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In developing countries, rural smallholders and communities derive about one-quarter of their income from the forest around them. But a recent study indicates that these resources are becoming scarcer, with their availability dwindling over time.
Increased consumption of forest products and deforestation are the main reasons for increased scarcity, putting both the resource base and people’s livelihoods at potential risk, according to the new study.
“We see a trend toward the degradation of the resource base over time,” says Sven Wunder, a senior economist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Wunder analyzed data from CIFOR’s Poverty and Environment Network (PEN), a pan-tropical study that was started in 2004 and has since gathered data from more than 8,000 households in 24 countries.
“I was surprised to see that so many villages—nine out of 10—were showing signs of reduced resource availability in only half a decade,” says Wunder.
The results point to a need for a closer look at the sustainability of the communities’ forest management practices, as well as the future impacts of forest degradation.
“Since these are communities that live from forest resources directly, the implications can be viewed as quite negative,” says the study’s lead author Kathleen Hermans-Neumann of the UFZ-Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig, Germany. “Having fewer natural resources available makes it more difficult to sustain local livelihoods.”