Resilience and Sustainable Poverty Escapes in Niger
The focus of this report is on resilience and household poverty dynamics, specifically escapes and descents, with a focus on what explains why some households escape poverty and remain out of poverty (sustained poverty escape), while other households escape poverty only to fall back into poverty (transitory poverty escape). Analysis of two rounds of the Living Standards Measurements Survey - National Survey on Household Living Conditions and Agriculture in 2011 and 2014 for this case study reveals that poverty escapes and descents are significant phenomenon in Niger (Figure 1).
This report combines analysis from two rounds of the panel survey with qualitative research approaches, in particular, key informant interviews, life histories, and participatory wealth ranking in urban and rural areas of the Zinder region. The two-wave panel analysis allows investigation into the drivers of escapes and descents over the survey years, while the fieldwork permits a longer time-scale to be assessed and so offers a way in which to explore drivers of sustained and transitory poverty escapes. Specifically, it examines why some households are able to escape poverty (like in the panel data), but then also remain out of it (going beyond panel data years of coverage)—that is, they experience sustained escapes from poverty—while others escape poverty only to return to living in it again. The report investigates the resources (land, livestock, and assets), attributes (household composition and education level), and activities (including jobs and engagement in non-farm activities) that enable households to escape poverty sustainably and minimize the likelihood of returning to living in poverty again. The report situates these micro-factors in an analysis of the changing context for poverty eradication.
The research found that households with increased land, and who developed a nonfarm enterprise, or received remittances from domestic sources, between 2011 and 2014 were associated with significantly higher monetary welfare measured by per capita expenditures, according to the quantitative data. The qualitative data indicated that households with these characteristics and who diversified their assets were more likely to experience sustained than transitory escapes from poverty. In the life history interviews, most increases in landholdings were through inheritance.
Combining domestic or international migration with farm activities was a common strategy in rural areas and was likely to lead to escapes from poverty. Most rural men interviewed during the qualitative research practiced a mix of agriculture and migration, with migrants often returning during the wet season to plant, tend to their crops and harvest. However, these escapes from poverty were often transitory with many experiencing job insecurity and shocks which resulted in a fall back into poverty. The difference between sustained escapers and transitory escapers who combined migration with agriculture is that sustained escapers had a network that linked them to more lucrative trades such as masonry, security or the fuel trade. These networks were often based on villages having connections to certain trades. Shifts in trends of migration were noted with increasing numbers of young people opting to migrate within Niger.
Insecurity in Nigeria and Libya was a clear factor influencing life history respondents’ decision to change to domestic migration, especially over the last five years. The devaluation of the Naiara was another factor influencing people’s decision to migrate within Niger.
The risk environment is extremely challenging for poor and near-poor people in Niger. Environmental and agriculture-related shocks were the most common in the quantitative data; ill health figured prominently in the qualitative research data. Price shocks were associated with significantly reduced monetary welfare in the quantitative results. Coping strategies in the quantitative dataset included the use of savings, engaging in spiritual activities, and seeking help from relatives and friends.
The changing characteristics of households were also particularly important in impoverishment processes. Having more children, teenage marriage, especially for women just above the poverty line, were all associated with an increased likelihood of a descent into poverty in the qualitative research data.
Strategies for sustained poverty escapes evidenced in the qualitative data included investing in livestock, agricultural land, vegetable gardening, and urban property. Livestock investments were the most risky investment; livestock often succumbed to disease or starvation. Spreading the risks through diversifying investments was more common among sustained escapers. Sustained escapers were also able to use family connections to help them recover from shocks, for example, to secure jobs in Nigeria. Several female interviewees were able to achieve a sustained escape though investing in livelihood assets such as push carts for transporting water and peanut oil extraction equipment from formal savings groups and money contributed at baptism ceremonies.
Note: The report is accompanied by a separate policy brief (Shepherd, 2018), which presents policy implications for sustaining poverty escapes in Niger that emerge from the analysis presented in this study.