THE EFFECT OF RURAL POVERTY ON ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION

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CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION
Background of the study
Poverty is a social phenomenon that has eaten deep into the fabrics of every society ranging from its political, social and economic organizations. It is therefore a social problem that has affected the productive sector of every economy such as agricultural and industrial sector to mention but a few. According to Aluk (2011) poverty is defined as lack of command over basic consumption needs such as clothing, food and shelter. World Band (2005), define poverty as inability to attain a minimum standard of living. Environmental degradation on the other hand is defined as how the environment is affected through certain forces such as flood, deforestation, overgrazing, and the use of harmful chemicals as well as environmental pollution in the environment.
Poverty is most pervasive in rural than urban areas. This assessment can be justified by the examination of the level of concentration of economic institutions and activities. It is indisputable that economic institutions are only concentrated in urban centres, creating more opportunities for job, good living and what can be obtained in the rural areas (Ahmed, 2010). When comparative analysis of the level of income as it affects the quality of life and standard of living of both rural and urban settlements is made, a variation of the difference in the social relationship in art of production, allocation of scarce resources and distribution, what comes to mind is the question of those who benefit more as a wide gap exist among the rural and urban dwellers as it affects the circulation and control of goods and services and of prices (Maxwell, 2006). Many studies have established that there exists a strong social relationship between poverty and environmental degradation. This is because factors like level of income, quality and prices of goods and services affects the living standard of people in rural areas thereby affecting their activities towards the environment. Also, most of the poor people particularly in developing countries rely on natural resources for their livelihood, and these people are very vulnerable to causing environmental problems.
Apa local government area is predominantly a rural based society with 75% of her population depending on agriculture as their main occupation. Base on the agrarian nature of her economy, crops, and tubers are highly produced with more than half percent of the population of women and children constituting the chunk of the labour force. For some time now efforts have been made by the government, corporate bodies and irrigation organizations to curb the incidence of environmental degradation in the area through deliberate policies and programmes aimed at poverty alleviation among the rural people yet, poverty remain the major constrain militating against the development of the rural people. It is for this reason that this study is design to investigate the effects of poverty on environmental degradation with reference to Apa local government area of Benue State.
Statement of the Problem
Nwagbara, (2012) in his assessment of poverty, environmental degradation and sustainable development assets that the poor have traditionally taken the brunt of the blame for causing society’s many problems. Anijah-Obi (2001), observes that poverty, a deplorable state of human welfare, is closely linked to environmental degradation. The poor are both victims and agents of environmental damage. Poverty may be created by negative and unjust social conditions such as structural inequality. Those who are poor and hungry will often destroy their immediate environments in order to survive. They are responsible for cultivating tired soil and cutting down forests. They throw waste into gutters and streams, because they lack the basic necessities of life. They lack resources and materials necessary for living within a minimum standard conducive to human dignity and well-being. In Apa local government, the poor depend extensively on firewood for cooking which requires the falling of trees without replacement.
There are two major streams in the local government that serves as a source of both industrial and domestic water supply to its inhabitants this are the Ochi-Chi and Okpeje streams. Activities of fishing with chemicals, dumping of refuse in stream and water channels, open deification, and mining of the soil for lime stone and granite constitute some of the major environmental problems propel by human activities. All this in no small measure have continued to cause the outbreak of cholera disease and other health challenges of its inhabitants which mostly affect the poor due to their inability to find alternative to both source of water that is already contaminated and environmental pollution caused by indiscriminate waste disposal. Hence, the need for this study to examine the effects of poverty on environmental degradation in Apa local government area of Benue State.
Research Questions
The following research questions are advanced to guide this study:
1.  How does poverty cause environmental degradation?
2.  What are the effects of poverty on environmental degradation in Apa local government?
3.  What measures can be employed to ameliorate the problem of poverty on environmental degradation in Apa local government?
Objectives of the Study
The general objective of this study is to examine the effects of poverty on environmental degradation in Apa local government area of Benue State. The specific objectives are to;
1.  Ascertain how poverty cause environmental degradation
2.  Find out the effects of poverty on environmental degradation in Apa local government
3.  Suggest measures that can be employed to ameliorate the problem of poverty on environmental degradation in Apa local government.
Significance of the Study
This study will be significant in the following ways; firsts and foremost, the findings of this study will serve as a policy document to the government, policy makers and environmentalist in curbing the effects of environmental degradation on rural poor dwellers. Secondly, it will be of importance to the academic environment as it can be use as a reference point in giving out information on poverty and environmental issues in the society. Thirdly, the study will add to the already existing body of literatures in the area of poverty and environmental degradation. Last but not the least, the study will aid further researchers who intend to carryout similar studies on the same topic to have a background situation of what they intend to study.
Research Assumptions
The following research assumptions are to guide this study: Ho. There is no significant relationship between poverty on environmental degradation in Apa local government.
Scope of the Study The scope of this study shall be delimitated to Ogantelle towns of Apa local government where there are higher levels of farming and degredation. The major areas of Apa such as, Auke, Iga-Okpaya, Oiji, Igoro, Ikobi, Ojope, Ogantele, Oba, Edikwu 1 and Edikwu II ward were covered with a time span ranging from 2010 to 2013.
Definition of Terms
Poverty: According to Sachs (2009), poverty can be defined in terms of three distinguishable degrees. These are: Extreme poverty, moderate poverty and relative poverty. Extreme poverty means the household cannot meet basic needs for survival. Moderate poverty on the other hand generally refers to conditions of life in which basic needs are met, but just at the base level while, relative poverty is construed as a household income level below a given proportion of average national income. Put differently, poverty can be defined as the inability of one to provide for his or her basic needs of life such as food, clothing and sheathe.
Environmental Degradation: Environmental degradation implies a gradual reduction in environmental quality to the extent that its ability to meet the environmental needs of the present generation is reduced and that of the future generation is in jeopardy. According to Fritsch et al. (1990), environmental degradation is defined as a man-made environmental change having negative impact on human society. It can also be defined as processes induced by human behaviour and activities (sometimes combined with natural hazards) that damage the natural resource base or adversely alter natural processes or ecosystems.

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