Livelihood Analysis and a New Inferential Model for Development of Forest-Dependent Rural Communities

Beytollah Mahmoudi, Eric Zenner, Davood Mafi-Gholami, Fatemeh Eshaghi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The livelihood of many households and communities in the Central Zagros of Iran is strongly dependent on income from forests. While this has led to the widespread over-utilization of forests, poverty levels have remained high and rural development low. The objective of this study was to understand how households utilize forests and to what extent forests contribute to household income and alleviate poverty in order to develop strategies to raise families out of poverty and offer development perspectives to communities that avoid destructive forest utilization. To do so, semi-structured interviews were conducted in five rural communities, community poverty was quantified using several indices (e.g., the Census Ratio Index, Poverty Gap Index), the level of rural development was quantified using socio-economic indicators, and an inferential model was developed that combines household dependence on forests with the level of rural development to provide development perspectives. Local households earned income from nine livelihood strategies that involve forests. Forest-dependent strategies provided the second highest economic share (18.1%) of household income, averaging IRR 27.7 million (USD 657) annually, and moved 12% of households above the poverty line (76% still remained below). Without forest income, most indices of poverty decreased, income inequality increased by 11%, and poverty depth increased 1.54-fold. The low development index of most villages indicates that rural villagers are heavily dependent on forests to meet their livelihood. Our conceptual model indicates that communities should pursue different development strategies that consider whether households depend on forests to meet their livelihood or derive more supplemental income.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9008
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Hardware and Architecture
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

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