Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Replicating the Millennium Villages success

The Millennium Villages are again the subject of story that weighs it's pros and cons. The Millennium Villages is a project from the United Nations and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University. A few villages were selected to see if a multi-faceted approach targeting health, education and jobs can pull people out of poverty rapidly.

The villages taking part in the Millennium Project are experiencing great success, but critics wonder if this can be replicated for every village around the world.

From the New York Times, writer Jeffery Gettleman describes life in one of the Millennium Villages; Sarui, Kenya.

Sauri was the first of what are now more than 80 Millennium Villages across Africa, a showcase project that was the dream child of Jeffrey D. Sachs, the Harvard-trained, Columbia University economist who runs with an A-list crowd: Bono, both Bills (Clinton and Gates), George Soros, Kofi Annan, Ban Ki-moon and others.

His intent was to show that tightly focused, technology-based and relatively straightforward programs on a number of fronts simultaneously — health care, education, job training — could rapidly lift people out of poverty.

In Sauri, at least, it seems to be working. Some of the goals were literally low-hanging fruit, like teaching banana farmers to rotate their crops. Other programs were more sophisticated, like the battle against malaria, which employs cutting-edge mobile technology against a disease that kills more than one million children each year.

The other day, a community health team in Sauri stooped through the doorway of a home of several sick children, said hello to Grandma and got to work. Within minutes, a health worker had pricked a child, sent a text message with the blood results by cellphone to a computer server overseen by a man named Dixon in a town about an hour away and gotten back these instructions: “Child 81665 OKOTH Patrick m/16m has MALARIA. Please provide 1 tab of Coartem (Act) twice a day for three days.”

These small miracles are happening every day now in Sauri, population 65,000. But the question for Mr. Sachs and his team remains: Is this progress, in development-speak, scalable? In other words, is there a way to take a place like this one and magnify the results by 1,000 times or 10,000 times and wipe out poverty across the developing world?

But there are Sachs detractors. One of the most dogged is William Easterly, a former World Bank economist and author of “The White Man’s Burden,” a book that critiques aid projects.

Mr. Easterly argues that the Millennium approach would not work on a bigger scale because if expanded, “it immediately runs into the problems we’ve all been talking about: corruption, bad leadership, ethnic politics.”

Mr. Easterly and others have criticized Mr. Sachs as not paying enough attention to bigger-picture issues like governance and corruption, which have stymied some of the best-intentioned and best-financed aid projects.

For example, one can easily picture what would happen in Kenya, where corruption is essentially a national pastime, if there were a free, donor-supported fertilizer program for the entire nation. The fertilizer would very likely never reach its intended target and would disappear like the national grain reserves that were plundered during a famine in 2008, or the billions of dollars of foreign aid that have ended up in the pockets of Kenyan politicians, according to numerous reports by human rights groups and financial auditors.

1 comment:

Yemi said...

I have been very interested in the Millennium Villages since I heard out it a couple of years ago when they first started in Kenya and Ethiopia. I think the take away from this project is that you have to give and do local, on the village level. If any aid or intervention should be given at all, it should be done at this level.