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Project Record

Livelihood diversification and the rural poor: creating the capacity for a strategic response in Southern Asia

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 Miscellaneous (Sustainable Agriculture)
 Central Research Department (now Research and Evidence Division)

  Southern Asia, Asia
  Bangladesh, India, Nepal

Policy reform options to reduce the vulnerability of poor, rural people developed and promoted.

Previous research has shown that poor people generally see diversification as a means of adding part-time or seasonal work to existing activities, which offers them lower vulnerability and/or greater income, and is thus a key aspect of livelihood strategies.

Governments see diversification as sectoral or targetted on the poor, and as adding new, full-time activities in new enterprises. The central problem is that how governments perceive diversification overlaps only to a limited extent with the ways poor people perceive it.

The central research idea is that government strategy (ie change of policies, organisations and procedures) can be improved to enable poor people to reduce vulnerability and increase income more effectively, more quickly and more sustainably than at present. A specific hypothesis in relation to diversification states that:

*Poor people build diversification strategies sensitive to their context and livelihood strategies, which differ substantially from those of the less poor, but channels for articulating their requirements are limited.

*Government does not fully recognise these strategies, or respond adequately.

*There are new options open to government.

*Workable procedures can be devised to allow government to exploit these.

Phase 1:
A report on the inception workshop.

A brief report on methods and concepts.

A full research proposal.

Phase 2:
A typology of how the diversification strategies of the poor are constructed and managed under differing vulnerability and other conditions.

A set of rapid appraisal methods for field-level use by government, donors and NGOs to understand better the causes, scope and dynamics of poor people's diversification strategies and to identify appropriate types and sequences of external support.

Reports on the results of the detailed field studies.

Reports on how and why public support to diversification varies in type and effectiveness between two Indian States.

Reports on how and why public sector diversification initiatives vary in type and effectiveness in relation to local forest management (Nepal/MP); local employment creation; long distance employment creation; self-employment and microfinance (Bangladesh/AP).

Case studies and report on the influence of peoples movements in relation to diversification.

Phase 3:
A report on a regional workshop for all stakeholders to assess the results of the research, to receive unsolicited contributions to the work, and to modify plans for dissemination as necessary.

A guide for governments, NGOs and donors, presenting good practice in relation to supporting diversified livelihoods of the poor.

A set of procedures to indicate how government strategies (embracing changes in policies, structures and processes, and involving prioritisation and sequencing) can be designed consisent with poor people's livelihood strategies and priorities.

A set of self-learning computer-based training materials appropriate for use in senior public sector training institutes.

Four reports compariing S.Asian and southern African evidence and prospects in relation to progress in public sector reform related to the uptake of SL approaches; local government reform; an overview of the scope for strengthening peoples movement; and an overview of how the process of implementing SL perspectives can be improved.

A book summarising opportunities and challenges facing new policy for support of SL diversification.

Brief report for DFID use on lessons and implications for implementing SL approaches.

Fully functioning research and policy networks.

A discussion platform on the prospects for success of the Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas act in India has generated very active participation in the discussion. Village level studies on how local policy and political processes influence the outcomes of livelihood relevant government schemes are well under way.

Research is focusing on the extent to which observed livelihood changes over time can be attributed to the improved provision of microfinance services. Fieldwork is complete, and analysis of the data is under way.

Work in Nepal has been held up as a result of the recent upheavals. A national analysis seeks to review government policy, institutional set up and legislative framework in relation to rural livelihoods.

More information, and initial research findings, can be obtained from the project website.

Phase 1 - Apr 2000-Sept 2000
Phase 2 - Oct 2000-Mar 2003


NRH 794/135/001A