Part 2: Issues in Sustainable Development



Understanding poverty (low standard of living) and how it can be overcome requires looking beyond income measures of poverty to see the sources of poverty in lack of access to resources and opportunities. One way to understand poverty, proposed by Amaryta Sen, is to view poverty as a lack of capabilities.

Main Idea

Types, causes, incidence, and consequences of poverty

Key Concepts

      • Defining human poverty
      • Dimensions and indicators of poverty
      • Measuring poverty
      • Disproportionate impact of poverty on women (feminization of poverty)
      • Poverty and environment linkages


Knowledge of

      • the factors that define poverty
      • how poverty is measured in Africa
      • impact of poverty on women
      • poverty and environment linkages

Ability to

      • describe the theory and potential of cash transfer programs

Core Readings

  1. Selections from Voices of the Poor
    Quotations from interviews about the experience of poverty (1 page)
  2. Some Basic Poverty Definitions
    Differentiating between relative and absolute poverty and between income poverty and human poverty, which includes Sen’s definition of capabilities
    (1 page)
  3. Millennium Development Goals in Africa, pages 6-7
    Statistics and analysis of progress on reduction of poverty in Africa (2 pages)
  4. Economics: Exploring the Links, pages 14-21
    Links between ecosystem health and poverty, emphasizes high reliance of poor on ecosystem services (8 pages)

Sustainability Strategies

  1. Poverty in Focus,The Pilot Social Cash Transfer Scheme in Kolomo District, Zambia,” page 12
    General notes on theory of cash transfers and possibilities for their use in Africa with a short case study of a program in Zambia (1 page)
  2. Job Creation versus Cash Transfers in Kenya
    A comparison of the benefits derived from each approach (1 page)
  3. Indigenous building Materials for low-cost Housing in Sudan
    Examination of the multiple benefits to the poor derived from utilizing local materials and local industries (1 page)
  4. A Remedy Against Moths and Genetic Engineering
    A natural method of cultivation that achieves better yields for the farmers
    (4 pages)
  5. Organic agriculture and rural livelihoods
    Detailed case study of an organic agriculture project in Uganda (11 pages)
  6. Swaziland - Traditional Methods for Poverty Alleviation
    How social and cultural values, contributions by women, and the traditional indlunkhulu system help to alleviate poverty but are becoming weaker because of urbanization, migration, and drought (1 page)

Supplemental Readings

  1. Poverty Concepts, pages 1-2, box on page 8
    Detailed discussion of capabilities, absolute and relative poverty; definition of standard statistical indicators: poverty gap ratio, headcount; discussion of advantages and disadvantages of different approaches to measuring poverty (3 pages)  
  2. Poverty and Hunger, pages 8-12, 17
    Statistics on poverty and hunger worldwide; most poor are land poor living in rural areas; vicious cycle of undernourishment, poverty, conflict, and disease; decline in food aid; need for focus on rural development; difficulty in financing (5 pages)
  3. Economics: Exploring the Links
    Full report; links between ecosystem health and poverty; emphasizes high reliance of poor on ecosystem services; economic instruments to improve sustainability
    (46 pages)
  4. Rural Poor, (pages 15-68)
    Global Analysis with definitions of poverty and “rural;” transient vs. chronic poverty; vulnerability of female-headed households; challenges in directing aid to poor; annex features interesting country-by-country comparison of national economic growth against changes in poverty and inequality
    (54 pages)
  5. Famines
    Summarizes decreasing incidence of famine, as well as human health consequences (2 pages)
  6. Voices of the Poor
    Transcriptions from interviews that put a human face on poverty statistics; Nigeria, Malawi, and Ghana country reports are included in folder (approximately 30 pages each)
  7. Africa and the Millennium Development Goals 2007 Update
    Review and assessment of the progress, challenges, and opportunities in Africa for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (4 pages)
  8. Poverty and the Environment – Measuring the Links, pages 1-40; 46-57
    Discussion of development, analysis, and application of poverty and environment indicators, relationships, and opportunities; data and recommendations on Uganda (52 pages)
  9. Poverty and Ecosystems: A Conceptual Framework
    A conceptual framework for the linkages between poverty and the environment; document demonstrates how the poor depend on ecosystem services but are prevented from using them; identifies policy response options (8 pages)

Assignment Questions

  1. Poverty: Explain why “low income” does not fully capture the meaning of poverty. What is meant by the term “human poverty”? What is the Human Development Index?
  2. Poverty: The Millennium Development Goals were agreed at the United Nations Millennium Summit of September 2000. The targets are to be achieved by 2015, with reductions referring to 1990 levels. The goals provide a framework for international action and “embody the aspiration for human betterment.” (MDG in Africa) The first Millennium Development Goal concerns poverty reduction. Characterize the extent of poverty in the Sub-Saharan region.
  3. Interconnections: Poverty & Ecosystems: Why are the poor most affected by ecosystem degradation?