• Bill Thomas, Leadership |

A lot of progress has been made in alleviating poverty in the world over the past 30 years. The number of people living in poverty was halved between 1990 and 2010, meeting the Millennium Development Goals, along with other critical accomplishments including halving the under 5 mortality rate and increasing the number of girls attending school. 

But the fact remains that there are still close to 700 million people living in extreme poverty globally – with 400 million of those people living in Africa. 

Some innovative thinking for fighting extreme poverty has come through The Millennium Villages Project (MVP), which was started in 2005 as an effort to directly improve conditions in some of the most impoverished communities in Africa.  

One of communities identified by the MVP was Kiuyu Mbuyuni, a village on Pemba Island in Tanzania that suffered from poverty, a lack of basic sanitation and electricity, no health services for pregnant women and inadequate education resources that enabled just 6 percent of children to complete primary education.

KPMG became involved in Kiuyu Mbuyuni through our Global Head of Citizenship, Lord Michael Hastings, who visited the village and became a passionate advocate for our helping this community.

Over the course of 6 years, to 2016, KPMG firms from 25 countries contributed funds, resources and skills to help build the local economy, create jobs, deliver better healthcare and sanitation and improve education opportunities. I’m extremely proud that KPMG has invested more than US$2.2 million to help improve the lives and futures of the people of Kiuyu Mbuyuni. 

But more than the money that has been invested, it is the value of the expertise and knowledge of KPMG people that has made the biggest difference and that shows the value business can bring in tackling poverty and improving communities.

An unlikely superhero: seaweed.

You may not know that seaweed is used in producing a number household products. And seaweed was plentiful in Kiuyu Mbuyuni – but it was more of a nuisance than anything to fishermen in the community. But with the help of KPMG people’s research and planning, the village identified that more of the bothersome seaweed could be turned into opportunity. In 2011, just under 1,200 farmers were growing seaweed and other high-value agricultural commodities. By 2016, this figure had more than doubled to almost 2,500 farmers, in part due to 12km of improved and maintained roads that helps ensure year-round access to production sites and faster transportation routes to market.

Thanks to harvesting seaweed and other economic improvements and investments, the village of Kiuyu Mbuyuni is already generating seven-figure (US$) revenues from local economic activities. As a result, the quality of life for the 10,000 people of the community is being transformed by improvements in education, health, infrastructure and agriculture. 

Extending our commitment

Last month we committed to a new investment in Kiuyu Mbuyuni – the opening of a library equipped with e-readers from Worldreader. Through this collaboration, local students will have access to hundreds of local and international digital titles to contribute to their education.

It is part of KPMG’s wider commitment to literacy and helping to enable lifelong learning. 

The Kiuyu Mbuyuni MVP is of course just one community. But I think it sends a powerful message about what is possible when business and civil society come together to focus on sustainable solutions to eliminating poverty.

To learn more about the Kiuyu Mbuyuni MVP, read KPMG’s report on our investment and follow Michael Hastings and myself on Twitter for updates.

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