Capacity Development Portal
Good Practices

Rural livelihoods and food security

  1. Farmer field schools
  2. Micro-gardens
  3. Livelihood Diversification and enterprise development: improving small farmer livelihoods
  4. The Livelihoods Support Programme: Bringing people-centered approaches and livelihoods at work in FAO
  5. Introducing a Livelihoods Approach in Emergencies

What problem did it address, where?

In the aftermath of an emergency, particularly sudden-onset emergencies, most national and international efforts are aimed at saving lives. The crucial short-term relief activities that take place however, should be followed up by equally important rehabilitation work to support people’s longer-term livelihoods strategies. Concerned by this issue, FAO, in its latest Strategic Framework, has explicitly stated that its aim should be that of “facilitating the transition from emergency to [longer-term] reconstruction and development in food and agriculture”. In order to do so, FAO has begun to adopt a Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) as one of the frameworks that can help guide its emergency efforts.


To date, the SL Approach has been used in various moments of the emergency response cycle:

  • Rapid Livelihoods Assessments missions
  • Support to National Livelihoods Rehabilitation Strategy
  • Capacity building and planning workshops
  • Reinforcing donor confidence and trust
  • Elaboration of response profiles and projects

The example of Pakistan:

  • In the aftermath of the earthquake that struck Northern Pakistan in October 2005, FAO fielded a Rapid Livelihoods Assessment Team in November. The assessment gave a good idea not only of the damages caused by the quake, but of the impact of the latter on people’s lives.
  • A series of training-cum-planning workshops with national and international stakeholders were subsequently organized by a Livelihoods Advisor on the basis of the assessment findings. The objective of the workshops was that of developing a more long-term National Livelihoods Rehabilitation Strategy and fostering inter-sectoral and interagency collaboration.
  • The Livelihoods Strategy - commended by the Prime Minister - has recently been launched by the Government of Pakistan and will last 3 years (USD 6.5M). The strategy aims at rehabilitating the livelihoods of the earthquake-affected population and is entirely driven by the communities themselves through a system of Community Livelihood Rehabilitation Plans (CLRPs). The CLRPs are then consolidated on a district, provincial and ultimately national level, who then establishes Community Investment Funds in order to respond to the needs identified by the affected populations.

As demonstrated by the Pakistan example, the advantages of using the SLA for the formulation of the strategy are manifold:

  • It provides a holistic framework: Information is collected from each community and beneficiaries’ priorities are better reflected in response design – in turn improving targeting of beneficiaries;
  • It provides a demand-driven mechanism: as mentioned above, the distribution of the Funds will de determined on the basis of the CLRPs;
  • It bridges the gap between short-term responses and long-term needs: the strategy recognizes that there have been activities carried out in the affected areas aimed at restoring livelihoods in the short term. Its aim is that of building on these activities and strengthening them.

Strengths and lessons can also be identified in terms of process. FAO’s support was coordinated by a Livelihoods Advisor attached to the Emergency Coordination Unit who worked closely with the Government of Pakistan to develop the Strategy. This process was crucial in developing what is now the full ownership of the Strategy by the Government.

Where next?

The same process has been followed in Indonesia after the Yogyakarta earthquake and is currently being followed in the Philippines. On the basis of the above experiences, FAO is developing an Integrated Livelihood Approach System, addressing the entire assessment sequence. Future versions will integrate lessons learnt from new field experiences. 

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