African rural labour, income diversification & livelihood approaches: A long-term development perspective

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ROAPE Publications Ltd


The implementation of SAP and economic liberalization throughout sub-Saharan Africa during the last fifteen years has coincided with the rapid expansion of rural income diversification. Many analysts see income diversification as a vital coping strategy for the rural people, while recognizing that its growing incidence amongst all sections of the African rural population can serve as a mechanism for increasing wealth differentiation. The current income diversification and livelihoods literature primarily restricts itself to situational analysis underpinned by assumptions of economic optimization on the part of decision-making households, while ignoring the broader process of depeasantization. Early agrarian change took the form of urban migration, funneling labour from rural areas and creating an array of stimuli that acted indirectly upon village life. Rural income diversification adds a new, more immediate dimension. Villagers are now actively part of in situ occupational change that has far-reaching implications for the coherence of rural households and the political balance of local communities and nation-states. Such profound transformation calls into question the "sustainability" of rural livelihood strategies now being advocated by donor agencies as well as the relevance of delineating formal, informal, and peasant sectors of the national economy.


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Rural development, Economic growth, Deregulation and liberalization, Livelihoods, Rural-urban migration, Sustainability, Income diversification, Farm/Enterprise Scale Governance


Review of African Political Economy 26(80): 171-189