Fractal poverty types: Implications for poverty reduction strategies in Kenya

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Poverty is increasingly recognized as a dynamic and multi-scale problem: the processes by which people get into and out of poverty are non-linear, path-dependent and scale-dependent. Barrett and Swallow (2003) have developed a model of "fractal poverty traps" that captures the importance of threshold effects in poverty processes and the interrelations between poverty processes at different scales. This paper exercises the notion of "fractal poverty traps" to explore appropriate poverty reduction strategies for rural Kenya. Priorities from the Kenya Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper are compared with those emanating from district dialogues and village-level priorities. Priorities from 80 villages in Western Kenya are compared to each other, to the corresponding district PRSP priorities, and to the national PRSP priorities. The results show that: 1) village groups in Western Kenya do put priority on the preservation and augmentation of certain natural resources -- water, fuelwood and soils; 2) there is greater variation in priorities between villages in a district than there are between districts; 3) there is great district-to-district variation in the correspondence between village priorities and priorities emerging from district-level PRSP consultations; and 4) there is a reasonably good match between aggregate priorities of villages in Western Kenya and the national PRSP priorities, but a poor match between aggregate village priorities and the proposed allocation of the PRSP funds.


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Natural resource management, Poverty, Poverty reduction, Kenya, Ecosystem


World Agroforestry Centre, Kenya, Draft: 21 April 2003