What is poverty?
Different people think about poverty in different ways. Officials
usually think about what people buy and sell. But there is more to
understanding poverty than this. There are also problems about getting a
fair share of education and health care; about having respect and status
in your community; about feeling that you have some power over what
happens in your life and therefore of having hope for the future. So there
is a lot to think about when trying to remove poverty and many of the
important ideas are not obvious unless you think deeply about what is
really going on.
|Ordinary people, businessmen, civil servants, government ministers and
foreign experts have different ideas about what poverty is and therefore
about what causes it and how to cure it. There is general agreement,
however, about most of the following ideas.
free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save
the few who are rich.
[John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1917-63, 35th
President of the USA]
In the modern world people buy what they need using money. If they do
not have a source of money they will be poor.
The worst kind of poverty is when people cannot get food and therefore
they are thin and weak and may starve to death. Another kind of poverty is
where people may have more or less enough food but they do not have safe
water, health services, decent houses and clothes.
|Calculations for 1992 showed that about a quarter of
Tanzanians suffered from the first kind of poverty and about one
half from the second kind. In 1995 about one third of the population
was very poor. The situation is possibly worse today.
But there is more to being poor than not having enough money to buy
food, clothes, houses and health. Studies of poor people show that they
growth because of malnutrition|
amongst babies, children and generally short lives|
|low levels of
These studies also show that poor people generally are:
adequately protected under the law|
in political decision making|
against acts of God (droughts and floods etc)|
When ordinary people were asked about what they needed to escape from
poverty they had many ideas:
|Secure land tenure|
|Availability of agricultural inputs and suitable technology|
|Better access to funding and credit|
|Good transport (roads and vehicles)|
|Access to markets|
|Better water management||
|The potential to save|
|Better social service and infrastructure provision (especially
health and education)|
|Less corruption, more transparency and accountability, and
more participation in decision-making at both local and national
|A more positive attitude towards change|
|Better planning at the village level|
|Re-establishment of cooperatives|
|More control for women in the use of household resources|
|Trust, unity and a spirit of participation|
In 1999 the government calculated which of the regions had the most
poverty. This was not easy because there are so many ways to measure
poverty. Things that were included were health, nutrition, food security,
education and growth in the economy. There were no clear cut winners and
losers but the results suggest that the most deprived regions are Dodoma,
Kagera, Lindi, Kigoma and Coast. The least deprived regions are Dar es
Salaam, Ruvuma, Kilimanjaro, Singida and Tabora.
During a national meeting to discuss an early draft of the PRSP all the
above ideas were accepted but people felt that there was also a need to:
Tackle the problem of unemployment among the youth and in urban
Stop destroying and polluting the environment
Stop the use of child labour
Increase the amount of money available to tackle poverty (this
would include cancelling external debt and attracting other forms of
Develop financial systems to help ‘small’ farmers
Help people to develop small to medium sized businesses
Make the country more attractive to big business
Do more research so we know what needs to be done and how effective
we are at doing it
most primitive people have few possessions, but they are
not poor. Poverty is not a certain small amount of goods,
nor is it just a relation between means and ends; above all it
is a relation between people. Poverty is a social status. As
such it is the invention of civilisation.
[Marshall Sahlins, American Anthropologist]
Because there are many different ways of thinking about poverty it is
useful to have some agreed definitions for discussion and making plans.
Following what was said above, it is useful to think about poverty in two
Income poverty is often thought to be when people earn less than
one US dollar per day. This means that they will not have enough food or
medicine and they will have poor clothes and houses.
Non-income poverty happens when people may have a little bit of
money but they do not have access to good schooling or safe water. People
living with non-income poverty are likely to have stunted growth and to
die young. It is also unlikely that they participate in making the
decisions that affect their lives.
|Income poverty measures what people buy and how much
they spend so it is basically about money. Non-income poverty refers
to quality of life and social well-being. It measures many of the
things that move people from ill-being to well-being.
||honesty & justice
||peace and equality
||ability to take action
||property and security
All people already have a range of formal and informal organisations,
groups and networks which they take part in for the greater good of
everybody. This is what has been called our ‘Social Capital’ and we
can make it grow.
The PRSP looks towards a future where this Social Capital grows to
include wide participation and co-operation at the regional, national and
even international levels. If we think and act together then all
Tanzanians will live lives of well-being.
is very expensive to be poor.
[Mwalimu Julius K Nyerere]