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Measuring Livelihoods and Environmental Dependence: Methods for Research and Fieldwork – Book Review

Developing a systematic approach applicable globally to measuring the environmental impacts associated with rural economic development in the developing world, as measured through landscape-level carbon accounting, is critically important as these communities begin to implement land-based carbon projects. To be able to successfully compare carbon sequestration activities between communities, we need to develop quantitatively robust methodologies to measure rural livelihoods’ environmental impacts. With these methodologies in place it is possible to begin to measure financial effectiveness and equitable distribution of revenue associated with these land-based carbon projects.

In Measuring Livelihoods and Environmental Dependence: Methods for Research and Fieldwork , the editors discuss the application of the Poverty Environment Network approach to collecting and quantifying household data across 25 countries since 2004. The Poverty Environment Network provides a statistically rigorous comparable analysis tool that can measure rural livelihoods’ environmental and carbon impacts across countries and cultures and through time. By applying standardized language and questionnaires, Poverty Environment Network researchers and the results from their research can now demonstrate to policy makers that through firmly linking national forest policy and poverty
alleviation programs with rural livelihood’s environmental impacts, as measured through landscape-level carbon accounting including forest degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change impacts, it possible to equitable distribute carbon revenue associated with these land-based carbon projects

Understanding climate changes’ impact on rural livelihoods at the local level requires effective quantifiable rural livelihoods data collection and
analysis. Given that climate change exacerbates social conflict due to increasing uncertainty within the sourcing and management of natural resources, this book provides a blue print approach to how to quantify rural livelihoods’ impact on the environment in a manner that will allow for the improvement of spatial and economic planning tools that support rural climate change adaptation policies.

For example, in this book Poverty Environment Network researchers demonstrate that there are many ways a rural farmer could answer the question “what was your forest income last year?” As they show, this question at first may appear simple while in fact the variability of answers that could arise from this question demonstrate the basic issue with designing rural livelihood surveys, and this basic problem is one of effective communication. For example, is “last year” representing the past 12 months or the previous calendar year? Does “forest income” only refer to the financially quantifiable “goods and services” the farmer derived from the forest that she only received income from over the “past 12 months” or the
previous calendar year? Yet, how would she separate her forest income from her non-forest income? The Poverty Environment Network authors have provided a solution to this specific rural livelihood question, among many other similar questions that form rural livelihoods’ surveys, through meticulously describing how to design a rural livelihoods household survey that can effectively communicate these questions so at to yield comparable results across cultures, timeframes, and continents.

The Poverty Environment Network research process described in Measuring Livelihoods and Environmental Dependence: Methods for Research and Fieldwork provides a practical framework for researchers and professionals focusing on poverty alleviation that could lead to the application of rigorous and quantifiable rural livelihoods’ surveys in carbon projects that are applying landscape-level carbon accounting. This in turn could inform the structure and efficiency of equitable carbon revenue distribution mechanisms for rural communities.

How to order:

Measuring Livelihoods and Environmental Dependence: Methods for Research and Fieldwork
Paperback: 240 Pages, $49.95
Publisher: Earthscan, 2011

Editors: Arild Angelsen, Helle Overgaard Larsen, Jens Friis Lund, Carsten Smith-Hall and Sven Wunder

Gabriel Thoumi frequently contributes to