Ghana has made remarkable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Two decades of sustained economic growth, free and fair elections, political stability, and relatively strong institutions have led to significant poverty reduction. Some 5 million people have lifted themselves out of poverty thanks to growth, and the absolute number of poor decreased from 7.9 million in 1991/92 to 7.2 million in 1998/99 and to a further 6.2 million in 2005/06.
While these national statistics are impressive, they mask a significant sharp disparity in performance between regional geographic areas. Evidence shows that the northern savannah is not only significantly poorer, but also that progress towards the MDGs in this area has been much slower.
The next few years will be crucial for Ghana. The country will need to tackle a set of challenges recognized by the Government that include the following:
- Over 6 million people live below the national poverty line and most of them are concentrated in the northern savannah ecological zone;
- There are major regional inequalities, with the northern regions being significantly poorer than other regions;
- Progress towards a number of critical MDGs (i.e. infant and maternal mortality, sanitation, etc.) is slower in these regions than nationally;
- Educational attainment is low countrywide, and worse in the northern regions, with major concerns regarding quality of education;
- Performance of the agriculture sector is weak and a significant percentage of the population are vulnerable to food insecurity;
- Infrastructure development in the northern regions and other rural areas remains very limited; and
- The pace of decentralization and institutional reform requires on-going momentum in order to implement the new Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy.
In an effort to address some of these challenges and accelerate the pace of development in the northern savannah ecological zone, the Government of Ghana established the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA).
The primary goals of Millennium Village in SADA over the next 5 years are to:
- Halve hunger as measured by a reduction in the prevalence of underweight children under 5 years old.
- Increase universal primary education, with a target of at least 90% of children of official school age attending school, as measured by an increase in the net attendance ratio (NAR) in primary education.
- Halve the number of child deaths by reducing the under 5 mortality rate.
- Increase the proportion of the population using an improved sanitation facility.
- Provide agricultural support to farming families.
Other goals include:
- Increase skilled staff delivering basic health care services – for instance, by aiming to increase the proportion of births attended by skilled health workers.
- Remove barriers to family planning services – for instance, by aiming to increase the contraceptive prevalence rate.
- Improve income earning opportunities – such as through increased crop yields, better access to financial services, and promoting cooperatives and small enterprises.
- Strengthen local institutions and community capacity – to increase involvement by the local community and to ensure the sustainability of results.
- Ensure access to quality primary and secondary education, and achieve universal enrollment in primary school.
- Increase access to safer water and improved sanitation – for instance, through constructing ventilated pit latrines, drilling wells, and protecting natural springs.
- Achieve better connectivity within the site and beyond – for instance, through improved roads, extended access to electricity, and greater mobile phone coverage.
A total of 34 communities located in three Area Councils have been pre-selected to form part of the new Millennium Village (MV) cluster. The MV area represents the poorest sections of two District Assemblies.
The effort includes a ten-year independent evaluation of the project, which will examine the various impacts of the project and help to provide evidence on the most effective ways of improving the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.