News / Africa

Economist Unveils Ghana Project to Break Poverty Cycle

Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, May 3, 2012.
Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, May 3, 2012.
SILINGA, Ghana – Economist Jeffrey Sachs unveiled his new Millennium Village on Tuesday in Silinga, in Ghana's north.  The Millennium Villages Project started in 2005 based on the belief that poor villagers are stuck in a "poverty trap" and if given enough resources, they will become self-sufficient.  However, such plans do have their detractors. 

Video: Millennium Villages Project



Nabari village lies on a flat plain in northern Ghana, and even by African standards, the village is extremely poor.  Several of the mud-thatched houses lost their reed roof tops in a wind storm, and have not yet been replaced.  There is no electricity for miles, and villagers travel long distances to fetch clean water.  Look for a place to buy basic necessities like soap and salt, and you won't find a single store.
 
Memuna Dokurgu, who is 65, says her family barely has enough to eat.
 
She says last year her family of nine harvested only two bags of maize, which lasted them just two months.  After the food ran out, she gathered bundles of firewood to sell for 50 cents each and bought maize.
 
Life might change for Dokurgu soon.  Her village falls within the territory of a new Millennium Village Project.  Started in 2006 by economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs, the Millennium Villages Project is meant to serve as a model for how aid money can help the world's poorest people.  Sachs says his goal is to enable poor communities to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, a series of benchmarks for poverty alleviation.
 
Northern Ghana has not benefited from the country's growing industries of oil, mineral mining and infrastructure.
 
Sachs said at the project's launch on Tuesday he will help end poverty in the region.
 
"We're here today to mark the beginning of the end of poverty in West Mamprusi and Builsa and the northern region because there is no way for poverty to continue.  This is a hard-working community… And with a helping hand from the United Kingdom and with new technologies and new ways to do things poverty can be ended in this region," Sachs said.
 
The project, which costs $24 million, will be funded largely by the British Department for International Development, or DFID.  The Ghana government and local NGOs have also promised to contribute nearly half of the funding.  Sachs says the total figure also includes contributions the government would be making anyway.  DFID will also fund a 10-year evaluation of the project, the first time a Millennium Village has been independently evaluated since the first village was launched in 2006, in Kenya.
 
Sachs has set up over a dozen demonstration sites across ten countries in Africa to show integrated development works.  He says the poorest people are stuck in poverty, but if given enough assistance in agriculture, education, health, infrastructure and business development, they can lift themselves out of poverty for good.  It's not just about charity, he says.
 
"If nothing more were to happen than a village project as a demonstration but the rest of the country remains a mess there is no way that these villages will accomplish anything on the long term," Sachs said.
 
But the initiative has sparked debate in the development community about whether such programs are sustainable in the long-term.
 
Michael Clemens is a senior fellow at the D.C.-based Center for Global Development.  
 
"I mean sure, as a humanitarian model, as a pure charity you can do so much for individual families, for individual children, and I admire people who do that but to suggest… that this is something that can go on and on-- how?," Clemens said.
 
Yet Sachs says the project is already influencing national governments to scale up projects like the distribution of mosquito nets to fight malaria.  And Sachs has proven he can mobilize resources and money, attracting corporate sponsors like Tommy Hilfiger and rock stars like U2's Bono.  He has also convinced some governments to bump up funding to rural areas.
 
Sachs says the success of the project will have to be measured incrementally.
 
"I don't think this project will meet the standards of a randomized trial that you might do with a new medicine, but then again the things that we're doing are already proved often by those kinds of randomized trials.  What we're really trying to do is to show how to put those things together, so if you know that bed nets work to fight malaria and have been proved in so-called randomized trials, and if you know that higher fertilizer use can raise farm yields significantly, and that's been shown in randomized trials, and if you have other kinds of good investments that have been proved in a variety of ways, then putting them together is a different kind of task," Sachs said.
 
Whether the project has lasting impact, or is effective even in the short term, will be determined by the final results of the British study--results which will be available in another ten years.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs