Freshwater and Poverty Reduction: Serving People, Saving Nature

An economic analysis of the livelihood impacts of freshwater conservation initiatives

Title: Serving people, saving nature
September 13, 2005; 36 pages; 1.58 MB PDF Format
The availability and functioning of freshwater ecosystems have a significant impact on the livelihoods, health and security of the poor. Freshwater services include food, drinking water, building materials, nutrient recycling and flood control.

Furthermore, the harmful effects of ecosystem service degradation are often being borne disproportionately by the poor, and are in many cases the principal drivers of poverty and social conflict. It is therefore essential to recognize and integrate the links between freshwater resources management and livelihoods into freshwater conservation work.

This report presents four cases where the work of WWF and its partner organizations has not only successfully led to improved management of freshwater resources, but also significantly contributed to the improvement of livelihoods of poor local communities.

The four cases are: (1) the Working for Wetlands Project in South Africa; (2) the Dongting Lake Floodplain Restoration Project in China; (3) the Várzea Project in Brazil; and (4) the La Cocha Project in Colombia.

The report demonstrates that freshwater conservation and poverty reduction can and often do go hand in hand. In the four cases presented, sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems has provided improved services to the poor, most significantly an increase in income, increased well-being, and decreased vulnerability.

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