This paper presents briefly the principles and procedure of typology schemes, which aim at describing and representing the local diversity of rural households, through the analysis of their modes of operation, strategies and prospects, activities and livelihoods' systems. This approach departs from both strict economic analysis and social participatory approaches, which often overlook the diversity that exists among rural households at local level. It basically combines the respective principles and advantages of both approaches. Through a case study, which was carried out in a rural community of the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, the paper highlights this local diversity, its representation through a typology scheme, and the issues related to livelihood systems: complementarity between on-farm and off-farm activities and sources of income, the key role of women, significance of subsistence farming activities, existence of productive and potentially profitable activities (wool). Some key questions for the close future are also raised: ageing process at household level (pensions are currently instrumental in livelihood build-up), transmission process to youngsters in a context of PTO land access system, sustainability of farming systems in a fragile and constraining natural environment, weaknesses in the agribusiness environment, basic needs in development support as expressed by people, the worrying situation of certain very poor households, problems and constraints as expressed by farmers. The paper finally discusses the significance of such tools for integrated rural development planning and management purposes. They may be responses to the increasing need for proper diagnosis, in a context of persistent poverty in South-Africa's rural areas and of public willingness to tackle it in an integrated manner.