LectureHop: Progress and Challenges in the Millennium Villages
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog Lecture Hop Editor Pierce Stanley attended this evening’s Jeffrey Sachs-sponsored Progress and Challenges in the Millennium Villages lecture.
Miller Theater served as a welcome refuge from the torrential downpour levied today on Morningside Heights. This afternoon, a slew of students packed into the theater to hear a report from Earth Institute Director/Professor to the Stars Jeffrey Sachs on the progress of the Millennium Villages project. Sachs spoke about the brutal realities that many individuals in the villages face on a daily basis, the challenges in continuing and expanding aid for the villages in a time plagued by a troubled worldwide economy, as well as suggesting that the road ahead — specifically with respect to the monetary and human investments required for success — would be quite difficult to traverse.
Nevertheless, Sachs painted a rather rosy picture of the Millennium Villages he has helped establish in rural parts of Kenya and Malawi. He described serious efforts at bringing telephony to the Sahel region, yet suggested that infrastructure achievements such as this one are merely the start of a five-year holistic investment of which we are nearing the end of the third year. Sachs proceeded to lay out quickly and fluently for listeners four key areas of import to the success of the project, which is sponsored by the UN and administered under the careful tutelage of Columbia’s Earth Institute. The four key areas included healthcare, education, infrastructure, and agriculture.
Sachs explained that cost estimates for the Villages of $120 per capita are too low for any real change to take place, and suggested that higher energy prices, the depreciation of the dollar and the fact that donor aid has remained relatively constant will present profound consequences for all of four of these key areas over the coming years.
Nevertheless, he stressed the profound gains that have occurred with regard to agriculture as new types of soils have been introduced by Columbia Professor Pedro Sanchez in the villages, as well as nitrogen deposits that have been replenished thanks to the the introduction of different types of fertilizers to the soils. While water depletion remains a major problem in the villages and droughts continue to plague these intensely deserted regions with a lack of concerted irrigation protocols, he did report that progress is ahead of schedule in other areas.
With regard to education, Sachs heralded the successes brought about the by the hiring of teachers and construction of new schools in the villages. Moreover, he argued for the continued practice of midday feeding programs and security for female students to prolong steady jumps in school attendance.
In addition, Sachs argued that simple healthcare provisions — including the introduction of ambulances to the villages, as well as the opening of emergency care clinics — has vastly improved the general health of the populations of the Millennium villages. He urged for more support when it comes to the provision of mosquito nets to combat malaria and easier access to prescription drugs to treat diseases such as AIDS. Overall, Sachs concluded that while donor aid is leveling, more international aid from countries such as China and the Middle East is necessary.
In a flash, Sachs was off the stage and on to the next event in his busy schedule, a lecture at the New York Public Library’s main branch downtown. He emphasized that time is running short for success in the Millennium Villages, but succeeded in alerting the audience to the profound sense of optimism pervading these times. He said he hoped that perhaps the United States (under a new President) and other countries will begin to take the challenges of the Millennium Development Goals more seriously in the days to come.