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Poverty and Reefs

4.5 Strengthening Livelihood Support Systems

The capacity of basic services and support systems and their accessibility to poor reef stakeholders is critical in determining the poor’s ability to respond and cope with change. Poor health and education weaken the potential of the poor to adapt and change. An absence of support mechanisms in times of crisis burden the poor with high levels of risk, a burden which in some cases is increasing with the decline of reef benefits, which formerly provided safety nets and keystone resources in times of hardship.

On the remote Lakshadweep Islands and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India, high levels of government support and subsidies have developed local infrastructure and services, such that local communities have access to higher standards of support, in terms of education, health and sanitation, than in many other areas of India. On the Lakshadweep Islands, government sector jobs offer an important alternative to reef-based livelihoods and provide a major source of income and prosperity to the islands. Many households have benefited from these opportunities and overall the average household income has increased. However, frequently the elderly, the poorly educated, or traditionally skilled have been by-passed by this development, left behind to pursue reef-related activities as opposed to steady salaried government employment options. This has rapidly contributed to polarity and income disparity within the island populations and has resulted in an increasing incidence of poor households (Hoon, 2003).

Clearly while strengthening the underlying support from government for basic services is critical, it will only create positive changes for the poor if its development is targeted at the poor. The very nature of poverty often excludes the poor from the benefits of development. Therefore, to better target development a more detailed understanding of the poor is required, which goes beyond standard measures, embracing the diversity of poor stakeholders and incorporating local aspects of poverty.
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