Environmental resources and poverty in rural communities

- Income and assets based poverty analyses and development in environmentally reliant communities

PhD defence

Lindy Callen Charlery


Over the last two decades, the burgeoning empirical evidence on the importance of forests and environmental resources to rural livelihoods in developing countries has attracted the attention of policy makers aiming to develop and implement strategies for reducing poverty and improving livelihoods. This has led to the following question being asked: Are forests and environmental resources able to help poor households escape poverty? Empirically, answering this question is important if the role of forests in poverty prevention and reduction, contributing to the first Millennium Development Goal, is to be sustainably realized. However, most datasets on rural livelihoods do not accurately account for environmental income and therefore cannot answer this question. The Poverty Environment Network (PEN) project was initiated specifically to address this issue in the assessment of rural livelihoods in developing countries. Using a country specific adaptation of the PEN prototype survey instruments, the Community based Natural Forest Management in the Himalayas (ComForM) project was implemented in Nepal for the generation of a panel dataset to allow more dynamic and in-depth analyses. Utilizing this data this PhD study focuses on answering two main research questions: 1) What is the importance of environmental income in assessments of poverty and poverty dynamics in rural forest reliant communities? and 2) What are the impacts of infrastructural development, in the form of rural roads, on rural household income, inequality, and use of environmental resources? These questions are addressed through four self-contained articles guided by related specific objectives. Guided by a framework for rural livelihoods analysis stemming from the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach, the studies in this thesis integrate qualitative and quantitative methods involving multiple actors. They go beyond the static analyses which were common in livelihood studies and have been highly criticized, contributing to a more dynamic analysis of these complex questions.


Carsten Smith-Hall, Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assesment Committee

Thorsten Treue, Associate Professor, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Espen Sjaastad, Professor, Department of International Environment and Development Studies, Norwegian University of Life Sciences

Stefan Schwarze, Assistant Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, University of Gottingen