Pathways out of Poverty in Western Kenya and the Role of Livestock


The objectives of the study were to obtain a better understanding of households' pathways into, and out of, poverty, with poverty defined from the communities' own perspective. The authors used a community-based methodology called the 'stages of progress' approach to assess household poverty dynamics in 20 communities and for over 1,700 households representing two different ethnic groups in Western Kenya. The proportion of households that had managed to escape poverty over the last 25 years was ascertained, as well as the proportion of households that had fallen into poverty during the same period. The major reasons for movements into or out of poverty were elicited at both the community and household-level, and in particular, the role that livestock play in the different pathways was examined.

The results show considerable movement over the last 2½ decades by households in the study region both into and out of poverty, and the main reasons behind households' escape from poverty are completely different (i.e. not merely the opposite) from the reasons for descent into poverty, and hence have different policy implications in terms of what has been referred to as 'cargo net' versus 'safety net' interventions. Cargo nets help poor people climb out of poverty; safety nets stop people from falling into poverty. Redistributive programs to build up the assets of poor people (such as giving heifers to poor households) may be effective in achieving long-term reductions in chronic poverty, but will have to be complemented by safety net policies.

A three page executive summary is also available in addition to this paper.


PPLPI, FAO, Rome, Italy, v+23pp.

Published 1 January 2004