Article

How Environmental Degradation Impoverishes the Poor

Edward B. Barbier

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Environmental Science


Published online May 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780199389414 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199389414.013.403

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  • Agriculture and Farming
  • Environmental Economics

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Globally, around 1.5 billion people in developing countries, or approximately 35% of the rural population, can be found on less-favored agricultural land (LFAL), which is susceptible to low productivity and degradation because the agricultural potential is constrained biophysically by terrain, poor soil quality, or limited rainfall. Around 323 million people in such areas also live in locations that are highly remote, and thus have limited access to infrastructure and markets. The households in such locations often face a vicious cycle of declining livelihoods, increased ecological degradation and loss of resource commons, and declining ecosystem services on which they depend. In short, these poor households are prone to a poverty-environment trap. Policies to eradicate poverty, therefore, need to be targeted to improve the economic livelihood, productivity, and income of the households located on remote LFAL. The specific elements of such a strategy include involving the poor in paying for ecosystem service schemes and other measures that enhance the environments on which the poor depend; targeting investments directly to improving the livelihoods of the rural poor, thus reducing their dependence on exploiting environmental resources; and tackling the lack of access by the rural poor in less-favored areas to well-functioning and affordable markets for credit, insurance, and land, as well as the high transportation and transaction costs that prohibit the poorest households in remote areas to engage in off-farm employment and limit smallholder participation in national and global markets.

Keywords: rural poverty; developing countries; natural capital; ecological scarcity; poverty-environment trap; spatial poverty trap

Article.  8565 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Sustainability ; Agriculture and Farming ; Environmental Economics

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