This paper presents findings from research in rural Uganda based on
household survey and village level participatory work with in-depth life
history interviews. This allowed the exploration of 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, findings illustrated 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 only 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 this 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, 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 assets through
selling their labour. 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 longterm welfare to
some and opportunities to invest and accumulate for others.
Multiple shocks and downwardmobility: learning from the lifehistories of rural Ugandans, CPRC Working Paper No. 36, Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, ISBN 1-904049-35-4, 47 pp.
Multiple shocks and downward mobility: learning from the life histories of rural Ugandans, CPRC Working Paper No. 36