Livelihood responses to Lantana camara invasion and biodiversity change in southern India: application of an asset function framework
Natural resources play key roles as assets in the livelihoods of rural communities. However, the benefits of these assets in livelihoods are frequently conceived narrowly as income generating or vulnerability reducing. We contend that they have other important roles to play in poverty reduction and livelihood change. In this paper we use a case study of two ethnic communities in a village in southern India to investigate livelihood responses to change in forest biodiversity through an examination of changes in attributes of natural assets resulting from the invasion of Lantana camara and wider socio-economic change. The invasion of forest by Lantana has contributed to changes in the attributes and functions of four key natural assets: forest grazing, bamboo for basketry, Phoenix loureie for brooms, and wild yams. We observe that differences in households’ and individuals’ ability to substitute important functions of lost or declining assets affect their ability to adapt to changes in resource availability and attributes. Analysing changes in asset attributes for different user groups allows the social effects of environmental change to be disaggregated.