The last decade has witnessed a steep increase in interest and activities concerning NWFPs. The current interest in NWFPs amongst conservationists, foresters, development workers and indigenous peoples' groups has prompted numerous initiatives aimed at promoting NWFP use and commercialization as a means of improving the well-being of rural populations and, at the same time, conserving existing forests.
Rarely are these initiatives linked to studies on the sustainable exploitation of the products that are promoted, and no accurate information is available on the resource abundance, distribution, and reproductive biology, which is necessary for the determination of the biologically sustainable harvest levels of a product.
Although there is often considerable indigenous knowledge for specific NWFPs, formal resource assessment of NWFPs, especially in tropical countries, is relatively new and has received little attention to date. The multitude and variety of NWFPs, the multiplicity of interests and disciplines involved in NWFP assessment, the organizational and financial constraints, the lack of globally, or even nationally, recognized common terminology and units of measurement all contribute to make the assessment of NWFPs, and of the resources providing them, a difficult task.
The purpose of this publication is to raise awareness on the importance of accurate and precise resource assessments at all levels of forest use for NWFPs, and to provide guidance on the design and selection of appropriate methods for resource quantification in different situations and for different products. It does so through the review and analysis of the wide range of approaches used and developed to date to measure NWFP resources.
The book builds mostly on experiences in forest ecosystems in tropical countries, but we are convinced that it will be of relevance and use to all regions and all products. The prospective audience of this publication includes practitioners, researchers, natural resource managers and all development workers with an interest in sustainable forest utilization.
This publication is based on the outputs of the Forest Research Programme's (FRP) pre-project ZF0077 (of the United Kingdom Department for International Development - DFID), on the biometrics of current NWFP resource assessment methods. FAO undertook the publishing in its Non-Wood Forest Products Series, within the framework of a current partnership programme with the European Commission aimed at developing methodologies for NWFP assessment.
Work on NWFP assessment is an important activity in the FAO Forestry Department, involving expertise from various technical units, in particular the Forest Resources Division (and its flagship programme for the Global Forest Resources Assessment - FRA), and the Forest Products Division (through its Non-Wood Forest Products Programme).
DFID and FAO believe that sustainable harvesting and use of NWFPs may contribute to improved household nutrition, income and employment and, therefore, are committed to continue providing assistance for the development of methods for the accurate evaluation of NWFPs and the resources producing them.
It is a pleasure for us to release this publication as a common effort. We hope that it will encourage more research and development work from other institutions in this important aspect of sustainable forest management.
Wulf Killmann John Palmer
Director Manager of DFID's Forest Products Division centrally-funded
FAO Forestry Research Programme (FRP)
Natural Resources International Limited (NRIL)