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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.

Rural Africa at the crossroads: livelihoods, practices and policies
D. Bryceson (ed) / Overseas Development Institute [ES] 2000
The last two decades of the 20th century have been a period of change for sub-Saharan African economies. Structural Adjustment Programmes have triggered a huge, unplanned income diversification response in African rural areas making r...
The rural non-farm economy: prospects for growth and poverty reduction
S. Haggblade (ed); P. Hazell (ed); T. Reardon (ed) / The Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics - Michigan State University 2010
Non-farm earnings account for 35 to 50 per cent of rural household income across the developing world. Landless and near-landless households everywhere depend heavily on non-farm income for their survival, while agricultural household...
Agricultural adaptation, local knowledge and livelihoods diversification in North-Central Namibia
A. J. Newsham (ed); D. S. G. Thomas (ed) / Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research 2009
The potential implications of climate change have started to receive more attention in Namibia. Water demand in the country is projected to exceed its extraction capacity by 2015, meaning that climate change will adversely affect the ...
Land, farming, livelihoods, and poverty: rethinking the links in the rural South
J. Rigg (ed) / University of Durham 2006
Livelihoods in the rural South are becoming increasingly separated from farming and land. Non-farm opportunities have expanded and increased the levels of mobility leading to the delocalisation of livelihoods. This requires a reconsid...
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