Tracking One Man’s Quest to End Extreme Poverty

Added: 08-14-2018

The Millennium Villages Project, the brainchild of renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs, is a continent-wide project in Africa to create villages that are free of extreme poverty. Beginning in 2006, a dozen villages were infused with cash and resources with the goal of eradicating poverty. A decade on, the results have been debatable.

poverty community unsustainable broken Millennium Villages Project Nina Munk theory in action infrastructure sustainable sustainable development extreme UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) The End of Poverty Jeffrey Sachs development

Type Reading Time Author Date Source
article 28 minutes TINY SPARK 09-18-2013
Type Reading Time
article 28 minutes
Author Date
Tiny Spark 2018-08-14 00:00:00 UTC
Key Takeaways

  • The Millennium Villages Project is Jeff Sachs’ attempt to apply his developmental theory that poverty is overcomable with enough resources in the right place.
  • Obstacles eventually created setbacks, bringing into question the overall success of the project.


In this podcast, Tiny Spark interviews journalist Nina Munk to shed light on The Millennium Villages Project, an experiment developed, funded and implemented by Jeffrey Sachs. The project endowed 12 villages scattered across Africa with millions of dollars in resources and cash under the premise that if spent on sustainable development, these communities could lift themselves out of poverty. Nina Munk spent over six years investigating and visiting the project sites. While Munk has strong criticism, she admits this project stands as one of the best examples of an optimistic outsider attempting to uplift communities through a massive influx of resources. This ambitious project was initiated in 2006, following the release of Sachs’s best selling book, The End of Poverty, in which he argues that eradicating extreme poverty is possible if you have enough resources and spend them properly.

Munk explains that the results were positive at first, though as the years went on, problems began to emerge.

Eventually, Munk noticed that disillusioned villagers were not using the infrastructure provided for them, and the unintended consequences began to grow. Examples ranged from abandoned cattle trading markets to broken water pumps remaining unfixed for years. Munk’s observations led her to realize the large gap between western academic theory and the harsh realities they face when implemented.

At one point she boldly concludes, “everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.” She also explained that this project opened her eyes to how successful economic development theory can often contrast greatly with real world application. Munk’s book critiquing the project is called The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty.