Poverty Reduction and Forest Protection
Over a quarter of the world’s population is dependent upon forests for their livelihoods. Forests provide important sources of food, fuel and income for developing countries. Therefore, the relationship between forests and vulnerable communities must strengthen in order to pursue both poverty reduction and forest protection. Two ways that these goals have proven achievable are through conditional cash transfers and community-based forest management systems.

Conditional Cash Transfers

Conditional cash transfers’ success in both reducing poverty and preserving forests is evidence that the goals of ecosystem preservation and poverty alleviation do not have to be at odds with one another. This is accomplished by providing poor families with cash transfers if they meet education and health requirements, raising them above the poverty line if accepted. This has been proven to lessen the burden on the forests to provide fuel and other products for the inhabitants. It also decreases deforestation and the emission of greenhouse gasses in the process and strengthens the bond between impoverished families and their land.

An example of this is the “Family Hopes Program” which provided cash transfers to 266,533 families across 7,468 rural forested villages in Indonesia. Indonesia has incredible amounts of tropical forests and biodiversity. However, people are cutting its forests down at some of the highest rates in the world. Paul Ferraro and Rhita Simorangkir analyzed the effects that conditional cash transfers had on deforestation in this area. They found that over four years, tree cover loss in rural villages’ surrounding forests had decreased by 30%. These are very encouraging results for the future of the simultaneous pursuit of poverty reduction and forest protection.

Community-Based Forest Management Systems

Community-based forest management systems also display the link between poverty reduction and forest protection. Unlike conditional cash transfers, which target poverty and indirectly reduce deforestation, community-based forest management targets environmental protection specifically. This gives communities control over their forests and addresses the conservation of natural resources through community ownership.

A study led by The University of Manchester examined 18,000 community-based forest management systems across Nepal.  The study determines how successful national initiatives were at achieving both poverty reduction and forest protection. The result shows a clear link between communities that manage their own forests and simultaneous reductions in deforestation and poverty. It concludes that community-managed forests were 51% more likely to experience both lessened poverty and decreased deforestation.

Community-based forest management and conditional cash transfers are just two examples of how programs promoting strong relationships between impoverished communities and their neighboring forests can alleviate poverty. Additionally, these programs can also protect the resources needed for subsistence, agriculture and fuel. The World Bank lists existing projects in China, India, Tanzania and Mexico that also aim to protect communities who rely on forests through conservation and local management. These initiatives are essential to poverty reduction and forest protection and should undergo pursuit internationally to provide sustainable solutions for poverty.

Eleanor Williams
Photo: Flickr