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What is the contribution of forest-related income to rural livelihood strategies in the Philippines' remaining forested landscapes?

Forest products have become scarce for local communities in the Philippines. After decades of severe deforestation, a net gain in forest area has only been observed in recent years for the first time. This paper seeks to broaden the understanding of forest livelihood relationships at the turning point of a forest transition trajectory. Based on 993 household surveys from 10 distinct research sites, we use Hierarchical Cluster Analysis to identify six distinct livelihood strategies (LS): remittances-based, livestock-based, crop farming-based, business-oriented, natural resource-based, and wage-based strategies. The highest number of households belongs to the wage-based cluster, which also shows the highest total income. Forest-related incomes only account for small shares of total income for the vast majority of households, although most households collect limited quantities of forest products for domestic use. Nevertheless, one cluster, which includes 12.4% of the sample, generates the largest shares of their income from extractive activities like harvesting forest products and fishing. The households relying most strongly on natural resources in our study sites are also the ones with the lowest total income. Our finding implies that future reforestation policies have to put a special focus on incorporating livelihood benefits for local communities. This should go beyond short-term payments for activities such as tree planting and enable the rural households to derive long-term impacts for human well-being and poverty alleviation. Because most of the forest products reported by our surveyed households were collected for domestic use, they did not contribute much to total household income. This indicates a potential for improving rural income, if forest-product value chains at the smallholder level are improved by future policy interventions



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