Blog Post 2:Millennium Village Project

When we think Africa, most of us think of those poor starving children on TV with no shoes or running water. There is an instant feeling of pity. Steven Radelet brings attention to this problem in his book Emerging Africa. He argues that the rest of the world focuses on the bad news out of Africa, instead of the good news. There is also the habit of lumping the poor countries together, sweeping over the countries making enormous strides. There are at least 17 countries that Radelet refers to as “Emerging countries”. According to him they are sources of good news in Africa. The good news boils down to successfully peaceful elections or trends towards democracy, stability in economic improvements and improved life expectancy and overall health.

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Another project working throughout regions of Africa is the Millennium Village Project run by Sachs. Koraro, Ethiopia was chosen for this program because it is surrounded by dry land with a rather short rainy season. It is prone to severe drought making it difficult to grow crops in the area. On top of the poor growing conditions, the village has an elevated amount of cases in malaria and maternal mortality rates. They are also over 10 km away from any dry road cutting them off from other cities.

They have had many successes. This village in particular was testing out a beekeeping program. Through the program they have more than 1,200 bee colonies have been established. There has also been progress in teaching local women how to manage dairy cows, poultry production, fattening animals and trading textiles and grains. Construction wise there have been five health posts and six primary schools built with construction of new roads underway.

The Human Development Indicators for Ethiopia have been trending on and upward rise. It is still pretty low, ranking at 174 among the other countries. In other words, there has been improvement in health care and education and other things dealing with general well being. The World Development Indicators focus more on the numbers of income and poverty levels. Looking at these statistics, Ethiopia has improved in several areas. Population and life expectancy at brith have both gone up significantly in the past few years. Poverty headcount has drastically dropped from 1995 to 2010. On the downside, the CO2 emissions per house hold have been on a consistent rise.

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There are many critics praising Sachs and his Millennium Village Project. He took his idea of investment to give the small villages a hand up instead of a handout and put it in action. For most of his villages that were chosen, there seemed to be improvements. There are two large critics of Sachs that claim the reports do not provide the full story. Michael Clemens and Gabriel Demomynes argued that, yes the villages might have been doing better than previous years, but there is not enough evidence that the progress was related to the program. Few of the villages in 2011 were doing remarkably better than the rest of the country at the same time. They also argue that the only coverage of the projects come from reporters that have not done a thorough job researching. Most of the journalists’ reports rely heavily on press releases from Sachs and the project sites.

The question comes back to “Is the MVP working?” There is a lot of critical debate when in comes to the statistics. Critics argue over the cause of certain countries performing better than they have in the past few years. But can it all be measured in numbers? Sachs takes the old saying “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” and puts it into action. Through the MVPs many small villages are given a chance to provide for themselves. They are given the tools to better their lives and their communities. Even if the yearly income doesn’t improve yet, the villagers have been empowered to work towards success. The programs have gotten villages back on their feet and working hard instead of taking handouts. So how is it that we define success?

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