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..