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NCCR North-South - Research Partnerships for Sustainable Development

Thank you for visiting the website of the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South. The NCCR North-South programme formally ended in June 2014.

Please note that the content of this website will no longer be updated.

Livelihood Concepts and Contexts


What are the options open to the poor for gaining a livelihood? What new paths are being opened through globalisation? What are the obstacles that need to be overcome?

NCCR North-South research into these questions focuses on issues of access to available assets and the implications of spatial dynamics for the livelihood strategies of individuals and households in a variety of different socio-environmental contexts. The research is organised around two sub-themes:

Theoretical and methodological approaches to livelihood analysis
Research on even such eminently practical issues as making a living needs a clear theoretical and methodological basis. Clear articulation of the conceptions of society and human interaction that inform research makes it possible to reconsider and adapt them to the realities of empirical findings. While continuing to draw on established scientific traditions of social analysis, NCCR North-South research is particularly sensitive to issues of gender and ethnicity. The incorporation of these issues into an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary analysis of what real people do in real situations raises a number of theoretical and methodological questions worthy of investigation.

Rural-urban interactions in a globalising world
The accelerated tendency toward urbanisation that has accompanied changes in the structure of the global economy has forced the poor to adapt their survival strategies. This has led to increased oscillation between urban and rural livelihood contexts. Research has confirmed the impression that there is a rising tendency for households to become multi-spatial, with some members residing in rural areas while others move toward urban and peri-urban settings. The term household can thus no longer be seen as referring simply to a residential unit. Households are progressively coming to resemble highly gendered, tightly organised networks for the exchange of goods, services and support between rural and urban locations.

The changing relationship between rural and urban livelihood contexts also has consequences for the development of “local” decision-making processes. At the institutional level, it demands a rethinking of such concepts as participation, decentralisation or power devolution. At the household level, it can imply fundamental changes in the ways decisions are reached regarding both urban and rural livelihood activities and the strategies followed for linking them.


Research 2001-2009

Regional Focus

in the world:

The NCCR North-South is hosted by the University of Bern
and funded jointly by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation