The fundamental reason why sustainable development is a difficult pursuit to attend is because POVERTY is its obstacle/barrier. Poverty is a multidimensional and multifaceted problem. It goes beyond just income. It has social, economic, political, and environmentalimplications, in that it affects people’s rights, power relations, and access to resources.  It has historical, geographical as well as social causes. Poverty has different classifications, by gender, social status, age, location, educational level, family size, and occupation.

The five (5) big factors of poverty are ignorance, diseases, dishonesty, apathy, and dependency(DADDI).The strategies and methods for tackling poverty have a universal applicability, as can be found in the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agenda. MDGs range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS, empowering women,and to providing universal primary education, all by 2015. The MDGs blueprint has been agreed to by all the world’s leading development institutions.

Poverty as a Social Problem:

We have all felt a shortage of cash at times. That is an individual experience. It is not the same as the social problem of poverty. While money is a measure of wealth, lack of cash can be a measure of lack of wealth, but it is not the social problem of poverty.

Poverty as a social problem is a deeply embedded wound that permeates every dimension of cultureand society. It includes sustained low levels of income for members of a community. It includes a lack of access to services like education, markets, health care, lack of decision making ability, and lack of communal facilities like water, sanitation, roads, transportation, and communications. Furthermore, it is a “poverty of spirit,” that allows members of that community to believe in and share despair, hopelessness, apathy, and timidity. Poverty, especially the factors that contribute to it, is a social problem, and its solution is social.

I would like you to know that we cannot fight poverty by alleviating its symptoms, but only by attacking the factors of poverty. This presentation describes the “Big Five” factors that contribute to the social problem of poverty and how business innovation can solve this problem.

The simple transfer of funds, even if it is to the victims of poverty, will not eradicate or reduce poverty. It will merely alleviate the symptoms of poverty in the short run. It is not a durable solution. Poverty as a social problem calls for a social solution through empowerment and business innovation. That solution is the clear, conscious and deliberate removal of the big five factors of poverty.

The big five factors of poverty (as a social problem) that are listed here, ignorancedisease,dishonestyapathy, and dependency, are to be seen simply as conditions.  No moral judgment is intended.  They are not good or bad, they just are.  If it is the decision of a group of people, as in a society or in a community, to reduce and remove poverty, they will have to, without value judgment, observe and identify these factors, and take action to remove them as the way to eradicate poverty.

The big five, in turn, contribute to secondary factors such as lack of markets, poor infrastructure, poor leadership, bad governance, under-employment, lack of skills, absenteeism, lack of capital, and others. Each of these are social problems, each of them are caused by one or more of the big five, and each of them contribute to the perpetuation of poverty, and their eradication is necessary for the removal of poverty.

Let us look briefly at each of the big five in turn.


Ignorance means having a lack of information, or lack of knowledge. It is different from stupidity which is lack of intelligence, and different from foolishness which is lack of wisdom. The three are often mixed up and assumed to be the same by some people. “Knowledge is power,” goes the old saying. Unfortunately, some people, knowing this, try to keep knowledge to themselves (as a strategy of obtaining an unfair advantage), and hinder others from obtaining knowledge. Do not expect that if you train someone in a particular skill, or provide some information, that the information or skill will naturally trickle or leak into the rest of a community.


When a community has a high disease rate, absenteeism is high, productivity is low, and less wealth is created. Apart from the misery, discomfort and death that results from disease, it is also a major factor in poverty in a community. Being well (well-being) not only helps the individuals who are healthy, it contributes to the eradication of poverty in the community.

Here, as elsewhere, prevention is better than cure. It is one of the basic tenets of PHC (primary health care). The economy is much healthier if the population is always healthy; more so than if people get sick and have to be treated. Health contributes to the eradication of poverty more in terms of access to safe and clean drinking water, separation of sanitation from the water supply, knowledge of hygiene and disease prevention — much more than clinics, doctors and drugs, which are costly curative solutions rather than prevention against disease.


Apathy is when people do not care, or when they feel so powerless that they do not try to change things, to right a wrong, to fix a mistake, or to improve conditions.

Sometimes, some people feel so unable to achieve something, they are jealous of their family relatives or fellow members of their community who attempt to do so. Then they seek to bring the attempting achiever down to their own level of poverty. Apathy breeds apathy.


When resources that are intended to be used for community services or facilities, are diverted into the private pockets of someone in a position of power, there is more than morality at stake here. In this training series, we are not making a value judgment that it is good or bad. We are pointing out, however, that it is a major cause of poverty. Dishonesty among persons of trust and power. The amount stolen from the public, that is received and enjoyed by the individual, is far less than the decrease in wealth that was intended for the public.

The amount of money that is extorted or embezzled is not the amount of lowering of wealth to the community. Economists tell of the “multiplier effect.” Where new wealth is invested, the positive effect on the economy is more than the amount created. When investment money is taken out of circulation, the amount of wealth by which the community is deprived is greater than the amount gained by the embezzler. When a Government official takes a 100 dollar bribe, social investment is decreased by as much as a 400 dollar decrease in the wealth of the society.


Dependency results from being on the receiving end of charity. In the short run, as after a disaster, that charity may be essential for survival. In the long run, that charity can contribute to the possible demise of the recipient, and certainly too ongoing poverty.

It is an attitude, a belief, that one is so poor, so helpless, that one cannot help one’s self, that a group cannot help itself, and that it must depend on assistance from outside. The attitude, and shared belief is the biggest self justifying factor in perpetuating the condition where the self or group must depend on outside help.


These five factors are not independent of one another. Disease contributes to ignorance and apathy. Dishonesty contributes to disease and dependency. And so on. They each contribute to each other.

In any social change process, we are encouraged to“think globally, act locally.” The Big Five factors of poverty appear to be widespread and deeply embedded in cultural values and practices. We may mistakenly believe that any of us, at our small level of life, can do nothing about them.

Do not despair. If each of us makes a personal commitment to fight the factors of poverty at whatever station in life we occupy, then the sum total of all of us doing it, and the multiplier effect of our actions on others, will contribute to the decay of those factors, and the ultimate victory over poverty.


Empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of individuals or groups to make choices and to transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. Central to this process are actions which both build individual and collective assets, and improve the efficiency and fairness of the organizational and institutional context which govern the use of these assets.

One of the most effective ways of solving poverty is empowering individuals with small scale business, the popular saying “give me no fish but teach me to fish” is very applicable to solving poverty problems in our community.

My analysis, findings and views may lack the proficiency of the highest expectation, as my career pathway is Engineering, Development studies and Public policy-Analysis. My message to Africa and Africans is “Ensure Community Solutions through Community Actions for Community Development”.

Yusuf Yahaya is an Author (specializing in Human Development), a Broadcast Engineer @(Nigerian Television Authority), a Freelance Journalist@ & ( both UK based Online News websites), Consultant/National Resource PersonMDGs Advocacy Project (Nigeria) coordinated by the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, and is an Associate Researcher/Member of Governing council@ Certified Institute of Development Studies (CIDS),,


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