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2.1 The livelihoods approach

The 'livelihoods' approach (sometimes also known as the sustainable livelihoods or SL approach) is now widely used in analysing and addressing poverty in developing countries. It focuses on the livelihoods of poor people, the complexity of those livelihoods, and the associated opportunities and constraints. Analysis and intervention in the SL approach is holistic and cuts across individual sectors, reflecting diversity in the livelihoods of poor people.

'A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base.'

Source: Ashley and Carney (1999) p. 4.

What follows below is an outline of what is called the 'livelihoods framework'. You are not expected to have a detailed knowledge and understanding of this framework and all its applications. However since the framework is widely used in development, you should at least be familiar with it.