[ Community Adaptation and Sustainable Livelihoods ][ IISDnet Contents ]
ASAL Header Graphic Adaptive Strategies for Sustainable Livelihoods in Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs) Project

Under existing conditions (of externally driven development policies, concentration on the cash economy and existing trade relations), the typical responses of the poor have been to appropriate common property resources, intensify agriculture on marginal lands, increase heads of livestock and shorten fallow periods; migrate seasonally or permanently to cities, towns, agricultural plantations and to more vulnerable and marginal lands; and have large families in order to diversify sources of income and labor.

These responses generally have not provided long-term benefits to the poor. However, there is a growing interest in the poor as agents for their own self improvement guided by their own knowledge base and strategies which could lead to sustainable livelihoods. Our preparatory workshops confirmed the need for clear and detailed documentation of adaptive strategies that have led to sustainable livelihoods and the policy issues that enhance or constrain the development and implementation of these strategies. These strategies are likely to have evolved from an interaction between contemporary and indigenous knowledge. Hence the initiative sought to capture these synergies and the conditions and processes which produced and reinforced them. It was recognized that these strategies were diverse and included adaptations to ecological, social, political and cultural risks and shocks.

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IISD recognized that the problems enunciated above occur globally in diverse socio-ecological systems. It was agreed that initially, the initiative would focus on agropastoralists in arid and semi-arid areas with the view of using the lessons learned from this experience to develop similar initiatives in other regions and socio-ecological systems. Our entry point was the identification of adaptive strategies, which are the result of indigenous knowledge and experiences, contemporary knowledge including scientific and technological innovations and policy issues, and which have led to sustainable livelihoods in arid and semi-arid lands.

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