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Livelihoods and food security: from food aid to self-reliance

People in fragile, conflict-affected areas are twice as likely to be undernourished as those residing in other developing countries. Climate change and the continued increase in forced displacements further exacerbate food insecurity and livelihood challenges. 

A woman working in a vegetable garden in an Asian country
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relief to recovery

Enable people to provide for themselves

ZOA provides food assistance, preferably through distribution of cash or vouchers, in emergency situations. During the recovery phase, ZOA supports people in building sustainable livelihoods. Thus, we enable people to provide for themselves again. 

Food security in crises

ZOA implements relief activities in case of humanitarian emergencies. Food assistance is provided to meet the immediate needs of the affected people. ZOA offers preferable cash or food vouchers (CVA) for people in need to spend directly on food items that best fit theirrequirements. In case of dysfunctional markets, which make CVA assistance impossible, food will be distributed based on recipients’ specific needs and preferences. The choice for the most appropriate approach in a specific context is based on an assessment of the actual humanitarian needs. The question is which resource transfer modality will deliver the necessary aid in the most relevant, effective, efficient, safe and rapid manner possible.

A woman in front of her house in Congo
Inge Vos

Inge Vos, Livelihoods and Food Security Specialist

ZOA's long-term commitment ensures that people, even the poorest and most vulnerable, have the opportunity to work towards sustainable livelihoods and food security.


Sustainable food systems

During the recovery phase, ZOA supports people in building sustainable livelihoods through a market based approach. ZOA works towards sustainable food systems that  ensure availability and access to sufficient nutritious food for everyone, at all times. 

ZOA’s programmes include activities on the production side, improving agriculture production and processing practices, reducing waste and losses and making efficient use of natural resources. Through diversification of crops, we aim to increase the availability of various food crops for a varied diet. Access to food is further enhanced by addressing constraints in food value chains and food markets, and increasing the purchasing power of beneficiaries through livelihood activities.

Livelihood approaches

Households seek various ways of generating income to provide for their needs. To succeed in their efforts, people require the appropriate resources, skills and capacities, as well as favourable external conditions.

  • Agriculture production. We analyze the best entry points for sustainable use of resources, and resilience of the agricultural systems to natural hazards.
  • Value chain development. We provide training on processing and we facilitate linkages to service providers and access to markets.
  • Income generating activities. Through small entrepreneurship, vocational training, job creation or cooperatives.

ZOA uses the PIP approach, developed by Wageningen University, in an increasing number of projects. The PIP approach motivates farmer families to collaborate in taking ownership of their development, by efficiently utilizing their own resources in the various livelihood opportunities of family members. They are supported in becoming stewards of more resilient farms through conserving their land and using climate smart agricultural practices.

Working together

Networks and partners

ZOA participates in several networks, such as the Netherlands Food Partnership (NFP) and the PIP platform, and works together with other NGO’s to increase the impact of our projects. In the countries were we work, ZOA collaborates with the UN, governments and local partners.