Institution: Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE)
Poverty and environmental services: Invoice for tropical biodiversity and ecosystem management. Co-author: R. Guevara
Title: Evaluation of the products and services of tropical ecosystems: Potential contributions to poverty alleviation
The paper discusses the possibilities and adjustment needed to use payments for environmental services to poor farmers as a source of supplemental income to improve their standard of life. It defines poverty and its consequences and it provides a new option to achieve supplemental income based on UNDP principles of sustainable livelihood. It identifies the poor of Latin America as of 1990 as a population of 185 million, and presents a breakdown by groups in each country identifying poverty as an urban issue in the 1990s. This differs from the former definition, which considered poverty to be primarily a rural problem. Statistics show that the urban poor will account for more than 60% of the total population living above the poverty line by the end of the present millenium. Rural poverty is also an important issue in the small Central American, Caribbean and South American nations.
The concept of natural capital is analyzed insofar as its wealth and income flow creation capacity, and two major types of capital are discussed: renewable and non-renewable, emphasizing complementarities between man-made and natural capital. This paper describes how natural capital is the originator of the flows of wealth and its potential association with other human activities. It identifies the value of 21 environmental services, which in 1997 generated US$2.9 trillion dollars for the world. For the United States alone, its worth was US$319 billion during the same year. Furthermore the value of environmental services in Costa Rica in tropical rainforests is US$889 per hectare, per year. Water represents 51.3% and wood 32.3%. The other four environmental services include Ecoturism, non-timber forest products, CO2 fixation and pharmaceuticals, which account for the remaining value.
It delineates the practical, organizational, institutional and economical problems that will have to be faced in order to translate environmental services into practical reality. It also raises the issue of tangible vs. intangible income from the forest, and why farmers, and/or forest dwellers, place most of their efforts in wood extraction and not in the services. Furthermore, it identifies the basic characteristics that make environmental services critical to their treatment and potential income sources.
Finally it outlines the basic differences between traditional agricultural activities and environmental services. A strategy to bring traditional agricultural activities closer to environmental services is suggested and ways to match supply and demand for such services are identified, using a set of components that are crucial to the equilibrium between leading market forces. It identifies the institutional, cultural, economic and technical needs to make this a reality for the worlds poor so that they might share in the US$2.9 trillion dollars to improve their well-being in their fight for a sustainable livelihood.