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Do we need to 'eat up' all the forest?

Dr Naveen Pandey, MVetSc

Sustainable use of natural resources will be the key for survival of all animals inccluding man (Photo: Dr Naveen Pandey, rural Cambodia)

The five core capital assets that form part of the United Nations’ Development Programme’s (UNDP) livelihood framework – physical, natural, financial, human and social capital – could easily be appreciated as we disembarked from the big vessel and shifted to smaller boats for a more intimate experience. We learned that forest products contributed to nearly three-fourths of per capita annual income for low-income households living in the Sundarbans delta in Bangladesh. Fish, crustaceans, shellfish, sea cucumbers, oysters, mussels, honey, condiments, timber, nipa palm and other produce, supposedly of a medicinal nature, continued to be harvested. It was evident that conserving this delta and securing the livelihoods of the millions who inhabit it goes well beyond Bengal tiger numbers – indeed, it is more complex than often anticipated.

During the evolution from arboreal to more settled life on the ground, humans, forests and forest-dwelling wildlife species shared a symbiotic relationship. Indigenous people and local communities largely depended on the ecosystem services this relationship provided. Currently, a little less than one-third of the world’s land surface is managed by indigenous people. Some of the most ecologically intact forests on the planet are still protected by them, which in turn protects their cultural identities. A University of Illinois study (2009) found that larger forest size and greater rule-making autonomy at the local level resulted in high carbon storage and enhanced livelihood benefits.

Published by WellBeing International on 30 March 2021. Read full eassy Forests and Livelihoods in Asia: Sustaining People and Planet

Dr Naveen Pandey holds an advance degree in Conservation Medicine from the University of Edinburgh and serves The Corbett Foundation in Kaziranga as its Deputy Director and Veterinary Advisor. He can be reached at


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