logo Thinking beyond the canopy


Children in Cameroon ©CIFOR

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? To what extent do forests help lift people out of poverty, or are they mainly useful as gap-fillers and safety nets preventing extreme hardship? How do different management regimes and policies affect the benefits poor people derive from forests? By answering these questions, PEN can provide well-researched advice for enhancing the way natural resource and poverty-related policies and projects are designed and implemented.

No one would claim forests are the ultimate panacea for poverty. But they play an important role for millions of people by providing a safety net during economic downturns, by supporting current consumption and sometimes by being a direct pathway out of poverty.

PEN aims to fill the gap in knowledge through the systematic collection of socio-economic data in a variety of tropical ecosystems, using similar data definitions and methodologies. This will make PEN the world's first global comparative and quantitative review of the role of tropical forests in poverty alleviation.

PEN also represents a new and innovative way of doing research. The core of PEN is the individual field studies, in most cases done by PhD students. The best field studies are often done as part of a PhD thesis. At the same time the value-added of the individual studies can be substantially enhanced by using standardized definitions and methods, which permit comparative analysis. Thus, in addition to their own specific research questions and methodologies, each PhD student/researcher will contribute to the common data set on forests and poverty.