What Is Livelihoods?

“A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base.” UK Department for International Development (DFID), 2000.


What Does Resilience Mean?

According to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) resilience is “a transformative process of strengthening the capacity of people, communities and countries to anticipate, manage, recover and transform from shocks.” At an individual level resilience refers to a positive adaptation or the ability to recover when experiencing adversity. Each person's life and its development as well as social-cultural contexts contain factors shaping the development of resilience. In disaster or conflict situations, the Camp Management Agency will aim to create an environment conducive to the well-being of the camp population. Livelihood activities will contribute to building resilience among the camp community and are an important step toward self-reliance.


Displaced people who have suffered direct losses of their human, physical, natural, financial and social assets through natural disaster or conflict have the right to protect, recover, improve and develop their livelihoods. In a camp setting, where communities are largely dependent on the assistance and services of others to fulfil their basic needs and rights, this is particularly important. Livelihoods contribute to food security, prevent dependency, reduce vulnerability, enhance self-reliance and can develop or build a set of specific skills during displacement. This may have a positive impact on internally displaced persons' (IDPs') well-being and future opportunities.

A Camp Management Agency can help to improve the population’s overall standard of living and support positive livelihood strategies by identifying and coordinating with relevant agencies to provide skills training, agricultural support, where appropriate, and income generating activities. These may have a beneficial impact on the host community and the local markets as well. Adequate confidence building measures must be taken, especially where resources such as firewood, grazing and safe water are scarce. These should be based on a participatory analysis of the social, economic and environmental context of the camp population and the local community.

It is the role of a Camp Management Agency to assure that assistance is provided in a way that minimises the pressure placed on the displaced population to resort to negative coping mechanism such as survival sex, theft or gaining access to free goods through corruption or manipulation.

The development of livelihood opportunities can also impact positively on the security within and surrounding a displacement site. Employment, and the constructive focus which can arise from it, can help reduce boredom, frustration and levels of criminal activity and violence. It may also help to combat protection risks related to alcohol or substance abuse and cases of gender-based violence (GBV). To work, to engage even in smallscale activities and to access food independently, has a positive impact on dignity and self-respect and may also actively reduce potential conflict with host community members. Camps provide opportunity to offer adequate training to large numbers of crisisaffected populations. The skills acquired during th training may support them during their eventual return. Positive livelihood programmes and strategies that enhance food security and are commonly facilitated in a camp setting, include:

  • Market gardening may be developed through the distribution of seeds and tools, through supporting food processing or through training.
  • Fishing, poultry or small livestock breeding can be assisted by provision of inputs and support of existing forms of production.
  • Encouraging markets and trade with others in the camp or the host population could require provision of infrastructure, adequate security measures or food or cash vouchers to exchange in shops. Ideally food and non-food items distributed in camps should not end up being sold in markets. If a significant level of items is sold in the local market, it could be a result of poor analysis of priority needs and/or lack of awareness of the importance of the items.
  • Small-scale businesses require the support of grants or microfinance schemes which offer training in such things as business management, marketing, accounting and human resources.
  • Income generating activities related to vocational training in for example tailoring, hair dressing or handicraft production requires business training.
  • Income generating activities may also require accessto- markets support or fair price shops where goods are subsidised and prices controlled.
  • Wage labour may be outside the camp in paid employment or through camp maintenance and development schemes. CFW and FFW may be appropriate.

The strategies people choose as being most viable will depend on their own skills, culture, capacities, resources and social mechanisms as well as on host community regulations, camp policies, the security situation and the opportunities made available and promoted.