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But how, Mr. Clemens asked, can “low cost” be judged if full expenditure figures for all the projects aren’t published?

The full figure is critical for knowing whether the money could have been better spent elsewhere, he said. “That’s the whole point. It’s to figure out what to do with scarce aid resources.”

Mr. Sachs said releasing those figures served no purpose. “We are not trying to demonstrate what the Earth Institute can do. We are trying to demonstrate what can be done on the ground at a certain cost, with a certain budget, in a certain way.”

Some also think Mr. Sachs‘ approach encourages dependence.

Dambisa Moyo, Zambian-born author of “Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working, and How There is a Better Way for Africa,” wrote in a Huffington Post editorial: “The aid interventions that Mr. Sachs lauds as evidence of success are merely Band-Aid solutions that do nothing to lift Africa out of the mire — leaving the continent alive, but half drowning, still unable to climb out on its own.”

Mr. Sachs said he is being unfairly targeted, given the level of waste that exists in the aid sector.

He said much of the progress being made throughout Africa is “precisely because of the kinds of interventions that we’ve been championing and calling for,” such as more fertilizer, better seeds, malaria-preventing bed nets and trained community health workers.

Mr. Sachs‘ continues to attract funding and support for the project.

“He’s one of the most charismatic, persuasive people in the world. I’ve seen people bend over crying at his speeches,” said Mr. Clemens. “He knows how to move people, and that’s a beautiful thing.”