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New Book from WWF Sheds Light on Combatting Poverty and Environmental Destruction

WASHINGTON, Wednesday, June 14, 2006 -- Reversing environmental degradation and reducing poverty in the developing world requires working simultaneously across local, sub-national and national levels, according to a new book by World Wildlife Fund's director of macroeconomic policy, David Reed.

The book, titled Escaping Poverty's Grasp: The Environmental Foundations of Poverty Reduction, builds on WWF's long-standing strength of working at the local level in vulnerable places around the world and demonstrates how to extend that work to influencing policies and institutions at sub-national and national levels. By providing compelling experiences in rural areas of China, Indonesia, El Salvador, South Africa and Zambia, the book highlights ways of opening economic opportunities and improving natural resource management in the face of many obstacles and self-interested groups that seek wealth by controlling natural resources.

The book offers a unique and powerful methodology, called the "3xM Approach," so-called because it cuts across the micro, meso and macro levels of a given society to promote poverty reduction and improved natural resource management. This is designed to arm local communities and civil society organizations as well as international development agencies as they try to respond to the many changes associated with globalization. Frequently globalization provides new opportunities to the dynamic, more powerful groups in countries, often leaving the poor and the environment to bear the costs of economic growth. The 3xM Approach provides tools to rural and urban groups alike to understand the new economic and institutional impacts of globalization and to engage in change processes that will protect the environment and the rural communities that depend directly on natural resources.

"For many years we have watched successful poverty-environment initiatives at the local level being wiped out by powerful interests groups and economic changes," said Reed. "We can now offer an intervention approach that supports local changes by reforms at higher policy levels and ensures the sustainability of local economic initiatives and efforts to improve natural resource management."

Poverty is directly linked to environment because in many rural areas, poor communities must depend on natural resources for their survival. In the indigenous communities of Deqin County in China for example, wood logging is a source of employment and income. Wood is also used for fuel and construction. After a 1998 nature reserve expansion and a country-wide logging ban initiated by the government, cash flow to the rural communities garnered from these wood products dropped dramatically and local tensions with nature reserve authorities increased. By working with all levels of government, a new system allowing the community to collaborate in the management of the forests was developed. This system has enabled the communities to sustainably use non-timber products and helped them to increase their income by six to ten times. By working with provincial and national authorities, a means to apply this system in other parts of China was developed.

"WWF's work on poverty and environment examines concrete activities to empower the poor, link poverty reduction and the environment, and promote changes across the local, sub-national and national levels of societies," said Louis Michel, EC commissioner for development and humanitarian aid. "This work makes a number of solid policy recommendations for bringing about enduring changes in rural livelihoods and resource management."