This report is an initial step in an action-research process that will hopefully take us forward with the unanswered issues brought out in this paper. In many ways, we consider having asked what we believe to be relevant questions as being good progress in a work that remains to be done. Thus, instead of concluding remarks, we would like to present below the summary and analytical synopsis which, based on this study, was prepared for the 2005 meeting of FAOs Committee on Agriculture:
The SLAs embody good principles of development and specifically incorporate principles associated with
a) building assets (human, social, physical, financial and natural);
b) focusing upon livelihoods (comprising capabilities, assets and activities required as a means of living);
c) reducing vulnerability to stresses and shocks; and
d) enhancing sustainability.
The desk review suggests that SL approaches can contribute to real poverty reduction if applied effectively. The more successful cases appeared to be those that applied the greater number of SLA-specific principles along with a mix of other important principles of development.
While all cases applied SL principles, few set out specifically to implement a sustainable livelihoods approach per se. All cases reviewed demonstrated, to some degree, enhanced assets, improved governance (with multi-level linkages), a focus on livelihoods strategies for the poor, as well as being multi-sectoral, participatory, people-centred, process oriented with a degree of flexibility, and conducted in partnership.
In general the cases demonstrated improvements in the lives and resilience of the rural poor through some combination of increased income, diversification of income sources, improved basic needs and services, better access to productive resources, increased agricultural production (through diversification, intensification, and value addition) and enhanced household food security and nutrition.
There were several cases in which dramatic changes were made in womens capacities and confidence. One FAO project in Nepal (Empowerment of Women in Irrigation and Water Resources Management for Improved Food Security, Nutrition, and Health (WIN)) successfully empowered women in irrigation management and provided access to resources for other marginalized groups while addressing food security, nutrition and health concerns. Project interventions included diversification of production systems and farm-based enterprise development to impact over 2,555 households resulting in increased income and food security. Women gained capacity through group formation efforts including water users committees; participation in water management and group savings; training in literacy, leadership, gender, and womens rights; and access to women friendly technologies.
Only a few cases focused on wealth generation through non-agricultural enterprises and skills. In Yemen, the FAO Community-Based Regional Development Programme (CBRDP) provided training to improve technical, organizational and financial skills. Vocational training was given in 14 fields ranging from carpentry to ceramics production. Training in project proposal development enabled newly formed community organizations to attract US$698 000 to a revolving credit fund for local development.
A number of case studies demonstrated reduced vulnerability. The Rural Development in Lempira Sur Project (PROLESUR) implemented by FAO in Honduras supported the communal recovery of natural assets. The region was able to withstand the ravages of Hurricane Mitch by promoting locally coordinated production and land management technologies that mimic natural ecosystems, such as soil conservation and reforestation interventions. These efforts combined with improved preservation and storage technologies allowed communities, formerly recipients of food aid, to maintain a grain surplus throughout the disasters.
While positive results were reported in many cases, success in addressing social inclusivity and long-term sustainability was evident in only a few cases. The most vulnerable groups without assets to build upon continued to be excluded. Long-term sustainability particularly related to the environment remained an issue. Evaluation of effective impact was hampered in several cases by a lack of sufficient monitoring and evaluation data.
Several of the more successful projects, particularly in Honduras and Yemen, showed remarkably similar patterns of implementation with respect to institutional linkages and sequencing of actions: collaborative diagnosis, planning and evaluation; risk minimization; profit generation; vocational/technical training and training of local trainers; locally accessible financial services; establishment or enhancement of community development associations with organizational development training; links and partnerships with local and national government and NGOs; community benefit activities; and multi-sectoral interventions.
In summary, the evidence gathered from exploring successful examples suggests that effective incorporation of the good principles of development associated with the SLAs are required to set the stage for reducing poverty. The analysis indicates that the SL principles addressing social inclusivity and environmental sustainability need to be kept more to the forefront. Using a livelihoods perspective along with a good developmental tool kit and appropriate sequencing can enhance the quality of a wide range of approaches to improve the lives of the rural poor.