Saturday, October 16, 2010

Analysts discredit UN’s millennium villages project

By KEVIN J KELLEY kkelley2@smcvt.edu

A heavily publicised and well-funded effort to spur development in model villages in Kenya is being challenged by a World Bank economist and by an expert at a Washington-based research institute.

Analysts Michael Clemens and Gabriel Demombynes argue the model’s sponsors are using unreliable and misleading methods of evaluating the impact of the Millennium Villages Project (MVP).

This United Nations-supported endeavour, launched 10 years ago, aims to show that living standards in deeply impoverished African villages can be dramatically improved through targeted aid.

The MVP is currently operating at 14 sites in 10 African countries, including Kenya, with donors providing each of these village clusters with about $400,000 (Sh32.2 million) in aid per year until 2015.

However, the initiative does not appear to be achieving the degree of success claimed, Mr Clemens suggests in a critique co-authored by Mr Demombynes.

Mr Demombynes notes, for example, that a fourfold increase in mobile-phone usage was recently presented as one of the “biggest impacts” achieved in Bar-Sauri millennium village in Siaya district.

But a broader assessment shows that increase in mobile-phone ownership in the village corresponds closely to trends in Kenya’s rural areas.

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