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Research Report

Exploring the Forest—Poverty Link:: Key Concepts, Issues and Research Implications

Arild Angelsen
Sven Wunder
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2003
Pages: 70
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-3)

    The issues of poverty reduction and of deforestation/forest degradation both rank highly on the current international agenda. Attempts have been made to link the two together in a ‘downward spiral’–poverty is seen as a cause of forest loss and forest loss contributes to maintain or even increase poverty. This implies that economic development and poverty reduction should help improve forest conditions and vice versa, that development of forest resources can be an important vehicle for poverty reduction.

    This two way link has nonetheless, been questioned, with both causal directions having some empirical evidence going against them. Research findings tend...

  2. (pp. 3-13)

    Concepts at the centre of international debates often face pressures for a broadened interpretation. While adjustment of concepts over time may be desirable, they also generally tend to become increasingly embracing and inclusive and therefore face a real risk of overloading and ‘concept degradation’. Certainly, the term ‘poverty’ is no exception. The traditional definition of poverty has focused on income and wealth—for example, as defined in Webster’s dictionary as: “The lack or relative lack of money or material possessions” (Webster 1993). This materialistic definition from classical economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo dominated until the post WWII period....

  3. (pp. 14-17)

    Discussions on how forests can contribute to reducing poverty are often based on vague implicit assumptions about the more fundamental causes of poverty and conversely, about the sources of reduced poverty. As indicated by Adam Smith’s classic “The Wealth of Nations”, published in 1776, this topic has been central to social science for centuries. In this section, we will refer to recent empirical work on economic growth, poverty and inequality. The purpose is to bring on board some basic lessons from the economic development debate—lessons which despite their undeniable relevance, are often ignored when arguments and claims about forest(ry)...

  4. (pp. 18-41)

    “More than 1.6 billion people depend to varying degrees on forests for their livelihoods. About 60 million indigenous people are almost wholly dependent on forests. Some 350 million people who live within or adjacent to dense forests depend on them to a high degree for subsistence and income. In developing countries about 1.2 billion people rely on agroforestry farming systems that help to sustain agricultural productivity and generate income. Worldwide, forest industries provide employment for 60 million people. Some 1 billion people depend on drugs derived from forest plants for their medical needs.” (World Bank 2001)

    This recent quote from...

  5. (pp. 41-46)

    Additional and better research can guide decisions that help to safeguard or increase the benefits poor people receive from forests. Research has already yielded key insights in some areas, for example, by pointing to fields where forests are not providing a significant means to reduce poverty and highlighting major obstacles that are preventing forests from playing a bigger role in poverty reduction. However, a large number of questions remain unanswered. As a general observation, there has been a lot of research done on NTFPs over the past 10 -15 years, while studies on how to measure and increase timber benefits...