Addressing the Issues of poverty

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Addressing the Issues of poverty


  • 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].

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.














2.0. Introduction

This chapter will mainly focus on the relationship between gender and the environment. Literature on issues pertinent to forest resources and other natural resources use, conservation and management in many parts of Africa and elsewhere is extensive [Bruce A. Byers: 1996]. Academic researchers, universities, government agencies, individual scholars have studied and tested a number of approaches in this regard.  This literature review seeks to re-examine the debate on gender and its role in the environmental degradation perspectives and the lessons to be learned from the experiences.

2.1. Gender and environment

Over recent decades, deepening concern about the environment has had a widespread effect on social behaviour and thinking. There are ever-increasing demands from people generally, and from young people in particular, for a higher quality environment. Also apparent is a growing awareness around the world of the close relationship between environmental problems and those of an economic, demographic and social nature, and of the need to take an integrated approach to solving them (ECLAC, 1991; 1992 and 1997a).  This combines with a perception that, as the century draws to an end, global society is witnessing the exhaustion of a development style that is unsustainable in the medium and long term, one which has been characterized by its harmfulness as regards natural systems and its unfairness as regards people, and which is the outcome of major structural inadequacies in the growth strategies adopted (ECLAC, 1991; 1992 and 1997a). As knowledge about the ways in which different groups of women participate in development has increased, so the connection between gender, the environment and sustainability has grown in importance. Likewise, this knowledge has led to the conviction that a systematic effort is required if environmental issues linked with social and gender equity are to be incorporated into the development process. This is because environmental problems unquestionably reveal flaws in the socio-political and economic system, and the consequences for the environment of the way in which humanity uses the planet’s resources are conditioned by the types of relationship that exist between individuals and the different segments of society.  These reflections lead on to the consideration that the human and environmental dimensions of development are inseparable, and that this link is a result both of the aggregate effect of social relationships and actions as they influence the natural ecology, and of the impact of environmental changes on society (Gallopín, 1986).

2.2. Sustainability

The idea of sustainability was originally developed within a biological and physical framework, in response to the realization that natural resources were finite. From the postwar period to the beginning of the 1970s, world concern was centered on economic growth and the accumulation of physical and financial capital, with technological progress providing the symbol for this process. But in adopting this development style, the importance of other crucial aspects such as human resources and natural, institutional and cultural systems was underestimated (ECLAC, 1991).  The idea is now being applied in a wider context, and this has often led to confusion in the way it is used, as the policy implications that derive from it in the form in which it was originally employed (physical stocks regarded in isolation) do not give the right signals when they are applied in a different context. As a result, there has been a gradual move towards a more inclusive and comprehensive approach in which social, political and economic aspects are considered alongside natural resources issues, all of these being integrated into a common objective: sustainable development (Brundtland Commission, 1987). This broadened approach is beginning to take shape in the international   debate which was initiated with the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. This meeting tackled the problems of poverty and the welfare of the world’s population, dealing with aspects such as housing, water, health, hygiene and nutrition.

The stress, however, was placed on the technical aspects of contamination caused by industrialization, population growth and urbanization, with emphasis being laid on the undesirable consequences of these processes. The approach taken to the environmental crisis was thus a markedly first world one (Brundtland Commission, 1987).  Certain authors maintain that one of the problems is the lack of consensus over how to measure welfare in social terms. For this reason, more complex definitions have been put forward. For example, Robert Ayres notes that “sustainability is conceived of as a process of change in which the use of resources, the management of investments, the direction of technological development and institutional change are in harmony with and enhance our current and future potential to satisfy human needs and aspirations” (cited in Arizpe, Paz and Velásquez and others, 1993). Another reading, to some extent complementary, is the one put forward by Arizpe, Paz and Velázquez (1993), when they suggest that the concept of sustainability is like that of democracy: difficult and elusive, but indispensable to provide a point on the future horizon at which to aim. Again in common with democracy, it is a way of approaching the world that has to be built upon the realities of everyday life, alongside implementation of public policies designed to carry forward both processes. To this should be added the interconnection between them: sustainable development needs a democratic political culture within which people can improve their quality of life in an equitable way and cooperate in addressing the problems raised by the resources issue.

2.3. Sustainable development, the environment and gender

In international policy, the linkage between the interests of women and of the environment in conjunction with development is a recent one. For example, in the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, 1972), women are not even mentioned and the term “man” is constantly used in its general sense of “human being”. Likewise, the first World Conservation Strategy (IUCN/UNEP/WWF, 1980) did not touch on social issues to any great extent, and women were only mentioned on a few occasions and then in relation to issues traditionally associated with them such as illiteracy and population growth. Only in 1984 did the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) set up a women’s advisory group (Senior Women’s Advisory Group on Sustainable Development), which began to study and advise on the Programme in terms of the connection that exists between the problems of exclusion as this affects women, the roles they fulfill and the damage done to the environment in the course of development, and the ways to deal with both situations.

In the Report of the Brundtland Commission (1987) mention was made of the crucial roles played by women as regards population and food safety, but no conclusions were put forward on the gender-environment relationship, nor were any specific recommendations made. Nonetheless, this document defined and delineated sustainable development, and was the first step towards debating the subject from this standpoint. It also led to the original view of women as victims of environmental damage being replaced by a conception of women as possessors of knowledge and skills that would enable them to act as effective administrators of the environment.

Nonetheless, when the first meeting to prepare for the Earth Summit was held in 1990, there was no mention in the official programme of the role of women in preserving the environment and the different ways in which they participate in development processes. The subsequent incorporation of women into the programme was to be largely a result of meetings held, under the auspices of the UNEP, in the four regions of the developing world: Africa (Harare, Zimbabwe, 1989), the Arab countries (Tunis, 1990), Asia (Bangkok, 1991) and Latin America and the Caribbean (Quito, 1991), where participants submitted the information then available on the main environmental problems of each region and their effects on the female population, while at the same time submitting proposals to be included in the debate undertaken at the Conference.

The work carried out culminated, before Rio, in two meetings held in Miami in 1991: the Global Assembly on Women and the Environment: Partners in Life and the World Congress of Women for a Healthy Planet.  At these events the situation was analyzed in detail and recommendations for the United Nations Conference were decided on. Together with the proposals there were questions about the current development paradigm and a call to introduce changes that would ensure sustainability and a development style focused on the needs and rights of people. The consensus arrived at was presented in the document Agenda 21 for Women’s Action, which is an ideological framework providing a springboard for action, and in which participative democracy, universal access to information, ethical positions and full participation by women on an equal footing with men are put forward as the bases for change.

Lobbying carried out by the different women’s groups and networks, combined with growing international awareness of the problems of gender and the environment, resulted in principle 20 of the Rio Declaration, which says: “Women play a leading role in environmental management and in development. For that reason it is indispensable for them to participate fully if sustainable development is to be achieved” (United Nations, 1992). In Programme 21, which sets out the priorities for action to achieve sustainable development into the next century, although women are referred to throughout the 40 sections dealing with particular sectors and inter-sectoral links, it is section 24 that is devoted specifically to dealing with them. In this section, the focus is on the crucial role they play in bringing about changes to the current model of consumption and production, and it is emphasized that the active involvement of women in political and economic decision-making is necessary if all the Summit resolutions are to be successfully.

By the time of the Fourth World Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace, held in Beijing, and of the NGO Forum, held in parallel, the linkage between gender, the environment and sustainable development had come to prominence.  In point K of the Platform for Action, specific reference was made to the environment, and measures and strategic objectives were decided on, the central themes addressed by these being: the situation of poverty that affects many women, the need for them to participate actively in decision-making on matters relating to the environment at every level, and incorporation of gender issues into policies and programs for sustainable development (United Nations, 1995b). In the first six months of 1997, with the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development concluding its fifth year of existence, there were a substantial number of meetings to monitor fulfillment of the commitments accepted at Rio and implementation of Programme 21, and in June the Earth Summit + 5 was held in New York. In general terms, this evaluation revealed that although some progress has been made in terms of environmental protection, there are serious deficiencies in the process of orchestrating activities, and that changes in economic and political structures have not led to significant progress in overcoming poverty and achieving equity. Again, another of the subjects still to be dealt with is that of financial and technological aid from industrialized countries to developing ones to enable them to implement activities and processes that lead to sustainable development.

In this same process, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women once again highlighted the need for a gender-based approach to be incorporated into the mainstream of development, as well as into the design and implementation of environmental programs and policies, including those measures that came out of Programme 21 and the Beijing Platform for Action, both nationally and locally (United Nations, 1997a). Complementary to this is the contention, in the Report of the High-level Advisory Board on Sustainable Development for the 1997 inquiry into the Rio commitments, that one of the prerequisites for securing positive changes to bring about sustainable development is action to secure greater independence for and involvement by women (United Nations, 1997b, p.8).

Caren Levy points out (1992), despite all these recommendations there is a curious resemblance between the fate of gender issues and that of environmental issues: both rose to prominence thanks to the activities and agitation of particular movements, the feminist and environmental movements, and departments, projects, and specific programs were brought into being for each, with the result that they were left outside the development mainstream, with few human and material resources being allocated to them. Likewise, it is often seen that “women’s” and “environmental” initiatives compete with one another for the few resources available, rather than being complementary (IDB, 1996).

In the face of this, there is often a tendency to emphasize the institutional nature of the problem, i.e., to bring about coordination of strategies and efforts between those responsible for environmental projects and those dealing with the subject of gender (Vega, 1996). However, the systemic vision that arises out of the notion of sustainable development goes beyond this. It requires a change of approach and mentality so that awareness of the environment can be informed by an understanding of the implications of social equity, and so that those who set themselves to achieve social and gender equity, equality and justice can forge new kinds of relationships with nature. Given the difficulty of the task, with both subjects cutting across all sectors of planning and development as well as being interrelated between themselves, the challenge is to identify both those areas where the two sets of issues are complementary and those where they are in conflict, if progress is to be made in terms of public policy proposals.

2.4. Ecofeminism

The ecofeminist approach takes a number of forms, but two can be distinguished in general terms: social ecofeminism and cultural ecofeminism (Plumwood, 1992, p. 10). What will be given at this stage, however, are the points that both forms have in common, and the main tenets of the latter, as it has had an important influence on the work of activists promoting the subject of women and the environment inside both the feminist and the ecology movements.

The distinguishing feature of ecofeminism is the way it conceptualizes the relationship of women with nature, maintain.............

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