Project description - Dynamics of Sustainable Livelihoods

Project leader: Prof. Marja Järvelä, University of Jyväskylä, P.O.Box 35 (MAB), 40014 University of Jyväskylä, mjarvela(at)

Research design

The Finnish forest industry imports remarkable amounts of raw material from Russia. However, we do not know how the wood procurement of Finnish companies affects the lives of local people in Russian towns and villages that are dependent on forestry. Towards the end of the year 2002 the University of Jyväskylä agreed with the environmental management department of M-real/Metsäliitto to pursue a pilot research fieldwork on the social impacts of wood procurement in Northwest Russia. Consequently we established a cross-disciplinary research team and performed a short field work periods in the 2003 in Vologda (Mondoma village) and in Leningrad Regions (Podporozje and Kurba).

Map 1. Map of research sites


Objectives of the study

Our research concept is based on the idea of social impact assessment (SIA) and is more specifically grounded on the framework of sustainable livelihoods. On the basis of selected case studies on communities we aim at providing scientifically competent and comparable information on how wood procurement changes the way of life in the villages and towns in Northwest Russia.

It is important to know, what kind of future scenarios wood procurement opens up for the villagers in Northwest Russia. Does it affect people's staying or moving away on grounds of expected reasons such as employment, education, family relationships? Or do people move out because of the immediate negative impacts of wood procurement such as the eventual decline in the quality of life as a consequence of negative changes in the living environment?

When referring to social impact assessment it is essential to know the total impact or overall social impacts of wood procurement. It is not only the matter of direct influence on employment but of securing villages so that they remain socially and ecologically sustained living environment. Consequently, we are interested in finding out how the inhabitants in the region experience their lives. And further, what kind of scenarios they themselves consider possible for their future?

Dynamics of sustainable livelihoods

Carney (1999) presents "Sustainable Livelihoods" (SL) as a framework applicable in particular to the rural populations. The framework aids rural people to build upon their own strengths and to realise their own potential while at the same time it acknowledges the effects of policies and institutions, external shocks and trends affecting the community. The aim of SL is to work out conceptions on what exactly the rural people are seeking for. And how are they going to achieve their goals?

We propose the following model as an analytical tool to comprehend the complex variety of the most essential factors having impact on the community livelihood outcomes (see Figure 1). In our study the sustainable forestry livelihoods' approach embraces economic, social, institutional and ecological elements, all of which are components of sustainability. Therefore, the combinations of assets, strategies, activities and external risks may change in space and over time. All these factors are in constant interaction in order to maintain the overall livelihoods stability.

Figure 1. Community Dynamics & Strategies

Communication with Stakeholders 


Our methodology includes as an inherent element the communication with different interested parties i.e. stakeholders (see Figure 2). The map shows some of the current complexities and potentialities of the local dynamics at the community level.

In addition to the stakeholders of the immediate community level there are several other actors that have a strong impact on the livelihood and functioning of the wood procurement chain. In fact, these may have a bigger say when defining e.g. about shocks and trends relating to a particular community.

Figure 2. Map of local stakeholders


The most important of the external stakeholders include the forest regulation system (Leskhoz), general laws and governance applied by the national and regional authorities, companies based on foreign investment, companies with joint ownership and, in some cases, NGOs of external origin.

Following the logics of the locality studies the Finnish wood procurement industry should be understood as one of the stakeholders, operating locally but rooted in a more global socio-economic context (see Sklair 2001).

Preliminary fieldwork & Ethnographic research

Our main research strategy is based on action research ethnography, which implies combining local appraisals to dialogical communication schemes with local population concerning community development patterns and scenarios.

In the preliminary field trips in the 2003 ethnographic research methods were applied including focus group discussions and in-depth interviews with various local stakeholders. An ethnographic diary was written as a result of informal discussions and observations. Meetings with the local stakeholders from the logging business, with local administration and focus group discussions with representatives of the community provided us with crucial information including life histories and narratives on the community's history and developments since its formation and transformation stages.

Hypotheses and expected results

We have confirmed three basic hypotheses for focusing our research on the localities chosen. We expect the hypotheses to be particularly useful in exploring the essential community dynamics relevant to sustainable development and the future scenarios for sustainable livelihoods and stake-holders' interest and activity. On the basis of our analysis (see Figure 1) we expect to be ready to introduce a strong social scientific argument about how to employ the variety of community assets in enhancing viable and sustainable livelihood of forest villages and towns in the context of Northwest Russia. Of course, the case study methodology does not allow direct generalisation over the large region of Northwest Russia. Yet, the setting of comparative cases makes an efficient framework for drafting several development models in parallel that can be tested in similar localities or adapted to similar circumstances.    

Our preliminary hypotheses are:

1. Wood procurement of Finnish companies enhances employment and reduces out-migration.

2. Local inhabitants expect the international company to establish a stable wood processing in the region and further to implement social development strategies as a part of their regular activities in local community building.

3a. High level of social trust among the main actors of wood procurement chain has a beneficial impact on development of forestry related villages and towns or to understand the social risk scenario involved.

3b. Low level of social trust among the main actors of wood procurement chain has a negative impact on development of forestry related villages and towns.


Carney, D. (1999): Approaches to Sustainable Livelihoods for the Rural Poor, Overseas Development Institute,

Sklair, L. (2001) The Transnational Capitalist Class. Blacwell Publishers Ltd 


Viimeksi muokattu 14.11.2007


Ohjelmapäällikkönä toimi Mikko Ylikangas.