Sustainable Development Banner
People4 banner


Gender and development



Sustainable livelihoods







SD home
About SD

May 2004
Updated February 2006

FAO Livelihood Support Programme (LSP)

The FAO Livelihood Support Programme (LSP), supported in part by the UK Department for International Development (DfID), is helping to improve the impact of FAO interventions at the country level through the effective application of Sustainable Livelihood (SL) approaches.

The LSP evolved from the belief that FAO could have a greater impact on reducing poverty and food insecurity, if its wealth of talent and experience were integrated into a more flexible and demand-responsive team approach.

The LSP aims to increase knowledge of, and capacity to apply, SL principles and approaches. It also aims to enhance SL approaches and incorporate them into cross-sectoral activities.

The LSP works through teams of FAO staff members, who are attracted to specific themes being worked on in a sustainable livelihoods context. These cross-departmental and cross-disciplinary teams act to integrate sustainable livelihoods principles in FAO’s work, at headquarters and in the field. These approaches build on experiences within FAO and other development agencies.

Why are we interested in sustainable livelihoods perspectives?

The main strength of a livelihoods focus is that it puts poor people at the centre. The approach builds on and promotes poor peoples strengths, skills, assets and potential, rather than viewing them as a liability or a drain on resources. This basic concept is often a key requirement in achieving sustainability in development projects.

SL approaches are not new, nor are they revolutionary. They build on best development principles and practice drawn from different cultural contexts.

SL approaches have evolved analytical frameworks which help in better understanding the situation of rural people through a ‘livelihoods perspective’. Such a perspective is particularly effective for analysing poverty and for understanding what makes rural people resilient or vulnerable. It is then possible to build a comprehensive understanding of the development context and system around these rural producers.

Adopting a sustainable livelihoods perspective on rural poverty reduction implies:

  • putting poor people at the centre of development processes;
  • viewing participation as crucial;
  • improving access by the poor to different forms of capital (human, social, financial, physical, natural) to improve their livelihoods;
  • increasing the flexibility and dynamism of responses and projects;
  • focusing on micro-macro linkages;
  • opening up to interdisciplinarity;
  • encouraging broad partnerships.

Click here for information on individual LSP sub-programmes and to view their Technical Working Papers and other documents.

Should you have any questions regarding this programme, please write to

SD Homepage Back to Top FAO Homepage