What Is Needed

SummaryAcknowledgementIntroductionWhy Should We Help?The BenefitsThe Venture ItselfHow to Avoid the Marie Antoinette SyndromeThe Action PlanConclusionSelected Bibliography


Mr. Wong is obviously familiar with a campaign to adopt villages in Africa started by Jeffrey Sachs. Sachs has worked extensively with the UN and has developed a practical plan, now called the Millennium Villages Project (Welcome, 2006), for helping the impoverished at the village level. In his book, The End of Poverty, he discusses this plan and gives several examples of its application in the field, most notably in Sauri, Kenya. (Sauri is actually a group of eight small villages — considered one village for Sachs’ purposes — in Nyanza Province in western Kenya.)

Sachs describes in his book how he met with the villagers to find out what was needed and how he could help them. The situation was terrible. (Sachs, 2005, pp. 227-232)

Two thirds of the 5,000-strong population were living below the poverty line, on less than $1 . . . a day. Health problems were chronic. The prevalence for malaria was 43 percent, for HIV 24 percent. Two fifths of all children under five years old were malnourished, while one in four children did not reach the age of five. One in 10 mothers died during childbirth. (Bloomfield, 2006)

The following photograph shows Sachs and the villagers.


Figure 11: Sachs meets with Sauri’s villagers

(Sachs, 2005, plate facing p. 174)

In the meeting shown in this photograph, Sachs and the villagers discuss what Sauri needs. Sachs’ plan to help villages includes what he calls (the big five). They are listed here, using Sauri as an example of how to implement them:

1. improved agriculture: Food production is essential for successful economies (Sachs, 2005, p. 69) and in fact, is considered to be the primary military advantage of dominant societies (Diamond, 1999, p. 88). But Africa is an ancient land and its soil has been farmed for eons. Sauri needs fertilizers, up-to-date farming techniques, and other improvements including water harvesting, small scale irrigation, and methods of grain storage. (Sachs, 2005, p. 233)

2. basic health care: African villages face formidable health challenges, especially AIDS and malaria. The developed world has a panopoly of effective treatments and preventative measures for both these diseases, as well as for more mundane but essential health care needs. Sauri did have a clinic but no money to pay a doctor or nurse, so the building was not used. Money to pay for salaries and supplies was needed. (Sachs, 2005, p. 233)

3. improved education: Sauri has an elementary school with a high graduation rate due to the outstanding dedication of the headmistress. But because the village is in such dire straits, the children often go hungry and their marks reflect this. Providing nutritious lunches would improve their grades. (Sachs, 2005, p. 233)

The children are not the only ones who want an education. The villagers themselves are thirsty for information on farming techniques, as well as (computer literacy, basic infrastructure maintenance (electrical wiring, use and maintenance of a diesel generator, water harvesting, borewell construction and maintenance), carpentry, . . . hygiene, HIV/AIDS, malaria control, computer and mobile phone use . . . . ) (Sachs, 2005, p. 233)

4. power, transport, and communication services: Sauri lacks any kind of power source and relies on minimal wood sources for cooking. A generator or hook-up to an existing electrical power line in a neighbouring town would allow it to enjoy the many benefits of electricity for (lights, computers, pumps, food processing, refrigeration, carpentry, . . . household batteries), etc. (Sachs, 2005, p. 233)

A shared village truck would allow transport of necessities to the village as well as the export of crops and other goods to sell. It would also provide emergency transportation to the nearest hospital. A mobile phone would allow the villagers to (connect Sauri with the outside world). (Sachs, 2005, p. 233)

5. safe drinking water and sanitation: In Sauri, there were only a few water sources and getting water is very time-consuming for the women and children. ([W]ater could be provided through a combination of protected springs, borewells, rainwater harvesting, and other basic technologies.) (Sachs, 2005, p. 233)

At the time Sachs’ book was published (2005), the plan for Sauri had not yet been implemented. However, a 2006 article published in (The Independent) describes the village after Sachs’ program had been in effect for two years. The change is nothing less than astounding.

(Maize yield has tripled. Malaria rates have more than halved.) (Bloomfield, 2006) The villagers now have enough food to feed themselves, to contribute some to a school feeding program, and to sell as a cash crop. Because the children are now getting enough to eat, they are doing much better at school, which (is now in the top ten in the province). An atmosphere of optimism and joy pervades the village as the people become healthier, more productive, and more self-reliant. (Bloomfield, 2006)

Sachs calculated how much funding is necessary for such a plan: $110 per person per year (Sachs, 2005, pp. 234-236). This money was raised for Sauri from various sources, including the Millennium Village Project, other donors, the Kenyan government, and the community itself (Bloomfield, 2006). But this money was not given as money. Instead, it was invested in (the big five) — the practical necessities of daily life:

Food production, nutrition and health. Education, roads and energy. Water, sanitation and the environment. Nothing is left off the list. Agriculturalists have been brought in to teach new farming methods. A health clinic has been set up providing free health care. A school feeding programme has been established, providing children with at least one good meal a day. The government has agreed to provide electricity and carry out road maintenance. Water points have been introduced, giving residents clean drinking water for the first time. (Bloomfield, 2006)

Figure 12 is a photograph of a woman carrying seeds to Maridi, one of the villages in Sauri.


Figure 12: Woman carrying seeds

(Sauri, Kenya, 2006)

This photograph shows a benefit of Sachs’ adopt-a-village program: seeds that will be used for planting. Funding the essentials and basic necessities has given this village life and a future, instead of starvation, despair, and death. It is money very well spent.

BCIT could take on such a venture as well.


Read More: Other PartnershipsForming Partnerships and Getting FundingWhat Is NeededAdopt a VillageThe Earth Institute at Columbia UniversityAdopt An Educational InstituteHow Students Could Be Involved