logo Thinking beyond the canopy

An international network and research project on poverty, environment and forest resources

 

The Poverty Environment Network (PEN) was launched in September 2004 by the Center of International Forestry Research (CIFOR). The core of PEN is the tropics-wide collection of uniform socio-economic and environmental data at household and village levels by about 30 PEN partners (mainly PhD students), generating a global database with some 5-6 000 households and 200-250 villages from more than 20 countries. The data collection, which will continue until 2008, includes a careful recording of all forest and environmental uses, and all income data are collected through four quarterly surveys to shorten recall periods and increase accuracy.

We know that forests and other natural resources are crucial to the livelihoods of millions of poor people worldwide. But just how important are forests for poverty alleviation? Can they help lift people out of poverty, or are they mainly useful as gap-fillers and safety nets preventing extreme hardship? How do forest different management regimes and policies affect the benefits to the poor?

Answers to such questions are essential to design effective policies and projects to alleviate poverty, and thereby contribute to meeting the Millennium Development Goal of 50 % poverty reduction by 2015. Yet we have surprisingly little systematic knowledge to answer them adequately. PEN aims to fill the gap in knowledge through the systematic collection of uniform socio-economic data in a variety of tropical ecosystems. PEN research will serve as the basis for the first global comparative and quantitative analysis of the role of tropical forests in poverty alleviation.

The data will be collected by PhD students and other researchers joining PEN. Each PEN partner will, in addition to working on their own specific research questions and methodologies, contribute case-specific data to a common data bank. PEN assist with proposal development and grant applications and provide inputs and general guidance to the research, organize and support joint workshops, assist and advise on data analysis, facilitate exchange of information and experience among participants, pay an honorarium for the collection of PEN-relevant data, and facilitate the dissemination of research results.

The PEN format represents a new and innovative way of doing research, involving a large number of partners to collect global data using comparable definitions, questionnaires and methods. PEN will also help in strengthening research capacity in developing countries. PEN would like to get in touch with PhD students and young researchers that plan to do fieldwork on forest-poverty issues (see section on 'Research team').

PEN is a six year project (2004-2010). It is coordinated by CIFOR, but is working closely with resource persons in a number of universities and research institutes on all continents, reflecting CIFOR's "center without walls" policy. A major grant from DFID (UK) will support the post-data collection phase (2007-2010) of data analysis, synthesis and dissemination of results. Several PEN partners have received fieldwork support from the International Foundation of Science (IFS).