Smallholder’s labor allocation for livelihood diversification: A case study in an upland village in northern Laos

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<p>Livelihood diversification involves the well-characterized strategies of smallholder farmers to combine risk aversion under a market economy. Since livelihood diversification studies have focused on diversifying income sources to include non-farm and off-farm income, the benefit of adding subsistence-oriented farming to the livelihood portfolio has been underestimated. This form of livelihood diversification is broadly observable in Southeast Asia, and could be another risk aversion strategy to cope with unpredictable market conditions. This study examined the role of swidden farming in livelihood diversification through the analysis of individuals’ labor allocation in livelihood portfolio, annual working hours, and seasonal changes in working hours in a village in northern Laos. Information was obtained through direct interviews with 133 individuals. Interviews were conducted in 2017 and gathered information on demographic features, economic activities, and monthly working hours for individual in 2016. The results indicated: 1) Individual’s livelihood portfolio was determined by the assets that the ethnic group and each household held to a large extent; 2) Livelihood diversification took place at the individual level rather than at household level, through an increase in annual working hours, as well as monthly working hours during the peak period of labor demand; and 3) Labor demand for swidden farming was moderate, so villagers can incorporate it into their livelihood portfolio. The study highlighted that flexibility would be another facet of livelihood diversification. Swidden farming was likely to play a pivotal role in its flexibility, but it was not important as an income source.</p>


  • Tropics

    Tropics 29 (1), 9-24, 2020


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