Millennium Villages Project

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The Millennium Villages Project is a project of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the United Nations Development Programme, and Millennium Promise.

It is an approach to ending extreme poverty and meeting the Millennium Development Goals—eight globally endorsed targets that address the problems of poverty, health, gender equality, and disease. The Millennium Villages aim to promote an integrated approach to rural development. By improving access to clean water, sanitation and other essential infrastructure such as education, food production, basic health care, and by focusing on environmental sustainability, Millennium Villages claims to ensure that communities living in extreme poverty have a real, sustainable opportunity to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.[1]

Millennium Villages are divided into different types. There are the original core villages which include different agro-ecological zones covering 14 sites in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including: Sauri and Dertu, Kenya; Koraro, Ethiopia; Mbola, Tanzania; Ruhiira, Uganda; Mayange, Rwanda; Mwandama, Malawi; Pampaida and Ikaram, Nigeria; Potou, Senegal; Tiby and Toya, Mali and Bonsaaso, Ghana.[2]

There are additional Millennium Villages which are following the Millennium Village program but which are not directly supported through The Earth Institute at Columbia University. These additional villages are located in Liberia, Cambodia, Jordan, Mozambique, Haiti, Cameroon and Benin.

The project was initially funded through a combination of World Bank loans and private contributions, including $50 million from George Soros.[3]


The Millennium Villages Project is a ten-year project aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

On 13 August 2013 The Millennium Villages Project announced that the Islamic Development Bank would provide $105 million in interest-free loans to 8 countries towards ending extreme poverty, improving public health and more sustainable development. All in all there are more than 20 countries that are hosting or starting Millennium Village-related projects.

In July 2013, the Ugandan government announced it would scale up the Millennium Villages Project in the original region around the Ruhiira Millennium Village through funding from the Islamic Development Bank.

In September 2013, the Rwandan government announced it would scale up the Millennium Villages Project as part of its Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme which addresses poverty nationwide.

The Millennium Villages Project is playing a key role to Nigeria which is currently using hundreds of millions of dollars through an international debt relief program to fund programs designed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Guiding Principles[edit]

  • Promote sustainable, scalable, community-led progress toward the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals through the use of scientifically validated interventions—one village at a time
  • Ensure African ownership of the Millennium Development Goals, and work in partnership with African governments and regional groups
  • Increase capacity and community empowerment in Africa through training and knowledge sharing with local African governments, NGOs, and village communities.
  • Partner with the public and private sectors, innovative NGOs, universities and leading experts, and the international donor community throughout Africa and the world to continually improve and coordinate development strategies.
  • Transform rural sub-subsistence farming economies into small-scale enterprise development economies and promote diversified entrepreneurs[4]


The Government of Japan (through its Human Security Trust Fund) and private philanthropic donors (through the Earth Institute at Columbia University) provided the financing for the first set of Millennium Villages, reaching some 60,000 people.

A core aspect of the Millennium Villages is that the poverty-ending investments in agriculture, health, education, and infrastructure can be financed by donors at an incremental cost of just $60 per villager per year—$250,000 per village per year. The overhead costs of managing the project in each village is $50,000 per year.

On a per-person basis, the total village cost of $120 per person includes:

  • $60 Donor funding through the Millennium Village program
  • $30 Local and national governments (this is most likely to include funding for interventions themselves and the provision of agricultural and health extension workers in the villages)
  • $20 Partner organizations (e.g., existing programs supported by official bilateral donors) and in-kind corporate giving (for example, Sumitomo Chemical Corporation recently agreed to donate insecticide-treated bednets for the Millennium Villages)
  • $10 Village members, typically through in-kind contributions of their time and expertise

Critically, the external financing needs of $70 per capita are in line with the financial commitments made by the leaders of industrialized countries at the 2005 Summit in Gleneagles. G8 countries promised to raise their development assistance to Africa to the equivalent of $70 per capita by 2010.

Prospects for increasing village-based interventions[edit]

In a review of the project undertaken by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) crop yield increases of 85-350% were recorded as well as reductions in malaria incidence of over 50%.[5] While agricultural surpluses are able to be channelled into school meals programmes, helping to increase enrolment, improvements in health status are reported to increase labour productivity.[5]

According to ODI policy conclusions, in order for wider scale, more sustainable implementation to be achieved, village projects need to identify shared goals, seeking evidence-based, cost-effective interventions by governments and implementing agencies.[5] They will also need to focus on addressing upstream investments such as training facilities for front-line staff.[5]


When compared to the Ekwendeni village of the Soils, Food and Healthy Communities (SFHC), the Millennium Villages obtain only similar achievements at far greater expense. This is a result of the Millennium Villages' use of artificial fertilizers and hybrids seeds (often of plants such as corn, which are not indigenous to the area). SFHC, on the other hand, uses diverse legume crops to improve soil health: "The SFHC research project attempts to improve child nutritional status, household food security and soil fertility through use of different legume options which can improve the quality and quantity of food available within the household as well as provide organic inputs to improve soil fertility."[6] According to Rachel Bezner Kerr, use of fertilizers and genetically modified seeds leads to dependence of the farmers on expensive products being marketed by large industrial companies.[7] By contrast, the use of crop diversity to improve soil health is a low cost, and thus far more sustainable, solution. Note this comparison is only to one component of the Millennium Villages Project which works in many different sectors including agriculture, education, health, infrastructure and business development.

Journalist Nina Munk followed the progress of a group of Millennium Villages for several years, and in her 2013 book The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, she said a basic flaw of the Millennium Villages program is that it is developed by academics living far away from the subject areas and with a poor understanding of local cultures, who do things such as promoting growing maize among people who have not historically eaten it or building a short-lived livestock market when there was no local demand.[8] But even in Ms. Munk's book teams of experts are described who are from the countries and regions who run the Millennium Villages on the ground. In addition, many notable academics and development experts who work for the project have a long history in working and living in Africa and other developing countries. The Millennium Villages describes itself as a community-led project that works with local leaders, regional officials and national governments in the decision-making process.


A rigorous evaluation of the MVP is impossible due to the design which include the "subjective choice of intervention sites, the subjective choice of comparison sites, the lack of baseline data on comparison sites, the small sample size, and the short time horizon".[9] A self-published assessment comparing villages three years into the project to how they were initially estimated large impacts on health, agricultural yield, and a variety of other measures.[10] As some of this may have been due to regional improvements unrelated to the MVP, an independent evaluation comparing the MV to surrounding areas finds the effects are much more modest.[9] An additional independent evaluation found that while agricultural productivity increased, final household income was not increased by the MVP.[11]

In 2012, the MVP published an assessment showing "reductions in poverty, food insecurity, stunting, and malaria parasitaemia".[12] Calculations of the under-5 child mortality rate were flawed and withdrawn[13] as the rate appears to have improved less in the MVP sites than in the surrounding regions.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Friedrich, M. J. (2007). "Jeffrey Sachs, PhD: Ending Extreme Poverty, Improving the Human Condition". Journal of the American Medical Association 298 (16): 1849–1851. doi:10.1001/jama.298.16.1849. PMID 17954530. Retrieved 2007-11-26. 
  2. ^ In total the Millennium Villages Project reaches nearly 500,000 people in these countries. "Village Descriptions". Millennium Villages Proje. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  3. ^ Dugger, Celia. "Philanthropist Gives $50 Million to Help Aid the Poor in Africa". New York Times. Retrieved 22 March 2014. 
  4. ^ "Millennium Villages: Executive Summary" (PDF). Millennium Promise. Retrieved 2007-11-08. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Can project-funded investments in rural development be scaled-up? Lessons from the Millennium Villages Project". Overseas Development Institute. November 2008. 
  6. ^ Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities. Research Results (main page).
  7. ^ Critics to millennium villages
  8. ^ Anna Maria Tremonti, "The Quest to End Poverty: Nina Munk", CBC Radio, 2013-09-10
  9. ^ a b Clemen M, Demombynes G (2011). "When does rigorous impact evaluation make a difference? The case of the Millennium Villages". Journal of Development Effectiveness 3 (3): 305–339. doi:10.1080/19439342.2011.587017. 
  10. ^ "Harvests of Development in Rural Africa: The Millennium Villages After Three Years" (PDF). Millennium Villages. 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 
  11. ^ Wanjala B, Muradian R (May 2013). "Can Big Push Interventions Take Small-Scale Farmers out of Poverty? Insights from the Sauri Millennium Village in Kenya". World Development 45: 147–160. doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2012.12.014. 
  12. ^ Pronyk, A; et al. (2012). "The effect of an integrated multisector model for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and improving child survival in rural sub-Saharan Africa: a non-randomised controlled assessment". The Lancet 379 (9832): 2179–2188. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60207-4. 
  13. ^ Pronyk, P. (May 2012). "Errors in a paper on the Millennium Villages project". The Lancet 379 (9830): 1946. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60824-1. 
  14. ^ Clemens, M and Demombynes, G (2013-09-09). "The New Transparency in Development Economics: Lessons from the Millennium Villages Controversy". CGD. Retrieved 3 February 2014. 


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