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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
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.


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