Coastal Livelihood Diversification as a Pathway Out of Poverty and Vulnerability: Experiences from Tanzania
Livelihood diversification can increase the number of activities generating income and is often adopted as a means to reduce vulnerability to risk and provide a pathway out of poverty. Previous empirical studies, however, have found that this diversification carries no guarantee of success. This study examines the impacts of investments in conservation-based enterprises and micro-credit interventions implemented in coastal Tanzania. Project beneficiaries (n = 178) and non-beneficiaries (n = 117) from seventeen communities surrounding Saadani National Park and the Menai Bay Conservation area were surveyed in 2013, to gather quantitative and qualitative data on a suite of parameters including the number of livelihood activities, total annual income, and engagement in extractive activities. We found that the beneficiaries reported an average of 2.15 livelihoods, which was significantly higher than the 1.44 average reported by the non-beneficiaries. The beneficiaries also had significantly higher mean annual incomes than the non-beneficiaries as the former reported an annual mean income of US $2,076 while the latter reported US $646. The research found a complex relationship between occupational diversity and people's interactions with the environment and it is clear that livelihood diversification is not a blanket solution to reducing pressure on coastal resources. Another important finding from the research is that there are distinct differences between types of livelihood interventions and it is crucial to be clear about the goal of a livelihoods intervention. If the goal is diversifying livelihoods and strengthening resilience, then livelihoods that provide a small and steady income for many entrepreneurs may be enough. However, if the goal is to bring people out of a poverty trap, then it makes more sense to invest in livelihoods that bring in a higher income, even if that means reaching fewer beneficiaries.