• Introduction

    Poverty is a term with many different meanings. The simplest usually relates to some level of material wealth, for example, the Millenium Development Goal to “eradicate extreme poverty” refers to more than a billion people whose income is less than US $1 a day (Roe et al., 2011). The concept of cash however is meaningless for many poor people and indigenous societies that live outside of a cash economy, and in such circumstances power, having a voice, opportunity and a healthy environment are more highly valued than money. It has therefore become recognised that poverty is multi-dimensional and according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “The dimensions of poverty cover distinct aspects of human capabilities: economic (income, livelihoods, decent work), human (health, education), political (empowerment, rights, voice), socio-cultural (status, dignity) and protective (insecurity, risk, vulnerability)“ (OECD, 2001). Measurements of poverty however tend to rely on narrow indicators such as income and levels of consumption as they are easier to measure than many of the other dimensions.

    Causes of poverty vary widely from one country to another. History, geography and governance all shape development patterns. Wars and state collapse cause poverty and make it worse. Corruption, lack of respect for human rights, inefficient bureaucracies and weak commitment to undertake policy institutional reforms obstruct poverty reduction. Other important causes of poverty include gender discrimination, rapid population growth and environmental degradation (OECD, 2001). The OECD (2001) states that sustaining the natural resource base is essential for long-lasting poverty reduction.

    The relationship between poverty and biodiversity loss is complex. At the global level the main driver of biodiversity loss is consumption and demand from developed countries. Globally the worlds richest 20% of people account for 80-90% of total private consumption expenditure. It is this consumption that is driving the conversion of natural habitat and the growing demand for soya, beef, timber and palm oil that is accelerating loss of tropical forests (Roe et al., 2011). It can also be caused however by the rural poor who are forced to prioritise shorter-term survival over long-term sustainability. Given their physical location and nature of livelihood activities (e.g., small scale farming, hunting etc) 75% of the rural poor in developing countries are directly dependant on natural resources for their day to day livelihoods and immediate survival (Roe et al., 2011). Whilst we all depend on natural resources to some extent, poor people are more directly dependant because of their limited ability to purchase alternatives (e.g., food and medicines). The world’s 300 million or so indigenous people are amongst the most cash poor, and almost one million depend almost entirely on forests for food, shelter, clothing, fresh water, medicines and other basic necessities. The poorest of the poor tend to rely on products of low commercial value usually because they are denied access by more powerful groups to more commercially valuable resources. Locally this can result in a vicious cycle of dependency and degradation, and to a poverty trap, particularly in areas of high population density and those experiencing climatic stress.

  • How important is this threat compared to others?

  • Why is it a threat to great apes?

  • Is poverty dangerous for all species in the same way?

Compiled and edited 2011 by Kay H. Farmer
Reviewed by Hjalmar Kuehl, Josephine Head and Neba Funwi-Gabga

  • References