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University of Pretoria (2020)

An Investigation into Sustainable Household Transition from Extreme Poverty

David, Brian Kiswii

Titre : An Investigation into Sustainable Household Transition from Extreme Poverty

Auteur : David, Brian Kiswii

Université de soutenance : University of Pretoria

Grade : Doctor of Business Administration 2020

The study examined the process by which households transition from extreme poverty. Globally, about 1.3 billion people live in extreme poverty, half of them in Sub‐Saharan Africa. In the fight against poverty, several African countries have steadily increased spending on safety net programmes that cushion the poor from the harsh effects of poverty and deprivation. However, unless such programmes confront the processes that generate poverty, they will continue to undermine sustainable development. Very few studies have examined the adaptive capacities responsible for people’s movement out of poverty – what this study refers to as “sustained graduation from extreme poverty.” It is therefore imperative to investigate relative household adaptive capacities as antecedents to sustained graduation from extreme poverty, in particular, for those in geographical contexts characterised by poverty and inequality. Two sets of disconnected yet very useful literature to this study exist : first, is work on climate change and variability that offer guidance on the nature, level and mix of capacities households require to mitigate the effects of natural shocks, and second, is literature on poverty guiding on the dynamics of poverty, including its measurement and escape pathways. This study sought to bridge the two sets of literature. The study explored the processes through which people escape from extreme poverty by examining the needed capacities for that. The study identified a population, in Kenya, categorized as extremely poor, targeted by a government safety net programme and which often experiences climate-related shocks. Observing that communities best understand their adaptive capacity factors and poverty escape processes, I employed a mixed-methods approach (quantitative and qualitative inquiry) for this study. Four variables of poverty (social, economic, human capital and institutional resources) were quantified among 375 randomly selected households. Purposively selected community representatives participated in community-based inquiries that sought to : locally define, categorize and map their experiences on the pathways out of poverty. Key informant interviews were conducted with both state and non-state actors either implementing or providing oversight to poverty reduction and resilience building interventions in the study area. The research data demonstrated that : i) for households to escape poverty sustainably, they need to build three forms of capacity namely : absorptive, adaptive and transformative ; ii), that aspiration (the “calling” to escape poverty) influences relative household adaptive capacities, and consequently its poverty escape. The study results indicate that human capital, including education and skills acquisition, of household members and the eventual engagement with the labour market played a critical role in poverty escape for the study population. At the theoretical level, these findings reveal the importance of aspirations (calling to exit poverty) as a key component in the fight against poverty. The results of this study provide evidence for the design of public policies that facilitate households’ transition out of poverty, reduction of recurrent expenditures on social transfers while informing the basis for targeting policy interventions in rural areas.


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