Logo Tropentag

Tropentag, October 5 - 7, 2004 in Berlin

"Rural Poverty Reduction
through Research for Development and Transformation"

Rural Enterprises: the Key to Poverty Alleviation and Rainforest Conservation?

Susann Reiner1, Inés Hinojosa2, Robert Müller2, Klaus Hecht3

1Rainforest Insititute, Germany
2Tropico - Asociación Boliviana Para La Conservación, La Paz, Bolivia
3CNAI (Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris), Colombia


For a considerable time harvesting of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) has been seen as a sustainable income generating activity for the marginalised forest-dwelling population, helping them to overcome poverty. However, the gathering of NTFPs rarely generates enough revenue to sustain extractivist households. Particularly as harvesting often takes place only for a limited period of time each year, depending on the availability of the resources harvested. Hence, most forest-dwelling households engaging in the extraction of NTFPs also depend on other income generating activities for the rest of the year. Among these the most frequently chosen are agriculture and lumbering. With respect to forest conservation, both occupations have to be considered non-sustainable.

Accordingly, to earn a livelihood without increasing deforestation, marginalised forest dependent households need to develop other relatively profitable sustainable enterprises. Rural enterprises and cooperatives engaging in various forms of processing of the locally harvested NTFPs might be an answer to these problems, contributing to both poverty alleviation and sustainability. Such rural enterprises are often built on the traditional knowledge of the communities, from which new techniques and thus new products are being developed. Besides providing sustainable occupations to engage in, the new rural enterprises and their business activities also may contribute to the communities self esteem and thus to regional identity building and maintenance.

Communities - mainly from legal Amazonia - with rural enterprises engaging in the processing of NTFPs are being studied with respect to the enterprises' contribution to poverty alleviation and level of deforestation. By analysing hard factors like income, education, migration and forest loss as well as soft factors like contentedness, interest in and using of sustainable management practices and improvement of the local living-conditions, the ability of such rural enterprises to offer a solution to both poverty and deforestation is being evaluated.

Keywords: Deforestation, poverty alleviation, rural enterprises, sustainability

Contact Address: Susann Reiner, Rainforest Insititute, Wackerstraße 7a, 79108 Freiburg, Germany, e-mail: reiner@regenwald-institut.de

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