SEATTLE, Washington — The United Nations initiated the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) in 2005 in collaboration with the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York. It partnered with governments, donors, civil society and other partnering organizations to provide proof-of-concept on how a community-based approach using low-cost intervention techniques could work to help countries achieve key millennium development goals by 2015.
The ideas within the project were not groundbreaking; however, what was groundbreaking was the scale of the project. The MVP applied 12 key principles with each implemented at the same time. There were 40 desirable outcomes of interest for the project covering “categories of poverty, agriculture, nutrition, education, child health, maternal health, HIV and malaria and water and sanitation.” Not only was this a proof-of-concept, but it combined 12 research-based principles for elevating individuals and nations out of extreme poverty, something that had not been done successfully before.
The Foundation of the Project
Another research-heavy aspect of the project was the use of three separate pilot MVP research types. Type 1 was the main hub where all the principles would be heavily monitored, tracked, and outcomes quantified. Type 2, or “clusters,” were more relaxed and focused on community-based strategies. There were 10 separate villages that surrounded the Type 1 village. Finally, Type 3 villages replicated and scaled interventions from Type 1 and Type 2 villages in distance areas identified as hotspots. They focused on areas of hunger and community-based interventions.
Across Africa, there were a total of 10 Millennium Villages (Potou, Senegal; Tiby, Mali; Bonsaaso, Ghana; Pampaida, Nigeria; Koraro, Ethiopia; Ruhiira, Uganda; Mayange, Rwanda; Sauri, Kenya; Mbola, Tanzania; Mwandama, Malawi). Each one listed was a Type 1 village with roughly 5,000 to 6,000 inhabitants. The MVP concentrated resources as the hub for the surrounding villages that fall into the Type 2 category. Type 2 villages ranged in size from 25,000 to 8,0000 inhabitants.
The Outcome of the Millennium Villages Project
One of the major goals of the project was to determine if achieving the best scenarios and outcomes was possible while meeting a relatively affordable investment per person. The project started with the estimation of financials ranging between $101 and $127 per person per year with an additional $58 to $80 in external financing necessary. During the 10-year project, “five sites (Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Malawi) were above or within the U.N. Millennium Project recommended range of total on-site spending ($101-127) and five (Senegal, Mali, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Tanzania) were below.” They were able to see success in the ability to meet the overarching key principles and outcomes by utilizing a more frugal approach for building the systems and capacity of local partners after a reduction in funding.
Overall, there were 30 favorable and significant outcomes. The project outcomes data show that the most significant impacts were in agriculture and health, such as pregnant HIV testing and improved seed use. Unfortunately, there was data that failed to prove as conclusive in poverty, nutrition and education outcomes. This included the number of people living below $1.25 per day, the nutrition index and gender parity.
A closer look at the Bonsaaso, Ghana Millennium Villages with Jemimah Gordon-Duff from the U.K. Department for International Development shows that regardless of the quantitative data, the lessons learned from the project itself may be enough to see “how Ghana can step up to address inequalities.” Since sustainable development goals are similar to the Millennium Villages Project development goals, the hope is to be able to replicate and continue expanding on the interventions where success was seen and continues to sustainably occur.
– Cassiday Moriarity