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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Recurrent Shocks, Poverty Traps and the Degradation of the Social Capital Base of Pastoralism: A Case Study from Southern Ethiopia

  • Author(s): Berhanu, Wassie
  • et al.

The long-term effects of shocks are examined in the context of a traditional pastoral community. The impacts are empirically examined in connection with the micro-level poverty trap hypothesis and the associated minimum poverty threshold estimates reported in previous studies. We argue that these estimates cannot be taken as definitive and the core explanations behind them are incongruent with the institutional realities of the pastoral community for which they are reported. The reality is that shocks have implied long-term community-wide deprivation with a lasting effect of deterioration in the indigenous capacity to cushion those who slide into permanent destitution. This is evident in the empirically identified increasing loss of confidence in the indigenous social support structures. The findings rather highlight the need for policy interventions to focus on system level community-wide development issues rather than the commonly emphasized individual targeting implied by such exercises as asset-based poverty threshold estimates.

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