ABOUT four years ago, Bonsaaso, a village in the Amansie West District in the Ashanti Region, was selected among other short-listed communities in the Ashanti, Western and Brong Ahafo regions, to benefit from the Millennium Villages Project (MVP).
The selection procedure was rigorous and at the end of the exercise, Bonsaaso won after demonstrating exceptional self-help spirit.
Currently running in a cluster of 30 predominantly farming communities with a total population of some 30,000 in the Amansie West District is the Bonsaaso MVP.
Bonsaaso, lying 37 kilometres away from Manso Nkwanta, the district capital and 57 kilometres from Kumasi, is the nerve centre of the project, hence the name Bonsaaso MVP.
The MVP is an initiative of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Millennium Promise.
It is running in 13 sites in 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Bonsaaso happens to be the only site in Ghana where the project is being undertaken.
Because of the location of Bonsaaso, a number of people may not know the immense benefits being derived by the people of the area as a way of reducing extreme poverty among them.
The MVP is no doubt the single biggest poverty reduction project to surface in the deprived district of Amansie West and if the success achieved by the project in its four years of existence is anything to go by, then the initiators of the project did not make the mistake of selecting Bonsaaso and, for that matter, Amansie West District as the sole beneficiary in Ghana.
It aims at ending extreme poverty and meeting the MDG’s eight globally endorsed targets that address the problems of poverty, health, gender equality and disease.
Initiating a paradigm shift, the Millennium Villages promote an integrated approach to rural development, using evidence-based technologies and strategies in each sector, with sufficient investment over a sufficient period of time.
This approach also combines a critical cost-sharing and planning partnership with local and national governments, and rural African communities, while focusing on capacity building and community empowerment by improving access to clean water, sanitation and other essential infrastructure, education, food production, basic health care, and environmental sustainability.
Millennium Villages ensure that communities living in extreme poverty conditions have a real and sustainable opportunity to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.
Launched on June 1, 2006, the MVP was originally planned to run for five years but a second phase has been planned for 2011-2015.
Bonsaaso is characterised by high levels of malnutrition manifested mainly in protein deficiency in the diet of many of the people.
Consequently, the agricultural strategy of the MVP is focused on how to reverse the situation and thus bring hope to the people. This is manifested in making hybrid seeds and fertilisers easily available to farmers, introduction of quality protein maize on a large scale, and improved extension services to farmers.
Besides, the project is assisting farmers to undertake activities, including fish farming and animal rearing as a way of using them to improve protein deficiency among the people.
To date, about 6,000 farmers have been supported with 43.5 tonnes of improved seed maize, 4.5 tonnes of improved cowpea seeds, 750,000 hybrid cocoa seedlings, 13,894 improved citrus seedlings and 252.4 tonnes of fertiliser to boost agricultural production.
Funding for projects undertaken under the MVP is in three-fold. Millennium Promise and the Japanese government bear 60 per cent of project cost, while the Government of Ghana takes 30 per cent, with the beneficiary community taking one per cent of the cost in the form of communal labour.
Through this system, about 84 different development projects have been initiated in the communities within the Bonsaaso MVP cluster. Some of the projects have been completed while others are ongoing.
Notable among the projects are construction of teachers’ quarters and household latrines, as well as an electrification project, at Dantano.
Among the other communities which have benefited from projects and programmes under the Bonsaaso MVP are Takorase, Afraso, Dadease, Tontokrom, Watreso, Aboaboso, Apenemadi and Yawkasakrom.
Also benefiting under the MVP in the Bonsaaso cluster are communities like Adagya, Numbers One and Two, Assamang, Essienkyem, Wonipanindue, Ayiem, Keniago, Manukrom, Taabosere, Hiamankwa, Dawsoso, Fahiakobo, Kobriso and Akyerekyerekrom.
In all these communities, projects covering electricity, education, environment, health and agriculture, among others have been provided, which have gone a long way to change the face of development of the area and improve the living conditions of the people.
In the health sector, some of the significant benefits the people have derived from the project are increase in the number of health extension workers from zero at the start of the project in 2006 to 38 in 2008; reduction in maternal mortality from 341 per 100,000 births in 2006 to zero in 2008; two functioning health facilities in 2006 to six in 2008.
These and many others have led to a significant improvement in the health of the people.
In educational development, some of the indicators include 71 classroom facilities in good health at the start of the project in 2006 to 93 in 2008, and scholarships for Senior High School (SHS) students rising from nil in 2006 to 29 in 2008.
The MVP has also established a pilot school meals project in the Bonsaaso cluster, where communities and schools are supported to provide low-cost, nutritious meals for pupils on sustainable basis.
From three schools in 2007, the programme now covers 12 out of the 22 primary schools in the cluster, with about 3,248 pupils benefiting from it.
There are many other benefits.
From all indications, the people have come to appreciate the MVP, especially those supporting the funding.
With a committed team of professionals led by the Cluster Manager manning the Bonsaaso MVP, Mr Samuel Afram, the future looks even brighter for the people in this otherwise neglected cluster of communities.
In view of this Mr Afram told this writer during a visit to the cluster recently that, “We have a duty to ensure that we guard this project with the support of the beneficiary communities, to bring hope to the people, and we are committed to delivering on that”.