The livelihood improvement approach is a technique that developed to improve the lives of people in rural Japan particularly in the late 1940s and 1950s before the nation entered its period of high economic growth. The farming sector in Japan had the same sorts of problems that many developing countries face today in areas such as daily living, sanitation and health. An important characteristic of the livelihood improvement approach is its way of solving issues not by introducing foreign systems and technologies, but by skillfully using the limited resources available to improve people's lives. Under this approach, the problems that needed to be solved were identified, and the rural residents took possession of the activities to devise and implement solutions.
The women in rural communities came together and formed groups, discussing the problems and needs they had in their lives. Over time, working groups developed to work in specific areas such as rice cultivation, horticulture and household finances. Improvement activities they carried out included the following:
The livelihood improvement approach constitutes a body of experience in rural and social development from the perspective of residents, and while it is a development unique to Japan, the circumstances immediately after World War II are similar to those faced by developing countries today. Included in this body of experience are lessons and suggestions valuable to people in developing countries. An example is the emphasis that the livelihood improvement approach placed on the involvement of the farming residents themselves in planning and managing projects. That approach therefore did not end with short-lived outside reforms, but became sustained efforts in building a base voluntarily built by independent farming communities. Another important point about the livelihood improvement approach is that it was not a program where the government unilaterally provided public services, but a means for the government and residents to cooperate in creating solutions to problems that the residents suggested themselves.
JICA Tsukuba International Center provides the following programs on the livelihood improvement approach.
"The Lessons from Livelihood Improvement Experiences in Postwar Japan" is a multimedia educational production by JICA that is available from the JICA-Net Library.