Measuring the links between poverty and the environment: An interview with CIFOR scientist Sven Wunder

LONDON, United Kingdom (10 July, 2011)_Having surveyed over 8000 households in 25 developing countries, compiled and analyzed a vast global dataset, the Poverty and Environment (PEN) researchers presented important findings about the links between the natural environment and poverty at the recent PEN policy conference in London.
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LONDON, United Kingdom (10 July, 2011)_Having surveyed over 8000 households in 25 developing countries, compiled and analyzed a vast global dataset, the Poverty and Environment (PEN) researchers presented important findings about the links between the natural environment and poverty at the recent PEN policy conference in London.

The role environmental income from forests plays in poverty alleviation remains poorly documented and not obvious to many policy makers. The event brought together members of the science community, policy makers, donors and practitioners to raise awareness of these important new findings and marks the first step in influencing changes in policy. The first published report is due in November 2011.

Sven Wunder, CIFOR Principal Economist and leading scientist on the Center for International Forestry Research’s PEN global study, speaks about the recent presentation of preliminary PEN research results.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eznd4woRT7E&feature=channel_video_title

Q. What is the PEN project?

The PEN project is an attempt to gather socio-economic data on the use of forests and other natural resources by households and by villages in a replicable and comparable way across all tropical regions.

Q. What is the major finding of the study?

We are still counting the data but I think the major finding is that one fifth of household incomes are from forest income, which is a pretty high share, but has been ignored in a lot of official statistics that were gathered around rural people and their livelihoods. I was surprised by this quite high share of income from forests that we found. We were also surprised by the fact that the safety net and gap filling function of forests did not come out (in the study) as much as found in the literature.

Q. What was the purpose of putting on this Conference?

Basically we would like these results to be known by many people that have worked with rural development issues and also with conservation issues. In addition to that, our main funders- the UK Department For International Development (DFID) and Employees’ State Insurance Scheme of India (ESIC)- have seen this as a way to give feedback to the policy arena on what kind of results we have found, at least at this stage. Of course, we are trying to make a point, for instance vis-à-vis, the World Bank poverty surveys etc. that what they are doing right now is not yet complete and they are ignoring some important aspects. So, we started that dialogue and I think that is a very positive thing and they, on the other hand, have shown an openness towards working with us on these issues.

Q. What is the next step for PEN to influence policy?

I would say we still have some of analysis to do before we can make some clear policy descriptions. What we can say now is “guys, this thing is really important, so it deserves some more attention”. But on the other issues, we will have to analyze the different aspects in the datasets in greater detail and in two years time this dataset will be made publicly available, so other people will have access to it as well and be able to use it in their own analysis as a global public good.

For more information on the PEN global study visit www.cifor.org/pen

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