Chronic Poverty and Remote Rural Areas

Working and discussion papers
March 2002
Kate Bird, David Hulme, Andrew Shepherd and Karen Moore

This paper is a first attempt at putting the case that people living in remote rural areas (RRAs) account for a substantial proportion of the chronically poor. The evidence for this will be gathered from country studies, longitudinal quantitative and qualitative micro-level studies, and the growing volume of work on spatial poverty traps. It is a substantial research exercise to identify where the chronically poor are, who they are, and why they are chronically poor. This paper will be able only to make an initial informed guess at the scale of chronic poverty in RRAs.

The paper argues that there has been a widespread ‘policy failure’ in RRAs. The focus on livelihoods development, based on successes in non-remote areas did not take account of the special risk, exclusion and marginalisation characteristics of RRAs. Attacking these causes of persistent poverty would involve a greater emphasis on human capital and security. Livelihood diversification would then become more of a possibility. Policy sequencing is therefore critical. The neo-liberal policy discourse turned to human capital development in the 1990s and the World Development Report for 2000/1 has announced a renewed and welcome focus on security, which is, however, yet to be operationalised.  

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