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Agricultural research in marginal dry areas can contribute to reducing poverty through the development of technological, institutional and policy options for poor farmers by addressing diversified opportunities and development pathways. This paper analyzes the diversity of rural livelihood strategies in the Khanasser Valley in northwest Syria, an area representative of marginal drylands. We experimentally define an operational classification of household typologies based on their different livelihood strategies, capabilities, and opportunities by applying a Sustainable Livelihoods framework. Livelihoods diversity has implications on where and how research must be targeted to have impact on poverty. Households less endowed in land and natural resources and with livelihoods only marginally based on farming have to rely on off-farm income or exit agriculture. Poorest households with livelihoods based on migration and scarce land assets can benefit little or only indirectly from agricultural research. Yet the poor laborers with enough assets can benefit more and directly from pro-poor agricultural research. We discuss the pathways that these different groups can undertake to escape poverty, with emphasis on those that use agricultural technologies developed within an Integrated Natural Resources Management approach by a benchmark project of ICARDA in the Khanasser area. Some of the technologies, assessed ex-ante based on extensive experimental data, can contribute to improving livelihoods and preserving the natural resource base. If, however, these are to become part of effective development pathways and impact on poverty, they must meet various policy and institutional conditions, that we discuss vis-a-vis the different typologies of users.


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