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Recipe for Poverty Reduction

Apr 14, 2009, 6:27 AM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

Poverty, a state that engulfs the whole of Africa and making good people take the back seat in development, has seen new ways to enhance the capacity of the poor and empower them. Many solutions are at work by those who care to reduce poverty and make the world a better place. Buba Joof, Principal Community Development Officer at the Department of Community Development has presented a paper on Adult and Non-Formal Education at the Kairaba Beach Hotel during the National Conference on Adult and Non-Formal Education on the theme, "Rethinking Adult and Non-Formal Education for more Efficient and Effective Service Delivery." Lamin B. Darboe finds out whether Buba Joof's solutions to poverty reduction will be of benefit to those who seek for a durable solution to ending poverty.

In his presentation, Buba Joof delves into poverty as he says, "One of the most prominent issues in Social and Economic development today is poverty. The magnitude and severity greatly affect peoples' ability to achieve the required standard of living. As a result of the dire need for better and sustainable human development, donor agencies such as the WB, UN Development programme, NGO and various Governments have attempted to seek a solution to poverty and illiteracy around the Globe."

He said that the above has led to the development of programmes and strategies geared towards enhancing greater understanding of poverty through participatory research methodologies. Furthermore, poverty from the perceptive of the poor does not have a unified definition, rather it is considered to be multifaceted and its definition is still not very clear. More so, if we want to determine the category of the people that are poor. This is because earlier measures tend to concentrate on household as unit of measuring, which the intra-household distribution and individual's access to resources such as health, education, and employment is not taken into account.

Initial efforts to understand poverty were geared mainly to its measurement, which centred on income and consumption levels as benchmarks, leading to establishment of internationally accepted poverty line, i. e the cut-off line to differentiate the poor from the non-poor. Due to the inefficacy of income and consumption measure in capturing most, if not all the dimensions of poverty, recent developments have sought to add another dimension (Human Element). The purpose amongst others is to ensure a clearer definition and understanding of poverty.

Buba Joof says, "Due to the unequal treatment women and men receive, coupled with unequal access to resources, which is strengthened by social and cultural norms and values, it will be of great value if we could explore the relationship between education and poverty. This will go a long way in enhancing the understanding of poverty, hence the development and implementation of viable interventions to alleviate it. Notwithstanding, participatory poverty assessment in the Gambia late 1990 has identified low literacy (illiteracy) as one of the causes of poverty.

Alongside the poverty debate, there was international concern about need for education for all citizens from the human right perspectives.  In this regard, world leaders met in Jomtien in March 1990 to map out the framework of action to meet the learning needs of the population, followed by the Dakar framework of action in 2000 re-affirming the vision set out for the World Declaration on Education for All," he said.

He further said that these and other regional and sub regional forum aimed at establishing the needs, resources and strategies that would stimulate sustainable development in a multisectoral approach while at the same time share experience on the achievements and challenges.

This suggests that many partners would have to join with education authorities in developing basic education by strengthening the active participation of communities, private enterprises including government, non - governmental organizations, etc in the planning, management, and evaluating the various forms of basic education.

"Therefore, government authorities, communities and partners being the key agents of change have the main responsibility for co-ordinating the effective use of internal and external resources," he said.

 Buba Joof defined poverty as a social problem that is deeply embedded in every dimension of culture and society.  Poverty is perceived to be the inadequacy of basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing, as well as lack of access to social services such as clean and safe water, education and health care, inability to work amongst others.  Poverty therefore can be considered to be the inability of a person, household or community to afford food, shelter, clothing, health care and other necessities for life all year around.

In The Gambia, these characteristics have been classified at individual, household and community levels.

Adult and non-formal education could mitigate the characteristics of poverty in a number of ways. For instance, when people become literate, their level of awareness could increase, which may eventually contribute to improve their knowledge and skills. With reading and writing skills, literacy participants would be in a better position to understand instruction for applying fertiliser, understand the recommended spacing for plants and vegetables, and be able to monitor the growth of children amongst others. 

Poverty could be interpreted broadly as lack of means to live in dignity. He mentioned the multidimensional understanding of poverty as a human condition characterised by chronic deprivation of the resources, capabilities, choices and security. This is combined with the power necessary for the realisation and enjoyment of better standard of living as well as other civil, Cultural, Economic, political and social rights (Poverty reduction strategy paper, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2002:5)

He considers adult education to be instructional and related to support services for those adults who are not enrolled in formal education systems and their inability to speak, read and or writer effectively impairs their ability to function on the job, in the family and /or in society. To achieve their goals and development, there is need for programmes to help raise their level of education and self-esteem.

Adult education in this context connotes concepts such as lifelong learning, popular participation, non-formal education and adult learning. It can be regarded as skill development or an empowering process or both. Therefore, adult education could contribute to poverty reduction direct or indirectly, which could have a political focus by raising awareness of human right issues; an economic focus such as issues of addressing economic dis-empowerment; social focus by encouraging integrated approach to increase efficiency and effectiveness.


The Gambia has some of the worst social and economic indicators in the world. About 69 % of the population are living below the poverty line and life expectancy is estimated at 53 years. In the rural areas, more that 30 percent of the households are extremely poor with the highest prevalence in Central, Lower and UpperRiver regions. 54 % of school going age children attends primary school. The primary gross enrolment rate stands at 56 % while Female enrolment at junior and senior secondary levels is 37 % and 31 % respectively. Less than 38 % of adults literate have not received any type of skills education.

In recognition of the need to improve literacy among the populace, the adult and non-formal education sub-sector seeks to operate within the framework of the current National Education Policy (2004-2015), the EFA and MDG goals. These strengthen the agreed partnership strategies with the private and informal sector to promote the creation of a literate environment with a view to reducing adult illiteracy levels by 50% by 2015.  The Gambia being a patriarchal society, where male dominance is prevalent, traditional roles of women are still recognised and inequality in society is taken as given. This is reinforced by massive illiteracy rate of 73 %1 (National Policy for The Advancement of Gambian Women 1999 -2009) and women lack self- worth due to the way they are socialised. 

The heavy workload on women, coupled with poor attitude of men to support women's literacy activities is a major issue that needs to be addressed to enable achievement in education.

In the case of adult literacy, good political will alongside sound policies and programmes serve as an important incentive to improve the achievements of literacy. They propel our efforts toward achieving a more literate population. The case of the Gambia seems to be worst when compared with other Sub Saharan African Countries. Adult and female literacy rates for the Gambia are 36.6% and 29.4 % respectively, while for Sub Saharan Africa, the indicators stand at 61.5 % and 53.6 % respectively (The Gambia Human Development Report 2003; UNPD)

The Government of the Gambia recognises the importance of education as a tool for national development and gives the sector high priority. This is articulated in the Vision 2020 Gambia incorporated which aims at putting in place a-well trained-educated and self-reliant and enterprising human resources (EFA Progress Report 2000).

In other for us to be able to tackle these development challenges, adult literacy needs to be linked with practical needs of the people. Since women are the ones who are mostly affected by these challenges, it would be vital if adult literacy programmes could include the provision of labour saving devices (milling machine) alongside skills training. He further talked about problems and constraints of adult and non-formal education.

In conclusion, Buba Joof talked on the gender nature of poverty and illiteracy.