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We Must Not Manage Poverty But Reduce It

Through innovation and generosity, the world has made amazing progress in improving the lives of its poorest people over the past 50 years.
– Bill Gates

Progress in human development has been a result of innovative and generous women and men who have devised plans and strategies, mobilized resources, challenged themselves, taken risks, and given of themselves to this end. Progress has been necessitated by leaders who have made or rallied behind humanitarian choices; leaders who have made a fundamental option for the poor especially the poorest of the poor.

I am inspired when leaders focus on poverty eradication or reduction rather than focusing on poverty management. Unrolling programmes for the provision of food, health, and shelter to the poor is poverty management, and this in turn perpetuates poverty making it a constant habitué in people’s lives. Aiming at poverty reduction leads us not only to look at and address the situation, which in this case is poverty, but it also causes us to look beyond and prescribe against what causes the status quo.

Eradication or reduction programmes do not deal with the effect but with the both the formal and efficient causes. When a choice for poverty reduction rather than poverty management is made, structures, plans, choices, mentalities, beliefs, and anything that gives life to the animal called poverty will be intolerable. I believe provision of aid, important though it is, is not the only ingredient in dealing with poverty. Promotion of ideas and innovations can be a powerful approach.

It is to be borne in mind that every choice is a renunciation. There is a common hypocrisy noticeable amongst many a leader. While on one hand they make choices about poverty reduction or eradication, on another hand they continue upholding practices and principles that are diametrically opposed to the choice made.

There are presently many humanitarian organisations in Zimbabwe, and they must not be unnecessarily multiplied. However, the human needs in Zimbabwe both qualitatively and quantitatively far outnumber the organisations that are endeavouring to meet these needs. The most important step in the establishment of this organisation is to do a needs assessment exercise and identify areas that still need to be given attention.

As I write this, what immediately comes to my mind is the area of education. We do have organisations that have dedicated themselves to educate the poor, and by this, they mean sending them to school. Their activities mainly consist of paying their fees, buying uniforms, and stationery. Programmes or activities geared towards educating the poor in the area of human formation need to be tailored and unrolled. These would compliment the formal education they receive in formal schools. The combination of these programmes will lead to a nation of successful, confident, and productive school leavers.

It is a sad scenario to see young men and women who were very successful in their formal school now failing dismally in life. There is need to tailor and promote programmes that would not only equip them with knowledge but guide them to make positive choices in life. Success and or failure is by and large a result of choices made. Some women failed in their formal education but became very successful in life. What happened? Choices made account for this.

One Response to We Must Not Manage Poverty But Reduce It

  1. Steve North November 25, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I could not agree more with the emphasis on poverty eradication and/or poverty reduction as opposed to povery management. The scriptures are clear about God’s intentions in this regard, and about God’s unwillingness to allow for the apathy or disengagement from this issue by those who follow Christ. Things do not have to be the way they are, poverty can be eradicated, and we are invited to be participants in bringing about God’s Kingdom in the actual world in which we live.

    However, I am disturbed by the assertion made in the final paragraph that success and failure are “by and large a result of choices made.” Of course, individual choices often have a huge impact on success or failure, but this doesn’t even seem to fit with the rest of the article. Reading passages such as Isaiah 58 and Amos 5 and even Matthew 25 makes it clear that God is not interested in or patient with such an approach to placing blame. Additionally, this ignores the realities of the systemic nature of poverty, not to mention the culpability of those of us who live outside this systemic problem.

    I’m certainly not saying that people have no choices to make, much less that those choices have no real bearing on one’s circumstances. I am saying that to introduce this thought and drop it without substantiation with such a broad stroke was not helpful. I think, from the rest of this article, that you understand this, but your final paragraph allowed room for a more typical U.S. Christianity cop out that places full blame on the very people to whom God’s call obligates us.


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