FAO's Livelihood Support Programme (LSP), designed by FAO staff, evolved from the belief that FAO could have a greater impact on reducing poverty and food insecurity by using a more flexible and demand-responsive approach, and by integrating a sustainable livelihoods perspective.
The Programme was composed of FAO staff members who were attracted (none were assigned) to working on livelihoods-related issues in cross-disciplinary teams to support on-going FAO programmes and projects. Participation was thus part-time and usually closely related to the participants own "regular" FAO tasks. This allowed for the integration of people-centred livelihoods perspectives and flexible inter-departmental collaboration into FAO's work.
A people-centred, "livelihoods" approach puts people, and especially poor people, at the centre, identifying and building on people's strengths, skills, assets and potentials in order to achieve sustainability in how they make a living and subsequent development actions. Livelihoods approaches are evolutionary not revolutionary, drawing as they do on past experience and on existing best development principles and practices from different cultural contexts. Especially important is an understanding of what makes rural people resilient or vulnerable, considered essential for a comprehensive understanding of the system and development context within which rural producers operate.
The outcomes have been:
- Improved methodologies both for livelihoods approaches and for interdisciplinary team work;
- Direct development impact based in methodological field testing;
- Institutional impact through dissemination and integration of team approaches and methods;
- Increased exchange of people-centred development approaches across departmental lines.
- focusing on micro-macro linkages;
- Generation of a surprising number of work-related "cross house" networking linkages which have continued outside of and after the LSP
- Strong impact on the fundamental strategies or ways of working of some FAO units, especially Emergencies.
The work of the LSP has been carried out by eight inter-disciplinary thematic working groups, each focussing on a different livelihoods-related issue (see diagram above). Overall management and coordination, including annual budget allocation, were overseen by LSP's inter-departmental Programme Coordination Team, which included the co-convenors of all eight thematic teams, a representative of FAO management, of the donor, several co-opted members, and the Programme Coordinator. Through this PCT the programme was managed in a non-hierarchical way.
FAO staff were not paid by the programme for their participation in the thematic working groups. Members of the Programme Coordination Team, on the other hand, had one day a month of their salaries covered by the LSP.
The LSP received generous and substantial financial support from DFID (UK) from October 2001 through September 2007 .