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The role of forests in achieving the twin goals – a case study for the Philippines


Tremendous progress has been made in reducing poverty over the past three decades. Nonetheless, more than 1 billion people worldwide still live in destitution. In addition, rising prosperity in many countries is accompanied by social exclusion and increasing inequality. The post-2015 Development Agenda has thus made reducing poverty its priority. The new World Bank strategy reinforces this objective, aiming to end extreme poverty in a generation and to promote shared prosperity for the bottom 40 percent. These goals will only be achieved if development is managed in an environmentally, socially, and fiscally sustainable manner.

The challenge for development is that the poor are often highly dependent on natural resources, such as forests. Although forests provide ecosystem services and safety nets for the livelihoods of the poor, forests are facing significant pressures from the range of sectors that are critical for economic growth, such as agriculture, transport and energy. Therefore, if sustainably managed, forests could play a significant role in achieving the twin goals of reducing poverty and building climate resilience. However, our understanding of this dual forest-poverty relationship is limited, which this study seeks to address.


To investigate the forest-poverty relationship further, this study will focus on the Philippines.  Similar to many tropical countries, the Philippines has experienced extensive deforestation and forest degradation over the last century due to logging, fires and other human disturbances, which are further aggravated by climate change. The total forest cover has subsequently declined to merely 6.9 million hectares or 23 percent of the total land area.

The study will build on the existing literature that has identified three primary roles that environmental income plays in supporting rural livelihoods by: (i) supporting current consumption, (ii) providing safety nets to smooth income shocks or offset seasonal shortfalls, as well as impacts of climate change, and (iii) providing the opportunity to accumulate assets and exit poverty. Each of these roles will be examined further in how they depend on and impacts the ecosystem services provided by forests (including the impacts of climate change), and how they can help reduce extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity for the bottom 40 percent.

The study will then apply this framework to three case study sites in the Philippines to (i) analyze the extent to which the poor depend on the existing forest ecosystem, (ii) analyze the vulnerability of this relationship in the face of unsustainable use patterns, rising pressure from cross-sectoral drivers of deforestation and forest degradation and the adverse impacts of climate change and (iii) analyze how the sustainable management and/or rehabilitation of the forest resource base could support the achievement of the twin goals and provide pathways out of poverty.


The activities under this study have been completed, and the final products (full report with executive summary and policy brief) are in the process of being finalized. A Decision Review meeting is planned for February 2017 to review the final products.  

The study examined the following:

  1. Relationship between forests and climate change: The study found that water flow regulation services provided by forests are important for enhancing resilience to climate change impacts, such as droughts and floods. Healthy forests help reduce risks to climate variability by providing high-quality ecosystem services that contribute to more resilient communities. The resulting data will help corroborate some common understandings of the role of forest ecosystems in facilitating water flows and reducing hazards.
  2. Relationship between forests and poverty reduction: The study showed how forests are vital to income and wealth generation β€” which means forests serve as a safety net against poverty and can potentially increase access to economic opportunities. Poor upland communities, in particular, have high dependence on provisioning forest ecosystem services for supporting incomes. For example, about 7% of the annual cash income in upland communities comes from the sale of forest resources like bamboo products, charcoal, fish, and bush meat.

The study concludes with a list of recommendations on the following topics in hopes of bringing about a forest landscape that is capable of boosting the climate resilience and reducing poverty:  

β€’           Planning and management of forest and landscapes

β€’           Improving access of upland and forest dwelling communities to forest resources

β€’           Enhancing the value of forest assets by internalizing non-market values and adding value to the existing sources of income

Overall, the study has stimulated further interest in the Philippine government to apply the findings in forest planning and management, in which a follow-up activity is already being organized as part of the ongoing technical assistance to the Philippine government on natural resources planning.



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Last Updated : 02-28-2017