The newly-released World Resources 2008 charts a path for how sustainable, nature-based enterprise can help the world's 2 billion rural poor escape the cycle of poverty.
Today, 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 a day. 75 percent of people at the bottom of the economic pyramid live in rural areas and are dependent on natural resources for some or all of their subsistence. The rural poor face even tougher challenges ahead, as climate change threatens to destroy the ecosystems and natural resources on which they depend.
But well-designed, community-based sustainable enterprises can improve the way the rural poor draw from their area's natural resources. Ultimately, these programs can make their communities more resilient against climate change and the other economic, social, environmental challenges they will face.
Three common elements nature-based enterprises need to be successful:
- Community ownership and self-interest: Legitimate ownership of local resources and a sense of self-interest must be granted to the community.
- Help from intermediary organizations: Governments and development agencies need to provide the rural poor with the technical and business skills they need to become more resilient.
- Formation of formal and informal networks: Support networks among communities and the organizations working with them must be present for the rural poor to sustainably manage natural resources and generate income.
When these three elements are present, communities can begin to unlock the wealth potential of ecosystems in ways that actually reach the poor. In so doing, they can build a base of competencies that extends beyond nature-based enterprises and supports rural economic growth in general, including the gradual transition beyond reliance on natural resource income alone.