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December 2004

Announcement of a new publication

Understanding access to seeds and plant genetic resources. What can a livelihoods perspective offer?

Livelihood Support Programme Working Paper Number 6

by S. Seshia
and I. Scoones
Institute of Development Studies
University of Sussex, UK

This study uses a livelihoods perspective to facilitate understanding of the role played by seeds and plant genetic resources (PGRs) in rural people’s livelihoods and considers how a livelihood perspective may strengthen understanding of issues of access. A sustainable livelihoods perspective offers a way of thinking about the linkages among vulnerability, poverty and environmental or natural resource management. It is grounded and contextual, looking at how different people pursue a range and combination of livelihood strategies given a particular vulnerability context, combination of assets and set of opportunities and constraints presented by institutional structures and processes.

This paper maps out some of the ways that seeds and PGRs contribute to livelihood security, going beyond their direct contributions to food and income to consider more dynamic and less visible ways in which they enable households to manage various forms of uncertainty and risk, maximise use of other productive assets, and facilitate diverse livelihood strategies. A livelihoods approach is therefore a complement to conventional seeds/PGR interventions, but one that requires a different outlook. It encompasses more than just technical or genetic approaches, but also draws on social, political, economic, and institutional perspectives.

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