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Agricultural rehabilitation: Mapping the linkages between humanitarian relief, social protection and development

This HPG research addressed the question of how to support the livelihoods of rural people who have been affected by conflict. Specifically, it focuses on how international actors might move beyond conventional seeds and tools interventions to address vulnerability and support the agricultural component of rural livelihoods in countries emerging from conflict. It examined, both conceptually and practically, how agricultural rehabilitation can contribute to linking humanitarian assistance, social protection and longer-term development through the provision of effective support in ways that are consistent with core humanitarian principles as well as with livelihoods and rights-based approaches. The paper is based on lessons from Afghanistan and Sierra Leone, and draws its analysis from livelihoods work and social protection.

Although crop and livestock agriculture is certainly the most important factor in rural livelihoods, agriculture is not synonymous with rural livelihoods, which encompass a far wider variety of livelihood strategies. Yet the belief that virtually all rural people strive (and should strive) to become own-account farmers continues to permeate much agricultural rehabilitation policy and programming. Transcending this belief requires more detailed livelihoods analysis in order to understand the complexity of how rural people ‘hustle’ to survive. Agricultural production is surprisingly resilient in the face of conflict, and it is essential to step back and reassess the basic assumptions about how conflict impacts on agricultural production, consumption and markets. Two particular sets of challenges exist in understanding the impact of conflict on agriculture: the first surrounds understanding shifts in livelihood activities and strategies, and the second in identifying and understanding market shifts in conflict and post-conflict settings.

Catherine Longley, Ian Christoplos