This article is from the ( RED ) edition of The Independent of 21 September 2006, guest-designed by Giorgio Armani. Half the revenue from the edition will be donated to the Global Fund to Fight Aids.

In the village where aid makes a vital difference

Elvis runs through his grandfather's field, laughing and shouting. He runs past banana trees and cassava plants, onions and beans. Past the sweet potatoes and millet, over the sorghum and soya beans.

When Elvis was born, just two years ago, this two-acre plot of land in the village of Silula, part of the Sauri area in Kisumu, western Kenya, grew only maize. The yield was poor and Elvis's grandfather, Edward Oyier, was beginning to wonder if he would ever manage to grow enough on his land to feed his family.

It was the same story elsewhere in Sauri. Two thirds of the 5,000-strong population were living below the poverty line, on less than $1 (55p) a day. Health problems were chronic. The prevalence for malaria was 43 per cent, for HIV 24 per cent. Two fifths of all children under five years old were malnourished, while one in four children did not reach the age of five. One in 10 mothers died during childbirth. But in Elvis's short life, much has changed. The 11 villages in Sauri have been turned into a giant experiment. With a budget of just $110 per person per year, the Millennium Villages Project is trying to prove aid money can make a difference.

Food production, nutrition and health. Education, roads and energy. Water, sanitation and the environment. Nothing is left off the list. Agriculturalists have been brought in to teach new farming methods. A health clinic has been set up providing free health care. A school feeding programme has been established, providing children with at least one good meal a day. The government has agreed to provide electricity and carry out road maintenance. Water points have been introduced, giving residents clean drinking water for the first time.

Two years into the project, set up last year by the economist Jeffrey Sachs as part of the UN Millennium Development Goals, the results have been staggering. Maize yield has tripled. Malaria rates have more than halved. The primary school, which was failing, is now in the top 10 in the province.

Standing in a massive storage warehouse surrounded by thousands of 90kg bags of maize, Mary Asiko, 65, beams with pride.

Last year, she produced 10 bags of maize; this year she has 30. "Not only do we have enough food now, but we have a lot of knowledge. We are working towards sustainability. We are taking all the teaching seriously to make sure the young people can take over." Ten per cent of the harvest is now used for the school feeding programme.

As dinner time begins at Bar Sauri primary school, children sprint across the playing fields to the newly built kitchen. The school's headmaster, Joseph Lanyo, looks on as his pupils queue for their beef and vegetables with ugali, a staple food made from maize.

"The children used to go home for lunch - sometimes there would be nothing there," he says. "Some of them would not come back in the afternoon. When we used to do athletics some of them would faint."

But, since the introduction of school dinners, the pupils' school test results have improved dramatically. Bar Sauri has gone from being 198th in the province to seventh. The difference, said Mr Lanyo, is food. "They are not hungry and they are here. It is simple." Improved nutrition has also led to better health. A new clinic, fully staffed and providing free healthcare, has helped. The drop in malaria rates owes much to a decision to give every resident a mosquito net treated with insecticide.

A new clinic, agriculturalists, clean water points. With all that attention, it is no surprise such startling results have been achieved in Sauri. But the key to Sauri's success has not been a huge lump of cash. The Millennium Village Project itself has spent just $50 per person each year. A further $20 has been given by other donors. Government has spent $30, the community has contributed $10 each. In total, the project costs $110 for each person every year.

The $70 per capita provided by donors is the exact sum the rich world is committed to spend on development in Africa every year. By 2010 the G7 countries (it is G7 not G8 - this is finance, Russia isn't included) have pledged to raise that to $100 a head. If the results in Sauri are replicated in the 11 other projects across 10 African countries it could fundamentally change the way aid is delivered.

Professor Sachs said: "The point of this is not about transferring money. It is about investing in very practical things."

Elvis's grandfather, Mr Oyier, plans to sell his new crops. "I will live on maize, but these are my cash crops," he said. "Lack of knowledge was a big problem but now everything has changed tremendously.

"Elvis should regard himself as a lucky one. He has a chance for a very good life."

Voices of the children

Harun, 13, Kenya

Harun is at his happiest when he is in a classroom. "When there is no noise and we are busy reading. That is a good day for me," he said.

Secondary education, which Kenyans do not begin until 14, is expensive. Harun's parents, who live in the slum of Korogocho near Nairobi, cannot afford the 30,000 Kenyan shillings (£240) to send him to school next year. He has eight brothers and sisters.

"I just want to learn so I will search for a sponsor. I want to be a pilot. "When I have a job I will live in Hurlingham [Nairobi] where rich people stay."

Jacky Akongo, 16, Uganda

Jacky is an Aids orphan with two brothers and three younger sisters and is responsible for all of them; her parents died of Aids. The family, who were displaced by the war in Uganda, live in one room with no electricity. The children sleep in the room, which measures no more than 12 feet by 10. They live off what Jacky earns by giving talks to young people about HIV.

She is still in school and would like to go on to study law at university. "If there was no war, we would have enough to eat. It is difficult to study when you are hungry," she says.

Mohammed, 13, Ethiopia

"I go to school in the morning, at seven, and in the afternoon I go to the agricultural plots and work there," says Mohammed, who lives with his two sisters, brother, mother and father in the village of Agajin. Most villagers in the Somali region are small farmers. But he doesn't want to be a farmer. "I'd like to be a teacher," he says.

He hopes to move to Jijiga, 30km away, to continue with his education. He has been at school for three years thanks to Save the Children projects which cater for 3,500 children in his region.

Mohammed, 10, Sudan

Mohammed fled his village in Darfur, west Sudan, seven months ago when Janjaweed Arab militiamen attacked. "They told us to leave," he says. "I ran away with my mother and sister. I don't know what happened to my father."

He lives in a child centre run by the International Rescue Committee, where Mohammed and his friends can be allowed to be children. "When I'm not here, I work," he says. "I rent a donkey... then I go out to collect water, sell it in the camp and split what I earn with the donkey owner. I make 250 Dinars ($1) a day."

Yusuf Hajji, Kenya

Yusuf Hajji looks to be seven or eight, but he does not know his age. "People have never told me my age so I don't know," he said. He is playing with a friend outside a primary school in Korogocho, a slum housing 200,000 people in Nairobi.

Kenya introduced free primary education three years ago, but Yusuf has never been. Instead he does odd jobs for his mother or collects water or plays.

"We have no money so I can't go to school," he says. "If I could choose a birthday present I would choose school. I want to go to school."

Sherldeen Boucher, 7, South Africa

Like many children her age, Sherldeen Boucher is full of life. She hopes to complete school and become a doctor, but she is not aware of the obstacles that can unravel her dream. She was born HIV positive and drugs constitute her regular diet, thanks to St Barnard's Hospice in Johannesburg.

Her mother died of Aids when she was three months old and she was adopted by her mother's best friend, who is also HIV positive. Sherldeen does not know her father, who vanished before she was born.

Africa by numbers

19,000 children die daily from easily curable diseases

80% of children under the age of 15 who suffer from HIV are living in Africa

17% of Africa's labour force is estimated to be made up of children

25% of children between the ages of 10 and 14 in Africa are involved in labour

100,000 children believed to be begging on the streets by the Senegal government

21% of Kenya's children are not attending school

130,000 children estimated to be living on Nairobi's streets

200,000 children are orphans in Rwanda

voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game