Am I not also poor?
“In October 2015, the World Bank updated the international poverty line to $1.90 a day. The new figure of $1.90 is based on ICP purchasing power parity (PPP) calculations and represents the international equivalent of what $1.90 could buy in the US in 2011. The new IPL replaces the $1.25 per day figure, which used 2005 data” – Wikipedia
Using this as the bases for my question, I again will like to ask “Am I not also poor?”
I work within communities where people live below 1 USD per day. People live in extreme poverty conditions and cannot afford to meet their basic needs, they also do not have access to services that will make their lives better. Imafon, for example, do not have a public primary school, Oni Pannu no electricity, the road network to these communities are poor, they depend mostly on seasonal farming which is mostly managed by a few, and the list is endless. I have a particular single mum whom I spoke with, who says she makes N100 (0.28 USD) per day as profit from her small business. This woman pays her rent, sends her daughter to school, feeds herself and her daughter and also buys the necessary things needed for survival. She needs to do all of that but yet makes only N100 per day. She is compelled to do as many things as possible to make ends meet. This is a reality that I see daily working in communities.
You might be saying but this is the reality in the community, why then am I asking the question- Am I not also poor?
This is the reality, when you live in a small city, so many things contribute to your poverty index- we begin to look at cost of transportation, food, water, electricity, rent, and ability to access services provided. Bearing this is in mind, if we say living above 1.91 USD daily says I am not poor then maybe we should break it down. The current exchange rate on xe.com says 1 USD = 363NGN hence, 1.91 USD is 693 NGN per day.
This is where my question arises, how many people live above this per day in the city? And even if you do, then again the next reality calls, if I live above it, I am then assumed to be living a better life, however, it cannot still meet my basic needs. Using the calculations of saying 1.91 per day by the number of days in a month then monthly I should probably spend 21,000 NGN to be considered okay. But then, what can 21,000 NGN do monthly on an average with the rise in the cost of food, accommodation, water, health care, transportation etc.?
Reality check- I still do 1-0-1 feeding style, there are times I cannot get myself to certain places because the money at hand per day cannot take me to where I wish to go, I still manage electricity with hopes that it will not finish so fast, I still manage the quantity of water I drink per day because I am thinking of the next bag I need to buy, I still struggle to save because the expenses per month is more than the income per month sometimes. And mind you, I rarely buy new clothes, or shoes, or go for movies and the likes. I just live a basic lifestyle. With all of these said, I earn above 21,000 NGN per month, yet it is hard for it to meet my simple lifestyle.
So again, the question is- “Am I not also poor?” This brings me to the fact that relative poverty is real. It might not be absolute like my friends who live in communities, but it exists and sometimes we shy away from this and point fingers when they speak of poverty, but we also fall into the same category.
Why have I decided to talk about this? From my work I have seen that a lot of people who live in the city treat people who live in rural communities as if they are trash, they make them feel like they should just run to the city and everything will be fine, but they don’t talk about the realities they face daily, living in the city. They don’t talk about how they also struggle to survive in the city, even though they earn more daily.
The cost of living in rural communities is not as high as that of living in the cities. Instead of constantly preaching migration as the way forward, let’s focus on empowering communities to become self-sufficient. Let’s bring quality education down to them, bring internet to them, encourage them to think better on how to grow what they already have, create cooperatives with them so they can together sell their products, let’s create a fresh local market for them where we can all buy at food prices their farm products. Finally, like what we do at Durian, let’s teach them how to use their own local waste or resources as a means of livelihood. There is a lot that we can do. So get to work instead of making them feel so bad for being in rural communities. By the way – “Rural is Cool”
Written by Tony Joy, Founder, Durian