Sustainable Livelihoods Framework: ten years of ...

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Jan 24, 2008 - Robert Chambers, at IDS, introduced ''sustainable livelihoods' in his 1987 ... "Chambers claims to have calculatedly conjoined the two words, ...

Sustainable Livelihoods Framework: ten years of researching the poor African Environments Programme, Oxford University Centre for the Environment (OUCE) 24th January 2008, 2-6pm, Sustainable livelihoods: still being sought, ten years on Simon Batterbury Environmental Studies, University of Melbourne and James Martin fellow, Oxford [email protected] all papers at Ten years ago there was a major flurry of activity in the British aid community. Following the election of a Labour government in 1997, The Overseas Development Administration of the British government was transformed into the Department for International Development. Its budget was increased, it was delinked from the Foreign Office, its new Ministerial head was the socially committed and controversial MP Clare Short, and it began a search for the most appropriate building blocks necessary for poverty alleviation and sustainable development. A new framework, the 'sustainable livelihoods approach' (SLA), soon entered DfID discourse. From around 1997 to 2001 a considerable body of research was commissioned by DfID totaling many million pounds (£30m+?). Scones and Wolmer estimate £200m was spent on livelihoods research and policy in total from 1997-2001 (Sccones Wolmer 2003:12). Numerous papers and pamphlets were issued including SL guidance notes for project managers, professional networks were established, and livelihoods support programs and projects emerged across governmental and nongovernmental aid organizations. In DfID, various Rural Livelihood activities and staff posts were established and ran for some years. This paper offers a few remarks on the lessons learned from the burst of 'livelihoods' activity that begun in the UK in the late 1990s. I regard the focus on 'livelihoods' in the approach, as opposed to 'adaptation' , 'vulnerability' , the economics of the household or newly rediscovered terms like 'resilience' as broadly positive, not least because of the considerable applied research effort that accompanied its emergence and its holistic agenda, which combines the best of several existing techniques and ideas. Nonetheless, some development programmes to support rural livelihoods have failed significantly. There are also explanatory problems with some aspects of the SL framework. My approach to the research issues raised by the SL framework is to elaborate and extend it in detailed studies, rather than to seek other alternatives and terminologies. The arrival, departure, and persistence of SLAs Discourses and development frameworks have histories. Work on frameworks to understand rural livelihoods have a very long history, based in academic disciplines like anthropology, geography and sociology, and in the applied research of governments and aid agencies. Those identifying with an agrarian studies tradition would justifiably claim a long engagement with rural livelihoods, although less perhaps with the measurable ecological dimensions of agrarian change (Akrom-Lodhi and Kay xx, Bernstein xx, Harriss, unpublished paper 1997). Agrarian studies, with a basis in political economy, is often less than optimistic about development prospects for the rural poor. De Haan&Zoomers (2005) trace the origins of a rather more hopeful, agent-centered form of livelihoods thinking to the 'new household economics' with its micro-household focus, and to Norman Long's identification of '"livelihood strategies" in a 1984 publication (Long 1984). Back in the late 1980s I was a PhD student learning how to study a particular livelihood system in Burkina Faso, using basic survey techniques, ethnography, agronomic and environmental measurements, and extensive participatory appraisal techniques. As a  


geographer I wanted to look at environmental change in combination with its social and political aspects. Particularly useful were Mike Mortimore's investigations of agrarian systems in Nigeria, Piers Blaikie on how to study the impacts and causation of soil erosion, and Paul Richards' work in Sierra Leone on indigenous farmer knowledge (Mortimore 1989, Blaikie and Brookfield 1987, Richards 1985). This type of investigation was termed cultural/human ecology1. I had not anticipated the extent to which I would also have to engage with development interventions, but by the time I had completed my fieldwork in 1993, (due to the presence of a large development agency that had undue power in the region), I called my study 'political ecology' because of the strong role of this external actor, but used many aspects of Long's actor-orientated sociology. Had I framed this as a 'sustainable livelihoods' study according to the terminology of the 1990s, human actions may have been reclassified into 'capitals' and been analyzed more as discrete categories, peasant organizations would be classed as 'institutions' linked to adaptive behaviours, but little would have changed in the identification of 'vulnerabilities', institutions' , 'adaptations' or 'outcomes/pathways' at village level. I might have engaged more with Amartya Sen's reconfiguration of development as human 'capability enhancement' and his identification of forms of 'entitlement' (see interesting disc. in Clark 2007). The point here is that understanding a livelihood system and finding entry points to improve it requires a set of core techniques. Rural research tends to oscillate around these, sometimes inventing new ways to study similar phenomena. And, aiding rural people to advance their own livelihoods in a lasting way through provision of advice, access, funds, or power also tends to come back to a similar set of issues. So, a tradition of searching for 'entry points' to positive livelihood enhancement also exists in the fields of community development, in farming systems research, and many other areas although biased in one way or another toward technical, political, or economic solutions. Rural people largely ignore all of these frameworks. The frameworks are designed to keep up with what people actually do. Robert Chambers, at IDS, introduced ''sustainable livelihoods' in his 1987 paper. "Chambers claims to have calculatedly conjoined the two words, making a new phrase in order to arouse curiosity, to challenge conventional thinking and to insert a new idea into established discourse" Solesbury 2003, 21. In the UK innovative work on developing-world rural livelihoods and agrarian systems was well underway by the mid 1990s at IDS, UEA, IIED, and ODI, and at universities like Leeds, Bradford, Wolverhampton, Birmingham, UCL, Manchester and elsewhere. In fact, the sudden arrival of the sustainable livelihoods approach in British development thinking surprised even those who had helped to formulate it: "The SLA case is a remarkable story of research influencing policy. Over less than a decade, between 1987 and 1997, an idea that originated from researchers, conceptualizing both emergent theory and practice, was adopted as a guiding principle of UK development policy." Solebury 2003:23. Indeed it was. As DfID research document notes, reviewing one of the most important origins of the approach, even the formulators of key concepts were a bit surprised by the sudden adoption of the approach - like IDS's Ian Scoones who wrote an influential short working paper in 1998:                                                              1

Richards was transitioning from geography to anthropology in the early 1980s.



"The IDS Working Paper ‘Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: a framework for analysis’ was produced in 1998 as an ‘in-house’ document but, at a time when the Government was formulating its approach to sustainable development, Scoones notes “it took on a momentum of its own . . . Suddenly a whole branch of DFID and millions of pounds was being fed into this.” Within a year the IDS Working Paper, produced at a retreat by the sustainable livelihood project research team, had provided the explicit structure for the whole DFID approach to livelihoods" (ESCOR 2001). The SL framework has many advantages for both researchers and development practitioners. It brought together a relational approach to institutions, practices, and forms of 'capital', and provided innovative ideas to DFID just as it was being created by the new Labour Government. I describe some of the key elements of the approach in the next section. This phase of 'Sustainable livelihoods as government aid policy ' was probably implemented with unnecessary zeal. For example, one major DfID-funded research programme that had gone on for several years, on the activities of people on the periurban interface of Kumasi, Ghana, had to be re-configured – well after data collection was complete - to fit with 'sustainable livelihoods framework'. Reading the final report of this project, one can sense the frustration of the writers as they tried to force their findings in to a new research template that they hadn't used in the field (Brook and Davila 2000). In the 1990s, in response the rising tide of livelihoods talk in the UK and to some extent in the US as well, Some NGOs like Oxfam, Actionaid and CARE refocused some of their sectoral development efforts around the improvement of household livelihoods. Among researchers, in addition to UK teams at the key institutions funded by DfID and ESRC, further research programmes soon emerged, for example on livelihood diversification at Leiden in the Netherlands, where Debbie Bryceson was then based (and where livelihood supporter Leo De Haan now works). Fast forward. In 2008 there are no sustainable livelihoods research or policy groups in DfID to my knowledge. The Rural Livelihoods Department has gone. In the agency, there is far less evidence of support to the particular development agenda suggested by sustainable livelihoods approaches than there was 10 years ago.2 The key internet links to documents on the DfID homepage below, offers no guidance for readers concerned with the agency's support to rural livelihoods. It seem the key preoccupations of DfID are now much more aligned with The Millennium Development Goals (2000), and with targeted support for fragile states, institution-building, governance, and specific MDG concerns like women's rights. Mirroring trends in UK government thinking, climate change now receives specific attention as a development issue – this is welcome, but does not replace a broader focus on rural livelihoods since it is 'sectoral' support for 'adaptation'. 3                                                              2

Although sustainable agricultural production systems do feature in some research programmes, and there is support to other organisations like the Uganda Land Alliance for SL work. 3

DfID is one of the UK agencies committing to support the Bali adaptation fund for example (research contribution of £3 million to a WB led study of adaptation announced Dec 11 2007), and recognises the particular effects of natural disasters and climatic uncertainties on the poor and their 'livelihoods'. The Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) initiative is jointly funded by DFID with Canada.








Good government

ow aid is spent

iller diseases




Who gets aid?

Women's rights


Some of the champions within DfID of the SL approach, like Mike Scott and Jane Clark, have retired or moved to other posts. Livelihoods Connect, ( a research and information site funded by DfID, is still being maintained but it is run by a small team at IDS. It does still organise meetings and networking activities, most recently in November 2007. The loss of this multi-million pound investment and an 'official' paradigm between c.2001 and 2005 is troubling. The loss seems to go unremarked in the literature (I can find no reference to the reasons for change in the available DfID documents). Having myself been out of the UK for that period, I cannot speculate with any accuracy on the reasons, although I am sure that the MDGs, 9-11-2001/ terrorism, the departure of Clare Short, and changing staffing must be responsible. Charitably, DfID's current focus on getting institutions right and scrutinising governance may be construed as a progressive acknowledgement that development relies on a favourable political economy that needs to be ameliorated. Less charitably, this shift is about peddling normative models of good governance, and reducing spending on concrete and material (but difficult) assistance directly to the poor. Having been involved in a major governance project funded by DfID (involving political economists at the LSE), I have my suspicions that the change was well in place even as funding peaked to livelihoods research in 2000-1, and some researchers welcomed this. Similar trends in funding can be found in other national aid agencies like AUSAID, now concerned more with Pacific and Asian governance than with livelihoods ($14 million just committed for a study of governance, 2007- source Michael Woolcock).




Internationally, there has of course not been a demise of 'sustainable livelihoods thinking'. There is a continued focus on support to livelihoods and poverty alleviation across many development agencies and government initiatives. Oxfam operate support programs to agriculture in Ethiopia, Honduras, and India. Their Australian office has plenty of programs from Sri Lanka to Polynesia. In their project 'Building sustainable livelihoods in the semi-arid north east of Brazil', Oxfam UK have been working to "Change people’s view that the semi-arid areas are places of suffering and that they need to leave them and move to the cities." Oxfam 2006. Similarly CARE has a long involvement with livelihoods support. In a 2005 paper, McCaston et al show how the household livelihood security (HLS) framework – similar to the well-known diagrammatic representations of livelihoods circulated by IDS and DfID evolved, and how it drew upon a vital element of the approach: Amartya Sen's analysis of capabilities. For CARE, HLS comprises "1) The possession of human capabilities (e.g., education, skills, health, psychological orientation); 2) access to other tangible and intangible assets (social, natural, and financial capital); and 3) the existence of economic activities". (Mccaston et al 2005:11). For CARE, supporting an HLS involves improvement of rights and institutions, but also with assets and human needs, as follows: "1. Conditions: Supporting efforts to ensure that people’s basic needs are met and that they attain livelihood security with regard to such needs. 2. Improving Social Positions: Supporting people’s efforts to take control of their lives and fulfil their rights, responsibilities and aspirations. Supporting efforts to end inequality and discrimination. 3. Creating a Sound Enabling Environment: Supporting efforts to create a sound enabling environment – public, private, civic and social institutions – that is responsive to and inclusive of constituents and that fosters just and equitable societies." (McCaston et al 2005 p17) This agenda, driving a practical development organization, is consistent with DfID's few years of support to sustainable livelihoods. But is clear that point 3 above is the issue that now occupies DfID, at least, most centrally. In the research world, the loss of a livelihood focus in DfID has been less apparent. After all, this is only one agency. There have continued to be many studies and projects that identify multiple livelihood strategies pursued by the rural poor. The latest of particular interest includes the first efforts to apply the approach to development problems in Aboriginal Australia (where poverty is mediated by a western welfare system) by Jocelyn Davies et al (forthcoming). Livelihoods identification and support is deemed important in post-disaster situations, as Mubarak shows (2006) and xx show for mitigating the effects of volcanic eruptions. The biggest research thrust, however, has been a sustained effort to identify the main contours of livelihood diversification. Diversification emerges as a key feature of how people respond to globalisation trends, to neo-liberal reform agendas, and to endemic poverty. Studies by Debbie Bryceson and Frank Ellis have been the most comprehensive at illuminating these trends (Bryceson 2002, Ellis 2000). The academic debate, as Meagher shows (1995), is about whether diversification away from core activities and often to cities and towns is good for poverty alleviation, or only occurs in the last instance as an unsatisfactory response to endemic poverty. The data is extremely rich on this point, with numerous studies presenting economic data but also  


viewing the issue in relation to environmental conditions and assets in diversified economies (Jokisch 2002, Batterbury 2001 on Niger). There has also been a protracted debate about the intellectual merits of the SL framework itself - particularly the use of terms like 'capitals'. Some have argued that the building and maintaining of 'political capital' is an essential component of sustainable livelihoods, since, following decades of research, we know full well that an absence of political power means potential marginalisation and exploitation. Perhaps, therefore, a lack of power is not just part of the 'vulnerability context' but power should be seen as a capital asset itself (De Haan, Zoomers 2005). There have been further worries that social capital is an anodyne concept, shorn of politics, befitting agencies like the World Bank who have on occasion used it to describe horizontal, rather than more challenging vertical, social networks (Fine 2000, but see Bebbington and Woolcock 2006). Some, particularly anthropologists and sociologists, dislike the use of 'capitals' at all, since this conceals particular trajectories that emerge over time not because people juggle forms of capital, but because they pursue patterns of behaviour embedded in culture. It could be that different people get to the same livelihood through completely different 'pathways'. This makes development intervention by conventional means extremely difficult (De Haan, Zoomers 2005). One question raised by these reflections is whether DfID, in reorienting their priorities away from livelihoods between 2001-5, have 'moved on', or have actually 'copped out' in some way from analysing, and implementing, some difficult questions and priorities. Here we have to separate out the SL framework from other avowed development policies. With the agency now interested in national level political and economic reform and other types of governance changes, and in the national and regional targets mentioned in PRSP documents, do these translate into concrete development on the ground? An issue of World Development I edited in 2006 (Batterbury 2006) found little evidence that the governance agenda – pegged in this case to decentralisation of control over natural resources - was succeeding in poverty and development terms. In the ten countries addressed by the papers, deconcentration of state powers rather than release of power by central authorities to localities seem to be occurring. Significant neoliberal management arrangements accompanied these governance reforms (Batterbury 2006, see also Scoones and Wolmer 2003). In Bihar, India for example, Véron and Corbridge found that strong decentralisation of political powers resulted in increased levels of corruption. Bebbington and Woolcock found Indonesia's governance changes after 1998 had failed to benefit the communities they surveyed, creating greater uncertainties. Wilder and Lankao in Mexico found that the Mexican government's adoption of neoliberal reforms had led to local edjido control of irrigation water allocation becoming monetized, raising prices to the rural poor. Elements of the SLA The SLA approach says that households and individuals – in rural and urban settings, in poorer and less poor communities – juggle 'capital assets' in their livelihood systems. They are vulnerable to shocks, which are of natural and human creation and of uneven duration (e.g. volcanic eruptions, floods, price changes, political oppression) and their juggling of assets is strongly mediated through different structures and processes. The outcomes of human efforts to adapt to changing circumstances and shocks are termed 'outcomes' and the model hopes that the positive ones are 'sustainable' over long periods. Human agency has feed backs – outcomes change vulnerabilities, livelihoods change capital assets. This is therefore a dynamic model, but not generally ascribed numeric values. In the model below, I have amended the DfID framework to show the strong link between the human dimensions of structure and agency, making this the heart of the livelihoods system.  


Mike Mortimore preceded the arrival of SLA with his own studies as I have mentioned. Here is a summary of his take on the issues "A new livelihoods development model reflects this reality. Central to it is the household, which combines producers, managers and consumers. Since we are concerned with farmers, it possesses both land and labour. It is subject to environmental and economic pressures (including those derived from policy), which influence its allocations of labour, capital, and other factors among its economic activities. These may be based on natural resources (crop and livestock production, harvesting of wild products, etc.) and/or on labour (diversifying incomes, migration, education, adapting family and other institutions). This ‘twin-track’ framework of decision-making is reflected in the two sides of the model. Knowledge, skills and capital offer a framework of opportunities and constraints. Where activities are managed on a household basis, capital generated by one activity can often be invested in a different one. Thus, the two sides of the model suggest a dynamic balance whose exact specifications result from the circumstances of a particular household. The model assumes that a rural household (and, of course, an individual within it) has a capacity to make rational decisions to respond to changing opportunities or constraints, including those offered by markets. The research supports this assumption. Hence, policy should enhance people’s ability to take advantage of opportunities, rather than directing or prescribing what they should do with their assets." Mortimore et al 2000. Figure 1: A framework for sustainable rural livelihoods

Transforming  Structures and  processes 

Vulnerability Context   • Local  environmental  and social context   • Short‐term shocks  and hazards  • Long‐term or  episodic change 

Adaptations  and strategies   

Structures • Government,  state actors   • Private sector   & markets   • kin and ethnic  networks  • NGO sector   •   Processes ‐   •

Capital assets • • • • •

Livelihood  outcomes    Technological and  economic  diversity –     changes in    

Natural Capital   Social Capital  Physical Capital  Human Capital  Economic Capital 

• • •

Policies –  including  development  assistance  Incentives  Institutions,  rules, sanctions 


• • • • •

    Adaptive  Strategies 


  Adaptive  processes 


Batterbury and Forsyth 1999, Adapted [a lot] from Carney 1998, Scoones 1998 Key – core livelihood system



income levels   wellbeing  resilience  food security  resource  exploitation  patterns  Institutional  dynamics  Flows of  people and  capital 

The 'Watts-Mortimore debate' was a phrase that circulated when I was a PhD student in America. It exemplifies the debate between the Marxian political economy approach to livelihoods, and the behaviouralist, adaptive framework used more by farming systems research, by economists, and in a modified form by Mortimore. Empirically, it concerns Northern Nigerian development paths. For Mike Watts (1983), a Marxist human geographer who conducted extensive work in northern Nigeria in the 1980s, peasant farmers were super-exploited by an uncaring British colonial regime, and subsequently by the fast-capitalism of the oil-fuelled Nigerian independent state. Failure of their markets for ag. products, and famine during the major droughts of the 1970s and 80s, may be traced to combinations of greed and poor governance at both proximate and distant locations (British administrations, the oil revenues sources from the Niger delta, national politics). For Mortimore, the quote above reveals his perspective – regardless of the ups and downs of Nigeria's economic and political performance, farmers get by – and more importantly they 'get on', building livelihoods out of, and despite of, adversity and prosperity. The 'local responses' he identifies are given below. Mortimore remains neutral on the role of markets, while Watts sees the monetization of the economy over time as generally exploitative for large segments of the population. Mortimore trusts that peasant farmers survive and prosper through combinations of agricultural intensification (essential given densities around Kano), and diversifying into livestock ownership, into small business activity, and into livelihood-enhancing migration. His is a view from the bottom up and like Richards (1985) it retains a populist faith in human ingenuity. Watts, with a view (in his later work) from the political economic structure (and to some extent from the village as well), sees peasant households as enmeshed in an oil-capitalist-state nexus, without obvious exits. Yes, people are ingenious, but they do so in the context of an economic growth agenda that created more economic differentiation, and before that a British colonial administration that fuelled the loss of pre-colonial reciprocal self-help institutions. People lose out in all of this to permit the gains of a few. I will return to the implications of this debate, which run through livelihoods studies, later.




Transition Land use intensification

Economic diversification

nstitutional change

Demographic transition

Components labor/capital intensification Crop-livestock integration Conservation Tree husbandry

Arbiter of change Population density Technologies/tools, inputs Investment resources Knowledge of new practices Value of products Enabling climatic conditions/biophysical environment Monetization Knowledge of financial opportunities Income diversification Urbanization Mobility/migration Markets Transport Finance Time and labor availability Individual assessments of risk Social networks Displacement Intra-household dynamics Institutional reform Changes in law or custom Wealth distribution Social differentiation Gender and age roles New division of labor Development interventions Access to education and knowledge Government incentives, orAvailability of government, NGO or frameworks other finance Fertility behavior Mortality Development interventions Fertility preferences (family planning etc.) Migration Perceptions of poverty and wealth

Local responses to transitions‐Mortimore Source: adapted from Mortimore 1998 :184 This debate exemplifies one aspect of the governance-livelihood debate that surely must have been discussed at DfID over the last few years. Had Mortimore's view held sway, the agency would have backed more 'capability enhancement' to poor producers – easing market entry for crops and livestock through micro credit, supporting the informal sector, and even, more adventurously, supporting rural-urban or rural-rural out migration to achieve remittances. As Oxford's Hein de Haas points out (2007), the migration stream from northern Nigeria is extensive – for Watts it is driven by privation and to 'get by', for Mortimore also by a desire to make money and to 'get on'. DfID must have debated these issues. Take this quote written at the height of the livelihoods boom: "The starting point is a full understanding of the causes of poverty and of the opportunities open to households to improve their livelihoods. The underlying principles reflect the diversity of poor people’s livelihoods and the need to analyse these in a holistic manner. They stress the inter-relationship between community level activities and the broader policy and institutional framework (“the rules of the game”). They recognise that people’s priorities and opportunities change. Programmes which seek to reduce poverty must be dynamic and respond to these evolving opportunities. The livelihood principles acknowledge that “sustainability” encompasses economic, environmental, institutional and social parameters. One of the priorities of this research programme is to develop a better understanding of the policies and institutional arrangements which help to promote access to “capital



assets” by the rural poor and reduce vulnerability to the shocks which can undermine their livelihoods." DFID RESEARCH: 1999/2000 In other words, look at agency and structure in tension – two poles of the WattsMortimore debate. But, somehow, the 'sustainability parameters' have not received equal attention in development policy since that time. In our own work, Tony Bebbington and I tried to think though what livelihood analysis would entail and to analyse certain systems as they were found. We were not, like DfID, trying to alleviate or eliminate poverty directly. This built on Tony's earlier elaboration of a deceptively simple melding of 'capitals' and 'capabilities' (Bebbington 1999). For him, "A person's assets, such as land, are not merely means with which he or she makes a living: they also give meaning to that person's world. Assets are not simply resources that people use in building livelihoods: they are assets that give them the capability to be and to act. Assets should not be understood only as things that allow survival, adaptation and poverty eradication: they are also the basis of agents' power to act and to reproduce, challenge or change the rules that govern the control, use and transformation of resources." (1999: 2022) This presents a satisfactory response to the Watts-Mortimore agency/structure debate. Bebbington and I, working separately, were interested in conducting grounded research on local livelihood systems, in which meaning, material assets, and other 'capitals' had to be considered. The arrival of a framework to do this in the 1990s merely assisted researchers in the cultural and political ecology and agrarian studies traditions to show how local livelihoods and knowledge actually work. The SL framework did introduce some new ideas and concepts. It made us think about issues like asset transferability and capital switching. Thus in a Zarma village in SW Niger, our team (Batterbury/Warren/Chappell/Osbahr/Allen and IoH Wallingford) was able to demonstrate that Zarma farmers were prepared to 'sacrifice' fertile soils on their important millet fields to wind and water erosion, because they could 'switch' into cash incomes from migration and business activity (Warren et al 2001). Andrew Warren and I managed to quantify these links using new techniques (normally they are merely asserted), and extended the human centred livelihoods framework to look at the impact of human activities on 'landscapes' (measuring soil flux as a surrogate variable for erosion, while Henny Osbahr focused on soil fertility in the same plots and households). We correlated the extent of livelihood diversification in households over the last few years with a 30 year measurement of erosion on their main fields. We found that 'natural' capital (topsoil) was sacrificed at a greater rate in households that had extensive nonagricultural activities, due to labour shortages and a reordering of priorities. Soil sustainability was compromised for livelihood sustainability. Some of the most important findings of our work centred around gendered strategies of livelihood diversification, finding that women household members not only perceived changes to their livelihood systems differently to men over a 40 year time period, but exploited different natural and social assets at different time to men. The structures present in the village – Islamic codes, a weak state, and an indifferent colonial period prior to the 1960s – were important to the story but the region had, like Northern Nigeria, largely been abandoned by state and development agencies in the 1990s due to national political instability and economic bankruptcy. Without a strong set of external actors, actors responded to threats and vulnerabilities using local resources and networks. This involved long distance migration by 34% of men, but also included business activity by both men and women, of which fuel wood collection and livestock husbandry were the most lucrative. Also the meanings given to land degradation differed. The fight to counter it meant more to the households more reliant on their agriculture. Only they were likely to respond to agronomic advice or to erosion control techniques. The government and scientists  


regarded any soil loss as bad, uniformly deriding farmer efforts in favour of modernist interventions like improved millet varieties. Bebbington and I also began to think that I the two regions where we worked, the West African Sahel and the Andes, transnational livelihoods extend well beyond the region, and these movements generate new landscapes. The fact that highland Andean people migrated down slope and overseas in large numbers has long been recognised, and Sahelian migration network have taken people south in large numbers, and now, increasingly, north to Saharan edge settlements and perhaps eventually to Europe (de Haas 2007). Bebbington (2001) describes successful and less successful cases of change in Andean livelihoods, in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. One case from Salinas in Ecuador demonstrates the growth of a local dairying industry that helped to stem male out migration since providing local employment. In each case, livelihood success was not autonomous; it involved other agencies. Importantly, it was a Catholic mission that gave the first credit to buy livestock, and there was help from a Swiss dairying cooperative, and a local co-op. Elsewhere he has noted positive welfare outcomes from the long term presence of Dutch NGOs. This has led him to counter the Escobarian argument (1995) that is dismissive of western led development in Latin American and particularly in the Andes, since there are many cases in which positive synergies exist between local livelihood systems and external agencies. External assistance keeps farmers in their communities and places rather than leaving them entirely, although they exploit transnational opportunities as well. The transnational livelihoods and landscapes approach to SL work still has currency, not least for geographers who are keen to analysis both the social and the environmental transformations that occur in agrarian and pastoral systems. Thus we were keen to stress the "the analytical value of grounding political ecologies of globalization in notions of livelihood, scale, place and network." (Bebbington and Batterbury 2001:370). Or these four, our keenness to retain livelihood as a concept is obvious. The scale dimension encompassed, for us, the extent to which livelihoods draw upon and are influenced by scales – in most cases referring to national policies or transnational migrant networks. Networks constitute the real interactions that occur in local and extra-local webs that bind people to disparate places. Understanding them is an essential part of livelihoods research. " to understand many Andean and Amazonian landscapes, one needs to unpick the workings of global civil society, development discourses and international development agencies in Europe and the USA (Perreault, Bebbington); and to understand economic decisions taken by rural households in Niger, one must also look to the villages and towns of Côte d’Ivoire (Batterbury) " (Bebbington and Batterbury 2001:375) And one may add, the networks that bind communities to authority figures, the state, village associations, and so-on – namely forms of governance, which was weakly addressed in my Niger study. Lastly, places - we saw "rural places have been reconstituted through their relationships to global flows and exchanges." 375. I have been quite forceful about retaining a place-base focus in several livelihood studies, engaging with debates abut land ownership and asset control, access arrangements, local environmental conditions, the extent to which remittances and knowledge return to a home place, and how diasporic communities are still anchored – rather than floating free from – places. This is particularly evident in highland East Timor, the subject of new research with colleagues, in which 425 years of colonial rule by Portugal and then Indonesia has resulted in much diminished livelihood opportunities by SE Asian standards, but very great place-based social capital. Subsistence livelihoods dominate and markets are limited: the main engagement farmers have to external actors has been through the predations of the Indonesian occupying armed forces till 99, and  


subsequently UN peacekeepers. Farmers simply lack the ability to use their labour (human capital) to source sufficient financial capital. Social networks of reciprocity are, therefore, still strong; yet trust is weak in some cases since a fictive conflict between people of different origins (who are to outsiders the same) has become violent since 2006. In this case vulnerabilities are numerous, opportunities for capital switching are constrained, and the institutional structures and actor responses of the livelihood system have yet to yield many positive outcomes. Some agencies in East Timor – Oxfam in particular – have been conducting livelihoods work, and we hope to offer more sustained research. Some of this discussion must again raise challenges to the changing aid agenda and the de-emphasis on targeted support to rural livelihoods (Bryceson 2002). But where such support to livelihoods, to both research and action, was available, did it work? Bebbington's (2001) examples suggest that, in certain cases, yes. Rapid livelihood surveys conducted after the Asian tsunami also seem appreciated. But a paper by Frost et al (2007) gives cause for concern. British and Zimbabwean based researchers and CARE, working in two small river catchments in Chivi, Zimbabwe, had a livelihoods project worth $750,000, sourced largely from DfID's research scheme (R7304). They conducted their work from 1999-2002, but one of these catchments have earlier been studied with $1m of funding over 4 yrs. A year of participant observation by 2 researchers provided good data on livelihood strategies. Economists were able to calculate how much support to the revealed strategies and activities (micro credit loans, irrigated gardens, livestock purchase and husbandry) would improve incomes, to see if such support was viable. Investing in horticultural gardens for example failed due to lack of markets, labour shortage and poor administration. To overcome marketing problems an impractical level of investment in new road infrastructure would be needed. Common property woodland areas were degraded and multiple CPR arrangements precluded easy intervention. Part of the problem here was the research foci on catchments, which did not mesh with administrative units, traditional land use patterns, or patterns of movement. Rainfall, and the macro economy, were identified as the key determinants of income, rather than local livelihood support mechanisms. Neither of these was amenable to project support. The team concludes that they 'failed to uncover practical ways of significantly reducing poverty' for their focus on small catchments and their populations. . a 'Lack of natural capital seriously constrained the development of human, social, financial and physical capital'. Chivi farmers were differentiated, lack sufficient land, and suffered the neoliberalisation of markets as well as the early stages of Zimbabwe's present economic breakdown. The authors call for substantially more development aid in such cases, rather than for actions targeted at the level of the Zimbabwean state and its effects over poor infrastructure, markets and land, as I would have expected. No mention is made of remittances from South Africa, which surely must have been present and would have led to a certain lack of engagement with catchment management. Conclusion Livelihoods thinking, and sustainable livelihoods frameworks, were a welcome addition to the efforts of national development agencies in the UK and beyond to get to grips with rural poverty. Regardless of their tensions and lacunae, they extended an already strong tradition in rural and particularly agrarian research of studying people-in-place, and the material and nonmaterial dimensions of constructing a life. The research that was bankrolled by the sudden increase in livelihoods work in the 1990s – the "DfID policy moment" in the UK - was often of high quality. It has continued to this day, suggesting that research is both valuable, fundable, and deemed worthwhile by those that undertake it and participate in it. This is grounded research, very different from the international research architecture developing around climate change than began as consultations among experts, politicians and powerful nonstate actors, and  


only latterly has promoted anything concrete at the scale of rural communities (through voluntary and formal CDM projects, for example, in the Arctic, and perhaps under the new Adaptation Fund as I understand it). Livelihoods work has to see problems as rooted in place, orbiting and extending out into networks. However the actions of DfID in embracing, then dropping moving livelihoods policy work and projects is an emblem for development trends more broadly. On the back of an unknown (to me) but guessable political agenda, the focus of an entire agency spending millions of pounds each year was altered. This is itself not surprising (one thinks of the total decline in USAID under successive Presidents, AUSAid embracing unhelpful market based solutions, and cutbacks to DANIDA under the 2001 right wing government in Denmark) – but is nonetheless a lost opportunity. The Zimbabwe case (Frost et al 2007) notwithstanding, SLAs have generally been positive for good development interventions because their focus was at the right scale for the job, and practitioners were concerned with the key issues facing rural households. Governance reform, by contrast, has tried to 'get the institutions right', to empower institutions and communities, but does not work with households in such a material and visible way. It is in large measure abdicating efforts to offer direct support to households through development aid, but is nonetheless improving the capability of institutions that may affect their lives (like devolved governance arrangements). Discourses not only have histories, they also have impacts. Thinking out loud here extending the tentacles of Sahelian (and other African) livelihoods to Europe and beyond, is the ultimate effect of a development agenda that for a century or more has tried to keep people in place, but inadequately supported or 'enabled' livelihood security in those places. Diversification may seem to be a straightforward response to poverty but it can actually challenge the world order (!). While forging new land uses and population dynamics in source regions, it destabilises the development discourse of developed/developing regions. It signals to those in countries subject to extensive international in-migration in the west, that issues of rural survival and income generation in Africa, Latin America and Asia are closer to home than they assumed. (witness the debate over legalisation of Central American workers in the USA) .Therefore it helps to challenge western complacency about poverty in developing countries. The fact that migration – national and international to the west – does not, as we know, necessarily yield satisfaction or lucrative livelihoods for all those that pursue it – merely tells us that, as Watts and Bernstein have argued, that capitalism works to a global scale. The empirical study of diversification that accompanied livelihoods studies has been valuable in unpacking some of these issues. Landscapes created by diversification and by livelihood decision-making are a key concern, especially given the new global panic over water availability, climatic change, and loss of land cover and its contribution to climatic forcing and emissions. The Amazon basin is perhaps the most urgent case because of its role in the biosphere. Thousands of researchers are working on how population movements are affecting deforestation rates, and looking for entry points to stem a globally significant characteristic of endemic poverty and entrepreneurialism – 'leapfrogging' patterns of forest clearance. (…?) Landscapes are, in part, a result of livelihood decisions - investment in business, in livestock, in forestry, etc. A pattern of resource use can diminish or improve land cover, biodiversity, or degradation. But the migration and spread of peoples away from their home places reduces place/resource-dependency for the rural poor ('one less mouth to feed' as a Nigerien women told me when her husband migrated away for work in 1997) and creates different environments. These include startling, depopulated 'remittance landscapes' (as in Morocco or highland Ecuador, where capital earned elsewhere is invested in houses and land purchase) and unknown effects on new destinations like the northern Saharan towns now occupied by West African migrants.  


Scoones and Wolmer (2003) reflect on their own, central involvement in the SL boom, and what was missing from the rather depoliticised frameworks present in some work. But they go on to say But a sustainable livelihoods approach has encouraged, for some, a somewhat deeper and critical reflection. This arises in particular from looking at the consequence of development efforts from a local-level perspective, making the links from the micro-level situated particularities of poor people’s livelihoods to wider-level institutional and policy framings at district, provincial, national and even international levels. Such reflections therefore put into sharp relief the importance of complex institutional and governance arrangements, and the key relationships between livelihoods, power and politics. Sccones and Wolmer 2003: 5 This mirrors what Bebbington and I said in 2001 on what a livelihoods-inspired research agenda might look like: "At the very least, it means that empirical understanding of these different ideas, aspirations and engagements with the global becomes critical for any effort to conceptualize a notion of alternative development, or of resistance to development." Bebbington and Batterbury. 2001 And the implication for researchers is this, "And it may be more helpful to think of a broader enterprise in which political ecology, cultural geography, development studies and environmental politics are all involved, even if they have differing entry points. This broader enterprise is one that struggles to understand the ways in which peoples, places and environments are related and mutually constituted, and the ways in which these constitutions are affected by processes of globalization" 377. Phew. And that is not all. The vulnerability context on the SL diagram could be a very big box. The global context is that over the last 10 years, since DfID put out a call for research on livelihoods and the UEA (LADDER) and IDS (SL) projects got going, global institutions have altered their architecture. New actors have entered the scene, notably in Africa, Asian agencies and firms are seeking natural resources and obtaining them with private deals. Elsewhere there are the mining companies, the global climate crisis is at last being tackled seriously, there are new political conflicts, Iraq, and new political regimes that are more, or less, hostile to the plight of the rural poor. In this context, I feel sure that western aid agencies now have less relative influence. I would suggest that sustainable livelihoods are, in many of the places discussed in this paper, looking less achievable as a result.

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