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Poverty Alleviation

Poverty alleviation is any process that reduces income fluctuation between poor and non-poor scenarios (Adongo and Deen-Swarray 2006). This is different from poverty reduction, which aims to permanently move an individual or household from a poor to a non-poor scenario. In many ways poverty alleviation is the first step toward poverty reduction and the ultimate goal in southern Africa of poverty eradication. Poverty is often measured by the World Bank definition: making less than US$1 or US$2 per day; absolute poverty is defined by the Copenhagen Declaration as “a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information”. Extremes in income distribution and low per-capita incomes can exacerbate absolute poverty.

Defined economically, poverty is a lack of material goods, resources and wealth. Social poverty is related to social exclusion; and poverty of access and power relates to a lack of access to basic infrastructure and information (Adongo and Deen-Swarray 2006).

There is a widespread perception that the poor live disproportionately in rural areas, depend on agriculture for their livelihood, and are women (Todaro 2000). This is largely true in Southern Africa and so poverty alleviation strategies mostly focus on rural areas. Poverty alleviation strategies for Southern African, by theme and country, can be found on the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) website.

There is a common, and often accurate, perception that the poor live in rural areas and are women.
Source: CPWF Basin Focal Project 2009
( click to enlarge )

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs)

Historically, poverty reduction has been largely a result of overall economic growth. The failure of economic growth, economic mismanagement and the lack of political accountability, have prompted governments and development agencies to formulate broad-based development strategies (UNECA 1999).

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) describe a country’s macroeconomic, structural and social policies and programs to promote growth and reduce poverty, as well as associated external financing needs. PRSPs are prepared by governments through a participatory process that involves civil society and development partners, often including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers provide the basis for World Bank and IMF assistance as well as debt relief under the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) Initiative. They are key instruments in the relationship between donor agencies and recipient countries. PRSPs are also used for monitoring progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (IMF website 2010, World Bank website 2010).

However, developing countries are not obliged to participate in this scheme. They are free to develop their own national development plans for poverty alleviation.