Blaming the victims: The poverty-environment nexus: Policy implications and grassroots alternative for sub-Saharan Africa


College of Liberal Arts


Political Science

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This paper investigates the concept of poverty-environment nexus and explores its policy implications within the context of sub-Saharan Africa. The research points out the lack of consensus on the existence of an exogenous poverty-environmental degradation causal relation. The environmental degradation-poverty and endogenous poverty-environmental degradation causal relations, however, are sufficiently demonstrated to lead to a downward spiral. Counter examples are the bases for these conclusions, citing community level experiences in Africa, which highlight relevance of traditional indigenous practices of sustainable resource management and environmental protection. The implication is that cases of environment-rural poor relations should be studied in their own contexts and that a generalization about the effects of poverty on degradation is dangerous as it blames the most affected, thereby misplacing and misleading policies. Policy should encourage local differentiation and empowerment, identifying conditions wherein it is feasible and desirable to enable more people to gain more of what they want and need, including better and more sustainable rural livelihoods, and controlling more of their own resources. In particular, it means differentiating local conditions and following different policies in different places according to different local priorities. It implies more local participation and in some cases local self-direction. It means the action is to be done by the local people themselves. Finally, it means the creation of procedures and institutions that would be responsive to their diverse needs. But the poor, themselves, are taking matters into their own hands. Development and environmental protection has become their own agenda instead of being an agenda for them. The struggle against poverty and environmental degradation has merged with their struggle for livelihood and control of their own production.



Economic Policy | Environmental Policy | Sociology

Series Title

Discussion paper series ; 2001-001


Poverty—Africa, Sub-Saharan; Poverty—Prevention—Africa, Sub-Saharan; Environmental protection—Africa, Sub-Saharan; Community development—Africa, Sub-Saharan

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