Poverty in general refers to aninability to fulfill basic needs and low standards of living. Income is mostoften used as an indicator of poverty that people with higher income are lessvulnerable to poverty than people with lower income, all else being equal. Forgiven income, poverty depends on access to social services such as healthcare,education and social safety nets, and access to basic facilities such aselectricity, safe drinking water, sanitation and markets (Iceland & Bauman 2007).
Sen (1988) describes poverty as anabsence of entitlement, and ‘… not having some basic opportunities of materialwellbeing, the failure to have certain minimum capabilities” (Sen, 1985, P 669). He recognizes themultidimensional nature of poverty that it is not just a matter of income, itis one of a failure of achieving certain minimum capabilities. There is nowconsensus that poverty is a complex issue and can be manifested in variety ofways including absence of economic opportunities, vulnerability, socialexclusion and discrimination, social insecurity and violence, lack of educationand basic services, and poor health and unhealthy living conditions. Hunger andfood insecurity are the most serious forms of extreme poverty, which causesmore than 8 million deaths annually (Sachs 2005). Poverty in mountaincontext is distinct from the poverty in other areas. This is becausecommunities in mountain areas are extremely vulnerable to poverty due tofragile and harsh environment, marginalization, inaccessibility, diversity, andlimited livelihood options (Jodha 2000) (Jodha 1990), Ellis-Jone1999). Climatic change and climate-induced hazards, such as extendeddroughts, intense rainfall in short duration and resulting landslides, areadding extra burden to the mountain communities (McDowell et al. 2013).
Since weather-dependent rain-fed agriculture is prevalent in mountainareas, agricultural productivity is declining. As a result, migration of adultsfrom the mountain region to more accessible areas is becoming a commonphenomenon; and people left behind in the mountain communities are gettingpoorer. They lack enabling environment, appropriate technologies, productiveassets, relevant information, and basic facilities; constraining theirproductive and adaptive capacities for fighting against poverty. The global extreme poverty wasprojected to be below 10% in 2015 (Ferreira et al. 2016). However, the distribution ofthe poor is skewed against the developing and middle-income countries. For thepeople just above the poverty line, there is a high risk of falling them backinto poverty.
The poor and people just above a poverty line are notonly living in highly fragile mountain community and conflict-affected regions (Collier 2007) but also in middle-incomecountries where inequality has been increasing with average income (Kanbur & Sumner 2012). Kanbur & Sumner (2012) claim that the nature ofpoverty is changing as countries make progress. In 1990, almost 90% of the poorwere living in low-income countries, but in 2010, almost 72% of the global poorwere living in middle-income countries.
This changing geography of poverty isdue to ever-increasing inequality coupled with economic progress. Even ifcountries average income has been rising over time in several countries,marginalized, deprived, excluded and poor people living in inaccessiblemountain communities are not getting the benefits of the economic growth (Ravallion 2001). In order to address the globalpoverty with topmost importance, the UN general assembly in September 2015agreed to adopt a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whereeradicating extreme poverty by 2030 being the first goal (Resolution 2015). These SDGs are widelyaccepted and nobody now doubts that the progress in poverty reduction would bethe main touchstone of the inclusive development and future progress of anycountry or a region in coming years. The SDG 1 aims to “end poverty in all itsform everywhere”.
The SDG 1 has seven different targets and 14 indicators,which intends to eradicate extreme poverty, defined as proportion of populationbelow the international poverty line (USD 1.25 a day at 2005 price), and alsohalved the proportion of the population living in different forms of povertydefined nationally by 2030. The SDGs, also known as the Agenda 2030, has 17goals, where first seven goals are not only closely linked to the SDG 1, butthe achievements of these goals are primarily linked with the progress made inachieving the ‘no poverty’ goal, highlighting the importance of attaining the’no poverty’ goal. Economic growth directly helps toreduce the risk of being in the poverty trap (Collier, 2007). This happens, asgrowth, under certain conditions, tends to enhance both private income andgovernment revenue, and diversifies exports from primary natural resourcesbased trade to more manufacturing based trade. Establishment of manufacturingindustries enhances employment opportunities.
In the past several decades, theworld has made remarkable progress in reducing the global poverty throughindustrialization (Chen & Ravallion 2008). However, many developing andmiddle-income countries’ extreme poverty has been deeply rooted, and in theabsence of proper redistribution of the accumulated wealth from the sustainedeconomic growth, inequality has been worsening globally – creating pockets ofpoverty in excluded and mountain areas in several low and middle-incomecountries. When countries develop, it naturally creates opportunities inaccessible areas endowed with natural resources or favorable climaticconditions. Such geographical locations generally have more economic activitiesand attract more people, resulting into economics of scales. This virtuouscycle of development ultimately leads to skewed distribution of wealth andincome in accessible areas making it difficult for poor and fragile mountainregions to catch up (Nguyen & Dizon 2017).
Based on the progress made in thepast in reducing geographically linked poverty, it is quite challenging to meetthe SDG 1 by 2030 in several of these countries. It would be even moredifficult to fulfil the SDG 1 in mountain context as mountain environment isnaturally harsh with extreme slops and cold weather, living condition is hard,access to market and resources is inadequate, and infrastructures are absent (Jodha 2005; Epprecht et al. 2008). Mountain people are deprivedof wellbeing due to isolated and inaccessible landscapes with limitedresources. Thus, the mountain area is less suitable for mechanizing theagriculture using the existing technology, which is mostly developed forflatter areas, and there is not much research and development in agriculturetechnology for addressing mountain specific needs. Addressing mountain poverty,requires proper targeting with appropriate instruments (Jalan & Ravallion 2002) (Minot et al.
2006). Targeting can be done byselecting activities (e.g., education, healthcare), indicators (e.g., landholding size, hype of house), locations (rural, away from the markets), orself-selection (e.
g., participating in employment guarantee or food-for-workprogram where wage rate is fixed below the market rate so that people who areemployed elsewhere have no incentive to participate in such program), or somecombination of these approaches (Weiss 2005). While targeting poverty,there is a possibility of under-coverage (failure to reach some of the targetedgroups) or leakage (benefits received outside the target group). This mainlyhappens when we lack the knowledge of indicators and determinants of poverty.To address the mountain poverty we may need geographical targeting combinedwith mountain specific activities and indicators. In order to better targeting themountain poverty, one approach would be to understand the determinants ofmountain poverty using cross-country analysis. However, cross-country analysisbecomes irrelevant in the face of missing comparable cross-country data. Due todata problem, cross-country analysis masks welfare impacts of economic growthirrelevant.
Ravallion (2001) recommends a deepermicro empirical work to understand the effect of growth on poverty. Thisresearch, therefore, aims to: 1) examine the current state of mountain poverty,and 2) identify its major determinants using country specific microdata. We mainly analyze the povertystatus and its determinants in eight countries from the Hindu-Kush Himalaya(HKH), namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal andPakistan. The HKH region is known for the mountain ranges as the water tower ofAsia or the ‘Third Pole,’ as it holds the largest amount of ice outside thePolar Regions (Bahadur 1993) (REF ICIMOD work). Almost 1.9billion (est. July 20171) people live in this HKH region and downstream,whose livelihoods depend on the water flowing down from the HKH region. Thedisaggregated knowledge and better understanding of the causes of poverty inthe mountain context helps policy makers, civil society organization and thedonors to: i) identify the poor that need help, ii) develop appropriatedevelopment agenda, iii) better targeting of aid and other social supports forhelping the poor based on location, ethnicity, occupational groups andeducation levels, and iv) monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of targetedpolicy interventions undertaken to reduce poverty for fulfilling the SDGs.
Using nationally representativelarge-scale household survey data, we examine the mountain poverty in HKHcountries. Our sub-national level analysis suggests that in the HKH countries,mountain poverty is higher than the poverty in other regions in almost all HKHcountries. The major determinants of poverty are household size, dependencyratio, access to electricity, safe drinking water and sanitation, cleanercooking fuel, access to information and market, education level of householdhead, and ownership of cattle. In HKH countries, where society is divided intodifferent castes and ethnic groups, the lower caste and socially disadvantagedethnic groups are poorer than the higher castes/ethnic groups. Surprisingly,gender of household heads, however, is not a significant determinant of povertywhen education level of household head and other characteristics of thehouseholds are taken into account.
Our quantitative estimates on the effects ofdifferent determinants on poverty provide much needed information on identifyingthe effective instruments for addressing mountain poverty using limitedresources. In what follows, we discuss themethods used for analyzing poverty incidence in HKH countries. We then discussspatial and group level poverty incidence in each county.
In the final section,we highlight the main observations and draw some practical conclusion. 1 https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2119rank.html access Dec 12, 2017