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Poverty and Reefs

4.4 Diversifying And Enhancing Livelihood Opportunities

The poor are continually seeking alternative income-generating opportunities both to supplement current diminishing sources, and to provide opportunities for occupational migration. Whilst income activity diversification and occupational migration are often adopted to reduce risk, they can actually increase risk in the short to medium term. This occurs often enough to dissuade the poor from this course of action until they are in very desperate situations. An increasingly important role of development agencies is to take part of that risk and support the uptake of viable and sustainable income alternatives or to enhance existing livelihood opportunities.

In light of the declining availability of and access to reef resources, many reef-focused interventions are beginning to search for alternatives to substitute the incomes and livelihoods lost for those dependent on the reef, or to replace unsustainable or destructive reef exploitation patterns. In the past this has often proved rather difficult because the alternatives suggested have rarely been well linked into the resources of the poor or to the requirements of local markets (Box 45). In some cases they have not acknowledged the seasonality context in which the poor operate or the shocks and changes that they confront. Or they have ignored the wider influences that society places on the poor. In many cases, the success of alternatives is limited to the lifespan of the programme initiating the change, with alternatives unable to exist without external support or to adapt to the dynamic nature of livelihoods.

There is now a growing recognition that a more systematic approach, which looks holistically at livelihoods and develops solutions in partnership with people, after careful consideration of the opportunities and threats, is likely to generate more acceptable and sustainable results. Solutions may not simply require the development of an alternative income-generating opportunity to replace an illegal or declining option. They may also involve enhancing or diversifying existing activities through direct changes to the activities themselves or the wider context in which they operate. Experience suggests that for successful interventions to be developed and sustained a greater understanding of local livelihoods is required. More emphasis on a process of dialogue, understanding, planning, development and evaluation is needed as opposed to the rush of many interventions to apply a shopping list of potential alternatives in order to meet project timescales and objectives (Box 46).
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