Focus on the environment to address poverty and inclusiveness

Cil Yu Ha Vuong, a K’ho native, patrols the forests of Vietnam as part of Asian Development Bank-funded The Biodiversity Corridor program, which offers alternative sources of income to steer community members from livelihood that are destructive to the environment. The Manila-based financial institution has suggestions to make environmental program take into account the needs of the poor. Photo by: ADB / CC BY-NC-ND

How can we achieve poverty reduction and inclusive growth in the face of climate change?

By aligning poverty reduction and inclusivity-focused development programs with environmental solutions as the poor are the most vulnerable to disasters, according to Stein Hansen, one of the “founding fathers” of the Asian Development Bank’s Poverty and Environment Fund.

In an online conversation hosted Wednesday by ADB, Hansen said that the poorer a person gets, his income, wealth, health and general well-being become increasingly dependent on or affected by natural environment.

“Environmental improvements [with poverty reduction and inclusivity in mind] will have direct and significant impacts on the ability of the poor to break out of the vicious poverty [cycle] they are trapped in,” he said.

Hansen explained that poor people usually live in areas prone to pollution, erosion and flooding. But for them to leave their informal settlements and move to safer land, they need assistance — which can be provided by environmental programs that include their needs, like for instance access to markets for farmers to sell their products.

“Making sure [the poor] have good access to their [natural resource base] and that their social structure is not disrupted are essential,” John Soussan, a Bangkok-based independent development consultant, said. “They need good access to new urban markets.”

However, that must be done, Hansen noted, “in a reliable way” by involving local communities in the development process so they can “take ownerships to actions aimed at improving their livelihoods.”

One of the new approaches to this is a payment for ecosystem service, which Soussan believes has the potential to ensure natural resource value is covered and compensated so that the “benefits of their use reach the rural communities who manage and protect them.”

Social business can also be a game changer in the process, he said, but “they need a supportive environment in terms of regulations and access to credit, and markets and governments can do much to encourage them.”

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About the author

  • Lean 2

    Lean Alfred Santos

    Lean Alfred Santos is a Devex development reporter focusing on the development community in Asia-Pacific, including major players such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Prior to joining Devex, he covered Philippine and international business and economic news, sports and politics. Lean is based in Manila.