VSO has secure livelihoods programmes in 18 countries across Africa and Asia. For VSO, livelihoods means having the income and resources necessary to meet basic needs and survive shocks.
Our main objective is to strengthen the ability of disadvantaged people to access sufficient food and income, and to have more control over how and when they access these essential lifelines.
Agriculture and food
We recognise the important role played by small farmers in developing countries. However, they are facing growing challenges in the form of declining investment in agriculture, outdated skills and technology and access to quality inputs. We are working with local partners to remove the barriers experienced by disadvantaged people in accessing quality training and technical support. We also encourage innovation and the development of agricultural enterprises. For example, through an irrigated farmer field school project in Malawi, VSO has supported small holder farmers to install or improve irrigation schemes, learn new sustainable agricultural production techniques and to diversify crop production to increase incomes.
A secure livelihood is dependent on functioning institutions, policies and laws – as well as more individual factors such as personal skills and physical assets. Part of our secure livelihoods programmes include working with agencies, institutions and networks that support local communities. These include ministries of agriculture and fisheries, regulatory bodies, training institutions, umbrella organisations and local non-governmental organisations that represent and advocate on behalf of small-scale producers.
Natural resource management and climate change
Our volunteers have been supporting natural resource management for many years. They work with partner organisations to ensure that poor and marginalised people are able to access and protect the land and natural resources on which they depend for their livelihoods, as well as raising community awareness of policy and planning information for natural resource management. See our page on climate change for more information.
Enterprise development and access to markets
Our secure livelihoods programme also focuses on helping disadvantaged people identify markets for their products and making the most of the opportunities that the market offers. In Kenya, for example, handicraft producers are trying to market their products in tourist resorts. A lack of understanding about the quality expected by western tourists meant their businesses were not as successful as they could be. A VSO marketing expert helped them to understand the importance of market research, branding and quality assurance. The handicraft producers are now more successful in selling their products through high-end tourist resorts.
In some areas, enterprise development is closely linked to natural resource management. VSO volunteers work with communities to find ways to conserve resources and find alternative ways to earn a living that won't impact negatively on the environment or their ability to access food supplies. For example, in the Philippines, volunteers are helping communities protect their fish supplies by developing businesses in seaweed production, breeding mud crabs and producing coconut oil.
Access to quality jobs
Unemployment is reaching record levels among young people in developing countries. Our secure livelihoods programme will be focusing on vocational training and access to employment in order to get more people into work. This means improving the quality and relevance of training opportunities so that young people develop practical and marketable skills. This also involves working with employers to enhance and expand job opportunities that are available for young people.
In Uganda VSO is working with partners to deliver market-driven skills development for young people. We link trainees to work and career development opportunities, and help people to access start-up resources to assist them in developing their own viable businesses.
In Northern Uganda VSO is working with local government and the Northern Uganda Youth Development Centre (NUYDC) to assist youth groups to develop sustainable enterprises. Our volunteers are also supporting the management of NUYDC to develop a hub for youth development. We’re also supporting disadvantaged young people to engage effectively with local authorities. so that they provide relevant services and address issues that affect them in their day to day lives.
Support from Accenture
VSO's secure livelihoods work is supported by our corporate partner, Accenture, as part of their global corporate citizenship initiative, Skills to Succeed.
Through this partnership, we have received grant funding for the global project Making Markets Work for the Poor. Thanks to the provision of pro-bono consultancy support and the secondment of Accenture staff to volunteer placements VSO has been able to build its capacity in key areas such as business development and knowledge management.
The development of learning centres in Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria and Cambodia have been central to this partnership, with a focus on a cluster of volunteers that are helping to establish good practice guidelines for our work on market development with disadvantaged groups.