Advancing Development towards Sustainable Livelihoods

The Madurai Symposium is a development platform where development stakeholders-community institutions, civil societies, the Government, non-government organisations (NGOs), financial institutions and academia-converge at Madurai for conventions, and conferences. Four biennial symposiums were organised in Madurai between 2003 and 2009, each attended by over 15,000 participants. The 2009 Madurai Symposium brought development stakeholders together to share and learn from each others' experiences and practices with respect to Advancing Development: Towards Millennium Development Goals.

It can be argued that one of the most effective methods for achieving the Millennium Development Goals is through livelihoods promotion. Building upon the experiences of the earlier symposiums, the theme for 2011 is Advancing Development: Towards Sustainable Livelihoods.

The purposes of the 2011 Madurai Symposium include building knowledge on the best practices for livelihood promotion including approaches, frameworks, and models; promoting networks among the development players; fostering collaborations for action; sharing opportunities for resource mobilisation; and identifying leads for action in relation to policy areas and field practice.

For India's poor, livelihoods promotion is an important tool to improve self-reliance. Poor households possess different levels of livelihood assets and skills, and their livelihood decisions are often influenced by the stage of their family life cycle and degree of vulnerability to shocks and uncertainties. Sustainable livelihoods interventions should be designed to move households from a state of survival (high vulnerability) to subsistence (endurance with limited security) to self-employed (a state of stabilisation and security).

However, implementing programmes that achieve livelihood mobility requires a clear understanding of the complex interplay of personal, familial, social, and political factors. This understanding is often facilitated by using the frameworks on livelihoods, many of which identify economic, human, political, socio-cultural, and protective capabilities as important factors in understanding households and communities.

India's development actors from all sectors have had decades of experience in promoting and strengthening livelihoods, whether directly or indirectly. In the process, many additional frameworks, specific to the operational areas (whether geographically or socioeconomically distinct), have been developed.

The 2011 Madurai Symposium will provide opportunities for development stakeholders to learn from each others' experience, collaborate to develop further interventions to help eradicate poverty, and identify ways to sustain, enhance, and diversify livelihoods of the poor.

In addition to the conventions, conferences, and seminars there will be events for the public such as film festivals, business fairs, cultural shows of traditional and modern performing arts, poster sessions, and exhibitions of crafts by communities and self-help groups.


The Symposium focuses on the theme of sustainable livelihoods in rural, urban, coastal and tribal contexts. Topics of the events would be related to different sectors and sub-sectors within each context. Across the contexts, the events would focus on current issues in livelihoods, emerging opportunities and threats, existing policies affecting livelihoods, sustainable and replicable livelihood intervention models and their relevance, and financial and human resource requirement for livelihood promotion.

Rural Livelihoods

Access to land and water has direct relevance on livelihoods of millions of rural households as farming and livestock are their primary livelihood strategy. Three fourths of Indian farmers are dependent on rainfed farming for their livelihoods, which is complex, diverse and risk prone, and characterised by low levels of productivity. It results in perpetuating poverty and large scale migration leaving the farmlands waste and derstified. Enhanced performance of common water resources and creation of new water harvesting structures, interventions in farming and allied activities to improve productivity, risk mitigation and support for the poor and landless households are some of the challenges in sustaining rural livelihoods.

Indicative topics relevant to this context are:

  • Watershed development
  • Conservation and development of water resources
  • Overcoming production and marketing risks in farming
  • Technology options for enhanced farm productivity
  • Finance for sustaining livelihoods
  • Post-harvest technology
  • Current trends and the future of agricultural marketing
  • Emerging organizational models for production and marketing
  • Tourism based livelihoods: Emerging opportunities
  • Mission approach: MRLM, National Horticultural Mission, Rainfed Farming Development Authority, NREGS.

Urban Livelihoods

Urban livelihoods strategies are largely dependent on selling labour, often within the informal sector or within service industries of the formal sector. Living closer to the employment opportunities, the poor often stay in squator settlements with limited access to civic services. Producers and processors located close to cities have comparative advantages of supplying to these markets. Urban poverty reduction requires diverse livelihood strategies including urban-rural market linkages, skill building, access to financial services, arresting income drainage, and housing.

Indicative topics relevant to this context are:

  • Linking rural producers and urban consumers
  • Skill building for enhanced employability
  • Livelihoods of poor and urban renewal mission
  • Issues of migrant workers
  • Housing for the urban poor and their livelihoods
  • Microfinance for urban livelihoods

Coastal and Marine-based Livelihoods

Coastal and marine areas offer diverse and abundant livelihood opportunities. The traditional and small scale fishers are highly vulnerable due to depleting marine resources, exploitative markets, risks and uncertainties associated with the work, lack of access to investment and lack of working capital. Support to the reduction of pressure on coastal and marine ecosystems through enhancing and diversifying livelihoods and supportive market mechanisms are the critical needs in this context.

Indicative topics relevant to this context are:

  • Coastal and marine conservation
  • Livelihoods and disaster risk reduction
  • From sea to table: Fishers and their market
  • Microfinance and coastal livelihoods
  • Women and marine based livelihoods
  • Different livelihood models in coastal contexts
  • Coastal zone regulation acts and fishers' livelihoods
  • Climate change adaptation

Tribal Livelihoods

The livelihood security of tribal communities is determined by forests, land and water. Understanding the lifestyle, culture and socio-economic reality of the tribal people are critical for creating a favorable environment for building sustainable livelihoods for the tribes. Since they are deprived of health and educational entitlements and exposed to high levels of exploitation by outsiders, tribal livelihoods development needs an integrated approach with a combination of freeing them from financial bondedness of exploitative traders, creating and strengthening forestbased livelihoods, water resource development, and ensuring health and educational services.

Indicative topics relevant to this context are:

  • Forest based livelihoods
  • Development at the cost of tribal livelihoods
  • Eco-tourism: An emerging opportunity
  • Conser vation of indigenous knowledge
  • Different models and approaches for securing tribal livelihoods


Some of the concrete outcomes of the 2011 Madurai Symposium include launching new development initiatives, shaping the agenda for people movements, generating a livelihood-focused development policy, and coming out with enabling policy packages for livelihoods promotion. The compilation of the outcomes will be taken to the decision makers at the central and state level.


Conferences, Seminars and Workshops

Many development stakeholders have already had many years of experience on working with livelihoods development in different contexts and sectors. Understanding livelihoods is complex and requires an understanding of these contexts and sectors, as well as an understanding of the many cross-cutting themes-for instance, gender, migration, and finance-for livelihoods. The conferences, seminars, and workshops provide a platform to facilitate cross-learning by sharing cases, success stories, research findings, programme designs, and livelihood theories evaluations. By understanding the different dimensions of livelihoods through paper presentations and discussions, participants will be able to refine their livelihoods development activities for greater impact.

For a day-wise schedule, please see our Participate page.

People Conventions

The success of any intervention lies in the extent of participation and involvement by the target community in the development process. Community organisations are promoted by NGOs and the Government in different social capital forms such as federations and associations. In order to create a long-lasting impact, the vibrancy of governance (community leadership) and local management built through enabling and empowerment is crucial. The experiences of such development processes need to be shared. The people conventions will facilitate such learning and knowledge-building processes among the communities and across the stakeholders on the theme of sustainable livelihoods development.

For a day-wise schedule, please see our Participate page.

Events for the Public

How to Participate

Hosting an Event

Hosting organization can conduct one event (conference, seminar, workshop, or convention) each day for a maximum of four days. An indicative list of topics can be found under the description of the themes of this year's Symposium.

As an event host, you would be responsible for inviting participants; the Symposium secretariat can assist in identiying potential participants if required. While the Symposium secretariat will provide logistics and event coordination support, the respective host organizations will bear the cost of the day's event. The cost of hosting a conference, seminar, or workshop (50 participants) is Rs. 50,000. The cost of hosting a convention (150 people) is Rs. 1,00,000.

To register as an event host, please download and complete the following registration form and email it to

14 September 2011

Other Events
Title Organizer
Workshop on "People Living with HIV (PLHIV) & Livelihoods" People Mutuals & ASKMI
Climate Change Adaptation for Sustainable Agriculture Climate Change Adaptation

15 September 2011

Other Events
Title Organizer
Seminar on Showcasing Best Practices on Converging Microfinance and Ttribal Livelihoods Kalanjiam Foundation
Workshop on "Conservation of Water Bodies and Sustainable Livelihoods" Coastal Conservation and Livelihoods
Seminar on "Microplanning and Livelihoods" Working with Panchayats
Convention on "UPNRM and Livelihoods" Kajanjiam Development Financial Services

16 September 2011

Other Events
Title Organizer
Workshop on "Health Intermediation through Community Centered Behavioural Change Communication Strategy Kalanjiam Foundation
Seminar on "Sustainable Livelihoods—An Experience of SKDRDP" INAFI, India
People Convention on "PRI and Livelihoods through NREGP" Working with Panchayats
People Convention on "Visioning and Future Search in People Institutions of RFDP" Rainfed Farming Development Programme

17 September 2011

Other Events
Title Organizer
Workshop on "SHG Federations and Microjustice" Kalanjiam Foundation
People Convention on "Sharing Best Practices of Social Security Programmes" People Mutuals
People Convention on "Sharing Best Practices of Financing Livelihoods" Kalanjiam Development Financial Services
People Convention on "Coastal Livelihoods: Challenges and Opportunities" Coastal Conservation and Livelihoods
People Convention on "ICT and Livelihoods" ICT for Poor

Madurai Symposium 2011

18, Pillaiyar Koil Street,
S.S. Colony, Madurai - 625 016
Tel: +91-452-2610794 / 805 Fax: +91-452-2602247

Download the Madurai Symposium 2011 Brochure
Printer-friendly version