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Understanding household livelihoods

Why do household interviews?

Plan for household profiles (separate day[7])

Module 5 - Checklist 5A - Questions on household livelihood strategies

Household composition and resource base

  • Household members (including migrant members), sex, age, religion, ethnic group, health status (disabilities, etc.), dependency status, residency status, roles in different livelihood activities

  • How does household composition vary by socio-economic status?

Human capital

  • What is the educational status of resident and non-resident household members?
  • What skills, capacity, knowledge and experience do different household members have?
  • How do education, skills and physical labour capacity vary by socio-economic status?

Natural capital

  • What land, water, livestock, and plant or forest resources do household members use inside and outside the village? What do they use them for?

  • What are the terms of access and exchange (ownership, rental, share arrangements, open-access, passage, leasing, milk for grazing)?

Physical capital

  • What infrastructure do household members have access to and use (transport, marketing facilities, health services, water supply)? What infrastructure do they not have access to and why?

  • What are the terms of access to and maintenance of different types of infrastructure (payment, open access, individual or "pooled", etc.)?

  • What tools or equipment do household members use during different livelihood activities and what are the terms of access to them (ownership, hire, sharing, etc.)? How and by whom are they maintained?

Financial capital

  • What are the earnings of the household from different sources (crop & livestock sales, processing, off-farm activities, business, forest products, fishing, remittances, gifts)?

  • What other sources of finance are available and how important are they (bank credit, moneylenders)?

Social capital

  • What links does the household have with other households or individuals in the community (kinship, social group, membership in social, economic and religious organisations, political contacts, patronage)?

  • In what situations do those links become important and how (mutual assistance, pooling labour)?

Vulnerability context

  • What are the seasonal patterns of different activities that household members are engaged in?

  • What seasonal patterns are there in food supply, income, expenditure, residence, etc.?

  • What crises has the household faced in the past (health crises, natural disasters, crop failures, civil unrest, legal problems, indebtedness, etc.) and how did it deal with them?

  • What longer-term changes have taken place in the household's natural, economic and social environment and how has it dealt with these changes?

Policies, institutions and processes

  • What organisations, institutions and associations (societies, cooperatives, political parties, etc.) do household members participate in and what role do they play in them?

  • How are decisions reached within these organisations, institutions and associations?

  • Who makes decisions about the use of natural and physical resources in the community and how are those decisions reached (what are the centres of decision-making)?

  • What laws, rules and regulations affect the household?

  • Which organizations are most important for the household and what benefit do they bring?

Module 5 - Checklist 5B - Guide for analysis of household livelihood systems

Characteristics of typical non-poor, middle and poor households

  • Land (typical farm size, irrigated - non-irrigated)
  • Livestock (typical holding by species)
  • Physical assets (equipment, housing, shops)
  • Financial capital (savings/indebtedness, trading capital, remittances, pensions, credit)
  • Human capital (household size, labour force, health status, education and skills, migration)
  • Social memberships, connections and influence
  • How do assets vary between non-poor and poor?

How does the historical, political and institutional context influence household assets?

  • Influence of history, politics and institutions on access to land, water and natural resources

  • Influence of socio-historical factors on physical, financial, human and social capital

  • Influence of the socio-historical context on household composition and demographic trends (settlement, migration, seasonal and long term population movements, etc.)

How do assets affect livelihood options of different categories of households?

  • Do wealthy households have wider livelihood options? Do poor households have narrower options?
  • How does gender affect livelihood options?
  • How do age and ethnicity affect livelihood options?

What are the main livelihood sources and strategies of different categories of households?

  • Total pattern of activities of a typical non-poor household, poor household, very poor
  • Typical livelihood activities of women and men in each socio-economic category
  • How do different categories of households reduce their vulnerability to shocks?
  • Are both non-poor and poor exposed to the same outside shocks?
  • If so, what enables the non-poor to keep from falling into poverty in the face of shocks?

What are the trends in living standards of poor and non-poor households?

  • What are the main shocks affecting livelihoods? Do they affect poor and non-poor differently?

  • What assets enable the non-poor to withstand shocks better than the poor?

  • What role do local institutions play in households' ability to withstand shocks?

  • Which categories of people are improving their living standards and which are eroding?

  • Upward and downward social mobility (of households over the life cycle and of whole categories of people relative to their neighbours): who is falling into poverty? Who is getting out of poverty?

  • Who are the winners and losers?

  • Who is building up their capital assets and who is depleting them and why?

  • Who were the poor and non poor two generations ago and who are likely to be the poor two generations from now? Why?

What are the causes of differences in wealth and poverty?

  • Rich or poor parents?

  • How much is explained by vulnerability to outside shocks?

  • How much is explained by institutions that favour rich / powerful and discriminate against the weak?

  • To what extent are "successful" livelihood strategies explained by personal virtues such as hard work and cleverness as opposed to having the right social background and assets?

  • To what extent are "unsuccessful" livelihood strategies explained by bad luck or lack of resources as opposed to personal shortcomings of household members?

[7] Split team in two or more sub-groups, paired with an interpreter if necessary

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