two villages with about 40,000 people have begun reaping the fruits of
the United Nations initiative known as the Millennium Villages project. The
goal is to reverse the poverty, hunger and disease affecting millions of rural
people in sub-Saharan Africa. Voice of
America English to Africa Service's Lameck Masina in Blantyre reports that there are two Millennium Villages in Malawi – one in
the southern district of Zomba, the other in the central district of Mchinji.
specialists have been helping the villagers improve education,
health care and small businesses. For example, 30 thousand bed nets have been
distributed to households to combat malaria, and nearly 40 boreholes have been
drilled to provide access to clean water.
children in the two Millennium Villages receive corn porridge in an effort that
teachers say has almost doubled attendance in primary schools.
Much of the
emphasis has been on improving food production. UN
specialists in the villages have been emphasizing improved seeds and
fertilizers in order to maximize crop production. Farmers are encouraged to
create their own fertilizers from manure, because the cost of commercial
fertilizers has more than doubled since last year.
also encouraged to grow a diverse array of cash
crops, including groundnuts, cabbages and tomatoes.
Mawerenga, a farmer in the Millennium Village in Zomba, says "Before I
joined the project, the main problem I was facing was an acute maize shortage,
but now food is not a problem, [especially] to those who are working hard."
says in the past she used traditional seed varieties, which produced about four
50kg bags of maize per acre. Today, new hybrid seeds have given her a 10-fold
this year is her best yet. Her first priority, she says, is to replace the
thatched roof of her house with a metal one. If crop surpluses continue, she
wants to open a tailoring shop.
in Zomba say the rising cost of fuel is the main factor cutting into their
profits from increased production. As a
result, some farmers have to cycle 25km to sell produce at the nearest town.
Others have joined forces to hire pick-up trucks to take their crops to the
Nkhoma, the agriculture coordinator for both of Malawi's Millennium Villages,
says "What we have discovered is that the project has really transformed the
lives of these people. We have seen our farmers…with food [now] throughout the
season and [with] good houses with iron-sheeted roofs. The cases of
malnutrition care are no longer there."
Millennium Villages were inspired by Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth
Institute at Columbia University. They were commissioned by the UN secretary
general as a way to help achieve the organization's Millenium Development
Goals, which focus largely on cutting poverty in half in Africa by 2015.
support for the Malawi villages is scheduled to end in five years. But Nkhoma
says the success of the villages may change that, "We
are expecting that in 2010 the Millennium Villages project will [end]. However
there are some rumors that probably it can extended to another five years."
future activities will include the construction of dispensaries, schools and
In addition to Malawi, there are Millennium Villages in Ethiopia, Ghana,
Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.