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Livelihood Strategies

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Activities and Livelihood Strategies

Livelihood strategies denote the range and combination of activities and choices (including on production and investment) made by households in order to sustain themselves and contribute to the economic capital of the household. This analysis focuses on the combination of activities undertaken. Households in the survey were asked to name up to three livelihood activities, by order of importance. A majority of households reported engaging in agriculture (56%), the most common activity. This followed by trade (25%), day labor (19%), and transportation (13%).

Figure 26: Main household’s activities

Figure 26 -  Main household’s activities

There were differences between strata. In Cotabato City, few households engaged in agriculture (2% compared to 45% or more elsewhere), but a larger than average proportion of households engaged in trade, transport, and skilled labor (27% compared to 12% or less elsewhere). Other differences included the higher frequency of fishers in Maguindanao (20% compared to 7% or less elsewhere), and a higher proportion of day laborers in Sultan Kudarat (23% compared to 12% or less elsewhere.)

Principal component and cluster analyses were used to group together households that shared similar patterns of activities based on the relative importance of those activities to the overall livelihood. The analyses resulted in a total of eight groups: (1) Farmer, (2) Day laborer, (3) Skilled workers, (4) Alternative livelihood, (5)Natural resources exploiter, (6) trader, (7) Fisher, and (8) Transporter. Farmers alone accounted for 39 percent of the population. Day laborers (14%) and skilled workers (11%) were the second and third most frequent group. The following table presents a brief description of the characteristics of eachof the eight groups, such as the average monthly income and the proportion of households in the two poorest wealth quintiles.

Table 4: Characteristics of livelihood groups

(% of households)


% two poorest wealth quintile


Households who depend almost exclusively on agriculture (87%) to support their livelihood. They have the second highest proportion of households engaging in only one activity (52%), and the third lowest estimated monthly income (5,150 PhP/month). They are the main livelihood group (39%).In North Cotabato and Lanao del Sur, they account for 49% of the population.


Day laborer

Households who rely primarily on day labor (54%) or unskilled labor (19%) to support their livelihood, with an additional contribution from agriculture (13%). They have on average the lowest monthly income (4,750 PhP/month). They account for 14% of the total surveyed population. In Sultan Kudarat, this rises toover one in four households (29%).


Skilled Worker

Skilled workers rely primarily on skilled employment (60%) and construction skilled employment (19%) to sustain their livelihood. They have on average the highest monthly income, at 13,750 PhP/month. Skilled workers account for 11% of the population and are most frequent in the urban area such as Cotabato City, where they account for 24% of the households.


Alternative livelihood

The alternative livelihood group clustershouseholds that rely on remittances (31%) and a range of less frequent activities (24%) to support their livelihood. They have the second highest average income (8,350PhP / month). They account for 9% of the households and are present in a similar proportion across all regions.



This group relies on transport as a mean to support its livelihood (average 70% contribution). It represents 8% of the total population, and is most frequent in the urban areas (36% in Cotabato City compared to 10% or less elsewhere). Their mean income, at 5,800 PhP/month is below average (6,500 PhP/month). 



Traders are the most specialized and least diversified group in terms of activities, with 59% of them engaging in only one activity. Trade contributes to an estimated 89% of their livelihood, and their average income is 6,700 PhP/month, just above average. They represent 7% of the population and are present throughout the study area.



Fishing contributes to an average of 70% of the livelihood amongthese households, with agriculture contributing an average of 16%. Fisher are found throughout the region (7% of the population), but were most frequent in Maguindanao (20%). They have the second lowest average income, at 4,800PhP/month


Natural resources exploiter

The natural resource exploiters group clustershouseholds that rely directly on the exploitation of natural resources to sustain their livelihood, including the sale and preparation of charcoal (38%), agriculture (22%), and livestock (17%). They rely on a range of activities with most households engaging in two (62%) or three (19%) activities. They have an average income, of 5,400 PhP/month. They are found throughout the study area and represent 5% of the population.


  • As outlined in the previous table, the average cash income is lowest among day laborers (4,750 PhP/month), fishers (4,800 PhP/month), and farmers (5,150 PhP/month).
  • The highest proportion of households in the two poorest wealth quintile were found among natural resources exploiters (56%), fishers (55%), day laborers (45%) and farmers (42%)

In addition to differences in livelihood activities, income, and wealth, livelihood groups were found to have statistically significant differences (p<0.05) with regards to several variables typically considered to be vulnerability or poverty indicators.

Table 5: Factors associated with livelihood groups

Table 5 -  Factors associated with livelihood groups

  • The average age of the head of household was highest among households with an alternative livelihood (47.3 years old), and lowest among those engaging in transportation (38.8 years old).
  • Trader and households with an alternative livelihood had the highest proportion of female-headed households (respectively 25% and 27%)
  • The average dependency ratio was highest among traders (1.13)and farmers (1.07), and lowest among transporters (0.96), natural resources exploiters (0.97) and alternative livelihoods (0.97). However, the crowding factor was highest among fishers (4.49), and farmers (4.12)
  • Heads of Household had on average the lowest education level among fishers (39% with incomplete primary education or less), natural resources exploiters (35%), and farmers (32%)
  • Construction materials for the roof and floor were most frequently basic among natural resources exploiters (51% and 56% respectively), day laborers (38% and 47%), and fishers (33% and 43%).
  • Home ownership was least frequent among day laborers (59%) andnatural resources exploiters (58%), compared to the average of 70 percent.
  • Access to health care and education was often ranked negatively (bad or very bad) among fishers (40% and 61% respectively), farmers (28% and 45%) and natural resources exploiters (30% and 41%).

These results suggest that day laborers are on average among the least wealthy households in terms of income, assets, and housing material. Farmers, fishers, and those dependent on the exploitation of natural resources were generally characterized by poor income and asset ownership,low education of the household head, high dependency ratio and crowding factor, and poor access to services.

Livelihood and Displacement

This section examines the relationships between households’ settlement status and their livelihood activities and strategies. Among all groups, farming is the most common activity. However, compared to the rest of the population, households who were displaced at the time of the survey were more likely to engage in the exploitation of natural resources as a livelihood strategy, and, to a lesser extent, trading.

Over half the households who identified themselves as having returned home after displacement were farmers (51%). The distribution of livelihood profiles among households who resettled elsewhere closely resembles that of households who were never displaced.

Figure 27: Distribution of livelihood profiles by settlement status

Figure 27 -  Distribution of livelihood profiles by settlement status

The survey explored activities that households undertook while being displaced. Most frequently, they reported relying during that experience on assistance from family and relatives (36%) or other sources (36%). However, some reported engaging in agriculture (29%), day labor (16%), and trading activities (15%). Disaggregated by settlement status, there were some important differences. Over 40% of the households that had returned home had benefited from assistance from their relatives and family (42%) and other sources (43%) while displaced. This was significantly more than households who resettled elsewhere (24% and 10% respectively), and households that were displaced at the time of the survey (19% and 29% respectively). Inversely, households that had then returned home had,while they were displaced, relied less frequently on activities such as day labor or trade compared to other groups.

The results indicate that households that were displaced at the time of the survey were more likely to have relied on the production of charcoal to sustain themselves (26%) compared to less than 6 percent among those who returned home or elsewhere. It is possible that the production of charcoal is one of the few livelihood strategies available to them in the absence of external assistance. This is consistent with the finding that natural resources exploiters were more common among currently displaced households compared to the rest of the population.

Figure 28: Economic activities undertaken while displaced

Figure 28 -  Economic activities undertaken while displaced


Among the overall study population, 8 percent of the households said that they relied on remittances as one of their main sources of livelihood. When asked directly whether or not their household receives remittances, 12 percent of the households responded positively. The proportion was highest in Lanao del Norte (20%) and Sultan Kudarat (16%), compared to 6 percent in Maguindanao.The proportion of households receiving remittances was highest among households with an ‘alternative livelihood’ strategy (49%), compared to 12 percent or less among the other livelihood profiles. For this group, remittances contributed an average of 33 percent of the total livelihood activities.

Among the 12 percent of households who received remittances, 62 percent indicated receiving remittances from women, and 42 percent indicated receiving remittances from men. In a majority of cases, remittances came from abroad (60%), and, to a lesser extent, from Manila (21%). While remittances are an important source of support for the households, it was generally seen as temporary, with 94 percent of the households indicating that the individuals sending remittances had plans to return to their place of origin.

Disaggregated by settlement status, 3 percent of the displaced households received at least some remittances compared to 10 percent among those returned home, and 14 percent among those resettled elsewhere and those never displaced. Although the number of households concerned is too limited to provide a definitive answer, the results further suggests that displaced households mainly received remittances from Manila (67%), while the majority of the beneficiaries among the other groups received remittances from abroad (50% or more). Households in the richest wealth quintile were more likely to receive remittances from abroad (75%) compared to the other households. The figure for the poorest asset quintile was 56 percent.