Who are forest-dependent people? A taxo nomy to aid livelihood and land use decision-making in forested regions | Land Portal

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Date of publication: 
November 2016
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The relationship between forests and people is of substantial interest to peoples and agencies that govern and use them, private sector actors that seek to manage and profit from them, NGOs who support and implement conservation and development projects, and researchers who study these relationships and others. The term ⿿forest-dependent people⿿ is widely used to describe human populations that gain some form of benefits from forests. But despite its long history and widespread use, there are substantial divergences in who the term refers to, what each of its constituent words mean, and how many forest-dependent people there are globally. This paper identifies the range of existing uses and definitions of the term ⿿forest-dependent people⿿, and summarizes them in a systematic taxonomy. Our taxonomy exposes the dimensions that characterize the relationships between people and forests, and leads to two conclusions: First, an absolute, universally accepted definition of the term is untenable. Rather, users of the term ⿿forest-dependent people⿿ need to comprehensively define their population of interest with reference to the context and purpose of their forest- and people-related objectives. The framework and language of our taxonomy aims to aid such efforts. Second, conservation and development program funders, designers, and implementers must reconsider whether forest dependence is an appropriate target for policy objectives.

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Newton, Peter
Miller, Daniel C.
Byenkya, Mugabi Augustine Ateenyi
Agrawal, Arun


Land Use Policy is an international and interdisciplinary journal concerned with the social, economic, political, legal, physical and planning aspects of urban and rural land use. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information from the diverse range of disciplines and interest groups which must be combined to formulate effective land use policies.

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