Living on a Dollar a Day

Monday, July 07, 2014

poverty dollar a day Alvaro Kalancha Quispe, 9, opens the gate to the stone pen that holds the family’s alpacas and llamas each morning so they can graze throughout the hillsides during the day. Bolivia - Alvaro Kalancha Quispe, 9, opens the gate to the stone pen that holds the family’s alpacas and llamas each morning so they can graze throughout the hillsides during the day. (© Renée C. Byer/Courtesy of Renée C. Byer)

More than one billion people around the world live on a dollar a day. While the reasons for their poverty may be different across geographic regions and political circumstances, the results are much the same. Thomas Nazario looks at the ways extreme poverty severely limits people’s options in life, and that the cycle of poverty is nearly impossible to break without help. His book Living on a Dollar a Day shares the personal stories of some the poorest of the poor.


dollar a day e-waste dump
© Renée C. Byer
In an e-waste dump in that kills nearly everything that it touches, Fati, 8, works with other children searching through hazardous waste in hopes of finding whatever she can to exchange for pennies.

While balancing a bucket on her head with the little metal she has found, tears stream down her face as the result of the pain that comes with the malaria she contracted some years ago. This is work she must do to survive.

dollar a day poverty ghana
© Renée C. Byer/Courtesy of Renée C. Byer
In the back roads of Ghana, the women and girls of Nkwanta are often seen carrying overhead large buckets of cassava (a starchy edible root), which they farm and then bring home to their villages.

 It serves as a staple in their diet. Subsistence farming is the number one livelihood of the extreme poor.

dollar a day poverty ghana Kayayo girls
© Renée C. Byer/Courtesy of Renée C. Byer
Kayayo girls in Ghana live in communal settings that require the least amount of rent, often near or on top of the city dump.

Many Kayayo girls carry heavy loads on their heads and work with babies strapped to their backs. They work six days a week, and on Sunday they tend to daily chores such as laundry, cooking and cleaning. "Everyone is struggling so we can't help each other," said Sharifa Monaro, 23, center.

dollar a day poverty bolivia
© Renée C. Byer/Courtesy of Renée C. Byer
In Bolivia, Alvaro Kalancha Quispe, 9, opens the gate to the stone pen that holds the family’s alpacas and llamas each morning so they can graze throughout the hillsides during the day.

He then heads off to school, but must round them up again in the evening in the Akamani mountain range of Bolivia in an area called Caluyo, about an hour from the city of Qutapampa. In this part of the world, the highlands of Bolivia, approximately 13,000 feet above sea level, residents live in homes with no insulation, no electricity, and no beds. Their water comes from streams that run off the snow-covered mountains. Their livelihood lies with their animals, for each animal produces about three pounds of fur each year, and each pound of fur is sold for 18 bolivianos, which amounts to about $2.50 U.S. All in all, this family may earn about $200 of income each year from the herd they watch over.


Thomas Nazario

Comments [7]

fuva from harlemworld

Vikas Tipnis, excellent point. Complete Western-chauvinist ignorance of differences in lifestyles and standards.

Jul. 07 2014 01:47 PM
Vikas Tipnis from South Orange, NJ

I am both surprised and dismayed at (a) the lack of clarity on the question of so-called "poverty" in under-developed countries, like India, as represented by living on less than a dollar a day; and (b) on the supposed contradictions between living on under a dollar a day and happiness, by well informed westerners such as this author!

I am an Indian citizen, a resident of the US, and thanks to familial and professional ties in both countries, travel very frequently back and forth. And while I do not want to downplay the plight of the underprivileged or oppressed classes of people (including the dalits or even women) in India, allow me to point out three metrics that the current and similar authors seem to routinely miss, or perhaps discount. One, purchasing power parity: the equivalent of a dollar, for instance, still buys quite a lot in India (if you stay away from the glitzy world of malls and hyper-commercialized commodities, including eating out). Two, per capita energy requirements, and three, carbon foot-prints of the under-a-dollar-a-day Indians are both still very very low, and quite admirably so! The latter two are regrettably changing for the worse thanks to multinational commerce and cross-pollination of eastern and western values. So one day in the not too distant future all of India may indeed need to live on more than a dollar a day, but not necessarily yet, and as evidenced by this author and his photographer, quite happily so for now?! Again, I am not going to debate modernistic, and largely western, viewpoints and values on wants vs. needs ...

Jul. 07 2014 01:40 PM
Amy from Manhattan

On the Indian politicians who say the lowest-caste people wouldn't be missed if they disappeared, as Mr. Nazario said, the poorest people are doing extremely hard work. What would happen if they weren't there to do the work? I bet they'd be missed then.

Maybe someone should make a "Day of Absence" or "Day Without a Mexican" for this group--they could call it "A Day Without an Untouchable."

Jul. 07 2014 01:23 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Of any poor or alienated group, it's often the most aggressive/ cynical/ selfish/ corrupt amongst them who get and then control resources made available. "Saviours" usually lack this and other critical socioeconomic awareness, including their own complicity in the injustice they purport to fight.

Jul. 07 2014 01:22 PM
randy from brooklyn, ny

if you didn't think India had the most poor people, i really question your opinions on all other topics. i've never even been there but i knew that before the guest said it.

Jul. 07 2014 01:14 PM

The photo at the top of the page is from the Philippines where the Catholic Church fiercely opposed access to birth control. The healthy and sane thing for poor people to do would be to reduce the number of children they have. That means increasing the value of women and empowering them to make decisions about family planning. Many of these populations will, of course, be thinned out by war and disease.

Jul. 07 2014 01:14 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

And yet have seven kids and still manage somehow to survive.

Jul. 07 2014 12:13 PM

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