Millennium Villages Project
Bollywood printed silks garnished with sequins are exchanged at a West African shop in the Potou market. Shop owner Thiama Diaw is the president of Bokk Jamm, one of 25 women’s business associations in Potou.

The village associations collectively pool their profits, so group members can obtain loans. Participants have used the money to cultivate hibiscus, invest in sustainable cookstoves, relinquish owed school fees or make home improvements. These women associations provide training sessions in farming techniques, nutrition and money management.

Throughout the Tibias Canal, members in Mali grow melons for their fund contribution. While Rwandan basket weavers used their loan share for roof replacement and school supplies for their children, a woman in Malawi ran a cassava bakery to pay for her loan cooperative share.

From 1990 to 2001, Sub-Saharan Africans who lived on less than $1 a day, increased by 86 million. The poverty rate jumped from 45 percent to 46 percent. One-third of the region’s population is below the minimum nourishment level, making it the most undernourished area. Inhabitants are disease stricken, living in a drought-prone climate that lacks proper irrigation and a safe infrastructure.

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) launched in 2004 as a holistic, science-based approach to global poverty and empowerment for Sub-Saharan Africans. The program has benefited more than 500,000 people. Their development efforts have received generous donations from actress Angelina Jolie and the U.N.’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Safe drinking water and firewood require people to travel every day for several miles. The MVP aims to reinvent empowerment for Sub-Saharan Africans through sustainable development of healthcare, education and employment. The project operates with limited aid support and integrates science and technology.

For example, their services have decreased malaria in villages by 72 percent, access to clean water has tripled and maize productivity has doubled. The budget allots $60 per person for services, according to MVP. “The project’s approach has potential, but little can be said for sure yet about its true impact,” Nature stated.

Researchers of MVP started measuring the villages success rate, who had access to full intervention services. They compared the results to villages who didn’t receive aid, but data collection challenges prevented statistically sound results.

While children are dying of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa every 30 seconds and one in 16 women die during childbirth, the MVP teaches valuable skills to members. They stimulate empowerment for Sub-Saharan Africans, who learn alongside each other in improving their community’s infrastructure, health and economy.

Rachel Williams

Photo: Flickr