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Does economic prosperity in the Colombian Amazon require sacrificing the forest? This research compendium of a series of studies on the Colombian Amazon finds the answer to this question is no: the perceived trade-off between economic growth and forest protection is a false dichotomy. The drivers of deforestation and prosperity are distinct – as they happen in different places. Deforestation occurs at the agricultural frontier, in destroying some of the world’s most complex biodiversity by some of the least economically complex activities, particularly cattle-ranching. By contrast, the economic drivers in the Amazon are its urban areas often located far from the forest edge, including in non-forested piedmont regions. These cities offer greater economic complexity by accessing a wider range of productive capabilities in higher-income activities with little presence of those activities driving deforestation. Perhaps the most underappreciated facet of life in each of the three Amazonian regions studied, Caquetá, Guaviare, and Putumayo, is that the majority of people live in urban areas. This is a telling fact of economic geography: that even in the remote parts of the Amazon, people want to come together to live in densely populated areas. This corroborates the findings of our global research over the past two decades that prosperity results from expanding the productive capabilities available locally to diversify production to do more, and more complex, activities.


Cheston, Timothy, Patricio Goldstein, Timothy Freeman, Alejandro Rueda-Sanz, Ricardo Hausmann, Shreyas Gadgin Matha, Sebastián Bustos, Eduardo Lora, Sarah Bui, and Nidhi Rao. "Seeing the Forest for More Than the Trees: A Policy Strategy to Curb Deforestation and Advance Shared Prosperity in the Colombian Amazon." CID Faculty Working Paper Series, February 2023.