What else does the MVP evaluation tell us?

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) in Northern Ghana Impact Evaluation is a fully independent, robust evaluation that aims to provide evidence of the impact, sustainability and cost-effectiveness of the Millennium Village Project model. In this blog, we dig deeper into the findings to explore the impact of the MVP on education, agriculture and health.

The MVP aimed to demonstrate how the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) could be achieved locally through an integrated approach to development. As a consequence, it has been our headline findings –  that the project did not reduce poverty and hunger but made a statistically significant impact on seven out of the 28 MDG outcome indicators –  that have gained the most attention so far.

Yet MDG indicators are just one way of evaluating the success of the project, and the indicators as a whole are not definitive, nor do they necessarily reflect the lived realities of people in MVP areas.  That’s why our evaluation took a mixed method approach, consisting of a statistically representative survey of over 2,000 households within 35 villages in the project site and 68 comparison villages. It also included three longitudinal qualitative studies that collected evidence on institutional change, a range of welfare measures and local perspectives.

While the evidence suggests that the MVPs attempts to address multiple challenges at once appears not to have delivered significant results, there have been a range of sector-based improvements.

The impact on health

  • Disease: The MVP had an attributable impact on reducing severe malaria (although not the general incidence of malaria). The project increased vaccination for tuberculosis, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus and measles. There was no discernible impact on common symptoms of diseases such as fever, cough and diarrhoea.
  • Mortality: There was no discernible impact on child mortality, as it is decreasing at similar rates in both the project and comparison areas.
  • Health facilities: The MVP resulted in improvements to health facilities, with increased numbers of people visiting and an increase in reported home visits by CHWs. Some concerns emerged, however, that the CHW visits were driven primarily by project requirements to distribute items and meet output targets.

The impact on education

  • School facilities: The MVP interventions led to improvements in school facilities. Schools in the project villages were generally better funded, with more meals served than by schools in comparison villages.
  • Staffing: The ratio between students and qualified teachers improved in the project villages. This was achieved mostly through the hire of teachers plus the recruitment of community education workers to help reduce teacher deficits. However, teacher recruitment seems to have been at a cost to schools in the comparison villages, which experienced staffing challenges.
  • School attendance: There was a modest progress in attendance ratios in primary schools. Gender parity improved, although it is worth noting that more girls than boys attended before the MVP started, and afterwards it appears that the project increased boys’ attendance. The project did not improve completion rates.
  • Learning outcomes: The evaluation found that the MVP did not improve children’s cognitive skills, an important indicator of educational quality. Although it is still early to judge results, this suggests a significant gap in the education system between children attending school and the quality of their learning.

The impact on agriculture

  • Changes in land use: The MVP encouraged farmers to cultivate larger plots of land, and there were changes in land use and cropping patterns. The size of cultivated land has increased in the project village areas compared with comparison village areas, although as self-reported data, this needs to be interpreted with caution.
  • Agricultural productivity: Productivity in the project villages rose 38% over the MVP period in relation to comparison villages. The improvement is partially explained by increased use of inputs, including fertilisers, good quality seeds, land and tractors – although also by non-project factors like the introduction of a second crop.
  • Agricultural incomes: In both the project and comparison villages, more than 80% of income is generated in the agricultural sector. There was a positive impact on the household incomes in the MVP site, which was generated by the agricultural sector, particularly farming. There was very little impact on alternative sources of income outside the agricultural sector.
  • Food security: The MVP had a large impact on project households that reported not having enough food in the previous 12 months: food security increased in the project area.

While evaluation headlines work to create interest, it is essential that the stories behind them represent the wider view.  By using a range of methodologies and applying them together with a range of qualitative evaluation techniques and rigorous data analyses, we have been able to draw a much bigger picture of the impact of MVP – one that encompasses sector-specific interventions as well as overall poverty reduction.

While evaluation headlines work to create interest, it is essential that the stories behind them represent the wider view.  By using a range of methodologies and applying them together with a range of qualitative evaluation techniques and rigorous data analyses, we have been able to draw a much bigger picture of the impact of MVP – one that encompasses sector-specific interventions as well as overall poverty reduction.

Clare Gorman, Communications Consultant for the MVP Evaluation, December 2018

Links to:

Briefing paper 5 – The Millennium Villages Project: What was the impact on health?

Briefing paper 6 – The Millennium Villages Project: What was the impact on education?

Briefing paper 7 – The Millennium Villages Project: What was the impact on agriculture?

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