Environmental Management

, Volume 51, Issue 5, pp 1034–1043 | Cite as

Rural Income and Forest Reliance in Highland Guatemala

  • José Pablo Prado CórdovaEmail author
  • Sven Wunder
  • Carsten Smith-Hall
  • Jan Börner


This paper estimates rural household-level forest reliance in the western highlands of Guatemala using quantitative methods. Data were generated by the way of an in-depth household income survey, repeated quarterly between November 2005 and November 2006, in 11 villages (n = 149 randomly selected households). The main sources of income proved to be small-scale agriculture (53 % of total household income), wages (19 %) and environmental resources (14 %). The latter came primarily from forests (11 % on average). In the poorest quintile the forest income share was as high as 28 %. All households harvest and consume environmental products. In absolute terms, environmental income in the top quintile was 24 times higher than in the lowest. Timber and poles, seeds, firewood and leaf litter were the most important forest products. Households can be described as ‘regular subsistence users’: the share of subsistence income is high, with correspondingly weak integration into regional markets. Agricultural systems furthermore use important inputs from surrounding forests, although forests and agricultural uses compete in household specialization strategies. We find the main household determinants of forest income to be household size, education and asset values, as well as closeness to markets and agricultural productivity. Understanding these common but spatially differentiated patterns of environmental reliance may inform policies aimed at improving livelihoods and conserving forests.


Central America Environmental income Household surveys Livelihoods 



The authors thank David Mendieta, Pedro Chacón, Gamaliel Martínez, Adalberto López, and Juan Carlos Funes for assisting with fieldwork. We also acknowledge extensive reviews of previous drafts by William Sunderlin, Don Waller and Peter Frost. Ronnie Babigumira and Jamie Cotta also helped with data analyses and Carlos López prepared the map. Funding was provided by the Danish Research Council for Development Research (Grant No. 91160).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • José Pablo Prado Córdova
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sven Wunder
    • 2
  • Carsten Smith-Hall
    • 3
  • Jan Börner
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Facultad de AgronomíaUniversidad de San Carlos de GuatemalaCiudad de GuatemalaGuatemala
  2. 2.CIFORRio de JaneiroBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Food and Resource Economics, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark
  4. 4.Center for Development ResearchUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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