Millennium Villages Project: does the ’big bang’ approach work?
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
By Madeleine Bunting
Jeffrey Sachs is Marmite. Some love him, while others grumble about his high-handedness. But what no one can deny is his extraordinary energy and drive and how he makes things happen. He announced this week at the UN a second and final stage of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) with another $72m. Not only has George Soros committed his Open Society Foundation to another huge tranche of cash, $47.4m, but Sachs managed to secure the presence of the man himself on the platform with him, along with the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. Sachs is one of the few people who can pull connections across business, politics, global diplomacy and celebrity for the cause of tackling poverty. That is quite an achievement.
The MVP covers more than 500,000 people in 14 villages in different environments across rural Africa, and works on the principle of multiple interventions across health, education, enterprise and agriculture. I visited a project in south-west Uganda, and the results were certainly impressive. The aim is to show how the millennium development goals can be achieved by 2015 with a limited amount of aid that is matched by community investment (in labour or in kind) and the commitment of local and national government.
As part of the announcement this week, the MVP proudly claimed that malaria in its villages had fallen by 72%, access to clean water had more than tripled, and average maize yields had doubled. All of this was achieved on a budget of $60 a head per year, according to the project. The next stage of funding will build on business and enterprise to help villages to link better to the wider market. Soros punched the point of this huge programme home: here was a model that was replicable and could be scaled up across Africa.