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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs