Anticonvulsant activity of Indian herb
Asociación para la conservación de la cuenca amazónica 
Bioprospecting or biopiracy? 
Ecoport - access portal to ecology knowledge for natural resource managers 
Equator Initiative seeks nominations for tropical biodiversity awards 
Field courses in rain forest and marine ecology 
Fingerprinting bamboo 
Fruits for the future 
Journals and newsletters 
International Doctoral Program for Development Studies 
International Year of Mountains
Los bosques pueden contribuir al alivio de la pobreza
New Forests Project
Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA)
Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA)
Potential oilseed trees of Africa
Potential role of non-timber forest products in the coping strategies of rural HIV/AIDS-affected households in sub-Saharan Africa
Scientific Boards Society of Research Institute of Forests & Rangelands 
Sustainable for Whom?
Training programme on leadership and adaptive management in forest environments 
TREES international training courses
Using local knowledge in NWFP inventory


"Non-Wood Forest Products (NWFP) consist of goods of biological origin other than wood, derived from forests, other wooded land and trees outside forests."

«Les produits forestiers non ligneux sont des biens d'origine biologique autres que le bois, dérivés des forêts, des autres terres boisées, et des arbres hors forêts.»

«Productos forestales no madereros son los bienes de origen biológico distintos de la madera derivados de los bosques, de otras tierras boscosas y de los árboles fuera de los bosques.»

(FAO's working definition)


Anticonvulsant activity of Indian herb

Scientists from Nagpur University, India, have found that the compound triterpene extracted from Rubia cordifolia, a climbing herb that grows extensively in the Himalayas and the northwestern hills of India, possesses considerable anticonvulsant activity. The team collected dried roots and rhizomes of Rubia, prepared an extract in acetone, and fractionated triterpene crystals out from it. The scientists reported the details of their procedures in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology and said that the triterpene crystals produced an antidepressant effect on the central nervous system. (Source: MFP News, Vol. XI, No. 4 [October-December 2001].)

Asociación para la conservación de la cuenca amazónica

La Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA), a través de su proyecto «Conservando castañales», viene trabajando desde 1997 en el desarrollo del manejo de bosques de castaña en Madre de Dios, Perú, y ha generando resultados de investigación básica y aplicada así como políticas para promover la conservación de los bosques de castaña a través del manejo sostenible de los mismos.

«Manejando bien tu castañal» y «Mejoramiento del sistema de cosecha de castaña (Betholletia excelsa) en Madre de Dios y sus impactos en la economía del productor castañero» son frutos del programa «Mejoramiento de sistemas de cosecha de castaña en Madre de Dios», un componente del proyecto «Conservando castañales», dedicado a la implementación, difusión y capacitación del manejo forestal en los bosques castañeros. El proyecto ha sido ejecutado por ACCA en consorcio con la Asociación de Extractivistas de Castaña de Madre de Dios (ASECAM) y el Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales (INRENA), y ha recibido el apoyo financiero de la Agencia para el Desarrollo Internacional de los Estados Unidos (USAID) a través de su programa de donaciones BIOFOR.

Estos manuales recogen algunas experiencias de manejo en el aprovechamiento de la castaña dentro del bosque, así como el mejoramiento de los sistemas de transporte, recolección y almacenamiento destinados a minimizar los costos de producción y mejorar la calidad del producto.

Para más información, dirigirse a:

Mónica Romo,
Directora de Proyecto,
Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica (ACCA),
Calle Cuzco N° 499,
Puerto Maldonado,
Madre de Dios, Perú.
Fax: +51 84 573227;
correo electrónico:

[Véase mayor información en la sección Publications of Interest.]


The Ayurvedic healing system has its origins in India and has been practised for thousands of years. The final goal is perfect health. The system uses careful application of natural healing methods, e.g. herbs, minerals, healthy nutrition, etc.

Demand for Ayurvedic medicines on rise

If Nepal utilizes its abundant potential in Ayurvedic science, considerable foreign currency could be earned by selling Ayurvedic medicines abroad. Moreover, it would also help replace the huge amount of allopathic medicines the country imports each year.

According to a survey conducted by the Industrial Information Centre (ICC), Nepal imports NRs 7 billion worth of allopathic medicines each year. Of this, up to 25 percent is spent on importing Ayurvedic medicines.

The people practising Ayurvedic science see plenty of opportunities to develop this as a major source for earning foreign currency. In view of its geography, Nepal could be a centre for unique Ayurvedic treatment, if the methods of treatment are modernized.

Ram Narayan Shah, Managing Director at Singhadurbar Vaidya Khana, says that the demand for Ayurvedic medicines is on the rise owing to the low risks or the absence of any side effects and their easy availability. Shah considers that the production of herbal medicines is not enough to fulfil internal demand. Although the traditional medical practitioner or Vaidya and Ayurvedic doctor or Kaviraj prescribe herbal medicines produced in the country, they have no other option than to sell medicines imported from across the border. According to ICC, many herbal medicines (such as Chiraito, Amala, Pachaunle, Jatamashi, Harro and Pakhanbet) are exported to India and the finished products are re-imported into Nepal. If Nepal could do the processing, it could boost the country's economy.

Shah admits that there is a need for research into the processing of Ayurvedic medicines. The Singhadurbar Vaidya Khana is the biggest Ayurvedic manufacturer in the country and produces medicines amounting to roughly NRs 12.5 million each year.

In the Ninth Five-year Plan (2054-2059), the government has accorded due priority to promote Ayurved in the country. In the upcoming Tenth Five-year Plan (2059-2063), the government is in the process of giving extra emphasis to the development of Ayurved.

A regional summit at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) level on Ayurved was held in Nepal in 1991. The summit had prepared a framework to prepare a common agenda for the development of Ayurvedic science. However, so far nothing has been done.

An independent survey has also shown that the demand for Nepalese Ayurvedic medicines in Europe and the United States is also on the rise. (Source: Extracted from The Rising Nepal, 23 December 2001, quoted in <tpp-tibmed-plants> Vol. 3, No. 4 [October-December 2001].)


What is equivalent to the biodiversity here, to the things that surround us, is my life. If you took these things away, it would be like taking part of my life, and then my survival would be questionable.

(Pera, Bakalaharil tribe, Botswana)

(Source: Biodiversity - a crucial issue for the world's poor. DFID, UK. ISBN 1-86192-341-4.)


Bioprospecting or biopiracy?

Biopirates raid trees

The bintangor tree, which grows in swampy ground in the Malaysian part of Borneo, may have its uses. But it certainly does not look as if it is worth about US$360 million. It looks like what it is - a rubber tree that grows to a height of about 10 m, with a diameter of 12.5 cm and long waxy leaves.

The native Dyak people, who still live in the jungle in the Malaysian state of Sarawak, know that the poisonous latex that oozes from it can be used for stunning fish, and that a poultice made from the bark will ease headaches and skin rashes. But even after an American scientist turned up and took away samples, none of the Dyaks realized what vast potential riches the tree contains.

But, if tests carried out in the United States are to be believed, the humble bintangor contains buried treasure: a treatment for HIV and AIDS. Clinical trials show that a drug called Calanolide A, originally extracted from the tree's latex, reduces the levels of the AIDS virus in the blood. It also works against tuberculosis. The drug is several years away from being sold commercially, but if it is - and if it is as profitable as other anti-HIV drugs - it could earn as much as US$360 million a year. And the Dyaks may not see a penny.

The discovery of Calanolide A in the Sarawak jungles is one of the great successes of a new profession: bioprospecting. Just as treasure hunters in the past panned silt on the beds of streams in search of gold, so bioprospectors sift through living matter in search of equally lucrative commodities. The most lucrative area of biosprospecting is in pharmaceuticals, and it is here too that the most pointed ethical questions are being raised.

To growing numbers of people, in Sarawak and around the world, much of what passes for scientific research is actually an act of biological copyright infringement perpetrated upon native people - not so much bioprospecting as biopiracy. The issues are legally, ethically and politically complex, and in Sarawak they are being debated fiercely.

The vast mass of the earth's most biologically diverse material is found in developing countries - above all in tropical rain forests along the equatorial belt of the Amazon, central Africa and Southeast Asia. But, ironically, the scientific expertise necessary to exploit it is overwhelmingly found in the developed world.

In the 1980s - when Calanolide A was discovered by a pharmacologist working for the United States National Cancer Institute - scientists were free to come and go. Then, in 1993, the international Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) came into effect. The convention, which has been adopted by 179 countries - the United States being the most striking non-signatory - recognizes the sovereign right of each country to regulate the use of its own biological resources. It is on this basis that the state government of Sarawak founded the Sarawak Biodiversity Council (SBC) to monitor and license bioprospectors and stamp out biopirates.

In the two and half years of its existence, the SBC has received about 100 requests for prospecting licences. Ninety percent were granted, although often with strict provisos. In all cases, the foreign researchers are required to share their knowledge with the state of Sarawak.

Even though Calanolide A was discovered before the CBD came into effect, it has turned out well for Sarawak. The pharmaceutical company that synthesized the drug has entered into a joint venture with the government, meaning that 50 percent of any future profits will return to Sarawak. Other finds may be imminent. Sarawak's chief minister, Taib Mahmud, recently announced the discovery of a jungle substance that may provide a treatment for prostate cancer.

But not everyone is happy. "The people who make money out of it will be the usual ones: politicians, rich businessmen. It won't be the local people," says Mark Bujang of the Borneo Resource Institute, a non-governmental group lobbying for the Dyaks' rights. Mr Bujang fears that bioprospecting will be like logging. Although the state government promises benefits for all, the people at the bottom suffer the disadvantages but not the gains. Mr Bujang would like to see local people being trained to do this kind of research themselves and to apply the research to their own traditional knowledge.

But where does traditional knowledge intersect with scientific knowledge? The Dyaks may have used the bintangor tree for their headaches, but they would never have isolated Calanolide A. "What the communities want is a fair share from the benefits that arise from research," Mr Bujang said. "Their land has been taken away, then their forest has been taken away. Now they take away their traditional medicine." (Source: The Independent, 2 August 2001.)

From the jungle to the clinic

In a clinical trial in the United States, people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, are receiving an experimental drug that has its roots in the rain forests of Malaysia. The results so far are promising. The drug, called Calanolide A, reduces the levels of human immunodeficiency virus in the blood. It is also simple to administer and effective against strains of HIV that quickly became resistant to other drugs. It even shows signs of effectiveness against tuberculosis, a major killer of HIV carriers in the developing world. If it is proved successful and commercialized, the drug could be worth US$200 million to $400 million per year, in line with the sales of comparable anti-HIV drugs.

The journey of Calanolide A from the rain forest to the market has been paved by a pioneering partnership between an American pharmaceutical firm and a Malaysian state government. It is also a case study on how the discovery of natural compounds now offers financial and technical rewards unimaginable 20 years ago to the countries in which the compounds were found.

The drug's remarkable journey began in 1987, when researchers from the University of Illinois in Chicago roamed the jungles of the East Malaysian state of Sarawak, collecting plant samples for the United States National Cancer Institute (NCI). They were hoping to find naturally occurring compounds that could be developed into anti-cancer drugs. What they found instead was a substance from the bintangor tree (Calophyllum lanigerum) that in NCI research showed promising activity against HIV.

Since NCI only conducts initial research, it regularly passes on worldwide rights for specific compounds to private firms. NCI passes the rights to Calanolide A to a small American company, MediChem Research, which had previously worked on another compound from the institute. But MediChem lacked the funds to develop Calanolide A. So, in 1996, it formed an unprecedented partnership with the state government of Sarawak, which agreed to finance the first stages of Calanolide A's clinical development. A fifty-fifty joint venture - Sarawak MediChem Pharmaceuticals - based in Illinois, United States, was born. Profits from future sales of the drug will be divided equally between the partners.

The Sarawak government's continuing investment is estimated to be US$100 million to $200 million by the time the drug is commercialized, and it will be three to eight years before Sarawak sees a return on its investment, if at all. Malaysian scientists have received training at MediChem and some of them will staff a new drug-screening and discovery facility that is being added to the government-funded Sarawak Biodiversity Centre in Kuching.

However, as Sarawak MediChem prepares for the third and final phase of clinical trials, it is uncertain whether the Sarawak government will be able to provide all of the US$25 million needed. To obtain more funding the company has invited other investors to come on board. Additional investors would dilute the Sarawak government's share of future royalties. But the actual and potential benefits Sarawak enjoys from this deal are already a far cry from the past experience of source countries.

Historically, Western plant explorers felt no obligation to compensate the countries in which they found new drug compounds. But there has been a growing awareness by biodiversity-rich but cash-poor countries of the value of their natural resources. In the mid-1980s, tropical countries began to argue for compensation. This spurred the National Cancer Institute to revise its agreements with the countries in which its scientists explored. Starting in 1991, NCI required companies taking up NCI-sponsored research to negotiate agreements for benefit sharing with source countries. Thus, MediChem was required to negotiate benefit sharing with the Sarawak government. Forming a business partnership with the Sarawak government, instead of with another pharmaceutical company, was also a bonus: it meant just one set of negotiations for MediChem, instead of two.

If Sarawak MediChem is an innovative model for profiting from biodiversity, it also offers a cautionary tale: the Calophyllum lanigerum tree from which materials where collected in 1987 had been chopped down by the time a second expedition was mounted in 1993. Samples taken from other trees of the same species were not as high in Calanolide A, so MediChem had to synthesize the compound before it could continue with its research. It is a vivid lesson that the conservation of biodiversity is a prerequisite for its profitability. (Source: Far Eastern Economic Review, 14 June 2001.)

Brazil sees promise in jungle plants, but tribes see peril

The Brazilian Government, increasingly fearful of what it regards as "biopiracy" by foreign pharmaceutical companies, universities and laboratories, is moving to impose stricter controls on medicinal plants in the Amazon region. The effort is motivated largely by a desire to build and profit from a domestic biotechnology industry instead of allowing non-Brazilians to get most of the benefits. But the government is also facing growing pressure from shamans and elders of the 230 indigenous peoples of Brazil, who worry that they are losing control of tribal wisdom and who also want a share of any revenue.

Brazil has nearly a quarter of the world's plant species. Many species grow only in Brazil and have yet to be tested by Western science, even though they have been used for thousands of years by the indigenous peoples to treat a variety of ailments. That gives Brazil a prominence in biotechnology regulation far beyond that of any other country in the tropics, the region many scientists view as perhaps the most promising for the development of new drugs.

In a declaration after three days of meetings on the eastern edge of the Amazon in early December 2001, shamans from a tenth of Brazil's tribes called on the government to "create punishment mechanisms to deter the robbery of our biodiversity". They suggested that it might even be necessary to impose a total "moratorium on the commercial exploitation of traditional knowledge of genetic resources" until a more equitable system could be created. "We're not against science, but we also don't want to be just suppliers of data," said Marcos Terena, a member of the Terena tribe and an organizer of the conference. "We want to be part of the whole process, from research to the economic results."

The system favoured by the Brazilian Government is that of a centralized databank that would store the knowledge accumulated by "traditional scientists", as the shamans are sometimes called here. Any researcher wanting to make use of that information would have to pay an initial access fee, which would be followed by regular payments during the research process and royalties if the final result were a commercially viable drug.

For the most part, the promise of miracle drugs made from jungle plants remains elusive, because of the costly and lengthy research process required. But during the conference, Brazilian Government officials and advocates for the indigenous peoples complained of what they described as a pattern of undue appropriation of native plants and bacteria and even blood samples from indigenous peoples.

A Japanese pharmaceutical company, for example, has sought to patent an extract derived from a root called muirapuama, considered an aphrodisiac in Brazil. In addition, an American businessman tried to patent ayahuasca, a hallucinogen that is used for religious purposes by Amazon shamans but also thought to have therapeutic effects.

But pharmaceutical companies and other research institutions in the United States and Europe say that none of their activities are illegal under Brazilian or international patent law. In 1992, an International Convention on Biological Diversity that granted some patent protections to "traditional knowledge" was negotiated at a United Nations conference in Rio de Janeiro. The United States, however, has yet to ratify the accord, in part because of lobbying in Congress by the pharmaceutical lobby.

Over the long term, Brazil wants much of the research on medicinal plants and the manufacture of any drugs derived from them to take place on its own territory. Hoping to foster that kind of research here, an Amazon Biotechnology Center is now under construction in Manaus, in the heart of the jungle. Scheduled to open in April 2002, the centre will have 22 laboratories, and its directors hope to attract foreign investment and partners.

At the same time, Brazil is pressing for an overhaul of the international rules governing intellectual property rights so that more protections can be extended to its indigenous peoples. But overcoming the mutual mistrust between Brazilians and foreign researchers may prove to be the most difficult task of all. (Source: New York Times, 23 December 2001, quoted in the RECOFTC e-letter 2002.1.)


To me, biodiversity is all the beings that are related in nature: man, animals and plants, even vegetables, rivers, seas, animals in the jungle and all the beliefs we have kept from our ancestors and from our dreams. Wisdom itself is also a part of biodiversity.

(Piedad Cabascango from Ecuador)

(Source: Biodiversity - a crucial issue for the world's poor. DFID, UK. ISBN 1-86192-341-4.)


Ecoport - access portal to ecology knowledge for natural resource managers

In 1998, FAO created a Global Plant Production and Protection Information System (GPPIS) which established a network of individuals and institutions who agreed to share freely their separate knowledge to create a communally owned database on the Internet.

Very soon we realized the limitations of seeing the world only in terms of pests and crops, and decided that we need to practise holistic ecology and interdisciplinary integration as comprehensively as we preach it. Accordingly, FAO formed a consortium with the University of Florida (UF) and the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution (SI) in the United States to build EcoPort: a service similar to GPPIS, but this time widened to ecology as cause to build on the pooled information power and institutional perspectives and mandates of FAO, UF and SI as a foundation to exploit and deliver the benefits of the Internet. While EcoPort operates under the auspices of FAO, UF and SI, it is in fact a forum and global network of institutions (currently 90) and volunteer, expert authors (currently about 500), who actively contribute their knowledge to be shared freely through EcoPort.

EcoPort went public on 1 January 2000 and by June 2001, 127 000 entity records had been established, including 143 000 species of which 42 000 are plants. There are more than 516 000 references, 100 slide shows, 35 000 glossary terms, 19 000 pictures, 200 hypermemes, 55 taxonomic keys, 100 interactive tables, etc. Since going public, the database has been updated at an average daily rate of 100 changes per day, made by the community of volunteer experts. The Web site serves 1 000 pages per day (about 5 000 "hits" per day) and, for example, the number of visitors from Africa amounts to half of the total for Europe.

Each contributing author or editor receives a username and password which enable the author to write information into the shared database, much as a group of authors write chapters for a book, except that the "book" we are writing is a public database on the Internet. This process uses methods and tools invented by FAO, which allow editors (not only webmasters), to write hypertext directly. Technical authors, e.g. FAO staff members, publish their shared knowledge under a banner that displays the logo of the sponsoring institution. In this way, EcoPort is a collection of records, each owned, controlled and displayed by a separate author or institution, but all using the integrating tools of EcoPort and sharing each other's contributions and resources, such as pictures entered into the communal EcoPort picture database. Data quality is maintained by the same process of peer review that has kept scientific publishing going ever since it started. All changes are notified to other community members. This makes all of us "quality controllers". An automatic e-mail notification system informs a network of Gatekeepers and the EcoPort Supervisor when changes are made. Since each contributor's shared information is displayed under his or her own banner and logo, ownership and responsibility go hand in hand and the whole process is open to public scrutiny on the Internet. We have clearly demonstrated that sharing and generosity does not threaten identity or responsibility and professional goodwill.

As we all put sharing ahead of copyright and many other territorial aspects that unnecessarily increase the transaction costs associated with using data, our pooled knowledge has grown very rapidly. Furthermore, since many users either do not have Internet access or have slow and expensive connections, we will, in future, be distributing EcoPort data sets on free CD-ROMs as well. Many of these records need editors.

If you are interested, please send an email to: . We will explain the procedure for registering in order to contribute your information to EcoPort. (Contributed by: Peter Griffee, FAO, Rome.)

For more information, please contact:

Peter Griffee,
Senior Officer,
Industrial Crops,
Crop and Grassland Service,
Plant Production and Protection Division,
FAO, Rome,

Equator Initiative seeks nominations for tropical biodiversity awards

The Equator Initiative, an innovative programme launched in January 2002 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and several partners, is seeking nominations for five awards recognizing extraordinary accomplishments in reducing poverty through conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in the equatorial belt.

The Equator Initiative is designed to support the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, South Africa and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Through recognition of local achievements, fostering South-South capacity building, and contributing to generating and sharing of knowledge, the programme aims to promote a worldwide movement that links efforts to reduce poverty and conserve biodiversity across the tropics.

Partnering with UNDP in the initiative are the Government of Canada, the International Development Research Centre and the United Nations Foundation. BrasilConnects and the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives supported the launch, attended by 450 development and environmental leaders and ambassadors from around the world.

From Brazil to Ecuador, and Indonesia to Kenya, the countries around the equator possess diverse natural environments - from dry, arid deserts to moist rain forests - and are home to a large percentage of the world's poor. Many live on US$1 or less a day, lack access to safe drinking-water and remain undernourished. Nonetheless, biological riches in the tropics offer amazing opportunities that can create lasting improvements in people's lives - such as marketing local forest products, developing new medicines and food crops, ecotourism and other income-generating endeavours.

The deadline for nominations is 15 May 2002 and the awards will be presented at the WSSD from 26 August to 4 September. Award recipients will receive US$30 000, a certificate of recognition and a trophy. The initiative will also enable them to carry out capacity-building exchanges with other organizations and communities. (Source: Newsfront, 1 February 2002.)

For more information, please contact:

Equator Initiative, Environmentally Sustainable Development Group Bureau for Development Policy,
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),
One UN Plaza,
New York, NY 10017,
Fax: +1 212 9066973;


FAOTERM is a multilingual terminology database in Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Spanish. The database has been developed over many years and was launched on the Internet in January 2001.

As at January 2002, FAOTERM consisted of 54 407 records in English (as the base language), 51 168 records in French, 46 261 in Spanish, 16 492 in Arabic and 11 878 in Chinese. It comprises technical terminology in FAO's specialized subjects: agriculture, biology, forestry, fisheries, economics, statistics, nutrition, etc. A total of 7 615 records comprise official titles (bodies) of organizations, institutes, programmes, slogans, expert consultations, FAO structure, etc.

There are several ongoing meetings within FAO specifically discussing forestry and wood-energy terminology and definitions.

The new five-language FAOTERM database ( ) has been incorporated into the FAO Terminology site ( ). A separate, newly designed database for Names of Countries, now incorporating all five languages and following United Nations practice, ( ) was added to the FAO Terminology site in December 2001.

For more information, please contact:

Ingrid Alldritt,
Terminology Officer,
Programming, Reference and Terminology Group,
Meeting Programming and Documentation Service,
General Affairs and Information Department,
Rome, Italy.
Fax: +39 0657056241;

Field courses in rain forest and marine ecology

Rainforest and Reef is a non-profit organization specializing in field courses in rain forest and marine ecology that are currently offered in ten countries. All programmes are operated by partner organizations which have shown a strong commitment to conservation and education. Ninety-nine percent of all participation fees stay with our partners to assist in local conservation and education projects.

Local guides and biologists are featured in the study of natural history, rain forest and coral reef ecology, medicinal uses of native plants, conservation, land management, local cultures, archaeology and geology. While most of the programmes are customized, standard field course itineraries can be found on the Rainforest and Reef Web site.

For more information, please contact:

Mike Nolan, Rainforest and Reef,
29 Prospect NE Suite #8,
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49503,
Tel./fax: 1 616 7765928;
toll free: 1 877 7693086;

Fingerprinting bamboo

Phyllostachys (Poaceae) is one of the largest genera of woody bamboos, with approximately 75 species. It is widely used in the temperate zone, particularly for construction, but also in the case of two species, Phyllostachys heterocycla and P. rubromarginata, for edible "bamboo shoots". In phylogenetics, the bamboos have been problematic because they exhibit extremely low levels of divergence in sequenced DNA regions, so little has been published about their infrageneric relationships based on genetic studies. Scientists at Kew and Trinity College, Dublin, however, have obtained good results by applying one of the recently developed fingerprinting techniques, amplified fragment length polymorphisms (AFLP). In addition to finding that the currently accepted taxonomic scheme for the genus was generally accurate, they were also able to assess accurately some species that had been difficult to place previously, such as P. sulphurea (which some authors thought was the same as another). AFLP, therefore, appears to be an ideal technique for groups in which low levels of genetic divergence are a problem. (Source: Kew Scientist, issue No. 20 [October 2001].)

For more information, please contact the author:

Prof. Mark Chase,
Royal Botanic Gardens,
Kew, Richmond,
Surrey TW9 3AB,

Fruits for the future

Tropical fruit-trees are important multipurpose species that supplement and improve the quality of diets and provide fodder, fuel, timber and medicine for smallholders. Harvesting these trees enables rural people, particularly women and children, to provide nutrition for a balanced diet, supplement family incomes and strengthen food security.

The major constraints to the effective use of these crops are access to information on use, production and processing, and ineffective marketing.

Fruits for the Future is a three-year project which aims to redress this balance and facilitate technology transfer to farmers through media, by distributing extension manuals emphasizing products, marketing and processing, as well as production. Monographs and annotated bibliographies will be produced to collect and summarize existing research, in order to make better use of existing research results and identify possible gaps in the knowledge base for further research.

A group of species has been selected on the basis of their regional or global importance, because there are no comprehensive compilations of information already in existence and because of their suitability for adaptation, income generation, nutrition and food security, diversification and use in agroforestry systems. They are:

Ziziphus mauritania (ber)
Tamarindus indica (tamarind)
•  Dacryodes edulis (African pear)
Adansonia digitata (baobab)
Annona species (cherimoya, sweet and sour sops, custard apples and other species)

Fruits for the Future is a project of the International Centre for Underutilised Crops and is funded by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID).

For more information, please contact:

Angela Hughes,
International Centre for Underutilised Crops,
Institute of Irrigation and Development Studies,
University of Southampton,
Southampton SO17 1BJ,
Fax: +44 (0)2380 677519;



Ber (Ziziphus mauritania Lam.) is cultivated all over the drier parts of the Indian subcontinent for its fresh fruits, which are rich in vitamins (C, A and B-complex) and minerals. It can be successfully cultivated even in the most marginal ecosystems of the subtropics and tropics. It also exists in wild groves which are widespread in the warmer parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, central to southern Africa and in the northern parts of Australia.


Journals and newsletters

Conservation and Society

Conservation and Society is a new journal dedicated to the advancement of the theory and practice of the conservation of natural resources. It aims to be a valuable source of reference material on the problems of conservation in the Asian geographical area. The journal is peer-reviewed, with an interdisciplinary focus drawing on both the natural and social sciences and covers basic and applied research in areas including, but not restricted to, political ecology, human-wildlife conflicts, decentralized conservation, conservation policy, ecosystem structure and functioning, systematics, community and species ecology, animal behaviour and behavioural ecology, landscape ecology, restoration ecology and conservation biology.

For more information, please contact:

Kamal Bawa,
Professor of Biology,
University of Massachusetts,
E-mail: ;
Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE),
No. 659, 5th A Main, Hebbal,
Bangalore 560 024,
Karnataka, India.
Fax: +91 80 3530070;

Forest certification newsletter

Forest certification is an important instrument to halt and reverse the loss and degradation of the world's forests and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is working with governments, industry, local communities and consumers to encourage sustainable forest management worldwide.

To receive a copy of WWF's certification newsletter, please contact:

Ellen von Zitzewitz,
European Forest Policy Officer,
WWF-European Policy Office,
Avenue de Tervuren 36, bt. 12,
1040 Brussels, Belgium.
Fax: +32 2 7438819;

Forest Integrity Network (FIN) newsletter

The Forest Integrity Network (FIN) newsletter aims to serve the community of professionals concerned about open and effective governance of forest resources. FIN grew out of a May 2000 workshop at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government cosponsored by Harvard's Center for International Development, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and Transparency International (TI). The workshop brought together scholars, activists, and government officials concerned about forest corruption. Since then, FIN has remained a loose alliance of committed individuals, without formal structure or funding.

For more information, please contact the editor:

Journal of Tropical Medicinal Plants

More efforts are required to create and disseminate scientific knowledge on tropical medicinal plants, including research and development on conservation, utilization, efficacy and safety of the products used, commercialization, bioprospecting and quality control of drugs for human health improvement. This journal provides an information platform to publish the results that emerge from various fields of study and from different parts of the world.

For more information, please contact:

A.N. Rao, Editor-in-Chief.

Natural Product Radiance

The herbal world, its history and its potential value, make it fascinating to study and attractive to use. Tropical countries such as India have a rich repository of natural resources. Research on exploration of natural wealth hidden in the form of herbs, shrubs, micro-organisms, etc, has been attracting increasing awareness and attention. As a result, products (varying from food, timber and textiles to pharmaceuticals and cosmetics) have starting entering the market. It is indeed essential to disseminate such a knowledge and information explosion in a simplified, user-friendly manner to the targeted groups. For this reason, the National Institute of Science Communication (CSIR), New Delhi is producing Natural Product Radiance, a new bimonthly periodical providing information on research papers, special features, book reviews, Web sites and seminars, etc. related to the herbal and animal world.

For more information please contact:

Dr (Mrs) Sunita Garg, Scientist,
Wealth of India Division,
National Institute of Science Communication,
Dr K.S. Krishnan Marg (Near Pusa Gate),
New Delhi 110012,
Fax: +91 11 5787062;

Revista Forestal Centroamericana

La Revista Forestal Centroamericana brinda una perspectiva regional sobre la conservación, manejo y aprovechamiento de los recursos naturales. Aborda diversidad de temas como problemas forestales y ambientales de la región, silvicultura, plantaciones, economía, género, taxonomía y práctica forestal, entre otros.

Para más información, dirigirse a:
Revista Forestal Centroamericana - CATIE, 7170 Turrialba, Costa Rica.
Fax: +506 556 6282/1533;
correo electrónico: 
ó ;

Voices from the Forest

Voices from the Forest, the bulletin of the NTFP Exchange Programme in Southeast Asia, aims to provide a platform for sharing forest community-based NTFP ideas and concerns, mainly through practical information and cases. The bulletin is available on the Internet ( ).

For more information, please contact:

Eric van Poederooijen,
ProFound, Hooghiemstraplein 128,
3514 AZ Utrecht,
the Netherlands.
Fax: +31 (0)30 2720878;

International Doctoral Program for Development Studies

The Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn, Germany, invites highly qualified, young scientists from developing countries to participate in its International Doctoral Program for Development Studies. ZEF supports individual students with funds for field research. Fellowships from several national and international foundations and sponsors are offered primarily to students from the developing countries.

For more information, please contact:

Dr Gunther Manske,
Coordinator, International Doctoral Program for Development Studies,
Center for Development Research (ZEF),
Walter-Flex-Str. 3, 53113 Bonn,
Fax: +49 (0)228 731889;

International Year of Mountains

The official launch of the International Year of Mountains took place at United Nations headquarters in New York on 11 December 2001. FAO held its own launch on 15 February 2002 at its headquarters in Rome. The event was attended by about 500 people and attracted more than 20 journalists.

The FAO event and the global launch at United Nations headquarters were part of a worldwide series of events that have ushered in the International Year of Mountains. Countries which have held ceremonies to inaugurate the International Year include: Bolivia, China (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region), France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, the United Kingdom (Scotland) and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Information on the International Year of Mountains activities around the world can be found on the national Web sites:

•  Australia:
•  Bolivia:
• Canada:
•  France:
•  Germany:
•  Italy:
•  Japan:
•  Liechtenstein:
•  Mexico:
•  Peru:
•  Switzerland:  (German);  (French) ;  (Italian)
•  United Kingdom:

The International Year of Mountains' coordination unit prepares an informal newsletter that is sent out on a monthly basis to a wide variety of organizations and individuals interested and involved in mountain issues and in the International Year of Mountains, in particular. For copies of the newsletter, which is also available in French and Spanish, please contact: Luciana Ambrosiano (

For more information, please contact:

Douglas McGuire,
Senior Forest Conservation Officer,
Head, Coordination Unit -
International Year of Mountains 2002,
Forestry Department, FAO,
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla,
00100 Rome, Italy.
Fax: +39 0657055137;

Los bosques pueden contribuir al alivio de la pobreza

Se requiere acción para aprovechar ahora las maneras en que la actividad forestal puede ayudar a reducir la pobreza. Sin acción, es decir, sin inversión en actividades forestales centradas en las personas, se verán minadas las otras medidas para enfrentar la pobreza y mejorar los medios de vida de los pobres.

La comunidad internacional se ha comprometido en la eliminación de la pobreza. Las metas internacionales de desarrollo para el año 2015 incluyen la reducción a la mitad del número de personas afectadas por inseguridad alimentaria y una reducción en la proporción de personas que viven en la extrema pobreza.

Los bosques y los árboles pueden ayudar. Los bosques contribuyen a la seguridad alimentaria. Pueden proporcionar oportunidades comerciales y empleo para los pobres. Con frecuencia son aspectos importantes para el desarrollo de un buen gobierno local. Un enfoque centrado en las personas puede aumentar aún más el impacto de los bosques y los árboles en la reducción de la pobreza. Lo que se requiere es la remoción de las barreras que impiden que los bosques y los árboles contribuyan a la subsistencia de los pobres además de sustentar las oportunidades emergentes.

Una actividad forestal centrada en las personas las coloca al centro del desarrollo y les proporciona los derechos y los medios para manejar los recursos del bosque y los árboles.

¿Qué obtiene la gente pobre de los árboles y los bosques?

Bienes de subsistencia, tales como leña, medicinas, madera para construcción, sogas, carne de animales silvestres, forraje, setas, miel, hojas comestibles, raíces y frutas.

Bienes para la venta, tales como los productos enumerados antes, artesanías, madera y otros productos de la madera.

Beneficios indirectos, tales como tierra para otros usos, sitios sociales y espirituales, servicios ambientales, incluida la protección de cuencas y conservación de la biodiversidad.

Aproximadamente 1,6 billones de personas en el mundo dependen para su subsistencia, en gran parte, de los recursos forestales. Con la creciente desigualdad económica, los pobres, más que nunca, requieren salvaguardias y crecen las demandas sobre los bosques y los árboles. El cambio acelerado de la realidad mundial representa mayores retos para los pobres, pero también puede proporcionar nuevas oportunidades para una subsistencia mejorada sobre la base de la utilización sostenible de los recursos naturales. Si se ejecutan acciones claves, aún los productores forestales más pobres, los comerciantes y los trabajadores podrán participar en iniciativas locales que ofrecen perspectivas comerciales.

Los recursos forestales contribuyen directamente a la subsistencia y pueden complementar otros componentes importantes de la reducción de la pobreza a través de la producción de alimentos, la educación y el cuidado primario de la salud. El desafío consiste en apoyar aquellos cambios específicos que conducirán a establecer un papel más decisivo a los recursos forestales y a los árboles en la subsistencia de los pobres. Este desafío requiere acciones inmediatas.

Dependencia de los bosques

60 millones de personas indígenas que viven en los bosques húmedos de América Latina, Asia Sudoriental y Africa Occidental dependen en alto grado de los bosques.

350 millones de personas que viven dentro o en las cercanías de bosques densos dependen de ellos para su subsistencia o ingresos.

1,2 billones de personas en los países en desarrollo utilizan los árboles en los predios agrícolas para generar alimento y dinero en efectivo.

Beneficios para la subsistencia local proporcionados por la actividad forestal centrada en las personas

Derechos de acceso, control y utilización de los recursos del bosque y los árboles.
Mayor participación en las decisiones relativas a la utilización y manejo de los recursos del bosque. Menor vulnerabilidad, no sólo a través de recursos forestales seguros sino también por el mayor peso político. Ingresos de los bienes y servicios del bosque. Mejor gobierno a través de instituciones locales más eficaces.Asociación para reforzar capacidades. Beneficios directos de los servicios ambientales.Mayor poder de negociación.

Puntos de acción (identificados en el Taller de Cortevecchia, septiembre de 2001

Fortalecimiento de los derechos, capacidades y gobierno. Reducción de la vulnerabilidad. Captura de las oportunidades emergentes. Trabajando en sociedad.


Agricultura, bosques y reducción de la pobreza

Los árboles prestan numerosos tipos de utilidad agrícola, tales como alimentos, combustible, forraje, fertilizante, sombra, cortavientos, cercos, embalaje, regulación del agua y prevención de la erosión. Los agricultores pobres en Nepal, que no tienen la posibilidad para adquirir fertilizantes, se esfuerzan por mantener una relación de 3 a 1 entre las tierras forestales y las agrícolas, para de tal manera garantizar el suministro de forraje para el ganado y de estiércol para fertilizar sus cultivos.

Salud, bosques y reducción de la pobreza

Los bosques proporcionan medicinas y suplementos alimentarios esenciales. Un billón de personas dependen de productos farmacéuticos derivados de plantas forestales para enfrentar sus necesidades medicinales. Las poblaciones que viven al lado de los bosques húmedos en Ghana reciben más proteína de los productos forestales que de los cultivos o del ganado. En los ambientes áridos, los bosques son esenciales para la seguridad alimentaria en las épocas y años secos. Por lo tanto, la actividad forestal debe captar las sinergias potenciales entre los diversos sectores para maximizar el impacto positivo.

El mensaje es claro

Los bosques y los árboles tienen una función importante en la lucha para reducir la pobreza. Las iniciativas basadas en manejo forestal sostenible, como parte de las estrategias de desarrollo rural y de subsistencia, pueden apoyar el buen gobierno y aumentar los beneficios para los pobres. El desafío actual es el de hacer realidad este potencial. (Fuente: Boletín informativo de los programas forestales nacionales, FAO 5(12), Santiago, Chile, diciembre de 2001.)

New Forests Project

The New Forests Project is a people-to-people, direct-action programme established in 1982 in an effort to initiate reforestation and reduce deforestation in "developing countries". Their informative Web site is also available in Spanish.

For more information, please contact:

The New Forests Project,
731 Eighth Street SE,
DC 20003, USA.
Fax: +1 202 5464784;

Plant Resources of South-East Asia (PROSEA)

PROSEA is an international programme focused on Southeast Asia. Its purpose is to make available the wealth of dispersed knowledge on plant resources for education, extension, research and industry through a computerized data bank and an illustrated multivolume handbook. A thorough knowledge of plant resources is essential for human life and plays a key role in ecologically balanced land-use systems. Extensive information on the plants growing in the region is needed to enable the plant resources of each country to be used optimally.

One of the main objectives of PROSEA is to publish illustrated multivolume handbooks. A large international team of experts is invited to prepare the texts on particular species or genera, which are published in commodity groups. All taxa are treated in a similar manner with details on uses, distribution, botany, ecology, agronomy or silviculture, genetic resources, diseases, breeding, prospects and literature.

For more information, please contact:

Agus Rachmat Hadi,
Distribution Officer,
PROSEA Network Office,
PO Box 332,
Bogor 16122,

[Please see under Publications of Interest for more information on PROSEA.]

Plant Resources of Tropical Africa (PROTA)

In tropical Africa thousands of plant species are found which provide food, fibre, pharmaceutical products, building materials, fuel, etc. for personal use and for sale on local, regional or international markets.

Information on these plant resources is stored in an overwhelming and ever-growing amount of literature. For the user, the information has become inaccessible, partly because of its sheer volume and the dispersion in time, partly because it is scattered over several continents, is in several languages and in all kinds of publications.

The PROTA programme is an initiative of Wageningen University, the Netherlands. In cooperation with institutes in Africa and Europe, PROTA intends to survey, compile, edit, publish and disseminate existing knowledge on some 7 000 useful plants of tropical Africa. It will build on the experiences gained by the twin programme Plant Resources of South East Asia (PROSEA), 1985-2002. In due course the publications will be accessible from the PROTA Web site.

The PROTA programme has been divided into three phases. The Preliminary Phase (1998-1999) was an in-house exercise by Wageningen University. The aim of the Preparatory Phase (2000-2002) is to "internationalize" the programme and to establish cooperation with a number of African and European institutions. PROTA offices are currently being set up in seven African and three European countries, while an international group of editors and authors is contributing to the first PROTA publications. PROTA's First International Workshop (September 2002), which will be in both English and French, will be instrumental in further defining the organization of the programme, including the framework of the Web databases. In the Implementation Phase (2003-2012), emphasis is on the actual compilation and editing of the monographs, making them widely available in electronic and printed forms, and also transforming the information into derived products.

For more information, please contact:

PROTA Programme,
Wageningen University,
PO Box 341, 6700 AH Wageningen,
the Netherlands.

[Please see under Forthcoming Events for more information on the First International Workshop.]

Potential oilseed trees of Africa

Humankind depends on a very limited number of crops to meet the needs of staple diets and on a few major non-food crops to meet associated needs. Among them a small portion of the world's food comes from tree crops. The utilization of a large number of species for various products has not been exploited for sustainable livelihood. The International Centre for Underutilised Crops (ICUC) has initiated a series of programmes on the domestication and utilization of non-wood forest products, such as jackfruit, mangosteen and pummelo in Asia and Vitellaria paradoxa in Africa.

Africa is a rich heritage of useful indigenous multipurpose tree species. These resources have played an important role for centuries in feeding people, keeping them healthy and giving them shelter through good years and also through bad years, particularly when drought persisted and crops failed. Many of these multipurpose species are oilseed-bearing trees and are part of the forestry ecosystems. People who live with this system protect and use them every day. However, population pressure along with modern need is destroying this system.

Oilseeds constitute an important group of crops of the total global cropped area. Vegetable oils account for about 70 percent of the total availability of all oils and fats. There are two distinct types of vegetable oil-yielding crops: perennial and annual crops. In the past vegetable oils, fats and tallow have been utilized for food (80 percent) and animal feed (70 percent and 13 percent in the industrial sectors).

There is impressive growth in the consumption of oils and fats worldwide. This will increase further, together with population growth. The increased demand for fats and oils can be met by the African heritage, as has been seen with the oil-palm's contribution to world production. There are many perennial species, similar to oil-palm and coconut, which provide vegetable oil, not only for use as cooking oil for the marginalized women and men of the world but also for small-scale industries, to generate income. The uses of these trees are only known to those who live locally. Several organizations have started to gather information on these species for domestication and for establishing them in agroforestry systems.

The present status of some of the underutilized African oil-bearing tree species, their constraints to utilization and marketing, are highlighted in a recent paper presented at the third International Conference of Oilseed Trees by N. Haq, ICUC, University of Southampton. It is hoped that the existing information will provide a consensus to develop an effective regional programme on oilseed tree species for sustainable livelihood and food security. ICUC is willing to take part in developing such a programme for the effective utilization of African resources. (Source: Global Newsletter on Underutilized Crops, June 2001.)

Potential role of non-timber forest products in the coping strategies of rural HIV/AIDS-affected households in sub-Saharan Africa

The HIV/AIDS epidemic is drastically reducing the agricultural workforce of sub-Saharan Africa, threatening household and national food securities. Contributing to household nutrition and health at low labour inputs, NTFPs should be considered in efforts to mitigate the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS on rural agrarian households. Because there exist few references to this subject in the literature concerned with the coping mechanisms of HIV/AIDS-affected households, a recent paper is drawing attention to the importance of forestry research in the context of these coping strategies.

The human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa has been recognized as an epidemic requiring a multisectoral response. The main social cost of this epidemic is not the direct costs of medical care and prevention, but rather the costs of lost household output owing to the burden of caring for the sick, the elderly and orphaned children. For example, in Uganda, food insecurity and malnutrition are the most critical concerns among female-headed AIDS-affected households, not medical treatment and drugs.

As a drastic reduction in the continent's workforce is directly threatening national food securities, agriculture, the foundation of the region's national economies, is currently being acknowledged as a critical focal point of the multisectoral response. For this reason, recent epidemiological studies have focused on the epidemic's effects on rural agricultural communities and households. These studies suggest that NTFPs from natural forests and agroforestry systems may be important components of the coping strategies for HIV/AIDS-affected households.

Despite documentation of household socio-economic conditions that suggests potential intensification of NTFP utilization (specifically, low-labour supplies), current literature reveals minimal reference to forest and tree resources in HIV/AIDS coping strategies, although their significant roles in meeting local nutritional demands have justified recent calls for the integration of forestry and nutrition in policy and planning. With more credence being given to a multisectoral response to sub-Saharan Africa's HIV/AIDS epidemic, governments, NGOs and international institutions should make an effort to understand the current and potential role of NTFPs in HIV/AIDS-affected households.

As HIV/AIDS and strategies for mitigating its impact have not been a focus of rural development workers and/or agricultural staff, the authors hope that their paper conveys the timely need for inclusion of forest and tree resources in cost-effective response efforts to agrarian societies heavily affected by HIV/AIDS. (Source: Extracted from a paper prepared by Marc Barany, A.L Hammett, Abdou Sene and Beyhan Amichev, College of Natural Resources, Virginia, USA.)

For more information, please contact:

Mr A.L Hammett, Associate Professor,
College of Natural Resources,
Virginia Tech, Department of Wood Science and Forest Products,
210 Cheatham Hall (0323), Blacksburg, Virginia 24061,
Fax: +1 540 2318176;

Scientific Boards Society of Research Institute of Forests & Rangelands

The Scientific Boards Society of Research Institute of Forests & Rangelands (SBS-RIFR) has recently been formed with some 100 expert members. Fields covered include: forestry, forest management, forest harvesting, agroforestry, silviculture, biotechnology, rangelands, medicinal plants, forest health and environmental pollution, genetic resources, desertification control, forest improvement, etc.

SBS-RIFR is ready to start joint venture projects with other companies and organizations in Iran and throughout the world.

For more information, please contact:

Ali Salahi,
Research Institute of Forests & Rangelands,
Alborz Research Center,
GPO Box 31585-343,
Karaj, Iran.
Fax: +98 261 6603482;
e-mail:   or

Sustainable for Whom?

Sustainable for Whom? is a brochure jointly published by the Taiga Rescue Network and the Boreal Footprint Project summarizing a new report on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification and community benefits. It contains exploratory case studies of four forest communities in the boreal or near-boreal zone with experience of the FSC certification. It is hoped that the information in the brochure and the full-length report will contribute to increased awareness of the potential benefits as well as the limitations of market-based certification in relation to forest communities and forest peoples.

The full-length report Sustainable for Whom? is available in pdf format at:

For more information, please contact:

Taiga Rescue Network,
Box 116, S-96223 Jokkmokk,


The Boreal Footprint Project (BFP) is an American participant of the Taiga Rescue Network. BFP aims to reduce Americans' ecological footprint on the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska through education, advocacy and campaigning.


Training programme on leadership and adaptive management in forest environments

Collaborative adaptive forest management (CAFM) aims at achieving a balance between the conservation and utilization of forest resources in the pursuit of rural development and sustainable livelihood. Foresters who work in CAFM, therefore, need a balance of social and technical skills and insights.

In response to this need, a training programme of the International Agricultural Centre (IAC) covers the following broad areas of interest: collaboration and decision-making between stakeholders, integrated land use, sustainable adaptive forest management, biodiversity conservation, poverty reduction, equity and empowerment. The programme offers five short courses and one seminar addressing different aspects of CAFM.

For more information, please contact:

PO Box 88, 6700 AB Wageningen,
the Netherlands.
Fax: +31 317 495395;

TREES international training courses

With the world's current environmental issues and concerns, human resource development has been considered as one of the most important components that can help achieve sustainable natural resources development. Through the years, the Training Center for Tropical Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability (TREES) maintains its commitment to upgrade the knowledge, skills and attitudes of individuals involved in tropical resources development and ecosystems sustainability through its continuing education and training programmes. TREES continues to develop and conduct training courses and study tours that keep environment and natural resource professionals updated with recent developments and prepared to meet the challenging demands of the future.

For the next two years, TREES has designed 12 training courses and one study tour that aims to address the needs of forestry and natural resources professionals. These training courses include:

•  Biodiversity monitoring and assessment
•  Forest products marketing
•  Agroforestry for sustainable development
•  Sustainable forest resources management and project planning.

For more information and a complete list of all courses available, please contact:

Domingo M. Ramirez,
Director, TREES,
College of Forestry and Natural Resources
(CFNR), University of the Philippines Los Baños
(UPLB), College, Laguna, Philippines.

Using local knowledge in NWFP inventory

An interesting North American study that contains some lessons for tropical NWFP assessment is the work that has been done in Canada on inventory for Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia) bark harvested to manufacture a breast cancer drug. As a preliminary to large-scale inventory, a decision needed to be made about which of two available forest maps (an ecosystem map and a forest cover map) would provide the best stratification and whether local knowledge could be used to select which strata should be sampled for yew. A questionnaire was sent to local foresters and ecologists to elicit their knowledge about the occurrence and distribution of yew among the mapped units on each map. The questionnaire data were compiled and used to identify high- and low-probability strata for yew on each map. Field sampling was weighted so that 80 percent and 20 percent of samples were placed in high- and low-probability strata, respectively.

Analysis of the data showed that overall estimates of yew populations produced using either map as a basis for stratification were not statistically different, but the standard errors for the ecosystem map were much smaller, indicating that it is more precise and hence a more efficient stratification. The validity of the high and low yew occurrences strata as determined by the questionnaire was not challenged or tested in the analysis of results. Presumably this is because they were confirmed as accurate. If this is the case, then the local knowledge was reliable even though a diverse range of individual opinions on yew distribution were expressed by the questionnaire respondents.

This study demonstrates a means of using local knowledge in the context of a biometrically sound sampling scheme that does not compromise its integrity and may offer useful lessons for the use of indigenous knowledge in tropical NWFP inventory. (Source: Resource assessment of non-wood forest products. Experience and biometric principles. FAO NWFP No. 13.)


The secret of happiness is to admire without desiring.

Francis H. Bradley

British Philosopher (1846-1924)