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Kenya Poverty Issues

Addressing the Issues of Poverty

Chapter One

  • Introduction

One of the challenges that has confronted humankind (especially residents of Eldamaravine Division) in its history is addressing the problems of poverty that can be solved through the use, improvement and transformation of natural resources to provide goods and services [S.A. Butt: 1996].  At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development at Rio de Janeiro in 1992, poverty and industrialisation were agreed upon as two factors amongst others that cause environment damage. It was also noted that the world’s limited reserves of natural resources are getting depleted. What is more, it was acknowledged that despite economic growth world wide poverty and resource depletion is increasing, both in absolute and relative terms.

A solution to the above problems calls for a sustainable form of development which seeks to achieve a balance between the needs of men and women, nature and technology, so that future generations can also have the chance to thrive in a supportive environment. Human welfare and quality of life will therefore in many ways continue to depend directly or indirectly on the availability of natural resources like water, trees, mountains, minerals, land, animals, air, etc. [R.S. de Groot: 1994].

Kenya is a country with extra-ordinary natural resources and the survival of its people will largely continue to depend on natural resources available at their disposal.  Yet activities such as tourism if not practised  in a sustainable manner can threaten the natural resources upon which people’s livelihoods depend [African Wildlife Foundation: 1996]. Specifically, Baringo is a county well endowed with natural resources.  One of these resources that is playing a crucial role in the ecological and socio-economic development of the country, is forests. As other national statistics indicates that forest products accounted for 1.9% of Kenya’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), so are the Koibatek County Council financial reports (The Republic of Kenya: background to the Budget 2009/10].

Kenya Poverty Issues

1.1 Background of the Study

Over the last ten years or so Kenya recorded a robust economic growth of 3% annually attributed to many factors including the availability of natural resources.  Although rich in natural resources and recording a robust economic growth, the majority of the population in Baringo County still lives in absolute poverty (KBS, Cesus 2009).  According to the census report (2009) households have been struggling to survive on an annual income of less than 150 US dollars. Poverty is affecting over 50% of the population [KBS; 2009].  Yet as part of its development agenda government has to harness both its natural and human resources so as to confront and resolve the problems of poverty, inequality, marginalisation and social exclusion [Pascal Mihyo: 1996].  The paradox of poverty amidst economic growth is a challenge that needs to be addressed by government, the population and other development partners [Human Development Report: 1996]. High economic growth alone is insufficient without a pattern of growth that allows for increased production, expanded employment opportunities for the poor and better access to social services [World Bank: 1996]. Besides, the exclusion of gender roles in addressing environmental and resource degradation pose a great threat to sustainable poverty elevation.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Forest reserves and other protected areas such as national parks have a long history of protection policies. The Protectionist Policy is an exclusive management approach de-linking the socio-economic interests of local communities from forest reserves and other protected areas [IUCN: 1997].

In Eldamaravine Division forest policies have their geneses with colonialism (J.R Kamugisha: 1993) are formulated to express the official perception of government on forest and other resources and describe how best the state intends to protect and utilise them for the benefits of its citizens. Kenya’s present policy framework on forest resources and other national resources is contained in the 2010 Constitution, Clause XIII on natural resources, which states “that the state shall protect important natural resources including land, water, wetlands, minerals, oil, fauna and flora”. In addition to the constitutional framework, a number of sectoral policies and by-laws have been formulated to guide in the conservation, use and management of natural resources and some of these are: Forest Policy, Fisheries Policy, Wetlands Policy, Land Policy and Wildlife Policy

The sectoral policies are legislatively formulated and translated into laws, Acts and Statutes that are implemented by relevant local institutions such as local assembly of Eldamaravine. In Kenya, forest and natural resources policies are implemented by government agencies such as the Ministries of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, and institutions such the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).  Other bodies include District Administrators and Local governments.

Although the protection policy on forest resources and other natural resources has generally been successful in preserving biological diversity, providing catchment area for rain, maintaining scenic beauty, providing economic support to government through the sale of timber and tourism, preventing wide scale timber exploitation by private developers, etc., the policy de-couples the socio-economic interests of local communities that live adjacent to the forest. The policing approach has been less successful in overcoming rural poverty as it is inadequate, exclusive, top down, sometimes outmoded, and unsustainable gender responsibilities. The policy implications on local communities (Eldamaravine in particular) are enormous but in the context of this proposed study, they can be summarised at three levels; increasing poverty, encouraging inequality of income distribution, unsustainability and environmental degradation. The policy on environmental conservation delinks with the gender roles, duties and responsibilities in relation to resources depletion and environmental degradation. Varied ordination of responsibilities as culturally defined between men and women serves as a barricade to environmental conservation, hence the concern. Yet for sustanainable development to be accomplished, a national policy framework that involving key stakeholders draw all sexes should be involved developed. Besides, income disparity and uneven income distribution between men and women results into policy-poverty-environment hypothesis that compromises national resource conservation measures.

The above problems are further illustrated by the following quotation:

“rights over forests have been eroded historically, just as rights over land.  For forest dwellers in pre-colonial times, the use of forests whether to hunt or gather forest products or to bring forest land under cultivation was unhindered right, and did not involve any payment or permission of a superior.  This has since changed radically.  As the state (colonial and post-colonial) imposed absolute control and ownership rights over forest land whether inhabited or not, traditional rights where denied and turned into a privilege” [I.L.O: 1998].

1.3 Research Objectives

The general objective of this proposed study will be to investigate, examine, demonstrate and evaluate the extent to which gender roles, duties and responsibilities and the Protectionist Policy is de-coupling the socio-economic interests of local communities of Eldamaravine Division in protecting and conserving natural resources. In this proposed study, an attempt will be made to show how the policy is increasing environmental degradation, because local communities continue to get only “subsistence benefits” from being near the forest yet in order to improve their welfare and get out of the poverty trap, they should get more “than subsistence benefits” from forest resources.

The Specific Objectives of the Study will be to:

  • Find out the socio-economic functions of the forest/natural resources and the extent to which it is directly or indirectly contributing to the welfare of local communities around Eldamaravine Division.
  • Find out the extent to which women subordination and restricted access/control over natural resources and exiting limited power in decision making contributes to environmental degradation.

Find out the degree to which ethnical origin and cultural system, participation powers of men and women leads to environmental problems and challenges.

  • Find out income levels and patterns amongst local communities accruing from exploitation and depletion of natural resource endowment in Eldamaravine.
  • Find out gender dimension in forest and natural resource use.

1.4 Research Questions

Given the above research objectives, some basic questions emerged:

  • Are the conservation and the Protectionist Policy of any socio-economic benefit to the local communities of Eldamaravine in respect with resource endowment?
  • Are subordination, limited management and restricted access of resources by women playing a significant role in increasing environmental degradation in Eldamaravine?
  • Are culture, tradition, ethical systems and gender conservativeness of the local residences of Eldamaravine contributing to the depletion of local resources?
  • Is the exploitation and depletion of environmental resources in Eldamaravine profitable and generating substantial revenue to the local communities within the surrounding?
  • Are there gender dimensions in the use of the forest resources? And if yes, what are the reasons for environmental degradation?

The above questions constituted the key issues which will be explored in the study.

1.5 Justification and Significance of the Study

This proposed research will server be significant both to the local authority, communities and the central government in the following ways;
  • It recognises that behaviours at all levels affect natural resource conservation and use— from rural communities, forest rangers, park wardens, policy makers, presidents, etc;
  • It recognises that behaviours are decisions, actions and practices that affect the eco-system. In this study, the behaviour is Protectionist Policy on government side and communities’ behaviours (gender ordination) is reflected in their quest to obtain forest resources so as to alleviate poverty.
  • The recommendations and outcome of this research will be very useful to the Ministry of National Resources and Heritage in developing policy frameworks which would regulate/minimize over-exploitation of natural resources
  • This research project will advance sustainable policies which will be fundamental in protecting our environment and conserving the limited resources at the disposal of local communities of Eldamaravine. In return, such a move will pose a great socio-economic prospect through income generation activities such as tourism and lumbering.

Justification of the Study

In this research’s perspective, the strength in the behavioural model need to be explored so that additional responses can be designed and where there are competing claims, equitable solutions be found.  For example, it is recognised in Kenya’s policy documents that the exclusion of women from certain natural resource uses such as land ownership and management, including training and extension has partially contributed to lack of behavioural change with regard to environment degradation [NEMA:1997].

In this respect, this research will abide by the Kenyan Constitution and the by-laws enacted by the local Authority of Baringo. In addition, this proposed research will seek the views of the local community and leaders in relation to environmental degradation and resource conservationism. Other environmental oversight commissions such as NEMA will involve in the entire research process. An adherence to the codes of professionalism and ethical standards are mandatory.

1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study

The proposed study will cover local communities, sub-locations, parishes surrounding Eldamaravine Division, Baringo County. The researcher undertakes the survey in the area, which will serve as a framework for obtaining narratives from participants concerning their views on how gender aspects contribute to environmental depletion. The participants will be both male and female from late teen to 65 years of age. The study use direct interviews and questionnaires as some participants might be in a position to read making the sole use of questionnaire bias.

  • Limitations of the Study

The sample size of this study is relatively small and represented a whole

Spectrum of ages ranging from late teens to over sixty-five. In addition, they will be all residences of the same Eldamaravine Division, Baringo County. The outcome of the study will highly depend on the reliability of the information provided by the respondents.  It is possible the participants might not answer the questions truthfully, or that environmental and cultural factors may influence their responses. There are also financial and time constraints that might compromise the quality of the outcome of the study.

1.7 Definition of Terms

Gender- this is the cultural and traditional ordination of roles and responsibilities accorded to men and women in the society

Resource Depletion- this is the continuous reduction in the economic value and quality of natural resources.

Conservatism- this is the culture of constraining and conserving the limited resources coupled with traditional conservativeness.

Eco-feminism- the existence of fundamental relationship between the eco-system and women

Resource Endowment- is how a given region is gifted with natural resources (uneven distribution of resources on the surface of the earth)

Environment- the surrounding in atmosphere which is determined by culture, tradition, natural resources, and nature

Degradation- is the decline in the amount and quality of the resources which an area is endowed with

Poverty- Poverty is a multi-dimensional concept with no universal definition. It has been defined in various perspectives as illustrated below:

  • A state of being poor; that is, having little money and a few possessions [Cambridge University Dictionary: 1997].
  • Absolute poverty, defined in terms of access to minimum standards of food requirements and sometimes to basic services, Relative poverty, when it refers to the position of a household or an individual in relation to the distribution of average income or consumption in a particular country or region, Temporary poverty is a phenomenon caused by conditions such as loss of formal employment, old age, disease, natural disasters and civil strife and Permanent poverty is caused by natural and structural factors that are transmitted from generation to generation [I.L.O: 1995].
  • Poverty as an attitudinal problem is that poverty that is not the lack of money or materials, but an attitude problem, i.e. it gravitates on the feelings, values and beliefs of people, those who say they are poor lack confidence and lack awareness of hidden resources— yet no community is lacking in resources. So long as there are humans living in an environment, there is energy, creativity, life and with good internalisation and synergies, these factors can be translated into goods and services that can off-set poverty conditions [Bartle and Karuhiira: 1996].
  • Poverty line approach is the minimum income needed for the necessities of life. In the context of this study, the researcher took the 1999 World Bank rate of US$1 per day as the poverty line and as such those who are below the poverty line are considered to be poor.

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