Poverty doesn’t relate to deforestation?

Reading a brief findings on poverty and deforestation, I remember an old book written by Nancy Lee Peluso who conducted long research at the most dense of agricultural island, Java of Indonesia.

In Rich Forests, Poor People, Peluso analyzes Javanese farmers who live alongside state forest lands. Because of  limited the legal access and customary rights to the forest, they have been pushed toward illegal use of forest resources.

Peluso presents the story of the forest and its people. If there’s no  major changes in forest policy, there will be increase on economic, social, and political costs to the government, leading to the continued forest destruction.

What the recent study tells about the deforestation and poverty?

As reported by Mongabay, the research collected income data through four quarterly surveys. Study sites were selected “to obtain widely representative coverage of different geographical regions, forest types, forest tenure regimes, levels of poverty, infrastructure and market access and population density.”

“We found a strong correlation between income and deforestation. Within each site, on average the top income quintile (richest 20 percent) households deforest 30 percent more than the bottom quintile (poorest 20 percent),” said Angelsen, who is also a professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Angelson added, “There is an even stronger tendency of higher forest clearing in the richer sites. If we look at this deforestation regionally, rates were considerably higher in studies in Latin America, which hold also some of the richer households in the sample. Overall, the results do not lend support to the hypothesis that poverty drives deforestation.”

Some interesting findings:

  • Income from forests and other ecosystem generates a significant proportion of household income in developing countries, finds a six-year survey of 8,000 families from 60 sites in 24 countries.
  • Income from forest use accounts for more than 20 percent of rural household income across the surveyed sites.
  • Environmental income (forest and non-forest) makes up more than one fourth of income among those surveyed. Surprisingly, the study found that the proportion of income earned from forest use did not vary with income levels.
  • Forest reliance –defined as the share of forest income in total household income–apparently varies little with income levels. Thus, forest income is not just for the poor but for everyone at these sites
  • Firewood constitutes the single most important forest product, accounting for one fifth of forest income on average among those surveyed.
  • Timber — at 10 percent — was the second most valuable, followed by harvesting of secondary forest products like fiber, food, and medicinal plants.

The Nancy Lee Peluso book available at Amazon: Rich Forests, Poor People: Resource Control and Resistance in Java

I also list several best books discussing deforestation. Check it out!