A definition of NWFPs

Non-wood forest products consist of goods and services of biological origin other than wood, as well as services derived from forests and allied land uses.

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Cacay or orinoco nut

The nut is obtained from the fruit of Caryodendron orinocense, a tree of the Euphorbiaceae family. The species occurs naturally in South America, in the headwaters of the Orinoco. Plantations exist in Colombia and Ecuador. It grows in areas with temperatures between 12° and 30°C with 800-5 000 mm annual rainfall, and on a wide range of soils at altitudes from sea level to 2 300 m. Plant growth is rapid, and fruiting can start after four to five years. A ten-year-old tree can yield 100-250 kg of nuts per year. The nuts are easily separated from the thin shell and, when dried and roasted, can be safely stored for a long time in sealed plastic bags. They have a pleasant flavour resembling hazel nuts and are eaten raw, roasted, fried or ground as a drink or sweet. Crushed nuts and milk are used to feed weaned children. The nuts contain edible oil (up to 50 percent), starch and protein, and they have a calorific value of 585 kcal per 100 g. The oil is rich in linoleic acid (34.4 percent).

The tree is also grown as a shade tree for coffee and cacao in Colombia. Oil from the shells, nuts and bark latex are used as an illuminant, while both nuts and oil are an excellent cure for pulmonary complaints and dermatitis. There seems to be good potential for development of the crop, in Colombia for example, where there is a shortfall between existing production of edible oil and domestic demand. Provenance surveys and trials are required for improved performance and to establish priority areas in the forest for genetic conservation. Small germplasm collections exist at the University of Naro and the Corporación Araracuara at San José de Guaviare, Colombia. (Source: Wickens, G.E. 1995. Edible nuts. Non-wood forest products No. 5, FAO.)

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Yicib nut

The yicib or yeheb nut is the seed of the pod of Cordeauxia edulis, an evergreen shrub of the Leguminosae subfamily of Caesalpinioideae. The shrub is found in the semi-arid scrub vegetation of central Somalia, extending into the Ogaden of Ethiopia. The species has been introduced on an experimental scale to Israel, Kenya, the United Republic of Tanzania, the Sudan, Yemen and the United States. The plantation established near Voi, Kenya, is currently the sole source of germplasm. Only recently has the species been subject to domestication. Early aerial growth is slow until the massive root system is established. Yield is about 5 kg of seeds per shrub. Because of high demand and free access to plants, fruit is often collected from the shrubs before they are fully mature.

The chestnut-flavoured seeds may be eaten raw, roasted or boiled as a vegetable or sweet. The nuts are nutritious and their energy value, 446 kcal per kg, is twice that of the carob, Ceratonia siliqua, and as much as that of soybean, Glycine max. The species also has other uses: tea is brewed from the leaves and it is browsed by sheep, goats and camels, although it can cause intestinal disorders in goats when eaten as the sole diet. Cordeauxiaquinone, a brilliant red dye unknown elsewhere in the plant kingdom, can be extracted from the plant. Cordeauxiaquinone produces fast, insoluble dyes with some metals and is used as a mordant in dyeing factories. The wood is used for firewood. Yicib nuts are marketed locally and demand exceeds production. Seeds have good potential for development as a food resource for the semi-arid regions and a very high potential as a dessert crop. As with other lesser known nuts, few studies have been undertaken on cultivation. There is an urgent need for a survey of the yicib nut's genetic potential and for the establishment of a gene bank and provenance trials. (Source: Wickens, G.E. 1995. Edible nuts. Non-wood forest products No. 5, FAO.)

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Argan nut

The argan (Argania spinosa) is a spiny, normally evergreen tree of the Sapotaceae family. The species is endemic in Morocco and is one of the most remarkable species in North Africa for its ecology and for its social value as a multipurpose tree. The main products are the fruits and the leaves, for the production of oil and as forage. Argan encompasses an area of about 820 000 hectares, forming a typical forest region in the southwest of Morocco. The species was probably already known to the Phoenicians, in the tenth century BC, and methods for the extraction of the oil are described in a medical book of the thirteenth century. Argan oil was imported into Europe during the eighteenth century but was unable to compete with olive oil because of its stronger flavour. The species has been subject to heavy human and animal pressures (fuelwood collection and suppression of natural regeneration as a result of fruit collection and herbivores). Since 1925, the species has been protected by a special law that regulates the rights of use by local people.

Oil extraction occurs mainly at the family level: the dried flesh is separated from the nut and the seeds are extracted from the nut. After a light roasting to eliminate saponins, the seeds are ground and mixed with tepid water. The oil floats and is separated by decantation. The oil may be further purified either by emulsion with water or by adding bread. In taste it resembles walnut oil. Approximately 100 kg of seed yield 1-2 kg of oil and 2 kg of pressed cake plus 25 kg of dried "husk". Argan oil contains 80 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids of which 30 percent is linoleic, making it nutritionally of interest, since this is one of the most important essential fatty acids in the human diet.

Argan has many other uses: the oil is used as an illuminant and for making soap; after the oil has been expressed the sun-dried cake residue is fed to livestock, although this will contaminate the milk of dairy cattle; the foliage is a valuable dry season fodder source for livestock; the fruit is eaten by livestock; the timber is very hard, heavy and durable - it makes good charcoal, coppices well and brushwood is used for fences; it is a valuable shade tree, and is also used for soil conservation and windbreaks. (Source: various.)

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Olibanum, myrrh, opopanax

Olibanum, myrrh and opopanax are the hardened, resinous exudates obtained from trees of certain Boswellia and Commiphora species of the Burseraceae family - olibanum, Boswellia sacra, B. frereana, B. Serrata; myrrh, Commiphora myrrha, C. mukul; and opopanax Commiphora erythraea, C. kataf. In common parlance, the terms olibanum and frankincense are used interchangeably and when the botanical source of the resin is not clear. The resins, particularly olibanum, are used in an unprocessed form for both fragrance and flavour purposes. The major fragrance use is for burning as incense in religious ceremonies. Small amounts of resin are distilled to yield volatile oils used in perfumery. Solvent extracts are also prepared and both resinoids and absolutes are used as fixatives in perfumes. Certain types of olibanum are highly valued for chewing in some markets. Myrrh and opopanax oils are occasionally used as flavouring agents. Somalia and Ethiopia are by far the largest producers of the three resins. Somalia supplies most of the world's myrrh and opopanax (about 1 500 tonnes in 1987) and is also the only source of maidi-type olibanum (800-900 tonnes in 1987). Ethiopia and the Sudan produce the most widely traded olibanum, the Eritrean type (2 000 tonnes in 1987). More recent estimates are not available although production is believed to have declined as a result of severe droughts in the region and some loss of demand. The People's Republic of China is the largest market for all three resins, mainly for use in traditional medicines. In Europe and Latin America, substantial amounts of Eritrean-type olibanum are used as incense and for the production of essential oils and extracts. North African countries and the Near East are important markets for chewing. Most Indian olibanum is used domestically for making incense sticks.

In early 1994, Grade 1 Somali olibanum (used for perfumery purposes) was priced at about US$6/kg. Top-grade Eritrean-type olibanum (for incense) was approximately US$3/kg. Clean Somali myrrh was available at US$5/kg. Somali opopanax was priced at US$3.50/kg (clean) and US$3.00/kg (natural). With the existing large resource base there would appear to be little incentive to domesticate the trees. The inputs (such as irrigation) needed to establish and maintain trees in cultivation would also be extremely costly. (Source: Coppen, J.J.W. 1995. Gums, resins and latexes of plant origin. Non-wood forest products No. 6, FAO.)

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The lost city of frankincense trade

In February 1992, a team of amateur archaeologists announced the discovery of the "Atlantis of the sands", the lost city of Ubar. The legend of Ubar, the fabulous city of the southern Arabia desert in the Rub al Khali, sunk in the sands and inhabited by evil spirits, was linked to the trade of frankincense. In ancient times, the frankincense obtained from the sap of the trees growing in the Dhofar Mountains in Oman, was traded on far-reaching routes from Rome to China.

Landsat images revealed the existence of an ancient road under the sand, running from the coastal Dhofar mountains into the Empty Quarter dunes. Digging in the areas where the image revealed a network of smaller tracks all converging to a spot, the researchers found the foundations of eight towers and a lofty citadel plus glass and pottery from Rome and Persia, all evidence of far-flung trade. An octagonal fort enclosed a court with a well in the centre, where a market would have thrived. The well was the only chance for the caravans of traders to draw water for the long journeys ahead of them. Camps of traders would have encircled the oasis and camel caravans would have prepared themselves for the trails leading them to every corner of the world. When the underground water-table was drained, the city sank in the sand, probably touched off by an earthquake. (Source: Reader's Digest, October 1995.)

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The word "dammar" is used as a collective term for a great variety of hard resins. Dammars of international commerce come from the dipterocarp forests of Southeast Asia, mainly from Indonesia. Plant sources of dammar are Shorea spp., Hopea spp., Vatica spp., Vateria spp., Balanocarpus spp. (Dipterocarpaceae) and Canarium spp. (Burseraceae).

Production is mainly in the form of tapping living trees, although some resin is still collected from the ground in fossilized form. The main use of dammars is in the manufacture of paper or wood varnishes and lacquers, and some paints, although consumption has inevitably declined over the years with the widespread use of synthetic materials. Miscellaneous minor uses include the manufacture of inks, polishes, water-resistant coatings and injection-moulding materials. A small amount is used in foods as a clouding or glazing agent. In the countries where dammars are produced, they are used for caulking boats and baskets. In India, sal dammar is widely used as an incense and in the indigenous system of medicine.

Mata kucing ("cat's eye") is a term applied to the crystalline dammar resin obtained from certain dipterocarp species. Batu ("stone") refers to the opaque, stone or pebble-shaped dammar collected from the ground.

Indonesia is by far the major source of internationally traded dammar. Average annual exports of Indonesian dammar for the period 1988-93 were about 11 500 tonnes in total. Exports of dammar from Thailand for the same period have averaged approximately 1 800 tonnes/year, with a slight downward trend. Considering Indonesian and Thai exports with smaller amounts from other countries (Laos, Viet Nam and Cambodia), the total international trade in dammar probably approaches 15 000 tonnes per year. Most Indonesian dammar is exported to Singapore and then re-exported to consumer countries. Germany is a major destination, particularly of batu. Other Southeast Asian countries, such as China (Taiwan Province) and Malaysia, import significant quantities, as does India. India is the biggest market for Thai dammar and in recent years has taken all, or almost all, of Thailand's exports.

The "kebun dammar" (dammar gardens) of S. javanica in Lampung, southern Sumatra, are an example of how, over many years, communities have developed a traditional cultivation system which is now regarded as a model of agroforestry technique. Rainfed rice is grown for one or two years and then coffee, pepper or some other crop is planted, together with Shorea and other useful trees such as cloves. While the dammar trees are reaching the age at which they can first be tapped (15-20 years), the other products can be harvested to provide farmers with a cash income. The whole system converts one of a shifting cultivation to a permanent, sustainable, productive land-use system. (Source: Coppen, J.J.W. 1995. Gums, resins and latexes of plant origin. Non-wood forest products No. 6, FAO.)

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Benzoin is a balsam obtained from trees of the genus Styrax from Southeast Asia. There are two types of commercial benzoin: Siam benzoin from S. tonkinensis and Sumatra benzoin (also called gum Benjamin) from S. benzoin. Styrax tonkinensis occurs naturally in the northern parts of Laos and Viet Nam, mainly in secondary rain forests. It has been planted for pulp production in Viet Nam and in southern China both for wood and balsam production. Styrax benzoin occurs wild in Sumatra, Indonesia and the Malay Peninsula but is also cultivated on hillsides or dry rice lands. Both types of benzoin contain mixtures of either predominantly benzoic acid and its esters and other derivatives (Siam benzoin), or cinnamic acid and its derivatives (Sumatra benzoin), and these confer on benzoin its characteristic balsamic odour. Unlike many other balsams, benzoin produces negligible amounts of essential oil on distillation. Both types of benzoin have extensive fragrance applications but the higher quality of Siam benzoin enables it to be used in more expensive, delicate perfumes. In the areas where it is produced, benzoin is also traded as an incense.

Sumatra benzoin (and, to a lesser extent, Siam benzoin) is used in pharmaceutical preparations: as an ingredient of inhalations for the treatment of catarrh and in tropical preparations for its antiseptic and protective properties. Benzoin is also used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Laos is the major producer of Siam benzoin, with smaller quantities coming from Viet Nam. Exports from Thailand are believed to originate from Laos. Production of Siam benzoin in Laos was recently estimated at over 100 tonnes/year (exported to France and the People's Republic of China); Vietnamese exports were estimated at 10 tonnes/year (to France). Total world demand for benzoin of this type appears to be between 50 and 120 tonnes annually, with Europe (and France in particular) as the largest market. Indonesia is the only producer of Sumatra benzoin: exports of benzoin from Indonesia (where benzoin is classified as frankincense) for the period 1988-93 averaged approximately 960 tonnes. (Source: Coppen, J.J.W. 1995. Gums, resins and latexes of plant origin. Non-wood forest products No. 6, FAO.)

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Chicle is the coagulated latex obtained from Manilkara zapota; it is produced on a commercial scale in Mexico and certain parts of Central America. Manilkara zapota is indigenous to Central America and grows best in the Yucatán peninsula, which forms the principal chicle-producing area. It is also widely cultivated for its fruit, both in tropical America and in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Chicle is to be distinguished from sapote gum, the hard, gummy material that forms slowly over the wound made in a tree to obtain latex, once the latter has ceased to flow. Sapote gum was once used in Peru as a sizing agent for cloth, and as a glue, but it does not enter world trade. Chicle's economic importance has arisen from its use in the manufacture of chewing gum, where it imparts the "chewing" properties to the product. At one time, chewing gum base consisted almost entirely of natural "gums", of which the principal one was chicle. Nowadays, with the advent of cheaper, synthetic resins with suitable properties, demand for natural gums for use in chewing gum has declined.

Japan is the major market. Total imports of chicle to Japan in recent years are estimated at around 800-1 000 tonnes annually.

Mexico is believed to be the largest producer of chicle, although Guatemala, which has been a significant producer in the past, may recently have surpassed Mexico: estimated imports to Japan from the two countries for the period 1988-94 averaged approximately 400 tonnes (Guatemala) and 370 tonnes (Mexico) per year. Other minor producers are Belize, Honduras, Venezuela and Colombia.

At the first tapping, mature wild trees yield about 1 kg (and up to 2 kg) of latex; the second tapping yields about half this quantity, and the third less still.

The tree is grown widely for its fruit and, where it has been cultivated as an exotic, this is its primary or sole commercial use. Sapodilla wood is strong and durable but felling of the tree is prohibited in Yucatán because of its value as a source of chicle.

The economic viability of chicle production from cultivated sources depends on the continued market for chicle as a natural chewing gum ingredient, as well as production factors such as labour costs. If the market can be maintained and production costs can be held stable, then some increase in the area under cultivation can be justified. Providing the price of "cultivated" chicle compared with "wild" chicle remains attractive, the market always prefers to meet its requirements from renewable, sustainable resources rather than from wild trees that become increasingly less accessible. (Source: Coppen, J.J.W. 1995. Gums, resins and latexes of plant origin. Non-wood forest products No. 6, FAO.)

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Cochineal is the name used to describe both the dye and the raw material source: the dried, pregnant females of the tropical American Dactylopius insect species, especially D. coccus Costa. The main hosts of these scale insects are the aerial parts of "prickly pear" and "torch thistle" cacti (Opuntia and Nopalea species, respectively). Less important host plants in the tropical Americas include Schinus molle, Acacia macracantha and Caesalpinia spinosa.

The major usage of cochineal today lies in non-textile applications. Carmine is an important colourant for cosmetics. Carminic acid and particularly carmine aluminium lake are permitted and widely used in the food industries in North America and western Europe. The use of cochineal as a textile and paint dyestuff in Mexico and Peru dates back almost 3 000 years. Cochineal was introduced to Europe in the early years of the sixteenth century, achieving the status of a well-known item of trade within 50 years. The development of synthetic, coal tar-based dyes in the latter part of the nineteenth century resulted in a progressive reduction of demand for cochineal in the textile industry.

The total demand in 1995 was estimated to be over 300 tonnes of cochineal per year. Peru has been the dominant exporter for several decades. The only other significant supplier has been the Canary Islands, with exports fluctuating between 10 and 30 tonnes per year. Prior to 1980, all Peruvian exports were in the form of raw cochineal. Today, over 50 percent of the annual crop is processed to carmine prior to export. Consumption of cochineal and carmine in the major markets has increased substantially along with supplies, price stability and the trend towards natural colours in foodstuffs. Prospects for significant further expansion in these traditional markets are uncertain but globally a modest growth is likely. Several countries, where the insect and its host cactus are indigenous or have naturalized, have expressed interest in resuscitating or developing cochineal production. Their prospects for success will depend on local production costs as compared to Peru and, also, on the output levels achieved by the latter if formal cultivation is widely adopted.

Between 80 000 and 100 000 insects are required to produce 1 kg of cochineal. Yields from cultivation in Peru have been reported to range from 120 to 240 kg/ha/year.

Cochineal found use in European medicine up to the mid-nineteenth century and, possibly, was employed in Aztec and Inca traditional medicine.The main new interest in the insect lies in its use as a biological control agent in areas where Opuntia cacti pose problems as weeds. In some countries, the development of cochineal production has been proposed as a spin-off from the cacti control operation. (Source: Green, C.L. 1995. Colourants and dyestuffs. Non-wood forest products No. 4, FAO.)

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The henna of commerce is the dried leaf of Lawsonia inermis L. Aqueous extraction of the dried leaf provides a dye that can range in colour from black to red through to blonde. The plant is a shrub or small tree, indigenous to the area between the Islamic Republic of Iran and northern India and introduced widely throughout the tropics and subtropics. From ancient times, henna has been employed as a cosmetic dye for hair, skin and nails and it has acquired a particular significance in Islamic culture. More recently, there has been an increase in its usage as a hair dye in western Europe and North America. Prior to the widespread availability of synthetic dyestuffs, henna was also employed as a dye for textiles and leather.

World production of henna is substantially greater than the volume of international trade (estimated to be at least 9 000 tonnes of dried leaf), owing to the high level of domestic usage in many growing countries. No reliable figures are available on the scale of world production. The major exporters are India, Pakistan, Iran, the Sudan and Egypt. Other smaller-scale exporters include the Niger and Yemen. The major importers are the Islamic countries of the Near East and North Africa. Any future major growth in global consumption is likely to occur in Asian countries with a strong Islamic culture and growing populations. This new demand could be met in several cases by increased domestic production.

Production in India and Pakistan is extensive rather than intensive and there is a high demand for henna on the domestic markets. The situation in Iran is similar. In several North African countries, however, intensive production systems are practised.

In the Persian Gulf market, black henna generally commands twice the price of red henna and during 1992 prices ranged from approximately US$700/tonne for top grades of Indian and Pakistani black henna to US$250/tonne for the lowest grades.

Under rainfed conditions for dense planting the dried leaf yield in the first year may be around 200 kg/ha while over the second, third and fourth years the yields normally range from 1 000 to 1 500 kg/ha. With irrigation and heavy fertilizer treatment, plus three croppings a year, yields in excess of 2 000 kg/ha can be obtained in the peak productivity years. (Source: Green, C.L. 1995. Colourants and dyestuffs. Non-wood forest products No. 4, FAO.)

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Kamala powder is used as an orange-yellow dye. It is obtained from a red glandular pubescence in the fruit of the kamala tree. The tree (Mallotus philippensis) is an evergreen tree indigenous to much of South and Southeast Asia, extending through the Pacific as far as Australia. Prior to the advent of colourfast synthetic dyes, kamala powder was used extensively in India and neighbouring Southeast Asian countries and enjoyed a small export trade. Today, usage has declined to a minor level within the region and demand can be met adequately from the harvesting of wild trees.

Rottlerin, the major pigment of kamala powder, has anthelmintic activity and extracts have been employed in India for treatment of cattle. It is also reported to reduce fertility in mammals. The fruit seeds contain about 20 percent of a "drying oil", similar in properties to tung oil (Aleurites spp.), which has kamolenic acid as its major component. In India, the oil is employed as a fixative for cosmetics and to treat parasite infections of the skin. The wood is often used as a fuel and occasionally as timber, but in this application suffers from a tendency to shrinkage and from insect attacks. The leaves of the tree can be used as animal fodder. (Source: Green, C.L. 1995. Colourants and dyestuffs. Non-wood forest products No. 4, FAO.)

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