HEA Questions


How frequently does a livelihood zoning need to be updated?

Rural economies in developing countries tend not to change all that rapidly, and a good livelihood zone map will generally be valid for roughly 10 years. What varies is the prevailing level of food or livelihood security, but this is a function of variations in hazard, not variations in the underlying pattern of livelihood itself. Put another way, the level of maize production may vary from year to year (hazard), but the underlying pattern of agricultural production does not (the livelihood).

What happens when two groups of people live in the same area but pursue quite different patterns of livelihood, e.g. for cultural reasons or because of differences in ethnicity?

By and large, where you live defines your livelihood options, but not everybody can or chooses to exploit these options in exactly the same way. The most common reason for pursuing different patterns of livelihood within a single zone is a difference in wealth. In an agricultural area, for example, most of the farmland may be owned by a relatively small number of better-off households, with the majority of the poor making a living as farm laborers. In this case, both groups are making use of the same basic livelihood options, but in different ways because of their different levels of wealth. Occasionally, however, other cultural or ethnic factors may result in quite different patterns of livelihood being pursued within the same geographical area. Consider, for example, a lakeshore zone within which there are two groups: cattle keepers that do not fish and fisher folk that keep a few cattle. The first thing to check is that these apparent differences in livelihood are not just reflections of differences in wealth. The test of this is that within each livelihood there should be people living at quite different levels of wealth (e.g. fisher folk with boats and more cattle versus fisher folk without boats and with few cattle). If this is the case, then two patterns of livelihood need to be defined. The fact that the groups pursuing these patterns of livelihood live in exactly the same geographical area poses little problem for most aspects of the analysis – the two groups are simply considered as separate livelihoods. The problem is how best to represent this situation on the map. The simplest solution is to consider the base from which each group operates. Even though both groups graze their cattle within the same area, perhaps the home villages of the fishing group are along the lake shore, while the cattle-only villages tend to be inland? If so, two zones can be defined on the basis of each group’s home base. If this is not the case, i.e. the fishing villages are genuinely intermixed with the cattle-only villages, then another means of mapping the two zones has to be found. One solution might be to color in the zone with stripes of two colors, one color representing each pattern of livelihood

How are the issues of migration and location of residence handled when calculating population figures?

Most people, even nomadic pastoralists, have a place that they (at least mentally) consider to be their base or their home. Provided the majority of household members spend the majority of the year at that base in years that are not particularly bad, then this should be considered their home and they should be included in the livelihood zone. Examples: For a highland Ethiopian family that sends two household members to work in the lowlands for 4 months of the year almost every year, the highlands are their home and livelihood zone. In contrast, wealthy Nicaraguan families who have agricultural businesses in rural livelihood zones but live in towns for most of the year are part of the economy of the rural livelihood zones but are not part of the population of those livelihood zones.

Baseline Assessment Questions


What happens when some interviews with community leaders result in three wealth groups and others produce four wealth groups?

Standard HEA practice in rural areas is to sub-divide into at least four wealth groups. Any fewer is likely to miss significant variations in access to food and/or income. In rare cases, it may be sufficient to divide into three groups (for instance, if you are focusing on just one group for the purposes of program planning, or if it’s a highly skewed feudal economy) but in the end it is the team leader’s role to make sure everyone is following and adhering to a standard procedure. Any deviations which occur within the first few interviews should be rectified before proceeding.

What should be done when teams return from community interviews from across the zone with different reference years? Since it is possible for two areas within one livelihood zone to have had quite different hazards in recent years, how is this reconciled?

Current practice is to choose the reference year before the teams head to the field, and then to work with district officials to choose villages where the reference year was neither particularly good, nor particularly bad. The training pilot field work is an opportunity to test whether or not the reference year will work in that zone, and also to refine the selection of villages. Before starting the real fieldwork, you should have an agreed upon reference year, and a list of villages where the reference year was similar in ‘hazard’ terms.

What happens when there are different types of activities within one wealth group? For instance, 30-40% might be doing petty trade whereas the other 60-70% are gathering firewood. They make more or less the same amount of income but the activities are different.

Typically the major income activities for a wealth group will be similar. So, for instance, 75% of their income will come from a combination of, say, crop and livestock sales, with a remaining 25% coming from other smaller sources. If you are finding consistent and significant variations in the major income sources, (e.g. 60% report that livestock sales provides 75% of their income, whereas the other 40% say crop sales provides most of their income) this means their vulnerability to hazards is different and you should consider subdividing the wealth group. Your team leader should make the final call on this. A more common scenario is to find the smaller sources are not consistent across the wealth group, as suggested in the above question. In this case, do not sub-divide the wealth group, but find a way to clearly report on these differences. If the sources can be grouped under a common category (e.g. basket weaving and brewing could be grouped as ‘self-employment’) this may be your simplest solution. Another alternative would be to group the variable income sources into an ‘other’ category, and explain what this comprises in the text of your report. In doing your analysis you would take an average of the various incomes to use in the Baseline Storage Sheet.