Territorial Approach for Sustainable Livelihoods - Advantages and Limitations

  • The approach is an ideal concept for sequencing developmental measures in a coordinated way (i.e. linking relief, rehabilitation and development), irrespective of the funding mechanisms.
  • Backbone projects are derived from local / sub-national development priorities and plans (e.g. district or provincial development plans).
  • Backbone projects are labour intensive, they take more than 1-2 years to complete, thus providing income guarantee for a specific period of time.
  • Backbone projects can be both infrastructure as well as natural resource development projects (large scale forest rehabilitation, erosion control, measures to combat desertification, etc).
  • Labour intensive backbone projects are ideal basis for qualifying labourers to skilled artisans thus increasing the employment and income generation opportunities after completion of the backbone project.
  • Income generating support projects around the backbones will eventually sustain the improved livelihoods beyond the labour intensive work.
  • Combination of labour intensive infrastructure projects which creates economic and physical assets with the income and employment generating support projects will sustainably improve the livelihoods.
  • The approach focuses on a variety of factors, at different levels, that directly or indirectly determine or improve poor people’s access to  resources/assets of different kinds, and thus their livelihoods.
  • The approach has to be seen in the wider continuum view of linking relief, rehabilitation and development and therefore is not a stand-alone approach.
  • Defining who the poor are and determining the correct combination of measures that need to be combined between the backbone project and the support projects that focus on the poor.
  • Backbone projects are costly projects, in terms of funds and time required.
  • Conflicting interest between political wish for completing backbone projects quickly compared to communities wish for ensuring employment and income generation over a longer period of time.
  • The approach may accentuate the problem with regard to ‘social relations of poverty’ where relations of inequality and power maintain and reproduce poverty at the local level.
  • The backbone approach may not always allow for a gender-balanced approach, in many countries manual labour is dominated by men rather than women. Here the support projects should then be more focused on addressing gender issues.
  • Not all elements of sustainable livelihoods can be taken up by the approach since it is both time-bound and territorially bound.
  • Where visibility and wide coverage is of greater political importance the backbone approach will only have a limited short and medium term impact compared to interventions in smaller territorial areas..