2.3 Assessing and Strengthening the Sustainable Livelihoods FrameworkThe SLF has now been used for many years in understanding both rural and urban livelihoods and, undoubtedly, it is seen as having key advantages. According to Bohle (2009), there are two major strengths of the livelihoods approach. The first is that the approach views the poor and vulnerable not as passive victims, but as active and proactive agents in securing their living in contexts of uncertainty, risk, stress and shocks. In this regard, it ensures that agency is foregrounded in livelihoods analysis.
The livelihoods framework thus shifts the focus from structural perspectives (such as mainstream political economy) to actor-oriented perspectives that bring attention to the agency of the poor by considering the everyday life experiences of the poor, and the micro-worlds of their families, community and social networks. In doing so, and to varying degrees, it brings to light issues pertaining to marginalisation and exclusion, and vulnerability and poverty, as key determinants of precarious livelihoods (de Haan and Zoomers 2005). However, it would be overly generous to claim that the SLF pays sufficient attention to inequality and powerlessness, such that the structural context of capitalism and patriarchy is inadequately addressed. A second major strength, again according to Bohle (2009), is that the livelihoods framework identifies what people have (i.
e. assets and capabilities) instead of focusing on what they do not have (Cahn 2002). Of course, concentrating on what is absent or does not exist, or defining the existence of households in negative terms, does have some explanatory value.
But this would tend to explain why households are unable to pursue particular life courses rather than their actually-existing lives and livelihoods. This relates back to the importance of household-based agency in pursuing livelihoods under difficult and stressful conditions (de Haan-Zoomers 2003). The SLF thus highlights how people mobilise resources and actively participate in creating livelihoods and making a living by taking advantage of the opportunities available to them.
In the end, households construct livelihoods though not under conditions constructed by themselve