Towards a research framework for poverty monitoring in tanzania fi nal draft

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3. The Role of Culture

During the PRSP Zonal Workshops, culture was identified as an important constraint to poverty reduction initiatives. Women were more likely than men to identify the “cultural constraint” as an issue. The PRSP did not explore this issue in depth, however, and the logical framework was silent on this issue. Yet, in order for poverty reduction initiatives to be fully effective, they must take culture into account. Culture in defined here in the broadest sense – “the social structures, norms, values and practices that underpin social identities and behaviours, creative activities, and cultivation of imagination”.

Culture affects how individuals, communities, informal and formal institutions respond to developmental changes, so knowledge of culture(s) is a means to effective poverty reduction. Culture also determines what individuals (including the poor) consider valuable and informs the end-objective of development. The role of culture can be looked at through the broad lens of how culture influences household behaviour. Two additional and more specific angles are also presented for illustration: the impact of culture on education choices, the effect of culture on and the role of culture in helping to determine more effective and appropriate mechanisms.
Household behaviour and poverty reduction

  • How can more accurate assumptions regarding cultural behaviour improve public distribution systems? Public distribution systems regularly underperform because some of their assumptions about the relationship between culture in the broadest sense and household behaviour are mistaken. Empirical analyses of household behaviour can provide policy guidance and improve the effectiveness of priority poverty reduction programs such as health, education, natural resource management, or HIV/AIDS. For example, how can health interventions at the national level be improved by studying how economic and cultural institutions (culturally specific taboos, sexual practices, socio-economic status, and fostering arrangements) affect the risk of HIV/AIDS?

  • How can greater appreciation of cultural barriers improve public distribution systems?

  • How can cultural understanding inform more effective interventions to promote well-being for women?

  • What specific forms of policy intervention can create an enabling environment for cultural transformation, community mobilisation and successful development outcomes?

Impact of culture on education

  • What is social status? How is education valued? In what ways do families adjust to allow children the means to attend school and to study at home? Based on this work, a qualitative questionnaire could be developed to elicit some of the cultural and ethnic determinants of the demand for education.

  • Another series of questions could use a quantitative survey that would permit statistical tests, and shed light on belief systems, norms, institutional rigidity and transparency, demonstration effects, effort, lock-in, and effect of education on cultural functioning. The data could be analysed so as to address the following questions:

  • How do belief systems and social norms affect school attendance and investment of children’s time in learning?

  • Are answers to these questions specific to religion, ethnic background, parental background, gender, regional location and wealth?

  • Does the perception of institutional rigidity (the receptiveness of social and political organisations to penetration from below) or lack of transparency (e.g. perception of openness of rules and procedures and dispute resolution mechanisms) influence school attendance and the investment of children’s time in learning?

Adapting educational approaches
Pastoralists in Tanzania are mostly concentrated in the northern regions (e.g. Kilimanjaro, Arusha). The pastoralists include some of the poorest and most vulnerable of Tanzania’s population (see NPES). Reaching them with formal schooling has become a major challenge, and many nomadic pastoral children remain outside the education system.
Research in adjacent areas of northern Uganda and Kenya (Karimoja in Uganda and Turkana in Kenya) (see Rao and Walton forthcoming) examines the impact of formal education on livelihood security and poverty alleviation within pastoral society, and the alternatives to it. The research focuses on and identifies the conditions under which more effective schooling can be facilitated.
The initial hypothesis is that the system of knowledge taught in current schools, and the social and economic frameworks which support it, are antithetical to the nomadic pastoral livelihood system itself. Three questions structure research to evaluate this hypothesis:

  • How is indigenous knowledge embedded within social organisation?

  • What are the real outcomes of formal education for nomadic pastoralists, and particularly its impact on social capital?

  • What educational alternatives are available to better equip pastoralists to fight poverty?

The anticipated results are a better understanding of how indigenous knowledge is linked to social structure and economic expectations, a better idea of how to integrate indigenous knowledge and formal education in preparing nomadic pastoralists for a future either within or outside the pastoral economy, and practical policies and project orientations through which governments and other development partners might accomplish this.

4. Understanding Alternative Realities

In Tanzania, as in many other adjusting countries, there seems to be a tension or disconnect between the perceptions of policymakers (and some development partners) on reform outcomes as measured by national statistics and those of grassroots organisations. This tension or divergence can be a significant basis for distrust and poor communication between the various groups. Understanding the determinants of this “alternative realities” phenomena can facilitate the policymaking process and provide policymakers with more qualitative information as input into the decision-making process.

Research (that could conceivably be carried out under the Participatory Poverty Assessment) could be structured around the following series of questions:

  • What are the most common sources of divergence in perceptions? At what level does the divergence emerge? Is there a pattern to these divergences? What role do institutions, the political economy and ideology play in the differences? What policy interventions could facilitate better communication and understanding of each side’s views?

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