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Research Report

Interrogating urban poverty lines:: The case of Zambia

Miniva Chibuye
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2011
Pages: 43
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-3)

    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 2015.²

    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...

  2. (pp. 3-4)

    The 1995 World Summit for Social Development reached a consensus on approaches to poverty, as stated in the Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development and the Summit’s Programme for Action, signed by 117 countries (United Nations, 1995). In planning to defeat poverty, governments agreed to issue frequent reports on the extent of national poverty, to be based on measures of both “absolute” and “overall” poverty. This was welcomed as an aid to comparable investigations in countries at different levels of development, and as a way to prevent the use of different regional measures of poverty. Further, it was seen as a...

  3. (pp. 5-9)

    Poverty levels in Zambia, as in many other countries, have been at the centre of national debates, with statistics and results contested by various factions of society. The objective of this section is to examine variations in poverty across two dimensions.

    1. Analysing poverty changes over time, focusing on 1991 to 2006, indicates whether Zambia is likely to attain Millennium Development Goal 1 of halving poverty and hunger by 2015.

    2. Changes in the standard of living and in poverty across sections of the Zambian population are measured mainly across geographical regions.

    Both of these dimensions are important for economic and social...

  4. (pp. 9-12)

    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. The average calorie intake was 2094 per household member for a family of six. These requirements appear to be based on a FAO/WHO/UNU recommendation, although the assumptions used for estimating them are not stated (Nsemukila, 2001)....

  5. (pp. 12-16)

    Like many other poverty studies, this analysis defines both a total poverty line and a core poverty line equal to the food poverty line that is an amount of money that covers only minimum required food expenditure. One problem associated with the idea of a core poverty line (also sometimes called the food poverty line or the extreme poverty line) is that core poverty does not correspond to any underlying welfare concept. It is simply a lower line, without any clear basis. It is sometimes referred to as the minimum expenditure required to meet basic food needs. However, this is...

  6. (pp. 16-19)

    Academically, there is broad recognition that setting the non-food component of the poverty line is highly controversial. As Ravallion (1998) describes, of all the data used in measuring poverty, the non-food component of the poverty line is probably the most contentious. The major challenge is that it is difficult to agree on how the “standard of living” should be defined, and how its cost can be identified from available data. One might simply define and agree on a bundle of non-food goods. But it is unclear whether a fixed bundle of non-food goods would gain wide acceptance, or maintain its...

  7. (pp. 19-23)

    The JCTR recognizes that its BNB excludes the cost of some important essential needs such as clothing, education, health and transportation in its monthly calculation, which is a major concern. One explanation for this decision is that average expenditure is very difficult to determine, as such expenses vary at household level. Therefore, even the JCTR BNB does not give a total picture of the monthly cost of living. As the 2006 LCMS established, clothing, transport, education and health make up 10%, 9%, 6% and 1% respectively of the total urban household expenditure. The following sections provide details of three essential...

  8. (pp. 24-26)

    Regardless of measurement technique, it is clear that Zambia still suffers from dramatic levels of poverty. Both the slow-growth period induced by structural adjustment of the 1980s and 1990s and the recent global economic crisis have contributed to a dire situation.

    During the “lost decade” of the 1980s, it was the urban poor who bore the brunt of the crisis associated with debt, deteriorating terms of trade, and the economic policy failures of governments. Rising food prices, unemployment and a steep decline in real wages wrought havoc in the lives of urban communities across the developing world. In Zambia, average...

  9. (pp. 27-27)

    This paper critically questions the robustness of poverty measurements in urban Zambia. It largely draws upon data from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), the major statistical body in Zambia, and the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR), a prominent local non-state actor that conducts cost-of-living surveys in Lusaka and other towns across Zambia. The interrogation was conducted within the framework of defining poverty as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, which incorporates other welfare indicators such as health, education and shelter. This paper further interrogates the basic form and characteristics of the CSO’s extreme and overall poverty lines in relation to the JCTR’s...