By: Maggie .M. Mwape
Only a few years away from the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the fight against poverty is at the centre of national and international development discussions. The global food and economic crises that peaked in 2008 have only increased the urgency. Indeed, the world saw a renewed focus on chronic poverty and specifically MDG 1, which is to reduce chronic poverty and hunger by half by the target date of 2015.
In the words of the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,
'Eradicating extreme poverty continues to be one of the main challenges of our time, and is a major concern of the international community. The Millennium Development Goals set time bound targets, by which progress in reducing income poverty, hunger, disease, lack of adequate shelter and exclusion while promoting gender equality, health, education and environmental sustainability can be measured'.
However, the success of both national and international plans should be anchored by a precise characterization and measurement of poverty. Since policy choices are strongly influenced by the definition of a problem, accurate definition and measurement of poverty is critical for the design and implementation of specific poverty-reducing actions. Essentially, a better definition and more precise measurement of poverty is an integral and indispensable part of any approach to poverty reduction.
In Zambia, poverty estimates have been made on the basis of the cost of a “minimum food basket”. The Prices and Incomes Commission (PIC) and the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) composed this minimum food basket in 1992, based on nutritional needs for an average family of six, consisting of two adults and four children with ages ranged between one and twelve years.
In Zambia, poverty has been recognized as the biggest challenge facing the economy, and the government launched a Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP) in 2002. This strategy accompanied other commitments such as achieving the MDGs, as well as adhering to many other declarations that Zambia is signatory to, for instance, the Maputo Declaration on Agriculture. However, these efforts are not unprecedented. To respond to the situation of destitute households, the government has been implementing social protection programmes such as the Public Welfare Assistance Scheme (PWAS), which targets the poorest in communities.
In the overall work to increase agricultural production in Zambia, the Food Security Pack stands out as the most promising and effective government initiative to build capacity of low-capacity but viable farmers. It is recognized as a major entry point for poverty reduction in rural areas. In implementing the FSP, the Programme Against Malnutrition (PAM) targets many of the most poor and food-insecure farmers across the country: those not only tilling less than one acre, but also facing a serious vulnerability such as a child heading the household. Due to unaffordable inputs and poor agricultural knowledge, such smallholder farmers typically fail to produce more than a few bags of maize in a season, leaving them desperate for food aid to survive the year (Petrauskis, 2007).
Reference: Interrogating Urban Poverty Lines – the Case of Zambia - Miniva Chibuye (2011)