Understanding the Spatial Conceptualization of Poverty: Implications for ustainable Livelihoods in Africa
Over the last decades, African Governments, International Organizations and Donors have experimented with a series of approaches for addressing poverty, each giving way to a new paradigm. Despite the ubiquity and persistence of the problem, the very nature of poverty remains poorly understood. This paper shows that to adequately recognize and understand poverty, its nature and extent should be examined from the spatial perspective. The nexus between poverty and the environment is close only when it is considered from the spatial perspective. Using geographical characteristics to explain disparities that underlie spatial perspective of poverty, it is observed that the livelihoods, health and vulnerability of the people are determined predominantly by the context in which they live and the constraints and opportunities this location presents. This spatial conceptualization of poverty gives rise to rural and urban perspectives. In the rural context, the natural capital is the fundamental building blocks of rural livelihoods, whereas in urban livelihoods, recognition is given to the nature of urban settlements and infrastructure (physical capital). It is concluded that urban poverty is much more complex and challenging that rural poverty. The paper therefore suggests that for sustainable poverty reduction in Africa, the environment should be explored to allow an understanding of how environmental constraints generate or exacerbate poverty, as each spatial location presents unique characteristics that require corresponding unique prescriptions.