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Economic Strengthening for the Very Poor (ES4VP)

The LIFT Framework

In 2010, LIFT led the development of a livelihood and food security framework that integrated an Economic Strengthening (ES) Pathway, the vulnerabilities households face, and the types of ES interventions that are appropriate for them as their needs change.The framework builds on the understanding that a household is economically secure when it can cope with and recover from stresses and external shocks, as well as maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets now and in the future.[1]

This conceptual framework highlights the following principles and relationships:

1. Households in developing countries experience varying levels of vulnerability, which ranges from high to low. Household livelihood and food security can only be fully understood within this vulnerability context.

2. Household livelihood and food security are inversely related to a household’s level of vulnerability.

3. Households engage in a variety of livelihood activities corresponding to their level of vulnerability. The most vulnerable households tend to engage in livelihood activities characterized by destitution or distress. Households in destitution/distress are also the most livelihood and food insecure. Highly to moderately vulnerable households tend to engage in livelihood activities characterized by ex ante risk reduction and ex post loss management in anticipation of or in response to stresses and shocks. These households initially manage loss using reversible coping strategies but may be driven to engage in less reversible coping strategies making them more vulnerable to future stresses and shocks, while simultaneously making them more livelihood and food insecure. Less vulnerable households tend to focus on livelihood activities aimed at increasing household income by engaging in higher economic risk and higher return income generating activities.

4. If one or more household member suffers from HIV/AIDS, this can potentially make the household both more vulnerable and more livelihood/food insecure than would otherwise be the case.

5. Livelihood interventions roughly correspond to the household’s vulnerability status. Livelihood provisioning interventions correspond to the most vulnerable households in destitution or distress. Livelihood protection interventions correspond to vulnerable households engaged in risk reduction and loss management activities. Finally, livelihood promotion interventions correspond to somewhat vulnerable households engaged in income growth activities.

6. Outcomes on the livelihood pathway correspond to general livelihood interventions and in turn to the household’s livelihood activities and vulnerability level. A household’s movement up the livelihood pathway from one outcome to the next corresponds to a reduction in its vulnerability level and an improvement in its livelihood/food security, and vice versa.

7. A set of specific livelihood interventions (falling under each of the general livelihood interventions) correspond to the household’s location on the livelihood pathway and in turn to the household’s livelihood activities and vulnerability level.

It bears repeating that the principles and relationships described in this conceptual framework are by necessity general as the purpose here is to create a framework that is broadly applicable across contexts. Thus while the conceptual framework may not explain all the cross-contextual variations, it is the aim that it will provide a unified basis for discussion and inquiry and promote a common (albeit basic) understanding of complex issues across diverse disciplines. Ultimately, however, the usefulness of this conceptual framework will depend on the extent to which it helps facilitate better livelihood programming targeted to the vulnerability status and livelihood needs of poor and vulnerable households and leads to their improved livelihood and food security.[2]  




[1] PoP Discussion Paper (p.1)

[2] LIFT ES Framework 8-17-11 (p. 30)