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Research Report

Poverty and forests: Multi-country analysis of spatial association and proposed policy solutions

William D. Sunderlin
Sonya Dewi
Atie Puntodewo
Copyright Date: Mar. 1, 2008
Pages: 53
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-2)

    Human wellbeing and forest cover should be examined as joint problems because of mutual causal links. Throughout the ages, changes in levels of living standards have affected forests and, reciprocally, changes in forest cover have affected wellbeing for better or worse.

    Sunderlin et al. (2005, pp. 1384–1385) contend that there is a link between the problems of poverty and deforestation that tends to go unnoticed, yet is fundamental to conceptualising solutions to the joint problems: areas of poverty and areas of remaining natural forest in developing countries appear to have a tendency towards shared overlapping space. This overlap is...

  2. (pp. 2-19)

    In this section, we first review the country-level observations suggesting a spatial coincidence of poverty and forests. We then describe the objectives and methods used for empirically testing the coincidence in seven country case studies (Brazil, Honduras, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda, Indonesia, Vietnam), and then present the findings.

    There is strong evidence for supposing that many of the poorest of the poor in developing countries live in or near forested areas. This makes intuitive sense because some of the poorest of the poor in developing countries tend to live in remote rural areas, and remaining natural forests are found in remote...

  3. (pp. 19-22)

    Why are many people living in or near forests in developing countries poor? And why are rates and severity of poverty disproportionately high in forest areas in some countries? This section shows that there are several components to the explanation.

    Ten thousand years ago, there was a lot more forest and many fewer people. Almost all people were poor by modern standards. The primary modes of living were hunting and gathering. Since that time, forest cover has decreased by almost half from 62 million km² to 33 million km², and most of this loss has happened since the 1970s (Bryant...

  4. (pp. 22-32)

    This section discusses some of the leading policy options for improving the wellbeing of the poor in developing countries through the use of forests. Before these options are discussed, background information is presented on: the meaning of the term ‘poverty alleviation’ and its sub-definitions in relation to forest resources and the paths out of poverty using forest resources; the ways in which forests have served to enable an exit from poverty from the past to the present; and why we need to consider implementing policies to alleviate poverty. This last topic, in particular, asks whether economic growth and laissez-faire can...

  5. (pp. 32-34)

    In developing countries there is an important association between the location of the poor and forests. Although most poor people live outside highly forested areas, there is a general tendency—though with some important exceptions—for populations living in or near forests to have a high poverty rate and, similarly, to experience severe poverty and chronic poverty. They are often among the poorest of the poor and they tend to be disproportionately dependent on forest resources. Conversely, there is general tendency for poverty density to be high outside of high forest areas and closer to cities. These patterns of association...