Menu ENN Search

Participatory study of impact of global crises on the poor

A pregnant mother feeds her 2 year old daughter only rice, in the face of escalating food prices in Bangladesh

Summary of published research1

The findings from a participatory study on the impacts and responses to the food, fuel and financial crises in poor rural and urban communities in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, Jamaica and Zambia have just been published. The study was conducted in February 2009. The research findings are meant to be illustrative rather than representative of the wider impact, offering insights into the processes, institutions and relationships through which poor people are experiencing the crises. The study was also designed to test a methodology for fast, but systematic, participatory monitoring.

The global financial crisis is coming at a time when the shock of high food and fuel prices continues to reverberate. People have yet to recover from the peak of the food and fuel crisis, many prices remain high and fluctuation has created uncertainty.

The impact of the global crisis is already being felt in peri-urban Jakarta, Indonesia. Here, migrant export sector workers started to return home late in 2008 when their contracts were not renewed, while others have had their working hours reduced. The wider impacts of the downturn in export manufacturing are being felt by local businesses that depend on the export sector. By contrast, garment factory workers in Dhaka report that new jobs are available, but in poor quality, unsafe sub-contractor sweatshops, rather than in the labour standards-compliant factories.

Fluctuating agricultural prices have created uncertainty. In rural Kenya, food prices continue to rise as a result of drought, but farm-gate prices have dropped sharply. In Bangladesh and Zambia, farmers report high fertiliser and diesel costs are constraining efforts to increase production. Credit is being squeezed, including in Jamaica where the January 2008 crash of the investment company, Cash Plus, has meant investment capital losses for many low-income people. In rural Bangladesh, a microfinance non-governmental organisation (NGO) reported local lending was down and bad loans were up.

Livelihood adaptation has been swift, but into low-yield or dangerous activities. Women have been prominent in developing new forms of retail for low-cost food items, in small quantities and on convenient terms. Men from Kalimantan, Indonesia, were travelling to another island to mine gold, and cross-border smuggling was reportedly rising in rural Bangladesh - both illegal and dangerous but potentially lucrative activities.

Eating less frequently, and less diverse and nutrient-rich foods was commonly reported across all ten communities. Health seeking behaviour was found to have changed in a small number of cases, with people resorting to self-medication and avoidance of expensive procedures. More common was the sense that education was at risk. There were many children being withdrawn from school or college. Children were reported to be entering work, including unconfirmed reports from Kenya and Zambia of growing numbers of children and young girls selling sex.

Indonesia apart, community-based support was widely deemed inadequate. In some contexts, middle-class people had been hit hard and were reportedly less helpful to poor neighbours than before. Faith based support was prominent in Bangladesh and Kenya, but in Zambia, community and church-based support was declining and inadequate. NGO programmes were not prominent in any of the communities apart from Nairobi.

Government programmes were similarly felt to be insufficient; public safety nets for the poor in Kenya and Bangladesh were roundly criticised for the small amounts disbursed. In Jakarta, migrant workers who had lost their jobs were not able to access government rice for the poor which typically goes to longer-term residents.

Stress levels have been rising in many households and there are signs of rising domestic violence, as well as incipient signs of inter-group tensions. Petty crime and drug and alcohol abuse were reportedly on the rise. In Jakarta, rising crime was dated to the last three months, backed by local police statistics.

The authors of the study conclude that the global recession is coming on the back of an ongoing food and fuel crisis. Prices have declined, but not all prices, not everywhere and not enough for people to return to 2007 living standards. As the direct impacts of the crisis begin to be felt, many people in the ten poor communities in this research were aware of a new impending crisis, and were keen to understand what was happening and share their experiences. Tracing the impacts of global financial crisis on people's lives and wellbeing is complicated by the interaction of compound crises on capacities to adapt, cope and respond. The authors of the study suggest that the complexity of these processes underlines the value of qualitative participatory research into how people experience and understand the crises as they unfold.

Show footnotes

1IDS (2009). Voices of the poor in the current crises. IDS in Focus Policy Briefing. Issue 07 Policy responses to the global financial crisis. March 2009

More like this

FEX: Emergency food-based programming in urban settings

Summary of published research1 Children attending Stara School, Nairobi, that receives WFP food support. The Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance 11 (FANTA-2) Project has...

FEX: Issues and challenges for livelihoods programming in emergencies (Special Supplement 3)

8.1 Introduction The previous sections of this supplement have highlighted various challenges in livelihood support programming in emergencies. Most of these are within the...

FEX: The danger of interpreting anthropometric data out of context

Mark Myatt is a consultant epidemiologist and senior research fellow at the Institute of Ophthalmology. His areas of expertise are infectious disease, nutrition and survey...

FEX: Has financial speculation in food commodity markets increased food prices?

By Noemi Pace, Andrew Seal, Anthony Costello Noemi Pace is research fellow at University College London, Centre for International Health and Development. She was previously a...

FEX: Cash transfers protecting dietary diversity during food crisis

Summary of working paper1 A village scene in Indonesia In 1998, during the financial crisis in Indonesia, the value of the rupiah (Rp) depreciated dramatically from around Rp...

FEX: Climate Changeas a driver of humanitarian crisis and response

Summary of published research1 Thousands of Somalis have been displaced by what is described as the worst floods in the country in 10 years. Tufts University has recently...

FEX: Participatory risk analysis and integrated interventions to increase resilience of pastoral communities in Northern Kenya

By Daniel Nyabera, Charles Matemo and Muriel Calo Daniel Nyabera is Food Security and Livelihoods Programme Manager, ACF-US, Yemen Mission. Daniel has over nine years of...

FEX: Global food price crisis: lessons and ideas for relief planners and managers

Summary of published research1 Food prices have increased by an average of 52% between 2007 and 2008. ALNAP2 has recently published a paper which aims to assist those agencies...

FEX: Review of food security and nutrition amongst urban poor

Summary of review1 Location: Kenya, Niger, Bangladesh What we know: A significant and increasing proportion of the world population resides in urban slums. Achieving food...

FEX: Call for strategic US approach to the global food crisis

Summary of report1 US Government vessel offloading in the port of Djibouti 42,000 MT of donated food aid in Ethiopia in 2002. The food will reach Ethiopia after a three day...

FEX: Cost of the Diet – novel approach to estimate affordability of a nutritious diet

A woman cooking at home in Tanzania By Abigail Perry, Save the Children UK Abigail Perry currently works for Save the Children UK as a nutrition adviser based in London,...

FEX: Food Intake in Pregnancy During Indonesian Crisis

Summary of published paper1 Women preparing traditional food in Indonesia Beginning in August 1997, Indonesia experienced a rapid deterioration in its economic situation....

FEX: The Psychology of Food Riots: Why do price hikes lead to unrest?

Summary of research1 A vendor in Yemen, another country where there have been food riots A recent article published online about the psychology of food riots makes for...

FEX: A Time to Rethink the Global Food Regime

Summary of published paper1 By Tom Marchione, George Mason University Until his recent death, Tom Marchione was an adjunct professor in the George Mason University Department...

FEX: Addressing urban food security through electronic cash transfer in Kenya

By Sumananjali Mohanty Sumananjali Mohanty has been working with Oxfam Kenya programme for the past four and half years, initially as the Urban Food Security and...

FEX: Muslim Aid

Name Muslim Aid Director(s) Saif Ahmad CEO Address PO Box 3, London E1 1WP Year formed 1985 Telephone +44(0)20 7377 4200 Main office UK Fax +44(0)20 7377 4201 Overseas...

FEX: Vouchers and fairs as emergency response in DRC

Summary of evaluation1 Masisi Centre fair In late 2008, escalated fighting among rebels and the Congolese Armed Forces (FARCD) provoked renewed and widespread displacement in...

FEX: Food security in Eritrea and Ethiopia

Summary of published research1 The food security impact of the 1998-2000 border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, and its legacy, is examined in a recent paper published in...

FEX: British Red Cross urban learning scoping study

Summary of report1 The British Red Cross has undertaken a scoping study to better understand the challenges posed by humanitarian action in urban areas, and how the Red Cross...

FEX: Critical gaps in drought response in Greater Horn of Africa

Summary of published research1 The drought currently affecting an estimated 11 million people in the Greater Horn of Africa is said to be the worst in more than a decade, with...

Close

Reference this page

Participatory study of impact of global crises on the poor. Field Exchange 37, November 2009. p6. www.ennonline.net/fex/37/poor