Water and Sewage
Green Blue
Buildings & land use
Tool Summary Tool Characteristics Tool Application Source of Tools Opinion of Tools

Tool summary

Name of the tool
Sustainable Livelihoods Approach

Description of the tool
The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) has been created to help achieve the following DFID adopted definition of a Sustainable Livelihood:
" A livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources) and activities required for a means of living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintains or enhances its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base."
(Adapted from Chambers, R. and G. Conway (1992) Sustainable rural livelihoods: Practical concepts for the 21 st century. IDS Discussion Paper 296. Brighton: IDS.).

DFIDs Sustainable Livelihood Appproach is based on six core concepts and objectives:

(i) People centred
The SLA places people at the nucleus of the approach.
On a practical level the SLA:
• involves an analysis of people’s livelihoods and the changes over time;
• engages people fully and values their viewpoints;
• identifies the different policies and institutions that impact on people/households;
• identifies the importance of influencing the policies and organisations so that the agenda of the poor is promoted;
• acts to provide support for people to work towards their own livelihood goals.
As a result of the use of the SLA (the core concepts and the framework) on the Awel Aman Tawe (AAT) project, capacity building was considered to be essential. This was achieved by the decision that much of the project should be done ´in-house´. Within the first years of the project AAT linked with training providers so that all staff could receive any relevant training. As a result some people have been able to move onto new jobs using the new skills.

(ii) Holistic
The holistic concept seeks to obtain an understanding of what influences peoples livelihoods, and to identify the influencing factors in order that they can be modified by the individuals themselves to create a more favourable livelihood outcome.

(iii) Dynamic
As livelihoods are constantly changing the SLA seeks to be dynamic by understanding and learning from change in order that it can support positive patterns of change and help prevent negative patterns of change.
To encourage dynamism within Awel Aman Tawe, 50 ‘Participatory indicators’ were developed that looked at all aspects of the community. It is intended that the indicators will be used to identify changes in livelihoods as a result of the wind farm.

(iv) Building on strengths
The SLA begins analysis with a review of strengths as opposed to needs, through looking at peoples inherent potential. It is intended that people will be helped to achieve their own objectives.
In AAT, one of the local strengths identified was the Welsh language, which is very strong in the area, the SLA reiterated how important it was to respect the local language.

(v) Macro-micro links
The SLA seeks to fill the gap between the macro and micro level and encourage the lessons learnt at the local level to be incorporated into macro level policies.
In AAT, this concept involved considering how the proposal for a community energy project linked the project to the rest of the world, helped the project to find funding. As part of the research, the project investigated community development, wind farms and climate change.

‘The notion of sustainability is key to this approach’
DFID (1999) Core concepts 1.3 Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets,

The Sustainable Livelihoods Framework (SLF) has been designed by the Department for International Development (DFID) to provide an organised approach to listing, understanding and linking the main factors and influences on people’s livelihoods in order to achieve sustainable livelihoods. The framework is designed to be used as a checklist or as an analytical tool. As an analytical tool the SLF doesn’t stand alone, a number of tools should be used to identify issues of relevance. The Department for International Developments (DFID) website contains a toolbox with tools such as governance assessment, risk assessment, Strategic Environmental Assessment and participatory poverty assessment technique.

Sustainable livelihoods framework
Sustainable livelihoods framework

The framework indicates highly dynamic, relationships between the different components. There is no one direction to follow the framework from a common starting point as it does not operate in a linear manner, nor attempt to present a mode of reality (DFID (1999) Introduction to the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets, (

The framework should be used to analyse livelihoods, it will then indicate which type of development activity can do the most to eliminate poverty.
"They include activities such as:
• improving access to high-quality education, information technologies and training and better nutrition and health
• facilitating a more supportive and cohesive social environment
• improving access to, and management of, natural resources
• improving access to basic and facilitating infrastructure
• improving access to financial resources, and
• establishing a policy and institutional environment that supports multiple livelihood strategies and promotes equitable access to competitive markets for all.
These six areas of activity relate to the five types of capital identified in DFID's SL framework and to the area of the framework termed ´Policy, Institutions and Processes´.

Specific topic
Community development

Sector/s of use






Building & Land use







M - main sector, 1 - sub sector and 0 - n/a

Scale of applications