The need to clarify what SL approaches are emerged as a central concern of the Forum. There was consensus that SL approaches comprised two elements: the SL guiding principles and the SL framework. The tools and methods used to put sustainable livelihoods into practice are essential but not specific to SL approaches.
The SL guiding principles. These are a guide to the main concerns of sustainable livelihoods. They are the defining characteristics of development interventions that have been designed to address issues identified through the use of the SL framework. But they are only guiding principles. They neither prescribe solutions nor dictate methods, not least because the guiding principles themselves prioritize flexibility and adaptation to the diverse nature of local conditions. SL guiding principles2 are to:
1. Be people centred:
SL approaches start by analysing people's livelihoods and how they change over time.
SL approaches engage the active participation of the target population throughout the project cycle.
2. Be holistic:
SL approaches acknowledge that people adopt multiple strategies to secure their livelihoods.
Livelihoods analysis is applied across sectors, geographical areas and social groups.
SL approaches recognize multiple actors (the private sector, ministries, community-based organizations and international bodies).
3. Be dynamic:
SL approaches seek to understand the dynamic nature of livelihoods and the influences on them.
Build on strengths:
SL approaches build on people's perceived strengths and opportunities rather than focusing on their problems and needs. They support and enhance existing livelihood strategies and coping mechanisms of the poor. (Even the poorest households have potential.)
4. Use micro-macro links:
SL approaches examine the influence of macro-level policy and institutions on livelihood options and highlight the need for policy to be informed by insights from the local level and by the priorities of the poor.
5. Aim for sustainability:
Sustainability is important if poverty reduction is to be lasting. Sustainability of livelihoods rests on several dimensions.
The SL framework. The SL framework is an analytical tool for understanding livelihoods systems and strategies and their interaction with policies and institutions. However, it needs to be made context-specific. This will often imply changing or adding elements to reflect local social, cultural, political and economic realities.
A wide range of diverse tools and methods may be used to design and implement projects that can contribute to achieving sustainable livelihoods. These methods, however, are not exclusive to SL approaches.
Tools and methods useful for SL approaches
IMPLEMENTATION TOOLS & METHODS
MONITORING & EVALUATION TOOLS & METHODS
Participatory monitoring & evaluation
Impact monitoring & evaluation
Participants acknowledged that reaching consensus on the guiding principles of SL approaches is a major strength:
There is a need to get away from different "terminologies"; a shared vision is
The SL guiding principles make it easier for each agency to emphasize the aspects relevant to its own mandate and operations.
Forum participants agreed that the use of the SL framework and the incorporation of the guiding principles into development policy, planning and implementation could add value in a number of ways:
1. SL approaches shift the focus from resources to people and from problems, constraints and needs to perceived strengths, opportunities, coping strategies, and local initiative.
2. SL approaches encourage early diagnosis and the establishment of feedback mechanisms within projects that can lead to a better identification and understanding of poverty and the development of diverse strategies for addressing it. (These strategies do not necessarily involve working exclusively with the poor.)
3. SL approaches require a more systematic assessment of the vulnerability and assets of people, which makes it easier to identify more appropriate entry points.
4. Applying the SL framework reveals how the inability to cope with shocks and stresses increases the vulnerability of the poor. Making the relationships between vulnerability and poverty explicit was held to be an extremely important contribution.
5. Use of the SL framework helps agencies focus on outcomes rather than outputs. Striving to achieve outputs reduces flexibility and may succeed at the cost of the sustainability of the processes. Participants acknowledged that working towards process outcomes rather than outputs could address both concerns.
6. The focus on synergy between different types of capital also adds value. Projects that strengthen human and social capital in synergy with physical, natural or financial capital are more likely to bring about sustainable outcomes.
7. SL approaches also improve the relevance of interventions with a poverty focus. This may involve partnership with organizations that were previously "invisible" to decision-makers.
8. The SL framework provides a valuable structure for promoting and integrating interdisciplinary teamwork; indeed, the guiding principles provide a common language, and the framework assists agencies in structuring information from different disciplines.
9. Providing essential information on how prevailing structures and processes affect people's livelihoods, SL approaches ensure that policy and institutional aspects are not neglected.
10. The use of SL approaches can encourage the design of open-ended, flexible development interventions. In fact, the guiding principles espouse a process of continual learning and analysis throughout the life of a project or a programme. This implies that any "diagnosis" emerging from SL approaches must necessarily be dynamic and iterative.
11. When dynamic and iterative diagnosis is built into a project, it increases that project's capacity to react and adapt to new needs and changing conditions and to tailor interventions to suit the poor.
12. These built-in, participatory feedback mechanisms can also contribute to improving the design and implementation of projects, making them more relevant to livelihood issues encountered at the local level. In several of the projects analysed during the Forum (Bolivia, Honduras, INTERFISH, Zambia), practitioners relied on such mechanisms to adjust the design of their projects and improve their implementation.
13. SL approaches add value to implementation when they bring about a continual process of demand-driven implementation, participatory feedback and implementation readjustment.
14. Since SL approaches are holistic and call for flexibility, they allow for a greater capacity to respond to contingencies.
15. SL approaches recognize the need for partnerships because people's livelihood strategies are multisectoral and no one agency can be an expert in all fields. This points to the need to identify the core competencies and comparative advantages of agencies. The emphasis on building new and innovative partnerships across projects, line agencies, NGOs, civil society,
the private sector and donor agencies was viewed as an important contribution of SL approaches.
Participation and SL approaches. Participatory approaches are essential to operationalizing the guiding principles, but they need to be adapted, developed and used, as well as internalized and institutionalized by all stakeholders.
Weave a fabric of sustainability.
Find shared vision, goals, values
Honour the range of resources.
Generate a culture of mutual support.
Find opportunities for creative synergy.
Address relationship difficulties as they occur.
See partnering as a continuous learning process.
The participatory element of SL approaches, and the resulting focus on people's livelihoods, is a powerful contributor to sustainability. The first phase of the WFP project in Ethiopia was implemented under a coercive and authoritarian regime. Project interventions attempted to address land degradation, but activities were implemented through coercive "mass mobilization". With the fall of the Derg regime in 1991, communities started to revolt against the system. This led to widespread destruction of communal woodlots and physical conservation structures. The few community woodlots that were untouched were those that the communities had specifically requested and whose species composition they had selected.
Sustainability. Within the SL framework, sustainability must be looked at holistically, and it should concern:
human and social sustainability;
environmental and agro-ecological sustainability.
Working at multiple levels. It is crucial to ensure that micro-level institutions/organizations influence the development of policy to secure an effective enabling environment, and that macro-level structures and processes support people to build on their own strengths.
Develop a shared vision of change. The poor have problems and weaknesses. They also have strengths and opportunities, and they often have clear aspirations of where they want to be in the future. It is important to help them to bring about this vision.
"Buy into" SL approaches. Policy-makers and implementers at all levels, as well as the private sector, must "buy into" SL principles and processes. Indications from several projects, including DELIVERI and Honduras, point to the crucial role that internal champions can play in facilitating this process.
MALI - HOW LACK OF INITIAL DIAGNOSIS LED TO INAPPROPRIATE ENTRY POINTS
The Mali Segou Village Development Fund Project largely bypassed the poorest households because insufficient attention was given at the project design stage to socio-economic differentiation within the project area or to the livelihood systems of the poor. The main entry point - animal traction - excluded the poorest households. Moreover, the project failed to reach women and youth because it selected village associations - which are composed of elderly male heads of extended household production units - as its institutional entry point. This was rectified in the course of the project's successive phases, as a result of evaluations.
Skills, attitudes and knowledge. The use of SL approaches requires new skills, attitudes and knowledge that need
to be introduced across organizations, agencies and staff at all levels.
Participatory diagnosis of livelihoods is essential prior to designing a project and selecting entry points. Projects that had failed to undertake a holistic analysis of livelihood systems prior to design often adopted strategies and entry points that were largely irrelevant to the local population, especially the poor. For instance, natural resource management (NRM) projects in Bolivia and Pakistan had to expend a lot of project staff time and resources on raising awareness of their NRM initiatives because these did not correspond to the communities' felt needs.
Inappropriate entry points. Agencies should be wary of committing themselves to a narrow or commodity-based institutional entry point unless communities have been consulted or a participatory analysis of livelihoods has been carried out. Institutional commitments can make it difficult to change the project's entry point once implementation has begun.
Household typology - Bolivia case study
URBAN-ORIENTED ("outstanding" HHs)
FARM-FOCUSED ("rich" and successful "middle-class" HHs)
MARGINAL ("poor" and impoverished "middle-class" HHs)
Location of house(s)
House(s) in Santa Cruz, Samaipata and the community
Houses in the community and in Samaipata
House in the community
Professional or business people
Farmers working their own land
Day labourers or sharecroppers
Access to credit
Access to formal banking services and credit
Access to micro-credit
No access to credit
Able to hire share-croppers or reciprocal exchange exchange labour
Able to participate in from reciprocal
Often excluded day-labourers labour
Farm size and type
Own over 20 ha of land with established orchards
Own 5-20 ha with established orchards
Landless or owning<5 ha of degraded land
Over 20 head of cattle
Fewer than 20 head of cattle (among Vallunos)
Means of transport
Own truck or pick-up
Own pick-up or motorbike
No private transport
Education and literacy
Educated, with sons studying in town
Role in local politics
Influential in local politics
Active in self-help groups or community- based organizations
Do not participate in self-help groups or community- based organizations
Data produced from livelihood analyses should always be disaggregated by gender, age and socio-economic stratum. To ensure that project interventions address the concerns of the poor and build upon their strengths, it is essential that diagnostic studies start from a disaggregated analysis of the asset base and livelihood systems of different socio-economic strata, and develop a household typology3. Different socio-economic categories within a community can have widely different livelihood strategies.
Importance and timing of diagnosis. The Forum consensus was that initial diagnosis, followed by continual reassessment in the light of changing experience, is essential for the following reasons:
Project planners cannot rely exclusively on secondary data. They need to understand the historical evolution of livelihood systems and coping strategies through the eyes of local people, especially the poor, as a basis for defining the project strategy.
Even process projects that are demand-driven need to examine the supply side. They need to understand the range of support that beneficiaries are likely to request in order to identify which local institutions (public-sector, private-sector or NGOs) have the capacity to provide the services.
Joint diagnosis can be a way of establishing a joint learning process and building local ownership of a programme or project. "The process of finding out educates and informs all stakeholders" - Mongolia case study group.
Participation in diagnosis can be a way of building consensus among financing agencies, implementing agencies and intended beneficiaries. "Consensus among stakeholders who have competing priorities" - Mongolia case study group.
Direct dialogue helps to increase the accountability of implementing agency staff to the intended beneficiaries.
The Forum consensus was that projects building on 10 to 15 years of experience - which includes analyses of livelihood systems and action research-cum-evaluation - should avoid overinvestment of time and resources in diagnosis. Instead, project planners should rely as much as possible on secondary data and pilot interventions, coupled with participatory process monitoring and adjustment during project implementation4. Whereas, when entering a new area, a more substantial diagnostic process would be required up front. Diagnostic tools, however, must be adapted to the local and cultural context.
CULTURAL ADAPTATION OF DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS - PAKISTAN
Ensuring that the views and experiences of women in purdah were accounted for offered special challenges for PRA practitioners. Literacy among women in the country is low; most women have had no previous experience participating in meetings and little opportunity to review options and make informed decisions. The project therefore developed special PRA tools that were visual and interactive rather than abstract and reflective. Time and money were spent in designing a gender-specific set of tools to detail a Brahui woman's daily time profile. One of these tools featured a woman in Brahui dress and a series of pictures drawn by a local artist representing women's triple gender roles (productive, reproductive and community management). The tool became quite popular with women. They could identify themselves through the pictures, and as they went through their daily and seasonal routines, they got a sense of how much work they were doing. This augmented their feelings of self-confidence. The project also used village-maintained photo books and a village-produced slide show for discussions. Allowing groups to select and design their own tools reinforces ownership of activities and development planning.
The holistic analysis may lead to one or more focused interventions. Once the holistic analysis is completed, a decision can be made on the scope of the entry point, e.g. how wide or narrow it should be, and within which sector, level or group it should lie. It is essential, however, that the needs of the poor be addressed.
SINGLE-SECTOR OR MULTISECTORAL ENTRY POINTS?
The DFID DELIVERI project in Indonesia is an example of an SL-type project with a single-sector entry point that worked on several levels within that sector. It aimed to make existing livestock services more client-centred and more responsive to the poor. It started work at subdistrict and community levels and gradually moved up, using the outcomes of pilot experiences at the grassroots level to influence policy-makers at higher administrative levels. By bringing decision-makers from the provincial level face to face with beneficiaries in pilot villages, the project was able to lobby effectively for policy and institutional change.
The UNDP Sustainable Livelihoods Project in Malawi went to the opposite extreme. Attempting to formulate a comprehensive action programme covering all relevant sectors, the project concluded that adoption of an SL approach did not mean designing an SL programme to cover all sectors, and that it was preferable to focus implementation on a few key leverage points within the livelihood system.
Initial entry points may begin by addressing a community's priorities in one sector, and take in other sectors as the programme matures. This allows sequential movement into areas that require more community awareness, such as projects or programmes related to natural resource management (NRM).
Projects or programmes should take advantage of opportunities arising from decentralization to overcome the problems of sectoral entry points. When all government services come under the authority of the district, project funds channelled to the district level or below (bypassing the central ministries) can be allocated to one or another sector on the basis of emerging demand from communities. Decentralized services need not be provided by the line ministries but may be contracted to a wider range of service providers such as the private sector, NGOs or other civil society organizations.
EXAMPLES OF PROJECTS THAT SUCCESSFULLY SHIFTED ENTRY POINTS
Bolivia: Despite its single-sector entry point, this project was able to meet needs outside the agriculture/NRM sector by linking communities with resources provided by donors active in other sectors.
Honduras: This project developed from a single-sector entry point that addressed a felt need and grew to address complementary needs in other sectors.
Pakistan: The initial entry point of this project - watershed management - was of little interest to the local population, but the project was able to shift the focus to fruit-trees and community infrastructure.
Zambia: This project's initial entry point of household food security was too narrow to ensure improvement of nutritional status. The project discovered that food-based activities must go hand in hand with interventions such as primary health care, providing access to clean water and sanitation, nutrition and health education and improved weaning and breastfeeding practices.
NRM projects may exclude certain vulnerable poor groups (e.g. landless, sharecroppers) by focusing on land-based interventions or activities. SL approaches can help in identifying alternative interventions that support the livelihood strategies of the poor. A possible strategy would be to identify those households that do not participate in project activities and, through participatory approaches, identify their members' needs and strengths. Additional initiatives that address those identified needs can then be introduced if they fall within the project's mandate. Alternatively, the needs of the poorest could be addressed indirectly through policy and institutional reform (employment creation, strengthening local institutions). For example, the Bolivia project could have influenced land tenure policies to address the felt needs of the landless and sharecroppers. Instead of working exclusively to improve the sustainability of farming practices, the project could have explored alternative options for earning non-farm income, thereby reducing pressure on the land. Another alternative could have been to initiate a different but related project, specifically targeting the functionally landless segments of society.
The Bangladesh INTERFISH project used farmer field schools to introduce fish farming in paddy fields. Although the project empowered smallholders, with such an entry point it could not reach the poorest households, most of which had no paddy lands. To justify the project's poverty focus, the project management referred to its target group as "tomorrow's poor" (i.e. "the self-sufficient small farmers who are considered to be vulnerable to any crises or shocks in the rural economy").
Since reaching the landless poor requires a different entry point and strategy, DFID is funding a complementary project, Strengthening Household Access to Bari Garden Extension (SHABGE). This project aims to assist functionally landless women and men farmers to improve household food security by increasing the productivity of land that is normally devoted to vegetable and fruit-tree production. Beneficiaries comprise households that have a total of one acre (0.40 ha) of land or less, including the land on which the house is built.
Yet another alternative would be to establish partnership agreements with other agencies or donors to cover areas outside the project's mandate or objectives.
Efforts should be made during the design stage to negotiate with the communities to include the marginalized/ poorest groups. Establishing the rules of the project through a participatory process - and possibly putting them in writing - could provide the project with the mandate for ensuring that the rights of the poor are respected. Communities requesting partnership in the project would then have to agree on the approach.
The IFAD-supported P4K project in Indonesia aims to alleviate poverty by establishing savings and credit groups for landless and functionally landless people. "The rules of the game" of P4K require community members to identify which of the people requesting project support fall below the locally defined poverty threshold. Once identified, these individuals are offered a nurturing period of savings and training, during which they may borrow against the savings of the group. Having repaid their loans at least three times, they are considered to have "graduated" and can then borrow from a commercial bank. As the 1997/98 financial crisis showed, P4K participants were found to be better equipped to resist the shock of the crisis than the rest of the population in the same community.
Choice of partners is crucial. Municipal- or district-level (multisectoral) organizations can make good local partners for SL approaches but may limit opportunities to influence policy at higher levels. The help of line ministries is needed to advocate macro-level policy changes.
The majority of the Forum and Web/E-Conference participants had serious reservations about the contribution of SL approaches to implementation. They felt that much of the value added at implementation was not specific to SL approaches but derived from applying the lessons learned from good practice over the past two or three decades in implementing participatory projects and systems-oriented approaches (such as farming systems research or household food security).
Lessons from implementation should guide redesign. The iterative process is likely to reduce risk and improve accuracy of design. The Malawi, Bolivia, Zambia, and Honduras projects all benefited from ongoing redesign, which fed into and was informed by the implementation process. This took different forms, ranging from full-fledged yearly participatory assessment by communities (e.g. the Honduras case) to more traditional participatory monitoring. Other projects (e.g. INTERFISH, Mali, Ethiopia and Mongolia) also underwent partial redesign at mid-term review or at the beginning of successive phases.
Need for an evolutionary and responsive management. Most successful sector-based initiatives, or single-entry point projects or programmes, owe much to an evolutionary and responsive process approach. This has enabled them to respond to livelihood needs outside the original sector, either by adding new components to the existing project or by forging partnerships with other projects. This was the case for the Zambia, Bolivia and Honduras projects, and to a lesser extent for the Ethiopia project.
Need for holistic outcome indicators. Indicators that better capture the anticipated impact of projects on livelihood outcomes have yet to be identified. Holistic problem analyses carried out prior to designing a programme should indicate what the true cross-sectoral links are likely to be, and so help to identify the minimum set of impact indicators to measure.
Institutional capacity-building at the grassroots level. Capacity-building and empowerment featured prominently in most of the projects analysed (e.g. Bangladesh, Bolivia, Honduras, Malawi, Mali, P4K, Zambia and the latter phase of the Ethiopia project). The strengthening of human and social capital through institution-building at the grassroots level and enhancement of technical skills featured prominently.
The farmer field school groups promoted by INTERFISH are emerging as solid village institutions that can address community concerns and priorities over and above the technologies adopted through experimentation. The self-help groups fostered under the food security and nutrition project in Zambia to develop and implement community action plans are coalescing into apex organizations (associations or federations) that are able to press for better delivery of government services as well as to support community-led initiatives. Similarly, in the DELIVERI project in Indonesia, the initial focus of the farmer groups - in community livestock action planning - was livestock problems. The grounding provided in participatory planning allowed some groups to broaden their remit to address new issues
the establishment of a savings and credit scheme;
the creation of an association to access inputs for rice production;
the emergence of a small enterprise financed from enhanced poultry production.
Capacity-building for risk-management. "Capacity-building efforts must focus on service delivery as well as risk-management. Institutions that are not able to manage risk effectively can quickly become overwhelmed, seriously jeopardizing their ability to continue to provide services. It is this risk-management aspect that is often overlooked in institutional strengthening efforts5".
In the absence of a proper analysis of the vulnerability context, the Mali project gave insufficient attention to building local capacity to manage risk. The impact was apparent both at the individual level (in the inability of farming households to reduce the risk of crop failure) and at the collective level (in the vulnerability of village associations and village development funds to credit default in the event of crop failure).
In Mongolia, with the privatization of the herder collectives (negdels), all the risks of herding have been transferred to the herders in a risk-prone environment. Services that the negdels used to provide (e.g. marketing, trucks and tractors for seasonal migrations and emergencies, equipment for haymaking) have largely collapsed. Furthermore, herders do not insure their animals, as they lack cash and see the terms as unattractive. As a result, they have reverted to traditional risk-minimizing strategies by having multispecies herds and cooperating with other households in groups, or khot ails, for herding in order to cope with the higher labour demand that comes with mixed herds. A new FAO Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) project aims at strengthening local institutional capacity to manage pastoral risk in the Central Asian grasslands.
Exit strategies. A coherent strategy for phasing out external support should be developed at the beginning of implementation. Examples of exit strategies adopted in the Lempira Sur project in Honduras are:
Communities are being assisted to organize themselves, define their development priorities and negotiate these through the local government structure (municipality). They are taught that projects are transitory and all organizational structures must respond to their perceived needs and not to the priorities of the project.
Project messages were integrated in school curricula so that they would continue to be taught after the project ended.
Local extensionists are supported to invest in their own farms so that they can make a living from them after the project;
To ensure service provision after the end of the project, a multiservice cooperative has been created for former project employees and the leadership has been trained to bid and execute contracts.
No one is paid to adopt technologies; if adoption is not based on perceived direct benefits, then it is not sustainable.
The same applies to grassroots leaders: lead farmers are not paid; their incentive has to come from pride in the productivity of
The project is designed to be seen by the communities as another offer. They are not part of the project; they negotiate with
the project, as they should do with any other external source
The project management is assisting in the design of a national strategy that will enable organized communities to access poverty funds from the multilaterals [IFAD/Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)/World Bank (WB), etc.].
The project is working with various environmental funds to develop a complementary financial framework based on the provision of environmental services by the local hillside farmers.
The most sustainable of all, but the most difficult, is the integration of farmers into the market economy through diversification, agro-industrialization, etc.
The poor in charge. Moving decision-making and finance closer to the poor is an important strategy. In this regard, decentralization, if properly implemented, is an enabling condition for creating effective linkages among public-sector institutions, communities and civil society. These linkages are essential for making livelihoods genuinely sustainable, and for properly institutionalizing the SL approach.
Legal status of grassroots organizations. Legal recognition of grassroots organizations can be vital to their sustainability. In 1996-1997, the Bolivia project helped small self-help groups amalgamate. The groups, previously fostered under the project, were transformed into full-fledged community organizations (Organisationes Territoriales de Base), which, under the new Ley de Participation Popular, could obtain legal status and become grassroots partners in local development. This legal recognition allowed these organizations to:
access municipal funds to finance small community infrastructures and establish a rotating credit scheme (which was used to finance individual income-generating activities as well as private investments for improving land husbandry practices);
obtain official incorporation of their community action plan into the municipality development plan.
The role of stakeholders. Regular technical auditing and review, with the full involvement of project stakeholders at all levels, can facilitate transparency and accountability (Honduras case study group).
Content and processes. Participants acknowledged the need to focus on the processes of policy-making/change rather than on the content of policy alone, in order to empower people to influence policy.
Scaling up. To influence the policy environment and make it supportive of sustainable livelihoods, the feedback mechanisms from the grassroots need to be scaled up to reach policy- and decision-making levels of institutions and administrations.
Capacity-building. Policy-making that enhances SL approaches, implementation and monitoring relies on pluralistic governance structures and processes. Capacity-building for grassroots and civil society organizations should be built in at all levels as an integral part of the SL approach. In this regard, as was pointed out in the Web/E-Conference, there is also a need to develop suitable capacity-building tools and training approaches that civil society organizations and SL beneficiaries could use to strengthen their capacity to analyse policies.
Monitoring the impacts of policy. The impacts of policy need to be monitored in order that their effects on livelihood strategies be understood. In this regard, civil society and SL beneficiaries should also play a key role in monitoring policy impacts.
2 Adapted from C. Ashley & D. Carney, 1999, "Sustainable livelihoods: lessons from early experience," London, DFID.
3 Life histories have proved effective tools for learning dynamics and the evolution of livelihoods. This helps in an understanding of capitalization and de-capitalization processes.
4 Knowledge in local academic institutions, government and NGOs should draw upon indigenous knowledge