This paper presents findings from on-going research in rural Uganda.
Analysis builds on the qualitative and quantitative livelihoods research
undertaken in 3 Districts in Uganda by the LADDER study. In addition to
re-analysis of the LADDER dataset, the authors undertook in-depth life
history interviews with the heads of nearly 25 households in 3 villages.
They explored the trajectories into and out of poverty and found that
the loss of assets and composite shocks have propelled a number of
previously non-poor households into severe and long-term poverty. In
addition, they found that those born into chronically poor households
found few opportunities for accumulation and escape.
Well-being decline was associated with a web of meso-level constraints
and shocks which commonly combined negatively with household level
shocks and socio-cultural or socio-psychological factors. Chronically
poor households seldom faced a single problem or constraint, and those
who reduced the intensity of their poverty generally managed to do so as
a result of several serendipitous events or factors combining. Shocks
with a long-run impact include the fragmentation of families, following
marital breakdown or the death of a parent. The repercussions of which
were particularly strong for women and their children who could be
affected long into adulthood. Ill health, physical weakness and
disability were strongly associated with declines in well-being.
'Non-cooperation within the household', resulting in the theft and
sale of stored crops or household assets, was associated with high
(male) alcohol consumption and was in turn linked with high levels of
domestic violence and reduced levels of well-being for the whole
household. Inter-ethnic conflict resulting in internal displacement, the
loss of productive and household assets and the death of household
members caused life-long trauma and declines into chronic poverty for
many households. The complete absence of effective interventions for
'vulnerable groups' has left widows, orphans, the abandoned elderly,
the disabled and the long-term sick with no where to turn. Difficulties
in accessing markets, particularly in remote rural areas, means that the
chronically poor, even the 'non-vulnerable', can rarely accumulate
through selling their labour. Education and health provision is commonly
poor, even when access is possible. With no surplus to save, low levels
of human, social or political capital and few productive assets, the
chronically poor's ability to identify and capitalise on escape routes
from poverty are profoundly limited. Day to day levels of well-being are
extremely low and they have little hope for a brighter future. Targeted
social protection measures are clearly necessary to provide long-term
welfare to some and opportunities to invest and accumulate for others.
Multiple shocks and downward mobility:learning from the life histories of rural Ugandans presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 44 pp.
Multiple shocks and downward mobility: learning from the life histories of rural Ugandans