Information about Sub-Saharan Africa África subsahariana
Front Matter

Front Matter

Caroline Kende-Robb
Published Date:
January 2002
  • ShareShare
Information about Sub-Saharan Africa África subsahariana
Show Summary Details

© 1999, 2002 The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank

1818 H Street, NW

Washington, DC 20433

All rights reserved

Manufactured in the United States of America

First published 1999. Second Edition 2002

1 2 3 4 04 03 02

The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Executive Directors of the World Bank or the governments they represent.

The World Bank cannot guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this work. The boundaries, colors, denominations, and other information shown on any map in this work do not imply on the part of the World Bank any judgment of the legal status of any territory or the endorsement or acceptance of such boundaries.

Rights and Permissions

The material in this work is copyrighted. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or inclusion in any information storage and retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the World Bank. The World Bank encourages dissemination of its work and will normally grant permission promptly.

For permission to photocopy or reprint, please send a request with complete information to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, USA, telephone 978-750-8400, fax 978-750-4470,

All other queries on rights and licenses, including subsidiary rights, should be addressed to the Office of the Publisher, World Bank, 1818 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20433, USA, fax 202-522-2422, e-mail

Cover photo credit: Curt Carnemark, 1993; Senegal

ISBN 9780821350003

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data has been applied for.


Foreword to the Second Edition

We are united today by our belief that widespread poverty in the midst of global prosperity is both unsustainable and morally unacceptable. Now, more than ever before, we need to focus on the role our organizations can best play in the fight against poverty, and we must constantly ask ourselves, How does what we are doing affect the poor? Can the poor themselves help to answer this question? If so, how can we reach the poor, and should the poor influence policy?

We think they can and indeed must. The question therefore is not whether we should include the poor but how? This is the subject of Can the Poor Influence Policy? This influential book documents and analyzes the development of a comprehensive methodology that shows how to consult directly with the poor and link the results to the national policy dialogue. This methodology was developed in partnership with governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and other civil society groups.

The importance of including the poor became even clearer during the East Asian crisis. By directly consulting poor people, policymakers found that there was not only a financial crisis but another profound crisis that affected the poor directly. When we visited the slums and villages, the issues poor people face became apparent. What we learned was that the poor have a very clear idea of what they want. They are able to analyze their poverty, suggest solutions, and prioritize policies. Poor people want a chance and they want an opportunity to transform their lives.

In 1999, the World Bank, therefore, spoke of “the other crisis” in East Asia, the human crisis of those condemned to poverty as well as those who had recently found hope only to see it roughly snatched away. There is an urgent need to look beyond financial solutions, to combine social and structural needs with macroeconomic solutions. We must therefore learn to have a debate in which the need for often drastic change can be balanced with advancing the interests of the poor. Only then will we arrive at solutions that are sustainable. Only then will we be able to bring the international financial community and local citizens with us.

Both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are at the heart of an integrated international effort to ensure that globalization benefits everyone. We should follow a concept that recognizes that the impacts of poverty cannot be separated from the macroeconomic dimension and that extreme income inequalities between nations must not be allowed to become a major source of political instability in the world. Poverty is an issue for everyone, and the poor must be full partners and participants. Operating within that concept, a refocused IMF must be aware of poverty issues outside its core areas of responsibility, and it must work in a complementary fashion with the organizations primarily responsible for those issues. The Fund and the World Bank are thus redoubling their efforts to ensure a closer and stronger partnership to better serve our member countries.

During our recent joint trip to Africa, we recognized in Africa an awareness that any effort to reduce poverty must start with—and build upon—peace, democracy, and good governance at home. We must give countries the scope to pursue their national interests and responsibilities—while preserving their cultural identities. We recognize that our programs are most effective when there is broad understanding of and support for our work. Gaining support for country programs requires a stronger relationship with parliaments and civil society. Therefore, we must explain our advice better and expand our dialogue with the public to reach the regional and local levels.

Both the World Bank and the IMF agree that world poverty is the paramount challenge of the 21st century and that decisive progress must be made in meeting the established international development goals set for the year 2015. The fight against poverty will succeed only if it is based on a strategy designed by the country itself, rather than one imposed from outside. For that reason, in September 1999, the World Bank and the IMF launched Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), which are owned by the country, developed with broad participation, and clearly linked to agreed-on international development goals. The Fund will make more explicit the links between poverty and our main lending instrument to poor countries, the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility. This can be done by using various data sources, including participatory poverty assessments (PPAs). The World Bank will strengthen the poverty focus of its lending through the Poverty Reduction Support Credit, which is closely linked with implementing PRSPs and PPAs.

The PRSP process seeks to strengthen further the link between debt relief, development assistance, and poverty reduction. It is a way for a country to draw on the best available knowledge in the design of its poverty reduction strategy—by involving donors, the private sector, civil society, as well as the poor. This new participatory approach is changing the way we do business.

In this book, Caroline Robb shows how participatory methods and approaches can enable poor people to analyze their situations and express their priorities, and how these can fundamentally differ from those assumed by policymakers. The book is essential reading for policymakers who wish to understand how to improve consultation with the poor; for governments, NGOs, and donors who wish to undertake PPAs; and for all those embarking on PRSPs.

Horst Köhler, Managing Director

International Monetary Fund

James D. Wolfensohn, President

The World Bank Group

Foreword to the First Edition

An understanding of the nature and causes of poverty lies at the heart of designing economic and social strategies for development. Much of the analytic work on poverty critical to such an understanding has treated the poor as an object of inquiry: Empirical investigations have been conducted to explain outcomes for the poor in terms of their characteristics, the environment in which they live, and the policies of governments and other agents toward them. This tradition of work has been critical to deepening our comprehension of poverty and of the options to alleviate it.

There is another tradition of inquiry, however—one that seeks to understand the experience and causes of poverty from the perspective of the poor themselves. Investigations of the poor within this broad tradition include, for example, the work of anthropologists and others who have undertaken intensive studies of villages or poor urban areas spanning decades. In the context of development endeavors, a relatively recent component of this tradition involves the use of participatory techniques. (Although these techniques have often been linked to specific projects, they increasingly have been associated with broader diagnostic investigations of the nature and causes of poverty and of the potential for policy to make a difference.) A variety of techniques have been developed to support this participatory process. All have the aim of giving the poor a voice, a voice that is not distorted by the mind-set of the investigators. Typically, the techniques also have the objective of capturing the perspective of the poor in a way that can be communicated to decision-makers in government and development agencies. Both aspects are important for the ultimate objective of empowering the poor.

Poverty studies have become of critical importance to the World Bank in the past decade, since the reaffirmation of poverty reduction as its core purpose. Particularly in the wake of the World Development Report (WDR) 1990 on Poverty, the Bank has become one of the major agents and supporters of the study of poverty, through both a series of country-specific poverty assessments and a wide range of other research. Within this experience, the Bank is probably best known for its use of traditional household surveys, especially multipurpose surveys (such as the Living Standards Measurement Studies) that use questionnaires to document a range of dimensions of household well-being. Indeed, the World Bank has sometimes been characterized as working exclusively with a consumption- or income-based definition of poverty. This has never been true (for example, the WDR 1990 placed considerable emphasis on the lack of health and education as dimensions, as well as causes, of poverty). However, it is true that most poverty assessments have identified the poor in terms of a poverty line, based on a country-specific assessment of the minimum consumption required to meet basic nutritional standards and to effectively participate in a society.

The Bank is less well known for its increasing use of participatory techniques in both project and diagnostic work. The present study surveys one part of this trend: the use of participatory techniques in poverty assessment work. As Caroline M. Robb shows, their use rose significantly in the mid-1990s and has become common in poverty assessments conducted over the past three years or so. These participatory poverty assessments have already yielded rich results, sometimes confirming and sometimes contradicting the conclusions of more traditional questionnaire-based national household surveys. They confirm that the poor themselves see poverty as having many dimensions—including lack of material resources and ill health, but also including a vulnerability to adverse economic developments or, in some communities, to physical violence. The assessments provide insight into the nature of coping mechanisms, particularly the role of local networks (or social capital), and have the potential to provide telling information on the effectiveness—or ineffectiveness—of public and private institutions. This participatory work can, and should, also play a role in the design and ongoing evaluation of interventions.

Participatory poverty work is expected to be of growing importance to the World Bank in diagnostic, policy, and project work. We already see this in some of the early assessments of the social aspects of the East Asian economic crisis. And while the World Development Report 1990 made limited use of the participatory tradition, one of the major studies in the lead-up to the next WDR on poverty and development (which will be released in September 2000) combines new studies and a synthesis of participatory poverty analyses to present the perspective of the poor on the nature of poverty, trends in various dimensions of poverty, and the utility of formal and informal institutions that address the causes and conditions of poverty. Finally, we need to emphasize that traditional household surveys and participatory poverty work are fundamentally complements, not substitutes—and certainly not rivals. They mutually inform each other, to everyone’s benefit. Recent Living Standards Measurement Studies increasingly make use of subjective assessments of poverty, while other new studies make use of participatory and questionnaire-based approaches in a structured, complementary way. Developing powerful and effective diagnoses of the causes of poverty, and appropriate treatments to reduce poverty, requires both well-designed quantitative investigation and giving a genuine voice to poor people.

Gloria Davis

Director, Social Development

Michael Walton

Director, Poverty Reduction and Chief Economist,

Human Development

Preface to the Second Edition

In 1999, when the first edition of this book was published, many development practitioners and policymakers did not believe that including the poor in the policy dialogue was credible or even feasible. Since then, there has been a shift in development thinking: the debate has moved from explaining why the poor should be included to how they can be included. As one of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) first two social development specialists, I have witnessed this change from inside both the World Bank and the IMF. This book offers some insights as to how this can be done.

This shift in thinking is occurring in a worldwide context of rapid and accelerating globalization, which has caused an equally rapid change in poor people’s aspirations and awareness. Within the context of aid and development, during the 1990s there was growing evidence that aid performs best in countries where governments are committed to development and reform. It is also widely accepted today that to substantially reduce poverty, it is essential to implement both economic policies that promote growth and social policies and sectoral programs that directly improve the living conditions of the poor. As a consequence, donors now support nationally owned poverty reduction strategies (PRSs). This emphasis on policies that reduce poverty was also behind the launch of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative at the G7 Summit in Cologne in mid-1999, which made debt relief conditional on a country’s formulation of a poverty reduction framework. That approach has been welcomed by many civil society organizations.

In response, aid agencies have increasingly emphasized a participatory process of developing PRSs, which promotes the empowerment of the poor, builds partnerships to support the PRSs, and fosters ownership, accountability, and transparency. While this implies new, more open and collaborative power relationships, the necessary changes at the institutional, procedural, and individual levels are likely to be achieved only over time (see Institute of Development Studies forthcoming).

Within the World Bank and IMF, some procedural changes have been introduced. In response to the wider global context, and in recognition that the East Asian crisis had not just financial but also social impacts that negatively affected many of the poorest and most vulnerable in the region (Wolfensohn 1998), the World Bank introduced the comprehensive development framework (CDF) in 1999. The CDF focuses on a more holistic approach to development by seeking a better balance in policymaking between interdependent elements of development—social, structural, human, governance, environmental, economic, and financial. The CDF also emphasizes partnerships between governments, donors, civil society, the private sector, and other development actors, and stresses the importance of the country’s being in the lead, both owning and directing the development agenda, with the Bank and other partners each defining their support in their respective plans.

Last year, the World Bank published the World Development Report (WDR) 2000/2001: Attacking Poverty (2001). Some of the research for the WDR built on the results of participatory poverty assessments (PPAs), as discussed in the first edition of this book. The WDR reaffirms the conclusion of the first edition by stressing a broader definition of poverty that includes not only low incomes and low consumption but also lack of education, poor nutrition and health, powerlessness, vulnerability, lack of respect and dignity, and a lack of trust in formal institutions because of corruption and irrelevance. The WDR also stresses the fundamental role of institutional and social change in strengthening development processes, and the importance of including poor people in development planning. It proposes a strategy for attacking poverty in three ways: promoting opportunity, facilitating empowerment, and enhancing security. The World Bank is now focusing on how to link this strategy to its operations.

The CDF and other donor frameworks have provided the basis for the introduction of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), to be developed by the countries in consultation with civil society, including the poor. Henceforth, programs supported by the Bank and IMF will be based on the government-driven poverty reduction strategies elaborated in the PRSPs. The PRSs also provide the basis for debt relief under HIPC, as well as for all World Bank and IMF concessional lending. As a result, the IMF-supported programs will now be based on poverty outcomes as well as on sound macroeconomic frameworks. This is a major step. In the short period since their introduction, the CDF and the PRSs have changed the way the World Bank and the IMF conduct their operations, and PRSs have the potential to create policy space for the poor to be directly involved in the policymaking process.

Since the introduction of the PRSs, I am constantly being asked by economists and by government policymakers: Is it really possible to include the poor in policymaking? The answer is yes. This revised edition lays out how to include the poor using the participatory poverty assessment. This tried and tested method was developed in partnership with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), government, and academic institutions, and has been undertaken in more than 60 countries worldwide during the past decade. A new chapter has been added to this second edition that discusses how to include the poor, through a PPA, in the development of poverty reduction strategies.

In addition, this second edition draws on new PPA case examples. The first edition underscored the importance of linking the PPA process to policymaking, since past experience has shown that simply presenting policymakers with new information generated through a PPA does not guarantee policy change. In order to increase their impact, many of the new PPAs have been more closely linked to the political context of policy choice and change.

The challenge now is to move from isolated PPA research studies to ensuring that PPA consultations become part of the broader national policy dialogue and political decisionmaking, as well as part of a system to monitor the implementation of the commitments made by governments and donors. Only then will there be more transparency, accountability, and longer lasting change.

Caroline M. Robb

December 2001


This book arose from discussions, meetings, and workshops with people from a wide variety of organizations and communities, to all of whom I am very grateful. I particularly thank Robert Chambers (Institute of Development Studies [IDS]) for his unfailing inspiration, encouragement, and direction. In addition, substantial contributions were made by Kimberly Chung (Brown University), John Gaventa (IDS), Jeremy Holland (University of Swansea), Andrew Norton (Department for International Development—United Kingdom [DFID]), Ben Osuga (Swinga, Uganda), and Dan Owen (London School of Economics). Additional comments were provided by Nancy Alexander (Bread for the World Institute), Bella Bird (DFID), Karen Brock (IDS), Elizabeth Gomart (Consultant), Richard Holloway (Private Agencies Collaborating Together), Ramesh Singh (Action Aid, Vietnam), and Joachim Theis (Save the Children, Vietnam).

I also thank the local research teams in case study countries, who undertook the fieldwork, and the civil society institutions, government agencies, and community members who gave their time so freely to help in this study: In Zambia, Clare Barkworth and Cosmas Mambo (Social Recovery Project, Zambia), Peggy Chibuye (World Bank, Resident Mission), Silverio Chamuka, Helen Muchimba, Hope Kasese, Fanwell Kondolo, Mulasikwanda Liswaniso, Kwibisa Liywalii, John Milimo, Eddie Mwanza, Malako Nabanda, and Lizzie Peme (Participatory Assessment Group), and Fred Mutesa and Stephen Muyakwa (University of Zambia); in Costa Rica, Carmen Camacho (UNICEF), Betsy Murray (World Bank, Resident Mission), and Pablo Sauma (Ministry of Economic Planning); in Pakistan, the Association for Development of Human Resources, Muhammad Ahsan Ashraf, Asif Farooki, and Parvez Tahir; and in Mozambique, Yussuf Adam (Universidade Eduardo Mondlane).

At the Bank, Michael Walton, Gloria Davis, Ishrat Hussain, and Aubrey Williams sponsored the research and publication, and guided the research for the first edition of this book. For the second edition, the World Bank (John Page, Poverty Reduction Group) and the IMF (G. E. Gondwe, Africa Department) jointly sponsored the research and publication, I particularly thank Michael Walton (World Bank) for providing me with detailed comments on draft copies of this book and for his leadership and valuable insights, which were instrumental to the production of this book. I also thank Anupam Basu (IMF) for providing advice and detailed comments on the book’s second edition. Soniya Carvalho, John Clark, Nora Dud-wick, James Edgerton, Paul Francis, and Jenny Rietbergen-McCracken provided substantial contributions at all stages of the research. The peer reviewers were Jeanine Braithwaite, Jesko Hentschel, and Peter Lanjouw. Comments on earlier drafts of the book were provided by Mark Blackden, Lionel Demery, Paula Donnelly-Roark, Kene Ezemenari, Christopher Gibbs, Bruce Harris, Eugene Henkel, Ernesto Hemández-Catá, Jack van Holst-Pelleken, Emmanuel Jimenez, Steen Jorgensen, Mary Judd, Valerie Kozel, Alexandar Marc, Tim Marchant, David Marsden, Caroline Moser, Deepa Narayan, Adega Ouma, Valeria Pena, Gill Perkins, Nadine Poupart, Jacomina de Regt, Claude Salem, Larry Salmen, Parmesh Shah, Veena Siddarth, Andrew Steer, Roger Sullivan, Maurizio Tovo, Tosca Van Vijfeijken, Frederick Wherry, and Michael Woolcock. At the Bank’s Office of the Publisher, Hank Chase, Connie Eysenck, Dan Kagan, Alan Kahan, Nicki Marrian, Don Reisman, and Janet Sasser, and at the IMF’s office, David Cheney and Lori-Michele Newsom contributed editorial, design, and production expertise.

Abbreviations and Acronyms


Asian Development Bank


African Medical and Research Foundation (Kenya)


Association pour la Promotion de la Femme Entrepreneur


Beneficiary assessment


Community action plan


Country assistance strategy (World Bank)


Comprehensive development framework


Centre for Development of People (Ghana)


Country economic memorandum (World Bank)


Centro de Estudos da População, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (Mozambique)


Communauté Financière Africaine


Composite impact index


Country Operations Department (World Bank)


Central Statistics Office


Core Welfare Indicators Questionnaire


Danish Agency for International Development


Department for International Development—United Kingdom


Environmental and Social Policy Department (World Bank)


European Union


Food and Agriculture Organization


Foreign direct investment


Gross domestic product


German Technical Cooperation


Household Income and Expenditure Survey


Heavily indebted poor countries


Human resources development


International Bank for Reconstruction and Development


Institutional Development Fund (World Bank)


International Development Research Centre


Institute of Development Studies


Living conditions monitoring survey


Learning and innovation loan


Living Standards Measurement Study


Monitoring and evaluation


Ministry of Finance, Planning, and Economic Development (Uganda)


Ministry of Planning and Economic Development (Uganda)


Medium-Term Expenditure Framework


National development strategy (Swaziland)


Nongovernmental organization


National Poverty Alleviation Program


National Statistical Office


Poverty assessment


Poverty Action Fund


Participatory Assessment Group


Pan African Institute for Development


Poverty Eradication Action Plan


Public expenditure review


Poverty and inequality report


Participation learning and action


Participatory Living Standards Assessment


Plan for Modernization of Agriculture


Participatory monitoring and evaluation


Participatory poverty assessment


Participatory poverty monitoring


Participatory policy research


Participatory rural appraisal


Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, Poverty Division


Programa de Iniciativas de Desarrollo Rural


Poverty reduction strategy


Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper


Programa Social Agropecuario


Reconstruction and Development Program (South Africa)


Rapid rural appraisal


Self-esteem, associative strength, resourcefulness, action planning, and responsibility


Secretarie Desarrollo Social (government poverty agency, Mexico)


Swedish International Development Authority


Sistema de Información, Monitoreo y Evaluación de Programas Sociales (Technical Assistance for the Improvement of Social Information)


Semistructured interview


Thailand Development Research Institute


United Nations Development Programme


United Nations Children’s Fund


Uganda Participatory Poverty Assessment Project


Welfare Monitoring Survey (Kenya)


Participatory poverty assessments are showing the World Bank and other outside observers of poverty that we are not the only poverty experts. Poor people have a long-overlooked capacity to contribute to the analysis of poverty—and without their insights we know only part of the reality of poverty, its causes, and the survival strategies of the poor.

How can the poor, so removed from the powerful, influence national policy? For many years, poverty assessments have used income and consumption indicators, education levels, and health status to determine levels of poverty. Such data are derived from household surveys. Recently, policymakers have also begun using a new method called a participatory poverty assessment (PPA) to sharpen the diagnosis of poverty and better understand the needs and priorities of the poor. PPAs use participatory research methods to understand poverty from the perspective of the poor. The method elicits both quantitative and qualitative data on broader indicators of poverty, such as vulnerability, physical and social isolation, powerlessness, insecurity, and self-respect. As a result, a poverty assessment that uses the PPA research method gives the poor, marginalized, and excluded a voice in policymaking.

PPAs can have an impact on policy by directly presenting the views of the poor to policymakers, both in country and within the World Bank, IMF, and other donor agencies. Although participatory approaches have been used by social scientists in project work for some time, their use for policy analysis is new. This new way to influence policy has been developed by the Bank in partnership with governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), academic institutions, and other donors. To date, more than 60 countries have undertaken PPAs with assistance from the World Bank; an equal number of PPAs have been conducted by other agencies, including United Nations agencies, bilaterals, and NGOs. Many lessons are now emerging that broaden our understanding of the policy process and of poverty itself.

  • Policy: Experience with PPAs indicates that where there is a broad policy dialogue on poverty that includes different civil society groups, the constituency for reform is widened, ownership is increased, and the resulting policy is more likely to be implemented. Simply presenting to policymakers the results of the new information generated through PPAs does not guarantee policy change. As a result, more recent PPAs have also focused on the policymaking process and the political context of policy choice and policy change. In such cases, the PPA process is not necessarily politically neutral.
  • Poverty: PPAs have consistently shown that poor people emphasize dimensions of poverty different from those typically used in policy analysis, including income and consumption levels, health, and education status. The poor also emphasize such aspects as vulnerability, physical and social isolation, lack of security and self-respect, lack of access to information, a distrust of state institutions, and powerlessness.

What Is a Participatory Poverty Assessment?

A PPA is a method to include poor people in the analysis of poverty with the objective of influencing policy. The findings are transmitted to policymakers, thereby enabling the poor to influence public policy choices. PPAs have three key elements:

  • Field research. By directly consulting the poor at the community level, field research generates a better understanding of poverty from the perspective of the poor. The views of the poor contribute to the analysis of poverty and the formulation of public policy aimed at poverty reduction.
  • Policy influence. A cross-section of civil society (for example, NGOs, policymakers, administrators, civic groups) is included in the PPA process to promote wider ownership of the PPA results, thereby increasing the chance that the PPA will influence policy.
  • Country capacity. The results of PPAs are combined with other data sources, including quantitative household surveys, to better diagnose poverty.

Using PPAs to extract information for research purposes only, with limited participation and no link to policymaking, is considered bad practice. In the past, most PPAs were focused only on the first element, field research. Links to policymaking were weak or unsustainable. More recently, PPAs are being designed to include both the second and third elements, resulting in greater long-term impact.

To strengthen the link between the World Bank’s assistance strategy and the country’s own efforts to reduce poverty, the Bank is committed to completing country-specific analyses of poverty in the form of poverty assessments. In the past, the core elements of such assessments were data on the income, consumption, education levels, and health status of the target group, usually based on the results of household surveys. From 1994 to 1999, 45 percent of the Bank’s completed poverty assessments have also included a PPA.

PPAs use participatory research methods to understand poverty from the perspective of the poor by focusing on their realities, needs, and priorities. Instead of a predetermined set of questions, as used in household surveys, PPAs use a variety of flexible methods that combine both visual (mapping, matrices, diagrams) and verbal (open-ended interviews, discussion groups) techniques, with the objective of better defining the experience of individuals, groups, households, and communities.

The principle of a PPA is to ensure that the intended beneficiaries have some control over the research process. Instead of information being extracted from an interviewee, communities share their knowledge and are involved in analyzing the results. The assumption is that poor people have expertise and should be part of the decisionmaking process. Experience from past PPAs has shown that the poor have the capacity to appraise, analyze, plan, and act to a far greater extent than has heretofore been acknowledged.

Impact of PFAs

Over the past few years, the percentage of PPAs in poverty assessments has increased. One-fifth of the Bank’s poverty assessments completed in fiscal year 1994 included a PPA. By fiscal 1995, this figure had risen to one-third, and in fiscal 1996, fiscal 1997, and fiscal 1998, half the poverty assessments included a PPA. Out of the 43 PPAs completed up to fiscal 1998,28 were in Africa, 6 in Latin America, 5 in Eastern Europe, and 4 in Asia. These PPAs have entailed a wide variety of approaches and have had a variety of outcomes and impacts. This book proposes a threefold classification of PPAs based on their varying impacts—those that deepen our understanding of poverty, that influence policy, and that strengthen policy delivery.

Deepening Our Understanding of Poverty

PPAs are deepening our understanding of poverty by enabling the poor to highlight dimensions of poverty, explain the processes of impoverishment, and rank their priorities. The policy dialogue has been dominated by income and consumption measures and health and education status derived from traditional household surveys. PPAs are adding to this analysis by providing other insights on the nature of poverty from the point of view of the poor.


Vulnerable groups are not always identified in household surveys. Neither is the fact that their access to productive resources might be constrained by political, cultural, and social factors. In Armenia, single pensioners were consistently ranked by the communities as the poorest—not because they had the least income but because they were isolated and socially excluded. In Togo, the PPA drew attention to vulnerable groups such as displaced people and domestic child labor.

Aspects of gender

In Tanzania, men identified transportation, farming, and drunkenness as the three most important problems, whereas women identified food shortages, lack of clean water, and illness.

Crime and violence

Some PPAs have been able to highlight the relationship between poverty and illegal activities. In contrast, household surveys often are not able to access such information because of the respondent’s reluctance to answer questions from an interviewer she or he does not trust, PPAs have been able to access data on such sensitive topics as child prostitution (Zambia), drugs (Jamaica), and domestic violence (Mexico). The PPA in Ecuador found that street crime and violence restrict women’s abilities to work away from home and that women and the elderly are reluctant to use public transport, particularly at night, because of safety concerns.


Many of the PPAs, such as those in South Africa, Zambia, Ghana, and Togo, included a seasonality analysis that highlighted great differences in poverty, vulnerability, and coping strategies over the year.


In The Gambia and Uganda, the poor expressed frustration with their lack of influence on government policies. Ugandans also expressed concern about government corruption and a distrust of state institutions, especially the police and the judiciary. In Vietnam’s PPA, people said they lacked information about their entitlements and rights, and about the activities of local government. In some PPAs (for example, Brazil, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan), police harassment, corruption, and general unresponsiveness were reported. Both the lack of protection from violence and crime and a lack of trust of the police in general were reported in many PPAs as important factors affecting poor people’s security. (See Narayan and others 2000, pp. 162–166, for more details on the role of the police.)

PPAs have helped in the interpretation of results from traditional household surveys. For example, the PPA in Mexico found that some women in Mexico City are unwilling to leave their houses and go to work. Because they do not have tenancy rights, they are afraid that their houses might become occupied. In addition, the PPAs have made it clear that the poor can analyze the causes of their vulnerability and rank their priorities. As a result of the poor’s involvement, the PPAs in Ghana, Mali, and Nigeria identified physical isolation and a lack of access to water as major problems.

PPAs generally work with information at various levels—from individuals, households, and communities—and study issues of gender, ethnicity, age, and the relationships and differences between various community groups. Some PPAs have focused on individual case studies of people, providing insights into the dynamics of poverty and survival strategies. At the household level, the focus on intrahousehold dynamics can reveal both the unequal allocation of resources among household members and the impact of power relations on the poverty of women, men, and children within the household. Most PPAs also adopt a community perspective to highlight the diversity of social or cultural groups and their wide-ranging coping strategies.

Influencing Policy

Evaluating the extent to which PPAs have influenced policy involves consideration of two main issues: first, Has policy changed? Second, Have policymakers shifted their focus toward a more pro-poor approach? Although causality is usually difficult to establish, there are many examples of how PPAs have influenced policy at the country level and within the Bank, such as the following:

  • Zambia: The PPA identified the fact that school fees were to be paid at a time of year that caused maximum economic stress for households. The Ministry of Education decided to prepare a new regulation to change the timing of school fees.
  • Ghana: The PPA influenced the composition of the Bank’s country program by shifting the emphasis to rural infrastructure and to the quality and accessibility of education and health care.

Strengthening Policy Implementation

Finally, a participatory process can help build the capacity of institutions to implement a policy more effectively by creating incentives (political or otherwise) and by generating a new institutional alignment to achieve effective, sustainable poverty reduction. To move toward strengthening policy implementation, the PPA needs to be designed to:

  • Use participatory techniques to diagnose both the policy environment and the ability and willingness of institutions to deliver the evolving policy
  • Build the capacity of institutions to use participatory methods in the formulation and implementation of the policy
  • Initiate appropriate partnerships and linkages between and within formal and informal networks and institutions.

PPAs have the potential to increase dialogue and negotiation on poverty at the policy level; increase ownership and commitment to policy delivery on the part of different civil society groups; and strengthen links between communities and policymakers. Over the longer term, this process could challenge existing power relations.

Although it has not been possible to fully assess the impact of the PPAs, most appear to have achieved the objective of data collection and analysis. Some have achieved the objective of capacity building, but only a few have affected the formulation and implementation of policy, which is necessary if they are to have a wider impact. It is important, at this stage, not to overstate what PPAs have delivered or can deliver. But the approach does have the potential to affect communities by involving local people in the definition and analysis, including causes, of their own poverty; by helping people shift from passively being dependent to actively seeking ways to reduce their poverty; and by involving communities in policy formulation and delivery, as opposed to their being merely acted upon.

Emerging Good Practice

There is no single model for this type of work. The best approach is often determined by the context. However, this book suggests some minimum standards and good practice for participatory policy research that aims to affect policy change.

Emerging good practice for managing the PPAs at the World Bank includes wide ownership of the PPA across departments, as well as a team approach, the integration and balancing of various sector interests, a commitment to poverty reduction, and management support. At the country level, the potential impact of PPAs on policy change is influenced by the degree of government support for the exercise and, more generally, by the level of ownership and commitment of in-country stakeholders, which affects the credibility of the analysis. At the community level, the quality, credibility and effectiveness of the PPA relate to when it is performed (before, during, or after the household survey), the methods used, the length of time allocated for fieldwork, the skills of the researchers, and the degree of institutional linkage established through the fieldwork process.

Ethical questions are raised in this new field of influencing policy through dialogue with the poor. In the past, participatory methodologies were widely used at the project level, where there was immediate follow-up and action at the community level. Many practitioners are now questioning the process, principles, and ethics of working directly with communities for policy research where there may be no direct follow-up at the community level—the result being more data extraction than community action. All survey work, but especially PPAs, should discuss with participating groups the terms of the relationship. A basic principle is that the results of the PPAs should be shared with all the participating communities.

This book focuses on the World Bank’s experience with PPAs. Some practitioners have argued that a number of World Bank PPAs should not be included because they were extractive, did not influence policy, and were not participatory (Brock 2000). However, both good and bad practice PPAs are included in this analysis to facilitate learning from past experiences.

Looking Ahead

Combining Data Sources for Better Poverty Analysis

There has been a tendency to see a dichotomy between traditional household surveys, which are quantitative and objective, and PPAs, which are qualitative and subjective. In practice, however, these divisions are not as clear and are often misleading, since subjective questions are increasingly being used in traditional surveys and many PPAs contain quantified information and analysis.

The objective of a comprehensive poverty analysis, therefore, should be to conduct participatory research and household surveys interactively, so that they enhance each other. If a PPA is conducted after the household survey, the results will explain, challenge, reinforce, or shed new light on household survey data. The results of the household survey can also, of course, explain, challenge, or reinforce the PPA.

If the PPA is conducted before the household survey, the PPA results could assist in generating hypotheses, shaping the design of the household survey, and developing survey questions appropriate for the respondents. Ideally, this should be an ongoing process whereby both PPAs and household surveys are conducted periodically and feed into each other. The results of past PPAs indicate that when they are used in conjunction with household surveys, the final assessment is a much fuller analysis of the varying dimensions of poverty, and the policy recommendations are more relevant and informed.

Involving the Poor in Measuring Success

PPAs have shown that poor people have the capacity to contribute to the debate on poverty. The question is, therefore, who should determine indicators of success? In the past, such indicators have been defined by those outside the community. Whose values and whose reality count (see Chambers 1997 and Gaventa 1998) are key issues. Emerging from these questions is the further question of who determines reality. To understand how projects and policies affect people’s lives, investigations now focus on ways in which the poor can measure and assess outcomes (using indicators and values that make sense to them) and analyze causality. These approaches are increasingly being incorporated into World Bank projects. However, nationally, and even internationally, defined targets still tend to be quantified targets determined by outsiders.1

Linking PPAs to Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers

In September 1999, the World Bank and the IMF agreed to major changes in their operations to help low-income countries achieve sustainable poverty reduction. Henceforth, programs supported by the two institutions will be based on government-driven poverty reduction strategies (PRSs) developed in consultation with civil society and elaborated in Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). The PRSPs also provide the basis for debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, as well as for all World Bank concessional lending. There are four key features of the PRSs for which PPAs can be useful.

  • Poverty analysis. PRSs can incorporate information from the PPA on the multidimensional aspects and causes of poverty.
  • Formulation and dissemination. The priorities of the poor should be reflected in the PRS goals set forth in the PRSPs. These priorities can be reflected in the sequencing of public actions, the choice of indicators for monitoring implementation of poverty reduction strategies, and budget allocations.
  • Monitoring. The PPA can provide policymakers with information on the effectiveness and relevance of poverty reduction strategies and the institutions that implement them, as well as on delivery of the budget and quality of services.
  • Evaluating outcomes. Outcomes reported during PPAs should be integrated with other sources and used to inform decisions on whether to change policies and budget allocations. In this way, PRSs serve as a way to link PPAs to the policymaking process so they do not remain isolated exercises with limited impact.

PPAs highlight the potentially powerful role the poor can play in analyzing poverty, developing interventions for its reduction, and assessing the impact of projects and policies. The challenge for the Bank and the rest of the development community is to effectively integrate the perspectives and values of the poor into the process of policy and project formulation and implementation.


1.For example, the international development goals include the following quantified targets: the proportion of people living in extreme poverty in developing countries reduced by at Least one-half by 2015; universal primary education in all countries by 2015; progress toward gender equality and the empowerment of women, demonstrated by eliminating gender disparity in primary and secondary education by 2005; the death rates for infants and children under the age of five years reduced in each developing country by two-thirds the 1990 level by 2015; the rate of maternal mortality reduced by three-fourths between 1990 and 2015; access available through the primary health care system to reproductive health services for all individuals of appropriate ages, no later than the year 2015.

    Other Resources Citing This Publication