Rural sustainable livelihoods in Mesoamerica: Economic development that conserves biodiversity and alleviates poverty
More forests have been destroyed globally in the last fifty years than in the previous five hundred years, contributing to climate change and a crisis of living systems amongst the poor who depend on natural resources for survival. Economic development activities must be identified that raise incomes while conserving biodiversity. Using rural Mesoamerica as a focus region, the study examines the environmental and social impacts of the development model utilized over the past fifty years, and analyzes the contemporary development paradigms of neoliberalism and globalization. The results of the study show that the historic development model produced environmental degradation and increased poverty on a massive scale. However, sustainable livelihood alternatives exist within the current market-based paradigm through Payment for Environmental Services (PES). Watershed services, organic production based on market demand, and ecotourism are especially relevant PES mechanisms in the Mesoamerican context based on examples provided in Northern Nicaragua.