Rural Africa at the crossroads: livelihood practices and policies

Rural Africa at the crossroads: livelihood practices and policies

Changing economic and social patterns in African rural settlements

This paper synthesises the findings and main policy implications of new empirical studies on changing rural livelihoods from the De-Agrarianisation and Rural Employment (DARE) research programme at the African Studies Centre, University of Leiden.

Conclusions include the following:

  • Largely as a result of structural adjustment performances, diversification out of agriculture has become the norm among African rural populations.
  • Diversification is higher than suggested by previous studies and takes many different forms, including migration among (especially younger) men, and the sale of home-making skills among women.
  • Diversification offers many opportunities, but also brings high levels of financial and personal risk, and threatens traditional agrarian and family values.

If policy is to support diversification efforts, the paper recommends that it must:

  • promote the development of human capital, equipping people with the skills to work in new environments
  • continue the search for appropriate, low-cost ways of enhancing agricultural productivity
  • undertake participatory assessments of spatially-based comparative advantage and provide services for this to be exploited.

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