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Module 7 - Using the outputs in practice

1. Reviewing the outputs

The “objective” of the investigation as described so far has been the development of the outputs described in the previous module: profiles of the specific linkages between local institutions and household livelihood strategies. But the process leading to the generation of these profiles will have also generated a series of other outputs, all of which could play an important role in supporting development activities.

These outputs could include the following information:

profiles of the communities involved;

profiles of the principle livelihood strategies undertaken by different groups of people in the community and the features of the groups involved in those strategies; and

profiles of the key institutions in the community.

In addition, there would also be a series of “processes” set in motion by the investigation that can be regarded as important outputs. Many of these outputs will vary according to the way in which the study has been implemented and the relationship that the team has been able to create with the communities during the study, but they might include:

a network of contacts and key informants in the communities studied;

groups within the communities accustomed to interacting with outsiders and undertaking analysis of local conditions with them;

knowledge of, and ability to use, some communication and facilitation tools to analyze local conditions;

critical awareness and understanding of the issues addressed by the investigation;

potential channels linking local people with investigators so that learning can continue;

potential channels for setting up a two-way flow of information between outsiders (project, programme, agency) and local people; and

interest in and willingness among local people to address the issues identified during the course of the investigation and to improve the relationships between local institutions and household livelihood strategies.

These outputs can be regarded as potentially important, as they can be used as a basis for setting up project activities that are rooted in the community and empower community members, as well as for addressing the key issues in terms of institutional-livelihood linkages that the investigation has identified.

2. Feeding the outputs into the project cycle

Investigations of these linkages are most likely to take place as part of the “diagnostic” process, where development agencies are trying to understand local conditions so that they can decide what to do. But these investigations could be used not only at the beginning of a project but at the different stages shown in Figure 11.


The outputs of a study of linkages between local institutions and household livelihood strategies would obviously add a very significant layer of understanding to an overall diagnosis in a community, or an area, before beginning to plan development interventions. By looking at these issues during the diagnostic phase, investigators can help project planners build a more complete picture of the situation in which they are intervening. This will give them the possibility of addressing a more complete range of interlocking development issues rather than fragments of the picture. This can be of critical importance as these issues are usually intimately interlinked.


Where the diagnostic phase of a project has already been undertaken, a more focussed study of this kind could be carried out to investigate the feasibility of specific development interventions that have been identified as possible solutions to local problems.

For example, a diagnostic study may have identified soil run-off in upland farming areas as a key problem that needs to be addressed by future development work. Various soil management measures could be proposed to deal with this problem, but a study of institutional linkages could significantly improve the understanding of how these measures are likely to be received among local people. A study of this type might reveal that the current lack of proper soil management is not due to “ignorance” but due to the land tenure arrangements that discourage any extra investment in land for which tenure is precarious or ambiguous. Increased migration by male household members might be leaving more responsibility for agricultural work to women, whose existing workloads make additional soil management tasks impractical.

Planning and implementation

These linkage studies could also contribute concretely to the practical issues of planning and implementating project activities. Where projects and programmes expect local institutions and organizations, such as NGOs, local government bodies or community organizations, to play a role in the implementation of development interventions, the existing roles, objectives and capacities of these institutions need to be carefully assessed. Likewise, existing relationships between these institutions and household livelihoods would need to be fully understood in order to assess how changes in the role, capacity and size of these institutions might affect people who currently depend on them in one way or another. The participatory elements in the study would be of particular importance here. Local institutions would need to be involved in assessing their own capacities, skills and objectives to see to how they can be joined with those of other development agencies involved in new projects or programmes.

Figure 11 - Feeding the Outputs into Different Stages of the Project Cycle

An example might be where local NGOs are expected to take on a role in a natural resource management project. Clearly, most NGOs would welcome the opportunity to participate in any project that can bring resources into their organization. But the roles and functions expected of them in such a project might be very different from those they are used to performing. The process of carrying out an investigation of this kind in the area, involving those NGOs in an analysis of what they do, their relations with local people and their livelihoods and the possible implications of major changes in their activities, could clarify, both for the agencies involved and the NGOs themselves, how realistic such expectations might be.

Monitoring and evaluation

The process of carrying out a study of this kind can produce many opportunities for establishing mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating on-going project activities. If local people are properly engaged in the investigation and play an active part in identifying and planning project activities, their capacity to monitor the implementation process should also be greatly strengthened. The process of carrying out the investigation together with local people will also lead to the identification of appropriate indicators that can easily be monitored in the future.

For example, the investigation might reveal that the most important criteria applied by local people to measure the effectiveness of a system for credit provision are not related to the quantity of money received or even the interest rates charged, but rather the timeliness of credit availability and flexibility in repayment schedules. This could significantly change the way in which the success of a new credit scheme might be measured, at least from the point of view of the intended beneficiaries.

Impact assessments

An assessment of the impacts of local institutions on household livelihoods could also make an important contribution to an evaluation of a project or programme that has already finished. Even where a project has not specifically targeted institutions, it may well have had unexpected effects on the institutions in the area where it has been implemented. This can be especially true of local informal institutions and, in turn, this could have affected people’s livelihoods.

For example, a project that has worked on the dissemination of techniques to ensure better utilization of fish catch might have achieved a significant reduction in what were regarded as “losses” from the catch on the beach after landing. An investigation of livelihoods and institutions might well discover that many of these losses were part of an informal “welfare” institution within the community through which small amounts of low-value fish were left for elderly people and children from poor households to collect in return for small services. These “discards” may have constituted a small but important source of income or exchange for these households. Quite unintentionally, efforts to “improve production” may have undermined an important social institution within the community.

3. Feeding the outputs into different levels of the development process

The outputs of the investigation also have relevance at a variety of different levels in the development process. In these guidelines, the principle focus has been on a development project or programme seeking to use the investigation to improve the process of project design. But this represents only one possible level at which the investigation’s outputs could be useful.

The sorts of contributions that an investigation of linkages between local institutions and household livelihood strategies might make are likely to be quite different at different levels. At the household and community levels, for example, the outputs of the study will be heavily dependent on the sort of process used to implement it - the data produced may be of limited direct usefulness to poor farmers, but if they have had the chance to discuss the findings with investigators they may have been stimulated to thinks about local conditions in a new way and this could help in changing people’s attitudes, their capacity for analysis and their willingness to work for change in the future.

Some of these different uses of outputs of the investigation are reviewed below and illustrated in Figure 12.


The process of getting households to analyze their own livelihoods can encourage them to identify, for themselves, weaknesses and ways that they could improve their situation. Households may have “poor” livelihood outcomes because they are not fully using their existing resources and capacities or they are combining them in a way that does not realize their full potential. By taking part in an analysis of this, people’s understanding of where those weaknesses lie can be be improved and help them to decide on better strategies for them and their families.

As well as these possibilities for improved strategies, the household livelihood profiles should help to clarify the distinct needs and priorities of different groups, particularly different age and gender groups.

Proper involvement of households in the investigation will also be empowering, especially where the investigation pays attention to identifying the poorer groups in communities and treats them as a separate interest group with particular problems and potentials. During the course of the investigation, opportunities may arise for different groups of “poor stakeholders” to get together and discuss common problems, and this can give rise to new opportunities for organization among those who are normally excluded from any form of organization at the community level.


The community as a whole may use the investigation as an opportunity to reflect on what they do and how they live. The ability of a community to do this constructively will depend on its history, its internal dynamics and the leadership of the community as a whole and the various interest groups within it. But often there are few occasions and few stimuli for communities to undertake such a process, and the impetus provided by outsiders coming to undertake a study of this kind can be very positive.

In particular, an output of such a study that can be directly beneficial to the community can be a recognition of the strengths of certain community-level institutions, especially informal networks of mutual assistance and support to the poorer sections of the community. This can enhance the respect that people have for their own institutions and increase local interest in preserving those that are positive and important to them.

Where decentralization of decision-making and political power is taking place, participation by the community in an investigation of this kind can help to give voice to groups within the community that are not used to expressing their needs and priorities. The process of getting local people to critically analyze the institutions around them and how they are affected by them can give those who normally have little influence on community affairs “something to say”.

Particularly important at the community level will be the clarification of the roles and impacts of different institutions, including those that are specific to the community, those that are “local” and those that influence the community from the outside. This clarification can be essential to help projects or programmes adjust their plans for institutional development by understanding the priorities that people associate with the performance of institutions at the local level. This may help outside agencies to change or even abandon their plans for institutional development where they see opportunities to strengthen or “add value” to existing institutions rather than create new ones.

Figure 12 - Feeding the Outputs into Different Levels of the Development Process

Project or programme

Clearly, the type of investigation described in these guidelines is most immediately aimed at improving projects or programmes by enhancing their understanding of local institutional environments and their interactions with the livelihoods of households living in those environments.

A better understanding of local institutional networks will not only help projects and programmes to identify how different activities might feed into these networks, it will also clarify the position that a project or programme itself is likely to assume within that network. An important implication of the understanding of livelihoods outlined in Module 1 is that political relations need to be explicitly understood and addressed - development activities that intervene in the livelihoods of people can no longer be regarded as “neutral”; they will affect political and power relations between different groups in complex ways. The role that a project may assume needs to be well understood before it begins its interventions.

The potential for setting up mechanisms that will allow better monitoring and evaluation of the activities of a project or programme have already been mentioned. This element can constitute an important output of the investigation and can have impacts on the successful implementation of development activities.

Provided the investigation is carried out with the use of participatory approaches in the field, it can also ensure that these approaches become more “institutionalized” within the project. Once the “norm” of exchange of information and discussion of learning has been established with local people, a demand for the continuation of such approaches is more likely.

Local area governance and policy implementation levels

This level may be particularly important from the point of view of adjusting the ways in which government or regional institutions interact with local communities. The understanding of local-level institutional relationships and the ways in which local people view those relationships can help this level to adjust the ways in which institutions are structured and the ways in which they attempt to implement policy directives coming from higher up.

With the trend towards decentralization, this level is of increasing “formal” importance, although, in reality, it has always been essential: it is often at this level that the “intentions” of policies and national institutions are transformed into “reality” on the ground. In many cases, limited capacity at this level has often meant that policies have little impact at the ground level. In other cases, the influence of priorities at this level, whether personal, political, economic or socio-cultural, has meant that policies are transformed quite dramatically during the process of implementation. For example, a policy intended to ensure the distribution of staple foods to the poorest sections of society may become transformed, at this level, into a means of distributing political and economic patronage through a network of local commercial interests.

Investigations of linkages between institutions and household livelihood strategies are liable to identify many possible linkages that go from the local (i.e. community) level up to this intermediate level. Inevitably, problems may arise in defining where the “local” sphere ends and broader regional or national interests begin. But these are key linkages that will need to be understood and which the outputs of the investigation will be able to contribute to significantly.

This is particularly true because, just as the intentions of institutions and policies are often transformed at this “implementation” level, so the opportunities for making changes in the effectiveness of institutions in supporting household livelihoods are also significant. Changes in attitude at this level among those involved in planning and implementing the activities of institutions can have major impacts at the ground level, even when policy or institutions higher up the scale are not particularly supportive.

In particular the institutional profiles generated by the investigation can help agencies and institutions at this level to understand their own skills, capacity, formal and informal objectives, and help to identify areas that can be changed.


The outputs of the investigation may also be able to influence, directly or indirectly, the decisions and processes that generate policy and direct some of the larger institutions that affect people at the local level.

An awareness of the complexity of local-level institutions, and the ways in which policy intentions are implemented locally, may lead policy-makers to a more realistic understanding of what they can achieve through policy decisions. This can encourage policy makers to focus on the definition of processes rather than activities, targets and implementation issues that, in any case, will often be directed more by local-level concerns than by the intentions of national-level policy makers.

A deeper understanding of local institutions will also feed into processes of decentralization and identify, for policy makers, some of the key areas that need to be addressed within the decentralization process. For example, the relationships between formal institutions responsible for the governance and regulation of natural resource use and local informal systems of resource allocation may be fundamental in deciding how to allocate powers and rights over natural resources during the process of decentralisation.

Investigations of this kind could make a particularly significant contribution to poverty assessments carried out nationally or locally. An understanding of how policies and institutions interact with the livelihoods of the poor can make a particularly significant contribution to informing national policy and improving its focus on the poorer sections of society.

4. Examples of the use of outputs

The cases below illustrate how the learning generated by an investigation of this kind might be used in practice in different situations.

Understanding the institutional context of an NGO credit scheme

If an NGO is planning to initiate a micro-credit scheme in a given rural area, there are typically several questions to which at least preliminary answers should be sought before starting development activities. To begin with, the project designers should investigate if there is a sufficient demand for credit to ensure steady participation in the initiative, and low rates of repayment default. This issue should be explored at the various levels where some secondary information may be available (for example in the offices of the local government administration, with provincial-level line agencies, or with local NGO offices).

But it may be more complex than first thought, because existing figures and other data on finance in the countryside usually cover only the formal banking sector. Yet loans may also be supplied by informal credit and savings associations, which are better placed and equipped to understand local norms of social reciprocity and build upon these. Such associations are therefore able to apply “peer pressure” on repayments; that is, their members “monitor themselves”. As it is their own money that is being lent and re-lent, it is in the interest of each of their members to checkup on those who have been taking out loans, making sure they are willing and able to repay them, and do so on time.

Local people may prefer this type of arrangement to a formal bank loan for several reasons. First of all, normally no collateral or guarantors are needed and poorer borrowers may fear the risk of losing their already limited assets if they default on a formal bank laon. Bank repayment schedules are often not well coordinated with the seasonal pattern of agricultural activities (loans that need to be paid back after three or six months do not leave enough time to harvest and sell the produce, at least not at a good price). The transaction costs of bank loans may be higher, as the bank could be far away and difficult and expensive to get to. Literacy skills and background information may be required for completing a loan application and dealing with other paperwork. Procedures for obtaining formal loans may be relatively slow compared to informal sources making it difficult to ensure that money is available at critical points in the agricultural cycle, such as buying seeds for sowing or pesticides for dealing with pest attacks, or hiring additional labour promptly to deal with weeding and land preparation before the rainy season.

Information generated by an investigation of linkages between household livelihood strategies and local institutions should help those designing the credit scheme to understand locally existing financing channels for agricultural and other income-generating activities, how these channels work, whom they tend to benefit and who is excluded from them. This would allow for more solid targeting of micro-loans and tailoring conditions for disbursement to local norms, needs and capacities, increasing their likelihood of viability, sustainability and success. It would also ensure “doing no harm”, by not undermining existing institutions that are functioning well. This points to one of the most fundamental questions: should the NGO initiative support existing informal arrangements (financially, technically, logistically, legally, etc.), or should it be implemented completely separately from those arrangements; that is to say, should new local groups be created to channel the loans?

If institutional profiles are compiled for all informal savings and credit arrangements, and linkages profiles for different types of livelihoods as they relate to these savings and credit arrangements, they will be a very important input to solve this question on a case-by-case basis. The profiles may be based on key informant interviews with some of the office holders of the informal associations, such as their presidents, chairpersons, treasurers, secretaries and so on. These may be compared to the key informant interviews carried out with community leaders, to understand the different expectations of members of savings and credit associations compared with the expectations of the community at large. The institutional profiles of different credit sources should also help to identify those local institutions that provide small credit for productive activities and those that provide “instant loans” for expenses such as funerals, medical charges, school fees, etc. The “entry point” for developing institutional and linkages profiles may vary according to whether or not the NGO micro-credit scheme will be designed to include a fixed “menu” of economic activities or if these are left completely open for the participating communities to decide.

If the NGO scheme is considering working with women’s savings groups, it will need to understand the objectives of potential group members for the increased income generated through savings. By asking them what livelihood activities are most important to them and why, it will be possible to arrive at a picture of where women get their present income (if any) from, what they use it for and if they can decide on its use independently from their husbands or from other household members. The next step would be to trace, through the linkages profiles, the relationship between existing livelihood activities and the role that the women’s savings groups might play in them. The way in which the development activities that the NGO plans to support may affect the lives and livelihoods of the women’s savings group members and their families will become clear. If poverty reduction is a prime objective, the livelihoods- and institutional profiles for the women’s savings groups must look into the wealth status of their members, and a decision may be taken on the necessity of forming new local groups to support the poorer women in the communities.

By putting side by side the community, livelihoods, institutional and linkages profiles, the designers of the women’s savings groups component of the NGO micro-credit scheme will be able to make better judgements about the institutional as well as some of the operational dimensions of their planned initiatives. In particular, they will be better able to target their ‘beneficiaries’ or ‘clients’ because they will have a much clearer idea about who they are. They will be better able to understand what impact the development initiatives they are planning are likely to have on local livelihoods, because they will have a much clearer idea about how and why these change over time. Similarly, they will be in a position to provide more flexibility in the management of the micro-funds, and possibly delegate the monitoring and evaluation of activities to the micro-credit groups themselves, decreasing costs while increasing members’ commitment and their local legitimacy. Ultimately, this will contribute to learning lessons for the promotion of development goals such as women’s emancipation, and increased economic and political participation.

Understanding the “rules of the game” influencing marketing cooperatives

Marketing cooperatives have often been established as means of helping small producers to achieve economies of scale for the bulk purchase of inputs and for producing in sufficient volumes to access wholesale marketing outlets. But cooperatives have often performed poorly for a variety of reasons. The future members have often not been consulted prior to the establishment of cooperatives, leading to low levels of commitment, conflicting sets of expectations and priorities among the membership and lack of understanding of the cooperatives’ objectives and management mechanisms. The situation has often been made worse by efforts to keep cooperatives alive artificially though direct and indirect subsidies aiming at counterbalancing unattractive terms of trade in agriculture.

With the increasing reluctance, and inability, of governments to continue subsidizing uneconomic cooperatives, many have collapsed and those that have survived have had to adapt to a competitive environment. A basic requirement for survival has been the ability to minimize costs and overcome the problems of access to information, poor communications and lack of infrastructure that rural cooperatives often face. But it is also clear that cooperatives have been more sustainable where the membership is linked by bonds of trust, similar values and life styles, and relationships that are not purely economic but also social and supported by networks of mutual support, respect and solidarity.

These social relationships are part of the “social capital” described as one of the livelihood assets in Module 1 of these guidelines (see the Annex for a possible definition, and Marsh 2002, the companion volume to the present Guidelines dealing with policy, for more details). Understanding the ‘stock’ of social capital within cooperatives or among the potential membership of proposed cooperatives is therefore very important. Where that social capital is weak, the development of successful cooperatives may depend on finding ways of increasing it, or, at least, to avoid eroding it. Clearly this is a particularly important issue for projects aimed at local institutional development. Ideally, such projects should start off by analyzing the local institutional environment in which they are going to be implemented, by selecting and investigating, for example, a cooperative that is struggling with the marketing of its members’ produce. By making it the subject of an institutional profile, many of the strengths and weaknesses concerning the way in which its members relate to each other will emerge, and this will give a rough indication of some of the stock and the origin of the social capital of its members. Especially important in “measuring” social capital are not only the horizontal types of interactions, but the contact that takes place vertically between ‘ordinary’ members and leaders, as well as other decision-makers and, if applicable, the cooperative and its ‘parent’ organization at a higher level of administration and management.

These interactions often reflect existing networks of political patronage, or of clientelistic exchanges that appear ‘exploitive’ to outsiders. Such relationships may be rooted in local history - population movements, warfare, conquest, or simply settlement patterns and mechanisms of barter and sale between population groups. Often these relationships do not “make sense” from a purely economic (profit-maximizing) point of view, but they may have become institutionalized as “the way things are done” through the strong ties that have bound population groups to each other over centuries. These codes of conduct may lead to less immediately tangible benefits, such as free assistance in times of need, and may be valued very dearly by farmers, who must minimize the risks they take under uncertain climatic conditions. This points to a ‘trade-off’ for development agencies between not interfering with such inequitable trade arrangements (and leaving the “stock” of social capital intact) and attempting to set up new ‘rules of the game’ and marketing channels with other, possibly non-local, stakeholders (thereby attempting to bypass negative social capital and to create new social capital).

Several different aspects of what cooperatives do and processes they are involved in would need to be understood. The interactions that take place outside of the cooperative, such as its economic relationships in the marketplace, should be investigated step by step. The market itself can be characterized and analyzed in its various forms, for different agricultural products and at different times during the agricultural season. The relationships and transactions between different stakeholders in the cooperative would also need to be analyzed. In doing so, the economic and non-economic advantages that the members of a given cooperative draw from having joined it (or from deliberately not having joined it) will become clearer, which can in turn provide a solid basis for a more detailed investigation of the functions of the cooperative in the livelihoods of different types of households. The livelihoods and institutional profiles can be used to arrive at a better understanding of precisely this role, and it will soon appear where, if at all, any possibilities of ‘leverage’ for outside interventions may exist.

For example, it may emerge that cooperative membership is automatically expected from anyone cultivating a field located within a certain larger area of land, in which case there is no self-selection of members. This has effects on several institutional attributes; for example, it will be difficult to bring peer pressure to bear. Or, some of the members of the cooperative have joined it in the first place for reasons other than to help them with their production and marketing activities, and therefore these members do not feel ownership over its operations or the way in which it is run and do not attend meetings. Or else, it may emerge that women members take on the burden of both agricultural production and marketing, but are neither part of, nor consulted by, its board of directors in the decisions that affect it, while their husbands insist on not leaving the cooperative because they find in it a source of camaraderie, prestige and status. In the former cases, lending institutional support to the cooperative is clearly not a desirable direction to pursue unless its membership criteria, mode of decision-making, activities and management can be modified and accountability be built in, whilst in the latter case to work with women producer groups directly may be a preferable development opportunity.

In sum, by putting side by side the community, livelihoods, institutional and linkages profiles, it will be possible to arrive at a better understanding of the marketing strengths and constraints of a given cooperative. In particular, from the profiles a picture will emerge of the dynamics within this cooperative (or of the lack thereof), so that development initiatives seeking to reach beyond what “meets the eye” can be formulated. That is to say, these initiatives can be designed in a more innovative and cultural- as well as context-specific manner because they are informed by a detailed investigation of the role that the marketing of produce through the cooperative plays in the livelihoods of different individuals, households and stakeholder groups. Possibly, defunct or only marginally successful cooperatives may thereby be revitalized by taking into account the social capital, or the lack of social capital, of its members, which would contribute to establish for these same local institutions a more central position in the lives and livelihoods of their members, by increasing local ownership and self-determination.

Community empowerment in mobile (transhumant) pastoralist communities

In dry or semi-dry regions where cattle raising is an important livelihood activity, development programmes aimed at community empowerment have sometimes worked exclusively with settled people. Yet, in these areas there are normally groups of “transhumant” pastoralists, who shift between different grazing areas according to season, who do not live in fixed villages, are not always visible in official statistical information such as agricultural and population censuses, and may thus be overlooked by governments and donors. While projects with livestock development components have sometimes attempted to improve the livelihood activities of rural herders, including migrating groups, this has often been the task of technical experts with a background in the natural sciences, first and foremost veterinarians. As a result, the social local institutions that sustain the cattle-raising activities of transhumant population groups have not always been taken into account, let alone been understood or used as an “entry point” for interventions.

This means that the starting point for understanding the linkages between the livelihood elements and local institutions of transhumant pastoralists will usually be significantly “lower” than for other groups. If short on time, analyzes should focus on what is probably the single most important institution in pastoral activities based on the use of natural resources - that is, land tenure. The tenure “niches” that different groups of people occupy or exploit within the targeted geographic area need to be characterized through the use of a number of investigative tools. The latter include focus group discussions with both settled and transhumant pastoralists and key informant interviews with the leaders of pastoralist institutions (where these exist) or traditional authorities of particular population groups. Information extracted from the interviews can be used to draw up institutional profiles for different tenure niches and linkages profiles on the relationships between different livelihood elements and the norms and regulations that govern the use of pastoral resources.

One of the difficulties that even NGOs may encounter working with transhumant pastoralists has to do with their often highly complex systems of regulating access to natural resources, especially access to fodder or grazing grounds and water. Together with key informants, mapping exercises may be carried out that differentiate between use rights - permanent, temporary, priority, secondary, tertiary, seasonal, etc. - and management (or ‘stewardship’) rights and duties. This may be important for two reasons: poverty alleviation and sustainable natural resource management. The poorest pastoralists are not likely to enjoy the same rights as the richer pastoralists, and to prevent the over-exploitation of rangelands, some of the flexibility that is provided by the dual functions of owning as well as controlling the resources themselves, and controlling the access to the flow of those resources, must be preserved.

Key informants can help map the resources to which transhumant pastoralists have access, starting with the cattle “corridors” through which they move their animals across other people’s land to reach fodder and watering points. It is then possible to describe the different use rights that exist in the area under investigation, and to point out to the local administration just how important a recognition of these temporary claims and multiple land use systems is for the sustainability of local ecosystems and for rural development. A recognition of the role of transhumant pastoralists in preserving natural resources and in providing “services” to farming communities (manure, livestock products, such as milk and meat, bullocks for animal traction, ecological knowledge for range management, etc.) would go a long way towards giving them more visibility and “voice” in relation to the sedentary government structures in which they are normally not even represented.

Another of the difficulties that any ‘outsiders’- whether government, development agencies or NGOs - working with transhumant pastoralists encounter has to do with the problems arising from the mobility of these groups. Projects aimed at empowering them as part of the wider settlements to which they are ‘attached’ for administrative purposes have sometimes involved attempts at increasing their participation in community affairs and their inclusion in democratic decision-making processes. In these cases, a first obstacle to be overcome lies with the definition of the constituency of transhumant pastoralists, and how to be able to inform them on local matters at any point in time. Likewise, the provision of veterinary services to these groups (for example, as part of important national vaccination campaigns) is challenging. To address such issues, an option to pursue is that of strengthening the self-reliance of transhumant pastoralist groups, and a good vehicle for doing so is to concentrate on the development of their institutions. However, to do so requires information on several attributes of these institutions, which can be retrieved by developing institutional profiles; for example, if membership is “by birth” into a given population group, or if it is “by animal ownership”, this will have certain implications on how to approach institutional development.

The institutional and livelihood profiles compiled for different transhumant pastoralist groups will shed light on some of the opportunities for including them in a project component, as well as the difficulties that might be faced. For example, if the planned activities include political support through advocacy with government and donor institutions, information is needed on the important environmental and social service functions provided by transhumant pastoralists, which can be extracted from the institutional and livelihoods profiles. Alternatively, if the planned activities include economic support through bridging gaps in marketing, information is needed on their current mode of production and sales, as well as the balance between livestock products that are consumed and those that are sold, which can be extracted from the livelihoods, institutional, and community profiles. If the planned activities include technical support from the Animal Health Department through training of itinerant veterinarians, information is needed on the migration patterns of animals and herders, which can be extracted from the mapping exercises of herd movements and tenure niches, as well as from the institutional profiles on certain customary and modern range management practices.

By putting side by side the community, livelihoods, institutional and linkages profiles, it will be possible to arrive at a better understanding of the livelihoods of transhumant pastoralists, and this information can be used to design programmes aimed at the empowerment of such population groups. Policy decisions regarding the livestock sector (for example, how to fight the overstocking of cattle) will benefit from the understanding gained during the investigation, as planned development initiatives may include a component that would seek to halt the degradation of local natural resources by providing appropriate support to certain range management institutions and the livelihoods that they sustain. Experience in organizational development has shown that for local institutions to flourish and evolve, a few years may be necessary during which time their particular attributes, dynamics and initiatives are closely monitored and actions taken upon these observations; the institutional profiles elaborated would provide a sound basis to couch such work in a coherent and continuous framework.

Developing a strategy for informing and influencing policy on natural resource management

Local-level projects aiming to develop improved forms of natural resource management often encounter obstacles because national policy on natural resources does not allow flexibility in the forms of and responsibilities for management. Particularly where potential has been identified for building on the strengths and experience of local people in managing the resources on which they depend by setting up more community-based management mechanisms, national-level policies that concentrate responsibility for natural resource management within central institutions will often undermine any efforts to introduce effective changes.

An effective analysis of how these policy elements at the national level affect the decision-making processes of local people could represent an essential element in influencing policy makers to relinquish some of their control.

The traditional reaction of many development programmes in the past has been to regard policy as a “given”, a factor outside the control of the project that may or may not be supportive of the project or programme’s objectives but, in any case, cannot really be changed. An essential part of the interpretation of “livelihoods” presented in Module 1 of these Guidelines is that the range of factors that include political, as well as institutional, issues cannot be ignored but needs to be addressed explicitly in order to achieve development goals. While the task of bringing about policy change may seem beyond the capacity of single projects, it can be approached systematically so that the measures needed in order to cause change can be at least identified and, eventually, partnerships formed with other organizations or groups in order to attempt to push for change.

Part of this approach could be based on the institutional profiles carried out as part of the investigation and would serve to identify very clearly the roles and responsibilities of different institutions and individuals in the policy-making process so that efforts to bring about change within that process can be targeted and focussed. The tables below indicate how this could be made a relatively systematic process.

The first step would be for those involved in the project - in this case, project staff and their “clients” from the communities desiring a greater degree of local autonomy in the management of their natural resources - to develop a clear vision of what change they would like to see taking place. This also means being clear about what the results of that change might be. In the case of the community pushing for local control of natural resources, they would need to think through clearly what the concrete benefits of this change would be and who would benefit.

These would constitute the objectives of their efforts to influence policy. In the case given below, they might decide that their key objectives are to improve the livelihoods of local people and empowerment of the community, as this is what they think local management of natural resources will contribute to.

Policy change

What are we trying to achieve? (objectives)

How will we know if we’ve achieved it?

What needs to change in order to achieve it?

Improved livelihood outcomes for local people
Empowerment of local communities

Quantity (income, food availability, expenditure)
Quality (well-being, satisfaction, sense of security, empowerment)

Institutions involved in formulating and influencing policy
Processes that lead to policy being formed The people concerned

(Based on work by Campbell, IMM Ltd.)

Next, based on information from the institutional profile, the major “policy stakeholders” need to be identified. A “policy stakeholder” would be anyone with a role in formulating or influencing policy and also those who are affected by it. A policy change that we wish to bring about may negatively affect other people in some way, and these effects need to be taken into consideration.

Policy stakeholders

Who needs to be influenced or changed?

What is their role in the policy-making process?

What is it that needs to change?

Bureaucrats - national and local
Private-sector groups and local elites
Interest groups - NGOs
Policy networks
Grassroots groups/organizations
The electorate
Bilateral partners
International organizations



A careful identification of where in the policy process each of these actors operate is also important. This can be combined with the identification, using information from the institutional profiles of the institutions to which these figures belong, of what incentives or forces are likely to influence them to change.

Policy process and influencing factors

At what stage in the policy process do they operate?

What incentives or forces are likely to influence them?

Knowledge generation/research
Agenda setting
Option identification
Prioritization of options
Policy formulation
Policy legitimization
Planning for policy implementation
Review and evaluation
Review and adjustment of policy and policy implementation

Political pressure from powerful figures
International pressure/persuasion
Bilateral pressure/persuasion
Bureaucratic pressure
Evidence from action in the field
Private sector pressure
Interest groups e.g. NGOs
Policy networks
Revenue generated
Opportunities to extend networks of political patronage
Academic evidence
Grassroots pressure/persuasion

Institutional profiles could highlight how the priorities and incentives that dictate current natural resource management policy are focussed on the revenue generated from these resources, rather than the desire to conserve them for future generations. Often, conflicting sets of priorities will be present between different institutions engaged in resource management and between different levels within those institutions.

The explicit identification of these conflicts would enable development workers to draw up a more targeted strategy for bringing about changes in policy measures and processes to facilitate the changes at the grassroots level that they wish to promote.

Strategy for policy change

What factors will affect efforts to bring about change?

What do we need to do?

What resources are required?

What are the wider policy implications?

Past policies
Policy complexity
Institutional constraints
Rent seeking

Generate evidence
Disseminate information
Facilitate discussion
Build consensus
Combine forces and form partnerships


On other policies
On policy implementation
On resources
On other institutions

The completion of this matrix for informing and influencing policy, making use of the information on institutions collected during an investigation on linkages, and complemented with further investigation of the higher-level policy-making institutions involved, would give stakeholders in the project a clearer picture of what action needs to be undertaken to bring about policy change.

The Malatuk Story - using the information

By this stage, Musa finds herself wondering when the “investigation” she and her team have undertaken is going to end! The line dividing the investigation from ongoing project activities seems to be getting less and less clear. When the team get a chance to discuss what has taken place after their final round of validation meetings, they agree that the fact that no one has really commented on the study yet is mainly due to the fact that they are too busy taking action based on the results - and they decide that this probably indicates that the investigation has been a “success”. They realize that what they have produced reaches beyond the rather simplistic inventory of livelihoods and institutions that the MPAP Team Leader probably had thought they would submit to be used mainly as background for the planning of different sub-projects. The investigation has certainly provided a fairly exhaustive list of important linkages between livelihoods and institutions in the project area, but Musa has taken care to point out to her colleagues that there is considerable variation even among the three communities they have visited - the range of institutions they have covered can hardly be regarded as definitive for the whole of Malatuk.

The team members take stock of what they feel can, and should, actually be done with the outputs of their investigation. They are particularly pleased that the participation in the final round of village-level validation by the monitoring and evaluation cell seems to have born immediate fruit. The monitoring specialists are already in the process of completely reorienting their monitoring of the project to be based on regular meetings with contact groups at the level of communities and specific stakeholder groups involved in different project activities. This mechanism is going to take time to evolve, but already in Baraley, Cosuma and Yaratuk the basis for this mechanism been set and the project is remaining in contact with local leaders and stakeholder representatives. This, and the wealth of information that the team has collected on these three communities, is also encouraging the project to initiate some pilot activities in these communities.

The team has also been asked to help the monitoring group within the project to develop a short investigative “format” that would allow a much quicker assessment of communities, livelihoods and institutions that could be carried out prior to establishing these monitoring mechanisms over a far wider area. Daniel and Diana voice their concern that these groups might end up being regarded as just a means for the project to go in and “extract” information from the communities with a minimum amount of work. They are not sure that all their colleagues have really appreciated the importance of “two-way communication” in these meetings - there have to be opportunities for consultation and discussion, not just the accumulation of data for monitoring project activities.

As they begin working on this new study format, they decide to make this point very clear from the beginning. They emphasize that in these abbreviated studies, the emphasis should be, above all, on building rapport and getting local people used to using certain tools and approaches to exchanging information with project teams, rather than on accumulating information - the process is going to be much more important than the output. When it comes to explaining this to the monitoring and evaluation specialists, they run into some resistance, as there is considerable pressure to come up with clear quantitative parameters for monitoring the project as quickly as possible. But they manage to persuade the unit to take time to allow the mechanism they intend to set up to “generate” indicators that local people feel happy with and that reflect their priorities rather than the needs of purely administrative and bureaucratic needs of the project donors.

This “process output” from the investigation gives the team particular satisfaction, as it seems to suggest that they have at least gone about the study the right way. But they quickly realize that if they thought they could simply produce the findings of their investigation and leave it to others to turn these into suitable plans for interventions, they were mistaken. Ever since they completed the field work, they have been bombarded with requests for “suggestions and recommendations” about what the project should actually be doing. Although the team members have discussed all kinds of possible future interventions during their study, they haven’t sat down and formalized these into a set of recommendations. They decide to take time to do this - not least to make sure that they are not all recommending different things to different people.

Musa requests the Team Leader to let the team spend two more days to develop some clear recommendations. The Team Leader suggests that they take an extra day and also “appraise” the various proposals that have already been made for project activities in the light of their findings.

One of the most important proposals that they look at is the suggested project support for a credit programme for small and marginal producers in the province. The justification for this proposal is that small-scale producers, particularly in agriculture and fisheries, have practically no access to formal credit largely because of their lack of collateral and because of the limited presence of banking institutions below the district level. The proposal is a little confusing because, at the same time as saying that people “lack access to credit” it also states that they are being “exploited” by moneylenders who give credit at “exorbitant” interest rates. The proposal has suggested a pilot scheme in three districts, including the area around Cosuma and Yaratuk, where the project would work with local banks to set up a system to bring credit down to the village level and develop mechanisms to make credit to small-scale producers viable.

Based on their findings, the team feels very strongly that this credit component to the project needs to be completely restructured. The team’s investigation has shown how widespread existing, informal channels of credit really are, and the team members note that, in their discussions with local people about what changes they would like to see, formal credit is hardly ever mentioned except by a few local entrepreneurs. Local buyers-moneylenders, known as kiloh, are generally highly respected figures who are a fundamental part of local social and economic networks. They have identified a few cases in which local people seem to be actively exploited by these figures, but they seem to be the exception rather than the rule. They highlight a comment made by several of the masleyarih in Cosuma: “...if only we had our own kiloh we would have far fewer problems”.

Looking at the key attributes of these kiloh as an institution laid out in their institutional profiles, the team realizes that many of the most important features that people value in the kiloh as a credit source simply cannot be replicated by formal credit channels - flexibility in terms and repayment, little or no formalities involved, no requirements for collateral, and, from the point of view of poor producers in remote villages, no real risk of “default” as the lender has no incentive for “bankrupting” the borrower as he depends on them for the produce he markets. It seems to be relatively stable relationship that satisfies the needs and priorities of both parties involved. Looking at the situation from the overall “development” perspective, this credit relationship is rather limited - it will never be able to handle significant inflows of new resources to local enterprises and so could be regarded as a “limit” to growth, but the idea of trying to replace it seems misguided.

The roscas, or informal savings groups, that are present in all the villages that the team visited and are, reportedly, fairly ubiquitous throughout the province, seem to offer an alternative mechanism that could be strengthened without upsetting current relationships and balances. The team recommend that the ways in which these savings groups function should be looked at in more detail, with a view to seeing how they could be built up as “receiving mechanisms” for credit made available by the project. The team recommend caution in not “falsifying” these local institutions that have been born out of very local needs and may have difficulty in adapting to new demands and larger flows of funds. But they feel that it is well worth looking at.

They also recall that the banking system is currently so “distant” from rural communities - almost no one in any of the teams meetings or discussions ever even mentioned “the bank” as an institution that played a role in his or her life - and apparently so poorly adapted to the delivery of rural credit that alternative mechanisms for channelling funds to the grassroots level should probably be looked at. One hopeful alternative is the District Development Funds that have recently been established as part of the decentralisation process and that are intended to fund local development initiatives. So far, the resources allocated to these funds by central government have been intended as grants for rather vaguely defined “development projects”, but the team feels that they could be developed as sources of credit to local-level groups such as the roscas. Clearly it will be a major task to set up the mechanisms at the district level to administer these as credit mechanisms. However, the team feels that the process of doing this could also significantly strengthen the capacity and legitimacy of local government structures that, until now, seem to be regarded by local people as “lacking teeth” because they have not yet been seen to dispense resources at the local level.

This proposal meets with a mixed response. The Team Leader thinks it holds great potential, but some of his project counterparts, particularly in the Department of Local Government, are skeptical, as they feel that setting up credit mechanisms is outside their departmental mandate and would complicate their lives significantly. The idea really takes off after the Team Leader invites Musa to take part in a meeting with some of the key department staff to talk about their capacity and what their role in the project should be. He asks Musa to facilitate an “institutional profile” of the Department of Local Government, similar to the ones they have done during their investigation but carried out directly with members of the institution. From this process, the official mandate of the department to “facilitate and promote measures to ensure the flow of development resources to local communities” is recognized, and this seems to provide strong justification for the proposed credit mechanism. Several of the staff in the department who seemed most skeptical end up becoming strong supporters of the idea, and the project is able to take the proposal forward.

Among the many recommendations that the team members produce, they are also particularly concerned about coming up with some concrete ideas for the masleyarih around Cosuma. During their investigations, they were told that these groups are in fact found in several coastal areas of the province. Nobody really knows how many of them there are, but a very rough estimate based on the masleyarih’s own calculations suggests that there are at least 2 000-3 000 households belonging to this group throughout the province. In addition, there are reported to be increasing numbers of other “displaced” groups, both from within the province and from outside. These are often people displaced by the recurring natural disasters affecting the area. Over the last decade, they seem to have become an important issue. What is clear is that they represent some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the province and are desperately in need of some kind of support from local institutions.

From their investigation, the team is in a position to show that these people both benefit and suffer from the fact that they exist in a sort of institutional “limbo”. On the one hand, they have been able to find a series of livelihood “niches” along the coast, taking advantage of the fact that there are resources there that, until recently, were subject either to open-access regimes or ambiguous sets of use-rights. This left opportunities for the masleyarih to exploit certain swamp fisheries that no one else was interested in, notably for the collection of fish and shrimp seed for aquaculture, and for the use of saline lands found in swamp areas along the coast where some marginal agriculture is possible. In fact, the masleyarih are regarded as “specialists” in reclaiming such lands and have been able to establish informal use-rights to some areas. Unfortunately, their success at exploiting these “niches” is also undermining the existence of those niches. The masleyarih are “adding value” to swamp areas, and as soon as that value is recognised by local residents, they tend to claim their “indigenous rights” - often completely fictitious - so that they can take advantage of the work that the migrant community has done to make these areas productive.

Protecting the rights of the masleyarih without creating conflicts with local residents seems to require a combination of approaches. On the one hand, the livelihood strategies of the masleyarih and their specific skills in making use of the swamp areas in what seems to be a sustainable way, need to be protected and given official recognition. The team feels that the project can play an important role in helping local administration and institutions to make contact with these groups -something that has never happened before - and establish means of providing them with basic services and institutional support.

However, the team members also recognize that the key to strengthening the position of the masleyarih lies at the local level, within the communities on whose margins they live. They propose a programme to promote the inclusion of masleyarih representatives in community consultations. This can be linked with another of their key proposals, which is for local representatives, who are being given increasing powers under the decentralization process, to be trained as an essential part of their appointment to local government. They have noted that the process of decentralization has been severely inhibited by the lack of capacity, both among local administrators and among local elected representatives, to carry out the increasingly complex tasks which they are being assigned. The project can play an important role in developing and supporting a programme of training in local governance, part of which could specifically address the question of these migrant groups and how their rights and needs can be recognised and accommodated. The hope would be that this would begin a process of acceptance of these groups, beginning with a change in attitude among local leaders.

Side by side with these approaches to dealing with the problems of the masleyarih, the team also makes some more specific recommendations regarding local traditional institutions. The idea is to support certain traditional institutions through the project, on the condition that some of the institutional arrangements between the traditional and modern institutions be modified and that they can be monitored at low cost. Daniel and Dewi insist with the team on the point that a “legalization” of traditional institutions could undermine their effectiveness. These institutions seem to “work” because they have grown out of local tradition and express values that everyone agrees on but are not subject to the external pressures and influences that affect “formal”, legally recognised institutions. Support from the project would not mean legalizing them, but, rather, “valuing” them.

The team suggests that the councils of village elders, which play a dominant role in village affairs, be given an official mandate that should, at least initially, change as little as possible in the way they currently function. They should be given increased official responsibility over local natural resource management and conflict resolution, something that de facto they already exercise. At the same time, a mechanism would be established for ensuring that their deliberations and decision are closely monitored by district government and the District Commissioner, currently the key figure in the executive arm of decentralized government, who would have the power to overrule decisions taken by the councils or village heads. The idea would be to increase the exchange of ideas and experience between levels of government and establish a process that should eventually lead to changes based on experience and changing needs, but without forcing new responsibilities and roles on these village-level structures from the start.

As a means for local institutions to “learn” the new aspects of these relationships, the team members suggest that they could be used as a mechanism for implementing the MPAP itself. The district commissioner would have the ultimate responsibility over programme resource use and would have to ensure the equitable allocation of resources (technical advice, inputs, etc.) among all population groups - paying special attention to the masleyarih. But the project would also work directly, with the commissioner’s approval, with village-level groups to implement specific programmes that they have identified, submitted to the district level for approval, and that have then been proposed to the project for funding.

Within two weeks of the submission of their recommendations, the various team members are so busy with helping their colleagues to develop activities based on their findings that they have already almost forgotten that they started out doing a two-month investigation. So when they are all called into the Team Leader’s office one morning, they are all a little mystified. But he quickly sets their minds at ease by congratulating them for the quality of their work and thanking them for putting so much effort. He feels that the study has succeeded in giving the MPAP a direction it lacked before.

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