Best of 2014: Global study of forests, poverty shakes up the terrain

New research from Poverty and Environment Network surprises the experts.
Fruits of the forest: Lubuk Beringin villagers cut off palm nut fruits in Jambi province, Indonesia. Tri Saputro / CIFOR.

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BOGOR, Indonesia—In March, the Center for International Forestry Research published the most comprehensive study on the links between forestry and livelihoods to date. In a suite of research papers published in a special issue of World Developmentresearchers challenged conventional wisdom about key areas, including the importance of environmental income, the roles of men and women in forest-product use, and the function of forests as safety nets.

The global study was the product of the Poverty and Environment Network (PEN), a collaborative effort led by CIFOR. Five complementary research papers tackled the themes of income generation and rural livelihoods, safety nets during shortfalls, gender and forest use, forest clearing and livelihoods, and tenure and forest income.

“I was admittedly a little surprised that environmental incomes were so high,” said Sven Wunder, a principal scientist with CIFOR and the lead guest editor of the special issue.

“Our results indicate that, even some 10,000 years after the start of the Agricultural Revolution, rural folks in developing countries still depend strongly on foraging from nature for their livelihoods,” he said.

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