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Introduction: Using livelihoods and land use diagrams during PRA

Gaining a basic understanding of typical farming and land use systems and integrated household resource use is an essential initial step when undertaking research or development activities in rural areas. Participatory Rural Appraisals are frequently used and generate vast amounts of information which require an equal effort to analyse. Livelihood and land use diagrams can be used to aid the processing and understanding of this information, prior to, during, or after the field research has been carried out.

Livelihoods and land use diagrams help to the identify gaps in knowledge, maximise the use of existing data sources and take account of social differentiation and intra-household processes. The analysis of existing information from reports and other documents, and the personal knowledge of local researchers using a diagram based tool can make information gathering more cost effective when the analysis of existing information is carried out prior to collection of further data in the field. Using qualitative data to draw livelihood and land use diagrams can reveal gaps in existing knowledge about farming systems and livelihoods. When carried out prior to, or during a PRA exercise this can lead to more targeted field research exercises. Many PRAs do not distinguish between different groups within the community (Slocum et al., 1998), however households do follow different livelihood strategies and current poverty targeted research and development work acknowledges the need to recognise different social groups. The diagrams aim to draw attention to social differentiation within the community and to intra-household processes, and the activities which are carried out by different members of the household.

The concept of rural livelihoods (Carney, 1998) is complex and multifaceted and livelihood and land use diagrams are not intended to represent all aspects. They focus particularly on land use, and hence on the environment and sustainability issues. They may be used as part of a fuller analysis of rural livelihoods.

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