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Jeffrey Sachs spoke at a CGD event about the Millennium Villages Project, which his Earth Institute at Columbia University describes as a “bottom-up approach to enabling villages in developing countries to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.” Most of the money, about $100 a year per person, comes from the outside.
The villages are pilot projects that aim to demonstrate how more money for health, education, fertilizer and other inputs can accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) -- internationally-agreed targets for reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women by 2015.
Work is underway in two main locations. Sauri, in Kenya, is a village of some 4,600 people with a strong community system, but lacking the revenue for the basic services necessary to sustain economic growth. Kararo, in northern Ethiopia, comprises three villages with a total population of about 5,000. About 16 kilometers from dry-weather road, the three Kararo villages are isolated and very poor. Residents suffer from chronic diarrheal diseases, malaria and respiratory diseases. The goal is for the program to reach some half-a-million people by the end of 2006.
In these and other model villages, according to the Earth Institute web site, “scientists and development experts in agriculture, nutrition and health, economics, energy, water, environment and information technology will work with local communities and governments to apply a proven, integrated package of interventions to help villages get out of extreme poverty.”
Put more simply, the approach involves providing poor people such things as better seeds, some fertilizer, a bed net to fend off malarial mosquitoes, a share in a protected water source, a school lunch for the kids, a solar lantern.
The Millennium Villages Project has received wide media coverage, including a 2005 visit to Kararo by CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour, a photo essay in People Magazine, and a recent lengthy feature in the Globe and Mail that focuses on Sachs’s role and was titled simply "Millennium Man."
Note: Jeffrey Sachs is a member of CGD's Board of Directors. Video and a transcripts of his remarks will be available on the CGD website by Friday, March 17.