Preliminary rural livelihood zoning: Tanzania

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This report provides the results of a livelihood zoning project conducted by FEWS NET Tanzania in collaboration with the Tanzania Food Security Information Team (FSIT) in July and August of 2008. As shown in the table on the next page, livelihood zoning is the first step towards creating livelihood profiles or baselines for an area. The objective is to group people who share similar livelihood patterns, i.e., options for producing food, cashcrops, and livestock; securing cash income; and using the market. Doing so enables a geographical analysis of livelihoods aimed at understanding how people make ends meet in different conditions and what resources are available to them should they face misfortune or want to increase their wealth. In particular, a geographically defined livelihoods analysis seems key to determining how people in different circumstances will be affected by hazards such as rain failure or crop disease. To take only the most acute livelihood contrast, pastoralists and cultivators have different measures of what constitutes poor rains and what constitutes a real drought, and they have different responses to these threats. Comparative livelihoods information provides a solid base for monitoring food security among a population, thereby helping governments and international agencies to prevent humanitarian disasters.

In rural areas of most developing countries, livelihoods are based overwhelmingly on the primary production of food and cash crops, and livestock are also usually important even outside pastoral or agro-pastoral areas. Therefore, agro-ecology dominates the zoning. But other elements impinge, such as isolation from roads and markets, or proximity to large cities, irrigated plantations, or mining operations that offer substantial casual employment. Finally, both local culture and government policy can contribute to differences in zoning. One group of people may specialize in a cash crop that another group has the conditions to grow, but perhaps not the tradition or skill. More often, official initiatives or major projects may substantially affect local people's decisions about what to grow or where to offer their labor.

Livelihood zones are rarely aligned exactly with administrative boundaries, since the latter are the result of political events and decisions over time based on more than local economy. Sometimes a part of a livelihood zone boundary does coincide with an administrative boundary because both are defined by a major physical feature: perhaps both skirt a major mountain or both run along the top of an escarpment. But most commonly, livelihood zones cross district or even regional boundaries. On the other hand, governments and agencies usually work on the basis of administrative units, and livelihood zone maps are always superimposed on administrative maps so that the populations within the zones can be identified easily.

FEWS NET's livelihoods products are designed to answer decision-makers' questions related to food and livelihood security in countries with significant risk of severe hunger and livelihoods degradation. The first set of products contributes to the longer-term development of food security analysis and monitoring systems based on national livelihoods. These products provide the building blocks for national-level systems that are able to achieve quantified, defensible, evidence-based estimates of annual food and livelihood needs. The second set of products - one-off, targeted livelihoods-based assessments - are custom analyses designed to help specific decision-makers answer pressing questions on a wide range of subjects related to how people are surviving, how changes will affect them, and what can be done to support them most appropriately, given the range of policy and program options available.

In Tanzania, the 2008 livelihoods zoning exercise was designed as a starting point for the potential development of such livelihoods inquiries in the country. Profiling or baseline work would be logical next steps towards livelihoods-based food security monitoring. But the zoning results presented here are useful even now in helping us think about how people in different parts of the country will be affected by various hazards. It provides a rational geography for interpreting existing monitoring information on crop production, prices, and a range of other indicators. In addition, one-off assessments can use the zoning as an appropriate, livelihoods-based sampling frame.