Meaning of Poverty Argumentative Essay

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Poverty is defined as a state of not having enough income or consumption to put them above some adequate minimum edge (World Bank Institute, 2005). Poverty has a close relationship with deprivation in well-being. At the same time well-being is primarily linked to command over commodities. This view sees poverty largely in monetary terms. Poverty may, however, be in terms of house, food, or health.

Generally, there are many definitions of poverty, according to how it is viewed. Encyclopedia Encarta, defines poverty as the condition of having insufficient resources or income. In its most extreme form, poverty is a lack of basic human needs to sustain as useful and working efficiency such as adequate and nutritious food, clothing, housing, clean water and health services.

Poverty is a situation that emanates from lack of necessary capabilities and entitlements to satisfy human basic needs. This situation limits a person from acquiring security and assets, or from having power for decision-making (Chambers, 1983). Poverty can always exist in society where some or all of its members fail to attain a certain level of well-being considered by that society as a reasonable minimum standard of living (Bagachwa, 1994). According to Lipton and Ravallion, (1995) Poverty is not only a state of existence but also a process with many dimensions and complexities; usually it is characterized by deprivation, vulnerability (high risk and low capacity to cope) and powerlessness. These characteristics impair people’s sense of well-being.


Types of Poverty

There two main types of poverty which are absolute poverty and relative poverty. Absolute poverty is defined as lacking the basic means to survive. Absolute poverty refers to not meeting basic survival needs such as food, clothing and shelter. People living in absolute poverty often do not have access to clean water and a safe living environment. Living in absolute poverty also means a lack of clothing and medicine.
Relative poverty occurs when a family’s income and way of living fall below the general standard of living defined by its society. Relative poverty conditions lead to disadvantages through unemployment, low income, poor health care coverage and lack of education.


Indicators of poverty

The indicators of poverty are Proportion of population below $1 per day, Poverty gap ratio [incidence x depth of poverty] and Share of poorest quintile in national consumption. The poverty can be measured by using the methods of National poverty line and International poverty line. The poverty or poor exists where some poor or persons fall short of reasonably defined minimum levels of well-being such as access to certain consumption or income levels, housing, health and education facilities and certain rights recognized according to standards of human needs and socio-economic conditions of the society (Department of Census and Statistics 2007).
According to Korankye (2014), the extend of poverty can be depicted using the socio-economic indicators like per capita income, life expectancy at birth (years), access to health care services, access to safe water, access to education and access to sanitation facilities.


Causes of poverty

This part presents the causes of poverty in Tanzania, it is from these causes that one can understand the concept of poverty and what causes it to exist. The causes of poverty in Tanzania can be viewed from different perspectives; These are individual cause and structural causes. Yahie (1993) believes that the factors that cause poverty include: (i) Structural causes that are more permanent and depend on a host of exogenous factors such as limited resources, lack of skills, locational disadvantage and other factors that are inherent in the social and political set-up; and (ii) the transitional causes that are mainly due to structural adjustment reforms and changes in domestic economic policies that may result in price changes, unemployment and so on. Natural calamities such as drought and man-made disasters, environmental degradation and so on also induce transitional poverty (Narayan et.al. 2000a, 2000b). here below is the discussion of the cause of poverty in Tanzania.


In the sphere of salary employment, there is exclusion of these people from the labor market. This exclusion has big impact when they become unemployed hence become precursor of poverty. When these people are excluded from the labor market, they become deprived access to regular or good income hence denied the access to property, credit, class status, education, standard of living, or employment. The status of the people excluded from the said access become weakened towards becoming poor (Bessis, 1995). In their discussions of the factors that cause poverty, de Haan (2000) and Sindzingre (2000) noted that poverty could also be caused by general exclusion of the people from social life. To them exclusion reflects discrimination, which is a process that denies individuals from full participation in material exchange or interaction. The concept is tied to exclusion from the labour market, long-term unemployment and the destruction of the social links and integration that usually accompany work.

The poor healthcare system in Tanzania is largely the fault of unequal distribution of finances within the system. About 85 percent of healthcare spending goes to central urban hospitals, but only about 10 percent of the population has access to these hospitals. This means that 90 percent of the population has to rely on 15 percent of the country’s healthcare funding. This leads to a severe lack of resources, resulting in many people being inadequately or improperly treated. This small amount of resources also fails to treat many of the diseases common to those in poverty, including tuberculosis, malaria, HIV, diarrhea, and cholera. Thousands of people, many of them children under the age of five, die of these illnesses every day.

Poor or total lack of education is another one of the causes of poverty in Tanzania. Ever since obtaining its independence, Tanzania has prioritized education. However, millions of children are still barred from secondary and post-secondary schooling. Only three out of every five Tanzanian children are enrolled in secondary school. For many, further education is not even an option. Education is too expensive for many families. Other barriers to education besides cost interfere as well. For girls, harassment, pregnancy and menstruation are just a few reasons why women can be excluded from education. Distance is also a common factor for many who are unable to attend school. Poor transportation and infrastructure leave schools hours away, especially for those in rural areas. Even if a student is able to go to school, the quality of the education is subpar due to a lack of supplies and properly educated teachers.

Dependence on agriculture as well as high populations in rural areas are also causes of poverty in Tanzania. Tanzania relies on agriculture for more than 40 percent of its GDP and 85 percent of its exports. Agricultural jobs employ about 80 percent of the country’s workforce. With about 74 percent of Tanzania’s population living in rural areas, many in these areas rely on agriculture or livestock as their only means of survival. Though farming and livestock can help people get out of poverty, they can also worsen existing poverty. Tanzania lacks necessary agricultural policies to meet the country’s needs, and the lack of assistance provided to farmers often results in food insecurity and very low incomes. This sometimes forces individuals further into poverty, unable to obtain the necessary resources to survive. Inadequate technology as well as desertification, deforestation and pests combine with a poor budget and failing infrastructure in rural areas to create a negative situation for those nearing or already affected by poverty.
Corruption and poor governance. Poverty in Tanzania like any other African poverty is caused by corruption and poor governance. According to the World Bank (1990), and the United Nations (1995), poverty has various manifestations which include the lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihood, hunger, and malnutrition, ill health, limited or lack of access to education and other basic services, increased illness and mortality from illness, homelessness, inadequate, unsafe and degraded environment, social discrimination and exclusion.

The findings of the study by Obadan (1997) indicated that in Sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania inclusive, the main factors that cause poverty include: inadequate access to employment opportunities; inadequate physical assets such as land, capital and minimal access by the poor to credit even on a small scale; inadequate access to the means of supporting rural development in poor regions; inadequate access to markets where the poor can sell goods and services; low endowment of human capital, destruction of natural resources leading to environmental degradation and reduced productivity; inadequate access to assistance for those living at the margin and those victimised by transitory poverty and lack of participation. That is, failure to draw the poor into the design of development programmes.


Debt Burden from rich countries

One of the major factors that contribute to perpetuate poverty is the debt burden which has continued to drain resources from poor countries to the rich countries. Many poor countries Tanzania inclusive carry significant debt due to loans from wealthier nations and international financial institutions. In Tanzania debt servicing is currently about 39 percent of the recurrent budget. This is so huge that inhibits the Government ability to adequately provide social and other services to the public. In addition, structural adjustment policies by organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund often require poorer nations to open their markets to outside business and investors, thereby increasing competition with local businesses and, many argue, undermining the potential development of local economies. In recent years, calls for debt reduction and forgiveness have been increasing, as activists see this as a key means of reducing poverty. The United Nations has also made it a priority to examine how economic structural adjustment policies can be designed to place less pressure on vulnerable populations.


Insufficient Support to the Agricultural Sector

Though agriculture is the backbone of the economy, the support given to the sector over the years has not been commensurate with its relative importance. This is reflected in poor rural infrastructure and lack of modernization of the sector. Smallholder farmers who dominate the sector remain virtually inaccessible to credit and other forms of relevant support to improve productivity. The inability to modernize the technologies used in the sector, poor rural infrastructure, the non availability of critical farm inputs, the inefficiency of the marketing system and significant post harvest losses have all contribute towards the poor performance of the agricultural sector, hence towards the poverty of the country.


Inadequate Support to Rural Industries

The establishment in rural areas of small scale, agro-based industries could have complemented the agricultural sector in the utilization of slack labour, in adding value to agricultural commodities and providing a basis for technological development. By not developing small scale and cottage industries in the rural areas, the rural sector has had to continue to depend on peasant farming system, hence perpetuating poverty.


Disruption of Local Institution Structures

The erosion of democratic institution such as local councils and cooperative denied the participation of the people in the management of the economy and in the process their contribution to development activities were marginalized. Even with the reintroduction of the local government and co-operative societies, lack of capacity and inappropriate set up of the cooperatives limited their contribution to development effort in general.


Low level of Technology

The use of poor inappropriate technology leading to low productivity in all sectors has also contributed perpetuation of poverty. The technology which could be used to support industrial development and Agricultural production is missing in Tanzania, hence difficult to develop the economy of Tanzania.


Unequal Exchange in International Trade

Unequal exchange in international trade has limited the ability of developing countries to break out of the poverty cycle. The country has continued to rely on unprocessed agricultural commodities as the main export crops. But the prices of agricultural products in comparison to those of industrial products have remained unfavourable. This trade relationship has put a severe limit on the ability of the country to break out of the poverty cycle.



For year Tanzania has been receiving refugees from neighbouring countries. These have been in manageable proportions. However, with the recent ethnic turmoil in Rwanda and Burundi, the country has experienced an influx of refugees never seen before. The two regions of Kagera and Kigoma are now hosting a refugee population of over 700,000 people. The refugee problem has resulted in the depletion of natural resources like water and trees, and the destruction of social infrastructures like dispensaries and schools which were used to host them. The refugee problem has aggravated poverty in the two regions by accelerating environmental degradation and the depletion of food and natural resources.


Inadequate Support to Rural Industries

The establishment in rural areas of small scale, agro-based industries could have complemented the agricultural sector in the utilization of slack labour, in adding value to agricultural commodities and providing a basis for technological development. By not developing small scale and cottage industries in the rural areas, the rural sector has had to continue to depend on peasant farming system, hence perpetuating poverty.

From the above discussed causes of poverty, it has been noted that, the causes are causes by structural and social economic factors. However, they are grouped into two parties. Causes which are internal oriented and those which are external. According to our observation’s poverty has a lot of socio-economic effects in Tanzania, such as;


Effects of Poverty in Tanzania  Increase of illiteracy

Normally society which is poor fails to send its children to school. There are so many cases of parents failing to pay school fees for their children after they have been selected to join secondary schools. From this view’ it is likely that, the illiteracy will continue to perpetuate the circle hence keeps people under more illiteracy.

This impact is seriously felt in the agricultural sector as well as other sectors of the economy. Since farmers lack the appropriate technology, updated skills, modern technology, capacity building, innovative techniques, tools, lack capital to invest in this sector (to improve the soils and multiply the yields), because of this poor state, the sector has seriously been affected.

Considering the indiscriminate population explosion in Tanzania in relation to the lessening food production and the economy, there is a serious threat to food production and food security. The policies to guarantee food security and eliminate hunger in Tanzania have remained all theories on the lips of those who preach it to make political gains. Except these theories are transformed into concrete action and realities, one will wonder how this issue of food security that has remained a sing-song for the past decades.

Poor Health

Due to poverty, one of the impacts is increased poor health, people will face diseases like Malaria, Tuberculosis, and increased HIV/AIDS. These diseases are contracted through sources like contaminated water, the absence of water and sanitation, and lack of access to proper healthcare. The list is broad and long. But here we have mentioned only three diseases.


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Meaning of Poverty Argumentative Essay. (2020, Sep 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/meaning-of-poverty/

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