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Translating growth into poverty reduction: beyond the numbers

Research reports

Written by Andrew Shepherd, Lucy Scott

Tanzania is a politically stable, much aided country that has consistently grown economically during the first decade of the millennium, while also improving its human development indicators. However, poverty has remained persistent, particularly within rural areas. This collaborative work delves into the reasons why this is so and what can be done to improve the record.

The 2007 Household Budget Survey showed that rural poverty has not reduced since 2001 despite a positive growth trend during this period. A national living standards survey is currently taking place and the analysis of this data will give a better insight on what is happening in Tanzania. Meanwhile, the intermediary results show some unexpected facts. The emphasis on property stripping and property grabbing, alcoholism, old age, divorce, serial polygamy and selling labour on credit as major sources of vulnerability capable of keeping people poor as well as impoverishing them further is not something analyses of poverty typically draw out. The other more common factors of impoverishment are bad weather, diseases, low wages and negative effects of policies. 

The other side of the coin is that there are simply not enough good opportunities to escape poverty. Key to success in agriculture is accumulating assets: land, oxen and ploughs. Policies making acquiring land, for example, through renting, easier for poor households in an age when the wealthy and companies are investing in rural land as never before, are urgently needed, as are programmes which support the acquisition of other assets.

Access to non-farm employments lies in good education and often the opportunity to migrate. Education is especially important, and it is beyond primary education which matters. Getting one child in each household access to over 10 years of quality education would do more to assist escapes from poverty than any other single measure.

While there are many good policy initiatives in place in Tanzania it is often poor implementation and governance which prevents them having greater impact. The suggestion in this book is that governance reforms need to understand what it is that makes a real difference to the chances of poor people escaping poverty or preventing impoverishment. Getting agricultural governance right and justice reforms which enhance poor women’s access to justice are two of the issues needing attention.

Translating growth into poverty reduction: beyond the numbers is the product of both Tanzanian and international poverty experts, based on largely qualitative research undertaken within Tanzania by the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC). The authors highlight and discuss the importance of macro- and micro-level causes of the persistence of poverty.

You can view the report here.

Flora Kessy, Oswald Mashindano, Andrew Shepherd and Lucy Scott