It is often argued that the poor are often the biggest victims of environmental destruction since they depend heavily on the resources provided by natural environment and therefore are less able to escape the effects of environmental damage. According to the UNDO report of 1 998, environmental damage almost always hits those living in poverty the hardest. The implication is that there are indeed strong links between the environment and poverty.
The important question however is not whether the two should be linked, but rather how to link them. Based on heretical underpinnings and empirical evidence, this paper attempts to explore how poverty and environment are linked within the context of poor developing countries. The thinking is that the heavy reliance on the environment by the poor for their livelihoods creates complex, dynamic interactions and relationships between environmental conditions, people’s access to and control over environmental resources, and poverty.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
Understanding the nature of these relationships is a crucial for policy formulation and the practice and execution of poverty reduction and environmental management strategies (Kamala, et. L. 2001). Within the Kenya context, the government recognizes that “the full integration of environmental concerns in development planning at all levels of decision making remains a challenge to the country. 1. 2 Definitions Poverty is multidimensional and complex in nature and manifests itself in various forms making its definition difficult.
Perceived differently by different people, some limit the term to mean a lack of material well-being and others arguing that lack of things like freedom, spiritual well-being, civil rights and nutrition must also contribute to the definition of poverty. Though often defined in absolute or relative terms for purposes of comparing groups, poor people also do have their own definitions that arise from their own perceptions. Absolute Poverty is defined in terms of the requirements considered adequate to satisfy minimum basic needs, and the absolute poor have no means to meet these needs.
Relative poverty however is used to refer to a poverty line, which is Proportional to the mean or median income or expenditure, for instance the use of percentile cut-offs to define relative poverty line at, say, the bottom 20 percent of individuals in the distribution of income or expenditure (Marinara & Endanger , 2004). In Kenya, the definition of poverty is largely informed by the qualitative approach based on various Welfare Monitoring Surveys (WHAMS). WHAMS studies (1992, 1 994, and 1997) were national surreys for measuring the living standards of the Kenya people.
The WHAMS adopted the material well-being perception of poverty in which the poor are defined as those members of society who are unable to afford minimum basic human needs, comprised of food and non-food items. The PROS of 2002 adopted the quantitative measures of poverty based on the lawbreaker survey (WHAMS Ill) data. Using the 1997 WHAMS, the PROS recognized that poverty is multi-dimensional and defined it to include inadequacy of income and deprivation of basic needs and rights, and lack of access to productive assets as well as to social infrastructure and markets.
The WHAMS Ill estimated the absolute poverty line at Skis 1,239 per person per month and Skis 2,648 respectively for rural and urban areas (Republic of Kenya 2004). As argued later in this paper, these definitions will need to be enhanced to include a criterion for the ability to make minimum investments in resource improvements to maintain or enhance the quantity and quality of the resource base and to forestall or reverse resource degradation.
It is argued that this ‘investment poverty criterion is a stronger criterion than the conventional focus on ‘welfare poverty, as households above a welfare-determined poverty line could still be investment poor. 2. 0 Poverty and Environment Linkages This section attempts to give a general overview of some of the basic issues in the poverty-environmental degradation debate. The objective is to provide general highlights on the key perspectives of the poverty and environment relationships.
This will provide a foundation for the discussions on the theoretical and conceptual framework presented later on in section 3. The poverty-environmental linkage has several dimensions. From an economic growth perspective; rapid economic growth is often seen as the key foundation for achieving poverty reduction. There is a lot empirical evidence in support of this assertion. Therefore while the linkage between economic growth and poverty reduction is generally obvious, the relationship between economic growth and degradation of the environment or and improvement in the environment remains ambiguous or unclear.
One part of the poverty- environment hypothesis suggests that economic growth is needed to break the poverty-environment downward spiral: policies that promote economic growth also often benefit the environment. Economic growth eventually reduces poverty, and therefore enhances environmental conservation. This view is often referred to as orthodox view on poverty and environment. The key argument in the above view is that poverty and environmental degradation are inextricably linked, and are self-reinforcing.
It is therefore assumed that the only way to avoid environmental degradation is to alleviate poverty. This view is however strongly refuted by Fiftieth (2003), who suggests that the downward spiral conclusions are in all probability based on limited empirical findings. In this paper, I concur with Fiftieth (2003), and reject the suggestion that poor people are forced to degrade landscapes in response to population growth, economic normalization and existing environmental degradation. Instead, opine that the poor people are more often than not the victims rather than the agents of environmental degradation.
Angels (1995) presents a different view from the from the downward spiral orthodox approach. Angel’s main argument is that the fast and rapid economic growth that has been experienced in recent times in many countries, including those that are developing where two thirds of the world’s poor live, has Often been accompanied by a range Of adverse environmental impacts. Proponents of this view observe that apparently, there is a trade-off between economic growth and environmental improvement; achieving both of these goals simultaneously may not be easy, especially in the early stage of development.
Another dimension of poverty-environment hypothesis is based the survival traceries of poor rural households. The argument is that within the context of a limited resource base, low incomes and market imperfections, short-term survival needs of the households give little scope for taking long-term environmental effects into account. The thinking is that ‘environmental thinking starts after breakfast’, and with insufficient meals or no meals at all, there will be little environmental thinking.
Based on the behavior of the poor in environmental degradation, supporters Of this approach, opine that low income does indeed cause environmental destruction. This may indeed bee seen to be true, given that more than other groups; the poor depend on the income derived from the use of the natural resource base (Disgusts and Mleer 1995). However, for us in this paper, this is also not entirely true since there is empirical evidence to the effect that many poor people are able to adopt protective mechanisms through collective action which reduce the impacts of socio-economic changes on the environment.
The thinking on ‘indigenous people’ and agro-ecology literature presents another completely different research paradigm. The argument is that rotational agriculture, practiced by people living close to subsistence levels of material consumption, is highly diversified and therefore more in line with natural CEO-systems. According to this school, these People live in intimate contact with nature, and this creates cosmologies and synergies that stress ecological balance.
An alternative explanation is that farmers diversify due to risk aversion and production only for own consumption. This argument seems to stem from observations that higher cash income farming enterprises will often be associated with a breakdown of the diversity of rotational practices, and may therefore result in environmental degradation. The last dimension that we discuss in this paper is built on arguments that question the relative importance of the behavior of the poor in environmental degradation.
The arguments instead contend that more focus should be put on degradation resulting from exploitation by powerful (and rich) groups and misguided government policies. According to this school of thought, the coexistence of poverty and environmental disruption can be understood as the outcome of two processes having the same root causes. A key term in this injection is environmental entitlements, or resource rights. Insecure property rights to natural resources, or a complete lack thereof, create both a situation Of poverty and give small incentives for sound resource management.
The resource rights structure, the institutions governing resource use and access, reflects the limited power and influence of poor groups. Based on our earlier suggestion that poor people are more often than not the victims rather than the agents, and building on the ‘root cause approach,’ this paper observes that many of current conceptions of environmental degradation are based on misinformed linkages of human activity on landscape change, and avoids many current pressing environmental problems, which currently affect poor people.
We further argue that; ; Many poor people are able to adopt protective mechanisms through collective action which reduce the impacts of population, economic and environmental change. ; Conventional definitions of both poverty and environment are too narrow, and that there is a need for a broader spectrum Of approaches. ; Alternatively, this paper suggests that it is better to approach the issues of population, poverty and environment linkages from the perspective of the tot causes of environmental degradation.
In making the above arguments, we concur with the idea that is very prevalent in literature that environmental degradation disproportionately impacts on the poor; but emphasize that that unless attention is focused on the root causes of environmental degradation, the current environmental management strategies in poor developing countries is likely to fail. According to this paper, the key root causes of environmental degradation are namely market, policy, institutional and governance failures. . 0 Linkages between Poverty and the Environmental: A Theoretical Framework There is a rapidly growing literature on the linkage between poverty and the environment, yet there is relatively little theoretical work linking the variables together in a consistent manner. To facilitate proper understanding, this section utilizes existing literature, to break down the poverty-environment hypotheses into five component parts. The five hypotheses are as listed below.
This construction mainly follows a similar one by HI : Poor people are agents of environmental degradation H2O: Poor people are the main victims of environmental degradation HE: Incomplete property rights reinforce the vicious poverty and environment Interaction HE: Population growth causes both poverty and environmental degradation. HE: Higher per capita income increases environmental pressure and it is the rich economies that are responsible for environmental degradation. The conventional argument of the poverty-environment connection in the first hypothesis is based on local resource use and local resource investments.
The argument goes that Low income forces the users to increase the resource use in order to survive, which again diminishes the natural resource base. A lower resource base then reduces the flow of services generated, which further intensifies poverty. Poverty would be reflected in a high valuation of the present versus the future, I. E. , high discount rates. Holder et al. Presents empirical evidence from Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Zambia, that poverty leaves peasants with little surplus for investments that could enhance the long term productivity of the resource base.
Based on such evidence, Reardon and Visit (1995) argue that ‘the definition for poverty in environment-poverty analysis should be based on the ability to enhance the quantity and quality of the resource base, to forestall or reverse resource degradation”. This ‘investment poverty’ is a stronger criterion than he conventional focus on ‘welfare poverty, as households above a welfare- determined poverty line could still be investment poor. This hypothesis has one major weakness. Namely, the fact that it is by no means certain that higher income will be used for resource conserving/ enhancing investments.
First, insecure property rights will make such investments more risky. Second, the public good nature of many environmental resources will reduce the individual’s incentive for investments, and create problems offered riding. Third, higher income can also be used for capital investments that increase the pressure on natural sources. There are several examples of this phenomenon: ; Overgrazing: In pastoral communities livestock is commonly the main object for asset accumulation, and the potential for overgrazing is proportional to herd size.
In some contexts, the poor cause less pressure on grassland, as they cannot afford to own many animals. Higher income will in this setting increase the environmental stress. Failure to recognize this link may lead to unintended effects of development programmer, as has been the case of aid projects in the Turban district of Northwest Kenya. Income generating activities purported by donors were supposed to provide an alternative source of income for the nomads in the area, and thereby reduce the herd size.
Instead, the surplus from the alternative activities was invested in more animals that increased the environmental pressure. ; Deforestation: Just as higher levels of income can result in overgrazing, higher income can also be used for investments in, for example, chainsaws which makes forest clearance easier for local farmers. More generally, investments which increase the profitability of frontier farming will contribute to more deforestation under a quite wide range of assumptions (see Angels 1999). Over fishing: Investments in more efficient fishing gear could increase both the fishing efforts and the efficiency, putting the fish stock under increased pressure and increasing the likelihood of unsustainable levels of catch. With respect to HI, Disgusts (1997) challenges this argument that the poor degrade their environmental resource base because poverty forces them to discount future incomes at unusually high rates. Disgusts does not find much empirical support for this argument, and infers that this should apply to the poor in the past as well.
However, evidence suggests that many poor people and societies have been able to generate remarkably stable and resilient institutions for coping with the income variability that being poor implies. Disgusts instead highlights that it is usually institutional failures in the form of deficient agricultural policy and poor people’s property rights, and breakdown of community management of local resource base, which are the root causes of environmental degradation.
This supported by the fact that because of the much lower level of consumption and production of the poor means that they probably tread the lightest on environment. Using survey ATA, a study by Marinara (2002) found that herders conserve the environment through movement (migration) with livestock in search of pasture and water. Using a profit model, the study estimated the participation of herders for land holding under common property and private property separately.
In line with the argument by Disgusts, the study found that poor herders holding land under common property were more likely to migrate than their non- poor counterparts. This result is interesting as in theory; migration could result from poverty and could therefore be a mechanism adopted by households in Order to escape poverty. With respect to H2O, there is overwhelming evidence in support of this hypothesis. Indeed Songster and Anchorwoman (1993) capture the essence of this by stating that “environmental risks go hand-in-hand with socio- economic deprivation”.
This hypothesis includes such issues as poor people are more vulnerable to loss of biological resources; extreme environmental stress can force the poorest to migrate; inequality reinforces environmental pressure; and government policies can create or reinforce a vicious cycle of poverty-environment interaction. With respect to HE, there is also empirical evidence that supports the hypothesis that tenure security is correlated with the quality of environmental management (Sierra and Brown, 1989).
A study by Marinara (2002) investigated the relationship between rural poverty, property rights, and environmental resource management in a semi-arid region of Kenya using survey data. The study hypothesized that the quality of the environment and thus productivity and poverty are unaffected by property right regimes. Using a combination of profit and robust regression methods, the study found that well specified property rights are associated with higher productivity and lower poverty and hat environmental conservation is an important mechanism for escaping poverty.
The study recommended the speeding up of prevarication of group ranches so that the affected communities can enjoy the benefits of private property. However, according to Disgusts (1 997), there is a need to exercise extreme caution with respect to such policy prescriptions. The issue is not about the prevarication of rights, rather as is it about community rights to manage common property resources. Disgusts argues that there evidence that suggests that prevarication of common property resource races works to exacerbate inequalities and hence degradation. HE is probably the most contentious of these issues.
We begin by first looking at the link between poverty and population growth. Poor families tend to have more children than richer families, and ‘development is the best contraceptive’. However, the poverty-population-environment nexus is far more complex than such simple hypotheses suggest. Whereas the link between family size and poverty is a widely accepted issue, the impact of population growth on the environment is not. Many argue that data do not us port the thesis that environmental degradation is largely due to population growth (e. G. , Shaw 1992).
The origins of the population growth thesis detrimental to the environment began with Malthusian. Malthusian basically postulated that population growth will tend to rise exponentially, while food production will tend to rise linearly. The net result of his analysis is that population growth will eventually outstrip the supply of food resulting in famines, deprivation and chaos. A basic policy proposal is to limit population growth. Mink (1993) for example, argues that because of the poor living environment, and hence, lower productivity provides the incentives to raise large families.
This, he argues, would contribute to pauperism in an adverse, yeoman pattern. However others (such as Parka’s 1 997) while recognizing that growing population does exert pressure on productive lands and resources, it is not necessarily the case that population causes the damage. The complex of locally-specific, social, economic, environmental and governance circumstances in which increasing population takes place, which in turn can be strongly influenced by external policy and institutional factors, are usually the driving forces behind poverty-environment interactions.
In fact, there is much evidence highlighting, for example, that increasing population growth has led to the rehabilitation and profitability of degraded, unproductive lands (Tiffin et al. , 1994). Moreover, research in the middle hills of Nepal has shown that farmers adapt organizational and land management practices to reduce the impact of population growth and environmental change. With regard to this, some of the simple questions that come to mind; would environment cease to be degraded if population growth is checked?
Secondly would environment cease to be degraded if poverty is reduced or eliminated? A possible way of reconciling the different views and diverging empirical evidence is to distinguish between conditioning and pressuring factors in environmental degradation. Conditioning factors include such issues as policy and market failure including externalities and ‘public good’ nature of the environment. The conditioning factors determine the incentives for environmental conservation. Pressuring factors include population and the level of production and consumption. population growth will thus lead to more environmental pressure in the presence of significant market or policy failures. However, if the institutional setting, market conditions, and policies re such that there are strong incentives for environmental conservation, then population growth will not necessarily result in environmental Finally HE is presented as a counter-hypothesis to HI in that it looks at the relationship, at the macro-level, between environmental degradation in poor versus rich economies.
While it is clearly recognized that some environmental problems decline with rising incomes such as sulfur dioxide emissions, others such as CO emissions and municipal waste per capita increase. Hence, the idea that economic growth in and of itself will lead to environmental improvement is not based on sound empirical evidence. The reason for decline in some problems is more often due to policy and institutional response than rising incomes (Kebob and Bozo, 1999). 4. Conclusion This paper has demonstrated that poor people instead of being agents are more often than not victims of environmental degradation. However this does not mean that the poor are passive. The review of literature demonstrates that poor people know their situation and know how to cope. Moreover poor people have ways to reverse patterns of degradation. Therefore as opposed to conventional thinking, which looks to alleviate poverty as a pre-requisite to environmental management, this paper recommends the joint pursuit Of integrated poverty alleviation and environmental management strategies.