Forests as Pathways out of Povertyand to Broader Prosperity:
Empirical Insights and Conceptual Advances
Forests provide an important resource that supports the livelihoods of an estimated 20 percent of the world’s population. Forests have been understood to make three main livelihoods contributions: subsistence support, provision of safety nets in times of need, and pathways out of poverty. International policies and investments are increasingly emphasizing the last of these roles, but can forests help rural households to escape from poverty? And can forests provide a pathway to prosperity that includes more widely-shared economic benefits and improvements in other aspects of human well-being?
This presentation describes the results of a systematic map and literature review of current evidence relating to these questions. We identify and characterize more than 250 relevant studies published since 1990. We find that the evidence base on forest-poverty linkages is growing, but available research primarily examines poverty mitigation aspects of forests rather than their potential role in poverty alleviation let alone larger conceptions of prosperity.
To increase understanding of forest-livelihoods relationships we propose a framework based on the concept of prosperity, which emphasizes wider swaths of society who may benefit from forests and a conception of human well-being that extends beyond economic and material dimensions. We argue that explicitly taking a more expansive view can enable better accounting for the diverse ways forests contribute to human welfare, broaden the constituency for forests, and inform policies to more sustainably manage forests within wider landscapes.Daniel C. Miller is Assistant Professor of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Miller’s research and teaching focus on international environmental politics and policy, especially relating to forests. Dr. Miller previously held staff positions at the Program on Forests at the World Bank and the MacArthur Foundation. He completed his Ph.D. in the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan and earned undergraduate and Master’s degrees in Political Science at the University of Illinois.