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Study on links between forestry and livelihood

In a comprehensive study on the links between forestry and livelihoods, researchers have 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. Source: CIFOR

The global study is the product of the Poverty and Environment Network (PEN), a collaborative effort led by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Five complementary research papers tackle 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.

The papers appear in a special issue of World Development alongside one PEN case study and six non-PEN studies ranging from micro-level cases to national-level analyses.

Highlights of findings from the global study of a broad sample of around 8000 households in 24 countries include:
• State forests generated more income than private or community forests
• Men generated at least as much income from forests as women do.
• Forests were less important than previously believed as “safety nets” in response to shocks and as gap fillers between seasonal harvests.

While the most destitute of poor farmers are often blamed for deforestation, they played only a modest role in forest clearing.

Over 12 months, the survey covered more than 8300 households in 333 villages on 58 sites in 24 developing countries.

In so doing, they conducted some 36,000 household visits, generating about 250,000 questionnaire pages. With more than 2300 data fields, the PEN global database now contains 15 million data cells.

Early in the process, researchers were aiming to publish findings in a special issue of World Development. In 2005, the journal had featured a themed issue on “livelihoods, forests and conservation” that acknowledged much more empirical work was needed to generate comparable data.

The researchers want to link the PEN dataset to geographic information systems (GIS) data to explore how closely environmental income depends on natural conditions and market access and test a hypothesis that middle-income farmers, rather than the rich or poor, take part in forest management groups.

Since the dataset is currently being made publicly available, researchers from outside PEN will be able to explore their own concerns.

To download the full paper visit