Poverty in Kenya

Scope of Poverty

In Kenya, poverty is a widespread issue that has persisted for a long time. However, recent statistics show that there are improvements since the poverty levels are decreasing with time. Poverty can be classified into urban and rural poverty due to the dense rural nature some parts. Urban poverty is more prevalent in slum areas. Poverty implications and characteristics vary widely from culture to culture. Some societies in the country have their serious poverty issues due to cultural, linguistic, economic and physical isolation whereby they are set apart from the rest of the societies.

In light of current development, it is apparent that most families are not gaining from the national economic growth. Around 50% of Kenyans are living under absolute poverty. 79% of the population lives in the rural areas where they depend on agriculture for their subsistence livelihood. The lands in most of these regions have good potential for agriculture, but only comprise of around 18% of the entire territory of the country. In addition resources are overwhelmly stretched in the rural areas to provide any meaningful income for the vast majority. The population density is also like six times higher than the country’s average of 55 people per square kilometer.

Causes of Poverty

Several factors have resulted to current poverty levels in Kenya. Most of these factors are controllable while some are beyond the control of the government.

Among the causes of poverty in Kenya is a large population. The government has been trying to educate the citizens on the benefits that come along with family planning practices. This has not helped much due to the religious beliefs that people have when it comes to giving birth. A large population plays a significant role in promoting poverty levels in the country. When the population size is large, the levels of unemployment are also high. This is because there are many people competing for minimal resources in an attempt of earning their daily bread. Most people that fail to get employment in both the formal and informal sectors end up living below the poverty line since they have no funds to cater for their expenses. High population also means presence of high dependency ratio. If only few people in a given population are working this means that there are other individuals depending on them for survival. This includes children and other family members. Employed individuals end up distributing their income to these people, and at the end of the day they also struggle since their income is reduced significantly.

Dependence on agriculture also contributes to the poverty levels in the country. This is because the sector has not developed adequately to enable it sustain the population that it serves. Agriculture contributes close to 25% of the country’s GDP. Agriculture contributes to poverty is lack of incentive by the government to institute appropriate policies and mechanisms that will ensure the agricultural sector in the country attains its optimal potential. The rate at which the population is growing is not consistent with the improvements being introduced in the sector. Agricultural sector in Kenya does not grow as steadily as the service and industry sectors. This means that at some point the increase in population increases the demand of agricultural products, and since the supply is not equivalent the prices tend to rise. People leaving under poverty end up paying more than their budgets can hold hence ending up in more poverty misery.

HIV/AIDs and other diseases have also contributed to the presence of poverty to some extent. A less percentage of HIV/AIDS sufferers get diagnosed and treated due to high social stigma and low understanding of the disease symptoms.  This disease and others prevalent in the country result to death of people in different fields. Some of the people who end up dying are the sole bread winners for their families. Upon their deaths, no one is left to provide for the bereaved families. The life of struggle commences, as a result. The families end up being laden in poverty.


The government is making several efforts in an attempt to curb the poverty menace that has been around for some time. Among the mechanisms that the government is using is enforcement of Millennium Development Goals. These goals include reducing child mortality, eradicating extreme poverty, attaining universal primary education, combating HIV/AIDs and other diseases, improving maternal health, ensuring environmental sustainability, promoting gender equality and ensuring global partnership in development. The millennium development goals have different objectives, but they revolve around a similar outcome. They all aim at improving the well-being of the citizens. This leads to improvement of the living standards, which results to eradication of poverty in the long-run


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