Main causes of poverty

Visualising the distribution of poverty across the globeVisualising the distribution of poverty across the globeWORLD BANK, 2012; INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIME, 2012

There are many reasons why some countries are LEDCs and why people living there find it difficult to move out of absolute poverty.


Many LEDCs have a very harsh climate. They may have long periods of extremely hot weather, which can affect crops and prevent harvesting. Some of these crops may be exported. If the crops cannot be harvested, the country cannot earn money from trade with foreign countries.

Natural disasters

LEDCs can be badly affected by natural disasters. For example, Bangladesh is one of the world's most densely populated countries and is also one of the world's poorest countries. It suffers severe flooding every year.

In 1998, over 57 per cent of the country was flooded. More than 1,300 people died, 7 million houses were destroyed, as well as a lot of the country's crops. Many Bangladeshis live in absolute poverty, so the loss of crops and money caused the cycle of poverty to continue.

Unfair trade

Coffee industry in Colombia
Coffee industry in Colombia

Some farmers in LEDCs do not receive a fair price for the goods they produce, eg coffee. If something happens to the crop because of poor weather, the profits of the retailer do not suffer as the price we pay for coffee can increase, but the farmer's profits do not. The farmer receives a small cut of the price it is sold for in the UK because the price also covers harvesting, exporting, shipping and retailing.

If a product is labelled as fair trade, it means that the farmer receives a fairer price for the crops and a Fair Trade premium is put back into their farms and communities to help future development.


When LEDCs take out large loans from MEDCs to fund development projects, eg building roads and schools, the interest is often unaffordable and yet it continues to increase. These large debts prevent LEDCs from helping their own people.

At the start of 2013, around £2.34 billion was owed to the UK by 24 nations, £825 million of which is interest. Sudan, for example, owes the UK £681 million, of which £508 million is interest.



Some of the aid given to LEDCs has never reached the poor. In some cases it has been used to fund a war.

Lack of education

In densely populated, poor countries, many children have little or no access to education. UNESCO reports that in Sub-Saharan Africa, approximately one in three adults cannot read and 32 million primary school aged children are not in school.

Many people who believe in sustainable development argue that in poor countries, only education will enable people to help themselves out of poverty.