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New York Times Examines Millennium Villages In Africa

The New York Times examines development and health improvements in Sauri, Kenya, which was the first Millennium Village in Africa, a project conceived by economist Jeffrey Sachs, which aims “to show that tightly focused, technology-based and relatively straightforward programs on a number of fronts simultaneously – health care, education, job training – could rapidly lift people out of poverty.”

Over the last five years in Sauri, population 65,000, “[a]gricultural yields have doubled; child mortality has dropped by 30 percent; school attendance has shot up and so have test scores, putting one local school second in the area, when it used to be ranked 17th; and cellphone ownership (a telltale sign of prosperity in rural Africa) has increased fourfold,” according to the article.

“Western donors are closely following the data emerging from the Millennium Villages,” which now number more than 80. “Sachs and his team will publish their midterm review later this year,” according to the newspaper. “But the question for Mr. Sachs and his team remains: Is this progress, in development-speak, scalable? In other words, is there a way to take a place like this one and magnify the results by 1,000 times or 10,000 times and wipe out poverty across the developing world?”

The article also notes some of the critiques of Sachs’ approach. Former World Bank economist William Easterly and “others have criticized Mr. Sachs as not paying enough attention to bigger-picture issues like governance and corruption, which have stymied some of the best-intentioned and best-financed aid projects.” Others say that “Sachs is not evaluating his programs in a rigorous, scientific way,” according to the newspaper (Gettleman, 3/8).

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