Earth Institute Launches its First Millennium Village—A New Approach to Ending Global Poverty
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is launching its first Millennium Village, a new global approach to lift developing country villages out of the poverty trap that afflicts more than a billion people worldwide. Located in western Kenya near Lake Victoria, Sauri is a village of 4,648 people with a strong community system, but lacking the revenue for the basic services necessary to sustain economic growth. visit Millennium Village website
“Sauri is beset by hunger, AIDS, and malaria. The situation is far grimmer than expected, but also salvageable,” said Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, who with a team of researchers from New York and Kenya worked with villagers in July and August 2004 to identify needs and intervention strategies.
The Millennium Villages Project, made possible through a five-year grant from the Lenfest Foundation, will apply a proven holistic package of interventions to help these villages get out of extreme poverty in the next ten years.
“The remarkable point about Sauri is that this village could be rescued, and indeed achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but not by itself, “ added Professor Sachs, leader of the socioeconomic component of the Millennium Villages Project as well as Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the MDGs. “Survival depends on addressing a series of specific challenges: nutrient depleted soils, erratic rainfall, endemic malaria, pandemic HIV/AIDS, lack of adequate education opportunities, lack of access to safe drinking water and latrines, and the unmet need for basic transport, electricity, cooking fuels and communications. All of these challenges can be met, with known, proven, reliable and appropriate technologies and interventions.”
The Millennium Villages Project brings together a dozen Earth Institute scientists and development experts in agriculture, nutrition and health, economics, energy, water, environment and information technology, to work with local communities and governments in using science-based interventions to achieve the MDGs of reducing extreme poverty, hunger, disease, and lack of access to safe water and sanitation at a total cost of $110 per person including community and government contributions with a cost to the rich world of less than 0.7% GNP or about $50/person.
The United Nations Millennium Project was launched by the United Nations Secretary-General to develop an implementation plan to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
The project is lead by Pedro Sanchez, director of the Earth Institute’s Tropical Agriculture Program and co-coordinator of the United Nations Millennium Project’s Hunger Task Force, and Cheryl Palm, senior research scientist at the Earth Institute. Other participating Earth Institute scientists are:
Locally, the Millennium Villages Project leadership includes Patrick Mutuo as the on-site coordinator based in Kisumu and Glenn Denning, associate director of the Earth Institute’s Tropical Agriculture Program and based in Nairobi. Management of the project also includes continuous dialogue with the villagers and community leaders on the implementation of the project’s interventions. Local leaders involved in the project include the area Chief, Hosea Owiti, the councilor of the ward, Ka’Awuor Ochido, the local primary school head teacher, Ann Omolo, and the school chairman, Martin Oganda. In July and August, the villagers chose members to serve on committees for agriculture and environment, health, water, energy and infrastructure, and education. The project also provides many opportunities for participation by students from Columbia University and national universities. Sauri in the Siaya district of Nyanza Province in western Kenya is about 27 miles from Kisumu.
“We are strongly relying on the experiences of Professor M.S. Swaminathan, Chair of India’s National Committee on Farmers, Co-Coordinator of the UN Millennium Project’s Hunger Task Force in working with village leaders and government officials to design and implement poverty reduction programs. Professor Swaminathan has an incredible breadth of experience in supporting villagers as they work to end hunger, disease, and poverty,” remarked Sanchez on critical aspects of the bottom-up approach of the Millennium Villages Project.
In August, the team based in Kenya and at the Earth Institute at Columbia University began collecting baseline data on soils, electricity and other technology needs, water and sanitation, population, family cash income, remittance flows to the community, among other measures needed to assess the project’s progress and effectiveness in reversing Sauri’s poverty trap. In addition to working closely with local community leaders, the project team is collaborating with experts from the World Agroforestry Center, the United States Centers for Disease Control, and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria to identify the best methods for delivering the interventions.
“What makes this project unique is that we have scientists watching the process extremely closely so that we can develop a methodology or guide that can be used in villages throughout the developing world to address specific needs and challenges and also create the necessary knowledge and expertise for village to village transfer of the concept for scaling up to national level implementation,” added Palm.
By March 2005, the project team with the villages will begin implementing the package of proven interventions such as increasing food production through a host of soil fertility measures; obtaining a village vehicle for transporting villagers to hospitals for emergency medical treatment, gaining easier access to markets, and providing electricity through rechargeable lanterns; improving access to water; providing nutritious lunches for all school children; establishing a health clinic to provide basic services including distribution of antiretroviral drugs and bed nets for malaria prevention; and establishing a community center.
Over the next five years, the project leaders plan to expand the number of Millennium Villages in Africa as well as adding villages in other parts of the developing world.
The Earth Institute at Columbia University is the world’s leading academic center for the integrated study of Earth, its environment and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.