The paper describes research that links micro level outcomes to macro level strategies with respect to rural poverty reduction in Kenya. It is set against a background in which a new government, elected at the end of 2002, is wrestling with how to break away decisively from previously unfavourable norms in the conduct of public life. The new government has given priority to fresh policy initiatives to enhance economic growth and reduce poverty. The research undertaken in ten villages in Suba and Bomet districts in 2001 and 2002 confirms governance problems as having a broadly debilitating effect on rural livelihoods. A dense thicket of official and unofficial taxation, encapsulated in the phrase ‘multiple shaking down’, sets the tone for interactions between public servants and citizens in rural areas. Rolling back this pattern of public service behaviour needs to be made a priority in future approaches to poverty reduction in Kenya, for otherwise national goals to improve education, health and the transport infrastructure will reap significantly lower gains than are potentially possible. A note of caution is raised about decentralization as an idealised answer to these kinds of problem, since the resource needs of decentralized institutions can get in the way of substituting blocking and disabling public sector institutional environments by the enabling and encouraging ones that are required for rapid rural poverty reduction in Kenya.
Freeman, H.A.; Ellis, F.; Allison, E. Livelihoods and Rural Poverty Reduction in Kenya. (2003) 29 pp. [LADDER Working Paper No.33]