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Livelihoods Research: Some Conceptual and Methodological Issues

Colin Murray


This paper offers a review of conceptual and methodological issues in the pursuit of livelihoods research, with particular reference to southern Africa. Disparate and partly overlapping frameworks of investigation are outlined, with an emphasis on three key questions. First, how is empirical research at the micro-level related to analysis of the structural, historical and institutional elements of the macro-context? Second , what combination of methods most effectively allows us to trace trajectories of change in diverse livelihoods over time? Third, how are livelihoods frameworks most usefully deployed to investigate and understand processes of differentiation, accumulation and impoverishment? The methods and approaches surveyed include: the Sustainable (Rural) Livelihoods framework; Frank Ellis' work on combining sample surveys and participatory techniques in East Africa; livelihood trajectories research in western Nepal and eastern India; Khanya's 'vertical transect' methodology, used in Southern and Central Africa; Multiple Livelihoods and Social Change research using life histories and 'cluster' analysis in South Africa; and Sechaba's combining of quantitative survey and 'participatory' research in Lesotho.

Publication Type(s)

CPRC Working Paper


concepts poverty dynamics livelihoods methodology southern Africa

ISBN: 1-904049-05-2


Livelihoods Research PDF 49.9 KB

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