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Poverty and Reefs

1.7 Summary

Coral reefs border a large extent of the coastlines of some of the poorest countries in the world. Within those countries there are a wide diversity of stakeholders who depend upon those reef resources as a regular part of their livelihoods, as a part-time but essential component, or as a safety net in times of stress. There is also a growing dependence in wider society on reefs as a part of national heritage, as a dumping ground of waste, as a source of pleasure for tourists, or as a focus of study and research.

The number of people who depend upon reefs and their level of dependence is not well known. In the order of tens of millions rely on reefs to support part of their livelihood, providing food and income and basic subsistence needs. Many of these are very poor people, but that poverty is often hidden from sight. The poor often fall in the gaps between coastal development activities, they are often the marginalised ones that do not have legal title to coastal resources, and who are often seen as an obstacle to conservation or development. Because of this hidden nature the profile of the coastal poor is only just beginning to be understood.

This section of the report has tried to give some understanding of the distribution of the reef-dependent poor around the world and it is clear from this analysis that they are many and widely dispersed. Some are very poor (especially in Africa and South Asia), others are extremely vulnerable (such as in the Pacific). The next Chapter tries to understand how the dependence of these people on the reef manifests itself in all aspects of their livelihoods.
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