Africa has the greatest proportion of people living in extreme poverty -- more than 32 percent, or roughly 300 million people, living on less than $1 a day. The factors contributing to this situation -- including environmental, epidemiological and geographical challenges, among others -- are multitudinous, extremely complex and systemic. Professionals wishing to help rural communities lift themselves out of extreme poverty must, therefore, possess an ever growing ability to distance themselves from their traditional training and specialization in order to see the bigger picture of how all of the issues -- and possible solutions -- are interrelated.
The Millennium Village Simulation is a Web-based simulation of economics and survival for one family and their village in sub-Saharan Africa. By making decisions regarding both village priorities and the family’s allocation of time and financial resources, users develop a greater understanding of the manifold disciplines—such as agronomy, nutrition, economics, epidemiology, public health and development management—that constitute sustainable development and how those disciplines interact with each other in “real world” scenarios. Users can experiment with different simulation configurations to see the cascading effects of subsidies and other potential interventions on systemic models such as agricultural, logistical growth, climatological, disease, and subsistence/health, all of which are introduced through the environment and with explanations and tutorials about the models and their role in the simulation. Developed with Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute, the Millennium Village Simulation is freely available to students, professional sustainable development practitioners and the general public.