Posted on June 28, 2013 by Thomas F. Hurley, Deputy Vice President, Europe, Asia, Pacific and Latin America
This was more than a typical day of road construction.
Contractors working on an MCC-funded road rehabilitation project in Moldova made an unusual discovery recently when they uncovered what turned out to be a 9,000-year-old house.
Archeologists from the Moldovan Ministry of Culture and the National Agency for Archaeology were brought in, and found pottery, tools, flints, and housing materials from 7000 B.C.
The archaeologists have known about this area since 1953, when crews building the original road discovered artifacts from the Chalcolithic period, also known as the Copper Age. Archeologists suspected that additional sites were nearby and, after the recent discovery, they have formally requested that the MCC-funded contractors stop work to give them time to investigate. Despite the halt in work, the excavation is not expected to affect the timeline for completion of the 93 kilometers of road rehabilitation MCC is currently funding in Moldova.
The area has been cordoned off, and archeologists are working to unearth the full site with the support of the contractors. Once they have completed their work, the materials will be cleaned, labeled and put on display at the Cultural History Museum in Chisinau for the public to enjoy.
This is just one example of how seriously MCC takes its commitment to preserving cultural sites and patrimony.
“The archaeological research on the construction site of the road segment to be rehabilitated with compact funds was a surprise for us and did not fit in our rehabilitation plans,” MCA-Moldova Executive Director Valentina Badrajan told me. “Yet we are happy that these works near the village of Rogojeni discovered some valuable vestiges of our country. We have contributed to putting one piece in the puzzle of our history into place.”
Posted on June 28, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes , Chief Executive Officer
After a number of events and meetings in Morocco that marked the upcoming completion of that country’s MCC compact, I flew to Dakar, Senegal, where I joined President Obama for the first part of his historic trip through Africa. What a magnificent opportunity!
The energy and excitement in our West African partner country were palpable, with signs and banners everywhere welcoming President Obama, the First Lady and our delegation. Alternating Senegalese and American flags lined the boulevard from the airport all the way to the Presidential Palace. From the street, Senegalese of all ages waited patiently for a chance to wave to the motorcade that carried us to meet President Sall.
The Senegalese have good reason to be proud that their country is President Obama’s first stop on the continent. And, I was just as pleased to be part of events that unfolded there, since MCC, through our $540 million strategic investment, is playing a significant role in strengthening Senegalese and American priorities, namely good governance, democracy and food security.
Sound democratic governance and the rule of law throughout Africa are fundamental ingredients for generating and sustaining the economic growth that will provide Africans a future of greater opportunity. They are also key to creating the right conditions to stimulate private sector-led activities and attract greater private investment—all of which fuel the growth necessary for families and communities to prosper. The Senegalese are rightly proud of their democratic traditions, from the fact that government has transitioned peacefully from leader to leader ever since the country’s independence to their role in the sub-region as peacekeepers. And Senegal’s blossoming civil society turned out in droves as President Obama and his family toured historic Gorée Island.
In Africa and elsewhere, MCC continues to set a high standard for governance, partnering only with countries that rule justly and democratically, invest in their people and provide citizens with economic opportunity, as evidenced through our annual country scorecards. African governments are stepping up to meet this challenge by reforming their policies to become eligible for MCC assistance.
President Obama and our delegation, together with the Senegalese, also emphasized joint efforts to advance Africa’s food security through mutually beneficial partnerships with governments, NGOs and the private sector. MCC is playing an essential role in ensuring Senegal furthers its ability to feed its people by investing in major irrigation and road projects that will help farmers in some of the country’s poorest communities expand their agricultural productivity and access markets more easily. At a roundtable attended by agriculture ministers from throughout West Africa, we discussed the importance of an enabling environment, the crucial role played by the private sector and the opportunities that good governance and strategic partnerships can provide in energizing agriculture as well as all the businesses and commercial ventures that result from greater agricultural production. One of the participants at the roundtable summarized the reality best: “Africans don’t want handouts; they want handshakes. Africa is ready for business.”
It has been rewarding to join President Obama during his visit to Senegal. I am proud that the MCC-Senegal partnership stands as one shining example of the kind of work we are doing and the progress we are making to support good governance and advance food security in Africa.
Posted on June 27, 2013 by Daniel W. Yohannes, Chief Executive Officer
One of my favorite parts of visiting MCC partner countries is spending time with those who are benefiting from our investments. After three days in Morocco seeing the impact of completed projects as the country’s MCC compact prepares to come to a close this September, I was struck by the optimism and excitement among the Moroccans I met whose lives are changing for the better because of our partnership.
With a just-completed modern landing site in Sidi Abed and innovative motorized bikes with insulated ice chests that allow mobile vendors to preserve the quality of the catch and sell it at higher prices, MCC is helping to make Moroccan fishers more competitive. While touring the site, I met fishers, mobile vendors and members of a women’s cooperative that collects and dries algae and collects and processes sea urchins and sea cucumbers. They shared with me how excited they are about their future economic opportunities and how grateful they are to the American people for making those happen.
With more reliable access to irrigation water, the farmers in Ourika have big plans for their futures. Rather than just grow and sell almonds, olives, figs, and dates in their nearby villages and local markets, they are expanding their horizons to reach more and more consumers in Morocco's larger markets, creating much added value. The Berber farmers I met in Ourika spoke movingly of these new opportunities that are making a big difference in their ability to provide a better standard of living for their families, especially their children. I was also impressed by the women’s cooperatives and their products; the bread, honey and amlou I tasted were delicious and all made from local ingredients. You can see the great pride written all over the women’s faces.
The stories of hope and optimism from these fishers and farmers show how we are creating the right economic opportunities for growth in Morocco through our MCC-funded projects. Equally clear is the commitment to sustaining these results. Time and again, the government ministers I met spoke of Morocco’s support for all components of the MCC model, especially the focus on lasting results and not just outputs. Various ministers shared with me how the MCC approach is increasingly becoming the new standard for many of their own development projects. When I had the privilege of meeting with His Majesty King Mohammed VI, he reiterated his country’s commitment to focusing on results and delivering on the promise of the MCC compact for Morocco’s citizens.
Changing the lives of ordinary Moroccans becomes so much more extraordinary when our vision is shared and supported by the government and executed by institutions, groups and individuals who believe in what they are doing, are committed to tangible results and are prepared to go above and beyond to achieve the goal of poverty reduction through sustainable economic growth. Morocco has already achieved remarkable results through its MCC compact. And, I am convinced that through ongoing close collaboration and effective partnership, we will realize the full promise of the compact by its end. By doing this, we will better the lives and increase the incomes of the hundreds of thousands of small farmers, fishers and artisans in Morocco.
Posted on June 18, 2013 by Morton H. Halperin, Member of MCCâ€™s Board of Directors
As a new MCC Board member, I was excited at the possibility of visiting MCC projects in Mongolia. One of our fiduciary responsibilities as board members is to ensure that MCC’s investments are a wise use of U.S. tax dollars. What I saw in Mongolia is encouraging evidence that MCC’s investments are making an effective difference.
MCC’s partnership with Mongolia focuses on five key areas: securing land titles and sustainably managing rangelands in peri-urban areas; expanding vocational and technical training; improving health; promoting clean, renewable energy; and rehabilitating a critical north-south road that will increase economic activity throughout Mongolia.
I saw progress in all of these areas. For example, I visited a family in Chingeltei in their traditional house, or ger. The family owns an energy efficient stove subsidized by the compact’s Energy and Environment Project, which is helping nearly 100,000 families in Ulaanbaatar. I also handed out land ownership certificates to beneficiaries from five different districts as part of the Property Rights Project. I heard from Ambassador Piper Campbell about the importance of the 176.4 kilometer Road Project that will give Mongolia its first fully paved road connecting the country’s north and south. And, I also learned about non-communicable diseases, an issue of increasing attention around the world, through a visit to a family clinic in Sukhbaatar. Thanks to MCC’s investment, Mongolians are changing their behaviors to prevent non-communicable diseases and injuries such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is improving their productive years in the labor force.
When the $285 million compact partnership is completed this September, Mongolia will be in a better position to generate greater private sector activity, which is the engine of long-term growth, through improved infrastructure and a healthier, more productive workforce ready to meet the skills demanded by private industry.
Seeing these projects clarified and reinforced that our tax dollars are improving the lives of Mongolians. The results are real; I saw them with my own eyes. And Mongolians themselves are taking the necessary steps to maintain these efforts well beyond the life of MCC’s compact. This strong commitment to sustainability gives me even more reason to believe in a prosperous and healthy future for Mongolians.
My work, on behalf of the Open Society Foundations, has focused on improving human rights and strengthening democracy, and I am encouraged by MCC’s work in Mongolia. With a commitment to democratic governance, sustainability, gender equality, and improving access to economic opportunities and health care, the MCC compact is working to reduce poverty though economic growth, help move Mongolia down the path toward self-sufficiency and deepen its democracy.
Posted on June 17, 2013 by Rick Gaynor, Lead of MCCâ€™s Property Rights and Land Policy Practice Group
As part of the G-8’s session on trade, tax and transparency, the United States announced a partnership with the Government of Burkina Faso to strengthen land governance and increase transparency of land transactions—and MCC played a major role in making this partnership a reality.
The U.S.-Burkina Faso land partnership builds upon MCC’s $59 million Rural Land Governance Project in Burkina Faso, our largest and perhaps most ambitious land and property rights project to date. The Government of Burkina Faso, like a growing number of countries, recognized the central role that land and property rights play in economic growth and sought MCC’s support to implement its new land policy framework as part of its $481 million compact.
Good land governance and transparency in land transactions are priorities for the G-8 this year, and the U.S. partnership with Burkina Faso is one of several in which G-8 members are pairing with developing countries to promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land.
The partnership builds on momentum created by the United Nations Committee on World Food Security’s adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, the ongoing negotiations on the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment and the session on land governance at the Grow Africa investment summit in May. The G-8’s efforts signify a growing recognition by governments, the private sector, donor agencies, and civil society of the critical importance of land rights and the need to improve land and resource governance to promote economic growth and food security.
MCC is supporting land and property rights programs in 15 of our partner countries to help reduce poverty through economic growth. These programs are serving as models for others and catalyzing support from other donor organizations. The land team at MCC is committed to sharing the results, tools developed and lessons from our programs to encourage improved performance and sustainability in our future work and the work of others.
We thank our colleagues in Burkina Faso for the great progress they have made during the first four years of the compact, and we look forward to working with them as part of this new partnership.
Posted on June 14, 2013 by Scott Fontaine, corporate copywriter-editor
The life of a Moroccan fisherman can be tough.
A boat packed with three or four men will launch well before sunrise. The fishermen occasionally need to stay on the ocean for two or three days until they fill their stores. Bad weather can shorten or cancel trips. When they return, they can face difficulty selling the catch at the peak of freshness or at the right price. Predatory middlemen often collude to keep prices low.
The lifestyle provides erratic income. Fishermen tend to be among the poorest Moroccans yet live on the coasts, where the cost of living is high without much of a safety net. But across the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, improved landing sites stand as a symbol of hope for many of the country’s small-scale fishers.
Eleven improved landing sites are being built or operating as part of MCC’s $120 million Small-Scale Fisheries Project. The sites are gleaming white complexes built on the beach; a typical site contains an auction hall where fishermen can sell directly to distributors, storage units for equipment, a watch tower in case of a waterborne accident, a cafeteria to help fund the newly formed fishing cooperatives, and cold storage units to ensure the catch doesn’t spoil before reaching the marketplace.
About 78,000 people are expected to benefit from the landing sites. Along the Atlantic coast, fishermen in three towns where the sites have not yet opened are optimistic about the future.
In Salé, Samir Wakrim is most hopeful about the fishermen’s association being formed through the project and the medical insurance it will provide. The 33-year old has been fishing for more than two decades but can’t afford to miss work because of illness or injury.
A few years ago, he slid down some concrete steps and hurt his leg. Every day he spent recovering at home meant less and less income.
“For many of us, that’s a very big concern,” he said. “It’s a general problem for fishermen across Morocco.”
In Bhibeh, a fishermen’s cooperative has already formed and includes more than 115 members. For Khalid Lamziouk, days of hard work at sea can lead to despair when buyers aren’t available to purchase the catch.
The fishermen face a difficult choice: Wait for buyers to show up and risk spoilage, or pay for ice and transportation to sell the catch at a nearby town.
With the auction hall and cold storage, Lamziouk believes he can sell more of his fish and save the money he would have spent on ice and transportation costs.
“This is the right equipment at the right time,” he said.
In Tafedna, the prospect of an auction hall where fishermen can sell directly to distributors holds the greatest promise. Currently, middlemen will often advance money for gas and nets to crews of fishermen who agree to sell their catch exclusively to the middlemen at a fixed price.
“It creates a dependency this way,” cooperative president Mohamed Dibe said.
The fishermen in Tafedna have other problems, he said. Because of the town’s remote location, the few buyers collude to keep prices low, Dibe said. Some fishermen have chosen to leave Tafedna to work out of a neighboring, larger market, where there are more buyers and prices can be 50 percent higher.
Dibe is optimistic the auction hall will help fix that.
“The whole village suffered,” he said. “But now, all will benefit: the fishermen, their families, the whole community.”
Posted on June 12, 2013 by Lauren Pfeifer, Policy Associate, One Campaign
This blog was originally written and published by the One Campaign and is being cross-posted to our site. To view the original article, please visit their website here.
We’ve been talking about open data a lot lately. In my interview with Oluseun Onigbinde, he told you why open budget data is important for Nigerians, and before that, I explained why the new Executive Order expanding the US government’s open data policy is so important. And open data is a key ONE Campaign ask at the upcoming G8 Summit.
Now, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has announced that its open data catalog (http://data.mcc.gov/) will contain metadata and microdata from its program evaluations in partner countries. The MCC is already one of the more transparent US programs, ranking first among the US programs assessed in Publish What You Fund’s 2012 Aid Transparency Index, and ninth globally.
Transparency in development programs helps to make sure that resources are being used effectively, that they’re achieving the desired results, and provides information to partner governments critical for planning their own development.
Expanding the Open Data catalog is part of the MCC’s Open Government Plan, which is founded on the principles of transparency and results. So far, metadata is available from agriculture programs in Armenia, Ghana, El Salvador and the Philippines. By allowing the public to download data in an open format, MCC is giving citizens, companies, and governments a valuable tool.
MCC hopes that this data will not only provide more and better ways to stay accountable for their development programs, but will also “inspire entrepreneurship, innovation and scientific discovery in the field of development and beyond.” MCC has said that the catalog is only the beginning – that we can look forward to more data releases.
Opening data is not always easy to do. The government-wide implementation of the open data policy will take some time. Making public new data sets takes a trifecta of political will, time and resources.
Often, agencies wait until these changes are forced upon them. It is refreshing to see the MCC out ahead of the open data curve, and we hope other agencies will follow their example as they face the challenge of making their databases “open” to the world.
This article was written by Lauren Pfeifer, who works on the Global Policy Team for the One Campaign. To view the original article on their website, please click here.
Posted on June 3, 2013 by Scott Fontaine, corporate copywriter-editor
On a dirt lot just off the Namialo-Rio Lurio section of the N1 highway in northern Mozambique lies the future home of the technicians maintaining the country’s highways.
The prefabricated homes sit in neat rows on a compound about 18 kilometers from the nearest town. Each offers three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. Small office buildings, a cafeteria and a bar are nearby.
Expatriate contractors working on the road rehabilitation—part of the Mozambique Compact’s $176 million Rehabilitation and Construction of Roads Project—live in the compound and will do so until the end of the project, as well as for a yearlong maintenance period following it. After that, MCA-Mozambique will assume ownership of the site and plans to turn it over to the Mozambican government’s National Road Administration.
The National Road Administration will need qualified engineers and other professionals to maintain the roads, but housing near many of the projects is often in short supply and expensive. The solution: the contractor camps.
The government plans to entice young, college-educated professionals to work in the public sector by offering housing on the compounds. It’s also a way to lure young professionals to work in the country’s poorer northern provinces, where jobs typically pay less than they do in the capital, Maputo.
MCA-Mozambique plans to hand over similar contractor residential compounds currently in use for each of the compact’s major infrastructure investments: roads in Nampula province, a dam outside Nacala, water supply stations in Nacala and Nampula, and drainage projects in Nampula and Quelimane.
It’s just one way MCC’s investments during implementation can promote sustainability for years to come.