Creative ways of supporting livelihoods and businesses in the desert
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Creative Ways of Supporting Livelihoods and Businesses in the Desert. Presenter Dr Sivaram Vemuri Associate Professor of Economics Charles Darwin University. Co-researchers: Ass Prof Fay Rola-Rubzen Prof Gweneth Norris Guido Mapunda Delgermaa Altangerel. Introduction. This presentation

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Creative Ways of Supporting Livelihoods and Businesses in the Desert

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Creative Ways of Supporting Livelihoods and Businesses in the Desert


Dr Sivaram Vemuri

Associate Professor of Economics

Charles Darwin University


Ass Prof Fay Rola-Rubzen

Prof Gweneth Norris

Guido Mapunda

Delgermaa Altangerel


  • This presentation

    • examines the way livelihoods have been supported through business involvement in the desert.

    • is a partial update of an ongoing project of DesertBizTM

    • is a product of joint efforts of researchers from CDU, Curtin and Uni SA.

DKCRC CP3.1 ASP presentation


  • Creative ways:

    • Involve and engage desert businesses

    • Support Livelihoods of desert peoples

DKCRC CP3.1 ASP presentation

Meaning of creative ways

  • Thinking that contributes to:

    • development and implementation of initiatives

    • sustainable prevalence

      • business

      • community in the desert

  • Initiatives operate at a number of levels

    • Individual

    • Community

    • Enterprise

    • Local Government

    • State/ Territory

    • Commonwealth

    • International

  • These levels need not necessarily exhibit hierarchical links

Types of initiatives

  • Could be direct or indirect

    • Direct: result of desert features. E.g. Initiatives to develop desert products such as bush tomato

    • Indirect: impacting deserts. E.g. Initiatives that address features of being in remote locations and/or having demographic dominance of Aboriginal people through developing products that have a higher emphasis on “social capital and cultural service” (Stafford Smith et al, 2008)

Successful business engagement and involvement

  • Conventional view

    • High shareholder returns, sustained growth and market leading sales

  • Contemporary view

    • A way of life where businesses role is to perform a balancing act between “short-term need for survival with a long-term need for sustainable growth” (Raymond W Y Kao, Kenneth R Kao & Rowland R Kao, Entreprenuerism)

Business success in desert Australia

  • Understood as

    • Short term survival and Long term sustainable growth in Australian desert

  • Measured both quantitatively & qualitatively in terms of

    • Business existence

    • Sustainability of livelihoods

DKCRC CP3.1 ASP presentation

Business existence

  • Using Burritt and Carter (2008) 6 questions in their partial taxonomy of business

    • Why?

    • What?

    • Where?

    • How?

    • When?

    • Who?

  • Business creation must address those aspects

  • Contextualizing business existence to desert

    • Objectives in the desert - beyond profit

      • Independence and mutual dependence

      • job creation and family cohesion

  • Business decisions

    • desert products or overcoming desert conditions

  • Market identification targets

    • local isolated markets or sell to distant customers

  • Contextualizing business existence to desert

    • Business conduct

      • Role of 6 capitals

  • Timing Focus

    • Product or Environmental or Policy cycles

  • Desert culture

    • Extent and nature of involvement

  • Internal


    Willingness to innovate








    Socio-cultural issues


    Support mechanisms

    Economic/market environment

    Business success factors (Rola-Rubzen, 2007)

    Views on what is needed :

    • Culturally sensitive funding (Rola-Rubzen and Ferguson, 2008)

    • Training and mentoring (Rola-Rubzen and Ferguson, 2008)

    • Consider culture in setting policy (example of error in mentoring program―Davies, 2008)

    • Infrastructure and basic service provision (Stafford Smith, 2008)

    • Collaborative effort and supply chain linkages (Rola-Rubzen and Ferguson, 2008)

    • Policy development driven by ‘local aspirations’, ‘regional structure’, ‘appropriate indicators of community resilience’ and ‘innovative ways of linking service provision with livelihoods’ (Stafford Smith, 2008)

    Creating environment for business to thrive

    Views on what is needed :


    • Adaptability,

    • Use of local knowledge,

    • Community driven state of readiness/governance/ resourcefulness

    • Locally driven policies and support networks

    • Flexible support networks

    • Higher school attendance

    • Knowledge management

    • Shared understanding

    • Integrated thinking

    • Networking

    • Genuine partnerships

    • Co-ordinated roles

    We also believe there is a need to develop suitable measures of SUCCESS in the context of desert businesses

    Apparent heavy emphasis on the need for suitable training, collaboration and mentoring

    Factor for sustainability of business in the desert

    Factor for sustainability:

    The answers must be consistent!!

    • Why will/does the business exist

    • What will/is the business doing?

    • Where will/does the business operate?

    • How the business is (to be) conducted

    • When will/is the business operating?

    • Who is (to be) involved?

    Sustainable livelihoods (based on Chambers and Conway, 1992, and Chesbrough and Rosenbloom, 2002)

    • Vulnerability

    • External institutional environment

    • Private domain of desert businesses

    • Livelihood hexagon of desert businesses

    • Livelihood strategies

    • Livelihood outcome evaluations

    • Local governance

    • Supply and demand conditions

    ‘A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base.’

    Evaluation of initiatives

    • Simultaneous attention to the individual and the community

    • Diversity of policies resulting in unintended consequences

    • Emotional intelligence to embrace transformations

    • Calculating tradeoffs

    • Challenging business development models

    • Achieving consistency

    • Governance simultaneous linking top-down, bottom-up and across

    • Sustainable building blocks of supply and demand

    Progress and future direction

    • Examined frameworks of business taxonomy and sustainable livelihoods

    • Discussed these in the context of desert environment

    • Gained insight into the notion of success in the context of desert business

    • Examined initiatives expected to support desert communities

    • The ‘success of the initiatives’ must be evaluated on the basis of their own objectives.

    We examine them to see whether they improve the likelihood of success of desert business and hence the sustainability of the business and the communities they support

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