Does poverty cause deforestation or does deforestation cause poverty? The answer is both.
Most of the world’s forests are located in some of the poorest areas on the earth. Of the 1.3 billion people worldwide who live in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day, forests directly contribute to 90 percent of their livelihoods.
For fuel and other byproducts, forests become one of the main sources of subsistence survival. When a forest is depleted, people leave and find the next forest area to depend on and the cycle continues.
Even when the poor recognize that their practices are destructive, faced with feeding their families today or protecting forest land for future generations leaves them no choice.
At the same time, expanding cropland and agricultural systems, building roads and harvesting wood for lumber leads to further deforestation. When logging companies look for new timber, poor communities who depend on the forests are again the losers.
Illegal logging is even worse. It lowers the price of timber worldwide. Governments don’t get the tax revenues they need to provide human services. Businesses are hurt. Work conditions are unsafe and employees are paid slave wages.
Thus deforestation and poverty are locked in a harmful relationship. And it’s the world’s poor whose health and livelihood suffers most.
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