1. Callister, Lynn Clark PhD, RNC, FAAN

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We often hear the rhetorical Q and A, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Dr. Jeffrey Sachs hypothetically asked, "How do you change the face of poverty and vulnerability among the most disadvantaged people in the world? One village at a time." In 2005, Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York City, envisioned this bold, innovative model for helping rural African villages and clusters of villages lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Donors invest $300,000 per year for 5 years, or $25,000 per village per year. The villagers contribute $10 each (a significant contribution, given their income), the government contributes $30 per capita, and other donors contribute $70. This joint initiative gives rural Africans living in impoverished villages tools that foster economic self sufficiency, and utilizes cutting edge science and technology such as agro-forestry, widespread dissemination of insecticide treated bednets, antiretroviral drugs, Internet access, remote sensing, and geographic information systems.


Under the auspices of the United Nations, the teams create village-specific project initiatives. Entire villages are involved in building local, technical, administrative, and entrepreneurial capacity as well as improved health and education. Foci include three areas: health, education, and agriculture.


Current millennium villages in 12 cluster groups are located in 10 African countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Millennium Village Initiatives has reached nearly half a million people in 79 villages. These millennium villages are well on their way to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. For example, in five Millennium Villages in Mayange, Rwanda with 25,000 residents living in extreme poverty continually struggling with famine and political unrest, goals include an agriculture goal to increase crop yields, decreasing hunger, and diversifying crops. Grain storage has been set up and farmers are terracing their fields to combat soil erosion, and farmers are planting fruit trees, beans, and sweet potatoes to sell at nearby markets.


The health goal focuses on improving access to primary healthcare (especially in maternal/child health), as well as combating the spread of major diseases. Rates of malaria have now decreased due to the provision of malaria testing/treatment, and insecticide-treated bed nets. Improvements in maternal/child health are being documented, with the number of women giving birth at the clinic (using educated birth attendants) rather than at home increasing from 5 to 45 births per month. Family planning education is also a part of each visit to the health center for both men and women.


Goals related to microenterprise focus on the establishment of a basket weaving cooperative with more than 200 women learning traditional basket weaving and gaining business skills. Increased income means more access to microcredit, and an increase in the number of children attending school because of improvements in the socioeconomic status of families. Better nutritional status and stronger immune systems make it possible for children to resist other diseases besides malaria and to perform better in school.


In the Ashanti Region of Ghana, there is a Bonsaaso cluster of 6 millennium villages where 30,000 people live. Dramatic changes have occurred in the areas of health, education, and water and sanitation. Three new health clinics have been built and two renovated, with a dramatic improvement in the control of malaria. Water and sanitation projects focus on increasing access to quality safe water, which includes rainwater harvesting. Farmers are focusing on high-yield cash crops.


These are two examples of how community-led development projects with global support are making a difference, one village at a time. The Millennium Village project is an important component of efforts to accomplish the Millennium Development Goals. For more information, see Millennium Villages, or