Combining income and assets measures to include the transitory nature of poverty in assessments of forest dependence: Evidence from the Democratic Republic of Congo

A considerable amount of research on poverty–environment relations in developing countries under the CIFOR-PEN initiative focuses on household income generation from forests, using total annual income as a measure of poverty. However, income alone produces a static picture in a snapshot of time while poverty is a dynamic state that can be a transitory phenomenon. Using income only also fails to consider that households can liquidate asset to overcome income shocks. Here we show that using asset quintiles, measured by value of assets, produce a distinctly different pattern than the commonly observed negative relation between income and forest dependence. We then present an approach, enabling categorization of households as chronic or transient poor, transient rich and rich providing a more nuanced picture than that provided by CIFOR-PEN studies so far. The validity of groupings is tested by comparing household characteristics and exposure to shocks. We then show that the chronic poor are most reliant on forest income, while the transient poor consume a higher share of harvested forest products. The transient rich have higher agricultural productivity and absolute forest income. Rich households relies more on business. Based on the results we suggest recommendations for improving future studies on poverty–environment relations.