Efforts to reduce poverty frequently fail or are unsustainable because local institutions and the ways that these influence livelihoods of the poor are not fully understood.
Local institutions are important because they influence access to livelihood assets and the range of livelihood options open to different categories of people. They can discriminate against or promote the interests of the poor and have a profound impact on whether farmers succeed in escaping or remain caught within the poverty trap. They mediate the impacts of policies on rural people and the efforts of the rural poor to influence policies. Through local institutions, rural people develop and run economic enterprises, market their produce, build and maintain infrastructure, allocate and manage land, water and natural resources, organize labour, prepare for and cope with disasters, marry and worship. For these reasons, the knowledge of a project team about local institutions and their selection of institutional entry points can ensure or diminish the sustainability of benefits beyond a project's lifetime, enable or impede the mobilization of local resources in project implementation, and facilitate or hinder the capacity to replicate project results and good practices in other locations.
This Rapid guide for missions is designed to be used by non-specialists, consultants and other members of multidisciplinary teams from development agencies and projects to assist field missions to understand better how local institutions affect the livelihoods of rural households, especially the poor, and how to incorporate this understanding in the design, implementation and evaluation of specific projects, programmes and field activities. The guide does not claim to be comprehensive but rather a starting-point to assist mission members to gain a new perspective on development work with the very poor and to base their project design on reality.