Poverty alleviation in Indonesia protects forests
The correlation between reduced deforestation and poverty alleviation has been well known for years. However, Ferraro and Simorangkir (2020) looked at the direction of causation in Indonesia for the first time. They found that a programme providing households with cash, in return for taking specific health- or education-related actions, resulted in a decrease in forest cover loss around a given village by an average of 30%. It’s thought that the cash payments made people less likely to exploit forest resources during times of hardship, for example when crops failed due to late onset of the wet season. Hence, the cash payments reduce the farmers’ vulnerability to climatic events, meaning they turned to exploiting forest resources for food less frequently.
This demonstrates how poverty alleviation can bring biodiversity conservation benefits. Moreover, it shows the importance of placing people at the heart of nature-based solutions in order to prevent displacement of environmental harm. If forest protection schemes, for example, do not ensure that local people benefit through reduced vulnerability, then during times of hardship people will be more likely to exploit forest resources, despite protection schemes being in place. Such exploitation may occur outside of the protected area, meaning the protection simply displaces forest exploitation and deforestation to another location. Ensuring that nature-based solutions reduce the vulnerability of local people hence not only provides direct well-being benefits, but is also a crucial step for preventing displacement of environmental harm and ensuring net benefits for nature.