Millennium Village Project That Changed Lives In Gem Yala, Siaya County

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Millennium Village Project That Changed Lives In Gem Yala, Siaya County
Students line up for school meals, made with locally produced foods, at Bar Sauri Primary School in the Millennium Village at Sauri, Kenya. (Image courtesy of Pedro Sanchez, Earth Institute at Columbia University)

What happened to the Millennium Village Project?  

BY VICTOR OCHIENG’ 

In the year 2005, people of Bar Sauri Village in Gem Yala, Siaya County became beneficiaries of the Millennium Village Project (MVP). It wafted wonderful winds beneath their wings. Villagers flew to lofty heights of abundance. They suddenly saw the fine face of fortune. Grass became greener, as everything turned bright like light. Serendipitously, it was the only village selected in Kenya. Other villages in Africa under the same profitable project were in countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Ghana. 

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Indeed, the grace of good luck visited an obscure village. It was a demonstration project of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, United Nations Development Programme and Millennium Promise. 

In retrospect, at the blissful birth of MVP, Jeffrey Sachs, the philanthropic founder posited that Bar Sauri was going to be a shining example of a successful project. The project was going to break the backbone of poverty hence entice prosperity. This featured in the Diary of Angelina Jolie and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs in Africa

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Ideally, MVP relied on integrated approach to rural development to achieve Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — the eight globally endorsed targets envisioned to address perplexing problems of penury, health, gender, equality and disease by 2015.

Somehow, the MVP website is still active. Albeit, the project ended with its final evaluation in 2015. For it was to span from 2005 to 2015. It occurred in two phases: the first phase (2004-2010) and second phase (2011-2015). 

To steer clear, the first phase pitched its tent on five important areas: One, there was agriculture, which focused on sufficient supply of seeds and fertilizer, training of farmers and expansion of storage. Two, there was the health aspect that oscillated around installation of mosquito nets, copious supply of vaccines and proper pest control. Three, there was education, which prioritised upgrading of schools and installation of enough water supply. Four, there was infrastructure that put premium on sanitation and roads. Five, they focused on business development: micro-credit and cooperative training. 

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Moreover, the second phase went straight to enhancement and development of programmes planned in the first phase. Prominent proponents of the project achieved their main mandate by improving easy access to clean water, basic education, basic health care and ensuring that people lived in salubrious environment. 

Again, the brilliant thought focused on yanking villagers out of the pit of poverty through science-based interventions such as provision of improved seeds and fertilizers. They also convened incisive seminars to sensitise farmers pertaining best agricultural practices. Luckily, farmers dropped old and tired approaches to production. 

It is instructive to note that MVP had a great impact on Bar Sauri and villages that abut on it like Anyiko where the scribe welding these words was born and brought up. It was during that golden age that pupils in Bar Sauri Primary School enjoyed luscious lunch. It in turn made teachers expand tuition time and augment contact hours with learners. This made the school to become an academic powerhouse that churned out veritable giants in KCPE. 

In addition, the establishment of Bar Sauri Community Hospital to provide accessible basic health care services led to healthy and happy villagers — who rolled up their sleeves to obey the divine duty — subdue the earth. 

Unfortunately, when the project finally folded, the village became an ashen shadow of its former self. Farmers became forlorn like festoon of faded flowers. They went back to their archaic agricultural practices, prompting my pen to pose three glaring questions: What happened to Millennium Village Project? Who bewitched the autochthonous people of Bar Sauri? Why did local leaders fail come up with a stupendous strategy to sustain the profitable project? 

It sad to state that after witnessing all modern methods of crop production, our people decided to learn nothing. Now, as I pen this piece, you cannot trace any scintilla of vestiges of the project in that village once visited by fat fortune. Aptly put, we have a serious problem when it comes to evolving to new ways of doing things. Like apostates, we naturally slide back to a flippant past. 

Yet — the past is a prologue. As we live in the pleasant present, we should focus on a fabulous future belonging people who prepare for it today. As we enjoy the yummy meat of the moment, we should crane our necks, and see beyond the sea. Or tomorrow without sorrow. 

This cannot happen if farmers eat all seeds of gold, which should wait for the wet season to sprout at the sweet scent of the soil. For when farmers wend that way, what shall they plant when the rain come to reign by catalysing fertility of the soil? 

The writer is an editor, orator and author. [email protected]. 0704420232

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