charge in Phamong, Lesotho. “An example is the pharmacy. [Before] we did not have the pharmacy. Now we have maternity space, post-natal care, [and] services for waiting mothers where they can come and be accommodated here a few days or a few hours before delivery.”
When looking at the Phamong Health Clinic, a facility rehabilitated during MCC’s first compact with Lesotho, the Acting Principal Chief of Phamong said, “I don’t believe my eyes!”
“It is so beautiful,” said a smiling Phutheho Jonas. “It is kept clean and looked after very [well]. Everybody [here] is very, very happy about this. This has changed our lives. We are hoping the compact two will have the same impact…When are we starting?”
MCC and the Government of Lesotho will now continue to work together on the compact’s administrative requirements, such as establishing the Lesotho government office that will manage the compact — called the Millennium Challenge Account Lesotho. Additionally, the Lesotho government must pass key legal reforms to improve women’s legal rights and protections, and to bring Lesotho into compliance with international labor standards, such as the Labor Bill. Only then will MCC and the Government of Lesotho be able to formally begin the implementation phase of the compact. This is when the five-year clock on the grant program officially begins.
The Government of Lesotho recently made important progress on these required reforms when the National Assembly successfully passed the Amendment to the Laws of Lerotholi and the Countering Domestic Violence Bill. MCC looks forward to their final approval and full implementation.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is an independent U.S. government development agency working to reduce global poverty through economic growth. Created in 2004, MCC provides time-limited grants that pair investments in infrastructure with policy and institutional reforms to countries that meet rigorous standards for good governance, fighting corruption and respecting democratic rights.