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Brad Pitt sang his praises at the ONEXONE fundraiser, and George Soros donated $50 million to the program which he directs, the UN Millennium Project. Bono and Madonna are also big supporters, and Angelina Jolie has filmed an MTV special promoting his work.

So who is this man that so many stars are looking up to? Jeffrey Sachs is considered the leading economic advisor of his generation; he has been called “the most important economist in the world” by The New York Times Magazine. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan regarding the Millennium Development Goals; has worked as an economic advisor to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the former Yugoslavia, the former Soviet Union, Asia, and Africa; and has advised organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank, the OECD, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Development Programme. He is the Director of The Earth Institute, and President and Co-Founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty.

But what really has people talking is the Millennium Villages he is helping to create as part of the UN Millennium Project. In 2004 the project implemented a plan to greatly reduce poverty by using practical, affordable means and empowering the people most affected by the condition.

The most impoverished know what help they require, making the key principle for each Village community empowerment, participation and leadership. Together they aim to create an African Green Revolution working with the environment to increase food production to a secure level, so that the people can then focus on non-agricultural endeavors.

There are currently 12 Millennium Villages, with the hope of creating 66 more in the next year. The first Millennium Village began in Sauri,Kenya, with a village consisting of little more than 5,200 people with the strong desire to improve their own lives. The funding for the project came mostly from the Kenyan government and the village, with under half of the funds coming from international aid.

At the start of the project most of Sauri’s farmers were harvesting less than a ton of maize per hectare – not enough to feed a household from one season to the next – so two maize hybrids were introduced to the village by the UN Millennium Project Hunger Task Force. The villagers received fertilizer, were taught fallow farming techniques and shown how to use leguminous crops to help enrich the soil. This new knowledge combined with a season of good rains to create a bumper crop of four tons per hectare, four times what they had previously grown.

Producing food is just one step that the project has taken. It provides for improved food storage facilities, bed-nets to stop malaria-carrying mosquitoes, free clinics with AIDS antiretroviral therapies and vaccinations to fight diseases, agro-forestry education, sinking of wells for safe drinking water, and bringing in generators for village electricity. The cost per person is $110 per year.

All of this is hard to imagine, but a video of Angelina Jolie at the Sauri village available on YouTube clearly illustrates what is happening. In fact, Jolie is so impressed with what she has seen that she and Brad Pitt plan to build a Millennium Village in Cambodia.

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