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Sustainable Livelihoods: arrival, departure and persistence


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Presentation by Simon Batterbury from the University of Melbourne, at the Sustainable Livelihoods Approaches (SLA) seminar on 26th January 2011 at the Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK.

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Sustainable Livelihoods: arrival, departure and persistence

  1. 1. Sustainable Livelihoods: arrival, departure, and persistence Simon Batterbury Resource Management & Geography/ OEP University of Melbourne, Australia 26 Jan 2011
  2. 2. arrival <ul><li>Roots </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Agrarian political economy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New household economics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sen on capability, IDS/ Chambers&Conway, Bebbington ‘capitals and capabilities’ </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>PRA > household scale projects, e.g. gestion des terroirs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>IDS > Uptake in DfID </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Agency and NGO uptake </li></ul>
  3. 3. departure <ul><li>SL ideas were apparently too expensive, uncomfortable, unworkable, or radical </li></ul><ul><li>From 2002 - much more programme-based aid, capacity-building and direct national budget support: “ Going out into the field to understand the assets that people build upon and the real constraints they face has been abandoned in favour of engaging at a national level .” Clark & Carney (2008) </li></ul><ul><li>Sustainable livelihoods, by focusing on the rural & urban poor and their persistent vulnerability, as traced to markets, politics and economic growth, challenged the economic growth paradigm - and had an uneasy relationship with ‘good governance’ [eg LSE Crisis States] </li></ul><ul><li>2011 DfID Business plan – “ Make British international development policy more focussed on boosting economic growth and wealth creation ” – same as AUSAID. Write to “DFID Business plan consultation ‘ by end Jan! </li></ul>
  4. 4. persistence <ul><li>This rapid policy-cycling was premature </li></ul><ul><li>rural poverty since 2002 has been made worse by food shortage, conflicts and land grabs [eg East Timor] </li></ul><ul><li>national poverty reduction strategies have shown indifferent progress on sectoral, targeted MDGs, and good governance; </li></ul><ul><li>environmental drivers of vulnerability have refocussed aid, too late, with the overdue realization that the environment (and climate change) matters for every sector and every life; </li></ul><ul><li>neoliberal, market-driven economic agendas and policies, that continue to adversely affect the ‘subjects’ of development and lead to inequality. </li></ul><ul><li>Outside DfID and the UK </li></ul><ul><li>SL have spread virally, and gone global </li></ul><ul><li>Monitoring generally suggests positive outcomes. </li></ul><ul><li>The approach has expanded from initial trials in Africa and South Asia and is now used in western societies where social protection exists (Davies et al, 2008), and in other linguistic traditions (Gaillard & Sourisseau 2009). </li></ul>
  5. 7. <ul><li>Timor Leste </li></ul><ul><li>Land tenure changes affects livelihood chances </li></ul><ul><li>Study 2008-9, funding USIP </li></ul>4 village study in 2 regions. Q. How will a shift to formalised land tenure affect communities?
  6. 8. <ul><li>Rural life involves majority poverty with few ‘exit options’. Periodic food insecurity </li></ul><ul><li>40% earn under US55c/day </li></ul><ul><li>75% of the population practice highland agriculture, with maize as main crop, also rice in lowlands </li></ul><ul><li>Infrastructure extremely poor, especially after militia actions and sabotage in 99 </li></ul><ul><li>Primacy of Dili, but high unemployment and occasional violence since ‘99, esp. in 2006 </li></ul>Dili from the south
  7. 9. What people would like <ul><li>Surveys of 20-30 individuals in four communities reveal ‘recognition of customary governance systems’ by government is desired, plus provision of better services and infrastructure. Some roads would help. </li></ul><ul><li>No desire to go back to an interventionist state (particularly in the East), as Indonesia was, that would formalise land tenure. State intervention only needed in exceptional cases of conflicts over territory or land uses </li></ul><ul><li>Fear of communal untitled land being appropriated by the state (this is a severe concern) </li></ul><ul><li>Access to credit (but not by using property deeds to get credit). (this is happening through basic govt. grants using oil revenues) </li></ul><ul><li>End to ‘people out of parks’ fight with government. Some anticipatory clearfelling in proposed park to assert usefruct is already occurring </li></ul><ul><li>Support to the moral economy rather than to ‘the economy’. Adapting traditional institutions </li></ul><ul><li>However many would like more work in the region for educated youth, and there are elder-youth tensions </li></ul>
  8. 10. thoughts <ul><li>New global challenges are now “finance, food, fuel and climate” (IDS Reimagining Development, 2010). Rather than invent new frameworks and paradigms to tackle these, we have the tools. </li></ul><ul><li>Livelihood researchers did not, as Scoones (2009) argued, take their eye of the ball and miss these big issues– the approach is necessarily transnational, linking ‘big’ or structural forces to places and people, as geographers and anthropologists have always done (Bebbington and Batterbury 2001, on transnational livelihoods). </li></ul>
  9. 11. <ul><li>The record of SL thinking on the big issues: </li></ul><ul><li>a) Response to financial downturns and to climatic threats is well understood, particularly where it involves asset juggling to support welfare and reduce vulnerability. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Hundreds of studies document livelihood responses and their environmental dimensions in the African Sahel, for example. We know what we have to do, even if the ‘drivers’ are not local. [Mike Mortimore – 27 years of continuous data on adaptation to drought and livelihood responses] </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Bad governance imperils sustainable livelihoods. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But East Timor is the prime example of a governance reform agenda taking place since 1999 while rural people remained marginalised and lack assistance , embarrassing a well-meaning government. Both approaches are needed in parallel. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Finance - Even as livelihoods diversify, as in rural Africa, people retain an attachment to ‘place’ and to local assets. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They are not ‘isolated’ economic agents free to go where the growth is (Bebbington 1999). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The debate about securing world food production cannot ignore the efforts of rural households, whose ability to continue production requires mitigating structural constraints, whether environmental, institutional, or along a commodity chain. </li></ul><ul><li>The new land grabs for food and biofuels destroy place based livelihoods, and certainly create more inequality. Documenting local effects is a first step. </li></ul>
  10. 12. <ul><li>These are all issues “rooted” in place, but extending into networks and traversing scales, landscapes and livelihoods (Bebbington and Batterbury 2001). </li></ul><ul><li>The SL approach treats the big issues or “drivers” in an non-sectoral way </li></ul>
  11. 13. <ul><li>For researchers, SL approaches help interrogate the vulnerabilities, and human capabilities, in rural development situations while working across the social and natural sciences. </li></ul><ul><li>For practitioners, there is the promise of a more informed, and holistic, approach to project implementation, searching out entry points to livelihood support. </li></ul><ul><li>For people there is the promise of targeted assistance, although modest, and much new knowledge. </li></ul><ul><li>For Amartya Sen, there is the satisfaction that he was right. Again. </li></ul>