Fisherman cast a net to catch fish 


People everywhere rely on nature — for their jobs, their income and their livelihoods.

© Keith A. Ellenbogen

Whether you work on a farm, in a factory or in an office, your livelihood depends on nature.

But nature’s ability to provide for us is being stretched to its limit. It’s more than an environmental problem. It’s an economic problem, too.

Why are our livelihoods important?

Jobs and prosperity

Nature is the foundation of every economy on Earth. In the developing world, forest resources often account for 20–40% of a family’s annual income, and forests are the source of livelihoods for more than 1.6 billion people worldwide. More than 60% of the world’s working poor are employed in the agricultural sector.

Resources to build

Nature provides construction materials for the buildings where people live, work, play and worship — and for tens of millions of construction jobs worldwide. What’s more, forest products account for about 1% of the world’s gross domestic product, and the total global market for commercial wood products — including logs, lumber, panels, pulp and paper — is more than US$ 200 billion per year.

Food we eat

Nature provides the food we eat, and getting this food to our tables is a major source of jobs around the world. One out of every three global workers is employed in an agricultural job, with millions more employed in fishing. Many local indigenous communities also harvest natural products, like coffee, honey, mushrooms, tagua nuts and açai berries, as their primary sources of income.

What are the issues?

50% land used for agriculture

Unsustainable food and agriculture production

Almost 50% of the world's land area is used for agriculture, yet by 2050 global demand for food will double. Converting vital forests and other landscapes to farms to meet this demand, rather than using the existing farmland more efficiently, threatens the natural resources that we all depend on for our livelihoods and incomes.

> $10 billion market for illegal fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

More than 11 million tons of fish caught each year come from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. That’s a market value of more than US$ 10 billion annually. In addition to harming fish populations, such fishing creates unfair market competition for fishermen who follow sustainable practices.

of population may face water shortages

Water scarcity

By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages. The agriculture industry alone uses nearly 70% of the fresh water available to humanity and accounts for one-third of the world’s jobs. Disruptions to the water supply could bring about disruptions to people’s livelihoods.

Our solutions

At Conservation International, we know that healthy ecosystems are an essential foundation for thriving economies. We’re providing innovative tools and knowledge to help governments, companies and communities make decisions that will benefit humanity now and for generations to come. From promoting forest-friendly activities like producing shade-grown coffee or participating in ecotourism to helping local communities adopt more sustainable fishing practices, Conservation International is helping protect natural resources and boost income for local communities.


What can you do?

Your support could fund projects like an ecotourism lodge in Bolivia, efficient cookstoves on Tonle Sap Lake or guard dogs to protect ranchers’ sheep from leopards in South Africa.


Albino Neves, a Brazilian fisherman, relies on local fisheries to...

© Cristina Mittermeier

Shop smart

Look for the logos of the Forest Stewardship Council and the Marine Stewardship Council when shopping for wood and seafood products.

© Jeff Yonover
© Benjamin Drummond
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