New paper on critical constraints on livelihood adaptation

When households practicing small-scale livelihoods such as pastoralism experience increasing hardships due to environmental change, adopting a new livelihood strategy is often promoted as a way to regain food security and reduce vulnerability.  However, livelihood adaptation is a complex process, and the trajectory toward success or failure depends not only on ecological or agricultural potential, but also on different assets — natural, financial, social, knowledge-based, and material — that households have access to.  In this report, we analyze what happened when households in a pastoralist community were encouraged by a charity to begin crop-based agriculture.  We expected that some households would fare better than others, and we wanted to understand which assets enabled success, i.e., which assets provided adaptive capacity.  We found instead that all 150 households that attempted farming, had given up within 3 years.  Instead of reducing vulnerability, the charity’s instigation of farming ultimately had the opposite effect.