In Near Eastern countries, there is a long tradition of management of forests and forest lands for non-wood forest products (NWFP).
The main aim of this study is to compile standardized NWFP country profiles for the countries in the Near East and to present the most important uses of the country forest and tree resources providing goods other than timber and fuelwood. The country profiles should present the currently available national statistics on the production and consumption of, as well as on the trade in, NWFP in the Near East. Furthermore, they should evaluate
· the socio-economic importance of NWFP; and
· the ecological impact of the collection/extraction of NWFP and the management of natural resources providing NWFP in the respective countries.
This work has been carried out in support to the FAO Forest Resource Assessment 2000 (www.fao.org/forestry/fo/fra/index.jsp).
The study is intended to help countries identifying the NWFP and forest services for which the collection of regular statistical data can significantly contribute to the sustainable management of its forest resources.
This report includes the standardised country profiles of the 16 Near East countries (which are also available on the FAO Web site) as well as a regional synthesis of the results.
In drylands and other areas of the Near East, NWFP support the livelihoods of millions of people. Traditionally, the most important roles played by NWFP are health care, food security and nutrition (fruits, leaves, seeds and nuts, mushrooms, honey and animals are all important sources of food and food additives in the Near East), support to agricultural and livestock production, construction materials, household items and cultural values.
The available data show that some NWFP are of high socio-economic importance in the entire region (e.g. medicinal and edible plants), whereas others are only of relevance in selected countries (e.g. the 'Dragon's Blood Tree' [Dracaena cinnabari] in Yemen). Most of the NWFP are used at local level for subsistence and/or income generation. National and international trade in NWFP is limited to selected products.
Due to the prevailing harsh climatic conditions of the region, forest land is mostly comprised of savannah areas, open woodlands, and land with scattered trees and xerophytic shrubs. However, in the highlands of Cyprus, Pakistan and Turkey, temperate forests are found.
Despite their importance for local economies and for the people, NWFP in the Near East are still largely neglected in the policy and decision-making processes of natural resource management. Therefore, substantial efforts still have to be undertaken to improve the availability of data on NWFP for a better understanding of their socio-economic significance in national economies.