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An Insight into Rural Civil Society Organisation’s Understanding of and Approaches to the Drivers and Maintainers of Chronic Poverty in a Spatial Poverty Trap in Rural Kenya

Working papers

This paper was prepared for the international workshop "Understanding and addressing spatial poverty traps: an international workshop".

Poverty still remains a major development problem in Kenya with the number of people living in income poverty increasing from 11.3 million in 1990 to 17.1 million in 2001 (UNDP 2002). Further, income inequalities are wide, the top 10% of Kenyans earn 44% of the national income, while the bottom 10% earns less than 1%, and Kenya’s poorest regions have twice the relative poverty headcount of its least poor regions.

Trócaire’s civil society partners in Kenya use various entry points and adopt a number of strategies in their efforts to tackle issues of chronic poverty. These can broadly be categorised as occurring at the policy and programming level.

The entry point for strategies aimed at influencing the policy environment tends to be at a national level. This generally involves advocating for a policy environment that reduces the levels and impact of poverty. Programmatic responses are those that focus on service delivery and capacity building providing services or ‘gap filling’ where the State has failed. The entry point for such interventions is generally at a local level and involves very practical responses to poverty.

Although the diverse strategies and entry points adopted by civil society groups reflect an acknowledgement of the complex and often-multidimensional nature of poverty there is not a process whereby this is systematically explored or analysed in order to guide responses that are more strategic. Research by the Chronic Poverty Research Centre has found that it is useful to explore the drivers, maintainers, and interrupters of chronic poverty. Doing so can provide us with an opportunity to develop a more focused and effective response.

This study aims to begin this process of exploration by identifying how three rural based Civil Society partners in Kenya understand and respond to issues of chronic poverty. The study will identify why the partners respond to chronic poverty, how they categorise the various levels of poverty and whether they make a distinction between the various drivers, maintainers and interrupters of poverty. In addition the study will explore what impact partners feel remoteness and isolation has on poverty and what process partners go through when identifying strategies to respond to the issues.

Sorcha Fennell and Mike Brewin