Studies in African Livelihoods: Current Issues and Future Prospects
Introduction: In the 1990s, the analysis of poverty in Africa became susceptible to a livelihood approach, with an actor-oriented perspective of putting people at the centre and pointing out their agency in order to explore opportunities and to cope with constraints. It was opposed to earlier structural perspectives concerned with the poverty of dependence and neo-Marxist approaches that depicted the poor as victims of societal constraints. This, of course, does not necessarily mean that the livelihood approach can be set aside as another adherent of the Washington Consensus, with its neo-liberal focus on the regulation of market forces, free choice and individual responsibility. This paper acknowledges that originally the livelihood approach tended to downplay structural constraints; especially issues of power, but more recently these issues have been better addressed. However, what remains prominent is the focus of the livelihood approach on agency, i.e. the recognition that Africans create their own history and take an avid interest in their own world of lived experience. The origin of modern livelihood policy studies can be traced to Chambers and Conway (1992: 9-12), who saw livelihood as the means of gaining a living, including livelihood capabilities, tangible assets, such as stores and resources, and intangible assets, such as claims and access. The first section of this article shows that the approach’s popularity is partly due to its enactment by policy circles but also to its roots in various scientific disciplines. Subsequent sections discuss two issues, namely issues of power and multi-local dynamics, which merit particular attention if the approach is deemed to contribute to the understanding of contemporary African livelihoods. In so doing, this article also sets the agenda for future research.
|International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University (ISS)
de Haan, L. (2007). Studies in African Livelihoods: Current Issues and Future Prospects. doi:101163/ej.9789004161139.i-185.25