3.1 The sustainable livelihoods framework and the asset pentagon (2022)

The sustainable livelihoods framework in 3.1.1 is an effort to conceptualise livelihoods in a holistic way, capturing the many complexities of livelihoods, and the constraints and opportunities that they are subjected to. These constraints and opportunities are shaped by numerous factors, ranging from global or national level trends and structures over which individuals have no control, and may not even be aware of, to more local norms and institutions and, finally, the assets to which the households or individual has direct access. For now, we will use the household as a unit of analysis, but as we will discuss in later units, it is important to recognise that not all individuals within a household have equal decision-making power, or benefit equally from household assets or income.

3.1.1 Sustainable livelihoods framework

(Video) Sustainable Livelihood

3.1The sustainable livelihoods framework and the asset pentagon (1)

Source: DFID (1999) p. 1.

The vulnerability context in 3.1.1 refers to the external environment in which people live. This includes trends (such as national or international economic trends, changes in available technology, political systems), shocks (such as illness or death, conflict, weather), and seasonality (of prices, production cycles and so on). The vulnerability context is important because the three factors have a direct impact on the possibilities that poor people have to earn a living now and in the future. Wider economic conditions can create more or fewer opportunities; an illness in the family can deprive a family of an important source of income and can force them to sell important assets that they have built up. Seasonal shifts in prices, production and employment opportunities are one of the most enduring sources of hardship for poor people all over the world.

(Video) M-21. Sustainable livelihoods framework

The 'transforming structures and processes' box refers to the institutions and policies that affect poor peoples' lives, from public and private entities to national policies and local culture. All of these can change both the vulnerability context and the assets to which poor people have access.

The idea of assets is central to the sustainable livelihoods approach. Rather than understanding poverty as simply a lack of income, the sustainable livelihoods approach considers the assets that poor people need in order to sustain an adequate income to live.

Based on those assets, and shaped by the vulnerability context and the transforming structures and processes, poor people are able to undertake a range of livelihood strategies - activities and choices - that ultimately determine their livelihood outcomes. As we discussed earlier, poor people are usually obliged to combine a range of strategies in order simply to survive; individuals may engage in multiple activities, and the different members of a household may live and work in different places. The outcomes that they may achieve, all being well, could include more income, increased well-being, reduced vulnerability and greater food security. Sometimes one outcome can negatively affect another; for example, when poor people engage in less risky, and hence lower income activities, in order to be less vulnerable to shocks.

(Video) Sustainable livelihoods framework

Five types of assets, or capital as they are described in the literature, have been identified that we all, not just poor people, need in order to make a living. These are the following:

  • Human capital: skills, knowledge, the ability to work and good health. Good health is not simply a means to earning a livelihood; it is of course an end in itself.
  • Social capital: the social resources that people draw on to make a living, such as relationships with either more powerful people (vertical connections) or with others like themselves (horizontal connections), or membership of groups or organisations. Generally relationships of trust, reciprocity and exchange that the poor can draw on in times of need, and that lower the costs of working productively together. Like human capital, social capital has an intrinsic value; good social relationships are not simply a means, they are an end in themselves.
  • Natural capital: the natural resource stocks that people can draw on for their livelihoods, including land, forests, water, air and so on.
  • Physical capital: the basic infrastructure that people need to make a living, as well as the tools and equipment that they use. For example, transport and communication systems, shelter, water and sanitation systems, and energy.
  • Financial capital: savings, in whichever form, access to financial services, and regular inflows of money.

The more assets any household has access to, the less vulnerable they will be to negative effects of the trends and shocks as described above, or to seasonality, and the more secure their livelihood will be. Often increasing one type of capital will lead to an increase in other amounts of capital, for example, as people become educated (increase in human capital) they may get a better job which earns more money (increase in financial capital) which in turn means that they are able to upgrade their home and facilities (increase in physical capital). Sometimes, however, one form of capital decreases as another increases. This could be true, for example, where a person or household sells their land to migrate to a city.

The sustainable livelihoods approach is no more than an attempt to provide a tool which is ‘useful to think with’. You might, therefore, find it helpful to ‘test’ the livelihoods framework by trying to assess your own personal situation. The very fact that you are studying this programme suggests that you are more fortunate than most people in your country, or in the world as a whole, or at least that you are not poor. What do you ‘have’, that has enabled you to get to your present status, and that will most likely enable you to progress further, by whatever measures you assess progress?

What shocks have you suffered along the way? Are there trends that you have benefited from? Are there structures and processes that have helped or hindered your progress so far?

(Video) Sustainable Livelihoods and Development - Ian Scoones (2016)

Critiques of the sustainable livelihoods framework

In recent years the prominence of the five capitals has been criticised by development practitioners for focusing too much on the micro-level and neglecting the 'higher' levels of governance, the policy environment, national and global economic growth and so on. This has led, for example, to a limited understanding of how markets work; how processes far from the lives of poor people nonetheless have an enormous impact on the possibilities that exist for them to earn a secure income. These issues are of course captured in the wider sustainable livelihoods framework, within the transforming structures and processes and the 'vulnerability context' but, in practice, many people have used the idea of the five capitals more than they have the linkages between those and the wider environment in which people live. It is very important to keep in mind that the wider environment affects not only the assets to which people have access, but also what can be achieved with those assets.

(Video) Sustainable livelihoods framework

The sustainable livelihoods framework has also been criticised for failing to take power dynamics into consideration, as it relates to gender, for example. Again, while such dynamics are included in the framework, in practice, they have been neglected. In particular, social capital has often been seen as simply 'a good thing' whereas, in reality, social networks can be both inclusive and exclusive, with often the weakest and most vulnerable excluded. They also often involve hierarchical and coercive relationships that limit options for those at the lower levels, and even when relationships are more horizontal than vertical, the obligations that reciprocal relationships involve can be onerous.

All of the criticisms and limitations of the sustainable livelihoods approach outlined above are certainly valid. The approach attempts to summarise in a single set of diagrams and connected terms the extremely complex and diverse reasons for poverty and the possibilities for addressing it. Inevitably, when used in practice it is unwieldy and certain elements will be highlighted more than others depending on the interests of the users. Nonetheless, it remains very useful for our purposes in this module, both for considering the very micro-level details of poor people's livelihoods and for considering the wider context in which those livelihoods operate.

FAQs

What is the sustainable livelihoods framework? ›

The sustainable livelihoods approach is a holistic approach that tries to capture, and provide a means of understanding, the fundamental causes and dimensions of poverty without collapsing the focus onto just a few factors (e.g. economic issues, food security, etc.).

What is livelihood Pentagon? ›

The capital asset pentagon. The livelihood framework identifies five core capital assets (sometimes called livelihood building blocks) upon which livelihoods are built. These are natural, social, human, physical and financial capital.

What are the 5 livelihood assets? ›

There are five different types of assets own by individual to build their livelihoods which consists of natural, social, human, physical and financial assets.

How many livelihood frameworks are there? ›

Of all the five livelihood building blocks, social capital is the most intimately connected to Transforming Structures and Processes (see 2.4). In fact, it can be useful to think of social capital as a product of these structures and processes, though this over-simplifies the relationship.

What do livelihood assets include? ›

Livelihood assets refer to the resource base of the community and of different categories of households. In the centre left of the diagram above we have a pentagon that stands for different types of assets available to local people - human, natural, financial, physical and social. These assets are interlinked.

How can we promote sustainable livelihoods? ›

Principles of sustainable livelihood encompass a holistic set of values that are non-exploitative, promote participation in decision-making, emphasize the quality and creative nature of work, place needs over wants and foster healthy, mutually beneficial relationships among people and between people and their ...

What are the 3 types of livelihood? ›

Livelihood assets (column A) In conventional economics such assets are usually known as factors of production and are typically subdivided into land (natural capital), labour (human capital) and capital (physical and financial capital).

What is the importance of sustainable livelihood? ›

The sustainable livelihoods approach is a way of thinking about the objectives, scope, and priorities for development activities. It is based on evolving thinking about the way the poor and vulnerable live their lives and the importance of policies and institutions. It helps formulate development activities that are.

What are the objectives of livelihood? ›

The objective of the Livelihood Program is to reduce poverty and inequality by generating employment among poor households and by moving highly vulnerable households into sustainable livelihoods and toward economic stability. .

What are the principles of livelihood? ›

Sustainable: there are four key dimensions to sustainability - economic, institutional, social and environmental. All are important - a balance must be found between them.

What are examples of livelihood? ›

Livelihood is defined as a set of activities essential to everyday life that are conducted over one's life span. Such activities could include securing water, food, fodder, medicine, shelter, clothing.

Who developed the sustainable livelihoods framework? ›

UNDP. The United Nations Development Programme utilizes a sustainable livelihood approach to development through the evaluation of different types of capital. The UNDP identifies five key types of capital: human, social, natural, physical, and financial.

What are the features of sustainable livelihoods approach? ›

The characteristics of a sustainable livelihood

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 natural resource bases.

What are indicators of sustainable livelihood? ›

These two indices are based on the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (DFID, 1999) and the Climate Vulnerability Index (Pandey and Jha, 2012). Both CVI and CACI include the five forms of capital leading to sustainable livelihood, i.e. human (H), natural (N), financial (F), social (S) and physical (P) capital.

What are the factors of livelihood? ›

The individual scores of each livelihood capital (natural, physical, financial, human, and social capital) and other contributing factors were set as independent variable X, and the four types of livelihood strategies were set as dependent variable Y.

Who are the beneficiaries of sustainable livelihood program? ›

The Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) is one of the social protection programs that supports Pantawid beneficiaries and other poor and vulnerable families to enable them to attain economic sufficiency.

How can we improve livelihoods? ›

Improving lives

Encouraging women and youths into agriculture is the final part of improving livelihoods. Youths and women are often underrepresented in the agricultural sector. Creating pathways for these groups into agriculture reduces unemployment by utilizing more of the region's productive workforce.

Is sustainable livelihood program effective? ›

It is considered one of the most successful programmes in Asia. As part of the overall Social Protection budget, allocations for the SLP increased from U$ 1.7 million in 2011, to U$ 182 million in 2017. Correspondingly, the number of families served by the SLP increased from 46,000 families in 2011 to 166,000 in 2017.

What are the livelihood issues? ›

Deterioration or destruction of livelihoods. Loss or depletion of productive assets. Long term reliance on coping mechanisms which were previously only used in times of acute food insecurity. Environmental degradation and deterioration of natural resources.

What is sustainable livelihood in rural development? ›

a livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (stores, resources, claims and access) and activities required for a means of living: a livelihood is sustainable which can cope with and recover from stress and shocks, maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, and provide sustainable livelihood opportunities for ...

What is the difference between sustainable development and sustainable livelihoods? ›

Sustainable development is the use of resources for the present generation without compromising the needs of the generation to come. However, Sustainable livelihoods are nothing but one should think of nature, each biotic and abiotic factor of the environment in every small day-to-day act.

What is the importance of sustainable livelihood? ›

The sustainable livelihoods approach is a way of thinking about the objectives, scope, and priorities for development activities. It is based on evolving thinking about the way the poor and vulnerable live their lives and the importance of policies and institutions. It helps formulate development activities that are.

What are indicators of sustainable livelihood? ›

These two indices are based on the Sustainable Livelihood Framework (DFID, 1999) and the Climate Vulnerability Index (Pandey and Jha, 2012). Both CVI and CACI include the five forms of capital leading to sustainable livelihood, i.e. human (H), natural (N), financial (F), social (S) and physical (P) capital.

What are the principles of livelihood? ›

Sustainable: there are four key dimensions to sustainability - economic, institutional, social and environmental. All are important - a balance must be found between them.

Who developed sustainable livelihood approach? ›

The sustainable livelihood approach (SLA) was created in the mid-1980s by the researchers Robert Chambers and Gordon Conway in order to assess different contexts of vulnerability and to enhance the efficiency of development cooperation (Kollmair & Gamper, 2002, p. 3).

What is the purpose of livelihood programs? ›

Livelihood programs seek to improve the state of life of the low-income sector by giving jobs and business chances, health care access, and other forms of assistance. These programs aim to enhance community capacity to address the issues of poverty.

What are the examples of livelihood? ›

Livelihood is defined as a set of activities essential to everyday life that are conducted over one's life span. Such activities could include securing water, food, fodder, medicine, shelter, clothing.

How can we improve livelihoods? ›

Improving lives

Encouraging women and youths into agriculture is the final part of improving livelihoods. Youths and women are often underrepresented in the agricultural sector. Creating pathways for these groups into agriculture reduces unemployment by utilizing more of the region's productive workforce.

What is livelihood assessment tools? ›

The Livelihood Assessment Tool-kit (LAT) process consists of three inter- related elements: a Livelihood Baseline (LB); an initial Livelihood impact Appraisal (ILIA); and a detailed Livelihood Assessment (DLA). As currently designed, the LAT is aimed at sudden onset natural disasters.

Videos

1. 7: Sustainable Livelihoods and Rural Development – Ian Scoones
(Institute of Development Studies)
2. Sustainable Livelihood Security Index
(PG Diploma in Sustainability Science)
3. The Role of the Private Sector in Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
(Center for Strategic & International Studies)
4. The Great Reset: Joe Biden and the Rise of Twenty-First-Century Fascism English Full Audiobook
(Readers Hub)
5. SDG 2 Zero Hunger - UN Sustainable Development Goals - DEEP DIVE
(Hippy In A Suit)
6. Sustainability Series: How the Climate Crisis is Changing Where and How People Live
(Saskatoon Public Library)

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