Household Economy Approach (Practitioners' Guide)

Date of Design: 
Save the Children and the Food Economy Group
Contact Institution: 
Pathway Component: 
Agricultural Income, Value Chains & Market Systems, Diet, Food Access, Food Expenditure, Food Prices, Food Production, Health Care, Non-food Expenditure


Brief Description: The Household Economy Approach (HEA) is a livelihoods-based framework for analyzing the way people obtain access to the things they need to survive and prosper. It helps determine people’s food and non-food needs and identifies appropriate means of assistance, whether short-term emergency assistance or longer term development programs or policy changes are necessary. The Practitioners’ Guide is not meant to be used as a ‘do-it-yourself’ guide for those with no exposure to HEA.

Uses: The HEA can be used in a variety of ways, including to: 

  • Inform early warning scenario planning and monitoring systems.
  • Assess emergency food and non-food needs.
  • Identify appropriate rehabilitation activities in sudden-onset disasters.
  • Consider appropriate social protection measures.
  • Analyze poverty and poverty-reduction strategies. 

Tool Components: There are seven chapters: 

  1. Introduction to the Household Economy Framework
  2. Livelihood Zoning
  3. Baseline Assessment
  4. Outcome Analysis
  5. Translating Outcomes to Action
  6. Adaptations of HEA
  7. Emerging Links, Issues, and Approaches


Number of Staff Required: The human resources required depends on if the HEA is focused on a single livelihood zone or covers an entire country. It is recommended that the single-zone in-depth baseline be undertaken by at least two two-person teams. For the larger-scale national work, at least four teams per region are recommended.

Time: Producing a map of livelihood zones should take an estimated 7-10 days. The time required for a baseline depends on whether the HEA is focused on a single livelihood zone or covers an entire country. The guide indicates that total time for a single-zone in-depth baseline is minimum 34 days (excluding travel time); a country with 10 livelihood zones would take 120 days (excluding travel time). The time required to conduct outcome analysis is not specified in the guide.

Cost of Assessment: The cost is not specified, but will vary significantly depending on the scope of the assessment and the context within which the HEA takes place.

Training: The practitioners’ guide suggests that five to six days of training is required prior to conducting an HEA baseline. The Trainers’ Guide to HEA is targeted at those facilitating HEA trainings and comprises guidance materials on organizing and running trainings, including session outlines, exercises, and presentations.

Geographic Targeting: HEA analysis is conducted in livelihood zones. Chapter 2 explains how to undertake a livelihood zoning exercise.

Type of Data Collection: It is important to note that the HEA is an analytical framework, not a specific method of information collection. Data collection methods may include interviews, surveys, secondary data review, and participatory workshops.

Degree of Technical Difficulty: The HEA is technically complex; it requires particular skills and a wide body of experience in many country settings. 

Complements other Resources: The HEA can be used in conjunction with a number of vulnerability assessment tools, and may incorporate elements of conflict and political economy analysis. 

This summary is part of a larger resource called the Context Assessment Tool Locator.