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Issues and challenges for livelihoods programming in emergencies (Special Supplement 3)

8.1 Introduction

The previous sections of this supplement have highlighted various challenges in livelihood support programming in emergencies. Most of these are within the area of 'policies, institutions, and processes' and are the most difficult to address. This section reviews some of these challenges and draws out the recurring themes.

US logoed food aid in Malawi

The over-riding premise of this supplement is the need to move away from food aid as a standard response to food or income insecurity. Yet, food aid remains the most common response probably due, in part, to agencies and individuals continuing to do what is familiar and within their realm of experience. There are also significant policy and institutional constraints in moving away from food aid.

The existence of chronic livelihoods crises in many parts of the world is another challenge. Large numbers of people are living in circumstances which are normally associated with humanitarian crises, but for extended periods of time. This raises issues around the nature and duration of humanitarian programmes (and therefore funding cycles), social safety nets, and linking relief and development programming. The question is how can people be supported to simultaneously have their basic needs met and their livelihoods supported or rebuilt. In protracted emergencies, this raises technical, institutional and ideological issues.

Livelihoods analysis and programmes focus on assets and strategies, yet the causes of livelihood insecurity are often related to policies, institutions and process at national and international level. People whose livelihoods are most vulnerable are often those who have consistently been excluded or marginalised in national development policies, i.e. who receive less public services and government investment, or population groups who are excluded from political systems and lack political rights. To address the causes of livelihood insecurity, there is a need to more closely link livelihoods programming with protection and advocacy initiatives.

A number of operational challenges have also been identified. These include human resource issues, monitoring and evaluation, and coordination of livelihoods work in emergencies. These are briefly discussed below.

8.2 Institutional constraints in moving away from food aid

Whilst most donors, UN agencies and NGOs, support a livelihoods approach in emergencies, policies and practice varies between these institutions. Positions on food aid have been developed by a number of NGOs in the past year, but considerable institutional constraints remain to moving away from food aid. Food aid is the main funding category in UN appeals and there is no lead agency for the coordination of emergency food security and livelihoods responses.

Many agencies have recently developed food aid policies or are in the process of revising them. Most of these recognise that food aid is only needed in certain circumstances, and aim to limit the use of food aid. Many also aim to support livelihoods through appropriate mechanisms. Key common elements of recently formulated policies are summarised below (CAREUSA, 2005, November; Oxfam GB, 2005, June; ACF, 2005):

Food aid is an institution in itself, with its own interests, policies and procedures. Many US NGOs get a large proportion of their resources from the monetisation of food aid, and CARE is the first US NGO to move away from this. Even though CARE stands to lose a large proportion of their cash resources by transitioning out of monetising food aid23, it aims to replace some of the monetisation proceeds by advocating for the conversion of monetisation funds to cash accounts, and for the allocation of additional resources to address the underlying causes of food insecurity. Other organisations are more cautious.

US NGO's interest in food aid stems from three considerations; first, its magnitude as a resource, second, its inter-changeability due to monetisation, and third, its effect on financial indicators that are commonly perceived to affect private contributions to NGOs. US food aid contributions alone accounted for 30% of the gross revenue of the eight largest US NGOs in 2001, ranging from 9.6% to 49.6% (Barret and Maxwell, 2005). There are much more significant commercial interests of US agri-business and shipping companies (Marchione, 2002). For example, all (Title II) non-emergency food aid must be processed, fortified, or bagged in the US. Also, the Cargo preference act specifies that 75% of all food aid must be shipped under US flag carriers.

Most donors (for example, DfID, the EC and USAID) support some forms of emergency food security or livelihoods interventions in addition to food aid, but policies and funding criteria are rarely made explicit. Until recently, the EC funded mainly production support interventions (agriculture and livestock). In the past two years, ECHO has funded cash interventions on a case-by-case basis and has no policy or clear criteria for when it does and does not fund cash interventions. USAID also supports production and income support interventions (income generation, micro-finance), and has funded some US NGOs to carry out emergency cash transfers such as cash for work and cash grants. DfID is most explicit about supporting cash interventions. Its document on 'Eliminating Hunger; Strategy for achieving the millennium development goal on hunger' (DfID, 2002) states that;

"Aid agencies must consider whether resource transfers are the most appropriate response, and if they are, then whether they are most appropriately provided in the form of cash, food or other support".

"Cash transfers can be effective in situations where markets work well, as they stimulate opportunities for local production and trade"

Consolidated appeals, however, still focus mainly on food aid as the main food security interventions. Other food security related sectors include agriculture and economic recovery and infrastructure. The consolidated appeals process will need to change given the increasing recognition of the role of cash transfers in emergencies. Cash can currently be included under multi-sectoral activities, economic recovery, income generation, infrastructure, or livelihood activities.

8.3 Chronic livelihoods crises: Linking relief and development?

In chronic livelihoods crises, there is a large proportion of the population that cannot meet their immediate needs at any time of the year, and which are subjected to new emergencies on a regular basis. Protracted livelihoods crises have most commonly been associated with long term, armed conflict. These are usually associated with weak governance and a state that is either unable or unwilling to respond or mitigate the threats to populations or provide adequate protection.

Chronically vulnerable areas are characterised by shocks and emergencies which are either man-made or natural, and may also be characterised by the following (Maxwell, 1999):

The idea of linking 'emergency' and 'development' livelihoods programmes in such situations is problematic, as emergency conditions are continuous, at least for some sections of the population, and development, in terms of achieving sustainable livelihoods, is often not appropriate or feasible.

The idea of linking emergency and development programming is derived from experience with natural disasters in the 1980's and early 90's. Disasters were seen as temporary interruptions to an otherwise linear development process, so relief rehabilitation was seen as a neat continuum (Duffield, 1994). The thinking was that development assistance could reduce people's vulnerability to emergencies, and relief could protect assets and provide the basis for future development work (Maxwell, 1999). This conceptual model still forms the basis of most livelihoods work today, in particular in drought related emergencies and other natural disasters.

For populations that suffer repeated natural disasters, it is recognised that a system allowing shifts forward and back between emergency and development work, and in some cases, relief, rehabilitation and development projects, may be implemented at the same time (Maxwell, 1999). Box 18 gives the most common components of a drought cycle management system that incorporates such flexibility.

Emergency and development livelihoods programming are in fact very similar, in terms of the types of interventions that are implemented. The difference is largely in terms of objectives, implementation modalities and scale. Whereas in emergency programmes, the objectives are generally limited to meeting immediate needs and protecting livelihoods (i.e. preserving assets or recovering assets), development programmes aim to achieve self-reliance and sustainability through for example livelihood diversification and improving market access. A key aspect of achieving sustainability in development programmes is capacity building of local institutions (whether local NGOs, ministries, etc), and working with local partners.


Box 18 Components of an effective drought cycle management system

  • An early warning system that is relevant, transparent and trusted, and able to trigger timely action.
  • A package of flexible responses appropriate to each stage of the drought as it evolves (for example marketing and livestock offtake, water development, livestock health, public works, food aid).
  • Shift between 'normal' development activities and 'reliefbased' activities should be possible without major decisions being made outside of the organisation.
  • The ability to expand activities during the drought (e.g. recruit more staff, hire more cars, etc.) and progressively contract them once the drought is over.
  • Drought contingency plans and scenario planning sessions that are documented and kept as 'shelf' plans. Contingency planning also involves the undertaking of capacity and resource assessments within the organisation and the setting aside of critical resources in the event of a drought episode.
  • Multi-agency drought coordination structures which promotes collaboration and sharing resources with other agencies.
  • The resources and political will to put the above into practice.
  • Mechanisms which can hold those in authority accountable for their actions, such as media or district-level representatives.

Sources: Birch and Shuria (2001) and Acacia Consultants (2004, February).

Even in natural disasters, shifting from development to emergency programming, and back again, is not always easy. For example, a development project may have partners in areas which are not emergency affected and partners may not have emergency experience. There may be resistance to shifting from a mode of working as it is feared that relief implemented by 'outsiders' will undermine development projects by limiting participation and capacity building. There are also fears that aid becomes seen as a free and additional resource rather than something that requires community commitment in terms of time and resources. Case studies from Wajir, Kenya and Ethiopia (8.6.1 and 8.6.2) illustrate some of these constraints and the attempts to overcome them.

Linking relief and development in protracted crises due to political instability or internal conflict is much more problematic. The essential political nature of these emergencies has crucial implications for working with local partners and capacity building initiatives, in particular in relation to the application of humanitarian principles. Local institutions or partners are likely to be subject to political pressures, or have their own political motivations, which may compromise principles of neutrality and impartiality. Furthermore, since the destruction of livelihoods is often a direct aim of war strategies, the transition from livelihood protection to livelihood promotion may be impossible. However, developmental approaches to relief were adopted in conflict related emergencies throughout the 90's using capacity building approaches to reduce conflict and build peace. Some have argued that the use of developmental relief in protracted crises has diverted time and resources away from saving lives and contributed to a "normalisation of crises" (e.g. Duffield, 1997; Bradbury, 1998, September), where levels of malnutrition that previously indicated crises are now considered "normal" thus justifying a move to developmental approaches.

In any context, it is important to set clear objectives for programmes in protracted livelihoods crises based on an assessment of needs. Objectives may range from saving lives, to the provision of longer term safety nets, to a combination of these two with some scope for moving towards rehabilitation and development (Maxwell, 1999). Minimal conditions for moving from emergency to developmental approaches are some level of political stability, security, a respect for human rights, and basic indicators of humanitarian need (such as malnutrition, mortality and food insecurity) within internationally accepted levels.

Building raised villages are a longer term strategy to deal with flooding in Bangladesh

The need for long term programmes to meet the basic needs of large sections of the populations experiencing chronic livelihoods crises remains however for many countries. The increased interest in social safety nets and the recent reengagement of development actors in protracted crises (see section 5.6), offers both opportunities and threats for linking relief and development. The coinciding of humanitarian and development agendas in situations of protracted crises, means that there is at least the basis of coherent dialogue between the emergency and development aid communities. However, this convergence is also a potential threat mainly in the form of loss of neutrality in politically unstable situations and consequent risks to the security of aid workers.

8.4 Linking livelihoods programming with legal protection and advocacy

The causes of livelihood insecurity are often linked to long term processes of political, social and economic marginalisation, and the policies and practices of national and international institutions. These macro-level causes are rarely assessed in livelihoods assessments, and livelihoods programmes are therefore rarely linked with policy and advocacy work. A rights based approach (or protection analysis) would help identify who is responsible for causing livelihood insecurity and who has the duty to act. The aim is then to influence those with a duty to act. Yet such an approach is rarely part of humanitarian needs assessments (Darcy, 2003, September).


Box 19 Influencing the national policy environment in Kenya

To have a greater impact on livelihoods, Oxfam Kenya recognised the importance of strengthening co-ordination amongst agencies and advocacy. This work took up approximately 50% of the Oxfam coordinators time.

Oxfam established the Kenya Pastoralist Forum, which brought together practitioners, academics and policymakers, and pursued policy concerns at national level. Oxfam has also facilitated emergency response by the government of Kenya (GoK) through influencing policy and making small investments, and has funded the Kenya Food Security Steering Group (KFSSG) and participated in the Kenya Food Security Meeting (KFSM). The KFSSG includes donors, the GoK, and two NGOs, one of who is Oxfam, thus facilitating the exchange of information between these actors. In 2001, Oxfam funded a review of coordination structures in Kenya and has also funded joint assessments. It is now widely acknowledged that the KFSM has been instrumental in enabling the existence of a genuine partnership between the GoK, donors and NGOs in matters of food security.

The GoKs Arid Lands Programme has drawn on Oxfam's experience in Wajir. When Oxfam incorporated drought management in its development programme, GoK did so as well. Oxfam has also given financial and technical assistance to the Arid Lands Programme. Policies on emergency livestock offtake, decentralisation, and privatisation of animal health services in arid districts are now being embraced by the GoK, partly as a result of Oxfam initiatives.

Source: Jaspars et al (2002, August).

Advocacy initiatives can be focussed on achieving policy change at either, or both, national and international level. For example, Oxfam in Kenya has made a conscious effort to influence the external environment for more effective livelihood support. Elements of the strategy included promoting coordination between key actors, and working closely together with the Kenyan government, WFP and donors to bring about policy changes (see box 19).

Advocacy can also include strategies to change the policies and practices of international institutions, and to improve the response to a specific crisis. Activities can range from organising joint assessment missions, joint piloting or research initiatives (for example on cash programming) and dissemination of findings of innovative programmes to donors and UN, to global initiatives to change international food aid regulations and to make trade fair.

Issues of governance, illegal war strategies or the manipulation of assistance by states or warring parties need to be dealt with at the political level or through legal instruments. Acts like the deliberate destruction of livelihoods, and the denial of access to resources, including humanitarian assistance, are specifically prohibited under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) (see box 20).

Protection activities are often centred on gathering evidence of abuses of IHL and human rights laws, holding states and warring parties to their responsibilities under IHL, and equally, making war affected populations aware of their rights. Other protection activities may include providing war affected populations with better information on their options (e.g. for returning home after displacement) or supporting risk minimising strategies that conflict-affected populations are already using. It is difficult, however, to find examples of specific links between protection and livelihoods work, despite the clear evidence of the impact of abuses of IHL on livelihoods, and the impact of inadequate assistance on creating protection risks.


Box 20 References to food aid and denial of food in International Humanitarian Law

Where urgent needs are not being met, States (and by implication other warring parties) are obliged to allow free passage of relief supplies which are humanitarian and impartial in character (See Additional Protocol 1, Article 70 - referring to international armed conflict and Additional Protocol 2; Article 18 - referring to non-international armed conflict). 'Humanitarian' refers to basic needs essential for survival such as foodstuffs and medical supplies.

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions- applicable to all forces in all conflicts (ref. Nicaragua decision of the International Court of Justice) calls for those no longer taking part in hostilities "in all circumstances to be treated humanely". This is widely interpreted, inter alia, as a prohibition on the use of starvation as a weapon of war. Protocol I (Art 54; covering international conflicts) and Protocol II (Art 13; certain non-international conflicts) explicitly prohibit this, but are only applicable on certain conditions - including that the State has signed up to them.

The International Criminal Court makes it a war crime to use starvation as a weapon of warfare, including "depriving [populations] of objects indispensable to their survival" and "wilfully impeding relief supplies" (Art 8 (2) (b) XXV Rome Statute). This applies in both international and non-international conflicts.

Sources: Birch and Shuria (2001) and Acacia Consultants (2004, February).

Livelihoods and protection assessments in Darfur, Liberia and Uganda (and many others) highlight some of these issues: These include:

Box 21 Example of use of food security assessment and programmes for Chechen IDPs to address protection risks

In 2004 there was a clear determination to organise the return of the IDPs in Ingushetia to Chechnya, even though low-level warfare, and abuses against the civilian population, continued on a daily basis. This was demonstrated by the gradual closure of all the official camps in Ingushetia between 2003 and 2004. The projected return contrasted sharply with the will of the people: a food security survey conducted by ACF in 2004 revealed that despite the flux of people from Ingushetia to Chechnya, 82% of the IDPs did not want to return home, with insecurity, inadequate shelter and income given as the main reasons.

It was stated that the return would be conducted on an entirely 'voluntary' basis, thus implying a freedom of choice for the people concerned. However;

  • The IDPs did not have any guarantee of protection in their areas of origin
  • The administrative environment and the security environment in Ingushetia had become openly threatening towards IDPs, with almost a quarter of the IDPs living in the camps stating that they had been directly threatened by the authorities
  • The rights of the IDPs to proper living conditions in Ingushetia were openly flouted, whereas promises of assistance in Chechnya, used as incitements for their return, had multiplied. The availability of adequate alternative shelter in Ingushetia was limited and did not cover the needs of the population who were forced to leave their current accommodation. Over 40% of the population had less than 4m_ of living space per person. Cuts in utilities frequently occurred, mainly due to antiquated networks that were not properly maintained, and high demand. Humanitarian assistance provided to IDPs in Ingushetia decreased whilst an increasing number of agencies and donors shifted their assistance toward Chechnya.

At the same time, the economic pressure on displaced families had become extreme. Diminishing humanitarian aid was stated as the main source of income by over a third of the population, and households were increasingly resorting to erosive coping mechanisms.

A key concern for ACF was to give a choice to the displaced Chechen populations to stay in Ingushetia. ACF responded by monitoring the situation closely and advocated among concerned stakeholders, e.g. through food security surveys24. On a programmatic level, ACF increased its water and sanitation rehabilitation and construction activities, focussing in areas where those evicted from the camps where likely to settle.

Source: Mattinen, ACF-France

Food security and livelihoods assessments can provide powerful tools to highlight the consequences of war strategies, of systematic marginalisation or abuse of certain groups, and can thus be used as 'evidence' in protection work. Similarly, surveillance of livelihoods indicators can help monitor the impact of protection work. An example of this is given in box 21 on ACF's work with Chechen IDPs.

In many emergencies, simply ensuring that humanitarian programmes are implemented well and effectively reach the vulnerable will go a long way to addressing protection risks that people face. Protection risks can also be reduced through increasing income opportunities or reducing expenditure (see box 19 and the field article on Liberia in 8.6.3). The case study in Liberia shows how vegetable gardening for IDPs allowed them to increase their income, which in turn reduced the incidence of damaging coping strategies such as prostitution or travelling to insecure areas to collect wild foods and firewood. An initiative in Darfur to introduce fuel efficient stoves, similarly reduced the number of times women had to collect firewood, thus reducing the risk of rape (see box 22).


Box 22 Fuel efficient stoves reduces risk of violence in Darfur

The project trains women to make fuel-efficient stoves in order to reduce their exposure to violence when collecting firewood. Two of the indicators used to measure the success of the intervention are number of firewood collection trips per week and the amount of income used to buy wood per week.

A questionnaire was used before the project started to establish the baseline, and afterwards home visits were carried out to monitor impact and use. Monitoring showed that the number of firewood collection trips has reduced by half on average and households are spending less of their income on buying wood. The longer-term impact on the environment has yet to be seen, but observation and feedback from women already indicates stove owners no longer need to cut green trees close to the town.

Source: Hastie (undated). Using indicators to monitor protective impact. Oxfam GB.

8.5 Operational challenges

There are a number of human resources, knowledge management and coordination challenges relating to livelihood support programming in emergencies.

Livelihoods interventions in emergencies are relatively new so that few emergency practitioners are familiar with the livelihoods framework and few development practitioners have experience of working in emergencies. There is no agreed adaptation of the framework for emergencies, so there is no common conceptual framework to form the basis of programming. The relative importance of humanitarian principles and livelihoods principles in different contexts has not been systematically reviewed. Although humanitarian principles, such as neutrality, impartiality and independence should take precedence in any emergency, there is no clear framework for determining when certain livelihoods principles can be applied. For example, participation should be applied in any context, but capacity building and working with partners needs to be more carefully considered as these may conflict with humanitarian principles.

Searching for wood for fuel can expose women to increased risks

Difficult decisions about principles, who to work with, what and where, would be made easier if there were coordination mechanisms between agencies to set a common framework for action. Such mechanisms are rare for emergency food security and livelihood support. This makes humanitarian operations more open to abuse and manipulation. Working together under the same set of standards and operating principles is crucial to effective and accountable humanitarian action, but at present, there isn't a lead UN agency for emergency food security or livelihoods programmes. In theory, the FAO should coordinate food security activities, however, it has limited experience of working in emergencies and its interventions are mainly limited to agricultural support. In protracted crises, the FAO has taken a more prominent role in coordinating food security assessments and analysis, as for example in the Food Security Assessment Units in Somalia, Afghanistan and South Sudan. In the more acute stages of an emergency, WFP has more often taken on this role. There is no UN agency that provides leadership and coordination on cash interventions. UNDP took the lead role in Aceh, Indonesia, and WFP is piloting cash interventions in a number countries.

Cash programming only gained prominence in the past five years or so, and there are therefore relatively few experienced practitioners to call on in an emergency. The same applies to other emergency livelihoods interventions. Furthermore, the management of cash transfers usually requires the involvement of local financial institutions. This may be particularly problematic in rural areas where banks are few and far between. Implementing agencies may have to help strengthen the financial management of local institutions and/or strengthen their own financial and administrative procedures. Production support and market access programmes are still largely derived from development programmes and are still in the process of being adapted. Agriculture and livestock professionals with experience in emergencies are difficult to find. Finding skilled national staff can also be problematic. Furthermore, there is frequently a high turnover of staff due to competition between agencies. Some of these issues are illustrated in the field article on South Sudan in section 8.6.4.

It is difficult to find documentation of livelihoods interventions in emergencies, in particular on impact and the lessons learnt from implementing programmes in a particular context. However, this applies to most types of humanitarian interventions (Duffield et al, 2004, December). Many cash transfer interventions are now being reviewed or evaluated. In many cases, there are still uncertainties about how cash will be used and fears remain about possible diversion and misuse of funds. In addition, new forms of cash programming are being developed on an almost daily basis, and are applied in new contexts. Lessons from these new experiences need to be accessible to a wide range of actors to bring about change. Most cash intervention evaluations have focussed on how the cash was spent, but few consider the wider impact of cash programmes on livelihoods, including changes in asset levels, debt relief, and impacts on markets and the wider economy. For cash programmes to become more widely and appropriately adopted, it is important to generate more evidence on their in a variety of contexts.

8.6 Case studies


8.6.1 Linking relief and development programming in Wajir, Kenya25

In the early to mid-1990s, Oxfam developed a one programme approach that combined relief, development and advocacy. The Wajir programme, which is described below, is considered throughout Oxfam as a successful application of this approach.

The Wajir Pastoral Development programme

The Wajir Pastoral Development programme (WPDP) started in July 1994. Much of the initial phase was spent developing pastoral associations. The project was designed to span a nine-year period managed in three phases, but has now been extended to 2008. Two kinds of community-level organisations were developed as part of the project. The first are pastoral associations, which pursue a wide range of activities including water-supply development, livestock health, women's income, and education. The second is a network of women's groups in Wajir town, whose primary purpose is to provide a structure through which women can access credit and training in business skills. Both are also channels through which people can represent their interests to government and other actors.

The project's first phase included work with five pastoral development associations, restocking and loans for credit through the women's groups. Government departments were involved in the planning and design of the programme. This was instrumental in influencing the thinking of government staff, and later opening up channels to influence government at national level.

The second phase of the project included capacity building with local authorities in order to have an impact on the district beyond the project areas. Oxfam was instrumental in establishing the Wajir Pastoral Steering Committee (PSC), as a coordinating body for all those working in the pastoral sector. The second phase of the project was marked by almost continuous emergencies, from drought in 1996-7, to floods in 1998, and drought again in 2000. The year 2000 also saw the resumption of inter-clan conflict in the north of the district. The same Oxfam team in Wajir managed the succession of relief activities in addition to the longer term projects.

The third phase seeks to handover programmes through structured mentoring of local NGOs, pastoral associations and the umbrella organisations to enhance the transfer of planning and implementation capacity.

Integrating emergency response with development programming

The success of emergency response has been judged on the basis of emergency preparedness, speed of response and ability to scale up and become operational when necessary. Key factors in the success of linking relief and development programming were:

  • the continuity and commitment of the staff
  • most of the staff were from the District
  • the same staff are responsible for emergency and development programmes
  • the likelihood of drought was considered in the design of the development programme
  • setting targets for emergency response
  • institution building to create an environment conducive to emergency response.

Many Oxfam staff in Wajir still have close connections with rural pastoral groups (the 'baadia'). This means that they are naturally very concerned about the risks to their community. In addition, the team asked for outside help when needed. Management responsibility for responding to emergencies was gradually incorporated into the job descriptions for every programme manager. A key point in creating the willingness to respond to emergencies was to present working in emergencies as a career opportunity for development staff. When the development programme for Wajir was designed, drought was factored in.

The WPDP has supported drought-monitoring activities throughout the district, and pastoral associations have sometimes proposed drought-mitigation activities.

The analysis and contacts built up during the WPDP were used to design the emergency response between 1996 and 1998. Pastoral associations registered beneficiaries and their longsecretaries were employed as monitors (Birch and Shuria, 2001). Relief activities were consistent with pastoralist livelihood strategies. Food distributions were widely dispersed across the district, with minimal targeting (excluding only salaried people). In addition to nutritional objectives, the purpose of food aid was to stabilise food prices and reduce distress sale of livestock.

Following large scale food distributions in 1997, the Wajir programme carried out several emergency livelihood support interventions as part of the flood recovery programme in 1998. Interventions included CFW, restocking with sheep, goats, milking cows, donkey or camel, and the distribution of seeds and plough oxen. CFW projects included road clearing, school rebuilding, digging of pit latrines, pan de-silting, fencing of dispensaries, town cleaning and duffel making.

There were also disadvantages to implementing relief activities through the development programme structures. For example, Oxfam is now perceived by some to be a resource-rich agency (£4.6 million was spent between 1996 and 1998 on relief, more than five times the amount planned for the development programme) making it increasingly difficult for Oxfam to constructively disengage from the District.


8.6.2 Ethiopia: Challenge and Change

By Catherine Allen, Concern WW

Work on the Wollo Irrigation Canal, one of the Concern WW livelihood programme activities

Concern WW is trying to create mutually reinforcing linkages between livelihood security26 and emergency programming at a number of levels.

Concern WW has been operational in Ethiopia since 1985. The Concern Worldwide Livelihoods Security Programme is currently working in Kalu Wereda in South Wollo Zone and and Damot Weyde in North-East of Wolaita Zone. These areas are characterised by chronic food insecurity with periodic incidents of acute food insecurity resulting in high levels of malnutrition, distress migration and sale of household assets. Implementing Concern's Livelihood Security Programme27 in such a chronically food insecure environment such as Ethiopia is extremely challenging, in particular:

  • conducting effective, participatory livelihood and vulnerability analysis28 for programme planning
  • developing programmes against short as well as long-term objectives
  • maintaining emergency capacity within programme staff
  • incorporation of disaster risk reduction strategies.

Damot Weyeda Livelihoods Programme Activities

Long-term changes in livelihood status:

  • Agricultural promotion activities, e.g. introduction of improved seed varieties, integrated pest management, livestock development, irrigation services, community capacity building, etc.
  • Support for off-farm employment, e.g. vocational skills training and business start up support.

Saving lives and protecting livelihoods:

  • Cash or food for work activities based on natural resource management.
  • Nutrition surveillance and gathering early warning information.


Livestock support in Wollo

The Damot Weyde Livelihoods Programme (DWLP) has been designed to test this more integrated approach to addressing the root causes of vulnerability and poverty. The programme has been divided into two phases. The pilot phase (2005) is currently testing the feasibility of the approach and component activities. A further output from this phase will be a comprehensive livelihoods baseline. The learning from the pilot phase will then be used to design the main programme phase where interventions will be scaled up. This phase will run from 2006 - 2008.

DWLP design

The programme design was based on a detailed, participatory livelihoods and vulnerability analysis and subsequent stakeholder consultation carried out in 2004. The analysis has attempted to understand coping and adaptive strategies as well as well as people's capabilities, motivations and constraints.

An example of the topography of Wollo, Ethiopia

Based on the analysis, DWLP was designed with components that contribute towards saving lives, protecting livelihoods and ensuring long-term sustainable changes in livelihood status. Not all will be operational throughout the course of the programme. Relief components, e.g. cash or food-for-work, may only be activated during times of acute food shortages.

Integrated water supplies, which include potable water, washing slabs, cattle troughs and irrigation schemes, have provided an effective entry point for Concern WW's programme activities and a means of developing community and local government capacity to plan and implement local initiatives. It then also becomes possible to incorporate these with soil and water conservation activities (e.g. watershed management) that can ensure their sustainability in the long-term. Terracing and bund formation provide the potential for CFW or FFW and visible improvements in soil fertility leads to greater motivation for changing agricultural practices.

Human resource strategies

Staff have been encouraged to develop emergency programming skills such as emergency analysis, management of emergency programmes, monitoring skills and logistics. There is also a flexible organisational structure within the team that enables Concern WW to respond to emergencies at short notice without undermining the livelihoods work.

Incorporating Disaster Risk Reduction

The incorporation of disaster risk reduction and emergency preparedness plans has included:

  • the institutionalisation of early warning systems
  • carrying out a participatory risk assessment that includes hazard mapping and vulnerability analysis
  • minimising the impact of the hazards through mitigation measures such as community managed pilot seed reserves
  • developing contingency plans and the introduction of community based food aid distribution and targeting systems.

Linking with government and other actors

The government of Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) attempts to separate those who are chronically and acutely food insecure in those weredas that are structurally food deficient. Concern WW is engaging with the local government as part of the DWLP to coordinate with the PSNP and build capacity for its.


Team flexibility

Kalu experienced severe drought in 2002/3, which required a shift of emphasis from livelihoods work to saving lives. Staff from the Kalu Programme were quickly mobilised and deployed to the emergency programme. Some staff members had emergency experience, and the rest were given quick in house training.


8.6.3 Food security - protection links in Liberia

By Mary Atkinson, Oxfam

Temporary shelters in Salala IDP camp, about 90 miles northeast of Monrovia where Oxfam was working.

Direct effect of conflict on livelihoods and food security Violence and the threat of violence over 14 years led to severe loss of livelihood assets through looting, destruction and lack of maintenance which negatively impacted on ability to sustain livelihoods and grow or buy sufficient food in Liberia. Loss of livelihoods from mass displacement made the displaced particularly vulnerable to food insecurity.

Availability of food from domestic production has been reduced as result of displacement from farms, looting and destruction of agricultural assets and harvests, loss of life and separation of the family unit. Insecurity also restricted planting, harvesting and marketing of crops. Ability to fish in local rivers and along the coast has also been severely restricted through destruction of fishing equipment. Bush food had consequently become an important food that allowed the survival of many.

Severity of food insecurity in a location appeared to be largely determined by the degree of violence and destruction experienced, with acute malnutrition rising dramatically in periods of fighting and displacement. During the attack on Monrovia in the summer of 2003, for example, global acute malnutrition was as high as 50% in some locations, but had fallen to normal acceptable levels by September once the fighting had stopped.

Ethnicity and vulnerability

The militia in control of a particular area effectively controlled the markets and livelihoods of a local population through looting, diversion of harvests and other assets, taxation of goods transported to and from markets, and disruption to transport. The resulting 'war economy' restricted consumer access and power in markets and has helped keep prices of food high. The militia groups vary in their ethnicity base. Those of a different ethnicity to the rebel group in power in an area were more at risk to such controls, therefore making them more vulnerable to food insecurity

Damaging coping strategies

Assessment highlighted that many of the strategies employed to access sufficient food and income in camps around Monrovia involved taking additional risks, for example sexual exploitation, splitting up of families, and travelling through insecure areas to collect bush food, firewood, or food from farms. Women, girls and particularly female-headed households, were particularly at risk of sexual exploitation and infection with HIV/AIDS.

Inadequate assistance creates protection risks

A considerable number of IDPs and particularly women headed households in official camps in Monrovia were excluded from registration due to unrepresentative and unaccountable camp management and hence were not receiving their entitlement to food and non-food items. Households excluded tended to be those with less resources and so already more vulnerable to food insecurity.

Food security and protection initiatives

Oxfam advocated the need for improved registration and sensitisation of IDPs in camps to help improve the problems in registration and delivery of aid. A recommendation was also made to explore the idea of providing a community based scheme for helping vulnerable households build new shelters on arrival in IDP camps, thus allowing them to register for food and nonfood items (NFIs).

In 2003, Oxfam GB started a vegetable growing programme in camps in Monrovia that provided women with an alternative source of income, thereby reducing the need for them to practice damaging and dangerous coping strategies. Significant numbers of beneficiaries were those who are not receiving food aid due to the problems in registration.

Lessons learnt

Political vulnerability, due to ethnicity, can be the most important determinant of food insecurity and lead to exclusion from assistance.

Food insecure populations in conflict zones may have to adopt coping strategies that expose them to greater risks. Food insecure groups are therefore often the most in need of protection initiatives.

Protection activities need to include providing safer alternatives for accessing food and income.


8.6.4 Challenges to Livelihood Support Programming in South Sudan

By Mamie Sackey, AAH-US

Grain mill supported by ACF in Old Fanyak, South Sudan.

AAH's interventions in Southern Sudan have mainly been emergency responses in the nutrition, health and food security sector. The establishment of livelihood programmes began in June 2005 with a focus on grain mills and tailoring programmes in the Old Fangak payam of the Central Upper Nile region. The primary objective of these programmes was to strengthen the livelihoods capacity of 11,250 vulnerable people in this region, thereby reducing reliance on external agencies for the provision of basic disease prevention items such as mosquito nets, and to improve the food security situation at the household level.

Mamie Sackey, ACF US at the ACF supported grain mill.

The proposed activities built on the existing capacities within the communities directly focusing on women and the enhancement of their capacities and abilities. AAH's main role is to provide the initial input, such as the grain mill and the sewing machines, in addition to skilled technical support, e.g. a technician to assist the community in the set up of the mill and a qualified tailor to conduct training in tailoring.

Although the livelihoods activities in Old Fangak are in their early stages of implementation, AAH has already faced numerous challenges.

Lack of skilled and qualified personnel and reduced levels of literacy

Due to the prolonged civil war, there is a dearth of skilled human resources with literacy levels one of the lowest in the world.

High turn over of staff

Given the decreased levels of employment opportunities and developmental structures in the Upper Nile, the majority of the adolescent and young adults frequently leave to explore higher education or employment opportunities in other areas of Sudan or in neighbouring countries. As a result, agency programme operations are constantly set back by the constant cycle of recruitment, training and departure of staff.

Lack of basic infrastructure

The tailoring programme supported by ACF US.

Twenty-two years of civil war in southern Sudan has led to the wide spread demise of basic infrastructure, especially in the Upper Nile regions. In Old Fangak payam, trade is primarily with the former garrison towns where southern traders are subject to significant taxation fees when importing traded items to their own markets. Transport routes are also virtually non-existent, with the whole of the Old Fangak community reliant on self-made rafts of reeds or the solitary privately owned boat. As a result, the community are constrained by the availability of material and adequate transport and are thus must rely on external organisations for the provision of materials needed for construction.

Timing of programmes

As the majority of Southern Sudanese are primarily agro-pastoralists, programmes have to be planned strictly in relation to the community seasonal calendar and specific planting times. Deviations from planned timing can have a markedly adverse impact on programme success.


Show footnotes

23CARE states that it will only carry out monetisation of food aid in very limited circumstances; where it can be used to address the underlying causes of chronic food insecurity, with reasonable managements costs, and without causing harm to markets and local production. It will only be done if CARE can be sure that food that is monetised reaches vulnerable populations and is effectively targeted at poor people with limited purchasing power.

24The focus of ACF food security surveys is often broad, and they include factors affecting the general livelihoods of the population.

25This is a summary of a case study in Jaspars et al (2002, August).

26Concern defines livelihood security as the "..adequate and sustainable access to and control over resources, both material and social, to enable households to achieve their rights without undermining the natural resource base."

27Concern Worldwide Livelihood Security Programme focuses on improving target beneficiaries livelihood security within their countries of operation through appropriate activities relating to:

  1. better management of community resources,
  2. improved production and processing,
  3. better access to markets,
  4. supportive and effective institutions and
  5. preparing for emergencies.

28Based on Concern Worldwide Livelihood Security Approach. The full policy is available from

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Reference this page

Susanne Jaspars (). Issues and challenges for livelihoods programming in emergencies (Special Supplement 3). Supplement 3: From food crisis to fair trade, March 2006. p54.



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