Chronically poor northern Ghana gets its own Millennium Village

Children in Ghana playing foosball. The U.K. Department for International Development will be carrying out a 10-year evaluation of a newly announced, five-year Millennium Villages project in northern Ghana. Photo by: Emma Donnelly / DfID / CC BY-SA

A new Millennium Village was announced Aug. 29 in northern Ghana, where economist Jeffrey Sachs’ vision of integrated development will get another chance to prove its effectiveness. The village will include communities in some of the poorest sections of a country that has been a poster child for aid, and yet whose impressive growth has been highly unequal.

In a move to ensure aid effectiveness, the U.K. Department for International Development — one of the main donors to the village — will carry out a 10-year evaluation of the five-year program. The independent approach to evaluation is something different for the villages, which have always been assessed using internal measurements, according to Kyu-young Lee, assistant director of communications and marketing at the Earth Institute.

The project in Ghana will focus on 30,000 people currently living in “abject poverty” by increasing the number of skilled health care workers, removing barriers to family planning services, ensuring universal primary school enrollment, improving sanitation and access to water, and increasing connectivity and infrastructure, among other objectives.

Specific targets expressed by the Ghanaian government included giving 10,000 people access to clean water and 15,000 access to sanitation, and removing 11,000 from poverty, according to a press release. DfID plans to focus its $18.1 million in aid to the project over the next five years on girls’ education, political support for upcoming elections, and on helping 50,000 entrepreneurs and businessmen bring their goods to market.

The Millennium Villages Project follows the U.N. Office for Project Services protocols for acquiring staffing and administrative work, and procurement will likely continue over the life of the program.

Ghana has been lauded as a development success story: 2.5 million people in the southern region were lifted out of poverty over the past 20 years — the result of “well-targeted aid” according to U.K. Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell.

But growth has been skewed, and the northern region has had the opposite fate, with poverty actually increasing by almost 1 million people. The majority of inhabitants in northern Ghana now live below the poverty line, according to the Millennium Villages Project. By focusing assistance on the poorest, the project will help the nearly middle-income Ghana to prepare for “a future without aid,” Mitchell said.

The Millennium Villages Project is an integrated approach to reducing extreme poverty that uses evidence-driven methods and community engagement across eight sectors. It has garnered criticism in the past for costing $12,000 per household, and for not releasing data showing increased incomes. The independent DfiD evaluation planned in Ghana speaks to another criticism: that project evaluations attributed all positive change to Millennium Villages Project interventions.

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About the author

  • Jennnews21

    Jennifer Brookland

    Jennifer Brookland is a former Devex global development reporter based in Washington, D.C. She has worked as a humanitarian reporter for the United Nations and as an investigative journalist for News21. Jennifer holds a bachelor's in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University and in international law and diplomacy from the Fletcher School. She also served for four years as an Air Force officer.