Institution: Centre for Development Research, Copenhagen, Denmark
Helle Munk Ravnborg is Research Fellow at. Her research interests are focused on poverty, agricultural research and natural resource management. She has published papers on targeting international agricultural research towards the poor, on developing poverty measures based on local perceptions of poverty and well-being and the role of local organizations and collective action in watershed management. She holds a Ph.D in social, technological and environmental planning from Roskilde University Centre and has conducted field research in Tanzania, Colombia and Honduras. Between 1994 and 1998, she was employed as a rural sociologist at CIATs Hillsides project.
Title: "Poverty and soil management: Is there a vicious cycle?"
Poor farmers are often assumed to be caught in a vicious circle in their natural resource management. Due to lack of economic resources and their need to satisfy immediate needs for survival, poor farmers are believed to offset concerns with long-term sustainability by mining already degraded natural resources which, in turn, aggravates their poverty even more. Though rarely substantiated, such assumptions strongly influence the design of policy as well as research and development interventions.
Based on field research carried out in three Honduran watersheds, representing rather distinct poverty situations, the paper focuses on the relationship between poverty and soil management and thus critically addresses the above mentioned assumptions. It examines the soil endowments of the poor versus the non-poor farm households as well as their actual soil management practices and reasons for taking specific management decisions. The paper shows that although there is a general tendency that the less poor the household, the higher soil quality do they possess, it cannot be confirmed that poor households are more shortsighted and less protective in their soil quality management. Further, the paper argues that to meaningfully understand the relationship between poverty and natural resource degradation, focus has to be shifted from the poor as individual resource managers to poverty as the structural phenomenon which shape not only the natural resource management practices of the poor but also of the non-poor.