Livelihoods in fragile contexts (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 942).



Please identify literature, including risks, lessons and best practices, for delivering livelihoods assistance, with a focus on food security, at the community-level in fragile and extremely volatile environments, where government capacity is limited or non-existent.

Key findings

It is widely accepted in the literature that best practice involves a combination of food aid (which always takes priority) and interventions with a long-term perspective, which increasingly utilise social protection mechanisms. A key lesson is that no single intervention is enough to improve livelihoods and food security, but that interventions must integrate emergency relief with policy change, power structures, medium-term assistance and access, among other contextual issues. In the emergency context, it is also imperative to have knowledge of local power relations and the ability to adapt the programme to respond flexibly to changing power relations and security concerns, and to adapt to the specific context (rather than, for example, blanket food distributions). Monitoring and evaluation is still weak, and programmes would benefit from more impact evaluations.

This review takes a programmatic and practical approach, with an underlying geographical focus on Somalia and the Horn of Africa.


Browne, E. Livelihoods in fragile contexts (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 942). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2013) 13 pp.

Livelihoods in fragile contexts (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 942).

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