Here is my blog post from our most recent posting day in Global Studies. We’ve discussed so many interesting things regarding development in my classes that I’ve wanted to blog about, but just haven’t found the time. This blog was a great way for me to blog about some of the ideas that I was really interested in from my other classes. I’ll try to be better about blogging more often than every two weeks as I continue to get into the swing of things here.
There is a lot of overlap between this class and my Politics of Developing Areas class. It ends up being really interesting to see different takes on similar issues, and to be able to pull things from each to get a more complete picture of the development issue. When I picked poverty, inequality, and health I knew I’d have to narrow it down to be able to create short blog posts. Something we’ve been discussing in my other class is property titles, and their importance in helping to eradicate poverty. I found this to be really interesting because it isn’t something I’d thought of as a way to eradicate poverty.
As I was researching I found an article called “Rural Livelihoods and Poverty Reduction Strategies in Four African Countries” published in The Development Journal. It’s a really long article, so for today I just focused on section IV called “The Asset Status of Rural Livelihoods in the Four Countries”. This section was really interesting because it both agreed and disagreed with the idea that property titles are an easy way to put people on the path to poverty. This section focused on the importance of gaining assets, and used a step method to provide a way for people to continue gaining assets where they could essentially trade chickens for goats, and so forth until they had herds or larger amounts of land. I think this idea of trading up is really important; so often people buy one thing and then need to purchase one thing rather than reinvesting into something that would gain them more money in the long term. I think one of the hardest parts of development is looking long term because everyone always wants to see results immediately, which just isn’t possible if real change is being created.
Another thing I found really interesting in this article was the difference in how villages defined poverty and how economists define poverty. For villagers poverty is defined as social exclusion whereas economists define poverty as not being able to reach a designated minimum consumption level. I think that is one of they key miscommunication points that causes so many aid projects to fall short in the end. Aid packages are only going to work if the people receiving the aid believe in and understand what the project is. If economists and villagers don’t even have the same definition of poverty I think mutual understanding regarding foreign aid is highly unlikely.
One other thing I found really interesting was a comparison between the top, middle, and third sectors of Ugandan society. The top two sections were relatively similar in the five categories measured, but then the bottom third was much lower across the board. The one thing that was most similar among them all was education level, which is interesting because education is so often viewed as a benchmark to escape poverty, but that isn’t necessarily the case. My thought about this is that many developing countries provide free primary school education (or at least I know Kenya does) to children. This means that even the poorest children can achieve some level of education which helps to level the playing field between the class levels. A question that I could raise here is whether or not there was quality difference in the education received by the different thirds. Any education is good, but a quality education will definitely set someone up better than a bad one.
This article suggested that livestock ownership was the best indicator of how well off a family was because it provided the greatest number of options to sustain the family. If a family owns an entire herd of livestock, they can then sell/trade a few for other necessities, they can sell animals to invest in land, they can eat the animals themselves; there are tons of ways to utilize the livestock for gain. Livestock and land ownership are the two areas in which the bottom third are significantly lower than the upper two-thirds in this study, which I think indicates that they are two areas which can create the biggest difference in eradicating extreme poverty.
This article covers a variety of topics such as improving healthcare, backwards public service organizations, the importance of resources on childhood development, and gender biases. I think I’ll probably spend a lot of time continuing to develop ideas from this article (its over 100 pages) as it seems to offer a pretty comprehensive look at poverty in African countries.