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Forest Product Sale as Natural Insurance: The Effects of Household Characteristics and the Nature of Shock in Eastern Honduras

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The rural poor are known to turn to tropical forest resources in times of need. But what explains differential use of this "natural insurance" policy among households? Drawing from a 1998 survey of 116 indigenous households in Honduras, this article shows that households sell forest products to pay for crop shortfalls and illness, but that loans from kin are a more common way to weather calamity. Young households with few liquidatable assets and little land are the most likely to sell forest products to self-insure. Development policies that build on the "natural insurance" concept should anticipate major variation within target populations; meanwhile, conservationists should recognize that the lack of formal safety nets in rural communities will motivate the sale of forest products.

Keywords: Honduras; Latin America; Tawahka; conservation and development; natural insurance; rain forest products; risk and vulnerability

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Geography, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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