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Extreme Poverty, Infrastructure and Climate Initiative

Global poverty has fallen dramatically since 1990, except in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). SSA is the only world region in which the number of people living in extreme poverty has increased. It is home to 16% of the global population, yet it accounts for more than half of those living in extreme poverty.

SSA’s persistent poverty is often attributed to its lack of access to road and irrigation infrastructure. There is a large body of literature pointing to associations between infrastructure investments and higher rates of economic development. However, the causal relationships between roads, irrigation, and household poverty remain unclear.

There has also been minimal attention dedicated to exploring how climate change will moderate the relationships between roads, irrigation, and poverty. This is a gap that urgently needs attention as SSA is the region most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, in large part due to its lack of engineered infrastructure. For example, smallholder farmers make up more than 60% of the population in SSA, but only 5% of farmland has access to irrigation. This makes them particularly vulnerable to changing precipitation and temperature patterns.

The Extreme Poverty, Infrastructure, and Climate (EPIC) project seeks to elucidate the causal relationships that link extreme poverty, engineered infrastructure, and climate change Uganda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The objectives of this research are to understand the (1) conditions under which and (2) the pathways by which access to road and irrigation infrastructure increase the probability that a rural household escapes extreme poverty in SSA. We will also identify the specific types and features of road and water infrastructure that benefit key subpopulations of low-income households in a changing climate. We will combine regional-level modelling with field-level insights to generate more granular evidence regarding the pro-poor policies and infrastructure investments required to lift households out of extreme poverty and build climate resilience.