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By understanding livelihoods—that is, the options available to people to obtain food and income and engage in trade—food security analysts can anticipate how households of different socio-economic groups cope with a shock, such as a drought, flood, market disruption, or conflict. To inform its integrated food security analysis, FEWS NET continuously expands and updates its livelihoods knowledge base.  Here are the latest additions:

Guinea – In 2016, FEWS NET, in collaboration with the Permanent Inter-State Committee for the Fight Against Drought in the Sahel (CILSS), and partners: The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of the Government of the Republic of Guinea, the Institut de Recherche Agronomique de, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and non-governmental agencies, revised and updated the livelihood zone map and descriptions for Guinea. The livelihood zones descriptions have been produced as a knowledge base for the surveillance activities of FEWS NET in the country.
Products: Livelihoods Zone Map and Descriptions

Guatemala – The updating of the national livelihood zones map and livelihood profiles was carried out jointly by the SESAN, FAO, ACF, COOPI, WFP and FEWS NET, and jointly funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the aforementioned partners. This Livelihood Profiles document aims to describe how rural populations live in different areas of Guatemala. Understanding of how people usually make ends meet is essential for assessing how livelihoods will be affected by acute or medium term economic or ecological change and for planning interventions that will support, rather than undermine, their existing survival strategies.
Products: Livelihood Zone Profiles

DRC – This product is the result of inter-agency collaboration. The overall livelihood zoning exercise was carried out under the aegis of the DRC national Vulnerability Assessment Committee (DRC VAC). The SADC Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis Programme (RVAA), with its Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee, has long supported livelihood zoning in the region. In association with them and the CARDNO regional office in Gaborone, the DRC VAC implemented a livelihood zoning exercise for Bas-Congo and Bandundu provinces, and later for Equateur, East Kasaï Occidentale and West Kasaï provinces. FEWS NET to complemented this initiative by delivering livelihood zoning for Orientale, Maniema, North Kivu, South Kivu and Katanga provinces, i.e. roughly the eastern half of the country.  
Products: Consolidated Report on Livelihood Zones

Livelihood Products

Zone Maps

About Livelihood Zone Map

Livelihood Zone Map illustrates the country by zone, showing areas where people generally have the same options for obtaining food and income and engaging in trade. 

Livelihood Descriptions

About Livelihood Description

Livelihood Zone Description accompanies a zone map, briefly describing the main characteristics of the livelihood patterns in that zone. The maps and descriptions, which identify relevant variables by geography, are useful in informing the development of monitoring systems.

Livelihood Profiles

About Livelihood Profile

Livelihood Profile briefly describes wealth groups and compares the various sources of food and income particular to each. The profile provides a basis for understanding how and whether different groups may be vulnerable to “shocks” such as drought, flooding, conflict or a market disruption. In recent years, FEWS NET expanded its profiles through a mapping exercise that includes additional baseline information on: livelihood differences between the poor and the better-off, common hazards in the zone, seasonal calendars and a consumption calendar focused on the poor. These livelihood zoning plus profiles are available for 24 countries.

Livelihood Baseline

About Livelihood Baseline

Livelihood Baseline provides quantifiable analysis of household livelihood options. It includes a detailed breakdown of food, cash and expenditure patterns, as well as coping capacity for various wealth groups. The baseline also highlights market patterns and constraints and opportunities for economic growth. Used for outcomes analysis, the baselines can quantify and measure the impact of shocks on households. The analysis is very useful in planning humanitarian assistance, particularly in forecasting whether and when assistance will be needed, how many people might be affected, and what types of assistance will be most helpful.

Seasonal Monitoring Calendars

About Seasonal Monitoring Calendar

Livelihood Seasonal Monitoring Calendar combines a seasonal calendar with information on food and income sources by wealth group. The document highlights the variables important to each wealth group by zone. The calendar is a good reference in developing a monitoring plan.

About Livelihoods

Analysis of livelihoods is a cornerstone of FEWS NET’s knowledge base. By examining livelihoods—that is, the ways in which people obtain food and income and engage in trade—we understand more clearly how they are vulnerable to certain events. The strength of this analysis is in understanding the livelihood patterns of all wealth groups together with their interactions and interdependencies.

FEWS NET uses a livelihoods approach to look particularly at how poor wealth groups cope with a “shock” or “hazard,” such as a drought, flood, market disruption, or conflict. How would the failure of rains affect pastoralists in Mali who have exhausted their own food stocks? If pests destroyed crops in a cotton-farming area of Zambia, what would seasonal laborers do for income? Would these households face food deficits, or would they find other ways to cope?


Market - Burkina Faso
Market - Burkina Faso
For early warning of food insecurity, livelihoods analysis provides invaluable insight into the ability of households such as these to contend with shocks. The analysis also provides detailed information for humanitarian assistance planning and ongoing monitoring.

For more than a decade, FEWS NET has used the Household Economy Approach (HEA) as the framework for its livelihoods work. What distinguishes HEA from other types livelihood analysis is the use of the household as the unit of reference in examining how people obtain access to the things they need to survive and prosper. 


The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 34 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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