This paper analyses strategies used by the poor in three villages of West Bengal, India, as they attempt to improve their quality of life. The strategies are: use of the natural resource base, sharerearing of livestock, and organization and mutual support. These strategies for the most part are carried out by or involve poor women, and have often been invisible to or undervalued by ‘outsiders.’ Taken together, these strategies add substantially to both household income and a feeling of solidarity among the poor. The paper argues that despite the extensive exploitation of the poor by the rich within the villages, the poor are still able to negotiate, bargain, and struggle with their richer neighbors concerning control over village resource use, and by doing this they attempt to set village ‘norms’ which are to their benefit. It suggests, providing examples, that the strategies used by the poor for gaining resources and respect could be usefully supported by governments and NGOs working to eliminate poverty. The paper concludes that the way in which the characteristics of the poor are conceptualized will determine to a large extent external policy intervention.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.