Millennium Villages Project

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The Millennium Villages Project is/was a demonstration project of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the United Nations Development Programme, and Millennium Promise aimed at proving that its integrated approach to rural development can be used to achieve the Millennium Development Goals—eight globally endorsed targets that address the problems of poverty, health, gender equality, and disease—by 2015.

Even though the website of the Millennium Village Project is still active, the project ended with final evaluation in 2015[1] because it was initially scaled to progress for a decade from 2005. The project was divided into two phases[2], from 2004-2010 for the first phase and 2011-2015 for the second phase. In the first phase, the project was focused at the following five stations: Agriculture(seed and fertilizer support, farmer training and storage expansion, crop diversification,etc.), health (installation of mosquito nets, vaccine supply and pest control, etc.), Education (Construction of schools, installation of water supply, etc.), infrastructure (sanitation, roads, etc.), business development (micro-credit, cooperative training, etc.). Main focus in the second phase of the MVP was to successfully enhance, strengthen, and complete of the programs that have started in Phase 1.

By improving access to clean water, primary education, basic health care, sanitation, and other science-based interventions such as improved seeds and fertilizer, Millennium Villages aims to ensure that communities living in extreme poverty have a real, sustainable opportunity to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.[3]

The first Millennium village was launched in 2005 in Sauri, Kenya. "This is a village that’s going to make history," is how Millennium Villages founder Jeffrey Sachs described Sauri in The Diary of Angelina Jolie and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in Africa, a 2005 MTV documentary. "It’s a village that’s going to end extreme poverty."[4]

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 and Gumulira, Malawi; Pampaida and Ikaram, Nigeria; Potou, Senegal; Tiby and Toya, Mali and Bonsaaso, Ghana.[5]

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 originally funded through a combination of World Bank loans and private contributions, including $50 million from George Soros.[6] Initially designed with a timeline of five years, the project was extended to ten years to allow more time to reach the intended goals. In her 2013 book about the project, The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, journalist Nina Munk quotes Sachs saying: "The main thing is to add another block of time to really get the income levels significantly raised."[7]


In 2012, the UK's Department for International Development (DfID) committed $18.1m (£11.5m) over five years to fund a new Millennium Village in Ghana.[8]

On 13 August 2013, the Islamic Development Bank and the Earth Institute at Columbia University announced the expansion of an earlier partnership to work with African nations to support their efforts to end extreme poverty. Part of that partnership involved the Islamic Development Bank providing $104 million in interest-free loans to 8 countries towards ending extreme poverty, improving public health, and achieve more sustainable development. Of that sum, $29 million was to be used to scale-ups of the Millennium Villages Project in Mali, Senegal and Uganda.[9]

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 $US 9.75 million of funding from the Islamic Development Bank.[10] However, the promised scale-up has not yet taken place.

In September 2013, the Rwandan government and the Millennium Villages Project announced a partnership to scale-up certain aspects of the Millennium Village approach, as part of Rwanda's Vision 2020 Umurenge Programme which addresses poverty nationwide.[11]

The Millennium Villages Project has provided lessons and techniques for Nigeria's development programs designed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.[12]

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[13]


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%.[14] 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.[14]

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.[14] They will also need to focus on addressing upstream investments such as training facilities for front-line staff.[14]


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."[15] 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.[16] 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.[17] 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 shortcomings in the project's evaluation 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".[18] 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.[19] 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.[18] An additional independent evaluation found that while agricultural productivity increased, final household income was not increased by the MVP.[20]

In 2012, the MVP published an assessment in the Lancet showing "reductions in poverty, food insecurity, stunting, and malaria parasitaemia".[21] Objections were raised to some of the conclusions in the assessment,[22] and the authors were forced to correct them subsequently: calculations of the under-5 child mortality rate were flawed and withdrawn[23] as the rate appears to have improved less in the MVP sites than in the surrounding regions.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Millennium Villages | MVP End-line Evaluation". Retrieved 10 March 2018.
  2. ^ "Harvests of Development in Rural Africa: The Millennium Villages After Three Years" (PDF). millenniumvillages. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ "The Diary of Angelina Jolie and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in Africa". MTV. 2005. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  5. ^ In total the Millennium Villages Project reaches nearly 500,000 people in these countries. "Village Descriptions". Millennium Villages Project. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  6. ^ Dugger, Celia. "Philanthropist Gives $50 Million to Help Aid the Poor in Africa". New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 March 2014. Retrieved 22 March 2014.
  7. ^ Munk, Nina (2013). The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty. Doubleday. p. 136. ISBN 978-0385525817.
  8. ^ Hirsch, Afua. "Jeffrey Sachs fast-tracks new Millennium Village Project in Ghana". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  9. ^ "Islamic Development Bank And Earth Institute Partner To Meet Millennium Development Goals In Rural Africa". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Ugandan Government Launches Scale-up of Millennium Villages Project". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  11. ^ "Rwanda to Scale Up Millennium Villages Approach Nationwide". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  12. ^ "Nigeria Working With Earth Institute to Expand Anti-Poverty Program". Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  13. ^ "Millennium Villages: Executive Summary" (PDF). Millennium Promise. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 July 2007. Retrieved 8 November 2007.
  14. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 20 February 2010.
  15. ^ Soils, Food, and Healthy Communities. Research Results (main page).
  16. ^ Critics to millennium villages
  17. ^ Anna Maria Tremonti, "The Quest to End Poverty: Nina Munk", CBC Radio, 2013-09-10
  18. ^ 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. hdl:10986/13323.
  19. ^ "Harvests of Development in Rural Africa: The Millennium Villages After Three Years" (PDF). Millennium Villages. 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ 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. PMID 22572602.
  22. ^ Bumps, J. (May 2012). "Concerns about the Millennium Villages project report". The Lancet. 379 (9830): 1946. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60848-4. PMID 22633026.
  23. ^ Pronyk, P. (May 2012). "Errors in a paper on the Millennium Villages project". The Lancet. 379 (9830): 1946, discussion 1946–7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)60824-1. PMID 22617273.
  24. ^ Clemens, M & Demombynes, G (9 September 2013). "The New Transparency in Development Economics: Lessons from the Millennium Villages Controversy". CGD. Retrieved 3 February 2014.


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