The animation below provides an introduction to HEA and its uses for policy makers and aid practitioners. It was produced by the Food Economy Group (FEG).​  


What is HEA?

Household Economy Analysis is a livelihoods-based framework for analysing 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 identify appropriate means of assistance. 

It was developed by Save the Children in the early 1990s and has been used:
  • for early warning of acute food insecurity
  • in contingency and response planning
  • in emergency and post-emergency needs assessments
  • in livelihoods programme design
  • in the design of social protection programmes
  • to inform poverty reduction strategies 
  • in project mon​itoring and evaluation.

The HEA fra​​mework

HEA has two components.

The baseline
​A quantified picture of people's food and income sources and expenditure patterns ...
  • organised according to 'livelihood zones' (i.e. geographical areas where people broadly share the same livelihood options and access to markets)
  • with livelihoods described according to wealth (i.e. for very poor, poor, middle and better off households)
  • for a named 'reference' year.

See ​​Baseline assessment for more information.

Outcome analysis

The investigation of how that baseline access to food and income might change as a result of a hazard such as drought or as the result of a positive change, such as a livelihoods programme.​

  • seasonal monitoring data or project data is translated into economic consequences at household level (e.g. 30% reduction in crop production or 20% reduction in livestock prices compared to the baseline); this is called the 'problem specification'.

  • the analysis takes into account households' capacity to cope themselves (e.g. capacity to earn more cash through labouring or selling more livestock)
  • the projected outcome is the estimated shortfall in food and income faced by different wealth groups in terms of (usually) two thresholds: the amount needed to (a) survive and (b) maintain their livelihoods.  

See Outcome analysis​ for more information.

A simplified illustration of HEA

The ‘y’ axis represents food and income as a percentage of minimum annual calorie requirements. In short, food and income sources are converted into kilocalories which are then compared to 2100 kcal, which represents the internationally accepted minimum energy requirement per person per day.

Baseline: The first bar shows total access to food and income in a reference year. This is the baseline picture before the shock.

Effects of problem without coping: The second bar shows how access is affected by a shock like drought in a neighbouring country, which means local labour markets are flooded, reducing income from labour.

Outcome analysis: The third bar shows access to food and income taking into account the household’s coping strategies. In this case, more animals are sold than usual.