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Livelihood diversification: increasing in importance or increasingly recognized? Evidence from southern Ethiopia


  • Grace Carswell

    (University of Sussex, Brighton, UK)


Drawing on research from southern Ethiopia this article presents evidence that non-farm and off-farm activities are carried out by a significant proportion of adults and make an important contribution to livelihoods. It shows that there is a high involvement of women in diversification and that the contribution of diversification activities to cash incomes is particularly important for poorer households. The single most important activity is trading, while labouring for others is also important. The paper also shows the need for greater historical depth in the understanding of livelihood diversification. In highland Wolayta non-farm activities (particularly trading and labouring for others) have a long history. In the case of the latter people worked as labourers as part of a set of arrangements that enabled them to gain access to key resources. These arrangements were deeply embedded in complex social relations. As these institutional arrangements have changed, so 'diversification activities' have become more visible. Consideration of the historical and social contexts is thus critical for a firm understanding of livelihood change and the changing role and importance of diversification activities. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Grace Carswell, 2002. "Livelihood diversification: increasing in importance or increasingly recognized? Evidence from southern Ethiopia," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(6), pages 789-804.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jintdv:v:14:y:2002:i:6:p:789-804 DOI: 10.1002/jid.924

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Stefan Dercon & Pramila Krishnan, 1996. "Income portfolios in rural Ethiopia and Tanzania: Choices and constraints," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(6), pages 850-875.
    2. Reardon, Thomas, 1997. "Using evidence of household income diversification to inform study of the rural nonfarm labor market in Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(5), pages 735-747, May.
    3. Bryceson, Deborah Fahy, 1996. "Deagrarianization and rural employment in sub-Saharan Africa: A sectoral perspective," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(1), pages 97-111, January.
    4. Frank Ellis, 1998. "Household strategies and rural livelihood diversification," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(1), pages 1-38.
    5. Ellis, Frank, 2000. "Rural Livelihoods and Diversity in Developing Countries," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296966, June.
    6. Berdegue, Julio A. & Ramirez, Eduardo & Reardon, Thomas & Escobar, German, 2001. "Rural Nonfarm Employment and Incomes in Chile," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(3), pages 411-425, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ayal Kimhi, 2010. "Entrepreneurship and income inequality in southern Ethiopia," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 81-91, January.
    2. World Bank, 2009. "Unleashing the Potential of Ethiopian Women : Trends and Options for Economic Empowerment," World Bank Other Operational Studies 18862, The World Bank.
    3. Hanrahan, Kelsey B., 2015. "Living Care-Fully: The Potential for an Ethics of Care in Livelihoods Approaches," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 381-393.
    4. Adugna, Lemi, 2009. "Determinants of Income Diversification in Rural Ethiopia: evidence From Panel Data," Ethiopian Journal of Economics, Ethiopian Economics Association, vol. 18(1).

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