Rural livelihood diversity in developing countries: evidence and policy implications

Rural livelihood diversity in developing countries: evidence and policy implications

Livelihoods diversification in rural development

Examines livelihood diversification as a survival strategy of rural households in developing countries. Although still of central importance, farming on its own is increasingly unable to provide a sufficient means of survival in rural areas. The paper’s objectives are first, to increase awareness of livelihood diversification in approaches to rural development; second, to consider the interactions among diversification and poverty, farm productivity, natural resource management and gender relations in rural areas; and third, to advance the policy understanding of diverse rural livelihoods.

Policy conclusions:

  • Reform in the sense of good governance is unfinished business in rural areas; in most low income countries an enabling andfacilitating environment for the spread of diverse non-farm income-generating activities can hardly be said to exist.
  • Human capital is widely substantiated as a key to successful livelihood diversification; the delivery and quality of rural education and skills acquisition requires continuing emphasis.
  • Infrastructure (roads, power, communications) has a powerful effect on mobility and choice, it continues to merit priority.
  • The current emphasis on micro-credit is not misplaced, despite growing recognition of certain weaknesses to which it is prone;continued innovation and improvement of rural micro-credit schemes in poor countries helps to promote diversity.
  • Enhancing the asset status of rural women merits special attention; including their human capital, independent ownership rights over land and other resources and participation in social processes.


  1. How good is this research?

    Assessing the quality of research can be a tricky business. This blog from our editor offers some tools and tips.