Chronic Poverty

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Poverty: Causes, Responses and Consequences in Rural South Africa

Elizabeth Francis, April 2006

Development Studies Institute London School of Economics Houghton St London WC2A 2AE e.m.francis@lse.ac.uk

CPRC Working Paper No. 60

Chronic Poverty Research Centre ISBN: 1-904049-59-1

Elizabeth Francis is a Senior Lecturer in Development Studies at the London School of Economics.

Acknowledgements The research on which the case study is based was carried out as a collaborative project with Colin Murray and Rachel Slater, of the University of Manchester, under the title ‘Multiple Livelihoods and Social Change’, funded by the UK Department for International Development. The project involved comparative research on poverty, livelihoods and social differentiation in North West Province and the Free State, South Africa. I should like to thank Ben Mosiane and Nancy Moilwa, of the University of the North West, who assisted me in the research, and staff at the North West Province Department of Land Affairs.

Abstract This paper examines recent contributions to the analysis of poverty, particularly those emphasising the constraints on the poor posed by social relations and institutions that systematically benefit the powerful. It proposes an analytic framework for study of the causes of poverty, responses to poverty and the consequences of those responses. This framework is then applied to a case study from rural South Africa. The case study underlines the importance of understanding the processes linking poverty at the local level with the regional and national political economy. It also suggests that responses to poverty in this case may be unsustainable.

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Table of Contents Abstract 1. 2. 3. Introduction Understanding Poverty and Livelihoods Poverty in Rural South Africa a) The Causes of Poverty – mapping the institutional landscape (i) Winners and losers in the transition from Apartheid (ii) Agrarian restructuring, rural development and land reform b) North West Province c) Madibogo (i) Differentiation and poverty (ii) How poor people respond to poverty 4. 5. Policy Implications Conclusions Notes References (i) 1 1 5 5 5 8

9 11 12 14 18 18 19 20

1.

Introduction

Recent discussion of the analysis of poverty and livelihoods draws attention to the limitations of currently dominant approaches. Measuring the incidence of poverty is an important first step in understanding it, but measurement alone does not explain the causes of poverty. Analysing livelihoods in terms of the assets and strategies of the poor opens up space for taking seriously the priorities, choices and initiatives demonstrated by poor people, but it risks underplaying the constraints thrown up by social relations and institutions that systematically benefit the powerful. It also risks making an assumption that such livelihoods are sustainable. This paper draws on these discussions to develop an analytic framework for the study of poverty, one that examines its causes, responses to it and the consequences of those responses. It then uses this framework to discuss the lives of people in a remote rural area in South Africa. People’s responses to poverty in this context appear to be becoming unsustainable and their livelihoods seem increasingly fragile. There is no necessary reason why responses to poverty should be sustainable. 2. Understanding Poverty and Livelihoods

Understanding poverty matters because of the scale and depth of poverty found in many developing countries. Poverty reduction is now at the core of development policy-making and a key commitment of donor agencies. There is considerable disagreement, however, over the extent of poverty and over whether it is increasing or decreasing worldwide (World Bank, 2000; Reddy and Pogge, 2002; Ravallion, 2002; Wade; 2004). There is also disagreement over how to define poverty. Laderchi, Saith and Stewart (2003) identify four different approaches to defining and measuring...
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