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Deagrarianisation, simply put, is the process of lives and livelihoods in the global south becoming increasingly de-linked from agriculture. Off-farm activities are, as a result, of ever greater importance. Where people start doing less in the way of climate sensitive activities, and more in the way of productive, climate insensitive activities, deagrarianisation can be a means to reduce vulnerability, both to poverty and to climate change impacts. Yet diversification into off-farm activities often reproduces poverty and can be, hence, maladaptive – hardly a desirable policy goal.

Crucially, the kind of livelihoods diversification which reduces poverty, tends to be in rural areas with a buoyant agricultural sector. Where agriculture is stagnant, people may find themselves swapping one increasingly unviable livelihood for another that leaves them just as poor. As a result, there are serious implications for when we can or cannot recommend diversification, either as an effective adaptation to climate change, or as a way out of poverty. This is because climate change impacts have the potential to disrupt both healthy and struggling agricultural contexts.

For people in healthy agricultural environments, access to poverty-reducing opportunities may be curtailed if the agricultural base which provides the bridge to them is compromised. For people in struggling agricultural environments, there may be even greater pressure to ‘stress-diversify’ into activities which deepen chronic poverty.

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This key issue guide is produced in collaboration with the Learning Hub project, managed by IDS with support from UKaid.

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