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The Big Push – A Panacea to Rural Development and Achievement of Millennium Development Goals? The Case of Millennium Villages in Kenya


Research Institutions:

Development Research Institute (IVO), Tilburg University, The Netherlands, Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis - KIPPRA (Nairobi, Kenya)




From ‘development to poverty reduction’ sums up the trajectory of the development discourse in Africa over nearly five decades since the advent of self-rule. Africa is the only continent in the world that has grown poorer in the last 25 years, whereby approximately 50% of its current population live in absolute poverty (survive on less than $1 per day). The continent is the only region where the incidence of poverty could worsen by 2015 (AfDB, 2003). Rural poverty accounts for nearly 63 percent of poverty worldwide, reaching between 65 and 90 percent in sub-Saharan Africa (Khan, 2000).

It is argued that Africa requires a big push in public investments to produce a large step increase in its underlying productivity, both rural and urban to escape the development trap and meet the Millennium Development Goals (The UN Millennium Project, 2005, Sachs et al, 2004, Collier, 2006). It has also often been argued that poverty traps happen because poor people do not save enough and foreign aid is needed to bridge the savings-investment gap. The role of foreign aid is therefore to increase the capital stock beyond a certain threshold level, which is required to lift households out of subsistence to a self-sustaining path (take-off) through savings and public investments financed by taxation (Sachs, 2005). This is the idea behind the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), which is a bottom-up approach to development aimed at eliminating extreme poverty in rural Africa, with specific interventions in rural & urban development, health, education, human resources, gender equality, science, technology & innovation, regional integration priorities and public sector management policies.

However, after decades of capital transfers to Africa and numerous studies of the empirical relationship between aid and growth, the effectiveness of foreign aid in achieving these objectives remains questionable. The Sub-Saharan African experience reveals that large volumes of aid have been received but they have not translated into self-sustained growth as hypothesized (Erixon, 2005, Easterly, 1997). In addition, the MVP approach is quite similar to earlier development approaches that called for increasing agricultural productivity to foster development, which did not yield the desired outcomes (see World Development Report, 1982, Adelman, 1984, Mellor and Johnston, 1984). With renewed calls for increased aid by international donors, there is no discussion on how aid will be made to work this time round given the past experience. The question is, will these future increases in aid lift people out of poverty once and for all and launch a process of self-sustained growth?

This study seeks to answer the following questions. What are the channels and processes through which the MVP interventions (specifically increasing agricultural productivity) impact on MDG indicators (especially ending extreme poverty)? Is there evidence of transition from zero or negative savings to positive savings, investment (especially in off-farm activities) and growth as hypothesized under the MVP? What are the existing local institutions within these processes, and do they support or impede the achievement of the set goals? To what extent is the MVP locally owned and what is the extent of participation by the local community in planning and implementation of the MVP? How scalable is the MVP approach? How does this development approach fit into the national development plan? Is the development approach sustainable?

To answer these questions, Sauri Millennium Village in Siaya district, Kenya will be used as a case study. Sauri has been termed as a success story of the MVP. A household survey (through use of questionaires) will be carried out, in addition to focus group discussions. A sample of about 300 households will be selected from Sauri and the additional nine villages within the MVP project. A value chain analysis will be undertaken to analyze the various channels through which the interventions impact on the MDG indicators (especially MDG 1) and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the existing processes within the MVP interventions. In addition, analysis of value chain governance will give an insight into the power relations within the millennium villages and also highlight the role of existing institutions. A qualitative approach will be used to analyze whether the MVP process is scalable and sustainable.


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