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Are NTFP activities in fact a potential ‘poverty trap’ that keep people in chronic poverty? Under what conditions can NTFP activities be converted to ‘stepping stones’? (2 respuestas)

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Commercialization of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) has been widely promoted as an approach to rural development in tropical forest areas. Many case studies have highlighted the subsistence and income-generating functions of NTFPs in the livelihoods of the rural poor, and especially for women. NTFP harvesters are typically people who live at the margins of economic and political systems. NTFP activities are considered to be attractive to such resource-poor people, despite the fact that they are characteristically labour intensive, because they generally have low technical entry requirements, can provide instant cash in times of need and the resource is often freely accessible. 

However, the development of NTFP resources often fails to deliver the expected benefits in terms of poverty alleviation. Is this because we are expecting too much and haven’t sufficiently differentiated the types of poverty-reducing effects NTFPs can have? CIFOR’s analysis of 61 case studies (Ruiz-Perez et al., 2004) suggests that NTFP use falls into one of three strategies: coping, diversified or specialised. In a similar vein, the CEPFOR project (Marshall et al., 2006) has identified three types of NTFP activity with respect to poverty reduction, namely:

·  ‘Safety nets’ prevent people from falling into greater poverty by reducing their vulnerability to risk. They are particularly important in times of crisis and unusual need, with many families only engaging in NTFP activities when subsistence agriculture or cash crops fail, or when illness hits the family.
·  ‘Gap-filling’ NTFP activities provide an income that is supplementary to more important farm and off-farm income-generating activities. These activities are carried out on a regular basis, often in the non-agricultural season. The proportion of income contributed depends in part on the other economic opportunities available to families and on the seasonal availability of the product, with those that are available for longer periods of time often contributing more to the household economy. While these products can play a key role in income-spreading and generally make poverty more bearable, they not necessarily make people less poor.
·  ‘Stepping stone’ activities help to make people less poor by providing sufficient income for people to accumulate savings and re-invest in the NTFP or other activity.

Paradoxically, it has been suggested that the same characteristics that make NTFP activities attractive to poor people also make them economically inferior activities. Not only do they yield low returns and offer little prospect for accumulating sufficient capital assets to escape poverty, but the arduous nature of the work may mean that people will not engage in them if there are alternatives, they may be vulnerable to substitution by cheaper synthetic or industrial alternatives, and ease of entry may lead to excessive competition and inability to generate a surplus from production and sale.

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    Nov 25, 2008
    We are facing the last issue you raise about NTFP harvesting being an inferior activity but are countering that with improving the prices of the product.

     

    Going back to your typology of NTFP’s, we and our partners are trying to make the market for Chamaedorea a stepping stone to other enterprises although this becomes a decision of the community.  Our efforts have been structured to reach that goal and to provide them that opportunity. We are still in the initial phases of this work and hope to learn from other experiences.

    Dean Current
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    Nov 25, 2008
    One aspect of my research is the development of a household livelihood system model that can be used to simulate adoption of new technologies (or in the case of my work) competing management or harvesting standards. One thing that is noteworthy in the approach that I use is that I utilize income stability as a household objective as well as income maximization, the more typical approach. The results can be quite different. This applies directly to NTFP use in livelihood strategies (Elaine's categories): participation may persist when stability is the objective, but disappear when income maximization is used. This helps us to understand that income diversity via marginal activities might be retained not simply because households are trapped, but also because their past experiences and present conditions might produce goals and objectives that alter their livelihood activities.

    A tangential example: many of the eldest citizens of the US refuse to utilize debt as a household financial management strategy because of their experiences during the Great Depression.

    David Wilsey

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Fecha de la creaciónMartes, Noviembre 25, 2008 12:29 PM
Fecha de la modificaciónMartes, Noviembre 25, 2008 12:29 PM
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