Hanging in, stepping up and stepping out: livelihood aspirations and strategies of the poor

In recent years understanding of poverty and of ways in which people escape from or fall into poverty has become more holistic. This should improve the capabilities of policy analysts and others working to reduce poverty, but it also makes analysis more complex. This article describes a simple schema which integrates multidimensional, multilevel, and dynamic understandings of poverty, of poor people’s livelihoods, and of changing roles of agricultural systems. The article suggests three broad types of strategy pursued by poor people: ‘hanging in’; ‘stepping up’; and ‘stepping out’. This simple schema explicitly recognises the dynamic aspirations of poor people; diversity among them; and livelihood diversification. It also brings together aspirations of poor people with wider sectoral, inter-sectoral, and macro-economic questions about policies necessary for realisation of those aspirations.