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New Millennium Village in Ghana aims to show it doesn’t cost much to raise children and their families out of poverty

A new Millennium Village has been created in northern Ghana to help assess how effectively a range of low-cost initiatives can lift people out of poverty.

While economic development and oil have boosted the standard of living across southern Ghana, an estimated six million people in the north still live below the poverty line and this number is increasing. The new Millenium Village Project (MVP) is located in an area which straddles two of the north’s poorest regions – West Mamprusi and Builsa. Here, 34 communities with a population of around 27,000 people are expected to benefit from the scheme.

As the MVP team leader explained to The Guardian, many of the region’s problems stem from its inaccessibility and remoteness. So for example, the nearest healthcare facility is more than 30 kilometres away. Even where locals have access to services, such as education, the quality is “very low”. For example, due to a lack of classrooms, schools have to split the pupils into morning and afternoon sessions. The region also suffers from poor access to clean water – some children have to walk 6 kilometres to fetch water – and high levels of food insecurity. It’s common for families to run out of food half-way through the year.

Part-funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, the MVP will have funds equivalent to around 150 dollars per person each year. As with other MVP sites (including one in southern Ghana), the project aims to provide a package of interventions in agriculture, education, health and infrastructure. The aim is to demonstrate that if a small amount is spent wisely and with a focus on long-term benefits, the overall cost of lifting people out of poverty can be very low. The results of the scheme will be independently evaluated, so that any successes will be proven and validated.

To keep costs low, some of the investment to locals will be paid out in the form of loans. So for example, farmers will receive loans for equipment, fertilisers or seeds, which they will then be required to pay back from the profits of improved harvests. Such business development is seen as a vital part of leaving the community more self-reliant in five years’ time.

The aim is also to improve prosperity through ensuring a healthier community. The MVP has a target to increase the number of children sleeping under insecticide-treaded bed nets to 80% and to half the under-five mortality rate. With high population growth straining resources, there is also a target to increase the use of contraception to 35%. The MVP also aims to meet a 90% enrolment rate for children finishing primary school. All these tasks, with a very small budget, will be a challenge, but the MVP team leader hopes northern Ghana can prove that “a small amount of money [can] go a long way”.

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