PCR TOOL 6
Restoring livelihoods is a critical element for the
overall recovery of disaster survivors. Immediately
after a disaster, and for the first few weeks and
months afterwards, survivors are heavily dependent
on relief aid for essentials such as food, clothing,
shelter and bedding. But the sooner people can
begin to earn an income again, the better. It helps
reduce future dependence on relief aid, and helps
restore people’s dignity and sense of purpose.
Inevitably, some people will take longer to start to
engage in income-earning activities than others, but
all need to be supported and encouraged as soon as
The ambition of a ‘Building Back Better’
programme should be to not only rebuild livelihoods
to their previous levels, but to use the disaster
as an opportunity for actually reducing poverty.
There are documented cases where people have
ended up with higher incomes and more secure
livelihoods after a disaster. There are also examples
where people living on the margins of society have
emerged and taken active and respected roles
in their communities. On the other hand, some
approaches to reconstruction do not take into
account livelihoods, which has resulted in far less
successful recovery programmes.
This tool looks at what adopting a people-
centred approach means in the area of rebuilding
livelihoods; it considers (1) what a PCR approach to
livelihoods means for programming and programme
design (2) opportunities offered by housing
reconstruction, and (3) opportunities beyond the
Opportunities for rebuilding livelihoods
in a post-disaster context
Post-disaster contexts offer a set of opportunities
which, used wisely, can contribute to long-term
improvements in livelihoods, including for the most
marginalised. Some of these opportunities include:
• The unprecedented provision of resources into
an area through aid programmes, some of which
is undoubtedly useful in rebuilding livelihoods.
• The large influx of highly motivated aid people
and organisations with a wide range of skills
and capacities, coming from the local area,
elsewhere in the country, or from overseas.
This can provide a whole set of new ideas and
opportunities, sometimes in areas which were
previously neglected with little involvement from
government agencies or national or international
• The practice of carrying out needs assessments,
which can identify long-standing barriers which
have prevented particular groups from escaping
poverty. For example, if security of tenure is
found to be one of the barriers, aid agencies
sometimes consider using resources to acquire
land nearby for people to build their own homes
and from which people can run their businesses.
Households and community groups can be
assisted to link up with economic and municipal
infrastructure, and support agencies such as
credit providers, in new ways.
• The chance for the community to work together
towards common goals, such as building new
community infrastructure or repairing damaged
community equipment. This can be supported
(or hindered) by official assistance programmes.
Women in particular can be supported to have
more active community roles than before.
• A change of attitude of governments and local
authorities. They may now be more open to
changing restrictive legislation, regulations,
codes and standards, particularly if it can
be shown that these are barriers to effective
reconstruction and recovery. This will allow
people to develop new initiatives, expand pre-
existing ones with less bureaucratic hurdles,
and will stimulate growth, innovation, and job
creation through community driven approaches.
Adopting a PCR approach to
As we saw in PCR Tool 1, adopting a people-
centred approach to reconstruction means
concentrating on reducing people’s vulnerabilities.
There are three essential components to that: (1)
making sure that all sections of the community
are included, which often means empowering the
most vulnerable; (2) building back better and
more safely against possible future risks; and (3)
rebuilding livelihoods to help people recover assets
and become more resilient. It calls, therefore, for
the reconstruction effort to concentrate on both
rebuilding physical assets (housing, infrastructure
etc) and economic assets (livelihoods).