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Poverty Reduction Policies Should Focus on Geography in Rural Kenya

Based on GIS mapping technology, a new study suggests that poverty alleviation policies in rural Kenya could achieve more if they focus on geographic factors.

For example, the study found that slope, soil type, land use, elevation, and distance and travel time to public resources are all contributing factors to poverty. However, some of these factors are more important in geographic regions and not in others. This suggests that pro-poor policies need to be targeted to provincial or more local levels rather than designed for blanket application across Kenya as a whole.

The authors generated simulations to predict how changes in the levels of the various determinants would reduce or increase poverty.

The results indicate that improved soil fertility would significantly reduce poverty in Western Province. Investing in healthy soils and increasing nutrient inputs would yield two benefits: lower rural poverty and improved ecosystem health.

The results also show that communities living in Kenya's rangelands are likely to have the poorest access to roads and services and the poorest infrastructure in the country.

I was a co-author of the study, Spatial Determinants of Poverty in Rural Kenya, printed in the October 23, 2007 issue of PNAS, a journal of the National Academies of Science of the United States.

Researchers from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Kenya's National Bureau of Statistics, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and WRI carried out this joint study. It provides further insights on the importance of geographic determinants on poverty and supports WRI's larger effort on mapping poverty and ecosystem services in East Africa.

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