Alternatives for Habitat Protection and Rural Income Generation

Feb 1997
The key question the research in this paper tries to answer is whether those four activities truly represent a viable economic alternative in Latin America's environmentally fragile hinterlands. Several cases in each line of activity are analyzed to determine the level and distribution of the net financial returns they generate. Special attention was devoted to examining the degree to which net returns flow to local populations, as opposed to other economic agents. In general, examination of the rewards local populations can expect to derive from ecotourism and the harvesting of nontimber forest products suggests that allocating time and effort to those activities is unlikely to be very remunerative since unskilled labor is not particularly scarce in rural areas. In addition, little is to be gained by controlling access to natural resources, which for the most part are abundant. Moreover, making the sector-specific human capital and other investments needed for forest dwellers to capture more of the net returns from ecotourism, genetic prospecting, and so forth would probably not benefit them very much. Instead, furnishing them with education and training