Livelihood diversification: Increasing in importance or increasingly recognized? Evidence from southern Ethiopia

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Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


This paper is based on research conducted in southern Ethiopia. Results show a significant number of adults contributing to livelihoods using both nonfarm and off-farm activities. It also shows that women are highly involvement in diversification and that the contribution of diversification activities to cash incomes is particularly important for poorer households. Trading is carried out by 14 percent of all adults; which represents the single most important activity. Both rich and poor are involved in trading but more women represent three quarters of all traders. Women also tend to be the majority of small-scale traders. In order for women to maintain control over their incomes from trading, they have to invest it (often hidden) in livestock or in savings groups. The author calls for the need to understand livelihood diversification in the historical context. In this area trading and laboring for others has been happening for a long time often without payment as laboring was part of an exchange of services. Once payment is introduced, men's involvement in 'diversification activities' also changes, and consequently it becomes more visible. The author suggests that the invisibility of diversification activities, particularly trading by women, is unrecognized because the general invisibility of women's work.


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Women, Livelihoods, Gender, Income generation, Ethiopia, Diversification, Small-scale trading


Journal of International Development 14: 789-804