LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Giving local communities the responsibility to manage forests – which are shrinking worldwide – could help ease poverty and deforestation, scientists said on Monday in what they described as one of the largest studies of its kind.

Researchers examined more than 18,000 community-led forest initiatives in Nepal, using satellite images and census data from the South Asian country, where more than a third of forests are managed by a quarter of the population.

Giving Nepalese communities the chance to look after their own forests led to a 37 percent drop in deforestation and a 4.3 percent decline in poverty levels between 2000 and 2012, they said in a paper published by the journal Nature Sustainability.

“Community forest management has achieved a clear win-win for people and the environment across an entire country,” said lead author Johan Oldekop, an environment lecturer at Britain’s University of Manchester.

Deforestation is the second leading cause of climate change after fossil fuels, accounting for almost a fifth of planet-warming emissions, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in a 2018 report.

Read more at Reuters