Getting it right: Understanding livelihoods to reduce the vulnerability of pastoral communities

Research reports and studies
March 2009

The study on which this Synthesis Paper is based argues that the increasing vulnerability to food insecurity that pastoralists face stems from the failure to put the protection of pastoral livelihoods at the centre of emergency preparedness, planning and response mechanisms. Emergency responses are failing on three counts. They fail to prevent the recurrence of crisis. They fail to support the capacity of the pastoral community to withstand the effects of shocks. And they fail to adapt to the changing nature of shocks. There is an urgent need to develop responses that address the underlying causes of the increasing vulnerability facing
agro-based livelihoods (livestock and farming). Equally important are developmental responses to enable poor households to pursue productive economic alternatives.


The study also argues that, in order to be effective, emergency preparedness and planning must continue to improve both the timeliness and appropriateness of interventions, through the effective use of early warning systems and contingency planning. These should not be seen as emergency instruments, but rather as a means of managing predictable risks in pastoral areas and ensuring the protection of livelihoods – a long-term investment for a public good. In addition, a livelihoods approach must be the critical base for designing an integrated approach that addresses vulnerability, as it improves the sensitivity of monitoring systems to hunger and impoverishment.

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