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Approaches to Fighting poverty among older persons in Uganda: A Study of Wakiso and Luwero Districts

Kabuye, Rosette (2015) Approaches to Fighting poverty among older persons in Uganda: A Study of Wakiso and Luwero Districts. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (KAR id:51997)

Language: English
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Uganda experienced significant economic growth from 1992 to 2009. Following economic restructuring, the national poverty rate fell from about 56 per cent in 1992 to 25 per cent in 2009/10. However, while the overall proportion of the people living in poverty dropped significantly, in 2007, 64 per cent of older people were still living below the poverty line (Help Age International, 2007).

Older people in Uganda make up 4.2 per cent of the total population which is 30.7 million. They are economically active: 84 per cent are involved with agriculture. However, over 90 per cent of the older persons live in rural areas where poverty rates are higher than in urban areas. Older people are vulnerable owing to HIV/AIDs: 12 per cent of Ugandan children are AIDS orphans and a quarter of these live in a household headed by an older person. In addition, out of the 16 per cent of the population with a disability, older people comprise 53 per cent. Furthermore, more than half of the older persons have never been to school. However, the majority of older persons provide for their households, this challenges the government position that ‘older people are generally too weak to perform productive work and are economically dependent on others’ (UNHS, 2009/10:137).

This thesis focuses on the following questions: What is poverty? What explains the exclusion of older people from poverty reduction programmes? How do older people address poverty in their households?The study used qualitative methods, employing 120 interviews, including in-depth interviews with 18 representatives of government and Community Based Organisations (CBOs) six focus group discussions and 60 semi-structured interviews, to provide insight into the strategies used to fight poverty at the Sub County level. Narrative interviews and observation of non-verbal communication were employed to analyse older people’s experience of Poverty reduction programmes and identify their poverty alleviation strategies. Programme guidelines and policy documents were reviewed to gain detailed information about the backgrounds to the strategies, the modes of implementation and the theories that influenced the strategies. The study was carried out in Katabi and Mbututumula subcounties of Wakiso and Luwero respectively.

This study found that the Government and CBO’s official views of what poverty is do not seem to differ much, but when it comes to identification of the poor then differences arise. The research demonstrates that both sectors support the monetary perspective on poverty and identify minimum income and expenditure in terms of a level of consumption below which poverty is identified. This understanding has its roots in an absolute perspective on poverty. Meanwhile, older people’s perspectives on poverty included a wide range of deprivations in their households. For example, the inability to send their grandchildren to school was a common type of self-reported deprivation for the majority of respondents. Older people used a relative concept to define poverty. What was needed for basic survival did depend on the cultural context and involved comparison with what other people in that context could afford.

Despite the government’s objective of fighting poverty at the Sub County level, it was clear that government strategies did not include old-age poverty alleviation.Anti-poverty approaches were more strongly linked to the government’s own agenda than to the needs of older people. Yet in all these the older people in poverty were disadvantaged. Older people tended to be excluded by strict eligibility rules and conditions and by individual relationships within the groups formed to tackle poverty. Older people in poverty shy away from Poverty reduction programmes leaving the relatively poor, but those not in absolute poverty, to participate. The participants’ definitions of poverty and living standards observed during the interviews revealed that they were living well above the official poverty line. Furthermore, findings revealed that the right of older people to participate in government Poverty reduction programmes was not supported by legislation and there was limited information available to enable them to demand accountability or even influence policy strategies to address poverty.


In contrast, community based organisations have been remarkable in seeking to reduce poverty among the older persons. Their approach provided support for participation of older people in Poverty reduction programmes. CBOs have conducted skills and possession audits among older people and, based on the results, old-age poverty has been included in development programmes. Such strategies have led to the establishment of credit facilities through community saving schemes and village banks, and age-friendly projects such as hand craft, mat and basket making, mushroom and vegetable growing. These motivate older people to participate and take into account their physical abilities. The formation of groups seems to be a major strategy used by CBOs to enable members to support each other and facilitate both the collective participation in decision making and the barter exchange strategy for goods and services among group members.

This study concludes that despite the difficult living conditions of older people in poverty, the majority live independent lives, are self-reliant and use a variety of strategies to address poverty. These include involvement in agriculture, use of community banks, use of manual and business skills, fostering children, family visits, joining religious and collective social groups and training to gain new skills. The present study extends the literature by showing why old age poverty persists despite efforts to counter it.

Some implication of the study’s findings are that strict eligibility rules should be used to ensure that poverty alleviation support reaches those who need it most, the formation of groups should not be used as a condition to qualify for government support, information on anti-poverty programmes should be readily available to older persons in poverty and best practices from CBOs and individuals should be incorporated in anti-poverty policies.

Keywords: Uganda, poverty alleviation strategies, anti-poverty, older people, community based organisations, government, older people associations.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Mitton, Lavinia
Thesis advisor: Taylor-Gooby, Peter
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
Funders: Organisations -1 not found.
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 17 Nov 2015 14:00 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 12:38 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Kabuye, Rosette.

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