Livelihood diversity and redundancy in coastal communities in East Africa

Along the coast of East Africa, house-holds often engage in small-scale fisheries as part of a diverse livelihood portfolio which might include working in tourism, agriculture or casual labour.

Small-scale fisheries in East Africa

Joshua Cinner/Azote

While households may maximise their total income by specialising in a single livelihood activity, households who have a portfolio of options tend to be more resilient, particularly if different livelihood activities are not affected by the same disturbances (i.e. the different activities provide response diversity and redundancy in terms of livelihood options). For example, in households with diverse livelihood portfolios, fishing activities can continue when the tourism sector suffers low numbers of tourists due to global perceptions of security. This provides some resilience in the face of impacts on any particular livelihood source. A diversity of livelihoods also provides more flexibility in the face of declines in livelihoods such as fishing. It has been shown in Kenya, Tanzania, the Seychelles, Mauritius and Madagascar that coastal fishers are more likely to leave a fishery in response to declining catches if they come from households with more diverse livelihood portfolios. Not only does such livelihood flexibility increase the resilience of individual households, it also reduces the pressure on the parts of the system producing a particular ecosystem service, such as a fishery, thereby enhancing resilience.