Cash and livelihoods

Livelihoods initiatives empower communities not only to recover from humanitarian crises, but also to prepare, resist and overcome shocks with their own means, increasing their resilience. Even with significant progress made by a number of humanitarian actors, understanding livelihoods strategies and designing programmes to support them is still a relatively new approach.

Livelihoods support can also be important to disaster-affected people at different stages of their lives following a disaster or conflict event. Following a disaster or in situations of severe chronic needs, relief programmes aim to meet immediate needs and reduce suffering and save lives and livelihoods. Here, livelihoods programmes can also include support to protect household and community assets to prevent further damage to the lives of the people involved.

Examples of key programming aims and activities under each asset group from the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework


Source: IFRC guidelines for livelihoods programming, 2011

In recovery, programmes aim to move beyond basic relief and support people to return to normal in several important ways:

  • Allowing people to take control of their lives and maintain greater dignity
  • Enabling people to recover ‘productive assets’ that they have lost during a disaster
  • Reducing the threat of engaging in risky behaviour (theft, prostitution, environmental degradation) while reducing vulnerability of households to future shocks
  • Helping the local economy in an affected area to recover.

Cash transfers are being used in interventions whose primary objective is to enable the support and recovery of livelihoods. For example, rather than directly distributing sewing machines, fishing boats or livestock, households can be given cash in order to purchase the appropriate livelihood inputs or to make investments towards their own livelihood priorities. In seed fairs, also known as voucher fairs, vouchers are given to beneficiaries who then ‘purchase’ seeds from local traders who sell seeds and tools at the fair. While this activity limits the scope of purchases to seeds and tools, it typically provides beneficiaries with more choice than in-kind seed distributions.

Livelihoods protection or recovery objectives can also be combined with interventions to meet basic needs, such as through MPGs . While their flexibility offers substantial potential to support livelihoods recovery, cash transfers are only one tool in the complex interaction of resources and assets that enable people to achieve sustainable livelihoods. Cash transfers alone cannot be expected to allow people to (re)build their livelihoods to their full potential.


Past activities & Resources

A partnership between the IFRC, the Livelihoods Resource Centre, the French Red Cross, CaLP and Oxfam Intermón, with support from ECHO’s Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) grant worked together to improve the impact of livelihoods and cash-based interventions through awareness raising, knowledge capturing and sharing, and skills development among Humanitarian organisations.

The results included:

Planned activities included:

  • Learning Events: Two learning events on the theme "Cash Transfer Programming (CTP) in livelihoods Programs: How can CTP contribute to building resilience?" were held. One took place in Dakar, Senegal on October 21st-22nd, and another one in  Guatemala on November 16th-17th
  • Cash and Livelihoods Guidance Notes: Two guidance notes on the current state of knowledge, best practice and future opportunities in these regions in relation to the use of cash transfer programming for support to the development and protection of sustainable livelihoods were produced based on the outcome of the learning events. The Guidance note on cash and livelihoods in Latin America can be downloaded here in SP, FR, ENG and the guidance note on cash and livelihoods in West Africa can be found here in FR, ENG and SP.


Guidance Notes: Cash Transfers in Livelihoods Programming- West Africa




Guidelines on Cash Transfers and Livelihoods - Latin America



  • Urban cash transfer programming and livelihoods: This course addresses the specificities of cash transfer programming for livelihoods in urban environments. This course was developed by the Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP) in partnership with the Livelihoods Centre and funded by ECHO. It is available in French, English and Spanish

  •  Minimum Economic Recovery Standards


Livelihoods Toolkit

Livelihoods Resource Centre

More resources on livelihoods


CaLP Global Learning Event - Dakar 2015

Haiyan Recovery Operation: Livelihoods

Floods in southern regions- Paraguay