THE HEBREW LAW CODES
The idea of poverty is something with which most traditional Africans are familiar. Africans have endured generations of grinding poverty, but they have somehow managed to survive it. Poverty is an issue which Africans can relate to directly, based on their own experiences. To Africans, poverty is real, material, and economic. It may be due to a lack of sufficient material resources, unemployment, or lack of opportunity, but is equally due to exploitation, oppression, and other forms of injustice at the national and international levels. The African understanding of poverty has as much to do with land as with oppression, for land is the primary economic mode of most Africans. Combined with animal husbandry, traditional Africans subsist on pastoral agricultural economies. For the African to be without livestock or land would therefore be an economic disaster. Historically, the “scramble for Africa” resulted in the appropriation of traditional lands and the displacement of Africans to infertile areas. Although scholars tend to downplay this fact, this era obviously created its own categories of the poor, as colonial governments acquired more land from the Africans. The exodus to the city in search of work not only made Africans abandon their infertile lands, but also made them work for meager wages. Therefore, compared with pre-colonial Africa, post-colonial or independent Africa saw more relatively landless people as well as poor Africans in the overcrowded cities (Illiffe 1987).
John Illiffe helps us to understand the situation of the poor in Africa with his distinction between “structural” and “conjunctural” poverty. According to him, structural poverty is “the long-term poverty of individuals due to their personal or social circumstances, ” and conjunctural poverty is “the temporary poverty into which ordinarily self-sufficient people may be thrown by crisis” (Illiffe 1987: 4). Illiffe distinguishes between the structural poverty characteristic of societies with land and those without land. In land-rich societies, the very poor are characteristically whose who lack access to the labor