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Evaluating the Millennium Villages: Reply to the MVP + Upcoming Seminar with Comments from Jeff Sachs

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

The following post was co-authored by Michael and Gabriel.

The Millennium Village Project (MVP) is an important, experimental package of interventions that the United Nations and Columbia University are testing in 14 villages across Africa. The MVP offers a tremendous opportunity to learn whether such interventions can catalyze self-sustaining growth and escape from extreme poverty. But the evaluation approaches currently being used cannot generate convincing evidence of the Project’s impacts. Without such evidence, it will be impossible to generate the billions of dollars needed to scale up the Project approach across Africa, as its proponents hope to do.

We have written a new research paper (summarized here and here) that proposes small and inexpensive modifications to the MVP evaluation approach that would make it possible to evaluate the Project’s impacts.

That paper has generated much discussion, including reports in the Financial Times and in a major newspaper in Kenya. The Project itself has issued a lengthy official response by Pronyk, McArthur, Singh, and Sachs. We welcome this public debate as a way to improve learning about what works in development. We answer below the main questions posed in the Project’s response, much of which rests on a basic misunderstanding.

Benin under water

Daniel Sellen's picture

I've written before about floods in Niger and Abidjan, but these experiences left me poorly prepared for what I saw in Benin a few days ago.

Half the country is under water, and it's still raining.

We recently received a request from the President of Benin to assist with recent flooding. I was asked to go take a look, get a feel for the scale of the problem, find out what Government and donors were doing about it, and make some recommendations for Bank action.

 After booking my flight, I did a Google search which revealed no details, even from OCHA, the UN's humanitarian branch. So I was sceptical about finding the type of damage I had seen elsewhere in the region over the past two months. If there was a big problem, the international press didn't seem to know about it. If they did, perhaps they were too tired of Haiti, Pakistan, or spoiling the euphoria following the rescued miners.

Growth, innovation, and transport

Many people recognize that access to adequate transport services is vital for development.  Since 1987, the Sub-Saharan Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP)—a partnership driven by 36 countries—has been working with governments and regional organizations to enhance the policy and regulation environment for transport, both to facilitate growth and to lift people out of poverty.  One of the

Les leçons tirées de l'intégration européenne sont-elles pertinentes pour l'Afrique?

Dirk Reinermann's picture

Read this post In English

Alors que j’ai récemment quitté l'Afrique du Sud pour m’installer en Belgique, une question s’impose à moi : l’Union européenne et ses six décennies d'intégration constituent-ils un exemple pertinent pour l'Afrique ? Ou alors est-ce comme comparer des pommes avec des mangues ?

Is our Tanzanian children learning?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

I was reminded of former US President George Bush’s question about American children when I saw the results of a recent NGO-led survey of 40,000 children in Tanzania.  The picture is sobering: 

  • About 20 percent of the children who had completed seven years of primary school could not read their own language, Kiswahili, at the Grade 2 level;
  • Half of them could not read English, which is the medium of instruction in secondary education; 
  • And about 30 percent could not do a simple (Grade 2) multiplication problem. 

 

Interestingly, Tanzania has seen dramatic increases in primary school enrolments—so much so that the country won a Millennium Development Goals award for achievements in primary education. 


To better understand the relationship between these different findings, I interviewed Rakesh Rajani of Twaweza, the NGO that conducted the survey, on the margins of the Open Forum at the recent World Bank-IMF Annual Meetings.  

We discussed why and how they did the study, what the results mean, and what to do with them.

Shanta Devarajan interviews Rakesh Rajani Vimeo.

  

Download MP3

Evaluating the Millennium Villages

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

Here’s the quick summary of a new working paper I have co-authored with Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development:

When is the rigorous impact evaluation of development projects a luxury, and when a necessity? We study one high-profile case where it is a necessity: the Millennium Villages Project (MVP), an experimental intervention in rural Africa. We compare development trends inside versus outside the villages in three countries, and show that estimates of the project’s effects depend heavily on the evaluation method.

The impact evaluation currently planned by the MVP is unlikely to yield adequate estimates of its effects on Africans in general, for five reasons we explain. But it is not too late to carefully measure the project’s effects, by making small and inexpensive changes to the next wave of the project.

Michael’s own blog post gives more details about the paper. The paper uses publicly-available data from the MVP mid-term evaluation report and Demographic and Health Surveys  (DHS). Field visits played no role in the study.

But after the study I found myself wanting to learn more about a couple of the places behind the statistics. So after we completed the analysis, during September 26-28, I took a trip with several World Bank colleagues to the western edge of Kenya. We visited two village clusters in Nyanza Province: first the MVP site in Bar-Sauri, and then the town of Uranga, 50 km to the west, which is not an MVP site.

Here’s a picture of me pressing the flesh with the kids at Nyamninia Primary School in Bar-Sauri:

Delivering Aid Differently – The New Reality of Aid

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

This month Homi Kharas and I published a book titled “Delivering Aid Differently – Lessons from the Field”. We launched the book yesterday at the University of Nairobi.  Here is a summary of the main messages:

We live in a new reality of aid. Rich countries delivered US$ 3.2 trillion of aid to poor countries between 1960 and 2008, and it is a US$ 200 billion dollar industry today. Despite disputes and convulsions, the core of the aid industry has changed little over the past few decades. Now the new pressures on the aid systems may be too strong to resist fundamental change.

On the riots in Mozambique: Are subsidies the solution?

Antonio Nucifora's picture

Portuguese version here

The recent riots in Maputo were triggered by increases in the cost of living, and they raised concerns of a possible repeat of the 2008 food and fuel price crisis around the world. 

But this time the riots were at least as much the result of misguided domestic policies as of international price volatility. 

Africa's great strides towards the MDGs

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

This week’s Millennium Summit has given data mavens like myself motivation to take a second look at the development indicators for the countries where they work.

For Kenya (my current focus, along with Sudan) a rich source of information is the recently published report for the 2008-09 Demographic and Health Survey.

Below I’ve graphed several indicators from the Kenya DHS from 1998, 2003, and 2008-09. We see that there have been substantial gains along several lines. School attendance rates rose with the introduction of free primary education earlier in the decade. Vaccination rates increased sharply between 2003 and 2008. Access to improved water sources also expanded, and phone access jumped as the mobile revolution hit Kenya.

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