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Livelihoods zoning offers a particular view of economic geography associated with Household Economy Analysis (HEA), a widely-used methodology for the assessment of food security with reference to whole livelihoods in their various geographical contexts. A livelihood zone is defined as a geographical area where rural households rely on the same resources and means – ecology, production systems, access to markets - to meet their life and livelihood needs, particularly therefore their food and cash income. A livelihood zoning exercise creates both a map and summary descriptions of the zones identified – in effect a well-annotated livelihoods map. But the reason for undertaking the zoning – the use to which the result will be put – must underpin the exercise. In any country, let alone one the size of DRC, it would be possible to find a plethora of livelihood zones based on localized economic differences. In DRC, for NGOs working in specific territoires (districts) or smaller units such as the Health Areas (Aires de Santé) of the Ministry of Health, such micro-zoning can be of benefit in refining their local contextual understanding and offering a localized geographical frame for nutrition or other surveys. By contrast, the zoning of the whole country, region by region, was done with its utility for the national VAC in mind, that is, as a basis for seasonal or annual assessments of food security organized at provincial or national level. With its capacity in personnel and logistics, the VAC could not be expected to monitor changing conditions in a multitude of local zones: what was required was zoning at a sufficient level to reflect basic differences in potential effects on populations and to guide practical decisions about official/agency responses. This meant that tens rather than hundreds of zones needed to be distinguished over the country: zoning with a broad brush rather than a fine pencil. In this spirit 33 rural livelihood zones were identified across the country, while the peri-urban zone behind Kinshasa formed an additional, semi-rural livelihood zone.
Livelihood Zone Description accompanies a zone map, briefly describing the main characteristics of the livelihood patterns in that zone. The maps and descriptions, which identify relevant variables by geography, are useful in informing the development of monitoring systems.