Forest dependent poor at the agricultural frontier: the complexity of poverty and the promise of sustainable forest ecosystems in Amazonia

This project was part of the ESPA scoping phase, which ran between 2008 and 2011. The resulting proposal for further funding was unsuccessful.

Deforestation and marginalization of rural poor continues in Brazil and Bolivia despite investment in institutional change, forest regulation, improving land management practices and economic development.

Previous approaches to equitable management of forest ecosystems in the Amazon tended to offer very narrow formalised solutions, lacked structure and coherence, were too insular and lacked broader international perspective and expertise.

This project aimed to address these gaps by providing an holistic and inter-disciplinary approach to understanding the links between the causes, mechanisms and the effects of deforestation on poverty at the agricultural frontier in three case study areas in Bolivia and Brazil.

The problem of making the benefits of forest ecosystems available equitably to the disadvantaged people was one of the top priority policy issues identified in the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). However, environmental governance in the Amazon lacked engagement with forest dependent poor, so that some ecosystem management initiatives restricted poor people's access to resources and reduced their anti-poverty capabilities.

This project attempted to rectify this problem by giving a voice to the rural poor in the Amazon frontier, reconnecting them with the regional policy makers and linking them into broader research networks to develop Southern-led solutions to the problems of deforestation and poverty. Through the series of workshops, pilot studies and user-engagement events the proposed project exposed dynamism of deforestation and its effects on poverty in the frontier areas as well as suggesting institutional changes necessary for equitable forest ecosystems management in the Amazon.

The project attended to three key areas:

1) Understanding concerns over, experiences of and reactions to deforestation by the forest dependent poor. The project gave a voice to the forest dependent poor to articulate their concerns over forest degradation and deforestation and to incorporate their perspectives on poverty and poverty alleviation into the development of pathways to sustaining ecosystem services.

2) Developing holistic, interdisciplinary approaches to poverty alleviation through sustainable forestry. The project addressed fragmentation of existing mechanisms governing ecosystem management and tackling poverty of the people affected by deforestation by bringing together forest dependent poor, policy-makers, governing bodies, and research institutions involved in rural development. It evaluated existing policies reducing environmental vulnerability, addressed the lack of capacity and explored the potential for more effective inter-agency work to avoid policy conflicts and duplication of development efforts.

3) Developing international knowledge networks to facilitate equitable forest management. Through a series of workshops and pilot studies the project developed southern-led solutions to deforestation and the alleviation of poverty. It enabled knowledge transfer, research networking and cross-agency learning for the actors at local, national and international levels involved in sustainable forest management in the Amazon.

Lead Principal Investigator
Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Country: United Kingdom
Co Investigator
Organisation: Swansea University
Country: United Kingdom