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1.1 Introduction

1.1.1 Scope of the study

In most tropical countries, non-wood forest products (NWFP)1 play an important role in the daily life and well being of the local population. In particular rural and poor people depend on NWFP as sources of food, fodder, medicines, gums, resins, construction material, etc. In addition to local consumption, NWFP are also important traded commodities, which can be found on local, regional, national as well as international markets. Traded NWFP contribute to the fulfilment of daily needs and provide employment as well as income. Internationally traded NWFP, such as gum arabic, aromatic oils and medicinal plants, can achieve high prices in comparison with NWFP traded on national markets and thus contribute to the economic development of the respective country.

However, very limited statistical data is currently available on the exploitation, management, consumption and trade of NWFP. Unlike timber and agricultural products, no regular monitoring and evaluation of the resources and socio-economic contribution of NWFP at the national level is being carried out. In the FAO Yearbook of Forest Products, for example, statistical data on NWFP such as cork, tannins, bamboo and various oils are only available for the period 1954 to 1971 (Chandrasekheran, 1995)2. Therefore, today, information is limited to selected NWFP of main national importance (e.g. gum arabic in Sudan). But even for these major NWFP, data are often incomplete, not available or based on case studies, which can not be extrapolated to the national level.

FAO assists national governments and institutions to improve the availability of national qualitative and quantitative data related to NWFP. This activity is carried out within the framework of the EC-FAO Partnership Programme "Data Collection and Analysis for Sustainable Forest Management in African, Caribbean and Pacific Countries - Linking National and International Efforts" (Project GCP/INT/679/EC), a four year programme funded by the European Commission (Directorate-General Development). The overall aim of this programme is to strengthen national capacity to collect and compile reliable and current information on forestry and analyse the forest sector.3 With regards to NWFP, the main expected outputs of the EC-FAO Partnership Programme are:

1. National country profiles on statistical data related to NWFP are compiled for each country;

2. Appropriate methodologies for the collection and validation of key information related to NWFP are elaborated and tested.

This report on hand contains the NWFP country profiles compiled for all African countries at national level (output 1). These country profiles include a standardised text providing the available qualitative and quantitative data on NWFP and a standardised table showing quantitative information. Furthermore, the report includes a regional and sub-regional data analysis.

To improve the availability of NWFP national statistical data (output 2), some pilot studies have been initiated in various countries (Uganda, Suriname, Cameroon, Madagascar and Zimbabwe) analysing the current status of NWFP statistics by:

· evaluating the coverage of NWFP through national statistics;
· identifying all institutions involved in the collection and assessment of statistical data on NWFP; and
· assessing the methods used for monitoring and evaluation of NWFP utilisation.

Based on this information, a methodology for the improved collection and validation of key information related to NWFP will be developed and tested. This methodology will provide best estimates of the production and consumption of NWFP and trade thereof. The methods used will be cost-effective, widely applicable and relevant to other countries in the sub-region. Finally, the pilot studies will describe necessary steps to improve the availability of statistical data on NWFP and identify relevant training and capacity building needs. Results regarding the development of methodologies will be presented in a subsequent paper.

1.1.2 Methodology

Under the EC-FAO Partnership Programme, the available information on NWFP was reviewed and compiled at national level, in each country, to assess the socio-economic significance and ecological impact of its utilisation. Existing data gaps and constraints related to data collection were identified for each country to elaborate practical proposals for improved monitoring of NWFP. In particular, desk studies were carried out to compile draft "country profiles" on NWFP, including information available at FAO Headquarters. A standard format (see below) for the presentation of information was elaborated showing key information requirements for the evaluation of NWFP.

Five sub-regional workshops for data validation were held between October 1998 and March 2000 in:

· East Africa: Nakuru, Kenya, 12-16 October 1998;
· Southern Africa: Mutare, Zimbabwe, 30 November-4 December 1998;
· Central Africa: Lambarene, Gabon, 27 September-1 October 1999;
· West Africa: Yamoussoukro, Côte d'Ivoire, 13-18 December 1999; and
· Insular East Africa: Andasibe, Madagascar, 15-18 March 2000.4

The draft profiles were discussed with country representatives with the aim to validate available information and add missing data. Country profiles related to North African countries will be validated in the framework of the Forestry Outlook Study for Africa (FOSA).

Data gaps were identified during the workshops and additional studies on statistical data related to NWFP have been carried out by national experts since these workshops in selected countries (i.e. Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Swaziland, Zambia). This lead to the final country profiles. Based on this information, available data has been evaluated on a sub-regional and regional level.

Table 1. The African sub-regions

African sub-regions

North Africa

East Africa

Insular East Africa

Southern Africa

Central Africa

West Africa














Burkina Faso






Central African Republic

Cape Verde






Democratic Republic of Congo







Equatorial Guinea

Côte d'Ivoire











South Africa

Republic of Congo










Sao Tomé & Principe















Sierra Leone



sub-regional economic organization

Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD)

Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD)


Southern African Development Community (SADC)

Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC)

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Dominant forest types*

Shrublands, woodlands


Upland forests


Closed tropical broadleaved rainforest

Woodlands, closed tropical broadleaved rainforest

Mean national forest cover per







* Source: FAO Country profiles. In: Internet, viewed September 2000

** Chad is member of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC), and Tanzania is member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Both countries were grouped in the respective sub-region based on ecological factors.

The country profiles and the (sub-) regional syntheses can be accessed on the FAO Homepage (, where they will be up-dated when additional information becomes available.

Table 2. Methodology used - Main activities and results





Gathering of national data on NWFP available at FAO HQ

First draft of NWFP country profiles


Validation of country information by national experts at regional workshops

Second draft of NWFP country profiles


Commission and realisation of country reports on the status of statistical data related to NWFP available in the respective country

Country reports for selected countries compiled


Compilation of final version of NWFP country profiles, based on draft country profiles and country reports

Final version of country profiles


Compilation of sub-regional and regional synthesis

Final version of (sub-) regional syntheses


Publication of NWFP country profiles and (sub-) regional syntheses

All documents available both on the FAO Homepage and as printed working paper

Kind of information collected

To evaluate the socio-economic importance and ecological impact of NWFP exploitation, key information on the product, resource and economic value has been collected.

(a) Product information

A standard classification of NWFP does not yet exist. NWFP can be classified in many different ways: according to the end use (medicine, drinks, utensils, etc.) or the plant-parts used (roots, leaves, bark, etc.). For further information see Chandrasekehran (1995), Cook (1995)5, FAO (1992)6, and Shiva et al. (1996)7. Chandrasekharan (1995) developed a classification of NWFP in accordance with the major international classification systems, such as the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System, the Standard International Trade Classification Rev. 3, and the Provisional Central Product Classifications.

To simplify the classification, NWFP were categorised according to their end use, as described in Table 3.

Monitoring of the resources and evaluation of the economic value of all NWFP in a given country is neither feasible nor desirable. Therefore, only NWFP of national relevance for which monitoring and evaluation are strongly needed were identified. Exported or widely used products in national markets should be well identified as opposed to NWFP of minor importance, or limited significance. Selecting relevant NWFP should initially help the country focus its efforts on improving data collection on major NWFP. A further step would then be to include also other NWFP.

Table 3. Main categories of NWFP

Plant products

Animals and animal products






Vegetal foodstuff and beverages provided by fruits, nuts, seeds, roots, mushrooms, etc.

Living animals

Mainly vertebrates such as mammals, birds, reptiles kept/bought as pets


Animal and bee fodder provided by leaves, fruits, etc.

Honey and beeswax

Products provided by bees.


Medicinal plants (e.g. leaves, bark, roots) used in traditional medicine and/or by pharmaceutical companies


Meat provided by vertebrates, mainly mammals

Perfumes and cosmetics

Aromatic plants providing essential (volatile) oils and other products used for cosmetic purposes

Other edible animal products

Mainly edible invertebrates such as insects (e.g. caterpillars) and other "secondary" products of animals (e.g. eggs, nests)

Dying and tanning

Plant material (mainly bark and leaves) providing tannins and other plant parts (especially leaves and fruits) used as colorants

Hides and skins

Hide and skin of animals used for various purposes

Utensils, handicrafts and construction materials

Heterogeneous group of products including thatch, bamboo, rattan, wrapping leaves, fibres


Entire animals or parts of animals such as various organs used for medicinal purposes


Entire plants (e.g. orchids) and parts of the plants (e.g. pots made from roots) used for ornamental purposes


Entire animals or parts of animals such as various organs used as colorants


Substances such as gums (water soluble), resins (water insoluble) and latex (milky or clear juice), released from plants by exudation

Other non-edible animal products

e.g. bones used as tools


e.g. insecticides, fungicides


(b) Resource information

Evaluation and monitoring of the resources providing NWFP is important in order to estimate the actual and potential socio-economic and ecological value of these products at the national level. The first step in that process is the identification of the plant or animal species. In some cases, this identification can be difficult because the same commercial product can be extracted from more than one species and, vice versa, several different NWFP can be taken from a single species. Gum arabic, for example, is obtained from Acacia senegal, A. seyal or A. laea. On the other hand, the Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) provides several products, such as edible leaves, seeds, fodder, bark, and fuel.

Another important element worth knowing is which part of the plant is harvested (e.g. roots, bark, exudates). In fact, the harvesting of different plant-parts has a different impact on the sustainability of the species considered.

Knowledge of the habitat (or production system) and the source (management system) of the exploited species are also important factors. Harvesting of NWFP might cause degradation of the habitat if the exploitation is carried out in an unsustainable way (e.g. utilization of fire for bee hunting). On the other hand, habitat degradation (e.g. through shifting cultivation) might also have a negative influence on the availability of NWFP (e.g. forest fires reduces honey harvests).

Furthermore, resource information on whether the species used is cultivated or gathered from wild sources is important. The exploitation of wild species versus cultivated species (generally integrated in a man-made management system) has direct implications on choices at the management level and can have far reaching ecological and socio-economic effects. For example, once the most valued NWFP became popular and commercialised on the world market, they were usually transferred into a more intensive cultivation system (see Homa, 1994)8, largely depriving the forest dweller from its socio-economic benefits that could be generated otherwise. In some cases, classifying a species according to a specific habitat or management system can prove to be difficult, since some species might be found simultaneously in different production and management systems.

(c) Socio-economic information

To evaluate the economic importance of NWFP, quantitative data on resources, product consumption and trade are required. Figures should indicate quantity (tons, m³, etc.), product status (dried, graded, semi-processed, etc.) and value (US$) for a given period (year).

It is important to know if the product is mainly used for subsistence or commerce. Therefore, it is suggested to distinguish between utilization at the national level (including subsistence and trade on a local, regional or national market) and the international level.

Besides this quantifiable information, qualitative information is important regarding the cultural and socio-economic context of the NWFP utilization (for example, access to the resources, the main social categories of the harvesters, etc.).

1.1.3 Lessons learnt

In the framework of the EC-FAO Partnership Programme, efforts have been undertaken, for the first time, to collect and collate qualitative and quantitative data on the socio-economic importance and ecological impact of the use of NWFP on the national and (sub-) regional level. Due to the scarcity and unreliability of available information, most of the presented data still have to be regarded as "tentative" and "preliminary", and only as a reflection of the "top of the iceberg" of the large and heterogeneous group of NWFP.

The following key problems related to the collection and analysis of statistical data on NWFP have been identified during the implementation of the programme:

· Insufficient collaboration and networking: Institutions involved in NWFP statistics collection and analysis do not collaborate sufficiently. Therefore, data remain fragmented and sometimes duplicated;

· Lack of lead institutions on NWFP statistics: In most countries, various institutions (e.g. 11 ministries and institutions in Rwanda 9) are involved in data collection and analysis. An official national focal point on NWFP statistics does not exist;

· Weak capacities: Most institutions involved in data collection have limited human and financial resources available;

· Poor stakeholder involvement: Statistical data are mainly gathered by national organisations. The industry and local communities are not involved in data collection and analysis, although they may possess relevant information;

· Inadequate research: Little research has been carried out to improve the availability of NWFP statistics;

· Incomplete data: Statistical data only cover a limited number of NWFP and aspects (e.g. on trade, self-consumption, exploitation). Especially information on the resource and on products used for subsistence purposes is lacking. Furthermore, existing information is often based on case studies, which can not be extrapolated on the national level;

· Poor quality of data: Available information is often unclear, inconsistent and contradictory, e.g. regarding the state of the described product (raw material, processed, semi-processed, graded, etc.), production figures (different units used) and export values;

· Weak data storage/process facilities: Most of the statistical data on NWFP is not yet stored and analysed in specific electronic databases;

· Inadequate methodologies: Appropriate methodologies to collect and analyse viable key information on NWFP are not existing.

Taking into consideration the limitations to the availability of statistical data on NWFP in Africa, this first version of country profiles and (sub-) regional synthesis is considered as a starting point of a process during which additional information will be added to the internet version. Thus, with time, more complete information on the socio-economic importance and the ecological implications of NWFP in Africa will be made available.

1 NWFP consist of goods of biological origin other than wood, derived from forests, other wooded lands and trees outside forests.
2 Chandrasekharan, C. 1995. Terminology, definition and classification of forest products other than wood. In: Report of the International Expert Consultation on Non-Wood Forest Products. Yogyakarta, Indonesia 17-25 January 1995. FAO NWFP Series No.3, pp. 345-380. Rome.
3 For further information on the Programme, see on the internet.
4 The proceedings of the regional workshops are available on the internet (
5 Cook, F.E.M. 1995. Economic botany data collection standard. Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Kent
6 FAO. 1992. NWFP database. By A. Singh. Working Paper. Rome.
7 Shiva, M.P.; R.B. Mathur, R.B. 1996. Standard NTFP classification & documentation manual. Centre of Minor Forest Products, Dehra Dun.
8 Homa, K.O. 1994. Plant extractivism in the Amazon: Limitations and possibilities. In: Cluesner-Godt and Sachs, I. Extractivism in the Brasilian Amazon: Perspectives on regional development. MAB Digest 18, UNESCO, Paris, 89pp.
9 Ministère de l'Agriculture, de l'Elevage et des Forêts, Ministère du Commerce, de l'Industrie et du Tourisme, Ministère des Terres, de la Réinstallation et de la Protection de l'Environnement, Ministère de l'Education, Université Nationale du Rwanda, L'Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Rwanda, Institut de Recherche Scientifique et Technologique, Laboratoire Vétérinaire National de Rubilizi, Centre-Pharmacopée CURPHAMETRA, Office Rwandais du Tourisme et des Parcs Nationaux.

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