11: Poverty, livelihood vulnerability and disasters in pastoral areas

Course home

Pastoral areas are often some of the poorest regions in terms of levels of income, ownership of assets and access to services. Vulnerability to shocks and stresses is high. Recurrent disasters have often resulted in large populations requiring humanitarian and social protection support.

Governments and aid agencies alike often write-off pastoral areas, arguing for major transformations, with programmes of urbanisation, settlement and alternative livelihoods advocated as part of poverty reduction programmes. However, such responses often fail to engage with the underlying causes of vulnerability and proceed with a poor understanding of pastoral livelihoods.


This lecture by Ian Scoones examines different approaches to poverty and well-being, including sustainable livelihoods approaches, as well as social protection, insurance and disaster risk reduction. The importance of pastoral ‘moral economies’ is emphasised alongside the socio-political dimensions of vulnerability, coping and responses in pastoral settings. Poverty and vulnerability are clearly major challenges in pastoral areas, especially as societies become more differentiated. The big question is: what sort of responses make sense today?

Watch the lecture



  • What should be contained in a ‘livelihoods assessment’ of a pastoral area? In standard approaches, what elements do you think are often missed?
  • What are the formal measures (from the state or external agencies) that are taken to reduce poverty and vulnerability in the pastoral areas you know? What are their pros and cons?
  • What are the aspects of ‘traditional’ moral economy to improve coping and welfare? How is this changing?


For perspectives on an extended ‘livelihoods perspective’, watch Ian Scoones’ lecture on sustainable livelihoods and development, and read the 2015 book Sustainable Livelihoods and Rural Development, especially chapters 2 and 3.

Photo credit: Masresha Taye

← Part 10 Course home Part 12 →