Building Livelihoods: A Field Manual for Practitioners in Humanitarian Settings
May 1, 2009 | by
Too often, livelihood programs serving refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and those returning to post-confl ict countries and regions are poorly designed and inappropriate for the context, and seldom lead to sustainable employment and income-generating activities. Though their intentions are good, program developers and managers struggle against enormous odds to do the best they can in very diffi cult working environments, often under immense time pressures and with too few resources. Information and tools on how to select and design appropriate livelihood programs are seldom available in usable formats with clear guidance. And yet, everyone, from local community-based organizations to international nongovernmental organizations to policy makers and donors, wants to support, fund and implement more effective programs to support the self-reliance of the displaced. As the length of displacement continues to extend for many populations, now averaging 17 years for the majority of refugees, it is essential that we get it right and design these programs better.
This fi eld manual has been developed to provide practitioners with usable information and helpful tools so that they can design and implement more effective livelihood programs—programs that are based on market demand and are contextually appropriate; programs that build on the existing skills and experience within the target population; and programs that enhance the dignity and options for the displaced.
In this era of growing food and economic insecurity, it is imperative that we begin to rethink the role of humanitarian assistance and shift away from handouts and enforced dependency. Humanitarian assistance must be about restoring lives, supporting families and rebuilding communities. It must be about restoring dignity. It must be about creating opportunities and preparing the displaced for their future lives in their countries and regions of origin, or wherever they may fi nd a long-term living solution.
This publication by the Women’s Refugee Commission is based on two-and-a-half years of research and 10 fi eld assessments covering all contexts of displacement: refugee, IDP and returnee situations, in camp settings, as well as in rural and urban areas. It is informed by several pilot projects that were funded from one to three years in places such as the refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border; with women at-risk of gender-based violence who have returned to Burundi; and in the slums of Bogotá, Colombia, home to a large displaced population. The fi eld manual has been reviewed and contributed to by experts from the NGO practitioner, UN and academic communities, including those who participated in a three-day intensive workshop at the Rockefeller Foundation’s conference center in Bellagio, Italy. This fi eld manual does not provide all the answers, nor does it provide models that can be simply replicated from one context to another. Instead, it provides guidance, ideas, tools and suggestions to assist practitioners and program managers in making strategic choices about their livelihood interventions so that programs can be appropriately designed and have greater impact.
This field manual was produced to assist practitioners who desire to strengthen their skills and enhance their knowledge in order to do better livelihoods and economic recovery programming. The Women’s Refugee Commission hopes that the manual helps members of the humanitarian community succeed in our endeavor to do better—the displaced deserve no less.
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