What are Flood-Based Livelihood Systems?

Flood-Based Livelihood Systems (FBLS) are systems that make use of temporarily predictable flood water to support farming, fishery, (agro)forestry, grazing grounds, recharge and groundwater storage. FBLS can be found all across the globe but can be mainly seen in the Middle East, North Africa, West Asia, East Africa and parts of Latin America. An estimated area of 30 million ha worldwide is under FBLS of which over 15 million ha in arid and semi-arid regions in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). FBLS are very risk-prone. The uncertainty comes both from the unpredictable nature of the floods and frequent changes to the river beds that carry these floods. FBLS are often left out between rain-fed and conventional irrigated agriculture and much of its potential is still unharnessed. It is often the poorest segments of the rural population whose livelihood and food security depends on floods. Substantial local wisdom has developed in organizing FBLS and managing both the flood water and the heavy sediment loads that go along with it. Investing in FBLS could lift 700-800 million people out of poverty and into prosperity.

Water availability is increasingly under pressure as a result of population growth, environmental degradation and climate change. More than ever, the potential offered by seasonal floods needs to be harnessed; to strengthen agricultural livelihoods, to improve social equity and to increase the ecosystem integrity. Harnessing floods is a quintessential method to allow rural communities in vulnerable areas to adapt to climate change. For many farmer communities who depend on agriculture and fisheries, floods are not a hazard but rather an asset.