One area of the work of SRC is in research, training and consultancies to support the livelihoods of rural communities through the development of practices to ensure the sustainable management of their natural resources.

Two key lessons direct the research and development activities of this sub-group in SRC. The first is the need for appropriate incentives, usually through market links and value chain development, for households and communities to develop and use their natural resources. The second is the role of appropriate institutional arrangements to ensure the sustainable use of these resources, to prevent their degradation and to enhance ecosystem services, especially livelihood benefits.

In this way sustainable rural livelihoods are enhanced and the resilience of communities to cope with socio-economic and environmental challenges is enhanced.

A wide range of techniques have been used and developed in this work. These include specific PRA methods and tools for livelihood and institutional analysis at a variety of levels from national to local government and within communities. In addition, a variety of dissemination and policy support methods are used to engage with all stakeholders and provide interactive training.

The basis of this work is some 30 years of research with communities in several countries in East and Southern Africa. This has involved collaboration with national and local governments, international organisations, non-state actors and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Funding for this work has come from a variety of sources including multilateral and bilateral donors, as well as charitable institutions. In all cases there has been a focus on action research with an emphasis on generating lessons which have been applied by development organisations ranging from local NGOs to UN agencies and other international bodies.