Livelihoods assessment of vulnerable households affected by the socio-economic impact of COVID-19, at risk of separation or who have been reintegrated, who are receiving case management

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Executive Summary

The livelihoods assessment will support the design of a child-sensitive livelihood assistance program to prompt livelihoods restoration and prevent, or reduce, the use of negative coping strategies, which are potentially harmful for children. The program will target the same vulnerable households receiving a child-sensitive cash assistance.

This initiative falls under SCI global agenda that seeks to demystify the risks and opportunities that cash-based assistance may entail to reduce the risks of family separation.

To complete this livelihoods assessment SCI Cambodia led a livelihood desk review, a household economic survey to 823 households already receiving case management services, 5 focus group discussions with 35 social workers and an assessment of 14 training providers.
The results show that the socio-economic situation of already vulnerable households has been further exacerbated with the closure of businesses, increased unemployment, a lower demand in key sectors and the subsequent loss of revenues. Poor and near-poor households are on the rise.

98% of the households experienced a reduction in income as a result of COVID-19 (22% lost all their revenues and 54% a majority of them). A large majority of households have been forced to adopt negative coping strategies, notably to cope with the lack of food, such as the contraction of high levels of debt (often beyond $3,000 when the average monthly income per capita is approximately $104) and adults eating less to ensure food for small children. As such, it is not surprising that 81% of the targeted households fall between the “crisis” phase #3 and the “emergency” phase #4 of the widely recognized integrated phase classification (IPC).

90% of the assessed livelihood activities require low skills and are mainly situated in the informal sector: informal labor (seasonal agricultural work, construction work or housework services), agricultural production (mainly rice and cassava), wild picking and hunting, animal raising (mainly chicken), buying/producing and selling food, and/or collecting and recycling junk. The remaining 10% are formal wage labor (mainly in food shops, restaurants, hotels and garment factories), informal wage labor (taxi drivers and cart carrier) and other small entrepreneurship (beauty salon and handcraft).

While vulnerable households try to remain economically active amidst the economic downturn, reflecting their capacities to mitigate and/or adapt partly to the secondary impacts of COVID19, they all still face a similar array of barriers that limits their ability to fully restore and/or develop alternative livelihood without external assistance.

Limited human capital, such as high levels of illiteracy and limited technical/budget management/business management skills coupled with insufficient financial capital (high levels of debts, important revenue loss, limited access to safety nets, limited capital/savings) impedes their capacity to acquire new skills and to invest in their current/prospective livelihood activities while meeting their essential needs. This situation is further exacerbated by the fact they hold very few productive assets they could leverage and have limited to no access to land they may utilize for complementary feeding and/or cash crop.

At the time of publishing this this report (April 2021), COVID-19 is rapidly spreading in Cambodia, which in turn has been forcing national authorities to impose restrictive measures on economic and social life, especially in the urban hot spots of Phnom Penh, Kandal and Siem Reap. As such, it is likely that these vulnerable households will fall further into poverty and lose their few remaining resilience capacities with no hope for a rapid recovery if no substantial external assistance is provided in the medium to long-term.

The reports concludes with a set of program recommendations, including some here-below:

  1. Propose multiple livelihood pathways with short-term prospects in both agricultural and non-agricultural sectors, according to households’ preferences, the most promising activities, including in the green economy, and their capabilities to support the strengthening of existing livelihood activities or the development of alternative activities

  2. Support the development of short production cycles to ensure rapid return on investments, such as domestic poultry, horticulture and cricket production

  3. Support the development of innovative, low-tech, do-it-yourself soilless cultivation and animal raising technics notably for households with limited access to land and water, and in urban or semi-urban areas

  4. Ensure the targeting of out-of-school youth while including “do no harm” approaches that prevents risks of child labor and that does not give further incentives for children to drop-out school

  5. Provide financial literacy, basic business/budget management and marketing trainings to help households better plan and prioritize their incomes and needs and manage their activity

  6. Ensure access to vocational trainings, notably for beauty salon, mechanics and food processing, while covering costs such as transportation, tuition fees, essential training material, accommodation, food etc.

  7. Facilitate linkages with market actor/systems and the value chains through membership in Agricultural Cooperative/Producer Groups and/or access to improved processing technics

  8. Ensure that the livelihood activities in disaster-prone areas are prepared and sensitive to climate change, including building staff capacities on emergency preparedness, determining the triggers to activate early action/financing, developing preparedness plans with communities and planning/delivering early actions while leveraging on social protection scheme

  9. Ensure the provision of support services for post-graduation job/internship placement