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Forest Restoration in Landscapes

Forest Restoration in Landscapes

4 The Impacts of

4 The Impacts of Degradation and Forest Loss on Human Well-Being and Its Social and Political Relevance for Restoration Mary Hobley Forests: “the poor man’s overcoat” (Westoby, 1989). Forests have an important role to play in alleviating poverty worldwide in two senses. First, they serve a vital safety net function, helping rural people avoid poverty, or helping those who are poor to mitigate their plight. Second, forests have untapped potential to actually lift some rural people out of poverty (Sunderlin et al, 2004). Key Points to Retain Poor people rely on forests as a safety net to avoid or mitigate poverty and sometimes as a way to lift themselves out of poverty. It is important to recognise different levels of poverty and different types of dependence on forests when trying to understand the likely social implications of forest restoration. A series of tools and questions exist that can help to identify potential benefits from restoration, although these need to be used with care to avoid overlooking some of the poorest members of society. 1. Background and Explanation of the Issue For many millions of people forests and forest products and services supply both direct and indirect sources of livelihood, providing a major 22 part of their physical, material, economic, and spiritual lives 31 ). The World Bank has estimated that 90 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people depend on forests in some way or another. Forest areas often coincide with areas of high poverty incidence and livelihood dependence on forests. They often occur in remote rural areas with poor infrastructure and limited access to markets and other basic services; the livelihood options in such areas are highly circumscribed. The challenge facing many communities is not just the restoration of trees in their landscape but the growth of a political and social landscape that facilitates their ability to make choices to secure their livelihoods. In this section we consider the impacts of forest loss and degradation on human wellbeing. At the most simple level the first question must be: impact on whom? This is an important point because degradation and loss of resources affects people in different ways. To explore this question we need to unpick the concept of well-being and then look at the ways in which forests and people are intertwined. The major focus of this section, however, is on those who are most adversely affected by changes in forest cover and quality—the poor, and in particular those living in forest areas.The second question to ask is why deforestation and degradation happen, since understanding the 31 Byron and Arnold, 1997.

answers to this question provides answers to whom it impacts on. As part of this process we need to set out the major concepts and terms that support this understanding. These are deforestation and degradation, well-being, livelihoods, people, and impact. The drivers of forest loss and degradation are complex and variable, moving from the extreme of deforestation for other land uses to more subtle forms of degradation through multiple overuse, either happening slowly or more rapidly depending on the pressures driving change. Who drives the changes in the forests and who benefits from them also helps to determine the impacts. These are not simple events and do not have simple causal consequences. For example, one person’s loss as a result of forest degradation may be another person’s gain if for instance opportunities to farm land are opened up. Timber companies benefit from timber extraction but generally the capture of benefits at the local level is very weak and the local social and environmental costs of logging are high. Following Wunder 32 and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organisation, deforestation (or forest loss) is defined as a radical removal of vegetation to less than 10 percent crown cover. For local people deforestation can be catastrophic, as in the case of large-scale clearfelling by an outside agency that destroys resources without offering any alternatives, or in other cases it can be the planned precursor to an alternative land use system such as farming, which in terms of livelihood outcomes may provide more secure alternatives than that offered by the forest. Degradation is taken to mean a loss of forest structure, productivity, and native species’ diversity.A degraded site may still contain trees or forest but it will have lost its former ecological integrity. 33 Degradation is a process of loss of forest quality that is in practice often part of the chain of events that eventually leads to deforestation. Impact: “Impact concerns the long-term and sustainable changes introduced by a given 32 Wunder, 2001. 33 Lamb and Gilmour, 2003: 4. 4. The Impacts of Degradation and Forest Loss on Human Well-Being 23 intervention in the lives of beneficiaries. Impact can be related either to the specific objectives of an intervention or to unanticipated changes caused by an intervention; such unanticipated changes may also occur in the lives of people not belonging to the beneficiary group. Impact can be either positive or negative, the latter being equally important to be aware of.” 34 Well-being is a concept used to describe all elements of how individuals experience the world and their capacities to interact, and includes the degree of access to material income or consumption, levels of education and health, vulnerability and exposure to risk, opportunity to be heard, and ability to exercise power, particularly over decisions relating to securing livelihoods. 35 When used in connection with livelihoods it becomes a powerful concept for considering the effects of change on all aspects of the lived experience of an individual. A useful definition of livelihoods is as follows: “People’s capacity to generate and maintain their means of living, enhance their well-being and that of future generations.These capacities are contingent upon the availability and accessibility of options which are ecological, economic, and political and which are predicated on equity, ownership of resources, and participatory decision making.” 36 The individual experience of well-being varies along a continuum, with ill-being at one end and well-being at the other, and is not static; it can vary during an individual’s life cycle. Those classified as extreme poor often suffer ill-being, particularly expressed through high degrees of exposure to vulnerability and risk, whereas those who can be classified as improving poor generally experience higher levels of well-being. It is important to be able to differentiate among people’s vulnerabilities in order to understand the differential effects that forest loss and degradation may have. One of the most important issues to consider when looking at the effects of a change in access to or availability of forest products and services is a household’s exposure to vulnera- 34 Blankenberg, 1995. 35 World Bank, 2001:15. 36 de Satgé, 2002:4.

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