Seasonal Poverty:Integrated, overlooked and therefore opportunity

ince the first seasonality conference in 1978, there have been changes: not least, communications have improved, and food prices in SubSaharan Africa have become more volatile. But much has not changed: seasonal poverty and stress remain widespread and integrated. Urban slums are affected but it is especially in rural areas during tropical rainy seasons that many adverse factors continue to interlock. Hard work, sickness, lack of food, poverty of time and energy, shortage of money, isolation and lack of access to markets and services are among factors that combine to make these times of multiple stresses and vulnerability for poor people. There are also other aspects of seasonal deprivation that were are part of the lived experience of poor rural people and received little or no attention in 1978: accidents; animal diseases; funerals; powerlessness to bargain; wet clothing and being cold; leaking and collapsing shelter; and theft of food and livestock. Other factors that may be missed or deserve more attention are food intake and absorption in sickness, and defecation behaviour in rains and infection from faeces. The perceptions and priorities of urban-based professionals, and the seasonality of their travel, campaigns and insights combine to hide seasonal deprivation and its integrated nature. Even if they perceive seasonality in the concerns of their own discipline or specialisation, professionals are unlikely to see the interlocking connections with other domains as they are experienced in the lives of poor people. Statistics too have aseasonal biases, often recording data on an annual or averaged basis which does not include seasonal variations. and understating the incidence of sickness during the rains. Remarkably, some books on poverty by well informed and leading analysts do not appear to consider seasonal dimensions at all. Season-proofed by their living environment, caught in urban traps, many professionals are season-blind. These professional disabilities can be tackled on many fronts: making visits during the rains; immersions (see Appendix A) to reveal and internalise the integrated nature of seasonal deprivation; facilitating PRA-type visual analyses by poor rural dwellers; repeatedly raising questions of seasonality in meetings. One test is how frequently, if at all, seasons and seasonality appear in the indexes of reports and books, and how frequently seasonality or its absence is picked up by book reviewers. The past neglect of seasonal dimensions to rural poverty presents an opportunity. It may often be more cost effective as well as more humane through counter-seasonal measures to enable people to avoid becoming poorer, than, once they are poorer, to enable them to struggle back up again. Precisely because they have been neglected, counter-seasonal measures present more pro-poor potential than they would have done. The new prominence of social protection and of climate change in international, national and academic discourse can help to draw attention to the many dimensions of integrated seasonal poverty and to the imperative for informed action.

File: Chambers 2009 - Seasonal Poverty.pdf