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  Sustainable livelihoods

Sustainable livelihoods

An overview
Chapter 1

Chapter 2
The sessions
1. What is a household?
2. Inside the household
3. Introducing the framework
4. Household activities
5. Assets and capabilities
6. Power and control
7. The external environment
8. The vulnerability context
9. Exploring sustainability
10. Livelihoods and disaster risk

Chapter 3: Operationalising the livelihoods framework

Chapter 4: Case studies


Block 1

Block 2

Block 3

Block 4

Livelihoods analysis and planning are important components within land reform, community based natural resource management, participatory forest management and district development planning.

Developmental Services has been centrally involved in:

the development of a multimedia learning pack on livelihoods in Southern Africa
a 14 day day training course entitled Land use and Livelihoods commissioned by the National Land Committee.

Learning about livelihoods - Insights from southern Africa
– a multimedia learning pack

Learning about livelihoods has been produced by DiMP at the University of Cape Town and is distributed by Oxfam books internationally. It was published in May 2002.

This comprehensive guide to applying the livelihoods framework in practice comprises a facilitator’s handbook and filmed case studies from five southern African countries.

The package has been written by Rick de Satg? with contributions from Ailsa Holloway, Dan Mullins, Leah Nchabaleng and Penny Ward. The materials have been edited for clarity and accessibility by Stephen Heyns and designed by Fiona Adams.

The videos have been produced by Annie Holmes and Vuyo Maphela of Pemba productions

Learning about livelihoods is a guide to understanding the concept of sustainable livelihoods and provides practical ideas on how to use this framework to inform development and project planning at different scales.

The manual provides information on key livelihoods concepts and combines training materials, practical field guidance with print and video case studies. It contains ten training sessions, which build understanding of the factors that make poor families vulnerable, as well as revealing their inherent strengths. The guide then explores opportunities for applying these insights in practice. It also includes extensive references to further print and Internet information sources.

The five film documentaries (ten minutes each) portray a diverse range of pressures facing people in precarious circumstances across southern Africa. These case studies, drawn from Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, reflect the impacts of retrenchment, flood risk, recurrent drought, HIV/AIDS, violence and political instability on individual households and their communities.

The package builds on the work of livelihoods practitioners and people from a variety of other disciplines from several different countries in Southern Africa to:

provide a practical and accessible livelihoods framework that synthesises other livelihoods models

develop a common language understood by policy makers and fieldworkers alike.

present a range of tools, methods and approaches to apply different aspects of the framework and conduct livelihoods and vulnerability analysis.

An overview of the manual

Chapter 1

The opening chapter provides a basic introduction to the livelihoods framework, and a short overview of different tools, methods and approaches commonly used to apply the framework. It also highlights questions commonly asked by development managers about the livelihoods framework and what is involved in implementing it.

Chapter 2

The second chapter is divided into ten training sessions. Each training session is sub-divided into different sections that provide:

background information on key ideas and concepts,

guides to preparing for and facilitating the session

prepared learning activities

The sessions introduce different aspects of the livelihoods framework. The sessions build incrementally to link and clarify each element of the framework and the key ideas that inform them.

Although there is a logic informing the sequence of the training sessions facilitators are encouraged to mix, match and adapt sessions to meet different training needs. Sessions can be also be adjusted to cater for different levels of knowledge and experience of participants.

Session 1: What is a household?

The livelihoods framework places a lot of emphasis on understanding the household; how households differ from one another and how they relate to each other. Examining households helps us to understand different conceptions of well-being and different levels of vulnerability and resilience.

However the ‘household’ is a slippery concept and the first session explores different ideas about how households are defined and constructed. The session highlights how different people use the term ‘household’ to mean different things. The session demonstrates that it is essential to understand how local community members define a household before preparing to undertake a livelihoods analysis. The session emphasises the importance of members of the community and the planning team developing a shared definition to ensure that households and their livelihoods will be a useful focal point for analysis and planning.

Session 2: Inside the household

The session explores some basic gender concepts and examines how households work. The session scrutinises gender roles and the household division of labour. It focuses on the productive, reproductive, and community maintenance activities carried out by different household members. It also explores how these roles vary according to the age of household members. The session explores the conception of a household as a 'bargaining space' where household members negotiate important decisions that affect their livelihoods. It examines how gender and age roles and relations affect how much flexibility there is in this bargaining process. It explores how household livelihood strategies involve allocation of roles, decisions about who does which sort of work; how household income is spent and who is prioritised for education. The session explores how these decisions are taken and whom they benefit.

Session 3: Introduction to the conceptual framework

This session introduces the livelihoods framework and explains the core components of the conceptual framework. The session introduces the ‘household triangle’ of assets, capabilities and activities. The session illustrates how household members utilise their capabilities and their different assets to carry out a range of activities through which they gain their livelihood. The session demonstrates how livelihood opportunities can be enhanced or limited by a combination of factors in the external environment. These factors combine to determine the vulnerability context in which households have to operate.

Session 4: Household activities

This session builds on the household triangle composed of activities, assets and capabilities. The main focus of the session is on how households combine a range of activities to secure their livelihoods. It introduces the concept of livelihood diversity and deepens participants’ understanding of the different kinds of activities that households undertake. It differentiates between activities that reproduce the household, a variety of productive activities and community maintenance functions. It highlights how this mix of activities varies according to different times of the year and how households adapt activities in response to external shocks and stresses.

Session 5: Household assets and capabilities

This session examines the assets and capabilities that complete the household triangle introduced in session 3. Assets and capabilities are closely linked. Households may have assets but can lack the capabilities to use them optimally. The opposite may also be true. The session investigates and categorises the range of assets and entitlements to which different households have access. It identifies how access to a diverse spread of assets is a key factor that contributes to household livelihood security. The session isolates the capabilities that enable households to make optimum use of their asset base and the factors that limit people’s ability to sustain their livelihoods.

Session 6: Power and control

This session builds on Session 2 to explore the power; control and influence different members of the household have over the assets, activities and capabilities in the household. The session deepens the analysis of how age, generational and gender differences between people in households affect their access to, and control of key resources. It also provides a brief background to development approaches that have tried to address women, gender and development. The session explores how shocks and stresses that impact on people’s livelihoods have implications for gender roles and relative power and control inside the household. The session explores how gender stereotypes can work against families to ‘justify’ and reinforce inequality.

Session 7: The external environment

This session examines the household and how its livelihood options are enhanced or restricted by factors in the external environment. It looks at the interplay between the household and its locality and analyses how other larger forces at provincial, national and global levels can combine to shape the local context. The session emphasises how the external environment is constantly changing. It underscores the need to continually monitor the changing context to understand the complex pressures and opportunities that inform household livelihood strategies and to make the links between the local situation and the bigger picture when planning with people to strengthen their livelihood security.

Session 8: Understanding the vulnerability context

This session focuses on how changes in the external environment affect individual households and the people within them in different ways. It deepens understanding of the concepts of differentiation, relative vulnerability and resilience. It unravels the impacts of changes that take place over time and features the variety of adaptive and coping strategies that households develop to try and adapt. The session stresses how an in-depth understanding of the different elements that make up the vulnerability context is fundamental to the ability to identify interventions that have a lasting, positive effect on household livelihood security.

Session 9: Exploring sustainability

This session gives some depth to the often-used concept of sustainability. It examines different definitions of sustainable development and how to assess livelihood sustainability. It introduces different criteria and indicators that aim to measure livelihood sustainability and monitor progress towards more sustainable development.

Session 10: Livelihoods and disaster risk

The final session examines how the livelihoods framework has relevance for disaster risk management and policies and strategies designed to reduce risk and vulnerability.

Chapter 3: Operationalising the livelihoods framework

The third chapter introduces the different steps in a generic livelihoods planning cycle and details approaches and methodologies for carrying out livelihoods analysis and vulnerability assessment in the field. Suggested learning activities reinforce selected steps.

The chapter tracks the steps that are involved in preparing for and implementing a livelihoods and vulnerability analysis and explores how to use the findings to shape an intervention plan.

Chapter 4: Case studies

This contains a set of household and locality case studies from different countries in the region including Angola, South Africa and Zambia and Zimbabwe. These case studies are an important resource for trainers who want to develop their own training sessions.

Land use and livelihoods - a 14 day course

In 1998 the National Land Committee approached PLAAS to design a training course to develop the skills of fieldworkers of NLC affiliates. Dr. Stephen Turner and Rick de Satge designed and facilitated a course that was delivered in four blocks.

The course set out to examine land use and livelihood planning in two different contexts:

Where people already live, often in densely settled and degraded former homeland areas
Where people acquire new land under the land reform programme

Block 1

The changing role of the NLC

The first block briefly reflected on the changing role of NLC affiliates from opposing apartheid policies of homeland establishment, forced removals, evictions and betterment planning to new roles of policy advocacy and the practical planning and implementation of land reform projects.

Analysing the study area

It introduced Herschel District - one of the study areas and examined the key factors which shaped its history. Using Herschel as a platform the course introduced different conceptual frameworks to enable a more sophisticated and nuanced analysis of households and the factors that shape their livelihoods.

Households, livelihoods and poverty

The course examined the different dimensions of poverty. Statistics that are measures of consumption highlight that the poorest 40% of South Africa's population have access to just 4% of national income.

However this type of poverty measurement often overlooks the value of natural resources, livestock and agriculture to household livelihoods. It also does not reveal patterns of intra-household income distribution. Many development policies and programmes fail because they assume a homogenous rural society and single purpose household economies.

A livelihoods approach to land reform can help make essential connections to enable people to effectively use their new assets. It also specifically highlights the gender dimensions of resource allocation and management.

Opportunities and limitations of land reform

Block 1 examined the opportunities and limitations of land reform emphasising that land and land reform are only a part of people's current and intended livelihoods. Participants discussed how land reform must form part of an integrated rural development strategy if it is to be effective.

People, the environment and sustainable development

Block 1 also critically examined the 'received wisdom' on the relationship between people and the environment. It is often assumed that a rising rural population will automatically cause environmental degradation. However there is research that shows that increasing population can be a critical success factor for the sustainable intensification of agriculture and effective resource management.

Finding appropriate planning approaches

Block 1 concluded by examining how development planning processes can best address household livelihood security and sustainable resource management. A number of questions were examined:

Who plans?
What's in a plan?
What role do local people play in the planning process?
How does planning address the needs of the most vulnerable households?
What are appropriate planning units - local area plans, catchment plans, district level plans?
How does planning manage to integrate many different elements without becoming an overcomplicated technocratic process?

Block 2

The second block involved field visits to Herschel District and Fairview Farm. It highlighted the interactions between people, their history, livelihoods and the biophysical landscape.

The history of Herschel studied in Block 1 was retold by local people who highlighted a history of resistance to betterment planning and contemporary local resource management initiatives.

Participants went on a series of transects with key informants to examine different aspects of natural resource tenure and use.

They analysed different features of the natural environment. They were introduced to basic hydrological concepts. They examined the significance of climate, ecology, catchments, soils, vegetation and rangeland management for developing more sustainable agricultural and natural resource management strategies.

It was emphasised that much of South Africa is semi arid. This requires that land and livelihoods planning actively combat drought with an emphasis on water conservation and intercropping drought resistant crops.

A session on farming systems research highlighted the importance of identifying the dominant constraints inhibiting production and engaging in a participatory planning process to prioritise and overcome them. This session challenged the perception that shortage of land is the dominant constraint for rural people. It was argued that shortage of labour, inputs, tillage capacity and grain storage were often more serious obstacles.

A session on Household Livelihood Security Analysis introduced participants to analytic tools for community level and household analysis. This approach builds from the recognition that both rural and urban communities are stratified and that vulnerable households need to be explicitly targeted in land use and livelihoods planning.

Having looked at a range of issues on the ground the course reviewed different approaches to development planning and the different scales at which planning can be done. Participants were introduced to the current FAO approach to land use planning.

The course examined how participatory planning approaches involve much more than the participatory tools and methods for for gathering information and making decisions. The approach must result in local institutional development and the strengthening of capacity to manage implementation, monitor progress and make changes.

Finally the course examined case studies in district planning presented by various affiliates which illustrated the complexity and variety of situations in which NLC affiliates work.

Block 3

The third block of the course aimed to develop the policy literacy of participants in key sectors with relevance to land use and livelihoods planning. This involved a series of sessions and debates around the following issues

Management of common property resources
Range management debates
Environmental impact assessment
Macro-economic policy and land reform
Key policy developments in land reform
Agricultural and rural development policy
Credit and micro lending - the changing role of the Land Bank
Environmental policy
Water and forests policy
New directions in development planning
Governance and development - rural local government and traditional authorities.

Block 4

The final block introduced the DFID sustainable livelihoods framework and explored the relationships between households and groups in the context of land reform and livelihoods planning. The block also focused on mediation and conflict management as key skills for development planners.

The final course activity involved participants breaking into syndicates to critically assess land use proposals and business plans prepared for land reform projects of different types - Doornkop - a restitution project, Roodewal and Boomplats - a redistribution project, Sunduza village - a local area development plan.

After critiquing the plans, syndicates had to present how they would develop an alternative planning process that drew on the different elements contained in the course.

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