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Home » What we do » Poverty and the environment » Livelihoods and natural resources

Livelihoods and natural resources

Hundreds of millions of people around the world rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. For example, an estimated 250 million people in developing countries directly depend on small-scale fisheries for food and income. In India alone, some 50 million people are directly dependent on forests for their subsistence.

A worker for the Mangrove Conservation programme. Talisei, northern Sulawesi, Indonesia

Poor countries depend on natural resources much more than richer countries. A quarter of the total wealth of low-income countries comes from ’natural capital‘, according to the World Bank, compared to only 2% in wealthier nations.


When we measure development and wealth, we need to take these environmental assets into account.


Healthy natural resources fuel economies, providing raw materials for agriculture, industry, trade, medicines and tourism. They form the basis of development and poverty reduction in rural areas.

But we need strong governance and safeguards to make sure the benefits reach the poorest people.

Too often private companies have used and depleted natural resources in an unsustainable way, whether in large-scale forestry, mining, fishing or agriculture. And poor people in rural areas have suffered, instead of benefitting from those local resources through, for example, community forestry or ecotourism.

Work on forests

What WWF is doing
We need to make sure natural resources are managed and used sustainably – so future generations will be able to benefit from them too. This involves protecting the species and ecosystems that support livelihoods, and so help reduce poverty in the long-term.


Our livelihood-supporting work can be split into three main areas:

Logs at FSC certified Pallisco logging company, East province, Cameroon

Sustainable forest management

Close to 1.6 billion people depend on forest resources for their survival. Forest resources directly contribute to the livelihoods of 90% of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty.

Local fish, sustainably fished

Sustainable fisheries management

Fisheries are a source of income for over 100 million people – mostly from poor coastal and rural communities in Africa and Asia.

Fetching water, Tanzania

Sustainable water management

Water is life. We can’t live without it, and it’s essential to the healthy functioning of all the world’s ecosystems. Yet one in eight people do not have access to safe drinking water.

Local men attending a workshop organized by TAL in Khata, learning to manufacture furniture.