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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid