UN-backed Millennium Villages project in Africa launches second phase
A water system that runs through Kominé, part of the Millennium Villages of
Tiby in central Mali
3 October 2011 –
A United Nations-backed initiative designed to accelerate efforts to attain
social development and eradicate extreme poverty in rural Africa today
launched its second phase, aiming to improve the living standards of an
estimated half a million people across the continent.
The Millennium Villages Project, a science-based partnership between
academia, business and UN agencies to achieve the Millennium Development
Goals ( <http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/
> MDGs), moves into the next –
and final – phase with more than $72 million in new pledges, including
nearly $50 million announced by George Soros, the founder and chairman of
the Open Society Foundations.
The second phase will focus on business development to help the rural poor
escape poverty and ensure that communities are on track to self-sufficiency
when the project ends in 2015, the deadline for achieving the MDGs – the
globally agreed blueprint for halving extreme poverty by halting the spread
of diseases, promoting access to education and improving health care.
At today’s launch of the second phase at UN Headquarters,
> Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recalled visiting
Mwandama village in Malawi in May 2010 with Jeffrey Sachs, the Director of
the Millennium Villages project and his Senior Adviser on MDGs.
“I saw first-hand how an integrated, holistic approach to development can
help entire communities lift themselves from extreme poverty,” he said. “The
MDGs are interlinked – a comprehensive fight against poverty, hunger and
“Success in one brings success in others. We do not need to pick or choose
among objectives. On the contrary, the UN is progressively investing in
areas with broad multiplier effects. The challenge – especially in this time
of financial austerity – is to build on this momentum.”
Mr. Ban echoed those remarks in an op-ed column published in The Daily News
in Egypt today.
“Touring the Mwandama village, I saw the potential of modern technologies –
smart phones and mobile broadband, improved seed varieties, the latest in
drip irrigation, modern diagnostic tests for malaria, and low-cost
solar-energy grids – to advance human well-being in ways that simply were
not feasible even a few years ago,” he wrote.
According to a scientific review of the project, successes achieved in the
first phase between 2006 and 2009 across 11 Millennium Villages include the
* Malaria rates fell by 72 per cent over the first three years ;
* Households with access to improved drinking water more than tripled
* Across six sites, average maize yields doubled, and in some sites
* Rates of chronic malnutrition dropped by one-third among children
* Students benefiting from school meal programmes increased to 75 per
“It is the purpose of my foundation’s continuing support to help scale up
the experience in the model villages in the first phase and to link small
agriculture with business structures that will provide sustainable incomes
for entire regions, not just for model villages,” said Mr. Soros at a news
conference following the launch. “This will be the main focus of the next
Mr. Sachs said the project had made “tremendous breakthroughs” in achieving
the MDGs in places that seemed “absolutely hopeless.”
“The essence of the projects has been to work with the local communities,
typically clusters of villages of 30,000 to 50,000 people, using cutting
edge, low-cost technologies in a highly effective way and making sure that
the communities benefit from the synergies by simultaneously investing in
agriculture, health, education, infrastructure and business development.”
The Open Society Foundations announced it would renew the partnership,
pledging $27.4 million to support core project interventions, key staff
positions, and the project’s monitoring and evaluation activities.
The Soros Economic Development Fund said it would also provide up to $20
million in loans to support investment-worthy business projects within the
villages over the next five years.
“With the significant improvements already achieved in health, education,
agriculture, gender equality, and incomes, plus the continued progress that
we can expect in the second phase of the project, the Millennium Villages
are on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015,” said Mr.
In phase two, the project will focus on raising incomes through business
development and linking farmers to larger markets to ensure continued growth
and greater economic stability.
The project will also work to fine-tune service delivery and other local
systems put in place in the first five years; ensure sustainability by
gradually withdrawing financial support from the project as governments
scale up investments; and to document and replicate project interventions
through rigorous monitoring and evaluation, as well as an open-source online
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Received on Tue Oct 04 2011 - 18:07:30 EDT