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LaForeT · R² | Livelihoods and opportunity costs

The role of forest income in smallholders’ livelihoods: an analysis along the forest transition curve

Even though occasionally underestimated, smallholders and their livelihoods play a central role in many forest conservation programs: worldwide many households rely on access to forest resources for securing their livelihoods while any conservation attempt is bound to fail without locals’ support.

In this working package of LaForet R², we aim to provide a deeper insight to the role of forest income in households’ income portfolios. A sizable sample of approximately 3400 households in three countries along the forest transition curve allows for a comprehensive analysis. We know from literature that in relative terms the poor depend more on forest income than the rich do. We would like to know how households from different socioeconomic backgrounds spend their forest income. Do they use the forest income for subsistence, overcoming income shocks or rather for asset accumulation? Moreover, how does the asset endowment of households affect their participation in given forest-related activity? We use multiple regression techniques to uncover the relations.

Additionally, we aim to address one of the most controversial topics in conservation literature: what is the impact of legal restrictions in protected areas on households’ livelihoods? Income levels of households in protected areas are usually rather low. However, is this indeed due to restrictions or rather other factors such as the social, economic and environmental contexts households are living in? We attempt to answer these questions by using mixed model approaches.

Lastly, we intend to estimate the opportunity costs of rural households when participating in reforestation programs in the Philippines. The long history of reforestation efforts after decades of severe deforestation makes the Philippines an interesting case for this study. We would like to investigate the economic implications of participation in reforestation for households: how big is the benefit they forgo when allocating 1 hectare of their land to planting trees? Net present value (NPV) of non-forested production systems are calculated to quantify the opportunity costs.

The results are expected to improve our understandings of households’ livelihoods and their dependence on forest resources along the forest transition curve. These findings would enable policy makers to frame policies, which strike the balance between conflicting interests by assuring both economic development and environmental conservation.

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