Why forests

Poverty Alleviation

Photo Credit: Alvaro del Campo CIMA

We all have money worries now and then. Sudden bills, car repairs, commuting costs, holidays, credit cards… they can all add up.

But can you imagine what it’s like to live on less than $1.90 a day?

About 10% of the world’s population have to survive on this1 – that’s 750 million people living on a tiny fraction of the amount we do.

Makes any debts we have seem irrelevant by comparison.

But solving this problem for so many people is one of the most critical issues of our time. Especially when you consider we are wealthier, more connected and more advanced than at any time in our history.

So what’s the answer? Surprisingly, forests hold huge potential for helping to alleviate poverty . These natural ecosystems are home to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, and they provide them with critical resources.

The forests give them a home, an income and a future.

Whichever way you look at it, preserving and nurturing these incredibly beautiful, diverse and ancient forests is something we all must do.

This single action will transform the lives of some of the world’s most disadvantaged people – and help all of us lead a cleaner, healthier life.

1.3 billion people

Forests cover 30% of the Earth’s land surface2 with over 1.3 billion people – about one-fifth of the global population – directly depending on them for their livelihoods and well-being3.

Particularly indigenous communities depend heavily on forests for their survival.

Yet around the 300-350 million of these people are forced to live on less than $1.25 per day.

And if you think this sounds a pretty grim situation, research shows that one in 11 people are actually lifted out of extreme poverty thanks to access to forest resources 4. So without them to depend on, things would be even worse.

Which means that the more we can do the help preserve and grow our forests, then the more we do for the people living there.

Forest resources

Still not convinced? Well, when we dig a little deeper, we can see the effect of forests is even more pronounced.

Many people living in there often live outside of the cash economy. They derive what’s called a ‘hidden income’ from what the forests gives them, such as food, shelter, building materials, fuel, fodder and even medicine.

This is the ‘informal economy’ where activities aren’t counted in official statistics, but are life-giving to people surviving on a no-cash or cash-limited existence subsistence. For example, in Brazil, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries make up only 6% of the country’s GDP, but nearly 90% of the total income of the poor.5

All this shows that forests aren’t a static place. They are a living, breathing, giving world that benefit millions – us included .

Transformative, sustainable and productive land use

Transforming how forest land is used to make it more productive and sustainable so that human activities work with the forest rather than destroy it is vital for many of the world’s poorest people.

Forest projects, like ours, can target the drivers of deforestation. They show how it’s possible to meet the needs of local and indigenous people while still protecting threatened forests. Developing sustainable livelihoods in harmony with the forest can reduce pressures on the environment while helping local people to thrive.

In other words, well-managed protected areas support healthy ecosystems, which in turn help keep the people living in them healthy.

And this has a transformative effect. When people are given access to resources, opportunity to use those resources, and the power of self-determination then they can transform their own lives. And ultimately improve the long-term well-being of their families and their wider communities.

Case study: Cacao growing in Peru


Cacao farmer on the Tambopata project in Peru. Photo credit: Ecotierra Inc.

Our Tambopata-Bahuaja project in Peru is transforming over 4000 ha of degraded land for high quality cacao cultivation. Our project takes a systematic approach, integrating protection and production activities that empower the local populations and provide real, sustainable incomes for farmers and conservation workers.

Around 120 smallholder farmers are in the process of forming a cooperative to improve the commercial viability of their product and facilitate access to markets. In addition, increased security and monitoring of the conservation area has created employment for rangers and look out stations. And we are working hard to clarify land use for local people to secure ownership of their natural resources.

Read more about our Tambopata project

Make Change Happen

By curbing deforestation and investing in sustainable, low carbon land use, our projects are working to alleviate poverty all over the world. We would love you to join us and become part of our success as we grow.

Find out more about the work we do all over the world. We invite you to join us!

Helping to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

Sustainable Development Goal 1 – No Poverty
Sustainable Development Goal 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth
Sustainable Development Goal 10 – Reduced Inequalities

[1] U.N. (2016) Report of the Secretary-General ‘Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals’

[2] a. The World Bank (2016) Enhance Livelihoods of Forest Communities.
Accessed April 3, 2017

[3] a. The World Bank (2016) Enhance Livelihoods of Forest Communities.
Accessed April 3, 2017

[4] World Bank (2016) ‘Forests provide vital resources to 1.3B people’.

[5] Ring et al. (2010) ‘Challenges in framing the economics of ecosystems and biodiversity: the TEEB initiative’. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 2:15-26. Original source: Studies conducted by TEEB.