Table of Contents
International Journal of Population Research
Volume 2017, Article ID 4513607, 26 pages
Research Article

Harnessing Social Capital for Resilience to Livelihood Shocks: Ethnographic Evidence of Indigenous Mutual Support Practices among Rural Households in Eastern Ethiopia

1Department of Extension and Innovation Studies, Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
2Department of Rural Development and Agricultural Extension, Haramaya University, Diredawa, Ethiopia

Correspondence should be addressed to Getachew Shambel Endris; moc.liamg@6002shcteg

Received 12 March 2017; Accepted 6 July 2017; Published 30 October 2017

Academic Editor: Sally Guttmacher

Copyright © 2017 Getachew Shambel Endris et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


In the absence of adequate support from formal social safety nets, rural households in Ethiopia have developed collective risk-sharing strategies to buffer them against adverse livelihood shocks, thus building their resilience capacities. Social capital and network based indigenous mutual support arrangements are the most important strategies that are institutionalized and widely practiced among rural households for centuries in Ethiopia to support households to cope with shocks. Nonetheless, resilience research and rural poverty alleviation policies have yet to fully recognize and embrace social capital as a tool to tackle poverty and vulnerability. Robust policy and academic studies on the role of indigenous welfare system with implications for social development policy making in Ethiopia are lacking. Using ethnographic techniques and simple descriptive statistics, we studied indigenous mutual support systems and how they shape the resilience trajectories of rural households against livelihood shocks within two selected PAs of Babille district of Oromia region. We found that mutual support practices are very effective in building coping resilience of households by smoothing consumption shocks. However, the traditional coping mechanisms often fail when the shock is systemic or covariate, when shocks last longer, and when a household has low level of human or finical capital.