Forests and Poverty Reduction

August 28, 2013

Flore de Préneuf / World Bank

We work in forests to reduce poverty and improve incomes for the poor

The World Bank works in forest areas because in many countries, they are home to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people. By helping countries improve the governance of their forest sectors, enforce laws and ensure local people are involved in the decision-making process, people and economies do better.

About 350 million people who live within or close to dense forests depend on them for their subsistence and income. Of those, about 60 million people (especially indigenous communities) are wholly dependent on forests. They are key custodians of the world’s remaining intact natural forests.

Forests are an important safety net for rural populations in times of economic or agricultural stress. In the Miombo Woodlands of Southern Africa, for example, dry woodlands are critical to poor households and are an integral part of farm and livestock production and management.

As communities take on responsibility for managing and conserving forest and woodland resources sustainably, the role of forests in providing goods both for household consumption and for trade can be greatly enhanced. When productive trees are grown on farms, they can help achieve a “triple win” by increasing food security, building resilience to climate change, and mitigating greenhouse gases.

Poverty reduction in forest projects

In China, our work on establishing extensive new areas of planted forests and productive trees in poor areas has increased average annual per capita income by 150 percent among participating communities.

In India’s Andhra Pradesh, the World Bank’s work to strengthen community forest management saw real cash incomes for forest user groups grow by 53 percent over the project period while household incomes more broadly increased by 40 percent.

In Mexico, where some 80 percent of forests are owned by indigenous and other communities, the World Bank helped fund a project to strengthen community forestry by improving forest management plans. A project evaluation found that between 2003 and 2008, jobs had increased by 27% in targeted communities while the net value of forest goods and services they produced increased by 36%. In 2011 the coverage of this support was extended to all 32 states in Mexico.

In Tanzania, where forest and woodland products (such as honey production, firewood, construction material, and wild fruit) account for some 40 percent of total household consumption in some areas, the World Bank helped bring 4.1 million hectares (13% of Tanzania’s forests) under sustainable participatory management including village forest reserves.