In a new study, researchers recently discovered that Indonesia's national anti-poverty program reduced deforestation by about 30%.
The study's findings were published in Science Advances.
"Two of the great global challenges of the 21st century are to reduce poverty and slow deforestation. Unfortunately, the solutions to those challenges are often perceived as conflicting with each other—progress on one front means retreat on the other," says Paul Ferraro, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Human Behavior and Public Policy at the Johns Hopkins University and the study's first author.
The study is the first of its kind to suggest that cash transfers to communities in poverty can positively affect forest conservation, says the study's co-author, Rhita Simorangkir, a Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore.
"In other words, reducing poverty does not have to create unavoidable environmental costs—we can make progress on both fronts," Simorangkir says.
Biodiversity and deforestation are disproportionately located in regions with high levels of poverty; for example, Indonesia is among the top ten biodiversity hotspots with the greatest area impacted by poverty. Indonesia also has the third-largest area of tropical forest and one of the highest deforestation rates, making it a strong study choice with findings that could be applied to other countries.
In the past, researchers only examined connections between poverty and the environment on the macroeconomic or local scales, says Ferraro. However, these studies are limited because they don't allow researchers to clearly establish a link between specific poverty interventions and environmental impacts.