Kenya’s population has tripled over the past 30 years, leading to increasing pressure on natural resources, a widening income gap and rising poverty levels that erode gains in education, health, food security, employment and incomes. The causes of rural poverty include: low agricultural productivity, exacerbated by land degradation and insecure land tenure, unemployment and low wages, difficulty in accessing financing for self-employment, poor governance, bad roads, high costs of health and education, HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is most prevalent among young and middle-aged Kenyans, the most productive segment of the population.
Almost half of the people in Kenya are under 15 years of age. An estimated 700 Kenyans die daily of HIV/AIDS-related causes. HIV/AIDS leaves orphans and woman-headed households even more vulnerable to poverty. The burden of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and water-borne diseases weighs heavily on both the country and Kenyan families, affecting income, food security and development potential. Life expectancy is down to 46 years, from 59 years in 1989. Kenya’s rural poor people include: small farmers, herders, farm laborers, unskilled and semi-skilled workers, households headed by women, people with disabilities and AIDS orphans.
Women are particularly vulnerable because they do not have equal access to social and economic assets. For about 70 percent of women, subsistence farming is the primary — and often the only — source of livelihood. The few studies on inequality in Kenya show that it is manifested in various forms including: income, lack of equal access to productive assets, social and political exclusion, and inability of certain groups of the society to access key social services. Distribution of high potential land in the country is highly skewed, favoring Western, Rift Valley and Central provinces.