In September 2014, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) closed out its $304.5 million Compact with Namibia after five years of implementation. Within the Compact, the $47 million agriculture project focused on increasing economic performance in the agriculture sector and reducing poverty and food insecurity in Namibia’s Northern Communal Areas.
Most of the land in the Northern Communal Areas is managed jointly by the government and traditional leaders and cannot be privately owned. Instead of ownership rights, community members are granted customary rights over individual land parcels; the remaining land – much of it rangeland – is regarded as a common resource for community use.
This common rangeland is particularly important to poor and vulnerable families, as livestock farming involves nearly 60 percent of households in the region, but effective management of these areas amid growing demand for land resources has been a challenge. To address this problem, MCC worked with local communities to help them comply with the Government of Namibia’s 2002 Communal Land Reform Act through measures like improved grazing and herd management practices and registering land parcels through the land registration system.
Investments also targeted weaknesses in livestock farming operations, supporting veterinary services and Namibia’s first computer-based national cattle identification and traceability system, which had helped farmers tag and register over 1.5 million cattle at the time of the Compact’s completion and will continue to facilitate animal health monitoring, commercial traceability and better export opportunities.
In addition to addressing land tenure and livestock systems, MCC’s agriculture project helped expand the market for indigenous natural products, such as “Devil’s Claw,” a plant that can be ground up and used as a natural pain reliever. With a focus on women, young adults and small businesses working in the industry, the project helped rural, small-scale producer groups increase the volume and quality of value-added products, as well as their business capacity. MCC also invested in improving local, regional and international marketing opportunities for these producer groups and businesses.
By the end of the Namibia Compact, more than 5,000 producers in the indigenous natural products industry had been trained in sustainable harvesting techniques, and 40 farmer organizations had received training in organizational management, business and marketing principles. To date, this support has resulted in over $465,000 in sales.
MCC completed a second Compact this year in Burkina Faso, where a $480.9 million program addressed constraints to economic growth over five years. The Compact’s successes include the construction of a 2,000-hectare new irrigation perimeter to allow farmers to produce greater quantities of high-value crops; expanded agricultural credit that has helped farmers invest in their land and increase profitability; the passage of new and more inclusive land tenure policies by the Government of Burkina Faso; and improved roads that are improving the transport of agricultural goods and increasing access to markets for more than 800,000 people.