Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Crisis of Third World Poverty



1. Introduction 3
2. Urban Bias 3
3. Food Crop Versus Cash Crops 3
4. Structural Adjustment Programs 4
5. Limited Access To Agricultural Inputs 5
6. Limited Access To Land 5
7. Rural-Urban Migration 6
8. Gender Imbalance Against Women 7
9. Poor Representation Of The Poor 7
10. Conclusion 8
11. Bibliography 9

1. Introduction.
Poverty is multifaceted. Lele and Adu-Nyako (1992: 95) and De Beer (2000: 7) state that poverty is largely a rural phenomenon. Rural poverty is most common among the third world poor households and manifests itself in a number of ways that include diseases, malnutrition, and hunger (Rakolojane 2000: 19). This paper will discuss the poverty crisis in the third world with the background of poverty being a rural phenomenon. This discussion will look at some of the factors that perpetuate poverty with examples of efforts to combat poverty.

Before looking at these factors, it is important to define or describe poverty as affecting people. The United Nations Development Program distinguishes between income poverty and human poverty (Kotzé 2000: 229). Income poverty refers to a person as being poor when his or her income is lower than the poverty line, which is US$1 per day per person in sub-Saharan Africa (UNDP 1997: 33). Human poverty focuses on the denial of choices and opportunities for living a tolerable life (UNDP 1997: 2).

2. Urban Bias.
In most third world countries, the public expenditure policies have tended to benefit the urban population. Government subsidized services have mainly benefited the better off urban population, leaving few resources for the provision of services to the rural areas (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 101). This has seen most rural areas not receiving many services for its benefit in alleviating poverty. Bryant and White (1982: 280) further argues on the issue of urban bias by stating that although the rhetoric of national plans is that of rural development, the reality of national budgets is more frequently that of urban development. This scenario of channeling more resources to the urban areas at the expense of the rural areas has tended to perpetuate rural poverty in third world countries.

3. Food Crop Versus Cash Crops.
Many third world countries that were once able to feed their own populations are no longer able to do so, with the majority of them becoming net food importers (Bryant and White 1982: 277). There has been a general shift in the production of crops from food crops to cash crops that are mainly for export. The export crops attract better monetary returns for the farmers. Lele and Adu-Nyako (1992: 97) states that food imports increased rapidly between 1974 and 1989, although the per capita food availability declined due (apart from the shift to cash crops) in part to the high rate of population growth. The production of cash crops has mainly been for the increasing of household income. This has however led to greater malnutrition and even hunger within countries as people turn their energies from food crops toward export crops (Bryant and White 1982: 277). The increased cash crop production at the expense of food production is resulting in many household being caught up in the physically weak deprivation trap as described by Robert Chambers (1983: 112-113).

4. Structural Adjustment Programs.
Many third world countries implemented the structural adjustment programme in an effort to uproot poverty. Whilst the performance of the adjustment programme is difficult to measure due, amongst other reasons, to the shift of aid flows in favour of reforming countries, reforms have benefited export producers who are not the real poor in rural areas (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 103). Moreover the reforms required a reduction in public expenditure thus affecting the services that can be made available to the poor in the rural areas. In Malawi, Lele and Adu-Nyako (1992: 103) highlight that the reform, which liberalised the maize markets, adversely affected the poor households although the fiscal impact was positive. The prevailing licensing arrangements in Malawi was such that the poorer small holder farmers could not participate in export crop production in response to the price incentives offered by the structural adjustment.

5. Limited Access To Agricultural Inputs.
Access to agricultural inputs to boost agricultural production by the rural population is essential to the reduction of poverty (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 104). Research into improving agricultural production has tended to overlook the constraints faced by the small farmers in the rural areas. Biotechnology that suits the resources of small-scale farmers who rely on rain fed agriculture is still limited (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 104). Most developed seeds require inputs, which are beyond the reach of rural farmers, and the seeds are no longer subsidized as a result of the structural adjustment. The rural population cannot access credit schemes for improvement in their agriculture nor are they likely to adopt new technology, which they find too risky (Bryant and White 1982: 278). After the land reform in Zimbabwe, many farmers could not access loans to finance their farming activities due to lack of collateral when approaching lending institutions.

6. Limited Access To Land.
Access to land has determined the access to credit (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 105). Population growth has increased pressure on the available land. The limited access to land and the unequal distribution of land and the rights to land remain the most serious problem impeding rural development (Bryant and White 1982: 284). Rakolojane (2000: 20) also points out that the poverty crisis and food production has led to focusing of attention to the question of land and land tenure issues in sub-Saharan Africa. She also highlight that the distribution of land rights for the poor in the third world is a crucial determinant of income distribution and wealth. With land being the resource the rural people have and a source of livelihood for most third world rural people (Bryant and White 1982: 284; Rakolojane 2000: 20), its being unresolved and its limited access perpetuates poverty. The path to sustainable growth for the poor is access to productive assets, the most important of which is land (Rakolojane 2000: 20).

Some governments have put effort to redistribute land equally, however, the challenge of the traditional African land tenure system, of rights of cultivation but not to ownership, may still remain (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 105). Access to land by the poor can be made possible through land redistribution, land tenure reform, and settlement schemes (Rakolojane 2000: 21). Zimbabwe is in the process of redistributing land to the poor, and has also embarked on the land tenure reform process. Rakolojane (2000: 21) highlight that of the three (3) above stated means of access to land by the poor, redistribution has scored some success over the other two (2) in South Africa.

7. Rural-Urban Migration.
Africa has experienced the highest level of rural-urban migration as a result of policies that have discriminated against agriculture and promoted industry (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 98). Cornwell (2000: 128) states that the principal reason for the rural to urban migration is rural poverty, where rural dwellers are virtually pushed to the urban areas where there are better opportunities for an improved life. One interesting point noted by Rakolojane (2000: 21) is that the rural to urban migration that is on the increase within and between countries in southern Africa is transferring rural poverty to urban areas. She also point out that the lack of access to land will continuously lead to the rural-urban migration. Squatter camps have sprung up in many of southern Africa’s urban areas. The camps are a result of inadequate accommodation, which is not affordable to the urban poor.

The majority of people migrating to the urban areas are men, leaving behind women. Migration has had a negative effect on the rural household, with productive potential in Southern Africa suffering as a result of labour depletion (Cliffe 1992). This has resulted in most households being headed by women who now have to perform both productive and reproductive roles and yet still remain household heads. The predominantly male migration has been associated with the neglect of agriculture and the rural sector (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 98).

8. Gender Imbalance Against Women.
Africa has been reported to be having a disproportionately high representation of women in the poverty group (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 98). Lele and Adu-Nyako further highlight that women’s income earning is restricted by the high proportion of dependants, their lesser access to land and productive services, and the gender based division of labor that restricts women to domestic and low wage jobs. Although women are responsible for family and national food production in sub-Saharan Africa, they do not have access to land both under communal tenure and private ownership (Bruce 1993). Low literacy levels of women also place them at a disadvantaged position when seeking employment. With these disadvantages, women remain the population expected to provide for the household in the rural areas. These disadvantages are likely to perpetuate poverty.

Enrolment of women to schools has improved of late, although they still lag behind men (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 98). Women lobbying groups have been working on improving the access by women to equal chances as men.

9. Poor Representation Of The Poor.
Chambers (1983: 131) highlights a link that exists between powerlessness and poverty. He further states that the powerful at local level are the elite who are the opposite pole to the poor along each of the dimensions of deprivation. Such rural elites are now regarded as exploitative (Chambers 1983: 131). According to Chambers (1983: 131) three clusters of exploitation stand out, namely, nets, robbery, and bargaining and its absence. The local elites stand as nets in the sense that they catch and trap resources and benefits that are meant to benefit the poor. The elite are usually the ones who access credit schemes offered to alleviate poverty in most rural third world countries. The elite is also well placed to use deception, blackmail, and violence to rob the poor (Chambers 1983: 133). This can take the form of exploiting small farmers into signing documents they do not understand. The local elite can exploit the poor when they fail to bargain or negotiate for prices of commodities, especially when the poor, to meet immediate needs, enter into distress sales. In most distress sales prices of assets are lower than their true market value.

The political systems has also taken advantage of the poor, and in the process perpetuated poverty. Urban bias in the public expenditure has been strong in the third worlds (Lele and Adu-Nyako 1992: 103). Politicians who get voted into power by the poor whilst spending lesser resources to develop the rural areas have often manipulated the rural poor. National policies and institutions have built-in biases that exclude the poor from the benefits of development, for example, through the lack of grassroots institutions that encourage the participation of people in development issues (Rakolojane 2000: 19).

10. Conclusion.
With poverty being largely a rural phenomenon, the crisis has tended to directly affect the rural population in the third world. Poverty, however, affects the urban areas that have to contend with the rural poverty. Also as highlighted the rural poverty crisis has tended to be transferred to the urban areas through rural-urban migration and national policies. The largely urban biases of many third worlds have perpetuated poverty of rural areas. The above has been the discussion of some of the factors that perpetuate poverty in third worlds.

11. Bibliography.
Bryant, C. White, LG. 1982. Managing development in the third world. Colorado: Westview Press.

Chambers, R. 1983. Rural development: putting the last first. London: Longman.

Cornwell, L. 2000. Only study guide for DVA101. Pretoria: University of South Africa.

De Beer, F. Swanepoel, H. 2000 (eds). Introduction to development studies. Cape Town: Oxford University Press.

Lele, U. Adu-Nyako, K. 1992. Approaches to uprooting poverty in Africa. Food Policy 17 (2).

Rakolojane, M. 2002. Only study guide for OADRUR-Y. Pretoria: University of South Africa.

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