Restoration and Local Livelihoods


Zoraida Calle explains the functions of roots in slope stabilization at an ELTI-supported field course on the restoration of severely eroded land in Santander, Colombia © Melissa Ayala

The effective inclusion of local livelihoods in forest restoration significantly contributes to conservation success
Tuesday, August 4, 2020
MK Speth, Masters Candidate, Yale School of the Environment

In order to effectively incorporate human needs into forest restoration and conservation, it is important to pursue efforts to protect and enhance the livelihoods and well-being of people involved in or impacted by local land management. Yet, this process is not always straightforward.

These featured articles explore the relationship between forest restoration and local livelihoods. Drawing on case studies from five distinct regions, all exemplify unintended consequences that emerge when local livelihoods are not comprehensively considered and shed light on the complex, multi-dimensional, and multiscale processes that are required to incorporate local livelihoods into restoration initiatives.

Endamana et al. (2016) examines the monetary and nonmonetary contributions of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) to local livelihoods in the Congo Basin, focusing primarily on Bantu and indigenous peoples. The study shows that NTFPs are critical source of both cash and noncash income for vulnerable and marginalized communities throughout the world. McElwee’s (2009) study of a government-led, large-scale reforestation project in Vietnam demonstrates that even a seemingly well-intended project can have significant negative effects when local practices and dynamics are ignored; the article specifically draws attention to how projects that ignore the socio-economic diversity in local communities and traditional livelihood practices based upon the collection of NTFPs can perpetuate or even exacerbate inequality. Agrawal’s (2006) research on community forest governance in the Himalayas examines the role of policy in local livelihoods, demonstrating the ways in which local, regional, and international governance influences access to and control over critical natural resources. Through a case study that examines the interaction of local peoples and the environment in Mexico, Castillo et al. (2004) identifies analytical tools that can be employed before, during, and after forest restoration initiatives to ensure the protection and enhancement of sustainable local livelihoods.

Finally, while the case studies above focus on the issues that arise when local livelihoods are not considered in the planning and implementation of restoration activities, the last two articles provide examples of successful integration efforts. Calle et al. (2015) details a 25-year participatory research project carried out with cattle ranchers in Colombia, demonstrating that the long-term inclusion of local peoples can lead to strong relationships between locals and practitioners, thus ensuring the success of forest restoration and conservation efforts. Garen et al. (2011) highlights the importance of understanding how farmers in Panama plant and project trees and forests to support livelihoods as a foundation for designing reforestation and restoration projects and incorporating farmer input into project design, implementation and evaluation.

While each of the articles featured here explores different aspects of local livelihoods in various regions in the world, all of them argue that the effective inclusion of local livelihoods in forest restoration significantly contributes to long-term conservation success.

Featured articles:

Agrawal, Arun, and Ashwini Chhatre. 2006. "Explaining success on the commons: Community forest governance in the Indian Himalaya." World development 34, no. 1: 149-166.

Calle, Zoraida, Murgueitio, E., Giraldo, J.A., Giraldo, A., and E. Giraldo. 2017. “Participatory research for restoration and agro ecological production” in Beyond restoration ecology: social perspectives in Latin America and the Caribbean. SIACRE: 203-214.

Castillo, Alicia, Magaña, A., Pujadas, A., Martínez, L., and C. Godínez. 2005. "Understanding the interaction of rural people with ecosystems: a case study in a tropical dry forest of Mexico." Ecosystems 8, no. 6: 630-643.

Endamana, D., K. A. Angu, G. N. Akwah, G. Shepherd, and B. C. Ntumwel. 2016. "Contribution of non-timber forest products to cash and non-cash income of remote forest communities in Central Africa." International forestry review 18, no. 3 (2016): 280-295.

Garen, E.J., Saltonstall, K., Ashton, M.S., Slusser, J.L, Mathias, S. and J. Hall. 2011. The tree planting and protecting culture of cattle ranchers and small-scale agriculturalists in rural Panama: opportunities for reforestation and land restoration. Forest Ecology and Management 256(10): 1684-1695.

McElwee, Pamela. 2009. "Reforesting “bare hills” in Vietnam: Social and environmental consequences of the 5 million hectare reforestation program." Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment 38, no. 6: 325-333.

For more resources on restoration and local livelihoods