Thursday, January 25, 2007

Millenium Villages Project

Wow! We know that Gemma Sisia thinks big. We know that Jeffrey Sachs thinks big. But how big is big? ‘Don’t ask little of me’ certainly applies to these people!

Gemma is growing the school at a rapid rate and has the long term aim of reproducing the hugely successful formula across Tanzania and East Africa. Jeffrey has identified the key factors that maintain the cycle of extreme poverty. He has established a project that will break this cycle in a five-year timeframe for the cost of US$110 per person per year. He believes that after five years of help (sufficient to leverage the threshold effect) poor villages can function sustainably without sinking back into extreme poverty.

Millenium Village, Bonsaaso, in Ghana

To put his ideas into practice, he has established the Millenium Villages Project which is run under the auspices of The Earth Institute at Columbia University. Millenium Villages started in 2004 with the Sauri village of 5,000 people in Kenya. In the first year, food production quadrupled with the help of fertiliser and new seed varieties, the health clinic re-opened and a midday meal was provided at the three primary schools.

To extend the Millenium Villages project, Sachs drew on his formidable support network to found Millenium Promise. In the first year, 2005, Millenium Promise raised US$100 million and now Millenium Villages is working in 78 villages in 10 African countries.

Sachs is a very persuasive man. He has the evidence to support his views and the heart to care.

There are many questions to answer about what happens next to these villages in the complexities of a whole economy, but there can be little doubt that this on-the-spot assistance to the poorest of villages will make a life-and-death difference to the 500,000 people who won’t have to watch one in four of their children die before the age of five.

Gemma Sisia and Jeffrey Sachs are both people to watch. They have big hearts and big goals. You, like George Soros who gave US$50 million to Millenium Promise, can help by giving money, encouraging others to give, and lobbying your government to meet its promise to lift foreign aid to 0.7% of GDP.

Ours can be the last human generation to know extreme poverty.

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