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Research Report

Measuring Livelihoods and Environmental Dependence: Methods for Research and Fieldwork

Arild Angelsen
Helle Overgaard Larsen
Jens Friis Lund
Carsten Smith-Hall
Sven Wunder
Copyright Date: Jan. 1, 2011
Pages: 282
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. xv-xv)
    Bruce Campbell

    Understanding rural livelihoods is one crucial key to putting an end to global poverty. As the authors of this book have demonstrated elsewhere, environmental resources can make up a considerable portion of the livelihood portfolio. But measuring environmental dependence is far from simple, and most of the standard surveys that are undertaken miss many of the environmental resources that are collected, consumed and sold by rural people. With partial surveys comes partial understanding – that will not be the basis of what is needed to drive development and empower rural households.

    This book sets out a conceptual framework and method...

  2. (pp. xvi-xvii)
    Arild Angelsen, Helle Overgaard Larsen, Jens Friis Lund, Carsten Smith-Hall and Sven Wunder
  3. (pp. 1-16)
    Arild Angelsen, Helle Overgaard Larsen, Jens Friis Lund, Carsten Smith-Hall and Sven Wunder

    Measuring rural livelihoods and environmental dependence is not straightforward. Environmental resources are important to millions of poor households in developing countries, yet there is not an established right way to systematically collect data that convey their importance. Such resources, harvested in noncultivated habitats ranging from natural forests to rangelands and rivers, often contribute significantly to households’ current consumption, provide safety nets or pathways out of poverty. The uncertainty regarding the numbers can easily lead to either under- or overestimations (Angelsen and Wunder, 2003). Environmental income often consists of many different and sometimes irregularly collected resources: the forest fruits picked during...

  4. (pp. 17-32)
    Victoria Reyes-García and William D. Sunderlin

    Field research is a methodological approach to observe behaviour under natural conditions. Field research is traditionally contrasted to research conducted in laboratories or academic settings, or to research exclusively relying on existing, or secondary, data. In the social sciences, the collection of raw data in situ often – but not exclusively – occurs in a geographical and cultural context not familiar to the person collecting the data. Differently from other methodological approaches, field research in the social sciences allows the researcher to engage in detailed observation and conversations that give the opportunity to elicit information regarding the data being collected....

  5. (pp. 33-50)
    Arild Angelsen, Carsten Smith-Hall and Helle Overgaard Larsen

    Research can be defined as ‘a systematic investigation of a question or resolution, based on critical analysis of relevant evidence’ (Walliman, 2005, p37). A research proposal is a concise presentation of the planned research, answering two key questions in particular: (a) What is the project going to investigate? And (b) How is the project going to undertake the investigation? The research proposal specifies the steps required to move from questions to answers by providing a logical, coherent and realistic plan of action.

    A research proposal typically has two purposes. The internal purpose, which is the focus in this chapter, is...

  6. (pp. 51-70)
    Gerald Shively

    Research questions and hypotheses inherently provide information on data needs, in terms of what variables should be measured and with what variation (see Chapter 3). Collecting data with the desired properties requires one to:

    define a target population and sample;

    decide how to draw the sample; and

    identify a sample size.

    As with most aspects of empirical research, data collection requires that theoretical concerns (of which there are many) are weighed against practical considerations. Statisticians have developed elaborate rules, guidelines and formulae for developing sampling strategies. This formal approach to sampling is important, but in many cases individual researchers working...

  7. (pp. 71-88)
    Georgina Cundill, Sheona Shackleton and Helle Overgaard Larsen

    Quantitative measurements of livelihoods and environmental dependence among rural households only really gain full meaning when interpreted within the broad situational context from which they emerged and of which they are a part. Livelihoods are shaped by a multitude of forces and factors that are themselves constantly changing (DFID, 2000). Communities and user groups dependent on rural natural resources operate within a context that is broadly defined by biophysical, demographic, cultural, technological, political and market-related factors; by the nature of state agencies, policies and strategies; by the legal and institutional setting; by historical processes; and by the involvement of various...

  8. (pp. 89-106)
    Pamela Jagger and Arild Angelsen

    After formulating interesting, clear and answerable research questions with associated testable hypotheses, the next task is to select the best methods for data collection. Data collection aims to obtain the most accurate and precise measures of variables of interest (see Chapter 11). The challenge is to maximize data validity and reliability (see Box 3.2 for definitions) given the constraints of research budgets, researcher and respondent time, and the willingness and capacity of respondents to answer the types of questions included.

    Researchers have a diverse set of methods to choose from. In this chapter we cover approaches to collecting village and...

  9. (pp. 107-126)
    Arild Angelsen and Jens Friis Lund

    Imagine a researcher asking a farmer in Indonesia the following question: ‘What was your forest income last year?’ This is a poor question to ask because the concepts are not clear. For example, (a) does ‘your’ hint to the person or the household? (b) Are ‘forest’ products those from a small woodlot on the farm or a deer roaming in the forest during the daytime and feeding on farmland during the night? (c) Does ‘income’ imply cash income only (as many will associate ‘income’) or cash and subsistence income combined (the economic definition of ‘income’)? And (d) does ‘last year’...

  10. (pp. 127-146)
    Sven Wunder, Marty Luckert and Carsten Smith-Hall

    Households in developing countries collect and use a wide range of environmental products, from foods and construction materials to medicines and composted manure. In many remote rural areas, the bulk of goods collected by households, rather than being sold, is destined for direct consumption (for example, subsistence consumption of game or construction poles) or used as inputs into domestic production processes (for example, fodder for livestock). In these cases, there is no explicit transaction price that we can use for valuing the quantities of goods consumed.

    Still, we may want to value these non-marketed activities for several reasons. First, we...

  11. (pp. 147-162)
    Pamela Jagger, Amy Duchelle, Sugato Dutt and Miriam Wyman

    Embarking on fieldwork is for some the most exciting and challenging part of the research process. How fieldwork is organized, and how researchers and their teams present and conduct themselves, can have a significant impact on data quality and research team members’ well-being, happiness and health. Before embarking on fieldwork, considerable preparations should be in place: collection of good background information (Chapter 5); the sampling strategy (Chapter 4); hiring a research team (Chapter 10); and designing and pre-testing questionnaires should be completed (Chapters 6, 7 and 10). Now the time has come to start collecting data. The purpose of this...

  12. (pp. 163-174)
    Pamela Jagger, Amy Duchelle, Helle Overgaard Larsen and Øystein Juul Nielsen

    Even with a theoretically and empirically sound questionnaire, there are practical aspects of survey implementation that can significantly affect data quality and a research project’s cost-effectiveness. Most household level socio-economic surveys involve the interaction of researchers, respondents and enumerators. Each of these interactions is an opportunity to collect high quality data but also presents opportunities for data quality to be compromised. Field researchers must pay explicit and serious attention to human resource development and management, project management and social capital building. This chapter addresses three aspects of field research that seldom receive focused attention: (a) hiring and training the field...

  13. (pp. 175-190)
    Jens Friis Lund, Sheona Shackleton and Marty Luckert

    Try for a moment to imagine a typical survey interview situation. A stranger walks into the house and starts asking detailed questions about the household. What is really going on in that situation? It is the making of data and it is happening in a manner and environment that is loaded with opportunities for failure! In the interview situation — typically lasting between 30 minutes and two hours — the respondent and enumerator should gain a common and hopefully correct understanding of the real-world experiences that the enumerator asks the respondent to communicate. This brief exchange of information takes place...

  14. (pp. 191-208)
    Ronnie Babigumira

    In his compelling book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell presents what he calls the ethnic theory of plane crashes: ‘[P]lane crashes rarely happen in real life the same way they happen in the movies. Some engine part does not explode in a fiery bang. The rudder doesn’t suddenly snap under the force of takeoff . . . Plane crashes are much more likely to be the result of an accumulation of minor difficulties and seemingly trivial malfunctions’ (Gladwell, 2008, p183).

    This is true for data quality problems. Rarely does the ‘computer’ corrupt data, although a computer virus may...

  15. (pp. 209-226)
    Gerald Shively and Marty Luckert

    Data analysis is generally undertaken to tell a story. The researcher is seeking answers to questions that when revealed, will captivate the audience in terms of their insights and relevance. The process of analysing the data, in a way that tells a compelling story, requires the researcher to pursue two general aims: to describe and to explain. The first aim of data analysis, and the one that constitutes the initial stage of analysis, is to accurately describe a situation of concern. Descriptions may be used to characterize patterns of behaviour and outcomes observed among respondents in the research sample. For...

  16. (pp. 227-246)
    Brian Belcher, Ronnie Babigumira and Theresa Bell

    In the myth of the classical research cycle, the researcher develops an idea with a solid theoretical foundation, elaborates the conceptual model and hypotheses, collects and analyses the required data and then ‘writes it up’ as a lucid and compelling paper or thesis. The paper then influences its readers and so contributes to the advancement of the science. In practice, such a linear process would be unlikely to be successful, especially if success is measured in terms of the influence the research achieves. Socially and politically relevant research requires engagement and iteration. Moreover, such a strictly sequential process would be...