10 November 2008

Villager Ventures ~ Learning from Millennium...

Nice update in the FT recently by Alan Beattie titled UN village project boosts Africa on Millennium Villages which I first wrote about earlier this year worrying that this was a bit top-down. Indeed, Beattie writes:
"A United Nations experiment designed to boost health, agriculture and education in African villages has shown “remarkable results” but could be difficult to replicate at a national level, an independent study has found. [The project] has sought to showcase the benefits of heavy investment using 12 groups of settlements across 10 countries. In a new study, the Overseas Development Institute, a London think-tank, found there was “considerable evidence of significant improvements at household and village levels in the health and agriculture sectors”. But it said the project’s reliance on highly trained staff meant it could be hard to replicate at a national level."

"One critic of the project, Michael Clemens, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, points to a similar donor-funded initiative – the Southwest Poverty Reduction Project in China between 1995-2000. Within five years of subsidised inputs ending, the villages were no better off than those that had not benefited. “What creates sustained growth and poverty reduction is the interaction of village economies with towns and the wider world economy – not pouring in vast amounts of resources to an isolated community,” he says."
I really applaud this as an effort to aggressively explore how to influence villages to be more prosperous, more vibrant, and more effective for the villagers. But, based on our MIT experience with Development Ventures, what I suspect is most needed are a new set of grassroots-oriented Villager Ventures, organizations supplying both village-scale solutions -- e.g. energy like BlueEnergy, health services like ClickDiagnostics, delivery services like United Villages, and more -- as well as household-scale solutions -- e.g. biogas energy by FertilGas, solar lighting by SELCO, and more -- all on a for-profit basis that compensates and motivates an entire food-chain of entrepreneurial people.

No comments: