Effective alleviation of rural poverty depends on the interplay between productivity, nutrients, water and soil quality
Most of the world's poorest people come from rural areas and depend on their local ecosystems for food production. Recent research has highlighted the importance of self-reinforcing dynamics between low soil quality and persistent poverty but little is known on how they affect poverty alleviation.
We investigate how the intertwined dynamics of household assets, nutrients (especially phosphorus), water and soil quality influence food production and determine the conditions for escape from poverty for the rural poor. We have developed a suite of dynamic, multidimensional poverty trap models of households that combine economic aspects of growth with ecological dynamics of soil quality, water and nutrient flows to analyze the effectiveness of common poverty alleviation strategies such as intensification through agrochemical inputs, diversification of energy sources and conservation tillage.
Our results show that (i) agrochemical inputs can reinforce poverty by degrading soil quality, (ii) diversification of household energy sources can create possibilities for effective application of other strategies, and (iii) sequencing of interventions can improve effectiveness of conservation tillage.
Our model-based approach demonstrates the interdependence of economic and ecological dynamics which preclude blanket solution for poverty alleviation. Stylized models as developed here can be used for testing effectiveness of different strategies given biophysical and economic settings in the target region.
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