Living income benchmarking of rural households in low-income countries

Gerrie W.J. van de Ven*, Anne de Valença, Wytze Marinus, Ilse de Jager, Katrien K.E. Descheemaeker, Willem Hekman, Beyene Teklu Mellisse, Frederick Baijukya, Mwantumu Omari, Ken E. Giller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The extreme poverty line is the most commonly used benchmark for poverty, set at US$ 1.90 by the World Bank. Another benchmark, based on the Anker living wage methodology, is the remuneration received for a standard work week necessary for a worker to meet his/her family’s basic needs in a particular place. The living wage concept has been used extensively to address incomes of plantation workers producing agricultural commodities for international markets. More recently intense discussion has emerged concerning the ‘living income’ of smallholder farmers who produce commodities for international supply chains on their own land. In this article we propose a simple method that can be used in all types of development projects to benchmark a rural ‘living income’. We launch the Living Income Methodology, as adapted from the Living Wage Methodology, to estimate the living income for rural households. In any given location this requires about one week of fieldwork. We express it per adult equivalent per day (AE/day) and data collection is focused on rural households and their immediate surroundings. Our three case studies showed that in 2017 in Lushoto District, rural Tanzania, the living income was US$ PPP 4.04/AE/day, in Isingiro District, rural Uganda, 3.82 and in Sidama Zone, rural Ethiopia, 3.60. In all cases, the extreme poverty line of US$ PPP 1.90 per capita per day is insufficient to meet the basic human rights for a decent living in low-income countries. The Living Income Methodology provides a transparent local benchmark that can be used to assess development opportunities of rural households, by employers in rural areas, including farmers hiring in labour, while respecting basic human rights on a decent living. It can be used to reflect on progress of rural households in low-income countries on their aspired path out of poverty. It further provides a meaningful benchmark to measure progress on Sustainable Development Goal 1, eliminating poverty, and 2, zero hunger and sustainable food systems, allowing for consideration of the local context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)729-749
JournalFood Security
Issue number3
Early online date28 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Ethiopia
  • Poverty line
  • Smallholder farms
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda


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