Upon closer review: livelihoods impacts from FLR trend positive, but…

A recent review of studies from around the world examined forest landscape restoration (FLR) interventions and their impacts on livelihoods to deduce prevailing global trends in the relationship. The overall consensus is that the correlation is both figuratively and scientifically positive, but given the vast geographic and socio-political spread of the case studies – results were mixed.

green fields with river on right and abrupt hills in the back Photo: IUCN

An article by IUCN and partners published in the journal Biotropica entitled, “Impacts of large-scale forest restoration on socioeconomic status and local livelihoods: what we know and do not know” compares the data from a multitude of researchers and experts, revealing trends in FLR and livelihoods interventions across the world. Hundreds of case studies were initially reviewed, and 46 were identified as highly relevant and comparable. Incidentally, nearly half of the studies were from China, while the others came from a handful of countries in Africa, Europe and elsewhere.

The following comparable metrics are a sample of those examined in the article for assessing the socioeconomic and other benefits involved in large-scale FLR:

Livelihoods diversification, migration, and agricultural intensification

In some of the case studies, changes in land use due to FLR led to the diversification of livelihoods opportunities which generally supported income generation. Where this contributed to more diversified opportunities, income typically increased due to enhanced on-farm activities. However, agricultural intensification from the overall reduction of cropland was widely considered a negative outcome. The freeing-up of labour to seek additional off-farm income did typically lead to enhanced livelihoods opportunities, but often resulted in patterns of out-migration.

Food security, equity and resilience

In certain areas, food security and gender equity was increased by FLR through the enhanced fertility of the land and the ability to harvest non-timber forest products and firewood. However, restrictions in other areas actually harmed food security by limiting agricultural practices and forbidding people’s access to harvest some traditional food sources. Those left with no agricultural lands were also less resilient, although investment in longer-term asset building such as infrastructure, savings and education was observed in many cases.

In addition to furnishing detailed assessments of these attributes, the article also considers land tenure issues, governance, environmental benefits, empowerment questions, cash income opportunities and many other comparable metrics. 

Through this compilation of comparative research, the authors continue to build on the knowledge base around FLR and livelihoods. By examining what has worked, or not worked, we can continue to refine approaches to enhancing livelihoods and other positive outcomes while encouraging a healthier planet through forest landscape restoration.

For the full story, see Biotropica.

This article was co-authored by IUCN (Chetan Kumar and Miguel Calmon) and supported by the UK aid from the UK government funded KNOWFOR project.

Work area: 
Forest Landscape Restoration
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