It starts with a focus on the extreme poor, working in and with their communities. We listen as they identify their most urgent needs, as well as the long-term factors that stand in their way. We also identify the strengths and knowledge that already exist in the communities and seek to build on those to break down barriers. Most often our work is with farmers in some of the hardest-to-reach rural areas, but we also work in urban slum communities, tailoring approaches that are appropriate, practical, and achievable in each setting.
As with all of our programs, our livelihoods work seeks to get at the root causes of poverty. These have always included the lack of control over natural resources, and vulnerability to small- and large-scale natural disasters. In recent years, as climate extremes have only exacerbated these problems, our focus has turned more and more toward emphasizing management of natural resources and building resilience against the predictable and unpredictable shocks that trigger a cycle of setbacks that drive people deeper into poverty.
Livelihoods in the poorest rural communities where we work often means small-scale agriculture, so we design our programs to build resilience by improving food production, increasing income, and strengthening links to markets. To achieve lasting improvements, we rely on each community’s wisdom and abilities, and often depart from business-as-usual approaches. Our innovative approaches include climate-smart agriculture practices, integrating agriculture with nutrition, and using mobile technology to exchange knowledge and increase productivity.