'In 23 countries in Africa and expanding rapidly'

By Raj Kumar13 January 2014

Students in Sauri, Kenya, line up at a hand-washing station provided by Unilever and facilitated by Jeff Sach’s Millennium Villages Project. This school, which no longer receives funding from MVP, grows its own food to eat and to sell – sustainability efforts kickstarted by the project. Photo by: Rolf Rosenkranz / Devex

Jeffrey Sachs is widely known to the development community as a luminary and a lightning rod. Since helping to turn around struggling economies in Bolivia and Poland in the 1980s, the famed economist (a tenured Harvard professor by the age of 28) has become among the world’s most prominent advocates for development aid. His tireless advocacy and firm views have gathered both powerful allies — among them the U.N. secretary-general and Bono — and persistent critics.  

He is among a small group of development leaders who have broken through to mainstream attention: Just two years ago he nominated himself — only partly to make a point — as World Bank president.

From his perch as the director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, Sachs continues to serve as the spiritual guide of the Millennium Villages Project, which he founded in 2002 to prove that rural poverty can be eradicated through a targeted combination of international expertise and subsidized seed, fertilizer, medicine, bednets and the like.

Following a visit to the first Millennium Village in Sauri, Kenya, I caught up with Sachs to talk about the $25 million-per-year project, its critics and where development is headed.

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Raj Kumar is president and editor-in-chief of Devex. His professional experiences include working on nine presidential campaigns in the U.S. and overseas, co-founding a successful financial media company and leading Devex — a role that has led him to more than 50 countries where he has had the honor to meet many of the aid workers and development professionals who make up the Devex community.


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