Farming Lives: Using the sustainable livelihoods approach in the Peak District Farming Community | Cattle

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This report describes the ‘Farming Lives’ project, which took an in depth look at the lives of some Peak District farming families. It examines the lives of these families not only in terms of the farming business but also by taking into consideration all aspects of their livelihoods. Farming Lives began with the acknowledgement that farming livelihoods are multi-dimensional and inter-related, and therefore an impact upon one aspect of the livelihood can have repercussions within other areas. The project was built around the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) and our aim was to test effectiveness of the SLA in helping us to understand the livelihoods of the farming families that participated in the project, while also helping those families to identify opportunities for building greater resilience and sustainability into their livelihoods. If this approach is found to be effective, we think that it may be of interest to farmer groups and organisations around the country that work to support farmers through these challenging times.
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  FARMING LIVES Using the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach in the Peak District Farming Community April 2009  Page Acknowledgements2Executive summary31Introduction52Background63Context ofthe project74The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach105How can the sustainable livelihoods approach benefit farming families?126Peak District farming137Farming Lives Project148Sustainable Livelihoods Approach tools179Considering farming livelihoods in terms ofassets1710The relationship between assets2811The Livelihoods Ladder3012Considering gender3313Lessons from this project3414Recommendations for the Peak District3515How could the SLA be applied within other UK farming communities?3716Conclusions38References39 Contents 1  2 This report is a joint production between the National Farmers Network and Oxfam GB.It waswritten by Val Ponder and Ann Hindley and edited by Carol Evans and Ann Hindley.It was basedon work carried out by Janice Walton,Jo Williams and John Moseley.We would like to thank:The farming families who took part in this projectBakewell Agricultural Centre for hosting us during our surveysOxfam GB for providing training in SLA tools and ongoing support throughout the projectRachel Roland,Centre for International Development and Training,University of Wolverhampton for her valuable advice and support during the initial development ofthisprojectThis pilot project was made possible by funding from:Oxfam GBBig Lottery ‘Awards for All’fundPeak District Rural Deprivation ForumFor further details and copies ofthis report please contact:Val Ponder through the National Farmers Network website:http://nationalfarmersnetwork.org.ukOr by email:valerie@ponder517.freeserve.co.uk NOTE: In order to protect the identity ofparticipantsall names have been changed NATIONAL FARMERS NETWORK The National Farmers Network is a network oflocal family farmer groups,organisations andnetworks across England.They come together to exchange ideas and good practice.These arechallenging times for farmers and family farmers are the most likely to be affected.But we believethat by working together we can help bring about positive changes to farming livelihoods and worktowards a thriving family farming sector.   Acknowledgements  Executive Summary 3 This Farming Lives project was carried out in recognition ofthe immense challenges faced by thefarming community over the past fifteen years.It was preceded by a piece ofresearch into theposition ofhill farmers in the Peak District which led to the development ofa National Farmers’Network.The subsequent consultation offarmer-led groups revealed feelings ofpowerlessnessamongst farmer members,a perceived lack ofgovernment support and hardship caused by tryingto earn a living through farming.As a result,Oxfam agreed to fund a pilot ofthe SustainableLivelihoods Approach within the Peak District farming community.It was carried out in a context ofdeclining agricultural income in the UK and a change in publicfunding arrangements which has had serious consequences for farming communities.This,alongwith rising costs,has led to increased stress levels among farmers and a decline in the interest of younger members ofthe farming sector to work in farming.The Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) has been extensively used in internationaldevelopment.Practitioners use a livelihoods framework to help them understand the complexitiesofpeople lives and the circumstances within which they conduct their livelihoods and a set of   principles to guide action to address and overcome the barriers to improving the sustainability of livelihoods The SLA is unique in that it places people at the centre ofthe influences and interactions that affecttheir lives.It was proposed that the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach could offer a number of benefits to farming families in the Peak District.Project facilitators worked with sixteen farming families to conduct an analysis oftheir livelihoodsusing a number ofparticipatory tools,including time lines,assets pentagon,semi structuredinterviews and a livelihoods ladder.Using these tools,facilitators were able to build up a pictureoffinancial,social,physical,human and natural assets.Surveys were also conducted at Bakewell Livestock Market to collect additional data.A total of seventy-seven farmers took part in the surveys,providing valuable data on the challenges facingfarmers and their coping strategies.Financially most families were facing difficulties and relied on offfarm income to supplement thebusiness and on diversification.There was evidence ofa high level ofresourcefulness and anumber ofstrategies had been adopted to adapt to the situation.Financial issues werecompounded by the lack ofability to plan for retirement.In terms ofhuman assets,health was seen as most important,although most carried on whatever their state ofhealth.There was little evidence ofmental health issues.There was failure toacknowledge and value the skills they had in relation to farming.Children were encouraged tobecome better educated which then led them outside farming.Access to clear information washighlighted as lacking by some.Overall,participants had confidence in running their own businessand understanding the land and livestock.Most families demonstrated strong inter and intra generational linkages.This could,however,cause tension and breakdown because ofclose physical proximity both at home and at work,which could have a detrimental effect on the business.Community activity tended to be a femalereserve as men claimed not to have the time.Isolation was becoming more ofan issue as morefamily members worked away from the farm.
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