Reconciling livelihoods and conservation in forest landscapes of Bangladesh

Reconciling livelihoods and conservation in forest landscapes of Bangladesh

There is increasing recognition of the role of forests for global social, economic and ecological benefits. Forests provide a wide range of livelihoods benefits such as direct employment, fuel and energy, nutritious and diverse diets and primary health care to the millions of rural people in less-developed and developing countries. In addition, forests and trees provide less direct benefits in the form of ecosystem services, but which also have socio-economic and environmental benefits and enhance agricultural production.

Excessive resource extraction and agricultural conversion however result in the loss of valuable goods and services in the forest landscapes of many developing and least developed countries. Tropical forest landscapes subject to land use changes for food production present a key conservation and development challenge. Managing trees outside forests along different land uses remain essential to sustain biodiversity and associated services at a landscape level.

Bangladesh has diverse forest types (e.g. Hill, Sal, Mangroves and Village forest) which are used for subsistence purposes and income generating activities of rural people. As a land-scarce country coupled with high population growth, forest resources are at risk from excessive exploitation and land use changes for food production.

Forests are historically important for food and income generation of local people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) region of the country. But, different land uses including shifting cultivation and permanent agriculture have impacts on food production and forest conservation at a landscape level. Maintaining tree cover and improving land use systems for food productions and conservation have been a highly complex and daunting task in the region.

This PhD study aims to examine forest-based livelihood outcomes with a focus on the social, economic and environmental aspects of resource use and sustainability in changing landscapes. The study will examine three specific objectives and associated research questions regarding: 1) the relative benefits of forests and tree uses in rural livelihoods; 2) the diversity of tree benefits in different land use systems and 3) the synergies and trade-offs of forest and land use changes in relation to livelihoods and conservation at landscape level in CHTs region.