Protecting rainforests shown to reduce poverty
Introduction of measures to protect
rainforests and ecosystems in Costa Rica and Thailand over the past 40 years have improved the livelihoods of the
Conserving rainforests may help to reduce poverty as well as protect biodversity,
according to analyses undertaken in Costa Rica and Thailand.
Researchers from Georgia State University looked at the long term impacts of poor
people living near parks and reserves set up before 1985 and found the net impact of the protection was to
Study author Professor Paul Ferraro said the findings went against the conventional
wisdom that says biodiversity conservation was not compatible with development goals.
'The results are surprising. Most people might expect that if you restrict resources,
people on average will be worse off. In contrast, the results indicate that the net impact of ecosystem protection
was to alleviate poverty,' he said.
The findings come as seven countries; Norway, Germany, US, UK, Australia, Japan,
France commit to funding projects that will protect rainforests.
At a meeting in Oslo this week they reached an interim agreement to help get REDD
projects (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) up and running while they wait for an
international agreement on tackling climate change. A new body to manage the funds will be set up by the end of the
Professor Ferraro admitted that the countries analysed in his study, Costa Rica and
Thailand, may not representative of all developing nations having both experienced rapid economic growth within
relatively stable political systems.
He also said the study did not look at the reasons behind the fall in poverty.
However, he believes the expanding eco-tourism sectors in both countries may have played a significant
'The question we need to answer now is whether poverty is being reduced through
ecosystem protection per se or because tourists come to see the biological diversity or because the protection
maintains the supply of other valuable ecosystem services,' he said. 'Or is poverty reduced through donor
investments in development activities and enhanced roads and public services (e.g. electricity and water
infrastructure) that often accompany the establishment of a protected area?'
The Rainforest Foundation said the findings indicated that protected areas could have
a positive, rather than the usually negative, impact on poverty alleviation in poor countries in and around areas
'However, they have to be treated with caution, as we do not know from the study
whether specific 'pro-community' measures were in place in the cases studied, as these tend to be the exception
rather than the rule, and could distort the findings of this study,' said UK executive director Simon
areas reduced poverty in Costa Rica and Thailand
by Ecologist - 28th May 2010