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Rural-Urban Dynamics in the East African Mountains

Sylvain Racaud
Bob R. Nakileza
François Bart
et al.

Part 3

8. The role of planning frameworks in supporting livelihoods activities in Uganda

A case of Mt Elgon, Bugisu region, Eastern Uganda

Charles Edaku

Texte intégral

1Uganda is a country with an estimated population of 41,293,574 people (UN Statistics Division 2015). Of these, about, 34,400,000 people (84 %) live in rural areas and derive their livelihoods directly and indirectly from agriculture (UBOS 2014). This also implies that farm activities constitute the major source of income for most households. However, non-farm activities have gained pace not only in the urban areas but also in the rural settings. In her study on gender and diverse livelihoods in Uganda, Catherine Dolan (2002) reports that most households pursue diverse livelihood strategies comprised of crop and livestock production, wage and self-employment, and a plethora of natural resource-based activities. Whereas the degree of diversification of livelihoods in Uganda is commendable, the level of vulnerability of livelihoods is high. Vulnerability of livelihoods is attributed to a number of factors such as low levels of scientific development and technological adoption, low levels of productivity and poor quality of entrepreneurial opportunities, an unsupportive legal environment, poor infrastructure and an unfavourable tax regime. The most affected by such challenges are women in which numerous de facto constraints circumscribe their capacity to pursue different livelihood strategies (Dolan 2002). The livelihoods of approximately 43 % Ugandans, who are at risk of falling back into poverty, remain a challenge in the event of shock and stress.

2The study examined livelihood activities undertaken by commuter households in Bugisu, analysed the extent of vulnerability of commuter livelihoods and assessed the practical use of livelihood planning frameworks in supporting commuter livelihoods.

Area of study and methods

Area of Study

3This book chapter is a result of a study conducted by the author in Bugisu five districts: Mbale, Manafa, Budduda, Sironko and Bulambuli (fig. 34). It also follows that in analysing the role of livelihoods planning frameworks in supporting livelihoods, the paper draws its examples from Bugisu region.

Figure 34. Bugisu Region, Eastern Uganda (BMK Atlas, 2010)

Figure 34. Bugisu Region, Eastern Uganda (BMK Atlas, 2010)

4Bugisu region lies approximately between Latitudes 45’N, 1 35’N and Longitudes 34’E, 34 35’E. The region covers a vast area of 2,467 km2. The Bagisu constitute about 5 % of the population of Uganda with an average population size of about 1,012,831 people (Uganda National Housing and Population Census 2002). The region has the highest population density in the nation, rising to 250 households per square kilometre.

5The Bagisu occupy the well-watered western slopes of Mount Elgon with fertile volcanic soils and an abundant rainfall averaging 1,500 mm per annum. The main economic activity is farming although trade and small scale manufacturing and processing have become common. Land has remained a major problem for most households in the region. Population pressure coupled with poor land tenure have served to deepen the crisis. There are three main types of land tenure namely; customary, leasehold and individual freehold. More than 80 % of the land is under customary ownership where land rights are regulated by the local customs. About 10 % of the land is held under leasehold while the other 10 % is under freehold.

6The economic activities in the district include agriculture, trade, services and construction. Agricultural products include both food and cash crops. The traditional cash crops are coffee, cotton and cashew nuts, while foodcrops, which also play a major role in the cash economy, are maize, cassava, Irish potatoes, finger millet, rice, beans, soya and groundnuts. Vegetables and fruits such as cabbages, onions and passionfruit are also major sources of income to the households. The contribution of agricultural produce to the GDP of the region is estimated at 70 % of total income and includes mostly taxes on produce marketed both within and outside the district (Mbale District Local Government 2004). Other activities in the trading sector involve the buying and selling of agricultural products like maize, cassava and simsim. The service sector includes transport, health, hotel and catering, civil service and education. Trade and service sectors account for 20 % of revenue for the districts (Mbale District Local Government 2004).

7In the highland areas, a typical farmholding comprises of matooke (plantain) and coffee as the dominant cover crop while there are scattered trees like avocado, jackfruit and pawpaws. There are also fuel wood trees, especially eucalyptus. Annual crops like beans, peas and Irish potatoes are sometimes intercropped with bananas although they are often found as a monoculture at the edge of banana plantations and down the valley. In the lower areas, particularly Bulambuli and Bumbo, the dominant crops are maize and beans. Significant rice growing has been experienced in the Bungokho and Bubulo areas although there has been a decline in crop yields in the past three years, prompting farmers to resort to vegetable growing.

8Like in many other parts of the country, agriculture is dependent on the weather. The majority of farmers hardly use any fertilizers. They rely on simple traditional hand tools like hoes, machetes, axes, slashes and spades. They also depend on their own seed, which they save from the previous season although they buy horticultural and maize seeds from the shops. Agricultural inputs are normally bought from private dealers and agents. Agricultural chemicals are mainly used for controlling pests and disease affecting vegetables and coffee crops. Some of the reasons why agriculture in the region has remained of a subsistence nature are high population densities, poor marketing infrastructure, low levels of technology and farm management skills, lack of credit facilities and inadequate extension services.

9Mbale town, which is the oldest and largest town in the region, has a total of about 96,189 people (UBOS 2014). The town serves as the “hub” of the Eastern region connecting Mt. Elgon to the rest of Uganda and the outside world in terms of flows of goods and services and flow of people. Its sphere of influence covers the districts of Teso, Karamoja, Sebei, Bugwere and Tororo. Most of its population comes from within the districts of Bugisu but as a commercial and administrative centre, Mbale town draws businessmen and workers from the neighbouring sub-regions of Eastern Uganda. Mbale town also serves as an educational centre for Eastern Uganda with many private and government primary and secondary schools situated in the city centre. It has one of the largest universities in Eastern Uganda: the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU). To the north east on the slopes of Nkokonjeru Wanale ranges of Mt Elgon, at a place called Ngagama, lies the tomb and home of the then colonial expansionist figure, Kakungulu.


10The study considered a sample population of 760 respondents comprising of 520 commuters, 100 District Local Government Officials, 100 Urban Authorities, 20 Civil Society Organisation officials and another 20 officials from financial institutions in Mbale town.

11A sample size of 760 respondents was arrived at on the basis of mathematical calculation of the levels of poverty assumed to be the major driving force behind commuting and thus influencing livelihood activities in the Bugisu region. The study adopted the U.S Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service University of Florida (2009) formula (n= t2 x p (p-1)/m2 to calculate its sample size (Cf. the appendix for details).

12Purposive sampling was used to select key informants. The selection of key informants was based on their knowledgeability of commuting patterns and livelihood activities in the selected areas. Cluster sampling, purposive sampling and snowball sampling were used to select the seven hundred and thirty six (736) commuter respondents. The researcher mapped the study areas and classified them into clusters (one rural village and one urban centre treated as a village) per district from which the respondents (commuter households) and key informants were selected. The use of a snowball sampling technique was useful in the selection of respondents. Snowballing was used especially where it was not easy to identify “commuters”. Through snowball sampling, the identification of one “commuter” enabled the identification of others, making the selection easy.

13The study relied on primary and secondary sources. It adopted a triangulation of methods of data collection and analysis, combining information from different sources of data collection, namely unstructured expert interviews, focus group discussions, review of secondary literature, use of questionnaires, rapid rural/urban appraisal and observation. Photographs were also taken to validate primary data collected during field visits.

Results and discussion

Major livelihood activities by commuters in Bugisu Region


14This study defines a commuter, as that person who resides in one point of the rural-urban setting and derives a living in another or may have livelihood activities in both locations. A commuter may be residing in the countryside (rural setting) and commuting daily or regularly to derive a living in town. At the same time s/he may have a garden in the rural area and run a business in town. S/he may be residing in one town and yet deriving a living in another town or s/he may be residing in town but deriving a living in the rural areas. Commuters are categorised according to places of abode namely rural and urban commuters. Rural commuters are those who live in rural areas but work in urban areas, or those who work in their rural farms but commute to town to sell produce or to purchase essential items. Rural commuters also include people who live in the rural areas but move to town for recreation purposes and later return to their rural homes where they reside. Urban commuters, on the other hand, are those who live in town or peri-urban settings and work in town where they reside or work in another town altogether. It also includes those people who live in town and yet work in the countryside. This category of commuters spend much of their time engaged in non-farm activities in urban settings or in rural areas from which they derive a living only to return to their homes in town or rural areas respectively, in the evenings. By use of questionnaires, respondents were asked to indicate where they reside, namely urban or rural. From their responses the study established that about 59 % of commuters reside in the countryside and only commute to nearby towns taking advantage of the economic opportunities offered by towns.


15Livelihoods analysis has occupied a central place in the present day discourse. It has significantly drawn the attention of development planners to examine the inherent forces shaping livelihoods around the globe. In this section, the book chapter examines the various forms of livelihood activities that are employed by households to make a living.

16A livelihood refers to the sum of ways and means by which individuals, households and communities make and sustain a living over time using a combination of socio-economic, cultural and environmental resources (Pain and Lautze 2002). In simple terms, a livelihood refers to a job, work, and source of income or living. A livelihood may refer to an activity households do to earn a living. Households make a living through a myriad of ways doing formal and informal jobs, farm and non-farm activities, legal and illegal jobs.

17Households build up various patterns of activities, which together constitute their livelihood. Strategies adopted by households are more dependent on a household’s objectives and interests. Livelihood strategies are further shaped by the prevailing market conditions, the assets available and capabilities within households. Livelihood strategies adopted by households are usually short or long-term or both, depending on the shocks and stress caused by poverty, seasonal factors, the household’s objectives and the assets available to households.

18Short-term livelihood strategies may take the form of budget adjustments to fit expenditure within limited income and high cost of living, the case of the current soaring prices and high cost of living in Uganda. In this case, households have been forced to make substantive budget adjustments to fit expenditures within their incomes. In such circumstances, households may adjust consumption from expensive items to cheaper ones, move children from expensive schools to affordable schools, stop obtaining medical care from professionals and start seeing traditional herbalists or buy drugs from drug shops. Such mechanisms are adopted out of necessity as households seek better livelihood alternatives. They are a result of sudden and immediate changes (seasonality, such as seasonal shifts in prices, production, food availability, employment opportunities).

19Long-term strategies are those undertaken to help a household build capacity over time in preparation for long-term life changes. These may take the form of investment in children’s or personal education, capital investment such as real estate investment or setting up a business, firm or factory. Details of this within the Bugisu region are discussed in the later sections of this chapter.

20Through observation and interviews with the respondents, the study established that the common livelihood activities undertaken by households in the Bugisu region are farm and non-farm activities. Farm activities include crop and animal husbandry. Households grow a range of crops such as maize, beans, cabbages, carrots, coffee and bananas for domestic and commercial purposes. They rear chicken, goats and cattle, though on a small scale due to shortage of land. Non-farm activities are dominantly found in urban areas in towns such as Mbale, Manafa, Budduda, Sironko and Bulambuli, also serving as the district headquarters. There are also many small towns and trading centres and markets in the region that offer opportunities for growth of non-farm activities. One of the major markets in the region is Kamus, which draws commuters from within and outside the region. Urban influence in the region has led to an increase in scale of non-farm activities in the rural areas. Non-farm activities take in a range of activities such as professional and non-professional services (education, medical care, and repairs, etc.). They also include retail and wholesale trade, vending, hawking, construction and processing activities. In the rural areas, the dominant non-farm activities are brick laying, coffee and maize processing, carpentry, teaching and pottery. Livelihood activities in the Bugisu region are dictated by population pressure, shortage of land and the growing trends of urbanisation.

Table 16. Common livelihood activities by commuters in the Bugisu region

Table 16. Common livelihood activities by commuters in the Bugisu region

Source: Field data

21Households in the Bugisu region engage in diverse activities as they try to cope with poverty and the high cost of living. Choice of livelihood activity strongly depends on the opportunities available to households and their capacity to undertake the tasks. In aggregate, 48 % of livelihood activities in the region are commercial related, taking the form of retail and wholesale trade, vending and hawking. The opportunities in town dictate what commuters do and explain why, in table 20, the service sector takes the largest share of livelihood activities, accounting for 36 % of commuting activities, followed by street vending with about 23 % of the responses. Street vendors engage in diverse activities, taking advantage of every opportunity available that a household can tap into. In the evenings, traders from the suburbs and nearby villages come to Mbale town occupying most of the commercial streets, notably Naboah road, Market street, Kumi road and the taxi/bus park areas. Somewhere between 8.00 pm and 10.00 pm the commuters go back to their areas of abode and return to the streets the following morning or evening.

22An interesting scenario in the region is the manner in which urban households maintain close links with their rural homes and continue to carry on with farming activities in the rural areas alongside their urban livelihood jobs. Most households integrate rural and urban activities, having gardens of coffee, maize and beans in the countryside. The farms are managed by relatives in the rural areas. Once in a while (weekly or monthly), commuters in town visit their rural homes to check on their investments there. Asked why urbanites have to have farms in the countryside rather than concentrate on their urban livelihoods, one of the respondents from Manafa district headquarters (town) had this to say:

“We maintain links with our rural homes for two reasons; to register your presence keeping track of your relatives at home and securing your position with other relatives so as not to be counted as a social outcast. This is because when you die or lose a family member, you have to be taken and buried in the ancestral land. The second reason is the need to diversify sources of income amidst the hard economic times of today. By having a garden of maize or beans one can supplement the little earnings with food stuffs from home – making life a little bit easier than solely depending on earnings from an urban job” (Respondent in Manafa Town Council).

23In African culture, having close links with your kinsmen either in urban or rural areas is important as such links provide security and social capital to households. During times of grief, when a kinsman loses a relative or during times of celebration in the form of festivals, such social ties play an important role bringing relatives and friends together to comfort the aggrieved or to celebrate together with the host. It is the reason most urbanites maintain ties with their relatives in the rural settings.

Extent of vulnerability of livelihoods in Bugisu

24Livelihood strategies aim to achieve livelihood outcomes. Possible livelihood outcomes may include more income, increased wellbeing, reduced vulnerability, improved food security, more sustainable use of natural resources and recovered human dignity. Successful livelihood strategies should lead to more economically sustainable livelihoods and increased wellbeing.

25A sustainable livelihood is that which is in position to diminish shocks and stress usually faced by households. This can be measured in terms of household wellbeing or living standards. Those households that ably provide their members with basic needs without strain can be said to be engaged in sustainable livelihood. Household livelihoods will even be counted more sustainable if they are able to meet luxuries without further shocks or stress. The ability to diminish shocks and stress and to meet household luxuries can only be attained when households invest in long-term livelihoods that enable them to live beyond basic needs. The rate and level of capital accumulation, household income and expenditure, household’s food security levels, morbidity levels including access to medical services, water, ability to afford a descent living environment, access to education including its quality and household’s vulnerability to seasonal changes and shocks were used as important indicators for measuring sustainability of livelihoods.

Asset accumulation

26Asset accumulation was one of the indicators used to assess the level of vulnerability of commuter livelihood activities. Commuters were asked if they made gains from commuting activities. Most commuters (98 %) acknowledged to have gained from commuting. Asked to list those gains, varying responses were generated with reference made to acquisition of land, residential houses and household items, including ability to meet most of their household needs. Through interviews, it was established that most of those gains went into catering for household basic needs accounting for a total of 62 % of commuter expenditure.

Table 17. Gains from commuting activities

Table 17. Gains from commuting activities

Source: Field Data

27Aggregately, data from benefits realized out of commuting activities indicate that about 33 % of commuter income is put into asset accumulation (bought land, bought a car and built a house). Households invest in assets as a long-term strategy to build their capacity to counter future stress and shocks. About 67 % of the commuters reached by this study spent their income from commuting in meeting basic needs, an implication that the livelihoods of about 67 % of Ugandans are not sustainable. In the event of shocks or stress, such livelihoods would find it very difficult to cope with the new changes arising from shocks and stress.

28Through interviews and focus group discussions (FDGs), it was found that commuter efforts towards capital accumulation are often undermined by the problem of low levels of profitability of businesses due to high competition, high operating expenses and high cost of living, especially in meeting household needs. This scenario leaves households with little to invest and thus undermines the sustainability of their livelihoods. Asked about the level of profitability and gains realised from commuting, one of the respondents in Mbale town had this to say:

“I wouldn’t want to say business is bad because it is the only alternative for many of us in this region. Of course, it used to be better than what it is now. We earn some profits but we have been constrained by problems of high expenses in terms of transport, tax, and rent for operating space. This has been made worse by the current economic situation in Uganda with high prices which leaves us with very little to save for the future”
(Respondent in Mbale Town).

29Businesses in Uganda have been affected by a number of factors such as stiff competition and an unfavourable tax regime. Those factors have narrowed the profitability levels of business enterprises. It also explains why Uganda has been considered a country with the highest mortality rate of enterprises.

Income/expenditure measure of vulnerability of livelihoods

30Income and expenditure was considered as an important measure of vulnerability of commuter livelihood activities and thus, the ability of such livelihood activity to support the wellbeing of household members. Table 18 illustrates this.

Table 18. Commuter income/expenditure per day

Table 18. Commuter income/expenditure per day

Source: Field Data

31There is a correlation between the amount of income earned by households and the rate of savings and capital accumulation. Through interviews it was ascertained that households who earned between 1000 and 10.000 UGX had very low or no savings and therefore found it difficult to invest and acquire assets such as land, cars, buildings or even expanding businesses.

32Table 18 indicates that households who earned between 21.000 and 60.000 UGX had more savings than their counterparts who earned between 1000 and 20.000 UGX. The less the profits, the less the savings. In category one (1-10) and category two (11-20) 5 % of commuters spent more than what they earned. The additional expenditure above household income earnings can be assumed to accrue from remittances from urban households or relatives abroad. It could also be a result of sales from farm produce that are usually not counted as earnings and other invisible sources of income. This in itself is an illustration of the vulnerability of livelihoods meaning livelihoods are not sustainable enough to cater for household needs.

Commuter household food security levels

33Household food security levels were used by this study as an important measure of the vulnerability of commuter livelihoods and thus the wellbeing of their household members. This study analysed commuter livelihoods in the context of the ability of such livelihoods to support commuter household food requirements. Table 19 provides us with the details.

Table 19. Commuter household food security levels

Table 19. Commuter household food security levels

Source: Field Data

34Attempts were made by this study to establish the food security levels of commuter households. Table 18 indicates that about 54 % of commuter households experienced the problem of food insecurity, an illustration of the vulnerability of their livelihoods. Households, especially those who depend on farming as a source of livelihood, were reported to suffer from problems of food insecurity five (5) to six (6) months after the harvest. Between the months of January to July most households in the region receive between one to two meals per day. This concurs with earlier studies by WFP 2005 on food security and vulnerability analysis of the region that put its food security levels at 53 %. The findings illustrate that food insecurity is one of the threats to commuter wellbeing. Households who find it stressful to provide a meal to its members are engaged in unsustainable livelihoods. As earlier presented, commuter household food insecurity is an amalgam of many factors, namely unfavourable climatic conditions that affect farmer produce, market forces that undermine the profitability of commuter businesses denying them the amount of income required to maintain a decent standard of living, and shortage of land due to the problem of land fragmentation which also arises from overpopulation.

Household health status

35Health was used as one of the indicators for measuring vulnerability of commuter livelihoods. Households with high morbidity and mortality levels were considered to be poor and thus engaged in unsustainable livelihoods. Such households usually did not have the capability of preventing or mitigating health related problems. Poverty exacerbates the problem of morbidity and explains why poor households have a high incidence and prevalence of diseases. Poor households often find it difficult to access medical care and have recorded high mortality levels among infants and mothers. Problems of hygiene aggravate household morbidity and mortality due to the household’s inability to afford good housing and inability to live in a decent environment. This is further compounded by households’ inability to access safe and clean water. Table 19 illustrates morbidity levels in the Bugisu region.

Table 20. Prevalence and incidence of diseases at household level

Table 20. Prevalence and incidence of diseases at household level

Source: Field Data

36Commuters were asked to list diseases and how often their household members experienced them. Malaria featured most as a common disease experienced by commuter households and with a high incidence of about 60 %. This was followed by typhoid (23 %). Aggregately, about 84 % of commuter households suffered from malaria and typhoid. Malaria and typhoid are preventable diseases that households can avoid by sleeping under a treated mosquito net and drinking safe water. Due to poverty and thus inability to realise adequate income from the livelihood activities undertaken, access to medical services and clean water continued to be a challenge to sizeable number of commuter households, thus opening the way for diseases. Persistence of diseases such as malaria, typhoid and problems of malnutrition indicate that such households affected are not engaged in sustainable livelihoods. They find it difficult to avoid the recurrence of such diseases due to low income to support their households in meeting medical and water bills and also to afford nutritious meals, an illustration of the vulnerability of livelihoods.

Access to clean water

37Access to clean water was another indicator used by this study to measure vulnerability of commuter livelihoods in the Bugisu region. The study findings indicate that access to safe water by rural and urban communities still remains a challenge. Access to safe water was analysed in terms of distance covered by households to the nearest point at which they obtain clean water and in terms of household ability to afford safe water. Safe water was defined to refer to tap (piped) water usually provided by the municipalities, water from a protected well and boreholes. Through interviews and FGDs it was established that about 88 % of rural households cover long distances averaging about 1 – 3 Kms to access clean water.

Table 21. Distance covered to fetch water

Table 21. Distance covered to fetch water

Source: Field Data. N = 270, (18 missing in the system)

38Scarcity of water was noted in most parts of rural Bugisu. Consequently, households are compelled to use water from unprotected sources. In Namatogota, for instance, out of the eight water sources, only three were protected. In Bunamakhosi, the only protected water source accessed by the community always dries up during the dry season. Nabusaayi has only one protected water source, and is accessed by six other villages.

Table 22. Sources of water supply

Table 22. Sources of water supply

Source: Field Data. N = 270, (21 missing in the system)

39Peri-urban areas where most urban commuters live have a limited supply of piped water. Areas in point are Namatala, Industrial Division, Maluku, Namakwekwe and Nkoma. Like many urban centres in Uganda, Mbale town sometimes experiences the problem of shortage of water supply, making it hard for many households to access water. In view of this, the cost of water rises up to 200-500 UGX per jerry-can forcing some households to draw water from the nearby River Namatala because they cannot afford piped water. The inability of households to afford piped water implies that such households are engaged in unsustainable livelihoods, in which they use untreated or unprotected water sources.

Access to education by household in Bugisu

40Access to education was used as one of the indicators to assess vulnerability of commuter livelihoods. Access was assessed in terms of distance covered by the students to access studies and in terms of affordability. Household income levels usually determine affordability and also the quality of education someone obtains. To an extent, it also determines the enrolment levels and the rate of school dropouts at primary and secondary levels. Most respondents appreciate the government’s role in promoting education through Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE). The introduction of UPE and USE has increased enrolment levels with most parents taking their children to school, especially primary.

41Questions were however raised in regards to the standards of education provided and the quality of students produced. Problems of teacher/pupil ratio and automatic promotion surround UPE and USE. Because of the high pupil population, teachers are no longer able to give adequate attention to pupils. This is also evidenced by the fact that pupils’ books are many times not marked. The problem of automatic promotion has raised a lot of criticism from the public especially because the weak pupils end up being promoted to the next class.

42Although the enrolment of pupils has grown in primary level interviews with respondents from Muyenze in Sironko, it was noted that many pupils in rural areas continue to walk for long distances to access education despite government efforts to provide education to all under UPE and USE. Many schools in the rural areas in the Mt Elgon region have classes up to P. 3 and P. 4. Those who go beyond these classes have to cover long distances to access education. In Bunambale village, children have to cover a distance of 8 km to the nearest school that offers classes up to P. 7. Long distances covered by pupils to school often strain pupils and undermine their concentration and overall performance in class. The concern is whereas such parents would consider taking their children to boarding schools in the event of long distances covered, they are not able to due to lack of financial capabilities because they are engaged in unsustainable livelihoods.

43There is a close relationship between poverty and children’s progression at school. This study notes that the dropout rate at both primary and secondary schools is high, standing at 58 %, especially for the girls and the disabled children.

Role of livelihoods planning frameworks in livelihoods development

44Livelihoods planning frameworks are conceptual frameworks that promote people-centred development (Ashley and Carney 1999). Livelihood frameworks generate deeper understanding of the wide range of livelihood strategies undertaken by households. At the centre of livelihoods planning frameworks are households in poverty and therefore in a vulnerable position with or without access to and or control of assets. While some of them may have access to and control of assets, they may not have the capacity to transform these assets into meaningful outputs and outcomes in terms of goods, income or services required for a decent standard of living. Livelihood frameworks are useful tools for planning in that they help different stakeholders, namely government, other development partners and the households, to define relevant strategies aimed at diminishing shocks and or trends that often subject households to vulnerable conditions. A livelihoods framework allows stakeholders to do this by conducting an environmental scan to identify resources or assets available to households including capabilities, to identify and analyse opportunities available to households and to identify vulnerabilities including threats affecting livelihood activities undertaken by households.

45This study acknowledges that assets, capabilities and opportunities are critical to any attempts by development actors in supporting livelihoods, and thus diminishing vulnerabilities. Assets are considered as the building blocks upon which households strengthen their capacity in dealing with vulnerabilities. This book chapter identifies five major assets considered important for building livelihoods:

46Namely, first, human capital (physical and mental merits and inherent potential of a household); such merits include education, knowledge, skills, creativity, health, nutrition, capacity to work and the adaptive strategies that households use to make a living.

47Then, natural capital (stocks of natural resources such as land from which commuters build their livelihoods and make a living),

48social capital (wider networks households hold with other members of society),

49physical capital (assets accumulated by households to counter vulnerability and or accumulate more assets to make livelihoods “sustainable”)

50financial capital (the monetary resources owned by households in terms of accumulated savings, physical cash at hand or in the bank, or near money such as money invested in the purchase of goods that can easily be turned to cash).

51Opportunities available to households refer to openings to households for advancement in terms of access to income and resources necessary in meeting basic needs. Such resources may include access to markets, access to food, health facilities, water, favourable climate, educational opportunities, housing, and opportunities for household participation in the development process and bringing about change in their lives.

52The vulnerability context of livelihoods frameworks presents the external environment in which people and their livelihoods operate. It highlights the trends and shocks that affect livelihoods and subjects households into vulnerable conditions. Vulnerabilities arise from the emerging trends and shocks and such shocks and trends may include floods, changing market prices, credit crunch and drought. Shocks are violent and come unexpectedly; stress is less violent, but can last longer (De Haan 2000).


53Livelihoods are central in explaining the various vulnerabilities households face. The more secure the livelihoods, the less the degree of vulnerability to shocks and stress. The reverse is also true. Livelihoods planning frameworks therefore provide an important lens through which to view livelihoods and are vital tools for identification and explanation of factors that subject households into vulnerable situations. Frameworks also allow households and other development actors to define appropriate strategies required to help households get out of vulnerable situations. Frameworks do this by identifying factors of vulnerability, the assets available to households, and thus strategies required to diminish shocks and stress thus, strengthening livelihoods, making them sustainable.



Ashley C, Carney D. 1999. Sustainable livelihoods: Lessons from early experience. London: Department for International Development (DFID).

De Haan L. 2000. Globalization, Localization and Sustainable Livelihood. Sociologia Ruralis 40 (3): 339-365.

Department for International Development (DFID). 1999. Sustainable Livelihoods Guidance Sheets. London, DFID, vfile/upload/1/document/0901/section2.pdf

(Retrieved August 4, 2016).

Dolan C. 2002. Gender and Diverse Livelihoods in Uganda. LADDER Working Paper No.10. London, DFID.

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NEMA, Republic of Uganda. 2004. Mbale District Local Government State of Environment Report. Kampala, NEMA, Republic of Uganda.

Pain A, Lautze S. 2002. Addressing Livelihoods in Afghanistan. Kabul, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.

Economic Development Policy and Research Department; Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. 2014. Poverty Status Report, Structural Change and Poverty Reduction in Uganda. Kampala, Republic of Uganda.

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Calculation of Sample Population

A sample size of 760 respondents was arrived at on the basis of mathematical calculation of the levels of poverty assumed to be the major driving force behind commuting in the Bugisu region. The study adopted the U.S Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service; University of Florida (2009) formula to calculate its sample size.

The formula considered three factors as important in determining the study sample size:

The estimated prevalence of the variable of interest; in this case poverty levels in the Mt. Elgon region estimated at 35 % (UBOS, 2005).

The desired level of confidence estimated at 95 % with a standard value of 1.96 and

The acceptable margin of error at 5 % with a standard value of 0.05.


n = required sample size

t = confidence level

p = estimated prevalence of poverty in the study area

m = margin of error.


Step 1: Calculating a Sample Size for the Study Based on Simple Random Sampling.

Step 2: Calculating the Design Effect; When Using Cluster Sampling to Select Representative Sub-Regions and Villages.

NB: To correct for the difference in design the sample size obtained for simple random sampling is multiplied by the design (D).

The design effect is assumed to be 2 for social problems including poverty surveys using sampling methodology.

Step 3: Calculating for Contingency.

For contingency, the sample is increased by 5 % to account for contingencies such as non- response or recording errors.

Step 4: Distribution of Observations.

In this case the calculation result is rounded up to the closest number that matches well with the number of clusters (villages surveyed, in this case eight villages).

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 34. Bugisu Region, Eastern Uganda (BMK Atlas, 2010)
Fichier image/jpeg, 24k
Titre Table 16. Common livelihood activities by commuters in the Bugisu region
Crédits Source: Field data
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k
Titre Table 17. Gains from commuting activities
Crédits Source: Field Data
Fichier image/jpeg, 23k
Titre Table 18. Commuter income/expenditure per day
Crédits Source: Field Data
Fichier image/jpeg, 26k
Titre Table 19. Commuter household food security levels
Crédits Source: Field Data
Fichier image/jpeg, 14k
Titre Table 20. Prevalence and incidence of diseases at household level
Crédits Source: Field Data
Fichier image/jpeg, 23k
Titre Table 21. Distance covered to fetch water
Crédits Source: Field Data. N = 270, (18 missing in the system)
Fichier image/jpeg, 13k
Titre Table 22. Sources of water supply
Crédits Source: Field Data. N = 270, (21 missing in the system)
Fichier image/jpeg, 20k


Dr. and Senior Lecturer, Department of Development and Community Studies, Nkumba University, Kampala (Uganda),
His recent work focuses on the effectiveness of State systems in promoting accountability in transitional justice; the case of LRA and Karamojong (Uganda); and land miniaturization and class formation in Africa, especially a reassessment of Bugisu region, Eastern Uganda.

© Africae, 2016

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