The understanding of the following two things is vital in poverty alleviation: 1) There is no one who understands poverty better than the poor 2) National economic growth is not equal to inclusive economic growth. The relevance of these affirmations lies in that oftentimes, ineffective policies have been implemented when battling poverty because policymakers ignore them. Poverty alleviation is a herculean task in that it seeks to eradicate a problem with endless branches. Therefore, solutions must come from a multidisciplinary panel that does involve the experts, but not at the expense of overlooking the poor.
Rural chinese people represent 80% of China's poor - Photo Credit: Pixabay
Although the efforts made in China towards poverty alleviation have been largely successful, according to the World Bank, the remaining poor are becoming increasingly harder to reach. These people are living in remote, almost inaccessible villages in China’s western and central regions, which makes conventional ways of poverty alleviation highly ineffective.
From 2006 to 2010, the World Bank and other investors executed a program in 18 counties of China’s Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, as well as in the autonomous region of Guanxi. This program aimed to implement participatory planning and decision making so the villagers were involved in the solution of the problems of their community. An article on the World Bank’s website describes the activities as “determined by the communities and households from a highly flexible menu of options through a participatory process”. This project also sought the inclusion and active participation of women and ethnic minorities, as the latter make up nearly 40% of China’s poor.
In the words of Qiu’e Su, a resident of Pannei Village in the Liongsheng County of Guanxi “We discussed what to do first, we elected our own representatives and then we voted on priorities”. After choosing what to do first, they decided how to do it and designed management and maintenance systems to ensure the durability of their work. The inclusion message of this project boosted the community engagement from 19.6% to 46.2% when it ended in 2010. Moreover, poverty levels in the project communities dropped from 15.9% to 9.9% in 2010.
This shows that dynamism is crucial in poverty alleviation. Getting a first-hand contact with the poor creates room for a rich debate with undeniable effectivity and sustainable results. In the project communities, the income of farmers increased by 12% from 2006 to 2010 and per capita consumption increased by 40%. Nearly all villages got access to electricity, phone lines and roads. The project also worked on health, including maternal care, and education. People with disabilities, China’s second largest poor group, were also included in the activities and society at large.
The above mentioned experiment can be done on a larger scale in urban communities through the implementation of a city development strategy. This process is anchored in strategic planning, which:
Strategic planning contributes to poverty alleviation in cities because it targets the main problems within them and fixes them. It is done in three steps:
Shanty town in Manila -Photo Credit: Wikipedia
The World Bank then suggests four principles by which city representatives and developers must adhere to ensure a truly participative strategy towards economic growth and poverty alleviation in urban areas:
Source: Africa Progress Panel
In Africa, 2 out of 3 people depend on agriculture to subsist. Investment in this field would improve the livelihood of locals- Photo Credit: Wikipedia
According to the Africa Progress Panel, the African continent has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, averaging 5% per year. It seems nonsensical, then, that so many people in Africa live in absolute poverty.
Upon closer examination, though, this is not surprising at all. The majority of foreign investment in Africa is done in businesses that do not improve the livelihoods of locals. Activities such as mining and the extraction of oil and gas do not represent many job posts for Africans and the foreign companies in the continent do hardly anything to provide the inhabitants with basic infrastructure, education and health services. The advancement of the continent seems to have plateaued despite its many riches.
The report of the APP blames this losing business on unethical investments that only seek benefits for the investors, neglecting the local communities. This is evident in the fact that despite 2 out of every 3 Africans depend on agriculture and fisheries, these areas, as well as forestry, suffer from underinvestment. The potential for ethical investments on these fields is massive and it would contribute greatly to poverty alleviation in the continent, but it is largely unattended. Other faults, like tax evasion, cost Africa about 5.7% of its yearly GDP as of 2014 and not much has changed. It still is a very, very poor continent with endless potential which is not convenient to exploit for the current investors.
Other forms of poverty alleviation, such as encouraging productivity in the poor through microcredits and land tenure have been implemented with positive results, however, the participatory approach represents the dynamic and holistic mindset that is compulsory in the global community in order to truly tackle poverty at its most basic levels: lack of resources and a silenced voice.