Livelihood Zoning


What is livelihood zoning?

Livelihood zoning is the first step in the HEA analytical framework and necessary before carrying out an HEA baseline or rapid HEA assessment.

-Where HEA assessments are being carried out in a limited area (for example, in the case of an NGO doing an HEA baseline to inform its programme planning), livelihood zoning can be undertaken quickly in consultation with an experienced HEA practitioner. The main question initially is to determine the number of different livelihood zones in the area being assessed. This will then be cross-checked at the beginning of fieldwork in discussions with key informants at a district or regional level.

-Where livelihood zoning is to be carried out for a whole country or region, as is the case for Afghanistan shown above, a longer and more involved process is required (see below). The livelihood zone map that is produced provides a starting point for any subsequent baseline assessment, and can also be used on its own to provide an overview of different livelihood patterns across a large area.


Steps in a national or regional livelihood zoning

  1. A review of available rainfall, agro-ecological, soil, vegetation and agro- economic maps;
  1. An initial workshop at either national or regional level to obtain a preliminary map and zone descriptions. Participants usually include technical staff from relevant line ministries (e.g., agriculture, livestock, meteorology, natural resources, fishing), NGOs and international organizations;
  1. Consultations with key informants at a lower level (either regional or district), and possibly some village visits, to confirm the map and clarify any outstanding issues. 
 (It is generally not possible to delineate livelihood zones on the basis of secondary data alone, because livelihood zones are not based on what the land is used for (as shown on a land use map) or on what people grow (as shown on an agro-ecological map), but on what people do);
  1. A return to the first level to agree any changes with partners and to get a consensus on the ‘final’ map – although a livelihood zone map is always open to change as a result of more detailed field work.

For examples of national and regional livelihood zone maps, please see the Famine Early Warning Systems Network website.

What is a livelihood zone?

A livelihood zone is a geographical area within which people share basically the same patterns of access to food and income (that is, they grow the same crops, or keep the same types of livestock), and have the same access to markets.


Example of a livelihood zone

An example of a livelihood zone map from the Limpopo basin in Mozambique is shown to the right. This shows how the zoning takes into account differences not just in production but in access to employment markets (which distinguishes livelihoods in the Lower Limpopo from those in the Upper Limpopo), and access to trading markets (which is the distinguishing feature of livelihoods in the coastal zone). For more information please see the HEA guide for Programme Planners and Policy-makers from which this map is taken.