In the latest episode of Development Drums, I talk to the journalist and author Nina Munk about Jeff Sachs and the Millennium Villages Project, and the lessons for development cooperation more broadly.

The Millennium Villages Project is based on the idea that impoverished villages can transform themselves and meet the Millennium Development Goals by investing in health, food production, education, access to clean water, and essential infrastructure.  The project was developed by Jeffrey Sachs, who is (among other things) Director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Adviser to the Secretary General of the United Nations on the Millennium Development Goals.

Nina Munk has tracked the progress of the Millennium Villages Project over the last six year. She accompanied Sachs on his official trips to Africa, and sat in on his meetings with Heads of State and others.  She also spent time in two Millennium villages: Ruhiira, in southwest Uganda, and Dertu, in Kenya on the border with Somalia.

Nina Munk’s recent book, “The Idealist”, is primarily about Jeffrey Sachs and the Millennium Villages Project, but it also provides important insights into development cooperation more broadly.  She approaches the topic not as a cynic or a sceptic, but as someone who wants to believe in the good that aid can do.  Yet she is ultimately pessimistic about what the project can achieve, despite the good intentions behind it.

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Owen Barder

Owen is CEO of Precision Agriculture for Development. He has worked in the office of the UK Prime Minister, the British Treasury, the Department for International Development; and at the Center for Global Development.


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