Practical Approaches to Third World Health Issues

The Earth Institute’s Millennium Villages Project is a “bottom up” approach to lifting developing country villages out of the poverty trap that afflicts more than a billion people worldwide. The Millennium Villages Project plans to provide early successes on how to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — clear targets for reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women — by 2015.

Earth Institute scientists and development experts in agriculture, nutrition and health, economics, energy, water, environment and information technology are working with local communities and governments to apply a proven, integrated package of interventions to help villages get out of extreme poverty. As the Millennium Villages Project achieves successes, it will work with national governments and local organizations to scale up these poverty-reducing measures.

The Millennium Villages Project embraces the vision of the Millennium Declaration and the work of the U.N. Millennium Project, which are based on the overall paradigm that poor nations commit to good governance and development policies based in science and the scaling-up of best practices, and that rich countries commit to much greater financial assistance, access to markets, and expanded knowledge transfer to achieve the MDGs.

The UN Millennium Project and the Earth Institute at Columbia University are working with governments, donors, civil society and other partner organizations to support three types of Millennium Villages in hunger hotspots across the developing world. The aim of these initiatives is to (i) provide rigorous proof of concept for integrated, community-based, low-cost interventions to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in rural Africa, (ii) identify mechanisms for national-level scaling up of community-based interventions to support the design of national MDG-based development strategies, and (iii) engage governments and donors in a 10-year scaling-up effort across Africa and other hunger hotspots in Latin America and Asia.

Underlying Principles

The underlying principles of the Millennium
Villages Project include:

  • Community empowerment through participation
    and leadership in design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation
  • Interventions based on proven, science-based
    research (biophysical and socioeconomic) combined with the
    best local knowledge
  • Implementing within the budget estimates of
    the Millennium Project; at approximately $110 per person
    per year read more
  • Building on existing community, government
    and non-government programs in the area
  • Building capacity and empowerment at
    the local level
  • Strengthening local institutions
  • Linking with and obtaining support from
    local, provincial and national governments
  • Consistency with national plans for
  • Beneficiaries pay part of the way — in cash or in-kind — congruent
    with their ability to pay or provide
  • Planning to become self-sustaining or at a minimum
    self-governing — this would include an exit strategy in
    which government programs take over provision of specific public
  • Scale-up by spreading the advances from village
    to village, from district to district, and from country to
  • "Bottom-up" approaches
    can produce effective synergies with “top-down” ones,
    provided they are properly linked through enabling policies

Outputs and Impacts

The project will have immediate, short-term and long-term impacts

  • The MDG villagers, involving several thousand people living
    in environmentally sustainable ways within 5 years
  • Methods and manuals for implementing and scaling-up
    different activities in Millennium Villages
  • Documentation of the village-level processes and
    costs for attaining the Millennium Development
    , including governance, management,
    empowerment, and ownership
  • National government policies and scaling-up plans
    for millions of Africans by 2015
  • Training and equipping thousands of villagers,
    local-level extension agents, and government officials with the
    necessary knowledge and expertise to empower and train other
    villages for transfer and scaling-up in line with
    the Millennium Development Goals

Millennium Village Types and Scaling Up

The preferred means of scaling-up is through district, provincial, and national level involvement — using the MV sites as pilots for demonstrating the concept and developing tools that can then be managed and expanded by governments.

Three types of Millennium Villages enable the scaling up of interventions. The Millennium Research Villages (Type 1 Millennium Villages) represent the core of the project, where interventions are rigorously monitored, their outcomes quantified, and proof-of-concept established. The Millennium Research Villages, each home to about 5,000 people, aim to create and demonstrate a model for achieving the MDGs that can go to scale in all senses: concept, financing, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Based on the experiences and lessons from the Type 1 Millennium Research Villages,

the Type 2 Millennium Villages, or "clusters," focus on scaling up the integrated, community-based strategies for achieving the MDGs to about 10 adjacent villages around the Type 1 Millennium Research Villages. The Type 2 villages are also proof of concept but at a scale of beneficiaries 10 times higher.  The aims of the Type 2 villages are:

  • To integrate village-level interventions across parts or all of an entire district, applying lessons from the Type 1 villages
  • To understand and demonstrate how community-based interventions for achieving the MDGs can best be coordinated, implemented, and financed at a wider scale
  • To understand interventions that need to be provided at a district level (e.g. referral hospitals, transport infrastructure, electricity generation and distribution) and thus benefit from economies of scale
  • And

    to engage public and private donors in practical, results-based, monitored and measured interventions at the village and district level.

The Type 3 Millennium Villages will replicate and scale out successful integrated, village-level interventions to achieve the MDGs in hunger hotspots beyond the immediate vicinity of the Type 1 and surrounding Type 2 villages. The emphasis on community-based implementation mechanisms will be maintained. The UN Millennium Project and the MDG Centers will support implementation by making available lessons learnt from the Types 1 and 2 in the form of training, manuals and other tools. To qualify for the registered trademark “Millennium Villages,” Type 3 villages must follow the intervention and monitoring guidelines provided by the Millennium Villages Project.

Fundraising and implementation for Type 2 and Type 3 Millennium Villages will be overseen by Millennium Promise, a U.S.-based non-profit organization. Please visit their web site for more information.

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