The Millennium Villages Project, Mbola, Tanzania

 

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1) What are the factors that classify as good news in Africa according to Radelet?

Radelet starts off by identifying that “there’s good news out of Africa,” going on to explain that seventeen emerging African countries are finally moving beyond the “conflict, stagnation and dictatorships of the past” that have been holding them back. Economic growth is steadily increasing, democracy is spreading and poverty levels are falling. Radelet goes on to say that these seventeen emerging countries are “defying the usual pessimistic African storylines of war” that has remained the only news out of Africa for decades. Now, the good news is starting to arise, from a rise of democratic governments to improved health and education across these countries.

2) Each group explores two villages. You decide on the village of your choice. You first want to familiarize yourself with the Millennium Villages Project overall then look at critical voices online. Questions you might want to answer are: Why was that particular village chosen? What is the goal for that village? What successes or failures have been recorded? What do the critics say? Look at the countries GDP, GNP, WDI, HDI, etc. to evaluate the village. How are local, national and global issues addressed and involved? And finally what do you say after reading pros and cons. Is it a viable project towards ending poverty?

The goal of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) is to fight poverty at the village level through community-led development. Fifteen villages across Africa were chosen for the project, each village suffering from extreme poverty. The Mbola village is located in mid-western Tanzania. This village faces a large amount of environmental degradation because of poor crop management systems, as well as a decline in agricultural production and the lack of fuel wood caused by the tobacco industry. There is also a lack of education and infrastructure regarding basic health and education.

One of the top goals in this particular village is to increase health services in the area. A few major strides have been executed since the beginning of the program. The health center in the village has since been refurbished and been connected to the national grid. Access to improved water supply has increased six fold and a school meals program had raised attendance from 60% in 2006 to 96% in 2009. Another area of progress specific to the Mbola village has to do with one of the area’s biggest products, honey. Previously, local farmers had few supplies to produce honey. The Millennium Project stepped in to assist farmers in production as well as commercialize it in order to create a sustainable livelihood for the people in that village.

While there is an encouraging plan in place, few tangible results have been collected from the project, so it’s hard to tell if it’s leading to fight poverty in the area or not. That ties into one of the biggest critiques of the Millennium Villages Project as a whole, as gaging success is difficult. Jeff Tollefson suggests the idea that the project’s “effectiveness has never been thoroughly tested,” in his article in the Nature Journal. Collecting data from the various sites and analyzing it is difficult and takes time. Preliminary results from a Millennium Village in Ghana showed little benefit to the community after an $18 million expansion. So, this leads some researchers and critics to suggest that the Millennium Villages Project approach may be as effective as planned.

As the Mbola village is located in Tanzania, it’s important to look at statistics of the country as a whole. The Gross Domestic Product per capita is $694.77. The Gross National Income is $84.4 billion PPP dollars. In Tanzania, the president is elected by popular vote and serves a 5-year term. Tanzania is still largely a one party-state within a multiparty political system. Tanzania is the only country in East Africa to be a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). So, while the country has been making major improvements, there is still a lot of work to be done. The same goes for the Millennium Villages Project in my opinion. I think the goals and work that have been done in the various villages are great, but if they aren’t sustained over the years and aren’t leading to a more self-sustaining community, the work and money has gone to waste. Because it’s so hard to quantify the results of the project, it’s hard to know whether or not the villages are truly improving.

My question to end with is how can the Millennium Villages Project be properly evaluated to see if the project is working? My thought is that data may show the areas that are benefitting more so than others, and where changes could be made to improve the areas needing the most assistance.

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