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Alternative livelihoods: adaptation and diversification

Most studies of small-scale fisheries in developing countries in the last 25 years have tended to emphasize small-scale fisherfolks’ resource dependence and the open-access nature of fisheries that together lead to resource degradation, poverty and marginalization.  

Small-scale fisheries are frequently characterized as the 'occupation of last resort' and fisherfolk as 'the poorest of the poor'. Solutions to the problems of poverty and resource degradation have tended to centre on the necessity to make small-scale fisheries more economically efficient, while finding means to conserve fish stocks through a combination of management to limit access and incentives for current participants to leave the fishery. These policy prescriptions have typically been based on fisheries-sector analyses that have not addressed the role of fisheries in the wider coastal economy.

Starting from the premise that small-scale fisheries are prone to uncertainty, realistic adapatation and diversification strategies must be at the core of alternative livelihoods and include responses at individual, household and community level. These can be characterized as flexibility within fisheries, geographical mobility and livelihood diversification.

Diversified livelihoods are also a feature of household strategies, with members of fishing households often being involved in different economic sectors to smooth the effects of resource variations. A variety of intrahousehold responses can include the allocation of family labour in time of need, or acceptance of income fluctuation and modification of consumption patterns.

Sustainable livelihoods approach (SLA)

SLA has been developped to improve understanding of the livelihoods of poor people. It draws on the main factors that affect poor people's livelihoods and the typical relationships between these factors. It can be used in planning new development activities and in assessing the contribution that existing activities have made to sustaining livelihoods.

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