The promise of asset-based approaches to poverty, as well as its limitations can be summarised with reference to the popular idiom: “teach a person to fish, rather than giving him a fish”. If the idiom were a development programme or project, it would aim to undertake two interventions (i.e. 1. training a person to fish and 2. availability of fishing tackle and equipment to fish). The objective of the intervention could recorded in some project plan as follows.
Through introduction of training and making equipment available the programme will contribute to supporting the sustainable livelihoods of X number of people.
However, development practice tells us that it is never so easy, because there is almost never a strong causal relationship between interventions and the intended outcomes, which can be demonstrated with reference to successful and unsuccessful outcomes. These are visualised in Box 1 below.
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