Thursday, February 4, 2016

$3.10 Poverty Challenge: Carol’s Story

Carol is the mother of four school-aged children and sells vegetables in the market near my home. She actually snorted when I told her that 63% of people in Uganda live on less than 10,800 shillings per day. “Impossible,” she said. Selling vegetables in the market is a common work in Uganda because their primary industry is farming, so we can safely assume that Carol’s work could be considered normative for our research.

Assuming each of Carol’s four children is also living on 10,800 UGX per day, Carol and her children would need 54,000 per day to live at or below the World Bank’s established poverty level. Okay, “now we have a bit of money to play with,” you are thinking. If and only if Carol is able to earn 54,000 shillings each day, keeping in mind that her children are not actually earning money, here is how she would spend it (again, starting with food).

Breakfast for all ages consists of tea with sugar and bread with Blue Band. Carol will purchase and use a whole loaf for her family each day (4,000) along with a portion of a kilo of tea and sugar (500) and Blue Band (400). To heat the water (200), Carol will need charcoal and a match (500) as well as a jiko stove, a kettle, cups, plates, and silverware. These latter items can be reused so for this example we’ll not include costs for purchasing them. To clean up, Carol will need water (200) and soap (500) at a minimum. Breakfast for her family of five costs Carol 6,300 UGX.

Lunch for all consists of rice and beans. Carol indicated that 1 kilo of rice will feed four so she needs a bit more (4,400) and beans (3,000). Included in the beans are some small vegetables for flavor: onion (500), tomato (500), and salt (50). She also needs a bit of water (200) and oil to cook with (200). Again Carol needs more charcoal because beans take long to cook and a match (1,000) as well as the jiko stove, sauce pans, utensils, bowls, and silverware. To clean up, Carol needs water (200) and soap (500) at a minimum. Lunch for her family of five costs Carol 10,550 UGX.

Carol suggested preparing chicken and matoke for dinner. She indicated that matoke (boiled banana) costs 7,500 for five people and that a chicken for four people costs 15,000 (they’ll skimp to make one chicken work for the five of them). The various cooking accoutrements are similar to lunchtime and cost 2,450 and clean up costs 700. For dinner Carol makes fresh juice which requires water (200) and fruits (3,000). Dinner for her family of five costs 28,850 UGX.

For food alone, in a single day with no deviation, food costs Carol 45,700 UGX. Recall that living at or below the poverty line gives Carol 54,000 UGX each day and spending 45,700 UGX on food leaves her with 8,300 left over each day. Not working on Sunday means that Carol has to save that leftover income each day and will have 49,800 to spend on Sunday minus 45,700 for food that day remaining with 4,100 UGX for the week.

Keep in mind that Carol alone needs to sell 54,000 UGX of vegetables every day to live at the poverty line (not including cost of goods). After food she has 4,100 remaining each week (or 16,400 per month). Carol still needs to pay rent, pay school fees for four children including uniforms and requirements, provide medical care, transportation, airtime, buy clothing and shoes and wash them, and all the other little necessities of life. Once again it’s easy to see that 4,100 UGX is not enough to cover even one dose of malaria medication (11,000) let alone house rent or any other necessity.